Beta appreciation notes to Kat. As ever, thanks hon. And special thanks and hugs for turning night to day and for keeping this one from the ‘dead’ file. And thanks as well to Helen, my versatile Herald, who also served as beta for this one.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended. I don't own these characters. This story is not meant to violate the rights held by New Line, Tolkien Enterprises, nor any other licensee, nor is any disrespect intended.
This story takes place on the day after the Yuledays season featured in the story Fine Gifts. Happy Holidays to all my readers!
He was waiting for me. Of course. Our warriors choose a watchpoint for its commanding view, so of course Aragorn saw me coming. When I emerged from the woods, there he was, leaning back against a stump, arms crossed over his chest and observing me with his finest raised brow.
“Hello,” I said with a weak smile.
“Hello?” Looking mildly incredulous, he headed towards me.
I stepped back. “Wait! Aragorn, please! I-I know I deserve to be spanked for coming out here unescorted, but --”
“Frodo, hush. Quiet down.” He scooped me up and plunked me none too gently on his hip, saying, “Aye, sir, you deserve to be spanked, and I would be turning you over my knee right now but for the fact that you do have an escort.”
He nodded towards the woods. Legolas stepped from the shadows. I gasped softly and stared at him, recalling something Bilbo had told me, “Only one race in Middle Earth moves as silently as hobbits: the elves.” Incredible, though, to think that Legolas had followed me all the way out here and I hadn’t heard a sound. The two warriors exchanged somber glances, then turned to frown at me. I fidgeted in Aragorn’s arms.
“May I get down?” I murmured.
“I felt certain this was where he was headed,” Legolas said. “Shall I take him back now or stay or return later to take him back to camp?”
Being in disgrace, so to speak, I knew better than to voice my opinion. Besides, I wasn’t being addressed. I longed for a say in this, though. At any other time I’d have welcomed the company of our beautiful prince. Having Legolas and Aragorn, all to myself? A lovely notion, despite the fact that they both seemed a bit . . . peeved.
But, though I could scarce believe myself willing to send Legolas away, I wanted to talk to Aragorn in private. He studied me, listening to me in that way of his, then he turned back to Legolas a few seconds later and said, “I shall bring him back when Gandalf comes to take the watch. Rouse Sam when you return and tell him though, lest he wake in a panic.” Aragorn shot me a scolding glare. “I assume that, at present, our trusting gardener is holding a rumpled up blanket in place of a certain naughty hobbit.”
I blushed ferociously.
Watching me with a raised brow, Legolas asked Aragorn, “You are certain you wish to be left alone with this young rogue?”
I thought to make them laugh by answering that I wasn’t sure at all, but I wasn’t at all sure they would laugh.
“Thank you for your concern, mellon nin,” Aragorn said. “I shall take my chances.”
“As you wish.” Flashing me a frown, Legolas said, “Give our captain trouble, little bratling, and you shall answer to me for it.”
“Yes, sir,” I replied, my face still in flames.
Legolas nodded at Aragorn once more, then he turned, heading back through the forest with his familiar graceful stride. I glanced at Aragorn and found him watching me, seriously nettled. I swallowed hard.
“Come, Frodo,” he said, turning and heading off, still holding me. “Time to talk.”
“Yes,” I said quickly. “Yes, a talk. That’s why I came out here, to have a talk.”
“Did you indeed?”
“I’m very glad you want to talk, Aragorn.”
“I would not be so sure of that, little one.”
I swallowed hard again.
Aragorn hauled me up to the watchpoint, a grouping of avalanched boulders halfway up a hill. Choosing a boulder, he sat and plunked me, again none too gently, on his lap. I was sitting right side up, though, so I wasn’t complaining. I’d feared Aragorn’s idea of a talk might be to spank first and ask questions later. And suddenly I knew what I had best begin our conversation with:
“I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry, Aragorn.”
He said nothing. He simply looked at me once, then cast his quiet gaze out over the land as though he didn’t quite know where to begin. My conscience writhed. I would rather Aragorn had turned me over his knee instead of staring off as he was, silent and austere. This was unlike him. I had simply wanted to come out here, seeking his counsel, but now, seeing his concerned expression . . . .
“Aragorn. Please. I really am sorry I disobeyed your orders.”
