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:
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.
The next morning found Aragorn heading for the practice arena, where the children had their lessons. Somewhat to his surprise, he found that he was greatly looking forward to observing. For all that he had only just met Boromir, the little boy seemed to have wormed his way into Aragorn's affections with surprising speed. Indeed, he had spent quite a bit of last night thinking about the child, and about what he had resolved to do.
His decision to become involved in Boromir's life was the right one, he was sure of it. It was a simple fact that the boy needed more attention than he was getting, and without that attention – without the right kind of attention – any behaviour problems he had now would likely only become worse. This child was the future Steward of Gondor; he would have both great power and heavy responsibilities, and he would need to be a man of both strength and discipline. And although Aragorn did not dare let the accompanying thought come to true fruition – his claim to the kingship was by no means a sure thing, after all – there was also a small voice in his mind whispering that Boromir could well be his Steward one day. Though he might try to stifle that thought, it nevertheless brought with it hints of responsibility. Not his child, no – but perhaps his in another way, a bond not of blood but of loyalty. And, Aragorn hoped, perhaps one day a bond of love as well.
He had finally shaken himself out of his musings, at least as far as they concerned his possible kingship. However, he had remained convinced that watching over Boromir was the right thing to do. Their possible future relationship aside, Boromir was a bright, loving child who fully deserved the attention he was currently lacking. Aragorn's sense of justice and fairness – not to mention his fast-growing affection for the boy – would not let him see such a lack continue, not while he could do something to remedy it.
And so, the next morning he had headed for the practice arena, as he had promised. He had made enquiries the previous night about when the children practiced, and had been told that the youngest ones had lessons early – in the hope, it was said, that it might tire them out enough that they would sit still during their other lessons. When Aragorn asked if it worked, he was met with a wry grin and a shaken head, which didn't much surprise him.
The building that housed the practice grounds was on the sixth tier, on the other side from the stables and the Houses of Healing, and was split into two main parts. One part was the area where the men practiced – Aragorn himself drilled there nearly every day, as did most of the men under his command. The other part was used for lessons, for the children, and for the young soldiers and squires and guards, when they were first beginning serious training. It was this area that Aragorn headed for now.
There were several practice arenas enclosed within, as well as rooms for both individual and group work, and a small archery range. Aragorn enquired after the children's lesson, and was directed onto one of the smaller practice grounds. Stepping through the doorway, he found himself quite unable to hold back a smile at the sight that met his eyes – some twenty or so little boys, all equipped with wooden practice blades, milling about the floor as they waited for their instructor to start the lesson.
Miniature warriors, Aragorn thought to himself, amused. And most likely Gondor's finest, one day.
Glancing around, he saw that there was also a group of adult spectators, standing away from the door and outside the ring of the practice arena. No doubt they were parents and guardians of the little ones, staying to see how their children were progressing. Not wanting to get in the way of the lesson, Aragorn moved to join them before directing his attention back to the group on the floor, watching the children with interest.
They were of varying ages, from three or four up to perhaps seven years old, and Aragorn noted that Boromir looked to be one of the youngest there. He had spotted the little boy immediately, standing to one side with his sword clutched tightly in his hand. He had to admit, though, he was unprepared for the look of sheer delight on Boromir's face when the boy saw him, not to mention the feelings that look engendered in him. A surge of fierce affection welled up as the child waved to him enthusiastically, followed by an equal surge of approving pride when Boromir stayed where he was on the floor rather than running over, obviously knowing that his lesson was about to start. He waved back, quite unable to keep from smiling, and the little boy beamed at him.
The instructor called for attention then, and all of the children immediately turned to look at him, as did Aragorn. He recognised the man – an old and greatly respected soldier by the name of Taracar, who was well known to have been a fierce and canny warrior in his younger years. Aragorn had been aware that the man had taken on teaching in place of more active duties, but he had not known that he taught the very young ones. It made sense, though. Poor teaching early on could do a lot of damage, and it seemed wise indeed to have someone like Taracar handling the children's lessons. Given what Aragorn had heard, the man would likely do an excellent job.
Taracar had the children form lines, and they did so obediently, obviously used to the routine. An order from the man had them starting a series of simple drills, all designed to improve stance and balance as well as teaching them the basics of attack and defence. Aragorn watched Boromir closely, and was not surprised to see that the boy showed real potential, especially for one so young. Indeed, he could spot several children older than Boromir whose stance and technique were not as good. The child did indeed have the makings of a fine warrior – although Aragorn was also aware that Boromir was probably trying his very hardest today, knowing that he had someone there to impress.
The drills continued, with Taracar moving among his young pupils, inspecting stance and movement and offering correction when necessary. His manner was firm without being harsh, and Aragorn could see that none of the children seemed to be afraid of him, although they certainly regarded him with respect. Taracar had a reputation as a man slow to anger, but also as a man whom it was unwise to cross, and Aragorn imagined that he probably brooked little nonsense from the young ones in his charge.
He came to Boromir then, carefully inspecting the boy's movements, and offered a few corrections which Boromir immediately tried to incorporate into his drills. Taracar watched a moment longer, then nodded, giving the boy a brief smile and a few words of praise before he moved onto the next child. Boromir grinned, shooting a quick glance over at Aragorn and extending the smile to him before quickly focusing his attention back on his drills.
The exercise went on until Taracar had gone around all of his young pupils, taking time with each, although focusing a little more on those who were having difficulties. He finally made his way back to the front and called a halt, and the children obediently stopped where they were. Many of them were panting a little now, but none looked truly out of breath – the drills had been paced so that energetic children could go for quite some time without becoming too fatigued, and it showed. Boromir, certainly, looked quite ready for more. But then, Aragorn recalled with a smile, this was his favourite lesson.
The first set of drills over, Taracar announced that duelling drill would be next, and gave the order for his pupils to take their positions. Aragorn watched as they formed lines again, this time facing each other in two equal, well-spaced rows. He could see the advantages in the arrangement. With such young children, duelling practice would have to be very carefully monitored, and having them lined up in such a fashion would allow Taracar to keep an eye on things more easily. It would be difficult to cause real injury with the light, blunt practice blades, but no doubt the man had learned to be wary of what small children with weapons might be capable of.
Taracar gave the order to begin, and Aragorn watched with interest as the exercise got underway. Every time Taracar called for them to start, each duelling pair went through a routine little pattern of strikes, designed to allow them practice in both attack and defence. When he called a halt, the duel would stop, and the child at the end of the left line walked down to the other end, as the rest of that line moved up for a change of partners. It was a simple but effective drill, allowing for good early training in both technique and endurance, as well as ensuring that the children got plenty of experience fighting different opponents. As Aragorn had expected, Taracar did keep a very close eye on things, and he was quick to call a warning if any of his charges got too rough.
