A Fresh Truth (2/2) - fanfiction
Devon runs afoul of a certain Prince.
Part One is here
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended. This story is not meant to violate the rights held by New Line, Tolkien Enterprises, nor any other licensee, nor is any disrespect intended. I don’t own Tolkien’s original characters, however, my OC’s, Gwinthorian, Garrick, Devon and several other Rangers are exclusively my own.
A Fresh Truth (2/2)
Devon's eyes went impossibly wide. He peered straight ahead, his gaze focused within. I gave the boy a moment to consider what was clearly a new thought for him. It was, however, fact. Dev had convinced himself of something else entirely but he recognized truth when he heard it and it was a bit of a shock. He did not try to deny it, though. Nor did he argue. He could do neither.
“Devon,” I said. No response. I bounced my legs to jar him and he blinked. Ah. Consciousness. “Well, sweetling. What say you? Would I, or Garrick, or Aragorn have allowed you to stand before that second troll and attempt to fire an arrow into its mouth if we thought you were lacking in any way?”
He looked directly back at me with a glazed expression, but then he swallowed hard and said with sudden clarity, “No, sir. You would never have allowed it.”
“We trusted you and your abilities. You are a more than capable member of the Grey Company.” I paused to grin, the memory of a certain impish face flashing before me. “In fact, were my friend Gwinthorian here with us, I believe he would say something like, 'Hang your damned looks! You are first and foremost a warrior, you idiot mortal, worthy as any other and more so than many.'”
Devon's brows shot up and he burst into his ready laugh. “I must meet this Gwinthorian someday,” he said. “I like him already.”
“Mm. Well, I am sorry to say that Gwin doesn't think much of men. He does his best to avoid them and chooses to remain safe within the confines of the elvish kingdoms. I love him, but he can be a superior little bratling at times.”
Devon looked disappointed. “Oh. Too bad.”
I wasn't so sure I agreed. I had been unfortunate enough to get tangled in Gwin's webs of ruinous roguery too often myself.
“Legolas, forgive me, but you must admit that this simply wasn't our fault!”
“Why do I listen to you?”
“Because I am adorable.”
“Leave me alone, Gwin. Because of you I cannot sit. And what are you doing outside your quarters? I thought you were to write several thousand lines, or some tiresome essay your Guardian worked up as your punishment.”
“I snuck out to find you. And I'd sooner take the spanking.”
“Not from Thranduil you wouldn't.”
And despite what I'd just told Devon about Gwin's superior attitude towards humans, I knew him, and I knew that it wouldn't take much for Gwin to warm to men. If he was shown affection, Gwin would be drawn to it and cling to it like the starving waif for attention he was. And these good men had the potential to provide him that. But mischievous Gwinthorian befriending mischievous Devon? Teaming with Devon? Ai! Gwin did have his moments, though, his odd flashes of insight.
“Superior bratling aside, Gwinthorian's advice would be sound, Devon,” I said. “Why do you suppose Aragorn seeks you out as his chosen companion when he wishes to embark on one of his adventures?”
“He knows no other will be foolish enough to join him.”
I flipped him up, swatted his bottom hard and plopped him back down. Devon gasped, blinked his watering eyes wide and stared at me.
“Aragorn wants your company because he knows you to be a skilled warrior. You are an asset to him. He values your abilities. He would never choose to take you with him if you weren't the able man you are. And, just as importantly, he enjoys your company. He considers you his friend.” I paused and studied Dev for a moment, then said, “Have you never glanced at Aragorn's face when he comes to watch you practice?”
He gave me a quizzical look. The small frown line between his brows appeared as it often did when Devon became puzzled. Merciful stars, but Gwin had one of those, too.
“No, of course you ne'er noticed. You are focused on your shooting as you should be,” I said. “So I shall tell you what you haven't seen, Dev. Aragorn stands still, his arms folded over his chest, and he watches you closely, his eyes sparkling and a warm, proud expression on his face. I vow he would be surprised to learn what you believe others think of you, Devon. For none in the company, especially your Captain and occasional partner in recklessness, would think you lacking in any way. I understand how you might feel ill-at-ease about your appearance, however the problem exists only in your mind, little archer. And it is not the reason why I refused you the use of my bow.”
Devon looked down, thinking for a long moment, then he lifted his gaze to me and said, “Yes, I see. And . . . you're right. My problem. But it might take me a while to get used to thinking about this differently.”
I smiled at him. “Aye. It might at that.”
He kept watching me, and now a younger Devon slipped into his gaze, a more vulnerable-looking boy than the one who had just been reasoning things out with me. Aragorn sometimes drifted away from himself after talking with me like this. He would backslide into a much younger Estel. It was fascinating.
