I have a younger brother. We fight like cats and dogs (or like Dori and Nori), but I love him deeply. I think a lot of the brotherly feels in this came from that. Give your brother a hug next time you see him, yeah? They're worth every button they push.

This chapter contains a panic attack and a flashback to drowning, so be ye forewarned.

It also contains Khudzul! Yay! Translations are in the lower notes.

And look, Durin feels.


He woke to warmth, the familiar feel of a woodfire's heat telling him how close he lay to the fire, but the warmth was greater than that. Heat surrounded him on all sides like a cloak of hot coals and he released a sigh at the feeling. There was a blanket
wrapped around him, pinning his arms in place, which was just as well. He could feel the hot bands that wrapped around his chest from behind, the forehead pressed against the back of his neck, and he'd know Nori anywhere, sight or not.

He had only a moment to wonder what had woken him before the blanket around him was quivering and he heard someone bite off a gasp into his chest. Blinking, the blinding light of the fire against the black of the night not doing his sight any favors,
he stared down in some confusion at the silver braids decorating his brother's head. Dori had his face pressed into his chest, fingers twisted in the blanket that he was wrapped in tightly enough that Ori briefly pitied the blanket. The dwarf was
trembling, his throat making high-pitched keening sounds that he kept trying to stifle.

Ori tried to move, briefly cursing his brothers' abilities to wrap him up like a sandwich when he found his arms were very thoroughly pinned to his sides. When Dori made a sound like a sob, Ori stilled his escape attempts.

"Dori?" he whispered, and promptly broke into a coughing fit that sent pain racing up and down his throat. He hadn't noticed the pain until the coughing, but that seemed to make everything suddenly ache – his throat, his head, his chest. Even his sinuses
felt like they had been strained to their limits and Ori made a soft moaning sound as the coughing finally subsided, wishing he had just gone back to sleep.

There was a movement behind him and the arms that had been wrapped around him slipped away. Ori turned his head and Nori's face appeared above him a moment later.

"Don't speak," he said quietly, his voice only just loud enough that Ori could hear it. "Throat hurt?" Ori swallowed, opened his mouth, but Nori shook his head. "Nod or shake – no talking."

He shut his mouth and swallowed again, nodding.

"Be right back." He reached out and touched Ori's shoulder for a moment, before silently slipping away.

Ori frowned after him. His brother was very good at pretending emotions. He'd tricked enough guards into getting himself out of trouble to prove his capabilities, never mind how often he managed to fool Dori. So seeing him with such a worried expression
on his face was, itself, worrying, never mind that his hand had hesitated just a moment before it touched Ori's shoulder. Was his brother afraid? Why?

Nori reappeared a moment later, a cup in his hands. He knelt back down next to Ori and slipped a hand behind his shoulders. "Sit up now," he murmured, "slowly."

Ori frowned at him. He didn't need help sitting up, he was perfectly fine, and he opened his mouth to say so as he sat up.

Except he hadn't expected the way every muscle in his body would rebel, shrieking, and though he didn't cry out (Dori was still asleep), he couldn't contain the gasp of surprise and pain. He felt someone step up behind him, a sudden presence, and then
arms were around him, pulling him up, and he was pressed back until he was leaning against something and there were arms (familiar arms) curling around him again and someone was whispering in his ear.

It took him a moment to come down from the pain, for the muscles in his body to relax enough that he could focus on any of his other senses. He could feel himself shuddering, his muscles quivering without his consent, and he whimpered at being so unable
to control himself.

"Shh, it's all right."

"Nori," he mumbled, barely a sound at all, and Nori's arms tightened briefly around him from where he was sitting behind Ori, acting as a brace for Ori to lean against.

"Don't talk, your throat's too sore." There was a movement at his front, a sudden warmth in his fingers, and he looked down to see Nori pressing the cup in his hands. "Willowbark." He felt Nori's forehead press against the back of his head. "It'll help."

Ori shuddered. He'd never had cause to drink willowbark before but he'd heard the others complain about it whenever it was pushed on them. Nori, in particular, had been forced to drink it multiple times. Apparently, one never got used to the taste.