For his part, Aragorn continued to watch his own charge as the lesson went on, finding himself more and more impressed by how well Boromir handled a sword for a four-year-old. The child still had a great deal to learn, of course, but his instincts were definitely good. Aragorn could easily imagine him growing into a powerful warrior, especially if he continued to approach his training with such enthusiasm.
When the last exercise was finally completed, Taracar called a halt once again, regarding his weary pupils with a practiced eye. "All right," he said. "Good work, all of you. I think that may be enough for today. Unless . . ."
There was a weighty pause, and Aragorn had to smile as all the children turned pleading looks on their instructor. A smile grew on Taracar's face as well as he took in the appealing gazes, and after a moment he laughed. "Oh, very well. Two rounds of free sparring. I'll assign the partners."
A little cheer broke out at this, and there were several moments of shuffling as Taracar efficiently assigned each child to a partner, pairing them up with an opponent of similar size, then spreading the pairs out across the floor so that each little duellist would have room to move. Once everything was organised, he called for them to start, and Aragorn simply could not hold back a grin as he watched the sparring begin. The miniature scale of both the weapons and the participants would have made anyone smile, he was sure.
And yet, for all that these children were very young, most of them were already showing the results of their training. Their skills were limited as yet, but this was definitely not a group of toddlers fighting with sticks. These were budding warriors, most of whom were taking the whole thing very seriously indeed.
Boromir, Aragorn noted, was definitely taking it seriously. His small face was intent, his brow creased in fierce concentration as he and his opponent traded strikes back and forth. It seemed to be paying off, too; he had the advantage, and his opponent did not seem to be able to gain it back. Indeed, even as Aragorn watched the other boy made a mistake, and Boromir touched his little sword lightly to his opponent's undefended side. He said something, and they paused for a moment before starting again.
Glancing around the room, Aragorn observed this routine several more times, and saw Taracar scold another boy for "touching" a little too hard. Actually hitting your opponent with your sword – at least on purpose – was apparently not allowed, which Aragorn could see the wisdom of. These children were far too young and had far too little control to be going all out with each other. This method would teach them the techniques while hopefully avoiding too many injuries.
He directed his attention back to Boromir, just in time to see the little boy score another point on his opponent. There was another pause, and then they began again, with Boromir doing his best to keep the other boy on the defensive. He mostly managed it, too – he made one mistake, allowing his opponent to score on him, but quickly bounced back and managed to score another point of his own before Taracar called a halt again. By this time, almost all of the children were out of breath, and the old soldier glanced around at them with raised eyebrows.
"Are you sure you want to go another round?" he asked with a grin.
The answer was a breathless but definite "yes", and Aragorn was hard pressed to keep from laughing out loud. Taracar did not bother with such restraint, and continued to chuckle as he started to assign new partners. Again, Aragorn noticed that he generally paired the smaller boys together, and likewise with the bigger children, although with a few more exceptions this time, which Aragorn guessed were probably for ability. He saw that Boromir had been paired up with a boy who looked to be at least a couple of years older, and found himself very interested to see the result of this.
The pairings made, Taracar called for them to start again, and another set of duels began. Aragorn saw immediately that this time, Boromir did not have the advantage. The little boy was good with a sword, but his opponent was older and bigger, and he was also quite skilled. He quickly scored a point on Boromir by employing a little feint, and again there was that momentary pause as they both regrouped. A moment later they began again, and Aragorn noted with approval that even though Boromir was rather outclassed, he had lost none of his fierce focus. Indeed, he seemed to be working even harder this time, his face scrunched up in concentration as he fought to keep his opponent from scoring any more points.
He didn't manage to pull it off – the other boy scored on him three more times before the end of the short duel, and although Boromir tried his best he was unable to score any points of his own, though Aragorn noticed that he did come close a couple of times. Still, the little boy looked rather less happy by the time Taracar halted the exercise, although he tried to hide it.
All the children looked fairly exhausted now, even the older ones, and Taracar nodded approvingly at them. "Good work," he said. "All of you worked hard today. Off with you now, and I will see you tomorrow. Dismissed."
The lesson over, the children began to file off the floor, talking rather breathlessly among themselves as they went. Boromir's eyes immediately went to Aragorn, and he grinned, his discontent at losing his duel momentarily forgotten. A moment later he had come running over, beaming.
"Thorongil, you did come!" he said, still sounding rather out of breath. His obvious delight was touching, and Aragorn went down on one knee, smiling warmly at him.
"Of course I came," he said, ruffling the boy's tousled hair. "I wished to see my young warrior fight, and fight he did. You did well, little one."
Boromir bit his lip, a small frown appearing on his face despite his enthusiasm. "Eradan beat me again," he said, with a gusty sigh. "He always beats me."
"He is older and bigger than you," Aragorn said gently. "That he beat you does not mean you did not do well. You fought hard against him. And you won your first duel, did you not?"
"Yes," Boromir agreed reluctantly, glancing down at the floor. A moment later he went on in a small voice, "But . . . last time Father came, he was disappointed that I lost. He didn't say anything, but I could tell."
Aragorn understood at once. Overjoyed that he had an audience, Boromir had clearly hoped to impress him by fighting his best, just as he had no doubt done for Denethor. And now, since he had again lost his fight, he feared getting the same reaction of disappointment from Aragorn as he had from his father. Seeing the remembered hurt in Boromir's expression, Aragorn had no doubt that the child had felt that disappointment keenly.
Instinctively seeking to comfort in response to that look, he took Boromir gently by the shoulders, waiting until the little boy met his eyes. "Boromir, hear me," he said, his voice kind but firm. "Eradan may have beaten you this time, but that does not mean you did not do well. You are still learning – indeed, you have only just started learning. There is no shame in that, or in losing to one who has more experience."
Boromir had been listening closely, watching Aragorn with serious grey eyes. "I know," he agreed with a sigh, but a moment later he added rather plaintively, "But I want to be good."
"And you are," Aragorn said gently. "You are good indeed, for your age. But you are a fledgling still, little one. One day, you will soar – but not quite yet."
He lifted his hand from Boromir's shoulder then, smoothing the boy's tousled hair and giving him a warm smile. "You have much to learn," he went on. "But I will tell you this, little fledgling – one day, with a sword in your hand, I think you will be near unstoppable." He leaned in closer to the child, adding softly, "And I was very proud of how well you fought today."
