Bilbo liked watching the Company as they slept.
His nights were often restless, especially that first long length of the journey before Mirkwood, when he was still adjusting to life on the road. Frequently he found himself sitting up in the middle of the night, after a root had jabbed him one too many times in the back, or a bad dream had scared him out of his slumber. Then he'd stare for a while at the fire or the stars or the shadowy forest surrounding their camp, thinking wistfully of his warm, comfortable four-poster bed back at home.
Then, at some point during his reverie, his eyes would always stray away from their previous subject and settle on his companions.
At first he observed them shyly, scared that someone would notice him. But then, as he realised that the dwarves on watch rarely, if ever, looked over at him, he began to inspect them with open curiosity.
The members of the Company were so unlike anybody Bilbo had ever met, and speaking with them usually only increased his befuddlement. Often he only ever understood half of what they were saying. The hobbit thought, perhaps, that observing their sleeping habits might give him an insight into the kind of people they were.
As a matter of fact, he was right.
Bilbo found it interesting to note how well the sleeping habits of the dwarves reflected the personalities of their owners. There was perhaps no better example of this than Dwalin. The big dwarf would begin his nightly ritual by laying out all of his weapons beside his bedroll – an activity which took some time, not so much because Dwalin had many weapons (he really didn't when compared to some of the others) but because he took such great care when he did it. His axes – "Grasper and Keeper," Dwalin had told him gruffly – were lain a precise three inches from one another, at exact parallels. Then his other weapons, knives of varying lengths and uses, were placed on either side. These were arranged in order of height, from tallest to shortest.
Having made sure all his weapons were nicely lain out, Dwalin would nod to himself, scowl fiercely around the camp, and then, if he wasn't taking the first watch, stretch out on his bed roll and promptly fall asleep.
Even then Dwalin cut a formidable figure; he slept with his arms folded, fore-arms jutting out from his chest like great protrusions of rock, rising and falling with his slow, steady breathing. His customary glower remained ever-present throughout the night, overshadowed by his heavy eyebrows. Occasionally he shifted his position slightly, but only rarely, so that when he did he gave Bilbo a terrible fright. Most of the time Dwalin could have passed as one of the rocks around the campsite.
Bilbo thought that Balin looked just as immobile when he slept, though much less scary. Balin's usual spot was beside his brother (the side that was not occupied by a row of weapons), often completely hidden from Bilbo's sight by Dwalin's bulk. On more than one occasion Bilbo had not been able to find Balin amidst the bodies of the Company, and had panicked and stood up in the middle of the camp, desperately scanning the area for the familiar shape of the wizened old dwarf. A few moments later he would inevitably notice Balin tucked away in Dwalin's shadow, snores muffled by his snowy beard.
His sword always lay close by, propped against his pack perhaps, or a convenient rock, within easy reach of his sword hand. On the few occasions when the Company had been roused by the watch (due to a false alarm, or a real alarm), Bilbo had noticed that Balin was one of the first to arm himself. His right hand would shoot out and grasp the hilt of his sword even before his eyes were open. Bilbo knew that, despite his kindly smile and diplomatic nature and white hair, the old dwarf had fighter's reflexes just as sharp as any of the others. He thought that if Balin was a formidable fighter, even now, at his age, he must have been a truly great warrior in his prime.
In another little corner of the camp Bilbo would be able to see the Family Ur sleeping in a little group. Always easy to identify was Bofur – he slept with his hat on, using it somewhat as a pillow and somewhat as a means of shading his eyes when he lay close to the fire. The raggedy old hat drooped crookedly over his face, supported by the tip of his nose, the ear flaps bobbing up and down every time Bofur shifted. In the gloom of the night it formed an interesting silhouette – which to Bilbo's eyes looked like some great furry creature that had come to rest on the dwarf's face. It certainly smelt bad enough to pass for a wild animal. Bilbo had offered to wash it once, when they'd stopped briefly beside a stream (after a particular incident involving Fili, Kili, the ponies, and the river). Bofur had looked horrified and refused adamantly.
