A/N: I wrote this fic as a welcome home gift to my sister who recently returned from a three week trip across the country. It's the first story I've finished and published in two years, and my first foray into The Hobbit fan fiction community, so I'm a little bit nervous about it. I'd love to hear what you all think of it! And special thanks to RedWheeler for being my beta, even though you're not in the fandom! It's much appreciated - my grammar would suffer without you!
The day started in a way that would, perhaps, only be considered spectacular to a dwarf. The sun was only beginning to rise, painting the sky a lovely shade of purple, and the dwarves of Ered Luin were either just now awakening, or (as was the case with the nighttime watch and miners) preparing for a good day's rest.
Oin, who had long ago made it his habit to sleep all he could when given the opportunity, was roused from his slumber by frantic knocking on his door. It was one of his gifts as a healer to be fully conscious and ready for a day's work at a moment's notice, so when he found Bofur on the doorstep, excitedly yacking about how he had a brother-son or -daughter ready to make its way into the world, he was on his way in less than ten minutes.
Any day a baby was born was a day to remember among dwarven-kind, women and children being so rare. But, as with any day, there are others who would remember it for their own reasons.
"Hurry up, Gimli!" Kíli shouted gleefully, urging the smallest of their company onward. "We won't make it before sundown at your speed!"
Fíli laughed along with him from their spot in the front of the group, blond curls blowing wildly in the refreshing spring breeze. The pair stopped at the crest of the hill they were climbing and basked in the fresh air and sunlight, which even the truest of dwarves enjoyed in moderation.
Ori came to the top of the hill to see Kíli spinning in crazy circles, arms flung from his sides with nary a care in the world. He had one of his infectious grins on his face, brown eyes sparkling in a way that made one want to join him, just to get a taste of that joy. Fíli guffawed when a conveniently placed rock almost sent his brother tumbling, and made a show of tackling him and saving him from rolling back down the hill they'd so determinedly climbed. Ori giggled as the two of them tussled good-naturedly.
Gimli topped the hill last, looking rather sweaty and out-of-breath. "I could do with a bit of shade," he grumbled, attempting to fan himself with his hands, before giving up and plopping down on the grass.
Ori sat down beside him, getting out his book of drawings and a pencil to sketch the view of their village. His friend watched in interest for a while, before lying down on his back with a grunt. Never one to do anything quietly, Gimli made a loud complaint about the sun and flung an arm over his face to block out the light.
"You just need to grow your eyebrows thicker!" Fíli called from some distance away.
Kíli erupted into vivacious giggles, which became ever more exuberant when Fíli started to tickle him.
"Like either of you two elvish-chinned tree-climbers know anything about growing hair," Gimli crowed, scratching at his chin (which was significantly hairier than any of the other lads', despite his younger age). He squawked indignantly when Fíli and Kíli rolled into him, still cackling up a storm.
"F-fíli!" Kíli exclaimed, barely able to talk for he was laughing so hard, "My elf eyes spy a little ginger hair-hairball with a big f-frown on its ugly mug!"
"Aye, brother! And my pointy ears heard it! Shrieking like a chicken up for slaughter, it was!"
Gimli roared, and flung himself at the older boys, the three of them a mass of limbs as they rough-housed. Even Ori got into the fray when they rolled into him and made him mess up his drawing. So busy they were with their carrying on, they didn't realize how close to the edge of the hill they had wrestled one another.
"Uh-oh!" Ori squealed out the warning too late to stop their momentum from carrying them over the edge and down the other side of the hill.
They landed in a heap of sprightly laughter and wiggling bodies at the bottom, some sort of dense foliage cushioning their fall.
"Now we get to watch Gimli crawl up again!" Kíli spoke excitedly when he'd managed to stop laughing, as if watching Gimli's ascent and hearing his complaints had been the highlight of his day.
Fíli snorted, and pressed his face into the grass to protect it from Gimli's kicks.
"I do not crawl!" he said, flailing about indignantly.
"My tunic's all grass-stained," Ori interrupted with a frown on his face as he brushed dirt off himself. "Dori will be cross."
"Look at the bright side! At least you don't come home covered in blood like Nori, so he won't be as cross with you as he is with him!" Kíli comforted (or attempted to, because when did talk of one's brother coming home bloody really comfort anyone entirely?).
Fíli smacked him in the back of his head and told him to hush. His brother had a bad habit of talking before he thought much about what he was saying, and Ori's feelings were easier to bruise than most, especially when it came to talk of Nori. It was something he had in common with Dori; no topic got Dori as ruffled as talk of wayward Nori.
"Sorry, Ori," Kíli muttered.
"Oh, but he is bloody!" Gimli said, pointing to a red stain on the back of Ori's shirt. "Look!"
"What?" Ori asked, trying to tug his shirt around and get a glimpse himself.
"No, I'm not!"
"Yes, you are!"
"I don't feel hurt!" Ori countered, as his three friends crowded around him to examine the splotch of red on his tunic.
"It's not blood," Fíli concluded, "There are seeds – look!" He flicked one of the offending objects in Gimli's and Kíli's direction. "It's juice from a crushed berry."
"We must have landed on a bush," Ori said with a sigh – berry juice was just as hard to get out of laundry as blood was.
"Look!" Kíli proclaimed, "We landed in a whole field of berry bushes!"