Boromir's face lit up at that, and a moment later Aragorn found himself on the receiving end of a stranglehold hug, as the child dropped his little sword and wrapped both arms tightly around his neck. His surprise lasted only for a moment, and then he hugged back, laughing softly as he pulled the little boy close to him. There was a feeling of tremendous rightness in this – and in truth, he found himself almost surprised at how good it felt to hug the child. The simple sensation of those small arms around his neck filled him with an unaccustomed tenderness, and he was quite unable to hold back a grin.
Boromir finally pulled away from him, apparently remembering where he was, and quickly bent to retrieve his sword, favouring Aragorn with another of those beautiful smiles. Aragorn tousled his hair fondly, feeling another rush of affection for the child as he offered a conspiratorial smile in return.
"Now, I also have a proposition for you, if you are willing," he said, unsurprised to see instant curiosity in Boromir's face.
"What?" the little boy asked, predictably.
"Well," Aragorn said, "it seemed to me, while I was watching, that Eradan has been taught some tricks that you have not. Of course, he has studied longer than you, so that is not surprising. However, if you would like, after you have had your other lessons I thought we might come back to the practice grounds, and I might teach you a few tricks of your own."
Boromir's eyes widened in delight. "You'd teach me? Really?" he asked eagerly.
"Aye, I would teach you," Aragorn said with a smile. "It is never too early to start learning the tricks, provided you keep focus on the basics as well. And perhaps next time you fight Eradan, some of them might be useful. What say you, little one?"
"Yes, please!" Boromir said, nodding with great enthusiasm. If he had been smiling before, he was fairly beaming now, clearly overjoyed at the idea.
"Then that is settled. We will come this afternoon," Aragorn said warmly, again finding himself touched by the child's obvious pleasure in his company.
The idea of private lessons had come to him almost at once as he watched Boromir spar with Eradan. The little boy was skilled for his age, but he had lost to his opponent's superior knowledge, as Eradan had been using some techniques that Boromir simply had not been taught yet. It would do no harm to accelerate the child's learning a little, especially since he was clearly talented with a sword. Besides that, it would serve well to keep Boromir entertained, as well as giving them some more time together.
"Now, I suppose we had better think about getting you to your other lessons," he said, patting Boromir's small shoulder. "Is someone coming for you? You did not come down here by yourself."
"No, Ivoren brought me," Boromir said, glancing around the still emptying room as he spoke. "She said she would come back after the lesson was over – oh! There she is." He pointed to the doorway, and Aragorn looked over to see Ivoren waiting there. He nodded to her, then turned back to Boromir as the child tugged at his sleeve, demanding his attention.
"Thorongil, will you walk with me? To my other lessons?" he asked hopefully, and Aragorn nodded.
"Of course, if you would like," he said. "And so we had better go, I think. I do not want you to be late."
Boromir gave him a long-suffering look, and Aragorn got the feeling that he would not mind being late at all. But the little boy nodded obediently, and so Aragorn rose to his feet and led him over to Ivoren, who quickly curtseyed. "My lord Thorongil," she greeted him.
"Mistress," Aragorn replied, nodding politely to her before giving her a little smile. "Boromir has asked that I walk with him to his next lesson, so you can leave him with me for now. I can watch him afterwards if he wishes it, too."
"Yes, please!" Boromir interjected, and Ivoren smiled down at him.
"Thank you then, my lord," she said, nodding. "I'll leave him with you, and have a meal ready for you both after his lessons, if you wish."
"That would be a kindness," Aragorn said, and Ivoren dipped another curtsey before departing back out the door. Aragorn looked down at Boromir and smiled, smoothing a hand over the child's hair.
"All right, my little fledgling, let us go back up the hill. You will have to show me where you have your lessons. Or do you have them in your chamber?"
"No, they're in the study," Boromir said dolefully. "Not Father's study, the other one. I'll show you."
"You do not sound too pleased about it," Aragorn commented lightly as they began walking, and Boromir shot him a faintly sheepish look.
"I just like martial lessons better," he said. "All my other lessons are so boring."
"Learning the fighting disciplines is important," Aragorn agreed. "But it is also important to learn to read and write, little one."
"I can read and write," Boromir protested. Aragorn raised an eyebrow at him, and after a moment he amended, "Well – some, anyway."
"Indeed." Aragorn smiled, amused. "Still, I think you will need to be able to read and write more than 'some', little one. You will be the Steward one day – you will need to learn military tactics, and strategy, and history, and many other things as well. You cannot do that if you cannot read."
"I know," Boromir said with a gusty sigh, the look on his face saying that he had heard those sentiments before. "It's just awfully boring sometimes."
Aragorn couldn't help but smile at the long-suffering tone. He remembered making a few complaints like that himself as a small child, when he had much preferred to be out playing in the gardens and the woods surrounding Rivendell than stuck in a schoolroom. It had been impressed upon him, however, that a good warrior knew how to do more than just fight, and he intended to do the same for Boromir.
Of course, a little bribery had never hurt either, he thought wryly.
"Well, I have another proposition for you," he said, smiling down at the child as they neared the tunnel that led back up to the Citadel. Boromir looked up at him curiously, and Aragorn went on. "I was thinking that perhaps, if you behave well in your lessons today, after we have had our own lesson you might like to come and watch me spar with some of the men. I have been missing my practice of late, and although I must be careful with this arm, it is near enough healed that a bit of sparring would do no harm. What do you think?"
Boromir had stopped dead, looking up at him with wide, eager eyes. "I can watch you spar with the men? Really?" he asked hopefully. Aragorn nodded in confirmation, and the little boy beamed at him. "Yes, please!" he said, fairly bouncing in place with delight. "I'm hardly ever allowed to watch!"
"Very well, then," Aragorn said, grinning at the child's enthusiasm – although a moment later he did feel compelled to reiterate his condition. "But remember, little one, I will first want to hear that you have paid attention well in your lessons today. If I hear from your tutor that you have been naughty instead, then you will be going back to your chamber after our lesson. Is that understood?"
"Yes," Boromir said. "But I'll be good, I promise! I'll pay attention!"
"That is good to hear," Aragorn said warmly. "And I am sure your tutor will appreciate it. Now, come." He held out his hand to the boy, giving him the ghost of a wink. "The sooner you get started, the sooner it will be time for lunch, is that not so?"
Boromir grinned and nodded, taking his hand, and together they walked out of the sunshine and into the tunnel that led up to the seventh gate. They continued up the slope to the gate itself, passing by the guards and coming out into the Citadel, and it was then that Aragorn remembered his earlier question.
"That reminds me, little one," he said, raising an eyebrow at Boromir as they headed for the Steward's House. "Just how have you been getting past the guards at the gate on your excursions into the City? If they saw you, they would send you home, I am sure."
