Beta appreciation notes for original: Kat and Shot – thanks m’dears.
Beta appreciation notes for rewrite: Kat and Derby – thanks my precious, ever patient team.
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I could scarce believe that he was still on his feet. Two days and two nights with no sleep, and yet my little brother stood there, glassy-eyed, glaring at Aragorn.
“Boromir?” Aragorn said. “Did you hear me?”
Boromir tossed his bedroll down and watched it longingly for a moment, clearly eager to fall down upon it and sleep as all four of the little ones had done after eating their cold breakfast. He had not slept the night before yesterday, following his encounters with mud and icy water. He had not slept yesterday, after sparring with the halflings, although he did ‘accidentally’ end up with Merry and Pippin cuddled and napping against him, one tucked beneath each arm. His clever shrug when Aragorn and I returned and discovered him thus all but proclaimed that he knew I would not chance disturbing the little ones’ rest in order to take him aside for a while. Infuriating brat. And now we had ended our first night’s march.
No fires were to be lit, for Gandalf and Aragorn feared that the spies of Saruman would be more plentiful in this increasingly hostile land. There was, however, some comfort to be gained from our resting place. Beneath the stone walls lining this ravine, shallow recesses, tall enough for a man to stand within, lay tucked along the bottom of the rock, forming a natural roofing.
Aragorn had wanted to reach this protected place before morning, and before the hobbits’ endurance gave out. Now our Fellowship lay sheltered within the shallow niches of rock, shielded from the unfriendly eyes of the enemy and the colder winds of the mountain’s foothills. The dawn broke cold as well, with heavy grey clouds threatening rain and blocking any warming rays from the sun.
“Boromir!” Aragorn said again.
Boromir lifted his chin to face us and shook back his hair, his dark gaze lighting first upon me, then shifting to Aragorn.
“Aye, my lord,” he muttered. “I heard you.”
My little brother looked furious. Small wonder. When I had informed him only moments before that he was to come with me as I took up the watch, he had sniffed and sneered a sharp, “I think not,” but he had failed to hear Aragorn approaching from behind him.
“You shall go with Legolas, sir,” was all Aragorn needed to say. Aye, Boromir may fume, as indeed he did, but he would neither disobey, nor challenge a direct order from Aragorn.
However, he clearly felt set-upon by both Aragorn and myself, and Boromir was now too weary to keep up the jovial pretense that had sustained him throughout the previous day. His anger and his wounded feelings shown forth with a certainty that would have surely made him cringe just twenty-four hours earlier. One thing about having few reserves left – it made men more honest.
Seeing him this defenseless tugged at my sympathies. It seemed unfair to put him through what I was about to when he was so incapacitated. But I quickly recalled just how he had become so weakened, and the thought of his willful dedication to suffering increased my eagerness to wrench him from his cage of self-imposed misery. So it was with a clear conscience that I looked into his red-rimmed eyes and commanded a quick, “Come, sir!” Finally, I would have Boromir to myself! At last I could, in every respect, be the big brother he never had, but so clearly desired and desperately needed.
His tread behind me sounded heavy as we made our way up the trail to a point with good visibility. Boulders of every size and shape filled the area – plenty to choose from for Boromir’s first lesson in how elves dealt with their errant little brothers. I climbed atop the largest rock and cast my gaze far and wide, scanning the skies, the countryside, listening to the wind, smelling the air, growing still within and sensing with my most penetrating skills. Danger indeed loomed, but it was not yet close enough to touch us. For now the Fellowship was safe. I would keep all my senses alert, but at the moment, I could turn my attention to Boromir.
Glancing down, I watched him, standing there, leaning his weight back on one leg, his arms crossed over his stomach, his eyes downcast and his face locked in dark disdain. How exhausted he looked, how melancholy. A surge of compassion washed over me. What was it about this young human that touched me so? I often caught him gazing at Aragorn or myself with ardent fascination, as though trying to work something out in his mind. I longed to gather him up and hold him closely for a while, speak soothingly to him, recount that long story-song he liked, The Fall of Gil-galad, and lull him to sleep in my arms.
He had quickly taken to the intimacy of being held, ever since that first time when I had all but forced him to accept it, the night we both suffered the remaining taste of soap in our mouths. He now clearly relished nestling with both Aragorn and myself. I would oft return from the watch to find them sleeping, arms draped around each other. And when Aragorn would take the watch and I remained in camp, Boromir would shyly wriggle closer until he was near enough for me to reach out and scoop him into my arms. He felt good there, sleeping, settled, trusting. This young man stirred the strangest ache within me, a peculiar longing to care for him, protect him in a way that would surely shock his warrior sense of self-reliance. Aragorn shared this same urge.
“Perhaps it is something in Boromir’s eyes,” Aragorn said yesterday when we lay entwined and resting after gathering the athelas and between bouts of passion. “Something in his gaze, the way in which he pauses when I give him a command, something . . . .”
“Mild,” I had said. “Almost fragile. Uncertain.”
“Aye, as though he is listening closely to my every word, so that he will not fail in whatever duty I have asked of him.”
“Ahh, that is it, melleth nin. Exactly.”
Aragorn sighed. “My poor fledgling.”