“Please don’t be angry with me.”
He turned to study me with that gentle seriousness that made his eyes crinkle at the corners. “I am not angry with you, little one. I know that you understand how important it is to obey orders. That is why I am certain you have a very good reason for what you did.”
Well, I’d thought I had a very good reason. It had seemed like a good reason earlier when I’d slipped out from under my sleeping Sam and crept from the campsite. So why did that good reason of mine suddenly seem meager? I had been lying awake, bewildered by something so aggravating that I simply had to talk to Aragorn about it at once. Now, however . . . .
“I am sure your purpose is sound, sweetling,” he said, reading my thoughts in that eerie way of his. “Tell me then. What was so important that you were willing to accept a sure spanking to come tell me about it?”
A sure spanking. I glanced down and picked at my thumbnail. I guess I’d expected no less, but hearing my sentence confirmed was gruesome enough to shake all rational thought from my head.
“Frodo. Look at me.”
I did, and Aragorn leaned in and gave me one of his gentle kisses – the ones he and I love to share. “What is troubling you, sweetling?”
Aragorn’s eyes were kind and his kiss felt comforting and suddenly fretting over my fate seemed pointless. I’d invited a spanking and I was going to get a spanking and I’d known that the moment I’d decided to leave Sam’s warm arms and head out here alone. So the matter that had plagued me suddenly resurfaced, again becoming worth the sacrifice of my poor backside, and it all began to spill forth:
“Something you said is troubling me, or rather, something you didn’t say.”
He nodded, a knowing glimmer in his gaze.
“Last evening when we were packing up to head out again, Pip was feeling moody because it had been the last of Yuledays.”
“Aye, he was quite the sulky wee Took.”
“Pip is sometimes like that when the holidays are over. So Merry got him talking about his favorite Yule season, and then Merry and Sam started talking about their favorites.”
“A fine strategy. Merry knows his cousin well.”
“Yes, and then the others joined in. Gimli talked about the first time he bested a boastful kinsman at a drinking contest, and Gandalf spoke of spending a very happy Yule with Bilbo, years before I went to live at Bag End, and Boromir told the story of his little brother . . . uhhhhh --”
“Yes, Faramir. He told about the first time Faramir was old enough to join in the Yule Log contest, how he wasn’t all that big, but he was right in front of Boromir, shouldering his section of the burden and trying so hard, and how excited they were when their team won.”
We shared grins, recalling Boromir’s eyes, bright with fond remembrance as he excitedly told us of his favorite Yuledays memory.
“And Legolas told about the time the Grey Company spent the holiday season encamped in Mirkwood and how his friend Gwin . . . .”
“ –thorian. Gwinthorian.”
“Yes, Gwinthorian – how Gwinthorian won a singing competition one eve, beating out the finest singers in Thranduil’s court --”
I halted, gazing at him quietly for a moment, then: “But you didn’t say anything. And neither did I. Instead you kind of hurried the Fellowship along, and you started the march again before the others noticed that you and I hadn’t shared our favorite Yuledays.
“So, earlier, when I was supposed to be going to sleep, I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened, and I suddenly recalled that, while all that was going on, you kept glancing at me.” I studied his peaceful gaze. “You knew then, didn’t you, my wise Ranger?”
Aragorn smoothed the stray curls from my forehead, murmuring, “I suspected. You were also watchful, Frodo, smiling and hovering near Bill’s head, petting his nose, your eyes wide as you listened. But a shadow of anxiousness entered your gaze when one story ended and there was a pause before another one began. Several times you drifted back, behind Bill, away from the notice of others who might call upon you to state your favorite.”
“And you busied yourself,” I said, “striding around, making sure all was in readiness, being the ‘far too engaged to stop and tell a story’ captain.”
He sniffed and flashed me his ready grin. “Aye.”
We both paused, then I said, “This was your favorite Yuledays, Aragorn. This one spent with the Fellowship.”
“Aye. And it was yours as well.”
“Yes.” I gazed at him for a moment, then my bewilderment surged forth: “But how is that possible? Sam and I and my beloved cousins have shared many wonderful Yuledays together. But this Yuledays, spent in the wilds of an unknown land, our futures in peril and danger lying in our path, this Yuledays was . . . it was wondrous, Aragorn! And I can’t understand how that can be. Can you?”