Boromir cast him a somewhat guilty look, but he answered readily enough, apparently not thinking it was such a great secret. "When they guard, they're looking for big people," he said simply. "Sometimes if it's busy, they don't notice me." He wrinkled his nose, adding, "But I don't do it when Andor is there. He always notices."
"Indeed," Aragorn said, suppressing a smile, and finding himself once again impressed by just how clever this child was. "Well, you will not have to worry about that now, for you will not be doing such a thing again, will you?" He gave Boromir a meaningful look, and the child looked up at him with wide eyes.
"No, Thorongil," he said obediently, and the expression on his face was so innocent that Aragorn almost groaned aloud. Oh, he was quite sure that Boromir intended to keep his promise – but just how long those good intentions would last was another question entirely.
"I mean what I say, little fledgling," he said now, deciding to remind Boromir of his earlier warning. "If I hear that you have sneaked away again, you will find yourself across my knee." He cast another pointed look at the child, meeting those bright grey eyes sternly. "Is that understood?"
Boromir nodded vigorously, and Aragorn couldn't help but smile. "Very well, then. Now, come; your tutor awaits you."
Boromir heaved another long-suffering sigh, but the promise of watching Aragorn spar had apparently been enough to keep him from complaining too much. He dutifully directed them first to his bedchamber to drop off his sword (it turned out he was not allowed to bring it to his academic lessons, a rule he was quite disgusted with but which Aragorn could see the wisdom of), and then to the 'other' study where the lessons took place. The tutor, a slender man of middle years by the name of Oronar, greeted Boromir with a long-suffering look of his own, nodding politely to Aragorn as they entered. Aragorn enquired about the length of the lesson, then patted Boromir's shoulder in farewell, saying kindly, "I will come back when you are finished, little one. Be good for your tutor."
Boromir nodded obediently, although he could not resist adding a plea for Aragorn not to be late, accompanied by a mournful look over his shoulder at his tutor. Aragorn manfully suppressed a grin, and promised that he would not be before leaving the boy to his fate.
Boromir's academic lessons lasted for an hour and a half, and Aragorn used that time to take care of a few small duties of his own, as well as to make sure that he would have someone to spar with later on. One of his lieutenants, Beredil, readily agreed to meet him and put on a show for Boromir, although not before casting a concerned glance at the sling that still bound his captain's arm. Aragorn assured him that he was very nearly healed, and Beredil nodded acceptance of that, although he added slyly that Aragorn should take care that the healers did not find out about his plan.
"I shall have to hope that their powers do not extend to foresight," Aragorn replied with a grin, knowing from long experience how agitated healers could become when their instructions were ignored. Beredil laughingly promised secrecy on his part, and they arranged to meet later in the practice arena. His sparring partner found, Aragorn then began heading back towards the Steward's House, realising that it was almost time to rescue Boromir from his lessons.
He made his way back to the study and knocked on the door, only to hear immediate scuffling noises from inside, quickly followed by pattering footsteps. A moment later the door was tugged open, and Boromir grinned up at him, his eyes shining.
"You're back!" he said joyfully, looking as relieved as if he had just been given a reprieve from torture. "Can we go now? I've been very good, I promise!"
Aragorn glanced over at Oronar, who met his questioning gaze with a nod and a wry smile. "He has been good, more or less," he said. "He stayed in his seat at least, and that is more than I often receive."
Aragorn chuckled, not envying the man his duty. "I will take him with me, then, and leave you to recover," he said. "Come, little one; we will eat, and then we will see about that lesson."
Boromir followed eagerly as they made their way down the stairs and along to his chamber, darting inside as Aragorn opened the door. True to her word, Ivoren was just setting out a meal on the table, and she greeted Aragorn with a curtsey and Boromir with a fond smile. Aragorn nodded politely to her, then turned to regard Boromir, taking in the ink stains on his hands with a smile.
"You need to wash first, little one," he said. "You do not need to eat that much ink."
Boromir regarded his hands sheepishly, and Ivoren dropped another curtsey as she came up beside him. "I will take care of him, my lord; we will be but a moment," she said, and quickly ushered Boromir off into the bathing room. There were several minutes of splashing and a few muffled protests, but Boromir finally emerged with hands and face washed. He trotted over to the table, and Ivoren slipped out of the bathing room behind him, vanishing out the door a moment later.
The meal passed swiftly, and much of it was spent in conversation. Having overcome his initial shyness, Boromir appeared to be fairly thriving under the attention Aragorn was giving him, and was now full of eager questions. Aragorn patiently answered all that he could, also asking a few of his own in return, which seemed to delight the little boy.
When they had finished eating, he glanced across the table at Boromir, taking in the child's appearance with an indulgent smile. "And now you need to wash your face again," he said kindly. "Come, let us get you looking more presentable, and then we will go."
He held out his hand to Boromir, and the boy took it eagerly, although Aragorn noticed him trying to stifle a yawn as they headed for the bathing room. He frowned, suddenly realising that he had not taken into account the need for a nap when making his plans. Boromir was young enough that he would probably need one, especially after such a busy morning.
"Perhaps we should save this lesson until after you have had a nap, little one," he said, smoothing a hand over the child's hair. "I do not want to tire you out too much."
"But I'm not tired!" Boromir protested at once, looking up at Aragorn pleadingly. "Can't we go now, please? I can have a nap later!"
While not entirely convinced by Boromir's assurances that he was not tired, Aragorn decided, after a moment of thought, not to push the issue. The boy was right in that he could always have a nap later – and truthfully, Aragorn did not have the heart to make him wait for this lesson when he seemed to be looking forward to it so much.
Finding water and a towel, he managed to convince Boromir to stay still long enough to have his face washed, then waited while the child collected his little sword. Aragorn was wearing his own sword now, in preparation for sparring, and he had noticed Boromir casting admiring glances at it, although interestingly the child had not yet asked if he could see it. Indeed, even as he watched, Boromir gave the sword another longing look, his admiration obvious. Aragorn couldn't help but smile.
"Would you like to see it?" he asked kindly, tousling the child's hair.
Boromir's face lit up, and he nodded eagerly. "Yes, please!"
Aragorn grinned and drew his sword from its sheath, going down on one knee to show it to Boromir, although he did not let the child touch it. "It is sharp," he said. "I do not want you to cut yourself."
Boromir nodded obediently, regarding the sword with great admiration, and Aragorn smiled warmly at him. "One day you will have one like it," he said, as Boromir gazed at the weapon.
