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Only Kin Could Slice So Deep (Chapter 3)

Title: Only Kin Could Slice So Deep
Chapter 3: Healing
Pairings: Kíli/Bilbo
Warnings: torture aftermath, discussion of injuries, angst, internalized homophobia
Word Count: 7,040 (21588 so far)
Disclaimer: If I owned the hobbit, I wouldn't have to write fanfic
Summary: Thorin believes that his nephew betrayed the company in the goblin caves and leaves him there to die; Bilbo will not stand for this.

Chapter 1: Paranoia
Chapter 2: Courage and Despair


Everything hurts, is the first thought in Kíli's mind when he wakes to see a wooden ceiling stretching high above his head. A wooden ceiling when he had been expecting sky or stone and he feels confusion well up within him at the sight. Weren't we out in the woods?

The dwarf turns his head to look around warily and feels some of his worry ease when he notices Bilbo dozing by his side, though a phantom sensation of greater agony still burns beneath his skin.

“Where...Where are we?” He asks hesitantly, voice rough and cracking from disuse. Kíli knows that the burglar would not sleep so deeply if they were still in danger, but his memories are a muddle of pain and nightmares which leave him deeply unsettled. Indeed the hobbit is the only clear thing that he remembers amidst the whirlwind of despair and he has a strange feeling that he may not like the answers that he seeks.

At the sound of the dwarf's voice, Bilbo stirs and when he opens his eyes a brilliant smile forms upon his face. “Kíli, you're awake! And coherent!” The hobbit says, bending over to hug him tightly and Kíli cannot help but lean into the other's comforting warmth even while his confusion grows.

Was I speaking gibberish before? He wonders as Bilbo helps him sit up against the headboard and the pain caused by moving starts to clear his head.

“To answer your question, we've been staying with a friend of Gandalf's while you healed from your ordeal. I- How much do you remember?” The hobbit asks as he perches on the side of the bed, one hand on Kíli's arm like he's afraid the dwarf will disappear without his touch

However, Kíli finds the weight of his hand soothing and he uses it to anchor him in the present as he tries to recall what happened in the days before. “We...we were in the Misty Mountains, traveling toward Erebor and there was rain and maybe thunder? I remember fear but not the cause and then...goblins captured us and we fell into the fiery dark beneath the earth.” The dwarf frowns in concentration, trying to cut through the haze within his mind.

“I think their leader wanted information...but uncle wouldn't submit to him. So they...they took me away from the others though I tried to fight and then I- I was tortured...tortured for a long time because I refused to speak the words they wished to hear.”

Remembering that pain makes him shudder violently, flashes of the goblins' grinning faces intermixed with piercing agony behind his eyes. Yet there is a bright spot amidst all that darkness and Kíli's heart is filled with gratitude as he looks over at the hobbit who saved his life. “But you came for me, I remember that. You rescued me from the caverns and brought me back into the light.”

Bilbo ducks his head, apparently embarrassed by the dwarf's heartfelt thanks and Kíli is momentarily distracted from his account by the adorableness of the other's blush. Yet he cannot escape his memories this easily and his mood sours when he begins to recall what happened next.

“The others were already gone, weren't they? You- I thought they would be waiting for me but they left, they left us both.” Kíli hopes for a moment that this part of the story was all just some fevered dream but the sorrow in the hobbit's eyes as he nods in answer dashes this hope firmly and the dwarf lets out a bitter laugh.

“So it's true then. Uncle thinks that I betrayed him and he's disowned me, branded me a traitor just like that. I hope the bastard at least feels guilty.” There is a pit of despair growing within him, the same dark pit from which he spoke when he told Bilbo to leave him to die up on the mountain. Thorin has stripped away everything that the dwarf held dear and Kíli was not lying when he said that all the Sigin-tarâg would now be honor bound to strike him down.

