AN: This is something of an AU/ARish take on the railway accident in the last battle. Sad, death, 'last words' kinda theme...I guess.
As the train pulled into the station with a loud screech, seventeen-year-old Lucy Pevensie yawned widely, not even attempting to choke it back. Usually the sound of a train pulling in ran right up her spine like nails on a chalk-board, but today she was so tired that it barely fazed her.
"Come on, Lu, our train is here." said her twenty-two year old brother, Peter, picking up their bags (of which there weren't many, only about three small ones between the two of them), and handing the conductor their tickets.
Lucy nodded and followed obediently, feeling more or less like she was sleep-walking, being so drowsy. It really was one of those days, after all, where the sky is gray and over-cast, and occasional bursts of rain splatters mindlessly at everything, dripping on the foggy windows of cars and public transportation. She hadn't slept so well the night before, staring up at the ceiling, thinking of what today would bring, wondering what was wrong with Narnia and whether or not they would be able to help. Now that the much longed for tomorrow was today, she was too tired to even acknowledge it.
At least she didn't have to do too much. It was Eustace and Edmund who were going to go dig up the professor's magic rings disguised as workmen. She wondered how they would like that; being out in the drizzle and chill-air all morning. Well, anything for Narnia-if it had come to that, she would have done the same thing, even fighting through her exhaustion. Once a queen of Narnia, always a queen of Narnia.
She was going with Peter to meet with them, and Jill, Aunt Polly, and Digory were bound to be going by the same train, whether or not she actually saw them on there. Edmund had said it was likely when he'd called last evening, and he was the one in their family who knew about railways. Besides, it was a very large train. Their own parents could be on it and have skipped their notice.
Once they'd found their seats and Peter had put the three bags in the over-head compartment, they settled in and waited.
Out of habit, Peter had given Lucy the window seat, something she usually enjoyed, but on that day she merely yawned again and rested her head against the pane. It was probably just as well, seeing as it was so gray and rainy that the view would not have been at all nice to look at. Perhaps, however, if she had known it would be her last ever glance out of a railway car, she would have taken more of an interest all the same.
Peter opened a notebook and started to work on some school-work that was due at his university on the following week; he couldn't concentrate, so he closed the pad and pushed the pencil down the binding. Instead of working, he glanced wordlessly over at little Lucy. She always would be 'little Lucy' to him even if she was hardly 'little' any more.
At seventeen she was as small and petite as ever, a good deal taller and more like the queen he remembered from their years ruling in Narnia than the little girl he'd diligently helped his mum and dad look after, barely letting the child out of his sight from the moment of her birth. She was, after all, his favourite sister, and he loved her dearly.
It wasn't that he didn't love his other sister, Susan, but it wasn't quite the same. Susan had been closer to his own age, and very, very independent. Sometimes, for caring people like Peter Pevensie was, it is simply hard to understand and form an attachment to a person who simply doesn't need them. Worse, she had all but abandoned Narnia and would talk of nothing but parties and scandals and gossip; being with her for five minutes in those days sort of made his head hurt. Just thinking about his sister's incessant prattle of lipsticks and nylons and invitations made him cross and irritable.
He pouted, glanced back at his closed notebook uncomprehendingly, then turned his attention to Lucy once more.
She had completely fallen asleep now; her waist length reddish-gold hair pulled into two side-braids draped over her shoulders haphazardly. She didn't snore; Lucy never snored; but she did breathe rather heavily. When she was younger, that used to make him sort of nervous, wondering if that was quite normal for a sleeper to breathe that hard. Thankfully, his parents had assured him it was all right and not to worry, that his father and Edmund breathed the same way when they were in deep slumber-it was more of a sign of family traits than a disorder of any kind.
Now his thoughts drifted to Eustace and Edmund and Professor Kirke's magic rings. He could picture Eustace concealing the shinny little objects in his leather glove while Edmund checked his pocket-watch between breaks in the rain to see if the train was almost due. He would know it wasn't, he would just be over-anxious and unable to help himself. Good old Ed, Peter thought with a smile. He knew he could count on his brother.
Something didn't feel right all of a sudden and Peter thought he might be unwell, or else that the train-which had finally started moving twenty minutes or so ago-was now going a bit faster than it ought to.
He stepped out into the passageway and looked around for the conductor. Surely the conductor would know if anything was wrong, and even if everything was fine, at least Peter would be able to stretch his legs-he was feeling strangely unsettled, though he didn't know why.
The conductor, an elderly man with hair and a small beard as white as fleece and gentle grandfatherly creases around his mouth, noticed the tall, university-aged, blonde man approach him. The lad bore himself discreetly, even kingly, and asked in a polite voice if something was amiss with the rail and whether they ought to expect some sort of bump or delay.
This boy was not the first to ask him, but he was the first one he wanted to tell the truth to. He'd told the truth to one woman already, a sweet-looking lady with a curved mouth and pretty curls, and she'd burst out sobbing. This man looked better-able to handle himself.
