Author's Note: This is just a light little Eustace/Jill fic I came up with. Also has Edmund/Jill. Reviews are loved!
They were at a "Friends of Narnia" meeting and Pole was making an idiot of herself. As usual.
At first he hadn't been able to say what was bothering him. They were eating dinner and Jill had been laughing a lot, to be sure, but he had always thought her laugh one of her better features. It was like tinkling bells. But tonight, it grated on his nerves. She was seated down the table from him and he kept getting distracted from a conversation about Narnian geography with Peter and the Professor to Jill and Edmund laughing together.
Jill and Edmund. It hit him then. This wasn't just any old laugh – it was the giggle. The stupid, inane little laugh that Pole reserved for boys that she fancied. Eustace watched closely to see that the other signs of her interest were indeed there. Her head was tilted to the side just as it had been for the boy she had flirted with at the train station yesterday. Her face was flushed. She leaned forward and occasionally clapped her hands whenever Edmund said something particularly interesting. Worst of all, there was her habit of twirling her hair about her little finger – the surest sign.
Eustace narrowed his eyes and looked at Edmund who was grinning affably and talking in that oh-so-witty way that he had. What did Edmund think he was, flirting with Eustace's friend? This needed to end.
Eustace crossed his arms and strained to hear what was being said. They seemed to be talking about chess, of all things. Edmund was telling Jill about the chess club he had been in at his school. And Jill was just smiling and nodding like an idiot at everything he said.
"You hate chess, Pole," Eustace said, loudly, interrupting Edmund mid-sentence.
Jill rolled her eyes. "I don't hate chess, Scrubb. I'm just sick to death of hearing about how you beat Frank Holden for the hundredth time."
Lucy, who was sitting beside Jill smiled when she heard this. "Even I've heard the Frank Holden story, Eustace, and I don't even go to the same school as you," she said.
Eustace ignored them. "If you know so much about chess, then what move does a bishop make?" he asked Jill, obnoxiously.
"Diagonal, of course," Jill answered.
Eustace cursed himself for picking to easy a question. "Well what --"
"You know, Eustace," Jill commented and Eustace noted the use of his first name, "I wasn't expecting to get an examination on chess at dinner this evening."
Edmund and Lucy laughed but Eustace just glared at her. "He always was one for odd topics for dinner conversation," Edmund put in. "Why just a few months ago, I was at his house and he was carrying on the most disgusting conversation about meat packing – well I won't go into all the gruesome details, but even his mother told him to stop. 'Eustace Clarence' she said," Edmund's voice had gone high pitched, presumably imitating Alberta, "'you can talk about that after we've eaten'".
Eustace was fuming. Not only because of the way that Edmund was carrying on with Jill, but because he had developed the annoying habit of mocking Alberta right in front of Eustace. He often imitated Alberta's high-pitched, somewhat nasal voice and by the tone he used when he referred to "Eustace's mother" or (just as often) "that woman", he might as well have said "that shrieking harpy". Eustace knew that Alberta was a bit odd and not really a traditional mother, but she was his mother, for God's sake. You don't talk about someone's mother like that.
Jill, however, had latched onto a completely different part of the conversation.
She turned to Eustace, actually giving him her full attention for the first time since dinner began. "I didn't know you middle name was Clarence," she said.
Eustace crossed his arms over his chest and shot Edmund his very nastiest look. When Jill had visited his house over the holidays, he had given Alberta very specific instructions not to call him Eustace Clarence. Now it had been for nothing.
"Eustace Clarence," she said, and Eustace could tell that she was trying very hard not to smile. "Eustace Clarence Scrubb."
"Well," Eustace could feel his face heating up. "Edmund's middle name is Herman! Edmund Herman isn't much better."
Edmund must have been in a good mood that night, because he refused to be riled. He just made a face and laughed good-naturedly. "Yes Edmund Herman is pretty awful, isn't it?" he said, when Jill turned to him. "Almost as bad as Eustace Clarence, but not quite. My mother isn't quite as cracked as Aunt Alberta."
"Edmund," Lucy said, in warning, for she had now caught a glimpse of Eustace's face.
