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I sensed it the moment I watched Aragorn’s gaze fall upon the warrior from Gondor. It seemed my Ranger watched the man’s arrival with a special . . . regard. I had dismissed it at once, but the feeling lingered in my heart, and I began to pay closer attention every time we were in the presence of the man.
Even his name somehow sounded presumptuous: Boromir, Captain of the White Tower, and other such tedious mortal titles.
The council had scarce begun before I had suffered my fill of his arrogance, his disdainful posturing and his accusatory tongue. Impudent human! Behaving as though Gondor was owed all credit for protecting the free peoples of Middle Earth from this threatening darkness, as though Gondor alone stood sentinel against all evil!
The man displayed a singular unawareness of that which lay beyond his ken and a grating desire to share his ignorance with all. I watched him swagger and boast and deride the others at the council, and I held my tongue and dared not look across the open space to Aragorn. But I could not help glancing over at him once, and I saw what I had fully expected to see: a small, slow shake of his head and a pressed-lip warning on his face that read simply, "No, Legolas. Do not."
I did my best. It is wise to heed such looks from Aragorn. So I sat clenching my fists and glaring and trying to emulate my kinsmen who were displaying true elvish decorum. Aragorn finally put an end to the Gondorian creature’s tirade, speaking sharply to the man, as indeed he deserved. I silently applauded Estel’s forthrightness, too brief though it was.
But when the young agitator turned and actually belittled this man to whom he owed allegiance and respect, I shot to my feet and said what needed saying, consequences be cursed! It did silence him. He was fortunate that I chose mere words – and precious few of them – to express my displeasure. Yet Aragorn, as he ever does, calmly ordered my restraint, a scene so familiar between us I thought little of it other than to obey.
My temper often landed me upended over Aragorn’s lap, and such proved to be the case later that evening, as indeed I had expected it would:
"Did you not understand my silent signal to you, elfling mine?"
"Aye! But-but-but --!"
"You decided to ignore it?"
"Noooo! I-I-I OWW! Arag-gorn please! Please! I am s-sorry!"
"I know Boromir troubles you, however you will show him every courtesy, little one. Is that clearly understood?"
"I . . . I AHHHHH!"
"I did not hear you, sweetling."
"Aye! C-Clearly un-nerstood! I-I am sorry!"
Afterwards, when Aragorn held me and spoke to me once more about my need to come to terms with this man, I again promised to try, even though I felt my Ranger was being unreasonable if he thought I could graciously endure the constant presence of both a vile dwarf and this disrespectful mortal infant.
But a hurtful murmur began stirring in my mind, a feeling connected to the way Aragorn looked at Boromir, and the way my Ranger had held himself in reserve when the creature had sneered at him in council, even the fact that Aragorn had ordered my restraint when I had tried to defend him.
It nagged at me off and on. Then the explanation hit suddenly and with the full force of a troll’s club. I knew what this was.
The blow of realization came just before we set out from Rivendell: I discovered for a certainty that Aragorn had done to the man what he does to me. He had spanked Boromir. Aragorn had shared that intimacy with him. By the lives of all my ancestors, I could not escape the waves of hot fury and sorrow that surged through me the morning I learned it for a fact.
At Lord Elrond’s request I had sought out Aragorn and I found him moving along a pathway a short distance from the balcony upon which I stood. That ever-present pest of a human strolled at his side. Enjoying a surge of delight at the prospect of denying Boromir the further pleasure of Aragorn’s company, I opened my mouth to call out, but a sudden exchange between them halted my call.
It was, of course, beyond unseemly for me to listen, but listen I did, my blood racing faster with each word.
"Ah, here is a nice stone bench," Aragorn said, casting Boromir a teasing grin. "We should stop and take our rest."
Boromir laughed quickly then shot Aragorn a wince. "Be my guest," he said. "I’ll stand, thank you."
Aragorn chuckled warmly. He sat and patted his thighs and said, "Come, my fledgling. Nice and comfortable."
Aragorn released his gentle laugh. "But you fit so excellently well."
"Please, Aragorn!" Boromir sighed. "It was not the fit, but the position. And I am obliged to inform you that your legs are solid muscle with no hint of softness. So, no, thank you. I do not care to revisit your lap in any position."
"Ah, but you shall. I know you, my fledgling, and indeed you shall."
I could barely think. My heart pounded a furious rhythm. A vision of what I had just heard implied ripped through me, a vision I did not want to see. I stood frozen, words stuck in my throat, and at that moment Aragorn turned his head, glanced up, and noticed me. He paused, his forehead quickly tensing the way it did when Aragorn was considering something carefully. He clearly knew that I could have been there for some time.
"Do you seek something, Legolas?" he called.
Boromir’s head whipped around, his golden locks flying, his eyes wide with alarm. He calmed, though, when he looked up and saw my distance from them. Ignorant mortal. Too oblivious to know the extent of an elf’s hearing. Typical.
"Lord Elrond seeks council with you," I called. Then I added, "Just. You."
Aragorn lifted a brow and watched me for a long moment, then he rose. "Excuse me," he said to his pouting shadow. "We shall meet later."
Aragorn turned to head towards me. I felt a tingle of victory and I swear the child saw the slight smile on my face. He shot me a contemptuous smirk and called after Aragorn, "Aye, Lord Elrond’s young messenger boy summons."
He said it loudly, obviously for my benefit. Aragorn stopped short and turned to look at him, then he stalked back to Boromir and whispered something in his ear that made the man’s body droop. Boromir then nodded once and left without so much as a backward glance.
Had this little scene gone on between Aragorn and one of the hobbits I would have simply found it charming. But with Boromir? My chest tightened with a ferocious ache, that image returning, driven by what Aragorn had no doubt just promised he would do to Boromir later.
It made no sense that I would envy another a trip over Aragorn’s knee.
But with each hour this unrestrained fury grew. I knew what it was, but I was loathe to think myself base enough to be feeling jealousy. Elves were above such pettiness. It was beneath me. It was embarrassing. I vowed to ignore it.
I tried to busy myself, finding tasks to divert my mind, but in every quiet pause of non-thought the wretched vision of that man stretched out over Aragorn’s lap surged forth, surrounding me and taunting me, owning my heart and destroying my peace . . . Boromir, over Aragorn’s lap . . . .
My place. Mine.
No longer mine exclusively, for I knew the moment I saw Aragorn with the hobbits that they, too, now occasionally received his disciplinary skills. But I had smiled at the notion. They would thrive under the safety of his special care. Aye, the little ones were favored by Aragorn’s determined right arm. How could I resent Aragorn’ attentions to such worthy young souls? I gladly shared his lap with them.
Boromir however . . . .
"Yes," Elrond said. "I noticed. It was impossible to fail noticing."
"Perhaps it will ease when we begin our quest," I said.
Elrond made no reply. His glance alone often spoke for him and it did so this time.
"No," I said on a sigh. "You are right. It will most likely get worse."
"I spoke to Legolas after the Council."
"Indeed. He sat with care in The Hall of Fire that night."
We exchanged a small grin. Then he said, "And how goes it with Boromir?"
"Very well." One never had to say much with Elrond. He knew near everything that went on within his realm without having to ask, but he asked out of politeness.
"You shall know what to do, Estel," he said. "Ever have you followed your heart in your dealings with men. Ever have you done well."
"And with elves?" I questioned. "One exceedingly obstinate and temperamental elf in particular?"
Elrond grinned again. "With him, too. You know that his love for you urges Legolas into such uncivil behavior. This man who vies for your affections tests his restraint. Legolas has ne’er needed face such a rival."
I nodded. "But Ada, Legolas and I have been together for such a long time. He should know better."
"Perhaps. But do not make the mistake of looking for reason in this matter, my child. Legolas knows that your heart is large enough to care for all Middle Earth, and that is well with him, however, when it comes to the Steward’s young son from Gondor --" Elrond shot me a shrewd glance. "Ah, that is a different matter entirely."
"So my Legolas simply needs reassurance. He needs to be shown what he already knows. "
"There is solace in being reassured of what one already knows." Elrond smiled with astute certainty. "Even as a talk with your ada confirms the path you already knew. There is comfort in it, is there not, pen-neth?"
I lowered my head, smiling softly at his wisdom. "Aye."
Despite our frequent disagreements, Elrond’s faith in me was absolute. But the prospect of keeping peace between a hot-tempered elf, a belligerent young warrior and a hostile dwarf left me wondering if I had the mettle to withstand this potential war within our new Fellowship. If we survived the company of each other, the hosts of Isengard and Mordor would seem manageable. And that was not even taking into consideration the charmingly heedless little hobbits, who had a woeful talent for mischief.
I stood accountable for dealing with matters of discipline and harmony within our Fellowship. Gandalf was our voice of reason, but unity within the group would not be the wizard’s responsibility. There were passions at play here that Gandalf had neither the time nor the patience to endure. It would be up to me to calm this particular storm that brewed between Legolas and Boromir.
I began hearing yet more of that storm as I neared my chamber that evening. Strained, angry voices rarely heard within these peaceful walls urged me into a trot and I rounded the corner to see Legolas and Boromir facing off, eye to eye, and seemingly close to blows at the entrance to my chamber.
Legolas had just said something particularly vulgar in elvish and Boromir thundered, "What did you just say?"
Legolas repeated his obscene words, again in elvish.
"You insolent elf!" Boromir snarled, clearly on principle alone. "I knew I should’ve taught you some manners after your rude behavior at the Council!"
"You dare talk to me of manners and rude behavior?"
"I should have done more than talk!"
"You?" Legolas blurted a short laugh. "A mere man, ‘teach’ an elf anything?"
"Aye, and gladly!"
They were so focused on their fury and each other they did not take note of me striding towards them. They simply kept bickering even when I shoved them into my chamber and shut the door.
I let them go at it, allowing them get some of their rage out now, lest they carry on like this once we left Rivendell. The hobbits need not witness this. I certainly wished I had been spared it as well. I drew forth my pipe, packed and lit it, then stood quietly smoking, keeping score of the verbal battle.
They were evenly matched in fire and bluster, but Legolas had a slight advantage. He was able to infuriate Boromir by badgering him with incredibly nasty elvish remarks that Boromir could not interpret. My elfling’s tone was plain enough, but since Boromir could not understand him there was no real need for Legolas to use such coarse language. He could very well have been discussing the weather and Boromir would have still become incensed. But it seemed that Legolas derived a measure of satisfaction from indulging such foul speech, and since it served to provoke Boromir, all the better.
I had to admire their zeal. Such intensity would serve the Fellowship well.
When they seemed ready to come to blows, it was time to step in. I felt it likely that Boromir did not know that elves possessed three times the strength of a man. Such a sound trouncing as Legolas was able, and clearly most willing, to deliver would sorely wound my fledgling’s pride. That was unnecessary. Yes, Legolas would enjoy it to a certain degree, but I knew my beloved elfling. The satisfaction he felt in victory would be an empty one, and it would quickly turn to guilty feelings. No, a physical engagement between these two would be produce no victor. I cleared my throat.
They both halted, instantly realizing where they were, what they had been doing, and my unhappy presence. Both had the wisdom to look apprehensively contrite. I let them stand silent for a long moment while I wordlessly puffed my pipe a few more times, mildly glancing back and forth between them.
"Well," I said. "That was impressive."
"No! It was he who--"
"I had come to--"
"He said he was here first, when in fact--"
I held up a hand before the next round began. "Enough."
They both looked ready to challenge me . . . for about two heartbeats. Then they stood silent and uneasy.
Deciding to employ a strategy I felt might serve, I said, "I must agree with Lord Elrond. He has grave concerns about how the two of you will behave on our quest."
It was not exactly a lie. Not really. Elrond had indeed discussed his concerns with me earlier in the day. But the meaning behind my words was enough to make Legolas and Boromir reflect instant shock and dismay. I continued to not exactly lie.