He chuckled softly, then Aragorn turned his fond look upon me, kissed me again and said, “Ah, Frodo. Does it need to be understood?”
I blinked at him. “Well . . . I . . . I don’t know. I guess not. Maybe not. I dunno. Shouldn’t it make sense, Aragorn?”
“I do not see why.”
And suddenly I didn’t know why it had to make sense either. I gazed at Aragorn, feeling utterly mesmerized. A tingle of excitement shot through me. In fact, I near burst into laughter! I’d been so fretful, afraid that the Ring was playing with my mind, and now . . . I listened, spellbound, Aragorn continuing on in his tranquil murmur:
“Some things are not meant to be understood, Frodo. They are simply meant to be felt. The fact that we love this Yuledays best does not decrease the joy of the many splendid Yuledays past. It simply means that what we have just experienced is uniquely splendid to us, and we enjoyed it beyond reason, beyond understanding. And that is all right, sweetling.
“As to why we were both reluctant to speak of how we felt yesterday . . . .” He paused, watching me and toying with the curls at my neck and around my ears, giving me shivers. “That moment of shared remembrance needed protecting. Do you recall how on the eve of Yuledays we all went round and told about the many different ways we celebrated the holiday season, each in his own land?”
“Yes. We were all so happy because you had decided to celebrate Yuledays Eve by staying the night to sleep more and to rest all the next day before starting the march again the next night. But, having slept during the day, instead of getting extra sleep Yuledays Eve we spent half the night telling our stories.”
“Indeed, and we shared many fine gifts of the heart. Remember how that felt?”
I nodded. “Yes. You spoke of it so well, describing how Pippin had brought each of us to Brandy Hall, filled with laughter and warmth and gaiety. You said that we all felt that joy washing through us, and you were right.” I paused suddenly, then: “Ah, I see – the same thing happened yesterday. Everyone, save you and me, told of a favorite Yuledays season. But, if you and I had started talking about how this was our favorite . . . .”
“Aye, sweetling. You do indeed see. It might have served to deflate that moment for the others. Not only because it pulled them from their sweet memories back into what you so aptly described as ‘the wilds of an unknown land, our futures in peril and danger lying in our path,’ but because they might have felt badly for not having made our choice themselves.”
Curious as that seemed, Aragorn was right. Such an admission from us could very well have thrown some of the others into odd feelings of guilt – undeserved, to be sure, but nevertheless quite probable.
“You sensed that as well, little one,” he said. “Deep inside, you knew it. That is why you said nothing. Your instincts served you well. But your feelings and actions, why you chose this as your favorite Yuledays and why you stayed silent when others were sharing theirs, made no sense to you. So your confusion drove you out here, seeking answers. But, in truth, your feelings made a great deal of sense, and your actions were, in turn, compassionate.”
Once more I could do nothing but stare at him, stunned. A memory of another chat flashed through my mind, this one with Legolas very early in the Quest: “As you have no doubt already noticed, little one, Aragorn has an uncommon gift of insight. He can oft times slide beneath another’s skin and discover how that person is feeling.”
I’d grinned and said, “I should think that would prove unsettling at times.”
“Indeed!” Legolas had said with a low chuckle. “And yet, ‘tis more often than not, most wondrous.”
I flung my arms around Aragorn’s shoulders and hugged him and buried my face in his hair and shamelessly kissed his neck, stammering, “I-I, you’re so righ – how did you – how is it you can --?” I was so relieved I wanted to both laugh and cry.
“Shhh.” He chuckled low in his throat and gave me a gentle squeeze. “Shh, sweetling. ‘Tis alright now.”
“I had worked myself into such a state, fretting about it – I even feared the Ring might be controlling my thoughts, though I couldn’t fathom why it would. But you explained it all away with such ease.” I pulled back to gaze at him. “How are you possible, my brilliant Ranger?”
“Frodo,” Aragorn sniffed in his shy, dismissive manner and shook his head. And he blushed! I couldn’t help it – I giggled; then I gave him one of our special sweet kisses, which he returned. “You are too modest, sir,” I said, slightly breathless.
He kissed my brow. “As are you. I did little more than bring to the surface what you were carrying within you, sweetling. You knew most all of what I told you. You oft know more than you think you do.”