They had, indeed, landed in what must have been one plant out of hundreds! The entirety of the valley they found themselves in was covered in clusters of overgrown berry bushes. It looked as if someone had been tending to them, at least within the last ten years or so, but dwarves were not those for growing things, so even that tending may not have been proper. The dwarflings scrambled to their feet as one, darting to one of the odd, low-to-the-ground bushes.
"I've never seen berries like these," Fíli said, examining one of the largest, reddest ones.
"Me neither – they look yummy!" Kíli reached for one, but Fíli grabbed his wrist to stop him.
"We don't know if they're safe to eat or not, Kíli. We don't know what they are."
"Sure we do!" Ori said with a smile, "They're strawberries. I saw them in one of Mister Balin's books. He said they were okay to eat."
"See? If Mister Balin says so, they must be safe." Kíli plucked a berry from the bush with the hand Fíli didn't have a hold of, and took a big bite. He smiled, juice leaking from his lips. "They're good, Fee."
"Try one!" said Ori, nibbling on one and holding another out to Fíli, who took a careful bite.
When each of his friends had eaten a berry with no ill effects, Gimli pulled a whole clump off the bush and began to scarf them down.
Noontime found the four boys sitting in a circle, passing around the strawberries they'd concluded they liked very much, and swapping stories (and grieving about how it wasn't nearly dark enough for any spooky tales, for Ori didn't look it, but he knew all the best scary stories).
When the conversation died down, and Ori and Gimli both started collecting berries in little piles for their families rather than for immediate eating, Fíli stretched and stood up. Dusting off the seat of his trousers, he said, "I'm going to pick some strawberries for Mama. Do you want to come along, Kíli?"
When his brother didn't answer, Fíli sought him out, thinking he'd perhaps dozed off, as many of their kind did after a particularly satisfying meal. He spotted his brother a little ways off, and felt his heart surge up into his throat. "Kíli?"
Ori and Gimli paused their conversation about whether or not Bombur's family would appreciate some berries to celebrate their newborn, and turned to see what made Fíli's voice thin with fear. Their eyes widened at what they saw. Kíli was sat in the same clearing they'd all been sitting in earlier, looking as if he hadn't moved an inch and viciously rubbing at his eyes with his sleeve. His other hand was clutching tightly at his belly, and they could hear him sniffling as if he were crying. Fíli was at his side in a second, prying his arm away from his face, to reveal too-red eyes.
"Kíli? What's wrong?" he asked, "Did you eat too much?"
Kíli shook his head. "It hurts really badly," he whined, and Fíli knew something was definitely wrong.
Kíli, being younger, was generally more prone to complaint than Fíli was, but he'd been growing out of the habit steadily. He was now to a point where he earned regular praises from both their parents and their uncle for not making a mountain out of a molehill, for he was getting too big for such things. Even at his worst, Fíli had never known him to over-exaggerate an injury.
Plus, he could just feel the wrongness in his gut.
"You'll be okay," Fíli answered automatically. "We'll get Oin and everything will be fine!"
"You can't," Gimli reminded, "Missus Inga is having her baby today and Uncle is delivering it." He wrung his hands together nervously. "Bad time to have only one doctor in the village."
Kíli groaned, and tightened his grip on his stomach. "Fíli…"
"Don't worry, Kíli. We'll get help. We'll go barging into the birthing room if we have to!" Fíli said determinedly, though his voice wavered.
"We can't!" Gimli yelped in alarm.
"Kíli's sick!" Fíli insisted, as if that fact alone was reason enough to take any risk.
"I have an idea!" Ori yelled to be heard over his playmates' increasing din. "Let's take him back to my house. Dori will know what to do – he fixes everything!"
"I don't know…" Fíli looked unsure, unwilling to entrust Kíli's wellbeing to just anyone. He knew Dori of course, and he knew Ori's high opinions of him from the occasions his friend had gushed over him (usually when Dori had just knitted him a new pair of mittens or a scarf for a cold snap, or when their little family of brothers became the talk of the town for their nighttime visitors and Dori's swift ways of dealing with them). But, as esteemed as Ori's brother was in his eyes, he was no healer.
"It's closest!" Ori insisted, "Dori can help! He always makes me feel better when I'm unwell, and Nori doesn't say anything, but I know he fixes him up as well!"
Fíli looked torn.
"Dori will know what to do," Ori said again, "and he'll fetch Oin if he doesn't."
"Fee?" Kíli mewled.
"Okay," Fíli acquiesced, and turned to his brother. "Get on my back, Kíli."
It took longer than usual, for Kíli refused for a full five minutes to unwrap his arm from around his middle, but Fíli eventually had his brother on his back with his arms locked tight around his neck.
"Let's go," he said, and they took off around the hill this time.
Running with Kíli on his back was harder than Fíli had originally reckoned. Kíli was younger than him, but they weighed almost the same; five years was a rather short age difference between dwarvish brothers, and Fíli had yet to hit the growth spurt his parents promised was coming. Only the cacophony of Kíli's whimpers in his ear, and the pounding of his, Ori's, and Gimli's boots as they ran (or was it his own heart thumping so loudly?) kept him determinately pressing on.
