Who is a betting hobbit?
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JRR Tolkien. No money is
being made and no copyright infringement is intended.
Many thanks for Mogs for beta-reading.
Legolas approached the door of the room where, according to the innkeeper, Merry and Pippin were to be found tonight, with a feeling bearing an eerie resemblance to that which he had experienced before the Gate of Moria. He was entering a dark place, and something unknown and unpredictable was waiting for him inside. And at least with the Balrog he had not been supposed to conduct conversations on a very personal subject.
As expected, the hobbits were sitting behind a full table, eating something which might be a late dinner, an early supper, a tea or any combination thereof. Legolas's personal impression was that the hobbits' preference was for one meal a day, provided of course that the meal lasted from dawn to dusk.
Legolas greeted Merry and Pippin, accepted the chair, declined the food and steadied himself for the talk.
"You know of the growing bond between me and Gimli."
Merry and Pippin nodded expectantly.
"We have loved each other as friends for several months but recently our bond has progressed beyond that of mere friendship."
The hobbits kept listening with disconcerting attention. Pippin, for some reason, looked troubled, while Merry inquired thoughtfully:
"Excuse me, you've said that your bond had already progressed beyond that of mere friendship, have you?"
"Well, as a matter of fact it has," Legolas answered, feeling that the further developements were now out of his hands. He had had his say and could only anticipate the outcome.
Merry jumped to his feet with a triumphant expression.
"Peregrin Took, the drinks are on you tonight!" he exclaimed. "I told you that when people've that spark in their eyes, they've no mind to hold back. And you were insisting they'd wait at least til they went to Rohan."
Legolas was slightly confuzed, and he wasn't quite sure whether to be annoyed or gratified. Some measure of surprise would be in order but on the other hand, in Pippin's case surprise couldn't possibly be measured. Gratified then. But why Rohan?
"So you expected us to wait till we got to Glittering Caves, did you?" Legolas asked Pippin slowly.
"Please excuse him, Legolas," Merry intervened. "He is young and tends to have an idealized view on certain issues."
"I do not!" protested Pippin.
"Oh, you don't, do you? And what was it with Bluebell Proudfoot and Ansy Brockhouse? Of course they will wait till after the wedding, she is such a nice girl. The twins came in six months after the wedding, didn't they? Full weight each, too."
Legolas had a growing certainty that he had completely lost hold on the exchange. He had been braced for the worst, but no elf could have been prepared for an abrupt intrusion of Bluebell Proudfoot, Ansy Brockhouse and their twins into the conversation. It was, he felt, slightly unfair on him. As if two hobbits hadn't been enough!
"Would you like to have some beer with us?" Merry inquired hospitably. "Or wine, perhaps? It's on Pippin today, after all."
"You don't need to gloat, Merry," said Pippin. "We don't know yet who'll be paying tomorrow, mind you."
Legolas had a sudden sense of foreboding but accepted wine with gratitude. He was definitely in need of sustenance.
"Now, we don't want to seem intrusive," Merry began, "but the issue is germane to us, as you can see. The funding of tonight's supper is settled, but that of tomorrow's depends on your answer now."
"And we really want to know that." Pippin added.
"Well, I would be glad to help you settle your wager," said Legolas, "but I'm not sure-"
"Oh, in that case we may always ask Gimli." Pippin interrupted with an innocent expression.
Legolas knew when he was beaten. He might be overprotective, but forty-two orcs was one thing, and Peregrin Took in inquiring mood was another. He felt he owed it to Gimli to spare him this trial.
"Very well, you may ask me. But there are certain questions I'm not going to answer."
"Who do you take us for?" Merry asked scandalized. "Granted, the Took here may be capable of asking anyone about anything but some of us know how to behave in a polite company."
"Do they, really?" Pippin wasn't pleased. "Do I need to remind you what happened at Fredegar's birthday party two years ago?"
"Pippin, it's neither time nor place for such reminiscences. I'm sure Legolas doesn't want to know about that."
Legolas tended to agree. The story would surely be intriguing but he felt his education in the ways of hobbits had progressed enough for a day.
"So," said Pippin with disturbing gleam in his eye, "the question is, who whom?"
Legolas's wine went the wrong way and he started to cough violently.
"Pippin, that was uncalled for," Merry rebuked his cousin. "What we want to ask is who approached whom first. You Gimli, or Gimli you? Excuse me, would you like this?"
Legolas collected himself, accepted a handkerchief from Merry, made such use of it as the circumstances allowed (red wine couldn't possibly be removed from cloth without using water), drew a long breath and resolved to be calm.
"Well, my dear cousin, I'll be troubling you for the next supper as well," Merry said suavely.
Pippin mumbled sullenly something deregatory about the Elves and their presumed patience, which Legolas decided not to have heard, sighed deeply, and felt into a sulky silence.
Legolas grabbed this opportunity to ask the question which was very much on his mind now.
"May I ask if there is anyone else in this game? Frodo or Sam, for example?"
Merry shook his head sadly.
"No, it would be more entertaining that way but poor Frodo hasn't been taking a real interest and Sam isn't a betting hobbit. It wouldn't be safe to bet against a wizard so we didn't invite Gandalf, and we didn't know the views of the Big Folk on this matter. You never know. Even some hobbits are very much against anything resembling gambling."
Legolas agreed that the attitude towards betting might vary in different societies, finished what was left of his wine, politely bade his hosts farewell and left, haunted by a nagging vision of Pippin asking Aragorn to keep tally on his and Gimli's preferred sexual positions.
Gimli was waiting for him in their quarters.
"What was their reaction?" he asked. "And you know that you need to change that shirt, don't you? Did they pour wine over you?"
"Essentially, it went very well," Legolas answered reflectively, taking off the garment in question. "You've planned to talk to Frodo and Sam this evening, haven't you?"
Gimli looked at Legolas with concern. No one could possibly be that calm after talking to Merry and Pippin on a delicate subject, Elf or no Elf.
"I was just going to them." he said cautiously. "Would you like to join me after all?"
"Yes, I have reason to believe that our bond actually won't come to the hobbits as news. And, strangely enough, none of the further conversations on this subject seems that problematic to me now."
This tranquillity was definitely unwholesome. Time to do something about it.
"What it was with the wine? Is pouring wine over people a Shire wedding custom, or what?"
"The wine was an accident" he said through clenched teeth. "And we don't want to picture possible Shire wedding customs, believe me."
Well, so much for the Elven calmness. But Gimli recollected some hobbits' random remarks and reluctantly admitted to himself that even Legolas might occasionally have a point. Perhaps it was better to leave some things unexplored.