“But you reached within me and brought it forth, and it comforted me greatly. You comfort me greatly, my Ranger.” I gazed at his rugged handsomeness and rubbed my fingertips over his beard and sighed.
“Ah, well. Do not become overly devoted. Perhaps you have forgotten.” He raised a brow slowly. “We have some unfinished business to discuss.”
Frodo actually looked a bit startled. Then he remembered. He stiffened and his eyes flashed wide with sudden alarm. Wincing, he said in a small voice, “Oh.”
“Oh, indeed,” I said. “We have only completed half of our talk, sir.” And I swept Frodo up, turned him over my knee, unfastened his braces and pulled down his wee britches before the first gasp left his mouth. Ah, sweet little hobbit bottom!
He began to fuss and wriggle at once. To my surprise, Frodo even threw his hand back to cover his snowy, vulnerable backside. I grabbed his wrist and held it secured at his back, feeling he needed the comfort of having his hand held down rather than being permitted the option of removing it himself. I doubted he could have done so. His action bespoke his needs quite well, so I had him firmly restrained within moments.
“Stop your impertinence at once,” I murmured, Frodo releasing dear little squeaks of dismay. “In coming out here alone you made a serious error in judgement. You have much to answer for. So settle down, Mister Underhill.”
“You unnerve me when you call me that, you know,” Frodo had once told me.
“Do I indeed?”
“It reminds me of the first time you called me that, and, and . . . .”
“And what immediately followed? Then I am content. Your first spanking from me left a lasting impression.”
Not so lasting as to make it no longer necessary to spank Frodo, thank the Valar, though I was also content that he did not know how that pleased me.
Today Frodo had come seeking clarity, and I was most happy to provide it, both in word and in deed. I had taken care of the word, and I now began to apply the deed part to his quivering backside. He squealed loudly at my first spanks. Very loudly. I instantly realized why.
“It has been quite a while since I had your sweet little bottom over my knee, Frodo.”
“Owwww!” He hissed and wriggled and jerked about. “Ow ow owww! Aragorn!”
“In fact, Sam has not needed to discipline you for some time now either, nor has Boromir, nor Legolas. You have been very well behaved, sir! No one of late has enjoyed the pleasure of tanning your sweet little bottom.”
“Enjoyed?” He snarled under his breath, then cried, “Aragorn, please! Don’t! OWW! And don’t talk about my . . . my behind like tha-OWWW!”
“I think I shall. And there is no need to fuss so. ‘Tis just the two of us out here, and I am hardly insulting you. I am simply enjoying the view before me. I have missed seeing you over my knee, Frodo.”
“Valar help me, little one, but I almost wish you were naughty a bit more often.”
He gasped and sputtered, clearly speechless.
“Of course, Sam would have first rights to warming your swee --”
“NOO! Don’t say that again! Owww! Don’t call that part of m-me my ‘swee –’”
“But Master Samwise would defer to me if you had disobeyed my orders. That is fitting. He no doubt enjoys warming this sweet little bottom as well.”
“No, he doesn’t!”
I had to chuckle softly. Frodo covered his face with his hands and groaned, a lovely tremor coursing through him. I vow I could feel his entire body blushing over my lap. But I knew this little one well, and Frodo was not the least bit upset by my playfulness. There was no malice here, no ridicule or mockery. And, though he was unaware of it, Frodo told me in many ways that he was all right. He was not frantic. He was softly crying from his spanking, but not sobbing from humiliation. His kicking was not violent. It was the stiff-legged jerking response typical of anyone whose bottom was being warmed. And as for his replies, Frodo was just offended enough to preserve his honor.
So although he was outwardly embarrassed and indignant and squirming over my lap, inwardly, where he could not deny his feelings, Frodo was enjoying a very different squirming, a delicious squirming rich with tickle-y feelings he could scarce bear to endure coming from some place he could scarce bear to acknowledge. He wriggled and sputtered and fought for his dignity whilst not really wanting it at all. Oh, I understood.
I grinned to myself, watching him struggle to scold me whilst being in a very bad position to do so. My jesting had an added benefit, though, and I felt I was about to see it put to use. I was giving Frodo an excuse to let fly a glorious show of temper, always satisfying when one was also enjoying those sweet, tickle-y feelings. At least I had ever thought so.
