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A Lesson on Hobbits  by Budgielover

This plot bunny was birthed by, “… he is small, Gandalf, smaller even than the other hobbits, and his body is not made to store heat the way a dwarf’s is.”  Aragorn to Gandalf, “Splashing and Sputtering,” by Baylor  (referenced with the author’s permission)

A Lesson on Hobbits II (Gimli)

The dwarf sat tailor-fashion in the snow, the muscles in his thick legs bunching as he cradled his chain-mail shirt, running the links through surprisingly nimble hands. Ice melted and popped as callused thumbs and fingers rubbed the links, flexing them and flicking off the resulting water that could cause rust and damage. Even with the cavern-bred night sight of his people, it was becoming difficult to see. Gimli looked up from his work to glance around the campsite. Darkcame early at this higher altitude, and the Fellowship had elected on an early halt. Gandalf had, rather, Gimli thought, with a hooded glance towards the reason for the wizard’s decision.

The halflings were exhausted. What was hard going for the larger members of the Company was near-impossible for the hobbits. Even walking in the path already broken by Gandalf, they had to lift their feet so much higher to clear the snow and take two steps to every one of the larger members’ of the Company. Pippin especially was struggling – as the smallest, Gimli saw that the youngling often had to take three steps to every one of the ‘Big Folks’ as Gimli had learned the hobbits called the other members of the Company. As the little folk grew increasingly weary, they could not step so high and instead forced their way through the snow, exhausting themselves further. When Gandalf finally stopped for the night, the hobbits dropped where they stood.

The tree line had petered out little more than halfway up Caradhras and an intense, bone-chilling cold set in. No longer was the snow a delight to the halflings and an amusement for the rest of the Companions; now all suffered. Though, Gimli thought as he rubbed the fine-wrought links of his mail shirt, dwarves suffered the least while the halflings suffered the most.

The three cousins huddled together for warmth, half-frozen hands fumbling in the saddle-bags to search for supper while the little gardener moved about briskly, keeping warm by caring for the pony. Gimli noted that the two younger ones kept the Ring-bearer between them, leaning on him and being leaned on, their knees drawn up to their chests, all of them shivering violently. They were the very picture of misery.

"Master Pippin," Sam called, "Would you give me a hand here?"

Pippin struggled to his feet, obviously stiff, and Frodo and Merry started to follow him. His eyes already on Sam, Gimli saw the quick shake of the gardener’s head, as did Merry. The young hobbit hesitated, his eyes meeting Sam’s over his cousin’s head. "Frodo," Merry remarked casually, "let Pippin help Sam. Maybe he’ll tire himself out and we can get some sleep tonight."

"I’m tired enough already, thank you," Pippin returned, "but it would take you two gaffers forever to serve, so I’ll do it. I’ll do it, Frodo," he repeated when the Ring-bearer looked up at him with a frown.

"All right, Pippin. Thank you," Frodo said, sinking back against Merry. He closed his eyes, missing the worried look passed between his kin. Merry wrapped his arms around his cousin and buried his face in Frodo’s shoulder.

The wizard would not permit them a fire, a decision Gimli regretted for the sake of the smaller folk. So he was quite surprised when Pippin handed him a mug of almost-warm tea. "Where did this come from, laddie?" he asked.

The little halfling’s face broke into a smile at the astonishment in his tone. "I asked Sam that – how he got the water hot without a fire. It’s not hot really – just warm. So the tea’s not very good, I’m afraid, especially without a slice of lemon -"

"Hot water?" Gimli prompted, musing on the young one’s ability to leap from subject to subject like a butterfly in a flower-field, apparently without drawing breath.

" – or sugar. I asked but Sam wants to save it for Bill. So I said -"

"Hot water, Peregrin?"

"Oh," Pippin paused, remembering the dwarf’s original question. "Sam tied the water-skins on the inside of the packs, right up against Bill. And put all the blankets on the outside against the cold. Isn’t he a marvel?" Pippin finished admiringly. It took Gimli a moment to work out that the youngling meant the hobbit, not the pony.

"Mr. Bilbo taught me that trick when I was just a lad," Sam said, passing Pippin to carry mugs to the others. "I remember he told me that your da, Mr. Glóin, had taught it ‘ta him."

Gimli nodded. "I too was raised on tales of my father’s great adventure, and of my kin’s brave hobbit companion." His hands cupped the mug of warm tea as he gazed around the darkening campsite. How strange to think that nearly eighty years ago his father and kin had sat around a fireless camp and supped a cold meal with this very same wizard and a hobbit.