“The name fits him well,” I said. “At times he does seem boyish, especially when he is so desperate to impress.”
“‘Desperate to impress.’ Aye. You do indeed see him as I do, beloved.” Aragorn rolled atop me and leaned on his forearms. He grew quiet, focusing on my hair, his fingers playing with the strands; then he said, “I thought that I was perhaps still viewing him as the little boy I had known long ago.”
“You are, in a manner of speaking.” I smoothed back his cascading locks, tucking them behind his ear. “You first knew him as that little boy, and regardless of how capable a man he has become, there shall ever be a part of you that clings to that memory. It yet lives within you, Estel.” He gazed at me, rapt and quiet.
“He is a powerful warrior now,” I continued, sliding my palms along his strong back, “Captain of the White Tower. A great leader of men, worthy of command. But Boromir is more than that, especially to you and me. It may be that we stir something unique within him, encouraging him to lower his guard just enough that we might glimpse his uncertainty. I doubt he means to do so, for he longs to prove his worth to us. But perhaps, within the deepest part of him, Boromir knows that, with us, he is safe to be who he is. He knows not why or how this is, but it is.”
I paused and watched my cherished Ranger take this in. Of course, he already knew everything I had just told him. Little slipped past Aragorn’s Dúnedain instincts. He knew well the hearts of those he held dear. But it assured him to hear me state a truth we both understood. I slid my hands down and cupped his smooth bottom, lightly, not as I would touch him after our talk when the fires within us surged once more.
“I think it has been a very long time since this young one has had anyone to care for him in the special manner you and I share.” I patted one cheek softly. “He bestows that disciplinary care on others, but he struggles to accept its comfort for himself.”
Aragorn frowned. “He was stunned when I first spanked him, and the second time as well. Later that night he spoke of it happening to him long ago, in earlier times of reckless youth, but my guess would be that it is near fifteen, perhaps even twenty years since he felt such care.”
Sorrow filled my warm-hearted Ranger’s gaze. I sighed and said, “No matter. He is with us now, and we shall make up for much lost time. He is still your ‘fledgling,’ my beloved.”
At times Aragorn’s eyes lit up from inside with such tenderness it took my breath away. “Aye, elfling mine, and he is your little brother.”
“Do you wonder that I call him that?”
“Why would I wonder at such a thing?” He lowered his lips to my chest and kissed softly, then said in his sensuous, mesmerizing voice, “Within your heart, sweetling, there exists a love as measureless as all eternity. You call Boromir ‘little brother’ to bind him to you, to claim him in a manner unique unto him, to give him that gift.” Then Aragorn moved up and kissed me for a long while.
“Mmmm,” I purred when he finally released my mouth. “My poet-warrior.” I rolled over atop Aragorn and moved languidly against him, smiling when he sucked a sharp breath. “I doubt my little brother shall consider a trip over my knee to be much of a gift.”
“Perhaps not at first,” my Ranger said with his lovely fiery gaze. “But he will at last.”
Aragorn then slid his hand through my hair and drew my mouth down to his again, and we spoke no more of my little brother.
Now I watched Boromir, standing there so motionless that I wondered if he was dozing on his feet. I jumped down from the boulder, startling him.
“No hobbits to shield you,” I said. “No sparring. No sleeping halflings blanketing you.” I shook my head at him in mock sympathy. “My poor little brother. You must face me alone at last.”
He went still, a warrior reading a warrior, sensing aggression, readying himself. A shadow of uncertainty entered his gaze, but he recovered quickly, clearly remembering whom he was facing. He sniffed with scorn.
“You speak in riddles, sir, and I am too weary for elvish folly.”
“I dare say you are tired.” I flashed him a shrewd grin and began to remove my weapons. “Indulge me whilst I sum up a few facts. By my count you have been awake for over forty-eight hours. During that time you have played in the mud, washed out your own clothes, plus four sets of hobbit clothing, nearly frozen to death from staying too long in frigid lake waters, something we shall be discussing at great length momentarily --”
“No, sir!” he interrupted. “We shall not be discussing that at any length!” His eyes blazing, Boromir stiffened his stance and growled, “That is none of your concern. Thank you for your pains, but --” He backed up a few steps. “I have no interest in your tiresome scolding. So, if you will excuse me, I shall return to camp.”
“I do not excuse you, not for many things. You shall stay, sir, as per ordered. Or would you stomp back to camp like an unhappy child and tell Aragorn you chose to disobey his command?”
He looked shocked and livid, but he held his ground, anguish flickering in his eyes. I sensed something else there, though he shielded it quickly. No matter. I would learn of it soon enough. I laid my weapons on a boulder, then turned to him again.
“Now, to continue with my list . . . are you paying attention?”
He glared at me.
“To continue, you nearly froze to death from staying too long in frigid lake waters --”
“You said that already.”
“I am repeating it for emphasis, and do not interrupt me again. You nearly froze to death from staying too long in frigid lake waters.”
He rolled his eyes and heaved a sigh of exasperation.