They were making good time. Ori, whose running proved to be as nimble as his scribe-work, was in the lead. Fíli, though deterred by Kíli's weight, managed to stay only a few long paces behind him. Gimli, whose legs were shortest, took up the rear and would have been complaining quite a lot under any other circumstances.
"Fee!" Kíli squeaked, urgently in his ear, suddenly wriggling like a caged beast.
Fíli ground to a halt. "Hey!" he protested, as his little brother twisted from his hold, knocking both of them to the ground in the process.
Kíli scrambled out of the tangle of limbs, and moved to the edge of the path they'd been following, only to promptly vomit into the grass. Fíli paled and rushed to his side. He might have shouted for Ori, but he didn't remember. All he knew was that the bookish dwarf was there instantly, holding Kíli's hair out of his face as he retched over and over.
"Please, please, please," Fíli prayed, face ashen as Kíli trembled and heaved in his arms. He thought for a moment he might be sick as well, until Kíli started taking in great lungfuls of air that produced more than hacking coughs and bile.
Kíli collapsed against him, hot tear trails on his cheeks. He was shaking like a leaf in the wind and his knuckles were white where he held fast to his brother.
Ori produced a handkerchief and handed it to Fíli to clean Kíli's lips and chin.
"It's okay, Kíli. You're okay."
Kíli sobbed and slumped farther into his brother's embrace, clawing at the skin of his arms, chest, and neck in turn.
"Stop it, Kíli! You'll make yourself bleed!" Fíli said, grabbing for Kíli's arm. "Look you've made your neck go all red!"
"It itches!" Kíli sniveled.
Fíli seized hold of Kíli's wrist and examined his neck more closely. "You-," he gulped. "You've got a horrid rash."
"We've not far to go now," Ori said delicately, sensing Fíli's worry. "Dori will know what to do."
Fíli held eye contact with Ori, thinking that he was a very surprising friend, even after all this time. If the rumors about Nori were to be believed, maybe levelheadedness in stressful situations ran in the family, like blue eyes and a bad temper ran in his.
"Help me get him on my back."
It took a lot of maneuvering, and some help from Gimli when he caught up, but they finally managed to haul Kíli back up. He felt heavier than before, due to sluggishness and uncoordinated limbs, and Fíli was beginning to get very seriously concerned.
"Come on," he said, and started once more toward Ori's home on the horizon.
"He doesn't look so good," Gimli panted, able to keep pace now that they were walking slower than before in an attempt to keep Kíli's stomach settled.
"He's going to be fine," Fíli snarled, voice breaking on the last word. Suddenly he wanted desperately to cry. He wanted someone other than himself to be here, ready to take the lead. He was to be Thorin's heir, but at that moment he wanted nothing more than to have no responsibilities so he could allow the fear and worry for his brother to suffocate him.
"If my uncle were here-"
"Well he's not!" Fíli growled, anger suddenly burning bright in his gut. It quickly dissolved into cold fear and guilt at the look on Gimli's face. He walked faster.
When they came upon the last stretch of land leading up to their destination, Ori broke away from their group and darted ahead.
"Dori! Dori! Dori!" he hollered, to be sure his brother would hear.
Flustered and fearful-looking, Dori burst out the door, and looked wildly around. The desperation in Ori's screams made his blood run cold and his heart pound, and he was hugely relieved when the seemingly unharmed lad collided with him.
"Ori, what-," he began, as his little brother latched onto his arm and attempted to drag him away from their home. He was interrupted as another dwarfling's shouting alerted him to what was the matter.
"Mister Dori! Please can you help Kíli – something's wrong!" Fíli choked out, panic-stricken. Dori barely had time to register the mop of brown hair hanging over Fíli's shoulder, before instinct took over; he plucked the child out of his brother's hold and cradled him to his chest. Later, when asked, he'd reveal that he didn't even recall closing the distance between himself and the young heirs of Durin. He only remembers Fíli's tearful face and Kíli's uncharacteristic stillness.
"Kíli!" he said, with a hint of urgency, willing the boy to open his eyes. And Kíli did. If Fíli's face was tearful, Kíli's was absolutely mournful. His eyes were bloodshot, red-rimmed, and slightly swollen. There were tears and snot smeared over his face, and his cheeks were flushed an angry red. "Lad, can you tell me what's wrong?"
Kíli just looked at him with bright eyes and his face scrunched ominously as he began to cry anew.
"Mister Balin said the strawberries were safe to eat, but Kíli's gone all red and bumpy!" Fíli supplied, hand fisting nervously in Dori's tunic as he made sure to stick close by.
"And he threw up!" Ori exclaimed.
"And Uncle Oin's delivering a baby and can't help him," Gimli added, trotting up from the rear of their procession.
"So Ori said we should come to you, and that you'd know what to do," Fíli said, a stray tear hastily wiped away on his sleeve.
Kíli let out an agreeing sob, that quickly became a full-on, great, gasping, wretched cry (the kind Ori favored when he was running on too little sleep after too many late nights waiting for Nori to return home, and Dori was of little comfort to him in his own anger).
"Easy, Lad," soothed Dori, rocking the child as a second nature, "You'll make yourself sick again."
"Brother?" Fíli clung tighter to Dori. "Hush now, Mister Dori will make it better," he spoke in a wavering voice, stretching up to pat whatever part of Kíli he could reach to comfort (his little booted foot). "Won't you?"