So what life is left for him if he cannot even return to the lands that he called home? What life is there without his family? While the dwarf never put too much stock in being a prince, his heritage was still a part of him and he feels bereft without the strength of his ancestors standing at his back. If he is no longer a Durin then he is only Kíli, and the young dwarf is discovering that this is a very lonely thing to be.

For that matter, what life is there without Fíli riding by his side and his chest aches with the pain that his brother must be feeling now. He would never have left Kíli willingly and the dwarf wonders what kind of dire punishment uncle had threatened to make him go, to make all of his companions leave their friend behind.

Yet somehow he cannot fall into despair the way he did before and he cannot give up the last spark of hope within his heart. Even though he knows the road ahead will be difficult at best, Kíli also knows that he will walk it anyway because in truth he is not alone at all. Bilbo is sitting next to him, watching the dwarf with concern on his kind face and when the hobbit reaches a hand out hesitantly, he takes it in his own.

“Do not worry,” Kíli tells him gently, “I remember your lecture and I'm not going to do anything suicidal, I promise.”

He means every word despite the despair that still lingers on the edges of his thoughts because the clearest moment he can recall in the last few days is Bilbo vowing that he will live or die by his side. No matter how terrible his life now seems, Kíli cannot repay such loyalty by giving up and he will not abandon those that he still loves.

Only if he survives to reveal the truth will he be able to rejoin Fíli without dishonoring his brother's name and so he will endure the pain and sorrow as long as he must. He does not know what struggles the future holds, but as long as Bilbo doesn't abandon him, Kíli thinks that he can face it.

“I'm glad to hear that,” The hobbit tells him, reaching up to cup the dwarf's cheek and bringing him out of his thoughts. “You nearly died once already and I could not bear it if you gave up now.”

Kíli's heart aches at the honest worry on the other's face and he can do nothing but answer it as sincerely as he can. “Have no fear of that. Your concern helps keep hope burning in my soul and I promise that I will live to clear my name and return to those who love me. But first we will need to think of a plan that will convince my uncle of his error.”

These words make an odd light shine in Bilbo's eyes and if the dwarf didn't know better he would think it was affection, or even something more. Yet he does know better so Kíli shakes the thought from his mind and foolishly tries to stand. Time is of the essence and he wants to begin preparing for the future, but as his injuries scream with pain, the dwarf falls back with a gasp instead.

“Are you okay?” Bilbo asks, moving quickly to support his weight. “Let me get Beorn to check your wounds.”

Fuck that hurt. This may take longer than I thought. Kíli smiles at the hobbit weakly, reaching out to grab his arm. “Stay, please. I'm fine, I'm fine. That was just a mistake. It seems step one is actually to heal and we'll deal with the rest after that.”

“All right I can stay for a little while since I've learned enough to look at your wounds myself.” The hobbit says, settling back by his side and unwrapping the first of the dwarf's many bandages. “But when I'm done I'm going to find Beorn so we can ask him about your recovery and then decide what we should do next.”

Kíli watches in amazement as Bilbo proceeds to treat his injuries with efficiency and skill, finding himself quite admiring this competent healer whom he has never seen before. “Where did you learn this?” He asks, wondering what other talents their burglar has been keeping under wraps.

But the hobbit just smiles humbly, flushing again beneath Kíli's appreciative gaze. “Beorn's been teaching me while you were sick. I asked for lessons because I felt so helpless in the caverns without the knowledge to treat your wounds.”

“You are amazing,” The dwarf says and he truly believes it. Bilbo has already done far more than any could have asked and yet instead of taking a well-deserved rest, the hobbit is working hard to better help everyone around him. Who would have thought that such a selfless heart beat within this seemingly ordinary person and the dwarf resolves to never judge anyone on appearances again.

Thorin has no idea what he let slip through his fingers, Kíli thinks, remembering the way his uncle had looked on Bilbo with disdain. But I have never met a braver nor more loyal soul and I am sure that together we will be able to set things right.

