Little Disasters by MP brennan

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A/N: A gift fic for Cairistiona. Warnings for vague innuendo and shades of pink not found in nature. Set a few years after Aragorn’s return from the south.

Halbarad was woken not by the gentle light of dawn but by a string of rather impressive curses from his Chieftain. He sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “I rather doubt an orc is capable of those things,” he grumbled, “At least not all at once.” From his place by the small stream, Aragorn looked back at him. Well, perhaps it was more accurate to say that he glared. A moment later, he let out another creative stream of invective spanning several languages. It was hard to follow, but the dominant theme seemed to be the moral insufficiencies and dubious parentage of a certain traveling peddler they’d encountered just days before.

Halbarad stretched deliberately, trying to get the stubborn kinks out of his back. “Say that any louder and old Alvin will hear you from across the Hoarwell. He’ll hobble for a week just to take you to task for those words.” That earned him another half-murderous look from his beloved cousin. Halbarad leaned forward to pull his boots on, utterly unperturbed. “What did poor Al ever do to you? We were lucky to find him. Not many will trade with the likes of us.” The two of them had come across Old Alvin just west of the Trollshaws. The peddler was driving his donkey-draw cart north to try his luck in the handful of sparsely populated villages beyond the Weather Hills. They’d been able to trade for necessities like wayfaring rations and bowstrings as well as a few luxuries.

“He has swindled us!” Aragorn snapped with the air of one announcing high treason.

“I thought his prices were fair.”

“Fair?” Aragorn held up the limp, dripping cloth in his hands. “Look at what he’s sold us!”

Halbarad’s eyebrows rose. The tunic in Aragorn’s hands was wool, lightly woven for summer wear. The beading around the collar was perhaps a touch rustic, but the stitching was sound. Halbarad had roundly mocked his cousin for buying a shirt from some roadside salesmen when the one on his back had still been perfectly serviceable. He’d called him ‘proud as a peacock,’ to which Aragorn had loftily replied that Halbarad had clearly never seen a peacock. When an unfortunate encounter with a briar patch had shredded both their shirts, Aragorn had gotten the last laugh. Or, so it had seemed.

A slightly wicked grin slowly spread across Halbarad’s face as he pulled the ragged remains of his own tunic around himself. “What have you done to your poor peacock-shirt?”

“I washed it.” Aragorn’s expression shifted from angry to dolorous.

“With what, tanning acid?”

“With water. And just a bit of soap. I thought that . . . oh, it doesn’t matter, but I little thought that this would happen.”

Halbarad tried not to laugh—he really did. It wouldn’t be fair to laugh. They were but a few hours’ walk from Rivendell and his kinsman had grown more anxious about the coming reunion with every passing day. That was why he’d bought the new shirt in the first place; he didn’t want to ride into Elrond’s stronghold looking like a weather-beaten beggar. But the shirt—which a day ago had been dyed a rich crimson that even Halbarad had to admit looked well—the shirt was . . . no longer crimson. So, he tried not to laugh.

Perhaps he didn’t try that hard.

“I . . . fail to see the problem.” He said between half-stifled snickers.

“It is not that funny, Halbarad,” Aragorn said, his voice glum, “This color is found nowhere in nature.”

“Not so; my wife had a rhododendron that was just that shade.”

“You are not helping.”

“What would you like me to do, my liege? Track down Alvin and drag him before you for justice?”

Aragorn sighed, suddenly deflated. “What did he even do to the cloth?”

“Raspberry juice, I suspect,” Halbarad said, “It’s cheaper than a permanent stain. My wife is forever after the girls not to mar their clothes with berries, but the color comes out with vigorous washing.” He couldn’t resist waggling his eyebrows. “Your washing must have been quite vigorous. I wonder who you hoped to impress?”

“Silence,” Aragorn growled, but his voice lacked heat.

“You wanted to eliminate that distinctive odor of Wayfaring Ranger, I’d imagine,” Halbarad continued, “Can’t let that offend delicate Elven noses. Or perhaps one nose in particular . . .”