"Still, Edmund Herman isn't exactly a great name to catch girls with," Edmund went on, looking at Jill. At the mention of "girls", Jill's face flushed and she giggled. And Eustace saw red.
"Well, that's okay, then, because you never had much of an interest in attracting girls, now did you, Pevensie?" Eustace said in a voice that carried across the room, his tone making it fairly clear what he meant.
The room became noticeably quieter. Jill looked from one of them to the other in confusion. Lucy coughed, her drink going down the wrong way. Peter seemed to be studying the tablecloth. The Professor and Miss Plummer talked quietly at the other end of the table, pretending that they hadn't heard, but Eustace knew that they had. But all of it was worth it to see Edmund embarrassed and flustered for a change.
But the embarrassment only lasted for a moment. It was replaced with anger. Lucy soon said something that got the conversation going again, but Edmund just leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms, and glared at Eustace. There was a good deal of glaring going around today. Then, Edmund looked from Eustace to Jill as if thinking.
Eustace gulped. He had been forgetting how vindictive Edmund could be.
--- -- ---
He didn't speak to Edmund until he went up to their room that night and found his cousin sitting on one of the beds, flipping through a book. Eustace decided that he would try to call a truce because he didn't want to fight with Edmund the whole time he was here – and he hadn't particularly liked the looks that Edmund had been giving Jill after Eustace had made his comments.
"Well, that was fun," Eustace said, sarcastically, sitting down beside Edmund.
Edmund looked up at him, quirked an eyebrow and then looked back down at his book. Eustace saw that it was The Odyssey.
Edmund seemed to be giving him the silent treatment. Eustace shifted uncomfortably.
"Listen, I'm sorry that I insulted you, but you weren't exactly saying the nicest things about me, either."
"I was teasing," Edmund said in a very quiet tone, not looking up from his book.
"I just didn't like the way you were going on with Pole. You shouldn't flirt with her. You --" Eustace tried to think of the reason why, exactly, he didn't want Edmund flirting with Jill. "You're too old for her," he said at last.
"Thanks, Mum," Edmund muttered under his breath.
"And – and, she'll get ideas in her head when you don't mean anything by it. And then she'll be upset when you don't take it further." He realized that he was sounding awfully obsessed with Pole's life. "Not that I care what she does, of course," he said, hastily. "I just don't want to be the one listen to her blubbering when you don't take it seriously. She can do whatever she likes, of course, and so can you." He realized that he was blabbing and shut his mouth abruptly.
Edmund gave him a mirthless smile. "I'm glad that you don't really care, despite your little display downstairs. In that case, you won't care that I'm taking her to the cinema tomorrow."
"You're WHAT?" Eustace practically screamed.
"I'm taking her to the cinema tomorrow," Edmund repeated calmly. "Just 'as friends', of course." He smirked as if he didn't really mean this last comment. "I wanted to go to the cinema, but I was having trouble finding someone to go with me. Lucy has some exam that she has to study for and Peter doesn't much care for the cinema. Neither do Aunt Polly or the Professor, of course. So I asked the only one left, Jill."
"Why didn't you ask me?" Eustace asked, darkly.
"Because I'm not speaking to you, Eustace," Edmund said, and turned away.
--- -- ---
The next evening found Eustace pacing the floor in front of the door. They had been gone for five hours. What film lasted five hours? It was dark outside, but other than Professor Kirke muttering that in his day, young men and women didn't stay out until all hours of the night, unsupervised, no one seemed concerned. Eustace was inclined to agree with the Professor, but when he mentioned it to Lucy, she cocked her head to the side and asked him why he cared so much.
When they finally came through the door, they were laughing. Eustace scowled. What did they have to look so happy and flushed about? Edmund took Jill's coat from her in a familiar fashion and hung it on a hook.
"You two are late," Eustace said. Edmund smirked at him and Jill rolled her eyes.
"It's only seven-thirty, Scrubb, honestly," she said.
"Where did you go after the cinema?" Eustace asked, as they both made an effort to ignore him and walk into the parlor.
Jill settled herself on the sofa and Edmund sat down beside her – too close, in Eustace's opinion. "If you must know, we drove out to have a look at the countryside," she said, finally.
