Ranger's Apprentice belongs to John Flanagan.
Leaning back in his chair, Halt took a sip of coffee from his favourite mug. There was nothing like being in your own cabin with a cup of coffee for company. For the past week or so, he and Will had been doing a routine patrol of Redmont Fief, checking the boarders for any miscreants, and visiting villages and farms to deal with any problems that had arisen. This patrol was as straightforward as it could get; there were only a couple of minor problems that Halt was able to deal with very quickly. The weather, on the other hand, was an entirely different matter. It had been cold and wet, and for a couple of nights, the best shelter Halt and Will could find was underneath a tree. Needless to say, the both of them were feeling quite miserable by the time they returned to the cabin. Will especially was miserable during the trip. When he wasn't complaining to Halt, he was muttering under his breath and scowling. He also had a never-ending appetite which was left unsatisfied no matter what he ate – it was nearly as bad as Horace's bear-like appetite. Halt just hoped it wasn't permanent otherwise he would have to ask Crowley for a pay rise, just to cover the cost of Will's eating habits.
At the current moment, Will was still in bed. After missions, Halt allowed his apprentices to catch up on any sleep they had missed. Halt was used to missing sleep by now, and always awoke just after dawn. Gilan by the end of his apprenticeship had also gotten into this habit; Will had yet to adapt, but Halt was certain that he would do by the end of his apprenticeship. In this rare moment of quiet, Halt decided to take the opportunity to finish his report to Crowley; he had started it the previous evening, but did not finish it in favour of sleep.
After a short while, Halt finished the report, signing and sealing it, ready to be delivered. He was considering whether to start to cook breakfast, or to wait for Will to get up, when he heard movement from Will's room, signalling that the boy was finally awake, and that he could make breakfast while Halt nursed the remains of his coffee.
A few minutes later, Will emerged from his room, looking slightly dishevelled, and yawning deeply.
"Morning," greeted Halt. He got a grunt as a reply from his apprentice who made a beeline to the coffee pot. "Sorry, I didn't quite catch that. What did you say?"
"Morning, Halt," said Will.
"Since you're up, you can make the breakfast. After you've fetched the water of course." Halt got another grunt as a reply as Will trudged out of the cabin, neglecting his half-made coffee. When Will came back into the cabin, wet from where he had spilt water over himself, he turned his attention to make breakfast, chucking various food items into a sizzling pan.
It did not take long before Will had placed a plate full of steaming hot food in front of his teacher. Halt gladly tucked in whilst Will practically shovelled the food into his mouth, not seeming to take a breath in between bites.
"Are you going to eat that food, or are you just going to carry on inhaling it?" enquired Halt.
Will forced his mouthful of sausage down his throat before answering, "I'm starving."
"You ate last night."
"That was hours ago."
Halt gave Will a steady look before turning his attention back to breakfast. Will finished his own breakfast in record time, looking forlorn when he remembered that there wasn't any extra food left for him to consume. Halt took a steadier approach to eating his breakfast, going slower than usual since he knew it would annoy his apprentice who was fidgeting in his seat.
No sooner as Halt had finished eating, his plate was whipped out from under his nose as his apprentice grabbed the plate to wash it. Halt leaned back in his seat. Something about his apprentice had been niggling him over the past few days, and watching Will now, who was slouched at sink as he was scrubbing the plates, Halt realised what the source of his bother was.
"Will, stop what you're doing."
The boy in question turned around, eyebrow raised. "Am I washing the dishes wrong?"
Halt ignored this comment. "Come here."
Will gave a huff of annoyance and walked over to the table, stopping in front of Halt who was still sat in his chair. Halt looked up and down at the boy, his suspicions confirmed.
"Are you finished gawping at me?" asked Will irritably which earned a sharp look from his mentor.
"Stand up straight," commanded Halt.
Will frowned at Halt. "I am standing straight."
"No you're not – now stand up straight."
Will shifted his stance, standing a little straighter, but not enough for Halt's liking. With a roll of his eyes, Halt stood up and walked over to Will. He placed one hand on Will's stomach and placed the other hand at the small of Will's back, and pushed inwards. Will shot up, now standing completely straight, and rewarding Halt a hard look.
"What was that for?" protested Will.
"As a Ranger, you represent the King and Rangers do not slouch. We should be giving out a good impression. What we certainly don't want is for people to think we are a rabble of teenage boys." Halt walked round to face Will. "I had to do the same thing to Gilan around your age."
