Author's Note: Well, it's finished. It's been a long trip and I'm so thankful to everyone who has stuck with this with enthusiasm and affection. You guys have no idea how much it means to me and I'm so glad to share it with you. A reminder: This story is an A/U; the ending wouldn't make sense in canon but thankfully canon and fandom can be mutually exclusive >:B Enjoy! Again, thanks to you all.

Tumbling Down

Chapter Ten

Let Love In

Hooves pounded the ground as a black-cloaked figure raced through the trees. She didn't have long. Her hood covered her hair, and the woods around her were black and still. The air was heavy and the moon was low in the sky as the stars crept overhead, speeding along to morning.

She arrived at his cave breathless, hoping to Aslan that he was there. She pulled the saddlebags off her tired horse, tied him hastily to a ring set in the rock; she banged frantically on the door. Her knuckles were near bleeding when he finally opened it.

He was pale and tired and obviously surprised to see her. She pushed back the hood and he quickly pulled her inside, fearing that someone had seen her.

"What are you doing here?" He hissed, voice low. He ran his hands through his hair, fretfully.

"Saving you," she replied briskly, going straight to his bedroom and fetching a carpet bag. She slung her saddle bags onto the stone floor. "I brought these. You must hurry and pack."

"Where am I to go?"

"You're leaving Narnia," she replied, "but you're not going alone." She pulled dresses and tunics from the saddle bags, thrusting them into Tumnus' carpet bag. He looked horrified.

"No!" He said suddenly, voice hoarse. "No. That's not going to work."

"Yes, it is."

"Don't you think anyone will notice? Tomorrow?"

"No, I don't," she replied. "It will work out. You must hurry. Bring whatever you need."

"I can't do it," he said weakly, sitting down in a chair as she continued packing, pulling books randomly from the shelves, piling pots and pans into the large bag. "I can't do that to Narnia."

"Look what Narnia is doing to you!" She exclaimed, put out. "No more nonsense. You're leaving tomorrow. You will know when. Wait at the lamp-post until my signal comes."

"And what signal will that be?"

"You'll know when you see it," she replied quickly, closing the bag tightly. "I must tell you—I'm not sure what will happen, when you leave."

"You mean—back to Spare Oom?"

"Back to Spare Oom. There is no where else to go."

"But I'm not from Spare Oom."

"That's why I'm not sure what will happen," she sighed. "I do so hope your body can live there. Well—it must. There is no other option."

"How do you know I can even get through?"

"You're not the only one who can read."

"Does Aslan know?"

She pursed her lips and remembered the hurried conversation in the dim stable.

"Where are you going, on such a busy night?" His voice was gentle, and unmistakable. She froze, still saddling up her horse. She decided on the truth.

"I am going to Mr. Tumnus," she said faintly. Her blue eyes shone in the dim light, as the lion watched her carefully. "I have to. I can't let this happen to him."

"You are very brave, my Queen," Aslan said quietly. "Where do you plan on him going, if your plan succeeds?"

"Back to England," she replied. "That's the only place safe."

"I don't suppose he will be a Faun there."

"I don't know what he'll be. But it's better than him living in fear for the rest of his life."

"Peter has promised amnesty."

"That doesn't mean Noor has, or any other fanatical citizens. The story will spread and harm will come to him."

"You are also wise," Aslan almost chuckled. "You seem to have this figured out."

"Please don't tell anyone, Aslan," she begged. "This is the only way."

"Of course I won't, dear one. You are an adult. What you do is your choice." He paused for a long moment. "You are doing the right thing," he said finally, nodding that she should finish tacking up her horse. "You are bringing happiness."

"I hope so," she replied. She closed her eyes briefly, and Aslan had gone.

"Yes," she said at last. "Aslan knows."

"And how does Peter not?"

"Peter and Noor are asleep," she said simply. "And Aslan promised he wouldn't tell."

Tumnus was silent for a long time. "I feel as though I'm robbing Narnia of its lifeblood."

"Don't," she said shortly. "Narnia existed a long time before, and I daresay it will exist a long time after." He sighed.

"All right," he said suddenly, his brown eyes bold. She looked up from the satchel. "I will wait at the lamp-post. You're sure I'll know your signal?"

She smiled. "I'm sure."

He stood up and he walked to her; he embraced her tightly.

"We'll be all right, Mr. Tumnus. Everyone will be all right."

"You're sure this is the best solution?" The words rang in her memory.

"Yes," she said firmly. "This is the best, and the only, solution."

"Very well," he said.

"You will be happy," she promised, "and I can't think of a more rewarding gift to give you for all the years you've been so kind."

He smiled gently. "I ought to give you a gift, too, then."

