Disclaimer: I'd always wanted to continue this series, but never had a subject for the girls to come to Professor Kirk for advice on. In the middle of writing my Christmas prompts list (which was a wonderful way to procrastinate) this idea occurred to me; I just have to go write it and see how it turns out. … This was meant to be a disclaimer. I sincerely hope my story doesn't get as off track as this did. This isn't mine, and neither, apparently is a working brain.
Beta'd by trustingHim17, and it will probably need it.
A/N: Takes place shortly after The Silver Chair.
The Gentle Queen did not interrupt Professor's Kirk's time in his study as her brothers had. Interrupting was not her way, however much the Professor welcomed them. This was partly because she'd kept the courtesy she'd learned as Queen, but in part because she'd lost a little of the assurance and courage she had gained in another world. Rather she waited, watching for a moment when his attention was unclaimed, and company a welcome relief to unwelcome solitude. She found her opportunity as he walked around his small garden, a routine she had observed him following quite early every morning, before breakfast. She put on her hat and gloves and followed him out the door, only to discover the observant professor waiting for her, a ready smile on his white-bearded face.
"May I join you this morning?" her gentle voice asked.
"I would be delighted," he said, bowing, because of all of the four, Susan missed the physical reminders of her court and kingdom most. He offered his arm, and she took it with a smile. Her smile could still fell a King from his horse. (Not a Talking Horse, of course. If they were being ridden, they'd have enough sense to stop moving and wait till their King recovered from the shock of the vision before him. But it was rare that Talking Horses were the ones being ridden.) But however much more at ease his gestures made her, he still had to wait patiently while she brought out whatever was on her mind.
And something was. Her smiles had been noticeably absent from the two evenings of Narnian fellowship thus far. The Professor and Polly (and probably Peter and Edmund as well, the Professor thought) had been waiting to find out what was on her mind. He could wait a little longer while she found her way to the right words.
"I think your roses are doing well," the young Queen said presently, reaching out to touch the green buds with careful fingers.
"The credit for that is not mine, alas! Though I've been told I could grow pipeweed in a desert, the more delicate flowers…" he shook his head with a smile.
"And yet your touch in delicate relationships is as skilled as any I've seen," Susan commented.
Professor Kirk raised his brows. "Is that the reason for your company, my dear? Is there a relationship you're finding delicate?" Susan hesitated. She had been made a girl once more, and the Professor tried, with grandfatherly patience, to make this easier for her. "Is this about the new members of our circle, by any chance?"
"I don't get on with Jill like I do with Lucy," Susan blurted out, the blunt words softened by the worry in them.
"Ah." The Professor waited for more. It was not long in coming, for this had weighed on Susan heavily.
"I don't—Lucy and I argue, sisters do, but we've always been able to love through it. She listens, and we love many of the same things. I don't know how to reach Jill; she's so different. Impatient, and headstrong, and strong, too—I can see why she's a good friend for our cousin—but she's rough. It's the word I keep coming back to. I want to be her friend, and yet I can't—I can't find anything we have in common."
"Nothing?" the Professor asked mildly.
"I thought it might be that she wasn't family at first." Susan's stride was picking up without her noticing it, and the Professor wordlessly lengthened his own to match her flaring skirts, guiding her with his arm to the longer route. "I even get on better with Eustace now than her; he talks a little bit like Edmund, logic and redemption and turning problems over and over, though Edmund has so much more skill. And he fits. He hero-worships Peter, and gets on like a younger brother with Edmund, and Lucy's kind heart welcomed him at once. He's so eager to learn, he's easy to talk to. It's also evident he doesn't think before speaking, and his blunders are easy to excuse."
"And young Miss Jill's are not so easy?"
Susan gave him a startled glance, and then laughed, her soft, beautiful, clear laughter. "No, there is that. It's a bit more painful, because she's often fiercely aware she's made a blunder. Her pride flares as quickly as a Mouse's, though she's humble enough to see her mistakes. I don't think she feels she fits in as well, and I feel it with her. She is fierce because she is used to being alone. I want to help her. But all those words—fierce, strong, a flaring pride…"
"They are in many ways the opposite of the Queen you taught yourself to be," the Professor finished for the Queen, who was slowing as she fell into thought. "All except strong, my dear, you had to be that as well." Susan flashed him a smile of thanks. Nodding in acknowledgement, he brought the subject back to Jill.
"My dear young lady and accomplished Queen, I would ask your forbearance for circling back around to something already said. Forgive an old man's repeating himself, but have you nothing in common with her?"
"Nothing but Narnia. That is all I have been able to find in our conversations these two days past."
"And yet you have that." Susan looked at him, eyebrows raised in question. "There are tales you have told of rough Giants, fierce Dwarves, and prideful animals. Tell me, what did you have in common with them? For you never told of not relating to them, even though they were of different races. Why not?"
"Narnia." He knew that longing, the strong mix of homesickness and love and wistfulness that this one word could evoke. Narnia would always be their true home—until Aslan's country. And only Jill and Eustace had truly glimpsed that. Oh, how Digory envied them that! It must have been as beautiful as the garden he'd seen, perhaps more so. But for the Kings and Queens, it was still just Narnia itself. "There, we worked for Narnia. Though I was not her warrior nor her judge, yet still I worked for her good, and that was all I needed. That was all we needed, to work together."
"And you can still find that with Jill." Susan's forehead furrowed in confusion, and he sighed and shook his head. "Logic, my dear, logic! Bless me, can't you see it? Jill is a Narnian champion, as are you." Susan nodded, a royal permission for him to continue. "Can't you see that she's not done?" Susan paused, and he stopped their walk to allow her thoughts to catch up, the ideas causing her eyes to shine as she began to see. "There, there, I thought for you'd grasp it. Jill still has work to do for Narnia, I'm rather certain of it. Aslan's made a habit of telling us when we can't go back, and He hasn't told her—or Eustace yet. So, logically, she still has work left to do for Narnia, and needs to learn how to do it." By now they had resumed walking, and he could feel the Queen's eager attention. She was so young! Though that did not lessen the truth of his final point. "You, if I may say so, are a much more experienced adventurer, both here and in another world, and have much to pass on to her."
"And therefore much to say to her, and to do with her," Susan finished gravely. "I thank you, Professor." She looked away as the door to the cottage came in view, clearly contemplating her plans for the day's events. "Your advice has been most helpful."
"I am delighted to hear it, my dear. If you'll excuse me, I think I'll take another turn. Just tell the others I won't be in for breakfast, if you would?" She smiled again, and he chuckled inside with joy to see them returning. He bowed as she turned to go in, and she curtsied, and he watched her inside before beginning his walk again. It took all kinds to make a world, to make a heavenly kingdom, in fact. It was good to see it coming, whether in the blooming rose he was passing again, or in a blooming friendship.