“I'm sorry,” Devon said, in a small, miserable voice. “I should've trusted that your reason wasn't the one I guessed it was, Leg'las, even if I didn't understand about the bow. I should've just believed you. But I thought I knew better, and that you were being mean. So I thought that I'd show you and show everybody what I could do. And I tried to steal it. And it was terrible wrong of me. And I'm sorry, Leg'las.”
I wondered how many times this little one thought he needed to apologize for the same deed before he felt like he had atoned. He clearly hadn't finished yet. I could help him with that. “Thank you, sweetling,” I said. “I know how sorry you are. So let us finish with this business, shall we? Let us chase away the bees.”
He bit his lip and nodded. Giving him a small grin I pulled his lip free and whispered, “No.” Then I once again turned him over my knee. He gasped and wriggled a bit, but only from the sudden shock of the move.
I began spanking his sweet bottom at a good pace and Devon reacted with a loud wail and an instant burst of tears.
“AHHHHH! Owwwwwwwwww! AHHHHHH, Leg'laaaaaaaas! I think the bees are gone nowwwww!”
I grinned and spanked him steadily, listening to him cry. There was little to say at present. Devon knew what he had done and he had apologized repeatedly. 'Twas now time to ease the guilt he was yet carrying around within him. Devon needed to cry. He needed to kick. He needed to feel my hand smacking his sore bottom and making it sorer still. He needed to feel attended to. He needed to feel as though someone was bigger and stronger than the huge black ugly feeling of shame that had plagued him. And Devon did feel ashamed. He was an honorable young man and what he'd tried to do gnawed at him. He had wanted what he'd wanted, but he hadn't liked what he'd done to get it. The intent to thievery alone was enough for him. So he now had 'bees' in his head. Truth be told, it was likely he hadn't even wanted the bow. He certainly had not seemed to, given the way he had gone about it. Devon had wanted to be caught.
He could have easily made away with my bow at almost any time other than the one he had chosen. Devon was wily and stealthy. He would never have been caught unless he had intended to be. He would have heard our horses when we returned from our shortened patrol. He'd have known that his reluctance to join us on patrol would have looked odd to Garrick, not to mention Aragorn and Halbarad and almost anyone else who knew that Devon never passed up an opportunity to ride out with his Ranger.
“Something's afoot,” Aragorn had muttered when we mounted. He nodded to Devon who had innocently turned and wandered away.
“Aye,” Garrick said. “Should I stay behind with him, my lord?”
Aragorn glanced at Halbarad, who merely gave him a steady look. “Nay,” Aragorn said. “Let Dev do as he will.”
And Dev did. He must have heard the four of us talking when we headed back through camp and approached our tent. He could have slipped out with no questions asked save perhaps Aragorn saying, “Did you need something, Dev?”
Instead he remained in the tent, my bow in his hand, as though deliberately waiting for us to find him there. Aragorn, Halbarad, Garrick and I stood frozen in place, all knowing exactly what Devon was about, all of us enacting a play for his benefit.
So it was no surprise that Garrick had chosen me to discipline Devon. Aye, his offense was against me, but Devon had a greater need. He needed to talk about his secret, 'horriblest' feelings with someone other than Garrick. His Ranger surely knew how Devon felt and why he felt that way. The two of them had a connection that went beyond words. Of course Garrick knew. And Devon was accustomed to Garrick's comfort and reassurances. But Garrick also knew that a truth oft needs to come from one who speaks outside the close bond of intimate love. When it comes from a new source, it becomes a fresh truth. Devon had now heard his 'fresh truth' from me. And now we could chase away his bees.
I stopped spanking and began to lightly rub what was now a pleasantly hot bottom. Round and soft and a lovely shade of crimson. Devon's skin, like Dev himself, was fairer than Aragorn's. I wondered what Garrick would think of the color I had achieved here and how it would compare with his finished shade. I wondered how far he would hurl me across camp if I dared ask him about it tomorrow. I wondered if he would attempt to achieve the same color on my backside if I dared ask him about it tomorrow. Upon further reflection it seemed best to avoid Garrick and the topic of his Devon's bottom. In fact, perhaps 'twould be better yet to absent myself from camp tomorrow, encourage Aragorn to go out with me, hunt down a stag or two. The invitation would, if nothing else, make Aragorn raise his brows and smile.
Devon's sobs had now slowly calmed to soft weeping and shuddering.
“Shhh, little one, shhhh,” I murmured. “All over now. You were very brave, Dev. All over now. No more spanking. Such a good, good boy. Shhhhhh, deep breaths for me.”