---

The dwarf needs his friend's support over the days that follow because while his fever may finally have broken, he still has many wounds to heal. Kíli finds it incredibly frustrating to be abandoned by the body that had always served him well and while he knows it will take time, patience has never been one of his virtues.

It is Bilbo who comforts him when he wants to scream at his own failures and Bilbo who helps him with even the simplest of tasks. While the pain which awoke him was far less than the torture he faced within the mountains, the dwarf discovers that even his lifting his arms is an agony and it is another day before Beorn allows him to leave his bed.

“You must have patience young one,” the skin-changer tells him when Kíli asks how long his recovery will take. “You are lucky to be alive but such feats have their cost and your body will require a great deal of rest before it can serve you as it did before.”

“I know that...” The dwarf sighs, settling back against the pillows and trying to resign himself to the wait. “But there are things that I must do and I cannot help but feel that time is running out.”

Beorn smiles down at him, the kindness in the man's expression still a strange contrast to his size and deadly skills. “Now is not the time for doing, my friend, it is the time to heal. You will do those you love no good if you rush to their aid before you are ready. Rest and plan for the future so that when the moment comes you will know where you must strike.”

That is the kind of advice a dwarf can follow and Kíli thanks him sincerely, promising that he will take the skin-changer's words to heart. Yet he still chafes at his restrictions and he does not know how he would cope without Bilbo there to take his mind off all that he cannot do.

While the man stops in to check on him from time to time, the hobbit is his primary companion and they have much to talk about. At first the pair spends their time discussing the plan for the future, although there are so many unknowns that it is difficult to know how the dice will fall.

“Thorin will never believe that I'm innocent from just our word alone, not for something like this.” Kíli tells the hobbit as Bilbo helps him stretch his arm. “However, if we can convince the others that would be a start.”

“Would they believe us? At least some of them probably agree that you're a traitor and you know what they think of me.” The other replies doubtfully, biting his lip in thought.

“Fíli will for sure, and I think seeing me will convince anyone who has doubts already. I've obviously been tortured and that should be proof enough for most that I did not betray them to the goblins, especially with your story to back me up.” The dwarf says, wincing as Bilbo reaches a particularly sore spot. “However uncle will probably take more than that; he's never been one to second guess himself.”

“But we don't have any other proof of your innocence. How are we supposed to prove you didn't do something?”

That is the mithril question and Kíli feels himself becoming depressed again at the hopelessness of his cause. Even if everyone else believes them, the dwarf cannot reclaim his place until his uncle clears him of his crime and this is a seemingly impossible task. However, the sight of Bilbo looking so disheartened makes his chest clench with a different sort of pain and he speaks quickly to put the light back in those eyes.

“By finding the one who did.” He declares in a stroke of inspiration that must come from Mahal himself. “The real traitor is bound to strike again and when he does that will be our moment. If we can catch him in the act, uncle will have to believe me, particularly if we can get him to confess to warning the goblins as well.”

“And how exactly are we supposed to do that?” Is Bilbo's skeptical reply, but even this does not dampen the dwarf's mood.

“I have no idea,” Kíli replies cheerfully and at the hobbit's quizzical look, he explains the reasoning that has joy blooming in his heart. “We've figured out what we need to do if not how we're going to do it, and an intricate plan probably wouldn't hold up anyway because we're missing too much information. Once we catch up with the others we'll discover where they stand and if the traitor strikes again while we're missing then convincing everyone might be easier than you think. And once our companions are on our side they can help us deal with Thorin, if only to discover exactly what convinced him of my guilt.”

“That seems reasonable enough,” His friend muses, thinking it over with a frown. “Acting without a solid plan makes me somewhat nervous but us hobbits always like to have everything worked out before we commit ourselves, even when it isn't feasible.”

“Unfortunately you're dealing with dwarves now,” The other replies with a grin. “And Dwalin always says the first rule of battle is that no plan ever survives contact with the enemy so I figure we might as well wait on the details til we see the lay of the land.”