The last part was just a whisper, but the lad's eyes spoke loudly enough that Dori had no trouble getting the message.
"It itches!" Kíli cried dolefully.
Dori tore his gaze away from Fíli's, and gently lifted Kíli's tunic. He gasped when he saw the angry red hives that almost seemed to be devouring Kíli's belly and chest. The babe squirmed in his arms, but he held him tightly and adjusted his hold so he could run a hand over the flesh of the child's back. He found it equally as hot and irritated. A quick peek under the cuffs of Kíli's trousers proved that his legs were also afflicted.
"Kíli." The sniffling child met Dori's eyes. "Open your mouth up nice and wide for me. That's a good lad!" he encouraged when Kíli complied.
Dori leaned him back a bit, so the sunlight illuminated his throat better. After a quick investigation, Dori deemed that, luckily, there was no swelling. He allowed himself a sigh of relief, but knew, as Kíli started whining about a bellyache and scratching at his neck, that something definitely needed to be done about his discomfort. He came to a quick decision, and gave a curt nod.
Dori knelt down in front of his youngest brother. "Ori, I need you to be a big lad and do me a very important favor," he said.
The seriousness of his tone was not lost on Ori, sharp as he was. It wasn't often that he got to help his eldest brother! Dori was strong, smart, and brave, and he never needed help with anything! He slew orcs, wargs, and wolves that fouled up the earth for miles in their wake. He scared off Men who came calling for Nori with weapons, job offers, threats, and vials of poison hidden on their person. He trod on the monsters that hid in the edges of Ori's mind (and under his bed). He stood up to Mister Dwalin, and had even given the King a piece of his mind once or twice. He held Ori when neither his parents, nor Nori were there to do so, and he didn't cry when any of them missed his birthday, like Ori was wont to do.
Dori was fearless, and Ori was pleased beyond measure to be able to aid him. His eyes widened, and he straightened his stance, pulling his shoulders back. "Yes, Dori?"
"Run to the forges and fetch Lady Dís and Master Arn – tell them Kíli's having an allergic reaction."
"All-er-gic reaction," Ori said, stressing each syllable, and committing them to memory. "Right."
He turned and started sprinting away, but Dori bade him wait just a moment. "Take Gimli with you."
Ori raised an eyebrow at his brother – a look Dori always said he must have learned from Nori – and turned to Gimli. Said young dwarf was currently leaning heavily against the tree stump where they chopped their logs, looking thoroughly exhausted after their mad dash. Ori frowned a bit. He had thought he was going to be allowed to go alone. Not that he minded Gimli's company, but there was a big difference between two dwarrowlings bursting raucously into the forge, and one dwarf being trusted by his brother to successfully deliver a message all on his own (and hopefully being praised afterward for his cool-headed efforts).
"I can go alone, Dori. Gimli needn't come."
"I know you're more than capable, Ori, but I'll appreciate you taking Gimli along, all the same."
"'S all right." Gimli waved a dismissing hand in their direction. "I'll stay."
Ever-observant of Dori, Ori noticed the disgruntled look worming its way onto his features. It was then that everything clicked into place, and he realized that having more dwarflings around to look after would probably do more to hinder Kíli's treatment than it would do good. And Gimli, as fun as he was to play with when he was in a good mood, was young, hairy, and demanding – not at all the sort of dwarf you wanted around when you had others that needed your attention. He smiled, nearly giggling in glee when he concluded that he was meant to be more of a babysitter to Gimli than anything else.
"Come on, Gimli!" Ori called, waving his arm in a wide arc toward town. "We've need to go to the forge!"
It was a testament to Gimli's utter dislike of long-distance running that he was not excited by the prospect of a trip to the usually-forbidden forges. He grunted and groaned in complaint, but followed Ori anyway.
Dori watched them go, and absent-mindedly tangled his hand in Kíli's hair to cradle the back of his skull. Then Kíli let out a small sob, and Fíli tugged sharply on his tunic. Dori snapped back into action just as Gimli's stout form disappeared down the path.
"Nori!" he called sharply, walking briskly into their home and nudging the door closed behind him. Fíli stayed underfoot like a proper big brother; when Dori made it to the couch without trampling him, he counted himself lucky.
Kíli tried to curl in on himself as Dori sat down and placed him on his lap, but strong hands held him firmly in place. He whined and wriggled, and a few more fat tears ran down his cheeks, but Dori would not leave him be. He sobbed and felt his breaths coming too quickly in his distress. His body was heavy with the cloud fogging his head and the hands holding him still. He wanted for Dori (or anybody!) to make everything better, but at the same time he didn't want touched, for his rash itched and hurt where he'd already scratched it to bleeding and he was, overall, very miserable.
Fíli hopped up onto the overstuffed cushions and stroked his brother's hair in an effort to calm him. "Hush, Kíli," he cooed, "it'll be all right."
"Want Mama," Kíli moaned.
"Ori's getting Mama – she'll be here soon-"
"And Papa," Kíli wailed, fists digging into his itchy eyes.
"And Papa," Fíli confirmed, "But please let Mister Dori help in the meantime." He waited with bated breath for his brother to answer.
Kíli had stopped squirming, and looked to be deep in thought. He gave off a little hiccup now and again, his crying temporarily diminished. Just when his lower lip was starting to tremble again, Fíli interjected once more, "I don't like seeing you sick, Kíli. Please let Dori help."
