Beta appreciation notes to all my fine crew – Kat, Derby and Meghann, thanks so much for watching my back, Team Larrk!
Special thanks to Kat, whose late night brainstorming and encouragement helped the muse and me beyond measure. Thanks, sweetie!
Thanks for the bunny, Cathleen, and thanks to the many readers who expressed a longing for this special story.
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
By Your Leave, Sir
Chapter One – A Most Logical Step
"Help! Help! Help!"
I didn’t know what else to yell. I ran through the halls of the Citadel, waving my arms, my bellows echoing ‘round the ceilings. A few guards appeared, ready to come to my aid, but I kept running. I knew where Aragorn was, and Legolas and likely both the ‘mir brothers, as Merry and Frodo and Sam and me called Boromir and Faramir. My beloved big folk warriors were all in the South Council Chamber with the delegation from who-knew-where, and I needed my warriors now, now, nowwwwww!
Legolas was first to careen ‘round the corner down at the end of the corridor and come pounding towards me, the others not far behind him. "HELP! Lego-Ara-Bor-Fara-Help! Help! Help!" I yelled, slowing down so we wouldn’t collide.
"Pippin!" Aragorn called. "What is it?"
A second later Legolas fell to one knee before me and lightly grabbed my arms, his face knotted in concern. "What is wrong? Are you hurt?"
Hurt? Did I look hurt? "Noooo!" I wailed. "Nooo! I – ULP!" And Legolas grabbed me up for a swift hug and muttered some soft elvish. He shot to his feet with me attached and now I was straddling Legolas and we were surrounded by my warriors, all of them talking at once.
"What the Val--?" "Pippin, are you alrigh--?" "What happened, little--?" "Pip--!" "Let him speak."
This last order from Aragorn shut them all up.
"It’s Gwin! Help!" They looked at each other, dumbfounded. I wriggled and bounced and gasped in frustration, "Gwin! Gwinthorian!" Legolas grunted and held me still.
"What about Gwin, sweetling?" Boromir asked, likely trying to calm me with the endearment.
I kicked my legs. "He’s in trouble! Hurry!"
They all started jogging now and I kept yammering. "The Watchman! He’s in a fight at the Watchman!"
"The Watchman!" Faramir cried.
"Aye! He – Eeeek!" I squealed as Legolas flung me around behind him onto his back, grabbing my legs.
I should say I did! I made a wild grab for his shoulders and clamped on for dear life because now they were all whipping down the corridor at top speed, their course set.
"What is he doing at The Watchman?" Legolas growled. "Halbarad forbade him from going there."
"It was off limits to you, too, Master Took," Aragorn said, firing me his finest ‘I had best hear a satisfactory explanation fast’ look.
"Oh, blessed stars! I knowwww!" I cried, and as I was clearly unraveled I was allowed my sassy tone. "I wasn’t there, Aragorn! Honest! I was headed for the training ground to find Merry, ‘cause he was there with Eowyn and I’d been down visiting with --"
"The Watchman, Pip! Do not ramble!" Legolas rudely interrupted. "What was Gwin doing there?"
"And what were you doing there?" Aragorn asked again, again with that look.
I huffed, batting a cloud of yellow hair from my face, and declared, "I tell you I wasn’t there! I was headed down from the fourth level to the third and I heard these two fellows behind me laughing about the elf who was at The Watchman, daring to take on all comers."
"WHAT?" the ‘mir brothers barked in perfect unison. I’d have laughed, but nothing was funny at the moment.
My warriors were now rounding the bend from the top level, racing downward to the next, weaving through the streets full of busy people and playing nippers and tradesmen with their carts, many halting to stare as we sped by.
"He knows he’s forbidden that part of town!" Legolas growled. "And especially The Watchman."
"So are you," Aragorn shot me yet another frown. "Did you go into that --"
"Nooo! Aragorn nooo!" Och! Was he not hearing me? Hard-headed Ranger! I shook my head fast. "I did NOT go inside. I dinna have to. I ran down there, just to make sure it was him, and when I got within half a block a huge ruffian came flying out the door, crashed to the street and came to a rolling stop about ten feet away! It was grand! And, and, and, well, I thought, what other elf could they possibly mean? So I ran to find help."
My warriors erupted into various sounds of furious alarm. Such snarls and growls, grumbles and mutters! And all of them expressing severe thoughts towards Gwinthorian.
There was a time when I’d have relished all that Gwin-berating. I’d had no love for him myself once. He irritated me. I vow he went out of his way to do so. And he always seemed to be looking around for some way to attract attention. Not that Gwin needed to put forth any effort to attract attention. I’d seen a lot of elves since leaving the Shire, but I’d never seen any creature as dazzling as Gwinthorian.
The first time we met Gwin and Halbarad I’d heard Merry gasp and I looked over at him. His jaw was located somewhere in the vicinity of his chest and his face looked the way it did when we first laid eyes on the Lady Galadriel. I’d had to call Merry’s name twice before he heard me. So Gwinthorian snatched everyone’s attention just by standing still and breathing.
But he flat out irritated me! So I returned the favor. In the days before we marched off for the Final Battle Gwin and I built up such a feud that we were strongly cautioned to steer clear of each other, which was fine with us. ‘Cept I dinna know why he bore me such ill will, because I’d never done anything to him to make him hate me so. He seemed to hate me on first sight alone. Fine! Irritating ruddy attention-grabbing elf.
But something happened between Gwinthorian and me on the battlefield. I’m told such things do happen, and it did between us. He saved my life, and, seconds later, I saved his right back, and well, that changes how a person feels about another person. Gwin and I had formed a wobbly friendship of sorts that was building more in the past few days since returning home.
But me tattling on him and bringing our warriors was bound to make him hate me again. I knew it. And he would know who reported him. Because, though I wasn’t about to tell Aragorn this, I’d crept closer to The Watchman’s entrance after that big bloke was thrown out, and I’d seen an astonishing sight – Gwin, standing on the bar, his bright hair flying and a rowdy pack of ruffians standing below, waiting to take a turn at toppling him from his perch. I halted and stared.
Gwin had just knocked the tar outa the next fellow who had tried to grab him. The man didn’t go flying, but he slammed to the floor hard enough to lie there groaning for a minute, and in that minute I looked up at Gwin and he spun and saw me. His eyes flew open wide and his lips formed my name – ‘Pip’ – and then he was fighting off another big rowdy and I whirled around and ran like the wind. Help! Help! Help! was all I could think.
I didn’t know where Halbarad was, but Damrod was at the armory clean over on the other side of the city. I was closer to the Citadel and I knew that all my warriors were there – perfect! Well, Halbarad would have been more perfect, but these four would do. And now we were thundering down the streets as fast as safety would allow. "Please, oh, please," I whispered into that soft cloud of elvish hair, "please let us be in time!" Legolas gave my legs a gentle squeeze.
"Where’s Halbarad?" Faramir asked nobody in particular.
"He and Eomer took a patrol to the outer perimeter," Aragorn said. "A report filtered in about some possible trouble in the north, so they rode to the far outpost to investigate."
"Apparently Gwin was not permitted to go," Legolas said.
"Dare I ask why not?" Faramir inquired.
"Any answer will do, little brother," Boromir told him.
"It seems a certain elfling was unhappy with that judgement."
Boromir snerked. "A certain elfling may end up ne’er sitting again."
I began to feel very sorry indeed for a certain elfling. But I had no doubt that I’d done the right thing. If it lost me Gwin as a friend, well, so be it. At least he’d be in one piece, even if Halbarad walloped the daylights out of him.
Pelting round the last corner down to level three and the rougher corner of town, we near crashed into half a dozen of Minas Tirith’s elite Guardsmen. Ah! Perfect! Boromir recruited their help at once, which clearly delighted the soldiers who seemed eager for a little action. They fell into place behind us and now we were an impressive party of six brawny guardsmen and four of the city’s leaders, one being the soon-to-be-crowned-king. Mercy! Quite the group to be a part of. I doubted we’d be given much guff.
The folks on the streets were now of the seedier variety. Merry would have kittens when he found out I’d roamed down here alone. But it was a good thing I had. Not that Gwin seemed to be having much trouble handling matters, but the brutes he had bested more’n likely had friends and they were going to be gathering, and again I hoped and hoped they hadn’t done anything horrible to Gwin whilst my slow, short-legged self had been running for help.
The Watchman came into view and, as luck would have it, at that moment another huge body whooshed outa the tavern and landed face down on the cobblestones. Oh. That had to hurt. And none of us questioned who had been on the throwing end.
"I shall kill him," Legolas muttered.
"After I kill him," Aragorn said.
"EEEEEEK!" And my world spun again when Legolas dragged me down and around to his side, carrying me on his hip for the last bit. He sat me down at the door of the tavern and Aragorn gave me his most stern glare.
"Stay!" he ordered, and I nodded, and when they’d moved away I quick-like slipped over and stood where I could see.
Everything happened in an instant.
Aragorn, Legolas, Boromir and Faramir started inside, the soldiers behind them. The tavern was in chaos, lots of rowdies fighting each other now, a regular free-for-all, and a crowd of them were still gathering ‘neath Gwin, eager to take a turn at the cocky elf.
He looked the way he had when I’d left him, thank the stars! Odd seeing Gwin so mussed up, but clearly not a single blow had landed on his pretty face. In fact, Gwin looked – honestly! He looked cheeky! He looked as though he was simply having the very best time!
"Gwinthorian!" Aragorn thundered.
A hush fell. Gwin spun around, saw us, his mouth fell open, his eyes grew huge, and in that quick second some drunken lunatic, plainly deciding to commit suicide by stupidity, shot up behind Gwin, raised a tankard and brought it down with a nasty thwack! upon Gwin’s head.
"I am sorry, my lord," the Warden said. "But I fear my hands are tied."
Aragorn, the Warden and I marched down the corridor towards Gwin’s room in the Houses of Healing. The Warden was unhappy. Aragorn was unhappy. I was unhappy. And Gwin, who, in his brief six-hour stay had clearly surpassed all of the Warden’s worst patient expectations, was about to become a very unhappy elfling.
Turning the last corner we saw a little figure dressed in black sitting cross-legged on the floor outside Gwin’s room. Pippin jumped up and trotted towards us.
"Aragorn! Legolas! I heard the wardrobe door bang open," he said, looking fretful. "I think he’s getting dressed in there."
"He cannot," the Warden told him, Pippin falling into a jog beside us.
"You took his clothes?" I asked.
"Yes. They were something the worse for wear, my lord. They are being cleaned."
"Oh, dear," Pip said. "He’s surely going nowhere now. Gwin’s likely ready to blow into a fit then."
"We shall see about that," Aragorn said. He dropped his gaze to Pip. "I thought you were told to stay out of Gwin’s rooms, sir."
"But I wasna in his rooms," Pip said with a slightly saucy air. "I was sitting outside." Then he squeaked as Aragorn grabbed his arm, forcing Pip to dance along on his toes whilst Aragorn took a few light whacks at his bottom. "Aragorrrn! Owwwwww!"
"The seat of your livery was in need of brushing off," Aragorn said, releasing him. "It was dusty from the corridor floor."
Pip huffed, rubbed at his now well brushed-off seat and shot Aragorn an indignant frown. "Obliged, milord."
Aragorn grinned. "Not at all."
There was no reason to lower our voices. If he chose to Gwin could have heard us by now. But as he had not come charging from his chamber to confront us, he was likely too wrapped up in his own fuming to pay attention to the outside world. Nevertheless, when we paused at Gwin’s door, Aragorn leaned down to Pippin and murmured in a quiet, stern tone, "You may wait for us here, but do not follow us in. That is a direct order, Peregrin. And should you choose to accidentally forget my orders, I am going to be extremely displeased. Am I making myself clear?"