“I'm pretty sure you're still supposed to make the plan,” Bilbo retorts with a smile of his own, before giving it up with a shrug. “But in this case you might be right since we won't know where we stand until we talk to the others. Which means that you need to heal before we can do anything.”

“I know, I know.” Kíli sighs in disgust. “But it's going so slowly and I'm worried about what Fíli might do without me.”

“You've only been awake for a day. Give it time my impatient dwarf and I'm sure the others will look after your brother as best they can. Now, have you heard the tale of Bullroarer Took and the Goblin King? A story would make the hours pass more quickly.”

The dwarf has not heard that tale and so the afternoon is wiled away with songs and myths taken from both their peoples until Kíli falls asleep with a smile on his face.

However, there are only so many tales to tell and as the dwarf's recovery drags on, his mood begins to dim again. Yet somehow Bilbo remains ever cheerful and endlessly supportive no matter how the other yells in frustration and Kíli cannot help but wonder why the hobbit is putting up with him like this. Yes they are friends and perhaps are even on their way to being close ones, but his actions go far above and beyond the usual bonds of such loyalty.

But whenever the dwarf asks for an explanation or simply thanks Bilbo for everything he's done, the other just smiles and blushes, saying that he could do nothing else. However, while Kíli knows that the hobbit's kind heart would not have let him abandon anyone easily there is a difference between caring and risking your own life on a suicidal rescue mission.

He had wondered about Bilbo in the past because sometimes when the other looked at him there was a softness in his eyes that reminded the dwarf of his parents before his father died. That softness had raised his suspicions from the start but Kíli had been too busy trying to survive to do more than wonder back then.

However, now the young dwarf has nothing but time on his hands and he watches Bilbo carefully to see what he can see. While Kíli has a theory of what the hobbit's actions mean, he will not act without more cause for if his uncle's abandonment has taught him anything, it's that assumptions are not proof.

The stakes are too high to chance it because if the dwarf is right then both their lives may be changed forever, and he does not want to risk their friendship on the whisper of a dream.

---

Over the next few days Kíli has trouble believing what he discovers for he never would have thought that the hobbit could actually feel that way for him. Yet Bilbo seems to feel the dwarf's pain as though it were his own and blushes scarlet beneath the other's smile. He is interested in what Kíli has to say, takes care of him without being patronizing and smacks him when he's in a snit.

Every proper dwarf knows this could only mean one thing, but he is still afraid to act on what he sees because what if hobbits are different? What if hobbits are simply incredibly affectionate and loyal friends, willing to risk their lives for those they barely know?

All right that's unlikely, but how could he truly care that way for me? A respectable landed hobbit courting a inexperienced young dwarf, the prince of a fallen kingdom with nothing to offer him, not even his name. It just doesn't make any sense and if Bilbo really does love me, why hasn't he said anything? Unless he's waiting for us to clear my name first so that he can court me with honor instead of shame. But shouldn't he at least tell me of his esteem to stake his claim? The only way it makes any sense is if he's the one who feels unworthy and does not want to impose on me. But that's crazy...

Kíli finds his thoughts spinning in circles, unable to decide on the path that he should take. His people do not take love lightly and he does not wish to speak if he might be rejected, but he also does not wish to miss an opportunity to fill the longing in his heart.

The dwarf cares for Bilbo deeply and has admired him for quite some time, but he never thought that the attraction would actually be returned so he ignored it the best he could. This admiration has only deepened recently as he's gotten to know the hobbit better and seen the truth of his brave spirit, and Kíli knows that they would be well-matched indeed.

But he is still afraid and thus the dwarf waits instead of speaking and he watches instead of reaching and eventually he cannot take it anymore. So the next time that Bilbo leaves his side to deal with other matters, Kíli gathers his courage and stops Beorn when he comes to check on his recovery.

