Little Fledgling chapter 1



Notes regarding this story:


This story was inspired by Larrkin's wonderful 'Attention Deserved' series, of which I am a devoted fan. As other fans will recall, those stories are an AU, based on the idea that Aragorn stayed in Minas Tirith somewhat longer than he did in Tolkien's canon, and that he, as 'Thorongil', developed a close relationship with a then four-year-old Boromir. When they met again in Rivendell, Boromir recognised and remembered Aragorn, and that closeness was rekindled.


After Larrk first started posting her stories, I asked if she had any plans to write the tale of Aragorn and little Boromir, as I was longing to read it. She replied that she didn't, and so it came about that I started writing it myself, with Larrk's very gracious permission. Needless to say, I've tried very hard in writing this to stay true to Larrk's vision of the characters, and the story itself. I hope I've done it justice. :)


And for anyone who needs to re-read Larrk's stories and refresh their memory, they are all up on her page, here:



Thanks to:


Hadra – thank you for all the help, for booting me along when I got stuck, and for letting me bounce so many ideas off you.

Shotboxer – thank you for your careful editing, for catching my many errors, and for insisting that I get rid of all those unnecessary dashes. <g>

Laura – thank you for being so kind as to offer this story a home!


And finally, an extra-special thank you to Larrk, for being so very generous as to let me play in her sandbox, and so very encouraging while I was writing this. I'm truly honoured that you'd accept my story as the 'official' prequel to your wonderful AU. Your stories have given me so much enjoyment and inspiration, and I only hope that I've managed to give some of that back with this tale.



So, without further ado, my take on the story of Aragorn and little Boromir. I hope you enjoy it.


Disclaimer: No infringement of copyright is intended. All recognisable characters are the property of Tolkien Enterprises and/or New Line, and no profit is gained by the writing or posting of this story.


Warning: This story contains spanking, both of Boromir as a child, and (through flashbacks) of Aragorn as a child. If this offends you, hit the back button now.





Little Fledgling

Chapter 1


by Kat


Aragorn, son of Arathorn – currently known as Thorongil, the Eagle of the Star – had definitely not expected, when he woke up this morning, to find himself playing nursemaid. And yet somehow, here he was, scouring the White City for a four-year-old child who had, apparently, a near preternatural skill in hiding himself.


Of course, the search was made more difficult by the simple fact that Aragorn had not been raised in Minas Tirith, and thus, although he now knew the City well, he did not know every nook and cranny where a child might hide. Nor, indeed, did he know his new charge's preferences – and grandson of the Steward or not, little Boromir was only a child, and subject to a child's whims. Places that held very little appeal to adults could be endlessly fascinating for children, and it was hard to know at first glance what those places would be.


He rounded another corner, his keen eyes scanning the cobbled street ahead for children, but he saw only adult citizens passing to and fro. Frowning, he continued on, wondering yet again quite how he had suddenly gained a position as a child-minder. It had certainly not been the order he was expecting when Ecthelion had hailed him, not two hours before . . .






Aragorn turned when he heard his name called – his assumed name, at least – and bowed politely to the Steward, greeting the old man with a smile. "My lord, forgive me. I did not see you."


"Nor should you have; I had come seeking you," Ecthelion said, returning his smile. "How do you fare, Thorongil? I heard tell you were near recovered from your injury."


"Aye, my lord," Aragorn replied, his eyes straying down to the sling that still supported his left arm. Although he thought it largely unnecessary, the healer who had tended him had insisted he keep it on for two more days, and he had not seen any reason to disobey that edict – at least, not yet. "It is healing well," he told Ecthelion now. "I should be fit in another day or two."


"That is good to hear," Ecthelion said warmly, though a moment later his face took on a considering look. "Although if you are so nearly healed, there is a small duty I would lay upon you, if you were fit to take it."


"Aye, my lord," Aragorn said immediately, nodding. "I am fit." And tired of being idle, he added to himself wryly.


"Good, good," Ecthelion said. "You know, of course, that Denethor left the city this morning. I had thought to send you, but I would not have you pressed into service before you are recovered, and my son can go easily in your stead. However, while he is away, there is a matter that I would ask you to tend to."


"I will be of service if I can," Aragorn said, curious. "Whatever you ask of me, if it is within my power, I will see it done."


"It concerns Denethor's son," Ecthelion said. "You may know that Finduilas is poorly again – as she is often these days," he added with a sigh. "She has not the energy to spare to chase him, I have not the time, and the child has developed a great skill in slipping from his caretakers' sight, and does it often when his father is away. If you would watch over him until Denethor's return, it would take a great worry from us both."


Aragorn blinked. He was to be a nursemaid? This was not quite the task he had been expecting, nor was it a task he particularly relished the thought of. He liked children, but he had not spent much time around them – indeed, not even when he had been a child himself.


Despite his misgivings, however, this was Ecthelion's precious grandchild that he was being asked to watch over. He would not refuse a request from the Steward, especially not one that put such trust in him. And besides, surely it would not be such a hardship, to watch over little Boromir until Denethor returned?


He had only formally met the child once, although he had seen Boromir about on more than one occasion. The small fair head was quite distinctive in the austere halls of the Court, and from what Aragorn had been able to tell, the little boy did indeed have a knack for being where he should not be. That he made a habit of sneaking away from his caretakers was not really so surprising.