Pippin gave a solemn nod, and a respectful, "Extremely displeased. Aye, sir," and Aragorn, the Warden and I entered Gwin’s chamber. Perched crossed legged on the bed, blankets bunched around his waist, Gwin sat wearing a nightshirt that was too big for him and a dark, pouty scowl. Even when furious he could not help looking adorable.
"What are you --" he began, then he quickly added the matter up and shot the three of us ferocious glares. Landing his gaze upon the Warden, he snarled, "I demand you return my belongings to me at once!"
"And a fair good afternoon to you, too, Gwinthorian," Aragorn said lightly.
I was in a less indulgent mood. "You are in no position to demand anything, Gwin," I told him. "If you recall --"
"Legolas," Aragorn said quietly. I glanced at him, his expression reminding me of what we had discussed earlier when the Warden had sought us out with reports of Gwin’s increased belligerence. Aragorn had paused, thought for a moment, then given me a determined look.
"Your temper will likely give way, melleth nin. I go to pour water on Gwin’s fire, not oil."
"I shall not oil him!" I said, making Aragorn burst into a chuckle. He was always more pliable when in a lighter state of mind. "I shall be a calm and soothing presence."
Aragorn’s indulgent look was, to say the least, skeptical. "Legolas --"
"Forgive me for reminding you of this, but should Gwin become furious enough to defy your will, you cannot control him," I said.
Aragorn remained calm. "It shall never come to that. Gwin using his elvish strength against me? You know he would never disobey me to that degree. But come along, if you can behave."
Of course, Aragorn was right. I had been merely trying to get my own way. Gwin might become cheeky and obstinate with Aragorn, but outright mutiny? Nay. Beneath his oft-insolent air Gwin respected Aragorn and his station. Gwin would obey him, if for no other reason than Aragorn was Captain of the Ranger Company of which Gwin was considered a member. Moreover, Halbarad had ever impressed upon Gwin that, in Hal’s absence, Aragorn’s word was as good as his own. So I had not been entirely in earnest when suggesting that Aragorn might need my physical aid.
Now, however, noting the dangerous fire in Gwin’s eyes, I felt an uneasy tingle.
"This does not concern you, Aragorn," he said, his voice tremulous with anger.
"All I want to do is to return to camp and wait there quietly for Halbarad to return!"
Aragorn glanced at the Warden. The man’s frown deepened, telling Aragorn all he needed to know.
Turning back to Gwin, he said, "You recall what the Warden said when we brought you here. With a head injury such as yours a patient needs to remain under observation for at least twenty-four hours. You have been here a mere six hours. It would be wise of you to consider Halbarad’s reaction to all this when he returns."
"But why has he not returned? Where is he?" Gwin demanded.
I studied Gwin with new concern. When we brought him here he kept calling for Halbarad, and Aragorn told him where Hal was. But Gwin had been disoriented and pliable. He had actually permitted us to get him into a nightshirt and into bed, and then he had allowed Aragorn and the Warden to examine him, offering about as much resistance as a week-old kitten. Most un-Gwinlike.
Of course, he had recovered himself quickly and then woe to all who were seeking to help him! Fortunately everything that could have been done for him had been done. Had Gwin’s situation been worse Aragorn would have sent for Halbarad. But Aragorn and the Warden agreed that, although he needed to be kept under a watchful eye for twenty-four hours, Gwin was going to be fine, a pronouncement that led to much teasing about the hard-headed nature of elves. But it seemed that Gwin’s memory was still a bit affected from that blow, as indeed the Warden had said it might be.
Aragorn began again, his tone gentle. "He is riding the far perimeter with Eomer. They sent a message that they had been detained, but would be back in the morning. Until he returns, or until you are given a clean bill of health --"
"You could give me a clean bill of health, Aragorn!" Gwin cried. "You examine me!"
"I can tell you now that I concur with the Warden. I share his concerns, and I see no reason for you to quit these rooms so quickly."
"But I am fine I tell you!" Gwin interrupted, slamming a fist down onto the bed. "I was no longer even unconscious when you brought me here hours and hours ago, and I have been fine since. Nothing is going to happen to me!"
"You cannot know that, youngling," Aragorn said.
"I can!" Gwin fumed at the Warden, then he pointed at him and sputtered, "That is a human! An incompetent human!"
"Gwinthorian!" Aragorn said in a warning tone.
"He knows nothing about elves! We heal differently. We heal more quickly than men." He glanced at me. "Tell them, Legolas."
I stared at him. Rather an astonishing request from Gwin, given I was clearly a member of the opposing camp. But his attempt to recruit me as an accessory spoke to his desperation. He had also somehow overlooked the fact that Aragorn was as human as the incompetent human Warden. I glanced at my Ranger. He was watching me with an obvious ‘daro si’ warning in his gaze.
Giving Gwin a mild look, I said, "Do you not think that you are in enough trouble already? It is no great hardship to stay here and rest."
Freshly seething, Gwin shot back, "And just how would you know? It is a hardship when these ruddy humans keep charging in here to look at me!"
"They are highly skilled humans, Gwin, and that is what ‘under observation’ means. The healers must keep charging in here to make certain you are still breathing. You had refused to let me stay here with you. You insisted on being alone, remember?"
I was not at all certain that he did remember the scene he had caused when coming to his senses. In true Gwin fashion his temper had erupted and he had thrown everyone out of his chamber, insisting on being left alone. Aragorn allowed it only because he felt Gwin would soon realize that he was only hurting himself with his bratty crankiness and ask for some company.
"The Warden told us that you have been giving the healers trouble," Aragorn said, fixing Gwin with a steady look. "Such is behavior unbecoming a Ranger of the Grey Company, sir."
I winced. I knew that Aragorn had compassion for Gwin’s situation and that my Ranger had an ultimate strategy planned. Still, I winced.
"Well, I do not like it here!" Gwin shot back, his eyes suddenly glassy with tears. "Why can I not rest at camp? If I vow to stay in our tent, why can I not rest at camp?"
"If you suddenly become insensible while away from our watchful care, no one shall know," the Warden said. "Or, if you fall too deeply asleep and cannot be wakened, none would know of your condition until it had become gravely serious."
"And if Legolas stayed at camp with me?"
The Warden shook his head. "Should there be an emergency you would be too far for us to do much good. By the time Legolas got you here, it might be too late for us to help you."
Gwin growled a low sound that quickly grew, then he exploded into a frenzy, kicking the bedding and pounding his fists onto the mattress. It was almost a comical tantrum, but no one broke a grin.
"You are being unfair and dictatorial!" Gwin snarled at the Warden. "You are a tyrant!"
"That is enough, sir," Aragorn growled, gruff but in control. "You shall address this man with respect. He has only your welfare in mind."
Gwin snorted and looked away. It was the kind of bratty performance he rarely had the pleasure of enjoying. Halbarad would have put a stop to his antics long before they had escalated to this point.
I studied Aragorn, wondering from whence he was getting his patience. He seemed calm, even thoughtful, and I sensed that he was allowing Gwin a bit of leeway due to his condition and his upset. Aragorn’s tolerance had its limits, though, and I hoped Gwin realized that.
Trying to follow Aragorn’s example, I gave Gwin a gentle gaze and said, "I renew my offer to stay here with you until Halbarad returns." He looked at me, sad-eyed and wrathful at the same time, so uniquely and endearingly Gwinthorian. "I am certain my constant observation will satisfy the Warden, and no other shall disturb your privacy again."
The Warden gave a nod.
"Come, mellon nin." I cast him a soft grin. "What say you? We rarely get to spend much time alone together these days."
Gwin dropped his gaze and sulked down at the bedding, his fists squeezing the coverlet. He looked to be genuinely considering my offer. But from the corner of my eye I saw Aragorn fidget and shift his stance and I knew at once that he did not share my optimistic hopes. I trusted his instincts over my own any day.
"No." Gwin snarled in a hushed voice. He fired a fresh scowl up at us, clearly opting to remain unreasonable. "No, no, no! No one is listening to me. I do not like it here! Now I want my clothes and I want to return to camp at once!"
I bristled, finished with my wasted indulgence. Gwin did not want to be indulged, or given any leeway. He was not looking for tolerance. He was looking for a certain kind of attention, and had the Warden agreed to release him, allowing him to wait out his time resting in camp, Gwin would have found some other way to dig himself in deeper. He then would have bellowed to be rescued from whatever new disaster he had brought upon himself.
Nay, Gwin needed precisely what he was screaming for, and it was best to give it to him lest he damage himself further, or perhaps damage another in an added attempt to be heard.
Aragorn and I exchanged that understanding with a single look, though we had been fairly certain things would come to this the moment we saw the Warden approaching us. So whilst striding to the Houses of Healing Aragorn had made certain that the Warden had no misgivings about Gwin’s sturdiness:
"Then you agree that, if Gwinthorian cannot be reasoned with in any other way, his condition will not be endangered should I needs take strong disciplinary measures?"
"He seems quite able-bodied enough to withstand such measures, my lord. I have greater reservations about him falling asleep too deeply or for too long."
"Given what I have in mind for him, I doubt he shall fall asleep," Aragorn had said, to which the Warden had heartily concurred. "And if he falls asleep afterwards, I shall be with him."
Aragorn now told the Warden, "You are dismissed, sir, with my compliments. Henceforth one or both of us shall stay with him at all times. If we require your fine services we shall call upon you, but you need send no more healers to check on his condition. Thank you for your diligence and devotion to duty. You and your staff have done an admirable job."
Though usually unwilling to relinquish one of his charges so easily, the Warden was clearly relieved. He bowed his head and began to depart, but he paused before opening the door. "What shall I tell the little one waiting outside?"
Gwin, who had been making escalating sounds of distress during Aragorn’s exchange with the Warden, released a sudden cry and asked, "Is Pippin out there?"
Aragorn gave him a wary look, then a nod. "Aye, he was concerned about y --"
"Concerned?" Gwin snarled, scrambled from the bed and stood there huffing, his arms straight at his sides and his hands balled into tight fists. "Valar save me from any more of that little meddler’s concern! Keep that -- halfling far from me!"
The foul elvish word Gwin used before ‘halfling’ brought an end to Aragorn’s forbearance. Mine fled as well.
"Gwin!" Aragorn growled.
Outside the door I heard a young hobbit burst into tears then scramble to his feet. I spun to race from the room, but Aragorn grabbed my arm.
"But Pippin is fleeing!" I told him in a hushed voice.
"I doubt that."
The door flew open, crashing against the wall, just missing the Warden, and a small black whirlwind raced into the room. Ah. I was wrong. Trust a Dúnedain. Pippin was not fleeing.
"I was trying to help you, Gwin!" Pippin yelled through his tears.
"Oh? Well, pray, do not help me!" Gwin yelled back. "I did not ask for your help!"
"Nay, but you needed it!"
"I did not!"
"You did too!"
"Did, too! If I hadn’t come along you’d have ended up splattered all over The Watchman! Then Hal would’ve burned the place to the ground and hunted down and murdered every lout who had taken you from him!"
"Do not be ridiculous, you little bratling!"
"And stop yelling at me, y’ruddy stubborn elf! I saved yer skin today and you know it!"
"Did too! What’s more --"
"Enough!" Aragorn growled, now definitely becoming exasperated. Glancing again at the Warden, he said, "You are dismissed, sir. We shall handle this."