“You took your own shift at the watch plus half of Gandalf’s. You did not sleep that night. You trained four hobbits for several hours in the morning. You served as bedding for Merry and Pippin in the afternoon. Again, you slept not. You undertook a full night’s march, and --” I paused to fasten a fierce scowl on him. “You carried Pippin and Frodo for nearly two hours before today’s dawn threatened to expose your behavior. Did you think that because I took the rear guard and was a fair distance behind you that I would not see? So, you claim that you are ‘tired,’ little brother? Oh, I dare say you are.”
“Very well,” he replied, his manner polite and strained. He sat on a boulder and looked at me, coolly impassive. “Scold away. It seems to make you feel better.”
Boromir had few reserves left with which to feign his display of arrogant courtesy. He was near trembling from the effort. My task was going to be so easy. Again, it hardly seemed fair. I almost regretted how one-sided all of this was about to be. Almost. “Oh, but I plan to do much more than scold, young brat of Gondor.”
Boromir shot to his feet, roaring, “NO! In fact, you insolent, pompous, arrogant slip of an elfling, you will stop this condescension at once!” He began stalking about in short random paces, making quick, furious little movements. “Enough! That is enough! You do not outrank me! Never tell me what to do! And do not shame me, nor scold me, nor threaten me so insultingly! And never again call me a brat! Not ever! Are you paying attention?”
Well. Quite an impressive temper my little brother boasted. I sat down next to my bow and quiver, drew my knees up and leaned my forearms upon them to watch Boromir unreservedly explode from exhaustion, anger, and countless other dark inner torments. “I am,” I replied. I doubted he expected an answer, but it seemed only polite.
“We are equals you and I! Not Lieutenant and Corporal. Equals!” He halted his tirade and darted a bewildered gaze my way. “What?”
“I am. Paying attention.”
“Oh. Well . . . .” He blinked, wiggled the pommel of his sword, cleared his throat and shifted tactics, going on in a stern, more controlled tone. “Good. I-I am sorry to be forced to speak to you so firmly, Legolas.”
“Oh,” I said pleasantly with a slight shrug. “It is all right.”
He frowned at me warily. “I do not wish to offend you. But your treatment of me over the past few days, has been improper, sir. It is unbefitting to a warrior of my standing. I shall tolerate it no longer. What right have you to lecture me? I cannot fathom what made you think you could talk to me as you did at the lake and again at the fire last night.”
“The night before last,” I said. “We marched last night.”
“Oh. Indeed.” He sank down wearily on his boulder again and passed a hand over his brow, muttering, “The night before . . . aye . . . last night we marched. But . . . what I mean to say . . . .” He sighed heavily. “It is not your place to threaten me, or to issue me commands, or to treat me as a subordinate. I am not a wee halfling. I deserve to be treated . . . .”
He went on rebuking me for a while. I studied him, estimating how much energy he had left and how much longer I should let him talk. He would need some strength to fight me off. It seemed more merciful to move on rather than letting him further tax himself. He began to look so woebegone and alone and drained that I could allow this to continue no longer.
I rose and said, “Very well. You have had your say, and I have heard you out. You spoke well, Boromir. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and concerns with me. And now, please be so kind as to remove your weapons and set them aside, that we may get on with what I brought you here to do.”
He stared at me, frozen in astonishment. But it was time for him to leave the lonely, dark place where he was trapped, and come into the embrace of my care.
“Come, little brother,” I said firmly. “I told you at the lake that we were not finished with the matter of your willful stay in that water. Perhaps you do not realize what a perilous thing you did that day.” I sauntered towards him. “So I intend to make you fully aware of the seriousness of your act. Endangering yourself so recklessly is inexcusable. I shall not allow you to harm yourself, nor sacrifice your wellbeing when there is no need. Aragorn shall not permit it either. But because I discovered you in your near-frozen state, I am afforded the right to discipline you for it.”
Boromir again shot to his feet, his eyes bright with alarm. His hand flew to his sword and he began to draw. Then he halted, stunned. He glanced down at what he was doing, then back up at me, his gaze bewildered.
I paused and said, “Time to face the consequences of your actions, little brother. That name is more than an endearment to me. I take my role as your big brother seriously, as you are about to find out. You need disciplining, and I intend to see to it. So you shall go over my knee, and you shall be spanked, and when I am through with you, little one, you will never again dare to risk yourself so foolishly. Now, drop your weapons and have at me as you will, or do you intend to draw your sword?”
I couldn’t help it. I laughed. I actually laughed in the elf’s face. Had I a bit more sleep, I would have curbed my offensive reaction, but my endurance had been wavering half an hour earlier when Aragorn ordered me out here, and now it had fled completely, taking with it any hope of tact. But, Valar help me, it was simply too funny. Slight, pretty Legolas was going to spank me. Honestly, it was hilarious.
But Legolas didn’t so much as flinch. He just stood there, watching me with his unearthly, infuriating calm. No reaction. It was positively freakish. And yet, I couldn’t help admiring such restraint. If anyone had laughed in my face when I had taken an aggressive stance against him, I’d have readily abandoned my forbearance and Valar help the cur. These elves simply weren’t human. Again, I exploded with laughter, my own inner joke setting me off.
I really did regret my rude behavior then, especially after that second outburst. Regardless of the absurdity of his threat, Legolas did not deserve to be laughed at, so I coughed back my chuckling and said, “Oh, forgive me, my friend. My lack of sleep robs me of my manners.”