I kept him over my lap and rubbed his back and stroked his hair and murmured comforting nonsense to him, the same kind of comfort I murmured to Aragorn, the same kind of comfort he murmured to me. Likely similar comfort Devon heard from Garrick as well. Dev needed to be right where he was, feel the solid warmth of my legs beneath his quivering stomach and my hand smoothing over his burning skin. He had put himself through some wrenching emotions and his bottom was now ablaze thanks to an elf with extraordinary spanking talents. He deserved to rest here, freshly spanked, trembling and fragile and shattered, yet indescribably, wholly safe.
Devon lay still for some time, and when he felt ready to move he turned his head towards the side facing me. I reached down to gently sweep the thick tresses away from his eyes and was surprised to find his them open. Devon stared off, chewed his bottom lip, spat it out, darted a swift one-eyed glance up at me, looked away, stared off again and squeezed his fist in the cloak near his face. Ah. Of course. He had been alone long enough.
I gathered up Devon's limp body and cuddled him close, for now he needed to bury himself against my shoulder and hide. I tried to widen my thighs when easing him onto my lap, however, speaking from experience, this helps to only a certain degree. Better than nothing. Nevertheless, Devon squeaked and arched when his hot bottom hit my legs. I grinned. I know, little one. I know. Holding him close, I began to rock. He hesitated but a moment, then his arms slipped 'round my waist and Devon clung ever so tenderly. Ah. Much better. He snuggled in closer and rubbed his cheek on my tunic. It was too endearing of him. I grinned and waited, letting him calm in his own time. However, in his vulnerable moments Devon had shared much with me of a deeply personal nature. He was thinking of that now, and I sensed embarrassment thundering through him.
“You are picking up some of my Dúnedain abilities,” Aragorn had told me in a snarly manner the last time I had perceived a mood he was trying to hide from me.
“Oh?” I'd smiled. “Am I indeed?”
“Is it not enough that you can hear the sound of the snow falling and the clouds moving across the sky? Is it not enough that you can see my brothers approaching when they are yet leagues away? Must you encroach upon the gifts of the Dúnedain?”
“Contrary to what you may have told yourself, Estel, your moods are not all that difficult to work out.”
He gave me a filthy look.
“I do know you rather well,” I'd said with a wink.
Another reproachful glare. “Tell me what I am thinking then.”
I had tsked and said, “For shame, sir. If your ada heard such foul language Elrond would be reaching for his strongest soap and escorting you to the washroom.”
I had been teasing Aragorn at the time, but it wasn't difficult to interpret the reason behind Devon's shy reticence. In the moments after a spanking it was never clear in what direction the discussion would go, but it seemed best to lead off with what Devon might be feeling most at the moment.
“Thank you for sharing your secret thoughts with me, Dev,” I said. He released a soft moan and burrowed his face against me as though trying to push his way through my tunic to the other side. “Perhaps you did not intend to do so, but I understand the way you feel. Your captain would understand as well. He still feels the odd need to challenge himself beyond the confines of mere mortal limitations.”
Devon looked slowly up at me. “What? Still? He does still?”
“Of course he does. He is Aragorn, sweetling. He was raised by elves. He sometimes aspires to elvish challenges, much to the dismay of those who witness it. Like you, Aragorn can feel as though he is 'not enough,' he simply feels it in a different way than you do, Dev.”
I truly did not think Aragorn would mind me sharing that, given this was his dear friend Devon and as it would likely help the boy to hear it. Were he present Aragorn would have been the first to have shared it about himself. Devon thought over what I'd told him. I thought it over as well. The truth was, a good many others were at times inclined to measure themselves unfavorably against those they knew and admired. I ever felt humbled next to Glorfindel. Devon's problem lay dormant most of the time. He rarely let it bother him. But this bow incident had brought it roaring to the surface with a ferocity that demanded attention. And Devon had known exactly how to get what he felt he needed.
“You are more than enough, Devon,” I reminded him. “Just as Aragorn is more than enough. You both possess gifts and talents unique unto yourselves. You are both irreplaceable. I would challenge any Ranger in the Grey Company to have slain two enraged trolls using one arrow apiece and a shot too difficult for most elves to manage. Devon, do you not realize how miraculous you are?”
He stared at me. I had lived amongst these Rangers long enough to know that Garrick was Devon's greatest advocate in all things. So it wasn't that Devon had never heard such words. It was that he could never hear them enough.
His bright eyes glittered, he flushed a rosy shade, then Devon buried his face against me again. “Fang gou, Leg'las,” he muffled into my chest.