The Warden ducked a quick bow and beat a hasty retreat, leaving Aragorn and me with two cantankerous foes abusing each other.
Gwin cast Aragorn a fierce gaze. "No one shall ‘handle’ me," he snapped. "And I tell you now, I shall not stay here."
"You shall," Aragorn said.
"And you shall apologize to Pippin, the Warden and any healer you abused during your stay."
Gwin stared at Aragorn, plainly too startled to draw breath.
"Legolas will be staying here with you until either the Warden releases you or Halbarad returns. So if you are wise you will climb back into your bed and be silent, Gwin. Behave yourself and you shall only needs answer to Halbarad for your actions at The Watchman.
"But if you insist on continuing in this manner, I shall spank you here and now, and then Legolas will still stay with you until either the Warden releases you or Halbarad returns. So I suggest you exercise good judgement now, sir, rather than facing Halbarad tomorrow with your backside already smarting."
Gwin flushed bright red and dropped his gaze to Pip, who stood wide-eyed and pink-cheeked and, I vow, embarrassed for Gwin’s sake. I cringed for him myself. To be spoken to that way in front of Pippin! I could almost hear Gwin’s internal ‘ew.’
But, of course, knowing now without a doubt what it was Gwin needed most, Aragorn’s apparent lack of tact was really meant to serve a purpose. And it was surely working. Swallowing hard, Gwin said in a small voice, "You would not dare do such a thing to me, Aragorn."
"Oh no?" Aragorn lifted a brow.
"I . . . I shall not allow it."
"I do not need your permission, little one," he told Gwin in a low, smoldering tone. "You are a Ranger of the Grey Company. I am your commanding officer. If you continue to misbehave I shall discipline you as I see fit. That is all there is to say, Gwinthorian."
"And, speaking of discipline --" Aragorn turned to Pippin. "Have you already forgotten what I said to you moments before I entered this room?"
Pippin’s rosy cheeks flushed darker. "I-I-I --"
Pippin swallowed hard. "You gave me a direct order to stay outside and to not come in here."
"Y-You said you’d be extremely displeased if I chose to accidentally forget your orders."
"Aye. That sounds familiar." Aragorn glowered. "What have you to say for yourself, sir?"
Alas, Pip could say nothing for himself save something incriminating. I had never devised an adequate answer to this question when I was in Pippin’s place. There was no good answer, which was why Aragorn asked the question. That being the case, on several occasions I gave in to my temper and hurled back some answer such as, "What have I to say for myself? Well, I am in a great deal of trouble, even though I feel that this small matter is being blown out of proportion. In addition, I do not feel I deserve to be spanked. And that is all I have to say for myself at this time, thank you." Aragorn was never impressed with my answers.
Pippin was wiser than I had been. He merely squirmed and stared blankly at Aragorn.
"Well, I-I dinna exactly forget."
Aragorn’s other brow shot up. "So you deliberately chose to disobey my orders?"
"Oh." Pippin’s eyes widened. "Oh, dear. Ohhh, that’s worse, isn’t it?"
I oft struggled to keep a straight face when this little one was in trouble. But I remained removed, feeling a twinge of sympathy whilst watching him fidget beneath Aragorn’s displeasure.
"It’s just, well --" Pippin paused and shot Gwinthorian a sharp look. "I heard what Gwin shouted. And he meant for me to hear it! I know he did! He did ruddy shout! So, well, I-I started crying, because that was just unfair of him! What he said was unfair! And I just got so angry! So, so angry!"
"Ah." Aragorn nodded. "Mad crying?"
Pippin looked ready to burst into tears all over again. I knew that Aragorn’s heart went out to him as did mine. But there was a higher principle at stake here. Obedience to orders had ever been a challenge for our little ones, and this little one in particular still struggled with the concept even after all our time together and Pippin’s numerous trips over the laps of we Fellowship ‘big people.’
"I understand," Aragorn said, his tone gentle. "I am certain it was unpleasant to hear such things, especially when you were only concerned about Gwin’s welfare."
Pippin’s pout was classic Took. "Aye."
"Nevertheless, I imagine you already know what I have to say."
Pip snuffled, scrubbed his sleeve under his nose and heaved a deep sigh. "Orders are orders?"
"Aye, sweetling. Orders are orders. They must be obeyed regardless of how mad or hurt you are. And there are consequences for choosing to ignore orders. Are there not?"
"Aye, sir." Pippin looked positively shamefaced in that way of his that made me long to gather him up and cuddle away his woes, self-inflicted though they may be. "Aragorn?" he said in his small, soft voice.
A loud crash from across the room made us flinch. We spun to look at Gwin. He stared back at us in a high fury, standing over a tray of uneaten food he had hurled to the floor.
"Well, I am not sorry!" he exclaimed. "I have nothing to be sorry for! All I want is my freedom, and I still say it is unfair that I must stay imprisoned here when there is nothing wrong with me!"
Aragorn looked at me and said, "It seems I shall be here for a while. Would you be so kind as to escort our young Guard of the Citadel to my quarters and discipline him there as you did ere the final march?" Aragorn dropped Pippin a shrewd glance. "And this time, sir, I trust you shall not leave my bathing chamber covered with broken glass."
Pippin now went pure scarlet. "No, sir. I-I mean, nay, I won’t. But . . . but --" Twisting the edges of his cloak in his fists, he fired me quick looks and said, "No offense, Legolas, but, ohhh, Aragorn, must I be . . . I mean, does this have to be an – an elvish spanking?"
Aragorn and I exchanged badly-suppressed grins. Despite the fact that Pippin had survived many a spanking from me and lived to tell the tales, he still had a special aversion to a trip over my knee.
"Believe me, Pip, I would go no easier on you," Aragorn assured him.
Another crash made us all jump.
There were, fortunately, few breakables in this chamber so Gwin had been reduced to using whatever was within his reach. A chair now lay shattered into pieces against the wall.
"Does anyone even know that I am in the room, or is that little creature the only one you care about?" Gwin bellowed.
His cry was such a clear plea for attention that I vow Aragorn, Pip and I were struck dumb. It made perfect sense that Gwin came begging for attention whilst watching Pippin receive a loving and goodly dose of it, but to bellow such a revealing anguish was so unlike Gwin that indeed his blow to the head was clearly affecting his reason. Nevertheless, his need was real and urgent.
And, suddenly, whilst watching Gwin stand there drowning in that too-big nightshirt, his eyes wide with hurt and glassy with tears of fury, suddenly I wanted to be the one to give Gwin the attention he so desperately sought. I wanted to turn him over my knee, settle him down and bring a measure of calm to his inner turmoil.
Though I had often been tempted to spank Gwin, I had never given him more than a few quick swats, much to his indignation and outrage. It was surprising that I had never spanked him given our closeness, my urge to do so and his frequent need for attention. This was long overdue! And in some quiet, secret place within him, I felt Gwin agreed.
At present he was silently screaming for someone to attend to him, though. Knowing Gwin, it was altogether likely that he was expecting Aragorn to send for Halbarad, unreasonable notion notwithstanding. Gwinthorian had ever possessed a profound gift for self-deception.
"I vow, Aragorn, I shall not allow you to do this!" he now grumbled hurling the very challenge I had predicted he might, but never truly believed he would. "Perhaps you feel you have the right, but I think you understand me when I say that I shall stop you!"
Pippin gasped. I glanced at Aragorn, catching the glint in his eye that said his patience was nearing an end. "That is enough, Gwinthorian," he said again in a low tone.
"Nay, sir! It is not enough!" Gwin shot back, visibly trembling. "I respect you, Aragorn, but captain or no, I shall not permit you to . . . to . . . ."
"Spank you?" Pippin offered loudly, gaining our attention again. He stood there, bristling, his sweet little face tightened into a scowl, obviously maddened by Gwin’s impertinence. "The word is SPANK, ye daft elf! SPANK, SPANK, SPANK!"
I grabbed Pip’s arm, tugged him around and gave him several powerful spanks of his own. "Like this?" I said.
"Thank you," Aragorn said.
Another crash made us all jump. An end table now joined the chair. Gwin had the makings of a fine pile of kindling. "Get out!" he howled. "All of you! Get out! Out! Out!"
Aragorn looked at me. "Fair counsel, even if it comes from a lunatic."
"I heard that!" Gwin proclaimed with a face like thunder.
"Go, Legolas," Aragorn repeated. "Take our helpful troublemaker out of here and let me deal with this one."
"I heard that, too! Heed me, Aragorn, you shall not be spanking me today or ever! I shall not allow it!"
I paused. "Aragorn --"
"All is well, mellon nin. He will not challenge me."
"Oh, will I not?" Gwin exclaimed. "If you try to spank me, Captain, sir, I promise you a fight, and I shall best you! You know it!"
"You shall not best me, Gwinthorian," I said.
All went quiet. Gwin froze and stared at me with mild surprise. "Aragorn, let us trade," I said, quickly. "Please."
My Ranger gave me a deep and measured look.
"I am in favor of that," Pippin ventured in a small voice.
"Are you indeed, Master Took?" Aragorn asked, his glance dropping to Pip. Both of us struggled to keep from grinning and failed miserably. "Even though I told you I would go no easier on you?"
"Even so." Pip shot me a quick look. "Again, no offense, Legolas."
"None taken, little one."
We looked at Gwin. He had gone quiet and watchful and ominously still.
"Legolas," he said. "No. You would not."
I merely watched him.
"You . . . ." He blinked in seeming disbelief. "You are my friend."
"Aye, Gwin. Your dearest friend."
Gwin paled and glanced back and forth between Aragorn and me. "Hal . . . Halbarad will be angry with you if you . . . if-if you . . . ."
"Will he?" Aragorn asked.
Unable to finish the threat he knew to be false, Gwin simply grimaced and went silent. I turned once more to Aragorn. "By your leave, sir?"
He gave me a nod. "Granted."
"Done!" Pippin cried, and he grabbed Aragorn’s hand and started pulling him towards the door.
Gwin gasped. "Now just a momen --"
"EEK!" Pippin squealed as Aragorn spun him around, caught the little one up under his arm and continued towards the door, saying, "I advise you to leave part of your doomed kinsman for Halbarad to attend to tomorrow, mellon nin, lest my lieutenant become displeased with your all too thorough job."
"Nooooo!" Gwin bellowed, his voice tremulous. "No one is spanking meeee!"
"You deserve it, y’brat of an el-OWWW!"
Aragorn pulled the door shut behind him, leaving Gwin and me alone. I watched him for a long moment.
"Legolas, no," he breathed. "No."
It was one of the least convincing protests I had ever heard. With a soft, "Aye, Gwin," I headed his way. "Pippin was right. You deserve it."
Legolas looked serious. I could not believe that he was. Nevertheless, he was advancing on me at a steady pace.
"You cannot mean to do this," I said, taking several steps back.
"I do." He kept coming.
"No! You cannot."
"Why can I not?"
"Wait! Hold! Hold! I-I shall tell you why!"
Legolas paused, crossed his arms over his chest, rested his weight back on one leg and slowly raised a brow. "Well?"
My mind went blank. He stood watching me with frightening calm and a gleam in his eye that so unnerved me I could form not one sane thought. I just stood there, my mouth dry, my heart thrumming and the only thing racing through my head a deafening, ‘NOOOOOOOOOO!’
I flinched. He was going to start stalking again. I could feel it. His eyes were bright and locked upon me as though we were in battle and I was the next orc he planned to behead. Legolas with prey in his sights was terrifying. How, by all that was blessed, did Aragorn endure this?
