A King and his Queen
Title: As Long As You Will Have Me
Warnings: None this chapter.
Character/Pairing: Peter/Susan, Ed/Lu
Word Count: 5,059
Summary: For fifteen years they lived and loved as one, but when the world beckoned them home, their love became undone. Susan realizes the gift of love is not infinite.
A King and his Queen
Chapter 4 – As Long As You Will Have Me
THE SACRIFICE OF LOVE
A death in the family Pevensie. This was the reason why Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy had been summoned home on short notice. Despite their fears, it was not their father, but their father's brother, an uncle that no one knew very well at all. Still, out of respect for their father who could not return home from war to attend, the children were all to attend the funeral instead.
Peter felt rather terrible for the fact that he was grateful to have this opportunity to spend more time with Susan. He knew he should feel more morose over his uncle's death, but he barely knew him. He did know however that his father loved his brother very much, and for that reason alone, and the fact his uncle died serving in the war against the fearsome Adolf Hitler and his war machine, Peter would afford his uncle the utmost respect.
In another world, Peter had fought many battles. He'd seen many heroes sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Even his brother, Edmund, had almost died fighting against Narnia's great evil, Jadis the White Witch. Her name still sent tremors through Peter's spine. She was a Hitler unto Narnia, spreading her ruthless agenda across the land for a hundred years. It was then that Peter and his siblings helped the great lion, Aslan, to free Narnia of her grasp and ascend the four thrones at Cair Paravel.
"Cair Paravel." Peter whispered, sighing softly as he sat in the pew of St. Andrew's where his uncle was to be buried.
Susan caught Peter's whisper and gave him what seemed half a death glare, and half a surprised stare at the mention of the name. Peter bit his lip sheepishly and turned away. Despite how much he ached for her, he knew that the middle of a funeral service was not the place to dwell on it. Last night she'd let him hold her. For just a moment she let him hold her. It was water for a parched soul. That one moment made him feel a little more at peace, a little less desperate.
Even more than that, Susan had not been as distant with him this morning. Though her words were few, her glances spoke volumes. She was looking at Peter. She was actually looking at him. Peter felt as giddy as if she had asked him to the winter ball. As he looked across to Edmund and Lucy, both sitting quietly, and so very closely, he could not help but remember a dance that Susan had asked him to.
"Su, must we really?" Peter asked, a slight hint of amusement on his face as he was fitted for a dashing new outfit for the coming ball.
"Begging your pardon, Majesty, but yes, we must!" Mrs. Beaver said as she fiddled with Peter's leg hem.
"Our dear Mrs. Beaver is right, Peter. You and Edmund have just returned from a glorious adventure to rid our shores of horrid pirate raiders. Not to mention Mr. Beaver's return, and I'm certain Mrs. Beaver would relish the chance to honour him as well as you." Susan said matter of factly, watching to ensure the servants made Peter's outfit just 'so', "We would be remiss not to celebrate such a splendid achievement and display of heroism. To honour your acts and your return, we celebrate."
"If you say so, my love." Peter shrugged, turning to give her a knowing smile, "Or perhaps you simply wish to see me at my dashing best?"
"Peter, you need no outfit to be at your dashing best of anything." Susan said sincerely, stepping toward him to take his hand and press it to her lips, "You need only be, and you are."
"Be still thy tongue, lest I float away and leave these poor servants without anyone to fuss over." Peter blushed, "Is it not my task to make you blush, Dear heart?"
"Perhaps." Susan said with a hint of a smirk as she turned to leave, "Perhaps."
Peter found himself at a loss for words. He could only watch her leave and find himself speechless. For all their time together, he was still in awe of her. He still felt she was a mystery waiting to be solved, where he was simply a destination on a map that only she owned and knew completely.
When the time came for the ball, all of Cair Paravel was in an atmosphere of jovial celebration. To be sure, Peter did not mind the fuss for it was an excuse to afford his beloved subjects a time of levity and mirth. He entered the grand ballroom to the sight of his subjects bowing deeply in recognition of his presence. Edmund was already present, yet Lucy was strangely absent, as was Susan.
