Title: Alone in a Crowd
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: The Hobbit
Rating: G
Disclaimer: This is a fanwork. I received no money personally for its creation nor am I affiliated with the books/movies in any way.
Summary: In the middle of the night, as the company sleeps, Ori is awake and not feeling so well.

Word count: 1,847
Author Notes: Written for Masking as a thank you for donating on my fundraising page for the Walk to End HIV. The requirement was a 1,000 word fic.



Alone in a Crowd


No matter in what position he lay, Ori’s head pounded uncomfortably. It felt foggy and stuffed like a tea kettle just about to boil. Except, instead of whistling and pouring out steam, Ori sneezed. “ehh… ehhh-HTchishhhhhh!” Cradling his bent arm over his nose was a terrible strategy. He only had the two arms, but he had far more sneezes in him than that. He sat up, hoping maybe that would bring some relief to his head, but instead of going away, the congestion only shifted and tickled even more at his nose. “ehhhh… eh-hihhhhhhh… heh-eh-YIHTChishxxxx!” He clapped a hand over his nose and mouth immediately and glanced around to be sure no one had heard.


The company was all fast asleep, no wonder after the exhausting day they’d had. The fire they’d cooked over was slowly dying, its flames showing a dozen bodies all warmly wrapped against the chill of the night air, most snuggled up to the dwarf beside him for some additional warmth. He shivered, finding it strange to be the only one awake and alert when all the others were asleep. It would have been fine if he had been the one on watch… who was missing? Ori scanned the group again. Dwalin. He must be off on watch. Ori wondered if he should go relieve him of the duty, since there was little chance of sleep for him tonight anyway. “eh-eh-TISHHHH!” he sneezed into his palm with a soft moan of discomfort afterward. There was no doubt about it: he was coming down with a cold and was going to need a handkerchief soon.


“Nori!” he whispered, trying to wake his brother as kindly as possible. But Nori didn’t budge, didn’t stir. “Nori!” Ori tried again, not daring to nudge him even with the toe of his boot. Perhaps he could find a long branch? “ih… ehh-heh-HIHShihhhhh! Eh-IHPTSCHH!


“Ori?” He looked over to see Oin sitting up, scrubbing a hand over his face tiredly. “Are you all right, lad?”


Oin was hard of hearing, and if he had heard, the entire company might hear him sneeze and wake up. It had been a hard day for everyone in the company, and he didn’t want to be a burden. Much as he wanted to tell the dwarf he was fine and to go back to sleep, he found himself sniffling and shaking his head. He knew if anyone could make him feel better, it would be Oin.


Oin had been sleeping back-to-back with his brother, and left their blankets behind, shivering slightly from the cold night air as he waded past the sleeping dwarves to get to Ori. “What’s the matter?” He inserted his ear trumpet. “Go on, now.”


“Caught a cold,” Ori confessed and then, in nearly the same breath, added, “Don’t tell Dori. He’ll only scold me. Sniff! And worry about me.” Dori worried about everyone, but his youngest brother especially. Sometimes it seemed the only purpose of his existence was to worry. “I… hah-have-hah-hah-IHGtshhhhhh!” he wetly sneezed into his hand. Mostly. “I was trying to wake Nori. I know Dori put hankies in his bag. But he sleeps so deeply…”


Oin nodded, understanding. Waking Nori suddenly from a deep sleep was a wonderful way to get stabbed. The dwarf carried more knives on his person than anyone should be able to. He usually held a double-edged one in his hand as he slept, ready to strike out at the first sign of danger to protect himself or his kin. “Seems what you need… is a burglar.”


Ori’s eyes widened. He nodded. Together, the two of them crawled around the circle of sleeping dwarves to where Bilbo lay on his back. Thorin slept beside him, a protective arm draped protectively over the hobbit’s small chest. Ori kept his hand pressed to his nose and mouth, not wanting to sneeze on them, and it gave him an idea. He pressed his other hand to Bilbo’s mouth as Oin nudged him awake.


Bilbo woke with a jolt and started to cry out, but the sound was muffled against Ori’s hand. “Shh!” Oin said, a finger to his lips. Bilbo got the message and relaxed a little, so Ori dropped his hand.


“Is it trolls again? Goblins? Orcs?” Though he’d taken to having adventures well enough, the hobbit looked as though he would be glad for a night when he could sleep soundly again in a comfortable bed without fear of attack.


“We need a burglar,” Oin explained in what was not much of an explanation at all.


Bilbo nodded. “Yes, that’s why I’ve come along you see.”


Oin bade him come closer, away from Thorin so they could speak freely. And both dwarves held their breath as they watched Bilbo slip out from under Thorin, marveling at the easy skill he employed to do so. Ori coughed and rubbed his nose into his scarf while Oin explained further. “Ori isn’t feeling well.”


“I wasn’t able to go back for my pocket handkerchief,” Bilbo said, a bitter tone in his sleepy voice.


“We have a few handkerchiefs,” Oin continued, “Only they’re in Nori’s bag at the moment. We need you to retrieve them for us.”


Bilbo looked around the fire until his gaze rested on Nori. Then he looked back at Thorin, who was hugging the loose blanket to his chest as if it were Bilbo. “is that all? Then I may go back to sleep?”


