Kili is gone.

Where the dwarves sit, shaking and exhausted, they are protected only slightly from the storm, and now they distrust even the stone under their feet. Snow collects in every crevice of Fili's clothing and freezes his hair into crackling shards, but inside he is colder than ice, a thin crust over a bottomless sea of horror.

Kili is gone, and one of the ponies, and the entire ledge of stone they had only crossed moments before it fell.

They'll be spending the night here, Gandalf says, his voice weary with sorrow; he can no longer see the path, and this shallow outcropping will at least let them sleep without being buried. None of them thinks they will sleep; but, exhausted, they are all asleep in minutes, wrapped and piled in their bedrolls.

All but Fili, for whom the sound of Kili's scream still rings unfaded. An hour ago he was a brother; now he is alone. He hardly cares whether he lives or dies. It seems foolish to bother being warm.

This is what drives him out into the snow, abandoning his post; this is what holds his shaking fingers in brittle claw-shapes as he makes his bone-cold way down into the crevasse. Sometimes he slips; he catches himself. It doesn't matter. He will find Kili's body and lie beside it until the cold goes away.

He is expecting blood on the snow, or perhaps only a heap of rubble that serves as a grave. Certainly no-one could survive that fall.

So when he sees Kili's arm, and a moment later Kili's hair flung out over the snow, and Kili's face gray with cold; and when he sees those frosted lips move by the tiniest degree; he doesn't feel the cold at all, for in his chest a fire is burning.

Kili has vomited onto the snow, which is encouraging; Fili has seen dwarves pulled out of rockslides before, choking on their own bile, suffocated before the day is out even as they lie safely in their own beds. To find Kili still moving, the deadly bile spewed across the snow instead of frozen in Kili's throat- it is the first time Fili has even imagined that the sight of vomit would move him to tears.

The tears freeze on his cheeks as he kicks and paws and scrapes at the snow. Exercise warms him, but only slightly; and when he finally pulls Kili free, he finds that Kili has survived this hour of immersion in ice by the sheer luck of being pressed up against the cooling corpse of the pony.

There is a concavity only a short ways down the loose slope; Fili hefts the packs he can reach from the pony's carcass and drags his brother downhill, slipping and scrambling, until they are safe in the cave.

There's no firewood in the pack, nor flint and steel; but there are blankets, and mercifully one of the bedrolls with the rabbit-fur lining. Kili stirs as Fili drags him onto the fur, and when all the blankets are unfurled Fili strips off his own clothing- ignoring the agony of cold- and climbs naked under the blankets, strewing his own coat and leggings and all the odds and ends of his attire over them as an extra layer of warmth.

He strips Kili too, flinging his ice-packed clothing into a heap across the cave, and when they are naked skin-to-skin- Fili's flesh clenches into goosebumps at the chill of Kili's belly against his own- he rubs Kili's arms vigorously. The friction brings painful sensation back to his numb fingers; but slowly, slowly, the cadaverous chill lifts, and Kili's breathing speeds, and his eyes begin to flutter.

They are so close that Fili can feel his brother's heart stuttering, and he wonders if it's the cold blood flowing in his veins, or if there is some other magic that makes Kili's pulse skip a beat; but after an hour or two, long slow cold minutes passing as the red returns to Kili's lips, the faulty heartbeat eases and becomes regular, and finally Kili opens his eyes, disoriented and terrified, and with uncoordinated hands he clings to Fili like a drowning man.

They lie this way without speaking for a long time, while the last traces of light die out and the world goes utterly black around them; and with the blankets pulled up over their heads to muffle the howl of snow, they breathe each other's breath until Fili trusts his voice enough to speak.

"I thought you were dead," he says, and Kili winds his fingers in Fili's hair, a tangible reminder of his presence even though they cannot see each other in this dark.

Kili's voice is hoarse and broken. "You climbed down that whole way for a corpse?"

"I came to die with you," says Fili, knowing how stupid it sounds. "I thought- if you were gone- I thought it would be better to follow you."

Kili snorts at this. "Spoken like a true dwarf. I would have left you," he adds, but they both know how much of a lie it is, and Fili crushes him close and buries his face in his brother's neck; lets him feel the hot tears falling, and wonders if his brother cares that he is kissing his throat like a lover. It doesn't matter; he can't see, and he needs to touch, he needs to know. His mouth moves where the touch of his gaze cannot, and his breath unfurls across Kili's skin as he follows the line of that jaw until his lips are pressed into the fuzz that Kili calls his beard.

Kili gasps and shivers, and Fili knows that this is more than even their intimate brotherhood is accustomed to; but when his blind mouth brushes Kili's there is only a moment's pause, and then they are kissing. Kissing like lovers, with lips that part and teeth that catch skin and tongues that explore; kissing like war-widows reunited with beloved dead.

Fili cannot get close enough, cannot press his body along his brother's with enough force. All the fear and loss of the past few hours, the terror and the waiting and the danger that still surrounds them, the exultation of discovery and the trembling hope of survival; all of these things are a potent mixture, and all the more powerful is the pressure of skin against skin, and if their eyes are helpless in the dark their hands are all the light they need.

Kili is weeping against him, sobbing into his mouth, winding fingers through his hair and with his other hand stroking Fili from flank to thigh, long sweeps of his palm to reassure him of Fili's solid presences, to make concrete the shape of the other body that belongs to him. Fili can only curl his arms around his brother's ribs, pulling them together with closed fists that dig into Kili's shoulderblades. Between them they are hard, burning with some unbearable blend of emotions; the slide of skin against skin is a sweet balm against the shadow of death.

Delirious heat builds up inside him, and Fili shudders, and feels it echoed in his brother. He can't do this; he is ashamed of himself, for taking carnal pleasure in his brother's injured flesh. But as he pulls away, Kili whines, fingers digging into his skin and hair, pulling him back: "Please," he says, "I'm still cold."

Cold, Fili realizes, is the excuse they will use later, when the guilt closes in; cold is how they will justify the hot threads of pleasure that wind through their veins as they wrap around each other, as they rock against each other in the dark. They may yet die, Fili reminds himself, and he would rather die like this- face to face, breast to breast, taking pleasure in his brother's body and being given pleasure in return- than in any of the hundreds of other ways that are most likely, if they survive. If they both survive.

"Hush," says Fili, and kisses his brother again, silently offering himself as fire and forge to warm Kili's chilled flesh, and they rock and press together until their movements are frantic and their bellies streaked with wetness, until the shivers that run through Kili's skin have become a continuous counterpoint to his brokenhearted moans, until Fili can do nothing but pant in his brother's ear and thrust against his body as Kili tenses, chokes, and spills between them, hot wet slick that burns like molten gold; and Fili follows him with a few more strokes, moaning his relief into the muscle of Kili's shoulder, which still quivers from the force of his climax.

It is very dark; the wind falls still as they lie spent in each other's arms, still pressed as close as breathing, and the moon rises over the snow, and wound together in sleep, in warmth, in fate and love and loyalty, the brothers wait for rescue.