"I hope so," Boromir said earnestly. "It is a wonderful sword. Does it have a name?"
"If it does, I do not know it," Aragorn said with a laugh. "But it has served me well indeed in battle since my last sword was broken, so mayhap it deserves one. We will have to see what we can come up with."
Boromir nodded. "I'll help you think of one," he said eagerly, and Aragorn grinned at him.
"I will gladly accept that help, little fledgling. Now, come – we have things to do. We must teach you some new tricks!"
Boromir grinned, obviously eager for the teaching, and trotted happily beside Aragorn as he led the way out of the Steward's House. They headed through the gate and down the slope, back onto the sixth level and over to the practice grounds. Once inside the building, Aragorn found them an empty practice room, then ushered Boromir inside and went to locate another of the little wooden swords, knowing that he would need it for their lesson. He found one easily enough in the armoury – indeed, there was a fair pile of them – and headed back to the practice room. Boromir had apparently been amusing himself by running through his drills, and he looked up eagerly when Aragorn came back in.
"Now," Aragorn began with a smile, unbuckling his own sword belt for ease of movement, and putting it on the bench near the door. "Let us see what we can do about teaching you some new skills. Let me see . . ."
He thought for a moment, mulling over what he should start with. There were several things he had been considering teaching the boy, none of which were really tricks as much as techniques, which would eventually become second nature as Boromir grew more proficient. From what he had seen, the little boy showed real promise with a sword, and there would be no harm in teaching him some more advanced skills to further his confidence.
Making his decision, he stepped over to stand opposite Boromir. "Very well, let us begin. Take your stance, little one."
Boromir did, and Aragorn looked him over again, nodding. "Good. Now, before we begin – your blade. You do not want the point too high or too low – you want it pointed at your opponent's face, straight on. Do you know why?"
Boromir's forehead creased in concentration. "It's . . . so that they won't know how long your sword is. I think."
"Aye, that is right," Aragorn said, nodding in approval. "Your opponent cannot judge the length accurately if your sword is pointed straight at their face; their eyes will play tricks on them. This can be very important when you are fighting. Now, I will be your opponent for a moment – although a bigger one than you are used to," he added with a grin as he knelt down opposite Boromir. "But we will make do. Take your stance and point your sword."
Boromir did, carefully making sure his sword was pointed at Aragorn's face, and Aragorn nodded again. "Hold like that," he said, then got to his feet and moved around behind Boromir to examine his posture, adjusting the child's balance slightly and pulling his shoulders back. "Good. That is the way you should be standing, so that you are balanced for attack or defence. Do you feel the balance?"
Boromir nodded, his small face intent. "Yes."
"Good. Now, you are going to strike – but small thrusts only. Do not go to your full reach." He knelt down again, behind Boromir, and reached around to put his good hand over both of the child's smaller ones, holding them lightly. "Like this – with me," he said, and gently helped Boromir to swing his sword, making sure that the boy did not extend all the way. "And again. Small strikes only. You do not need to extend all the way. Now, keep going."
He took his hands away, letting Boromir move by himself, and watched as the little boy continued. "Good. Now, the reason you are doing this, is that you want your opponent to underestimate your full reach. If you strike short of it to begin with, then he will begin to think that is as far as you can go. This can be an advantage for you. Can you see why?"
Boromir thought for a moment, then nodded. "Yes. He will think I can't reach him when I really can."
"Exactly so! Very good, little one," Aragorn praised, genuinely impressed by the child's instincts for this. "Now, what you want to do next is to get his sword low, but to keep yours high. How do you think you would do that?"
Boromir frowned, clearly thinking hard. "Keep my sword on top?" he asked after a moment, hesitantly.
"Aye, very good! You want to strike from overhead, keeping his sword down as much as you can. Like this."
Aragorn moved back to his previous position, laying his hand over both of Boromir's again, and demonstrated the required strikes before stepping back again to watch. Boromir's movements were hesitant only briefly before he began to move with more confidence, and Aragorn nodded his approval.
"That is very good. Now, try it on me." He picked up the other wooden blade and went back to his 'opponent' position, holding the sword low so that it would be in the right position for Boromir to reach it. He watched as the boy tried the strikes again, managing to put a reasonable amount of force behind them for such a small child. "Good, little one. Now, hold a moment, and I will tell you what comes next."
Boromir stopped at once, watching him with shining eyes, and Aragorn smiled at his obvious enthusiasm. "You are doing very well, Boromir," he said warmly. "Now, the next part – this is the trap. Once you have your opponent's sword down, you aim your next strike high – here, perhaps, or here." He indicated several areas on himself which would be good to strike at. "Your opponent's sword is low, and it will be hard for him to get it up in time to block you – it is always harder to lift a sword than to lower it; that is why you have tried to keep his down. Thus, when you strike, his best defence will be to step away – either back, or to the side. If he steps to the side, then you continue as you were, striking at him and trying to keep his sword low. But if he steps back, he may well underestimate how far back he needs to go – because you have carefully not struck to your full reach. While he thinks he is safe, he may still be in your range. Do you see?"
Boromir nodded excitedly. "Yes! So then he thinks that he's safe, and I can still hit him!"
"Aye, exactly," Aragorn said. "Now – shall we try? We will take it slowly, so that you can get used to the moves."
Boromir nodded, and Aragorn held out the little sword again, making sure to keep it low. "Begin. Do not go to your full reach."
Boromir obeyed, his brow creasing in concentration as he worked to get the moves right. At first Aragorn did nothing but defend against the strikes, watching to make sure the boy had the right idea and giving gentle correction when it was necessary. After a few more, however, he began to make gentle strikes of his own in return, forcing Boromir to defend a little as well as attack. The child faltered only briefly, but then gamely continued.
"Good!" Aragorn said. "Now, try to get my sword low. Strike from overhead. Start slowly."
Again, Boromir obeyed, and again Aragorn found himself impressed at just how fast the little boy had picked this up. "Good!" he said again. "Now, faster – and then when you have my sword low, try to strike at me, high."
He continued to defend as Boromir tried to speed up his strikes, his small face intent. The child actually did a creditable job of trying to get Aragorn's sword down, and after a few good strikes Aragorn went along, letting the little blade dip even lower. Boromir promptly struck high, aiming for his shoulder, and he obligingly moved backwards – shifting to a spot that was out of reach of the swings Boromir had been making, but not out of his reach altogether, if he extended fully. Boromir struck at him again, his eyes shining, and this time he did go to his full reach. Indeed, the blow would have actually connected if Aragorn had not quickly brought the little sword up to block it. Not that a blunt wooden practice weapon would have actually injured him, but in his excitement Boromir had swung full-force, and it would have left quite a bruise.
