He says, "No," and she wants--
--she nods once, briskly, and turns on her heel to go to the painting.
She wants him to stop her or say come back or please, God, this time ask me to stay and he doesn't.
And she steps through, and the problem with him being a King and her being a Queen is sometimes it's better if the person you love can see your heart breaking.
Susan argues with her to return to London, but Lucy has her own way in the end, and it's Corus she settles in, with Alanna's help. They talk, the two women, of someday helping train girls as knights (and Lucy may be queen, not knight, but she has her own tricks to teach). For now, Lucy earns her coin as a healer, sometimes with a magic cordial,, more often with herbs and patient hands. Lucy's gift was never only in a bottle.
Adam and Alanna ask her to go to Milliways, and she refuses. The look in her eyes when she does so is why Adam still looks guilty when he sees her.
One day, a man asks Lucy to dinner.
It almost doesn't hurt when she says yes.
His name, she informs Adam and Alanna, as she plays with their child, is Matthias. A sailor, out of Port Caynn.
It makes Alanna laugh, as it made Lucy.
When she informs them she agreed to marry him, it's quiet, but she's smiling.
Adam's eyes still aren't right when they're on Lucy, but Lucy's eyes still aren't quite right--or not what they were--most the time, so perhaps that's all right.
Or maybe how it should be.
She kisses Matthias at the wedding like he's dear, and she laughs, and Adam and Alanna, who are the only two she'd have there, smile to see them both.
But she doesn't kiss him, Adam tells Alanna that night, like he's Caspian, and Alanna touches his shoulder and can't tell him he's wrong.
Matthias knows that his wife, who's settled into Port Caynn easily, hasn't given him her whole heart. She told him before she agreed to marry him. And he's not all right with that, exactly, because Lucy is--Lucy is everything he wants for himself, and he doesn't like to share. But he can live with it, and he is, after all--and he knows this, because she told him this, too--the one he chose to live with.
And when he comes home, her face lights up to see him, and he thinks it's enough.
When she goes swimming, Matthias is not allowed to come with her. He learned this from her movements and looks, without her ever telling him, and he accepts it.
Lucy swims, and if she cries, no one ever knows, and the sea eats the evidence.
They have been married five months, and are preparing dinner for Adam and Alanna, who are coming to visit. Lucy is preparing, actually, and sends Matthias to the market with a list of supplies she requires.
The first five items he barters for without trouble, but when he sees item six he stops, and forgets any items that might come after it. Instead he returns, quickly, to his wife, who laughs to see him, and pulls her into his arms, and then their bed.
Dinner is burned. But Alanna and Adam don't notice, due to news.
Item six is a cradle.
It hurts, and she knew that it would, and there's a dignity to her through most of the labor--I am a queen, and I will not scream--and it's work and the midwife is patient, and when it's done Lucy sobs and shakes and holds her daughter close.
She has the most beautiful eyes in the world, like her father's, and hair like Lucy's own.
And Lucy doesn't think that day about what might have been at all, because what is is all she needs.
Susan and she exchange letters, and Susan demands to see her niece and her brother-in-law, and, finally, Lucy gives in.
She has to tell Matthias. Has to explain that she's from farther away than he ever thought, and that before she was a sailor's wife and healer, she was a queen, and they quarrel fiercely about it all. He's angry and hurt and how could you be dead? and she screams at him, as they fight on the beach, Helen asleep inside their cottage, that he'll never, ever understand, and he asks why not, and the answer isn't screamed, just said, as she deflates, anger all gone, "You're not him."
Lucy goes back into their home, and Matthias stays out and curses the waves.
That night he comes in and leans against the door, watching her nurse their daughter, and finally walks over and says, "So. Tell me about him."
Lucy looks up at him, and then down at Helen again before saying, "I spent most of my life loving him."
"Do you still?"
"Don't ask me that."
"Because the answer will hurt you."
He nods, at that, and looks at the fire, and says, "I suppose I deserved that."
