Most Woodwise and Malapert
Summary: Tirian tries and fails to be a gentleman when it comes to his bathing wood-maiden. As book-compliant to The Last Battle as possible. Jill/Tirian one-shot.
Rating: M – as the saying goes, Heed the M, people
Background: There is a sad lack of Jill/Tirian or really any Last Battle-inspired fics, and no saucy ones whatsoever. So I had to write it myself. I am fully aware that Clive Staples – I'm very sorry sir, Jack – is turning somersaults in his grave, and I am shamelessly unrepentant. In return, I've made this as canon as possible, in hopes that delicate readers will forgive me and any lemon-crazed Narnia fans out there will find their reading experience enhanced by factual detail.
This fic takes place in Chapter 8 right after Tash has first been spotted; if you haven't read The Last Battle lately, I recommend a careful inspection of this chapter for a beautiful little homely scene that inspired this fic and which is just as suggestive if you tilt your head and squint. It really is in the book! (Alright, yes Eustace is there. Bother Eustace! And fine, if I have to admit it, it's not QUITE as hawt in the book. Just in my imagination.)
Though there were thousands of distressing matters to occupy his mind – particularly since Tirian's training had ingrained him with the workings of a master strategist and war leader – Tirian found he inexorably returned, in any of the quieter moments of their time at the Tower, to the awful sight which had just greeted them floating over Narnia. There was something about the inhuman figure that had the stuff of nightmares, the kind that you can't wake up from and really believe you are in, helplessly watching the monster come closer and closer. He was secretly relieved, if a bit ashamed to admit it to himself, when the general consensus was that there was no need to go back till further news of Narnia was delivered by Roonwit. Tirian then had the happy idea to go about removing their old Calormene disguises, and Jill and Eustace looked only too glad to go along with this pleasingly practical plan.
Poggle obligingly made up a mess of ashes and grease which only the promise of becoming Narnian again would induce a sane individual to touch. "You are very sure of your loyalties, Dwarf?" Tirian asked dryly, eyeing the tarry mixture with wariness. "I could have poisoned the stew, Sire," Poggle pointed out with a grin. "'Twould have been easier!"
The king motioned for Eustace and Jill to follow him into the Tower and up the stairs to the locker from which they had drawn their armor – no knowing when they would need it again, though with any luck it would be a very long time before they had to put on the foreign accouterments. Tirian was pleased to see that the lady Jill had regained her color from their harrowing ordeal and had a renewed spirit as she bounded up the stairs after him. It had been very strange seeing her courage reduced to quivering horror, and he had felt her bodily terror even before he was inspired to slip his arm around her shoulders for comfort.
"Ugh," said Eustace as he pulled off the turban and tight spiked helmet which they had worn for the past – night? Had it truly only been a night since they first set out from the Tower? "Not sad to see this rubbish go. Who thought up such rot? I couldn't think straight with all this metal pressing on my brain."
Jill grinned briefly before her head disappeared in plated mail. She shrugged off the heavy armor with the same grace that she had glided through the woods in the moonlight, and Tirian felt himself casting his eyes aside as if she was disrobing and not laying aside Calormene metal. It was wholly unbecoming to think of this noble legend in such a wanton fashion.
They didn't bother to clean the armor before packing it away – with any luck it wouldn't matter anyway – and tramped back down the stairs. Eustace picked up the bucket of black ooze and they made their way down to the river where they could scrub away the traces of their tanned disguises.
"Who wants to go first?" Eustace asked, gesturing to the ominous mixture.
"Oh don't be such a baby, Scrubb," said Jill. "Here, hand it over." She reached into the bucket without hesitation and scooped out a handful and knelt on the bank of the river. Tirian watched curiously as Jill filled her other cupped hand with water and began brushing her face with this curious soap, under the honest pretext of wishing to know how it worked. Amazingly it made soft foaming bubbles which lathered like the finest imported bath oils, and Jill laughed and rubbed it along her neck. "It's much better than it looks," she announced. "Just close your eyes and try it, Scrubb."
They all set to work scouring at their exposed skin, and it was just as Tirian had thought, the berry stain was a potent one indeed. "You can't just poke at it, Pole," Eustace chided her. "You've got to put some elbow grease into it. Like this." And he scrubbed at his face like at an especially filthy kitchen floor.
Jill was rubbing at her arms with careful circles in a manner that Tirian thought was much too graceful, but she paused at this to blow a large puff of foam at Eustace. He retaliated with a brilliant splash in her direction, and things deteriorated for a wet moment or two before they seemed to call a wordless truce and continue their scrubbing. Finally they started to return to their natural complexions, plus a nicely reddened hue. "Did I get the back of my neck properly?" Jill asked of Tirian, lifting her hair up for him to inspect. With embarrassment he noted that her grey drill dress was rather translucent where splashed with water, and moreover had slipped down her shoulder to expose half of her neck and back. Glowing with cleanliness, the curve of her smooth neck rivaled a silver birch in lissome beauty. She could have been a riverside dryad, drops of water clinging to her shining bark and waves of dark hair like leaves hovering in the breeze. Usually no fool with words, Tirian stammered, "It – seems so, Lady."