There was a loud crack as their swords connected, and Boromir's joyful look lasted only a moment before his eyes widened in guilt and alarm. "I'm sorry!" he burst out at once, looking horrified. "I forgot I'm not supposed to really hit! I'm very sorry!"
In response, Aragorn gave him a reassuring smile, laying the little sword down and patting Boromir on the shoulder. "Apology accepted, little one, and no harm done," he said gently. "You got excited, that is all, and you did not hurt me. Just try to remember to be careful."
Boromir nodded, still looking very repentant. "I will," he said earnestly. "I promise."
"Good. And that aside, you did very well there. That was a well-aimed strike. If I had not known it was coming, I would have been in trouble!"
He tapped the boy gently on the nose, smiling, and Boromir grinned back at him, clearly relieved that he was not in trouble. "Can we do it again?" he asked hopefully after a moment. "I promise I'll remember not to really hit this time."
Aragorn laughed and nodded. "Aye, we can do it again. And after that, we will see what other tricks I can teach you. Take your stance!"
They did run through the technique again, as well as a few others that Aragorn thought might be useful for the boy to know. He found he was thoroughly enjoying teaching Boromir – the little boy was bright and very quick, and he picked up skills with impressive speed, at least as far as swordsmanship went. He also seemed quite delighted by the attention Aragorn was paying him, and threw himself into the lesson with an endearing enthusiasm.
After about an hour of practice, Aragorn noticed that Boromir was starting to slow down, and smiled at the boy. "That is enough for one day, I think," he said. "You must be getting tired."
Boromir shook his head, earnestly denying any such thing. "I'm not, honestly I'm not," he pleaded. "Can't we keep going?"
"Not today," Aragorn said kindly, shaking his head. "I do not want to wear you out completely – and besides, it is time for me to do some sparring of my own. Would you still like to watch?"
Watching Aragorn spar was apparently a treat worth giving up the current lesson for, and Boromir nodded, smiling again. "Yes, please!"
"Good. Come on, then," Aragorn said, returning the smile. He led the way out of the small room they had appropriated for their lesson, and across to the other half of the building, where the men practiced. As they came through the door to the main practice arena, he looked around for Beredil, and spotted the man almost at once. "Come, Boromir," he said, taking the little boy's hand, and led the way over to where Beredil was standing. "This is who I am going to spar with today," he said. "Lieutenant Beredil, this is Boromir, son of Denethor."
Boromir gave the tall man a shy smile. "Hello, sir," he said politely, and Beredil grinned at him.
"Greetings, my young lord," he said kindly. "My captain tells me you are going to be our audience this afternoon."
Boromir nodded, his enthusiasm obvious, and Aragorn smiled and put a hand on the child's shoulder. "Come, Boromir," he said again, and led the little boy over to one of the benches that were placed around the outside of the arena. "I want you to sit here," he said, nodding at the bench. "And you are to stay here. Sparring can become rough at times, even though it is only practice, and I do not want you to be hurt. You will be safe out of the way here, and you are not to move from this spot until I come for you. Is that understood, little one?"
"Yes, Thorongil," Boromir said, scrambling obediently up onto the bench. Aragorn nodded approvingly.
"Good boy," he said. "Now, as soon as we might find a spot on the practice grounds, Lieutenant Beredil and I will spar." He glanced up then as Beredil beckoned to him, indicating that such a spot was now available, and gave the man a nod before turning back to smile at Boromir. "And there we are. Stay here, little one. I will be back when we are through."
Leaving Boromir on the bench, he strode out onto the practice grounds, where Beredil had secured space for them to practice. He heard muttering from the sidelines, and noticed that gazes were turning their way, apparently eager to watch. Aragorn was well-liked by his men, as well as admired for his skill, and his practice duels tended to draw an audience.
He took up position opposite Beredil, who grinned and raised his sword in salute, although he did cast another pointed glance at the sling Aragorn wore. "Are you sure you are well, my lord?" he asked quietly, apparently concerned that Aragorn had not removed it.
"Aye," Aragorn replied easily. "But the healer bade me keep it on until tomorrow, and I intend to do so. He will have no cause to complain, that way!"
Beredil laughed out loud at that. "Perhaps I should also go one-handed, then," he said cheerfully. "It will be good practice, although you will doubtless beat me, and would even if I used both to your one."
"Use both," Aragorn advised with a smile. "It is never wise to give up an advantage if you do not have to, Lieutenant."
"Aye, Captain," Beredil agreed, grinning again. "Begin?"
Beredil obliged, lunging at his captain's side, only to have Aragorn neatly parry the blade away. A few more thrusts and parries and they were well into it, dancing nimbly to and fro across the ground of the practice arena, the clash of steel on steel mingling with their grunts of effort as they fought. The watching men cheered them on, calling good-natured encouragement to both as they parried back and forth.
Despite Beredil's self-effacing manner, he was a skilled fighter and Aragorn had to work hard not to be tagged by him, especially since he was only using one hand to Beredil's two. But he was a skilled swordsman himself, and after a fierce fight he did finally get the better of the younger man. Pulling Beredil's attention with a feint, he swept aside the lieutenant's defence with a powerful swipe, and pointed his blade at the exposed throat.
"Put up your sword, Lieutenant."
Beredil was breathing hard and sweating, but now he grinned, holding his arms out in good-natured surrender. "I yield, Captain," he said. "You have bested me again – and one-handed, too. 'Tis a good thing I expected such, or I would be most disappointed!"
Aragorn laughed and drew back, sheathing his sword and then clapping Beredil on the shoulder. "I played some tricks, there," he said, wiping sweat from his brow with his sleeve. "But you gave a good account of yourself. Well-fought, Lieutenant."
"My thanks, Captain," Beredil said with a smile. "I hope we put on enough of a show for our audience?"
"I am sure we did, although our audience seems to have grown," Aragorn said, glancing around at the watching soldiers. "Play on if you like, Beredil," he went on. "I will sit with Boromir, and we will watch a while longer. You have quite worn out your captain!"
"I do not believe it!" Beredil retorted cheerfully. "But I will play on, sir, and continue the show for your guest." He grinned ruefully, adding, "It seems I could use the practice!"
Aragorn grinned in return and thanked him for the duel, then retreated off the practice grounds as another man offered Beredil a match. He quickly made his way back over to the bench where he had left Boromir, and smiled to see that the boy was indeed still there, standing on the bench now rather than sitting, obviously trying to get the better view. The little boy beamed at him as he approached, fairly bouncing in place with excitement.