Obediently, he raised the cup to his lips, trying not to spill it as his hands shook. The first press of it on his tongue was more horrifying for his imagination, but that still didn't better the taste. It wasn't scalding. Nori had apparently made sure
it was cool enough to be drunk quickly.

"Better do it quick."

Ori swallowed once, then tipped the cup back and drank the tea as fast as he could. He choked on the bitter flavor of it and felt Nori flinch behind him, and briefly thought that he would have something he could complain about with his brother now, because
yes, that was disgusting.

He felt a hand take the cup from him and he opened his eyes, only realizing then that he had started to doze off. He looked up and spied Bofur watching him quietly, his normally-cheerful face suddenly solemn.

"Bofur?"

The hatted dwarf cocked a smile at him, not quite as cheerful as his usual, and patted Ori's arm briefly. Then he turned and stepped back toward the fire that Ori just realized he was still facing.

Nori was being very quiet, which was a very Nori thing to do, but he was also being very tactile, which was not normal, and his arms which were wrapped around Ori were very still. He could feel the tension in the arms and in Nori's body behind him. He
frowned.

"Nori?"

"Shh," Nori whispered.

"Nori, what happened?"

His brother shivered behind him and Ori reached down and grabbed one of his hands, squeezing it in his. Nori sighed.

"What do you remember?"

Frowning, Ori had to think for a moment. He'd been distracted by the coughing and the pain and hadn't really thought about it, but he didn't remember them making camp last night. He remembered... they had to cross the river...

Something had scared his pony, he didn't know what. They had been moving in a single-file line across a high bed of rock that stretched the river from one bank to the next, but it had been narrow and the river had been fast enough that they'd needed to
go slow. Ori had been behind both of his brothers, Bofur and Bilbo behind him. He'd been thinking about how wet his feet were inside his boots and how happy he was that they were almost across the river, when his pony had whinnied in terror and reared.

The shrill terror of Minty's cry made him think wargs and he opened his mouth to cry out, ridiculously, that there were orcs in the water. He hit the water with all the weight of his pony on top of him. The air rushed out of his lungs at the impact and he'd gasped, the sharp bite of water hitting the back of his throat like knives, and he choked and gasped, flailing for the surface. Ropes lashed around his arms and something grabbed his leg and there was something wrapped tightly around his chest and he couldn't breathe. He
couldn't breathe!

"ORI!"

He sucked in a desperate breath of air, choking on it, expecting water and his lungs couldn't decide whether or not they could breathe, whether or not he was alive, and there was still something wrapped around his chest. Ori flailed, gasping,
and felt the ropes let go and he hit the ground with a whuff, fingers digging into the dirt because it was dry and he wasn't in the river and oh Mahal, he could breathe, he could breathe.

"Ori... just, just breathe, all right?"

Was that Nori? Nori never sounded like that, like he was about to burst into tears, and Ori struggled to look over, to find him, only he couldn't quiet move. Everything hurt and he was still gasping, trying to just...

"Thrik. It's all right, lad. You're safe."

There was a hand pressing lightly against his back, fingers kneading the back of his neck, and Ori whined pitifully and felt his face flare with heat.

"None of that." And that was Dwalin's growl behind him, grumpy and firm. "You've got nothing to be ashamed of. Just breathe, lad. You're safe."

"What... happened?" Ori gasped, and his voice broke on the second word because he remembered the way the dark had rolled in like smoke as the strength in his arms had fled.

"Our little burglar pulled you out of the river," Dwalin growled, and Ori might have thought he was angry about it, except his hands kept kneading with careful precision, loosening the tight muscles of Ori's aching shoulders and neck, and he could feel
his breath coming easier, the desperation settling down. He was safe. He was safe.

"Pulled you out of the river and then got the river out of you. Didn't rightly know what he was doing. We thought we'd lost you an' he went right in after you, more fish than hobbit, and got you out. Then he brought you back. We figured you were lost
to us, Karaz Khajima."

Ori choked out a laugh. "I'm not."