"There are several worthy elven warriors here in Elrond’s house who would serve well on the quest. Even Glorfindel has volunteered."
Boromir gasped. "My lord, please --!"
"Glorfindel is a mighty warrior. He would be a fine asset."
"Estel! No!" Legolas cried in a hushed tone.
"It is not my wish to replace either one of you, but I can think of little else to do. I cannot risk the success of our mission. The Ringbearer needs every member of the Fellowship working in harmony if he is to achieve his goal. I shall not risk the success of his quest, nor his safety."
"Nor would I--"
"I understand, and--"
"But you see my problem. The two of you cannot even tolerate each other here within these quiet borders. I fear what may happen when we are out in the wild, where you shall be in constant contact and needing to cooperate."
I regretted doing this to them. Boromir had paled in distress while my elfling’s eyes were so wide with horror he looked to be facing one of the monstrous demons of the Underworld. But it had to be done. Such discord would create tension in our Fellowship and the fate of the Ringbearer had to be my first concern.
Giving them a moment to think on my intimations, I knocked the ashes from my pipe into the fire, then turned back to them. "We are at a crossroads, my friends. It would grieve me to leave you behind, not only because of the loss it would be to the Fellowship . . . " I softened my voice. "But because my fondness for you both knows no bounds, and I would dearly miss your companionship."
A sheen of glassy tears made their eyes glitter, yet they both brightened at my words.
"My desire is that you stay with the quest, but I must have your assurances that you shall do your utmost to settle these differences. Gandalf informs me that the weather to the east is shifting and the best time to take our leave is the day after tomorrow. If a change needs to be made, it must be now. So, what say you, my friends? Can you learn to work together?"
They both straightened and gave me their pledge that they would do their best to serve the Ringbearer and the quest by getting along and fostering a more amiable front. I smiled and thanked them and said I knew they would try their hardest as they were both honorable warriors. They looked much relieved.
I knew full well that this would not be the end of it. We would certainly face this again, and likely soon. But it was a beginning, a chance to cool off until the next round.
"Very well," I said. "Let us speak no more of what happened here. What did you need of me?"
They both gave me blank stares and a vague look of bewilderment similar to what the hobbits fashioned anytime they got away with something they felt they should not have.
"Legolas? You came to see me?"
"Aye . . . but . . . ." He threw a glance at Boromir. "Please, sir. You may go first."
Boromir looked vague. "I have forgotten what I came to – oh, yes! You told me to meet you . . . ." He glanced back at Legolas. "Uh . . . well, earlier, this morning, you asked that I --"
"Ah." I nodded. "Indeed."
I glanced at Legolas. His eyes remained downcast for a moment, then he lifted a gaze of such staggering hurt that my chest tightened. Legolas obviously knew why I had asked Boromir here and what I intended to do to him this night, and it seemed that he already knew what I had done to my fledgling before this.
A hot wash of regret shot through me, my thoughts flashing back to earlier when I had seen Legolas looking stunned on the balcony above us. I wondered if he had been there long enough to hear our teasing exchange about the bench, if he had been impertinent enough to listen in. Now I had my answer. Their battle outside my chamber suddenly made sense.
I had planned to prepare Legolas before telling him that I had begun to discipline Boromir. I had planned to share some information that might make the discovery easier for my elf, tell him of the history Boromir and I shared, of our connection. Legolas knew of my years in Gondor serving Ecthelion as Thorongil, but he had not known of the little boy I left behind there.
So I planned to tell Legolas this entire tale. I would tell him what I knew of Denethor, let him draw his own conclusions about Boromir’s behavior from there. I knew that such information would calm my elfling’s jealous fears and kindle his compassion.
But there had been no time to speak to him of it, for it had only been yesterday that I first spanked Boromir. And now Legolas had faced this alone and unprepared. That hot flush seared through me anew. We had partaken of this intimacy for a long time. My elf had needed to "share" with no others. He knew how I dealt with hobbit discipline, and he did not mind it in the least.
"So, you spanked each of them the first time you met them in Bree," he repeated, soon after he arrived in Rivendell and I had been telling him of my journey here with the hobbits.
"Estel. Was that not a bit heavy-handed of you?"
"Nay. It was not."
"And you spanked Frodo at Weathertop, and then you spanked the others, uhh --"
"Merry, Pippin and Sam."
"Aye. You spanked all three of them the day after Weathertop, when Arwen was on her way here with Frodo."
Grinning thoughtfully, my elfling had said, "It sounds as though these little ones entreat spankings."
"Oh, mellon nin, you have no idea."
No doubt Legolas would likely begin to help me with halfling discipline should it be needed on the Quest. I would welcome his expert assistance. But he would have trouble with the notion of Boromir going over my knee. And indeed Legolas now looked quietly stricken, overly still and bravely stoic, shifting into that elvish remove he summoned when he wished to disguise his hurt.
I glanced at Boromir. He watched quietly during the few moments of silence, shifting a look of curiosity between Legolas and myself.
"My lord Aragorn," Legolas suddenly said, drawing my instant attention with his cold formality. "It seems I have also forgotten my reason for seeking you out. I apologize for the intrusion. I shall take my leave."
But he had already turned and was nearly to the door, moving with his swift, fluid grace.
"Hold!" I said in a tone he recognized well. He paused and turned, his chin high, his smooth face flushed, a look of expectant detachment firmly in place.
I crossed to him and took gentle hold of his arm, saying softly, "We must talk. I cannot let you leave this way."
One corner of his mouth pulled up in a tiny, wry grin. "You always do that, Estel," he said in Sindarin. "You slip into the elvish tongue when your feelings grow big."
I continued in the elvish, my feelings now enormous. "Please, elfling mine. Do not go like this. I have much to discuss with you."
Legolas lowered his gaze and gave a small, thoughtful nod. "Aye, we must talk, but not now." He shot a quick sideways glance to Boromir, then stiffened and turned back to the door saying, "You have other more pressing matters to attend to now, Aragorn."
"Aragorn I can see little choice in this," he said, fully locked into his elvish aloofness. "We cannot have this discussion at present. I understand your concern, but your duties lie elsewhere this night."
"Legolas, please, I hardly consider these matters mere ‘duties.’"
"Forgive my harsh speech, then," he answered quickly. "But what else can be done right now?"
He was right. I disliked it, but that made him no less right. There was little else to do but let him go. And so I nodded and he yanked open the door, leaving with no other word, no backward glance. Watching him walk away in his beautiful, flowing stride, I felt a painful squeezing in my chest and a deep blow to my conscience.
"Aragorn, if you would prefer, we can have this talk another time."
Boromir’s quiet tone pulled me back from my selfish remorse. I could do no more for my elfling at the moment, and I felt regret settle painfully in my heart.
I closed the door, drew a breath, then turned to Boromir with a wry grin. "Talk?" I said. "Nay, my fledgling, there shall be no waiting, and no mere talking. I intend to deal with your rudeness to Legolas this morning without further delay."
He blinked, his eyes widening. "But, you cannot--"
"Cannot?" Striding towards him, I raised a brow. "Let us see about that."
Boromir swallowed hard, shifting his weight. "But, it is dark, too dark, and we cannot get to the glade!"
"You are right in that. We cannot."
He took a step back, the inevitable finally hitting him. "Here?"
"And now," I said. I halted and glanced at my bed; then I crossed to it and sat on the edge, saying, "We may not be able to withdraw to some place of seclusion every time you are in need of a trip across my knee, Boromir."
"For pity’s sake, Aragorn!" he cried, his cheeks positively flaming.
I crooked a finger at him. "You do not want to make me to fetch you."
"uuuuuuhhhh . . . ?"
"Do you hear that?"
"uuuuuuuuuhhh . . . ." Oh, merciful Middle Earth! He was indeed awake. I shook off his little tugging hand. "Pippiiiiin! Leave me ‘lone."
"Ohhh . . . ." I growled. "For the luvva--go backa sleep, Pip!"
"But . . . listen!"
"Stop bouncing around!"
"D’ya know what that sounds like?"
He was clearly only hearing, not listening. "Pippin. I can assure you, I don’t care wha--"
"It sound’s like . . . like someone’s getting . . . well, spanked!"
"If you don’t settle down and go back to sleep, you’ll be just as well-spanked!"
"You hear it, too, then?"
"Oh, for the – I don’t believe this." I sighed. "All right! Yes. I hear it. You’re right. Someone’s getting their backside hotly thrashed."
"Quite hotly thrashed by the sound of it."
"Pippin, you are but a moment away from a hot thrashing of your own."
"I wonder who it is."
Nice to know my threats carried such weight. "I haven’t the foggiest, nor do I care, and neither do you."
"But I do care!"
"Are my words going into that Tookish head?"
"Couldn’t be Frodo or Sam. They wouldn’t be getting spanked that hard. And we’d hear them bellowing. Whoever that is, they aren’t making a sound."
Right. Nothing was going to work here.
I was going to end up spanking him. I could feel it.
"Have you gone back to sleep?"
"Who d’ya suppose it could be?"
"What do we care, Pip?"
"Must be . . . Merry! It . . . it must be a . . . a big person!"
"Well, since all the hobbits are accounted for--"
"Except old Bilbo."
"Oh, thank you for that vision, Master Took!"
"Aye. Sorry, love. Completely out of the question."
"There’s a question?"
"So, it’s a big person . . .or . . . or an elf! Oh, Merry! D’ya think it could be an elf?"
"Well, it could be an elf. I mean, well, maybe it is. Elves might get spanked too, you know, even grown up elves."
I couldn’t help grinning into my pillow. He was too adorable at times, blast him. Pip sucked a sharp breath.
"It could even be that pretty Legolas! Oh, my! D’ya think, I mean, could you just picture, just-just seeeee how that would look?"
I could of course, at once and too clearly, and something intense began happening to me! Blast him!
"Ohhhhh. Myyyyy. That makes quite a picture, doesn’t it, Merry? That pretty, pretty elf, lying across a lap, his bottom bare, his long yellow hair falling--"
"Let’s see . . . Aragorn’s quarters are closest to ours . . . ."
I covered my head with my pillow. "I’m going back to sleep."
"And if someone’s gettin' spanked in Aragorn’s quarters--"
"In fact, I’m going to Frodo’s room and crawling in with him and Sam."
"The question then becomes, is Aragorn giving a big person, or an elf, a spanking, and if so, who? Or . . . or perhaps . . . perhaps someone is giving . . . oh, no! Not Strider! No. Not possible!"
"I’m sure Frodo and Sam won’t mind. I won’t take up much room."
"Merry, you don’t suppose, I mean, could it be Aragorn getting . . . d’ya think Aragorn could actually be getting’ span --"
He was too silent for a moment. I pulled the pillow off my head and looked at him. Plotting. Pippin had his plotting face on. Oh no.
"I have an idea."
I sat up suddenly. "No, Pip, you don’t"
"They’ll never hear me. Or us." He turned to me, grinning with excitement. "You’re welcome to join me. Just a little sneak through the bushes and a quick look--"
"That’s done it!" I grabbed his arms and started dragging him to the edge of the bed. "Come here!"
"Merry! Wait! Aren’t you curious? Don’t you care?"
"At the moment Peregrin Took, the only thing I care about is tanning your backside so you’ll let me get some sleep!"
"There’s no use struggling. I’m stronger than you are."
"No, you’re not! Don’t! Merry! Please! Stop that!"
But there wasn’t any stopping me. I knew my Pip too well. If I didn’t end this now he’d be slipping on his clothes and creeping out into the night to spy on whatever poor soul was getting walloped.
My impossible tween. And I most certainly was stronger than he was! I was also just that much bigger and I could still wrestle him down when I needed to. But I let my Pip thrash around some, burn off a little of his Tookish energy. And did he ever, squealing and rolling and wiggling and scrambling about. Our bed looked like a bunch of frisky young hobbits had been sporting there.
