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A Measure of Grace
“It’s because Yuledays are over,” Merry said. He turned to me, his face clouded with quiet frustration and sorrow. “Pip often gets a bit gloomy when the holiday season is over. I guess we’ve told you that.”
“Aye,” I said, recalling the evening before last, the final night of Yuledays when Pippin’s strange moodiness began. “That’s why you got him talking about his favorite Yule season the night before last when we were packing up to begin the march again, and then everyone joined in, and Pippin was pulled out of his foul mood. A fine strategy, sir.”
“Thanks, Boromir. If only it had stuck.” Merry sighed, picked up another branch for the fire back at camp, added it to the stack in his arms and cast me a skeptical glance. “I suppose everyone knew what I did to him yesterday morning when we stopped to make camp – when I took him off alone. Of course, Legolas knew since he had to escort us, but he kept a respectful distance and I’m sure he said nothing.”
I chuckled softly.
“I know,” Merry said. “He didn’t need to say anything.”
“Nay, indeed he did not,” I said. Pippin’s cries had drifted over the campsite in the early morning hours, the rest of the Fellowship foolishly trying to disregard what was quite impossible to ignore. Grabbing another small log, I said, “Your wee cousin has a wail that would stop a balrog in its tracks.”
“That’s true. It was only a ‘settling’ spanking, of course. You’ve all heard me give Pippin those. And it usually helps him calm right down. But this time . . . .” Merry stood still and gazed off and sighed again. “Afterwards he was fine, and right up until we went to sleep, so I thought the grumpys were finally over.”
“But when we woke up last evening we were right back to where we started, Pippin in a foul mood.” And although I didn’t say it aloud, an unhappy Pippin could be downright insufferable. It rarely happened, for the little Took was the merriest of souls, ever full of mirth and overbrimming with cheer. So seeing him in such a state sent a ripple of melancholy through us all. The hobbits seemed the least affected, but of course they had seen Pippin in the throes of post-Yuledays gloom and so seemed to take it in stride. But even they were becoming troubled now.
“Mmm. And the thing is,” Merry went on, “I know how much he hates feeling that way. I know he can’t stand himself when he’s acting like a grouchy brat, but he can’t make himself stop.” He turned to me, concern knotting his forehead and a frown etching his face so deeply that it was plain why Frodo referred to his expression as ‘the Brandybuck Scowl.’ “You know what I mean, Boromir?”
“It’s worse this year than it’s ever been. He’s never been this affected by the end of Yuledays. Never, ever. I . . . I’m beginning to wonder if Lord Elrond was right, about Pippin being too young to be part of the Fellowship,” he said in a low voice, it clearly paining him to say it. I was surprised that he did. “He really is so much younger than the rest of us, and . . . well, it’s like you and I talked about right before we all ended up in the mud, remember?”
I nodded. Oh, how I remembered! And the memory brought with it an instant hot surge, considering what happened after that mud incident.
“My Pip is still such a ‘tween, and in some ways that comes out, like now. And I just . . . I don’t know what to . . . .” And Merry cast me a sadly lost look.
“I think poor Merry is flummoxed,” I’d said in a conversation I’d had earlier with Aragorn and Legolas.
“Aye,” Aragorn said. “He was startled to see Pippin’s sullen mood reappear this evening when they awoke.”
Legolas said, “Pippin was whimpering and muttering in his sleep again. He repeated the word ‘Yuledays’ several times, just like before.”
Aragorn gave him a startled frown. “I did not hear that.”
Legolas grinned. “Little wonder. You two were both sleeping like babes.”
Aragorn and I scoffed. “Babes indeed!” I growled.
Legolas laughed. “Innocent little warrior-boy babes.”
“Insolent elf!” I cried.
“Aye, he is most ill-mannered,” Aragorn said, feigning insult well. “But, getting back to our problem with a certain irritable young Took . . . .”
And I suddenly recalled something about Faramir. I told them about it, then proposed a plan. “Provided Merry is agreeable,” I said.
“Aye,” Aragorn said. “Merry should be consulted. For this is not a disciplinary matter.”
“It is a matter of compassion,” Legolas said.
“And yours is a fine plan, my fledgling,” Aragorn said. “Which you should carry out.”
“Of course.” Legolas cast me a grin. “Who else? Your story. Your plan. And Merry and Pippin are exceedingly fond of you, little brother.”
“They are fond of all of us,” I muttered, secretly flattered by their esteem. Legolas and Aragorn exchanged that little smile of affection they shared when it was clear they were thinking me quite precious. I flushed.
“You shall do a fine job of assisting our troubled youngest,” Aragorn said. “Those are my orders, Captain Boromir. See you carry them out, sir.”
Legolas grinned and looked off, and with a sweet warmth curling my stomach, I said, “Aye, my lord.”
I now returned Merry’s sad look. Poor lad. He appeared burdened with more than just the enormous load of firewood he had gathered. Heading for a fallen log I’d spotted nearby, I said, “Merry, come here. There’s something I’d like to talk to you about.” And when we had put down our loads and were settled together on the log, I told him the story of Faramir that I’d told my two beloved companions earlier, and I told him what we had then discussed, and what I’d like to do to help Pippin.
“I’m tired, Boromir.”
“We shan’t be long, Pip. Come on. There’s a good lad.”
“Well, why didn’t you and Merry bring more firewood?” he grumbled. “You were both out for hours and hours and you came back with just a few pieces each.”
I scoffed lightly. “We weren’t out for ‘hours and hours.’”
