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Dreamflower's Mathoms I  by Dreamflower

 For Pipwise Brandygin (who wanted Merry and Pippin observed by one of the Big Folk):


Aragorn leaned against the stubby tree, and cast his eye on the company. Gimli had watch. Sam was busy with the cookfire, preparing some little treat for “afters” as the hobbits called it. It was amazing what that hobbit could do with a little dried fruit. Frodo was sitting next to Gandalf in earnest quiet conversation as they ate, and Boromir had just begun to eat the bowl of stew that Pippin had taken him.

He glanced down. “Thank you, Merry,” he said, as the hobbit handed him a bowl of stew rather fuller than he would have taken himself.

“You’re welcome, Strider.” He gave the Ranger a wink and said “It’s really good--not too much coney in it, but there’s lots of mushrooms! Sam‘s outdone himself!” He trotted back over to the stewpot to get his own bowl full. Across the campsite, Aragorn saw Pippin handing Legolas a similarly full bowl. The youngest hobbit already had his own serving in his other hand, and he watched as Legolas scooted over to make room for Pippin on the rock where he was sitting. Pippin made some remark and broke out into giggles, and Legolas responded with a smile.

Merry had a brief word with Sam, before taking his own bowl over to the rock, and Aragorn grinned as he watched him crowd up to Legolas’s other side.

It had been interesting to watch how the hobbits had responded to the circumstances of their journey. Only a few days out of Rivendell, and already he could see a pattern. Frodo, from both age and education, was able to deal with the bigger folk on their own terms. He took his role as Ringbearer seriously, and though he deferred to Gandalf’s and Aragorn‘s decisions, he always insisted on knowing the whys and wherefores. Sam had simply extended his role as Frodo’s servant to include not only his master’s kin, but also the rest of the company. From the first there was no question as to who would do the camp cooking.

Merry and Pippin had surprised him. He had not much chance to get to know them well on the trek from Bree to Rivendell. It had been too urgent and desperate a trip for such reflection, especially after Weathertop, though he had been relieved to find that the two younger hobbits were a good deal tougher than he had at first supposed.

But on this trip, which was a bit slower and more planned, they were showing some surprising strengths.

They were tireless foragers; the end of march seldom found them without something to contribute to the Company’s meals--nuts, mushrooms, edible roots, late fruits or berries, which never seemed to slow the walking down, as they would dart off after some choice find and back. Squirrels and rabbits had also been brought down by well-thrown stones, and contributed to the pot.

And they had quickly taken on their own tasks at the camp, seemingly without any need to be told, of finding firewood and water for Sam, and they had also taken on the task of serving the others.

Merry had been the first to notice that the servings that the Big Folk took for themselves was, in his words “inadequate”. Sam had fretted that they did not like his cooking. So now Merry and Pippin took it on themselves to see that everyone got what *they* thought of as a “proper” meal.

But the most interesting thing was in how the two young hobbits dealt with being among all these different races.

He could not imagine anyone else being brash enough to have wedged themselves in on either side of Thranduil’s son, disregarding his Elvishness altogether. And though Legolas was light-hearted enough, still Aragorn could never have pictured him allowing anyone to sit so closely and like it. But hobbits took it for granted that friends and relations wanted to be close, and it seemed that though Legolas had been a bit startled the first time it happened, he now took it for granted as well.

They treated Gandalf, whom they had known all their lives, with a combination of affection and cheekiness that took no account of his power or wisdom or mysterious origins. He was treated like nothing so much as a gruff, yet indulgent grandfather--and that was just how he behaved towards them.

Boromir, who had begun to teach them swordplay while still in Rivendell, they treated like a beloved big brother, and the lessons ended as often as not in a bit of horseplay. Aragorn, who knew that the Gondorian did, in fact, have a younger brother whom he missed, thought that this must help ease the soldier’s homesickness.

Gimli, who was nearest their size, often found one or both of them walking with him, sometimes bumping against him or elbowing him in a playful fashion. Merry would sometimes bait Pippin by telling Gimli scurrilous stories that he would deem Pippin too young to hear. They seemed to embarrass the Dwarf as well as amuse him.

As for himself, they sometimes would walk with him, forcing him to measure his tread to their slower pace, and Pippin would chatter on, telling interminable stories that would frequently be interrupted by Merry with genealogical information--as though there was no doubt he would be fascinated to know exactly to what degree someone named Fatty Bolger was related to each of the three cousins.

After the third day out, he had complimented them on their helpfulness, and Pippin had carelessly said, “Oh, that’s what family’s for; we love you, after all.” And Merry had nodded absently, as though such were taken for granted.

He had shaken his head at this artless answer, and realized that the affection went both ways. He had pondered on it since, and he finally realized how the two had dealt with being among all these strangers.

They simply treated them all like large hobbits.

And it was rather nice, if sometimes disconcerting.

But he hoped he did not grow fur on his feet. Arwen might take exception to that.

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