Title: Lessons

Summary: When famine strikes the Blue Mountain during a harsh winter Kili and Fili are taught a terrible lesson in suffering and desperation. Hurt!Kili, Protective!Fili

Rating: T (for violence)

Category: Angst, H/C

A/N: Own nothing. No copyright infringement intended. Just for funsies.

It was the shouting that woke him.

The forest had grown completely dark since Fili had shut his eyes, eventually allowing cold and grief to lull him to sleep. Now he blinked his frozen eyelids and looked around. Kili still lay in front of him, unmoving, face pressed into the snow, his dark hair only barely visible beneath the white mound that had gathered on top of him. Fili shivered as the wind blew and wondered if that was what had woken him.

"Fili! Kili!" But no, that wasn't the wind, even it wasn't that cruel. He knew that voice like he knew his own.

"Th...orin." he tried to shout but it came out little more than a whisper as his body had frozen while he slept. He breathed deeply, he needed to get his blood pumping again. He pulled at his arms, the rope still had no give but he could twist around and look down the path. In the distance there was torchlight.

"Here. Here!" Fili yelled, louder with each word, hope giving him new strength. "Help us! Here, please!"

"Fili!" Several voices replied, not just his uncle but Dwalin as well and what could have been Bofur.

"Here! Over here! Hurry, Uncle please!" He was struggling now, like his body had forgotten that the ropes would not give but he was determined to do anything to help his brother.

He almost sobbed aloud when he saw Thorin crest the hill, wrapped in gray furs with his torch held high.

"Uncle," he cried in relief.

"Fili!" Thorin shouted, his expression competing between rage and concern as he raced towards his nephew, crouching in front of him and placing a hand on Fili's cheek, sighing in relief when he saw he was very much alive. "Oh, Fili, thank Mahal."

But Fili shared no such relief and shook his head, pulling away.

"Uncle, help him, please!" he begged, tugging and trying to reach something beyond Thorin's shoulder.

"Help ...?" Thorin repeated, confused until he turned and saw the head of dark hair buried in the snow behind him. "Kili!"

Thorin left him, still tied, to race to Kili's side, but Fili didn't care, he only wanted his brother safe.

"Kili," Thorin whispered, kneeling and wiping the snow from his nephew's face to reveal more bruises and blood than unmarred flesh. "Durin, no."

"Kili," Fili whimpered, only barely noticing when Dwalin's huge form appeared beside him to cut away the ropes on his wrists.

"Oh lads," Dwalin sighed when he saw the state of them and helped to slowly pull Fili to his feet. "Thorin, does he live?"

If he did Thorin couldn't comprehend how, but he tilted his nephew's face towards the ground and watched if his breath moved the snow.

"He breathes," Thorin said, drawing his own knife and cutting Kili's hands free. "Barely. We have to get him home, now."

Bofur had appeared at some point as well and kneeled across from Thorin, pulling off a glove to touch Kili's cheek.

"He's as cold as ice."

"And getting no better out here," Thorin said, unlatching his heavy cloak and letting Bofur pull Kili into a sitting position so they could wrap it around him, a movement Bofur followed up by shoving his own hat on Kili's exposed head to which Thorin nodded his thanks.

"Fili, do you know his injuries?" Thorin asked, though his heart clenched to see his nephew shaking in Dwalin's grasp.

"They ... they beat him ... everywhere," Fili answered, stuttering with cold. "His ... his hand's the worst, I think."

It was enough to assure Thorin he could pick up his nephew without killing him so he put an arm under Kili's knees and another under his back and finally freed him of the snow. When he stood up Bofur picked up his torch, readjusted the cloak to wrap around the small dwarf as tightly as possible, and then led the way back through the forest.

"Fili, can you walk?" Thorin asked, wishing he could give the boy more attention.

"Yes," Fili nodded, still shrouded by Dwalin who was trying to rub warmth into his arms. "I'm f...fine. Get Kili home."

Thorin smiled, proud of his nephew's selflessness and looked at Dwalin. "Take care of him."

"Aye, go," Dwalin said and Thorin complied, racing after Bofur and leaving Dwalin to shuffle Fili home safely.

"Come on," Dwalin urged Fili, wondering if he would have to carry him as well, but Fili managed to move forward on his own. His arms were wrapped around his torso and Dwalin was fairly certain what he tried to hide as a gasp from cold was actually more of a sob. "Don't mourn for your brother, he yet lives Fili."

Fili nodded but kept his head low until they made it three more steps then turned around abruptly, searching the ground.