"Well, I'm done," said Eustace, rising to his feet and searching around for a towel, but finding none of course. "The Tower is quite close – I should have no trouble – " Jill cast him a searching glance but nodded. They were both brave children, Tirian thought. Children. It did not matter that noblewomen Jill's age were premiered in Narnia and married for several years in Calormen – they were considered children in their world, as the legends were very clear. But the Narnian air working on them for these nights made him forget that Eustace was not a youthful warrior, that Jill was not a wood-elf laying her sylvan enchantment on him.
Jill was meditative and quiet with Eustace gone. With nothing to distract from his heedless contemplations, Tirian was minded of his earliest impressions of the girl, un-Narnian looking at first glance yet spirited and adventurous from her first steps in Narnia, living up to and exceeding his expectations of the legendary heroine of old. Him offering her a hand up as they scrambled through rocky valleys and little streams. An impromptu image of them stopping to splash their faces with water, her tossing wet hair away from her forehead as she begged for his story. The first time he truly noticed how little she was, when he held up the mail shirt to her small frame and saw how long it fell on her. Instructing her in the finer points of Narnian archery – he had had no more eager or thoughtful student than she. How she followed uncomplaining when he woke them up in the middle of the night to start their march, though her face was scrunched up with sleep and her steps bleary at first.
And then she quickly proved to be gifted with uncanny woodcraft and tracking skill, a trait which appealed to the commander in him, as well as possessing an easy grace and litheness which could not but fill him with admiration. She knew her Narnian stars with more thoroughness than any court lady he could name, and there were scarce men in his retinue who could rival Jill's courage or sheer pluck. Tirian remembered how consumed with fear he had been when she disappeared from his side after rescuing Jewel, and the cold rage at the thought of such a brave damsel being slain for her waywardness, so much so that he was ready to whip her for it. And yet how well she knew his weakness, for she saved Puzzle from his wrath with a few pretty words and her tender embrace of that silly Ass. Well had Jill earned her place as his bravest and most disobedient subject, but that alone could not explain why his first thought upon seeing the horror that was Tash had been to assure her welfare and comfort.
By now Tirian was quite clean and returned to normal coloring but he continued to pour water over his hands so as to linger a moment longer in her company. To break the silence, Tirian inquired, "You have suffered no harm from…earlier, I trust."
"No no, but don't let's talk about it," Jill said hurriedly. "I'd much rather forget as long as I can." She offered a valiant smile that was more successful than her earlier attempt, though not entirely convincing. Tirian unthinkingly put a dripping hand on her shoulder, and touched more skin than dress. It would be rude to snatch his hand away, he reasoned, especially in a moment of reassurance, so he kept it there. Her skin was just as cool and smooth as it looked, yet the point of contact kindled a spark of warmth deep within him. It seemed to Tirian that when everything that was beautiful and good had been spoiled, it could not be wrong to worship the one thing that was still undeniably beautiful and good. His other hand slipped to the newly pale, freckled line of Jill's cheek, turning her face to look at him. "I would we could be like this as long as we can, dear maiden."
She flushed – it could be seen clearly now, with no tan to hide the lovely rush of color that ran up her neck to her checks – and trembled in a wholly different way than when he had last held her. "Probably you don't even know how much you – I mean – oh dear I'm making a terrible idiot of myself – nevermind!"
Tirian held her more firmly. "Pray continue – I swear not to laugh."
With downcast eyes, Jill murmured, "Well I've never known anyone as heroic and kind and strong as you, and we might die in battle any day now, and you keep whispering in my ear and making me feel all prickly, and it's so silly and now I want to die!" she ended with a burst of melancholy.
His surprise at these revelations was palpable, and probably written all over his face. Involuntarily Tirian smiled and drew close to Jill till his lips almost touched her ear, and whispered, "I did not realize this was so distressing to you. I shall endeavor to stop."
Her eyes fluttered closed and her mouth parted breathlessly. "You're not stopping now." Tirian wasn't sure if this was a complaint or an order, but it was quite accurate. His new position gave him an enticing expanse of creamy neck at mouth level, and he boldly pressed a kiss to a spot right behind her ear which seemed to be just the thread to pull to make Jill unravel. She clutched at his shoulders, arching ever so slightly like a slim tree would bend in the autumn breeze, and he took this as encouragement to trace the soft line of her throat with his lips, pausing at the hollow at the base which tasted so sweet. She smelled of pine and fire and freshly polished swords, and Tirian thought he had never smelled anything so intoxicating. Reluctantly drawing himself up from the curves of her throat, he brushed her cheek, and Jill's dark eyes met his own. "We may never be alone again," she said huskily.