And so he nodded to Ecthelion, giving the Steward another shallow bow. "I would be honoured to watch over Denethor's son until his return, my lord," he said. "I give you my word, I will make sure that no harm comes to him."


"My thanks, Thorongil," Ecthelion said warmly. "And Denethor's too, though he is not here to give them."


Aragorn nodded, although he frankly doubted that Denethor would have been as free with his thanks as his father believed. However, he quickly returned to contemplating his new duties, and frowned as a sudden thought occurred to him. He glanced at Ecthelion and hesitated, momentarily uncertain of how to voice his concern.


"My lord," he finally began, "while I am caring for Boromir . . . if he should misbehave, should I bring him to you? I would not want to trouble his mother if she is poorly."


"Nay, it is the last thing she needs," Ecthelion agreed. "But there is no need for you to bring him to me, Thorongil. When he misbehaves – and it will be when; I know my grandson – you have leave to deal with him yourself."


Aragorn's frown deepened. "Are you sure, my lord? I would not want to confuse him, nor to usurp his father's place."


"Nay, do not fear that," Ecthelion said. "Boromir relies much on his other caretakers, since Denethor is so often busy and Finduilas often ill. His nursemaid also has leave to discipline him if he misbehaves – though from what I understand she rarely does so; she dotes upon him too much. His tutor likewise has permission. If you are to be his caretaker, the same permission is afforded to you."


Aragorn nodded slowly. Given the circumstances, he could understand that Boromir had come to depend on his other caretakers for parental attention, including discipline. He did not object to taking on such a role, but at the same time, he did not want to overstep his bounds. There was animosity enough between him and Denethor without adding to it.


"Very well, my lord," he agreed, then asked carefully, "What method of discipline would you have me use?"


Ecthelion looked at him thoughtfully. "If I did not advise you, what method would you use?"


"The same that my father used on me, my lord," Aragorn replied honestly.


"Which was?"


Aragorn smiled. "The over-the-knee method, more often than not," he said wryly. "My father was very kind, but he did not look kindly on disobedience. And woe betide me if I did something he deemed dangerous!"


Ecthelion chuckled. "He sounds a good father, Thorongil."


"Aye, my lord. That he was."


Ecthelion nodded, appearing satisfied. "Then I would advise that you follow his example with Boromir. I know you will be fair with him."


"Aye, my lord, of course," Aragorn replied, though he could not help adding, "You are sure?"


"Aye. I trust you with him, Thorongil, and so does Finduilas. I spoke to her of this before I came to you, and she welcomed the idea." The Steward put a hand on Aragorn's shoulder, saying quietly, "My grandson could benefit from your guidance. I would ask that you give it."


"Of course, my lord," Aragorn said, dipping his head in a brief bow. "And I thank you for your trust in me. I am honoured."


"It is trust you have more than earned, Thorongil," Ecthelion said warmly. "And I thank you for your willingness to help with this matter. I worry for Boromir; it will be a great weight off my mind to know that you are keeping your eye on him."


Aragorn nodded in understanding. "Then I will gladly do so, my lord."


"Good. And good luck to you," Ecthelion said, giving him a wry smile. "I love Boromir dearly, but I will admit, he is not the most tractable of children."


Given what Aragorn had already heard about Boromir, the statement did not surprise him. "I will do my best with him, my lord."


"Aye, I know you will." Ecthelion clapped him warmly on the shoulder. "Again, my thanks."


His task accomplished, Ecthelion left then, to tend to other duties – and Aragorn, accepting his fate with only a small sigh, began making his way to the building that housed the Steward and his family. His first task would be to introduce himself more formally to little Boromir as his new caretaker, and he found himself wondering if the child would remember him from their one meeting. He hoped Boromir would not be too upset by his presence; he was a virtual stranger to the child, after all. He made a mental note to be as reassuring as possible when he introduced himself.


As it happened, though, his plans for an introduction were for naught, at least for the moment. He had barely stepped inside the building itself when a young woman came rushing around the corner, looking very worried and clearly in a hurry. She would have collided with him had he not sidestepped her at the last moment, and she immediately began to apologise, but he waved it away.


"Let me guess," he said, before she could begin to explain. "You are nursemaid to the Steward's young grandson, and he has escaped your charge once again."


"Yes, my lord, indeed," the woman replied anxiously. "I left him only briefly, and now he has disappeared again. For such a young child he is very clever and quick, and once he is gone we often cannot find him until he comes home by himself."


"Well, this time I will find him," Aragorn assured her. "Lord Denethor is gone from the City, at the behest of his father, and the Steward has given charge of Boromir to me while he is away. Do not fear; he will not stay truant long."


The woman curtseyed to him – looking very relieved, Aragorn noted wryly – and he nodded his reassurance to her, before heading back the way he had come to begin his search.


Once outside, he immediately began to think about where exactly Boromir might have gone. Tracking anyone, even a small child, in a stone city where tracks could not be left would not be an easy task, so he would be wise to start with the most likely places and search systematically. Since Boromir was so difficult to find once he had escaped, he reasoned that the boy would not be anywhere too obvious, so he should probably begin by looking in the less populated areas, starting around the Court itself. There was still a fair amount of ground to cover, but at least he could be fairly sure that Boromir must have stayed on the top tier of the City – after all, a child so young would have no way of bypassing the gate to the next level. Wherever he was hiding, he would be found; there was no question of that. Neither Aragorn nor Thorongil intended to be bested by a boy barely four years of age.