"You are," Nori whispered. He wasn't touching Ori anymore, but he was kneeling close by, his mouth at Ori's ear. "We thought you lost, Ori. Sannadadith." His voice broke and he pressed his head against Ori's. "We thought you
lost."


Bofur sat watching as Dwalin coaxed Ori back down from a panic attack, his normally fierce expression replaced with something as gentle as his hands. At Nori's yell, Bofur had leapt to his feet, as ready as the rest of them to rush over and help, struck
by the choking gasps Ori was making like he was drowning all over again. Dwalin had made it over to him first, and considering how well he was managing to help, Bofur was content to stay seated where he was.

He'd gone over briefly when Ori had first woken, helping Nori situate his brother so he was leaning back against his chest. The lad had been confused and clearly hurting and Bofur couldn't help but linger for a time, managing to excuse his hovering by
taking the cup from Ori when he was finished. When the scribe had said his name, Bofur had tried to smile but he knew he hadn't managed it well enough. His mind had been back on that moment when he'd rolled the lad over to see him staring vacantly,
water trickling from his mouth.

It wasn't the first time Bofur had pulled a drowned body from the water. First time he'd pulled a fucking kid from the water.

The last too, he hoped. Mahal's mercy.

Speaking of the Valar and their gifts.

Bofur's eyes found their burglar where he lay. It was an odd sight indeed to see the small creature wrapped up tightly in a blanket and held carefully by a slumbering Bifur. Bofur's lips curled up a bit at the sight. Odd, maybe, but if you knew Bifur,
then not unexpected. His cousin had always had a soft spot for children and though Master Baggins wasn't a child, there was just something very innocent about a people who spent their time planting gardens, smoking pipeweed, and eating enough food
for... well, for thirteen dwarrow.

Bifur had taken something of an interest in the hobbit as soon as they met him. Bofur suspected it might have had something to do with how Master Baggins had looked at the ax embedded in his cousin's skull and, after noting that Bifur was neither bleeding
or dying, let it go. He didn't know if that had been from a need to ignore it to stay sane or if the hobbit had realized that dwarrow were much more resilient than other species, but considering that a lot of people from their own species reacted
to Bifur in fear for his appearance and his speech, Master Baggins' lack of reaction (whatever the cause) had been enough to endear him somewhat to Bifur. And then he went and saved little Ori's life.

Bofur had been around hobbits for a few years. He came down to Bree every few years with Bifur to sell toys to Men and Hobbits alike and they did fairly well at it. It gave them a bit of variety when his only other alternative was mining and the wee hobbits
were just adorable.

Having been around them for a time, though always as strange as any not-hobbit was to their kind, Bofur had learned a few things. He knew hobbits ate as many as seven meals a day, knew those hairy feet packed a wallop he didn't care to ever feel, and
he knew hobbits, as a rule, don't swim. Can't swim. Or so he'd thought.

He'd have to ask their burglar about that later. He'd also be asking him to show him how to bring someone back like he had Ori. Bofur had been in mines when some stone-blind sod had broken through and hit water. There was little more terrifying than the
sound made by a flood rushing through a stone tunnel, headed right for you. Bofur'd been lucky. Three times he'd been in a flooded mine, and twice he'd been tossed under the water. He'd been pulled out the first time, dragged up on the rocks, and
the second time slammed his mattock into the wall and held his breath, weathering the flood almost to blackness and sucking in a grateful breath when the water had lessened enough he could get his head above it. The third time, he'd made it high enough
in the tunnel to avoid the rush of water, grabbing everyone he could as they washed by. He'd dragged up more than one fellow miner that'd been thrown against the wall and had their skulls fractured, but it was the ones that had drowned that were the
worst. No wounds, just sopping wet and limp. He'd pulled them up and thrown them against the ground, shaken them desperately. A few, lucky few, had choked up the water and breathed on their own, but for the ones that hadn't...

Bofur hadn't known what to do.

