Just a little bit of Nori post-BOFA. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: I do not own the Hobbit.

He was missing a finger. A toe as well, or two actually. Better than Dori, he had arthritis in both hands, his wrists too swollen and painful to swing a sword or an axe or mace or just about any weapon. At least, thought Nori, that his hands were still light and functioning sans a finger.

Ori was gone off with Balin. And he was sitting here drinking and feeling rather lonely. It was at times like these he felt the presence of his ghosts. The rare times when he was all alone and hating the feeling of it.

He hates when his ghosts come. It was always just too real. He could practically feel two presences drop down on the stool next to him and lean on the tavern counter, grinning next to him. He could almost imagine the teasing remarks that they would make, trading words of each other like it was polished script guaranteed to make their listener feel very uncomfortable, very foolish or possibly both.

He could almost see them too, twin grins in their faces, black and blond hair framing him as they would lean and tilt over to watch his face. Nori quite often wish that he could dash his ale into their faces but the problem was that they weren't actually there.

And it if wasn't them then it was Thorin, just a heavy dark presence sitting next to him sitting, sipping his ale and not saying a thing. Didn't stop him from grinning slyly when Nori made an obnoxious but accurate remake about some patron or the other. Didn't stop him from tilting his head to various other dwarves that crowded the establishment as if asking his opinion of them.

(It had never stopped him from paying for them both in the past. Hadn't stopped him from joining Nori in bar fights either. Thorin had loved those. No one can look that happy during a bar fight and not love 'em.)

Today it was all three. Kili and Fili hovering on either side, goading him to do something, he wasn't quite sure what, except that it was dangerous, wild, fun, and entirely unsuitable for a dwarf his age. Thorin was sitting just off that side of Kili, back to the bar, facing the room.

Every now and then his eyes would meet Nori's and he would give a secret little half smile that said he was pleased with his life, thoroughly enjoying his nephews' presence and content to share his happiness with Nori the one other 'adult' in their little group.

Nori wanted to smile back. Instead he felt tears well in eyes. He bent his head quickly and stared helplessly into his mug of ale. He took a few deep breaths and willed them to go away but they wouldn't. Why would they? They were a king and his princes. Family or not Nori had never held any authority over them.

None but what the heart has.

And it was something Bilbo might have said but it felt like it was Kili's voice cheerfully crashing into his notions.

He fought for control and when he had it he looked over to where Thorin was lurking. Thorin raised an eyebrow at him but he was amused. He tilted his head at him and Nori read the message clearly.

If you want us to go, we'll go.

And behind that one:

I care for you cousin. Don't you know that?

All amused. All serious.

Nori wants to cry again. He smiles instead.

"Who," he murmurs under his breath, "Am I to deprive a dwarf of a good drink?"

Thorin smiles back and him and Kili and Fili clap his shoulders good naturedly. Then they ordered on his tab.

Nori doesn't mind. They're just ghosts after all. But they're more that too.

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