|With All Her Faults
Author: Selene Antilles PM
Narnia, England and the war have driven the Pevensies so far apart, Peter joins the army just to get away from the tension and animosity. Someone must save him - teach him to let go of Narnia and love England again - before it's too late. But who? PeterOCRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Angst - Peter Pevensie - Chapters: 22 - Words: 65,266 - Reviews: 143 - Favs: 65 - Follows: 65 - Updated: 02-01-10 - Published: 07-09-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4383155
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Well, this is it. I can't believe I've finished it. It's craziness! Almost two years and I'm finally done. Hopefully you've all enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it – it's been a lot of fun. I plan to go through and do some revisions, so I will post an author's note chapter when all the tweaking is finished.
Thank you to Metonomia who nudged me on the last several months and got me to write, what? Eight, nine chapters? You're fabulous!
And thank you to all of you who stuck with me through an eight-month hiatus. You're awesome too!
Without further ado…
Heaven and Earth
Once upon a time, Peter had been a sweet, if serious, young boy. He could be a bit pig-headed but he took care of his family when his father went to war. He protected them and even though he didn't always get along with them, he loved them very much.
And then something extraordinary happened to him. He was only a boy, but he became a king. He ruled with his brother and sisters at his side, a High King of a distant, mythical land. It wasn't a figment of their imagination, nor had it happened by chance.
There was a pair of hands guiding each of the pitfalls and triumphs into Peter's life. Or, a set of paws, anyway.
Aslan, the King of Kings, whatever you prefer to call Him. Peter called him friend.
But Peter strayed and even Aslan knew it wasn't entirely the boy's fault. Not everyone has it in them to have faith forever, not when tragedy after tragedy befalls them. Peter had been given a fairy-tale life with castles and power and money. And then he had it all ripped away without warning or ceremony. Few could withstand such a torment with their wits about them.
Peter was angry. He felt betrayed and rightly so, especially when he was told he would never again return to the land where he was hailed as a legend, a hero, a magnificent warrior, despite his young face.
So Aslan developed a Plan.
That Plan included a beautiful redheaded woman, who would have absolutely no knowledge what role she would play in the salvation of Peter's soul until long after the fact.
All she would know was that she loved him unconditionally.
"There was a real railway accident," said Aslan softly. "Your father and mother and all of you are – as you used to call it in the Shadowlands – dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning." (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle, pg 210)
Peter listened and he smiled joyfully as though his heart could not contain all the good he felt, but still, when Aslan had turned to attend to others, he stood on the edge of the great path that led to the Real England, and he felt sadness. Something akin to sadness, anyway, as Lucy had already pointed out they could not actually feel anything that might be called bad. Still, it felt bad and even worse in this perfect place.
Edmund set his hand on his brother's shoulder, a knowing look in his eyes. "What's wrong?" he asked quietly, sure he already knew.
"I just have to walk right down there, right across this valley, and I'll see her again," Peter murmured. "I just have to take a few steps, a short jaunt, and she could be in my arms again, Ed."
"So go," Edmund said, his voice gentle as he squeezed Peter's shoulder. "You deserve to be happy, Pete, and if you can't be with the woman you love in heaven, where else can you be happy?"
Peter squeezed his eyes shut, turning to wrap his arms around his brother, pulling strength from him. "It feels like an eternity I've been without her, not four years."
Edmund didn't answer, just let him hold on until he could stand on his own again, emotionally, anyway. "Go," he murmured again, nodding to the long path that would lead Peter back to his Rachel.
Swallowing hard, Peter nodded and walked hesitantly onto the path.
Rachel's eyes opened slowly and as she focused she found herself looking up at Margaret. "M-Margaret?" she clarified, her voice hoarse.
Margaret smiled widely, helping her sit up. "Yes, yes, it's me!"
"Margaret, you're alive!" Rachel launched herself into Margaret's arms, much to the other woman's surprise.
Margaret laughed out loud. "Not exactly, love."
Rachel pulled back slowly, her brow knit in confusion. "Not exactly alive?"
"You're just dead, dear," she said kindly, patting Rachel's arm.
Rachel stared at her for a long moment. "I'm what?"
"You're dead. It's all right. It's quite a shock for some people but you'll get used to it," Margaret assured her.
"I-I'm dead… Peter." Rachel's eyes widened, growing wet. "Where is he? I have to see him. Does he know?" she asked rapid-fire.
