Between a bear and a dark place

Chapter 33

Cursing the persistent ache behind his eyes, the toymaker buried his head in the cool skin of his hands. One with the continuous throbbing, he groaned an unhappy tune.

"If I ever drink again it will be too soon." Bofur, however, knew that the words held no meaning. How many times had he sworn the same only to return home late one night singing perhaps a little too merrily.

Boom, boom, boom.

Bofur gritted his teeth as he rolled his forehead around, trying to find a position that was both comfortable and devoid of any real pain.

Boom, boom, boom.

"Argh!" If only he hadn't left his knife at the store, then he could have used it to bore a hole into his head and remove whatever was causing that grating sound.

Boom, boom, boom.

Lifting his head, Bofur finally realised that someone was at his door.

Rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands, the toymaker stood dragged himself to greet whoever it was that was so instant on torturing him. Since when had air presented so much of a challenge to get through?

"I don't know what to do."

Bofur blinked in surprise, staring at Fili dumbly for a moment as his hand relaxed its grip on the knob of his door. Then his befuddled brain remembered its duty as a host.

"Come in," the toymaker said, closing the door as his guest stepped inside. Fili looked around for a moment before turning his attention back to the dwarf next to him.

Bofur regarded the youth with searching eyes. "What brings you here, laddie?"

The younger dwarf closed his eyes. "I don't know what to do," he repeated. "I need help."

"Help?" Despite the question Bofur thought he had a good idea of where this conversation was heading.

For a moment Fili hesitated. "I…I…. Kili took a turn for the worst and I lashed out without meaning too."

"And now you feel guilty that Dwalin bore the brunt of your anger." Bofur tweaked a corner of his mouth in knowing.

Fili cast his eyes down to the ground. "I was just so frustrated and worried and it was all welling up and…." He paused. "I know that doesn't excuse what I did, but…."

Bofur watched as Fili bit his lip. The toymaker waited for the youth's next words.

"The thing is I'm not sure how to fix it," the blonde finally said.

Bofur stretched one side of his mouth out in an attempt to mimic a straight line. "Well you're going to have to try. You can't leave it the way you did."

"I know. I know…" Fili said. "I just…. Argh. I thought the air would sort out my thoughts. Uncle seemed to think that it would clear my head, but they're just so jumbled up…." He looked up at Bofur with an almost pleading expression. "I don't know what to do."

Bofur sighed and rubbed his temples. His mind was still not functioning as it should, yet that would not stop him from giving what help he could to Fili. It was a problem that needed to be fixed after all. His meeting with Dwalin at the tavern had proven as much.

"The first thing you could do would to be apologise," the toymaker finally said.

Fili looked apprehensive of what was being suggested for a moment. Then his expression fell into one of resignation. "And if he doesn't accept it?"

Bofur gave a reassuring tweak of the lips. "I am sure that will not be an issue." The dwarf offered the youth a chair. The blonde accepted by sinking into it gratefully.

"You know, when I went with mother to that town, I never thought that something like this would happen."

Bofur could sense that the lad before him needed to speak what was on his mind, to work out his thoughts in the same way that Bofur usually worked out his.

"I mean, he's always getting himself into trouble and hardly a day goes by without him bruising himself, but this? This is something new." Fili gave a small laugh. "If this turned out to be a dream and Kili came bounding through the door this very moment as right as rain, I think I could believe it. The only thing is that it's not a dream, not even a nightmare."

The young dwarf's face had carved itself into an expression of indifference, yet the blue eyes that peered out from the strangely soft stone shone with a stark intensity.

Boom, boom, boom.

"Argh!" cried Bofur as he moved towards the door a second time. "Doesn't anyone have the decency to just barge in without rapping their knuckles against my door so loudly?"

Holding his wildly throbbing head with one hand, the toymaker jerked his door open with the other. He stared into the face of Balin, trying to keep his annoyance from showing in his eyes.

"I wish to speak to Fili." The old dwarf's words were sharp and too the point. The ache behind Bofur's eyes was grateful for this fact.

The toymaker stepped aside, not bothering with words as he nodded to where Fili was now sitting erect against the chair.

"Balin, I-"

"I do not care about whatever it is you said to my brother," the older dwarf cut in, "What I care about is whether you can stop him from doing something incredibly stupid."

Bofur frowned. He had rarely seen Balin so frantic. "Why?" the toymaker asked. "What's he going to do?"

Balin spared the dwarf a glance. "Dwalin has taken it upon himself to hunt down the bear and kill it."

"What?" Bofur left his jaw hanging in the air, too surprised to do anything else with it. Across from him, Fili's face had paled.

"Did he say why?" the blonde asked.

Balin puffed out his cheeks. "He wanted to fix his mistake of letting the beast live."

Fili seemed to shrink in on himself even further at this. Bofur watched as Balin's eyes fixated on the young dwarf.

"I need you to stop him from getting himself killed."

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