Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters or actors from The Hobbit. Everything belongs to the great and powerful J.R.R. Tolkien.
Thank you to everyone for the lovely reviews!
Chapter IX - Thorin
Thorin was perfectly capable of caring for a sick faunt all by his lonesome.
Everyone assumed that the King Under the Mountain was above such simple things as wiping a child's sniffling nose, losing sleep due to croupy coughing, or coaxing soup into an achy child's throat. He had done all of these things with Fíli and Kíli as dwarflings, never once hesitating to care for his sick nephews or the drudgery that came along with it. A lot of things could be said about Thorin, son of Thráin, son of Thrór, but being a negligent guardian or parental figure was not one of them. Well, except for that one time with that one stone that shouldn't be brought up around his sister or Bilbo without fear of death. But Thorin had improved greatly since then, even going so far as to lock the Arkenstone very deep in his grandfathers' tombs.
Of course, there had always been a little bit of help there, too. Dís was never far from her sons in their early years, ever mindful of possible injuries or illnesses that might strike her fiesty pair of rascals. Providing coin, shelter, and travel for any maladies had fallen to Thorin, his position as uncle requiring him to seek out treatments more often than providing actual hands-on care. The same had seemed to apply to Frodo as well, the young faunt usually falling under Bilbo's attentive care while Thorin supplied all of the physical means needed for treatment. But with Bilbo, Kíli, Bombur, and Balin in Dale for the autumn harvests and signing of several treaties, it now fell into Thorin's hands to fully care for his youngest nephew.
"He's the sixth child to come down with it," said Óin earlier in the evening. "Probably caught it from Donel. His started yesterday morning and the cough's only gotten worse since then. I've already ordered a quarantine for every family with young children in the residential halls."
"Fíli and Kíli never had it," said Dís, her arms full of hacking faunt. "I think I heard some human children with it before, though."
"It's one of the childhood illnesses that seems to move between species without discrimination," explained the healer. "And the croup's a right nasty bug to catch for any little one like our Frodo."
"What are the methods for treating it?" asked Thorin. "Is there a tonic?"
"There's no guaranteed or fast cure, if that's what you're asking," said Óin with a grimace. "Keeping him calm during an attack's very important since crying will only make the swelling in his windpipe worse. Taking him outside for some fresh air or into the washroom for a steamy bath might help, too. Loosens up the lungs, from what I've seen over the years. Lots and lots of water, of course. Fear of dehydration's always a good thing with sick children. And keep him in bed with you for the next week or so. It'll get much worse at night."
"When will Bilbo be back?" Dís had asked afterwards.
"If everything goes according to plan with the harvests and new storage methods," said Thorin, "Then in three days time. And I know what you're thinking, namadith. There's no need to send for Bilbo over a simple cough and cold. I've handled sick children before, in case you've forgotten."
"Fine, if that's how you feel. I'll be in my chambers if you need anything, though."
As it turned out, Óin hadn't been joking when he'd said that the coughing would get worse at night. By late evening, Frodo's cough had taken on a hoarse barking sound that seemed to rattle the walls around him. It had been loud enough to draw the attention of Dwalin, Dís, and Fíli several times, their worried faces peeking in the doors of Thorin's bedchambers every other hour. Even Nori had appeared twice from out of nowhere, dark eyes always looking for an intruder or object that might cause harm to the littlest member of their Company. The only thing that seemed to ease everyone's worries was Óin's check-ups every few hours and his assurances that the croup always progressed along in this way.
"Lets see if this will help at all," muttered Thorin as he filled up the washroom bath. "Lots and lots of steam, Óin said. Break up some of that nasty phlegm you've got in there."
Frodo stood at his uncle's feet, arms wrapped around a hairy and inked up leg while the in-ground bath slowly filled up. He hadn't stopped hacking for over an hour now, small face going red with exertion as the wheezing got worse and worse as nighttime approached. It distressed and frustrated the little boy a great deal, tears nearly bursting out on several occasions as Thorin tried to find an effective way to soothe his nephew's constant stridor.
"No, Granite, you can't go swimming in the bath again," warned Thorin, flicking the deerhound on the behind when he nearly toppled into the water. "Go lay on your bed with Beryl and Jasper. Go!"
