Summary: Eustace has discovered one of the cruder facets of life at sea...and he isn't happy.
Notes: Written for ineptshieldmaid . She wanted 'Eustace. Anything Eustace, thanks.' And I confess, I've cheated. This is not a drabble - it's a fully-fledged story. *hides* It just wrote itself that way...
At first glance, it did not look like the sort of place one would choose for basking in the sun. In fact, if Caspian had had a little less time on his hands, he might not have thought to try it at all. The trouble with being a King at sea was that, despite the gallant efforts of the crew to include him in their daily comings and going about the ship, it was a fairly unavoidable fact that he wasn’t an awful lot of use. So, unable to bear being completely idle, Caspian had spent his days exploring every nook and cranny of the ship, from the galley right up to the crow’s nest. He had had ample time to examine the various possible resting locations of the Dawn Treader, and had come to the conclusion that the nicest by far was right here – stretched out upon the rigging where it was at its least taut, so that one was about halfway between lying and standing, while winding one’s arms through the ropes to hold oneself in place. It was a tricky business getting oneself into the proper position, but once there it was easy to get lost for hours just enjoying the warmth and the salty smell and the gentle rocking motion of the boat.
That was what Caspian was doing now, of course. He lay comfortably still with his eyes closed, savouring the caress of the sunlight on his face and the rustling of the breeze in his hair, and thinking about all manner of issues concerning a King of Narnia: how things were going at home, and whether he mightn’t bring up that special barrel of vintage wine to have with dinner that night, and what the lords might look like when he found them (his memories of them were only foggy; after all, they had been sent away when he was a very small boy), and how he might tell Eustace, without causing too much of an argument, that he kept putting his borrowed tunic on backwards. All in all, it was an exceedingly pleasant way to pass the time.
A movement somewhere further down the rigging caused the ropes beneath him to shake, and he opened his eyes and an looked down to see Queen Lucy slowly but surely clambering her way up towards him. Drawing up beside him, she lay back (slipping and sliding a few times before she managed it) and grinned cheerfully.
“Hullo, Caspian,” she chirped, cautiously releasing one hand from the ropes to tug her borrowed tunic down over her thighs. “I say, lovely spot for a little sunbathing.”
The young Queen wobbled precariously, and Caspian nearly lost his own balance as he lunged to steady her. After several moments of awkward scrambling, both monarchs succeeded in regaining their balance, and settled back again companionably.
“Careful, Lu,” Caspian laughed. “That nearly sent both of us over. We simply mustn’t give Eustace the satisfaction of seeing us break our necks.”
It was not strictly proper, technically speaking, to be so familiar with the Valiant Queen. But perched so high above the ship’s deck, rocking back and forth in the breeze and staring up at the endless azure sky, little matters of etiquette and rank felt hideously unnecessary and out-of-place. Anyway, it was hard not to be relaxed in Lucy’s presence – the little Queen had a way of making one feel as if one had been friends with her all one’s life.
Lucy giggled, shaking her head and nearly losing her balance all over again. “Really, Caspian. He isn’t that bad, surely.”
Caspian pulled a rather un-regal face. “He’s bad enough. Oh, I do wish we could just throw him overboard.”
An unpleasant shout cut off the reproachful reply Lucy had been about to make. The two companions peered down through the rigging as the door to the cabins was flung open and out stormed a very angry, very miserable Eustace, followed almost immediately by a rather comically flustered Rynelf.
“Caspian!” hollered Eustace in his most obnoxious tone. “Caspian, where are you?”
It was sorely tempting to just stay very still and hope that the troublesome boy wouldn’t discover him. However, Caspian knew that whatever was bothering Eustace now would only be magnified to many times its current severity if he was left to stew on it for too long. Heaving a reluctant sigh and smiling apologetically at Lucy, he made the quickest descent he could manage and dropped the last several feet onto the deck right in front of Eustace, who yelped in surprise and then glowered all the more.
“Caspian, your men are refusing to show me to any proper facilities! They think it’s funny to make crude jokes about personal hygiene, well I’ll-”
“Sire!” Rynelf’s face was turning a vivid shade of scarlet. “He is not being reasonable. We showed him where the…well, the privy was, and he doesn’t seem to like it.” He glared at Eustace, furious at being forced to mention such a base subject in front of his King.
Caspian blinked, eyes widening in surprise. Of all the things to interrupt his leisure time… “And, er, what seems to be the problem with it?” he asked, tilting his head and looking rather bemused.
Eustace spluttered indignantly. “They’re not hygienic! Do you mean to say that that’s the only waste disposal method you have on this wretched boat? By Jove, when the British Consul hear about this…”
“There you go about that Consul of yours again,” said Caspian mildly, struggling to suppress a grin. “Listen, if it troubles you so much, I suppose I could have a bucket fetched for you.”
Lucy, reaching the deck rather belatedly, put her hands on her hips and gave the company a very rare, but very stern, glare. “Eustace, I do hope you’re not making an ass of yourself again,” she said.
“They’re trying to tell me I have to-”
“Master Eustace, this is not an appropriate discussion to have in the presence of a Lady!” Rynelf interrupted hurriedly.
“Oh! So I’m to have my privacy ruthlessly invaded while everyone fusses over Lucy not hearing anything rude…”
Caspian raised his eyes to the heavens. “I assure you, nobody will be watching,” he told Eustace in a long-suffering tone. “Your privacy will remain perfectly intact.”
“It’s pollution! It’s disgusting! I could sue you for this, you know. In Britain, they have inspectors to make sure ships have proper sewage disposal units in place.”
Lucy finally realised what had upset her cousin so much. Her mouth opened in a silent ‘O’ of surprise, and then shut tightly again as she quickly stifled a giggle.
“Oh, Eustace, you’re causing an awful scene,” she said reasonably, once she was quite sure she had mastered her amusement. “I know it isn’t what you’re used to, but can’t you just make the best of it? That’s what the rest of us do…”
Eustace’s face darkened as he realised he had been defeated. Turning on his heel, he disappeared below deck again, still muttering about hygiene standards and human rights. Rynelf, looking thoroughly frustrated, slunk away quietly. Alone on the deck once more, Caspian and Lucy waited until the others were well and truly out of earshot before throwing their heads back and laughing.
“What’s that you were saying, Lucy?” Caspian asked presently, still grinning hugely.
Lucy gave an unladylike snort. “Sometimes,” she said in the most serious tone she could muster, “I think we should just throw him overboard and be done with it.”
Caspian smiled and turned to haul himself up on the rigging again. “We can always dream, Lu,” he muttered wryly. “We can always dream.”