Fandom: Chronicles of Narnia
Summary: It takes Eustace getting angry over some vicious rumors about Jill to make him realize his true feelings.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by C. S. Lewis, various publishers including but not limited to Harper Books and Harper Trophy Books. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
His hands are ink-stained, harsh blackness buried in the whorls and grooves of his fingertips as though it is leaking out of him rather than trying to get in. He imagines drowning in ink, floating in a dark that swallows one up and leaves them hollow.
He realizes he came close to that once--drowning in darkness. An involuntary shudder racks his body and he looks up, eyes glinting in the dull autumn light. A soft footfall draws his attention away from his hands, forcing him to set aside his thoughts.
A petit girl picked her way through the fallen leaves and undergrowth, meandering towards him in a near-silent fashion. She sank slowly next to him, tilting her head to one side as though considering him. She muttered a small “Humph,” and looked out across the school lawns, drawing her knees up to her chest and encircling them with her arms.
She opened her mouth to speak but he cut her off, his words paired with a sharp downward slash of his hand though the air. “Just because we're friends, doesn't mean I have anything to say to you right now, so you can just go away.”
If Eustace Clarence Scrubb (for that was the boy’s name, and there was a time when he almost deserved it) had said this to her a year earlier she might have burst into tears and run, but Jill Pole had changed markedly since last term (in more ways than one), and she contented herself instead with tilting her head and taking on a rather annoying tone of voice. “Just because we’re friends doesn’t mean I have to put up with you right now, so you can just stop acting like a prig and tell me what’s wrong.”
Eustace made a strange gurgling sound at the back of his throat and tossed a pebble down the slope, watching it fall hidden though the bracken. The two were sitting on an incline behind the gym with a large stone wall behind their backs, shutting them away from the wild, tangled moor outside.
“Behaving like a prat will not make me leave,” Jill murmured softly, the sweetness in her voice balancing the severity of her words. “Something’s clearly bothering you.”
“Really,” came the deadpan reply. He refused to look at her because he knew he would never keep up his brooding bravado with her sitting next to him, distracting him all the time. She would constantly take time to look like a girl- and a nice looking one too.
“Yes, really.” The girl stretched out her legs and arms at the same time, looking rather like a cat for her efforts. “You’re acting like the old Eustace.”
“‘The old Eustace’,” He repeated slowly, at last turning to look at her. A slight smile played across his lips like a reflex and he silently cursed himself. “What a horrible way to insult a chap, Pole.”
“You earned it, Scrubb. Look at you. Sitting here, forlornly throwing rocks at the gym wall. I’d have thought better of you.”
“No one thinks much of me,” he replied, the hint of good mood she’d brought to him gone as suddenly as it came. “And it doesn’t matter what’s wrong with me. Leave it alone, Jill.”
“Ah ha!” She shouted with such force that he jumped. “You have admitted something’s wrong.”
Eustace rolled his eyes, trying not to fall in love with her smile again. “Any old idiot could see something’s wrong just by looking at me.”
Jill nodded gravely. “Yes, but sadly you’ve not got a mirror.” She rushed on before he could respond. “Is it Them, then?”
He savagely whipped another rock down the slope, taking a grim satisfaction in the dull ping resounding from the gym wall. “When isn’t it Them.” It was a statement, not a question.
“What did they do to you,” she asked white-faced, suddenly and inexplicably both angry and worried for him.
“They didn’t do anything to me.” Ping!
Jill moved closer to him and placed a hand on him arm. “What did they say about you,” she whispered, knowing that words could hurt Eustace more than anything else.
“They didn’t say anything about me.” Ping!
For a moment, Jill was at a loss.
His parched lips opened slightly and Jill hardly heard him. “They had loads to say about you though.” Ping! It cost him so much to say it.
“Oh.” She leaned back slightly, but her hand stayed on his arm, seeming to remain on its own accord. “That’s rather pathetic.”
