Between a bear and a dark place

Chapter 4

Despite the events which had taken place only the night before, the morning of a new day came soon enough. To Bofur, however, the dawn was far from swift and it was only after hours of worry and sleeplessness that he greeted the first light with reddened eyes and a mouth turned down at the corners.

The toymaker was in a fresh tunic, Thorin having left Kili's side only once to offer the garment for Bofur to use in place of the bloodstained tunic he had been wearing. His hands and arms were clear of the blood which had covered them the night before and it was with a strong sense of relief that Bofur relished in being clean again. Everything didn't look as dire when one wasn't covered in the scarlet life force of another.

The table upon which Kili had been laying upon before was also clean, no longer presenting a sight that would send whoever walked in through the door into shock. This was Bofur's doing, something which he was proud of. Having cleaned up the room in Thorin's house had meant the toymaker had no chance to sleep, however, and it was with bleary eyes that Bofur glanced up at Oin as he made his slow way out of the room which hosted Kili.

"How is he?" the toymaker asked, stretching his arms and legs as he lifted himself from the chair upon which he had been sitting for the last hour. Oin merely sighed, his look as despondent as ever.

"Fever has set in," the healer replied, his voice weary from the task of tending to the youngest of the line of Durin.

"What? Already?" Bofur found himself exclaiming in disbelief, all thoughts of his own tiredness gone. Oin merely shook his head.

"It is not all that surprising," the grey bearded healer answered, "In fact, it took a while longer to appear than I expected."

"What can I do to help?" Bofur asked, glancing towards the open door through which he could catch a small glimpse of a still unconscious Kili and the bowed figure of Thorin by the youth's side. The lad's uncle had hardly left his side since he had first learned of Kili's predicament, and what was more was that the dwarfish leader had made it clear that he would not be leaving his youngest nephew's side until the boy's eyes were at least open.

"There is not much you or even I can do," Oin said in a tired voice, bringing Bofur's attention back to him, "All we can do is try to keep the fever down and ensure that none of his wounds become infected. I cannot force the lad to drink anything that might help with him still unconscious for he might choke, and neither can I perform miracles."

"We may soon be in need of a miracle if Kili's condition turns out to be as bad as you make it out to be," Bofur muttered under his breath causing Oin to raise one eyebrow before relenting to the toymaker's words.

"I fear you may be right," the healer said bleakly as he drifted to the table where his bowl and pestle lay waiting. Bofur withheld a sigh and took the bowl of water from were the healer had placed it.

"Do you want me to-" he began, but Oin cut him off before the toymaker could finish, not that there was any need.

"That would be a great help," the healer replied as he sat down and begun grinding away at various herbs again.

Bofur gave the healer a nod of acknowledgement before taking up a cloth and entering the room of the invalid. Thorin looked up from where he sat, bleary eyed but still refusing any offers of sleep both Oin and Bofur made him. The dwarfish leader gave the toymaker a grim twist of the lips before turning back to where his youngest nephew laid motionless on the bed, the single sheet covering him already sticky with sweat.

Bofur sat down without much fuss, balancing the bowl on his knee as he dragged the cloth in his hand through the water and then across Kili's heated forehead. The silence in the room was almost deafening, the dwarf opposite the toymaker clearly willing Kili to open his eyes. Bofur was doing his own private willing as well, willing the fever to break though it had only just begun. The young dwarf between the two adults did not respond to either of the things willed of him and remained as shut eyed and fever ridden as before.

"It is a hard fight I fear we have ahead of us," Bofur remarked, finally unable to withstand the silence any longer. Thorin merely grunted, stroking the back of his nephew's right hand as his smoky grey-blue eyes roved around the battered body of the young brunette.

"But is he strong enough to make it?" came Thorin's uncharacteristically soft voice, "If he should fall to fever or infection…"

The dwarfish leader never finished his sentence, but the words to end it did not need to be spoken. Bofur knew of the ways Kili's predicament could play out, both bad and good. He also had some idea as to how the lad's family would react to his passing. As the toymaker passed the drenched cloth in his hand over the brow of the invalid yet again he glanced down to where the white bandages stood out against Kili's skin.

Bofur remembered all too well the terrible night which had preceded the dawn; he had never felt as terrified in his life as when Dwalin had rode in on his mount, blood everywhere as he supported Kili whose face had been unnaturally slack and pale. When Dwalin had half shouted at him to bring Oin to Thorin's house the toymaker had not hesitated to obey, racing as fast as he could to the healer's house using alleys and shortcuts he would have otherwise avoided. Bofur had ended up out of breath and banging hard on Oin's door only to be informed that both he and his assistant were out seeing patients.