“You were. And if you weren’t gathering wood, just what the wibble were you doing?”
I halted and stared at him. “What the what?”
“The wibble. Wibble. Don’t you say ‘what the wibble’ in Gondor?”
“What the . . . wibble?” I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing. “N-No!”
He shot me his stubborn little scowl. “Delighted to be amusing you so, my lord,” he snarled. And he grabbed a big branch and slammed it down on the pile of wood in his arms, right on top of his forefinger.
Pippin’s firewood went flying and he jumped around, first shaking his hand, then clutching it in his other hand, all the while spewing forth a wealth of obscenities that would’ve made Gondor’s coarsest troops proud. Once again I longed to learn some of those elvish curses. They simply sounded so foul.
Dropping my wood, I closed on Pippin, seized him up and carried his squirming little self over to the same log where I had sat with Merry several hours earlier. Ignoring his struggles and his, 'Put me down’s! and his, 'Ow! Ow! Ow’s!' I managed to settle him on my lap and attempted to quiet him with my most sternly ordered, “Hush, Pippin! Enough! Stop that racket and let me see your finger.” He finally settled enough for me to examine the damage. After a brief check I turned to him with an exasperated frown.
“Pippin. There’s nothing there. Not even a scratch.”
“But it hurrrrrrrts!” Tears flooded Pippin’s eyes, and I knew that his finger wasn’t the cause. He was a troubled young hobbit who had just reached the end of his tether. “It does! It hurts, hurts, hurrrrrrrts!”
“All right,” I murmured in a soothing tone, trying to gather his rigid body closer. “Shhh, all right, Pip. There now. I’m sure it does hurt.”
“I know. Shhh. I’m sorry. I know it hurts. Of course it does. How could it not?”
“I would’na lie about it! I would’na do that! I canna help it if there is’na outright evidence of the hurt!”
There was certainly outright evidence of his distress, his homeland brogue thickening by the second. “Ah, but there will be,” I said. “I can tell. This shall bruise gloriously. Soon we shall see plenty of evidence.”
He blinked and studied me. “Really? Y-You think so, Boromir?”
“Positive. And it will likely swell, too.” I held his small hand in mine and rubbed my thumb over his hurt finger. “This is one of those wounds that presents slowly. As a warrior and a captain of Gondor I have seen many kinds of injuries, you know.”
Pippin’s eyes widened. “Ohhh. Aye.”
I brushed the curls from his forehead, murmuring, “And sometimes things that hurt a lot aren’t all that easy to see. In fact, sometimes the biggest hurts aren’t visible at all. Isn’t that so, sweetling?”
He studied me for a long moment, his eyes glassy with unshed tears. Then he dropped his gaze to our hands, watching my thumb stroke his sore finger. “Aye.”
“Suppose we just sit here for a while,” I said. “I’m sure Merry won’t mind. In fact, he and I sat right here earlier today when we had our talk.”
“You did? Right here? Ohh.” Pip thought for a moment, then he asked in a wobbly voice, “Will Aragorn mind, d’ya think?”
“Nay. Remember what Legolas said when we were setting up camp?”
“You mean when he came back from reconnoitering?”
“Aye. He said he perceived there to be no danger far and wide. So we are safe in these quiet woods, and Aragorn will not mind if we stay out for a while, just the two of us.”
Pippin watched me, seeming so very young and sad, as Merry had earlier, only much more so. I kissed his brow, then tried again to draw him close, easily succeeding this time. Turning his pliable body so that he could settle back against me, I wrapped my arms around his small and cuddly hobbit self, gathering him close.
I wondered if this felt as good to Pippin as it did to me. Six months ago I never imagined that I’d experience such a wealth of pleasure simply because a little hobbit was trustingly nestled on my lap, resting in my arms. But this was quite wonderful indeed, a ‘beyond mere words’ kind of wonderful, and when Pippin turned his head slightly, rubbing it against me, his hair brushing my jaw, I kissed those soft curls, then drifted for a while on the gentle pleasure of it all. We sat for some time, saying nothing, the soft sounds of the forest surrounding us.
But soon I had to focus my attention on what needed to be done, lest I allow our contentment to cloud my purpose. This was, after all, still a troubled young hobbit in my arms. But I let us enjoy this quiet peace for a little while longer, feeling it was best to let him become as relaxed as possible. Pippin was the one who finally broke the spell.
“Boromir?” he asked in a small voice.
“What did you and Merry do while you were out here?”
I paused, then said, “You.”
He sat up and turned a startled look my way. “Me?”
“Aye. Merry is worried about you. We all are.”
He blinked and dropped his gaze again, then he swallowed hard several times, clearly wrestling with several kinds of upset. Finally he murmured, “I dunna like to worry anyone.”
“I know. Merry knows that, too. But he cares about you too much to not be concerned, Pip. We all do.”
And that was it. Pippin let go a small sob, both arms went ‘round my waist and he buried himself against me once more, squeezing tightly. I held him closely while he shook and clutched me in that desperate grip. But I heard no crying. Pippin just held fast as though seeking something strong to help him contain that frightening source of upset within. Unluckily for this little one I intended to seek out that upset and rid him of it. We were off to an excellent start.
“I’m sorry, Boromir,” he finally ground out, his face still muffled against me. “I’m sorry for everything, for being so grouchy and for making people worry.”
I started rocking slightly. “I know.”
“I dunna like doing that, and I dunna like feeling this way.”
