A/N: Huge thanks to Ill Ame and Metonomia for betaing! Mistakes are mine and not theirs. As usual, Narnia doesn't belong to me.
This fic came out of discussion about Lucy on the NFFR boards; when I heard people talking about how she tended to be written as perpetually childlike due to her connection to Aslan, this came out. Criticism always welcome—hopefully the formatting works on the second try!
1. the bays of terebinthia
She was three months shy of fourteen the first time she went to sea by herself, on a ship captained by a Terebinthian expatriate and flying the green-gold flag of Terebinthia under the Narnian lion. She hired half her crew from Narnia and half from Terebinthia, and Lucy quickly became a familiar sight along deck, trailed by the two massive panthers she took as guards. She asked questions and got in everyone's way, and sometimes the sailors forgot themselves and began to curse in front of her. "Begging your pardon, Your Majesty," they always said as soon as they realized, and Lucy only said, "It's all right," and "What is this rope for?" or "How are you navigating?"
She took immediately to sleeping on deck with only her cloak for warmth; it was nearly high summer, and the nights were hot, even at sea. On the third night she woke to Blackthorn making a low hissing noise. "What is it?" she murmured.
"Someone's here, Your Majesty," Whitehallow answered.
"It's a ship," Lucy said. "Someone is always here."
"Not usually so close," Blackthorn replied.
But Lucy was not afraid, so she sat up and drew her cloak around her. "Who's there?" she called out.
"It's only me," a boy answered. "Sorry, Your Majesty. It was so hot below deck that I came up for some air. I didn't realize you were here."
"It's Simon, isn't it?" she asked, recognizing him in the dim light of the full moon. "You're the cabin boy."
"Yes, Your Majesty," he said, creeping closer.
"Peace," she said to Blackthorn and Whitehallow, and, "Come sit," to Simon. "What do you do, as a cabin boy?"
"Mostly what I'm told," he answered, sitting down gingerly next to her. "I fetch things and take my turn on the watch, and I serve the captain's meals and run errands for Cook and try to learn as much as I can."
"That's what I'm doing," Lucy said. "Trying to learn as much as I can."
"You're a funny sort of queen," he said, and then fell quiet as if he were embarrassed.
"Yes, I suppose I am," Lucy agreed after a moment. "I wasn't born to it, you know, it just sort of happened. Mostly I make it up as I go, and ignore protocol. It makes Blackthorn quite frustrated."
Blackthorn made a small sound of protest, although Lucy knew she'd fought Peter tooth and claw over only sending two guards on the voyage. "Is that why you're here then?" Simon asked. "To learn to sail a ship?"
"As much as I can," Lucy said. "Narnia hasn't had ships for a hundred years; all our information is quite out of date. But I'm going to make us a navy."
"To fight with?"
"If we have to. But for trade, mostly, and exploration. Do you know no one's ever gone more than a week past the Lone Islands?"
"There are sea monsters there," Simon explained. "And a whirlpool that sucks you down to the ocean floor."
"But how do you know?" Lucy asked.
"That's what everyone says."
"Well, you must tell me, then. Tell me everything you've heard about the Eastern Ocean."
"At the end of it is a great wall of water…" Simon's voice—though not quite as low as Edmund's— no longer had the little-boy sound of a child's, and it had a slight accent that Lucy couldn't place (she found out later that it was Terebinthian, from the rural south), He told her stories until the last of the stars came out and they were both yawning.
The next night he found her sitting far at the bow, her hair blowing behind her. "I've remembered another story, Your Majesty," he started, and she turned with a smile.
"Come on, then," she said. "Tell me," and he clambered up next to her with the easy grace of someone who had been at sea all his life.
"The sun lives at the very edge of the sea," he said, "and in the mornings it rises and bathes in the water, and the waves boil and turn gold and red and orange. And so in the very early morning, in the farthest east, it rains as the sun dries off; the rain comes directly from the sun, they've never even seen clouds there…"
His hair curled around his face, bleached from the sun, tousled and knotted with salt. Lucy resisted the urge to stroke it; Simon was everything that her counselors had warned her about— foreign, poor, common as dirt. But he was also honest and unassuming, and she half suspected him of drawing his stories out like Scheherazade, hoping they would last another night. It was more than any prince had done for her.
"Tell me about the stars," she said when he ran out of stories about the east. "Tell me their names." It was a task that would take him the rest of the voyage and perhaps beyond; Lucy pretended not to realize when their nightly meetings turned first into a pattern and then into a habit, and she began to look for him after the ship went to bed.