Setting his jaw, deciding to start with the quietest areas and work from there, he began to search.






Aragorn's determination that Boromir should be found had remained, but as his search went on, he had soon begun to doubt his assumption that the boy had remained on the top tier. Quite how he might have got past the guards at the gate, Aragorn didn't know, but he was fairly sure that wherever the child was hiding, it was nowhere around the Citadel. It seemed wholly unlikely to him that Boromir would hide inside the Court itself – no doubt the boy was looking for some adventure, and he would certainly not find it indoors. Aragorn's own childhood might be long past, but he had not forgotten how important the pursuit of adventure could be, especially to little boys.


And so, he had followed his instincts and gone through the gate himself, intending to renew his search on the next level down. The guards on duty there had recognised him and waved him through, and he had walked down the long lamplit tunnel, emerging out into the street on the sixth tier. And that was where he was now, moving through the cobbled streets and wondering again quite how he had ended up with such a duty, all the while keeping a sharp eye out for a small fair head, and following his instincts as to where Boromir might possibly have gone.


Thus far, his instincts had not been especially helpful.


He turned another corner, and stopped again to scan the street ahead of him, his eyes narrowing as he took in the various citizens walking there. Again, there was no sign of his quarry, and he suppressed a sigh and kept walking.


This child, he thought rather grimly, is going to get quite a talking-to when I catch up with him.


But any scolding he intended to do would have to wait, at least for the time being. Indeed, Aragorn spent well over an hour scouring the sixth tier for Boromir, only to turn up empty-handed.


Of course, the fact that he had not found the boy on this level did not mean that Boromir was not there. There were, unavoidably, plenty of places that Aragorn hadn't looked, and he already knew that the Steward's grandson was good at hiding himself. But the second time he passed by the gate to the next level down, his instincts urged him through it. Being a man used to following his instincts, he dutifully passed through the gate to the fifth tier, and continued his search.


To his relief, his instincts had led him right on this occasion – it was only about twenty minutes before he came across the object of his search, all unsuspecting. Aragorn had no idea what Boromir had been doing all this time, but right now the boy had taken up residence beside the outer wall, straining to see over it by means of having climbed partway up the side. The wall itself was over his head, and so he was forced to cling tightly to the top, his small booted feet balanced on a ridge in the stone. He was staring out over the city and the fields beyond, quite oblivious to everything else, and Aragorn watched him thoughtfully for a moment before softly calling his name.




The little boy started and let go of the wall, dropping to the ground and quickly turning to face him. Grey eyes widened in recognition, and a look of faint apprehension crossed the child's face. He watched warily as Aragorn approached, unsure of why he had been hailed, but clearly aware that he was probably in trouble for being somewhere he shouldn't be.


Aragorn took the few steps to the child and stood looking down at him, trying to keep his expression stern without being too severe. Boromir had certainly earned himself a scolding for this little adventure, but that could wait until Aragorn had taken him home. First, there were introductions to be made. The boy obviously recognised him, but that didn't mean he remembered a name to go with the face.


"Do you know me, Boromir?" he asked now, regarding the upturned little face seriously.


Boromir nodded, although he still looked distinctly wary. "Yes, sir," he replied politely. "You're Captain Thorongil."


He spoke well for such a young child, barely stumbling over Aragorn's assumed name, his high, clear voice carrying only the faintest trace of a lisp. Aragorn nodded in confirmation, going to one knee in front of the little boy.


"Aye, that is right," he said. "I am Thorongil. I was not sure if you would remember me."


"'Course I do!" Boromir said, wariness fading into momentary indignation at this poor opinion of his memory. Aragorn nodded, keeping his amusement from his face.


"Then I stand corrected, little one," he said. "But now that we know each other, it is time for me to take you home. I have been some time looking for you."


The wariness was back in the child's expression – he was obviously aware that he had misbehaved – but there was curiosity there, too. "Why were you looking for me?" he asked, his brow creasing in confusion.


"I was asked to do so," Aragorn replied. "You know that your father left the City this morning, do you not?"


"Yes," Boromir said, nodding. "He came and said goodbye to me."


"That is well. However, while he is gone, your grandfather asked that I watch over you." Aragorn allowed his voice to become sterner as he added pointedly, "He is concerned about your habit of not staying where you should."


Boromir's eyes widened at his tone, and he regarded Aragorn nervously, scuffing one small foot across the cobblestones. "I only went for a walk," he said defensively, lowering his eyes.


"A walk out into the City, where you know you are not permitted to go by yourself," Aragorn said sternly. He took the boy's chin in his hand, waiting until Boromir met his gaze. "Is that not so, little one?"


There was a flash of something that might have been defiance in Boromir's grey eyes, but after a moment he nodded reluctantly. "Yes, sir."


"Indeed." Aragorn nodded his approval of the child's honesty, although he kept his tone stern. "We will talk more of this once I have you home," he went on. "For now, let us go back up the hill. Your other caretakers will be worried about you, and I wish to let them know that you are safe."