“I know. My little brother Faramir never liked it, either.”
He went very still, then he drew back again to stare at me, entirely curious. “Your little brother?”
“Mmm. You and Faramir are much alike.”
“Mmm. He is kind and gentle and full of lore and music and warmth, quick to laugh and to make others laugh, quick to forgive . . . .” Pippin was blushing, gazing at me in wonder, as though surprised by my evaluation of him. “Aye, you are indeed much alike. You two would get on well. Sometimes he suffered the same kind of melancholy you are going through now. Usually it was after some big wonderful thing had come and gone, after it was all over.”
“Like Yuledays indeed. Something dark and hurtful often hit him after Yuledays. And that’s what I was telling Merry about today, about Faramir, and about how he sometimes just couldn’t help feeling that strange upset. It reminded me of the way you’re struggling now. Merry agreed. And it comforted him, knowing that Faramir shared something similar to your problem.” Pippin nodded, fascinated. “There’s an old Gondorian saying,” I went on, “‘Sorrow loves society.’” I gave him a soft grin. “Not quite as poetic as ‘what the wibble,’ nevertheless, a true adage.”
I actually received a little Tookish grin for that, beautiful to behold. Then Pippin said, “We hobbits have a similar saying: ‘Calamity loves companionship.’ So, aye, my Merry would’ve felt a little better after hearing about Faramir. As a matter of fact,” he said with a sudden, atypical shyness, “I might be comforted hearing that story myself.”
“Then it will be my pleasure to tell you what I told your Merry,” I said.
And Pippin, being the clever Took that he is, darted me a shrewd glance before settling back against me again, saying, “As though you doubted I would want to hear it, sir.”
I chuckled softly, hugged him, and began, picking and choosing my words carefully as I had with Merry and changing a few key facts, such as Faramir’s true age at the time, hoping to safeguard my brother's pride should he ever meet these two little ones.
Boromir spoke quietly and in that tone of special tenderness he used when talking about Faramir. The deep rumble of his voice echoed within his chest, flowed into me through my back, then rumbled within me, too. It felt warm and safe and comforting, as it had earlier when he’d held me like this and we sat together, quiet and still, and time had seemed a distant thing.
I wondered if this felt as grand to Boromir as it did to me. Did it feel as grand to cuddle a hobbit on your lap as it felt to be that cuddled hobbit? Dunno, but as for me, I preferred things this way. Boromir’s arms were big and strongly muscled and when wrapped around me they near covered my whole front, sheltering me. Given the dangerous turns life was soon going to be taking for the lot of us, that sheltered feeling was truly beyond grand, a feeling beyond mere words. I could snuggle back against him and listen to his tale and let that comfort ooze through me.
Boromir’s special tone of tenderness, that deep resonant quality of his voice, was like a warm blanket for my cold and hurting insides. He spoke of Faramir with spellbinding devotion, and although my back was to him I could imagine the deep radiance in Boromir’s eyes. And he was right – Faramir’s experiences were much like my own.
“I always took a reconnaissance party out the day after the end of Yuledays,” Boromir began, “and we would be gone for several weeks. But one year Denethor asked that I remain and meet with a special representative from one of our allies in the south who was arriving several days after Yule.
“So I was there that year to witness my little brother’s struggle after Yuledays had ended. As I said, Faramir sometimes slipped into a vague gloom when some big event had come and gone, but I’d not seen him after Yuledays for many a long year.
“If I have not yet told you of Damrod, then ‘tis to my shame, for Damrod was, and remains to this day, like a second father to Faramir and me. I cannot remember a time when Damrod was not there, and as my brother and I grew he was ever beside us, our devoted, faithful and trusted guardian, our beloved friend and teacher. He was also my father’s greatest, truest and most unfailing warrior.
“Damrod was ever in either my company or Faramir’s and so he had ever been there with my little brother after Yule when Faramir would enter his difficult period.”
I lay back and listened to Boromir describe Faramir’s post-Yule behavior, the sulkiness and the dreary attitude and the growliness, and I wondered if I, too, was that miserable to be with. I couldn’t help myself --
“Am I that miserable to be with, too, Boromir?”
“Uhh . . . .” Silence.
I sighed. “Aye. All right. I know I am. Sorry to interrupt.” And I felt his kiss atop my head.
“‘Tis all right, sweetling. To continue --”
I listened on, and Boromir took his time, talking slowly, describing Faramir’s obvious sadness, and his behavior, and as he spoke I saw reflected in his words the very awfulness that entered me like a thick and heavy poison after the Yuledays season ended, traveling through my heart and my mind, bringing a eerie dejection I couldn’t understand and therefore couldn’t escape or fight.
Oh, how I hated it! Just purely hated it. Yuledays was a time of magic and wonder and delight. I reveled in every moment of it. And as it neared the end I would always tell myself that this year, this year I wouldn’t allow myself to indulge those dark feelings. I’d fight it. It wouldn’t win this year. All would be well. And as we removed the last of the decorations and ate the last of the rum-laced Yule pastries and packed away the holiday music scores I fought and fought the blackness I could see advancing upon me, roiling in like thick thunderclouds to engulf me and batter me down. And then, suddenly, there it would be and I’d feel like curling up and covering my head and moaning until the sadness went away.
That’s what Boromir was now describing, what Faramir had tried to tell him – about how this awfulness felt. And Faramir had given a goodly account of it, for not only was the feeling horrible, the fear of it was as well, the terrible mystery of it and of not knowing how to make it stop. I never, ever felt that way, save this one time of the year.
