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Dreamflower's Mathoms II  by Dreamflower

(Written for the Great Tales fic exchange, for Celeritas.)

Title: The First Night Out of Bree
Rating: G
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Characters: Aragorn-Strider, Frodo, Merry, Pippin and Sam
Words: 542
Warnings: Some very cherished fanons turned on their heads.
Disclaimer: Middle-earth and all its peoples belong to Tolkien. I own none of them, though some of them own me.
Summary: Strider finds himself with four rebellious hobbits on his hands.
Authorís notes: Celeritas' prompt was "Bust your favorite (or least favorite) fanon."† So I set out to do that, beginning with one I know she likes to bust, and busting one of my own favorites, as well as a couple of others, plus I threw in a bit of obscure and discarded info from the History of Middle-earth which I won't identify. Have fun guessing.

First Night Out of Bree

Strider took a deep breath and let it out very slowly to stifle his sigh of frustration.

"No, no campfire. We are too close to Bree still, and there may be other things than Black Riders after us."

"But it's bloody cold," said Pippin.

Merry gave his cousin a nudge. "Language, Pip," he muttered.

Pippin ducked his head, and muttered something rebellious under his breath.

Frodo said in a tightly controlled voice, "How are we to sleep in this cold?"

Their guide shook his head, and then said "Why, you sleep together and share your body heat and your blankets, of course!"

Four pairs of horrified brown eyes turned their gaze to his face.

Frodo's normally fair face turned bright red with anger. It made the normally unnoticeable little wart on his chin, as well as the small white lock by his left temple stand out in the moonlight. In a very tightly controlled voice he spoke very slowly. "We. Are. Not. Faunts!"

"I never said you were, Mr. Baggins." His own patience was being sorely tried by their obstreperousness. "What has that to do with anything?"

"Only the very young among hobbits sleep together, unless they are a married couple!"

Strider blinked. "I have it on no less an authority than Gandalf that this was often a custom of hobbits in the past. Surely what was done once can be done again for practicality's sake."

Frodo snorted. "Perhaps, when we were scarcely more than a savage clan roaming about in the Wild. We are a civilised people now, and have no use for such archaic practices."

"Well, you have such a use tonight," Strider said firmly. "So you may either be warm together or you shall most assuredly shiver separately." He looked each hobbit in the eye, making sure they understood he was serious.

"What about you?" asked Merry.

"As I shall be keeping watch, it is best that I not be too comfortable." He jerked his head towards the stream that ran past the clearing where they proposed to sleep. "I am going to the stream to clean the soil of the day from my face and hands, and then I will keep watch." He gestured towards Bill. "Master Samwise, there is journeybread and dried fruit in the pony's saddlebag. I suggest you make Bill comfortable and pass out the rations. And then you should all try to get some rest. If we can get far enough tomorrow with no signs of pursuit, perhaps we can have a fire tomorrow night."

He walked downhill about half a rod to the stream where he sat on his haunches and splashed cold water on his face and cleaned his hands as best he could. Then he took out his knife and cleaned his fingernails and scraped away at the stubble on his chin as best he could with cold water and no soap. Just because a Ranger roamed about in the wilderness did not mean he had to look any more disreputable than necessary. He would be glad of a hot bath and soap when they reached Rivendell. Not to mention clean clothes!

When he returned to the clearing, the hobbits were still muttering and grumbling about the lack of a fire and hot food, but they had at last settled down together. It was very clear that they were not at all happy to be sleeping in a pile.

Rivendell was a long way. Confound Gandalf leaving him with this bunch!

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