Ohhh, help, help, help! What was wrong with me? I was good at talking my way ‘round things, with everyone but Hal, of course. And, apparently, Legolas, at least when he was stalking me, bodily assault on his mind.
He sighed, uncrossed his arms and placed his hands on his hips. "Gwin?"
"You can think of no reason why I cannot spank you."
"There is no reason why I cannot spank you."
"You simply do not want me to spank you. That is different, sweetling."
His endearment failed to comfort me. "Of course I do not want you to spank me!" I shot back. "That should be reason enough!"
Legolas studied me for a long moment, then he burst out laughing! "It should be, should it?" he said, between chuckles. "Well, little Gwin, it is not."
He came after me again and before I knew what I was doing I shot up and over the bed, scrambling to the other side. Of all the pathetic --! But, no . . . no, this was good. I needed a moment to gather my wits and I could gather them better on the opposite side of the bed from him.
Thankfully, Legolas did not charge after me. He merely watched me with a look of mild surprise and a touch of sympathy. The sympathy roused my anger once more and my wits did gather then and I knew just what to say to him:
"You and I are equals, Legolas! You do not spank me just as I do not spank you!"
And the moment the words left my mouth a sharp, queasy jolt made my stomach clench. A chill slithered through me. The mere notion of spanking Legolas was so foreign, so loathsome that it actually made me feel ill. Me spank . . . Legolas?
Ew, ew, ew! Ridiculous notion! Ridiculous, awful notion! I had to pause and shake it off.
However, as to Legolas spanking me . . . .
"Aye, Gwin," he purred, studying me with his clever, knowing gaze. "You see the truth of it. You may be angry and unreasonable right now, but your instincts are yet sharp and intact."
He was using his soothing voice, his gentle voice, and though it was doing nothing to dissolve my anger and fear, it was touching some part of me still able to recognize truth. Nevertheless, I shook my head slowly, still unable to form words, and he went on:
"Of course you would never spank me. Poor Gwin; you went pale at the thought." He smiled softly. "The notion of you giving anyone a spanking is truly a vile one, is it not, sweetling, especially you giving me a spanking?"
I vow he was repeating that vile notion overly much just to unnerve me! And it was working. Legolas gave me a discerning gaze and nodded. "I know. You can say it."
And I found myself doing just that: "Ew."
He grinned quietly. "There are those who can do the spanking and those who cannot, little Gwin. As to the matter of me spanking you, ah, sweetling, I think we knew that someday we would come to this moment. Perhaps as your dearest friend I have been negligent thus far. If so, I apologize. I plan to make up for it now.
"Aye, you must fight me. And that is all right. Do not fret. I am bigger than you are and faster, and I am stronger than you are, little Gwin. So be at ease. You shall indeed lose. But the amenities should be respected and observed, at least for your first time over my knee."
"‘First time?’" I huffed, my heart racing. I had listened to him murmur his exasperating statements, too thunderstruck to reply. How could he be so frighteningly right about everything? All I managed to sputter in return was, "First time indeed!"
He let go a quiet chuckle. "Aye, sweetling, of course there will be other times henceforth."
I firmly shook my head. "No. No, Legolas." To my dismay, my throat clenched, painful and sharp, and the press of tears formed behind my eyes. Still, I could express nothing sensible, adding to my panic. I could merely peer at my determined kinsman and grind out a pitiful-sounding, "Nooooooo!"
He flashed me a heartfelt look of compassion, turned and swiftly came around the end of the bed, advancing upon me again at such an alarming speed that I knew I would never make it back across the mattress again to safety. I braced myself and readied for him and Legolas came on.
"It is all right," he murmured when almost upon me. "Do your worst. Truly, Gwin, fear not. As I said, you shall never best me. Come little one, show me what a big mighty elven warrior like you can do."
I knew he was taunting me so that I would not hold back. But I needed no urging. Although I felt at a distinct disadvantage in many ways, including the fact that I was wearing naught but an absurd billowing nightshirt, I launched myself at Legolas and our battle was on.
I attacked over and over and he countered me over and over. Legolas did not humiliate me, though. I did a fine job of that without his help. He actually encouraged me in the beginning. And soon after we started I found to my dismay that I had become tearful with frustration.
For, of course, Legolas was indeed all that he said he was. He was faster than I was, stronger and bigger than I was. And at about the same time I became tearful I suddenly realized a shocking truth – I did not want to win this skirmish. Win over Legolas? No, I truly did not wish for that. So I did begin to hold back.
But Legolas would not permit it. Sensing my feelings as sharply as a Dúnedain, he prodded me into an authentic effort again and again using light teasing that struck home:
"Faith, little Gwin, is this your mighty elven warrior best?". . . "I must speak to Halbarad about your ill preparedness.". . ."Perhaps we can get Pippin to give you some instruction." . . ."We can set up some practice time on the training ground for you and Master Took. I feel certain he could take you in hand."
His absurd jeers worked every time, much to my chagrin. But I knew I was fighting a useless battle, not only because winning had become repugnant to me, but because I knew that Legolas was holding himself in check as well. Several times, however, he unleashed a sudden surge of his true strength, no doubt to show me that he had much more in reserve. His vast stores of ready power had astonished me.
He could tell, of course, when I began to tire. Legolas had been more alert to my status than I had been all along, and I knew that he would stop things when he felt like doing so.
"You did well, little one," he finally said. He picked me up in an unbreakable hold and carried me to the bed with humiliating ease. "But that is enough for now. Settle down. You and I have business to attend to."
Just like that! My face burned and I writhed in his arms, gaining no more than some condescending ‘tsk-tsks’ from him and a scolding. "I said settle down. No more of that."
Legolas sat on the edge of the bed and turned me over his knee, quickly locking down my legs between his and hugging me close to his body. Ohhhhh! I wriggled and gasped and shook with embarrassment! And it got worse. He then lifted my nightshirt, all the way to the upper part of my back. I felt so, so, so . . . naked! Ai! such an awful, squirmy word! But the perfect word, for I now had nothing on from that bunched up nightshirt down, and ohhhhh! The feel of the air on my skin, my lower back and my bottom –
I burst into tears! I buried my face in my cupped palms and I wept and shook and lowered my hands down onto the bed, wishing I could vanish within it, hot humiliation pounding through my veins.
Legolas had seen me getting spanked many, many times, usually when he was getting spanked as well. Several years ago he had even sat and witnessed Halbarad giving me a spanking, he and Aragorn forming an audience. So why this should shatter me so made no sense. This was Legolas! He had seen me this way countless times! Why should the fact that this was Legolas holding me over his knee make a difference?
"Shhh," he purred. "Shhh. I know, sweetling."
"Y-You cannot knoooowwww!" I cried, surprised that I could even speak.
"True," he said, rubbing my back. "I cannot know. I can only imagine. But I imagine you are feeling something akin to what I felt the first time Aragorn spanked me."
I paused to think about that, then I sputtered, "N-Not the same."
"Not exactly the same, no, for up until that time I had been the one spanking Aragorn, and now he had taken me over his knee."
Again I paused to consider that . . . .
"Perhaps I shall tell you of it sometime," he said. "If you would like to hear it. Right now, however --"
I felt that faint whoosh of displaced air behind me, that sense of a spanking hand rising up over my waiting bottom. "Legolas! NOOOOOO!" I wailed. Utterly pointless. His hand crashed down leaving a blazing sting on my bottom inviting but one response from me:
Legolas then spanked me and spanked me for ages. Ages and ages. And he was ruefully good at it. Different from Hal, but ruefully good. I wailed and I cried and Legolas, heartless rogue of a dearest friend, spanked on. He spanked me silently, as did my Hal. But that was where the similarity stopped. After only half a dozen swats I knew I was in trouble, and I knew why.
"No one but Halbarad," I had once told Dev when he asked me how many others had spanked me during my long and illustrious life of waywardness. "No other."
"None?" Devon stared at me, eyes wide, mouth hanging open most unattractively. "No one else has ever spanked you? Not even when you were a little elfling?"
I had never shared my elflinghood with Dev. I rarely spoke of that time, not even with my Hal. Devon, sweet boy that he was, did not need to know of it. But, as he would know it if I lied to him, I was truthful, though brief:
"No. Well, none save a few swats here and there from others when Hal was not available." I cast him a meaningful glance, remembering Garrick's occasional meaningful whack. "No other has taken me over his knee."
"How is that possible?"
I shrugged. "Why?" I asked him, thinking that this really was the oddest conversation and wishing it was over. "How many have spanked you, aside from Garrick?"
Devon actually had a list. He gazed off. "Well, my father to begin with, and my mama, uhh, I mean, my mother, when I was little. Then Thayer spanked me once, by my father’s leave, and one time when I was . . . ."
I listened politely, and when he was finished I sealed off the topic by saying, "Dev, you were fortunate."
"Fortunate?" He snorted. "Fortunate how?"
"All those people cared about you, else they would not have bothered."
Devon watched me thoughtfully for a moment, then he moved closer until he sat pressed up against me. Leaning close, he murmured, "Gwin, you deserved to be disciplined as much as I was. Had you been raised at my side, my elvish brother, rest assured, you would have been." He studied me again, then he cast me his gentle smile. "Every Ranger in this company would love to take you over his knee. They likely would have done so but for your devoted Halbarad. I vow he is making up for lost time."
So I had never felt any spanking technique other than my Hal’s, and Legolas was doing something awful. Mayhap it was an elvish device, but I vow the way his fingers whipped down over my skin made me long to crawl out of that skin and leave it behind for him to abuse as he would. It certainly helped me focus on something other than simply my humiliation. My new focus was surviving a spanking from my oldest and dearest friend. That, and attempting to writhe my way free of that merciless friend’s next spank.
"AHHHHHH! L-Leg’laass! OW! OW! OWWWW!"
"Gwin, if you start out at that volume you shall have nowhere to go."
Start out? Surely we were nearly done! Legolas had been spanking me for ages and ages now! "S-Start? But, y-you must be near d-done, Leg’las!" I wailed.
"Done?" He paused, hand raised. "Did you say, done?"
"Aye! Y-You have been at this for a-ages and a-ages!"
Again he burst out laughing. I failed to see the humor, especially since he started spanking me again.
"Faith, sweetling! You last much longer than this when you are over Halbarad’s knee. I have been spanking you for less than five minutes."
What? I sucked a sharp gasp. "Nooooo!"
"That cannot be right!"
Legolas suddenly froze and went silent. I waited, bewildered, and then, to my astonishment, he picked me up and flipped me over, cradling me face up on his lap whilst I scrambled to yank my nightshirt down in front.
I stared at him, stunned, and Legolas stared back, watching me with a look of worried fascination. What the Valar --? I knew not what to do other than to keep still and wait to see what he would do next.
A moment later, just as suddenly as he had halted, Legolas relaxed into his serene manner. He gave me his ready smile and said, "Ah, Gwin. I should have realized. It is not the actual spanking that is distressing you. It is the fact that I am the one doing the spanking. If Halbarad was doing this to you, would you be this upset after less than five minutes?"
I blinked. "Nay, I-I would not."
"Nay. You would not." He gave a small, soft laugh and said, "No need to look so anxious, little one." He kissed my brow then and gathered me closer, urging my head to his shoulder. He began rocking slightly back and forth, saying, "This has happened before, though it took me a moment to recall it. I was giving a certain someone a spanking, and it was the first time this someone had been over my knee. Like you, he lost control quickly, much more quickly than was warranted, for he was well acquainted with the over-the-knee position."
"P-Pippin," I said.
"Hush. I feared for him, feeling he would become too overwrought and exhausted ere I could make much of a point with his spanking, so I stopped and I gathered him up like this so that we might talk --"
"Was it P-Pippin?"