"His bow," he said, looking at Dwalin with determined eyes. "He'll need it."

Dwalin smiled, clapped Fili's shoulder and scoured the path, finding the bow intact but the quiver shattered. He slung both on his shoulder anyway and went back to Fili who was looking straight ahead.

"He'll be fine."

Fili shuddered, remembering the last time he had heard that word used.

Dwalin was practically carrying Fili by the time they stumbled into his home but he didn't care. They were far behind Thorin which meant that even as they trudged through the cold his brother had been cared for and they would have something to tell him by now. When they passed through the door though they found only Bofur, stoking the fire in the living quarters with boiled water on the spit and a stack of blankets on the couch by the fire.

"There ya are lads," Bofur greeted them, standing to help Dwalin get Fili by the fire. "Let's get you over here then, I've got everything ready."

"Where ... where's Kili?" Fili demanded as they sat him down and stripped off his frozen boots and gloves.

"Thorin took him straight to Oin's, they're looking after him, he sent me back here to tell you," Bofur said, wincing when he stripped off Fili's coat and saw the bloody gashes on his wrists.

"We'll need to wrap those," he said to Dwalin who stood to get bandages.

"I'm fine," Fili protested. "I want to see K...Kili."

"You will lad," Bofur assured him. "We'll get you warm and we'll let Oin patch him up first though."

"Bofur, please," he said, needing to know his brother was all right.

Bofur sighed, hating how he could never say no to any of the Sons of Durin. He pointed a stern finger Fili's way even as he went to get his coat. "All right, but you're not going anywhere. You do what Dwalin says. I'll go check on your brother."

"Th...thank you," Fili said, slumping with gratitude as he watched him go. He was quickly forced to stand however as Dwalin stripped him of his frozen clothing and helped into warmed furs and thick wool clothes that Bofur had left by the fire.

Blanket wrapped around his head and shoulders, he hissed as Dwalin dropped his bare feet into a bowl of boiling water. He was so cold he was surprised he didn't turn the whole bucket to ice when it touched him. Next Dwalin pulled his hands out from beneath the layers of blankets to look at his wrists. Cleaning the blood away with warm water and bandaging them both, Dwalin huffed with anger at the mistreatment he'd gone through, but didn't say a word until he was finished.

"You should rest, lad," Dwalin said, a hand on his shoulder trying to get him to lie down on the couch but Fili shook his head and remained upright, even if his eyes longed to rest.

"Kili," was all he could hiss out through his chattering teeth but his intention was clear. He would not rest until he heard from his brother.

Dwalin huffed but before he could protest they both turned to watch the door open, surprised to see Thorin step through, unhooking his cloak and looking to Dwalin.

"How is he?"

"Still a...awake," Fili answered, surprising Thorin who had assumed he would be unconscious or asleep by now. Fili had one question keeping him awake though and he wasn't sure if he was happy or not that Thorin had been the one to return instead of Bofur. He knew Thorin wouldn't lie to him and he wasn't sure he wanted the truth. "Kili?"

Thorin sighed and joined Fili on the couch, touching his head as he went by in a rare comforting gesture.

"Your mother is with him. He lives," Thorin said. Fili was relieved and wished to Mahal there was no 'but' to follow, though from Thorin's tone he knew better. "But we can't say he'll make it, not for certain. He barely breathes and his skin won't warm, along with the other injuries and how long you were out there ... it's amazing you both survived."

"His other injuries, are they serious?" Dwalin asked from behind the couch. He hadn't seen the younger Durin be beaten or treated and had no idea how he fared.

"Most of the bones in his left hand are broken. Oin's set them but there's no way to know if they'll all heal properly. A few broken ribs. Bruised to the bone almost everywhere I could see. A few blows to the head look serious. We won't know for certain until he wakes up." Thorin looked at Fili, frowning apologetically but forced to prepare him for the worst. "If he wakes up."

"He'll be fine," Fili said, staring into the fire, jaw clenched. "He told me so."

"We can hope. We can pray." Thorin dropped a hand on his nephew's shoulder. "Thank Durin you're all right at least."

"To the pit with that," Fili hissed, shame and fear sitting like rocks in his stomach. "I would take my brother's place in a second. I wish I could ... I couldn't help him uncle, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." Tears rent from fear, pain and exhaustion were falling down his face now as he leaned into his uncle's embrace. "I would have done anything ... I would do anything ..."

