Title: No Mere Ranger
Characters: Merry, Aragorn
Summary:'Shortly after the Council of Elrond, one of the hobbits runs into Aragorn. Does this hobbit treat him any differently, now that he knows that Strider is much more than "a mere Ranger"?' Merry's take on Strider. Combination of book and movie verse. A genuine shirebound shirebunny.
He was surprised that Gandalf didn't turn him and Pippin into toads after spying on the council. He was even more surprised that their joining in the Fellowship was not questioned nor debated about, just accepted. But his biggest surprise was probably the learning of Strider's heritage.
'No, Aragorn,' he mentally corrected himself. 'Aragorn, heir to the throne of Gondor… wherever that is.' He hadn't had a chance to look at any maps in Lord Elrond's house, and he couldn't remember much of old Bilbo's maps. But wherever Gondor was located, he was sure that it was important. The other man, Boromir, he was from Gondor, and he said that it was on the borders of Mordor. Mordor was but a dark dream heard in Bilbo's old tales, but ever since he had joined up with Frodo, it seemed much more real.
And he had just joined a small company that was going to Mordor. Oh, what did he get himself into? This wasn't a little adventure. This wasn't even like Bilbo's adventure; it was much worse. They weren't off to regain some treasure; they were off to the darkest land in existence, with a very dangerous item that was precious to the Enemy. He'd never survive…
"You look deep in thought, Merry."
Merry nearly bumped into someone. Someone very tall. He looked up, and saw the face of Aragorn looking down at him.
"Strid- no, I mean, Aragorn- no, I mean…" What did he call him now? Would 'lord' suffice? Now that he knew who this man, this ranger was… it seemed improper to call him by any name other than 'lord'.
"Either Strider or Aragorn will do," said he with a smile. "Would you walk with me?"
Merry merely nodded, and nearly ran to keep up with Aragorn's long stride. Aragorn slowed down so that the hobbit could keep up. He led Merry to a bench, and he sat down upon it. Merry climbed up to join him, and his legs dangled from the edge.
"What do you need, Str- Aragorn?" asked the hobbit.
"Merry," started Aragorn, "Even though I go by a different name, I am still the same person you met in Bree. I wish for you to think of me no higher than a friend, for friends we should be if we are to be companions in this fellowship. That is, of course," he said with a queer smile, "if you do not think me foul anymore."
Merry was at first confused, but then he remembered a conversation between him and Frodo on their way to Weathertop…
"How do we know this Strider is a friend of Gandalf?" Merry muttered to his cousin.
"I think a servant of the enemy would look fairer… and feel fouler," said Frodo back.
"He's foul enough," he retorted under his breath, but he was positive that he saw Strider falter slightly in front of them.
"You heard that?" he asked, bewildered. "I was hoping you did not… oh dear, I am terribly sorry! I really did not mean it; I was just confused, yes, and I was tired and hungry and-"
"Merry," interrupted Aragorn, and he saw that he was not angry. Indeed, he looked slightly amused. "I forgave you long ago. You are not the first and probably not that last that has thought me foul. My grim looks deceive many."
"Still, Aragorn, I should have not assumed- after all, you were helping us-"
"Merry," said Aragorn, still gentle, but firm. "It was good of you to be suspicious. If you trusted me right away, I would have thought you a fool. All of you were suspicious; that much was obvious. You just voiced your thoughts a bit more openly. I do imagine that that has gotten you into trouble in the past." He smiled once more at the young hobbit.
Merry finally started to relax. "Well… yes, you are right," he agreed with a laugh. "It has." After a moment's pause, he looked up at Aragorn, who was looking at a mockingbird singing in a nearby tree. He saw something in him that he had not seen in the ranger before: a stern, proud face, a kingly gaze, and yet a kind and forgiving smile.
"You know," Merry said, "You will make a great king."
Aragorn looked down at him, surprised. "I will?"
"Yes. You are stern and harsh, yet kind and forgiving. Traits that all leaders should have, I think."
Aragorn slightly shook his head. "Gandalf always told me that there is more to hobbits than meets the eye."
Merry grinned. "They don't call wizards wise for nothing."
Their quiet chuckling could be heard throughout that part of the Last Homely House, and both ranger and hobbit were content to call one another 'friend'.