Chapter 1:

Today was supposed to be his birthday, a day where everybody focuses on him and him alone for once. But never in his life had it been entirely his day. There was always someone else he had to share the light with, and he hated it. And not just this day – though it is the worst – every single day was a competition for attention. 'At least she had two years to herself' he seethed inside of his head, not bothering to hide his burning eyes behind his hair. And at least he didn't have to share it with her twin brother who never found much in a friendship with him or Fili, preferring the architect's son, Ostrid.

But she had to. Of course she had to.

Nala, who just turned sixteen beams at the people around her. She's found the perfect spot to stand, right in the middle of the room where everybody could see her. And less than a meter to her left his Kili's older brother. Nala laughed at something he says, punching his shoulder lightly.

Kili was leaning up against the wall, arms tightly crossed waiting for any sort of attention to come his way. It was his birthday too. His brother was his best friend, always had been but he couldn't even have that bond to himself. No, little Nala had to steal Fili's attention before he even was born. Where Fili went, Kili went but that also meant Nala went.

And Kili doesn't mind sharing; he shares with his brother all the time. But he shares with his brother, not his brother altogether. And Nala just has this infuriating demeanour about her which made his jaw clench.

Nala glanced at Fili from the corner of her eye. "Your brother is sulking again," she murmurs distastefully. Nala had just the same amount of loathing for Fili's younger brother as he did for her, but for an entirely different reason.

From the day he was born, Nala was stricken with adoration for the youngest son of Dis but after a year he only began to cry when she was around. Though she was only three and barely had a scrap of memories from that time, other memories stayed vividly in her head. She wanted to believe she tried, that she really wanted to make him happy and play with her, but she cannot remember a time that he genuinely smiled at her company. He stole her things, pushed her in the mud and blamed broken plates on her. It just seemed that he was born with a hate for her and she began to mirror it after a few years. But she has seen Kili when he didn't know she was watching and saw him acting…normal. Some part of her wished that he would be that way around her, but then again, that part of her disappeared a long time ago. Now she tolerated him enough to be in the same room and often enough he does the same for exactly the same reason – the company of their families and friends.

"Maybe if he'd leave that corner someone might actually talk to him," Fili chided with a dismissive eye roll. "He's only being petty because you're here."

Nala hummed in agreement, smiling as her father sauntered past her. "Go," she urged. "I don't want to have to see his sulking face all night."

Fili nodded, lazily striding over to his younger brother. Nala watched from the edge of her vision which was curtained by her loose hair. Kili's face brightened once more as Fili's attention narrows in on him.

Bola wandered over to his sister, pushing up close to try and follow her line of sight. If someone were to look at them from behind, they would almost seem as one. The exact same hair, height, and body stance. "Still have the feud going on?"

Nala rolled her eyes, peeling them away from the two brothers. "Like it would ever end," she snorted, crossing her own arms loosely. "We're sneaking out after this," she whispered. "Fili and I are going to the old oak tree if you want to come. No doubt young Keekee will tag along as well."

Bola snorted – eerily similar sounding to his sister's. "I'd rather get in trouble for something worth my time. But I promise not to tell Ma and Pa."

Nala mumbled a 'thank-you' shifting her attention back onto the brothers. Bola had never gotten along with Fili well, more so because her brother could be a hot-headed buffoon and preferred Ostrid who had the same 'grunt' to him as she described it as. If they were not siblings, she would probably have the same relationship with him as Kili does for her.

Nala was quite the bubbly young girl, childishly innocent which her eyes portrayed with astonishing accuracy. Bola was the exact opposite with more wisdom for his age and gruff, stony set of grey eyes as though they have had to harden from years of torment and torture. But Nala saw cracks in him sometimes – the only thing that assured her that he had the ability to even cry.

Their parents were close friends with Frerin back when the old kingdom of Erebor was standing and their loyalty extended to the now exiled king, Thorin, and his younger sister Lady Dis. Though Thorin was rarely in Ered Luin anymore, Dis had warmly accepted them and the families grew as one in their new life inside the Blue Mountains.

Since it was the birthday of not one, but three Dwarves, quite the number of people filled the usually spacious entertainment room, faces with Nala and Bola recognised mostly. Her smile widens as Balin, a Dwarf with a dark head of hair already greying in his younger years passes by. "Mister Balin," Nala exclaimed, moving from her brother's side to walk alongside with one of her favourite adult Dwarves.

Kili smiles tightly, thanking another one of the guests for wishing him a well-birthday. His lips immediately dropped as the age-stricken Dwarf hobbled along, revealing Nala and Balin dancing awkwardly, albeit merrily to an upbeat tune. "She's such an attention seeker," he glowered to Fili.