"You beat him!" he burst out, as soon as Aragorn reached him. "Even though you were only using one hand, and he had both! You are a great warrior!"
Aragorn grinned, lowering himself down onto the bench. "My thanks for the praise, little fledgling," he said warmly. "I am flattered that you think so highly of me!"
"Not just me," Boromir pointed out, sitting down beside him and looking up at him adoringly. "Grandfather says you're a great warrior, too. And your men were cheering for you."
"Aye, but they cheered for Lieutenant Beredil also," Aragorn said. "He is a worthy man! And we put on a good show, did we not, little one?"
"Aye," Boromir said, in obvious imitation of him, and Aragorn laughed out loud, tousling the boy's hair fondly.
"Aye, indeed," he said with a grin. "Come now, let us watch while they play some more." He looked down at Boromir, and hesitated only a moment before lifting the child into his lap with his good arm, settling him on his knee. Boromir leaned happily against him, seeming quite content with his new position, and Aragorn put his arm around the boy, smiling as he turned his attention back to the practice grounds.
Beredil's next bout ended, leaving him the victor, and he and his opponent then quit the practice grounds to make room for another pair – good friends who were both very skilled, and delighted in a bit of showmanship. Aragorn became involved in watching the match, and it wasn't until it was over that he looked back down at Boromir, suddenly realising that the child had been very quiet. He immediately saw why – the little boy had fallen asleep, his head pillowed against Aragorn's chest, his fair hair falling in soft, wispy strands across one flushed cheek. He looked quite adorable, and Aragorn could not help smiling at the sight.
Beredil, who had also been watching from the sidelines, came over to him then, and he too grinned. "You have worn him out, sir," he said with a laugh, keeping his voice low so as not to wake the sleeping child. "Quite a feat, from what I have heard."
"Aye, well, he has had a lot to do today," Aragorn replied softly. "I had best take him home for a nap, I think."
"Can you manage him with your arm, Captain?"
"Aye, he is not that heavy, yet," Aragorn replied. He rose to his feet, easing his good arm under Boromir as he did so, and with a little manoeuvring settled the sleeping child against his shoulder. Boromir murmured something, but did not wake, merely cuddling closer and turning his face into Aragorn's neck. Aragorn exchanged another grin with Beredil – who had a young son of his own, and was by no means immune to the winsomeness of children – and then headed out of the practice grounds, nodding greetings to the other men as he passed them. He was amused to note that all of them kept their voices low so as not to wake Boromir.
He headed back up through the tunnel and past the guards at the gate, who took one look at him and his burden and had to obviously fight to keep back their smiles. Aragorn merely grinned and passed by them, walking easily across the courtyard toward the Steward's House. He opened the door, employing a nudge with one foot since both his arms were currently spoken for, and headed along the corridor to Boromir's chamber. Another well-placed shove with his foot opened that door, and moments later he was easing the sleeping child down onto the bed.
Boromir had barely stirred during their journey, except to wrap one hand in a fold of Aragorn's coat, but now he mumbled something and held on tighter, apparently not wishing to be dislodged. Aragorn gently pried the small fingers from his coat and smoothed a hand over the boy's hair, hushing him. After a moment Boromir settled, and Aragorn took the opportunity to tug the little boots off and cover him with a blanket. He leaned down to tuck it more securely around the child, and found himself being regarded by a pair of sleepy grey eyes.
"Go back to sleep, little one," he said softly, stroking a finger down Boromir's cheek. "It is naptime now."
Boromir's eyes began to close obediently, but a moment later they opened again. "Will you come back for supper?" he asked, the hopeful note in his voice clear even through his sleepiness.
Aragorn grinned. "Aye, I will come," he said kindly. After all, he did not have any pressing duties this evening – and Boromir seemed to be enjoying his company so much that it was hard to say no to him.
Boromir smiled and closed his eyes again, and Aragorn leaned down to press a kiss to his forehead. "Sleep well, little fledgling," he murmured, then turned and slipped out of the room, closing the door gently behind him.
True to his word, Aragorn returned to the Steward's House for supper that evening, after receiving a polite message from a servant on behalf of Boromir – who, apparently, had been quite ready to come and track down his guest himself, until he was placated with the notion of sending a message. Aragorn had laughed and said that he would go at once, sparing the servant the need to take a return message.
He walked back across from his own quarters, in one of the spacious guest houses, and made his way to Boromir's chamber. The child was sitting on the window seat, examining a toy – a carved wooden soldier, riding on horseback. As soon as he saw Aragorn, however, he put the little figure down and jumped off his perch, beaming.
"Hello, Thorongil!" he said excitedly. "I sent you a message! Did you get it?"
"Aye, I got it," Aragorn said fondly. "And here I am, come for supper." He gave the boy a warm smile. "How are you, my little fledgling? Did you rest well?"
Boromir nodded. "Yes. But I don't remember you bringing me home."
"Well, you were sound asleep," Aragorn said, then added with a grin, "And 'tis good that you are no bigger than you are. I was quite worn out after carrying you all that way!"
He winked, and Boromir giggled delightedly. "I'm not that heavy," the child protested.
"Nay, in truth you are not," Aragorn agreed warmly. "I will be able to carry you for a while longer, I think." He glanced around the room, noting that the small table was not set for a meal. "Are we to eat in here again?" he asked the boy. "Or are we taking supper in the dining hall?"
There was a private dining hall in the Steward's House; Aragorn had taken meals in there several times with Ecthelion and his family, although usually later than this, and always without Boromir in attendance. He had assumed that the little boy had been put to bed too early to eat with them on those occasions – or, perhaps, that he had been kept away on account of Aragorn's presence. Still, the child must surely sit up with his parents for meals sometimes.
"Ivoren said we should eat in the dining hall, because you are a guest," Boromir replied now, answering Aragorn's question. "But – Mother is too tired to come tonight, and Grandfather usually doesn't have supper until later. And Father isn't here. So it will only be us."
"Well, that is all right," Aragorn reassured him, seeing the child's face fall slightly as he mentioned his mother. "We can keep each other company, can we not?"
Boromir nodded, looking happier, and Aragorn held out his hand. "Come then, little one," he said. "We will go and sit, and we can talk more while we are waiting for supper to arrive."
Boromir took his hand, and Aragorn led the way through into the dining hall. The table had already been set for the two of them – one place at the end of the table, and one to the right of it. Aragorn let Boromir have the end place, an act which drew a delighted grin from the child, and grinned in return as he took his own seat. He then watched with amusement as Boromir wriggled onto his knees in his chair, trying to gain the height advantage over the table. Smiling, he offered the boy a cushion from the neighbouring chair.