Silence, deceivingly long, stretched on. With every second, Fíli looked closer to having a breakdown himself. Dori was just about to put a stop to this nonsense when:
In the quiet, Kíli's question was clearly audible, and more than one dwarf breathed a sigh of relief.
"For starters, I'll need you to relax a bit. I can't do any good when you're having a tantrum," Dori said. His tone reminded the boys of their mother, and both visibly calmed. Though, Dori thought it probably wouldn't take much to send either one of them over the edge again, so he resolved to keep talking while they were in a listening and obedient mood. "That's a good lad," he praised, eyeing Fíli as well as his ill brother, and giving them each an encouraging smile.
Nori chose that moment to meander in. Dori spied him over the boys' heads before they knew he was there, and saw his quick eyes surveying the scene he'd walked into. Apparently, he learned all he needed to about the situation in less than a minute (a skill, no doubt, he'd perfected over years of the less-than-honest acquiring of whatever tickled his fancy), for it wasn't long before Nori schooled his face into a grin. Dori realized what he was going to do just a second too late to stop him.
"Afternoon lads!" he exclaimed, picking Kíli up and setting the dwarfling on his hip with ease.
"Nori!" Dori exclaimed.
The dwarf ignored him, like always, and bounced the dwarrow in his arms a tad. Had it not been for the smiles it got out of Kíli, Dori would've had a lot more yelling to do on the matter.
"I have to say, Lad, yeh don't look your wellest!"
"'Wellest' isn't a word, Mister Nori!" Fíli grinned from his place on the arm of the sofa.
"Yeh know, I quite miss the days when you lot were easier to corrupt linguistically," Nori said, now rocking slowly back and forth, allowing Kíli to melt into him. "I still remember Dori's face when Ori accidentally cursed at him during dinner four years ago."
"That was not funny!" Dori scolded.
"It was hilarious," Nori argued, smirking cheekily in his brother's direction. "I thought Dori's head was going to burst, he went so red-" Fíli and Kíli snickered appropriately here. "-though he was more angry with me than he was with Ori, for some unknown reason."
"That's because I knew who taught him such language," Dori answered automatically. He sensed a distinct shift in the room's atmosphere since Nori had made himself known. He was loath to admit it, but Nori always was good at diffusing the muddle of negative emotions that lingered in a room where any sort of tragedy had occurred. Just one word out of his mouth, and the air became easier to breathe, and one was left feeling that, maybe, the world was not so cruel a place. Dori, ever the fusser, did not have this talent, and he felt, in the dark recesses of his mind, that he sometimes made situations worse.
"So, Your Tiniest Highness, what misfortune did befall you?" Nori asked, tickling Kíli's chin.
"I don't like strawberries anymore," Kíli answered in a small voice, rubbing his eyes roughly on the shoulder of Nori's tunic. "They make my skin hurt, and my belly hurt, and my eyes itch."
"There's a wildflower field south of the forest that does the same thing to me," Nori said, "'cept for me stomach, but food's different." He jostled Kíli slightly, until he was sitting back farther in his arms. "Open," he ordered, tapping the lad's lips.
"Dori already looked in his mouth," Fíli said, "Why do you keep looking in his mouth?"
"Aye, he would've done." Nori nodded to himself and readjusted Kíli in his arms. "Everything okay?" he asked his brother, neatly avoiding Fíli's question.
"No swelling," Dori confirmed, reaching out to silently order Kíli back into his own hold. "Just need to get those hives under control. It's why I called you, seeing as you're fond of traipsing around in places that give you the most horrid skin afflictions."
"I'll walk through whatever fields I please, thank you very much," Nori retorted.
Dori sighed and rolled his eyes to the ceiling.
Fíli had never met two brothers who argued as much as Dori and Nori – and over and over about the same thing! Sure, he and Kíli did their fair share of bickering, but it was all water under the bridge after a short while, neither of them being able to stand being on less-than-friendly terms with each other. Ori had told them of multiple occasions where one of his brothers had gone storming out on the other, leaving the whole household in a state of emotional upheaval for days on end. He'd said it usually lasted until Nori left again, or Dori stopped pursing his lips and huffing indignantly every time Nori walked into a room.
Fíli was thankful that his family didn't argue like theirs.
He was also thankful that they both seemed willing to set aside their differences to help his little brother.
Fíli came out of his reverie to notice Kíli showing telltale signs of another oncoming temper tantrum. Most dwarflings did not take sickness well. They did not fall ill as easily, or as often as children of Men did, and tended to become unruly when they were unwell. And Kíli was one of the most unruly of them all. The last time he was sick, it was because he ate too much on Durin's Day. Fíli remembered Oin having to give him a sleeping draught, because he was crying so badly he kept making himself even worse.
Fíli was automatically at Kíli's side, rubbing his hand up and down his back to soothe him.
"We're just trying to undress you, Kíli." Dori said gently. Kíli was back on his lap and his feet were bare, boots and socks having been removed already without furor. "We're going to get you a nice cool bath to help the itching stop."
"No!" Kíli screamed.
Fíli winced. "Kíli-"
"No!" the brunet shouted again, smacking at Fíli's hand until he was forced to back away.