Margaret arched an eyebrow. "What do you mean, dear? Your Peter? What about him?"
"Peter. He's dead. He-he died that day at the hospital, with you," Rachel said in a rush, her voice thick.
"Peter wasn't at the hospital that day, Rachel," Margaret murmured slowly. "At least, I never saw him."
"But you've seen him since then, of course, haven't you? Where is he?" Rachel demanded, her hands gripping her friend's arms too tightly.
"I don't think you understand. Peter… isn't dead. I would have seen him, I'm sure."
"He is, he is! He saved Richard and then ran back inside and the building collapsed on him and-and…" Rachel trailed off, her eyes filling with tears, unable to comprehend what could possibly have happened. A rock glanced off the window and they both jumped, Rachel wiping her eyes with her fingertips as Margaret opened the window.
"Well what do you know…" she breathed in surprise, stepping back and gesturing to the open second-story window. Rachel stood slowly and looked out to find Peter standing there with his hands on his hips, staring up at her. He trembled visibly when he saw her and she darted to the door, running quickly down the stairs and outside. Launching herself into his arms, she clung tightly to him.
"Oh Peter." "God, my Rachel, my beautiful Rachel."
He wrapped his arms around her, one hand resting on the back of her head at the soft, red hair there. "Oh, darling, I've missed you so much. Not a day has gone by that I haven't wished you were with me."
"When Richard told me… I lived with a broken heart all these years, Peter," she whispered, brushing her lips over his.
"Oh, me to-" Peter pulled away, his hands on her arms. "What?"
"When Richard told me. I collapsed, Peter. Barely got out of bed for two weeks." Rachel brushed her fingers over his cheek, taking him in, a few years older, but still her Peter.
"How did Richard tell you anything?" Peter asked in confusion, pausing. "H-how long have you been here?" His heart clenched in horror, not quite believing Richard would be capable of hating him that much.
"I'm not sure. Something tells me time runs a bit differently here. But the last thing I remember it was '49," Rachel murmured, still not understanding.
"1949…" Peter's eyes hardened and he wrapped her in his arms, holding her tight. "That bastard."
"Peter!" Rachel scolded, lifting her head to meet his eyes. "What is the matter with you?"
"I was killed in a train wreck in 1949," Peter said stiffly.
"No, you-" Rachel's eyes widened. "What are you saying?" She pulled out of his grip, stepping away from him.
"I'm saying that your brother played us for bloody fools! Where were you the day the hospital collapsed?" Peter demanded.
She paled, not sure she could tell him the truth. "I-in Westham. I was helping out at the hospital there," she half-lied. "Where were you?"
"In Hastings. I heard about the bombings and I wanted to be sure you were all right." Peter stepped closer to her, clenching his jaw. "When I got there, the hospital exploded, right before my eyes. I went in, managed to get one patient and Richard out. The rest of the building collapsed before I could go back in. For you. Because, you see, according to the head physician, what's his name? Dr. Winstrom? According to him, you were in surgery."
Rachel's eyes filled with tears and she sank onto the bench behind her. "How could he do this to me?" she whispered, knowing not even Peter could understand the gravity of what Richard had done. "He told me you did go back in, that you were trapped, killed. I lived four years without you because of him."
Peter dropped down beside her, his left hand resting on her knee. She reached out, tenderly drawing her fingertip over the ragged red ribbon tied on his finger. "You still wear it," she observed needlessly.
"Never take it off," he whispered back, leaning up to kiss her forehead as he took her hand and stroked his thumb over the matching ribbon there. "Nothing will ever keep us apart again, Rachel, I promise. No matter what happens. I'll never let you go."
"Pete!" Ed darted down the road, waving to them. "Hallo, Rachel," he grinned. "Aslan wants us up top. All of us." A look of dismay crossed his face and he tugged Peter to his feet. "You better tell her," he hissed.
Rachel cleared her throat delicately. "Ahh… I know. He doesn't need to tell me anything," she murmured hesitantly.
Edmund raised his eyebrows. "You know…"
Peter flushed, running a hand through his hair. "It's a long story," he said roughly, sliding his hand into hers and pulling her to her feet.
Edmund eyed them both curiously but any suspicions he might have had on Earth were absent. He shrugged. "Follow me then."
They followed him back up the path into the Real Narnia, which still took Edmund's breath away and Peter's too, to a degree, but didn't seem to impress Rachel all that much. It was, after all, the only Narnia she had ever known.