"Please, Merry! All right! I’ll stop! I won’t go peekin’!"
"Bet your hot little bottom you won’t. Come here!"
"Really! I swear! I won’t!"
"And I intend to make sure of that."
Having had enough of this playing about, I grabbed him for the last time and dragged him into position over my lap. "You should’ve just gone back to sleep when I told you to, my wee love."
"I will! I promise! You don’t have to do this!"
I snorted and tossed his billowy nightshirt up over his back, baring the pretty bottom I knew so well. "I disagree."
Spanking Pippin when he’s been doggedly pesky is always such a satisfying thing. The sound of each loud swat, the feel of my hand on his soft and quickly warming little backside, his immediate yells of protest, all of it. It’s right up there with a pint and a pipe of Old Toby.
But I didn’t get to hear his hollering tonight. For some reason I couldn’t fathom Pippin buried his face in the bed and muffled his usually splendid bellows. Well! This was new and wholly unlike my Pip. He’s always in fine voice.
Maybe he felt flustered knowing that others might hear, not that such a thing had ever bothered him before. Pippin yelled loud and long right from the start. You’d swear Strider was killing him at times. When the Ranger was giving Pip his first spanking, back in Bree, I’d have been alarmed by Pippin’s screams, except for the fact that Strider was only giving Pip the same thing I’d just had a taste of and survived, so I’d chalked it up to my Pip’s typical enthusiasm when over a knee.
No matter that I couldn’t hear him tonight, though. It didn’t spoil the overall satisfaction for me. Not that I liked hurting my little Pip. I never really hurt him. Not really, and he knew it. Oh, I spanked the living daylights out of him, but that was all it was – a good spanking.
My sweet Pip always got what he needed from it, and it was always much more than just a hot bottom. So when I had finished and hauled him back up into the bed and fixed the blankets around us, he cuddled in and plastered himself to me and nuzzled me the way he does when he feels settled and well cared for and loved.
I kissed his curls and murmured to him while he hiccuped and sniffed and within minutes he was asleep. Now fully awake, I heaved a sigh. Ruddy tweens.
How like a wizard.
Denethor once said, "If the Istari are the wisest of immortals, little wonder Middle Earth sails like a ship without a rudder."
I always thought it an odd statement, for it seemed to me that wizards, like elves, held themselves in reserve from the world of men, drifting in and out of our affairs with casual interest and infrequency. But my father was given to speaking in riddles, and he had no love for Mithrandir.
Gandalf had proven himself singularly bothersome this day, changing his mind in the night and deciding we should leave Rivendell a day earlier than planned, that afternoon in fact. He informed us of this in the morning, much to our surprise. I vow I heard Aragorn groan lowly.
But when Gandalf decided such a matter, none would gainsay him. All had been in readiness for days. Nonetheless, leaving a day early meant a few hours of last minute preparing. Then, after some ceremonial farewells, including Lord Elrond’s charge to each of us, we began our Quest, following the tall form in his grey pointed hat and the sweet little one at his side.
I was glad to take my leave. Imladris was fair, but it was not Minas Tirith, and the serene elvish air was far too tranquil for my comfort. But, although I felt excited to be setting out, the sudden change in plans denied me a day during which I might have taken a little extra rest stretched out on my stomach.
Twice. Twice in less than two day’s time! My breeches felt impossibly snug across my aching backside. I studied the little ones, wondering if any of them were also sore-bottomed. Aragorn and I had been parted for most of yesterday giving him plenty of time to hunt down and discipline any others he deemed in need of it. The man was distressingly conscientious.
Such thoughts still made my face flush. Everything about these new disciplinary matters still made my face flush. And when I lowered my guard and those scalding memories of what Aragorn had done to me over the past several days roared in, my entire body would flush. Anger, rather than embarrassment, caused some of that heat, anger and confusion.
It was unjust! Wretched elf! He was as much to blame for this discord as I was, taunting me with his disdainful air and his superior manner, always watching me with a slight frown gracing his fair features. I thought I’d been behaving with exceeding restraint since the Council, but Legolas seemed determined to test my tolerance.
When we had accidentally met outside Aragorn’s chamber the night before, well, that pretty prince had started in at once, questioning my presence and glaring when I’d told him that Aragorn had ordered me to meet him there at an appointed hour. As though I need answer to this elf!
I had tried to politely discuss the matter but his rash temper had quickly surfaced and I was faced with a foul-mouthed troublemaker spoiling for a fight. He had actually stooped to using his native language in unfair advantage. I didn’t need to understand his elvish tongue to know I was being insulted, and many of his words sounded perfectly vulgar. The little pest’s tone and attitude were enough. But Aragorn had witnessed all this, or at least part of it, so why had I been the only one spanked for . . . ?
Oh. Yes. Aragorn had spanked me for the innocent little comment I’d made when Legolas had come to fetch him. It seemed a trifling matter for so severe a response. And I’d been deliberately provoked! Legolas had been smirking at me from that balcony. I’d seen it even at a distance. What else could I have done?
Had I simply swallowed my ire and turned away I would have avoided another trip across Aragorn’s knee. But I have only so much endurance, and that disdainful elf possessed a gift for testing my restraint. Any excuse for my outburst would’ve sounded ludicrous because Aragorn hadn’t seen the elf’s haughty smirk.
So, I was magnanimous. I took another of Aragorn’s painful spankings, then he kept me with him throughout the night, drawn closely to him. It felt quite nice. Despite a burning bottom, I slept remarkably well, exhausted, peaceful, and on my stomach. I’d remembered what Aragorn had said about the hobbits sleeping soundly after he had spanked them the first time and it made me smile.
And as I lay there, my backside throbbing with renewed fire, I realized that, of course, I had invited this. I knew how Aragorn would likely respond the second I called out my slight insult. I had, indeed, asked for another spanking, and that realization ignited a flush in me that rivaled the heat of my bottom. Hence my confusion – why had I invited that?
Nevertheless, Legolas was still an impossibly insolent elf and if Aragorn refused to haul him over his knee I’d gladly do it for him! The notion, in fact, held quite an appeal.
I watched him ahead of me now, gliding along with his easy stride and his air of perfect majesty, and I knew that this proud creature had likely never been forced to submit to the indignity Aragorn had visited upon me. Twice. Oh, perhaps Legolas had been thrown over a knee as a young elfling how many thousands of years before this, countless times if his present attitude was any indication, but it had been too long ago to have left an impression on the Legolas of present. Pity. For if anyone deserved a lesson in humility it was this comely princeling.
Yet, strangely, something inside me clenched when I thought of Aragorn doing to Legolas what he did to me. I liked the idea of the humbling a spanking would bestow upon the elf, but, for reasons that escaped me as of yet, I didn’t like the thought of Aragorn spanking Legolas. Odd how unsettling a thought it was since it troubled me not at all that Aragorn spanked the hobbits, with some frequency it would seem. I could very well see myself doing the same, as he had suggested. But beautiful Legolas in such a position, receiving such attention . . . no. I did not like the thought.
Hours later, with darkness now closed in around us and the campfire burning, our Fellowship sat relaxing. Soon Aragorn would set the watch and we would sleep, but for now the smoke from many pipes drifted into the black night, a fragrant scent hovering closer to the ground. I’d smiled to myself earlier at the sight of the little ones merrily puffing away, looking like children who had made off with their father’s pipes.
The hobbits were charming to watch, the way they huddled together like a litter of pups, clearly comfortable with closeness and displays of open affection. Having had no contact with hobbits before Rivendell, I was fascinated by them and overwhelmed by the protective feelings they brought out in me. It warmed me to witness such purity of heart.
Pippin and Merry bickered fondly and Sam kept a close eye on his master at all times. At present Sam had urged Frodo to lie down on his side and rest his head on Sam’s thigh. He stroked the Ringbearer’s dark curls. Contentment graced Frodo’s fair features. Soft lights danced in his wide, liquid eyes, his thickly lashed lids blinking languidly, drowsily.
Gimli leaned against a large rock and smoked his long pipe and watched things wordlessly. I liked the dwarf and his outspoken ways, especially since he had no qualms about harassing Legolas whenever possible. Aragorn cast Gimli the occasional frown over this, but although the dwarf clearly respected the Ranger, Aragorn did not intimidate Gimli. The dwarf’s offenses were trifling irritations aimed solely at Legolas, so I couldn’t help appreciating Gimli’s humor.
Aragorn sat near Gandalf, talking thoughtfully, and although I felt curious about what they were saying, if they wanted my counsel they would have to ask for it. I did keep an eye on Legolas, though. He stood blending in with the shadows, leaning against the trunk of a tree near to Aragorn. I watched him off and on while casting my gaze around our gathering.
I’d have preferred to be lying on my stomach at the moment. I shifted my weight anew, biting back a hiss when my protesting backside objected. I glanced again at Aragorn and at that moment he turned his gaze my way and gave me lazy, knowing smile. Amazing how easily the man could make my face heat up. I schooled my features into a look of detachment and with a final grin he turned back to Gandalf.
Legolas then made a small move, catching my attention. He was watching me, his eyes alight with a dark fire that glowed even from where he stood in the shadows. I felt his displeasure fill the distance between us, and I returned the hostility, not because I really understood the cause of it, but because I felt challenged. If Legolas glared at me he would be answered in kind.
Another sudden movement caught my eye. Merry appeared, reentering the circle of light from the darkness where he’d no doubt been seeking some privacy. He glanced at me then strolled my way. I grinned at his approach.
"Mind if I sit with you a while?" he asked, plopping down beside me and releasing a mighty yawn.
"Your company is most welcome. You are weary?" I asked.
"No. I’m fine," he said, and yawned again.
I looked off and grinned.
"Well, perhaps I’m a little tired," he admitted. "Pip kept me up last night."
I wasn’t sure if I should ask anything further about what Pip might have been doing to keep Merry up last night. I was intensely curious about these beguiling little creatures, but I also felt a need for discretion. We still had much to learn about each other. Merry and Pippin’s relationship was clear, as was Frodo and Sam’s. They were couples, intimates, and comfortable in that, another characteristic I found entirely endearing.
"Pip kept you up?" I asked.
"Mm. He kept saying he heard something."
I instantly recalled where Merry and Pippin’s chamber was in relation to Aragorn’s and a hot jolt shot through me. I had nearly bitten a hole through a small pillow last night to keep from crying out while Aragorn heated my backside, and I’d managed to keep quiet, weeping silently and gasping small exploding utterances only when I could not bear it. But the sound of the spanks! There had been no stifling that.
I glanced at the hobbit from the corner of my eye, looking for a clue to his thinking, but Merry seemed his good-natured self, innocent of any intent to bait me, and really, neither hobbit could know anything for certain . . . I shifted uneasily.
"He just wouldn’t settle down," Merry continued.
"I imagine Pippin can be most insistent when he chooses to be."
"Oh, he’s that alright. But I put a stop to it and he finally went back to sleep."
"Well done, Master Brandybuck."
"Pippin is younger than the rest of us, you know. He’s only twenty-eight, still in his tweens. He won’t come of age until he’s thirty-three, so he tends to be excitable, and irresponsible. All tweens are." He heaved a put-upon sigh. "He just needs a firmer hand."
"I see. Well, that explains much." I couldn’t help grinning at his seriousness.
"Oh, yes. A good spanking and he’s quite himself again."
He said it with such a familiar air, clearly assuming that I simply understood that this was the best way in which to handle Pippin’s behavior and that I surely saw the wisdom of it. I could think of nothing to say. But Merry didn’t seem to notice any surprise on my part. He simply moved on and began to ask me questions about Gondor.
