SINK OR SWIM
Ah, Tumnus and Lucy love lit, how I have missed thee. It feels terrific to write about my favorite couple once more, and it feels especially good to write an underwater piece that doesn't have to do with Terence or Rhiella.
As you know, this is for the contest by the Narnian Phantom Stallion. (That's her username here.) If any of you are interested, the contest is yet open. Just ask her, and she'll tell you the details.
Characters © C.S. Lewis and Disney/Walden Media
Story © unicorn-skydancer08
All rights reserved.
If there was one thing in the world Tumnus absolutely could not stand, it was water. Oh, he liked water itself well enough; he made sure to bathe on a regular basis, and he had no problem with having his face in water. And he loved to sit on the beach outside Castle Cair Paravel and watch the Eastern Ocean as it rolled forth in timeless swirls. The problem was that the faun did not care to be in very deep water, where his hooves could not touch the bottom and there was nothing to uphold him. Tumnus was scared to death of drowning, of having no one to save him. He liked the ocean; he liked to be in it—but not under it.
Queen Lucy, on the contrary, who was Tumnus's best friend and (just recently) love interest, was in love with deep water; in her opinion, the deeper, the better. She often spent many hours swimming in the ocean while Tumnus preferred to keep his hooves on the nice dry sand. The girl loved to swim and dive; she took to the water like a fish. It wouldn't have surprised Tumnus or anyone else, at least too much, if she'd suddenly grown gills and a tail.
One morning, the young queen was out for her usual swim in the sea. She wore nothing save a long, sleeveless white dress, and her long red-gold hair was pulled back and plaited into a single, thick braid. Tumnus, as always, stood on the shoreline and watched.
He had to admire Lucy's nerve as he watched her rise and fall with the waves. Lucy dove all the way under, and stayed under for quite some time before coming up just long enough for a breath of fresh air. She dropped back down, and the routine started all over again.
The girl practiced all sorts of strokes, from the backstroke to the front crawl, and once she curled herself into a ball and allowed herself to bob like a cork on the surface.
Tumnus wished he were that brave around water. If it wasn't for his paranoia, he would have gladly joined in.
For a time, all was well.
Then, quite suddenly, Lucy disappeared. Tumnus waited for her to resurface. Yet to his great surprise, she didn't show up.
One minute passed, then a minute and a half. A knot of uneasiness twisted in Tumnus's gut. He knew Lucy could hold her breath for a long time, but he'd never known she could hold it this long. When nearly two minutes had passed, the faun began to fear that something was wrong—terribly wrong.
"Lucy!" he called frantically, knowing full well she couldn't hear him from this spot.
Nothing happened. Lucy still did not appear.
There was no one else around. Tumnus considered rushing back to the castle for help, but he knew he didn't have time for that.
The only thing to do was for him to rescue Lucy himself. Even though a part of Tumnus insisted this was stupid, downright suicidal, the faun rushed out into the water anyway. It wasn't long at all before he made it well past the shallows and he was compelled to swim.
He was nowhere half as good a swimmer as Lucy was, but he learned to kick with his hooves and propel his arms a certain way.
Taking a deep breath, Tumnus ducked under the water. He opened his eyes, but saw nothing aside from a vast swirl of green and blue. He swam underwater for as long as he could, until his lungs screamed for new air. He broke the surface with a noisy exhalation, then sucked in another lungful and plunged down a second time.
Again, the faun searched vainly through the green-blue world for some sign, any sign at all of his poor Lucy, until he couldn't hold his breath any longer. When he dove down the third time, however, he caught a glimpse of something a short distance ahead.
It looked like a lifeless body, sinking slowly into the depths of the sea.
Lucy! Tumnus screamed inwardly, accidentally opening his mouth and giving release to a spume of bubbles.
He would have swum down to her there and then, yet he was compelled to go up once more. This time, he took the longest, deepest breath he had ever taken in his whole life, and he dove like a dolphin. He exerted every ounce of strength in his body, and caught up with Lucy in a minute. Lucy's eyes were closed, and her whole body had gone totally slack. The only sign of life in her was a fine trail of bubbles that issued from her slightly parted lips.
With no time to lose, Tumnus seized the girl round the middle. He kept one arm tightly around Lucy and used his other arm and both legs to drive the two of them upward. Lucy floated up easily, as if she weighed little more than a feather.