"Welcome back, child," Aslan greeted her with a smile in his voice as Edmund led them into a private courtyard off Cair Paravel.
Rachel clung to Peter's hand, not afraid, of course, but perhaps a bit leery. "Thank you. Sir," she murmured hesitantly.
Aslan laughed, a deep, rumbling sound that set her hair on edge but brought a comfortable smile to her lips. "I have something I must explain to the two of you," he said gently before nodding to Lucy and Edmund standing by his side. "And I believe your siblings would very much like to hear it as well."
"A-all right." Peter nodded, wrapping his arm around Rachel's shoulders.
"You and your bride have a secret, Peter. A secret you kept to protect the hearts of your brother and sisters."
Peter nodded slowly, avoiding Ed's and Lucy's eyes, though they seemed more intrigued than wounded.
"But it is not the secret you think it is. In your minds, you, Peter and you, Rachel, visited Narnia in what was 1944 in your world," Aslan murmured. "But Rachel has never been to Narnia. Not the Shadowlands you ruled in, at least. She has only been to my Country. Here, this extraordinary version of your beloved home."
Lucy and Edmund stared at him in shock. "You visited Narnia?" Lucy shrieked, her eyes wide.
Aslan nudged her hand. "Shh, my child. Please allow me to explain." Lucy nodded, stepping back again. "Stilian," Aslan called and the king and his wife emerged from behind them, along with Tal and Alp the Fox and all of their other friends.
"I told you we would meet again," Kaili smiled, hugging Rachel tightly.
"Aslan, I don't understand," Peter admitted, shaking Stilian's hand.
"You were lost," Aslan murmured regretfully. "My heart would not hear of letting my children so far away from me. But even I cannot break my word, nor the bindings of the Deep Magic I wove to keep your worlds separate. So I brought you here, instead, enlisted the help of King Stilian and Queen Kaili and so many from their time to create the illusion."
"But what about Susan! She's strayed! She denies Narnia even exists!" Peter cried, rather indignantly.
"Susan abandoned Narnia and would be okay. You were trying to abandon England and would not. You cannot live in a world you are not actually in, which is exactly what you tried to do. You tried to be a king in a land where you could be just a boy."
Peter tried again to protest but found he could come up with no suitable arguments. Whether that was the magic of Aslan's Country or whether His logic really was that sound, he couldn't be sure.
"So you brought us to heaven, just to save one soul?" Rachel clarified slowly.
"It is not just. It is everything. Every one of you is very special to me," Aslan said softly, nodding in turn to them all.
Rachel's smile brightened and she turned in Peter's arm. "See? I'm not the only one who cares," she half-teased, though her voice was as genuine and loving as possible.
"Now I believe Rachel has something she needs to discuss with Peter," Aslan murmured, his deep baritone telling her exactly what he meant. She flushed in dismay, glancing between him and Peter at her side, teeth sinking into her lip.
"Something to discuss with me?" Peter asked in confusion but Aslan didn't answer, just led the others away. Lucy and Edmund and the rest watched over their shoulders in insatiable curiosity and Peter knew he would have plenty of explaining to do and plenty of questions to ask at a later time. "Something to discuss with me?" he repeated, rounding on her.
Rachel flinched. "Ah… y-yes, I suppose. You better sit down." She nodded to a stone bench.
Peter eyed her cautiously, sitting down with an anxious look on his face. "Rachel, what is it?"
"I haven't been entirely truthful with you. Darling." She paced slowly, wringing her hands. "That day… I was in Westham but not to help at the hospital. I was there for… personal reasons."
Rachel nodded, running her fingers through her hair. "I-I was…" She stumbled over her words, not sure how to tell him. "I was…"
"Sweetheart, you know you can tell me anything," Peter murmured, standing and resting his hands on her arms.
"I was pregnant," she blurted out, her eyes moist.
He flinched in surprise, staring at her. "What?"
"I was pregnant."
"I heard you." Peter stood frozen in place, shock written on his face. "You mean… he knew?"
"I-I suppose he knows everything," Rachel murmured, glancing at the archway Aslan had left through.
"Not Aslan." Peter's voice was rough but tight, clipped. "He knew and he ruined your life anyway."
Rachel glanced down between them, nodding. "He knew I might be," she agreed.
"I'll kill him," Peter growled, fairly shaking with rage.