"Shh. Do not interrupt. As I said, I had to stop and handle the matter ere he made himself ill with upset. At first he could not fathom why he was so particularly fearful of me spanking him. He knew I would be careful with him. I had spanked one of his kinsmen and the little one had survived, so he knew --"
"Was it Merry? Had you already s-spanked Merry?"
"Frodo then. It was Frodo." He tipped me up and swatted me hard. "OWW!"
"Then hush. To continue, he knew I would not truly harm him. But after a distracting flash of temper he realized that it was simply the fact that I was who I was that unnerved him so." He paused to chuckle, then: "He noticed, to his horror, that he had kicked off his britches whilst I was spanking him, so he was sitting with nothing on below the waist, as you are now, sweetling."
My face went instantly hot and I again tugged at the hem of my nightshirt, making him chuckle anew.
"I recall what he said, and, as I think it will help you, Gwin, I feel he would not mind me sharing his words with you. He said, ‘Well! Well, excuse me, but I find that just a wee bit embarrassing! And that’s just it, isn’t it? I’m not being spanked by Aragorn, or Boromir, or my cousins, or even Gandalf! I’m about to be spanked by an elf! And a royal elf! A Prince! And, and, and forgive me, yer Highness, but you add that up, and for some odd reason it comes out to be more humiliating than being taken over all those other laps! And don’t go asking me why that is, because I don’t know why!’"
Of course, it could be no other than Pippin, and Legolas nodded at my glance. "Aye. Pippin."
I studied him, then took a deep breath and said, "He was right."
"Aye. Trust that wee Took to find wisdom through ill temper."
I grinned. Then I chuckled with Legolas who had started in again, clearly enjoying the memory. "Your ‘Pippin brogue’ is appalling, you know," I told him, setting him off more.
"He mimics me poorly as well." He paused and looked off, thoughtful. "But when Pippin blurted that out I remembered when I was a young adult and Glorfindel spanked me for the first time."
"Aye," he winced and grinned. "There was no real reason why I should fear a spanking from him to such a degree, but I went so far as to run away to try avoiding it."
I gasped. "You never told me this story."
He sniffed. "It was not one of my finer moments. Running away made matters much, much worse. But I remembered feeling then what Pippin was feeling now, facing his first spanking from me. It was an extra degree of embarrassment that defied explanation. Pippin said, ‘It wasn’t the fact that you were an elf that unnerved me, Legolas. It was the fact that you’re you. Does that make sense?’"
"It does," I said. And it did. This was indeed Legolas. Legolas, my dearest friend, my co-conspirator and confidant and fellow troublemaker was spanking me, and the simple fact that it was Legolas made all the difference.
"Aye," he said. "And with you and me ‘tis more obvious. We have ever been friends, sweetling, the closest of friends and accomplices in mischief. You can talk me into many naughty deeds."
"And you take little convincing."
He laughed. "Aye."
"And sometimes you are an incredible ass."
He burst into yet another laugh. "Only you would have the cheek to say that to me when I am about to tan your bottom. Not very politic."
I grinned sheepishly, then I thought about what he just said and the way that he said it, and I realized something else. "But, Legolas, you . . . you are . . . ."
I frowned, trying to voice what I was feeling so strongly. He grew quiet and waited, polite and patient, and I sensed that perhaps he already knew what I was struggling to express. But he waited, letting me work it out, and I knew he would step in and help me if I needed it – as Halbarad always did. And that in itself was my answer.
"There is a difference between us. You said it earlier: ‘There are those who can do the spanking and those who cannot.’ I . . . I cannot."
"Nay, sweetling, you cannot. And Devon cannot."
"Aye. But you . . . with Aragorn . . . ."
He nodded, a gentle smile gracing his features. "And others. And so, now with you, little Gwin."
"How . . . how can you?"
"I know not," he replied with a lazy shrug. "Nor do I dwell upon it. But, as I also said, the first time Aragorn spanked me, after I had been the one disciplining him, ai! Such a shift is jarring, sweetling. And although I hesitate to bring up your little nemesis again, Pippin felt this as well when Merry first took him in hand. He told us the story of it that morning ere the final march when you and Hal came and found us all in Faramir’s room, remember?"
I nodded, caring less about that troublemaking little tattler’s experience than I did about the shock Legolas must have endured when Aragorn gained the upper hand on him. I had been slightly prepared for this. Legolas had given me the occasional swat, or several swats, and although at the time I had roared my indignation at him I vow that what he had said was true: "I think we knew that someday we would come to this moment."
There had ever been an unspoken language between Legolas and me. He had a touch of authoritative command where I was concerned. Perhaps it was because, beneath it all, he was still my Prince. We delighted in doing things we knew we should not do, but there was always a protective air to him. So, yes, it did make a difference that it was Legolas now spanking me, and, yes, I also believed that someday it would come to this.
"I have, perhaps, been just a bit of the big brother with you, Gwin," he now said, kissing my brow. "Not always, of course, but even when I was not being overbearing with you, I was."
Again I could just nod, glad he had stepped in to aid me, Legolas, dearest friend, doing what he had ever done.
"So," he said with a predatory air and grin of fond menace, "now that a bit of your bewilderment has been addressed and you have calmed, ‘tis time we continue where we left off."
And with that my prince flipped me back down over his lap, ignoring my shocked explosions of breath and desperately squeaked, ‘but we need to talk about this more Legolaaaaaaa--!’ This time he stretched me out flat across his lap, allowing me the option of kicking, a kindly gesture. Ruthlessly yanking my nightshirt up, he patted my sore bottom.
"I believe you can be trusted with more freedom now," he said.
Too moved by his benevolence to respond, I quivered and once again buried my crimson face in my palms. My embarrassment was somehow more tolerable now, though. Understanding it, at least in part, made some difference, though not to my backside. Legolas still packed a powerful wallop, and he began with renewed enthusiasm that had me instantly responding in kind:
Again his uniquely awful style made an impression upon me. I could scarce believe how it felt! Having only ever experienced Halbarad’s manner of spanking, I knew not what to think. Did others spank in this way? This awful, stinging, strange way? Halbarad’s hand was so large it near covered my entire bottom with each swat, and each swat was straightforward. That coupled with the power he put behind each whack left little mystery as to why my wailing was legendary. But I had no idea how Legolas was achieving such a ghastly sensation. After withstanding it for some time I calmly voiced my concerns:
"AHHHH! Leg’las pleeease! Ow! Ow! Ow! What – AHHH! Sto – OW! Wh-What are you d-doooooing?"
"I should think that was obvious, Gwin."
"But wh-what is thaaaaat?"
He chuckled, heartless knave. "What is what?"
"The w-way your h-hand – OWW OWW OWWWW! Leg’las, stopppp! Y-Your fing-gers and-and-and OWWWW! H-Hand hurrrrrrrrts!" I made no sense at all, but, oddly, he understood me.
"Ai! Poor Gwin!" he went on, missing not a beat whilst I continued gasping and crying into the bedding. "I have been told I spank in, well, a singular manner." He paused to release a low chuckle. "My little brother calls it a ‘cruel elvish deviation.’ He is right. I recall Glorfindel’s spankings, and my ada’s, and other elvish spankings. So, aye, this may feel quite different than what you are accustomed to."
May? It may feel ‘quite different?’ Ai! ‘Cruel elvish deviation’ indeed! Oh, eloquent Steward of Gondor! Knowledge was usually comforting, but in this case it had quite the opposite effect. I felt far from comforted. In fact my prince’s ominous revelation sent me careening into such a swift panic that I flung my hand back to cover my bottom. Of course Legolas just as swiftly pinned my wrist to the small of my back, then released a scolding, ‘tsk-tsk,’ and what was I felt an inappropriately teasing, "Gwin. Come now."
I knew it was a futile measure! But when one is careening into a swift panic one will grasp any option open to one, despite its futility. And, when my bottom reaches a certain level of discomfort, trying to protect it from the next blow becomes as involuntary as kicking. Thanks to my prince’s cruel elvish deviation my bottom was now on fire. I had actually shown remarkable restraint thus far.
Pulling me more snugly against him in an alarming, ‘let us get more comfortable as we are going to be here for awhile’ manner, Legolas began once more, falling into his steady rhythm, spanking and spanking and spanking, endless, even, hot and burning swats, this time employing a silence similar to Halbarad’s.
Perhaps this was standard amongst disciplinarians. I never much cared for it myself. But I attributed Hal’s preference for quiet to a general stoic nature, whereas I entertained a brief hope that Legolas would distract me from what he was doing to my backside with some sort of discourse. Trust my kinsman to know how to best fluster the poor hapless victim over his knee. Trust Legolas to be as good at this as he was at everything else.
I rubbed my wet face against the coverlet and desperately tried to writhe, squirm, wriggle and swim away from each fresh blow. And it was awful. Awful! My Hal was bad enough. Measure for measure, he and Legolas were evenly matched in both force of swat and dead-on accurate aim. But I was used to my Hal, whereas this – this was awful! I felt immediate sympathy for Aragorn. Poor man! When he was in need of a spanking he faced either Halbarad or my fiendish prince. Of all the terrible fates! It explained Aragorn’s everlasting goodness.
"OWWWWWWWW! OWWWW! OWWW! Leg’laaaas! S-Stop! STOP! STOP! STOP!"
"Hush, Gwinthorian. When you are over Halbarad’s knee do you decide when your spanking ends?"
There was a lovely notion! It distracted me with longing, until: "OWWWWWWWW!"
"Well? Do you?"
"Nayy! H-Hal de-decides!"
"So who shall decide when this spanking ends?"
Oh how I hated these obvious-question sessions. And I knew Legolas hated them as well. It seemed most unfair of him to employ a method that he himself hated. Still, I was in no shape to do anything but answer sincerely. "Youuuuu d-doooo! Sorrryyyy!"
Legolas grunted softly. "Good. Enough impertinence then."
"But, y-you must be near d-done nowwww!" I wailed, hoping for an idea of how much time had elapsed. I usually lost track of it when being spanked senseless.
Legolas knew me too well. He chuckled. "Must I indeed? Well, I shall let you know when we are done. Until then, I hope you are comfortable, sweetling."
And he was off again, spanking away. This could not be good for someone who had just suffered a blow to the head! What were that fool Warden and Aragorn thinking? I wriggled and wailed and fervently wished that I had accepted Hal’s offer this morning:
"Come ride the perimeter with us, little slacker," he had said, smiling down at me, languishing on the cot. He reached for his shirt. "Eomer’s invitation was for both of us."
"His invitation was for you," I had said. "Eomer likes you. He frowns at me."
Hal chuckled. "He frowns at everyone."
I gazed up at him in a way that I hoped would make him change his mind. "Can we not spend the next few hours here? I am certain the King of Rohan will understand."
He gave me his slightly scolding half-grin. "Stop that, Gwinling. We have played enough."
I rolled over on my stomach and purred, "There is no such thing as ‘enough,’ my beautiful Hal." Then I yipped and squealed as he swatted my exposed behind.
"Come," he said, tossing me my breeches. "Join us."
And suddenly this scene reminded me of one we had enacted ere the final march. I had just returned from Osgiliath where, at Aragorn’s behest, I had been helping the Steward for several days. Pelennor had just been won, and I preferred to stay near Halbarad after a major battle. Nevertheless, I went with Boromir for Hal had asked me to as well. I missed him, but upon my return, my Ranger and I enjoyed a thrilling ‘welcome back’ interlude. Then, to my surprise, Halbarad rose and began to dress, announcing that he was going off to tell a tale to becalm those in the Houses of Healing.
