I do not own any of the characters or The Hobbit (just the AU storyline and my OC) Those are the work of the esteemed and brilliant John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, and without his genius, this and many other fan fics would not be in existence.

Please review! I love getting them- they keep me encouraged! J

The sun was just beginning to peek above the trees to the east. Cirashala doused their fire with loosened dirt, knowing that their water supply was limited, and that any water on a fire would produce more smoke as it died and irritate Kili's lungs further. She caught sight of their pack and water skin, and frowned.

He cannot carry that, she realized with chagrin. I cannot carry his coat- it's too heavy. He has to wear that. And we can't leave the pack behind-we barely have enough food and water as is.

She swallowed heavily, before moving toward the pack and sliding her arm through the strap. The young woman stood up, wincing as she did so, and turned to place her arm in the other strap when a sudden pained grunt sounded behind her. Cirashala turned to find the stubborn dwarf struggling to sit up on his own, despite being very ill with fever, and her eyes widened in alarm.

"Stop!" she cried, hurrying over to where Kili's bedroll was. The young dwarf paused in his attempt, looking up at her in surprise as he panted from the effort. His shallow breaths came very quickly, and beads of sweat were already forming upon his brow, causing the young woman to grow very concerned.

If just merely attempting to sit up already wore him out, how on earth is he supposed to hike through the woods?

"Wait," she said softly. Startled brown eyes followed her as she crouched down next to his left side, and the young woman reached over to grasp his hand with her own left.

"W-what are you doing?" he gasped, his brow furrowing in confusion as his glassy eyes looked down at his hand.

"Helping you up," she replied quietly. "I don't want your ribs to move out of place." She slowly pulled his arm over her shoulders, biting back a pained cry as the movement pulled at the wounds on her back, and wrapped her right arm around his torso, taking care to not jostle her splinted hand too much. The young prince suddenly tensed as realization dawned on him.

"Wait…I'm –I'm too heavy," he gasped as she moved to stand up. The young woman paused, her worried eyes turning toward him.

She was fighting with all her power to overcome the pain emanating from her back both from her wounds and from the pressure of his arm on her shoulders. Her exhaustion didn't help matters, nor did having gone with meager food at best for the last several days. But Cirashala knew that if they didn't find the company soon, they may never find them at all.

A memory came into her mind then, of Beorn with the company gathered round his giant table in the movie as he spoke of the lands surrounding his home, and her face drained of color.

These lands are crawling with orcs, and you are on foot. You will never reach the forest alive.

As her eyes fell on Kili's deathly pale face, eyes and cheeks bright with fever, the young woman took a deep breath and swallowed back her pain as much as she could. Grip tightening on his hand, Cirashala set her jaw in determination.

"I can do it."

XXX

Her legs trembled with the effort of attempting to stand while bearing Kili's weight as well as her own, but the young woman was finally able to heft the two of them to their feet. Cirashala inwardly thanked her Maker for giving her strong legs, and that Kili was at least able to help her some, knowing that she could never have borne his entire weight herself. The young prince was very unsteady on his feet for a moment, and Cirashala planted hers until he regained his balance, before the two set out eastward toward the rising sun.

It was very, very slow going. Kili's feet shuffled along as best he could to aid the young woman, and they were forced to take many breaks to allow the young dwarf to rest for a few moments. They had particular trouble over protruding roots and stones on the forest floor, and Kili stumbled several times throughout the day, but she somehow managed to prevent him from falling completely.

Cirashala slowly began to notice that Kili's face was growing paler as the day wore on, but the young dwarf refused to rest for more than a minute or two before continuing on. The young woman grew more and more worried as his breaths grew shallower and more congested, and kept casting concerned glances toward him out of the corner of her eye.

I know dwarves are stubborn, but he's going to kill himself if he keeps going like this.

Her thoughts were suddenly halted as Kili collapsed beside her with enough force to bring the two of them to their knees. His breaths came in quick gasps as his head lulled slightly on her shoulder.

"Kili?" Cirashala asked, worry and fear in her voice. She shook his shoulder slightly. "Kili!" His eyes slowly came up to meet hers even as beads of sweat dripped down the side of his temples. His dark locks were damp from the exertion, and the heat radiated off of him even hotter than before, making the young woman regret that she had conceded to his request to continue on instead of taking a day to rest.

"I-I can't," he gasped, eyes filled with shame even as they remained glassy. "I-I'm sorry, I…I can't."

The young dwarf shut his eyes tightly and rested his head on the front of her shoulder, his whole body trembling from the strain even as he struggled to breathe properly. The young woman's gaze softened as she looked at him, worry in the blue orbs.

"It's all right," she said quietly, feeling the heat of his forehead against her cheek even as her own face felt hot, and she knew that they must rest. They were out in the wild, and she believed it likely that her own fever was from exposure, given they had few supplies and little shelter. If they didn't rest, they would never make it to the skin changer's home.

As the young woman contemplated what she should do, another sound reached her ears. She looked forward in slight confusion, before her eyes widened suddenly as she recognized the sound for what it was.

Water.

Gripping his left hand tightly with her own, Cirashala glanced toward the young dwarf.

"Come on, Kili," she said softly. "Just a little further."

XXX

Bracing herself, the young woman took a deep breath, before attempting to stand up once more. Her legs trembled badly, and it took her several tries, but she finally managed to get the two of them to their feet.