Edmund gave him a leering look that Jill couldn't see. "You drove out to have a look at the countryside?" Eustace repeated, still standing. He knew from overhearing others talk that "going out in the country" on a car date was often a code for – well, something else. "It's dark out," he complained.
"Well, it just got dark," Jill said, calmly. That was true, but still.
At that moment, Lucy walked into the parlor. "Edmund, could I speak to you in the kitchen?" she asked.
"In a minute," said Edmund, who had been following Eustace and Jill's back and forth avidly.
"Now, please," she said in a voice that reminded Eustace of his Aunt Helen. Edmund sighed, but he got up and followed Lucy into the kitchen, leaving Eustace and Jill alone.
As soon as they were gone, Jill made an excited little noise in the back of her throat and kicked her feet a bit. She smiled at Eustace. "Do you think Edmund likes me?" she asked.
"What?" Eustace asked.
"Do you think Edmund likes me?" she repeated. "Oh, at dinner last night I thought I was imagining it and that he couldn't really be flirting with me. I mean, he's older than me and so handsome and smart, I thought that he must just see me as a plain little girl. But now, I really think … what do you think, Scrubb?"
"Edmund isn't handsome or smart," was all that Eustace could come up with.
Jill put her hands on her hips. "You told me he was smart yourself, not two days ago," she said.
Eustace sighed. He had said that, hadn't he? "Well, he's acting stupid right now," he muttered.
Jill looked at him for a long moment. "Well, I think that he's both handsome and intelligent and you know what else I think?" Eustace shook his head. "I think he's going to be my sweetheart."
Eustace made a face and clinched his fists. "He doesn't really care anything about you," he said. "He's just leading you on because he knows it upsets me. Because he's a huge ass."
Jill shifted in her chair. "And why would it upset you, exactly?" she asked, in an angry tone of voice. "Why do you insist on chasing away every boy that I might have a chance with, Scrubb?" Eustace would have replied to this, but Jill got up and flounced away, offended.
--- -- ---
When Eustace went to bed that night, he couldn't sleep. He kept staring over at Edmund in the bed next to him with his stupid face that Jill thought was handsome. His stupid nose and his stupid eyelashes and his stupid chin with the pimple on the side. His stupid thick eyebrows and his stupid ears that looked like …
"Lucy thinks that I should apologize to you," Edmund said, abruptly. Eustace started. He had assumed that the other boy was asleep.
"Does she?" Eustace asked in a neutral sort of voice.
Edmund propped himself up on one shoulder and faced Eustace. "Yes. She thinks that you fancy Jill and that is why all this makes you so angry."
"I – what?" Eustace sputtered in disbelief. "No. No. I don't fancy Pole."
Edmund leaned back a bit and folded his hands together, cracking his knuckles. "That's what I told her," he said. "Of course if you were secretly in love with her or something, then I wouldn't try to take her away from you. I wouldn't do that to my little cousin, even if he was being an unbearable prig. But since you aren't …"
Eustace could hear the unspoken question. "No. How could you think--? Of course I don't feel that I way about her. I just don't want you courting her."
Edmund raised his eyebrows. "Why not?"
"I – you --" Eustace seemed to have developed a stuttering problem since Edmund had introduced the idea that he might fancy Jill as more than a friend. "I already told you. You don't really care anything about her --"
Edmund's eyes narrowed. "As if I couldn't really care anything about a girl, is that it? Well, think whatever you want, I've still had four times as many girlfriends as you."
"I didn't mean --" Eustace began, but Edmund kept talking.
"Wait, that isn't true. Four times zero is still zero."
Eustace bit his lower lip and exhaled, deeply. "You're only paying any attention to her at all because you know that it irritates me, Pevensie," he said, his voice calm considering the situation. "But she might actually like you, though I can't think why as you're acting like a complete prig. And it isn't as though she actually knows anything about you. Why, I bet if I told her what you got up to on your first trip to Narnia …"
He stopped because Edmund was now shooting him a deadly look. "Becoming king of a small country, you mean?" he asked, his face turning redder and redder. "But fair is fair, if we are going to bring up all that ugly business, then I think it only fair to tell her what you got up to on your first trip to Narnia."