When Bilbo – Master Baggins – had shoved the reins into his hands and dove into the water, Bofur had felt his stomach plummet down to his toes. Dori was yelling and Thorin was swearing, and Bofur was sitting astride his pony with Myrtle's reins in his
hands. Myrtle, the hobbit had named her. He'd named all the ponies and told each of them the name of the one they were riding with an irritated smile on his face, like he was furious but was trying to be polite. The smile had only gotten wider – and
scarier – when Thorin had called him "halfling" again and told him it was stupid to name the ponies since they were less likely to make it to Erebor than Bilbo himself.

Ori's pony's name was Minty.

Thorin might well have been right about that.

It had been Myrtle herself who'd yanked Bofur out of his dreaded contemplations. Surging ahead, she'd half-dragged him behind her and might well have pulled him right off his pony if Myrtle's whinny hadn't had Apple following after her obediently.

Bofur had been forced to ignore the others once they hit the far bank and both ponies broke into a dead run. He'd been able to hear hoofbeats behind him, later determined to be Bifur, but his attention had been riveted on Myrtle, who followed the river
as close as she dared, ears turned toward the water, almost as though she could tell where their burglar was.

And then Bilbo had surfaced, gasping in a breath, and Bofur had felt himself cry out when he saw Minty's thrashing hooves send the hobbit back under the water.

The pony had been making a horrible racket, squealing out a hoarse whinny every time she managed to get her head above the water. Bofur had tracked the pony with his eyes, which is how he'd caught sight of Bilbo when the hobbit broke the surface of the
water again, hauling Ori with him. It'd been just for a moment, but Bofur had leapt from Apple's back and raced to the river, eyes scanning the water. He'd caught sight of Bilbo just as he slammed into the bank and reached in, grabbing whatever he
could and pulling him and Ori both from the river.

The way Bilbo had just sat there, eyes wide, face pale, had frightened Bofur and he'd turned to Ori to get away from the haunted look in Bilbo's large blue eyes. It had only gotten worse when he'd rolled Ori over. Just like those times in the mines...

The fire popped and Bofur jumped, pulled out of his thoughts. His eyes scanned the company. Most of them had returned to sleep. He found Ori, once again wrapped up tight in his brother's arms, and it was a relief that Dori looked calmer now. Oin had needed
to give the dwarf something to knock him unconscious. He'd been a mess even once Ori had been back with them. Gandalf had appeared a couple of hours later from wherever he had disappeared to the night before and did something that knocked Dori unconscious,
which was just as well. Couldn't seem to stop the nightmares, though, if his shaking sobs were any indication. Wizards.

Gandalf had gotten his arse torn into by a furious Thorin for not being there. He'd not looked pleased when Gandalf had reminded him that he said not to cross the river until he was back with them to assist. He hadn't said what happened to Ori
was Thorin's fault, although from the look on Thorin's face, Bofur rather suspected he was placing blame on his own head well enough. If nothing else, that was proof that Thorin was a deserving king – not even back in the mountains and already wearing
a crown of guilt.

Gandalf had checked over Ori, as well, and done some of his wizardry to make the dwarf breathe a little easier. Then he'd disappeared again, off to find some place for them to stay, he said, but not before telling Thorin that he would be remaining at
their present camp for another full day at least. Not only did Ori need to recover, but so did Bilbo.

Bofur stuffed his pipe full of fresh leaf, his mouth curling down into an uncommon grimace. Rivers, he thought. He'd never trust one again.


Their burglar still hadn't woken.

Thorin sat by himself at the edge of camp so he could keep everyone in his sight. He watched as Dwalin stomped back over to him, having calmed Ori's panic and left him to lie back down with his brothers. Thorin felt the conflict rise again in his mind,
bringing children on this foolish quest. They weren't dwarflings, no, but Kíli and Ori both were barely of majority age. How could he bring them along on what might well be one long walk to a fiery death?

"I wouldn't go suggesting what you're thinking," Dwalin growled, settling down beside him.

"It was foolish to bring them."

"This whole damn quest is foolish. You'd be more fool yet to try to send them back. Kíli'd just give you those damn eyes of his. Ori might well try to fight you for the right."

Thorin huffed. "You think he'd stand a chance?"