Quick as lightning, Dori snagged Kíli's wrist. "There will be none of that!" he scolded, voice stern, again reminiscent of Dís. "Your brother was only trying to help. I will not tolerate such behavior!"
Kíli looked at him with watery eyes wide with shock, before visibly deflating at the admonishment, and drooping against Dori's chest. He tangled his fingers into the dwarf's tunic, and buried his face in the soft fabric, balling it in his fists and pulling it against his cheeks to cover more of his visage. Muffled weeping could be heard coming from him.
Dori sighed, rubbing one broad hand in circles on Kíli's back and threading the other one through his hair.
"I'll get the bath ready," Nori mumbled, slinking out of the room.
"Kíli?" Fíli whispered, scooting closer once more. "Kee?"
His brother remained unresponsive, which he was feeling quite dismal about when, to his great surprise, Dori hoisted the both of them up into his arms and stood. "Tea, I think."
It wasn't five minutes before he was sitting at Dori's kitchen table with a steaming mug of strange-smelling tea in his hands. Kíli was next to him looking wretched, but less so every moment Dori spent cleaning away the tears with a damp washcloth.
"Thank you," Kíli murmured, still sounding rather dejected and tearful.
"You're welcome." Dori patted him on the head. "Drink your tea. Nori brought it back from the East after one of his escapades. It'll settle your stomach and help with the itching."
Kíli took a small sip and swished the tea around in his mouth, in a way he probably thought was subtle, before swallowing. He must have decided he liked it, because he kept drinking. It wasn't until Kíli stopped to look guiltily at him that Fíli realized he'd been staring, and that Dori was watching the two of them closely over his own cup of tea.
"Tea's good," Kíli smiled meekly. "You should drink yours, before it gets cold."
It was as good as an apology in Fíli's book, and he smiled at his brother, before taking a tentative sip from his mug. "This is good," he said, looking a mite more surprised than he rightly should have.
"'Course it is! If there's one thing Dori does well it's make a great cuppa," Nori smirked, sauntering in. "Bath's ready."
"I'd like to think I'm good for more than a cup of tea," Dori grumbled, sending Nori a look. Fíli got the feeling he wasn't as mad as he pretended to be.
"Think what you like," Nori winked at his brother. "Up you go!" He lifted Kíli out of his chair. "Time for a nice, cool soak."
"But my tea!" Kíli leaned haphazardly in Nori's arms to reach for his mug.
"I've got it, Kíli!" Fíli hopped down from his chair and cautiously picked up both their cups. "May I bring them with us?" he asked, looking back and forth between Dori and Nori.
"Of course!" Nori answered loudly, before Dori had a chance to get a word in. "You can even finish your tea whilst you're in the bath if yeh like!"
"Now, I don't think-"
"Really? Oh, can we really, Mister Dori?!" Kíli's face lit up at the suggestion, and he looked hopefully to the older dwarf with sparkling eyes.
Dori scowled at his little brother, his expression seeming to say, 'Now look what you did!'
"Yeh can't very well say 'no' now can you?" Nori asked with a mischievous look on his face. "I practically promised the little tykes."
"We promise not to spill!" Kíli said.
"It's just your tea is so delicious," Fíli simpered.
"Oh, fine!" Dori rolled his eyes, getting up to wash out his own empty mug. "It's like I'm looking after three children, honestly."
Nori and Kíli cheered and paraded down the hall and into the bathroom. Fíli watched them go with a smile. All it had taken was a cup of tea and some tender care, and Kíli was very nearly back to normal. Placing his and Kíli's tea on the table temporarily, Fíli walked over to the sink.
"Mister Dori?" he tugged on the elder dwarf's tunic.
Dori's kind eyes met his own. "Shouldn't you be with your brother, Fíli?" he asked, crouching down to the blond's level.
"I just wanted to thank you," Fíli said, "for helping Kíli." Fíli felt as if he should say more to this dwarf, whom he could very well owe his brother's life to, as far as he was concerned, but no more words would come. To his embarrassment, tears started to well up in his eyes. Then he was enveloped in strong arms, soft fabric, and the smells of tea leaves and eucalyptus.
Dori was so delightfully warm, and Fíli felt very much like he was completely hidden from the world while he was in his embrace. Naturally, the feelings he'd been forcing down and trying to keep everyone from seeing started to gush from him, and he bawled like a baby.
"I – I was so scared!" he cried, face pressed into Dori's chest to muffle himself, lest Kíli hear. "I didn't know-. I couldn't-." He sobbed, feeling, more than hearing, Dori humming a mellow tune to him.
"Shh," Dori hushed, one hand tangled in Fíli's hair and rubbing his scalp in a soothing motion. "Your brother is fine. You did well; you found him help when he needed it."
"I should've been able to help him! I should've known what was wrong! I shouldn't have let him eat strange foods!" Fíli wailed, beating his fists against Dori. "I'm a terrible big brother," he lamented, sobbing anew.
Dori took hold of both of Fíli's shoulders and pushed him out to be held at arm's length. "That's enough of that, Fíli! Now, you listen here: No big brother has all the answers all the time. You got help for Kíli; you got him here by carrying him on your back, comforted him, and didn't leave his side once! Ignorance does not make you a bad brother, Fíli, and even if it did you'd have a long way to go, for I would wager you know more about Kíli than any other dwarf alive."
