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Disclaimer: The Chronicles of Narnia and its characters do not belong to me. I'm just borrowing them for my and (I hope) my readers' amusement only and have no intention of trying to make money off of them in any way, shape or form.

Warnings: None to speak of.
Fandom: Chronicles of Narnia
Rating: G

Author: The RCK
Website: http://www.therck.org
Last updated: 8 October 2013

Thanks to Olna Jenn for first reading. Thanks to Valerie for beta reading.

Written for miss_morland in the 2013 Narnia Fic Exchange.

Disembarking

After the glory of Aslan, Lucy's bedroom was painfully dingy and commonplace. All three children turned at once to look at the painting that had started their adventure.

"Those seas look nothing like where we were," Eustace observed.

"Narnian time is funny," Edmund responded. "It could have been weeks for them already. Who knows where they are now?"

"Strange to be thinking of 'them' when not long ago it was 'us,'" Lucy said. She walked over to the wall and pressed her fingers against the picture. "Nothing but paint and canvas."

Eustace crouched and touched the floor. Then he reached over and touched the bed. "Dry," he said. "Are you sure no time has passed?" He looked at his hand then at his arm. "And I'm pale again, like I was never in the sun."

Edmund took two steps and put a hand on Eustace's shoulder. "It's like none of it ever happened. You'll find you're nothing like as strong now as you were in Narnia. You'll have to start building up from the beginning again."

Lucy seated herself on the floor next to Eustace. "As to time, all our other trips took no time at all here, in our world. I don't see why this time should be different. Aslan wouldn't do that."

"So Alberta won't even have noticed we were gone?" Eustace shut his eyes. "How ever am I going to explain?"

"You mustn't!" Lucy exclaimed. "You mustn't tell anyone! They wouldn't believe you. They'll think you're just making it up."

Eustace opened his eyes and stared at Lucy. "Alberta knows I don't tell lies, and anyway, how can I hide something this important? I've changed so much."

"Eustace," Edmund said, "what you do is up to you. Just think about Aunt Alberta and Uncle Harold. How do you think they'll react? I mean, it sounds like we're inventing stories. That's what you thought when you heard us talk about Narnia."

Eustace poked at the toe of his shoe. "It is impossible, and I've no proof at all."

"Peter and Susan and Professor Kirke and Miss Plummer will believe you," Lucy assured him. "We'll introduce you to the Professor and Miss Plummer as soon as we can."

Eustace recognized Professor Kirke's name. He knew Peter was studying with a professor for an important exam. "Who is Miss Plummer?"

"She and the Professor went to Narnia when they were children," Lucy explained.

"I didn't think we'd ever get back," Eustace confessed. He didn't look at his cousins. "It seemed so terribly permanent."

Edmund and Lucy exchanged a glance over Eustace's head. Edmund shrugged minutely.

"Well, we are back," Lucy said brightly. "Maybe you should go have a walk or something, just to let it sink in. Don't talk to Aunt Alberta until you're quite sure of yourself."

"Did you tell your parents?" Eustace sat on the floor and, wrapping his arms around his legs, put his chin on his knees.

"No," Edmund replied.

"Even if we'd wanted to, it was during the war, and we didn't see them for quite some time after." Lucy sounded apologetic.

"They'd have said, 'Aren't you a little old for such fancies?' And that's just talking to me and Lucy. Peter and Susan--" Edmund shook his head. "It doesn't bear thinking about."

"Alberta says fiction is for those who can't cope with the real world," Eustace admitted.

"Do you have any place you like to go to think or anything you do that helps that way?" Lucy asked. "You need time to think."

"Maybe not," Edmund said. "Maybe we've been gone so long that you've forgotten what being here is really like." He put his hands in his pockets. "Talk to Aunt Alberta. Don't tell her anything about Narnia, just talk about other things. You've all the time in the world."

Eustace considered that for a moment then nodded. He unfolded himself and got to his feet. "You'll help me, Edmund, Lucy, if I'm tempted to be awful again? I'm not sure the new ways will come as easily here."

Edmund and Lucy both nodded. "We both know about coming back from Narnia," Lucy said.

"We do," Edmund agreed. "It's hard when your old life doesn't fit any more, but you don't have anywhere else to be. I'd suggest seeking out new things and new people when you have the choice. New people won't expect the old you."

Eustace made a face. "Things'll be right nasty at Experiment House this fall. Everyone there expects me to-- Well, never mind." He nodded once and squared his shoulders. "For now, Alberta." He walked over and opened the door.

Closing the door gently behind him, Eustace walked down the hall to the stairs. He came down the stairs slowly, stopping on each step as if giving each a chance to speak. He hesitated at the bottom. Assuming that Lucy was right and that no time had passed, Harold would still be at work, designing some sort of new building for the University. Alberta was almost certain to be in the kitchen. At least, she'd said something at breakfast about lentils for dinner, and Eustace had the vague impression that those took time.

He smiled at the thought of familiar food, vegetarian food. He'd learned, in Narnia, to eat what was available (he'd been sick a time or two, getting used to the food available aboard the Dawn Treader), but his time as a dragon had made him more aware of the messy business involved in procuring meat. His parents had talked of the inefficiency of meat production and how each bit of meat meant lots of food spent that could have been better used to feed the hungry. They never mentioned what Eustace now knew, that meat meant a life ended. He valued his own life more than he did that of some dumb animal, but he wondered, in a world with Talking Animals, that more Narnian humans weren't vegetarians.

He vaguely supposed that the return to Cambridge and Alberta's cooking might not be so welcome to his cousins. For them, vegetarian fare was alien, something to be endured. He supposed, too, that many of the things that made this home for him were different from what Edmund and Lucy were accustomed to. He wondered if staying here was as difficult for them as those first weeks on board the Dawn Treader had been for him.

He shook himself, reminding himself that he had things to do. There was no point putting it off further. No, there was every point in doing so. He felt that something irrevocable would happen when he saw Alberta again. He squared his shoulders and raised his chin. Surely, talking to his mother couldn't be harder than being a dragon or fighting a sea serpent.

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