The surface seemed so far away; to make matters worse, Tumnus could feel his strength failing him. It took everything he had to keep swimming. Involuntarily, his own breath began to escape him in alternating spurts of bubbles. Tumnus felt his heart throb in his ears, while stark terror threatened to choke him. What if this ocean served as a watery grave for the two of them? Don't give up, became the faun's inner mantra. Don't give up…don't…give…up!
Finally, just when it all seemed hopeless, Tumnus felt that wonderful, glorious blast of open air. He gave a desperate gasp, then started coughing like mad. He gagged and spluttered, feeling like he would never breathe properly again.
Even after Lucy's face was lifted out of the water, she didn't appear to be breathing anymore. Tumnus made sure to maintain a very tight hold on her as he hauled her toward shore.
It was no simple task, and it took forever. But ultimately, they reached a spot where it was shallow enough to stand. Exhausted, drenched to the bone and shivering from both cold and fear, Tumnus staggered onto the blessedly dry land, taking Lucy with him. No sooner were his hooves on solid ground than his knees buckled and he fell onto them, yet he took especial care when he laid Lucy down on the soft sand in front of him.
"Lucy," he whispered as he bent low over her. "Lucy—speak to me! Wake up! Please wake up!"
Lucy did not stir. Tumnus shook her gently, then harder. Nothing happened. Her head tilted at a strange angle, and her face was an alarming shade of blue.
Tears welled in Tumnus's eyes. "Oh, Lucy," he groaned. "Don't die on me now. Please, don't die! You mustn't die!"
There was no answer. When Tumnus touched the side of her neck, he could still feel a pulse, which was a hopeful sign. Praying fervently that this was the right thing to do, he positioned his hands on the unmoving girl's front, just below her ribcage, and pressed down gently yet firmly. Water dribbled from Lucy's mouth, down her chin. Encouraged, Tumnus pressed again, and even more water came out. When he pressed the third time, Lucy made an odd sort of gurgle.
Her chest gave a violent heave, and she coughed out the rest of the water herself. Tumnus helped her to a sitting position and patted her on the back to ease the coughing. When Lucy settled down and was breathing on her own again, she looked at Tumnus as if in a stupor. Without a word, Tumnus pulled her to his chest, ignoring the fact that they were both sopping wet, and hugged her as if he would never let her go. His tears mingled with the seawater that was already running steadily down his face. In a minute, Lucy's arms slid around him and clung to him also.
They stayed that way for a long time, Tumnus rocking Lucy idly back and forth and stroking her wet hair. When they finally loosened their grip on each other and were looking each other properly in the face, Tumnus said tearfully, "Oh, Lucy, are you all right?"
"I think so," Lucy replied huskily.
"I'm not sure." Lucy glanced away for a brief moment. "I just got a very bad cramp in my left leg. It all happened so fast; before I knew it, I was under the water, and I tried to swim up, but I couldn't. I couldn't get my legs to cooperate with me. The more I struggled, the farther I sank. After a while, everything simply went black." Gazing at Tumnus again, the girl said bewilderedly, "You saved me, didn't you, Tumnus?"
He nodded. "Yes."
"Weren't you afraid?" Lucy knew perfectly well how much the faun dreaded the water.
"More than you can imagine," Tumnus confessed. "But I was more afraid for you. I was so afraid that you…that you…" He couldn't bring himself to say it.
Instead, he pulled Lucy back into his arms and enveloped her in another impassioned hug. Lucy heard him sniffle, felt a warm wetness on her neck. She squeezed him back, burying her face under his matted goatee, tears of her own dripping onto his skin. She, too, was at a loss for words, other than, "Thank you, Tumnus. Thank you."
At length, Tumnus's lips gently brushed Lucy's crown. She raised her head, only so she could pull his face down to hers in order to kiss him properly on the mouth. Tumnus was startled, but made no resistance.
They kissed long and deep, and they only broke apart long to enough to catch their breath before engaging in another kiss.
They kissed for what must have been a good five minutes, until they finally ceased altogether. Each studied the other intently, Lucy's hands resting on Tumnus's shoulders, Tumnus's hands cupping Lucy's chin. Both thought the other to be exceptionally beautiful, regardless of their waterlogged state. Presently, Lucy managed to smile.
"Now I know for sure that I am alive," she said softly. "This proves it, beyond a doubt."
"Thank Aslan you're alive," Tumnus whispered back fervently. Resting his forehead against hers, tracing her jaw with his finger, he added on, "Because I would have no true life myself…without you in it."