Lucy in summer is the bane of Peter’s existence: her dresses are too thin, her eyes too bright, her shoulders bare. The wind, without fail, plays with the long strands of her hair, blowing them like a curtain across her face. At best, it leaves him a bit hot under the collar. At worst, he gets so frustrated he could kill something, and the only outlet he has is either to go sparring with Edmund, or lock his bedroom door and take matters into his own hands.
Peter never had this problem with Susan. Why did he never have this problem with Susan?
In any case, that’s not what’s important right now. Right now, Lucy wants him to come to the lake with her and Peter knows what’s going to happen then, but it’s not like he can say no. (When has he ever said no?)
He would not go if he knew what was good for him, but Peter can’t resist the temptation. He will regret it later, when the want crawls under his skin so much he can barely stand it. Before that there will be Lucy’s smile, though, and her face lighting up when he says he’ll go with her. Her collarbone peeking out above the laces of her dress and the press of her hands on his chest when he lets her wrestle him to the ground. It’s no contest, really.
The afternoon plays out pretty much as he expects it to.
They ride out to the lake late in the day, salted meats and a bottle of summer wine in their packs, and spend the afternoon with their feet in the cold water, just talking.
The tall grass hides them, and after a while small animals pass close by them here and there, coming to drink at the water. Lucy talks about books and Edmund’s sharp tongue and even sharper regret. Their brother still speaks unthinkingly sometimes, and it doesn’t help that he is quick and observant and somewhat insecure. It is a sad sight, though, when he cuts deeper than he means to, because his guilt hurts no one more than himself.
Lucy talks about Mr Tumnus a lot.
Peter is alternately happy for her and disgustingly jealous.
In this world they have ended up, loneliness is always lurking around the corner and Peter won’t begrudge her a friendship that might save her life. Though many of the talking animals are their friends - are good, amazing, wonderful friends - there is something about humans that is entirely different, and it is difficult to always be conversing with someone who is essentially your subject. Narnia, beautiful though it is, offers little human contact past their own little family of royals. The king of Archenland is too old, its prince too young, and the dark-faced people in Tashbaan are far away and too hard, even wrapped in silks as they are. And some days, the same three faces as all the days before are just not enough.
As he grows older, a part of him searches. A void is growing in his chest, wanting to be filled. Longing stirs in his heart and his loins, and while the latter can be ascribed to biological urges, the ache of his quiet yearning for intimacy is harder to ignore.
Peter never speaks of this, and neither do any of his siblings. He suspects the others are similarly tormented, but theirs is a shameful secre,t and so they suffer in silence and solitude.
“Let’s go swimming tonight,” Lucy whispers to him over dinner that evening. She leans in close, conspiratorially, and Peter maybe goes a little bit insane. He can smell the sweet, earthy scent of her, her lavender perfume. Her long hair brushes against his arm on the table, sending shivers down Peter’s spine.
“What?” Peter says, dumbly, too busy pushing thoughts and images back into the recesses of his mind to pay much attention to intelligent replies.
“Let’s go to the lake tonight, brother,” Lucy repeats, smiling at him, head tilted like she thinks he’s being silly. “I’ve always wanted to go swimming at night.”
“Why do you want me to come?” Peter asks, for lack of anything better to say.
“It’s no fun on my own,” she says, pouting. Lucy has a range of facial expressions that send any of Peter’s attempts at resistance, at self-preservation, at sanity to their knees, and she adds a playful shove to his arm to seal the deal, “will you come, please? Peter, please.”
Lucy never learned to hide her emotions, never thought to, too honest and easy and open to the world and so she still shows her bright, childlike delight on her face when he concedes. Peter never forgets how intensely vulnerable that openness makes her, guileless and brilliant and beautiful, a shimmering diamond anyone could break with the pressure of a hand.
It makes him feel fiercely protective, somewhere deep in his stomach where he knows with absolute certainty how much he would be willing to give for Lucy never to find out the cost of her innocence.
Some nights, when he is bruised and hot and too tired from sparring to lie to himself, Peter lies awake staring up at the heavy tester of his bed and cannot help but laugh mirthlessly at the cruelty of fate. It’s sad and more than a little ironic that Peter, for all his honour and protection and bone-shattering love, poses the greatest threat to his dearest sister.
He is achingly conscious of the conflict in his soul, the warring desires squeezing his heart tighter by the week. He cradles Lucy fondly in the palm of his hand, selfish and daring, as he feels the dark impulse to crush tear at him ruthlessly. For now, the dam of his restraint holds, though he cannot stop himself from wanting, and most days he shamefully extracts some kindling to the fire of his lust from Lucy’s unguarded affection.