"Don't worry, Peter, Susan will be here." Edmund chuckled, "Unless you told her about the mermaids that followed our ship as we chased down those pirates."
"Oh don't you dare, Ed." Peter groaned, "She'll never shut up about it. You know she hates them enough already."
"And with good reason!" Edmund laughed, "They are all trying to seduce the High King! And those ones who cha..."
"Ed." Peter said sharply, but playfully, "Please. Give me a few days of her like this before I set her on some jealous tirade, alright?"
"Alright, Pete." Edmund smiled, patting his brother's back, "Now, where is ... she?"
Edmund seemed to be looking frantically for Lucy, and appeared rather dismayed when he could not locate her amongst the crowd. As the music began to play however, a striking figure of a young woman, holding a mask to her face, approached Edmund and held it aside to reveal it was indeed Lucy. She burst into uproarious laughter, causing Edmund to grin and chase after her through the crowd. Peter shook his head. He was certain those two were due to have ended such games years ago, but still they brought out a childlike joy in each other that he wished he still possessed. The war against Jadis seemed to be but a distant memory now, and he found himself puzzling curiously over how many years it had in fact been.
Such thoughts were quickly put aside when the trumpets heralding Susan's arrival sounded. Peter stood in the middle of the ballroom and turned toward the main entrance. The crowd parted like the Red Sea, revealing the approaching figure of Queen Susan the Gentle. Peter gasped and stepped back, holding his curiously light stomach.
Susan was a goddess given form. Peter was certain of this. Wearing a gown that seemed to comprise both wonder and the colour of 'denial' which Susan decreed was pink, she stepped gracefully across the floor toward Peter. As this indeed a masked ball, Susan wore a mask of her own that was similar to Lucy's, but far more elegant. It covered her eyes and nose, but left those full red lips revealed along with those pale cheeks that Peter knew so well. He took a deep breath and adorned his own mask, before he realized she'd overseen the making of his own outfit to ensure it matched hers perfectly.
She wore pink to his white and gold. She was grace to his power. The couple met when Peter could not stand in wait any longer. He moved to her and marvelled at his ability not to kiss her senseless that very instant. Effortlessly they joined, one set of hands clasped, the other on shoulder and lower back.
"Su, you look amazing." Peter said as they began moving across the floor in unison, "A goddess who takes my breath away."
"No." Susan blushed, letting a soft chuckle escape her, "I look like a Queen who wishes to please her King."
Peter sighed contently at those words and pulled Susan in a little closer. The dance slowed as if the music was being tailored to suit the High King and his Queen. Peter's lips hovered near Susan's ear as they danced. He could smell her, feel her, touch her. These pleasures were not lost on him after they'd been parted for weeks.
"Su?" Peter asked softly, "Are you happy?"
"Peter, what in Aslan's mane would possess you to ask such a thing?"
"I would not presume to take your happiness for granted, Su." Peter said, smiling faintly as her hand subtly squeezed his shoulder.
"And I would not presume that I am anything but happy when you are near me." Susan said with a soft smile, "And especially ... when you are near me."
A few hours later, Peter found himself having consumed perhaps a few too many goblets of wine and his legs were lacking a little in finesse on the ballroom floor. He was bright and cheery, eager to greet any of his subjects who so desired to be in his presence. Susan was busying herself with trying to find Lucy or Edmund. Before she spirited her beloved away to their bedchambers she wanted to at least say goodnight to her younger siblings. She'd seen neither all evening, which she found rather odd.
Venturing out of the ballroom, Susan opened one of the royal dressing chambers believing that perhaps Lucy might have taken pause to recompose her dress after an evening of dance. What she found was a sight that rather left her speechless. She stood speechless for a moment, before she stepped back and closed the door. She turned and ran back to the ballroom, anxious to find Peter.
"Peter!" Susan screamed, causing all around her to stop in anxious worry for their Queen's panic.
Peter immediately sobered and stood to his feet, rushing to his Queen. He stilled her with a pair hands taking hers and stared intently into her eyes. The tone of her cry had immediately caused him to become wrought with concern.
"Susan, what is it?" Peter asked hurriedly.
"It's ... I ..." Susan cried, completely flustered by what she'd seen, "It's Edmund!"