Every few inches seemed like leagues, and Kili's weight across her shoulders was far heavier than it had been before as the dwarf's strength waned. She felt tremors in her legs even while standing, and knew that she was near collapse as well.

I desperately hope that water is as close as it sounds, because I don't think we can go much further.

She could feel the dwarf shaking beside her, and tried to quicken their pace slightly, fearing that he was dangerously close to collapsing again. Her entire body ached badly, and all she wanted was to soak in a hot bath and sleep for a week. Her eyes widened slightly as the word bath reverberated through her mind.

If I can get him in the water, maybe it would help lower his fever.

XXX

The sound of flowing water grew louder, and the pair rounded a tree to find a mountain stream running near their feet. The clear water splashed around a few submerged boulders, and small pebbles worn smooth by the rushing stream were visible on the bottom. Flashes of silver leapt and spun along the bottom of the cool water as the midday sun caught the scales of the tiny fish making their way downstream.

There were broadleaf trees and bushes framing the water all along the banks, even dipping down into it in some places where the bank came all the way to the edge of the stream. Cirashala was relieved to note that the stream itself was no deeper than two feet, and would be easily crossed on foot.

She tore her eyes away from the idyllic scene as the weight on her shoulder suddenly grew, and with a cry she caught Kili before the exhausted dwarf fell on his face. With a great deal of effort, she managed to lower him to the ground, biting back a cry of pain at the pressure on her wounds. Brown eyes hesitantly met hers, the dark orbs filled with shame. But just as he opened his mouth to speak, the young prince's eyes suddenly rolled in the back of his head and he went limp in her arms.

XXX

Kili groaned, feeling a great deal of heaviness in his chest. His lungs felt like they were on fire with each breath, and he shivered as something cold was suddenly pressed to his forehead.

"…li? Kili, can you hear me?" Slowly the young prince cracked his eyes open, wincing as the noon sun shined overhead. Shutting his eyes against the blinding brightness, he groaned again, wondering why his whole body hurt so badly. A shadow passed over the sun's rays, and he slowly opened his tired eyes once more, the dark orbs meeting worried blue.

"Kili, are you all right?" Cirashala asked, pressing a wet cloth against his cheek.

"What happened?" he gasped out, his lungs protesting each word. He was vaguely aware of a blanket on top of him and his fur coat underneath, and thought he heard the slight crackle of a fire burning nearby, but did not remember setting up camp. The young woman frowned, and he noticed her face was quite pale as well.

"You passed out," she said quietly. "We have got to lower your fever before we go on." Kili shook his head.

"The orcs—" he began, but Cirashala cut him off.

"Won't be the thing that kills you if you keep going like this," she stated, her jaw set in determination. The young prince was too exhausted to argue, and felt his eyes grow heavy, despite it being the middle of the day. The young woman reached into the pot beside them, dipping her rag into it again, before pressing it up against his forehead, causing him to shiver more.

"Kili?" she asked, her brow furrowing in concern.

"'m cold," he mumbled, and she nodded.

"Hot water won't lower a fever," she replied, and he nodded, shutting his eyes. The young woman studied his face for a moment, her expression unreadable, before rising and moving to their pack. Pulling her own blanket off the top, she moved back toward the young dwarf and tucked it around his shivering form.

"I don't think one more blanket is going to harm anything," she said quietly, moving to grab the quickly drying rag off his forehead and replace it with another cold one. The young dwarf's eyes followed her movements, gratefulness in the brown orbs.

"Thank you," he whispered, before coughing again. Cirashala waited until his deep coughs had subsided, then reached up to smooth the damp bangs back from his forehead.

"Just rest."

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Apologies to my readers! As some of you may already know, I've been as busy as a bee with spring cleaning, organizing, sewing, baking, prepping my garden for planting, setting up my homeschooling classroom, as well as beginning a king size quilt for a wedding present in December (yes, they do take that long to do- in fact, I might be pushing it, especially as it will have to be actually quilted by hand rather than by sewing machine (fastening top pieced part to bottom with batting in between) due to its large size, so writing has been low on the priority list of late! It's not that I don't want to- it's that I've been working so hard that I'm falling asleep at the computer while answering emails, let alone attempting to write! So please don't expect updates frequently until my garden has been planted and I've caught up on my sewing (sans quilt) and shelves have been built. Thanks for understanding! Also, it's been about a week since Kili and Cira have been separated from the company, but please be patient with me- they will reunite soon, I promise- it's just something has to happen first that's MAJORLY important to the story, and it would throw things off if it doesn't happen the way I planned. But it will happen soon in the story, I can assure you :)

A response to guest reviewer Ri-chan: An operation wouldn't work for me (the laser) because I am far-sighted and it only works for near-sighted people. Plus, I have a lazy eye (left eye turns toward my nose when I try to see without contacts or glasses) and that's muscular, and I'm way too old to have surgery to correct that- I would have to still be a child. I've worn eyewear since I was 3, and it happens from time to time that my depth perception gets off. One more month, and I can have them checked :) But I do try to take care- and my husband will be cutting up dinner things until my cut heals ;)

A response to guest reviewer Kaia: I am trying- I promise!

A response to guest reviewer Guest: I know- it's hard for me too! But there's something important that has to happen first. Don't worry- they're almost there ;) I am glad you like the story :) Real life is SO busy right now, but I will update when I can!

Thanks to all who review, favorite, and follow- you guys are so patient with me! :D :D :D