Why it started, I dunno. I’d felt it as a nipper, of course, but many hobbit little ones did when the Yuledays excitement was over and life became plain old life again. But it became bigger and darker the older I got, and it had become especially bad several years before Merry claimed me at a Yuledays party. I knew how badly he felt, watching me growl around year after year, being miserable until the grumpys finished running their course. But the year after Merry claimed me he did something new to me and things between us changed again.
Merry spanked me for the first time that year. Then, anguished by the darkness that began to overwhelm me again after the season was over, Merry gave me a day to try to shake it, which of course I couldn’t, then he spanked me again, a ‘settling spanking,’ he called it, not nearly as severe as the first spanking he’d given me, thank goodness, but a nonetheless sincere spanking given in the hopes that it would be comforting in that oddly unknowable way a spanking was.
And it worked. Blessed stars! It really did work! How it worked, I dunno. But I was pulled from that savage ugliness, pulled onto the safety of Merry’s lap, where nothing bad could touch me, where through this one extraordinary act the two of us were gifted with a measure of something huge and mysterious and loving and uniquely unlike anything we had ever known.
And during the few moments I’d been thinking all that over, Boromir had moved ahead in his story . . . Damrod and Boromir now had Faramir in his chamber and after confronting him with some of Faramir’s rather ruinous behavior, Damrod was about to spank him.
“So I stood witness whilst Damrod set about doing what he apparently did every year. Faramir was feeling belligerent, of course, and he decided to give our lieutenant a bit of a fight --”
“A fight?” I tried to picture this. “How old did you say Faramir was?”
Boromir paused. “I didn’t say.”
“Well, how old was he?”
Another quiet pause. “Twelve.”
“Twelve years old, and fighting a grown man? A warrior?”
Boromir shifted a little, then said, “My brother can be quite the headstrong little urchin.”
“I dare say! Is he a huge headstrong little urchin?”
Chuckling, Boromir said, “Nay, e’en now, full grown, he is a bit smaller than I am.”
“Well, I just dunna understand how he --”
“May I continue?”
“Please do. No, wait! You say Damrod was like a second father to you and Faramir, but, when you were children, didn’t your da, well, didn’t he ever spank you?”
Boromir went very still. “No. Never. That task always fell to Damrod. And now, may I continue?”
“Thank you. Damrod, of course, recognized Faramir’s need to struggle, even against the inevitable, but when he’d had enough the lieutenant simply picked up Faramir, tossed him over his knee, pulled down his breeches and began spanking him.”
This was only a tale, and I didn’t know Faramir, but he’d just been flung over a lap and was now getting his bare bottom spanked, so I couldn’t help wriggling in sympathy. This Damrod fellow sounded like the kind of big person who could deliver quite a serious spanking. I knew a few of those kinds of big people myself, and all of them were members of this Fellowship.
“I suppose I don’t need to tell you that Damrod could deliver quite a serious spanking,” Boromir said. I mewed and squished down further into his lap. “Aye, little one. You’re right. And it could be disconcerting to witness. I’m not all that certain Faramir wanted me there, although he didn’t protest and he likely would have if he’d had sincere objections. But I felt I needed to be there, for all the times in the past that I'd been absent, even though neither Faramir nor Damrod begrudged me that circumstance.
“So I stayed, and every year thereafter I waited a week to go out on reconnaissance and Damrod and I shared the responsibility of seeing to Faramir’s needs, as we had ever done when my little brother would slide into despair.”
“So, you and Damrod always gave Faramir settling spankings when that happened, and he was always helped?”
“Aye. Always. The way you were helped when Merry did the same for you. Only they weren’t ‘settling spankings,’ as you and Merry call them. Faramir’s spankings were, according to Damrod, a preemptive tactic.”
“A . . . what?”
“A preemptive tactic. For if Faramir didn’t get what he needed using one method, well, he might decide to intensify his efforts.”
I sat up and Boromir loosened his grip so that I could turn and look at him. “In other words, he might do something big and bad and dangerous to get himself in a lot of big, bad trouble and therefore get what he wanted?”
“Aye, sweetling. That’s it exactly.” Boromir grinned. “You see? You and Faramir are indeed much alike. And so, a preemptive tactic was needed to stop him ere he tried something dangerous.”
I thought that over. “But did Faramir ever do anything big and bad to get into big trouble?”
“Clever young Took,” Boromir said. “Nay. He didn’t.”
“But he might have done.”
He nodded. “He might have indeed.”
“So Damrod had to do what he did.”
“Aye. Damrod had to. Faramir’s cantankerous behavior would have been reason enough, but --”
“But a preemptive tactic was --”
“More . . . suitable,” Boromir said. “And certainly safer for Faramir. We never knew what my little brother might do if those dark feelings grew too big.”
Boromir was studying me with an alarming gleam in his eye, and all of a sudden he took my hands in his and said, “Pip, since you and Faramir have so much in common, I’m worried about what you might choose to do now, since the spanking Merry gave you yesterday doesn’t seem to have helped you.”
He was right. Merry’s settling spanking had certainly been sincere, as all my Merry’s spankings were, but Boromir was right – it hadn’t worked. It hadn’t worked! And suddenly I recalled the sadness in Merry’s eyes when he saw that the darkness hadn’t let go of me, that it was still making me growl and snarl, unhappiness pouring through me, and now that cold, dark, hurtful awfulness crashed down upon me once more, a huge, frigid wave of it, drenching me with emptiness and remorse and a fear so black and overwhelming I began to tremble. What now? What could make this stop?