He laughed. “Think nothing of it,” he said, his voice mild . . . tolerant, even. “Your bad manners are forgiven. Pippin can rarely control his outbursts, either. Such behavior is understandable in little ones.”
I sobered immediately. Well. I could only take that as an insult, which was certainly how he meant it. Pippin was adorable, but I had no desire to be compared to the impulsive young ‘tween. Of course, Legolas knew that. Another gauntlet hurled. Very well. I was engaged.
“It is just that, well --” I snorted. “Look at you! Beautiful Legolas, delicate Legolas. Graceful as a dancer, lighter than air.” I chuckled again, then fastened him down with what Faramir liked to call my ‘ominous grin of intent.’ “You may indeed be deadly with your pretty little bow, sir, but I have twenty pounds on you, all of it muscle, at the risk of sounding immodest.”
“Pray do not worry, little brother. Your lack of modesty is not in question.”
I paused. I had to think about that for a moment. Sadly, my reasoning was not up to full capacity. But it felt like another insult. I decided to be direct. “Was that an insult, sir?”
“What a waste of time,” he said with a sweet smile. “Come, little one. You are in no shape for verbal sparring, and in even less shape for it physically, I fear. But --” He heaved a sigh. “There is no escaping the inevitable. You are spoiling for a fight. So remove your weapons that we may move on, and do so quickly, lest I am forced to remove them for you.”
For a moment I was too stunned to react. I couldn’t recall if I’d ever been so openly ridiculed. I hadn’t ever been so openly ridiculed! The shock of it roared through me. My blood surged. My breath quickened. Very well! I reached down, unbuckled my belt, removed my sword and laid it aside.
Turning back to Legolas, I found no triumph in his eyes, but rather a gaze of inner certitude, a poise that was even more maddening than an openly superior gloat. For the first time, I felt a flash of foreboding.
He started towards me. My years of training and experience as a warrior surged forth, quelling my weariness. I readied myself for whatever he threw at me. But all he did was grab my upper arm in a firm grasp, spin me around and start dragging me towards the closest boulder, the one I’d just vacated. Again, I was engaged.
I yanked my arm away. It didn’t budge. I yanked harder. Again, nothing. And Legolas seemed unaffected. He just kept dragging me with him. I did the only thing I could; I dropped to the ground, dead weight. But a wrenching pain shot into my shoulder! He had not let go. I cried out ere I could stop myself.
Legolas looked down at me in alarm. “Ai! My poor little brother!” He lowered my arm to keep me from dangling so painfully. “Stop that at once!” he scolded.
I looked up at him, his fair features now clouded with disapproval, and a brutal ache burst in my chest, bringing with it a wash of that cold reality I’d been fighting to subdue for two days and nights.
I’d forfeited the regard of my cherished Thorongil and this magnificent elf, whom I’d come to love so quickly. I had done that. I had invited this despair. And the anguish of that staggering loss ripped into me. I was sitting in the dirt, alone, on the outside of a kinship that had stirred my heart in ways I hadn’t thought possible. Their affections had been too sweet and too brief, and now I was isolated again, having tasted that sweetness enough to be shattered by its loss.
I had nothing left, nothing but this ferocious grief thundering through me. Nothing left to lose, so I growled and thrashed wildly in his grasp, forcing Legolas to reach for me with his other arm.
“I said ‘stop that,’ my warrior brat,” Legolas commanded. “You are hurting yourself.”
“Then release me!” I shot back, still writhing.
“I think not.”
I snarled, brought both feet up and kicked Legolas in the chest, sending him flying. Free now, I struggled to my feet, but was instantly tackled about the waist by a blur of elf. He hurled me to the ground on my back, a pained ‘oooph’ bursting from my chest, and he scrambled atop me. Pinning my wrists on either side of my head, Legolas settled upon me, watching me struggle and gasp. He wasn’t winded in the least. He just studied me quietly.
I could throw him off. I could. He was just an elf! A wispy slip of an elf!
I strained. I wrenched. But I couldn’t buck up. I couldn’t kick him. I could barely move! It made no sense. He wasn’t heavy, so why did it feel as though a troll perched atop me? He held my arms still with a force that threw me into a swift panic. Again and again I used all my strength to break his hold, with no results. None. Legolas just sat there, waiting with exasperating calm.
I’d never felt this before. Never. Not since becoming an adult. I’d felt this helpless as a child and a youth, when practicing with someone bigger than I was. But childhood had long since passed and this was not practice sparring. Dire consequences awaited me if I failed to come out on top, and right now, Legolas was most assuredly on top.
It was ghastly. It couldn’t be real. I was simply tired. He had gained a quick advantage, caught me by surprise. Underhanded elf! He’d tricked me somehow, because this couldn’t be happening! It could not!
I lay still for a minute then exploded again, hoping to catch him unawares. It did. He blinked in surprise. But, frighteningly, my effort made little other difference. Legolas still sat there, leaning over me, keeping my wrists pinned and watching me. As each of my attempts failed, my panic increased.
“Shhhhhh, little brother,” he said when I finally lay exhausted. “There, there now. Settle down. You see? ‘Tis as I said – you truly are too weary for this naughtiness.”