He straightened up and offered his hand to Boromir, and the little boy took it obediently, although not without a small sigh. The child remained silent as they walked back up through the City, clearly aware that he was in disgrace, but every now and then he would glance up at Aragorn with obvious curiosity. Aware of the bright grey eyes on him, Aragorn tried to return the child's gaze, but as soon as their eyes met Boromir would hurriedly look elsewhere, clearly not quite sure what to make of his new caretaker.


But then, who knows what he has heard about me? Aragorn mused. After all, the Steward's opinion of him was good, but Denethor's was not, and it was quite possible that Boromir could have heard both sides of the argument.


He glanced down at the child again, taking in the bowed head and the resigned slump of the small shoulders, and had to suppress a smile. Of course, he added to himself, it is also possible that this shyness comes from knowing that he is most decidedly in trouble.


Matching his own silence to Boromir's, he led the way back up towards the Citadel, keeping the child's small hand in his as they walked, and making sure to adjust his long stride so that Boromir could keep up with him. Obedient after the fact, Boromir trotted quietly beside him as they passed first through the sixth gate, then walked along the cobbled streets and into the tunnel that led to the seventh, finally making their way up the long lamplit slope to the gate itself.


The guards on duty waved them through, and Aragorn noticed one of them directing a wry glance at Boromir as they passed. He made a mental note to ask the child exactly how he had managed to sneak past the guards – and to warn the guards themselves about whatever trick he was using. He doubted they were particularly happy about being outwitted by a four-year-old boy.


Still keeping hold of Boromir's hand, he led the way through the Citadel and back to the Steward's House. Once they were both safely inside the entrance hall, he closed the door behind him and glanced down at Boromir. "You will have to show me which chamber is yours, little one," he said, finally releasing the child's hand.


Boromir nodded in resignation, pointing dutifully towards the right-hand corridor. Aragorn led the way down it, and Boromir trotted along beside him, finally stopping in front of one of the heavy doors. Heavy or not, Aragorn had no doubt that Boromir could open it by himself, and after a moment the boy did so, although it obviously took a bit of effort. Aragorn finally took over for him, pushing the door wide open and stepping into the room after his charge.


The chamber was quite small, most likely designed for a child, although the furniture within was all a step up from nursery furniture. There was a bed that would fit Boromir for quite a few years yet, a small writing-desk with matching chair, and a table sized a little larger, with both a smaller chair and a larger one. A chest sat next to the window, beside the wide window seat, and a clothes press stood at the end of the bed. Boromir's nursemaid – the woman Aragorn had nearly collided with on his last visit – was folding clothes into the press, and she straightened up with a small cry as she caught sight of them.


"Boromir!" she exclaimed. "Oh, child, where have you been? Thank you so much for finding him, my lord!"


This last was directed at Aragorn, and he nodded in reply, giving her a reassuring smile. "He was quite safe, mistress, if disobedient," he said wryly. "But now, if you will excuse us, I have some things to discuss with him."


Boromir glanced up apprehensively, but before he could look to his nurse for help, she was nodding and heading obediently for the door. "Of course, my lord," she said. "I will be nearby if you have need of me – Ivoren is my name. I will come back with supper for Boromir – for you both, if you will."


"My thanks, that would be a kindness," Aragorn said, and a moment later Ivoren had vanished out the door in a swirl of skirts. The door thudded shut behind her, and Aragorn turned to regard his new charge, the sternness returning to his expression.


"Very well, Boromir," he said firmly. "I believe we should have that talk I mentioned." He strode easily across the room and sat down on the window seat, beckoning to Boromir. "Come here."


Boromir slowly approached, watching Aragorn warily the whole time, and came to a stop just out of arm's reach. Aragorn manfully held back the smile that wanted to form. "Closer, little one. You have no need to be afraid of me."


"I'm not!" Boromir said indignantly, clearly insulted that Aragorn would think such a thing. He took two steps forward as proof, ending up standing directly in front of Aragorn, and cast a belligerent look upwards.


"Of course you are not," Aragorn said, nodding in approval. "You are very brave; I have no doubt of that. However, little one," he added more sternly, "your bravery is not the issue here. Your disobedience is."


Boromir bit his lip, although the stubborn expression remained. "I only went for a walk," he said again.


Aragorn raised an eyebrow. "So you said earlier. But I believe you also told me that you knew you were not allowed to go out into the City alone. Is that not so?"


Boromir sighed, obviously regretting the admission, but unwilling to lie. "Yes, sir," he said resentfully.


"Then why did you do it, child?"


Boromir hesitated, eyeing Aragorn warily for a moment, then apparently decided to throw caution to the winds. "Because it's a stupid rule."


Once again, Aragorn had to fight to keep from smiling. Oh, Denethor, you will have trouble with this one, he thought wryly, although he allowed none of his amusement to show in his face.


"It is a rule to keep you safe," he corrected, keeping his tone stern. "You are too small to be wandering on your own, Boromir. And even if you were not, it behoves a child to obey his elders, just as it behoves a soldier to obey his commander – as you will one day have to do, little one. Would you be a disobedient soldier?"


He had been hoping that the military reference would impress the boy, but he was disappointed. Boromir merely scowled, saying in tones of deep disgust, "A commander wouldn't tell his soldiers that they couldn't go outside in their own city. That would be silly."