"What about him!?" Peter was fearful that something terrible had befallen his brother.
"I ... I found him ... in the dressing chambers ..." Susan held her hands to her eyes, crying, "He was ... he was ... naked. And Lucy ... she was ... she was naked too! And ... she was bent over the ... and he was behind her ... and she ... she was crying, screaming! And he was ... Peter he was ..."
"So, Susan, about the colour of denial you're wearing." Peter said with a wry smirk, "To their wedding, yes?"
"Peter!" Susan screamed, stomping his foot most improperly.
Peter winced and hopped up on one leg, gasping in agony. He hated when she did that. She immediately covered her mouth and pulled off his boot to make sure she hadn't damaged his bare foot.
"I'm sorry, Peter!" Susan said, kissing the appendage in apology.
"You can kiss my foot without stomping it!" Peter gasped, hopping to the nearest chair and sitting down, "Now, in case you are rather oblivious to the obvious, my dear heart, I have to tell you that Edmund and Lucy are very much in love and have been for a very, very long time."
"But!" Susan gasped, kneeling before Peter and massaging his foot while Narnian stared on in bewilderment.
"But?" Peter asked, rather enjoying this treatment from her now, "But, they are somewhat different to us? Not allowed to share what we share? You do not believe that it was somehow ordained by fate for each of us pairs to find our hearts and loves in one another? You are my pair and my heart. Lucy is Edmund's."
"You know what, Peter?" Susan said, standing suddenly to her feet and scowling playfully at him, "I think I'll wear this pink colour of denial a little longer!"
Peter burst with laughter as she turned and stormed off. He gasped, still laughing as he hopped to his feet and ran after her, one foot still bare. And so it was as it always seemed to be. Peter chasing after his tempestuous Queen. But oh how he would chase her until the end of time if need be.
WHEN DEATH REMINDS US
As Peter sat in the pew of the chapel for his uncle's funeral, he could not help the smile that adorned his face at the memory of that night. It seemed all he'd been doing for the last year was remembering the fifteen years before it. Fifteen years of laughs and smiles, tears and tantrums. Fifteen years of battles and adventure. Fifteen years of service. Fifteen years of love.
"Peter, this is hardly the time to smile." Susan whispered sternly, pulling him from the pew to drag him by the hand to one of the side rooms of the chapel.
"Susan!?' Peter gasped in surprise at being dragged out, "What are you doing!?"
"Peter, I know why you're smiling." Susan sighed, "Must you do this here of all places?"
"I was just smiling!"
"At a funeral!" Susan near screamed at him, grateful they were well away from any other ears.
"Would you rather I was miserable?" Peter asked petulantly.
"Well, you are awfully good at making sure I end up that way, aren't you?" Peter said pointedly.
The words stung Susan far more than she was willing to let on. She stepped back, staring at him with hurt in her eyes. He immediately regretted his words and moved to her. She raised her hands to stop him and he cursed himself in frustration.
"Peter." Susan said softly, "Why can't you just accept that this is our reality now? We had fifteen years. Fifteen years, Peter. Should we not be grateful for that?"
Peter stared at her incredulously, "Grateful? Grateful!? I have been forced to give up my crown! My Narnia." Peter gasped, "My home in Narnia. It is more a home than this stupid world that drives itself to war without relent and forces our uncle to leave his wife and children without a father. I have a home and I cannot get back to it! My beautiful Narnian! Oreius, the Beavers, Mr. Tumnus, the Dryad, the Mermai..."
"Don't you talk about those bloody mermaids." Susan said gruffly, "Hussies, the lot of them."
"Susan Pevensie, are you still jealous?" Peter asked with a slight hint of amusement.
Susan shook her head angrily, "No! Peter, why can't you just let it go?"
"You are still jealous!" Peter grinned, grabbing her arms and turning her to face them.
"You shut up!" Susan blushed, trying to hide her smile, "I still remember very well how those minx creatures paraded themselves to you any chance they had."
"But there was only one parade I ever wanted to watch." Peter smiled, leaning his temple against hers, "The most spectacular parade in all of Narnia."
Susan sighed, "I was ... different then. Older, more ... mature."