"There isn't time. I must get back to Cair Paravel."

He lifted her chin. "There is no one who cares about you more than I do, my Queen," he murmured, smiling at her. "You are truly good. Truly unselfish and good." She protested the flattery, but when he kissed her gently upon the mouth she could feel nothing but peace. Her final doubts fled her as she mounted the horse and watched Mr. Tumnus close the door behind her.

"This is right," she said aloud, and her smile lit up the morning more than the sun.

The day dawned bright and clear as Lucy rose from her bed, miserable and sore. Her mind reeled with dread. Looking through the locked window, she saw a trellis being erected below on the white beach. Her stomach sank low in her abdomen and she tried very hard not to swoon.

Cera arrived and helped her to bathe. Susan was nowhere in sight, though she had been asleep by the time Lucy finally laid down the night before. Lucy sulked in the hot, fragrant water.

Lucy stood wrapped in a silk robe as four nymphs brought in her finished wedding dress. Their fingers were pricked and bandaged; they must have worked all night to complete it. She stood numbly as they fitted her into it. She had to admit it was a masterpiece of a dress. Heavy cream silk hung in puffs and graceful dips, the skirt full and the train long. Edged with embroidery in sky-blue thread, it was so fine it was nearly frightening: she looked so foreign in the creamy, beaded bodice, tight and sleeveless and nothing like she usually wore. The veil was enormous, made of thick, fine-knit tulle, Lucy noticed. Susan had made a fuss over that—Noor mustn't be able to see the bride's face before she's at his side, it's completely improper! Susan had insisted. She tried it on; she could see out of it but in the mirror her face was obscured. Her long hair was nearly hidden by the mesh in back.

"It is a beautiful dress," Cera and the nymphs breathed as Lucy lifted the veil from her face. "Oh, Queen Lucy, you're the loveliest bride!"

"Thank you," Lucy said dully. The nymphs and Cera left her to her thoughts; she heard the leaden slide of the lock as they shut her in.

Edmund rose when he saw Susan enter the throne room. Guests were arriving from all parts of Narnia and its' neighbors; Noor's sister had come just an hour before in a beautiful lacquered carriage. Edmund was already dressed for the wedding—in black velvet tunic and deep crimson trousers, he looked every inch the King. Susan pulled him aside.

"Everything is going to be all right," Susan said, reassuringly. Edmund didn't look convinced.

"I still don't see how this is going to work," he said, frowning heavily. She put a hand on his arm.

"Trust me, brother," she said quietly. "I'll see you at the wedding."

She came to her room and drew the key from her pocket. She pushed open the door and saw Lucy sitting on the bed forlornly, dressed in her wedding dress and looking like she might die.

"Oh, Susan," Lucy wailed, as soon as she had closed the door, "how will I ever do this?"

Susan sat down next to her and did not reply. Instead, she pulled her long black hair over her shoulder, studying it in the mirror across from them. She frowned gently.

"Lucy," Susan said, "do you think you could help me trim my hair?"

"What?" Lucy was stunned. "But Susan! You love your hair! It's your greatest beauty. What about all the love sonnets suitors have written about it?"

"It's just hair," Susan replied, smoothing it straight. "And it's been an awful nuisance. I'd like to look different, to impress any suitors who might come to your wedding today." She bit her lip. "I'm sorry to say I'm a bit jealous of you."

"Why?" Lucy laughed. "I'd trade places with you in a heartbeat."

"My hair?"

Lucy fetched her scissors from the sewing basket. Susan braided her hair quickly and judged herself in the mirror.

"I think about to here," she said, lightly touching the skin above her breasts.

"I can't imagine you with shorter hair," Lucy said, but she reverently picked up the thick black braid and began, hesitantly, to cut through it. It took a while, but finally the braid fell free from Susan's head, falling to the floor, coiled like a dying snake at their feet. Susan spread her short hair out across her back and Lucy evened up the ends.

"How do you like it?" Susan asked, examining it in the vanity mirror.

"It's quite a change," Lucy said, "but it doesn't look bad. You will certainly get the attention of any man you wish."

"Lucy," Susan said, drawing Lucy over to the bed and sitting down beside her. "I want you to be happy."

"I have resigned myself to a life of misery," Lucy told her sister, "but at least I will have my family with me."

Susan looked up, grim.

"Would you live with Mr. Tumnus if it meant leaving Narnia?"

Lucy considered this. "I want to say no, Susan. I want to say that Narnia is worth more to me than anything else in the world. But it would be a lie. I don't know how I shall live without Mr. Tumnus in my life."

"Well, then," Susan said, standing up again. "We'd best get you out of that dress."

"What?" Lucy looked confused. "But the wedding's in an hour, Susan."

