Author's Notes: Verse/Setting: Post-LadyHawke. Summary: Some bad habits are very difficult to break...
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters and I'm not making any money from this fic.
Warning(s): Parental discipline of an adult.
The guard looked nervously over his shoulder at the man following him and swallowed hard at the look of firm disapproval on the captain’s face. Feeling the need to defend himself, he hesitantly offered, “We recognized him from the day you and your lady were reunited, sir. Normally, his type would just be locked up until the trial and given he was caught in the act, he’d be on his way to the executioner soon enough. But we knew he had helped you and the lady and well….” The guard’s voice faltered and he quickly turned his face forward.
The captain’s firm look of disapproval had only become more pronounced. The guard wasn’t ashamed to admit (to himself at least) that it made him feel nervous and almost like a young boy on his way to a thrashing. He almost pitied the man he was leading the captain to. Almost. The “Mouse” had after all, brought it on himself when he’d decided to walk off with the silken scarf that had caught his fancy- even if the boy had claimed he hadn’t meant to walk off with it, that’s what he had done.
# # #
Phillipe Gaston sat on the floor of the cell, his knees drawn up to his chin with his arms wrapped tightly around them and hid his face in the pocket his body made. He’d well and truly messed up- and for no good reason. He hadn’t really wanted the scarf he’d walked off with.
It had caught his eye and he’d picked it up thinking what a lovely gift it would make for Isabeau. His mind had begun to wander about if she would accept such a gift from someone like him and then if Etienne Navarre would allow him to give her such a gift; the man had gotten over his jealousy from when Phillipe could speak with her in person when he himself had not been able to, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t still the type to be jealous. The next thing he knew the owner of the scarf was yelling for the guards and he was being hauled away.
He should have known his freedom wouldn’t last that long. The scarf had not been the first time he’d “liberated” something from its owner without thinking twice about it. It was just the first time he’d done it without thinking at all- and he’d of course gotten caught because of that fact. He’d be lucky if he didn’t face the executioner within the week- he whimpered softly in depression.
Oddly, it wasn’t his impending doom that hurt the most- it was the fact that he knew Captain Etienne Navarre would be the one to oversee said execution and he couldn’t help but feel he had let the man down greatly. He had not repaid the man’s friendship in a very good way at all, setting him up to have to arrange a friend’s death. Isabeau would be heartbroken- or Phillipe liked to imagine she would be. He sighed sadly.
He looked up at the ceiling of his cell and muttered softly. “Hello, Lord. It’s me…Mouse. I’ve gone and done something I shouldn’t have done. But you must believe me when I say it was not on purpose. I know a sinner must pay for his sins- but if you could see it to be merciful and perhaps find a way for me to pay that doesn’t involve my coming to meet you so soon….not that I don’t want to meet you, but I suspect there will be several years of having to work my way up to where you are and… well. It wasn’t deliberate…” his voice trailed off as he heard boots making their way toward his cell.
He stiffened as he heard a key jangling in the lock and looked with wide eyes at the cell door, nervous about who might step through.
# # #
Etienne stopped in front of the cell door and straightened so that he stood at his full imposing height. He’d tuned out the guards ramblings half-way through the tunnels. He’d known about Phillipe’s arrest within the hour of it having occurred, and had gone to the merchant who the brat had thieved to get the accusations direct from the source. He had been surprised at what he’d been told. He wasn’t surprised that Phillipe had stolen- the brat had been a thief from the moment he could grasp objects, Navarre suspected. No, he was surprised at the reluctance with which the merchant had told him of the theft.
It turned out that the merchant had several sons, one of which was Phillipe’s age. While he stated emphatically that the boy needed to be punished- he argued against the boy being arrested and executed. The merchant said he could tell the boy wasn’t truly bad- he just needed to be turned in the right direction. Navarre tended to agree with the merchant’s assessment.
Being Captain of the Guard had to count for something. Knowing that the merchant would not complain if he took an unusual course of action and didn’t arrest Phillipe, Navarre had made plans. Once his plans were in place, he’d gone to the dungeon and told the guard to take him to the newest prisoner.
He waited as the guard opened the cell door then turned to the man. “Wait outside the door.” The guard took one look at his face and didn’t protest the order. Navarre stepped inside the cell.
# # #
When Etienne saw Phillipe’s wide eyed stare, he had to force himself to keep the firm frown on his face. The boy looked so frightened that he wanted to smile- to try and encourage the lad to not lose hope. He could not make things easy on Phillipe, however. The boy needed to learn.
Narrowing his eyes slightly, he asked in a low almost growling voice. “What do you have to say for yourself?”
Phillipe gulped as his friend and now captor came in to question him. He wasn’t certain what he had expected, but the stern expression and firm voice were not encouraging.
“I truly did not mean to take it, sir…” he finally squeaked out, blushing darkly at the way his voice came out so highly pitched. He bit his lip when he saw Navarre raise one eyebrow in apparent disbelief.
“No…truly sir! I…I picked it up because it was a most beautiful scarf…and then I began to think on things…and…I didn’t realize I had not put it down until the merchant was yelling at me and the guards had come!” Phillipe choked out rapidly.
Navarre remained quiet, knowing that if he said nothing the boy would continue his confession.
Phillipe squirmed helplessly under the captain’s gaze, giving the older man an uncertain smile.