It doesn’t help that she loves him. Lucy’s heart is without malice or suspicion, and she shares her warmth freely. She leans close to him when she laughs, and offers hugs and kisses when he returns from a hunt. She smiles at him over her shoulder, playfully, teasingly, never conscious of the picture she paints. She spends evenings sitting cross-legged on his bed in just a shift, reading Narnian fairytales to him, and Peter is so glad he already knows them because he doesn’t listen to a word dancing out of her mouth.
On occasion, the four of them – Susan, Edmund, Lucy and Peter – walk the beach after dinner, to settle their stomachs and make the most of the sunsets while it’s still summer. Susan’s lips are as red as the sunset in the fairness of her skin, the sunlight trying vainly to set fire to the raven black of her hair. Edmund has the same colouring as his sister, pale and dark, hair and skin a stark contrast. Peter is different, not exactly tan but less pale, and has his father’s eyes. Lucy is different still, not taking exclusively after either their mother or their father, with brown hair that doesn’t lighten in summer and deep blue eyes like the ocean in a storm.
Edmund and Lucy chase each other on the waterline, throwing handfuls of water and sand that often enough miss their intended target and end up being carried on the wind. It takes them but a short moment s to cajole Peter and Susan into joining them, and then all bets are off. None of them cares much that the beach is visible from Cair Paravel, that their servants and subjects need only perch on a balcony to see their kings and queens giggling and rough-housing in the sand. It feels good to let loose for a little bit, and they are no good to anyone if they remain stately and wound-up until they crack.
There is sand in Peter’s hair, itching and scratching under his shirt where it slipped in at the neck. Susan hangs onto his back to escape from Edmund, who has by now shifted his attention to trying to trip Peter, and tries to loosen his arms where he’s captured Lucy, who shrieks and laughs into his ear. The salty ocean air runs deep into his lungs, dragging and expanding until his whole body feels opened up, and Peter can’t help but laugh with the happy exhilaration of being here.
When their playing winds down – Susan’s two feet firmly back on the ground, Edmund finally deterred, and Peter’s shins blue all the way up to his knees – Lucy is somehow still pressed against his chest.
“Come on, Lu,” he says, because he has to, because he loves her too much, because he can feel her lips through his shirt where they’re smiling. Peter strokes her hair, can feel his lips meeting her smile and stay like that when she clings to his arm as they walk back. Susan meets his eyes over the top of Lucy’s head, sharp and there’s a flicker there of something that Peter doesn’t want to call knowing and doesn’t dare name understanding. It shivers down his spine like ice, his sister’s perceptive, deliberate gaze that holds until he feels ripped open, his feelings and shame spilling out onto the sand along with his insides.
The moment is broken when Edmund finds a great red bastard of a crab on the beach and yelps when it snaps at his fingers.
Susan turns away as if she too is ashamed.
“Leave it alone,” Lucy murmurs, in a tone that Peter can’t for the life of him decipher.
Peter wakes because someone is shaking him.
Lucy’s excited hiss trips into his consciousness, mixing with the fleeting remnants of his dream, and he screws up his brow trying to figure out what is happening. The opening of a bleary eye confirms it is still night, no sign of dawn on the horizon, and Lucy’s wide blue eyes reflect the light of the moon and the candle in her hand. She doesn’t look worried or frightened or panicked, just excited, energy threatening to burst out of her in a stream of words. Peter’s heart slows its frantic beating, appeased for the time being. He turns over onto his side, not facing away from her but burrowing into the pillow, longing to return to the sweetly-soft embrace of dreams and blankets.
“Mmph,” he mumble-groans into the pillow when Lucy’s eager hands continue to twitter over his shoulder. “Out with it then.”
“We were going to go swimming!” Lucy whispers, somehow making the exclamation mark clear with her hands and face despite keeping a low volume. She pushes him onto his back, a little white hand on Peter’s chest where his shift gapes, then pulls at the fabric to urge him up.
Oh, right. Lucy’s fantastical night-time excursion. When he’d come to his senses, Peter had been horrified that he had agreed (it was way too risky, and how much was he going to torture himself anyway?) and had hoped that if he just went to bed, maybe she’d let it go. Maybe he could still get out of it.
“It’s the middle of the night, Lu.”
“But you promised!” she exclaims. Her fingers clench in the bedding, needing an outlet for her enthusiasm. “Come with me, Peter, please. I’ve always wanted to go swimming at night. Can you imagine the moon over the water? Let’s go to the lake. Please say you’ll come with.”