“Oh, Boromir! I-I’m so scared!” I cried, my throat suddenly sore and tight, my eyes stinging, prickling, hot, my sight blurring and getting watery – “You’re right! It dinna work! Merry’s spanking dinna work! But it always works! And, ohh, poor Merry! My poor, poor Merry, feeling so bad, like he failed me. But he dinna fail me! I failed me! And I failed him, too! It was me! The badness was in me! That’s why Merry’s spanking dinna work, not because he dinna do it right! He did do it right! And I tried to tell him that, and, and, and – EEEEEEEK!”
And before I’d sucked another breath Boromir picked me up, tossing me around in mid-air and plunked me across his lap, bottom side up! What the--! My stomach slammed down onto his hard thighs and I let fly a stunned, “OOOOOF!” and that was all I could get out.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been shocked, but I was. I lay there across Boromir’s wide lap, so much bigger than Merry’s, the memory of what my first spanking from this man had felt like zinging through me. And that memory suddenly became bigger than that dark awfulness!
‘Oh noooooo! No, no, no!’ I tried to scream it out, but I was yet a lung-full shy of a whole breath, so for a second all I could do was squirm and kick and wriggle and writhe, doing so with enough skill to earn me my first swat, and a sternly ordered, “Stop that.” I jerked! Even with my britches up, that really stung! Oh no. Oh nooo. Oh no,nonoo! This was going to be most unpleasant.
And I finally caught my breath --
“NOOOOOOOOO! No! No! Noooo! P-Please, Boromir! This is’na what I – this will’na help – I-I-I – NOOOO! Dunna spank me! Please!”
He made a snerking sound, downright amused it was clear, and reached under me to undo my braces. “Save your breath, Pip,” he said. “I most certainly am going to spank you. Because if there was ever a hobbit in need of preemptive tactics, ‘tis you, little one.”
“Noo! You’re wrong! ‘Tis’na me! This will’na work I tell you! Boromir, stop! I’m not a hobbit in neeeEEEEEEEEK!”
My braces free, Boromir had whipped up my shirt, seized my britches and was pulling them down. I grabbed hold of them with both fists and held on, the vision of a twelve year-old lad fighting a warrior who was surely as big as Boromir, if not larger, flashing through my mind. At twelve Faramir would’ve been about my size. I wondered if Damrod chuckled at Faramir then the way Boromir kept chuckling at me now.
“Forgive my laughter, little one. My apologies,” he said, though he didn’t sound all that remorseful. “But if you want me to stop chuckling, stop being so adorable.” Clutching my wrists, he held them in one hand at my back, grasped my britches again and yanked. One good tug and they were at my knees.
“EEEEEEEEK!” My face burst into flames! Ohhhh, that shocking feeling of cool air on my behind! My bare bottom right there, under his open gaze! Ohhhhhhh, would I ever, ever get used to this? I tried not to wriggle, suddenly recalling what Merry often said:
“Pip, when you wiggle your little bottom bounces so sweetly!”
Naughty thing to say! Just plain naughty! If I wasn’t so fond of my Merry I’d have let that comment upset me. So I tried not to wriggle and ended up wriggling all the more. Impossible not to! And I kicked and kicked and ended up sending my britches flying off my legs, landing I knew not where. I let go a wail.
“No worries, sweetling,” Boromir said, that ruddy chuckle lacing his voice. “Your wee britches didn’t fly far. And you won’t be needing them. I want this pretty backside just as it is for a while.”
He patted my ‘pretty’ backside a bit and then Boromir started spanking. I sucked a huge gasp, gulped, and went rigid, too stunned to get out even a decent ‘ow!’ Meanwhile, Boromir was starting in with shocking vigor! Memory hadn’t done him justice. Ohhh, his strong hand! His perfect aim! It was awful! Awful! Awful! Soooo awful! Hot and stinging and able to cover far too much of my backside each time it connected. Oh, how different a big person’s hand felt compared to Merry’s! And Boromir wasted no time, laying into me as though he regretted the time he felt he’d already lost. Again, I found my voice:
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! OW! OW! OWWWWWW! AHHHHHHHHH!”
“Mmm,” he murmured. “That’s the Pippin I remember.”
Just where did he think I’d gone? If he needed proof that I was still in good hollering form, I was happy to oblige him.
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! P-Pleeease, Bor’mirrrr! AHHHHHHHH! Please s-stop! AHHHHHHHH!”
“Stop?” I was doing a fine job of amusing him today. He snorted, delivering a few extra hard whacks that made me howl. “Not likely. And in case you hadn’t noticed, Pip, this is not going to be a mere ‘settling’ spanking. Clearly that wasn’t enough for you, was it?”
I wasn’t about to answer that honestly. But since I’d already blathered on about Merry’s spanking not being enough I could scarce deny it now. So I answered Boromir’s appalling question in the only way I felt I could:
Another snort, more of those extra hard whacks – really horrible when mixed in with his already burning spanking – followed by a quiet command: “Try again, little one. We have plenty of time.”
So much for defiance. “NOOOOOOOOO! It was’na enough! OWWWW! Nonononooooooo! M-Merry’s settling s-spanking was’na enough!”
“I know, sweetling,” he said in a tone so suddenly gentle you’d never suspect that he was also walloping the blazes out of me. “And it’s all right, Pippin. Don’t be frightened. I know how to help. Like Faramir, you just need something big to help you, bigger than the ugliness feasting upon you.”
