Hobbits were, if nothing else, resilient creatures when it came to illness. In fact it had taken a week of slogging through icy rain for Bilbo to even realize he was becoming sick and by that time there was no way to stop it.
It's so cold. So wet. Must keep walking. Can't be a burden. These thoughts ran in a constant litany through Bilbo's exhausted mind as he marched along after the dwarves. It had been six days of nonstop downpour, and their leader was in too much of a hurry to reach the mountain to warrant sitting about for a week to let the rain pass.
It was Kili who was the first to notice the hobbit's declining health.
"You alright Bilbo?" Asked Kili after the third time Bilbo had tripped. It was obvious that the Hobbit's coordination was becoming almost non-existent. " 'mm fine, thanks" Slurred Bilbo as he blinked quickly trying to rid his eyes of fog long enough to see the ground in front of him. As it was he could barely see two steps in front of himself, which was why he did not see the rather large rock right in front of him. In any case his foot caught on the rock and he would have landed face first in the mud if it weren't for Kili's fast reflexes. Kili caught him by the upper arm and waist and saved Bilbo from that embarrassment.
"Bilbo, you are burning up" Kili said worriedly. He could feel the heat rising off the Halfling through his soaking wet clothing. "Thorin" Kili shouted ahead to, still keeping his grip on Bilbo "I think Bilbo's sick. He's hotter than a furnace back here." It was a good thing Kili still had a hold of him, because as Thorin turned and began heading their way Bilbo's knees decided it was time to give out on him and suddenly Kili became the only thing holding him off the ground all together.
I'm just so tired. And so cold. Bilbo's mind began to drift into unconsciousness, but he was startled back into waking by a cool hand on his cheek. "He's burning up. We need to get him out of this rain." Bilbo heard Thorin say to Kili. Bilbo began to drift away again only to once again be startled awake, only this time by the world tilting violently as Thorin lifted his small body into his arms. Cradled against Thorin's chest, Bilbo shivered fiercely and snuggled deeper into the heavenly warmth before finally succumbing to unconsciousness. Somehow, deep down, he knew he would be safe with Thorin.
What miserable weather this is. thought Thorin as he continued his pace through the half frozen sludge. It had been raining non-stop for days now with no sign of a reprieve. Everyone in their company was cold, wet, and miserable, which meant there was little talking and very little to occupy his time. So Thorin's mind wandered as he trudged, trying to think of other things besides the cold.
As it had often done in the past few weeks, Thorin's mind turned to the 14th member of their group. The Halfling had surprised him more than a few times since the beginning of their journey, the most recent being his attack on an Orc while trying to save Thorin's life. The action had not been forgotten. Although Thorin still was not sure there was a use for a burglar on this journey, his reasoning for not wanting the hobbit was turning out to be more about worry for the hobbit's safety, instead of frustration at his lack of ability.
Yes the Halfling had proven his worth not only in their encounter with the trolls but with the goblin and orc encounters where he had also shown remarkable courage. He still had no ability what so ever with a sword but at least Thorin now knew that the Hobbit could use it if push came to shove.
He was startled out of his thoughts by a shout from the back of the group. "I think Bilbo's sick." came Kili's call. Thorin turned just in time to see the hobbit's legs give out and Kili catch him. Thorin's pace quickened.
Reaching the pair, Thorin placed a hand on Bilbo's cheek to assess the damage. It was indeed just as Kili had said, the Halfling was burning up. "We need to get him out of this rain. Look for any sort of shelter. Just some place dry where we can take rest and spend the night." shouted Thorin to the rest of the group, before swinging the hobbit up into his arms with ease. He felt a large shiver rack the Halfling's small frame before Bilbo snuggled deeper into his chest and passed out.
Foolish Hobbit. Why did he not tell me he was feeling unwell? Thorin tried to shield the hobbit from the majority of the rain as he walked, an action that yielded very little success due to the enormous amount of icy rain that was pouring from the sky.