"Stop," she pleads, and it's tired. "Stop. I--Matthias...I married you, not him. And I didn't marry you just to marry."
It's hard. To know that his wife had a life--literally--before he knew her that he'll never touch. To know that she loves a dead man who's going to be there when they see her sister.
"I know," he says, and reaches out to brush Helen's hair, while kissing her mother's. "So tell me about him," he says again, and it's gentle this time.
And so she does.
And he holds them both, his wife and his daughter, when she starts to cry, and carries both females to bed, and when he wakes up, Lucy is looking down at him with a smile and presses a kiss to his mouth that is meant.
"I love you."
He's still jealous, in a way, but he doesn't doubt it at all, and kisses her back after replying in kind.
She told him. But it's different, to step into this bar at the end of the universe.
So he gapes, while Lucy tries not to laugh at him, or cry at the sight of what used to be home.
Helen takes most of her attention, for which she's grateful, as she fusses over the child in sling, and watches Adam takes Matthias for a drink.
"Corella's still in her stall," Alanna says, and Lucy closes her eyes and nods.
"I'll go see her, I suppose."
"Want me to hold Helen?"
"No. No," Lucy says, and shifts the strap of the sling, a bit, cradling Helen closer with one arm. "I think we're all right."
She's afraid, as she walks into the stables.
She finds she's terrified, in a way, actually, and the kiss she presses to Corella's forehead--You're back! her eyes seem to tell Lucy--is hesitant and gently.
Her shoulders don't stiffen at the voice, and there's just barely a pause, before she turns.
He looks exactly the same.
She looks a few years older.
The next time she sees him, she thinks, distantly, she'll look older yet.
"Hello, Caspian." Lucy is proud at the lack of a shake in her voice.
He just looks at her, and the sleeping child held by a sling, and finally says back, "Hello, Lucy. You look well."
"So do you." The things they don't say is as hard as what's said.
It's ridiculous, she thinks, how polite they are.
"That's--" He gestures to the child, who looks painfully like Lucy, and she nods.
"This is Helen." She should have been yours, and it's the first time she's ever thought that.
It feels like a betrayal, to Matthias, and she colors a bit before saying, without thinking, "I missed you."
And then there's silence again, because.
Oh, she did.
"I missed you too," Caspian says in a low voice when several moments have passed.
And again, there is everything and nothing to say.
"I should--Matthias is inside."
"Your husband." It's a little flat, and it makes Lucy want to weep.
"Yes. You'd like him. He's a good man."
"I'm glad for you, then, Lucy," he says, and she'd kill to hear him say, "Lu" again.
She bites back a few tears, and says nothing more, just holds her daughter close and walks inside and leaves Caspian to the stable and the horses.
When he goes in, he sees the three of them, parents laughing at their child and Susan's reaction to her niece.
Someone--Adam--presses a drink into his hands, and he doesn't look at it before tossing it back.
He doesn't mean the alcohol.
Alanna laughs for joy when Lucy and Matthias name their next child for her.
Alanna the smaller favors her father more than Helen does, and Lucy is grateful for this. It's easier when she can see Matthias clearly in her daughter's face.
There's no chance to delude herself that way.
She refuses to go back to the bar very often, for Matthias' sake as much as her own, but the girls like it, and so a few times a month they do go, now. Often with Matthias in tow, but not always.
Lucy is careful to spend little time in the stables, though it breaks her heart not to see the horses more.
Both girls are with their Aunt Susan the night she gives in and goes to see them when she knows full well it's the time he'll be there to groom for the evening. Caspian's routine, she thinks, wryly, as she spots his back, hasn't changed all that much.
And she—and she is expecting her third child in four months (a boy, she hopes, a little, but she doesn't care so very much either way for all that), and has more years on her face, but she stops next to him and picks up a brush to groom Duncan with for all that.
He says nothing, and she doesn't either, not for a long while. When Caspian does look at her, she notes that his eyes are a little sadder than she remembers them, and she cannot interpret the gaze that's given to her stomach at all.