"Peter…" She trailed off, tears in her eyes as she looked back up at him. "Peter, my darling…"
Peter tugged her into his arms, burying his face in her hair, that old familiar lavender scent heaven to his senses. He cried on her shoulder without realizing it, his fingers knotting in her blouse. "I have a child," he whispered in obvious shock.
Rachel nodded, stroking her fingers through his hair. "A son," she whispered back.
He pulled back slowly, his hands on her waist as she wiped his tears away with her thumb. "A son?"
"Mhmm. Looks just like you," she murmured with a tearful smile.
"How could he do this?" Peter demanded roughly. "To his own sister? To a little boy, take his father away before he's even born. And his mother, come to think of it, though that wasn't Richard's fault." He brushed his fingers over her cheek. His heart had broken a little more when she told him how she came to be there, a tumor, a disease no one could do a thing about. "What's he like, our son?"
"I don't know," Rachel murmured, her eyes slipping closed as she savored his touch on her skin.
"What do you mean you don't know?" Peter asked, stepping back slightly, though his hand remained on her waist.
Rachel's eyes fluttered open, her lips pursed. "Richard convinced me to give him up," she said sharply before realizing how little Peter would like that.
"He did what? You mean someone else is raising my son, the heir to my crown?" he cried, his voice ringing angrily through the courtyard.
Rachel winced, tugging him back to her. "I couldn't raise a child on my own, Peter," she murmured, not meeting his eyes.
"You wouldn't have had to if it weren't for that no-good, son-of-a-"
Rachel glared at him slightly, pressing her finger to his lips. "You think I like this, finding out my brother virtually killed my fiancé? I hate him for it but you don't see me storming around in a hissy-fit."
Peter glared right back, nipping at her finger. "Yes, well, I'm immature, remember?"
Her lips twitched and she leaned in to press them to his. "Living in sin in heaven is a sure way to get us kicked out," she teased, sliding her hands around his shoulders.
"Well we'll just have to get married then," Peter whispered with a smile, pulling her back for a deep kiss, his hand sliding into her hair as he dipped her down onto the bench, free hand toying with the hem of her blouse.
How he could feel such anger, such passion, such truly human emotions in such an inhuman, righteous place, was beyond him. But it seemed she felt them too and he couldn't help but follow her wherever she wanted him – and his heart – to go.
Kneeling over her there on that bench in Eden, he almost found himself wishing for England, for that cheap hotel bed with the broken springs and the lousy bottle of bourbon they had celebrated New Year's with, as ridiculous as that was. He just wanted a normal bit of life with his normal girl.
But he'd take heaven.
Susan sighed heavily, placing yet another sentimental trinket that had brought tears to her eyes in a box. She had never imagined it would be so difficult to clean out the family home so she could sell it. So many memories there, so many more good times than bad. She was working on Peter and Edmund's room now, the dirty socks and haphazard storage system bringing a smile to her face for the first time instead of a disgusted scowl.
Stacking papers strewn across Peter's desk, Susan noticed his journal beneath the mess. She tossed the papers in the trash and picked it up, sinking into his creaking chair. Resting her feet on an open drawer, Susan cracked the journal, the leather folding as she pushed the cover back and began to read.
The first twenty or so pages were filled with notes and scribbles that seemed angry and hardly made a whit of sense. She scanned them disinterestedly until she reached a page with dark lettering:
HOME SWEET HOME
, it read.
Her brow knit and she flipped to the next page, reading the start of Peter's novel.
She read, absorbed in his words, his near-flawless handwriting, until long after dark had fallen, her only light his small, green desk lamp casting a yellow glow over the pages.
The story of a boy, a man, really, with heartache and trouble, but all so very English. Not a word about kings or knights or blasted broken round tables. A beautiful woman with flaws and heartaches of her own captured his heart and Susan found herself crying more than once.
It was nearing midnight when she reached the last written page, only a few even left in the journal. His writing had grown pained in the last section, as though he were forcing himself to continue on, but he had finished the novel and he had only one thing left to say:
Be England what she will, with all her faults, she is my country still.
She recognized the name, Peter's favorite poet, from when they were just children, when he had wanted to be a writer, had spent hours every day reading stories and making many of his own up. It seemed he had continued the habit without her ever noticing it.
Susan closed the leather-bound journal gingerly, as though she were afraid this one piece of her brother would disappear if she were to treat it too harshly, the way she had treated him.
The next day she wrapped the journal up and took it to a publishing company in the city.
Realizing her brother's dreams for him, even without his being aware, for she highly doubted he was, was the least she could do.