Fili hid his humour, only peaking an eyebrow. "For dancing at a party?" he goaded. "Yes, such the attention seeker." Seeing that an attitude was not how his brother should be met with, Fili changed his stance. "Just ignore her, she's ignoring you."

And she always ignored him, that's another problem. The only reason she would ever talk to him is to send a snarky remark or glare. Otherwise, her attention is strictly elsewhere. Like he was a bug. She never wanted his attention. "Is she coming to the tree tonight?"

"Nala is the one who asked me to come," Fili retorted. "Technically you're coming by an extended invitation by me." Kili grumbled under his breath before placing another faux smile as another guest strides up to him. "Maybe you should bring her a gift. A peace-offering."

Kili's nose crinkled, ready to send a handful of words that his mother would pull his ear off for, but they cut off. "Ah, Kili, older every time I see you," Tollow greeted, his voice rasped with age and tufts of hair protruded from his ears. It's a wonder that he could hear at all.

Kili barely held himself from responding 'yes, that's how age works.' Instead, he said "Thank you, mister Tollow."

He really debated not going to the tree, already having had a lousy day. Part of him knew that going would not end well, that one of them would say something to set the other off. But the other part of him was desperate to go; away from the crowd that his mother and the twins' mother, Hervi, invited. It's not that he didn't like people – in fact, he got along with most quite well, but he'd rather the company of people he knows well. The opposite of Nala who appeared comfortable no matter the social situation which was one of the many similarities between her and Fili.

Xx

Nala rushed out of her room, peeking around the corners to the main chamber of her family's home but there was nothing but a fire burning that had by then dwindled down to embers. As he promised, Bola had said nothing to hint at her late-exit so while her parents likely snored away the night, Nala tiptoed out of the room and into the halls of Ered Luin. Her hair bounced off her shoulders as her legs began to work faster, heading towards a door leading off to the eastern field where her favourite tree lay.

The night air was warm, like an unexpected gift on her skin. The night was beautiful in her opinion and staying indoors on a night like that would be a right shame. Inside the mountain was nice but you couldn't see the stars or the moon.

Her legs already knew the way to the old oak tree; a large, a tree older than any Dwarf alive that sits right in the middle of a large open rye-grass field. In the right season, flowers bloomed around it on the grassy areas.

Fili and Kili were waiting by the edge of the field, waiting on the young girl who was a little late. Fili waits patiently, making small chatter with his brother but Kili grew antsier by the second for her arrival. He played with the short bow in his hand, testing the string's tautness and practising his stance.

Soon, a bounding figure sprinted towards them, a satchel that looked stuffed to the brim bouncing off her side. "Sorry," Nala called forward, still running. "I had to wait until mother got back from helping Dis clean up."

Fili smiled, shaking his head in a teasing manner. "Are you ever actually on time for anything?" he taunted. Nala stuck out her tongue, finally coming to a slow stop to catch her breath. "Just be on time for my funeral when you irritate me to death."

"It isn't my fault everybody creates such a mess," she defended, readjusting her heavy-looking satchel. "And if anybody is dying from irritation it will be Bola who had to put up with niceties for an entire day."

"He should take lessons from you since you're such a suck-up."

Nala's bright eyes instantly dimmed as her face dropped, heat rising to her cheeks. Kili stands with his arms crossed over his front, one leg cocked out and a face that said he couldn't be more disinterested in their conversation. "I am not," is all she bothered to counter. Fili spared her a quick glance; one telling her that it isn't worth it.

Kili scoffed, his interest in speaking rising but not for the reasons the older pair would like. "Please. Blind man Wikon could see how much you bat your lashes to people."

Nala doesn't think before responding, which is never a good thing and it certainly wasn't this time. "Well maybe I could give you lessons then, and you would have more friends than just your brother. Maybe then you wouldn't be around to irritate me so much."

This time, the heat rose of Kili's face. His chest began to move deeply, nostrils flaring slightly. "I'm not the one who has to put on a fake face just to get people to like me," he goaded. "At least I don't irritate people naturally. You're just an exception apparently."

Fili glared at his brother, passing a small one also to his friend but he knew that Kili was the one to always push whatever dislike they had for each other over the line. Nala, when Kili wasn't around never spoke truly ill of him, only in a neutral fashion and Fili suspected that she didn't really hate Kili, not in the same way Kili did her.