I chuckled and hugged him. “'Tis you who performed the miracle, little archer. You but need to recognize it in full. And we needs now finish talking through this latest deed of yours ere your giant Ranger comes in search of you, ready to dismember a certain elf for keeping you away too long.”
He sniffed what I assumed was a chuckle, but when he drew back once more he had a sudden, somber look on his face. Now what. Odd that I was surprised by his next question. I shouldn't have been. I had heard it often enough from Aragorn. And I'd asked it often enough myself.
“Are you angry with me, Leg'las?”
Oh. Was that all. I kissed the top of his head. “What would your Ranger say to such a question?”
“Garrick would say, 'No, little boy.' 'Cause that's what he calls me. Little boy. And my Garrick says he doesn't get upset with me. But he gets upset about the things I do. Sometimes.”
“That is an important distinction. Is it not?”
“Your Garrick is a wise man.”
“Uh huh. He's lots wise. But Leg'las?”
“He spanks too hard.”
“Don't ever let my Garrick spank you, Leg'las.”
“You're right. If he wanted to spank you, he wouldn't wait for you to let him.”
“There's a daunting thought.”
“So just don't let him, Leg'las.”
“I shall do my utmost to follow your sage advice, sweetling. Now, getting back to your question. Do you think I am angry with you?”
He gave me a searching look, then: “No. You're not angry with me. You're like my Garrick. You're wise, too, Leg'las.”
“I think you're unhappy 'bout what I did, though.”
“Dear one, I was unhappy because I feared that, had you succeeded, you could have injured yourself. I once saw a foolish mortal pick up an elvish bow and try to pull it back only to tear the muscles in his shoulder to near beyond repair. He was a massive man as big as your Garrick, a trader traveling through the borderlands of Rivendell, boasting of how he wanted to own an elvish bow from Mirkwood or e'en from Lothlorien. Unthinkable. But Aragorn's brothers heard of him and we, well, we were just as foolish. We met the man at a tavern one day and let him try one of the Mirkwood bows.”
Devon's eyes grew enormous. I had been loath to tell him the story so I'd avoided doing so. A mistake perhaps. But it wasn't one of my shining moments. The twins and I bitterly regretted getting involved. Worse still, we had let Estel join us. He was but fifteen human years at the time and highly excitable. It was horribly irresponsible of us as Aragorn's guardians and it turned out to be disastrous for the man.
“What happened?” Devon breathed.
“The idiot near tore his arm from its socket,” I said. “I vow he was half-drunk, else he could ne'er have pulled the string back at all. But in yanking it as he did he wrenched himself severely and there was naught to do but try to put him back together.” I shook my head, recalling the man's screams, the recoiling crowd, the tearing flesh and spurting blood, the look of horror on Aragorn's face and the grim visages of the twins as they watched their little brother lose his stomach repeatedly outside the tavern.
“Elrond was in Lothlorien at the time, so we could not take the man to him,” I said. “I know not what he could have done anyway. Most likely Elrond could have helped him to some degree and the man would have been a bit better off, but he still would have been maimed all his life.”
I didn't go on to tell what happened when Elrond returned to Rivendell and we told him what we'd done. He would have heard of it from someone else as the tale was traveling far and wide by then. 'Twas best it came from us. The twins and I faced the dreaded Raised Elrond Brow and the roared, “Explain your actions!” which, of course, we could not, followed by a scalding spanking for each of us, courtesy of Lord Elrond's tireless arm, followed by an agonizing lecture on our irresponsible interference with the world of men made more agonizing by virtue of our hard oaken seats. Only Aragorn was spared. But he suffered a week of nightmares, punishment enough that e'en Elrond's potions could not manage to ease. His dark-eyed look haunted his brothers and I as well. All in all it was a memory that I wouldst rather ne'er recount, especially to this gentle youngling.
Devon thought over my story, then: “Why didn't you tell me that before?”
I sighed. “Dev. Would it have made a difference?”
He lowered his gaze, focusing on the stitching across the front of my tunic. He looked to be struggling within himself, but Devon was, as Aragorn had said, highly intelligent, and despite how awkward it had to have been for him, he was honest with himself and me.
“No,” he murmured. “It wouldn't have made any difference. Because it wasn't about whether I could draw the bow; it was about whether you would let me try. I didn't like to be told 'no' because . . . because of the reason I thought . . . because of . . . because I thought . . ..”
“You felt dismissed because of your looks,” I said. “And Aragorn dislikes feeling dismissed because he not elfkind. He cannot help being a mere man just as you cannot help the way you look. You wanted someone to understand that, sweetling. And I do. And that wasn't the reason why I could not let you try the bow.”