Oh, no. He was not going to start using that word.
“Such helplessness is a new experience for you. It must be alarming,” he went on. “This is how the little ones feel, you know, when we ‘big people’ deal with their misbehavior. They cannot fight us, but they are oddly adorable when they try. As you are now, little brother. Most genuinely adorable.”
Adorable? I couldn’t think of anything foul enough to say to him. It was just as well since I had no intention of inviting a soaping from this elf. But ohhh, how I fumed!
“Pippin fought Aragorn gloriously, though,” he said, “Such fire! And he fought that way because he so desperately wanted Aragorn’s attention. Poor little Took. He needed to be spanked to atone for his naugh --”
“No! Stop! Do not use that word!”
He released a soft chuckle. “Very well. But you see my point. And you are settling down nicely. That is better. Just breathe easy for me. Ahhh, good boy.”
Had I not been so weary I would have exploded again. But all I could do was lie and try to block out his indulgent tone and his sympathetic gaze. I closed my eyes and removed my mind, concentrating on breathing, distancing myself from the feel of his weight on my body, his strong hands on my wrists, the ends of his hair tickling my face – wretched elf! He was doing that on purpose! I opened my eyes to glare up at him.
Legolas smiled beautifully. “Are you going to behave yourself now?”
If it would get me out of this position, I’d agree to anything, well, almost. “Aye.”
He looked dubious, but he nodded nonetheless and climbed off me. The moment I had my bearings again, I went after him, taking a new stratagem. Minutes later we lay on our sides, Legolas behind me, my back locked to his front, his arms fastened around me and his legs wrapped around mine. I was tied and held immobile by elven limbs.
This made no sense! I writhed uselessly once more, my dread mounting anew. It was awful. Awful! Why he was doing this? Oh yes, the icy water. But, again, why was that his concern?
“Now, what did that naughty effort get you, hmm?” Legolas murmured against my ear.
I squeezed my eyes shut, past thinking. I could merely feel his vise-like arms enclosing me, listen to anything he chose to say. Oh, I squirmed, but only because he allowed me to squirm. At times he permitted no movement of any kind, holding me completely immobile when I strained, and at times he would allow me to wrench about a bit, making clear his superior strength. Simply awful.
Finally he nuzzled his face against my hair, sighed, and said, “Do you not understand, my naïve little brother? I know you have no experience with elves, but hear me now: I have three times your strength.”
No. I shook my head. No. Impossible.
“Aye! Do not shake your head at me, obstinate brat. It is true. Three times your strength. You present no more challenge to me than a hobbit would to you. So why pursue this silly tussling further? The result will ever be the same.”
I shook my head again. It couldn’t be true. No.
Suddenly he sighed and let me go. We both scrambled to our feet. Warily, I watched him standing there, leaning back on one leg, hands on his hips, frowning at me like a tutor having to explain the same lesson yet again to an idle student.
“Ai! The stubbornness of men,” he muttered. “Very well. Let us get this over with. Do your worst. Come. Best me, little brat.”
After four attempts, each ending with the same result – Legolas restraining me easily within minutes – I once again lay locked against him as we had been before. But now I was aching, gasping and near tears with frustration. I trembled with disbelief. I was actually frightened. Not of Legolas, but of this unique feeling.
He was indeed stronger than I was. Oh, much stronger. I shook with the realization. Legolas . . . stronger than me. No lithe, green willow, but a mighty warrior, mightier than I could have imagined. And he had been toying with me, indulging me, allowing me to prove his truth. I was never going to best him.
I felt ridiculous. I felt lost, stripped of something I’d valued, a truth that was comforting in its surety. What else was I wrong about? What else was not as it seemed? What did I have to offer if not my strength?
Legolas began speaking again, his lips close enough to my ear to send fresh shivers up my spine. “Shhhh, little brother. I understand. This new feeling of helplessness must be terrifying. But I would not have you tremble so. I am here, sweetling. Release it now. Let it go.”
I shuddered and groaned. What was he talking about? Let what go? What was he doing? He sounded almost . . . tender. But no. I was hearing what I wanted to hear. I closed my eyes, feeling lightheaded, too fatigued in mind and body and spirit to try reasoning anything out.
“Mmmm.” Legolas purred. “Aye, very good.”
What was he talking about? Suddenly I felt something on my cheeks, something cold and wet – I was crying. I lay there, helpless and silently crying. The shock of it rippled through me. I released a few soft sobs. ‘Let it go.’ So, this was what he’d meant.
But a sudden great fear burst inside me. I could not let this go! Nooooo, I most certainly could not! Let go my grief from the loss of this very comfort and care? No. That was too much to let go.
I sucked a big breath, held it, then slowly released it and went limp. No more. No. No more.
“Ah,” Legolas whispered. “I see. Very well. Come then. Let us purge this in a more effective manner.”
He released me, flipped me onto my back and sat astride me once more. Feeling him unfasten the clasps of my surcoat, I opened my eyes, but I pulled back further inside my head, becoming a casual observer to what he was doing.
“There are far too many clothes to work through here,” he muttered.