“But I’m sleeping,” Peter groans. It iss a perfectly valid argument, he feels, even in the face of the sweltering summer heat. If he is honest, the promise of some relief from the heat, amongst other things, beckons him more than he would like to admit.
“It’s so hot, and don’t tell me you don’t feel it, your hair’s all floppy and sweaty. Just imagine how nice and fresh you’ll feel after a dip,” Lucy pleads.
When Peter doesn’t give in, Lucy’s expression sobers and suddenly she seems very small, perched on the edge of his bed. “You promised.” Her voice is very soft, plucking at Peter’s heartstrings.
“Are you too tired?” she asks, her hands in her lap and staring at them, “I know you’ve been busy today, but you said, at dinner, so I thought…I wanted…”
“I’m sorry I woke you,” she says, heartfelt, and that tears at Peter’s insides like nothing else, that Lucy is sorry she came to him to share her excitement in the middle of the night.
“Ugh,” Peter says, because he knows he’s lost. He’ll never forgive himself for that downcast look to his sister’s eyes, and how is it that he feels so selfish trying to protect her and so selfish giving in? They seem so curiously tied to each other, he can’t figure out a way to put some distance between them without making Lucy feel the pull. Every time he tries to push her away for her own good, afraid of this thing brewing inside of him, he only ends up hurting them both.
He just hopes trying to break his promise will be the last thing he regrets tonight.
Lucy undresses like someone who has never been ashamed of anything, not even checking to see if Peter is watching or not. She probably doesn’t even think about it when she starts untying the laces on her dress, pulling it over her head and off.
Peter can’t help himself; he stares.
The moonlight caresses Lucy’s body, her white skin as pale and unspoilt as milk under the full moon. When she takes off her shift, Peter can’t stop the noise that escapes his throat, small and pained like an animal that’s been stepped on. Lucy turns at the sound of it and that just makes is worse because Peter can see, can- and then Lucy’s face is hidden in the shadows of her hair with her back to the moon. It takes a moment, then he realizes he has no such advantages; he can see the pearl of light over Lucy’s shoulder and knows that his expression must be clear as day.
Fortunately, right now, the dominating emotion is shock.
“You’re not gonna keep those on, are you?” Lucy says, amusement colouring her voice, and Peter can actually feel the rictus his face makes at those words, torn between desperate arousal and horrified surprise. He almost gapes at her, but manages to get his jaw under control in time, before hastily starting to undress. Peter doesn’t dare look up for fear Lucy is watching him, afraid she will see. It turns out his anxiety is unfounded, as the soft splashing sound of Lucy wading into the water accompanies his wrestle with his tunic.
Peter leaves the pile of clothes and half his brain behind with his boots at the water’s edge and is quick to join his sister in the lake, as eager to get into the water as he can ever remember being, and not just because of the heat. The darkness of the waves hides his shame well, and though it allows the occasional glimpse of Lucy’s breasts, this is made bearable by the cold.
“See?” Lucy asks, smiling from ear to ear, water dripping from her hair and nose and lips. Peter once saw a painting of a group of nymphs teasing a youth in a museum in England, a lifetime ago. It’s a half-forgotten memory, but he can vaguely see their dripping hair, their seductive smiles, the outline of their bodies under the clear water. Lucy looks like one of those beauties of Greek myth now, the type that pulls young men into ponds to drown.
She doesn’t try to drown him, for which Peter is eternally grateful. He spends most of their swim terrified of the possibility that she will try to wrestle him under in a bout of playfulness, heedless of their nudity. Instead they drift and talk, staring up at the blanket of night, and Peter thinks idly that he could fill the spaces between the stars with all the feelings seizing his heart.
He never imagined he could feel so much.
The familiar conflict rages under his ribs, but in the great endless stretch of grasslands and the night sky, everything seems amplified. It almost feels like his love is expanding past his chest, escaping the confines of his body to stretch out to its object with greedy fingers.
He dreads to moment they will have to head back to shore. The lake-water serves as a fine sanctuary, where he can be secure in the knowledge that the nature of his regard remains invisible. When they drag themselves back onto shore to lie on the grassy slope, relaxed and exhilarated all at once, Peter is quick to pull his shift back on.
“What are you doing?”
“Drying. I don’t want to get my clothes wet.”
Peter is speechless, caught up staring at his sister laying bare on the riverbank, the grass a deep gray sea against her skin. Lucy is long-limbed and slim-hipped, almost boyish except for the unmistakable curves of her breasts, and he can’t figure out why he burns for her so, why Susan’s sensual curviness doesn’t appeal to him half as much.