Though I had done my best to dissuade him, I had lost that skirmish. I did not intend to lose the one this morning. But, after much appealing persuasion on my part, Hal finally sat, tugged me over his lap, gave me several sincere swats and declared that I either got up now and came with him or his invitation was withdrawn and I could stay at camp and entertain myself until he returned.
He was bluffing of course. He would ne’er leave me behind, not after a major battle. He would toss me my clothes, bark, ‘Five minutes,’ exit and return exactly five minutes later with our horses. Finding me fully dressed, he would then hold the tent flap open for me and say, ‘Come, Gwinling,’ and I would pass under his arm, grumbling good-naturedly and likely field a fond swat for my sass. I would go, pouting, but at least I would be with my Hal for the day.
So I had not believed him. I should have.
"You are idling about elsewhere in your mind, Gwin," Legolas warned, along with several extra hard swats. "No more of that. I shall not warn you again. Stay with me."
Ai! He was clearly taking lessons in Dúnedain insight from Aragorn! I wailed with fresh enthusiasm and writhed over his lap and my nightshirt bunched up further and I no longer cared that it was Legolas I lay stretched out over, half naked, my bottom throbbing. Oh, wretched cruel elvish deviation! It was positively inhuman! I hiccuped and squalled and kicked with abandon.
What had Legolas said? ‘First time?’ ‘First time’ indeed! I never, ever planned to be spanked by my dearest friend again! I should have been compliant when Aragorn was intending to spank me. I would have found it no less humiliating, but at least he had no cruel elvish deviations with which I would have been forced to contend.
Small wonder Pippin was so reluctant to be spanked by Legolas! He knew right well what he was about! He took advantage of my inexperience, beastly wee hobbit brat! It was his fault I was lying here, bottom up over my dearest friend’s lap! His fault my poor backside was undergoing an education it could do without regarding cruel elvish deviations! Yet one more reason for me to curse that miserable little Took.
And yet . . . yet, despite my justifiable wrath, I found myself recalling the sight of Pippin on the battlefield, that tiny soul, resembling a child who should be playing mischievous games with his friends or pursuing lazy innocent hobbit fun, but who was instead leaping about in full Gondorian armor, slashing and hacking away at the enemy with his small yet shockingly effective sword. It had seemed wrong somehow, this sweet little creature, killing with such frenzied savagery.
I kept watching him and Merry from the corner of my eye, and I noticed that the Fellowship members had formed a rough perimeter around their beloved little ones. They could not protect them, of course, but they could take on the larger-sized enemy, leaving the smaller ones to the halflings.
Pippin held his own astonishingly well, but at one point he suddenly faltered. Legolas whirled, sword high, but I was there first and in a split second I beheaded the orc who was about to finish off the sweet little one. A quick glance of acknowledgement was all we could spare, yet Pippin’s shocked face flashed with horror at something behind me and in the same instant he shoved me aside and I felt an orc arrow whistle past my ear. It slammed into the back of another orc further on who roared and fell dead.
The arrow, if it could be called that, jutting like a large, thick pole from the dead orc’s back, was one of the monstrous arrows of the Uruk Hai. Had it hit me I would have stood small chance of surviving, given the close proximity of the archer, who I immediately whirled upon. I was just in time to see Halbarad cleave the orc into two separate halves. Hal then turned a look of gratitude to a stunned Pippin, as did I, though a glance was all we could spare as the battle raged around us. From that moment on things had changed between Pippin and me.
I again thought of him, the look of horror on his pale face as he stood gazing up at me from the door of The Watchman. Astonished to see him there, I had felt a flash of fear for his safety. I was just having a bit of fun, but Pippin should not be in that rough place amongst all those big coarse men! My next attacker had distracted me and when I looked for him again Pippin had vanished. I shot a quick glance ‘round the tavern, seeing no crowd gathering around a wee Took, so I prayed he had escaped to safety and went about my business of trouncing those tiresome dregs of humanity.
I was actually getting bored with the situation and ready to make a swift exit when I heard a booming voice roar, "GWINTHORIAN!" All went quiet. I spun, and there, looming in the doorway were Aragorn, Legolas, the Steward and his little brother along with a wall of salivating guardsmen, warg-like gleams in their eyes. And, trying to hide his small self in the corner of the door, was my halfling informer. Seconds before all went black, I felt both a flash of anger at Pippin’s interference and a surge of joy seeing him crouched there, safe, his eyes wide with concern.
He had looked the same way here just a while ago when I was in high rant. Of course, I was too furious with him to recognize that concern then, but I considered it now, and I was touched to think that despite my bellowed abuse, Pippin had yet felt compassion for me. He had been in a fair temper himself, though, tiresome pest. He even --
"AHHHHHHH! Nooooooo! Leg’las! Nooooo, pleeee – I – AHHHHHHHH!"
"I know," he said in a casual tone. "The sweet curve under your pretty bottom is very tender, is it not?"
"AHH! AHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHH!"
"I did warn you, little Gwin. I know for a fact that Halbarad does not tolerate the kind of mental journeying you just enjoyed."
"I know that he responds to such rudeness accordingly, as I am now."
"I also do not permit bratlings who are over my knee to wander off in their minds, removing themselves from their present circumstances. When I am spanking you, sir, you shall remain here, with me, paying attention to naught but this."
And Legolas treated me to a fresh volley of stinging swats to that most sensitive undercurve of my bottom. Merciful stars! I near levitated off his lap! My wails, I was certain, shattered glass.
"Do I have your attention now, sir?"
"AYE, Leg’laaaaaas!" I roared.
"Do you have any further journeys planned?"
"Nooooooo! Nononononoooo, Leg’laaaaaas!"
"I am glad to hear it. Do you have something to say to me?"
"SORRYYYYYYY! I-I- sorry, sorrryyyyy!"
And to my relief he lowered the leg I had not even noticed him tipping upwards while I was so lost in thought. I tensed anew, feeling him resettle me a bit. Then the double awfulness of ‘undercurve spanking’ arrived – the moment when Hal returns to my bottom and continues on. It is not a feeling of relief. Legolas, alas, continued on.
"OWWW OWW OWWWWW!"
"Aye." He sighed with unsympathetic-sounding remorse. "Not much better, I know."
I had endured enough! "H-Hal! Ar’gorn s-said leave some of m-me for H-Hal!" I howled, feeling miffed at what I felt was his crudely cavalier attitude regarding my suffering.
Legolas was simply full of chuckles today. "Aye, so he did!" he snickered. "But your bratty cheek in mentioning it is hardly the way to gain my sympathies, is it, sir? Best rethink your tactics."
"B-But H-Hal will be m-mad! H-He will! Ar’gorn said s-so!" I declared, still sure that the wrath of my Hal would be enough to scare him into easing up if not flat-out ending this endless torment.
"I am willing to risk it," Legolas said in a brilliant counteroffensive.
So much for my strategizing. I would have made a dismal field commander. And meanwhile Legolas kept swatting away, further scalding my sizzling behind. His cruel elvish deviance was likely doing permanent damage. I screamed at my loudest shrieking pitch, despairing of ever again being able to feel Hal touch my bottom in a loving, delicious way.
"Gwin, if you are seeking something of me, may I suggest you take a more passive approach?"
That sounded wonderful. "Leg’lasssss ple-pleeease! Pleeease w-wanna talk!"
"Do you, little one? What shall we talk about?"
I was hoping he knew! I burst into loud repeated sobs. "I dunnooooo!"
Legolas sniffed the way he does when he is grinning. "‘Dunno?’ You sound like Pip again. Of course, you two are much alike."
"That sounded very Pippin-like."
I kicked in frustration, but I suddenly felt myself tiring, and Legolas clearly felt it as well.
"Shhhhh," he murmured. "Shhhh. Very well, sweetling. Perhaps we should begin with what Hal and Aragorn always demand we discuss when they are spanking us," he said in a soft, patient tone. "What do they always ask?"
That took no thought, which was good, as I had long since passed the ability to think straight. "Whyyyyyyyyyy," I wept. "W-Why. Th-They ask us w-why we are get-getting s-spanked, r-right, Leg’las? R-Right?"
"Aye, little one," he said, a smile in his voice. "Very good."
He actually slowed! Ohhh, blessed relief! And oh, how I loved pleasing him! I sought more favor. "Th-Thanyouuuuuu." His next swats were lighter still! Ohhh!
"You are most welcome. Now, why are you over my knee, sweet Gwin?"
His endearments loosened that final peg within me. I felt as I did with Halbarad when my surrender hit me full force, the yearning to please him just as strong as it was with Hal.
So I wanted to behave for Legolas, be good for my dearest friend and brother. My surrender was at its zenith. Legolas had won, not through his physical strength and his stubbornness, but through his devotion and his love. So I wept softer tears, and I set about cooperating, answering him as best I could:
"‘Cause of th-the fight!" he said. "B-Being spanked ‘c-cause of the f-fight at The W-Watchm-man."
Of course he would think this. "Nay, Gwin," I said, my tone gentle. "I am not spanking you for that."
He shuddered and paused, hiccuping, thinking, then: "But-But . . . ."
"Halbarad will deal with you for that, sweetling," I said, slowing my swats even more. The heat from his adorable little red bottom was now intense. I was not concerned, though. Due to his long history of bottom-warmings Gwin healed quickly, his backside having been trained to bounce back into ready status with rapid ease.
But he was tiring, and his thinking was clearly muddled. As he had started out at something of a disadvantage, I now helped him along.
"I am spanking you for your naughty behavior here in the Houses of Healing, Gwinthorian," I said. "For your bratty insolence and your disrespectful refusal to heed the wise judgements of Aragorn and the Warden. They had only your welfare in mind. They were not imposing their will upon you just to be mean, and those who have been tending to you have not deserved your ill-temper."
I swatted down hard a few times, watching him buck and jerk and cry out. Then I halted, resting my hand on his enflamed bottom, and said, "But you know that, do you not, little Gwin?"
"Uhh – huhhh. I-I know Leg’las. I d-do know. And I was being n-naughty."
I blinked. ‘Naughty?’ Hmm. And he had answered immediately. I had been ready to give him a moment, knowing from many years of being spanked in the vicinity of my kinsman that Gwin struggled with certain questions. But he had clearly not needed to think about his reply. Hmm.
I studied him. He lay fully collapsed, his face still buried in the crook of his arm. He was sobbing quietly and steadily. I released his wrist, waited, then grinned when he left it there at the small of his back. Though I had been slowing down, now I stopped spanking altogether, resting my hand on his hot bottom, again waiting to see how he would react. Gwin shuddered, then he released a deep trembling sigh and lay still.
I smiled. Ahhh, one little elfling, fully surrendered. Ahh, such a lovely moment! Gwin shifted, lifted his head and lay it on the coverlet, his face turned towards me, his glassy eyes slightly open, staring off at nothing. Again I watched, mesmerized. A quiver shot along my limbs. Gwinthorian was beautiful. He had indeed been very naughty today, and Halbarad was going to make that quite clear to him tomorrow, but going over my knee had been especially difficult for him, and he had done very well. I felt a swell of pride in him, similar to what I felt when my little brother’s inner rebellion quieted and he fell trustingly into my arms.
It took all my restraint to keep from scooping Gwin up and holding him close, hugging him. But I knew my kinsman. He needed to stay right where he was, safe over my lap.
"Do you like to stay over Aragorn’s lap when he is finished spanking you?" he had asked me one day after he and I had been spanked for a perfectly innocent miscommunication that led to a very slight disaster that was not our fault.