The little one was delightful company. We talked quietly for some time and I learned more about their Shire and hobbit-lore. Merry felt concern over how unprepared they were for this quest, especially since they’d had little experience with swords. His fears came through when he told me of their encounter with the Nâzgul at Amon Sûl, and a shiver of horror shot through me as well when I pictured these four terrified little ones facing those monsters.
"We must begin your training at once," I told him. "Henceforth, every time we stop for the night I shall spend time with all of you, and you’ll learn how to handle yourself with a sword."
His eyes lit up. "You mean, you’ll teach us? You? Really? A great Captain of Gondor? You’d do that?"
"Of course. And you shall learn well, little hobbit, for I am a ruthless taskmaster."
He grinned from ear to ear. "Oh, yes, we will indeed! Thank you, Boromir!"
I ruffled his curls. "You may not thank me once we get started, little one, for I’ll not let you shirk your lessons."
He laughed softly and we continued talking for some time. Finally, after a short silence, Merry looked up at me and said, "I don’t mean to pry, but I was just wondering, do you dislike all elves, or just Legolas?"
His question startled me and for a moment I simply stared at him. Was the ill will between Legolas and I that noticeable?
"I’m sorry," Merry said. "It’s none of my business."
"No, no," I quickly said. "It isn’t that I mind you asking, it’s just . . . I didn’t know our feelings were so noticeable."
Merry nodded, gazing back at me directly with a frown of understanding. Such a lighthearted name for such an intense-looking little creature. "Well, hobbits tend to notice such things easily, Frodo especially. He’s known of it since the council. I think he’s afraid it’s getting worse. He worries about things like that, you know."`
Ahhh. Merry the Protector had surfaced. They all protected Frodo, all of them standing before him like a shield, his line of defense, just as they had from the first moment I saw them all gather around at the council, all standing one step before him. And small wonder. Frodo aroused the guardian in all who saw him.
So Merry’s true meaning in asking his question was for the sake of his beloved friend. If he let me know that others were noticing our behavior, perhaps Legolas and I would realize the impact our hostility had on the group and straighten ourselves out for the good of all. I vowed Merry would soon speak to Legolas like this as well. My heart glowed pleasantly. Clever little hobbit.
He was also right, as Aragorn had been last night in his chamber. Whatever our differences, it was fitting that Legolas and I set them aside. I glanced at Frodo, half-dozing on Sam’s leg, his youthful face serene, his manner almost fragile, and a wave of guilt washed over me for having troubled his already burdened mind.
I glanced back down at Merry who still watched me, quiet and somber. Smiling softly, I said, "Legolas and I got off to a bad start, and we have indulged that anger for too long. But I understand what you are telling me, little one, and I thank you for saying it. I shall do all I can to see that Frodo no longer worries about this. He already has worries enough, does he not?"
Merry’s small face spread into a smile of gratitude. "Yes. He does."
"Perhaps you would like to go over and rest with him now." I ran my palm over his thick curls once more. "He is comforted with all of you near him."
He nodded and rose, looking relieved and yet tired again. Watching him trudge back to his companions I vowed that these valiant souls would suffer no more fears because of my petty concerns.
Aragorn stood and stretched and said, "Legolas, you shall take first watch. Gimli, you shall relieve him later."
Legolas pushed himself away from his tree and stepped from the shadows, and I suddenly sensed an overwhelming weariness in him.
I didn’t think. I just acted.
"I will take first watch, Aragorn," I said, scrambling to my feet. "I am not tired."
All eyes turned my way. A heated rush coursed through me. I glanced around quickly, ending at a surprised Aragorn and an equally stunned Legolas. At once I realized my mistake, but of course it was too late to halt the wrath darkening the proud elf’s face.
"I am not tired, either," Legolas grumbled indignantly. He glared at me a moment longer then nodded at Aragorn and headed off into the darkness.
The others shifted uneasily. I couldn’t bear to look at Aragorn, but I stupidly glanced at Frodo. His little face was contemplative, his worried gaze studying the fire and I felt thankful that his soulful eyes were not turned on me. I dared not glance at Merry.
Suddenly Aragorn was before me. He took me by the elbow and steered me back a bit towards the darkness.
"Come," he murmured. "A word. And fear not for I know your heart was in the right place."
I looked at him and saw that extraordinary patience and understanding. He gave me a soft wry grin. "Do not look so aggrieved, Boromir. Your intent was to do good. Your strategy was ill advised to be certain, however it is your purpose that concerns me, and that was noble. But perhaps it would be best to pause and think the next time you feel self-sacrificing, my fledgling, at least when it concerns Legolas."
I nodded. "I should apologize--"
"No," he quickly said. "Not now." At my sudden glance of distress he shook his head and added, "I shall deal with Legolas. This needs settling, but right now you must rest. Be at peace, Boromir. All will be well soon."
I rarely felt such rage. It had been less than two full days since I learned of Aragorn spanking Boromir, yet I had not adjusted to the knowledge. I doubted I could. Fury drove the beating of my heart. It seared my lungs. It pounded a low and heavy thrum in my ears.
At times the anger would quiet, but it never really left me. I felt disconnected from all that was elvish within me and I also felt ridiculous for allowing myself to be so affected. But I struggled to remain outwardly calm and pleasant to the others, especially the little ones for they do see so much.
I stood watch, glad of the singular duty, seething over that knave’s outburst. Take my watch? What had been his point? Surely it was not meant to help me! Did I really care to understand what motivated Boromir? No. Indeed I did not. I was simply grateful for this solitude.
Perched upon a low branch of a tree, I leaned against its trunk, seeking to take in its comfort. These trees were old, friendly and curious about this visiting woodland elf’s pain. But they preferred to heal more than to they sought to know, so they swayed, humming a gentle lullaby and lending me their consolation. Would that I could have taken it in. It seemed ungrateful to be unable to do so, not that the trees themselves would mind. They lent comfort nonetheless, but my soul was full of bitterness and there was no room for solace.
I was being unreasonable, of course. Aragorn had wanted to explain, insisting that we had much to talk about, so I was being beyond unfair to presume that my beloved Ranger had abandoned me for that Gondorian child. I knew it was wrong of me to think so little of Aragorn when we had been together, belonged to each other for so long now. We were life mates. How could I jump to such unjust assumptions about his actions? But I watched myself do it anyway, unable to halt the despondency that swept me along.
I sighed and looked up at the stars, reading the time. Gimli would be arriving to relieve me soon. I had no information to report. Nothing threatening moved within my range of senses and I had extended them far and wide. I had already decided to send the dwarf back to camp when he arrived, offering to take his shift. I preferred to stay out here rather than return to camp where the source of my misery lay . . . no doubt quite near Aragorn. I was exhausted in spirit, but I knew I would not rest, as indeed I had not rested last night.
I did not care to imagine why Aragorn withheld the truth from me about spanking Boromir, other than the most obvious – he knew I would not like it. He was right. But Aragorn’s action and his silence about it felt like a breaking of faith. My feelings were not all that unsuitable. Aragorn also felt that he had wronged me. He had felt it last night. I had seen the guilt and remorse filling in his gaze when we parted at his chamber door.
I took no pleasure in seeing my Ranger suffer that pain, but I was too shocked by what I had just learned to do anything but flee. I had endured my fears all day in silence, so to have them all but confirmed by Aragorn tore a wound within me.
I stormed from Aragorn’s chamber, yielding the field to my enemy. I walked Rivendell’s paths. I rested on the damp grass and gazed into the night sky. And Aragorn had not come to find me. Several times I brushed away tears, surprised to find them on my cheeks.
When I returned to my chamber, where I rarely stayed, Aragorn and I preferring his bed to mine, I stood looking out upon the woods until the sky began to lighten, all that time battling to close off the anger and the fear and the loneliness and the confusion. I lost that battle. I knew where Boromir had spent the night. I had passed slowly by Aragorn’s chamber and had heard them both breathing within. I did not know what had transpired during the night, aside from the young man’s second spanking, and I would not allow myself to think anything dishonorable of my Ranger. But the hurt inside me grew. And then I had been summoned and told that we were leaving a day early.
Aragorn had been fretting overmuch with our final preparations. I saw it at once. However, if he perceived my weariness he said nothing. I struggled to decide which was worse – Aragorn failing to notice, or Aragorn noticing and choosing to say nothing. Both were awful . . . nay, the latter was definitely worse.
I would overcome this. I would. It was absurd! I had lived amongst men for too long! I would find my calm essence, reclaim the warrior’s balance I had spent thousands of years polishing. I needed time and a suitable distraction. This quest would serve as both my source of torment and my saving grace, and I would adjust. I simply had not yet determined how to ignore my adversary and my sorrow.
The dwarf approached. Such loud clumsy creatures. One dwarf easily made the racket of two men. But I was glad of Gimli’s presence. He proved a fine target for my ill will.
Earlier, while the hobbits had readied the campsite and made dinner, the rest of us had walked a perimeter and found this lookout point before night closed in, so Gimli knew where I would be. But I decided to let him approach and look around for me before I spoke.
He arrived. But he was not alone. I froze. No wonder Gimli sounded like two.
"Legolas," Aragorn called in the stern voice I knew so well. "Show yourself."
Aragorn and Gimli strolled closer to the tree where I perched. The dwarf cleared his throat and rumbled, "These younger elves are dreadfully ill-mannered, are they not, Aragorn?"
Younger elves indeed! I could hardly jump down now, giving into this shameful baiting. Yet there was little point in remaining stuck up on this limb. Aragorn would find me momentarily. I was facing some humbling regardless of what I did. I chewed my bottom lip and tangled with my temper.
"Aye. Ah, well, master dwarf," Aragorn said on a sigh. "Youth."
"Hmmph!" Gimil snorted. "We dwarves have little tolerance for discourtesy in our younger folk."
Dwarves had little tolerance period.
"We teach our beardlings to respect those older and wiser."
They were almost beneath me now. I barely breathed. Aragorn raised an eyebrow at Gimli and the creature blathered on.
"We tan their wee backsides for them when it’s needed and they learn most effectively."
I squirmed and ground my teeth. Aragorn merely stopped and shook his head at Gimli. "You dwarves are a savage lot," he said, a smile in his voice. Then he looked directly up at me and asked in a patient tone, "Well, sir? Are you coming down?"
Gimli titled his head back and spotted me, "Why, there he is! Did you fall asleep up there, laddie?"
I jumped to the ground and adjusted my clothing muttering, "Of course I did not fall asleep! I do not fall asleep when on watch," I said with suitable contempt. I thought I did well. I had not called him a lout.
"Oh." Gimli rolled his eyes up to Aragorn. "Oh, well, my mistake. Perhaps you simply did not hear us approach then, since you surely would’ve had the good manners to answer when called."
I had no reply and that vile dwarf knew it. So did Aragorn. We stood there for several long moments during which I fought my urge to apologize or to explain that which I could not. Aragorn finally came to my rescue.
"We shall take our leave of you, Master Dwarf. Boromir will relieve you later."
"No need, no need," Gimli said. "I’ve had my fill of sleeping this night."
"Very well," Aragorn said. He bid Gimli farewell then turned to me and tugged his head to one side. "Come with me," he said in the elvish. "I know you need rest, but first we have some things to discuss."
We had things to discuss?
I did not like the sound of that. Yet there was little I could do to protest, especially within earshot of Gimli. So I followed Aragorn on his trek deeper into the woodlands. He moved in a direction further away from the campsite, knowing that I would alert him to any danger if need be, and he was therefore safe to journey as he wished.
I could not think where he was intending to go, nor did I particularly care. Clearly he wanted to talk alone. I was his subordinate. I would comply with his orders. I would go where he told me to go, do as he commanded. Beyond that I had no thoughts.
I was just about to ask if he had forgotten something back at Imladris and we were returning for it when he finally stopped in an area at the base of a gentle incline where a small landslide had taken place ages ago leaving a sculpture of boulders and stones in various sizes, some now overgrown with moss.