"If he's anything like his brothers, I might just bet on him." Thorin raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "You seen the way that thief moves? He only makes noise when he's walking because it makes other people more comfortable. He's a fucking ghost when he
wants to be. And then there's his older brother. Fussy though he is, that dwarf could pick me up and throw me. If the little 'un has any of their traits at all, he'd be a force to be reckoned with."

"He doesn't seem to have either." He seemed more likely to cringe away from an attacker than to meet him on the battlefield, never mind that he was constantly being fussed over by his older brother, or blushing profusely at something Nori had said.

"And our hobbit doesn't seem the type to be able to bring someone back from drowning. And yet."

"And yet," Thorin murmured in agreement. That was something he had never seen before. A drowned dwarf had always been a dead dwarf as far as he'd ever known. Oftentimes lost, too, as heavy as their armor was. Amazing that the halfling had been able to
bring him back, yes. Amazing he'd even been able to pull him from the water in the first place.

"The wizard might be right," Balin said, and he was apparently not as asleep as Thorin had thought, lying on the other side of Dwalin with his fingers entwined over his stomach. "More to our burglar than meets the eye."

Thorin sighed smoke out of his nose and chewed on the end of his pipe. "Is this going to turn into a lesson?"

"Does it need to?" Balin asked, and Thorin was reminded that this was the dwarf who had taught him most of his lessons. It'd been years since he'd heard it but Balin still had that teacher voice. And it still made Thorin cringe.

"No," he said quickly, to preempt a lesson. And then more softly, "No. It doesn't."

"I'm glad. It was getting a little ridiculous."

He didn't need to ask what was ridiculous. He'd caught Balin's stink-eye on more than one occasion when he'd snapped irritably at the halfling. The older dwarf hadn't approved of his mannerisms, partly for the fact that their burglar should have been
treated as one of them, having signed the contract, and in part because the company was more than likely to follow the opinion of their king (and had). With some exception.

Thorin's eyes slid to Bofur. The miner was sitting apart from everyone else, puffing on his pipe and watching the halfling carefully. He hadn't been to sleep yet, for all that it'd be light in a couple hours. Didn't look like he planned to sleep at all.
Thorin had recognized that the dwarf was usually cheerful, often laughing or singing a tune, but he hadn't realized he'd taken to the halfling quite so much. He should have. Should have noticed both him and his cousin's care toward their burglar,
the other wrapped around the halfling as he was.

When Bofur had rushed past them, Bifur on his heels, the rest of them had just stood there for a moment, astride their ponies, staring. It hadn't been a week and already they'd lost two of their company to a river of all things. They'd come to their senses
and followed, arriving to find Ori face-down on the ground, the hobbit throwing all of his weight against the young dwarf's back, huffing and puffing for breath even as he struggled.

Dori had been the first to move then, surging forward, only to have Bifur leap out of nowhere and grab hold of him. He nearly found himself flung to the ground, and might have been, if Dwalin hadn't grabbed Dori, too, and held him, muttering something
to him, watching the halfling with wary eyes that held a thought he didn't share aloud.

About a minute of watching their burglar throw his body weight against the dwarf and Thorin had been ready to tell him to stop, please stop, when Ori had started choking up water. He'd only stared, lost, at the sound Nori made, silent Nori, when
the halfling rolled his brother onto his back and the young dwarf's head had lolled limply.

Thorin remembered feeling very cold, his eyes staring at Ori and the halfling, but seeing long golden curls and staring eyes in a familiar, long-lost face. It'd been Oin that'd shaken him from his memories, giving his shoulder a firm whack as he called
out orders, and he had rushed over to check on Ori, the lad choking and spitting water and breathing.

It'd been Bofur that'd yelled the halfling's name and lunged forward, catching him as he'd sagged into unconsciousness, pulling him up into his arms and talking to him, trying to wake him. Only then did Thorin notice the blood covering half of the burglar's
face, making the rest seem near white by comparison. Bofur had kept talking to the halfling even though he was clearly unconscious, holding him tight as he fell to shivering and Oin came over and checked him over, cleaning the head wound and revealing
a large reddened bump with a great bleeding gash across it.

"Rock?" Oin had asked.

Bofur had swallowed thickly. "Minty – Ori's pony – kicked him in the head when she was thrashin'."