Will looked down at Halt. "You could have –"
Will stopped suddenly, eyes wide, as it dawned on him that he was looking down at Halt. He was only a tinier bit taller than his mentor, but it was just enough that he was able to look down at Halt in order to look him in the eye. A huge smile spread onto his face while it was Halt's turn to scowl.
"I've had my growing spurt! I've finally had it! I'm now taller than-"
"Yes yes, you're taller than me by half an inch – it's nothing to get too excited about. We do however have to buy you some new clothes," said Halt, nodding at Will's shirt sleeves.
Will looked down. His shirt sleeves didn't cover his wrists, and his tunic was shorter than it should have been. Seeing this, he then knew that if he un-tucked his trousers from his boots, they probably wouldn't reach his ankles; something he hadn't noticed before since he was normally half asleep when he got dressed, and practically falling asleep when undressing to go to bed.
He had grown a few inches in a very short space of time. Halt hadn't initially noticed the growing spurt since they both had been stuck in the saddle the past couple of weeks, hunched over wrapped in their cloaks trying to keep the rain out; but now looking at Will, it was obvious why he had been consuming so much food.
"I guess we've got a change of plans for today," said Halt. "You finish washing the dishes, then we'll have to go to the tailor."
Will turned around to get back to his chore, slouching back into his default position.
"Stand up straight," exclaimed Halt. "Don't you listen to what I say? If you keep slouching, I'll shove a broomstick up your backside, so you have no choice but to stand straight."
Will suddenly shot back up a few more inches, adjusting his posture to Halt's satisfaction; he certainly did not want Halt to carry out his threat. No doubt it would be a very uncomfortable experience. He walked off it the direction of the dirty dishes, with a wicked smile on his face, thinking up all the height related quips he could throw at Halt now that he was taller than his mentor – albeit by a tiny amount.
Halt retreated to his room and searched under his bed. After shifting a few items around, he finally pulled out a box that had lay forgotten for years in its dark hiding place. Opening the lid, he looked into the contents of the box. Inside were old clothes of Gilan's from when he was apprenticed to Halt. It was only a few months into his apprenticeship when Gilan had his growing spurt. Halt had donated most of Gilan's clothes to the ward, since they were still fairly new and had not much wear, and he knew how grateful the ward was when they received donations like this. Halt did keep a few items of clothing, tucked away until they were needed. Halt had always kept an eye on Will during his time in the ward, and had noticed his abilities that would make him a perfect Ranger whilst Will was still young. He had kept some of Gilan's clothes just in case Halt did decide to take on Will as an apprentice when he was the right age; and even if Halt didn't take on another apprentice, he would have found a use for them. In most apprenticeships, the parents of the apprentice would provide money for food and clothing, which was what happened when Gilan was an apprentice – something that Halt was glad about, since it seemed that the lad never stopped growing during his time with Halt. Will didn't have that luxury. The Rangers did have a fund for apprentices in similar situations to Will, but it wasn't much, and Halt was glad he had the foresight to stow away these clothes. Halt pulled out an undershirt, tunic and trousers that looked to be about Will's size; luckily for Will, Gilan had been the same height as Will was now when he first joined Halt – not that it stayed that way for long.
Halt was glad for Will that he had finally had his growing spurt. He knew that the boy sometimes got hung up about his height (or lack of), although it was nowhere near as bad as when he was still on the Ward and desperate to be accepted into Battleschool, with the added pressure of Horace teasing him about it. While Halt was below average height, he had accepted his own lack of height - he swore he never had a growing spurt as a child, and had given up waiting for it years ago. Will was what Halt would describe as a "late bloomer".
Replacing the lid, Halt pushed the box back under his bed, and walked back into the main living space, where he found Will drying the last of the dishes. Will noticed the bundle in Halt's arms and raised a quizzical eyebrow.
"You're to change into this before we go into the village. We can't have you going around in clothes that are too short for you – you'll disgrace the good name of the Ranger Corps."
"They're not your clothes are they? That wouldn't work very well since I am now taller than you -"
"By half an inch. No, they're Gilan's old clothes."
"Did you miss Gilan that much that you kept some of his old clothes? I didn't take you for the sentimental type – you are the legendary Ranger who's seven foot tall, strong as a bear and can kill with one look."
"If you don't get changed now, I swear I will shove a broomstick up your backside whether you've learnt to stand properly or not."
