As A Boy
by Kate J.

Lucy knew it was possible for it to go away. It had gone away a year ago, just by stepping into the wardrobe again. The smell of mothballs has meant "home" and "release" ever since then.

But now, standing by the new Bridge at Beruna, she could feel it growing inside her again. As the vines grew up and the bridge tumbled down into the old ford, Aslan stepped forward to just that same place.

It had been hundreds of years ago. He was long dead, that archer she stood beside at the Battle of Beruna. But Aslan still looked the same, standing in the river, looking at her with his heavy stare.

It was in her future, too. She wasn't the child, then. She was Queen Lucy, gay and merry. Queen Lucy- not like Queen Susan, not a grown-up lady. Just like a boy, in lots of ways. She stood among the archers, at the banks of the river, and watched a man whom she had shot down bleed his life away into the current. Beside her, the archer whose name she had never asked was watching too. The opposing army had fled. She stood, her diamond flask hanging at her waist, and thought of saving her enemy's life. She had almost stepped forward to the ford, but then the archer spoke to her.

"Such fine archery for a young man! Where did you come by your skills?"

And she was not Queen Lucy, just like a boy, but something better.

"My father taught me, up in Archenland. He was a fine bowman himself."

His look was admiring. His look was...

"I have such a thirst upon me! Will you share a flask of wine with me?"

He led the way into an house beside the fords - abandoned, like all the houses around there, as its occupants fled the advancing army. They sat side-by-side in on the stone-flagged hearth, pulling great mouthfuls of wine from his flask and talking grand things about the battle, about the future of Narnia.

They were still sitting on the hearth, half-drunk and almost ready to share the horrors of that battle as well as its glories, when he kissed Lucy. Or, he kissed the boy archer, the boy who could shoot a man through the throat at seventy paces. And the boy archer responded as if this were really his life.

And when they came away from the house, the body of the young soldier lay in the river, even the mud around him bleached of his blood. Lucy knelt down to him, drawing out her flask, wasting drop after drop of the precious healing liquid on his wounds, but- in the ford, Aslan, the water barely washing his huge paws, bent his head to whisper to her:

"It is done. There will be no going back from here."

But there was. And now, this was the second Battle of Beruna. The Liberation of Beruna. Lucy was starting again, growing, this time, differently. It's what she prayed for, it's the wish that Aslan granted amid fur coats and mothballs- a second chance.

This time it's not going to be groping on the floor of an abandoned house, her voice effortfully gruff. It's not going to be the boyish Queen urging her horse to a gallop, down to the rough parts of the coast, out to the fringes of the desert, where there are sailors and merchants and above all, strangers.

It's not going to be Lucy in Edmund's clothes, twisting nervously in front of the mirror, pulling on breeches, stuffing them with....

This was the second Battle of Beruna. All those men were long dead. Nobody knew the young archer, or the slim, gauche huntsman, or, later, the boy at the docks.

Not even that midshipman, the one who said he was the son of a pirate from another world, the one to whom the pretty dockland boy ("Five for a hand job, ten for a suck.") felt safe revealing his own fantastical truth. His hand on what was between the dockland boy's legs, he had never flinched. One boy's as good as another to a man in port. One boy- even this boy. And so this time, this boy asked him- his voice cracking until he sounded almost girlish- asked him, "And will you? Will you kneel for me?"

Because with the breath warming through his breeches, with the calloused fingers pulling desperately at lacings, at buttons just slightly too fine for a boy who rents for sailors, with his mouth against what was there... the boy is rising. Rising, surging, pressing into his face as the sailor fumbles. The boy's breeches fall away and what lies there, inert above his rising, is...

"It is said, if you blow it, that help will come."

What came, the next day, was the smell of mothballs, and taking it all away.


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