Well, the child had a point there – and apparently he was too young to understand the idea of 'the principle of the thing', Aragorn thought wryly. But again, he kept his thoughts to himself, instead allowing his expression and tone to become even sterner. "It was an example, young one, and what the order might be makes no difference. A soldier must obey his superior officer. You, Boromir, must obey your caretakers – and from now on, that includes me. Your grandfather asked that I watch over you, and I intend to do so. And I give you fair warning, child – I will have obedience from you. If you do not obey me, then you will be disciplined."


Boromir's grey eyes widened at that, and the apprehension was back on his face, although he was clearly trying to hide it. "How?" he asked after a moment, in a small voice.


"How will I discipline you?" Aragorn asked, and Boromir nodded, biting his lip. Disliking the fear in the child's face, Aragorn replied with another question of his own, suddenly curious. "How have you been disciplined for this before now? I know you have done it more than once."


A blush spread across Boromir's cheeks, but he answered with endearing dignity. "My nurse scolds me, and makes me stand in the corner. And I'm not allowed to have any sweets."


"That is all?" Aragorn asked, raising an eyebrow. The child nodded again, and he added, "What about your parents?"


"Ivoren doesn't tell Mother, because she is tired and it would upset her," Boromir said simply. "But if Father is here she tells him, and he scolds me too." He frowned, his small face darkening at the memory. "But last time he shouted at Ivoren and made her cry, and when I told him not to he got angry and made me stay in my room."


"And so now you only do it when he is not here," Aragorn murmured in understanding, remembering what Ecthelion had told him. Honestly, it was hardly surprising that Boromir continued to misbehave, with no one reining him in. And no one would tell Finduilas? He wondered how long that had been going on. She must have been more involved in Boromir's life at some point.


"What about your grandfather?" he asked now. Ecthelion's concern for the boy had been obvious; surely he would have spoken to Boromir about this.


Boromir scuffed a foot across the floor, dropping his eyes as he blushed even more brightly. "He is very busy being the Steward," he said, sounding as if he were parroting what he had been told. "But last time he came to see me and said it was very naughty to run away, and that I mustn't do it anymore." His show of childish bravado suddenly dropped, and he looked up at Aragorn appealingly, his eyes suspiciously bright. "I wasn't going to do it again. I don't want Father and Grandfather to be angry. But nobody ever has time to talk to me, and I hardly ever get to play with the other children. I was just lonely."


Aragorn sighed inwardly. He could understand the child's distress, and in truth it was hardly surprising that he was lonely, with his mother so poorly and Denethor so busy. Indeed, they were all busy these days, with orcs from Mordor, corsairs from Umbar, and other dangers aplenty to take their attention. As Boromir grew older, it would doubtless not be such a trial for him, as he would be allowed more freedom to entertain himself. But for now, he was certainly feeling the lack.


And yet for now, at least, my duty is to watch over him, Aragorn thought. He might still have other duties aplenty, but he would make sure that he had time for the child. After all, many hands made light work – and the more caretakers Boromir had now, the less he would feel the lack of each when they were not there.


Resolved, he looked down into the unhappy little face, his expression softening. "I can understand that you were lonely, little one," he said, more kindly. "And I know that it is hard to bear at times. But the fact remains that you did disobey, and I would not have you do it again. You will be a soldier one day, Boromir, and a soldier must know how to obey those who command him, even when he does not understand an order. It is not too early for you to learn this."


Boromir swallowed hard, visibly bracing himself, even though his eyes were still bright with tears. "Yes, my lord," he said sadly. "I'm sorry that I disobeyed." He cast a pleading glance up at Aragorn. "Are you going to punish me?"


Aragorn paused, just long enough to let the boy fret for a moment, then shook his head slowly. "This time, you will have a warning. You were not in my charge when you ran off – although I do not doubt that you knew it was wrong," he added pointedly. "From now on, however, you may consider yourself very much in my charge. And if I find that you have disobeyed again, then I will take you across my knee, and I will spank you. Is that understood?"


Boromir's eyes had gone very wide, and he nodded hurriedly, regarding Aragorn with real fear. Aragorn frowned, reaching out to lay a hand on the child's shoulder.


"There is no need to be so fearful, little one," he said gently. "Have you not been spanked before?"


"N-no," Boromir stammered, his eyes still huge. "Not – not really."


'Not really', Aragorn assumed, meant that the boy had probably been given a smack or two, although not actually put across a knee to receive them. He could understand the child's fright, especially with the threat of such coming from a virtual stranger.


"Ah, I see," he said now, keeping his voice gentle. "Well, there is no need for you to fear it so, little one. If I have cause to spank you, then it will only ever be because you have misbehaved, and need to be taught a lesson. Your bottom will sting for a time, but after it is done the slate will be clean; your misdeed will be forgiven and forgotten. 'Tis not so terrible, truly."


Boromir did not look convinced, and the doubtful look on his face was so endearing that Aragorn couldn't help but smile. "I promise, little one. You will not enjoy it while it is happening, but you will feel much better afterwards. I can attest to such from my own experience," he added, hoping to distract the child from his nervousness.


Boromir's eyes seemed to widen even more, and he stared up at Aragorn in disbelief. "You got spanked?" he asked in a hushed voice, as if it were a great secret.


"Aye, little one, I did," Aragorn said, trying to hold back his grin. "Often indeed it seemed, when I was a lad." And after, he added to himself wryly, thinking of Halbarad – and others. Naturally, though, he did not say that out loud.