"And what are you now exactly?"
"Besides confused?" Susan sighed, for once not fighting their closeness, "I am wishing that my brother was not so stubborn."
"When it comes to my Queen, I will never relent." Peter whispered, daring to touch her cheek with his fingers, "In any world, I cannot help but breathe for my Queen."
"I am not a Queen here." Susan gasped, her voice pained and her eyes glistening with emotion.
"Susan ... whether we choose it or not, you are always my Queen. Narnia is gone, but the love we made, the vows we made, they remain as long as we do. You still belong to me and I to you."
Susan looked at Peter, on the verge of breaking, "Why can you not just let me be, Peter? Every time you see me you do this to us."
Susan turned and rushed away, back into the chapel where she caught sight of her uncle's casket being carried in. She was surprised by how much the image struck her. Perhaps it was more the sight of her aunt and the expression of pure heartbreak on her face. It was an expression she was no stranger to.
FAREWELL, DEAR HEART, FAREWELL
"It's alright, Dear. It's alright." Mr. Beaver coughed, laying on the bed in the main infirmary of Cair Paravel.
"I'm supposed to be telling you that." Mrs. Beaver said anxiously, her eyes wet with emotion, "Queen Lucy will be home any moment now. King Peter has sent the fastest gryphon he can to spirit her back."
"All that fuss for me?" Mr. Beaver chuckled, his eyes fixed on his wife.
Mr. Beaver had been injured in service of his High King, and was believed to be on the road to recovery. A severe cold had stalled his recovery and sent him into a sudden downturn that had his wife and the monarchs filled with enormous concern. The Beavers held a special place in the hearts of the monarchs ever since they'd arrived in Narnia. Peter was doing all he possibly could to help his dear friend.
Edmund stood silently watching on behind Peter and Susan. He knew very well how grave this situation was. He, perhaps more than any of his older siblings knew that Mr. Beaver would likely not survive. While Edmund was more pragmatic about life and death than Peter or Susan, he still could not help but become wrought with emotion at the sight of Mrs. Beaver tending dutifully to her husband.
"All this fuss for you, Dear." Mrs. Beaver smiled, brushing her husband's fur as if preparing him for some grand appearance.
"Lucy?" Susan whispered to Peter, her hand gripping his fiercely.
Peter shook his head but said nothing. He and Susan both knew very well that Lucy was Mr. Beaver's best hope. At this stage she was perhaps his only hope.
"Ahh, she'll be right as rain." Mr. Beaver said, coughing softly, his voice strained, "It's alright, Love."
"Of course it is." Mrs. Beaver assured, "You'll see. Queen Lucy will be here any moment now."
Mr. Beaver turned to his wife, his eyes turning from a dark hue to a murky grey, "It's alright, Love. It's alright."
Mrs. Beaver blinked quickly, turning to Peter and Susan before she turned back to her husband. She knew very well what he was saying. She knew very well what he was implying. She felt her world being pulled away. She felt so very helpless, and yet she mustered all her strength to compose herself.
"But ... but, Dear ..." Mrs. Beaver said, turning back to her husband, "I ..."
"We ... we had a good run, you and I." Mr. Beaver said weakly, covering her paw with his, "We had the best dam ever, didn't we?"
"But ..." Mrs. Beaver gasped, struggling to control her emotions now, "... please, Dear. Just a little longer?"
"All the love in the world ... and I do not think it would buy me a little ... longer, Love." Mr. Beaver whispered, the light fading slowly from his eyes, "Don't you fret now, Love. Don't you ... fret ..."
By now Susan was sobbing into Peter's chest, unable to keep herself from coming undone. She had seen many deaths during her reign, but they never ever became any easier. She could hardly bear to see Mrs. Beaver sitting beside her husband. She was holding his paw in both of hers, staring at him lovingly, desolately.
"Please, Dear." Mrs. Beaver gasped, desperation in her voice, "Please."
"I'll keep the kettle ... warm ..." Mr. Beaver whispered, smiling at his wife with all the love he had left in him, "... and wait for you, Lo..."