"I know. You won't need to pack anything. It's all taken care of. Go to Lantern Waste, and find Mr. Tumnus. Make a life with him. Be happy, Lucy. It's what I've always wanted for you."

"But the wedding," Lucy said weakly.

"It's all taken care of," Susan said, and she thoughtfully picked up the veil and placed it on her head. The white gauzy material hid her face from view as she looked into the mirror. "Hurry. There's not time."

Lucy embraced her sister tightly. "Thank you."

"You'd do the same for me." Susan moved to the window and unlocked it, pushing it open. "Now go. My horse is already saddled and waiting outside the stable. No one will notice you, they're too busy preparing the wedding. Don't cry, Lucy. It's not goodbye—we'll meet again, in the next life if not in this one."

Lucy stripped from the dress in a flash and pulled on a plain cotton work dress. She pinned up her long blonde hair. With a smile to Susan, she slipped from the window. Susan stood for a long moment, her short hair blowing in the strong wind as she watched Lucy mount the standing horse and ride west. She sighed.

"I love you," she said quietly, before shutting the window and locking it.

It was the last time she ever saw Lucy.

Peter himself fetched Lucy from her rooms. She was sedate and didn't speak to him, though he told her how radiant she looked. He led her down to the large marble doors and looked out over the crowd. The beach was packed with thousands upon thousands of Narnians; visitors were obvious and laughter was plentiful. Aslan stood to preside over the marriage.

Noor stood beside the stone alter, dressed in deep green and looking handsome and exceedingly Princely. Edmund appeared at Peter's side, voice low.

"Susan will not come to the ceremony," he said, voice dark.

"What?" Peter was immediately enraged. "What excuse does she give?"

"She says she will not watch her sister marry someone she does not love." Edmund shrugged. "And no, I don't know where she is. Best not to delay the wedding to search for her, either. You know how stubborn she can be." Edmund was gone before Peter could reply, walking down to take his place under the trellis, strung with beach roses and morning glories.

"I wish you would speak to me," Peter said quietly to Lucy as the band began playing and mermaids, watching from the waves, began to sing a sweet ballad of love. "Please don't make this hard for me. It pains me to know how much you detest him, but there's no other way. Think of Narnia, Lu. You're saving Narnia for all of us."

Lucy did not reply, but she began walking down the white silk carpet laid out across the beach. She clutched a bunch of white lilies and beach roses in her hands. Peter had to hurry to catch up to her, and the two began a slow march down the beach amid the cheers of the guests. The music was beautiful and Peter wished that the day was happier for the Pevensies.

They reached the end of the carpet and Peter turned to kiss his sister.

"Please try to let love in to your heart, Lucy," he murmured.

"I will forgive you, Peter, if you will forgive me," was all that his sister replied. Peter thought her voice sounded strange; she ascended to stand before Aslan, and Peter had no choice but to take his place next to Edmund. He felt relief that at last she had spoken to him.

"Daughters and sons of Narnia, and guests from afar," Aslan addressed the multitude as the noise ceased. "Today we gather to celebrate the union of Narnia and Archenland; today, we celebrate the beauty of our Queen and the strength of Archenland's Prince Noor." A cry of joy went up and Aslan waited until the crowd quieted again. "Nothing is more joyous an occasion than a wedding. The celebration of love is to be admired most. There is much love here today. Love for our two glorious nations: Narnia and Archenland alike are to be admired and treasured, and clearly they both are. Love between two creatures: surely no one will protest to the love the Prince of Archenland and the Queen of Narnia have found."

Utter silence greeted this statement. Aslan smiled and continued.

"Since it is clear no one has objections to this union, we shall not dawdle in joining these two together. For the rest of their lives, they will love and protect our good homes as well as each other." Aslan turned to Noor.

"Prince," Aslan said in a gentle voice, "will you love, honor, protect and cherish this Queen, so lovingly standing before you? For the rest of your life, will you be hers alone?"

"I will," Noor said with a triumphant smile, and his sister came forward and handed him a slender golden ring. He took his new bride's hand and placed it upon her ring finger.

"Queen," Aslan said, a smile lifting the corners of his mouth as he spoke, "will you love, honor, protect and cherish this Prince, so lovingly standing before you? For the rest of your life, will you be his alone?"

"I will," said the Queen, taking a ring from Edmund and sliding it onto Noor's hand.

"Then, before all of Narnia and Archenland, I pronounce you married: may your love flourish until the world crumbles in." An enormous shout rose from the crowd, feet stamping and hands clapping. "You may kiss and seal your union," Aslan said above the noise of the crowd.