"Mama and Papa know him pretty well," Fíli sniffled.
Dori smiled. "Brothers have their secrets."
They stayed in amicable silence for a small while, Fíli going over and over what Dori had told him in his head. He heaved a sigh.
"I feared Kíli was going to die," he whispered, twining and twisting his fingers together. "I was so frightened."
"Do you want to know a secret?" Dori asked.
Fíli nodded somberly, highly doubting that many dwarves got to be savvy to secrets of Dori's.
"Sometimes I get frightened for Nori in much the same way when he's out of town, and I don't sleep all night for that fear."
Fíli's eyes widened. "How do you stop being afraid?"
"I don't. I just pray to Mahal and wait until the morrow – help him when I can; offer him a safe haven." Dori smiled sadly. "He always was a restless little scoundrel." He squeezed Fíli's sides gently and got a giggle in return, before the seriousness set back into his expression. "You won't always be able to keep your brother from harm, Fíli. But you can do your damnedest to get him out of it and patch him up afterwards. And it is no shame to know when you need help."
Fíli beamed and Dori couldn't help but grin as well when the lad placed a hand on each one of his cheeks and pressed their foreheads together in an old dwarvish gesture of brotherhood.
"Thank you, Mister Dori."
"You're quite welcome, Fíli."
They separated and Dori rose to his feet. "You ought to tend to your brother now, don't you think?"
"Aye," Fíli nodded. "I'm afraid our tea's gone cold, though."
Dori chuckled. "We can't have that. You run along – I'll have these warmed up for the two of you when you're finished."
Fíli sent him one last look of gratitude, and trotted off down the hall. He didn't hear any splashing, which led him to believe that Kíli must already be done with his bath; like most activities, Kíli did not bathe quietly. He did, however, hear his brother's inquisitive voice, and peered around the door curiously.
Kíli was sat on Nori's lap wrapped in a towel that pooled loosely at his waist. His hair had been combed out and braided back out of his face, and he looked a lot less worse-for-wear since Fíli had seen him last. Without clothes on, the full extent of his rash was visible, and it looked less inflamed than it had earlier. Fíli sighed in relief, and tuned into their conversation.
"Is it true you robbed a troll hoard while the trolls were asleep inside?" Kíli asked in amazement. "And that, when they woke up, you were still there and pretended to be a field mouse to get them to let you leave?"
Nori chortled, dipping his hands in a jar of some sort of salve and rubbing it onto Kíli's outstretched arm. "Aye, Lad, 's true enough."
"Wow!" Kíli enthused. "I'd like to be just like you when I grow up, only I don't think Mama, or Papa, or Uncle Thorin would let me."
"That would be very wise of them. 'S not a safe life I lead."
"But you get to have adventures!" Kíli insisted. "This is the biggest adventure I've had in ages, and it didn't go so well."
"I've had many not go well, and just as many go extremely badly in one way or another – mind you, don't tell Dori that," Nori said, finishing Kíli's torso and adjusting the towel so he could reach the lad's legs. "'S not a life you should be thinking about leading just yet. Yeh've got your parents and your brother here – no need to go chasing anythin' else."
"Well then why do you go?" Kíli asked with a thoughtful frown.
"I've my reasons." Nori recapped the jar of salve and set Kíli on his feet. "Now, let's see if we can't find some of Ori's clothes to send yeh home in. We can't very well put your filthy ones back on."
"I could just go like this," Kíli suggested, making Fíli snigger from the doorway.
"Fíli!" Kíli called joyfully, shuffling over to his brother. "Look how much better my rash is!" He held out an arm for his brother to examine. "And Nori put some aloe on it, so it doesn't itch at all!"
"That's great, Kíli!" Fíli said. "And what about your belly?"
"It feels much better, though I still want the rest of my tea."
It was such a Kíli-like response, that Fíli couldn't help but become slightly giddy with relief. He laughed and hugged his brother tightly. Kíli happily hugged him back. They stayed like that for a long while, until Nori tapped them each on the head. They looked up at him to see that he was holding a pile of clothes for Kíli to wear.
"Here yeh are, Kíli." Nori unloaded the bundle into the little dwarf's arms. "These should fit yeh well enough."
"Yeh're welcome. Now run along and get yourself dressed and you can finish your tea."
The boys closed themselves in the bathroom, and Fíli helped his brother into the clothing, though they both knew he was capable of dressing himself. Ori's clothes were a decent fit on Kíli, and there was a nice and soft knit sweater included in the pile that he particularly liked. When they finished, they left the room, and Nori scooped them up to bring them back to the kitchen. They were plopped down at the table where Dori had two full mugs of tea waiting.
"Honey!" Kíli squealed after his first sip, proceeding to take several longer gulps.
"Yeh never put honey in mine," Nori complained in jest, and Dori was just about to retort when they heard the front door crash open.
Heavy and rapid footfalls could be heard making their way through the living room and into the kitchen, and then Dís, daughter of Thrain, stood in the doorway. She was filthy from the forge and rather out-of-breath as she wildly surveyed the scene before her.
Her gaze locked onto her youngest son who had called out to her, and she crossed the room in a few long strides, taking his face in her hands to examine him.
