Author's Note: So, here's a story that kept bugging me. And what also bugs me is that I couldn't find a proper synonym for 'hug'. I mean, there aren't many Middle-Earthian ways to say 'hug'. But I've never been too worried about adapting my word choice to fit Tolkien's...so we'll just have to make do with 'hug'.
When you see your lost home again, miles away in the distance, you can stand there, staring at it with pride and joy and feeling true hope in your heart. At least, you can stand there for about ten minutes. Then you begin to realize that it's rather cold up on Carrock, what with the wind and all that, and that your legs are getting a bit tired.
So you and the rest of your companions settle down to spend the night on top of the great eyot, as no one really fancies the idea of trying to get down in the dark. And all is well and everyone is happy.
Well, almost everyone is happy.
Nori sat down a little way off from the rest of the Company, although he managed to make even such a simple action extremely bad-tempered, and dangled his legs over the side of the edge of Carrock, scowling out at the forest that stretched away into the distance. Even in the rapidly dimming light he could still see the miles and miles of trees...
Stupid trees, Nori thought. Stupid forest.
He thought of five different and unpleasant words to describe the trees, and then, when he spotted a bird circling in the air high up above him, allowed himself a few uncharitable thoughts about the unfortunate bird.
Yes, Nori's mood could safely be described as 'unhappy'. And even that would be a bit of an understatement. And it was worse, because he knew he had no real reason to be annoyed.
Behind him, he could hear the occasional murmur of conversation coming from the other members of The Company, who had settled down by the fire that Oin had lit, but most of Nori's friends had apparently decided to get a little sleep.
Nori propped his chin on his hand and glared into the distance, and was well into the process of working himself up into a really bitter sulk, when he heard the slight scuffle against the rock as someone sat down beside him.
So someone had finally come to see what was wrong. About time, Nori thought, peevishly.
Not looking up, Nori listened very hard to the sound of this someone's breathing, and tried to figure out who it was.
Um...Bofur. Yes, Bofur.
"Did you have another scrap with Dori?"
Nori snorted, and he made it a very bad tempered snort. He was rather proud of how peevish his snort had sounded, so he did it again. Yes, it was quite good.
"With Dori? Nah, not this time," he muttered, still not looking at Bofur.
"Then what's wrong? I'd have thought that you'd be happy, what with us finally being able to see the Mountain again..."
"Yes!" Nori suddenly exclaimed, abruptly enough that Bofur leaned back away from him in surprise "Yes! That's part of it! I mean, look at it! It's so far away that I can barely see it!"
"It's closer than it's been in a while," protested Bofur, mildly.
"But what do we have to get through before we get to it? Forest! Miles and miles of forest!"
"I know. I don't like forests any more than you do, but we do have Thrain's map..."
"Oh yes, the map!" Nori said, a trifle wildly "I forgot!"
"Look, can you talk just a bit quieter? You'll bother the others."
"No!" snapped Nori, pulling a folded bit of paper out of one sleeve and waving it in front of Bofur's face "I mean, have you actually looked at this thing?"
"Where - how did you get that?" Bofur asked, snatching Thrain's map away from Nori and unfolding it "If Thorin finds out that you've pinched this..."
"I'll slip it back to him before he even notices," said Nori, dismissively "But look at it. Look at what's been drawn into the forest."
"Um...it looks like a few cobwebs. You're worried about a few cobwebs?"
"Bofur, people don't just put enormous spider webs on maps unless it's important. Shouldn't we be worried?"
Bofur looked at Nori for a moment, and then gave him a pat on the shoulder, passing him back the map.
"Look, Nori, old Thrain got a bit...well, like Gandalf said, he was half mad by the time that he gave Gandalf this. You're getting yourself all upset over nothing. Anyway, when was the last time you heard of giant spiders?"
Nori frowned. He had a feeling that he was forgetting something very important. Hadn't a giant spider caused some damage at some point...? No, he couldn't remember. Maybe Bofur was right.
"Fair enough," he grumbled, after a minute or two.
"Right. Now, cheer up. We've survived a nasty fight, and Thorin's accepted Bilbo, and-"
"Hah!" snorted Nori, perfecting his technique "Oh yes, the hug. What a spectacle."
This snort might have been one snort too many, because Bofur gave him a quick 'Oh, I've just figured it out' look.
"You're jealous," he said.
"No!" snapped Nori, and then, because lying outright to Bofur was almost as hard a thing to do as punching Ori "Well, maybe a bit."
"Why? Because you haven't been hugged?" Bofur said, clearly having a hard time trying to retain a look of solemn sympathy "I think it was more a appreciate-the-burglar occasion than a appreciate-everyone-in-The-Company one."
"Well, I'm a burglar," objected Nori "I'm a better thief than Mister Baggins has shown himself to be. I could've stolen those ponies properly, but of course, nobody asked me..."
"So," Bofur began, as if trying to sort out all the facts properly, "you've been sulking-"
"Not sulking - brooding."
"What difference does it make?"
"It sounds better."
"Fine. So you've been brooding all evening and snapping at everyone...because...you'd like a hug."
"More or less," admitted Nori "But, I don't see..."
There was, at this point a long pause. Anyone who has been hugged knows that there is nothing quite like a hug to boost one's spirits, and Nori would have to agree.
"Thank you," Nori said, after a bit, and he wasn't glowering anymore "I have to say, that did me a bit of good."
"Glad to be of help," said Bofur, grinning.
They sat in companionable silence for a while, a silence which was only broken by a long howl, coming from somewhere in a nearby valley.
"Do you think - I mean, ah, is that a wolf?" said Nori, in the careful tone of someone quoting.
Bofur looked at him quickly, and stared straight ahead.
"No," he said, in a similarly deliberate tone, "that is not a wolf."
"Right," said Nori, trying desperately not to grin "They're already looking for us, then?"
"It does sound like it," Bofur said "You know what we need at a time like this? Rabbits. Rhosgobel ones."
Well, that was too much for Nori. He bravely tried to hold onto his peevish mood, but he couldn't manage it. He burst into loud chortles of laughter, and if Bofur hadn't grabbed his shoulder he might have fallen right off the edge of Carrock.
"That's...not...funny," Nori managed to choke out between chuckles "You...can't make me laugh."
This last bit was a blatant lie, and Bofur had just opened his mouth to respond, when a boot, thrown with quite good aim by Fili, whistled past him and smacked Nori on the ear. Nori caught it instinctively, which was quite fortunate, because if he hadn't Fili would probably have spent the rest of the journey hopping on one foot.
"What's happening over there? We're trying to sleep!" yelled a sleepily irritated voice from the group by the fire.
"Nothing," Nori called, still laughing.
And then he hugged Bofur, because even thieves believe that one good turn deserves another.