“I- Can I talk to you about something? About Bilbo?” The dwarf asks hesitantly, looking up at the skin-changer.

“Of course you may, young one. But surely you know your friend better than I?” The man replies, crouching next to the bed with a kind smile.

Kíli flushes beneath the other's gaze and stumbles over his words as he tries to think of a subtle way to discover what he wants to know. “Well maybe, I mean I might. But I can't ask him about this and I know you talked while I was unconscious. He speaks very highly of you and everything I've seen has shown your worth.”

“You have a silver tongue my friend, but you do not need to flatter me. I will answer your question if I can.” Beorn says, grinning in amusement as the dwarf's blush deepens. “Speak your worries without fear for a troubled mind will impeded your body's healing.”

“I... I... I just don't know where to start. I think... Do you think Bilbo likes me?” As soon as the words leave his mouth, Kíli winces, ducking his head in embarrassment.

“You're his friend young one, of course he likes you. Although perhaps you did not mean it quite like that?” He smiles down at the dwarf gently as he continues. “I would have thought his actions spoke for him but if you are unsure why do you not ask your hobbit what he carries in his heart?”

“I just can't risk it. Even if he does care for me I have nothing to offer him now and there must be a reason that he hasn't spoken of it. What if I screw everything up?” Kíli shakes his head in denial and looks up with pleading eyes. Help me decide what I should do.

Beorn sighs and pats the dwarf gently on the shoulder. “I forget how young you are, a warrior and yet little more than a child in these matters. I do not know why Bilbo has not spoken to you, but I assure you that it is not for lack of worth. I have seen the care in his eyes and he loves you truly just as you care for him. So take courage and tell him of how you feel for whatever obstacle stands in your way cannot be breached with silence.”

These words strike somewhere deep within his soul and Kíli knows that the man is right. He would regret it forever if he let Bilbo slip through his fingers and even if he is wrong and the hobbit rejects him, the dwarf will know that it was not cowardice that broke his heart.

So he thanks the skin-changer for his wisdom and steels himself to talk to Bilbo when he returns, spurred on by Beorn's encouraging wink as he walks out the door. The dwarf knows that he needs to speak before he loses his nerve again, so Kíli takes the hobbit's arm and pulls him down to sit by him on the bed.

“Bilbo, we need to talk.” The dwarf says but before he can continue, the other slumps down, eyes sad and accepting as he nods.

“You've figured it out then. I'm sorry, I'll pack my bags and leave in the morning.” Bilbo tells him dully before starting to get up, only to be stopped when Kíli grabs his wrist in panic.

“Wait! Why would you leave? Did I do something wrong?” His heart hammers in his chest for this reaction is worse than any of his fears. Even rejection would cause him less pain than this and the dwarf desperately wants to know what has happened to cause Bilbo to abandon him.

“You don't want me to leave? I- I thought you knew how I felt.” The hobbit's voice is bewildered and at his obvious distress Kíli feels his own confusion grow. Something is very strange here. Are we both talking about the same thing because if he loves me why would he flee the moment I bring it up?

“I do, well I hope I do, though now I'm not so sure. But I don't understand why you think I would ever cast you away. Even if this is all some horrible misunderstanding and you don't return my admiration, you're still my friend and I'd hope you'd say the same.”

“Return your admiration? I'm the one that shouldn't be in love with you!” Bilbo cries out aghast and for a moment the dwarf is filled with joy at the confirmation of his hopes. In love...he's in love with me too! But then the other continues and that joy is tinged with sorrow once again. “I know it's wrong and I should have at least hidden my feelings better so you wouldn't have to bear the weight of my shameful attraction. You are worth so much more than that.”

“Shame, what shame? And why do you think you're inferior? I'm the one who has nothing to offer.”

“Because we're both males and that is not as Yavanna teaches. Men must lay with women so that the seed of new life may be born into the world; there is no place for deviants like me in her design. I'm sorry, I've tried to stamp these fell desires out of my heart but they refuse to die.”