I had nodded. "Aye."
"I feel safe there, over Halbarad’s lap. I feel as though nothing can harm me, that he will not let anything hurt me."
"Even though your bottom is on fire due to the ministrations of this very one who will let nothing hurt you?"
He shot me a look and saw my wry grin and we chuckled. "Aye. Is that not strange?"
"If so then ‘tis a strangeness we share, Gwin."
He grew thoughtful. "It is a feeling unlike any other, lying there, in that safe place."
So of course I let him stay over my lap for as long as it pleased him, languishing in that sensation. E’en though I was not his beloved Hal, my lap nevertheless provided that comfort Gwin craved. I rubbed his fiery bottom off and on, watching him. He closed his eyes, his weeping now reduced to shudders and sporadic hiccups.
"Leg’las?" he suddenly said.
Again I blinked in surprise. "Aye, sweetling?"
"Y-You spank h-hard."
I sputtered a small chuckle and began pulling his nightshirt down, stopping right above his pretty bottom. "So I have heard."
"Halbarad spanks harder," I said, reaching up to smooth my palm down his glossy hair.
He thought about that for a moment, then, to my surprise, he burst into fresh tears. "H-He wanted me to g-go with him to-today!"
"Halbarad wanted you to ride the far perimeter with him and Eomer?"
"Uh-huuuhhh!" he stammered between his weeping. "W-When we got up th-this morning, he s-said . . . my-my H-Hal said, ‘C-Come, join us.’"
"You did not want to go?"
He was silent for a moment, then he wailed, "I did not want h-him to go!"
Ahhh. Things fell instantly into place. I cast a soft smile down at Gwin. He had once again broken down into soft repeated sobbing. "Aye, little Gwin," I murmured. "I see."
I pictured what had happened – Halbarad inviting Gwin, Gwin declining the offer and trying to coerce Halbarad into staying, Halbarad refusing to be coerced and riding away from his stunned and wounded elfling. Gwin’s path to The Watchman made sense now.
Leaving Gwinthorian to his own devices at a time when he was most vulnerable might seem a cruel act, but it was, in fact, typical of Halbarad. Aragorn’s first lieutenant ever sought to do what was best for his elfling, so, at present, he was trying to help Gwin gain what he needed most.
Had he not suffered a clout on the head Gwin would have easily worked out the truth of the matter and realized why Hal had ridden away. But on top of his blow, Gwin was now depleted and sore-bottomed, his thinking muddled from his long spanking. He was in need of a loving older brother to help him understand things.
So now I did pick him up and gather him close, tucking his small head beneath my chin. He offered no resistance. In fact, Gwin had apparently lost all his bones. He went utterly limp in my arms. Even when his blistered backside hit my lap, he just whimpered, then burrowed more deeply into me, squeezing my jerkin over and over in his tight fists, letting me cuddle him close and rock him and rub my cheek against his soft hair and occasionally lean down and kiss his cheek. I vow, Gwin had some hobbit in him.
But his weariness was catching up to him. After some time, having dampened my jerkin to a degree that would have made a halfling proud, Gwin began to calm, his tears slowing at last. I tucked him against me and moved us up until I was leaning against the headboard, my well-spanked, boneless elfling nestled on my lap.
Faramir had been in this same position after I had tanned his bottom ere the final march, though we were further down the corridor in the chamber now occupied by Frodo, another whose restlessness was reaching epic proportions, not that Sam was tolerating any nonsense from Frodo about escaping. Faith! I pitied the staff of the Houses of Healing! They were likely to feel unloved, given the way folks kept trying to escape their care.
"Leg’las?" a teary small voice now ventured. I grinned at his repeated opening.
"Hal left me behind today. And so I-I was m-mad. A very b-big mad came."
I bit down hard on my lower lip to keep from bursting into a laugh. Oh, he was too delightful! Gwinthorian, reduced to the little boyish state my warriors fell into after a spanking – ai! Gwin made a charming little boy! I cuddled him closer.
"Mmmm. Aye. A very big mad. I see. So you did a naughty thing, and you ended up here with a sore bump on your head. My poor little elfling brother."
He paused, then drew back to gaze up at me, huge liquid blue eyes, much like Frodo’s, but now shiny with a post-weeping glaze. "L-Liddle elfling b-brother. Ohh, th’as nice, Leg’las. I-I like that."
I grinned. "I am glad you approve."
"W-Well . . . when the mad c-came, I sneaked away from camp."
"Gwinthorian, shhh," I said with gentle firmness. "I am sorry, sweetling, but I must ask you to stop speaking of this."
He stared at me, bewildered. "Why?"
"What happened at the tavern is for Halbarad to handle with you, Gwin. We will journey no further down that path."
"No. I cannot infringe on your lieutenant’s jurisdiction. My duty was to discipline my little elfling brother for his behavior here today, and I have done so. So we shall not discuss what happened at The Watchman. But we can talk about what is making you so sad, for I think you know that it was not Halbarad’s choice to leave you behind today. ‘Twas indeed you made that choice, Gwin."
"But, Leg’las! H-Hal should have known!" he shot back, his eyes bright with upset. "I-I did not mean it! He should have known tha – I w-waited for him to come back for me, an-an-an then I heard him ride by the tent! M-My Hal was leaving me, Leg’las! He w-was leaving without me! He really w-was!
"So I ranned outside and yelled, ‘Hal!’ and he turned ‘round an-an he said he would see me this evening an-an do not follow him! H-He did! And he said if I d-did follow, he-he said he would pull me from my h-horse and spank me wherever we were, then send me back! An-I-I-I did not like that, Leg’las! I-I wanted to explode with mad! An-And to cry!"
I listened, fascinated. In similar circumstances Aragorn would have done just what Halbarad had done. "Anything else?" I asked.
Gwin darted me a pout, plainly hoping for more of a reaction to Halbarad’s cold injustice. "H-He said what you just said, too," he went on. "That . . . that thing ‘bout deciding. Hal said I made my decision and now I could abide by it!"
"Mmm. How unreasonable of him."
"Aye! And I-I-I did not like that, either Leg’las!"
"Go on, sweetling," I said.
Gwin paused, his manner suddenly shifting. Darting me a sheepish glance he buried himself against me again and muttered, "Uhhh . . . ."
"W-Well, he said . . . he s-said behave myself and do not get into any trouble and that, uhhh . . . ."
"Well, m-maybe he said I should . . . not leave camp?" He squirmed and muttered, "Hal said I-I was by no means permitted to leave camp."
"Ahh." I nodded. "I see. Is that everything then?"
"Aye. ‘Cept he said to get back inside the tent lest my . . . lest my naked charms enflame any passing Lossnarchians."
This time no amount of lip biting was going to keep me from bursting out laughing. Gwin rubbed his face against me.
I hugged him closer and said, "Forgive me, little Gwin. I could not help picturing you standing outside your tent without a stitch on, yelling at Halbarad. How I wish I had been there!"
I chuckled and hugged him again, then waited to let things settle before beginning again. "Gwin, you and I have many big scareds before a battle, do we not?" He went very still, then he straightened again to study me with a bewildered gaze, puzzled by my startling change of direction. I went on: "Ere the final march you and I both ended up earning sore bottoms, remember? In fact, you earned several spankings from Halbarad the very day before the march."
"Uh-huh," he nodded, now intrigued. "And my Hal spanked you, too. For the first t-time. ‘Member Leg’las?"
I winced and chuckled. "Mmm. How could I forget?"
"You were naughty and ranned away, too, and Eomer catched you --"
"I did not ‘ranned away’ and Eomer did not ‘catched me!’"
"Did too! And my Hal spanked --"
"I ‘member, my little elvish brother!" I exclaimed, a blush surging over me. He grinned. "I did not spank you enough," I muttered, frowning down at him.
"Aye, you did!"
"Then hush. No more interruptions." I gave him a moment to settle down. "As I was saying, you and I need special attention before a big battle, but you also desire to stay quite close to Halbarad after the battle. So I feel Hal had a purpose in mind today when he left you at camp. It was your decision to stay --"
"I knowwww! But, Leg’las, Hal should have know--EEEEEEEEEEK!"
"Now, that is a near perfect impression of Pippin," I said. Having flipped him right back over my lap I now yanked up his nightshirt, revealing his crimson bottom. I almost winced when giving its hot surface a small whack.
"Are you going to interrupt me further, sir?"
"NOOOOO! NONONONONOOOO! I-I will not! NOT! NOT! NOT!"
"Hmm. You sound uncertain." Another light swat near sent him through the ceiling.
"OWWWWWWWWWWW! OHPleeeeeaLeg’laOWWW! I p-promise! PROMISE! I will not innner-ruppt! NOT! NOT! NOT!"
"Very well. But I shall keep you right where you are, that I might be able to remind you of your promise, should you accidentally have a memory lapse."
"Aye." He hurriedly agreed. He turned and cast me a desperately sweet and sincere look over his shoulder. "I will b-be so sooo goood. Promise!"
I watched Gwinthorian for a moment, enthralled. I envied Halbarad. Valar help my deranged self, but I did.
Gwin was trembling now, though, and tired and he was perfectly positioned to hear truth. I urged him back down and patted his bottom, resting my hand there like a silent promise of my own. Petting his silky hair, I went on: "As I said, Hal had a purpose today. You tried to pressure him into staying with you --"
Gwin opened his mouth; I raised my hand; he closed his mouth, and I lowered my palm to his hot bottom again, patting gently. "Goooood little elfling brother. Now, you said that Halbarad should have known you did not mean what you said, and that you would choose to be with him regardless of what you were doing, and that you were just trying to pressure him into doing what you wanted him to --"
"I knew it was a good idea to keep you over my lap."
"SORRRRRRRYYYYYY! Sorry sorry sorrryyyyyy!"
"Aye, well, that had to sting. To continue, when you say that Hal should have known that ‘you did not mean it,’ what you really mean is that Halbarad should have known you were just trying to pressure him into doing what you wanted him to do. I realize that it feels uncomfortable to hear such things spoken so plainly, little Gwin, but there it is, and we both know it to be truth. Is that not right?"
Wriggling with embarrassment, Gwin nodded his face against the bedding and released a sound of misery along with a muffled, "Ew."
"I am glad you agree. Halbarad has ever disapproved of your attempts at coercion, so when you pressed him this morning he not only made you responsible for your bad behavior, he gave you an opportunity to earn yourself a great deal of attention when he returned from maneuvers. You would have, no doubt, been into some kind of trouble by the time he returned. He could then give you what you longed for, sweetling, what he is ever eager to give you. And he would have had cause to keep you with him in your tent all evening and all night. The fact that you took your grievances into the city was what turned the tide."
This degree of brutal honesty was rarely shared openly amongst those of us seeking special kinds of attention. The quiet impulses that drove us were safely hidden, just beneath the surface of a veneer we all preferred remained in place. This was what Gwin would have inherently known before that clout on the head muddled his thinking, and what I, as his loving older brother and dearest friend, could help him recall. And, although his thinking was indeed muddled from his long spanking, he would be able to grasp the truth, and it would chase away the anguish of wondering why his Hal had left him today.
And indeed, Gwin turned slowly and looked back at me, eyes wide, tears rolling down his cheeks. "Oh, Leg’las!" he breathed on a trembling whisper. And I scooped him up once more, for Gwin’s fragile floodgates again collapsed. He curled his legs up under him, practically crawling inside my clothing. I cuddled him throughout, murmuring the kinds of soft comfort words with which he and I were so familiar.
