Bilbo stood at beside the entrance to their little cave and fretted. The wind howled and swore outside, but it did not invade their camp, giving the company some respite from the summer storm that raged outside. The Dwarves were huddled by the fire, jolly as they passed around stew and pipeweed, but Bilbo could not take part in their general good spirits.
He was very tired. It was the sixth night of their journey, and Bilbo had barely slept, completely unused to this kind of travel. Hobbits rarely traveled anyway, and when they did, they slept at relatives' houses, in comfy inns, or with lovely tents that kept out the rain and cold -- and always, they slept beside each other, never far from a cousin or sibling for cuddling and tickle fights. Given that he had not traveled properly in years -- and had not actually felt the urge to camp out since he was but a tween -- Bilbo was ill-prepared for this journey. The old bedroll he had pulled out from one of his wardrobes was soft but lumpy; his clothes were his only blankets; and no tent kept the rain from soaking him completely. He did not even have a pillow!
The Dwarves seemed very used to this type of travel. As soon as they laid down, they were out like a candle, snoring with such keen energy that Bilbo worried that passing predators might hear them and come looking. Bilbo felt jealousy toward their easy ability to sleep anywhere, whether it be hard rock of a cave or the lumpy ground of the woods. They were used to roaming the world and camping out under the stars, but Bilbo was not! He missed his Hobbit bed and mattress, his warm fireplace that kept the chill out all night, his soft feather pillows that caressed his cheek every time he laid down to sleep...
Well, daydreaming about his bed of Bag-End did nothing but make him more tired, and he turned a sulky gaze on the Dwarves, who were laughing about something one of their company had done. Fili and Kili caught his gaze and grinned widely, beckoning him over.
"Bilbo!" Fili cried, grabbing a bowl of steaming stew from Bofur and holding it up. "Come to the fire where it is warm! You haven't eaten, and we know by now that a Hobbit dearly loves his food!"
"Yes! Come sit with us, Mister Baggins, and stop frowning at the storm! Glaring it down won't make it stop!" The two brothers chortled to each other, and Bilbo sighed, his sulky expression fading a bit. Fili and Kili reminded him of his cousins, with their cheer and constant teasing, and he got along with them the best somehow. With a wry but nervous smile, he went and sat between them, taking the bowl of stew which did smell quite good, now that he thought about it. Across the fire, Thorin eyed him with a faint sneer but said nothing.
The Dwarf brothers kept him distracted as he ate, telling him a story about their youth where they were fishing beside a waterfall and ran into a pack of wolves. Bilbo was both entranced and a bit horrified, but he ate his supper and asked many questions as he did every time one of the Dwarves or Gandalf told a story about the world he had not seen.
Soon, though, the stew was eaten and the dishes were cleaned, and sleepy Dwarves lumbered about the cave, finding spots to sleep with ease. Bilbo went to his pack and eyed them with a faint frown, wishing he could sleep as they did. He said nothing, though, only heaving a great sigh as he pulled out his bedroll.
Bofur, who was laying down his own bedroll a few feet away, noticed his sigh and looked over. "Is something the matter, Mister Baggins?"
Bilbo blushed a bit and looked up, a bit of nervousness creeping into his mind. Bofur made him very nervous, though he knew the Dwarf meant no harm. "It is nothing, Master Bofur, I only... well, it is nothing."
Curiosity caught, Bofur raised his thick eyebrows and grinned. "Nothing does not make you sigh like a lass in love, Mister Baggins. Go on, tell me what's wrong. Do you miss someone from the Shire? A close friend, perhaps?"
Bilbo blushed more but gave the Dwarf a frown. "I don't have anyone like that back at home, if you must know! But I was only sighing because I am tired and perhaps a bit jealous! You Dwarves fall asleep so easily, but I am a creature of comfort, and I have barely slept on this journey. I daresay I will not sleep tonight, either, with this storm howling outside!"
Bofur looked taken aback by his response, but his grin widened and Bilbo felt a bit of despair. "Well, Mister Baggins, I am sorry to say that we cannot quell the storm tonight, but perhaps we can help you sleep! I myself like a good bedtime story, or a lovely song to soothe the mind. Oh, I have just the story, it starts when we met with a group of thieves outside the --"
"No no no!" Bilbo quickly cut Bofur off, anxious to avoid any story that might involve thieves or any other horrible creatures that might exist outside the Shire. Bofur had a way with words, but that way usually made Bilbo want to cry. "I don't need a story, but thank you! No, what I need is -- is, well -- what I need is another Hobbit! I am very jealous of you Dwarves, you know, you have your brothers and cousins and companions here, but I am alone! We Hobbits are always together, you know, and when we camp out, we sleep together, to ward off the cold! But I am very far from my kin, and I have no one to sleep beside, no one to cuddle with, no one who will give me comfort as you have! I am alone, here!"
