Complete and utter crack!fic. Blame the Google Pedometer.
“Gentlemen! We do not stop until nightfall,” said Strider sternly, looking back at the hobbits who had come to a halt in the snow-covered meadow with the evident intention of taking a break.
“B-but,” stammered Pippin, incredulous. “What about breakfast?”
“You’ve already had it.” Strider’s eyebrows rose in surprise.
“We’ve had one breakfast, aye, but what about second breakfast?”
Strider just stared at him, unmoved.
“Don’t think he knows about second breakfast, Pip,” commented Merry gloomily.
“What about elevenses?” Pippin clutched at Merry’s sleeve. “Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper?” His voice grew higher and more desperate with every word.
“I wouldn’t count on it.” Merry shot an accusatory look at Frodo, who pretended not to notice.
An apple came sailing through the air. Merry grabbed it with both hands- no point taking any chances. The second apple hit Pippin on the head. “Pip,” said Merry as Pippin looked up at the sky as if he expected it to rain apples. “Don’t get your hopes up.”
Sam and Frodo caught their apples, and Merry heard Sam mutter, “An apple. All this walking, and what do we get as a reward? An apple. If my old Gaffer could see-"
“Sam, you aren’t making things any easier,” said Frodo with a sigh, and bit into the fruit.
“Sorry, sir,” Sam apologised, and turned to Bill, who was likely to be a more sympathetic listener. “At least you can eat grass, Bill-lad. You won’t starve.” Bill pushed his nose into Sam’s chest in a consoling way.
“Come along, gentlemen,” said Strider impatiently, waving an arm. “Your heart rates are dropping while you stand there chatting, and you’re losing all the cardiovascular benefits of brisk marching. We need to get those rates up again if you want to meet your calorie burning goals for today. Remember, my friends: no pain, no gain.”
“There he goes again,” Merry said in a low voice, “with that ‘cardiovascular benefits’ and ‘calorie burning goals’ stuff. Do you have any idea what he’s talking about, Frodo?”
“I’m afraid not,” Frodo said as the four hobbits and Bill started walking again. “It has something to do with these funny contraptions he had us clip on our belts this morning.”
“Never seen the like,” Sam eyed the black plastic with suspicion. “All them buttons and numbers. Makes my head spin.”
“Well, I don’t know about you,” Pippin said stubbornly, “but I’m going to change the settings for my stride length and weight. It says I’ve only burned 85 calories so far this morning. I’m sure that must be wrong, and it’s twice that much at least. Strider told us we had to burn 300 or more of these calorie things every day.” His hand stole toward his waist.
“And Master Peregrin,” Strider said without looking back. “No cheating.”
Pippin’s face fell. “He must have eyes in the back of his head.”
“Seemingly.” Sam clucked to the pony, and picked up his pace. “Well, Bill my lad, you can thank your lucky stars he don’t make you wear one of these pedometer calorie counter contraptions.” He lowered his voice. “Mr. Butterbur was right when he warned you not to take up with no Rangers, Mr. Frodo. They’re barmy, if you ask me.”
Frodo sighed. “I thought Rangers were just guides, Sam. I had no idea that Strider was a fitness instructor for the- the- what did he call it again?”
“Middle-earth Weight Loss Center,” said Merry. "And you would have done well, cousin, to ask a few more questions before hiring him."
"Look at it this way," Frodo said with forced cheerfulness, "we'll all be fit and trim by the time we reach Rivendell."
"We're hobbits. We aren't supposed to be 'fit and trim'," panted Pippin, puffing as they hurried up the slope behind Strider. "We're supposed to have nice round bellies, and eat six meals a day."
"Not under my regimen, you don’t." Strider halted and watched as the hobbits laboured toward him. "Very good, Frodo," he commented, "excellent form. Keep those arms pumping, Sam. Merry, your breathing is too shallow. Deep breaths, like this," he demonstrated, "in through the nose, out through the mouth. Pippin, don't clench your fists like that. It's a waste of energy." He clapped his hands. "Now faster, gentlemen, faster. Pick up the pace, push yourselves. Remember our mantra: no pain, no gain." A fanatical light shone in the Ranger's grey eyes as he strode along beside them.
It was not perhaps entirely coincidence that at that very moment, Pippin tripped and stumbled into Strider, sending the tall Ranger sprawling to the ground. "I'm very sorry, Strider," exclaimed Pippin, the picture of apologetic innocence. "I was concentrating so hard on not clenching my fists and wasting energy, I didn't look where I was going."
Strider got to his feet, brushed off his clothes and gave Pippin a suspicious look, but said nothing. He gathered his cloak and his dignity about him and limped on.
Behind Strider's back, Pippin winked at the other hobbits and mouthed, "No pain, no gain."
The Ranger ignored the breathless giggles coming from behind him. Tomorrow he would lead the hobbits into the Midgewater Marshes for resistance training. That would be payback enough.