Kicked in the head. Must have been a glancing blow or they'd have pulled two drowned bodies from the river and had no way to save them. Ponies weren't as dangerous as horses to dwarrow (or hobbits) but they still had powerful legs. A kick from a pony
could kill a man on dry land, never mind in the water. Thorin tossed a prayer of thanks to Mahal for protecting his company, and then one for introducing them to someone who knew how to save someone from drowning. If he knew what Valar the hobbits
worshipped, he'd throw a prayer to them, too.

Ori had been taken by his brothers and wrapped up tight, the two of them clinging to him desperately. Thorin worried. Nori's presence in the company was something of a point of contention between him and Dwalin. He wanted someone with skills different
from the rest of them. Dwalin didn't like having a thief along, especially one so good at hiding their emotions. Except Nori wasn't hiding his emotions very well at all. He thought the thief might only have been more sane than Dori out of sheer stubborn
desperation, but there was a terror in his eyes that wouldn't leave any time soon. Thorin remembered the look well from his own eyes, though after he'd found Frerin on the battlefield, there'd been no one capable of pulling him back to the living.
He forced away the jealousy of grief and let himself be happy for the three brothers, and he hoped no matter what this damn quest brought them, they'd still be together at the end of it.

Thorin felt a furious wish well up within him that Dís was there with them. He inhaled a steadying breath and let it out slowly. It'd been a while since he'd felt such a crushing grip of loneliness for family and his eyes sought out the halfling again.
Thorin had called together a company, anyone willing, and those that had come were brothers and cousins – family. Except for one. The fourteenth member of their company was a hobbit of the Shire, perhaps not as unknowing as Thorin had thought, but
still, alone where they all had family with them.

His mind flashed back to Gandalf, before the wizard left again. Their argument had ended with Thorin feeling thoroughly angry with himself (which, if he was being honest, was also how the argument started), and Gandalf had wandered off to check on Ori,
muttering words of magic under his breath that seemed to ease the scribe's breathing, and Nori's nerves. And then the wizard had gone over to check on the burglar.

There had been no words of magic for the halfling, just a gentle brush of the wizard's hand through golden curls. Tharkun had looked at the halfling with a gentle expression Thorin had never seen on his face before. Then he'd offered Bifur a kind smile,
stepped away from them both, and was gone a moment later to look for shelter further down the road.

Thorin sighed. He hoped the wizard would come back soon. And he'd never thought he'd hope for something so... potentially irritating.

He pushed himself to his feet.

"Lad?" Balin asked.

"Get some sleep," Thorin grumbled at the two of them.

"You first," Dwalin muttered.

Thorin huffed and stepped away from the two of them. He circled around the fire, patting Bofur on the shoulder lightly as he passed. He didn't bother to tell the dwarf to sleep, knew he wouldn't. Bofur met his gaze and offered a nod, but his normally
cheerful expression was still lost in the pensive frown on his face. Thorin left him chewing on his pipe stem and moved around the fire. He shouldn't have been surprised to end up between the Ri Brothers and where Bifur was wrapped around Bilbo. There
was enough distance for some privacy, though, which he was thankful for, and suspected Nori, at least, appreciated.

Fíli and Kíli were curled up together, as usual, arms wrapped around the other and foreheads touching. He hadn't yet reached their side when Kíli's head snapped up, eyes instantly alert.

"Uncle?" Kíli asked softly, eyes scanning the campsite, looking for threats. Fíli was awake, too, he saw, eyes open and watching him, body still feigning sleep, fingers touching the hilt of one of his hidden blades. He felt pride flare in his heart right
alongside the old grief. At times, his nephews reminded him so much of Frerin his chest ached like he was finding him all over again.

"All's well," he said, crouching down beside them.

At the assurance that things were fine, Fíli lifted his head. He studied Thorin for a moment, then smacked Kíli in the side with the back of his hand. The brothers shifted, separating, and Thorin could only huff a laugh. He lowered himself to the ground
between them, and a moment later he was being used as a pillow. It was almost like they were dwarflings again, clinging to their uncle and asking for stories about Erebor and their grandfather and yes, even the damn dragon.