Will accepted the clothes from Halt and hurried off to his small bedroom. When Will appeared a couple of minutes later, he looked a lot more comfortable, although he did have to roll the sleeves of the shirt up, and the tunic was a bit baggy around the shoulders – but Halt had to admit that this was a bit improvement to what Will had previously been wearing.
"Halt, I've been thinking –"
"Always a dangerous thing."
"Some of my clothes aren't that old, and they're in quite good condition; so I was wondering if it would be a good idea to donate them to the ward."
"If that's what you want to do."
"It's just that people donated clothes while I was there, and I thought that maybe I should give something back to the Ward, as a sort of –"
"It's fine, Will, you don't have to explain yourself. If you're not going to be too long, you can gather up some of your clothes now and give them to the Ward today. We have to see Baron Arald anyway to report back to him."
Will gave Halt a grateful smile.
"Thank you," he said, before turning back into his room.
A Few Months Later…
It was time of the Gathering once again. It was the first night, and tents were pitched, the Ranger horses grazed, and small camp fires were alight, with the Rangers mingling with their fellow comrades. Halt and the other senior members were in the central tent having a meeting with Crowley. According to Gilan, this meeting consisted of them drinking large amounts of coffee while gossiping, and not in-fact discussing state of affairs in Araluen. A favourite topic of theirs was apprentices and their stupidity. Gilan swore that the senior Rangers had a competition each year as to whose apprentice had done the stupidest thing. When Will asked Gilan how he knew this, the older Ranger replied that eavesdropping on Senior Ranger meetings was a good way to practice silent movement and that it was a rite of passage in the Corps to listen in on the meetings either during your apprenticeship or within first few years of graduating. Gilan had gone as far to say that Crowley would be disappointed to find out if a young Ranger had not tried to eavesdrop at least once.
At the present time, Will was cooking a stew that would be ready for Halt's return, whilst Gilan was leaning back on a log, coffee in hand, staring at Will very intently. Will had grown very uncomfortable under Gilan's scrutinizing gaze, and was able to ask what was the matter, when Gilan spoke up.
"Is that my old shirt?" he asked curiously.
Will had kept Gilan's old clothes, albeit after making any necessary adjustments. This particular shirt had a patch on the elbow from where Gilan had ripped it many years ago during a mission with Halt very early on in his apprenticeship; and Will had found it too comfortable to get rid of. It also came in handy for travelling, and when Halt had planned an exercise where Will knew he was going to get extremely dirty.
"I thought Halt donated all my clothes from my apprenticeship to the Ward."
"He obviously kept some."
Gilan burst into a smile. "That means he missed me. I never knew Halt cared that much for me."
"He didn't. He intended to use your old clothes for a particularly ugly scarecrow that looked a lot like you to prevent people coming down to the cabin. However, my needs were much greater."
"Greater needs? Did a squirrel steal all your clothes and Halt had to give you mine?" asked Gilan seriously.
"I had my growing spurt!" proclaimed Will, jumping up and spinning around for effect. "I thought you would have noticed."
"You still look small to me."
"But I'm taller than Halt! I admit it's only by about half an inch – but I'm still taller than him."
"Doesn't take much to be taller than Halt. I was taller than him when I started my apprenticeship."
"But you're just a freak of nature. It's not natural to be as tall as you are."
"That's hurt my feelings, and if anything, Will, you're the freak of nature, since you're so short."
Will scowled at Gilan.
"You know what Will, if you had a beard and some grey hairs, you would look like a taller version of Halt," said Gilan, which caused Will to instantly smile, before he crouched back down to check the stew. "Just do me one favour, Will. Don't grow any taller – I'm the one known as the tall Ranger in the Corps – promise you won't take that away from me."
So here's a one shot for you all - I hope you enjoyed it :)
I always thought Will would be a Late Bloomer since he's about seventeen in this fic. I know a lad who was short by quite a bit compared to the other boys the same age, until he reached the age of seventeen and then shot up by a few inches, so he's taller than me by at least a good couple of inches (I'm 5ft3 and a half - yes the half is very important!), so growing spurts can happen later than usual. When reading the later books, I always imagined Will to be a tinier bit taller than Halt, maybe by about an inch, so enough to look down at him, but he's still shorter than average. Ok, I've waffled on - but that was just my thinking behind Will's height.
It would be much appreciated if you reviewed (hint hint!).