"Ya can't just wash a hat, Bilbo," he'd said seriously, one hand wavering protectively over his head. "It'll lose all its character."
Bilbo had refrained from saying that perhaps the hat had a little too much character.
Somewhere in the same vicinity lay Bifur. If Bilbo had thought that Dwalin and Balin seemed immovable when they slept, they were nothing in comparison to Bifur. The wild old dwarf was seldom still in his waking hours; he was always moving, tinkering with little gizmos he stashed in his pockets, picking twitchily at trees and shrubs, fitfully surveying their surroundings with his fierce, dark eyes. But when he slept – Bilbo could barely tell if he was breathing. He lay on his back with his arms by his sides, legs together, stock still for the entire night. Several times Bilbo had been picking his way through the camp (to grab a quick midnight snack, or to relieve himself in nearby bushes) and had not noticed Bifur until he'd almost stepped on him! Often it was only the flash of firelight on the axe remains in the dwarf's forehead that alerted him to Bifur's presence. And, while he might look for all the world like a corpse while asleep, at the slightest disturbance Bifur was awake in a flash. Bilbo suspected that if he ever had the bad luck to properly step on the dwarf, there was a very good chance he'd find himself impaled on the end of a boar-staff before he knew what had happened.
Out of all the Company, Bombur was perhaps the easiest to find. Not merely because of his size (which was impressive, and served as a sort of landmark within the camp) but because of his snoring (which was even more impressive, and could be used as an acoustic landmark of a sort). Had Bombur been invisible, Bilbo would still have been able to easily pinpoint the dwarf's exact location. His snores reverberated around the campsite – which caused quite a disturbance whenever the Company sheltered inside a cave, as you can imagine – finding their way to Bilbo's ears regardless of how far away he set his bedroll, or how hard he clamped his hands over his ears. In time, however, he got used to the din. In time, the snoring even became a sort of comfort.
It took a long, long while.
Bombur did not take after his cousin when it came to waking up. Once Bombur was asleep, he stayed that way, unless Bifur or Bofur nudged him awake. Bilbo had seen him (and rather admired his ability to) sleep through several alarms, snoring away peacefully while the rest of the Company stood tense as bowstrings until the watch declared the coast was clear. There was, of course, one exception to Bombur's habit of sleeping through important happenings – he was always the first awake for breakfast.
The only other notable contender for loudest snorer of the Company was Oín. Bilbo rather supposed this was because he didn't have to hear himself. If any of the other dwarves (excluding Bombur) snored particularly loudly, they'd shock themselves awake. Oín suffered no such inconvenience. Once his ear trumpet was tucked away in his belt for the night he seemed to sink into a happy, oblivious sort of reverie, able to ignore his brother's complaining without feeling guilty, because he actually could not hear a thing. From the way Oín chuckled quietly to himself whenever Gloín threw his hands in the air, having given up on trying to communicate with his brother, and allowed him to sleep closest to the fire, Bilbo suspected that Oín quite enjoyed putting his disability to good use.
Directly beside Oín (rarely closest to the fire) was Gloín. Bilbo rather thought you could find out everything you wanted to know about Gloín from his sleeping habits. Each night the dwarf would take his two great axes and lay them under the pack he used as a pillow.
"One day I'll pass 'em on to me son, Gimli," he'd told Bilbo proudly, on numerous occasions. "He's still a wee lad now, but give 'im a few years and you'll be hard pressed to find a fiercer warrior. Little fire-cracker, that one. Takes after his Ma."