Breathing heavily, Bilbo realized that he had begun shouting, and that Bofur was staring at him. He noticed that the cave was quiet, and Bilbo looked over to see that the rest of the Dwarves were staring as well, surprised by his upset. Bilbo immediately blushed and looked away, feeling shameful for shouting so.
"I, I am sorry --"
"No, Mister Baggins," Bofur said, a gentle look entering his eyes, "I am sorry. You are far from your kin after all, as you said. So Hobbits are the cuddling sort, then?"
Across the cave, Thorin cleared his throat and frowned at them, and Bilbo immediately quieted, wary of the tall Dwarf. "So if you had such a companion, you would not whine so, Halfling?" Thorin said, a hint of derision in his voice.
Bilbo frowned, but his back straightened a bit. "I am not whining, Master Oakenshield, but yes, I imagine I would sleep much better if I were --"
"Then let it be so," Thorin cut him off, sounding exasperated. "You have complained every day about how tired you are and how you miss your soft bed. If all you need to shut up is someone to sleep beside, then that is what should happen. Pick a Dwarf and go to bed."
The cave was silent as everyone stared at Thorin. Bilbo felt horrified. "What --"
"You heard me, Hobbit. If you are too tired to travel the next day, it will only slow us down, and I might remind you that we have a great deal of travel ahead of us. A sulking Hobbit is no one I want to share a Company with. Everyone will help, too, since forcing a Hobbit onto only one Dwarf is unfair, as you would say. Now, pick a Dwarf. We have no time for this conversation to go on any longer. Nori, you take first watch."
Immediately the other Dwarves began to complain and mutter, but Bilbo could only stare in shock. Ordered to sleep with one of the Dwarves? And he had not been whining, or sulking or anything that Thorin had accused him of, though perhaps he had told Fili and Kili about his exhaustion once or twice, and he couldn't not answer Gandalf's inquiry about his health the other day, and perhaps he had lamented a few times about his soft pillow to Balin, who was very understanding.
But this was humiliating. His face flushed red, Bilbo turned away and pushed his roll out, determined to be silent for the rest of the night. Maybe even the rest of the journey! He would show Thorin that he was not a sulking Hobbit all of the time.
A movement beside him caught his attention, and he saw Bofur push his bedroll into place next to Bilbo's. Catching Bilbo's horrified expression, Bofur just grinned. "Now you heard our leader, Mister Baggins. I don't mind a cuddle or two on the best of nights, and I do understand your plight, I really do. Come on, then, let's get some sleep."
Behind them Ori was snickering, and beyond the fire Fili and Kili stared, no doubt thinking them very odd. Bilbo saw Thorin watching them, and he gave Thorin a look, straightening. Well, he would not deny a companion, if it meant he could sleep better, even if it was Bofur. After Thorin looked away, shaking his head, Bilbo looked back at Bofur and summoned a small smile, grateful despite how humiliating this situation was. "Thank you, Master Bofur," he said quietly.
Bofur smiled back at him, and Bilbo felt a little more at ease. "You are quite welcome, Mister Baggins."
Despite the rest of the Dwarves chuckling or muttering about Thorin's decree, Bilbo sat down beside Bofur and prepared for sleep, laying his coat over his pack to serve as a pillow. Bofur laid down beside him, having finished his own preparations, and for a moment they both floundered. Bofur was not one of Bilbo's many cousins, and Bilbo was not Bofur's cousin or brother. They were a Dwarf and a Hobbit, two races that may have shared a similar size, but they were completely unlike each other in nearly every other way.
But Bilbo discovered quickly that Bofur was warm, and despite his oddness he was companionable and kind. Then Bofur laid an arm over his waist, and Bilbo relaxed, resting against Bofur's chest and feeling at ease. Though he was used to living alone, he had missed this, sleeping beside someone, sharing their warmth and company.
Bofur made a noise, and the arm tightened around him, which made Bilbo feel safer. He heard thunder outside, but it was muffled by the fur on Bofur's coat. Then Bofur began snoring softly, and the noise rumbled through Bilbo's chest, somehow soothing him despite previous nights, where the Dwarven snoring kept him awake for hours.
Just like that, Bilbo fell asleep, feeling just as warm and comfortable as he would sleeping in his own bed of Bag-End.