Devon gazed at me, a deep radiance in his liquid eyes, and it struck me how much peace there was to be found in simply being understood by another. I folded a few stray tresses behind his shoulders and I suddenly thought of Gwin again. I missed him, the little charmer. Faith, but these two would be a frightening pair.
“I wouldn't really have tried the bow.”
“I am glad to hear it, little one. Your Garrick's great heart would have shattered did something dreadful happen to his beloved Devon.”
He gazed off, imagining that. Then he blinked and nodded. “Yes. Garrick becomes . . . distressed when I'm injured.”
“I do vow. And should an elvish bow be the cause of your injury I do not like my chances of living to see another sunrise.”
My exaggeration shook away his gloom and drew a soft bashful smile from him. “He wouldn't blame you, Leg'las. Although . . . Garrick can be unpredictable. In his distress and with none other to blame he might decide that you must bear the responsibility for my injury and you could find yourself facing your first trip over his knee.”
“It might be a good time to go on an extended journey. Visit home.”
“Indeed. Clever lad. And 'tis well we need do no more than imagine it, for you were wise enough to go no further than the tent.”
He mindlessly played with the ties on my tunic. “Aye. The tent. Aragorn left a book out and I just had to stop and look at it.”
“How inconsiderate of him.”
“It was. You should talk to him about that Leg'las.”
“I shall attend to it as soon as we return.”
“Thank you. Because it wasn't very nice of him. It slowed me down, you see. And then your patrol was shortened so you were back sooner than expected.”
“How inconsiderate of us.”
“It wasn't very nice of you.”
He sighed. “Leg'las, the fates were truly stacked against me today.”
“Nay, Dev,” I said, unable to keep from kissing his brow. “The fates were in your favor. You were right where you needed to be and we were as well. And now you have survived your first elvish spanking.”
He blinked at me and gave a slight strangled gasp. “My first?”
“Aye, perhaps Garrick will need a break every now and again and he will pass you over to me.”
He studied me for a moment, then rolled his eyes and tsked. “Did I think you were serious I'd become provoked. But I know Garrick, sir, and he would never. In fact, 'tis more laughable than worrisome. And that wasn't very nice of you, Leg'las.”
Interesting. A part of Dev yet lingered in that vulnerable place. There was something quite adorable about this mixture of adult and childlike Devon.
“You are right, little archer,” I said, kissing his cheek. “That was unmannerly of me. I apologize for teasing you about your Garrick. Am I correct in assuming, however, that the bees began plaguing you after we came upon you and took you out of the tent?”
“The bees?” His unfocused gaze returned. “Oh, yes. The bees. I forgot all about them.”
“They have gone now?”
He blinked back to awareness. “Uh huh. The bees were at war in my head, Leg'las.”
“Uh huh. There were Guilty bees, because I felt bad about trying to steal the bow – and I did, Leg'las. You didn't give me permission, so I did try to steal it.”
“So we established earlier. I am proud of you for admitting it, dear one. That was difficult.” Another kiss to the brow. I was uncertain as to whether Garrick would approve of me kissing his lad so much, but Devon sat there on my lap looking delightful and endearing in a disheveled, freshly spanked way that made me want to gather him close and hold him for a while. An innocent desire to be sure. Devon was simply an appealing creature and I am, after all, only an elf.
“Stealing, Leg'las. Stealing.” He said it as though the word tasted nasty. “How could I have stooped so low? I miss my father all the time, but Leg'las? I'm right glad he din't see me try to steal your bow.” I felt he was being a bit hard on himself given he had not actually completed the theft, but ere I could say something, he moved on: “So there were the Guilt bees and they were so mean, stinging and stinging. And then, then there were the Anger bees.”
Devon's pretty features clouded over and he knotted his fists. I braced myself for I knew not what. He seemed a little wrung out to become too excitable, though. “The Anger bees were there because it was ever'one else's fault that I was caught. 'Cause Aragorn left that book out, and 'cause the patrol was cut short and 'cause you wouldn't let me use the bow in the first place! So the Angry bees were buzzing and buzzing and fighting the Guilt bees and they were all stinging and stinging me."
"Monstrous. Horrible. Poor you."
"Uh huh. And Leg'las?”
“Aye, dear one?”
“It's monstrous horrible when bees are warring in your head and an elf is spanking you very hard and a lot too much.”
“I dare say, little one. How you have suffered."
Devon sniffed and took on a pitiful look.
"But you said the bees have gone now?”