“Noooo! I don’t need – n-not like Fara – NOOOOO, Boromir! Please, nooooo!”
“Shhh. You are in no position yet to see it, little one.”
“Then change my ruddy position!” And when he started chuckling yet again my temper snapped. I kicked and bucked up and roared, “S-Stop laughing!”
“Pippin,” he said, “I told you what to do to make me stop chucklin --”
“But I canna stop being adorable!”
This time I nearly laughed at the idiot sass that shot from me. I surely couldn’t blame Boromir for breaking up. But my frustration peaked, and though I’d been fighting tears, I gave in and started crying . . . no, I started bawling. And it felt mighty good.
Boromir paused, resting his hand on my stinging bottom. “Ahhh, that’s it, little one,” he said, his voice full of quiet fondness. “Good, sweetling,” he murmured. “Very good.”
I let loose then, big choking sobs coming from somewhere deep, deep inside me. Boromir released my wrists and yanked off his cloak, piling it beneath my head, and I buried my face in its soft folds and drew my arms up, grasping fistfuls of cloth to squeeze and twist. Then Boromir started spanking me once more and I burst into fresh sobs. But I could hear him murmuring that he’d had enough, and that he would allow that awfulness to torment me no longer, that this was indeed what I needed, and that he intended to make certain I received what I so richly deserved.
And for a while, that’s exactly what he did. No use protesting. Boromir was a determined warrior. He simply spanked me in silence, letting me kick and squirm and jerk over his lap, holding me down more firmly when I got too rambunctious, his hand swatting and swatting in a steady, resolute pattern. This was indeed no ‘settling’ spanking. This was an all-out effort on his part, just as it had been the first time he’d taken me over his knee, when I was out of control with my sword-tossing. Ohhh, how well I remembered!
These big folk had a gift for spanking hobbits. Over and over, with each burning spank I was reminded of how big a man’s hand was, how much bigger and heavier than a hobbit’s and how much more strength there was behind each swat. And I even sensed that Boromir was holding something back, that he had more power in reserve, ready to be released if needed. I couldn’t imagine what more power would feel like, but I had a feeling Faramir knew and I felt sorry for him. I’d have to tell him if I ever met him – tell him . . . uhh . . . tell Faramir that he was very brave indeed . . . facing the full power of his big brother’s spanking hand.
And when I noticed that my thoughts were drifting and becoming half-witted like that, I also felt myself at the point of vague inner spinning, when all I know is this spanking, the hand on my sore, throbbing bottom, the cold tears on my cheeks, my trembling, weakened limbs and my raw-throated wails. I cried, and I howled and I begged him to stop, which never works no matter who’s spanking me. After a while, though, begging isn’t an option. I even spewed out some elvish curses that caught his interest. But --
“Nooooooo! I canna dooooo that! I-I-I canna teach ‘em to youuu, Bor’mir! F-Frodo made me and M-Merry promise not tooooo, not to everrr --”
“I know. Merry told me. Frodo made you promise that you wouldn't teach them to anyone else.”
“Oh, well.” He sighed, then on he spanked and on I wailed and that’s all there was, all I knew . . . .
Hours later, hours and hours and hours later, Boromir began to slow, and he began to talk, and by then I would’ve listened to anything he had to say. All I knew was this spanking. And I knew I’d be sleeping on my stomach for the rest of my life. Merry would just have to understand. But then . . . it might not be so bad . . . .
And, suddenly, Boromir stopped. He rested his hot palm on my thighs for a moment, the oddest feeling, but nice, so very nice, and then he began to tenderly rub my bottom with his other hand and I lay there, melted, depleted, weeping and quivering, my backside blazing, and yet, strangely, something felt . . . better. Something within had relaxed and gone quiet, and I was so grateful for the release that I could do nothing but lay there and cry for a while.
Boromir rubbed my bottom and my back and he petted my hair, playing with the curls, all the while murmuring soft nonsense sounds and words and ohhhhh, it felt soooo good. There really wasn’t anything else clawing at me, trying to distract my attention away from him. As if anything could.
“It’s very q-quiet, isn’t it?”
He paused, then said, “Is it?”
“Uh huh. Inside me, it-it feels . . . quiet.”
He patted my bottom. “I’m glad to hear it, little one.”
Suddenly I longed to see him, and though I was wobbly and weak, I pushed up just enough to look back at him over my shoulder. Boromir was watching me with the same deep radiance in his eyes that I had imagined was there earlier when my back was to him and he was speaking of Faramir. That tender, fond glow . . . but that look was there for me, and I realized that my insides were no longer cold and hurting; that awfulness was gone and the relief was near too sweet to bear! It was wonderful! Wonderful!
And yet, mixed in with that relief came something I . . . I didn’t understand, because, well, Merry’s spanking should have done this for me. It always had before. Merry’s lap was always a safe haven, and he’d never failed to drive away that post-Yuledays awfulness. So why hadn’t my Merry’s spanking worked this time? It had been me, of course. My failing, and . . . . Aye, the joy of this release was grand indeed, but my bewilderment wouldn’t allow me to fully feel it. And I began to feel terribly ungrateful!
My face tightened again, despite my efforts to stop it, tears clouding my vision of that beautiful radiance in Boromir’s eyes, but I did see his expression shift to one of deep concern. Then he scooped me right up, drawing me close to his solid body, those big arms enfolding me again.