"I know," Tirian said, and bent over her mouth. Sweetness unto wine, as heady and rich as a treasured vintage savored with the most leisurely of sips, enveloped him in the depths of her lips, and he drank her in as a thirsty man would drink the King's wine with measured self-command. Though she was as someone unaccustomed to drinking such potent libation, Jill pressed closer and eagerly returned his kisses while her hands wound in his hair with their typical deftness. She was as near as she could draw while kneeling thus, and Tirian felt far too aware of the way her breasts brushed his tunic. But Jill would brook no withdrawal, and swayed against him like a dancing dryad, clever hands running across his shoulders and down his back and finding the hem of his tunic, though she didn't know more than to trace a bit of his bare skin there, and her mouth slipped open invitingly.
Who was he to resist a lady?
Drunk on her lips, Tirian caressed her still-damp limbs with sword-hardened hands and pursued the sweet feel of her heart against his as he leaned her back to the grass. She gasped for air at the touch of his flattened fingers against her hips, and though he burned to feel her fully flush against his own hard body, he would not dare press himself on her unwillingly. "Is all well?" he asked, mouth close to her ear, and she shuddered and nodded, seeking his mouth again and claiming it in a bold possession that made his blood run hot and thick with need. Her hands were insistent upon his back, pulling him ever closer until she had drawn him exactly where he longed to be, laying so that she was completely under him, every nimble ounce of flesh flowing into his own, burning him at every point it touched. "Aslan help me," he growled, "you will undo me, Lady."
"I want to undo you into a million pieces," Jill said, her unrelenting grasp underscoring this avowal. She shifted subtly, obviously searching for the next motion, but Tirian willingly helped her quest along with more assured movements, and she sighed with contentment. Her naïve undulations threatened to shatter his resolve, and he gritted his teeth as he shifted to one elbow and concentrated on memorizing the beautiful lines of her pure curves. She whimpered at the loss of such direct contact, and he drew one knee up to pacify her. "Sweet Jill," Tirian murmured, "wondrous wood-maid, what magic have you worked on me?"
"Your kiss must have woken up something in me," Jill breathed in between pants of surprise and desire, "since I am acting shamelessly."
"Would that I might awaken you thus every morning," he said solemnly as he kissed her mouth. The knowledge that this would never happen lent a desperation to their clutches that did not quite take away the sting but made every touch, every fierce caress a precious drop of memory in the string of their union. Her response to him, green and untried as it was, could not have been any more perfect to Tirian's mind. His Jill was water and flame combined, pouring grace and igniting his every sense with fiery want.
They moved in earnest now, each seeking the joyous fit of hard against soft and strength against yielding flesh. So close together as they were, Tirian caught the smallest whimper Jill uttered as she pressed hard into him, their hips mingling with aching hunger. She mewled and clutched at him while her body tensed and writhed under him. Tirian had never seen anything so utterly bewitching and tantalizing in all his days, and he burned as he had never burned before, matching her cadence and accelerating to an all-encompassing whirlwind of bliss. He imagined burying himself in her sweet young body as the flames overtook him, and together they basked in the licking flares of their combined conflagration.
If only this moment in time could be suspended for just a little while, to cradle them in happiness for more than a stolen fleeting instant amidst the terrors of battle and destruction. Tirian wondered if all lovers in war felt this way, and he buried his face in Jill's hair as if it was his shelter from the realities of despair and darkness. He felt her gentle hands stroking his hair and neck, soft breaths slowly returning to their normal tempo. He knew they could not hide from the present forever. But for now – "Wait here," he whispered to his languid wood-maiden, and stole away to attend to personal ablutions before she fully awoke.
When he returned, she was huddled over, arms crossed in cold or comfort. He lay down to next to her, pulling her close to rest on his chest. It was then that Jill seemed overwhelmed with the realization of their certain parting, and her hot tears rolled down his neck and she grasped him with frantic anguish. Tirian held her as she wept, unable to bring himself to quiet her when his heart longed to join her tears with his own. He could only press a kiss to her hair, knowing that the light of his morning was slipping away even as he clasped her in his arms. When her weeping had subsided and she lay wearily against him, Jill spoke at last. "So we must go back to being nothing more than comrades, and I will never have the chance to – love you – "
"Nay, nay," Tirian interrupted. "Most beloved, there is nothing more beautiful I could hope to see than your brave soul as I pass from this world into the next."
"But I wish – " Jill began, stopping when he laid a hand over her mouth.
"Wishing is futile pursuit, little one. We have been given this gift, and who are we to question Aslan's ways?"
Jill's eyes were dark with sadness, and he could read their longing for a different outcome than the one that lay inevitably before them.
With the instinct that Tirian had always felt to protect Jill from any hurt or care, he vowed, "Know this, Lady: You are the only queen I will ever take."
Ever brave, she managed the faintest dregs of a smile. "And will you be my knight, my captain til the end?"
"I would be no King if I did aught else, sweetling." He bent over her for one last sweet, agonizing kiss, trying to remember every essence of her being for eternity.
"You are my King even unto death," she murmured into his ear. Carefully he brushed the traces of tears away from her face with his thumbs and rested his forehead against hers for a moment. "Even unto death," he promised.
They rose and, hand in hand, walked into the thicket toward the Tower.
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