He took some time to quiet, but eventually Gwin fell into soft shudders and hiccups, and soon after that I could lay him back in my embrace and study him. Gwin looked as he usually did after Halbarad had put him through something similar to what I just did, a little more dazed, perhaps, but these were special circumstances.
"You should try to sleep now, little Gwin," I told him, for some of his dazed look was due to exhaustion.
He nodded, his eyes still locked upon me. "Legolas?"
I sniffed and grinned. "Aye?"
"You are still . . . well, you are still Legolas to me, are you not?"
I knew what he meant. I said, "You and I shall still be who we have ever been to each other, sweetling. We shall likely have wicked adventures together and do things we ought not do and end up in trouble together. Our old ways shall stay intact." He grinned. "But, we shall be something else now, too, something new," I added. "And, much as I love our old ways, I am very much looking forward to that something new."
He gazed at me. "You are?"
"Mmm," I said. "For, I must be honest, my little elfling brother, I loved having you over my knee, and I loved spanking you."
He sucked a sharp breath, eyes flying wide. "Legolas!"
"You have the most beautiful bottom, sweet Gwin. Just slightly larger than a hobbit bottom and slightly smaller than a man’s bottom. And it is round and soft and it has a sweet little bounce to it. I know ‘tis bad form to speak of such things, but truth is truth."
Gwin, clearly too overcome to express himself, managed only some vague squeaks and sputters, so I gushed on:
"I hope Halbarad will afford me the right to spank you often. Or at least every now and again."
More indistinct sputtering.
"It is only fair. I have been sharing the rights to spank Aragorn with him all these years. Halbarad owes me."
"OHHH!" he finally cried with a stingingly reproachful glare. "Of all the crude, ill-mannered, boorish--!" Still more adorable sputtering, then: "I am going to tell Hal you said that!"
I laughed. "Aye, pray do. If you do not, I shall."
"Oh! You are scathingly vulgar, my rogue prince!"
He huffed his completely feigned indignation for a while longer and I played with the ends of his hair and grinned and snickered whilst listening to him grumble about how coarse I was and how disgraced my poor ada would be to learn the depths of his son’s degeneration.
"Do you plan more extortion, Gwin? Thranduil, this time?" I asked him. "If so, let me know when you plan to confront him with this tragic news. I vow you shall be treated to a hands-on demonstration of where I honed the finer aspects of my spanking technique."
Gwin stared at me for a long moment, eyes shiny, then he could bear it no longer and he broke into giggles. "Oh!" he gasped after we had both laughed for several minutes. "I should not e’en be speaking to you. After what you did, ai!"
I picked him up and hugged him and again Gwin tucked his legs onto my lap and settled into a comfortable curl. "You shall speak to me, my sweet little elvish brother," I murmured.
"Aye, Legolas," he said, laying his head against me. "I shall."
"No more than two hours at a time," the Warden had said earlier on our way to Gwin’s room. "He can sleep for two hours, but he must then be awakened and his mind engaged for a while ere he sleeps again. Thus far he has slept not at all. We have been looking in on him at regular intervals, much to his dismay."
"He gave your Healers trouble?" Aragorn had asked.
The Warden set his mouth into a grim line. "You could say that, my lord. Fortunately, none of my staff are fluent in the elvish tongue."
I smiled down now at the deceptively innocent-looking elfling brat in my arms. Gwin had been sleeping near two hours, so I would needs wake him soon, though I regretted having to do so. I had watched him, listening to his breathing and thinking about Gwin’s life, what I knew of him and all we had ever been to each other. This new aspect seemed wonderfully natural, a most logical step for us, and I felt warmed within by how well it had gone.
He lay still and peaceful now, his mouth slightly parted, a flush to his cheeks, ever-youthful . . . pretty Gwinthorian. I suspected he had fielded another provoking remark about his beauty earlier, setting him off and bringing about his fight. He and Devon struggled so with that.
"What do I care?" I had once told the two of them when they asked me how I dealt with such nonsense. "Do not listen. ‘Tis naught but blather." But to Dev and Gwin . . . .
Suddenly I heard the light patter of hobbit feet. I narrowed my eyes, listening closely, for the little ones moved almost silently. After living so closely with our halflings I could discern whose distinctive patter belonged to whom. The hobbit now approaching Gwin’s room made me raise a brow. Well, well. Sam was going to be seriously cross.
Sure enough, a moment later the sound of footsteps stopped outside the door and the portal opened ever so slightly. Through the sliver of an opening I saw a smooth, childlike cheek and one large blue eye. I crooked a finger, the eye widened and Frodo slowly entered, looking as sheepish as he should.
"Hello," he murmured, padding over to the bed.
"Hello?" I sighed and shook my head at him. "Frodo. Up to your old blanket trick I see."
When on the Quest, Frodo had, much to Sam’s frustration, perfected a technique wherein he substituted his bunched up blanket for himself, making it possible for him to slip away from his watchful and protective gardener. It had become a difficult matter for them and Frodo had risked, and received, many a trip over Sam’s knee for the deed.
He nodded. "Yes. Sam’s going to be unhappy with me."
"I am unhappy with you, little one," I said, although I truly was not all that unhappy. It was heartening to see him showing his old mischievous hobbit ways.
"No, you’re not," he said, a clever grin tickling the corners of his mouth. "Your eyes are full of those twinkly lights."
I could not help it. I burst into a soft chuckle. "Twinkly lights?"
"Yes, those pretty glitters that are there when you’re delighted on the inside, yet trying not to show it on the outside. Alas, poor Legolas. I fear I know you too well."
"Cheeky little bratling."
Frodo giggled. Oh, lovely musical sound! His gaze dropped to Gwin. "I had to come," he said. "I-I was curious. I mean, well, my room isn’t all that far from here, and Sam and I could hear . . . well, Gwinthorian does make a ruckus, doesn’t he?"
"He has ever done so, aye."
"I must admit that I’m surprised to find you on the giving end, though." Frodo studied me speculatively.
"You were expecting Aragorn?"
"Uh-huh. I didn’t know you ever took Gwinthorian in hand like this."
"He never has," said a drowsy voice.
Frodo jumped and cried out, "Oh! Gwin! Did I wake you?"
"Nay," I said. "He has been awake since you cracked open the door."
Gwin wrenched about to glare at me. "You thought I was asleep!"
I grinned at him. "Did not."
"Merciful Middle Earth!" Frodo exclaimed, giggling anew. "You two are as bad as Merry and Pippin!"
Gwin scowled at Pippin’s name. "Do not get him started about Pip, sweetling," I said. I glanced at Gwin. "Shall we ask this fugitive halfling brat to join us, mellon nin?"
Gwin rose and held out his arms to Frodo. "Need you ask?" he said.
I gathered the little one in my arms and tucked him down between us. Gwin instantly cuddled him close. I grinned at the pretty sight. Frodo’s dark curls against Gwin’s flaxen locks, both of them beyond fair, looking at each other, and then turning their blue-eyed gazes to me – ai! The dazzling sight stole my breath away!
Nay, I had not needed to ask for Gwin’s approval that Frodo join us. From the moment he met Frodo Gwin had become devoted to him, amazingly so, considering the fact that Halbarad also became instantly fond of the little one. Yet Gwin had shown none of the jealousy he often did when Hal focused his caring attention on another. In fact, Gwin enjoyed Halbarad’s attachment to Frodo. As he seemed to do with everyone, Frodo defied even Gwinthorian’s conventional attitudes.
"I should not indulge either of you," I muttered, again, much less disapproving than I should have been. Frodo was quiet and resting here between us, safe from the nightmares that still plagued him on occasion. Moreover, he would not have attempted his escape had Sam been anything other than sound asleep, so Sam was likely getting some much-needed rest.
I was unhappy with the fact that Frodo had left his chamber and padded down here unescorted, though, as he was still prone to lightheadedness. I felt Aragorn would frown as well. As for Sam, well, Frodo had likely just earned himself another sore bottom. But he had made it here safely and he was simply too appealing and too delightful, tucked in warm and happy between Gwin and me, so I merely kissed his curly head and let his waywardness go.
"Are you certain I’m not intruding?" Frodo asked.
"No!" Gwin quickly cried, hugging him closer. "I am glad you came, even though you should not have risked it."
Gwinthorian scolding? I was too astonished to think of anything teasing to say to that.
Frodo studied him closely for a moment. "And you are all right? It sounded as though you were being torn limb from limb." Frodo cast me an affectionate scowl. "Whatever did you do to this poor sweet elf, sir?"
"Poor sweet elf indeed!" I scoffed. "I was shamefully lenient with him."
"He beat me within an inch of my life, little one," Gwin said, enlisting his finest pitiable elfling sulk. "I vow I shall ne’er sit without a cushion again."
"Ohh, poor sweet Gwin!" Frodo looked at me, his feigned scowl deepening. "Legolas! I am appalled."
"And I am greatly maligned!" I said. Scooting around to sit up, I reached for Frodo, saying, "Come here, you wee counterfeit, that I may clear my good name by showing you exactly what I did to this fibbing knave."
Frodo squealed and wriggled away, Gwin protecting him from my attack. Several minutes of silly tussling followed which Frodo then put to an end by crying, "Stop! Stop! I take it back! I’m sure he deserved every whack!"
Gwin looked greatly offended. "I most certainly did not!"
"Did, too!" Frodo giggled.
Gwinthorian grinned. "Did not!"
"Did, too! Did, too! Did, too!"
With a final sigh, Gwinthorian cried, "I yield! Not that I am agreeing, thou pretty bratling, but because I know better than to get into a squabble such as this with a hobbit."
Frodo’s triumphant giggle and smile made my heart near-burst with joy. Seeing him able to sport with such silly delight was glorious. Gwin brought out a playfulness in him for which all who loved Frodo were grateful – another reason why I could not feel too upset with the little one for having disobediently ventured down the corridor to join us.
Giving Gwin a small kiss on the cheek, he said, "A wise decision, sir."
Frodo wiggled back to lean against me, Gwin snuggling close and draping his arm over him again. "I’ve seen Merry and Pippin carry on like that until I simply had to cover my ears and walk away," Frodo said. He picked up strands of Gwin’s long locks and began idly playing with them. "Pippin nearly always wins. Merry may be a stubborn Brandybuck, but there’s an old saying amongst Pippin’s kin: "The Brandybucks are a bullheaded lot. They learned all they know from the Tooks."
Gwin and I laughed.
"Where is Pippin?" Frodo then asked. "He was so worried about Gwin when he came to tell Sam and me what happened that I half expected to see him sitting outside the door. Although, if he had been, he would’ve likely come dashing in here to stop Gwin’s ordeal and ended up up ended himself."
Frodo snickered, but Gwin and I exchanged looks.
"Oh, no," Frodo said, glancing back and forth between us, eyes wide. "He didn’t."
"Aye, he did," I said. "And Aragorn was none too pleased to see Pippin come roaring in here after he had given him strict orders to remain in the corridor."
"Oh, nooooo," Frodo groaned. "Oh, poor Pip!"
Gwin pouted and said, "Well, he hardly came roaring in here to rescue me! He was angry with me over something he, uhhh, overheard."
Frodo ‘tsked’, again in mock disgust, and said, "Nevertheless, Gwinthorian, your naughtiness today resulted in not only your own sore bottom, but my kinsman’s as well! Two sore bottoms, sir, for one naughty deed!"
Suddenly a bellow echoed down the corridor: "FRODOOOOOO!"
He gasped and froze and for a moment no one breathed. Then Gwin shot Frodo a glance of wry sympathy and said, "I think Sam is awake."
"Make that three sore bottoms," I said.