I was growing weary of this weepiness, but my bottom throbbed and perplexity jangled through me and most tear triggering of all was Boromir’s compassion. Oddly, the brilliance of that was as responsible for my tears as anything else had been. I grasped my big Gondorian warrior’s thickly-muscled shoulders, fighting to focus on the marvelous feeling he’d given me and ignore the confusion of its origin. Boromir rocked, bless him, and he whispered comforting ‘shhhs,’ and he waited until I began to tire, then finally grew quiet against him before he spoke.
“Tell me,” he then murmured in my ear.
“Well, it’s gone, Bor’mir,” I said. “That’s the most wonderful thing. The awfulness is gone! It’s gone!”
He squeezed me. “I know, sweetling. You feel lighter in my arms.”
“I do?” I drew back a bit to look at him. Such a strong, kindly face. “I feel . . . lighter?”
“Aye. That burden has left you, driven off by something bigger and more powerful and impossible to ignore.” And he patted my sore backside.
I winced and grinned a little and nodded. “Aye, but --” And I nearly told him, but I just couldn’t! He studied me so quietly and patiently and . . . . “Oh, Boromir!” I cried. “I dunna mean to sound unappreciative! I’m so – I mean, to no longer be haunted by that awfulness! It’s so incredibly . . . oh, Boromir! I haven’t the words! ‘Tis wondrous!” And I hugged him hard and long, and then, well, I couldn’t help myself – I kissed his neck over and over, then I drew back again and kissed Boromir right on the mouth!
“Thank you, dearest Captain of Gondor! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
He kissed me right back – and Boromir kissed right nicely – then he said, his eyes twinkling, “It was indeed my pleasure, Pippin.”
“How you did it, I dunno. But you did it!” I exclaimed
“Actually, you did it, sweetling,” he said. “You were willing to be helped. That means a lot. But right now we needs discuss the other matter that's troubling you.”
Of course he knew. Like Merry had always told me, “When it’s something big and scary, Pippin, you flat out can’t hide your feelings about it.” That new and ugly something was indeed right there, digging at me. It wasn’t the same as that Yuledays-are-over awfulness, but it was dreadful in its own way. And Boromir was waiting, gazing levelly at me, waiting for me to tell him of this, waiting to help me again, after everything he’d already done, and all I could manage to blurt out was, “Oh, Boromirrrr! I-I --”
“Aw, sweetling. Shh, I know. You are wondering why Merry’s efforts didn’t help you as they always have before, isn’t that true?” I nodded, a sharp pain in my throat.
“Mmm,” he said. “Well, let’s discuss that. But first --”
I shifted him, settling his hot bottom between my spread thighs, and when Pippin was perched on my lap as comfortably as possible, I brushed the stray curls from his face and just held him quietly for a few minutes, rocking my torso, as that seemed to comfort Pip. When he began to breathe more easily I said, “No need to fear, Pip. Merry’s spankings shall still be what they ever were to you. His lap is still the sweet place of safety and comfort it has ever been. Nothing has changed, and, in fact, your clever Master Brandybuck would likely have quickly realized that what you needed this year was an extra measure of what he’d always given you in previous years. And that’s really all you craved, sweetling, more of the same, whether from Merry or me or anyone else.
“But when I thought of Faramir, and told Aragorn and Legolas about him, we all agreed that it would be best to deal with you sooner rather than later, just in case you followed my little brother’s behavior to a possibly dangerous degree.”
His fair skin went several shades of pink. “Aragorn and Legolas and you . . . you talked about me?”
“Of course. Your behavior since the end of Yuledays has been of great concern to the Fellowship. You knew that.”
He winced and looked adorably guilty. “Aye.”
“And we all know you, sweetling, so we knew how unhappy you were to be acting that way.”
He sighed. “I owe them all an apology. The end of Yuledays isn’t a good excuse for behaving like a nasty . . . .”
“Bratling,” I offered with good cheer, as he seemed to be trying to avoid the word. He squirmed and winced again.
I grinned. “Don’t like the word ‘bratling,’ Pip? Even when ‘bratling’ is the perfect description of you when in such a mood?”
He darted me a clever frown, and said, “Sir, exploiting my dislike of the word is purely naughty.”
I burst out laughing, and so did Pip, very suddenly, and it was a lovely sound to hear. Ah. He was relaxing nicely. “At least you no longer mind my chuckling, little one,” I said. “Good thing, for, as you yourself said, you canna help being adorable.”
And when we stopped laughing at that, I kissed his brow and said, “Pip, I’ll tell you what Damrod told Faramir after his post-Yuledays spanking. He was not being disciplined for having his feelings. He was being cared for, brought back to himself by means of driving away a harshness within him that was as painful as an arrow to the stomach, and just as real. He need not feel ashamed of his feelings, for feelings simply are, and they need to be paid attention to, for if they are --”
“Ignored, they grow and grow and soon become quite large indeed.” Pippin darted me a soft grin which I returned.
“Merry is very wise,” I said.
“Aye, he is, but I figured that out about feelings by myself.”
“You are very wise, too, Pippin.”
“Of course, I figured it out whilst over Merry’s knee.”
We chuckled again. “Nevertheless, you did grasp it, just as Faramir did. So I trust you shall deal easily with yourself on this matter.”
He reached down, touched his bottom and winced. “Aye. My poor backside can take no more of this being ‘cared for.’”