Eustace rolled his eyes. "I didn't get up to anything, Pevensie. I just acted generally obnoxious. She was pretty obnoxious herself, when she was in Narnia. I think she'll forgive me."
"And you got turned into a dragon," Edmund put in.
"She already knows about that."
This seemed to take the wind out of Edmund's sails. "Oh. Well, I bet she wouldn't want to date someone who vomits every time he boards a moving contraption," he said, lamely.
Eustace crossed his arms. "She already knows about that as well. We are friends, you know. Besides, I doubt she'd want to date someone who wet the bed until he was twelve either."
"I did not wet the bed until I was twelve!" Edmund objected.
"Oh, really. I guess I just imagined that time at my parents' house."
"I was eight and it was only because your mother doesn't keep any blankets on the beds like a mad --"
"Shut up about my mother, Pevensie," Eustace snapped.
"Stop calling me, 'Pevensie', you idiot. I've known you since you were born."
"You stay away from Jill, Pevensie."
"So now you're calling her Jill and me Pevensie? Lovely. Well, at least she calls me Edmund. And from the way she was looking at me tonight, I have no doubt that she'll soon be calling me lots of other nice things. She's very pretty, you know. So petite, like a little fairy. You should have seen how she blushed when I kissed her."
There was a long silence. If Eustace had been a violent sort of person then he would have lunged across the room and shut Edmund's smug mouth then and there. Unfortunately, he was not a violent sort of person. He had never been in a fistfight and, even in Narnia, had never used his sword against a human being. Besides, he had no chance of winning a fight against Edmund.
"You – you kissed her?" he asked, wondering why it made him feel so miserable.
"Yes," Edmund said. "But what do you care? It's not like you're in love with her or anything."
"You kissed --" Eustace started again, but just then a voice interrupted them both.
"Would you two please shut up," Peter said. "I'm trying to get some sleep tonight."
They both became immediately silent. Eustace had completely forgotten that Peter was in the room and from the look on Edmund's face, he guessed that Edmund had forgotten as well. Still, he couldn't let the argument just rest at that. He made a childish face at Edmund and Edmund grimaced back and threw his pillow at him – hard.
Eustace started to throw it back, but thought better of it and stuck it under his feet. Now Edmund had no pillow. He stuck his tongue out at Edmund and settled back to go to sleep. It was only when he was beginning to drift off that he realized that he had been fighting about which one of them Pole would rather date. He sighed.
--- -- ---
When he went downstairs the next morning, he found Edmund and Jill flirting over breakfast. He sat in a chair, far away from the two of them, dejected. He had a headache and just felt generally miserable. He watched the two of them, paying no attention to what they were saying, but watching the way Jill leaned in to listen to everything that Edmund was saying and the way that his had lingered ever so close to her hand.
Lucy came and sat down beside him. "Girls like older boys, don't they?" he asked her without thinking. He bit his lip, angry with himself for sounding so pathetic.
Lucy spared Edmund and Jill a sidelong glance. "Sometimes they do," she said. "But sometimes they like nice boys their own age. "I wouldn't worry about it too much, Eustace. In another day, she'll be going back home and then to that school of yours and she'll forget all about Edmund and he'll forget all about her."
"Until we have another one of these little 'meetings'," Eustace said.
"Oh, cheer up," Lucy said. "For goodness sake, you're so gloomy. Have some of my bacon, it'll make you feel better."
"I'm a vegetarian, remember?" he asked, though he knew she remembered. Lucy was forever trying to get him to eat meat; she seemed to think he was too thin. "Except in Narnia. It's impossible to be a vegetarian there."
"I'll talk to him again," she said, switching the conversation abruptly back to Edmund. "But you don't have anything to worry about. Ed's just doing this out of stubbornness. And I don't think that she really cares much for him either. She's just flattered that he's paying attention to her."
Eustace nibbled on his food, saying nothing.
"Sometimes," Lucy went on, "when boys have known girls for a long time, they can forget to pay attention to them. Forget what is so special about them."
"I don't care about Pole in that way," Eustace said, automatically.
Lucy rolled her eyes. "Of course not, Eustace. You're just like Edmund, you know. It's no wonder you're fighting over the same girl."