A burst of rebellion whilst being spanked – ahh! Despite the consequences, it was wondrous indeed. By praising Frodo’s bottom I had brought him right to the edge of that precipice and I felt my besieged halfling was but a few comments away from plunging into a splendid explosion of ill-advised cheek.
“Of course, I am pleased by your good behavior,” I told him. “But a little more harmless naughtiness on your part would allow me to --”
“OHH!” He growled and kicked. “Y-You’re the most v-vulgar man, s-sir!”
I bit back a laugh. “Just consider the matter, Frodo, for my sake. A small bit of extra naughtiness is all I am asking, nothing dangerous. Then I could warm this charming wee bottom more often.”
“Merciful Middle Ear – Ara – pleeeeease stop thaat! Of all the coarse –AHHH! S-Stop t-talking about my --”
“I did not say ‘sweet little bottom.’”
“But you s-still!” More furious kicking. “Stop! D-Don’t talk abo – OWW! OW OW OWWWWW!”
“Such bad manners, little one! You are much too full of sass for a hobbit bratling whose adorable backside is over my knee.”
“WILL YOU KINDLY SHUT UP ABOUT MY RUDDY – BOTTOM!”
I halted, my mouth falling open, my hand paused on the upswing. Saying that had to have felt good to him. Especially the truly foul elvish word he used between ‘ruddy’ and ‘bottom.’ Amazing that our child-like Frodo knew such a filthy word. I was impressed and most curious as to his source.
“Pardon?” I said.
“Uhhh . . . n-nothing. S-Sorry Aragorn.”
“I should think so, sir. I trust you enjoy the taste of the soap Sam packed from Rivendell.”
“Noooooo! No, no, no, NOOOO! You will not soap out my mouth!”
“I will not? I see.” One small Ringbearer, fully plunged over that precipice. My hand came down quite sincerely, finding its target with a satisfying smack! Frodo arched up and squealed and I resumed my steady spanking rhythm again.
I spanked on in silence, giving my little one some time to simply feel his spanking and think things over. It truly had been some time since he had been in this position. Frodo was generally well behaved, but he suffered the occasion lapse in judgement, as they all did, even Sam.
Issues with authority. That was the most serious problem when it came to the hobbits. They still wanted to decide matters for themselves. They were not warriors, nor had they been exposed to an understanding of complete obedience to their commanding officer long enough for it to be a natural response.
“They are fine at obeying orders as long as it does not interfere with what they want to do,” I had complained to Gandalf recently.
He had chuckled. “Yes, they are hobbits. Do not expect miracles, sir.”
Our dwarf had voiced it best, though, early in the Quest after Sam had fallen ill due to, again, blatantly deciding he knew best and that he did not need to obey my orders: “Ah, well, Aragorn,” Gimli said, “what can one expect? The wee ones are not of a warrior culture.”
So today, when Frodo was beset by confusion, he did exactly what he wanted to do. The fact that Legolas had followed him, keeping him safe, was irrelevant. Frodo had indulged his yearning, doing so in a most blatant manner, flaunting my authority by trotting right up to me after openly disobeying my orders.
Few actions could have spoken more loudly. Frodo had near screamed out to me in silence: “Help me, Aragorn. I’m frightened. Tell me that I am not peculiar or unsuitable or under the influence of this vile thing ‘round my neck. Tell me all is well, that I am all right. Help me. Comfort me.”
I was most happy to do so. But this matter of how Frodo had gone about getting what he wanted, letting his desires overrule my orders, had to be dealt with, as it had been in some respect with all the halflings thus far, little good it seemed to be doing. But they had to begin obeying orders, regardless of any other concerns. And the urgency of that had hit me like a powerful blow when I sat Frodo on my knee earlier and looked out over the land. The ease with which Frodo had disobeyed me made me wonder if these little ones could ever fully adapt to that warrior’s code.
But at the moment I had this dear little one right where I needed him to be. Frodo’s backside was a pretty red now and he was tiring, sobbing in a most regretful tone. He had collapsed in surrender. One small Ringbearer, fully prepared to listen. I slowed my swats, pausing every so often between spanks to rub Frodo’s burning skin.