He had settled down well, something I felt was needed before we discussed this last matter that had clearly frightened him badly. “Pip,” I said, softly, “why do you think Merry’s settling spanking wasn’t enough? You’re wise enough to figure that out all by yourself, sweetling.”
Pippin thought for but a few seconds, then, “Well, for as long as I can remember I spent Yuledays at Brandy Hall . . . soooo, little wonder . . . .”
“Little wonder indeed.”
Pippin studied me solemnly. “Boromir, I’m so glad that I’m here, part of the Fellowship. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. But I . . . I can still miss those things we’ve left behind and still hold dear. And, if my sadness after Yuledays was big when I was at Brandy Hall --”
“Then imagine how much bigger it might be here in the wild, with untold dangers and hardships waiting ahead, far from all you’ve ever known. Yuledays came and went this year and it likely felt as though they didn’t happen at all. The longing for them became even bigger, and so did the sorrow afterwards.
“So your feelings made a great deal of sense when you think about it. You were right when you said that Merry didn’t fail you, but you didn’t fail you either, Pip. There was no ‘badness’ in you. Your sadness was bigger, so you needed something bigger to conquer it.” He watched me, wide eyed and seemingly spellbound again. “And we both know that Merry would’ve figured that out.”
“Aye. He would have. But . . . .” He stared at me. “Can the answer really be that simple?”
“Even big problems can have simple answers, sweetling.”
“So, if a big warrior takes an arrow to the stomach, the cure is the same as it would be for a hobbit – pull it out.”
“Aye. Except that if a warrior takes an arrow to the gut there is really no cure.”
“Really? Oh. Well, then we’ll all have to avoid that, won’t we?”
“What you have just been suffering likely felt like an arrow to the gut, though, so you’ve already beaten the odds, sweetling.” I laughed. “And should such an arrow lay you low again, I’m certain Merry will be able to withdraw it.”
“And so will you.”
“And so will I.” I grinned and picked up his hand, saying, “By the way, how is this hurt finger?”
He giggled. “It really did hurt when it happened, Boromir. But I think the hurt has been overshadowed by a bigger one.” And he wiggled his bottom on my lap and giggled again – a lovely sound indeed.
Gimli was the only one boorish enough to make mention of the changed Peregrin Took who accompanied me back to camp later that morning. In truth, though, the dwarf’s rough edges were lined with eiderdown when it came to the little ones, his fondness for them expressed in his gentle teasing. And this was just too good an opportunity to pass by.
Crossing in front of Merry and Pippin, who were sitting and enjoying a smoke before curling up to sleep under their blankets, Gimli halted, puffed his pipe and stared down at Pippin. Then he cleared his throat and announced, “He looks just like the Took, but this little one is certainly of a milder nature.”
“Gimli,” Aragorn said.
But there wasn’t a single one of the Fellowship who wasn’t grinning or giggling. Even Legolas couldn’t hold back the twitch at the corners of his mouth. Sitting next to him, I leaned close and whispered, “Gimli isn’t looking. Go ahead. Grin.”
Legolas elbowed me in the ribs and shot me a reproachful frown. “Insolent little brother.”
“Oh, to be certain,” Aragorn murmured from my other side. “But today he has rescued our youngest from a dark inner orc, so my fledgling is due a measure of grace.”
A measure of grace. I liked the sound of that. So different from the kinds of phrases Denethor always used, but very like something Damrod might say. Once again I thanked the Valar that my little brother was in our lieutenant’s safe care.
“Do not look now,” Legolas barely whispered from the corner of his mouth. “But they are doing it again.”
So, of course, I instantly shot Merry and Pippin a glance and found them watching me, warm lights glistening in their eyes.
“Little brother, do you understand my meaning when I say, ‘do not look now?’”
Aragorn puffed his pipe and chuckled, and in that moment I had to swallow hard, the purity of happiness swelling within me so profoundly I wasn’t sure I could draw breath. It didn’t get better than this. And then, suddenly, it did.
Frodo stood and stretched, and I knew before he took his first step what he intended. This little one showed his affection in a unique manner. Without so much as a glance my way he headed around the fire, and I heard Aragorn sniff a small grin and Legolas murmur, “I vow we are about to have company. Is your lap ready, little brother?”
Indeed it was. And when Frodo drew near and darted me a shy glance, I opened my arms to him and he grinned and settled himself on my cross-legged lap, snuggling in closer when I closed my arms around him.
Turning to me with his soft-eyed look, he quietly said, “I haven’t had a chance to thank you for helping Pippin today, Boromir. That was an extraordinary thing you did.”
My face went hot in an instant, a foregone conclusion from the time Frodo had risen to his feet. I felt Legolas and Aragorn’s delight flowing into me from either side and I had to swallow hard again. “Wellll --”
“It was,” Frodo said, most insistently. “A really quite extraordinary thing. Wasn’t it Aragorn?”
“Wasn’t it Legolas?”
“Frodo . . . .” I tried to keep from squirming. “I – well, it was my pleasure, little one.”
“I know Pip and Merry have thanked you, but I’d like to thank you, too, on behalf of Sam and me. He’s too shy to tell you himself.” I glanced at Sam who was watching us intently. He looked away at once and busied himself at the fire. “You see?” Frodo said. “He doesn’t want to embarrass you. But I need to say thank you, so I hope you don’t mind.”
“I-I don’t mind.”
Frodo smiled, turned suddenly and hugged me, then said, “Is it all right if I stay here with you for a little while?”
“Certainly, sweetling,” I said, and I grinned and kissed the top of his curly head. “What the wibble.”