"Boy," he said in a low-tone, looking both ways, "this train is not going to make it into the station in one piece-or if it does, it will fall apart when it gets there."
The train felt faster still under his feet. "We're going to crash, aren't we?"
The old man reached up and adjusted his hat, swallowing hard. "Yes, I'm sorry."
"Everybody on this train is going to..."
He nodded. "I'm sorry,"
"There was a delay and they tried to speed up the train to make up for it but the breaks have gone out and they can't slow down...if-no, when-we hit the bend..."
"Is there anyone on here that has a better chance of survival?" Peter asked, wondering only, not for his own safety, but if he might somehow save Lucy.
"Don't spread this around, I don't want a fuss to be started, but my guess is that anyone not directly next a window has a better chance...though if the rescue workers don't come in time it'll be worse for them because their deaths might not be as instant...but yes, I'd suppose..."
"Thank you, sir." said Peter graciously, turning to leave.
What a nice young man, thought the conductor with tears in his aged eyes, he didn't deserve an end like the one he was about to get, he was so young, he'd barely lived.
Of course, that wasn't exactly true, seeing as-in Narnia-Peter had lived far more than most men live in five lifetimes. He had seen battles, famines, feasts, funerals, dancing, singing, sadness, and happiness. He had learned of all sorts of persons, and with his brother's help had governed them wisely as the high king. The important thing wasn't that wasn't that he was going to die, it was that he knew-without too many regrets-that he had indeed lived. Lucy, too. He'd do anything to save her. If it would have helped in any way, Peter would have dropped dead right there for her sake, but knowing there was only so much he could do, he comforted himself with the thought that his sister had-in Narnia, if not yet in England-truly lived as well.
The train's pace picked up and he almost fell, catching his balance just in time. Another man about a year or so older than he was, noticed him, and, knowing just as he did that they were going to die, he asked him if he was scared.
"I don't know..." said Peter, closing his eyes and moving a few steps forward before he opened them again. "...if death was all we thought about, we might all be pretty distraught and mad, but it could help us, too, knowing, I think."
"How?" the man asked curiously, surprised at Peter's apparent wisdom.
"Because everything else, you knew you had lived through, that nothing else was able to get at you." He was thinking, of course, of the battles back in Narnia-of Miraz and the White Witch, of himself bruised and battered in a cot at Cair Paravel due to an occasional mishap during their golden age. All that he had endured.
"What do you think death is?"
Peter remembered that whenever he'd come close to it, it had just felt like heavy eyelids and weary limbs, nothing bright and spectacular, but nothing horrifying and fear-worthy, either. Just like a tired person about to fall asleep. That's all death was really, just sleep. Just a deep, deep slumber. It was scary only because it was so permanent; it was scary only just before it happened, when you thought about what you would miss.
"Just sleep, that's all."
"I could sleep," the man said softly, trying to comfort himself, walking away; "I always did want more time to doze between classes."
When he reached his seat again, he looked down at Lucy as she opened her eyes, feeling the speed of the train for herself now.
"Peter?" she asked nervously, sitting up and grabbing onto his arm. "Why is the train going so fast?"
She looked so young and timid and sounded so small when she said that, that he nearly forgot she was seventeen and not seven. "It's only making up for lost time," he said, not exactly lying, if not sharing the full-truth with her.
"Oh?" she seemed confused.
Remembering what the conductor had told him, Peter stood up and said, in a very 'king's orders' voice, "Switch seats with me."
"Why?" Lucy yawned, still sleepy.
"Just do it," he said not unkindly, trying very hard not to be stern as these might be their last moments together.
Taking her new seat, she saw Peter moving their bags to the other side of the upper compartments (he was doing this so that if any of them fell during the crash, they would hit him and not his sister) before he sat down.
"Peter, what's wrong?" she knew something had to be.
"Nothing," said Peter.
"Something is wrong," Lucy insisted, holding back a yawn until her eyes watered. "Tell me what the matter is."
"We're both tired, Lu, we're just going to go to sleep for a little while, okay?" was all Peter would say on the matter.
"Are you sure trains are allowed to go this fast?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "It's fine, Lu, just close your eyes and go back to sleep."
Tears pricked his eyes in spite of his best efforts. "For me, Lucy? Please? Just rest."
Sensing his distress, though she couldn't fully understand it, Lucy nodded and leaned her head on his shoulder. Peter kissed the top of her golden head lightly and tried not to cry. "I love you, Lu."
She held onto one of his hands and squeezed tightly. "I love you, too, Peter."
"Just sleep," he told her once more, holding onto her hand as firmly as if it were his life-line.
After a while she fell asleep again, but when she started to wake up, just before her own end came, just before the permanent sleep got her because the rescue workers hadn't found her under the ash and rubble in time, she noticed something that frightened her more than heavy eyelids and final sleeps-Peter's grip on her hand was gone. It was his final gift to her; for the first time in his life, once he was sure she knew he loved her and would always protect her, once he heard her heavy breathing and knew it was time, he'd let go.
AN: Please review.