Nala's face flushed deep red, feeling a small fire burning in her chest. He just always had to do this. It's like he knew – he knew what words hurt her the most. "I-I don't…" Words of defence failed miserably to form as she really didn't know how to. Did people find her irritating? Certainly, Kili did, and Fili teased about it, but she's never had someone else so annoyed at her presence. Unless people were good at hiding it around her.

"Just stop Kee," Fili sighed. "This is both of your birthdays, and I want you to both have a good night. Just, I don't know, call a truce for a few hours or something."

Nala and Kili stared at each other like bulls decided if they wanted to charge or return to their grazing. Her eyes dropped from his down to the object under his tight grip. "Did you get that bow for your birthday?" Nala questioned, gesturing to the short bow he had been playing with earlier.

"Mister Dwalin gave it to me," he replied with only a hint of emotion. Fili sighed again, this time in satisfaction. Neither of them would apologise and he knew that this was their way of moving past whatever argument just passed between them.

"It's beautiful," she noted truthfully. While still made for a child, the bow was made by a finely skilled hand. Kili mumbled a thank you, running his forefinger over the new string. Fili urged the three of them through the field towards their tree which ends up being a race.

All three were extremely competitive and Nala begrudgingly tugged the heavy satchel along with her, not wanting to leave its contents behind since she would want them before the end of the night. With the longest legs and the least weight holding him down, Fili won, slapping his hand on the trunk of the oak wood moments before Kili, and Nala trailing a few second behind.

Breathing heavily, the three began to climb the tree, following the same track of branches they always did. Nala twisted the satchel to sit around her back, following up behind Kili. The younger brother stayed close to his brother, intending to take the spot on the branch next to him before Nala could.

Eventually, they made it into the thick of the branches, covered well from the outside world in the cocoon of leaves. Fili sat down first, straddling a thick branch and shuffled outwards to lean against where the branch shot upwards, providing a make-shift backrest. Kili followed along the same branch, resting against the trunk, facing his brother while Nala took the second branch that ran off a conjoined shoot, sitting in the middle of it with her legs dangling over one side. The second branch was thick enough to not need something to hold onto not to fall and even sit comfortably for a good amount of time.

"Tonight was actually quite fun," she said, pulling off the satchel to carefully rest it against where her branch meets the trunk. "I'm sorry Thorin wasn't here."

"Mother said he got stuck somewhere along the way but he should be here by tomorrow afternoon," Fili responded, pulling his knee up to rest his boot against the branch, letting his other hang down the side.

"Oh, I'm glad he's not far away then," she smiled. "I know you both miss him, I miss him. But to be completely honest, sometimes I feel like I've only just seen him the other day with your mother. She's so much like him."

"Are you trying to say that our mother is a grumpy old man?" Kili asks blankly.

"No," she laughed. "I don't think Thorin is like that, not really. He has a lot of responsibility. I just mean their mannerism. They're both very stern but meaning for the best."

"I see it," Fili agreed. "Do you think he'll join us in training? He never goes easy, well, neither does Mister Dwalin and Yorna but he fights differently."

"I hope so," Kili said. All three of them respected Thorin highly, holding him on this sort of pedestal in their minds. He was different with each one of them, speaking to them in a way that fit each of their personalities and brought out their confidence, even if he could be on the stiffer and gruffer side. Fili though, did notice he received more push from his uncle to meet higher expectations and he wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not.

Their conversation turned towards the events of that night and Fili pulled out a small package that was covered in brown paper from a pocket on the inside of his jacket. "I have something for you," he declared, handing the package over to Nala.

Her mouth rounded slightly at the unexpected gift. It had been such a busy day she hadn't realised Fili hadn't given her anything yet. The package was rectangular and instantly she recognises it as probably being a book of some sorts and it weighed around the right weight when she took it from the blonde's hands. "Thank you."

Untying the string keeping it together, she peeled the packaging back to reveal not one, but three small books. Each one was leather-bound, dyed in a different colour. They all had different patterns embellished as well, true to Dwarven style. On the front cover of each one was a small round metal knob that was flat enough so the books could lie flat together, but raised slightly so a thin rope which attached to the back cover could be tied around it to keep it shut. The pages were empty.

"Thank you," she repeated, meaning it more than out of the formality before. "They're beautiful. Is there something specific that I should write in them?"

"Whatever you want," Fili shrugged. "Journal, notes. I know you were thinking about becoming a seamstress like your mother so that was what was in my head when I bought them." Nala nodded in agreement, giving him another warm smile as her fingers trace over the grooves in the leather when she remembered what exactly was in her satchel.

"Actually, I have a gift for you Kili," she announced. Placing the three journals on the branch to her side, she reached over towards the trunk for her satchel. Kili frowned deeply, looking towards his brother. Fili only tightly pulled back his lips in a silent smile. "Here."