“Pathetic?” Eustace laid down his handful of rocks and turned to her. “It’s not pathetic, Jill. It’s jolly uncalled for. What I wouldn’t give for five minutes in a locked room with Spivvins.” The boy in question, Spivvins, was Their new leader, and Eustace had many confrontations with him since the start of term.
“Eustace,” she said sharply, “There’s no need for that.”
“No need!” Eustace half-rose from his seat, indignation burning on his otherwise handsome features. “He insulted your...well...that is to say erm....well...” He cut off and plopped down with a hollow thud, the words refusing to make themselves coherent.
Jill’s bright eyes twinkled at him. “This isn’t a time to start acting discreet and proper, Scrubb. Just breathe and tell me what’s up.”
“Oh, all right,” he muttered fiercely. “Do shut up a moment and let me think.”
“You need to think about what he said? If he said it, you don’t need to think about it, now do you Eustace?”
“I need to phrase it in an appropriate manner,” he began, standing up and again sounding as though ready to give a citation or lecture. “Persons such as yourself, that is to say, women, are not used to the crude langu-”
“Persons such as yourself, that is to say, smarmy gits, are not used to women who can stand on their own feet,” she retorted. “Just talk.” She tugged him down next to her and looked at him pointedly.
“He...m-made some very rude comments about your personality, Jill,” Eustace began, red-faced and shy. “He also made some positively nauseating and incorrect assumptions about your...” His voice had been rising, but it now dropped off and the last word was completely inaudible.
“About my what,” Jill demanded sharply.
“My what,” Jill asked, still unable to fully hear him.
“Virtue!” Eustace clambered to his feet and gazed down at her, looking thoroughly embarrassed and livid at the same time. He shoved his ink-stained hands deep in his pockets and busied himself with looking anywhere but at her. Really, the grounds at Experiment House were quite lovely this time of year....
In the five minutes of unbearable silence that followed, Eustace found himself thinking about many different things. He thought of all the wonderfully nasty things he wanted to do to Spivvins. He thought of Jill and how she didn’t deserve such nasty rumors about her to do on. He thought of Jill and the way she was always there for him. He thought of Jill and the way her eyes lit up when they had a nice long talk about Narnia.
He thought about Jill and how she was it- the only one- irreplaceable- perfect-all that sappy, romantic rubbish that made him queasy and was obviously bad for his health.
He thought about how stupid he sounded inside his own head.
He forced his eyes back to hers and was amazed to find puzzlement and amusement vying for prominence in her expression.
“What,” he asked hastily. “What’s funny, Jill?”
“You,” came the mangled response. Her whole frame shook with the force of laughter and she started to wipe tears from her eyes.
“What about me?”
“You’re so worried about my...virtue...that you don’t realize I couldn’t care less about rumors. We’ve been to Narnia, Eustace. We’ve fought battles and evil Witch Queens and Giants together. Nothing can split us up. Nothing can hurt us”
“Split us up,” Eustace asked dumbly. “Hurt us?”
“Yes, dear.” She smiled up from the ground. “We’re inseparable, you and I. They can’t hurt us. We’ve been through so much that it doesn’t matter what else happens- we’ll still be there for one another. You’ve already proved that.”
Eustace felt his face form a frown.
She laughed again and stood up. “You’re pouting now. Positively infantile.”
“There’s no need to insult me,” he said indignantly.
Jill wrapped a hand around his neck and kissed him lightly on the lips.
“I’ll insult you anytime I want.”
He breathed against her soft lips and found himself talking in a hushed whisper. “Just because I have nothing to say doesn't mean that I don't care. Don't push me, don't prompt me, and maybe I'll surprise you after all. Even though you know everything about me,” he babbled, “I think I’m capable of surprising you. You wait, Jill. You’ll see. I’ll just surprise you.”
She smiled and felt his arms circle her waist. “I just won’t hold my breath.”
Eustace kissed her slowly, savoring the feel of her. “Just don’t forget to breathe.”
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