But he was no more. Mrs. Beaver held her husband's now lifeless paw in hers. She stared at him, and though his eyes were now lifeless, they were filled with all the love in the world.
Susan and Peter were both struggling to stand. Eventually Peter collapsed into the nearest chair and Susan collapsed on his lap. Susan's sobs were loud, but even Peter's managed to match hers at times. Edmund was the one to comfort Mrs. Beaver as best he could, but she was remarkably composed. Edmund rubbed her back and she gave him a reassuring smile, as if to say she was okay. She was more worried about Peter and Susan. Edmund gave her the space she needed so she could sit and be with her husband's body.
Lucy burst into the room, eyes wide as she panted, catching her breath and kneeling beside Mr. Beaver. Instantly she had the cordial out but Mrs. Beaver's hand stilled her. She gave Lucy a small smile.
"Save it for the living, Dear." Mrs. Beaver said softly.
Lucy looked at Mr. Beaver and tilted her head as if she didn't quite understand. When she did, her eyes pooled with tears and she let out a pained wail. Edmund moved instantly to her, pulling her into his arms. Narnia had lost a loyal friend, but he could not help feeling as though Mrs. Beaver had lost much more.
The funeral afforded to Mr. Beaver contained the highest honours Peter could muster. It did little to quell the pain in the hearts of all those who loved the feisty creature. While the funeral was difficult, it was the aftermath that Susan in particular found most painful. She paid special attention to Mrs. Beaver. Mrs. Beaver tried to put on a brave face for all, but it was clear the light in her eyes had left her. In the quiet Susan would watch Mrs. Beaver sit alone on one of the balconies where she would sit with her husband. She'd look to her right, as if he was still there. She'd pat the space he used to sit affectionately, and when she thought no one was looking, she would cry.
It was in these moments that Susan realized just how much Mrs. Beaver was hurting. She kept all her husband's armour, his favourite outfits. She kept his place at their table. For her, this was how she coped. As if she expected him to one day walk back into their home and they would sit together as they always did.
"Mrs. Beaver?" Susan asked softly one morning, several months after Mr. Beaver had passed on.
"Yes, Majesty?" Mrs. Beaver asked cheerily, smiling brightly at the Queen.
"I ... how are you faring, Dear Mrs. Beaver?" Susan asked, "Are you ... how are you?"
"I ... whatever do you mean, Majesty?"
"Without ... Mr. Beaver." Susan said with a sad frown, "Are you ... coping?"
Mrs. Beaver was not expecting this line of conversation. She blinked hurriedly, trying to stem the tears that were forming in her eyes. She looked at Susan, gasping suddenly before she sighed.
"I cope as good as one can when half their heart no longer beats." Mrs. Beaver said with a sad smile, "Some days it is fine, but ... in the quiet, I feel like I can hear him and ..." Her tears began to flow freely and Susan offered her a handkerchief, "... and I so very much wish I could hear him. I just want to hear him, Majesty. I'd give anything just to hear him. But then the silence comes and I realize ... he's not there anymore. There's nothing left to hear."
After Susan had spent as much time as possible with Mrs. Beaver, she rushed immediately to Peter's office. She was shaking with emotion as she pulled Peter to his feet and buried her face in his chest. She sobbed softly, clinging to him with all her might. He said nothing, but held her until she found herself able to speak her troubles.
"Promise me." Susan whispered, staring up at him with tearful blue eyes, "Promise me!"
"Promise you what, Su?" Peter said with concern as he held her.
"That you won't ever leave me like he left her." Susan cried, her tears staining Peter's tunic.
"Oh, Su." Peter sighed, hugging her tightly, "I would promise you the world if I could give it. I do not know what the fates will bring us, but I promise you that I will never leave you as long as you will have me with you."
"Then I will always have you with me." Susan said firmly, "I will never let you leave me."
"As long as you would have me." Peter whispered, his promise in his words, "I will never leave you ..."
LET LOVE BE FREE
By the time the funeral for her uncle was over, Susan was a mess of tears. No one seemed to understand why she was so upset. No one seemed to wonder why Susan almost cried out loud when she saw her aunty sobbing over her husband's casket. No one except her siblings.