"Did it really hurt?" Boromir asked now, with obvious apprehension.


"It hurt, yes," Aragorn said, squeezing the small shoulder gently. "But never more than I could bear. And I knew, always, that the one doing it did so because he cared for me, because he wanted me to grow up as an honourable man. It was never done to hurt me, only to teach me. I would do the same for you, Boromir."


Boromir's brow creased as he thought about this, but finally he nodded slowly. "Yes, my lord," he said softly, apparently accepting what Aragorn had said. In typical childish fashion, though, that was quickly followed up by, "I'll try to be good, I promise."


"I am sure that you will," Aragorn said. "And you know now what will happen if you are not." Boromir nodded vigorously, and Aragorn smiled. "Peace, little one. That is enough scolding for today, I think. You have had your warning, and if you know aught of me, you know I will stand by it. Now we may turn to other things – like perhaps supper, and a bath for a grubby little boy."


He tapped the child's nose with a finger, giving him a wink, and Boromir was surprised into a giggle. "I'm not grubby!" he protested, sounding less hesitant than before.


"No?" Aragorn raised an eyebrow. "Then what is this? And this, and this?" He pointed out several of the worst smudges on the child's tunic, and finally finished by running his finger over a smear of dirt on Boromir's cheek. "Definitely a grubby little boy who needs a bath," he said with a grin.


"Ivoren will make me have one," Boromir agreed with a sigh, sounding very long-suffering as he regarded his smudged tunic. "But I want supper first. I'm hungry."


"Well, perhaps Ivoren will come back soon with supper for you," Aragorn said. "And when she does, I think you should apologise to her for running away. She will have been worried for you, will she not?"


"Yes, sir," Boromir said, and Aragorn was pleased to see that there was no resentment in his eyes at the order. "I didn't want to make her worry, honestly."


"I am sure you did not, and I am sure she will appreciate hearing it. And you may call me Thorongil, little one," Aragorn added with a smile, tapping the boy's nose again. Boromir grinned back at him, a delightfully sunny smile that was quite at odds with his earlier unhappiness, and Aragorn was momentarily captivated. With his bright grey eyes, soft, tawny hair and pointed chin, the child was indeed beautiful.


"Yes, Thorongil," he said now, saying the name carefully so as not to stumble over it.


Aragorn nodded approval. "Good. Now, to wile away the time until supper comes, perhaps you could show me some of your toys? Or your lessons, perhaps? What is your favourite?"


"I like martial training," Boromir said, predictably. "I have lessons every morning. I'm learning sword now, and when I'm five I get to learn how to use a bow, too."


"Bow is important," Aragorn agreed. "It is useful for a warrior to learn different disciplines. That way he will not be limited in the ways that he can fight."


Boromir nodded, regarding Aragorn solemnly. "Grandfather talks about you a lot," he said, after a moment. "He says you are a great warrior."


"I am a warrior, yes," Aragorn agreed with a faint smile. "But whether I am a great one is perhaps subjective."


Boromir frowned at that, and Aragorn realised belatedly that 'subjective' might be a stretch for a four-year-old. "It means that it depends on who you talk to," he explained. "Some might say I am a great warrior, but others would disagree."


Boromir nodded, a look of uncertainty crossing his face, and Aragorn wondered again if the child had indeed heard two conflicting arguments about his character. Hoping to offer a distraction, he said, "Perhaps I could come to watch your lesson tomorrow, if you would like."


"Really?" Boromir's eyes fairly lit up at that. "I'd like that! Father hardly ever comes!"


"Then tomorrow I will come," Aragorn promised, touched by the child's enthusiasm. His duties were light enough at the moment, what with his injury, and Ecthelion had asked him to keep an eye on Boromir. This would be a good start in making sure that he had some time for the child.


Boromir was looking at him now, eyeing the sling that bound his left arm, and Aragorn could sense the question coming. A moment later it did, as the little boy asked, "What happened to your arm? Were you in a battle?"


"I was," Aragorn said. "But this wound was not in truth a bad one. It is nearly healed now."


"Will you tell me what happened?" Boromir asked eagerly, and Aragorn laughed.


"Aye, if you like," he said, although he added silently that he would of course skip the bloody details. He had no desire to give the child nightmares.


"Yes, please!" Boromir said, scrambling up beside him onto the window seat. Aragorn did not deny him, and dutifully told an abbreviated tale of the skirmish with orcs that had left him with his wound. The wound itself had been gained pulling a foolish young soldier out of danger, but although he mentioned that only very briefly, Boromir made much of it, and his growing admiration was obvious. Aragorn could not help but smile at the boy's enthusiasm. Really, when he was not being stubborn and sulky, Boromir was a very engaging child. Indeed, Aragorn noted wryly, he was engaging enough even when he was being stubborn and sulky.


"So you are a hero!" Boromir was saying now. "You defeated the orcs, and you saved that man's life!"


"Soldiers often save their comrades' lives in battle," Aragorn said. "It is a soldier's duty to watch out for his fellows, and a commander's duty to watch out for his men. As for defeating the orcs, that was indeed a team effort."


"Still, you must be a great warrior, like Grandfather says," Boromir said. "I hope I will be a great warrior some day!"


"Oh, I think that you will," Aragorn said with a smile. "If you pay attention to your lessons, I am sure that you will be a great warrior indeed."