I remembered this place now. When walking the perimeter earlier we had scouted it out as a possible area to set the watch but it had been too far from camp for convenience. A warning cry would not have been heard from this distance. I shot Aragorn a look.
He wandered over and wedged his torch in a space between several rocks, then he took a seat on one of the boulders and turned to me with his contemplative and quiet gaze. I knew exactly what he planned, and he knew that I knew as well. I wanted what he intended, and I did not want it. I did not want to want it.
And suddenly, looking at Aragorn, sitting there watching me, so ruggedly perfect, so familiar and comforting, I felt as if all breath left my body, and that anger and fear and staggering loss surged and grew until it exploded inside me and a massive shift rocked my entire being, ripping the pain from me and leaving behind nothing. A wall of solid stone slammed around that nothingness, closing off all connection to anything outside my calm inner core. And I fell into that core, drenched myself in it, and then stood quiet.
There was no more struggle. I stood unflinchingly under his regard. Aragorn could say what he wished, do as he wished. It meant little to me. I stared directly back at him, seeing not Aragorn, but my commanding officer. I owed this man my attention, my respect and my allegiance, nothing beyond.
Once firmly established in that discipline, nothing he did could touch me. If grief resurfaced I would address it later, but for now I could return his level gaze, feeling no impulse to fidget, feeling nothing. I could stand as fixed and unmoving as the trees around us, indeed, fashion my essence to match theirs. I would agree to what Aragorn demanded. I would submit to what he imposed. It mattered not.
And so I stood and waited for him to speak, knowing that when he did, I would respond with all due respect.
I vow, an actual physical change came over Legolas when he did this. His stance hardened with each inward breath, his bright eyes dulled, his features held no life, even his hair seemed to loose its luster.
But I knew what had happened to him. Legolas had drifted into that silent place wherein he removed himself from everything, everything we were to each other and all we had ever been to each other. We had been life mates since my coming of age, loved and trusted each other. Yet my Legolas had been driven to this despair. He had taken refuge from his hurt feelings behind a wall of cold distance. It was eerie, seeing him sink this low. He had only done this a few times, but I now recognized how far distanced from me he was.
"I move into a place wherein you become no more to me than any other warrior," he had once confessed, wrapped up in my arms, half-draped upon me, and trembling more from the aftershock of those powerful emotions than from the spanking he had just received. "It is shattering, to find myself so alone and so far removed, so lost and far from you."
"Oh, my poor beloved," I had whispered, kissing his head and stroking his hair, trying to comfort him with my touch.
"It is an awful thing to feel," he went on, seemingly needing to talk about it. "I see myself pulling away, and I cannot seem to stop it. I become two people, the more angry, hurt one in control, pulling me back and away from you. But, then, when you are spanking me . . . then something else happens . . . I begin to find myself again, and I can feel again, and I . . . I --"
"Shhh, it is over now, elfling mine."
"I am sorry, Aragorn." And Legolas had cuddled closer, burrowing deeper into my arms, as though seeking to further escape the darkness he had just been through. "So sorry. I know it hurts you, too."
"Hush now. You are safe, back with me. No more of that now. No more sorries needed, sweetling. All is forgiven. Shhhh."
It shocked me that Legolas could wrench himself free from all he knew, remove himself from the years of love we had shared and all we were to each other. I vow that only the elves, capable of tremendous concentration, could do it. But I was comforted by the fact that he knew what he had done, and that it so rarely happened to him. Legolas only did this when his sadness was so profound that he could not exist in the same space with it.
It hurt to see him in that place now, and it threatened to drag me down to where I would be of no use to either of us. When Legolas fell to this depth it took all my resolve to keep from wallowing in the guilt that tried to bury me with brutal accusations as they did now: I had let this matter go for too long. I had not dealt with it when I needed to. I had neglected him, wounded him, perhaps irreparably. Perhaps I would not be able to save him this time. He may have moved beyond even my reach. And the most vicious, most self-serving notion of all – perhaps Legolas was better off without me.
My arguments as to why all this had happened meant little, for they were based on mere logic, and logic carries no weight in matters of the heart. Difficult circumstances or lack of time were never good excuses. It mattered not that I had meant to prepare Legolas before telling him of my new attentions to Boromir, that I had never wanted to leave him with this. I could have sought him out last night after my fledgling fell asleep. I could have risen and left my chamber and gone out into the night to find my pain-ridden elfling. I need not have fallen asleep myself. What did my weariness matter when Legolas was alone and tormented and in need of my care? What could have possibly been more important, least of all my own physical demands? But I had given in to those feeble demands and slept.
The only thing that kept me from allowing that guilt to overwhelm me was the sight of Legolas, suffering, lost to himself. My weakness had sent him to this isolation. I would not leave him there. The connection between us remained, strong enough for me to tug upon it and bring him back to me. And that connection burned within him, too, a small but strong glitter in his otherwise dead eyes, shining like a silent plea: "I am here. Please. Come find me."
I fully intended to.
"So, you resent Boromir," I began.
He did not even flinch. "Aye."
"He is offensive."
"Is that all?"
"How much do you need, my lord?"
‘My lord.’ Ah. Such distance. Such formality. I shrugged. "Is he, say, more offensive than the dwarf?"
"His offenses differ."
I paused to consider him. "Differ how?"
I sighed. "Tell me how his offences differ from the dwarf’s."
He paused, then said, "I fear I cannot do so."
"They are personal dislikes, difficult to summarize."
"I see. And how do you suggest we resolve this?"
He remained impassive. "It is not for me to say, my lord. I shall, however, obey your command."
"And if I command you to take your orders from Boromir henceforth?"
"Then I shall do so."
Very well. I knew now for certain where he was. He had no ability to touch anything but his sense of duty. Legolas had gone that full distance from me. During the few times that this had happened before Legolas had faded into an almost wraith-like shadow of his luminous self. And I had been the cause of it.
There could be no more talking. He needed action. And so did I. It mattered little that his physical prowess surpassed mine. The physical responded to what the mind ordered, and at present my elfling’s emotional strength was crippled. However, my anger and fear bolstered mine to an overwhelming level. So Legolas would now fight me, but he would not win. He did not want to win.
I stood slowly, purposefully and removed my weapons, laying them carefully aside, my gaze fastened on him. "Enough talk, sir," I said. "Lay down your weapons."
He raised his chin. "Aragorn --"
"Set them aside. Now."
"I shall not allow this."
"I cannot allow this."
"I know. Set them aside. Now."
I watched him remain rigid for another moment, then he slowly did as I commanded, laying his weapons at the edge of the clearing and returning to his place on the small grassy patch near the boulders. Every gesture was stiff, so removed was he from anything that resembled an honest feeling. He faced me again, impassive and cold.
"Do not do this, Aragorn. There is no need. And I have no wish to humiliate you."
"I doubt you shall, sweetling, but thank you for your concern."
"But I told you that I would obey whatever commands you gave me."
"Very well." I stepped back and reseated myself on the boulder. "Then come here, lower your leggings, and lay yourself across my lap."
He did not move.
He remained still and wide-eyed.
"Why, my lord?" he finally asked. "You have always had a reason for giving me a spanking. So what have I done to deserve such treatment?"
"You began by listening in on a private conversation between Boromir and I. You were then rude to him from the balcony. And then last night you baited him with some quite vulgar elvish."
"What harm was done? He could not understand me."
"But I could. The harm was in your unkind intent. And when conditions are favorable, I intend to treat your foul mouth to a proper cleansing. Sam brought plenty of soap."
Legolas paled visibly, a promising flash of emotion igniting in his startled blue eyes. Ah! There was my elfling.
"You said last night that you would speak no more of what happened," he said. "I thought all was forgiven."
"I have reconsidered the matter. You are too important to me, Legolas. I do not want to appear remiss. Now come here."
He shook his head slowly. "I shall not --"
Of course he could not submit. He would have to be forced. He was begging to be forced. One last time I said, "Come. Here."
I watched him rise and advance. It would have to come to this. I could not, would not submit. He would have to force me, and he was clearly quite ready to do so. Despite my approaching doom, a small fire ignited within my stomach. It is a stirring sight when Aragorn is stalking prey. It is even more stirring when I am the prey.
I wished he had not chosen this course of action. But he was right, of course. I had just said that I would do whatever he commanded, so I should have removed myself from caring about what he did to me, willingly obeyed his orders and stretched myself over his lap.
Part of me had longed to do just that. And part of me knew it was impossible to allow it.
Aragorn’s spankings were humbling, difficult to endure and distressingly long lasting, but they were always fair. I deserved every spanking he had ever given me, each spanking invited by my own actions.
But not this time. Aye, perhaps my temper had been surfacing too much, but I had been provoked! I had a right to my dislikes and I did not like this man from Gondor! It was unfair of Aragorn to spank me for that. If he thought I would or could submit myself to him for that reason, he was sadly mistaken. And as for him soaping out my mouth – oh! How I dreaded that act! Perhaps a little compliance now would stay that horrible fate, but compliance was unappealing as well.
But I had no more time to contemplate the fairness of anything, because Aragorn was upon me. He grabbed me by the forearm in an iron grip and began to drag me towards the boulders. He did not get far. I braced my legs, gave a powerful yank, and he flew backwards landing on his seat. Kicking his leg out he caught me behind my heels and a second later I was on flat my back beside him. Then Aragorn pounced and our struggle began, and I immediately remembered something.
When Aragorn and I fought over a threatened spanking he had always shown extraordinary strength and resolve, whereas I always faltered into some kind of bewildering deficiency. My muscles and limbs went weak, the way they sometimes had when I was a sapling and unused to spirits and the celebratory wine had flowed too freely in my father’s halls. I should have been able to trounce Aragorn as easily as I trounced any mere human, but with my strength suddenly drained I found myself simply fighting to hold my own.
It was worrisome, perplexing and most inconvenient. And it made no sense. My determination was always absolute, or so it seemed. And yet Aragorn would have the upper hand the entire time, as indeed he did now.
I could never understand how Aragorn always won, even though I told myself that this time he would not be victorious. And, while somehow losing such a battle was exasperating, the consequences were even more loathsome. I would be hauled over his knee and subjected to a particularly intense spanking. Defiance had its price.
This time was no different than all the others. I was trying. I did best Aragorn in several maneuvers. But he bested me in more and while my lagging energy drained quickly, his seemed to gain strength. It was infuriating! It was unfair! And it inspired a bit of unfairness of my own. It made me fight dishonorably.
At one point, Aragorn had me down on my stomach, my arms twisted and held at the small of my back while he sat upon my behind. "Yield!" he said.
I spat out the grass in my mouth and sputtered, "Aye!" And the moment his weight left me I flipped over and sent him sprawling with a fierce kick to his ribs.
I scrambled to my feet, but I did not get far before he grabbed me and downed me again, his outrage increasing his strength even more. By now I was near spent, so unlike me, so frightening this weakness, this exhaustion, and so terribly advantageous for my Ranger! And, of course, Aragorn being Aragorn knew that my will had finally collapsed. I was now defenseless against him, impossibly, ridiculously defenseless, just as it had happened before, every time I had challenged his authority and refused to comply. I had lost to my Ranger.
Aragorn picked me up, hauled me to the boulder, turned me over his knee and had me secured within moments, with my leggings pulled down and my backside exposed, bent over his left thigh. His right leg closed over both of mine to stop any kicking. And finally, ever considerate of my comfort, Aragorn lifted my upper body and settled me across the wide boulder, that I might rest easy during my imminent bottom scalding. His message was clear: I was going to be here for a while. I shuddered, my skin flinching, my heart thudding.
"Aye, feel where you are, sweetling," Aragorn murmured, leaning over me, his arm wrapped tightly around my lower back, his warm body covering me. "My pretty Legolas, bare-bottomed and over my knee, yet again. Not even your naughty underhandedness in our scuffle failed to keep you off my lap." He patted my backside. "But, shhh. How you do tremble, elfling mine! So tense. My poor little one."