The usually cheery toymaker had weighed up the decision of pursuing Oin, but the image of Kili had refused to leave his mind and it was without a second thought that Bofur had spent the rest of his energy making his way swiftly to the house of Thorin Oakenshield in order to offer his help to Dwalin. Upon reaching the house, the toymaker had been just in time to see Dwalin about to enter, an unconscious and wounded Kili cradled carefully in his arms. It was a sight that had thrilled Bofur in all the wrong ways, terror having flashed through him as well as panic.

The emotions he had felt before were beginning to well up again in the face of his hopelessness to help the young dwarf now laying on the bed before him. Wiping Kili's brow appeared to be achieving nothing and frustration was beginning to rear its ugly head as Bofur wished that someone could just turn up and magic the young lad's ailments away.

A knock on the door had the toymaker raising his head in curiosity, wondering who it could be at this early hour. Thorin saw this and reached out his hands to take the bowl and cloth from the dwarf before him.

"I can take over," the dwarfish leader said. Bofur nodded in understanding and stood, leaving the room after handing over the objects he held to Thorin.

It was with a small frown of interest that the toymaker stared as the door opened to reveal the intimidating form of Dwalin and the smaller form of the tall dwarf's older brother.

"How is the lad?" Balin asked as he entered through the door first, his worried gaze straying to the open door Bofur had just come through and the room beyond.

"Not good," Oin answered before entering the room where Kili laid in an unnatural state.

"How so?" Dwalin growled, not liking the broadness of the old healer's answer. Bofur too felt annoyed at Oin, not liking that he had been left to deliver the news.

"Fever," the toymaker managed to mumble, watching the faces of the two brother's before him blanch white at the news.

"When?" was all Balin could say.

"Dawn," Bofur replied with some reluctance, "Or thereabouts."

"It will only grow worse," Balin said, rubbing his face with his hands.

Bofur had no words of optimism to follow up the older dwarf's statement. There was nothing he could say that had even the slightest chance of lightening the dark and bleak atmosphere that had settled over the house of the line of Durin. The toymaker who was expected to see the light. He was the one who was supposed to see the silver lining of the blanket of blackened clouds rolling over them, yet he was speechless, voiceless against such a seemingly hopeless cause. If not even Bofur could think up something to say, it was a surprise when the dwarf who spoke the least was the one who spoke to break the grim silence which had fallen swiftly with Balin's last words.

"But it has not," Dwalin said in response to his brother, "It has not grown worse yet. There is still hope he will survive this."

A moan broke free of the room behind the three and Bofur, Dwalin and Balin all turned to see the covers on Kili's bed toss around as the youth beneath them shifted position. Bofur was first through the door, both Oin and Thorin looking up to read the unspoken question in the toymaker's eyes.

"I'm afraid he still has not woken," Oin said as Thorin went back to dabbing his nephew's fevered forehead. The three dwarves in the doorway exhaled previously anticipating breaths with disappointment.

"Then what was that earlier?" Dwalin asked, his dark eyebrows furrowing together, his earlier optimistic mood turning sour as the short bout of hope they had all felt was crushed.

"He's in pain," the healer replied.

"Then give him something for it!"

"I can't," Oin snapped back. Bofur turned his head back to Dwalin to wait for the warrior's response only to see the bald dwarf take a deep breath and a step back as Balin laid a calm hand on his arm.

The white bearded dwarf guided his younger brother out of the room leaving only Oin, Thorin and Bofur in the vicinity of the unconscious Kili. The toymaker looked after the pair who had just left before looking down at his feet.

He had been at Thorin's house since the early evening of yesterday when Dwalin had turned up with a wounded Kili in tow, as well as the morning that was coming to a close even as he stood and thought about his options. Bifur would be worrying, as would Bombur for every moment he delayed in returning, yet Bofur could not, in good conscience, leave the house when Kili still remained in a bad way and was steadily growing worse for it seemed that the lad's fever was rising.

"You should go," Thorin said, the deep tones of his voice vibrating through the air as he took notice of Bofur's inner conflict.

"You will tell me if anything changes?" the toymaker asked, his hazel eyes flashing with concern and a desperate plea. Thorin nodded, his own blue-grey eyes filled with a deep and haunting despair.

With a sigh, Bofur sent one last glance in the direction of the bed, watching as Oin inspected the bandages of the boy who laid upon it. He gave a small consoling smile in the direction of Thorin before turning his back upon the scene before him and walking to the door leading out of the house, nodding to both Dwalin and Balin as he left.

"Look after him," he murmured quietly. Dwalin replied with a solemn look.

"We will."

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