“Now, sir,” I said, “regarding your last comment – or perhaps I should say, your last order – who decides whether or not your insolent mouth deserves to be washed out with soap?”
“Y-You doooo, Ar’g-gorn.”
“And are insolent hobbit brats allowed to tell me ‘no’ when I have made a decision that is for their own good?”
“So is there something you would like to say to me for that little slip in decorum?”
“Sorry, Ar’gorn! I-I’m sor-sorryyyyyy! AHH!”
“‘Tis all right, sweetling. I understand.” I waited for a moment, rubbing his bottom, then added, “It was perhaps unseemly of me to speak of how pretty your bottom is when I have you over my knee. I could not help myself, little one. But, in future I shall try to keep such thoughts to myself.”
Frodo lifted his head, his weeping slowing, and he hiccuped, and murmured, “N-Nooo, i-it’s alright. R-Really, Ar’gorn. I-It’s all right. S-Sorry I was b-bratty ‘bout it.”
“Oh. You do not mind then?”
He shook his head, his curls flying. “N-No.”
I grinned a little and patted his soft, hot backside. “Very well. If you are sure.”
“Uh-huhh,” he said, resting his head on his folded arms.
“Perhaps you are ready to tell me why you are being spanked.” Always an unpopular question, but unavoidable.
“‘C-Cause I c-came out here with no-no big p-person escort. But-But-But, Ar’gorn?”
I grinned yet again, having wondered if he would attempt the unsound argument I felt was coming next. “Aye, sweetling?”
“I-I DID have a-a-a escort! L-Leg’las was be-behind me.”
“But you did not know Legolas was behind you, did you, Frodo?”
He froze, the truth of my words smacking into him. A long spanking oft left one less able to think clearly and Frodo had been drifting into that sluggish place in his mind, poor little mite. How well I understood.
“N-Noooooooooo.” He said between soft renewed sobs. “Noooooooo, din’t k-know he w-was therrrrrrre. N-No, Ar’gorn.”
“Mmm. Then you disobeyed my direct order. Did you not?”
“Uh huhhhhh! I-I disobey-beyed you!”
He hesitated, thinking, then: “H-Huh?”
“Why did you come out here unescorted, little one? If you needed to see me you could have simply asked Legolas to escort you.”
Frodo’s breath caught in his throat. He raised his head, staring off, then he piteously wailed, “I d-don’t knowwwwwwww! I-I don’t knowwww w-why I dinnn’t a-ask Leg’las! Ohh, Ar’gorrrn, I-I dinn’t even th-think to a-ask!”
It was as I had supposed. He had overlooked the simplest solution to his dilemma – asking Legolas to help him. Instead he had thought it necessary to be clandestine, sneaking about for reasons that even he could not fathom. Clearly feeling foolish and confounded by his behavior, Frodo burst into fresh tears.
“Shhhhhhh, little one. Shhhhh,” I murmured. But there was not much I could say to him, especially when he was in such a state. My heart went out to Frodo, and I could scarce bear to wait one second longer before pulling him in my arms, but the next question had to be asked, “Sweetling, do you have something you wish to say to me? What do naughty little ones say when they have disobeyed direct ord --?”
“SORRRYYY!” He lifted his head and bellowed. “Sorrry, sorrry, sorryy, Ar’gor --”
I swept him into my arms before he could finish my name and I held him, thoroughly loving the feel of Frodo’s arms wrapped around my shoulders and his face pressed against my neck, burrowing beneath my hair, his warm breath on my skin. He simply wept, and I simply rocked him and murmured to him, words he eventually quieted in order to hear.
I vow I could near feel his heartbeat matching mine, and I relished each fragile moment we were blessed to share. Frodo’s curls brushed my chin and I ran my fingers through them, grinning at their softness and delighting in the feel of his hand clutching a fistful of my shirt while the fingers of his other hand twirled the ends of my hair. All of it was too sweet.
I loved each of the little ones, but I felt connected to Frodo in some mystifying way, so spanking him, then comforting him affected me profoundly. I did actually long to do this to him more often. A vile thought, perhaps, but only because my enjoyment would have come at the expense of Frodo’s bottom. I had been spanking Legolas for too many years to fret about the pleasure gained by the intimacy of a spanking.
Frodo finally calmed, his tears slowing, and before long, “Mmmmm,” was the only sound he made. I could not have agreed with him more.