I whimpered and tensed more, this waiting making my insides churn.
"Very well," he said, straightening again. "Let us get on with this. And do not fuss, sweet bratling elf. I shall take care of all your burdensome waywardness."
I still vow that a spanking I was being forced to accept was worse than one I submitted to gracefully. There was no slow build up. Not that Aragorn ever held much back from the start, but it was more intense when I had given him trouble. He began swatting down fast and hot, clearly determined to get my attention immediately. He did. I squeezed my eyes closed and bit my lips shut, refusing to cry out even though the stinging heat on my bottom built swiftly and terribly.
Aragorn spanked me as if driven by some force beyond himself. Yet he was still in control, as he always was. He never frightened me. He was simply intent on making his point. Aye, he was blistering my bottom, making me gulp and pant and release inadvertent, desperate little sounds, making me wriggle and try to squirm away, though I could barely move. But I was safe, and I shook my head at the absurdity of that.
Of course he said nothing, his usual pattern. Aragorn spanked silently at the outset. No distractions. He allowed me nothing to think about save my rapidly heating bottom. I had once tried to incite him into speech, much good it did me:
"Arag-gorn! Pleeeease! I-I am r-ready to t-talk n-noooowww!" No response, only steady spanks, hot and constant. "T-Talk to meee! Please, p-pleeeease talk to me!" Silence. Just a barely audible sigh. "I-I am soorrry! I-I want to t-talk about it! Aragorn, pleeeease!"
And when I could get nothing out of him I lashed out in my frustration and uttered enough foul Sindarin to earn me a mouthful of soap directly following my spanking. But Aragorn never responded. Only when he was ready, when he was satisfied with my surrender, did he speak, and he began by scolding me for my naughty attempt to coerce him. Afterwards, when he had me cuddled against him, he kissed my head and chuckled over my behavior:
"I vow you honestly thought I would allow such impudence," he said. "It was too amusing, little one. I had to let you continue, just to see where you intended to go."
And now Aragorn’s spanking began to seem unending. It had been unending! I longed to kick or buck or wrench about. But all I could do was cringe and quiver and hold my breath, waiting for each stinging spank to fall, igniting my throbbing bottom. Finally, I burst into tears. I sobbed. I again tried to wriggle away from his next searing spank, to no avail. Then I lost all control and reached back to cover my blazing backside with my hand.
Aragorn sighed, lifted his knee to raise my behind and began spanking the tender undercurve of my bottom.
"Legolas," he said, and it was enough.
"AHHHHHHHHH! S-Sorry! Sorrrrrrry!" I wailed, snatching my hand back. I knotted my fists near my shoulders and wondered what the Valar I had thought to achieve. And with a quiet ‘mmm’ Aragorn went on, his spanks returning to my burning backside, hardly a blessing. He spanked on, and I wailed on, and time held still.
But eventually I became aware that the solid wall I had formed around my core had crumbled. Aragorn and his steadily falling hand raining down blow after blow had forced me to accept this from him, forced me to accept that he decided what he would do to me, and when he would do it, and for how long, forcing me to take what he knew I needed, what he knew I wanted.
And I did want this, so badly. It was the horror of possibly losing it that had ignited the anguish within me. Aragorn’s attention was essential to me. It was always attention invited, needed, longed for, relished. Aye, it sometimes took the form of what he was doing to me right now. But, oh! How cherished an act.
I could not imagine any pain greater than losing the attention, the care, and the affection of one who had lavished such gifts upon me so freely, but the prospect of it had sent me into a downward spiral so profound that Aragorn had needed to thrash me this intensely in order to help me see reason and rediscover the truth. And he would not stop until he felt me back with him in heart and spirit, ready to submit to him, ready to hear him.
Truth slammed into me as solidly as Aragorn’s hand spanked my throbbing bottom, hurting even more, a blessed wondrous hurt. Of course nothing had changed between us! My beloved Estel cared for me, loved me, noticed everything concerning me as he ever had, just as I ever had concerning him. Aragorn and I had shared loving relations for more years than the young man from Gondor had been living. Boromir’s arrival made no difference in that.
I felt a wash of embarrassment amidst my wails. What had I been thinking? What had come over me? Aragorn most certainly was not ignoring me now. He had not intentionally ignored me at all. Time and happenstance and the unfortunate arrival of a compelling and intrusive young warrior from Gondor had created the turmoil within me. It had nothing to do with how Aragorn felt. And he was proving that now. He would not allow my unmannerly behavior to go unanswered. He was proving his devotion to me with every grueling spank. I still mattered to him.
I sobbed louder and shook my head against the surge of hot feelings, my feelings of stupidity and shame for having doubted him, my feelings of anger at myself, and I writhed fitfully, as best I could manage under his hold, which was not much, my hair tangling across my face now wet with tears.
Ohhhh, I was more than ready to yield. Now, would Aragorn allow me to yield anytime in the near future?
Legolas was fast approaching his shattering point. He became more frantic during a spanking he was forced to take as opposed to a spanking he felt he deserved, so it took him longer to surrender, his anger and confusion getting in the way of reason. But he did eventually reach a point of understanding. This time his resistance had seemed especially staunch. Where he found the energy I know not, for after our wrestling match and his frenzied, useless squirming over my lap he seemed exhausted.
But of course it was always the battle within that drained Legolas the most, as indeed it had lessened his strength during our little scuffle. He had done his best to both win and lose that skirmish, but his inner conflict weakened him before we had even begun. I had actually let our paltry fight last longer than I needed to, hoping to tire him further, and I let him win a few maneuvers to help him salvage some of his elvish pride.
But Legolas seemed ready to listen now, ready to talk this out, so I began quietly: "How is my elfling?"
"Legolas. You can do better than that."
"I am sorrryyyyy! Oh, p-please, Aragorn! Please, p-please, stop!" he wailed.
"Aye, little one," I said softly. "Soon."
I swatted down hard, watching him arch and cry out. "Do you decide when this spanking ends, sir?"
"N-Nooo! Y-You decide. Y-You dooo!"
"I thought as much."
"But, Ara’gorn," he gasped between repeated sobs. "P-Please! I-I am sorry!"
"For what, melleth nin?" I asked, slowing my spanks. "What is my elfling sorry for?"
"S-Sorry for listening, and-and for b-being mean to B-Bor’mir! I-I said bad th-things to him!"
"Naughty words, you mean?"
Legolas buried his face in his crossed arms and nodded, clearly and adorably embarrassed and, at last, completely surrendered.
"Naughty elvish words?"
More nodding. "Aye, Ara’gorn! N-Naughty elvish."
"Hmm." I slowed my spanking even more, nearly stopping now, his usually fair bottom now a dark rosy hue. "Well, perhaps it does not matter. After all, Boromir did not understand your elvish tongue."
Legolas raised his head, shaking his silky blond locks and whimpering, "Noooo! It-It matters! I-I should not have done th-that! And-And I-I am sorry! I was t-trying to be mean!"
My poor elfling. Each slow swat was making him flinch and quiver, his level of upset such that he was clearly having trouble saying what he meant. I decided to help him along. "Perhaps it was your intent to hurt and insult that matters. Is that what you are trying to say, sweetling?"
"Aye!" Legolas wailed. "In-Inten-tent! M-Matters, Ara’gorn! It d-does!"
Smiling at his childlike terms, I stopped spanking and tenderly began to rub his hot backside. "Aye, sweetling," I said. "It does."
Weeping steadily, Legolas lowered his head to his arms once more, and I shifted him, releasing his imprisoned legs and re-draping him so that he lay stretched out fully over my lap. There was no more resistance. He was limp and surrendered. I did not let him up, though. I sensed he had more to say.
"A-Ara’gorn, I-I was un-unkind t-to Bor’mir!" he finally exclaimed between weeping.
"Ah, and why was my gentle Legolas unkind?" I asked.
"I-I was --" He paused to weep a little, then: "J-Jealous. I-I was j-jealous of him. S-So sorry, Ara’gorn! So, stupid of me. I should have known b-better!"
I winced, my own guilty feelings growling within. And suddenly I needed Legolas in my arms. So I scooped him up, cuddling my elf to me, letting his sore bottom drop between my spread legs. He clung to me and I rocked him, listening to his hitching low sobs. But this was just my Legolas, crying from his spanking and from the remorse of feeling he had been naughty, not from any vicious inner torment.
"Shh, sweetling," I murmured. "I cannot allow you to speak of yourself so, and should I hear you call yourself stupid again, you shall go back over my knee. What you felt was understandable."
He paused and drew back, perfectly beautiful in his distress, his blue eyes bright and glassy with tears. "Understandable? It-It was?"
"Aye. Very understandable." I kissed him gently, then said, "And I love you elfling mine. Nothing can ever change my love for you. You know that."
"Aye, Estel. I-I do know. As I l-love you."
And that was all that needed saying. He came into my arms again with a whimpered gasp and I continued to rock him a little longer, then I shifted, moving and settling us down upon the grass with Legolas gathered to me just as I had held Boromir two nights before.
I smiled and smoothed my cheek against the crown of his silky hair, thinking of how different he and Boromir felt in my arms, so different and yet so alike. Both needing this closeness, as I did, both practically lying atop me while holding on, both making small moves against me, rubbing into me as if trying to get closer, as if trying to somehow become part of me. And I cherished all of it. We lay like that in silence for as long as I felt we could, but we could not stay there all night, and there was much to discuss.
"How is my elfling?" I finally asked in soft Sindarin, kissing his forehead.
"Fine, Estel. I am f-fine now."
"Legolas." I waited.
"Weary. So very weary."
"And you also know I shall walk stiffly tomorrow." He pouted adorably.
I smiled. "I always like watching you walk after a spanking."
He grinned again and buried his face in my chest. "Hmmph."
Kissing him again, I said, "We have much to discuss and not much time. I needs tell you a tale, little one."
He nodded and I began telling him the tale of Thorongil and of a bright little child from Minas Tirith who adored the mysterious hero. I told him of how Boromir, firstborn of Denethor, attached himself to the warrior and how they formed a bond that even Denethor himself envied. I told him of the day I had to leave the city, choosing to move on, pressured by the increasing ill-will from the jealous father, and then I told him of what it felt like to see that boy ride into Rivendell, a warrior himself, proud and strong and full-grown, but still the lonely child I knew so well.
Legolas listened quietly, barely breathing it seemed. I told him what I knew, what I had learned from Boromir about his father and Faramir, though careful to not reveal anything I felt Boromir would rather Legolas not know.
When I began to speak about the events leading up to, and including, Boromir’s first spanking Legolas lifted his face to gaze at me, his large compassionate blue eyes swimming with fresh tears. I knew they were tears for that little boy who was lost and in need, adrift in loneliness and anguish and the longing for the simple attention he so deserved. I kissed my beloved softly, knowing I need say no more.
"Aragorn," he finally ventured, his voice a soft hush, "I have wronged him."
"Nay, shhhh. What I said before is true, sweetling - your feelings were understandable. And you and Boromir are equally accountable for your actions."
"I-I feared you had . . . ."
"Shhh, I know. Enough."
"But, Aragorn, I-I must explain. Please, let me . . . let me . . . ."
I nodded. Perhaps it was best he let this out. He pulled back slightly so that he could look directly at me, bravely settling more weight on his backside than he was comfortable with if his wince was any indication. Intrepid elf.
"I thought you . . . well, I thought perhaps you . . . ." His worried gaze said all. He could not bring himself to admit to his lack of faith in me. "I am sorry, Estel. So sorry, to have thought so little of you, to have doubted you for even a moment --"
"Hush," I said, gathering him close again. "Shhh, hush, elfling mine. Enough I say. You have nothing to apologize for, Legolas, save that foul temper." I heard him answer my grin with his own. "And I shall always make you answer to me for that."