These words shock Kíli greatly and he is filled with grief that Bilbo has had to live for so long believing such lies about himself. If this is what hobbits truly think then no wonder he stayed silent and yet it is almost unthinkable to the dwarf that anyone could have this view. While Balin always says that every race is entitled to their own beliefs and sees virtue through its own eyes, Kíli cannot let this misconception stand when it is causing his love this much pain. So the dwarf takes Bilbo's hands in his own and puts all of his love and conviction in his voice as he tries to convince his hobbit that there can be another way.

“You are not a deviant! I do not know what sacrifices Yavanna requires from her people, but Aulë's children know that all love is sacred no matter what form it takes. Why else would he build so many more dwarves than dwarrowdams and tie our hearts so tightly to the crafts of gem and stone? Is this why you did not tell me, because you feared that I would hate you for some imagined sin?”

“How can you not? I don't...I don't understand. Everyone has always hated me, ever since I let my crush slip to Ruddo Brandybuck when I was in my tweens and he told all the Shire of my shame. Do dwarves actually find this normal?”

“Not normal, extraordinary.” Kíli answers, cupping the hobbit's cheek gently. “Love of any kind is a gift from the Valar which should be treasured, not denied. There is no shame here unless you allow yourself to bring it and I truly hope that you do not. How could I hate you when the same feelings burn within my heart and you care for who I am rather than my family’s name? When you care for me despite all that I have lost?”

“You really share my love? I thought... but how could you? I'm just a middle-aged hobbit, a deviant, and you're a prince; you could have any lass you wanted. Why would you join in my disgrace?”

“I'm no prince, not anymore. Now I am just Kíli and I see no disgrace in returning the love of a brave, kind and loyal hobbit who saved my life. You have more than proved your worth to any doubters and if you will allow me, I will love you with all that I am.”

“I can't! I can't let you do that. It would ruin you.” The hobbit's voice is anguished and his eyes fill with regret as he starts to get up again.

“I promise you no dwarves will judge us, not for that. If anything you will lose status by associating with one branded a traitor such as me and if the other hobbits cannot accept you for who you are then they are not true friends at all.” Bilbo hesitates, obviously torn and Kíli feels a spark of hope when the hobbit settles back down on the bed. Please listen to me. Do not break both our hearts in an attempt to protect my nonexistent reputation.

“I don't know. I just... I do love you really but I... I've spent my whole life thinking that this was wrong, that I was wrong, even as I hoped...”

“I will not force you into anything and we can remain no more than friends if that is truly what you want. But I love you too and if you let me, I will gladly wait however long it takes for you to believe in the truth of my words. Let us create something beautiful together, Bilbo. Let our love shine as one instead of forcing our hearts to wither away in darkness. Please, love.”

“Are you sure? I mean, I don't know what I'm doing and I'll probably freak out sometimes. What if I do something wrong? Or what if it takes years before I can really accept this as allowed? You deserve better than that.” The hobbit will not look at him as he lists out his faults and Kíli's heart is near to breaking at the other's obvious insecurity. Yet he is not refusing outright and the dwarf has hope that with time and patience, he will be able to show his love that there is nothing to be ashamed of here

“I don't want better, Bilbo, I want you and whatever that entails. If it takes years before you feel comfortable with us then I will wait years because you are worth it even if you do not believe me now. So what do you say, love, will you allow this former prince and penniless named traitor to court your heart with all of mine?” He proposes, his lips curling up in a grin as Bilbo frowns at him thoughtfully.

“I... all right. I will try.” The hobbit finally whispers, granting Kíli a faint smile that warms him to the bone as he sweeps the other into a hug.

“Thank you, that is all that I can ask.” They release each other slowly and the dwarf cannot help but cup the hobbit's face in his hands, marveling at how Bilbo leans into the touch. “May I kiss you?” He asks softly and although the other tenses slightly, he nods his consent.