"Why can't he stay?" whined Frodo.
"Because his fur will clog the pipes and your uncle will starve me if that happens again," said Thorin, sinking into the bath water with Frodo in his arms. The faunt was still too small to take a bath in any of the royal washrooms alone. "Now take some breaths with me, alright?"
Thorin spent a half-hour with Frodo in the steamy bath, the little boy's breathing gradually evening out as the minutes passed. The Dwarf-King was in the process of drying Frodo off when Dwalin decided to make his presence known, loud chuckles echoing through the bedchambers when the warrior dwarf spotted his longtime friend on the floor. A goblet would've connected with the loud dwarf's thick head if Thorin's arms hadn't been full of towels and a sickly faunt. So, he settled for kicking him instead.
"Who'd have thought? The great Thorin Oakenshield, King Under the Mountain and valiant reclaimer of Erebor, spending his evenings wiping up snotty noses and taking bubble baths with a halfling faunt and his toy dragon?" Dwalin walked over and started to play-fight with one of the hounds. "I'd normally say that such things aren't very kingly in manner, but I also fear that Bilbo would take my cupcakes away. Again."
"It'd certainly serve you right if he did. Again."
"You do realize that he has all of us wrapped around his little finger through the food that he makes?"
"I'm well aware of that."
"Well, except for you," said Dwalin with a shit-eating smirk. "He's got you wrapped around other things."
"Dwalin... We've talked about this. Not in front of Frodo."
"The lad's living amongst dwarves, Thorin. We're a perverted bunch compared to those fussy little hobbits, in case you haven't noticed. He'll be hearing much worse in the corridors than what comes out of my gob."
"And what a filthy gob it is."
They spent the next few hours talking and catching up on the missives that Thorin had let sit over the past couple nights. Thorin kept the sick faunt tucked away in his shirts the entire time, wary of leaving Frodo alone in the bed for even a few minutes. Dwalin called him a worrywart at first, but the barking sound of Frodo's coughs and the redness of his face soon caused the larger dwarf to nod in agreement.
"Dís and Fíli are handling the rest of it," said Thorin, wrapping Frodo and Rupert the teddy bear even snugger into his shirts before they went for a walk on the battlements. "Óin advised taking him out for some fresh air when the coughs disrupt his sleep."
"Ah, a midnight stroll. Haven't had one of those in a while. Always good for checking on the guards."
"Or making them piss their pants."
"Aye," said Dwalin with a roguish smile. "There's always that, too."
"Leave your pipe."
Thorin looked at him like he'd lost his mind. "Frodo has the croup. The smell and smoke of pipeweed would probably make him cough up a lung."
"You hush up in there and focus on breathing," advised Thorin with a flick to Frodo's pointy ear. "Now, stop standing there like some sort of infectious lump. I'd like to get some sleep tonight, if you must know."
"You've made our King turn soft, melekûnith."
Frodo's face wrinkled up in confusion. "But everyone else says that he's a grumpy slab of granite."
"I can live with that," said Thorin with a shrug.
And then Dwalin spent the next half-hour scaring the piss out of Erebor's sentries, lecturing any of them who he was able to sneak up on. Thorin just shook his head at that, far more concerned with the hacking faunt against his chest than the training of nighttime guards. It was Dwalin's job to handle them. A few passing dwarves stared at their King with curiosity, bemused by the sight of him cradling a small child in his shirts. None of them stared for long, though; Dwalin made sure of that, too.
"Never seen a dwarf with his child before? Yeah, that's it! Scamper off."
"Pull your ass out of the forge, oh grumpy one. The hobbit lets me do it all the time."
Thorin sighed. "He's just tired of telling you no at this point."
"Whatever works," shrugged the guardsman. "I'm sick of the new arrivals glaring at him and Frodo all of the time, too. It's a win-win scenario if you ask me."
"I suppose that—"
"Hey! What're you looking at, you filthy cur?"
I've actually had this chapter done since the first one, but I didn't want to post two Thorin-chapters too close together. But, hopefully readers won't mind a little bit more of His Royal Gruffness here. Khuzdul translations: melekûnith = little/child hobbit; namadith = little sister. And this chapter stems from all the croup and whooping cough cases I saw this year at work. Nasty stuff.