“I am very sorry it has come to this…I…I know I deserve what is coming. It was only a matter of time before my actions caught up with me, and I must admit I am not…all that good on the best of days.” He sighed and looked down at his knees.
“I just wish you did not know of my shameful behavior.” With that Phillipe let his head thunk down onto his knees, unable to face the man who literally held his life in his hands.
Navarre had heard and seen enough. The brat knew he was in the wrong and accepted that he would be punished. He could inform the boy that the punishment did not include death. Clearing his throat, he allowed his voice to be friendlier although he still kept it firm. “You are lucky that the merchant you had stolen from has a child your age. He was reluctant to give evidence against you for fear it would lead to your death.” He smiled slightly when Phillipe looked back up with wide confused eyes.
“I happen to agree with him that while you deserve something for your actions-death isn’t it. So I have devised my own correction.” Navarre glanced around the tiny cell and frowned. No cot, no chair… he sighed then motioned to Phillipe. “Stand up, boy.”
Mouse scrambled to his feet quickly, giving Navarre an uncertain look. When the man crooked his finger in a motion to come to him, Phillipe reluctantly obeyed, moving close enough that the captain could reach out and take hold of him if he wanted.
The boy couldn’t help but let out a tiny squeak when Navarre took his arm and firmly pulled him to where he faced the cell wall. He barely refrained from squeaking when the captain tugged his two hands up against the wall and then pushed his feet back so that he was leaning toward the wall and braced on his hands. He gasped when Navarre reached over and loosened his leggings, letting them fall to the floor and leaving the lower half of his body bared. Mouse flushed darkly in shame, suddenly realizing what was coming. When he felt his tunic being lifted up in back so that his backside was completely exposed, he whimpered softly.
Navarre didn’t bother speaking. The child knew what he’d done wrong and why he was being punished. Quickly he took out the switch he’d secreted on his person, placing it against the boy’s bottom so that he could feel it for a short moment. He then drew his hand back and snapped it forward leaving a thin red line welted on the pale cheeks. Phillipe’s piteous whine was choked off halfway- the boy was obviously trying to be brave and not make a sound.
Navarre took a deep breath and kept his resolve. The child must learn to control his actions- and if he was stealing things without thinking then he obviously needed to be trained so that his body would remember not to steal even if his mind was not reminding him.
The next five minutes were not pleasant for the Mouse or for the Captain. Navarre hadn’t chosen a set number of strokes. He’d decided that it would be best to continue until it was obvious the boy had learned his lesson. Unfortunately, Phillipe had apparently decided to be stubborn and was trying his best to not be affected. When the child had finally given in and slumped against the wall sobbing, his backside and upper thighs bore red welts on every inch of exposed skin and in some places the welts crossed each other. Navarre was quick to drop the switch and tug the child into his arms as soon as Phillipe had given up his pride and submitted.
“It is over now son…you have paid the penalty for your folly. Now I can take you home…” the captain whispered against the top of Phillipe’s head as he rubbed the boy's back gently and rocked him while he cried out his pain and remorse.
“T…take me home?” Philippe asked in a quivering voice. He didn’t want to be alone and he didn’t want Navarre to see where he had been living either. As he was attempting to think of some way to get the man to allow him to stay in his company for a few more hours and then slip off to where he was sleeping on his own….
“Yes. You will be coming home with me. It has become apparent to me that you need a firm and guiding hand to help you adjust to a life without stealing. So you will be staying with Isabeau and I. This is not open for discussion.” Etienne kept his voice kind but firm and left Phillipe with no uncertainty about the fact that he had no choice in the matter.
Sniffling and pressing closer to the man who was comforting him, Mouse nodded quickly. “Yes sir. I think perhaps you are correct that I need guidance and and…” he swallowed for once at a loss for words. The fact that not only would he not lose his life- but that he would not be alone any longer suddenly overwhelmed him. On the heels of that was the knowledge that Navarre had basically just told him that he was going to take charge of him. Hesitantly he asked, “When you say firm and guiding hand…?”
“I mean that you will learn to behave or you will find it difficult to sit.” Navarre confirmed with a slight smile, amusement creeping into his voice.
“I...I understand.” Phillipe said quietly before surreptitiously looking up at the ceiling again. He and God were going to have a talk about God’s sense of humor. When he’d asked for a way to pay for his sin other than dying, he didn’t mean to be taken in hand like a child- even if the comforting afterward was pleasant and very welcome. He snuggled against Navarre for a second longer before sighing and reluctantly stepping back so he could right his clothing.
“Come boy. It is time to go home,” the captain said softly, taking Gaston by the arm and gently leading him to the door. The older man rapped on the door briskly and within seconds keys could be heard unlocking it. The guard glanced curiously at the boy’s tear-stained face before looking quickly downward and noting the stilted way the boy was walking. At Navarre’s glare the guard quickly looked forward and didn’t stare at the boy again.
Navarre knew the word would get around about the punishment Phillipe had received and it galled him, but then…it might be better if it was known. Nobody could say the child hadn’t paid for his misdeed then and it would be known that Navarre was taking charge of him, which was a good thing. He decided to say nothing to the guard about keeping quiet. If it became a problem, he would deal with it then.
Phillipe glanced up at his new guardian and whispered sadly, “I truly didn’t mean to steal the scarf….”
“I know son.” Navarre responded. “We’ll work on your bad habits together. It will be alright.”
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