Ohhhh . . . I couldn’t watch! I squeezed my eyes shut again. He climbed off me, pulling me up into a sitting position, then lifted my arms and yanked my shirt and mail over my head. I now wore only my grey undershirt from the waist up. I was then pulled to my feet and lifted off the ground!
My eyes flew open. I gasped and grabbed at his back. Valar help me! Legolas had absolutely picked me up! Cupping his hands under my backside, he carried me towards a wide boulder sitting under the one small, scraggly tree in the area. This was more than I could bear!
“Legolas, put me down! I can walk! Please, put me down!”
I groaned, awash with humiliation, horribly aware that it was about to get worse. Now at his chosen boulder, he sat and slung me down over his lap as though I weighed no more than a halfling. I covered my burning face with my palms, groaning again, feeling him adjust me until I was situated in the manner he desired. He’d sat near the end of the boulder so that my upper body and my thighs rested on the rock, but my legs below my knees hung free. Ah. So I could kick.
I fought envisioning what this must look like, failing miserably. Burying my face into the crook of my elbow, I shuddered and knotted my free hand into a fist. This couldn’t be happening. I couldn’t be where I was.
“Are you comfortable?” he asked.
I was not here. I was not.
“Answer me, little one.”
He lifted my undershirt, then pinched my backside. I jumped.
“You are lying comfortably?”
I felt his hand stroke the back of my head, his fingers sliding through my hair. “Shhh, easy, sweetling. We are just getting started. But let me assure you at the outset that I shall not permit you to withdraw to some private place within. You shall stay with me, fully aware of everything I am doing to you. So you shall answer me when I ask you questions, that I may know you are listening, and feeling, and aware.”
I couldn’t hold back the sob that escaped me, or the one that followed it. Full submission. Legolas was demanding nothing less. And he was clearly planning to wrench it from me. I trembled with anger and fear, a painful shard lancing my throat.
“Shhh, hush now, little brother,” he murmured. “Softly now. All will be well. I shall not leave you alone with your sorrow. I shall take care of you.”
His words tumbled into the confusion of my mind. What he was saying? Take care of me? Was he not simply here to discipline me for my disobedience to orders and my dangerous stunt at the lake? He was angry with me, disappointed in me, disapproving of my behavior. He was dealing with an insubordinate. What had that to do with ‘taking care?’
But then Legolas pulled down my breeches, pushing them all the way to my knees, and at the kiss of cool air on my backside all thoughts shut down and another sob flew from me.
“Mmmm.” He purred again, caressing my bottom. “My charming little brother.”
I burned and quivered with embarrassment, longing to vanish, an anguished moan grinding in my throat. His sweet words played through my mind. He couldn’t mean them, though, and it hurt to hear them, and . . . and suddenly a ferocious rage exploded within me! These false endearments were cruel! How could he stoop so low?
I reared up, roaring, “Legolas, for the love of all that is blessed! Do what you must and be done with it! Treat me as you will! Discipline me all you desire! But do so with mercy, I beseech you! Do not degrade me with these false endearments. They are contemptible! They are p-painful to hear.”
A few heaving sobs burst free. “Aye, you must discipline me for my f-folly in the lake, and for disobeying orders in the mud. I know you m-must! But please, please, I beg you, do so honestly.”
More small desperate sobs, then: “I understand your disapproval, your anger! I no longer have your regard, neither yours n-nor Aragorn’s! I deserve to lose your care! I-I deserve to lose your affections! I-I know I cannot get your affections b-back! But please, s-sir! Since you must do this, p-please simply do it! Hear-hearing your soft words, makes plain all that I have los --”
The words suddenly caught in my throat. Legolas yanked me up, flipped me over and braced me, pulling me closer. I could scarce see him through the tears veiling my eyes. When I brushed them away I couldn’t believe what I saw.
Legolas looked horrified. I had never seen such an expression on his face. The look he gave me on the lakeshore when he discovered I was freezing came close, but it wasn’t this. His eyes were huge and dark, glassy.
“What?” he breathed. “What did you say?”
I was so startled I stopped crying. Well . . . what had I said? I fearfully ran it back through my mind . . . nothing. I’d said nothing but the truth. So I repeated it as best I could, trying to separate my emotions from the facts. But I looked down as I spoke, unable to concentrate while facing that intense look of his.
“I-I asked that you simply discipline me without using all those endearments, those phrases like, ‘I am here,’ and, ‘I shall take care of you,’ and, ‘ch-charming little br-br’--” A renegade sob replaced the last word. I sucked it back, and went on: “It-it makes this so much harder, you s-see.”
“Look at me.”
I knew a command when I heard it. I obeyed.
Legolas still looked horrified. Thunderstruck and horrified. He seemed to barely be breathing, clearly struggling to hold in something huge. “What else did you say?”
I glanced off . . . what else . . . ? I narrowed my eyes . . . oh, yes.
“I-I said that I understood your disapproval and your anger and . . . umm . . . I knew I had lost your regard, yours and Aragorn’s.” My throat tightened again with that shard of pain. I swallowed and went on. “And I-I said I deserved to lose your care and your affections, and I that knew I c-could not get t-those affections back.”
He was silent. I’d dropped my gaze again. And Legolas had told me to look at him! So I quickly glanced up.