“Aragorn, w-why?” he suddenly whispered.
I glanced down. Frodo’s head lay on my chest and he looked up, exquisite eyes glistening with shed tears.
“Why what, sweetling?” I asked.
He pulled back a bit to gaze at me in bewilderment. “Why didn’t I j-just ask Legolas to escort me out h-here? You’re right. It would have made sense to ask, and yet I didn’t even think to do it, and . . . I-I wonder if the Ring --”
“Nay, I do not think the Ring influenced you, little one,” I said. “‘Tis too meager a matter.”
“Then I don’t understand --”
“Ah, Frodo. Does it need to be understood?”
He blinked and stared at me, then he murmured, “Perhaps not.”
“Nay, perhaps not. Although there could be many reasons why you did not think to ask for help. Perhaps all of those reasons even joined forces to quiet your common sense. That hobbit curiosity, for one thing, would have been enough to overrule good judgement.” I paused to laugh softly at Frodo’s bashful grin before going on:
“Perhaps you feared Legolas would refuse you, then keep a too-watchful eye upon you, or mayhap you feared he would ask why you had to see me at that particular moment. He would not have asked such a thing, but there was no way you could have known that and you were unwilling to risk it, as you were feeling so anxious about what was troubling you. That was why you did not want him to stay.”
He listened to me, quiet and thoughtful and with a faint look of surprise. It was oftentimes startling to hear one’s inner truth explained back. But then Frodo’s pretty features relaxed and with a soft sigh he kissed me and said, “How are you possible, my Ranger?”
I drew his head back down to my chest and said, “You are just easily impressed, sweetling. Rest now. You have had a most tiring morning.”
“I’m not tired,” he murmured with a yawn, snuggling closer into my arms. “But my sweet little bottom is very, very sore.”
I chuckled and kissed his head. “We need to get you back into condition, like your cousin.”
“Nooooo!” he cried, then yawned again.
Frodo was still sleeping when Gandalf arrived to take the watch. Legolas accompanied the wizard, which made me grin. My elfling would be as curious as a hobbit to learn what had transpired out here.
I had not wished to chance jarring my exhausted halfling in order to pull up his britches, but now I rose cautiously and Legolas tended to that task, Gandalf standing apart, rocking back on his heels and looking discreetly elsewhere whilst packing his pipe.
“Dare I ask?” the wizard inquired.
I simply said, “Hobbits.”
He nodded. “Fair enough.”
Bidding Gandalf farewell, Legolas and I moved carefully down the incline and into the forest, though Frodo did not so much as flinch. My elfling was silent at first, his fond gaze scarcely leaving Frodo and me. Noting the covetous gleam in his eye, I waited. I did not need to wait long.
“I can carry him back if you like,” Legolas offered.
Ignoring his eager look, I said, “No, thank you.”
“But he is sleeping soundly. If you hand him to me with care he will not wake.”
“Get your own hobbit.”
He fumed and pouted. “I want that one.”
“A late Yuledays gift?”
I halted. “You have no shame, sir.”
“Not at the moment.”
I sighed. “Very well, as you are willing to go to such disgraceful lengths.”
We moved Frodo with slow, painstaking care, and when he was safely settled in my elfling’s arms Legolas looked utterly delighted. He gazed down at Frodo, cuddled against his chest, ethereal in repose. “Thank you,” he murmured.
“Ah, well,” I said. “It seems only fair, as you had already given him a late Yuledays gift.”
Legolas glanced up quickly, studied me, and then went a glorious shade of pink.
“You could have stopped Frodo at any time whilst he was on his way out here. But you let him walk right into what he clearly wanted.”
“Well, it had simply been a while since his last spanking, and I thought . . . well, I knew what you would do, so --”
I kissed him. “Shh. It was good of you, beloved. And this little one would agree with me.”
“I do,” murmured a hushed and sleepy voice.
Legolas and I flinched and looked down into a pair of drowsy, liquid eyes and a soft halfling smile. “I do agree,” Frodo slurred, “beloved.” And he let slip a lazy giggle at our startled grins. “A late Yuledays gift from both of you.” He leaned up and kissed us lightly. “Mmmm, this Yuledays season has been wondrous indeed.”