Thorin was making his way back to the front of the line with the small hobbit in tow, just as Bofur yelled out from somewhere in the rain. "Thorin, Over here!"
As Thorin swiftly moved to where Bofur's voice had called from, he began to see a small house appearing out of the rain. It looked to be an abandoned farm house, with the walls and roof still mostly intact. Within minutes the entire company was settled in the small two room farm house, finally glad to be out of the rain. Soon the main room became toasty due to the large cooking fire Balin and Bofur had built up and the rest of the company was in various states of unpacking and helping to make dinner.
Thorin brought Bilbo to the back of the house where a small bed resided. "Kili, Help me remove some of his wet clothing." The two dwarves managed to relieve the small Halfling of all of his wet outerwear leaving him in only a thin shirt and his pants. Then they covered Bilbo in blankets from both Bilbo and Thorin's packs as well as a musty smelling blanket from a trunk in the corner of the room. Even under the three layers of blankets the Hobbit was shaking violently from the effects of his fever. "Kili, fetch some water and a rag. We must try to get his fever to break." Thorin ordered and the younger Dwarf rushed to obey. Thorin laid the cool rag over the hobbits forehead in hopes that it would cool the Halfling down, as Kili built a fire in the smaller fireplace that resided in the corner of the room.
Thorin changed the cloth every hour well into the night. Yet still the Halfling shivered and shook with chill. Finally, running out of ideas, Thorin threw off his outer cloak and armor. Once he was clad in only his under shirt and breeches he climbed into the small bed next to Bilbo and gathered him close. Maybe body heat will ward off the chill.
Gathered against the dwarf's warm chest Bilbo's shivers slowly began to subside. As Thorin lay next to Bilbo he began to drift off into slumber, feeling comforted by the fact that he would know if the Halfling took a turn for the worst in the night.
Thorin was startled awake a little while later by fierce thrashing next to him. Bilbo seemed to be caught in a feverish nightmare and as Thorin watched the sick Halfling thrashed about violently, clawing at an invisible enemy he could not see. As Thorin moved to still the Hobbit, Bilbo turned on him as if he were the invisible foe, and the weakened Halfling began to beat at Thorin's chest with a fiercely cried "NO!". Thorin struggled to grab the hobbit's flailing limbs without causing the him any harm. He finally managed to grab both of Bilbo's wrists in a gentle but firm hold, which caused Bilbo to collapse as the fight drained out of him.
"Thorin, No! Do not touch him." cried the Hobbit in a frightened whimper. With a start Thorin finally understood what Bilbo must have been dreaming about. He had been reliving the fight with the pale orc in which he had saved Thorin's life. Thorin gently pulled the Halfling once more to his chest and wrapped him in a gentle embrace. "It's alright Halfling. You've done your job. I'm safe. Do not be afraid. We're both safe." Thorin softly murmured into the distraught hobbit's hair as he held him.
Bilbo was now shaking but more from fear and not the cold. Thorin continued whispering comforting things and stroking the Halfling's unruly curls until Bilbo was still once more and had fallen back asleep. Finally sometime in the early morning Bilbo's fever broke and Thorin was at last able to relax. Too tired to make his own bed, the dwarf king stayed curled around the now calmly sleeping Halfling for the rest of the night.
In the morning, when the sun was just rising over the horizon, Thorin was awoken by a light knock at the door. As he looked up, careful not to jostle the still sleeping hobbit wrapped in his arms, he saw Bofur pop his head in and survey the room. Thorin nodded to the dwarf, an acknowledgement that he may come in. Bofur then slipped silently into the room and asked Thorin in hushed tones how the hobbit was doing and if they would be moving on today.
"His fever broke in the early hours of the morning and he has been peaceful ever since." Thorin paused for a moment to gather his thoughts. He did not know yet if the Halfling would be well enough to travel. Thorin was anxious to move along on their journey but he was also reluctant to move on if it meant that the Halfling would fall ill again.