"You always have."
He burrowed in closer, clearly loving my stern attention. I gave him more comfort to enjoy. "You have not been given leave to behave as you see fit, elfling mine. I am watching as I always have been."
A small sob broke free from him, quickly muffled as he pressed his face against my body. I crushed him to me, warmed by his breath on my neck and the feel of his strong, graceful form against mine.
"My attention shall never stray from you, beloved. I promise. Remember that. I simply have another youngling to watch over."
He scoffed and said, "Youngling indeed! Need I remind you of my vastly superior age, human?"
"You have more years, Legolas, not more maturity," I returned with teasing disdain.
"And you take far too much upon yourself, Ranger-child!" he shot back.
I burst into gales of laughter. He had not called me that for a long time. Legolas laughed too, sheepishly. Clearly he was startled to hear the old name come out of his mouth as well.
We remained lying together in the soft night for as long as we dared, then we had to gather our things and head back. I dropped back a few paces on our way, letting Legolas walk ahead of me, and when he turned I grinned and said, "I told you I liked to watch you walk like that."
He blushed strongly enough to see by torchlight and he gave me a smirk of annoyance. "You are incorrigible," he muttered.
Just before we arrived back at the camp I stopped him and said, "There is something else, Legolas. I-I ask that you forgive me for allowing you to suffer so."
He stared at me in frank amazement. "But, Aragorn, your spankings always hurt --"
"No, no, my friend," I quickly said. "I mean that I should have talked to you about Boromir before you found out and had to suffer the knowledge of it alone. It was wrong of me not to prepare you. I was lax in my duty to you and I am sorry, so sorry for what you suffered because of my weakness."
He looked stunned. "Aragorn, I found out you had spanked Boromir because I listened to a private conversation. The fault was mine."
"But last night when you left my chamber, I-I did not seek you out to ease your mind--"
"Because there was no time!" he interrupted. "No time last night and no time today."
"I could have found you last night, and instead I fell asleep--"
"Because you were tired!" he interrupted again. "You are human, Aragorn! You are going to be tired at times, and you needed your rest! ‘Tis true – I spent a difficult night, but that was of my making, not yours. I had allowed my fears and doubts full reign. But you are not to responsible for that. And I refuse to permit you to assume blame for it!"
I considered hauling him over my knee again if he interrupted me once more. But the tone in his voice made me pause . . . .
There are times when Legolas sounds far too sensible to suit me, times when he becomes that other Legolas, fully capable of dealing with me as I had just dealt with him, times when he will not be argued with. This moment had suddenly become one of those times. I was not going to win.
I thought it over briefly and decided that this issue was really of small concern. Legolas would not accept an apology. Clearly the matter was finished . . . for him. I would deal with what my heart told me on my own, learn from it, and hopefully never do it again.
I nodded and smiled and said, "As you will, sir."
Legolas looked thoughtful. We started walking again and he was silent for a few moments, then he suddenly said, "Aragorn, you were . . . well, I was wondering . . . ."
I gave him a moment, then looked over and said, "Yes?"
"About the soap . . . you were in jest, were you not?"
"Shh! We do not want to wake any sleeping little ones."
"You cannot have meant it!"
"Sam packed plenty of soap, Legolas. I intend to use some of it on your nasty mouth when we come to a good source of water."
He stopped short, staring at me again with those wide eyes full of horror.
"Fear not," I said. "I shall do it when there is no one else around."
"You are in jest." He chuckled lightly. "You are."
I simply smiled.
He was watching me again. I felt the elf’s eyes upon me as I worked with Merry and Pippin.
The hobbits were clumsy with their wee swords, but they were doing well, all but poor little Frodo. He simply didn’t have much aptitude for the sword. He did try, and Sam made an effort to help him, a bit too much actually, but Frodo had difficulty asserting himself and he couldn’t seem to work up the necessary fierceness. Perhaps he would in time. He worried me, though, this small gentle soul heading into the heart of darkness. I would need to stay near him should we ever come under attack, but then, I sensed that Aragorn would rather assume that charge, and of course I would yield to whatever he willed.
Three days out of Rivendell now and we were forming into a more cohesive group, getting to know each other. It had been a strange few days with the elf, starting with the morning after my unfortunate offer to take his watch. Legolas seemed to have somehow calmed in the night, although how the change occurred I cannot say as I slept so soundly, Gimli apparently not needing to be relieved. But Legolas didn’t glare at me once during the second day, nor today and I began to wonder what had happened to him to affect such a change in attitude. Aragorn had said he would talk to him, and I guess that worked wonders.
Whatever the reason, I was certainly glad of it since I felt eager to honor Merry's valid concerns by striving for a more harmonious relationship with Legolas. At the time I’d despaired of exactly how I was going to achieve that, given his hostility towards me, but now it looked as if peace between us might indeed come to pass. We were still keeping our distance from each other, but I sensed in him a willingness to try, and it felt promising.
After dismissing my hobbit students I strolled down to a stream that meandered through the woods a little ways from our camp. Sam was there, wringing out something he’d just washed, no doubt one of Frodo’s belongings. Sam was such a faithful servant and good-hearted little soul. He was never far from Frodo, so to see him alone was unusual. He flashed his ready smile and hailed me as I approached.
"Ho, Boromir! Did Pippin attack you?"
"He did indeed, Master Gamgee. I have come to revive myself and splash water on my wounds."
He chuckled and gathered up his things, coming over to meet me as I reached the water’s edge. "You have to watch out for them Tooks," he said with a mischievous grin. "They have fierce tempers."
"I vow the Brandybucks can outdo them."
"Oh, bless me yes!" He laughed again, then he grew suddenly quiet and looked up at me, his youthful face serious and full of honest concern. "I just wanted to say that, well, I know you’re working hard with Mister Frodo, with all of us that is, and it’s so good of you, but, what I mean to say is, he’s doing his best you know. Mister Frodo, he’s not a warrior type, if you understand my meaning."
I smiled down at him gently and looked away for a moment, gathering myself. Such loyalty and love. I did hold these hobbits dear. Looking down at him I asked, "Do you think I am being too hard on him, Sam?"
"Oh no!" he quickly stated. "No, no, not at all!"
"Because he will need to learn--"
"I know, Boromir," he interrupted eagerly. "And that’s what I meant to say, is that, well, I love Mister Frodo, and I plan to be at his side always, but I can’t count on that working out the way I want it to, if you know what I mean. I wanted to protect him at Weathertop, and, and--"
He lowered his gaze and swallowed hard and my heart went out to him. I nearly pulled him up into my arms to comfort him, but I held off, letting him work this out.
"You did your best, Sam. All of you did. I am certain of it."
"Aye, but it wasn’t enough," he said, looking up with now glassy eyes. "And that’s my point. Something like that could happen again, at any time, and when it does Frodo needs to able to protect himself."
I saw at once where he was heading. His earnest little expression carried his fear and his worries so plainly he need not have said another word, but he went on.
"I never thought I’d ever hear myself say this to anyone, but I hope you understand what I mean when I say that you’ve got to be tougher on him, Boromir. He needs to be ready. He has to learn. That’s bound to be hard on him, but that’s just as it is. Better he learn now than . . . ." He couldn’t finish the thought. "And I’ve got to stop helping him so much when you’re trying to teach him."
It was obviously wrenching for him to say that, but it would’ve been even more wrenching for him to have held it in. I nodded. "I understand."
Sam sniffed then released a great breath. He scrubbed his forearm over his face, disguising his need to wipe away the anxious tears that had clouded his eyes. "Don’t blame yourself, sir. Frodo, well, he has this way about him, always has. Folks just watch out for him, you know? They can’t help themselves."
I did indeed know. "He’s lucky to have you, Sam," I said smiling down at him.
He blushed and shrugged. "I feel like as not that I’m the lucky one. But I’m off to fix us some supper."
He turned and scurried away. I went to the stream to splash some water on my face, then stood shaking off my hands.
"They are so loyal and loving, these little ones."
I flinched at the voice, my hand instantly on my sword. But it was mere instinct, for the moment I heard it I knew it was Legolas who had spoken. He stepped from the shadows of the gathering dusk and wandered towards me. I was too surprised to say anything for a moment. I think they were the first kindly spoken words he'd ever said to me. I collected myself.
"Aye, they certainly are."
Legolas shifted his weight to one leg and kicked absentmindedly at the small stones lining the water's edge. "You are teaching them well, Boromir." He lifted his gaze and looked directly up at me. "It is a great kindness you are bestowing upon them."
Again I was too stunned to respond right away. I glanced down, my face beginning to warm. "It is no more than needed doing," I said. "But, thank you."
"I would guess that you have had few dealings with halflings," he ventured.
"None," I admitted. I lifted a smile to him. "But they are wonderful, are they not?"
He smiled back. "Aye, these four especially."
"They are delightful to watch together."
"So close," he added.
We both laughed, then I said, "So like brothers, loving brothers."
"Aye, most loving." The intimate tone in Legolas’ voice drew my quick glance.
"Closer, even, than brothers," I said softly.
"Close in a different manner."
We exchanged quiet smiles. A silence fell. I sensed in him a need to say something, something I wished to say as well. And all at once, to my astonishment, Legolas didn’t strike me as a pompous elf trying to make my life miserable. I saw him as simply a young elf, oddly bewildered by his own sudden awkwardness, vulnerable, even, astoundingly so. I watched him, fascinated by my change in feelings towards him, and I immediately thought to help him by perhaps beginning to talk of the matter with which he was so clearly struggling. But I recalled my blunder in trying to help Legolas out before. He had initiated this encounter, and it suddenly seemed more polite to allow him to guide it. I waited.
"I . . . ." He faltered, and studied the ground searchingly. I clenched my teeth to keep from interrupting. Then he quickly looked up at me again, his eyes now calm and sincere. "I have wronged you, Boromir."
"I have wronged you as well," I blurted out, unable to hold back a moment longer.
We both breathed quick little grins. I nodded at a fallen log nearby and said, "Perhaps we could sit and talk?"
Legolas gave the log a wary glance then shot one at me as well, but he joined me. He did not sit when I did, though. I glanced up in question. Legolas had actually become red-faced. He shifted from foot to foot, then he muttered, "I shall stand, thank you."
A hot jolt shot through me. Those were the words I had spoken to Aragorn the day he had teased me about sitting on the bench! I stared hard at Legolas. His face said all. He had heard me that day? He . . . he knew? He knew that Aragorn had spanked me?
I blinked and studied him more closely, but Legolas was clearly not trying to hide the truth. More hot explosions fired within me, thousands at once: He had heard! Impossibly, he had indeed heard! And he’d known my secret for days now! I could scarce fathom my humiliation, and what followed it was worse.
I stood slowly, gaping at him, my humiliation forgotten in light of the obvious explanation as to why Legolas did not want to sit! Aragorn had – he had . . . ! And he had said nothing to me about spanking Legolas, not even a hint that he did such a thing!
Legolas watched me his eyes growing huge. "Please, Boromir, sit down. You look ill."
Ill? I didn’t know what I was but I certainly was not ill! Ill? My stomach churned and my limbs shook, surging feelings of anger and betrayal and . . . and . . . ill? Of all things! I felt an overwhelming urge to lay into Legolas and then go lay into Aragorn!
I felt ridiculous. Why, after all, should I care? But I did care! I cared very much! And I did not like this, any of it! I tried to draw a normal breath, tried to hear what Legolas was saying.
"Please, listen to me," he said in an urgent tone. "I know how you feel. I do, Boromir. I felt just as you do now when I listened in on your conversation that morning, the teasing little interplay between the two of you, about the bench. I listened, for elves have extraordinary hearing. I invaded your privacy, and I apologize. Would that I had not, for then I knew that Aragorn had done to you what he had ever done to me. Aragorn had taken you over his knee, disciplined you . . . my Aragorn had spanked you. So . . . so, you see, Boromir, I do know how you feel. I . . . I do."