Thorin wrapped his arms around them, thinking for a moment how thankful he was that they were here with him, and how scared. He could lose them. If he wasn't careful, he could lose them.

He didn't dare, couldn't bear it. Not his nephews. Not his boys. He pressed his forehead to Fíli's head, then Kíli's, so desperately grateful for their presence that he felt tears prick his eyes.

"Uncle?" Fíli asked, concerned.

"All is well, Ghivâshelûh. I am just so glad you are here."

They clung to him like children and he tried not to let his grief overwhelm him. Gandalf had told him to wait to cross the river until he was there because the rivers in this part of the world are dangerous. They look calm on the surface when beneath
they rage, death incarnate. It was amazing only Ori fell in, he'd said. Amazing the whole of the Company wasn't submerged, that the rocky crossing they'd been using could have shifted at any moment and drowned all of them.

His foolishness could have taken Fíli and Kíli from him as easily as it almost took Ori. It could have been him standing, watching the halfling try and bring his boys back from the river.

Thorin had survived a great deal of grief in his life, but he wouldn't survive that. Losing them would kill him as surely as any orc blade.

It won't happen, he promised himself, promised them. I won't let anything make me risk them so terribly again. Bad enough they're here to start. Although he couldn't bring himself to wish them gone. So selfish.

"Uncle?" Kíli whispered. He turned his head to look at his dark-haired nephew. He seemed hesitant, before quietly asking, "Is Mister Baggins going to be all right?"

Baggins. Now, if that didn't tell how worried Kíli was, Thorin was a blind fool. Kíli delighted in calling the halfling Mister Boggins, and after some initial fluffing and puffing, the hobbit had taken it as the good-natured teasing it
was and even teased back. Thorin had snapped at him for it on more than one occasion, earning that stink-eyed look from Balin for his troubles. It'd only made the halfling more discrete in his teasing, anyway. Also might explain who kept hitting him
in the back of the head with pinecones.

"Gandalf didn't seem overly concerned," Thorin said quietly, squeezing his nephew gently. "We're staying here tomorrow, too. It'll give both the halfling and Ori time to recover, and Gandalf can find us easily again."

Kíli nodded, but his eyes were drooping. Thorin pressed their foreheads together. "Sleep, Bâhzundushuh. You'll be able to tease the halfling again in the morning."

"Hobbit," Kíli murmured, half-asleep already, his eyes closed. "Halfling's n'insult."

Thorin opened his mouth for a moment, then shut it. Ah. Yes, that would explain the pinecones.

"Sleep," he murmured, but Kíli was already asleep. On his other side, Fíli's breaths were already deep in slumber. Thorin lay quietly, staring at the starlit sky, treasuring the feel of both of them lying beside him. Cherishing every breath they took.
He watched a cloud brush across the stars, for a moment looking as grey as stone, a dwarven tomb in the sky. And then the wind pushed the cloud away and the sky was clear again.

Thorin closed his eyes. He had things he needed to change, reparations to make, an apology to give. Probably multiple apologies. If this had taught him anything, it was that their half– their hobbit was more than he appeared. Thorin would apologize
for his wrongs done to the hobbit and his cruel words, and then maybe they could start again. Mahal, they'd already crossed the damn river. Fording an apology should be easy in comparison.

Tomorrow was a new day.


Thrik - Steady

Karaz Khajima - Enduring Gift

Sannadadith - Perfect younger brother

Ghivâshelûh- My treasures of (all) treasures

Bâhzundushuh - My raven

I was startled by the immediate response to the first chapter. Thank you all so much for all of the Favorites, Follows, Alerts, and Reviews. You're all awesome. I hope this second chapter is equally as pleasing. For those interested, there's a possibility
of small one or two-shots occurring in this same universe in the future. My beta is begging me to write The Pinecone Incident at least, and how can I refuse? If you have anything in particular you'd be interested in seeing, let me know in a review.

For anyone interested, I am working on a novel-length Hobbit fic at the moment called How Familiar the Sky. So keep an eye out!

Thanks all for reading!