"I am not like Edmund," Eustace muttered under his breath and went on eating his breakfast.
Later that day, Peter managed to pull Edmund and Eustace aside, interrupting yet another glaring match.
"Everyone is getting pretty sick of this little argument you two are having," he said, firmly. "And it isn't polite to the older folks. You need to mend it now." Peter could be very bossy, Eustace had learned. Probably the result of being "High King".
"We can't just --" Edmund began.
"I don't want to hear it," Peter said, raising his hand. "It's really quite simple. You," and here he pointed a commanding finger at Eustace, "stop saying nasty things to Edmund. And you," he pointed to Edmund, "stop trying to steal Eustace's sweetheart."
"She's not my sweetheart!" Eustace objected, loudly. Why did everyone seem to think this?
The other two ignored him and Peter went on. "Now if I hear anything more about this, then I will be very displeased. Understand?" He looked at Eustace as if he expected an answer.
"I suppose?" Eustace tried.
He turned to Edmund. "Understand?"
"Oh, yes, Your Majesty," Edmund said, affecting a fake bow.
Peter ignored the sarcasm. "Good. I'll leave you two to work it out." And he left the small room, closing the door with a firm click.
Edmund leaned against an end table, looking at Eustace uncomfortably. "Peter's an ass," he said, finally.
"Yes," Eustace agreed.
Edmund sighed and looked away. "I don't want to fight with you anymore," he admitted. "It's just – you can be so difficult to get along with sometimes, Eustace."
"I know," Eustace said in a small voice.
Edmund looked at him, seemingly irritated. "Stop that," he snapped. "It was all well and good when you were acting like a prig, but now you keep looking at me like a kicked puppy or something and it's really starting to fray my nerves."
Eustace shrugged. "Sorry."
Edmund crossed his arms, irritably, and looked away again.
Eustace spoke. "You know what you said earlier – that if I really liked her as more than a friend, you'd back off?"
"Yes," Edmund said, tilting his head to the side. "Do you like her as more than a friend?"
"I don't know," Eustace admitted. "It's just – every time I see her with you, I get jealous. Every time I see her with any other boy, I get jealous. I'm usually not like this. But it's not like I'm in love with her or anything – it's just – I need some time to think about it, okay?"
Edmund looked at him and slowly nodded. "I understand. You were right earlier, you know. I guess – I guess I was just going with her to make you angry. Not very fair to her, huh?"
"No," Eustace said.
Edmund shifted, uncomfortably. "I guess I can let her know not to expect anything, you know? I just – oh bother! I wish that I had never got myself into this mess."
Eustace smiled at him wryly. "I wish you hadn't either."
Edmund gave a small laugh. "Lucy thinks you're adorable, you know. Your first time liking a girl and all."
Eustace could feel heat rise to his face. "It isn't my first time liking a girl!" he said.
"Film starlets don't count," Edmund laughed and then grew a bit more serious. "Oh, and Eustace?" he said, scratching the back of his head.
"I didn't really kiss her," he admitted.
Eustace blinked. "You didn't?" he asked, getting angry for the first time all day. He had agonized over that kiss.
"Well, just on the hand," Edmund said. "She thought it was gallant. You might want to try something like that. Girls like that sort of thing – opening doors for them, pulling out chairs. Personally, I think it's all a load of nonsense, but I learned it from watching Peter with girls. It always worked well for him."
"Right," Eustace said, feeling embarrassed.
--- -- ---
So, in the end, they all left on good terms. For the most part. For the next day, Eustace noticed a distinct coldness between Edmund and Jill that he wasn't all that sorry for, but when it was time to leave, they said goodbye to one another politely enough. Eustace and Jill were the same as always and they talked of school most of the way to the small train station.
Eustace was glad to be comfortable around her again.
When they arrived at the train station, Eustace noticed that Jill had luggage in both her hands.
"Um, here, let me get that for you," he said when she approached a door. He dropped his own bags and held the door open for her.
"Why, thank you, Scrubb," she said, blushing as he followed her inside. Then she tilted her head to the side and giggled though there was nothing funny. Then she – yes – she twirled her hair around her finger – just a bit.
"It was no problem," Eustace said, grinning.