“Uhh . . . .” Distracted from his woe, he flashed me a lost, dubious look, as though wondering if he still needed to be upset about anything. I'd rather he ceased to dwell there and we moved on. He thought about it, evidently came to the same decision, shrugged and said, “Uh huh. All gone, Leg'las.” And he smiled.
I smiled back. “Good riddance.”
“I think you spanked them out of me, Leg'las.”
“I suppose 'tis well I spank very hard and a lot too much.”
“I cannot, however, take credit for releasing your bees, Dev. 'Twas you yourself did that.”
“Maybe. But you gave me something else to focus on. And that's when the bees didn't matter so much and I let them go.”
“Aye.” He went quiet suddenly, staring off, then he turned his luminous gaze upon me. I felt another apology coming on. “Devon, for what it is worth, I do not consider your attempted theft an actual theft. The bow represented a troublesome problem for you. So you followed your instincts and decided upon a course of action that might help you contain the problem. You said it yourself, sweetling. You would ne'er have shot the bow. You simply needed the bow. Because you needed something else.” I paused and rubbed my palm up and down his arm. “Is that not so?”
Dev's fair cheeks went pink and he lowered his head and gave a nod. “Uh huh.”
I smiled and curled my finger 'neath his chin, lifted his face and kissed his brow. “'Tis alright, little archer. Very wise of you to seek help when you need it. As for myself, I am delighted to be the one chosen to assist you.” Devon's cheeks went impossibly pinker. “I hope I have made it clear that I think no less of you for what you have told me, dear one. When I look at you I see a gifted, brave and intelligent man, worthy to be amongst the ranks of some of the finest warriors in Middle Earth. It matters not what others see or what they call you, Dev. You are your actions. And those are mighty indeed.”
He listened with a quiet, rapt expression. I stroked my palm over the long tresses down his back and leaned close to his ear. “Tomorrow, when you have recovered from your savage elvish thrashing, you and I shall return to the practice field,” I said. He sat up straight and shot me a quizzical look. “I have something to show you.”
I chuckled. “You shall see. But first, what say you we pull up your breeches, little naked boy, and return you to your Ranger?”
“Here. Take it.”
Legolas held his bow out to me. Not even his practice bow. His bow. The one he used. The one he always wore across his back. His bow.
I stared at him. “What?”
“Come. Take it, Dev.”
“I shall stand behind you and together we shall draw it back, and I shall then release my hold in very small increments. And in this manner you can feel for yourself how difficult it would be--”
We spun around. Aragorn, pale, stiff legged and with a face like thunder, stalked towards us across the field. “Legolas! No.No.No! You cannot allow --”
“Estel. Stop,” Legolas said, his voice clear and majestic and full of quiet command.
Aragorn stopped. He was nearly upon us anyway. But he froze, set his square jaw and locked Legolas in a stony 'you'd best have a good explanation for this' glower. I was touched by his protectiveness. I recalled the awful story Legolas told me about the man ripping his shoulder apart and how traumatic it was for Aragorn. Seeing Legolas hand me his bow had evidently triggered a gut reaction in my captain. And it was a gut reaction, for had he thought about it he would have known that Legolas would never endanger me in such a manner.
It took only seconds for Aragorn to calm down and come to his senses. He relaxed his rigid frame, shifted his weight and looked sheepishly between Legolas and me.
“My apologies,” he muttered. “I . . . I, uhhh . . . “ He looked off and gave a slight shrug. “Sorry.”
Legolas, less annoyed than he seemed, snorted a reproachful snort and said, “I should think so. Your faith in me is underwhelming.”
“I said I was sorry. I know you would never harm our precious Dev,” he said. He looked at me and smiled wearily. “'Twas but an old reaction to an old memory.”
Legolas glanced at me as well. “I told Aragorn that I shared the story of the wounded man with you.”
I frowned in sympathy. “Understandable response, sir.”
“But given it was me . . . .” Legolas 'humphed,' then he picked up an arrow and said to Aragorn, “So did you hear me explain my plans?”
“As I approached? You were speaking in your typically low tone of voice, mellon nin, and your were a distance from me.”
Legolas darted a look my way and I caught a flash of something wicked in his eye. “And you were yelling. And mayhap you were too overwhelmed by your inappropriate temper to work out why I brought Devon here today and what I have in mind to do with your curious comrade in arms.”
Crossing his arms over his chest, Aragorn raised a brow and said, “I am beginning to work out something to do with a certain inappropriately annoying elf.”
“I am annoying you?”
Aragorn gave Legolas a look of exasperated affection. “'Tis a good thing you are an asset to the Company, sir, else I would send you packing back to Thranduil.”
“That is hardly much of a threat, Estel.”