"Shush, none of this is your fault, do you understand me? It is that fiend, Nolin and his companions, they did this and they'll be punished for it, I promise," Thorin said and felt Fili stiffen in his arms.

"How do you know that? How did you find us?" Fili asked, looking to Thorin and Dwalin, only just realizing he had no idea why he was alive.

"Nolin was foolish enough to bring the stag Kili killed straight into his home, told his family he had caught them supper. His father, Ulin, would have none of it though. The stag had been killed by an arrow and there was only one dwarf on the mountain who could have shot it. Ulin dragged Nolin here to explain himself," Thorin said. "Let's say we didn't quite believe him when he said you lads had given it to him."

Dwalin huffed and crossed his arms from his standing position behind them. "Grabber and Keeper got the truth out of him soon enough."

"Nolin and his friends are in the cells for now. We'll figure out their fate in the morning. Rest now, Fili, please. I need at least one of you healthy," Thorin requested, but Fili's eyelids were already starting to fall now that he knew his brother lived and Nolin would pay for his crimes.

"Wake me ... if Kili ..." Fili drifted to sleep before he could finish his sentence, leaning heavily on his uncle, but it didn't matter, Thorin understood.

When Fili next awoke he was surprised to feel something he never thought he would feel again; warmth, from head to toe. It was morning and the couch was still only a few feet away from the fire which had been kept stoked all night; even now fresh logs were burning and the heat around him was stifling. Fili's eyes were rough and swollen, his body stiff, but still he reached up and pulled away one of the many blankets on top of him, the furs so heavy he felt like he was suffocating.

It took him a few minutes to get his bearings, to remember why he was sleeping in the living room and why his wrists and shoulders were so sore. It all came back in a rush. A nightmare that had been real. He pushed himself up, blinking and bleary-eyed. As he rubbed at his eyes Thorin came out from the kitchen and pushed a bowl of hot soup into his hands. It smelt like deer meat. It seemed Nolin's father had returned the stag then.

"Kili?" he asked of Thorin, accepting the bowl.

"There's little change," Thorin said. "Finish your breakfast and you can go see him."

Fili had never finished a bowl of soup so quickly in his life. After pulling on his boots he hesitated a moment before strapping on his coat, Nolin's words echoing in his mind.

An easy thing to say for someone well fed and dressed in new furs during desperate times.

But he shook the thought away. Kili had made him this coat and he would not be ashamed of what his brother's skill had brought for their family.

On the short walk to Oin's he found out he was not as healthy or rested as he had thought, as the short walk in the cold felt like it had reached into his bones, filling him back up with cold and sapping his strength. He could tell that Thorin saw it too but appreciated his uncle saying nothing as they knocked once and then let themselves into the small stone home.

"Upstairs," Thorin said, pointing the way and knowing Fili wouldn't want to wait for him. Shivering and not taking the time to remove his boots or coat, Fili rushed upstairs. The noise he made gave away his presence though and before he could even knock on the door his mother was there, pulling him into a tight embrace.

"Oh Fili, thank Mahal," Dis exclaimed, pulling his head onto her shoulder. "I don't know what I would have done if you both ..."

Fili tensed as she trailed off and pulled out of her arms. "I'm fine mother. How is he?"

Dis moved out of the doorway and tilted her head to indicate he should see for himself. Fili stepped into the room, first noticing that it was stifling hot, with a fire burning bright in the far corner. Then he only had eyes for the bed across the room and its sole occupant.

Despite the warmth of the room Kili's skin was ashen with no blush of color, except where it was brown or blue with bruises, mostly around his left eye and part of his chin. A bandage covered the right side of his forehead but the rest of his body was hidden with blankets, except for his left hand, bandaged and splinted and left to lie on the sheets. What Fili couldn't stand was how his brother didn't move, not a twitch, or a kick of his leg, or a scratch; he couldn't even be sure he was breathing, his chest barely rose.

"Oh brother," he said, sitting on the edge of the bed and fishing Kili's uninjured hand out from beneath the sheets. "I'm so sorry I let this happen."

"Fili," his mother said, walking over and touching his hair with a wise smile. "He doesn't want your apologies, he wants your strength. Just be there for him and he'll be fine. You'll see. Now stay with your brother. I have to speak with your uncle."

"Of course, Ma. I'm not going anywhere." He shed his coat and made himself comfortable. "You hear that Kili? I'm not going anywhere."


Probably one more chapter after this I think. A little bit more comfort and the trial of Nolin and his companions. Thanks for sticking around and for all the kind words.