Two tears trickled down his smooth cheeks. I stared at him, stunned. Then Legolas grabbed me and pulled me into an embrace that near forced all the air from my body.
Rocking back and forth, he clutched at me, his hands squeezing my clothing. He nuzzled his face against my hair. He trembled, more than I was trembling. He mumbled elvish words, over and over, anguished-sounding words. I longed to know what he was saying. I could scarce think straight.
But, oh! Ohhhhh, he felt so good! His arms, his touch, his closeness, his warmth! Oh, Legolas felt so, so, sooo good! He grasped me, closely, and I wound my arms around him, nestling my head against his shoulder, weeping openly at the perfection of the moment. I rubbed and rubbed my face into his silky hair and up against his neck, and I breathed in his scent, his pure scent, so alluringly elvish, so much my Legolas, my big brother. Ohhh, he felt so good. So, so, sooo good!
I drifted there, struggling to slow down time, yearning to lock away every second to keep forever. And when he began to speak, his voice that warm, elvish purr, it took me a moment to discern that I was here, that this was real and that I was awake.
“This is why!” he murmured. “This is why you were so melancholy. Ah, sweetling, you were not sulking about a scolding, nor pouting about your loss of clothes. You were heartbroken. My poor beloved little brother! Your gentle heart was shattering.”
I heard tears in his voice, and I felt him quivering, and I knew that Legolas had started weeping. Weeping. For me. And yet . . . yet, what was he saying?
“I . . . .” Swallowing hard, I searched for words. “Legolas, I don’t under . . . I don’t . . . what --?”
“I am sorry, little one.” He nuzzled my hair again, murmuring, “Sorry, so very sorry. Forgive me. I did not understand.”
I drew back to look at him, stunned by the sight of wet tear-trails glistening on his cheeks, and I reached over to wipe them away. Legolas released a soft smile and did the same to me, so bewildered I could merely follow his lead.
“You did not understand . . . . what?” I muttered. “What didn’t you understand?”
He sighed and gave his head a small sorrowful shake. “I did not understand the dreadful aspect of your suffering. I cannot comprehend how you could even imagine such a terrible --”
Legolas suddenly took hold of my arms and looked directly back at me. His eyes glittering, he said in a firm voice, “Heed me, little brother! You are as dear to me as you ever were! You are just as dear to Aragorn! Nothing has changed between us. Nothing! You never lost our affections, sweetling. If you had, we would not care that you had endangered yourself in icy waters. We would have been indifferent to your suffering. We would not be upset by what you had done to yourself.”
I stared at him, feeling lightheaded, my heart racing.
He shook his head again ruefully. “Ah, my stoic, silent little brother. How like Aragorn you are! Small wonder he loves you so. How I can love you both is beyond my reasoning. You are two stubborn humans who drive me to distraction!” And he smiled, beautifully.
I could only gape at him, his words spinning through my mind. ‘Love’ me? How could he love me? Aragorn ‘loved me so?’ My mouth hung open. I simply had no words. I might never speak again. Legolas brushed his hand over my hair once more, tucking it behind my ear. He ran the backs of his curled fingers down my cheek, still smiling softly and with openly fond affection.
“Sweetling, I am not angry with you. Aragorn is not angry with you. Aye, we were indeed upset with your dangerous behavior in the lake, but we were upset with what you did, little brother, not with you. You were punishing yourself in that freezing water. For some reason you thought you had done something terrible by playing in the mud --”
“But I disobeyed an order!” I interrupted.
He shook his head to silence me. “There were extenuating circumstances,” he said. “You were trying to stop Frodo. That was a noble deed. What happened after that simply happened, little one. Allow yourself the luxury of spontaneous fun. Let me ask you this: if I had been in your position, if you and Aragorn found me rolling in the mud with four hobbits, and all the circumstances had been the same, would you judge me as harshly as you judged yourself? Would you consider my behavior to be as inexcusable as you considered your own to be?”
I blinked, startled by his question and even more startled by my instant reply. “No.”
He smiled softly. “Nor would Aragorn or I or any of the others judge your behavior so. We did not. All your unforgiving thoughts were yours alone, little brother. You created them yourself.”
“But . . . but your anger . . . .” I quivered, close to something very real and large, something so splendid I could scarce allow myself to hope for it, and yet, here it was, right here before me, ready to be snatched up.
Legolas sighed again. “Aye. Oh, I was indeed angry. When you came out of that water I feared for your very life.”
What? This time I shook my head. “No. It was not that serious.”
“No?” His gaze darkened so swiftly I blinked. “You were insensible for a while! You probably think I held you but a few minutes, correct?”
I nodded, suddenly feeling uncertain.
“I held you for nearly fifteen minutes, little bratling brother. And most of that time I held you up, because your legs alone could not do so. I tell you truly, sir, you were insensible.”
I stared at him yet again, dumbfounded once more.
“Aye. I dared not move you, not even to pick you up and get you to the fire. Movement would likely cause you more pain. Your skin was so white I could near see through it. All I could think to do was to warm you with my body, rub you, try to get your blood moving, even though I knew how sensitive your skin had to be. And when your blood did begin to flow, your frozen limbs coming back to life, ai! I could only imagine the anguish you suffered! You trembled violently and looked as though you were going to retch. I talked to you, and soon you began to hear me, and when you started reacting to my scolding words I knew you would be all right.”