"Say something?" It's pleading, a little, and her voice has begun to share Matthias' accent after so long in his company and land, something that lilts a little more than either London or Narnia causes the voice to.
"Congratulations," is his response, and she squeezes her eyes to stop the tears.
"I wanted it to be yours. I wanted you. I—I would have stayed," and it's all the things she's kept inside and tried to pretend weren't true, and she knows when she sees her husband next her heart is going to break for saying this now.
But Lucy, in the end, is always honest, and some things do not change.
"I wanted to stay and you wouldn't let me and you wouldn't offer to see if you could live too and Mother help me," another thing she's picked up from her husband and from trying to raise daughters who knew of Mothers and Lions both, "I miss you."
She started crying after the first sentence, but it's not until she's finished the last one that she realizes he's holding her and kissing her tears away, softly.
She looks so much older than him, she knows, now—18 and 24 have a vast difference between them—but she fits well against him for all that, and some things—more things than she ever wanted to admit—don't change.
But his lips won't touch hers, and he's crying as well, so maybe more changes, too, than she'd have liked.
"I'm sorry." It's said hoarsely, as he holds her close and kisses her hair. "Oh, my dear, I am so very sorry."
And for a long while, they only stand there in each other's arms. It's not until they've settled together outside under a tree, Caspian still holding her close, that he speaks again.
"Do you love him?"
She hates that both of them have asked her this now, and hates that she can't answer the way either wants.
"Yes." There's silence at her words, but she can almost feel his expression without seeing it. "He gave me a home," she says, softly, "and he gave me my daughters, and he makes me laugh. How could I help but love him?"
And it's barely a moment before she adds, in a whisper, "But I came out to find you tonight for all that," and Caspian's heart breaks to hear the tears she's trying not to shed.
He strokes her hair, for a bit, before saying, quietly, "But he's your husband, Lu. And I'm no more alive now than I was then."
"I know." It hurts to say, as her eyes refuse to open. "But I still miss you."
There's nothing, Caspian discovers, that he can say to that.
Her son is beautiful.
Matthias never sees him, for ships don't always come home.
She doesn't go to the bar for a long while after that, and for all she still smiles sweetly there's something in her eyes that worries Alanna and Adam when they come to dinner.
Nothing is different, really, when she does go to the bar.
He's still dead, and no matter what she wishes some mornings, Lucy is not. And she aches for Matthias, more than she ever would have guessed she would. But then, she had never lied when she said she loved him.
Lucy thinks she simply wanted too much.
Caspian is the one, and it makes her a little bitter, that Andrew warms to as he grows. Tortall is still home, but the bar is as familiar as her little house, and her children go to classes in the House where she once taught.
Caspian shows Andrew how to ride, how to care for each horse, and Lucy hates him, almost, for it.
But only almost.
She isn't so very old when she dies again as she might have thought. But her children are grown, and in the end—in the end, Lucy is tired and lonely and she may only be fifty and four, and she may not even look so very old as that, but there are fifteen extra years inside, and one evening she simply closes her eyes and doesn't open them again.
She doesn't look in a mirror, when she steps through the door. She doesn't care how many years still show on her face or if she's youth again or not. She only goes to the stables and finds him there, feeding an apple to a horse she doesn't recognize.
"Would you need a hand, then?" she says softly, and when he turns and sees her, sees the girl and the woman behind the face of the nineteen-year-old, Caspian's heart—
it doesn't break.
But it's almost like it's beating again.
"It's only," she says, quickly and softly, "that I find myself impatient to step through the door again, and I thought—I thought perhaps you'd like to go with me. If you finished your work first."
He looks at her, and then nods, slightly, and Lucy's smile could light up the entire bar, even from here, as she helps him with his chores.
It's not so very much long later that he's done what needs to be done and his hand is on the knob.
"Are you certain?" he asks, for all he doesn't want to, not at all.
Lucy says nothing, only holds his hand and steps through.
And he has to laugh as she gives him a sharp, firm tug, and then reaches back to close the door behind them.