Between a bear and a dark place

Chapter 7

"His temperature has risen again," Oin reported as he moved to refill the bowl he held in his hands with water.

"That would make it the third time today," Balin said in a bleak voice. Dwalin said nothing, his shoulders merely hunching over further.

Thorin had retreated back into what Dwalin now considered the sick room, the dwarfish leader no longer able to stand the awkward silence that had stretched over both him and the sons of Furdin. If Dwalin was in his friend's place, he too would have chosen to be at the side of his injured and ill nephew. The remorse that had been previously banished by Thorin's earlier words came flooding back as the bald warrior once again wished he had not agreed to take Kili hunting.

"He cannot remain by Kili's side forever," Balin commented a while after Oin had disappeared back through the door to the room where Kili laid, "He has duties he needs to attend to and some will not sit ideally by and wait while the fate of his sister's youngest son is decided."

"He will not be drawn away for so long while Kili is still so weak and still with such a grim future hanging over him," Dwalin replied.

"Thorin may be able to get away with ignoring his responsibilities towards his people for a day or so, but it will not be long before something comes up that will force him to act," Balin said as he stood, "In any case, I will wait until later to press the issue."

"Where are you going?"

"To see about the new residence being developed on the east side of this village," came the old dwarf's reply, "I will have to draw up new documents for the construction of the houses in replace of the ones that… In any case, it should be enough to observe the work without them for now."

Dwalin noticed his brother's inability to state why the papers he needed were ruined. The tattooed dwarf knew better than to mention this aloud, however, and merely bided his older sibling a good day as Balin exited the house.

Settling back into the chair so he could mope in further anguish, Dwalin allowed his eyes to trace along a split in the timber of the table before him. With nothing else to distracted him, the seasoned warrior ran a stunted fingernail over the rough surface, pausing for a moment each time his nail became caught it the crack. It was an interesting sensation, the resistance tearing at his nail for a second before his finger broke free of the restraint and continued on its way. This simple action did not take his mind off the matter at hand, however, and it was not long before Dwalin found himself sighing despondently at the world.

What seemed like an age passed as the buff dwarf sat and thought, having nothing better to do. He wondered if there was anything that he could help with for the care of Kili, almost standing to offer his aid before deciding against it at the last moment. The room was small and would be crowded enough as it was with both Thorin and Oin in there already.

Dwalin was just beginning to doze off despite the fact that his stomach, which had not stopped churning since Kili had fallen off his pony, was bubbling with anxiety. The seasoned warrior, however, was abruptly jolted from his dazed like state when Oin came into the room yet again.

"Has there been any change?" Dwalin asked as he sat up a little straighter. Oin shook his head and grimaced.

"No, there has not," the healer answered as he sat down himself. Dwalin sighed quietly to himself. At least Kili's fever had not spiked yet again.

"You are not going back in?"

"There is not much more I can do in there," Oin replied wearily, "I am better off out here where I can create something for him if he does wake. You can join Thorin if you like, though. I know you have been longing to see the lad for yourself."

If.

Dwalin winced at what the word implied.

"I think I will go in," he murmured. Oin did not acknowledge his words. Dwalin did not pause to repeat them.

The floorboards creaked as the seasoned warrior moved across them. Large hands pushed the door open and then shut it discreetly as startled eyes gazed upon the slumped figure before him.

"Thorin," Dwalin breathed as he reached a hand out to his friend. The dwarfish leader, however, did not react.

Dwalin let his hand fall back to his side as he frowned in concern. If the tall dwarf did not know better he would swear that Thorin was crying.

"Thorin," he said again as he crouched opposite the clearly despondent dwarf. His friend took a moment to run a hand over his face before looking up to respond.

"He is fading away," Thorin said in a despondent voice. Dwalin frowned, tweaking the corner of his lip as he did so.

"It has not even been a day," the warrior answered.

"He is fading all the same," came Thorin's reply. Dwalin looked at the slight form on the bed and could not argue against his leader's words.

"Be as that may," the burly dwarf eventually said, "Oin will not make it easy for him to leave, and neither would you."

"There is nothing I can do for him," Thorin exclaimed, half throwing his hands up in despair. Dwalin frowned again.

"You cannot think that way," the seasoned warrior berated.

"Then what am I supposed to do?" Thorin said, blue-grey eyes downcast and brooding. Dwalin tried to think of an answer he could give, yet however hard he racked his brains the right words always eluded his grasp.

"I don't know," he said in defeat, staring back down at the motionless form of Kili.

The stretch between these last words was only pierced by the heavy breathing of two dwarves and the broken breathing of a third. Through the window it was clear night was beginning its reign, yet neither Dwalin nor Thorin showed any signs of retiring despite both their mental and physical weariness. The only one resting was the youth on the bed, and his rest was far from natural, stemming from the harsh and unforgiving grips of fever.

"I cannot bare to lose him," Thorin said, his voice echoing through the silent air.

A shudder from the bed drew the dwarfish leader's attention, and Thorin ran a cool cloth over his nephew's head, all the while giving voice to the dark thoughts within his head.

"I have lost so many already," the dwarfish leader continued, eyes brimming with years of unshed tears.

Dwalin did not know what to say. He had witnessed Thorin's grief when tragedy had struck the proud dwarf, yet, with all his experience over the years, the tall warrior was still rendered speechless at the sight Thorin's tears.

"If this is all a punishment for something I have done, then why does death not take me instead?" Thorin moaned, "My grandfather was stolen from me as was my father. My brother taken before his time just as Kili will be, leaving Fili behind to mourn just as Frerin left me. I cannot do that to the boy, Dwalin, I cannot let Fili lose his brother so young."

"Then don't."

Thorin looked up, shocked.

"What?" he asked.

"Then don't," Dwalin repeated, large hands clasped beneath his chin, "Don't let Kili fade. Don't let him give in."

Thorin stared at his friend for a long moment before smiling woefully and shaking his head.

"If I could wield that sort of power, Kili would be awake right now. Frerin would be standing beside me and Dis would still have her husband. But I don't, Dwalin," Thorin said, "I may be a leader, your leader, but I do not have the power to bring back those who are already too far down a path I cannot follow."

Thorin's speech came to a shuddering close, Dwalin casting his eyes down to look upon the face of the young lad before him, unable to bring himself to meet his friend's watery gaze a moment longer. Kili's pale and sweaty face however, was a poor substitute. It held just as much as misery as the boy's uncle's, only this misery was a twisted agony.

"You should sleep," Dwalin heard himself saying after a while. Thorin grunted.

"You have been up as long as I have."

"Almost," Dwalin countered, "But I am not the one supporting black circles under my eyes."

"I will not sleep until he is either awake or asleep for good."

"And I will rest when you come to your senses," Dwalin responded, folding his arms over his chest and leaning back against the chair he sat in.

It did not take long for Thorin to fall into the grips of the very slumber he longed to evade, Dwalin watching with a barely suppressed grin as his esteemed leader dozed off. Oin came in and out, quiet in his work and as tender as ever as he handled to limp form of Kili.

"How bad will it get?" Dwalin heard himself asking at one point. Oin had merely sighed in response.

"I can only guess at what the next few days will bring."


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