So Kíli leans forward to press their lips together, a promise of loyalty from heart to heart. He keeps the kiss light and chaste for now, not wanting to scare Bilbo off before they even begin, and his moderation is rewarded. After a long moment, the hobbit hesitantly returns his kiss, obviously unpracticed but willing to try and Kíli's heart swells with fondness within his chest.

Eventually they pull apart and the dwarf rests his forehead against Bilbo's as he smiles down at him. The hobbit blushes beneath his gaze but instead of pulling away he moves closer, tucking himself against Kíli's side.

“Can I just stay here for awhile? If you don't mind?” He asks uncertainly and the dwarf responds by wrapping an arm around his shoulders and placing a soft kiss on the top of his head. Kíli knows that they still have many issues to discuss if they are going to make this work, not to mention fixing his predicament, but for the moment he is content.

---

Unfortunately the dwarf's contentment does not last for he cannot help but feel that the sands of time are running out. With every day that passes, Kíli's worries about his friends and family grow and a sense of urgency beats beneath his skin. So he finds himself unable to relax into the moment even though his relationship with Bilbo progresses faster than expected.

Indeed the hobbit takes only one step back for every three moved forward and the first time that he kisses Kíli's cheek where Beorn can see, the dwarf takes it as a victory. For the greatest obstacle they face is neither a lack of attraction nor inability to get along, it is Bilbo's sense of shame. While the hobbit is slowly becoming more comfortable showing his affection, his first instinct is still for secrecy even in front of one who already knows.

Yet as much as the dwarf appreciates the chance to learn more about his love and help heal the scars on both their hearts, he simply cannot ignore his fears completely, no matter how hard he tries. So one night when the couple is sitting in Beorn's garden, Kíli's doubts are weighing heavily on his mind and the hobbit softly asks him what is wrong.

“It's nothing important,” He answers, turning his head to smile at Bilbo faintly. “I'm just worried about the others.”

“Well I'm sure they'll be all right. They're strong warriors, even without Gandalf to back them up.” The dwarf is somewhat impressed that the hobbit manages to say this with a straight face, for the battles they had encountered with their burglar rarely showed their companions in the best of lights. While the dwarves should acquit themselves well in a more usual sort of battle, Kíli still has his doubts because nothing about this quest has been normal from the start.

“I'm not so certain about that; the wizard saved us more than once already and Fíli has always had me to watch his back. I just...I just worry because I don't want anyone to get hurt, not even Thorin and what if the company reaches the mountain but fails to defeat Smaug because neither of us are there? Or what if the real traitor strikes again and they do not expect it since uncle thinks the danger is past?”

“I don't have any answers for you, but we can't do anything to help from here. All we can do is have faith and try to follow them as soon as possible.” Bilbo replies as he wraps an arm around the dwarf to offer what comfort that he can and Kíli appreciates the lack of false platitudes which would aggravate his fear.

The dwarf rests his head on Bilbo's shoulder and sighs. “I know that and I am thankful for the extra time to spend with you. But it's been nearly a week and I'm still practically useless so who knows how long it will take for me to get back in fighting form. If Thorin reclaims Erebor before we can clear my name then he will carve my dishonor into law and if Fíli perishes while I am absent then there will be no point in trying anymore. Still I know we can do nothing until I heal so I will attempt to put it from my mind.”

That is the end of the discussion and indeed all talking for the evening as their focus turns toward other things. For all the hobbit's hesitations, he craves contact more than any partner Kíli has ever had, reveling in the fact that he can finally touch another whenever he wants.

Bilbo told the dwarf early on how no one would get near him in the Shire, going out of their way to avoid even an accidental brush against his arm as though he were contagious. So even though he remains unsure about doing more than kissing, the hobbit is always happy to do that and Kíli discovers that he is as fast a learner in this as in most other things.