Once more I could do nothing but gape at him. But his words loosened a memory. I suddenly began to recall that hot, red blur of pain, racking my body, so intense I thought I was dying. I was senseless, drifting in and out. A weakness drained my limbs and I noticed through that red haze that my useless legs would not support me when I stumbled from the buoyancy of the water.
But something did keep me on my feet, rather someone, and that someone murmured to me, his voice soothing, warm, reaching for me, demanding my attention:
‘Hold on, little brother, hold on to me! Boromir! Hear me, sweetling! Listen to my voice. Do not dare ignore me! Heed me, my stubborn Gondorian bratling! Hold on, hold on . . . do not leave us, my beloved little brother . . . .’
Legolas. Valar help me! He had saved me that day. I turned to him now, focusing on him again, and I found him glaring at me anew.
“Ah, so now you recall,” he said, nodding. “Tell me – you have spoken of Faramir. If your little brother had done this thing, if you had found him in a near frozen state because he was busy washing out hobbit clothes, punishing himself for something he had invented in his own mind, would you have been angry?”
A ripple of shock coursed through me. If Faramir had done what I had done, would I have been angry? By all my ancestors! I would have upbraided him until his ears were scorched! I would have blistered his little bottom so thoroughly that every time he thought of a lake his backside would tingle. I would have . . . I drew a sharp breath, blinking at Legolas.
“Aye,” he said. “You would have been livid. You would have admonished him. You would have taken him over your knee and spanked him until his backside glowed and he could no longer bellow. But would you have stopped loving him?”
I could barely breathe. All I could manage was a slow shake of my head, then that huge ‘something’ inside me exploded and a great sob burst forth. I quivered in his arms, shattering.
“Nay, sweetling,” Legolas said in a hushed voice. “Of course you would not have stopped loving him. You would be livid because you loved him so. His carelessness, his disregard for himself and his safety would have frightened you, and fear often becomes anger when the danger has passed. Perhaps you have felt this before with your own beloved little brother.
“That is the anger you felt from Aragorn and me, precious brat, that anger born of fear. I could not spank you that night, not as angry as I was. But I could beleaguer you. I could keep your clothes from you. I could use that ‘n’ word you detest.” He flashed a little grin.
So much rushed in at me I felt dizzy. And in that moment, Legolas leaned in and kissed me softly. Then, with casual ease he flipped me over his lap, settling me into place once more. I tensed and shook. Weeping softly, I buried my head in my arm and surrendered myself to him.
“Shhh,” Legolas said, rubbing my bottom. “I understand how you could make such a mistake, little one, for you are only human, and you are so like another impossibly troublesome human I know and love that I am not surprised by such lunacy. Stubborn, irrational young mortals!”
He sighed and patted my bottom and said, “But remember this, sweetling: had Faramir done such a thing you would have been angry with your little brother’s deed, even more so, I vow, had he tried to punish himself for it. He would not deserve such harsh treatment. He would certainly be in no position to decide such a thing for himself. But, most importantly, would it be Faramir’s place to discipline himself?”
I shook my head. And that was when his first swat came, swift and fiery and horribly strong. I reared up and gasped. Oh please! Pleeeeease let them not all feel like that first one! Surely Legolas was just trying to get my attention! He had it.
“Answer me, little one.”
Another wicked swat.
“No! No, sir!”
“No. Big brothers take care of their little brother’s discipline. Is that not so?”
Another powerful spank.
“AHH! Aye! Aye, sir!”
Legolas paused and leaned over me, saying,
“Boromir, I call you ‘little brother’ because you are that to me, because I care for you that much. You have never had to answer to a big brother before, but those days are over, little one. You are about to understand that. I intend to show you exactly what happens to naughty little brothers when they have earned the displeasure of their big brothers. And as I am blistering your pretty bottom, keep this in mind: You and I are indeed equals in all areas save one – when you are in need of disciplining, I most certainly do outrank you. As your big brother, this is indeed my role, and it is my right. And you are never to question my right again. Do you understand, little brother?”
I was quivering so violently I could, once again, barely speak. But this was more than anxiety over what was probably about to be one of the worst tannings I had ever endured – this was relief. It was solace. My tears would be as much about that as they would be about my ‘big brother’s’ single-minded devotion to delivering a memorable spanking.
“I unders-stand, Legolas.”
He patted my bottom again and then he was quiet for a moment. I lay shaking, waiting, wondering what to expect next. Finally he said, “Good. Then there is but one more concern. If you do not want things to be this way between us, Boromir, you must tell me so now. Do you want this? Do you accept everything that comes with it? Do you want to be my little brother?”
My shudders caught in my throat. Did I want this? This attention? This commitment? This care? Would I willingly accept what I’d just despaired over losing, when I had not lost it at all? Did I want to be cared for as I cared for Faramir, cared for by this glorious elven Prince?
“Aye!” I cried, and fell into soft weeping again, my voice breaking and ragged as I muttered. “Aye, Legolas . . . please, I-I accept . . . y-your little br-brother.”
End of Chapter V
Boundaries Redefined to be continued . . .