Kili stared at the package, wrapped in the same paper that her gift was. It was large and soft, something solid sitting on top which suggested more than one object. He didn't trust it. "I don't want it."

Nala frowned, looking down at her gift. He didn't even want to open it? Just a plain refusal because it came from her. "Would you at least open it before you decide?"

Fili watched his brother, silently trying to urge him to. Kili's eyes darted between the two, noticing Fili's intense stare. Nala holds the package out towards him with both hands in offering. Why had she bought him anything? He certainly hadn't bought her anything and they've never given gifts to each other before. Part of him wanted to reach out and take it, burning with curiosity to see what she would even consider for him. But a little voice in the back of his mind told him that it was some sort of trick that she would laugh at when he fell for it. She never bought him gifts and she wouldn't just start out of nowhere. "I don't want it," he repeats.

Nala's heart dropped down to the bottom of her ribcage, but she had taken the time to find this gift and she could tell he was only hesitant because it was unexpected. "You don't have to keep it," she tried. "Sell them if you wish but I want you to at least open it." She held it further out, reaching the furthest she can extend without toppling herself over the edge of the branch.

"I. Don't. Want. It," Kili restated in the nastiest tone he could conjure. He reached out, trying to push the package away from him but her grip was looser than he was expecting. The brown package slipped from her hands and all three of their mouths opened in shock, eyes tracing its fall. Kili's muscles twitched as it hits the ground far below, the sound of glass shattering hitting his ears hard.

"Kili," Fili drawled in a soft growl. Kili's mouth hung open slightly, just in as much surprise as the rest of them. He looked towards Nala who was still staring at the ground silently. He didn't mean to destroy whatever was inside, he just didn't know what it was and having it come from Nala was unexpected. In truth, he was expecting Fili to take it from her later and try to give it to him again where he could open it alone.

Fili knew Nala had brought something for his brother and was hoping that it might act as a beginning to mending whatever tear there was. A peace-offering. But that just flew out the window, quite literally smashing to pieces.

Kili tried to form some sort of sentence. "I-"

Nala finally raised her head, letting the brothers see her wet eyes that looked more tired than they should be. "Forget it," she cut him off. "I'm going home before I fall asleep here. Wouldn't want to fall to the ground."

Fili began to shuffle forward, hating the sour end to the night. "We'll come with you."

"I'd rather walk alone," she muttered, grabbing her now light satchel. Fili hated the idea of leaving her to walk home alone in the dead of the night, but he also knew that just trying to follow her would only deepen whatever she was feeling. He would check on her in the morning.

Once Nala made it to the bottom of the tree, she didn't even bother glancing at the package, just slowly marching past it. Fili and Kili watched her walk away, but she doesn't turn back once which strikes a chord in Fili's stomach. She always waved.

"Oops," Kili murmured, fiddling with his fingers. Fili's soft eyes turned back to his brother, squinting.

"Oops?"

"I know that was my fault, okay?" Kili snapped, not wanting to hear his brother's chide. "Can we just go home? I'm tired too." He didn't want to admit that he knew she didn't deserve that, but he would acknowledge that it was his fault that the gift broke. Before his brother could answer, Kili had already begun climbing back down the tree. Fili followed down, holding any retort for the sake of all their sanities.

Their heavy boots thudded against the ground. Kili stared at the package which has now torn slightly, revealing a coloured material inside as well as a few shards of glass on the grass. Kneeling down, he ripped the package open further. Inside was more glass, and he wouldn't even be able to guess what it used to be. But there were two more things. On top of the fabric was a small wooden flute.

Fili watched his brother pull it out, holding for a few moments without any commentary. He placed it by his knee then pulls out the blue material. Kili had to stand back up to see it at its full length. A coat made for travelling in a dark shade of blue. It was much too large for him now, and he guessed the idea was that he would use it when he was older and could actually travel.

Nala crept back into her room, wiping the tracks of salty water off her cheeks before they dripped onto her clothes. Slipping underneath her light quilt, the age-old question blared through her mind. What on Middle Earth did she ever do?

And surely he was only saying those things about people finding her irritating to annoy her? She had friends – sure, she never spent much time with any of them other than Fili and he didn't seem to find her annoying. But maybe she was if Kili held so much despise for her when she doesn't think she has actually done anything but be herself. Maybe he was the only one to actually be true to her face.

Just a beginning/sneak peek for a new story. Just wanted to post it to see if anybody would be interested and any thoughts you have so far. Also, forgive me as I usually write in the present tense so there may be a few mistakes that I haven't caught up on.