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a flash of steel— a drop before his feet—

a twist— panic— shit—

pain, pain— agony—


and all. fell. away...

he woke in agony again—

for a brief second he felt it, he felt the burning, the pain searing—

he heard a grunt, a whimper— was that his voice? or his or?

a hand upon his thigh; the coarseness of a bandage;

and then, mercifully, darkness.

(mercifully, he thought)

the next time he saw. just for a second, a momentary brightness, unbearable for his weakened eyes.

he snapped his lids shut closed again, but they burned

that pain distracted from the aching of his festering hand. he didn't try to look at it, fearing what he might see—

but he missed the light. he needed to see again, to be sure, to know he lived still;

darkness was not merciful this time.

"it's been a week—"

"—if he—"

"he will—"

"but if—"

"there is no if."

he overheard conversations. just snippets of them, like pieces of a puzzle. but he didn't know its shape or how many pieces or the picture at the end or how many pieces or—

every time he had a thought it would fracture. like a puzzle. he tried to come up with another way of thinking of it but that was too much of a puzzle. and he didn't know the pieces—

or if any of them were missing.

he could distinguish the voices now. it was—

it was—

he knew this he knew this he knew this voice he always had known this voice it was, it was—

"Thorin," he said through cracked and parched lips, and oh it hurt him and

but then there was a presence at his side and he looked up and he saw that familiar face through the cracks his eyes would open into and. something started to make sense again.

Thorin smiled.

the next time, someone was dripping water into his mouth with a wet sponge. he drank greedily, moaning for more, more more—

at last the sponge left his lips and he opened his eyes all the way.

it was—

a gray beard. a crushed— metal, thing. was— an ear horn. ear trumpet?

"Óin," he said, and his heart leapt because "I know who you are."

"I know who—" he knew! "you!"

"lad," Óin said, something wet falling down his face. had he been drinking from the sponge, too?

he was sweating and sweating and he was made of fire—

heat, heat heat, heat, it was burning inside him and he couldn't—

how could he be so wet and hot all at once? how could he—

"Fíli!" said a rough voice. it was—

"Kíli," he rasped. he knew that one. he didn't even have to think.

not that he could because he fell back to sl

He ached but this time it was it just a little bit better just a little better.

He thought he could think now but it was a bit still scrambled pieces weren't quite fit.

He could still only awake stay for a minute time at a time. But there was a definition defined in the way he awake stayed.

He could see Kíli and he could see Thorin and Óin he could see. There were other faces but they were. Harder.

He slept.

He didn't have dreams until now. But the dreams were bad.

He would see that awful orc— that fucking bastard— that—

he would start to apart falling again and he would—

pain and pain and pain and

The thoughts came in the right order now. They were short. He couldn't connect much together. But there was a realness to it all now.

He could stay awake longer now. He still didn't open his eyes much. But he could hear. He could even talk. A little bit.

Kíli would talk and talk and talk and talk and—

Well. He couldn't handle it all. So it was a good thing that he could only really grunt.

Sometimes he pretended to sleep so Kíli would be quiet. He didn't want him to leave though. quiet.

He had figured out where it hurt. It was all over, but mostly in his hand.

It started to come back to him in little bits and pieces. Like a puzzle. But this time the shape started to appear in his mind, just a bit fuzzy.

He'd gone out. Alone. Alone? No, not alone. He'd gotten—trapped. He jumped. Why had he jumped?

He'd kept...fighting. For everything. For Thorin. For Kíli. For...home.

Fíli wasn't sure where that was.

He wasn't sure where he was.

The first time he was really, truly, completely, fully awake, he wished he wasn't.

He couldn't escape into sleep anymore. His back ached; his legs ached; his hand hurt like it had been cut off at the wrist.

But he could keep his eyes open, and he could sit up. So that, that was a start.

He could even talk. If anyone was there to listen, that was. He thought it was the middle of the night, but he couldn't really tell. Either way, it was dark and cold in his tent, and he was alone.

His voice cracked and warbled, but it felt good to hear himself aloud.