I listened to his somber, quiet voice. I took in the deep radiance of his eyes, and I saw that Legolas did know how I felt. I couldn’t stop trembling, but I heard him. And I realized that if he alone had shared this relationship with Aragorn for a long time, then Legolas was, oddly enough, the only one who could understand how I felt right now. Aragorn spanking the hobbits likely made Legolas smile, as it had me. Like me, Legolas probably sanctioned it. But my involvement was an entirely different matter for him.
"I should not have listened that morning," he repeated. "It was wrong of me, and I beg your forgiveness. In fact, I have wronged you in many ways, sir, and I am sorry. I-I have no excuse. I was simply . . . ."
Legolas paused and dropped his gaze, swallowing hard. My chest tightened at the sight of him, seeming suddenly so young and uncertain. Legolas, Prince of Mirkwood. Uncertain before me.
"I-I was afraid," he bravely continued, struggling to murmur his words. "It seemed that you . . . you had seemed to come and take over. He was with you so often, and . . . and he became so fond of you, so quickly." Looking up at me suddenly, he charged on: "But I did not know that he had met you when you were a child. I had never heard that story. I did not understand your history with Aragorn.
"All I saw was a beautiful young warrior, a man, not elfkind, but a man, and my Aragorn taking that warrior’s side against me, and . . . and it was wrong of me to think this, so stupid of me, really. . . but I seemed unable to stop myself from these vile thoughts . . . and I imagined that perhaps you were . . . perhaps you were taking my Aragorn away from me."
I blinked, and I stared up at this beautiful elf, seeing his discomfort, his silent and gallant struggle, understanding all that he was fighting to admit, and his shame in admitting it. And I suddenly understood what he’d been suffering. I realized what had driven Legolas to such angry extremes, and I shuddered from the power of it. Given the circumstances, he had actually shown remarkable restraint with me.
I would likely have seen it the same way: A usurper had invaded his place with Aragorn, threatening to take away what Legolas had enjoyed exclusively, an invader who had been confrontational to him as well. A warm swelling of sadness expanded in my chest. I had just begun to enjoy the comfort of Aragorn’s attention, and I knew that the loss of it, especially the threat of losing it to an intruder, would be devastating. Yes, I could imagine how that would feel.
And I’d only known such comfort for a few days. Legolas had clearly cherished it for some time. What might the fear of such a loss have been like for him? I couldn’t fathom such anguish. How had he borne it? How had controlled himself to the degree he had?
A sharp pain grasped my heart, ripping through me, tightening my throat, stinging my eyes. Again I didn’t think. I simply acted. I rose and moved to Legolas and gathered him in my arms. I had to hold him. I had to pull him to me, let him know how sorry I was for what he had suffered, how sorry I was to have been a part of that suffering.
Legolas stiffened for only a heartbeat, and then his arms came around me, desperately, clinging to me with a strength that nearly took my breath away. But I held him with all my strength in return, letting him cling as firmly as he needed to. We tightened our hold, suddenly understanding so well all that we had in common, all that bound us together into this tight embrace of brotherhood.
Legolas lowered his head to my shoulder and I buried my face in his silky mane, breathing in his most intoxicating, unearthly scent and we held on to each other, saying nothing and saying so much. I heard him sniff and I blinked back my own threatening tears, trying to quiet my regrets. Finally we drew back, still holding on to each other by the waist and gazing into each others’ eyes. Legolas was an incredibly exquisite creature. I hoped my eyes reflected as much kindness and compassion as did his.
Again I astonished myself. I reached up and smoothed a few stray hairs from his perfect cheeks, then I boldly ran my palm down his bright tresses and toyed with his delicate braid. I had to smile. How wonderful this felt! Holding Legolas, and being held by him, for I felt Legolas holding me back, supporting me as I was him.
He grinned in return, then it was his turn to astonish me. He leaned forward and kissed me, ever so softly, but the thrill of it, the touch of his mouth on mine, that brief puff of sweet elvish breath mixing with mine sent a hot quiver shooting through me. He drew back, a quiet look of triumph in his eyes. I blushed foolishly and sought my composure.
"How . . . How did you keep from killing me?" I asked.
He released a gentle laugh. "I had you in my sights several times."
"I would be long dead if you had."
"Well, I felt we needed a strong arm to help protect the little ones," he said lightly.
We talked then, mostly sharing words of understanding and apologies for our ill-mannered behavior towards each other. Legolas refused to translate the elvish curses he had hurled at me a few nights before, but he laughed at my asking.
"I dare not teach them to you, sir, lest you forget yourself someday and use one within earshot of Aragorn."
I sat on the log again, but Legolas once more hesitated. A sudden urge hit me and I patted my lap, saying, "Come, nice and comfortable."
He shot me such an astonished look that I had to laugh, and I quickly explained the significance of what he had overheard Aragorn teasing me about that day at the stone bench. Legolas grinned beautifully while I told the story of the hobbits’ conversation. Then he sighed and shook his head.
"Aragorn has a little-boyish streak in him, you know," he said. "He sometimes cannot keep from teasing."
I smirked. "So I have noticed. That night after you and I had words outside his chamber, and then inside his chamber --"
"You were soundly thrashed that night," Legolas interrupted sinking down beside me with a wince and look of condolence. "Were you not?"
I nodded. "Most soundly. I tried to not make a sound because I feared someone might hear. The halflings had chambers near to his."
"But --" He looked puzzled. "The first time Aragorn spanked you, the day before, were you not in your chamber?"
"No. I had begged him to let me take him to a place far away from Elrond’s house where we would not be seen or heard, a private place I had found."
"And he agreed to this?"
"Aye, well, he took some convincing, but as it was my first time . . . ."
"Hmm." Legolas nodded. "He was feeling generous, my friend."
"Well, he wasn’t feeling generous that last night in Rivendell. He hauled me over his knee right there in his chambers where I couldn’t allow myself to cry out."
"An ill-advised tactic. It never does any good to try keeping quiet."
"So I’ve learned, but I kept quiet that night."
"How did you manage that?" he asked, clearly in awe.
I told him about nearly biting a hole in the pillow, which made Legolas snicker. "And do you know what he said while I was trying to restrain myself and biting this wretched pillow as he heated my backside?" I asked.
Legolas shook his head, his eyes alight with glittering sparkles of mirth.
"He said --" I assumed an Aragorn-like voice, "‘Your pride shall likely earn you a mouthful of feathers, little fledgling.’"
Legolas nearly fell off the log. I’d never seen him laugh so hard and I fell right into it with him. It took us several long minutes to recover.
"Oh," Legolas finally gasped, "I can just hear him!"
"And then that business about the bench." I sighed and shook my head and exchanged a look of mock annoyance with the elf. "The man is incorrigible."
"Ah! The perfect word indeed! I called him so the other night," he said.
I studied him. "He took you out alone after your watch was done, didn’t he?"
Legolas sighed and gave a short nod.
"Was it bad?"
"Aye, it was one of the bad ones. But the ones when I fight him are always the worst."
"You fight him?" I asked, stunned. "But some say that elves are stronger than men, so how --"
"I do not know," he said quickly. "Somehow my strength fails me when I am fighting Aragorn over a spanking. I usually accept it because . . . well, because I have earned it and I do deserve it, and . . . well, the man is so eternally right."
"I have noticed that as well."
"Aye. But mostly I accept it because . . . well, because . . . ."
"Because you want to accept it."
We shared a knowing look and a soft smile.
"Nevertheless there are times when I cannot submit, when I am feeling stubborn or I am blinded by rage as I was that night. So I refuse to allow it. Those times have been few, but they do lead to a fight. Aragorn has to subdue me, and then, aye, those spankings are worse." He flashed me a wry smile. "So I am still reluctant to sit."
I shook my head in sympathy.
A mischievous glint came into his eye and he said, "Once, however, after such fight that he had, of course, won, and after he had given me a very long spanking, do you know what I did?"
I grinned, enjoying this as he clearly was as well. "What?"
"Aragorn had me down over his knees, and he asked me if I would behave now, you know, the way he does when he is ready to talk and he needs you to be calm."
I nodded, hanging on every word.
"I was still humming mad inside. It had been a harsh spanking, but he still had not managed to swat all the rebellion out of me, and now I was doubly angry because he had stopped too soon . . . ." He paused. "Does that make sense?"
"Of course!" I shot back. "If he had done his part well you wouldn’t have had any conflict left to torment and tempt you."
"Exactly!" He glowed. "So I lied and told him that I was ready to listen and behave."
I groaned, knowing this could not have ended well for Legolas, and knowing that I might have been tempted to lie just as he had.
Legolas now shot to his feet, excited by his own story, his eyes sparkling and his arms waving to help animate his tale. "So Aragorn turned me, and he was holding me there on his lap, just watching me and waiting for me to calm. But instead I scrambled up and dealt him such a powerful blow that he went sailing right off the other side of the log where he sat!"
"You what?" I cried, jumping up in shock.
Legolas was positively giggling. "I did! He was flat on his back when I last saw him and I took off running!"
My mouth opened and closed in silence. I was too stunned to speak, but Legolas looked completely delighted with himself. Then I fully envisioned this again, and I couldn’t help it. I simply fell into gales of laughter. It wasn’t funny, and yet the picture of it was, so I gave in to my inexcusable mirth and the two of us howled for several minutes more. We actually collapsed to the grass and sat there laughing like idiots
It felt, as Aragorn would put it, completely and wholly naughty, and yet it was wonderful to laugh like that with Legolas, and to see him laugh, and to know that we shared a bond like this and could talk in such a manner, open about our situation with Aragorn, free to enjoy it without question and knowing that another understood and that we were no lesser in courage or warrior spirit for what we accepted.
"Oh, I tell you, Boromir," Legolas rasped when he could breathe again, "It was without question one of the most ill-planned things I had ever done in my life, and when Aragorn got his hands on me again --" He paused and laughed anew. "I swear to you, I did not sit for a week."
"A week?" I exclaimed. "His spankings last a woefully long time, ‘tis true, but surely he couldn’t spank you long and hard enough for it to last a week!"
"Oh, but it was not just one spanking I earned with my stunt. He impressed his displeasure upon me every other night for a week, long and meaningful reminders that I was never, ever to do such a thing again."
"But, but you had to know that you would eventually have to face him again," I said in amazement. "You could not keep running forever."
He looked mildly bewildered, then said, "At the time I did not think that far ahead."
We collapsed into more laughter, then he added, "Yes, I knew I would regret it, of course, but I must tell you, my friend, I was in such an unreasonable state that I did not care. It seemed well worth it. I was very sorry at the end of that very long week, though. But Aragorn had been just. I deserved it."
"I would love to hear this story in full," I said eagerly.
Legolas laughed. "Someday."
"Are we enjoying ourselves?" a familiar voice called.
Legolas and I both scrambled up and I turned to see Aragorn, Frodo and Merry coming from the woods a little downstream from us, heading for the water, skins in their hands for filling. All of them paused and I wondered what they had heard, but it seemed they hadn’t heard anything except our laughter.
They all paused and stood there, smiling, studying us for a moment. Aragorn cocked us his handsome grin, Merry winked at me and Frodo’s large blue eyes glittered, reflecting the sparkles from the water. Aragorn flashed a look between Legolas and I that warmed me inside and made my heart feel full to bursting.
"Caught being friendly with each other." Legolas sighed and moved beside me. "I guess we shall needs be on friendly terms from now on."
I grinned at him. "I guess so."
Flashing me his perfect smile, he said, "Shall we join them, my friend?"
I nodded and together Legolas and I headed for the others.