"That's the ram," he said one night. "You can't quite see it because the moon's so bright, but the ram—the ram—" he swallowed, and she could see him silhouetted in the dark. "The ram," he tried again.
The only sounds were the thumping of her heart and the swishing of Blackthorn's tail when she leaned in to kiss him. Lucy had never kissed anyone before, although she'd danced with Bacchus's girls and knew how it was done. But nothing had told her it would be so salty, that his hands would feel this rough when they cradled her head and stroked her cheek. She wound her fingers into his hair as the ship pitched gently back and forth, and she opened her mouth when his tongue ran along her bottom lip.
"Come to Narnia," she whispered when they broke apart. "Sail for Narnia. Sail for me."
She fell asleep in her cabin with the taste of him still on her lips, and when she dreamed Simon was beside her. He stood at the prow of a new ship, an enormous ship, a ship with a lion for a figurehead. "I think there's someone who wants to speak to you," Simon whispered, and melted away.
"Who's there?" Lucy asked, and the figurehead stretched into life and turned to look at her with familiar eyes. "Oh, Aslan!" she cried. "I have missed you!"
"Lucy," Aslan said. His voice sent shivers down her spine. "Lucy, child, what are you doing?"
"I'm learning to sail, Aslan," she said. "I want Narnia to have a navy."
"Child," Aslan said, "you are lingering. This ship has taught you all the secrets it holds."
"But Aslan—" Lucy started. In her peripheral vision, Simon flittered along the deck, scrubbing at the rails.
"Lucy," he said. "Lucy, you are too young for this."
"Yes, Aslan," she whispered.
The next morning, Simon caught her in the middle of the afternoon and stammered an apology, explaining that he missed Terebinthia too much to stay at sea. Lucy was disappointed but not particularly surprised, and she signaled to Blackthorn and Whitehallow. "Be ready at the next port," she told them, and went to clear out her cabin.
2. the seas of galma
Prince Alvar of Galma was shorter than Corin and danced clumsily at the balls in Cair Paravel, but the treaty with Galma was more important than ever, so Lucy swallowed her misgivings and flirted with all her might.
"I know I'm not much good at this," he said awkwardly one night as they stood in the garden. "Father would have sent Arian instead, but I'm the elder, and—well, I asked to be sent."
"Why is that?" Lucy asked absently, bending down to pluck a weed from the rose bed.
"I came for you," he said, hesitantly. "I know I haven't been very interesting. I'm no good at parties and small talk and I can't keep my balance on land. But I heard you loved the sea."
And Lucy said, "Oh?" with a smile in her voice.
He brought the Fairest Hope from Galma the next week. The treaty was still Peter's biggest priority—they needed protection from the Galman privateers or they wouldn't be able to keep up the trade routes—so it was easy to convince him to let them sail off together. "Just get him to sign," Peter pleaded. "Do whatever it takes."
Alvar had the ship fitted out and showed Lucy the whole thing, from below decks to the crow's nest, and they set sail on her birthday. "This is a beautiful ship," Lucy said dreamily as Cair Paravel faded into the distance.
"I designed her myself," Alvar said. "If you ever wanted…" He trailed off and stared into the distance, but Lucy thought she knew what he meant.
There was dancing in the evenings, and the whole ship joined in, from the musicians swaying in the crow's nest to the sailors in the rigging and on deck. The scattered lords and ladies paired up and stumbled as they tried to gain their sea legs, and Alvar took Lucy in his arms. For someone who was so clumsy on land, he danced aboard ship as if he were born to it, and Lucy found herself dancing as gracefully as Susan. They danced until the rest of the court fell back to their cabins and the musicians dropped off one by one, until their only music was a lone flute washing down over them to the rhythm of the sea. Then they talked as the stars rose, and sometimes as they set as well.
At first she made sure to discuss the treaty every night after dinner, but then Alvar said, "Let's not kid ourselves; I'll sign anything you put in front of me. So let's enjoy the time we have," and then they started talking about other things entirely. "Where do you come from?" he asked one night, and, "If you could have anything you wanted," and, "Do you love me?"
"I don't know," Lucy answered, and, "I have everything I have ever wanted," and, "Yes, I think so," and the islands faded into the distance and the sun rose larger and larger as they pushed further east.