"I always pay attention in martial lessons," Boromir said, and Aragorn hid a grin at the implication that attention might not necessarily be paid in other lessons. Somehow, he thought wryly, reading and writing and history lessons never held the same appeal to small boys as lessons in swordsmanship and archery.


"Do you have your sword here?" he asked now, giving the boy a fond look.


Boromir nodded, sliding off the window seat, and trotted over to the head of his bed, to retrieve the weapon in question from where it was propped against the wall. He came back over, holding it out for inspection, and Aragorn took it from him to look it over. 'Weapon' was a stretch, of course. Children of Boromir's standing, raised to be warriors, began lessons in the martial disciplines as soon as they were old enough to know what a sword was – but Boromir was far too young to have a real one, and this was simply one of the wooden practice blades that children used when they were first beginning lessons. Still, it was nicely made, and had a good balance. He handed it back to Boromir, saying, "Show me your stance, little one."


Boromir did, gripping the sword firmly in his right hand and planting his feet, and Aragorn nodded approvingly. "Good." He narrowed his eyes, taking in the whole of the child's posture, then reached down to adjust his balance slightly, shifting Boromir's feet a fraction further apart and pulling his weight forward. "Try that. If you are not balanced when you strike, your blow will not be as effective."


Boromir's brow wrinkled in concentration, and he rocked back and forth a couple of times before nodding, giving Aragorn another of those sunny smiles. "That feels good. I forget how to stand sometimes, and then I fall over."


"Yes, that is what happens when you are not balanced," Aragorn agreed with a laugh. "And it takes practice indeed to know how to stand just right." He glanced up then, as a knock sounded on the door. "Come," he called.


The door opened, and Ivoren stepped inside with a tray, a questioning look on her face. "I have brought supper, my lord, if you would like it," she said, and at Aragorn's nod she motioned to someone behind her, and another woman entered with a second tray.


"Your timing is good indeed," Aragorn said as the trays were placed on the table. "For you have a hungry young warrior here, who needs feeding." He winked at Boromir and received a grin in return, but a moment later the boy turned back to Ivoren without being told, and gave her a polite little bow.


"Ivoren, I'm very sorry that I ran away," he said, giving the woman an appealing look. "I didn't mean to worry you."


Ivoren's doting smile was enough to tell Aragorn that she, too, was captivated by this child. "I know you didn't, love," she said. "And I forgive you. But you must not do it again! 'Tis very naughty to disobey so."


"Yes, Ivoren," Boromir said dutifully. His tone was obedient, although Aragorn got the feeling that those words had been said many times before, and yet conveniently forgotten when the opportunity for mischief arose again.


Well, he told himself, this time there was his word to back it up – and the promise of a sound spanking if it went unheeded. He could hope that would make the difference, although he was also well aware that little boys were drawn to mischief like a halfling to a fine meal. Boromir, he thought wryly, would probably not last long without needing a trip across his knee, despite his promises of good behaviour.


But for now at least, the child was all smiles, which Aragorn suspected was due mainly to the simple fact that he was getting some attention. Although, Boromir's relief at escaping a spanking for today's naughtiness was, no doubt, another contributing factor.


Aragorn got to his feet then, and took the few steps over to the table, which was conveniently low enough that Boromir would be able to eat from it, but not so low that it would be ludicrous for an adult to do so as well. True, he was tall and it would be a tight fit, but he thought the child might appreciate having company other than his nursemaid for supper. Boromir, he saw, had already climbed into his own chair and was waiting for Aragorn to do the same, while Ivoren fussed over him.


He dutifully took his seat, giving Ivoren a smile of thanks, and she replied with a quick curtsey before slipping out of the room with her companion in tow, saying as she went that she would come back later to give Boromir his bath. Aragorn turned his attention to his meal then, and Boromir happily did the same – although he ran out of enthusiasm for it fairly quickly, as young children often do. Aragorn coaxed him to eat a little more, all the while asking questions about his lessons and his likes and dislikes. He was getting more of a picture of the child now, and he liked what he heard, although there were also some areas that needed attending to.


Boromir was clearly an independent little boy, but also rather opinionated and with a definite stubborn streak. That could be an asset to him as a man, if only he had the discipline to match it. Thus far, though, that discipline was sorely lacking – not from any deliberate act, but rather through bad fortune. Finduilas' illness had taken her time away from her son, and Denethor was understandably busy, Ecthelion even more so. Even with the attentions of his nurse, Boromir was apparently not getting enough attention from those worthy figures to satisfy him, hence his misbehaviour. That misbehaviour had not brought quite the response he wanted, but it was something, and so he kept on with it, although he was clearly wary now of doing so when Denethor was present to hear about it. Aragorn had the impression that behind his bravado, Boromir felt his father's disapproval keenly. He wanted love, not scolding – although what he needed was a goodly amount of both, Aragorn thought wryly.


He had, of course, already made up his mind that he would help to remedy this lack in Boromir's life. The boy had too much potential, was too deserving of the attention he sought, to go without it any longer. Aragorn was not Boromir's father, but he could surely fill in on occasion, and offer another source of the attention the child hungered for.


Although, he thought wryly, he may not always enjoy the form that attention comes in.