"I'm awake," he said. "I'm...afraid. But I'm alive. I'm all in one piece."

He glanced down at his body. He had been lying down for too long. Slowly, painfully, he twisted his back around and felt and heard it crack as he released the tension that had built up in his spine for what felt like an age.

He was wrapped in bandages all over, but they were clean now. They weren't bleeding through like they had been at first.

His left hand was a mass of bandages. He was still foggy on the details of what Azog had done to him, but it must have done serious damage to his hand.

How funny. Azog was missing a hand, cut off by Thorin. Had he been trying to return the favor, and mar the line of Durin?

Fíli wasn't sure.

This was the first time he'd been awake for his bandages being changed. He kept his eyes shut tight, squeezing Kíli's arm with his uninjured hand.

"How are you feeling, Fí?" Kíli whispered. He spoke slowly, in measured words, as if that would help Fíli keep his mind off what Óin was doing to his other hand.

"Bad," he said. "But...the fact I can tell you that at all is better than I used to be."

"You'll get through this," Kíli said.

"Yeah, I'll be back to normal in no time at all," Fíli said.

Kíli...didn't say anything. Fíli opened his eyes a crack, confused to see a grief-stricken expression on his brother's face.

"What?" he said. "I...I will get better, won't I?"

"Of course," Óin said. "Of course you'll be better."

"It's just—" Kíli bit his lip.

Fíli opened his eyes. He started to turn to look at his hand, an awful, horrible thought welling up inside him, but Kíli touched his cheek and guided his face back.

"I need to see," Fíli whispered. "I need to see what that fucking orc did to me."

"Fíli, please," Kíli begged. But Fíli didn't listen, and he didn't try to stop him this time.

"I'm sorry," rumbled Óin, "but we were too late to save it—"

Fíli beheld the sight of his wrist, a mess of blood and tissue, oozing out of the stump of his arm where he could see the end of a severed bone—

oh fuck oh fuck oh f—

he fainted. this time, it was merciful.

damn it, he thought, i was only out for an hour.

The bandages were replaced, new and fresh. Óin had gone; Thorin sat in his place. Kíli was still at his side.

Fíli sat up. He stared at his lap...until his gaze drifted back to the stump of his arm. To where his hand should have been.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he rasped.

"We thought you knew." That was Thorin, gentle and kind. So much kinder than he'd ever been before when Fíli injured himself as foolishly as this.

"I just didn't want you to have to see the mess," Kíli said. There was so much guilt in his voice, so much pity...

"He took my hand." Fíli felt nauseous just admitting it. "That stinking pile of warg shit cut off my damn hand and you didn't tell me."

"It's not like you were awake much," Kíli babbled, "and then I didn't know how to bring it up and you seemed like you were on the mend—"

"Shut up!" Fíli snapped. "Don't you—talk about it like that!"

Kíli fell silent. Fíli looked up at Thorin, tears in his eyes.

"Please tell me—" His voice broke. He tried again: "Please tell me no one died."

"We're all safe," Thorin said. "Erebor is reclaimed. We've...made peace with the people of Esgaroth. And even with Thranduil, may his wooden crown rot come spring."

"We did it." Fíli closed his eyes. For the first time, relief washed over him. "And...him?" He couldn't say the name.

"Azog is dead, as is Bolg, and all of the rest of the orcs who didn't run," Thorin confirmed. "Fíli, your sacrifice allowed me to land the killing blow. Kíli and the elves took care of Bolg."

Fíli took a long, deep breath. "I think...I think I can...learn to live with that."

After he accepted what had happened to him, the recovery process sped by. He was walking a few days later; he could hold a fork in his right hand the next week; soon he was all but totally healed.

But it still haunted him. He tried to hide it—and the Company was kind, so kind—but he still felt...broken.

There was a piece of him missing. He couldn't remember how it had happened. It was like that puzzle that had tormented him in his fitful slumber. He knew the shape of it now, but he could never complete it.

He could never...

But that was life, now. That was who he was. It was what he had been dealt.

And perhaps a missing piece was room for something new.