Sometimes these two enjoyed sniping playfully at each other like this. I always found it entertaining.
“What are you planning to do with Dev, Legolas?” Aragorn asked with overly polite patience. Legolas explained his plans and Aragorn looked at me. “Are you comfortable trying this, Dev?”
“Aye, sir. I wasn't hesitating because I was anxious. I was merely taken aback by the offer itself.”
“Then come,” Legolas said. He held his bow out to me. “Take it.”
I did. And I gasped. “It's so light. And so . . ." I moved it around, getting the feel of it. “ . . . so flexible.”
“It is made like no other,” Aragorn said. “The elves are superlative craftsmen.”
Eager to try it, I whirled to find Legolas watching me. “Ready?” he said.
Legolas came round behind me and molded his front to my back. We both took up the bow, arms and hands near stuck together in position, then we drew back the string, or rather, Legolas drew it back. It was effortless for me, but I knew I wasn't doing the pulling. The tension in it though, the sheer power in that whole weapon made me tremble. It felt alive, full of energy, bursting with it. How by all the ancestors living and dead did Legolas control that thing?
“Still alright, little one?” Legolas murmured in my ear.
I nodded. “Fine. Yes, fine. It's just . . . I've never felt . . . Legolas, it's so . . . so--”
He chuckled softly and I felt him kiss my temple. “I know, dear one. 'Tis a much different experience than drawing back your bow, is it not?”
“Did you just kiss that boy?” Aragorn asked in an incredulous tone.
We glanced over at him. I'd actually forgotten he was there. Aragorn clearly knew it and he clearly didn't want to be forgotten, nor was he done with his “needle the elf” game.
“This little one is very kissable,” Legolas replied, a grin in his voice. “I kiss him all the time.” And he kissed my temple again. “Don't you?”
“I most certainly do not. I value my life, thank you very much.”
“Then you do not know what you are missing, Estel, for he is delectable and quite fun to kiss.” Now Legolas kissed my cheek. “And to the brave go the spoils.”
Really this was going a bit too far. Aragorn looked astonished. And he was likely right. If Garrick caught wind of Legolas's excessive kissing . . . . But as I knew the elf was just trying to plague my captain, I merely waited them out. What amazed me more than the over-the-top kissing, was that whilst they continued their banter Legolas kept the bow string tightly drawn all the way back. I couldn't begin to imagine how much strength that required. His arm didn't even tremble. Legolas seemed unmindful of the action.
Elves. I'd gotten off easy yesterday. Even though my poor behind still felt the effects. Never again would I provoke Legolas. Or, for that matter, any elf.
“My advice, mellon nin?” Aragorn now said. “Best hope a certain Ranger never hears that you've been kissing his Devon, especially if you've been at it all the time.” An alarming gleam then entered his eye. “And best treat me well, else I am tempted to let slip to my corporal that you have been taking liberties with his Devon. The least he might do to you as a warning gesture would be something akin to what you did to his little one yesterday. And I vow his little one would have many stories to tell you of that unhappy fate. So tread carefully, Princeling mine.” Aragorn grinned a loathsome grin. “And treat me well.”
Legolas was silent for a moment, then: “When I have finished here I plan to come over there and thoroughly trounce you, my lord.”
“I stand ready, young Lordling of Mirkwood.”
Legolas tsked, and heaved a great sigh. “Troublesome brat,” he whispered to me. “Captain of the Grey Company indeed.”
“I heard that,” Aragorn said.
“Now, Dev,” Legolas said, “I shall begin to ease back and give you more of the control. I shall let go just a little. Are you ready?”
I felt the pull on my arm. Oh. Oh, my. Alright . . . little tougher . . . lot tougher . . . oh no, no, noooooooo-- “OWWWW!” Instantly the pressure stopped. I let go and Legolas released the string. He stepped away and Aragorn was there, gently touching and rubbing my arm and my shoulder.
“Dev, are you hurt?” he asked, his voice low and anxious.
“No,” I quickly said. “No, not hurt. I'm fine, sir. It just startled me, how fast the . . . it just startled me. I-I'm fine, really.” I grinned to reassure him, but he kept glancing at my face, searching for signs of hidden pain whilst moving his hands over my shoulder and arm. “'Tis really fine, my lord,” I said. I had the feeling Aragorn was past hearing me. His inner healer had roared forth.
I glanced at Legolas. He stood close by and watched with his strange mixture of patience and amusement. He knew that all was well, and that Aragorn needed to do as he would, so he shared a look with me that silently conveyed his understanding of the man he so loved.
“Does he pass inspection, Estel? Devon says he is well.”