Glancing across the table at the boy, he found that Boromir had given up all pretence of eating, and at this point Aragorn likewise gave up on the idea of trying to coax any more into him. Taking in the child's rather grubby appearance with a smile, he stood and went to ring the bell to call Ivoren back, realising that it must be getting close to Boromir's bedtime. He might have taken on the task of bathing Boromir himself, but decided against it, at least for now. Although the boy was obviously growing more comfortable with him, they had only spent a few hours together, and Aragorn did not want to rush him.


Ivoren appeared almost at once, and swept Boromir off into the bathing chamber, dropping another quick curtsey to Aragorn as she did so. Aragorn elected to wait, and found himself greatly amused by the splashing and giggling that drifted out from the bathing chamber. He was not surprised to see that when they emerged, although Boromir was now clean, Ivoren was rather wet. However, she was also smiling broadly, and Aragorn could have sworn her look at him was grateful.


Boromir came bounding over at once, giving Aragorn another of those beautiful smiles. He had been put into a nightshirt, and with his fresh-scrubbed face and damp, tousled hair, he looked frankly adorable. "I have to go to bed now," he said. "But first I'm going to say goodnight to Mother. Will you come?"


Aragorn nodded, getting to his feet and taking the hand that Boromir held out. "If you wish, I will come, little one," he said with a smile. "Lead the way."


Boromir took him at his word, and fairly tugged Aragorn out of the room and along the corridor. The large room at the very end was Denethor and Finduilas' chamber, and Aragorn managed to hold Boromir back long enough to knock before the boy tugged the door open. Finduilas' voice called for them to come in, although by that time Boromir was halfway across the room, having let go of Aragorn's hand and left the shutting of the door up to him. The little boy scampered across to the bed where his mother was reclining, his bare feet pattering on the stone, but Aragorn noted that both his ascent onto the bed and the hug he gave Finduilas were very careful. His words, however, betrayed his enthusiasm.


"Mother, Thorongil had supper with me," he said excitedly, unable to keep from bouncing a little. "And he's going to come and watch my sword lesson tomorrow, too!"


Finduilas smiled warmly, although Aragorn could clearly see how pale and tired she was. He bowed to her, taking a few steps forward until he was standing nearer to the bed. "The Steward asked that I might look in on Boromir while his father is away, since my duties are of necessity light at the moment," he said, indicating the sling that bound his left arm.


"Thorongil was hurt in a battle," Boromir informed her. "He was fighting orcs."


Finduilas nodded gravely. "'Tis good then to see that you escaped with no greater wounds, my lord Thorongil," she said softly. "And you have my thanks for your willingness to watch over Boromir. He can be a handful," she added, giving Aragorn a small, knowing smile.


"It is my pleasure to do so, my lady," Aragorn replied warmly. "He is a very bright child. I am sure he will do you proud."


"Of course he will," Finduilas replied, giving Boromir a loving look. "Did you come to say goodnight to me, my son? It must surely be near your bedtime."


"Yes," Boromir said. "I'm going to bed now, but I wanted to see you first." He hugged her again, and Finduilas hugged him back, stroking a hand over his tawny hair. Her face was gentle, and for a moment her look of frailty was gone, eclipsed by her love for her son.


"Goodnight, Boromir," she said lovingly. "I will see you in the morning, my little one."


"Goodnight, Mother," Boromir said, finally detaching himself from the hug. He leaned forward to kiss her cheek and then slid off the bed, holding out his hand to Aragorn again. Aragorn took it, then gave Finduilas another shallow bow, bidding her a goodnight before leading Boromir back towards the door.


They made the trip back to Boromir's chamber, and the child climbed into bed without being told, looking up at Aragorn with wide, appealing eyes. "Will you tell me a story, Thorongil?" he asked hopefully.


"Another story?" Aragorn raised an eyebrow, but then he smiled. "Very well. But a short one only, and then you must go to sleep."


Boromir grinned and nodded, settling down into bed while Aragorn took a seat on the side of it. He thought for a moment before deciding on one of the tales he remembered from his own childhood, a Dϊnedain legend often told to young children in the North. He had always loved it when his mother told it to him, and he had a feeling that Boromir would enjoy it too.


As it turned out, he was right. Boromir listened in silent fascination as the story was told, and when it ended he gave Aragorn a wide smile. "That was good! No one's ever told me that one before!"


"I am glad you liked it," Aragorn said, returning the smile. "I was told that story as a child, and I always liked it too." He ruffled Boromir's hair. "But now, it is time for you to sleep, little one. You will need your rest to fight well tomorrow, will you not?"


Boromir nodded, although he looked suddenly hesitant. "You will come tomorrow, won't you?" he asked, and Aragorn was touched by the sudden uncertainty in his face.


"I will," he said kindly. "You have my word, Boromir. Now, to sleep with you. I expect to see a budding warrior on the field tomorrow."


Boromir grinned, reassured, and settled down further under his covers. Aragorn tucked them gently around him, and after a moment's hesitation leaned down to kiss him on the forehead. "Goodnight, little one," he said. "Have sweet dreams."


"Goodnight, Thorongil," came the reply, already sounding sleepy. "Thank you for the story."


"You are most welcome," Aragorn replied softly, giving the child a fond smile. Rising to his feet, he leaned over to blow out the lamp that sat on the bedside table, plunging the room into darkness, although it was softened by the dim light from the window. Turning, he walked to the door and slipped quietly out into the corridor, leaving Boromir to his rest.