While he might have chafed at the slow pace when he was younger, the dwarf is still too injured for anything very physical and he discovers that love makes all the difference. Love makes him patient where he might have been annoyed and it is no hardship to just curl up with the hobbit in his arms. Indeed Kíli finds that he quite enjoys the simple closeness even though before this he was never one to sit quietly when he could be doing other things.

However, the next morning it is Bilbo's turn to be pensive over breakfast and after Beorn leaves, he turns to the dwarf with a serious expression on his face.

“I've been thinking about what you said last night, and while we can't do anything until you heal, this doesn't mean that I can't do something sooner.” It takes Kíli a moment to realize what the hobbit is offering and when he does, the dwarf feels a wave of love and guilt wash over him.

“I cannot ask that of you, Bilbo.” He says, taking the other's hand. “You've done so much for me already and you should not have to risk your life again just to try to ease my fears.”

“I know you won't ask and that is why I am offering. When your heart bleeds I share your pain and your family will be mine as well. I do not wish to see the others injured any more than you and if I can help to keep them safe, how can I not try?”

Kíli has to marvel again at the hobbit's selflessness and the way he cares so much about everyone around him though he wishes Bilbo would spare a thought for himself as well. He also feels guilty, for the other would have no reason to risk such danger if not for his worries and the dwarf has given him so little in return.

“Please don't feel that you have to risk your life for me because I don't deserve that sacrifice.” He says, torn between his desire to protect the other and the knowledge that he has to let him make his own choices even when they hurt.

“It's not a matter of obligation, Kíli.” Bilbo answers, giving him a soft smile. “I know it will be dangerous and I won't pretend I'm not afraid of what could happen. But if I don't do this and it turns out that I could have prevented a disaster, I would regret it for the rest of my life. Gandalf seems to think that I may be necessary to reclaim Erebor and I have to be with the others to convince them of your innocence. It may even improve our chances if I talk to them first so that we know who is on our side before you return.”

The dwarf cannot argue with the hobbit's logic though he wishes that he could and so he just shakes his head helplessly. “I will also worry about you, you know, out on the road without me.”

“I do know that but I think this is something I have to do despite the danger and I promise I have no intention of being foolish. With Beorn's help I should be able to cross the forest safely, as should you when you heal enough to follow, and it would be good for Fíli and the others to know that you still live. You were right when you said that time was not on our side and whatever hope we have of clearing your name will only decrease the longer that we wait.”

Bilbo's voice is certain and the dwarf soon realizes that he will not change the other's mind no matter how he tries. Thus after several failed attempts to find another way, Kíli finally accepts that the hobbit truly wants to do this and the couple begins to plan.

As Gandalf promised in his letter, Beorn is happy to provide the hobbit with supplies and transportation to the forest's edge. While the skin-changer has no maps of Mirkwood, he knows the lay of the land and what dangers to watch out for, and the wizard left warnings of his own about the safest route.

Listening to them discuss the trip, Kíli feels some of his doubts easing for Bilbo leaves nothing to chance and the dwarf knows his love takes the warnings far more seriously than any of his kin. The members of their former company are not the sort who take advice to heart and part of his worry over his brother's fate is the knowledge that Thorin's proud stubbornness will problems at every turn.

So Kíli is cautiously hopeful about the future as he stands before Beorn's hall and bids his hobbit a fond farewell. While fears still lurk on the edges of his thoughts, the dwarf must trust that his love can take care of himself and if all else fails, the hobbit has his ring. He will not do Bilbo the disservice of doubting his willingness and the other has already proven far more capable than the company had thought.

Therefore, the dwarf just kisses him gently and releases him, watching the hobbit ride away until he passes out of sight. Then Kíli goes back inside, ready to support the other in the only way he can, by focusing on healing and rejoining Bilbo as soon as his recovery allows. But until that time comes, he will miss his love terribly and he will dream of the moment when their hearts are one again.


Chapter 4: Guilt and Penance