"Are you okay, Kíli?" she asked frantically, tugging his shirt aside in several places to check on his hives. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Mama." Kíli pet her dark, grimy hair. "I feel much better; I'm barely sick at all now!"
"Mister Dori made us tea with honey and Nori gave Kíli a cool bath and aloe," Fíli reported. "He's okay now."
Dís was completely silent, looking rather dumbfounded as she gazed back and forth between her sons and the set of brothers whose home she'd just barged into. Suddenly she settled back onto her haunches, fears alleviated, tugging Kíli down and into her arms. He snuggled against her, one hand grasping the shoulder of her tunic, the other holding one of her braids. He hummed when she kissed the top of his head, and his eyes slid closed.
Arn turned up a moment later with his arms full of two jostled-looking dwarflings. He quickly set them down and rushed to Dís's side, soothing a hand over Kíli's head and down the braided back of his hair. "Is everything all right?"
Gimli and Ori scuttled forward, as well, anxious to get a glimpse of Kíli and to see for themselves what type of condition he was in.
"I think," Dís said, eyes now locked on Dori and Nori, "that everything has already been taken care of."
"But he was so sick!" Gimli pointed bewilderedly at Kíli.
"I told them you'd know what to do, Dori!" Ori burst out. "I told them you'd make everything better!"
"I didn't do much, Ori. Kíli only needed some help calming down enough for Nori and I to treat his symptoms; we just took his mind off of things," Dori said, patting Ori on the head, before specifically addressing Dís and Arn. "Nori's had such reactions before, so we knew what to do about the hives. His stomach was easy enough to settle. There was no swelling in his mouth or throat, or we would have sent for Oin no matter what he was busy with. No harm done in the long run, though I dare say he won't be in a hurry to get his hands on strawberries again anytime soon."
"Whatever you did," Arn stood with his shoulders squared, to address Dori, "we sincerely thank you. We've not known your Ori to exaggerate, and judging from what he's said of Kíli's former condition, we know he must have been in a sorry state when they brought him to you. Thank you." He gave a small bow to Dori, and then another one to Nori (who had the audacity to smile smugly). Arn was not a serious dwarf, so his somberness was high praise indeed.
Dís stood as well with her son, who now looked to be sleeping soundly, still cradled to her chest. "Thank you both, so very much."
"And many thanks to the two of you as well," Arn chuckled, bending down to give Ori and Gimli a crushing hug, "for coming to fetch us."
Dís leaned over and gave each boy a thank you of her own and a kiss on the cheek. Ori blushed. Gimli wiped his off with a scowl.
"Could I tempt either of you with a cup of tea, seeing as you've come all this way?" Dori offered, gesturing to the pot of water he'd left simmering.
"That's awfully kind, but I think we'd best get this one home for an afternoon nap," Dís said, nodding to the sleeping dwarrowling she held.
"Actually, I quite think Fíli could use a lie down as well," Arn said, and walked around the table to play with the blond locks of his son's hair that sprawled over the tabletop. It seemed Fíli had fallen asleep at some point, knowing that, since his parents had arrived, he was relieved of his brotherly duties temporarily. He gently pried Fíli's hands off of the mug he was still holding, and gathered him into his arms.
"Kee?" the child mumbled blearily, not quite conscious.
"He's fine, your Mama's got him," Arn whispered, so only his oldest son could hear. "We're so proud of you, Fíli; so very proud."
Fíli settled down to sleep on his father's shoulder, their blond hair blending together.
"I am sure we'd all be delighted to take you up the offer of tea some other time," Dís told Dori.
"Sometime when we would all be awake to enjoy the fine company," Arn agreed.
"At least take this," Nori said, holding out the unfinished jar of aloe. "Yeh might need more if he wakes up itching."
They accepted the salve gratefully, and offered to walk Gimli home. The dwarfling's eyes widened in horror simply at the thought of walking any more just then, and he made up an excuse about staying to play chess with Ori, before he realized what he was saying. He hated chess almost as much as he hated overexertion, and his face visibly crumpled when he saw his blunder.
Dori walked Arn and Dís to the door, as Ori dragged out his chess set excitedly and Nori sat down with him to oversee the game (and maybe toss some hints to both boys here and there).
"Thank you again for all you and your brothers did for Fíli and Kíli, Dori," Dís said, briefly clasping a hand to the dwarf's shoulder.
"Don't know what they would've done without you," Arn said, infamous sun-bright smile dimpling his cheeks. "May your beard grow ever longer!"
"May yours as well, and your sons'," Dori returned, and after a pause added, "You ought to be very proud of them, you know. They're a brilliant pair of brothers; stuck this whole ordeal out together."
"Thank you," Dís smiled radiantly, as Arn swelled in pride. "We are extremely proud of the both of them. You have two very fine gems of your own to be prideful over." She sent a fond glance over his shoulder where the chess game was getting heated quickly.
With that they took their leave, and Dori watched them until they were out of sight, before closing the door behind them with a smile on his face. This was definitely a day he would not be forgetting anytime soon.
A/N: I just love badass/hero/mother hen!Dori. I sort of wanted to explore a less fussy side of him and this was the result. Also, I just started calling Fíli's and Kíli's father Arn one day, and never stopped, so I guess that's his name now. I hope someone found this enjoyable - let me know what you think if you're up for it!
Alternate title: Hive Got A Problem