Having lain down his axes, Gloín would rummage around in his tunic for a moment and pull out a brass locket. The locket was beautiful, inlaid with intricate designs which Bilbo had no doubt held some particular Dwarvish meaning. As to what lay inside the locket – Gloín had shown Bilbo the portraits of his wife and son many times, and spoken extensively about each of them. So extensively, in fact, that Bilbo felt he knew Merla wife of Gloín and her son Gimli like old friends. Each night Gloín would open the locket and, with the light allowing, gaze at the portraits fondly for a few minutes. Then he would slip it back into the folds of his clothing. With this done, there was only one thing left for Gloín to do – he'd pat the money pouch at his belt and, once satisfied that it weighed the correct amount (Bilbo was never sure who he thought would steal from him; Nori was not stupid, after all), he'd settle himself into his bedroll, on his side, back to back with his brother, and go to sleep.
The Brothers Ri were always amusing to watch. The family ambiances were quite evident to even a casual onlooker. They slept all in a huddle, Dori on the outside, Nori on the inside, and little Ori in the middle, although there were occasions where the two older brothers swapped positions. Bilbo supposed these were on the nights when they agreed a swift knife would serve them better on the outside of the huddle than Dori's brute strength.
Individually, the sleeping habits of the Brothers Ri said a lot about each of them. There was Nori, who slept quite casually with one arm tucked around his pack and a knife in the other hand. Bilbo suspected that the hand beneath the pack also held some manner of lethal object, and was continuously impressed than Nori did not stab himself in his sleep. He was also impressed by the fact that Nori could actually use his pack as a pillow – he knew for a fact that it held at least three Elven candle-sticks, two vases, a salt shaker (from his own home), several pieces of cutlery (of both Elvish and Hobbit make) and a dozen or so knick-knacks he'd picked up from the troll hoard. Perhaps his hairstyle had been designed for maximum cushioning effect? Bilbo always laughed at the thought.
There was Dori, who slept fitfully, and talked in his sleep continuously. He didn't speak very loudly (thank heavens), and only occasionally shouted out (usually a cry of "Nori, no!" or "Mahal give me patience!"). But his unconscious mutterings were of great interest to Bilbo. He felt slightly guilty for eavesdropping so, especially on someone who was not even aware they were speaking, but he reasoned that he couldn't help the power of his hearing! And anyway, Dori's chatter was harmless. He carried on one-sided conversations with himself about the price of thread, the latest exotic tea leaves from the south, the latest (probably not anymore) gossip of the town. He chastised Nori for his less-than-lawful activities, complaining that Dwalin came around every other day to try and arrest him (not that Nori was ever at home). He tutted over the state of Ori's mittens, insisting that they buy him a new pair, no matter how fond he was of the old ones. He hissed bitterly that at least when Nori went wandering they had a bit of peace for a change, and then the very next second muttered that he had half a mind to go out into the wild and drag his fool brother back by the hair before he got himself killed. He talked constantly of how Ori would be a royal scribe one day, maybe even the royal record-keeper, and kindly offered to beat up anybody who was giving Ori trouble.
Alright, not so harmless. Bilbo now quite intimately knew all about the personal lives of the Brothers Ri. He felt very guilty. But he didn't stop eavesdropping.
Then there was Ori, shy little rabbit-like Ori, who slept curled up in a ball between his two big brothers. Dori and Nori might've disagreed on just about everything, but they were in absolute agreement when it came to the safety of their younger brother. Ori seemed resigned to his fate, sighing slightly each night when Dori patted his ready-made bed roll for him to go lie down in, but he obeyed without complaint. (It was clear to Bilbo that he loved his brothers – held Nori in awe, and was grateful for everything Dori had sacrificed to keep him clothed and fed and educated. It was also clear to Bilbo that Ori obeyed more for his brothers' sakes than for his own.) He slept with his sketchbook tucked under one arm, as a child might hold a beloved toy. His scarf was pulled up around his face, so that his ears and nose stuck out over the top of the fabric rather comically. All in all, Bilbo thought he looked rather comfortable in his little nest of family members and woollen clothing.
And then there was the Line of Durin.