The memory of Mrs. Beaver and the sight of her aunt was enough to send Susan into a spiral of silence and reflection. She said not a word to anyone for the entire journey home. She did not eat dinner. She did not speak to Lucy or Edmund or Peter. She sat in her room, hands neatly in her lap, staring out the window. She imagined Mrs. Beaver sitting in a similar way, staring out as the sun set and imagining her husband was still beside her. Susan turned to her right and imagined a King, High and Magnificent sitting beside her.
In that moment, something inside Susan clicked. Something inside her changed and realized. Life was not endless. She would not have forever to wait for the perfect moment, for that second chance at a life long lived. Could she truly bear to live a life if Peter was no longer with her? Could she endure as Mrs. Beaver had?
AS LONG AS YOU WILL HAVE ME
Peter sat in his and Edmund's room, staring out at the sunset. Perhaps he knew that in the adjoining room Susan was doing the very same thing. He contemplated knocking on Susan's door, but somehow resigned himself to the fact that this encounter would be no better than any of their other encounters over the last ten months. He sighed softly before he felt a shoulder on his hand. He turned in surprise to find it was Edmund, not Susan as he'd hoped.
"Well, Pete, you're not exactly my sight for sore eyes either." Edmund deadpanned, before he shoved a folded paper in Peter's hand, "Now if you'll excuse me, I've had my fill of playing messenger. I have ... time to make the most of."
Peter nodded gratefully and watched Edmund as he left. He was a good brother. He was a better friend. Peter opened the paper and stared curiously at it. A time. A place.
-Now. Finchley Park. A Queen awaits her King.
Peter almost flew out of his room, he was running so fast. He dashed out of the house, barely stopping to grab his coat. He ran as fast as his legs would carry him. The last line of the simple note had caught him unawares. Was it truly happening? Had Susan finally come to her senses?
Peter wanted to chide Susan for choosing to meet in a barren park at night, but he was too busy searching frantically for her. He caught sight of a light behind a thick line of trees and made his way through. When he stepped into a small clearing where a small blanket with candles around it, Peter almost lost his breath. Susan was there, waiting for him. She was standing barefoot on the blanket, wearing a simple sundress as the night was rather warm. Compared to the splendid gowns Susan wore in Narnia, this fittingly pink dress was positively common. Yet to Peter, she was still, always, his goddess, his Queen.
She gave Peter a small, shy, hopeful smile and held out her hands as she spoke, "I do not think I resemble a Queen. I do not feel like I am a Queen. But perhaps ... if you are with me again and ... you believe enough for the both of us ... I may come to believe I am still a Queen? Still your Queen?"
Susan spoke with such softness, such surety. Peter had always worn his heart on his sleeve, and to hear Susan speak such words caused him to gasp and blink back pained tears. He'd been waiting ten months for her to say such things. He'd been waiting ten months for her to show that she still loved him as he did her. Though he always believed it, the journey had been hard, long, and fraught with anguish. He'd lost everything else in Narnia, but now he realized he had not lost his Queen.
"Oh, Su." Peter cried, sobbing harshly as he stepped slowly toward her.
If Susan wore denial, Peter wore disbelief. For so long he'd wanted this, needed this, that now it was finally here, he simply felt tired, relieved. It was as if the battle was finally over and he could breathe again. He didn't have to fight anymore. He could simply be. He could simply love.
The moment their hands touched he felt renewed. He felt like some small semblance of a King. He felt some hint of magnificence within him.
"I will believe enough for the world, Su." Peter smiled tearfully, joyfully, before she silenced him with her lips.
Her kiss was unexpected, but so very welcome, so very needed. Peter instantly wrapped his arms around her, possessively, tightly. He held her to him as their lips pressed and tasted each other. Her kiss unlocked a fire within him. He felt such passion, such painful desire for her. He could hardly breathe now that her lips were finally, finally on his own. He broke the kiss, gasping for breath as he held her, tears pooling in his eyes.
Susan returned his gaze, her own eyes filled with the same emotion, "Then if you believe, I will be your Queen. Just promise me that you will never leave me."
"I will never leave you." Peter promised, "For as long as you will have me, I will never leave you."
-- To Be Concluded --