"If I were married," he said one night, "and my wife wanted to, I would go east with her, where there are islands that have never been inhabited, and we would establish a colony there, of Galma and N—and my wife's people. And maybe when we had had children and our sons were grown, we would leave the throne to them and take a ship of the bravest souls in our colony, and we would sail even farther, until we found the end of the world or Aslan's country, or until our ship fell apart in the waves."
"It would be a good death," she said softly. She did not answer the question he had not asked, but she knew what her answer would be.
"Lucy," Aslan's voice whispered that night from the picture over her bed, "Lucy, what are you doing?"
"Adventuring, Aslan," she answered.
"Would you leave Narnia, then?" he asked. "Would you leave Cair Paravel behind? You have what you came for, dear heart. Go home. The leaves will start to change soon, and Autumn will be missing you."
And Lucy did what she must.
3. the unknown eastern ocean
Caspian was older than she remembered, but younger than she felt: Lucy felt old, like this was the third or fourth time she had grown up instead of the second. "Come along, Your Majesty," Drinian said gruffly. "There'll be time enough for staring into the sun after you've dried off."
The sailors treated her like a queen, and Reep treated her like his lady, and Caspian treated her like a friend, and all this was very refreshing to a girl whose siblings sometimes forgot she was once grown-up, whose friends had never known her to be anything other than a proper schoolgirl. "Tell us what's happening in Narnia," Ed instructed. "What have you done about the roads?"
Lucy listened and offered suggestions when Caspian asked, but she asked few questions of her own. It was Caspian's turn, now; she didn't kid herself that she would be going back. Caspian told her about the new palace—"I tried to get it as close to yours as I could," he said—and she let him remind her about the gulls that surrounded Cair Paravel, the sea people who still splashed in the waters.
There was no dancing on this voyage, because there were no musicians and only one woman, but Lucy didn't let on that she missed it. She and Edmund were careful not to suggest to Caspian that they had seen bigger ships, or better ones, because Caspian was so childishly proud of his first Narnian ship. And Lucy remembered, too, how difficult it had been to form a navy, and that she had never sailed this far, before.
She played chess with Reep, instead of dancing, and walked the decks with Rhince, and talked to Ed and Caspian. "Tell me about this round world of yours," he said one night. "What's it like?"
"Much the same as this one," she said, but he looked so disappointed that she tried again. "The seasons are caused by the sun," she added. "Spring doesn't walk across the land as flowers sprout up underfoot, like she does here. And the Earth goes around the sun, not the other way around…."
When she exhausted her scientific knowledge they turned to stories; it was all the same to Caspian. She told him fairy tales, and he reminded her of the names of the stars and the stories attached to them: "That's the ram," he told her one night. "Apheria the ram. When a queen fell asleep for a thousand years he blew on her face to wake her up."
"In my world," Lucy answered, "there was once a princess who pricked her finger and slept for a hundred years…"
She had told him about Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White when he said, "Why would you have come back, do you think, if Aslan didn't intend you to sail home with me? I—I admit there have been moments, this voyage, where I had wondered if perhaps we would just pour over the side of the world's end, but then…"
"I have given up trying to determine what Aslan intends," Lucy told him, but hope rose inside her, and when Caspian put his hand over hers on the railing she leaned into his shoulder and sighed.
"Careful," she heard Ed say to Caspian before she went to bed. "We never stay."
"Soon," Aslan's voice whispered to her that night from the porthole. "Soon, Daughter of Eve."
But, Aslan, she thought, Aslan, Narnia is my home.
"And some day," he promised, "you will leave it for mine." The sheets smelled like Caspian when she turned away from the porthole, and Lucy swallowed the lump in her throat.
She made her excuses to Caspian the next morning, as the sun rose large the way she remembered it, and then it grew larger still, and the ship picked up speed and headed into the unknown.
4. where the waves grow sweet
Lucy was the only one who saw the Sea Girl, because everyone else was drinking the sweetest water they had ever tasted. She was the only one looking into the waves, the memory of Aslan's words still fresh in her mind, when the Sea Girl looked up, confused by the giant shadow streaming along the ocean floor (In the farthest east, Lucy remembered, they've never seen a cloud…), and they locked eyes.
The Sea Girl was not wearing any clothing—why would she, Lucy asked herself, the mermaids never did—and the sight of her body did strange things to Lucy's stomach. Maybe the sight of Lucy did strange things to the Sea Girl's stomach, too, because she stared with wide eyes and came closer. It made Lucy smile, and the Sea Girl smiled back, and waved a little bit. Lucy wanted to call out a greeting, but she didn't think that the sound would carry that far. She settled for blowing a kiss as the girl fell out of sight.