Legolas had the watch; the Elf balanced easily on a snow-covered boulder, a slender shadow outlined by stars. The bitter wind seemed to have no effect upon him - he stood as motionless as a sliver of ice, only his luminescent eyes moving as he watched the frozen countryside. Gandalf and Aragorn were deep in converse, voices low and heads together. Then Aragorn turned and called Boromir to them. Aragorn knelt down and picked up a handful of snow, the three of them watching intently as it sifted through his fingers and drifted back to the frozen earth. Gimli nodded to himself – the consistency of the frozen pack would tell much of how they should proceed on the morrow.

"Stories? Stories, Gimli?" repeated Pippin hopefully, extending a hand to tug at the dwarf’s tunic. "Oh, you’re warm!" exclaimed the young hobbit in that distractingly hopscotch manner of thought he had. "Gimli, would you mind if I sat against you while we eat? It is only that I am so cold."

Though somewhat surprised, the dwarf nodded affably. "Of course, young hobbit. My folk live in cold climes, and I suppose our bodies are adapted for it. I am rarely cold, no matter how deep the snow or frigid the weather."

Pippin nestled himself against the dwarf’s side with a sigh of contentment, huddling into his cloak. He giggled when Gimli turned his head to look down upon him and the dwarf’s beard tickled the top of his head. Pippin reached up a hand tentatively and with a glance at Gimli for permission, tugged gently at the coarse hair. "It feels like wire," the tweenager commented, "sharp and prickly. Does it hurt when it grows out of your face?"

The dwarf was hard-put not to laugh, but the open curiosity on the shy young face stilled his desire to tease the halfling. "No," he said kindly. "No more than growing hair out of your feet does, I imagine. That seems most strange to me."

Pippin responded to this by falling backward on his elbows and sticking a hairy foot into the air for the dwarf’s inspection. "I don’t see the use of growing hair on your face," the young one commented, "while it is only sensible to grow it on your feet." Pippin sat up and regarded the dwarf’s heavy hob-nailed boots. "If you had hair on your feet, you wouldn’t have to wear those heavy boots. And smelly, itching stockings that always get holes in them. And you could walk ever so much quieter. And -"

"It does seem that hairy feet do have many advantages over hairy faces," the dwarf conceded in an effort to head off what looked to be an extensive list. "However, as Dwarves were made so, I suppose I shall have to endure it."

Recognizing that he was being appeased, Pippin smiled and leaned against the dwarf. "You’re better than a fire," he opinioned sleepily. Feeling an unfamiliar surge of protectiveness, Gimli tugged out the hem of the great fur-lined cloak Lord Elrond had gifted him in Imladris and tucked it under the young hobbit’s feet, pulling in the sides so that that it encircled the hobbit like a great tent. He pulled the edges closed so that only Pippin’s head stuck out. Eyes closing, the young one sighed in bliss and laid his head against Gimli’s side.

"Pippin! Stop bothering Gimli." Merry stood before them, chaffing blue-tinged hands together.

"Not at all, Meriadoc," Gimli replied graciously. "I do not mind. I have heat enough to spare."

Merry eyed him doubtfully. "Well, if you’re sure he’s not being a nuisance." The wind picked up suddenly and Merry shivered. Gimli pulled his voluminous cloak higher over Pippin’s ears, and did not miss the wistful look Merry gave his contented cousin.

"Would you like to sit at my other side, Meriadoc?" Gimli offered.

Merry wavered, obviously torn between his adult dignity and the cold. Another freezing blast of wind decided him. With a quick nod, Merry dropped across from Pippin and huddled against the dwarf, drawing his knees up against his chest. Gimli tugged up the other side of the cloak and tucked it over Merry, covering his bare feet.

"Merry!" Frodo exclaimed, looking scandalized as only an elder relation could.

"You may freeze if you like, Cousin," Merry returned, "but Brandybucks have more sense." He shuddered a final time, then stopped and drew in a deep breath, steeling himself. "But it is time to eat. Let Pippin stay, Frodo, and I’ll help."

"No," Frodo returned gently. "You two stay where you are, as long as Master Gimli doesn’t mind." Frodo looked at the dwarf anxiously and received an affable nod in reply. "Sam and I will serve dinner. You lads rest." Merry looked after his cousin gratefully as Frodo turned away, arms tucked across his chest, and went to help in the distribution of a cold supper.