Fili and Kili more than made up for the eerie stillness of the rest of the Company. Bilbo was never quite sure how they could move so far in their sleep, but many times he'd woken up in the middle of the night to find the boys in a completely different location to the one they began the night in. As well as this, their already limited grasp of the concept of personal space seemed to evaporate while they slept. They might begin the night lying nicely side by side, but by the end of it they were inevitably curled up in a tangle of limbs and bedrolls, taking up an incredible amount of space for only two dwarves. It was remarkable, really, how Fili could sleep with his brother's elbow digging uncomfortably into his ear. He couldn't help thinking it was a little dangerous, what with Fili rarely bothering to completely unarm himself before he went to bed, but if he ever mentioned it to the lads they would undoubtedly laugh at his concern.
Occasionally Kili would mutter something in his sleep, his brow creasing, and Fili would hum a nonsensical reply. It seemed to do the trick – Kili would always settle back down again. Years of practise as a big brother had honed Fili's comforting mechanics until they triggered automatically at the sound of his baby brother's unease. Bilbo thought it rather endearing. Endearing. Ugh, he'd grown fond of the rascals despite himself (and despite their constant teasing and joking and pranking). They looked shockingly young when they slept. Bilbo often forgot exactly how young they were – only teenagers, really, though they had both seen many more summers than him. It was disconcerting, and slightly amusing. He would have thought that the extra years would grant them a bit more maturity. But it seemed dwarves matured much, much slower than hobbits.
As far as Bilbo was concerned, it appeared that Thorin barely slept. More often than not he'd volunteer for watch with Dwalin or Balin or Gloín, and settle himself down on a stone or fallen log. There he would sit as still as a dwarf carved from rock, staring into the middle-distance with a faraway look on his face. Sometimes he'd talk with his watch partner, quiet enough that Bilbo was only ever able to pick out a few words. "Ered Luin", "Dain", and (unsurprisingly) "Erebor", were all frequently heard. Sometimes his eyes would sweep across the sleeping forms of his Company. On these occasions Bilbo would quickly duck his head and look busy adjusting his bedroll. With his head down and his hair in his eyes, Bilbo could never be entirely sure – but he could've sworn that the surly dwarf's face always softened as his gaze passed over the sprawling bodies of his nephews.
When Thorin did sleep, he did so lightly. At the first sign of alarm or slightest change in the atmosphere in the camp, he'd jerk himself upright and look immediately for the source of the disturbance. He was always quick to take up arms. Having been reassured it was only a false alarm Thorin would lie back down, but would rarely go back to sleep. Often Bilbo had caught him lying on his back, gazing blindly up at the stars with an intense expression. Rest seemed to elude him as much as it eluded Bilbo.
Well, at least I'm doing something productive with my sleeplessness, Bilbo thought crossly, discomfort making him unkind. The heir to the Lonely Mountain seems content with brooding.
As for Gandalf…well, Bilbo still wasn't quite sure if the wizard slept or not. He lay down, certainly, but his eyes remained unnervingly open the entire night. Bilbo refrained from staring at him for too long just in case he was awake. And that was only when Gandalf was even with them. Many times he'd disappeared for anywhere between an hour and a day, to scout ahead, or to think, or to get a moment of peace away from "the damnable pigheadedness of these infernal dwarves". (By which he meant Thorin, of course.) Bilbo could hardly blame him, though it grieved him to see Gandalf go; sometimes he felt that the old wizard was the only sane one in the entire Company, mysterious and meddlesome as he might be.
At last, having spent an hour or so observing the Company, Bilbo would feel true, bone-deep tiredness creeping up on him. Relieved that he might finally get some rest, the hobbit would wriggle down into his bedroll and close his eyes. Then, with thoughts of his strange companions drifting around in his head, Bilbo would at last, at last, go to sleep.
Not Knowing How to End A Chapter: A Guide by justalotoffeelings
Seriously though, thanks for reading you guys! I have a second chapter planned, but it's definitely not gonna be as light-hearted as this. You've been warned! All comments/kudos/critiques are HUGELY appreciated, so please let me know if you liked this fic or if there's anything I could improve upon!