“Won’t you join me?” she asks, sounding too innocent for that smirk by half.
“Lucy, put some clothes on.”
“Put some clothes on, please.” Peter pleads, at the end of his tether. He’s only human, he’s lived in want for years, he can see every inch of her skin. The knowledge that she’s his sister, his baby sister, is becoming less important by the second. Averting his eyes is all he can do to try and get himself under control, casting about desperately for his leathers. It would be a tough job trying to hide his arousal in a shift and that’s where this situation right now is headed pretty quickly.
Lucy watches him pull frantically on his leathers, trying to do up his laces with shaking hands and failing. “What’s gotten into you?”
Peter curses, loudly and at length, and throws her shift at Lucy. “Put that on. Now. Please.”
“But why? It’s gonna get wet and-”
“Because I am getting turned-on watching you!” Peter yells, cracking, gesticulating wildly at her and his groin and god, he feels like he might cry with frustration, with shame.
“Alright, alright,” Lucy mumbles, pulling on the garment. It doesn’t help much. The shift gapes at her neckline, slipping down over one shoulder, and it’s too thin to really cover anything. Peter can still see the outline of her body underneath, and as it soaks through with the water on her skin the cloth darkens over her nipples. “Are you happy now?”
Peter can’t answer. His throat is shut tight with apprehension and humiliation. He stands there, stock-still, too afraid to do anything but await judgement.
Lucy rolls her eyes and grins at him. She grins at him. “Don’t make such a fuss. Come here.”
Coming closer does not seem advisable right now, but when Peter starts to protest Lucy’s face turns dark. She puts up a hand to cut him off and motions for him to sit next to her. He obeys.
“Do you want to talk about it?” She asks, sweetly.
“No.” Peter says, sharp. He cringes at his tone, but fear makes him cruel and in any case, it’s the truth. There’s nothing he would like less than to put into words the history of his vile longing – the thought alone makes him gag.
Lucy lies down in the tall grass, quietly watching him. She’s so beautiful, looking up at him with that tiny quirk at the corner of her mouth, a sad sort of understanding in her eyes that Peter thinks must be the product of his own imagination. Her hair fans out behind her across the grass, both dark against her paleness. She looks like the moon. Eventually, warily, he lies down next to her.
They lie together for a long time, just breathing. Just looking.
Peter has found that Lucy can say a lot with her eyes, that they both can, that they know each other well enough to have entire conversations over a dinner table, never speaking. He’ll sit next to her on a cliff or a balcony or in the middle of a field, at banquets and together on horseback, and know without words what she’s thinking. It is said of lovers sometimes that they share a soul. Whatever they may be to each other, there are moments when Peter is certain that they do. That it took him four years from birth to become complete.
The spirit of confession is brewing in him, but Peter shuts his jaws tight on the words that long to spill out. Confessions, once made, cannot be unmade.
At some point Lucy started stroking her fingers over his wrist, tracing delicately over the pulse point. Her touch progresses to his forearms, shoulders, his throat. The hairs at the back of his neck stand upright and when Lucy brushes her fingerpads against the grain, a delicious tingle moves down his spine to settle in his groin.
“Lucy, stop,” Peter pleads.
She doesn’t; holds his gaze instead. The dark blue is black in the moonlight and so alive, and that too crawls down through his bones and makes him shiver. Peter lets his eyes flutter closed, sinking deep into sensation and denial, torn between the two, for a moment happy to have them blissfully coexist inside his skin.
“Will you kiss me?” Lu whispers, so softly he almost doesn’t hear. Lost in the delightful nothingness of his mind, the touch of her fingers, it takes him a second to realize what she has said.
“What? No!” Instantly, he pushes her away, terrified of himself and what he might do. He hugs his legs to keep his hands to himself. "I can’t.”
"I want to know what it feels like," she says, holding his wrist with gentle pressure. "Please."
Peter chokes on his next breath, on her words, on the desperate terror pushing at the back of his throat. "Don't ask this of me," he gasps.
“Why not? You obviously wanted to before, why not now? ” Lucy pushes, undeterred.
“Because it’s wrong! It’s so wrong on so many levels, can’t you see that? You can’t offer this to me, please.”
Her grip on his hand tightens, her expression grown fierce in a flash. “But it’s tearing you up inside!" She cuts him off before he can protest. "Don’t you dare lie to me, I can see it in your eyes even now.”