“Devon would say he was well if his arm was hanging in tatters. Devon always claims he is well,” Aragorn replied, now watching my arm as he guided it around in an arc to test how it performed.
“Dear one, do you say you are well when you are not?” Legolas asked me.
“No,” I said. “That would be lying, sir. Garrick takes a dim view on lying. I never sit comfortably after telling Garrick a lie. He would be sure to notice any injury to my body. So, no. When I am injured all those around me know it for I wail long and loud.”
“You see?” Legolas said. “The boy wails when he is injured. He merely cried out when he needed to stop. He did exactly what he was supposed to do. And when he cried out I took over and ended the demonstration. Our Dev has now felt firsthand why I could not allow him to practice with an elvish bow. Have you not, sweetling?”
I shared another significant look with Legolas, then a small grin. “Yes. Thank you, Legolas. You are ever my teacher. I now know the reason behind your refusal. And you are right. Had I tried that bow I could have truly hurt myself.”
Legolas winked at me, his smile soft and agreeable and silently saying, 'but we both know 'twas not the bow you wanted.'
Turning back to Aragorn, Legolas said, “Devon did splendidly during our experiment, and he is fine. So, for mercy's sakes, Aragorn, leave the poor boy alone.”
Aragorn sighed, stopped prodding at me and turned to Legolas with narrowed eyes. “It never hurts to be thorough.”
“Thorough?” Legolas raised his brows as though the word was utterly ridiculous. “Thorough?”
A broad, beauteous smile spread across his face. And then he laughed. Legolas burst right out and laughed and laughed, deeply and wonderfully and wholeheartedly. It was dazzling. He so rarely laughed with such abandon that Aragorn and I were stunned. We stood still and gaped at him. Legolas. Laughing like a drunken mortal. It was magnificent. It was glorious. And I couldn't help it. I burst out laughing, too. Who could resist? His musical laugh was contagious. And Aragorn was only human. He started laughing, too. So the three of us stood there laughing at we knew not what. But it was freeing, and it was fun and silly and I loved it, and they clearly did as well, for Aragorn crossed his arms over his belly and leaned forward and Legolas leaned backward so far I feared he would topple over. As for me, I actually lost my legs. They went out from under me and I plopped to the ground upon my still-sore behind and cried out through my helpless, weak giggles. Legolas rushed forward and scooped me up in his arms.
“Ah, little archer,” he said, gasping slightly. “You do indeed wail when you are injured. Poor sore bottom. Wounded through laughter. My fault. My fault entirely. I take full responsibility for your fall.”
“As well you should,” Aragorn said, between recovery coughs. “What have you done to him?” He strode over and tried to grab me away from Legolas. Legolas resisted and yanked me back. It was too absurd being fought over like this and I started giggling helplessly again.
“Give him to me.” Aragorn muttered. “'Tis gentlemanly to share.”
“I keep telling you, Estel, I am no gentleman. Nor do I aspire to be one. Why would I choose to be a gentleman? I am an elf. Not a gentleman.”
“Aye, sir. You are a gentleman. You are a gentlemanly elf and quite a fine one indeed. Now hand him over, gentleman elfling. My turn.”
Legolas grimaced. “Oh, very well. Take your turn in the interest of fairness. But our Dev is fine, are you not, dear one?”
“My bottom is far from fine, Sir Spank-a-lot. What you did to me yesterday was not, by any stretch of the imagination, gentlemanly.”
They flashed me wide, dazzling smiles.
“Then my work here is done,” Legolas said. “And you, Sir Quick-Witted--” He kissed my brow and shot Aragorn a wicked look. “-- did magnificently well. I am proud of you.”
“As am I,” Aragorn said. He settled me on his hip and rubbed my backside. “Dev, perhaps I should examine what remains of your injury from Sir Spank-a-lot. Make certain it is healing as it shoul--”
“NOOOO!” I squirmed to get down and Aragorn let me go and I stood there, face burning while the two of them did a miserable job of trying to suppress their amusement. Such scoundrels.
“Perhaps 'tis better I leave that to Garrick,” he said to Legolas.
“Wise of you, Estel. Although I imagine your corporal examined the area quite thoroughly when I returned his Devon to him yesterday.”
They looked at me, eyes sparkling with warm affection, and although my face burned and a tickle of embarrassment danced in my stomach, it was a splendid feeling, and in that moment I counted myself one of the luckiest of men. I was delighted to join in the game.
“Aye, my lords. 'Tis true." I smiled my sweetest smile. “My Garrick examined the area quite thoroughly indeed.”
Aragorn and Legolas exchanged a glance, then, of course, they burst into laughter again.