Noor took the veil in his hands and lifted it gently over his new wife's head; as he saw her face, he froze. His expression was none other than shock as he looked down at the woman he had married. Susan's gentle eyes looked back up at him.

"Well?" She asked, her voice calm. "Aren't you going to kiss me?"

Hooves behind him alerted Tumnus that someone came. Fearing it would be guards sent from Cair Paravel, he threw himself into a stand of nearby trees just in time.

A horse broke its gallop and slowed to a stop beside the lamp-post. A young woman with blonde hair dismounted, her skirt plain in the bright day, and Tumnus grinned as he recognized the signal Susan promised to send. He emerged from the trees, pushing back the branches. She turned, and saw him. A smile spread across her face and she ran to him. He enveloped her in his arms and held her close, breathing in her scent deeply.

"I've missed you so," she whispered against his neck.

"It's only been a day," he said with a laugh.

"I feared it would be forever," she said, looking up, and he wiped her face.

"Aren't you supposed to be getting married?" He asked, voice teasing, and she reached out and slapped his arm. He went to the lamp-post and picked up the carpet bag. "Here are the things your sister brought for us."

"Where are we going?"

"Back to your home," Tumnus said gently. "Spare Oom."

Lucy looked afraid but he took her face in his hands, setting down the bag.

"Don't look so," he said gently. "As long as we are together, we can do anything."

She smiled and the two turned to look at the low stand of pines. "Through there?" He asked.

"Through there," she nodded.

"What foolishness is this!" Peter shouted, face red, looking horrified. "Susan! How could you do this?"

"Because I wasn't going to condone a marriage that wasn't right," Susan said simply. "And neither was Edmund. Prince Noor, forgive me, would be an idiot to marry Lucy. They have nothing in common."

Noor continued to stare at Susan, like he didn't understand.

"This is treason," Peter hissed, seeming unconcerned at the scene he was causing. The whisper of "Queen Susan?" was flowing through the crowd like electricity through water. Edmund looked grim.

"No, Peter, it's not," he said. "It's doing what is best for Narnia and for Lucy. She would never have been happy, and neither would Noor. And none of us would have ever had peace. The marriage would have ended badly, and relations would have suffered."

"But—but Susan can't get married," Peter protested.

"Why not?" Susan's voice was tranquil. "I'm far older than Lucy and far more ready to wed and start a family. I get along with Noor much better than Lucy ever has. At least I genuinely like him."

Noor was still startled, but at Susan's comment he smiled and flushed like a little boy might.

"This is preposterous," Peter growled. "No. This is not happening. Susan, go back to the castle at once."

"You can't tell me what to do, Peter," Susan said. "I'm not a child."

"The marriage is binding, Peter," Aslan said serenely. "They both have consented."

"That's so," Edmund pointed out. "And it's still a marriage to Archenland. It's up to Noor and Susan, Peter. Not you. You don't get to control people's lives. That's not being King. That's being God—and you're not God, Peter. You're just you. And there's nothing wrong with just being Peter." Edmund gently put a hand on Peter's arm.

"Where's Lucy?" Peter said suddenly, looking frightened.

"With the man she loves," Susan replied. Peter's face sagged. He looked defeated.

"You've lost your little sister," Edmund said. "We will not see her again. Do not lose the rest of your family."

"I never wanted it to be like this," Peter said weakly.

"Neither did we," Susan said. "But this is how it is, Peter. This is life and it's really happening, right now. And no one can change that. Not High King, not Aslan—not anyone." She looked up at Noor. "I know this is not exactly what we had planned. But would it be all right with you?"

Noor smiled at her, and finally spoke. "I think I'd like to have you as my wife."

"Well, then." Edmund announced to the stunned crowd. "We still have a wedding reception to attend!"

The crowd shook itself from its daze and commenced cheering again as Noor carefully bent down and kissed Susan on the mouth. And while it wasn't quite as nice as being kissed by the truly grateful Mr. Tumnus, it was special in its own way, and Susan learned that there are a world of kisses just waiting to be discovered.

Noor and Susan led the wedding party down the long white carpet amid cheering and shouting. Handfuls of sand rained down on them, and in Susan's dark hair Noor thought it looked just like stars.

"You're sure about this?" Lucy asked, holding tightly to Tumnus' hand. "We may never be able to come back."

"I am sure, my dear," Tumnus said gently, carrying the carpet bag in the other hand. They stood before the stand of pine trees, and a wind not from their world blew across their faces. Tumnus reached over and pulled out Lucy's hair pins. She looked to him and smiled, and the world broke open.

"Tell me a story," Lucy asked with a smile, as their feet found the wooden bottom of a wardrobe.

"Once upon a time," Tumnus began, as the two went tumbling through.