"Did you have fun today, Boromir?" he asked kindly, as Boromir added the cushion to the one in his seat, shifting about until he was kneeling on both.
"Oh, yes!" Boromir said, nodding vigorously. "Thank you for letting me watch, and for the lesson! I practiced it again when I woke up!"
"Did you indeed?" Aragorn said with a grin. "I am glad to hear it, little one. You picked those skills up very quickly. I was most impressed."
Boromir fairly glowed at the praise, looking up at him with such adoration in his eyes that Aragorn was almost embarrassed. After all, he had done nothing more than be kind to the child, and offer some much-needed attention to a lonely little boy. It did not seem like much of an effort to make, in the scheme of things – but it was easily apparent that it meant a great deal to the little boy in question.
"Will you come to my lesson again tomorrow?" Boromir asked now, hopefully. "Please? If we get to spar again, I want to try to use what you taught me."
Aragorn nodded, smiling at the boy. He had a few small duties that he needed to take care of tomorrow, as well as a visit to the healers, but he could fit in Boromir's lesson with no hardship. It was more obvious than ever to him now that the child sorely needed the attention Aragorn was giving him, and he intended to continue it whenever possible.
"I will come," he said warmly. "And I will be looking forward to seeing you use what you learned today. But remember, little one, I do not expect you to win all your battles just because you have learned some new techniques. You have much to learn yet – but so long as you do your best, you should feel that you have done well. Do you understand?"
Boromir nodded, but after a moment he gave Aragorn a rather cheeky grin. "I still want to beat Eradan, though," he said mischievously.
Aragorn laughed. "I am sure that you do!" he said. "And I am sure that you will – but it may not be tomorrow, my little fledgling. Just know that if you do your best, I will be proud of you either way."
Boromir gave him another of those beautiful smiles, and Aragorn grinned back at him, tousling the child's hair fondly. Before the conversation could move onto other things, however, there came a knock at the door, and a moment later two servants entered, carrying platters of food which they placed on the table. Drinks were poured for them both, wine for Aragorn and milk for Boromir, and then the servants bowed and departed.
The meal passed again with much conversation, as Boromir chattered happily about both his lessons and his enjoyment of watching the sparring. His admiration for Aragorn's skill was obvious, and the fact that Aragorn had fought one-handed to Beredil's two had only added to it. The little boy seemed quite convinced that his new hero could have taken on all the thralls of Mordor and emerged victorious, and any protests Aragorn might make to the contrary were simply ignored. Aragorn, not used to being adored by small children, found himself again torn between indulgent amusement and faint embarrassment.
After dinner there was dessert – sweet biscuits that Boromir proclaimed to be his favourite, something Aragorn made note of. They were actually very good, once the initial shock of how sweet they were wore off, but Aragorn still had to give up halfway through his second one, saying that if he had any more there would likely be more sugar in his veins than blood. This dry observation made Boromir giggle, but it didn't stop him from appropriating the leftover half.
By the time dessert was over, Aragorn noticed that Boromir was starting to droop, and it wasn't long before he caught a stifled yawn. He smiled, smoothing a hand over the child's hair. "I think it is nearly time for bed," he said kindly. "You must be tired after such a big day."
Boromir shook his head, but his protest that he was not tired got caught up in another yawn, and Aragorn laughed.
"It seems you have been overruled," he said with a grin, then got to his feet and held out his hand. "Come, little one; it is time for you to have your bath and go to sleep. You must be well-rested for your lessons tomorrow."
Boromir looked mutinous for a moment, and Aragorn raised an eyebrow at him pointedly, hoping to forestall any possible tantrums. "Come, Boromir," he said again, keeping his tone kind but allowing a hint of warning to enter it. Apparently it was enough, because Boromir slid obediently, if reluctantly, out of his chair. Aragorn nodded his approval and reached down to take the child's hand, but at the last moment he reconsidered and scooped Boromir up instead, balancing the boy on his forearm. Boromir let out a squeak of surprise and grabbed at Aragorn's coat for balance, but a moment later he grinned, his moment of rebellion forgotten.
"You said I was too heavy," he reminded Aragorn cheekily.
"Aye, but I have had supper now, and I am refreshed," Aragorn said with a grin. "Now come, it is nearly bedtime – although you will need a bath first, for I am afraid you are grubby again!"
"I'm not!" Boromir protested, giggling.
"You are!" Aragorn retorted as he manoeuvred the door open, and promptly went charging down the hall, making sure to bounce more than was necessary with every step. Boromir clung to him, squeaking with each bounce and obviously delighted by the ride; he giggled the whole way down the corridor. When they came to his bedchamber, however, he gestured further down the hall, to his parents' rooms.
"I want to say goodnight to Mother first," he said, giving Aragorn a hopeful look which clearly said he would like the ride to go on a bit longer. Aragorn grinned and obliged, and took him, with more bouncing, down to the door in question.
"You will have to knock," he said. "For if I do so, I fear I will have to drop you!"
Boromir obediently knocked, and when the call came to come in, Aragorn put the boy down and opened the door. He saw that Finduilas was already in bed – if indeed she had been out of it today – and bowed to her, while Boromir went scampering over.
The little boy climbed up on the bed for a hug, then proceeded to chatter happily about his day, while Finduilas listened with a smile. Finally, goodnights were exchanged and Boromir came trotting back over. Aragorn bowed again to Finduilas, nodding in response to the gratitude he saw in her eyes, and wished her a goodnight before closing the door and leading Boromir back to his own chamber. He opened the door to find Ivoren inside, making the bed, and she smiled and curtseyed to him.
"Good evening, my lord Thorongil," she said.
"Good evening, mistress," Aragorn said, dipping his head with a smile. "I have brought your charge back to you, for I fear his boundless energy is near run out."
"It has been a long day for him, my lord," Ivoren said, smiling at Boromir. "But he must have a bath before he goes to bed! I do not know what he does to get so dirty!"
Boromir groaned theatrically, and Aragorn laughed, going to one knee in front of the child. "And so I will leave you, little one," he said, smiling. "I have some things I must take care of. But I will see you in the morning, at your lesson."
Boromir nodded, then quickly put his arms around Aragorn's neck, hugging him tightly and planting a kiss on his cheek. "Thank you, Thorongil," he said softly.
"You are most welcome, my little fledgling," Aragorn said warmly, holding the boy close for a long moment. He pulled back, smiling into the bright grey eyes. "Sleep well, and have sweet dreams."
Boromir grinned and nodded, and Aragorn rose to his feet with a smile. Nodding to Ivoren, and giving a last wave to Boromir, he turned and slipped out into the corridor.