"We shall rest for today and continue on early tomorrow" He said at last making up his mind. Bofur nodded and left as silently as he had come to inform the others of their day of rest. Thorin, still exhausted from his night of caring for the hobbit, snuggled back into the comfortable bed next to Bilbo, wrapping his arms around the smaller thief to keep him close and safe.
And Thorin Slept.
The first thing that Bilbo Baggins realized upon waking was that he was very warm, comfortably so, almost as if he was back in the Shire in his own comfortable bed. That thought was almost pleasant enough for him to drift back to sleep if it had not been for the second thing he noticed upon waking: He was snuggled up against someone who was incredibly warm and lightly snoring. This fact caused enough of a puzzle that Bilbo managed to open his eyes fully and shift around to see who he was pressed up against.
He was quite surprised to look up and see the relaxed face of Thorin Oakenshield sleeping soundly on the pillow just above his head. Understandably Bilbo started a bit at this realization and his movement made Thorin's arm, currently wrapped around his waist, tighten in response and pull the surprised Hobbit closer to his chest.
Looking up, Bilbo was still able to see Thorin's peaceful visage from his new vantage point. His face was smoothed of the lines and wrinkles where he normally carried the troubles of his people. In sleep, Thorin looked younger, and more peaceful but no less kingly. If anything the Hobbit had to admit to himself that Thorin looked even more handsome asleep then he did awake.
As if sensing Bilbo's watchful gaze, Thorin shifted in his sleep and worry lines appeared in his forehead. Without thought, Bilbo raised a hand to smooth away the stress, lightly stroking Thorin's forehead. He was startled once again when he glanced down to see that Thorin was no longer sleeping, but instead gazing at the hobbit with an unreadable expression.
"How do you feel this morning, Master Baggins?" Questioned Thorin, an slight air of humor about him.
"I'm f-f-fine." stuttered Bilbo in reply, tempted to burrow under the blankets and never come out "Thank you for taking care of me."
"Next time you feel unwell, tell someone." Thorin responded, worry evident in his eyes "We cannot have gotten this far only to lose our thief to a cold."
Bilbo realized with no small amount of surprise that the dwarf was teasing him. Not quite sure how to respond, Bilbo murmured under his breath "I didn't wish to be a burden".
Apparently Dwarves have quite good hearing as Bilbo found out when Thorin sat up abruptly pulling the hobbit with him. "You are not a burden. You will never be a burden. Tell me when you are hurt. Tell me when you need help and I will help. But you are never a burden." Thorin said sternly, practically shaking Bilbo to get his point across.
"But before you were always yelling at me for being soft, for slowing the company down, for not being able to defend myself."
"And you have proven me wrong on many accounts have you not? You managed to escape the Goblins without even a scratch. And you defended not only yourself but me as well against the Azoc, the Pale Orc. That was no small feat, Halfling." Thorin said, the gentleness in his tone surprised Bilbo.
Bilbo thought about what the Dwarf had said for a moment before quietly responding. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, I am surer every day that you belong in this company. That is why it is so important for you to stay safe and healthy. I do not want you to scare me like that again."
Bilbo gave a small smile at Thorin's words, realizing that the Dwarf may care more than he would admit. "Ok, Thorin. I'll try to stay healthy from now on."
"Good" Said the Dwarf, before lying back down and pulling the hobbit down next to him. "Now get some more rest. We will leave tomorrow at dawn and you will need your strength." He said while pulling the covers over the both of them.
Bilbo snuggled back into Thorin's side, a small content smile gracing his face. He didn't know what dangers tomorrow or the next day would bring and he was not sure what snuggling up to Thorin meant, but he was sure that right now he was safe, warm, and cared for. For today that was enough.
"Good night, Thorin" He whispered quietly.
Thorin shifted once more to get comfortable, pulling the hobbit close before replying.
"Good night, Halfling. Sleep well"