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Fili couldn’t believe that this was happening.

Kili had only supposed to have been gone on a hunting trip with some of the other dwarves of Ered Luin. The winter had already been hard and Kili’s skills had been needed on the hunt. He was supposed to have come back with a deer or some other kind of meat for their family and friends. Kili was one of the best hunters -- Kili’s family knew he was actually the best but that wasn’t polite to say -- so no one was too worried when the time that the hunting party was to have returned came and went.

After two days beyond the expected arrival time had passed, Fili was beside himself with worry. He knew in his heart that something was wrong. No matter what he said to his mother and uncle, Fili could feel that something had happened to delay the hunters -- to delay his brother. Kili knew how they worried about him when winter was upon them and he would never have allowed the hunters to return late if he was able to help it.

So when the hunters finally stumbled into the settlement with more than one dwarf being carried on what appeared to be hurriedly constructed litters, Fili was the only one that wasn’t surprised.

Later, after Kili was carried to their shared room and Oin was summoned, Fili was able to get the entire story from one of the other hunters. They had been following a well-known hunting trail when part of the cliff had collapsed. Kili and two other hunters had been on the cliff and had fallen. It was obvious that Kili had been hurt in the fall, but he had still worked to make sure the other hunters had been rescued and cared for. It wasn’t until all of them had been pulled back up the cliff to safety that Kili had fallen into unconsciousness.

Now, Fili sat next to his brother’s bed, wiping his face and forehead with a cool cloth. Oin had treated Kili and told his family that he would be fine with some rest and careful tending of the bandages wrapped around his ribs. There didn’t appear to be any internal injuries, though Kili was going to be sore and bruised for some time.

“You were right you know,” a soft voice groaned from the bed and Fili lifted his head to see that Kili’s eyes were open. Even though he was in pain, he was staring at Fili and there was an apology shining in his eyes.

“Kili, brother, hush,” Fili said, leaning over the bed to touch their foreheads together for a long moment before easing back. “You shouldn’t be talking right now. You’re hurt and need rest.”

“No, Fili. I must say this.” Kili turned his head so that it was easier for him to watch Fili. “I was trying to avoid you and I did go on the hunt to runaway from what I was hiding.”

“No, Kili. I said those words in anger. I should never have said them.” He had been feeling guilty ever since Kili had left after their argument to go on the hunt. He hated that if Kili hadn’t survived his fall, then those would have been the last words they had shared.

“They needed to be said. I was running from you because I didn’t want to lose you.” He sighed. “I love you, Fili.”

“I love you, too, Kili --”

“No, Fili. I mean, I love you. I love you like Bombur loves Mirren.”

Fili could feel his jaw drop as he stared at Kili. Of everything he had been imagining when Kili had started putting distance between them, this was definitely not something he had ever thought about. He must have taken too long to respond because Kili made a low sound of distress and turned his face to the wall.

“Forget it. We can pretend that I never said anything and then when I am healed, I will find other living arrangements. I will not be in your way, Fili.”

“This is not the time to talk about this, Kili,” Fili finally found his voice. “You’ve been badly hurt and you shouldn’t be worrying about confessions of your feelings.” He swallowed hard, trying to keep his mind focused on what he was saying and not the thoughts that had been prying into his mind for longer than he could say. “You will sleep and we will talk tomorrow, but I know one thing that will for sure not be happening.”

“Yeah? What’s that?” Kili didn’t turn his face from the wall. He didn’t want to look at his golden brother and see the disappointment or revulsion in his eyes.

“You are not going to find another place to live. You belong here, with me.”