Both dwarves nodded.


“All right then.” Bilbo followed them back over. He cast a wary look at Nori before reaching over and unfastening the strap of the sleeping dwarf’s bag. Carefully, he slid his hand in, pulling it out at once with a sharp hiss. “Knife!” he gasped, inspecting his hand. But it hadn’t pierced him. He stuck his hand back in, rooting around.


hah… hehhhhh… heh-eh!” Ori knew now would be an absolutely terrible time to sneeze… but he couldn’t help it. “ehhh… hehhhh!” Desperate, he lifted his scarf, folding it into several layers to muffle the sound, then buried his nose into it. He tried hard to fight it, but his nose quivered and the sneeze struck hard. “Ehhh-IHKJshhhh!” Tense and worried, Ori opened his eyes. Bilbo was frozen in place, fearful, but Nori was still asleep. So was Dori. And all the rest. They relaxed again. And Oin rubbed Ori’s back comfortingly. Ori found himself leaning into Oin, glad of the comfort that came without the overprotective, fussy strings typical of Dori’s caregiving.


Finally, Bilbo pulled his hand out again, this time with a short stack of off-white handkerchiefs clutched in it. He handed them over as he moved back, out of Nori’s range. He made to go, but Oin held up a hand. “One more thing?”


Bilbo narrowed his eyes, suspicious perhaps that they would be playing a game of “one more thing” the rest of the night with him. “Could you get me one of Bombur’s pots? I need to cook up a remedy before we lose the fire entirely.” Reluctantly, Bilbo agreed and headed in the opposite direction. He’d nearly made a full circle of the camp now. Oin kept rubbing Ori’s back. “I’ve some herbs that should help you feel better.” Ori nodded and rested his head on the dwarf’s shoulder. He already felt better just to have a nice, thick handkerchief or three to sneeze into.


In fact, when the pot was retrieved, Oin made to go, but Ori made a small sound like a whimper, not wanting him to leave. He gripped Oin’s forearm tightly. “I will return shortly, I promise.” He recovered Ori’s blanket and swirled it around the dwarf. “Stay warm. You have your handkerchiefs?” Ori nodded, clutching one to his chest. “Good lad.” He patted Ori and pulled away.


It was cold there without Oin beside him. He watched Bilbo, nibbling a cracker he’d pilfered from the food stash while getting the pot, make his way back to Thorin and effortlessly snuggle up to their leader, who embraced him instinctively in his sleep. Then he watched Oin move about, first feeding the fire to raise the flames before setting the pot on one of the logs. It would take a while to boil, and Ori wasn’t feeling particularly patient.


What he felt, though surrounded by a dozen of his kin, was lonely. He shivered and tugged the blanket tighter around himself, wishing he’d taken his brother’s advice about wearing that hat when the cold winds had kicked up that morning after those torrential rains the day and night before. He felt useless like this, not good for fighting, not even good at keeping an account of their journey. He hadn’t opened his journal to make a note or even a quick sketch all day. He just felt too miserable to do anything.


Though, naturally, he did feel like sneezing. Now that he had handkerchiefs, his nose seemed to want to be sure he used them. It was going to be difficult to make these last long. “hehhhhhh… ehhhhh…” He rocked in place with each breath, bringing the handkerchief up to his nose. “eehhhhhhhh! Eh heh heh ehh—ehEHPTShihhhhhh! Heh-IHGTshhhhh!” He wiped his nose and upper lip and mouth and beard. Then he took a slow, shallow breath, testing himself. All seemed well. “ehhh…” Or not. “hehhh-EHHKTshhhh!


“Steady, lad.” Oin settled down beside him again, a steaming mug of something in his hands. “Drink this. It will help with the headache and congestion.”


Ori took it and sniffed at it suspiciously. But he couldn’t smell a thing. And when he took a drink, he couldn’t taste a thing. But it was warm and soothing and he did desire something to dull this headache. So he drank it all down in a few hearty gulps. Then he swiped an arm across his mouth to wipe away the stray drops that had dripped into his beard.


“Th-thank you, Oin,” Ori said, his nose demanding more from him again. “ehhh… heh-ehhhhh… I… I still… eh-ehh-HEHTChshhhhhh!


“The herbs will take some time to work. And this is a bad cold if I’ve ever seen one. Several days of sneezing still, I expect.” His hand found Ori’s back again and rubbed in a circle there through the blanket. “All right now. Let’s get you tucked in warm and tight somewhere, aye?” He stood and surveyed the camp, lit now by the larger flames. “Ah, I’ve just the spot. Come with me.”


He pulled Ori up and directed him around the fire again. Then he squeezed him right in-between Fili and Kili. Fili stirred, opening his eyes and looking up with a question in them.


“Ori isn’t feeling well. He needs…”


But that was all Fili needed to hear. He rolled over and wrapped an arm and leg around the bundle of blankets that was Ori. “I’ll keep you warm. Sleep tight,” he muttered sleepily.


Ori smiled up at Fili then over at Oin. Clutching a handkerchief tightly so he’d have it when he woke, he closed his eyes and fell asleep, feeling content.