“Lucy, you must understand.” He’s grabbed her tightly by the shoulders, cursing himself and Lucy both. It is possible there will be bruises tomorrow, but he needs her to understand - is there no end to his need? - even if it means he will never touch her again. He hates that he can’t make himself let go. “I won’t be able to just kiss you. I’ve loved you for so long, I'll take another and another and more, more than you want to give." Peter averts his eyes guiltily, unable to return Lucy's fierce stare. "It would tear me apart to be allowed this out of pity or curiosity - a kiss that would mean nothing to you, but everything to me. Would you really torture me so?”
Lucy’s fingers clutch tightly at his shift, agitated and hot against Peter’s chest. “I’m not offering. I’m asking, for me.”
She smiles sadly at Peter’s wide-eyed look of shock, his suddenly limp fingers. “I have seen you watching me, brother. Have you seen me?”
She crawls closer again, back into the bubble of his personal space. Lucy curves herself against him, her bare knees brushing against his leathers. When Peter doesn’t stop her, her lily-white hand returns to his chest, slips past his shift to cover his collarbone.
“Sometimes you look at me so – so beautifully. As if rain had frozen and all the world was sparkling before your eyes, and I- there is something inside me that aches for you then like nothing else.”
Peter’s hands have moved to his sister’s waist without thought or consent. He can almost span the with width of her stomach with his thumbs. She feels so small and young cupped in his hands like that, but her face is different. She doesn’t look the naïve child then, with her heart untested and full of happiness, hasn’t looked it for the past hour. Has Peter just blinded himself for so long? Was her soul with him every step of the way, perhaps, those four years before she came into the world, and has she hurt and yearned with the slow drag of their desperation?
He can see Lucy's eyes track his thoughts inside his head, the familiar sympathy thick between them in their closeness.“Are you so in love with your honour that you would have us both suffer?”
And of the two of them, she is the stronger one, opening herself up to him and the world and fighting for what she needs from him, for him, everything they want tangled up and it’s not a surprise that for all the reasons he should fight her, he cannot.
Lucy smiles against his mouth when he finally kisses her. She breaks out into a laugh and chokes on it, clenching tight and clinging to him. Peter tries to pull away to look at her at the pained sound of it, but she doesn’t let him, just pushes closer and harder until the sharp stab of relief is soothed over by pleasure.
Peter loses a few minutes then - Lucy’s lips giving way to his tongue, the soft murmur of her victory in his throat – and when he comes to, Lucy is on top of him, straddling his hips and beaming down at him. She caresses his cheek and leans in close; her breath burns against his throat.
“I knew you’d give in, if only I could get you to kiss me.”
“You planned this?” Peter splutters.
“You bet.” She curls over him to kiss at his collarbones, slicks her tongue over the curve of it, and that familiar wicked grin is right there for the world to see. “Now aren’t you glad I didn’t ask another for kissing lessons?”
Peter is horrified, then starts laughing when he realizes it is a joke, and finds that he can’t stop until all the confusion and terror has flowed out of him to soak into the ground. “H-how? And for Aslan’s mane, why?”
“I read a book. No, don’t make that face, not like that. I wouldn’t even know where to find that in the castle library. Just, fairytales, I guess. We’re living in one, after all.”
“You read a book about fairytales and learned to seduce me?”
“No. Well, yes. I don’t know. The attempt was somewhat tailored to its intended object.”
“Which, in this case, would be me.” Peter says, just to be clear. He’s still having a hard time believing his luck.
“Yes.” Lucy’s face suddenly turns serious. There’s a stubborn tilt to her brow that Peter knows very well. “I’m not twelve anymore, Pete. I’ve been a Queen of Narnia for nine years. I would have ridden north with you against the giants had you let me. I can draw you a map of these lands that are our kingdoms and I can tell you all the histories since Aslan first sung this world into being. I could tell you how I've searched all those nights for things that have no words, as you have. You have been very knightly and noble and true to protect me so all these years, but I have not been that little girl from Finchley for a long time.”
She puts her fingers to his lips, stifling his protests with the gentleness of her touch. She is so very soft everywhere she lies against him, from her eyes down to her toes, and her words are soft too over a core of conviction and fondness. “Shush. You’re only going to put your foot in your mouth, brother dear. I fear that, on this topic, you cannot be trusted to see straight, but it is important that I make you.”
“As for why,” she kisses him softly on the corner of his mouth, “the sunlight clasps the earth, and the moonbeams kiss the sea, what are all these kissings worth, if thou kiss not me?” Lucy kisses him again, deeper this time, bringing a hand up to cup his jaw. “I love you, Pete. More than anything; more than the sun and the sky and the blood in my veins, I love you.”