Some time later, the Ring-bearer paused in collecting the emptied mugs and noted with amusement the two small forms propped comfortably against the dwarf. In sleep, they had both slid down until their heads rested on Gimli’s thighs and their bodies curled around him. Gimli had carefully adjusted his cloak over them as they sagged. Frodo thought Gimli looked rather like a broody hen sitting on a nest, her chicklings beneath her. Not that he would ever dare suggest such an image to the dwarf.

"Gimli, you need to sleep. You must not allow them to keep you from your rest," Frodo whispered in the softest of voices.

The dwarf shook his head, then stilled when Merry muttered some sleep-complaint at the movement. He wondered what he would do if the Ring-bearer and his servant asked to join the others – he had a sudden vision of himself buried in hobbits. "I can go without a few hours sleep, Master Frodo," he whispered. "These young ones are very tired and it is very cold."

Frodo shook his head. "Thank you, Gimli, but -"

The dwarf listed sideways slightly as a small hand tugged at him. "Make Frodo go away, Gimli," a sleepy, petulant voice demanded. "He’s making too much noise." Pippin pointedly turned his back on the speakers, cuddling against the warm furnace at his side.

Unable to laugh without disturbing their slumber, Gimli could only hide a smile beneath his beard. Frodo did laugh quietly. "Well, it seems I have been sent off. If you grow tired of them, Gimli, please call me. I will collect them."

Gimli did not think that would be soon. His embarrassment fading, he felt far more warmth emanating from the small bodies than could be accounted for by the simple sharing of body-heat. He shifted slightly to ease a crease under Merry’s cheek. "Are all hobbits so trusting of outsiders?"

"Oh, but you are one of us now," Frodo returned, resting his hand on the dwarf’s shoulder. "Thank you," he added quietly. Then he tucked himself down by Sam’s side and appropriated his cousins’ blankets, dragging them up over them both.

"Congratulations, Gimli," drifted Aragorn’s voice from the darkness, "on your adoption into hobbit-hood. Best keep a close eye on your pipe-weed pouch. And blankets. And I warn you – all pleas for extra rations will be refused."

"Hobbits," muttered Gimli, a smile in his deep, rough voice as the Ranger emerged out of the darkness. "Like cats, they are. I’ve never known such a folk for seeking warmth and ease."

"If they were cats, those would certainly be purring," Aragorn agreed with a jerk of his chin towards the cloak-covered protrusions at the dwarf’s sides. "They choose the most comfortable place to sleep, and all the better if you have warmed it for them first. They expect you to entertain them and produce an endless series of amusements. If you have food, they materialize out ofnowhere and stare up at you with sad, soulfuleyes." The Ranger laughed quietly. "And you count yourself fortunate to be treated so."

Aragorn sank to his knees and laid a hand against Pippin’s cheek, testing that his face was not too cold. Pippin scrunched up his nose and rubbed his face against the fur-lined cloak, relaxing back into sleep with a sigh. "They are a comfort-loving people, taking pride in their predictable, orderly lives. Except for these four and Bilbo, whom I have known of old. These folk are the most contradictory, aggravating, endearing -"

"Talking about hobbits, are we?" asked Gandalf, coming up with Boromir at his side.

"It seems most odd to me to be so readily … accepting … of other folk," Gimli rumbled, not looking at the Elf. "I do not know if it is a strength or a weakness to be so trusting." He looked down at the two small forms nestled against him.

"Yet perhaps in their care of each other may other folk learn a lesson," Gandalf murmured.

"Such nonjudgmental hearts may do much to heal the wounds of this world," Legolas contributed, his elven hearing easily carrying the soft-voiced conversation to him. The Elf turned around on his boulder and leaped gracefully to the edge of their small gathering. "My watch is ended, Master Gimli. I believe you are next?"

Aragorn leaned forward and balanced himself with a hand on Gimli’s shoulder. "You have not had time to finish cleaning your mail, Gimli. And now it appears you are otherwise … occupied." The Ranger smiled, a quick flash of teeth in the darkness as he rose to his feet. "Is it not a rule that a person may not get up when holding a cat? Please, allow me to take the guard for you."

The dwarf nodded, reflecting on this odd company of which he was now a part. He had joined the Fellowship to represent his people, that the effort to save Middle-earth not lack the strength and steadfastness of the Dwarves. Never thought he’d journey alongside an Elf. Never thought his feelings would change from emissary of his kind to brother-in-arms … and friend … of these strange folk. Great warriors and great hearts all, regardless of their size. As Aragorn clambered up on the boulder, the dwarf’s arms tightened around his two small charges, sheltering them from the cold.

The End

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