“One more word out of you, and I’m sending you on a long-term scouting mission to Forochel.”

“But, she’ll have to find out what you smell like sooner or later. Or, so you hope.”

Aragorn scowled. “Why do I put up with you?”

Halbarad beamed at him. “Perhaps because I’m so helpful. Not to mention tolerant. I’ve even let you pretend that this detour to Imladris has nothing to do with Arwen’s return from Lórien.”

“I need to speak with Master Elrond!”

“Of course you do,” Halbarad said in the tone of one indulging a small child.

Aragorn didn’t respond. He was turning the tunic over and over in his hands, as if simply wishing would make it return to its former color. Beneath his glee, Halbarad felt a touch of concern. After all, he and Aragorn had once spent a week in the wilderness with nothing but the clothes on their backs after being tossed into a latrine by a mob of angry villagers, and the Chieftain had never once complained. Yet, he seemed to be in mourning for his petunia-colored peacock shirt. Halbarad stood, crossed the campsite, and plopped down next to him on the stream bank. “You’ve said that Elrond’s household is like family to you,” he said, trying for a sympathetic tone, “I hardly think they’ll hold your appearance against you, particularly after you’ve spent weeks in the wilds.”

Aragorn shook his head. “It is one thing to arrive dirty and weather-beaten. They know the sort of life I lead. But in this I will look . . . ridiculous.”

“Aye,” Halbarad nodded sagely, “You’ll look absurd. And you’ll look like you were trying to impress someone. And that’s the real trouble, isn’t it?”

Aragorn flexed his right hand as if he missed the ring that used to sit there, though it had been years since he’d worn it. He did not reply.

“When I first began courting my lovely wife,” Halbarad continued, “She invited me to her parents’ farm to meet them. I was desperate to make a good impression. My mother advised I bring flowers, and I thought of the large, golden ones that grow along the roadside just outside the village.”

Aragorn arched an eyebrow, temporarily distracted from his own troubles. “You mean the sunflower patch? The ones Amrúndir grows for seeds?”

“Well . . . yes, I know that now.”

Aragorn seemed to brighten a little as he saw where this was going. “And what did Amrúndir have to say about you raiding his crop?”

“Several things, none of them pleasant, but I may have missed the details as I ran.”

“You ran away?”

“This was almost two decades ago! Amrúndir was a great deal more spritely than he is now, and the fellow is dangerous with a pitchfork. I eluded him in the end, but I had to cut through the woods to do it and I had several unfortunate encounters with thorn bushes along the way. I arrived at my lady’s childhood home sweaty and filthy and . . .” he looked down at his ruined clothes, “Well, much as I look right now. But I had the sunflowers.”

“And what did your lady have to say?”

“She took one look and said ‘Aren’t those Amrúndir’s?’ I spent the rest of the evening trying to convince her father that I do not make a habit of stealing the fruit of another man’s labors.”

Aragorn laughed a bit louder and longer than seemed called for, but some of his tension seemed to ease. “Why have you never told me this tale before?”

Halbarad waved a hand. “Do you really need to ask? The only mercy was that you were off in Rohan and couldn’t harass me about it.” He stood and offered his Chieftain his hand. Aragorn took it and Halbarad hauled him to his feet. “You’ll look the fool at times,” he said, clapping him soundly on the back, “Embrace it. Because if a woman can love you for your folly as well as your strength . . . well, that’s one who thinks you’re worth keeping.”

Aragorn cast another despairing look at the cloth in his hands, but Halbarad refused to indulge that any further. “Put your shirt on,” he said, “It might be more dignified to walk into Rivendell half-naked, but it sends entirely the wrong message. You can wear your cloak over it, and once we reach the Last Homely House, I’m sure Arwen will let you borrow one of her gowns.”

Aragorn gave him a retaliatory shove. Halbarad stumbled backwards and soaked both his boots in the stream. Just for that, he decided not to mention that berry juice could stain the skin if the shirt was worn while wet.

A few surprises were good for his cousin.

Fin

A/N: Reviews and concrit are appreciated, as always. Happy October, everyone. ;)




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