She might have been imagining things, but she thought she saw a school of fish dart to the surface and jump briefly out of the water in a flash of silver, as if they were coming toward her and saying hello.
She closed her eyes as the ship sailed away.
Aslan didn't say anything that night, but the sounds of his breathing filled the cabin as Lucy tossed and turned.
5. the end of the world
The second summer Lucy is seventeen, Father is invited back to America for a second lecture tour, and he and Mother take both girls on holiday. Lucy and Susan get a cabin to themselves, and because Susan refrains from saying, "Isn't it exciting, your first time on a ship!" Lucy doesn't start sentences with, "Once, in Narnia…"
They get along better than they have in months. As usual there is a flock of boys around Susan, but Lucy finds to her surprise that there is a bit of a flock around her, too. She laughs with them and flirts a little bit, and if there is dancing she never sits out, but none of them interest her much. "Why not, Lu?" Susan asks.
"I don't know," Lucy says. "They just seem so silly."
"Even that dark-looking one who was staring at you through dinner? He seemed quite serious."
"He's gone on deck now," Susan says. "He seemed quite put out that you weren't paying him any attention."
"Hm," Lucy says, but she does wind her way through the corridors and staircases to the upper deck, and when she sees a man with dark, curly hair standing by the railing she joins him. "Hullo," she says. She has never seen him before, but he smells familiar, like spring fields and sudden rainstorms.
"Hello, Lucy," he says. His voice is a tenor, not the deep rumble of a Lion, but when Lucy looks into his eyes they are the same dark velvet.
"Aslan," she replies.
"I have another name here," he tells her.
"No," she says. "You have only ever answered to this one."
"I have been with you all the time," he says, and his voice is sorrowful.
"Not in the way you once were," she says, looking out at the stars: they're smaller than the Narnian stars, and she can't remember all the names. He doesn't reply, neither to scold her nor to forgive her, and after a moment she gathers her courage and leans into his shoulder. "There's Ursa Minor," she says, "and that is Ursa Major, and there"—she points—"is Polaris, the North Star."
"Child," Aslan whispers, "what are you doing?"
"I'm not a child anymore, Aslan," she says, and it is half a sob. "Don't you know you've spoiled me for anyone else?"
"Lucy," he begins, but she overrides him: "And the worst of it all is, when you've met someone on a ship, you have to dock eventually, no matter—no matter how much you might want to stay."
"With me, there are no docks," he says, and the words send shivers down her spine.
"Do you mean it?" she asks. "Because I couldn't bear it if—if you left again, and it was just—prayers and hymns and empty churches." She is crying in earnest now, and he gathers her up in hands that feel nothing like paws.
"Dear heart," he says, "this world is not like that world. For you to come with me, you would have to give it up entirely."
"I don't care," Lucy sobs. "I would give up anything. I gave up Narnia for you. I can give up England."
"Then soon," he says. "I will come for you soon."
"On another ship?"
"No," he promises. "Look for me on a train." He leans down to kiss her, and Lucy tilts her face at the last second, so that his lips touch hers. For a moment he seems almost startled, and then they melt into each other, and he holds her against the railing and kisses her again as she sobs in relief.
"Lu?" Susan asks from the stairwell as Lucy rearranges her blouse and hopes that her tears look enough like sea spray in the dark. "Are you coming to bed?"
"Yes, of course," Lucy answers. She expects Susan to go on without her, but instead Su comes to stand next to her, looking out over the water.
"I always expect to be going much slower," Susan remarks. "And the noise of the engines always surprises me."
"It's the stars that do it for me," Lucy says. "They're so far away."
"I know," Susan says. "They look so cold."
They're silent for a while, and then Lucy says, "Susan? If—if God came to you right now and asked you to leave and go with him, would you go?"
"Do you mean, leave like the disciples?" Susan asks with a frown. "Or leave like dying? Because we're both much too young for that, I think."
Lucy isn't sure which she meant, but it doesn't matter; she wasn't lying when she said that she was spoiled for anything else.
"Why?" Susan asks.
"Oh, no reason," Lucy says. "I was just thinking."
Aslan is absent from her dreams that night, but she can feel the ship moving toward a familiar harbor.