He was full of too much energy. In fact, everything that was going on was all Susan's fault. All of it. Caspian didn't care if he was supposed to be understanding, or supportive. It was just too much. How long had he just bit his tongue and gone on as though nothing was wrong for the sake of Susan and his pride? Too long, far too long. Striding down the hallway not watching where he was going, Caspian sailed past everyone. Not a single Narnian stopped him, and Caspian, so deep into his internal turmoil, didn't notice this abnormality.
So little did he notice his surroundings, that Caspian didn't stop or look where he was going. And proceeded to overtake a waddling Yasmina who was engrossed in her own little world as well. Bumping into her hard enough to knock her over, Caspian's reflexes won out and he caught Yasmina just in time to prevent her from falling. Leaning over, his arm around her waist, Caspian felt the hard mound of Yasmina's heavy belly pressing into his abdomen. Finding himself blushing at the contact for some strange reason, and among the many things he hadn't detected was Yasmina's own flush of embarrassment.
Blinking rapidly, irritation forgotten for the moment, "My apologies Lady Yasmina."
"That is," going a dark ruddy shade, hands braced on his shoulders still, "quite all right Your Highness."
They stayed like that for a moment, the brief second seeming to last a major eternity. Caspian hadn't ever come so close to a pregnant woman before, and he'd never really noticed except in the most trivial of manners what a pregnant woman looked like (round and ungainly), let alone thought on what one may have felt like. Feeling strange and odd, extreme fascination washed over him, and Caspian had to fight the urge to touch Yasmina's round stomach. It was the craziest desire he'd ever had, and no little bit frightening. The very state Yasmina was in he wanted to put Susan in. Of course it was for Susan's own protection… but…
Realizing that they had stayed in that uncomfortable and compromising position for far longer than was strictly appropriate, Caspian helped her straighten up.
He had to clench his hands to keep himself for reaching out for her belly as he mumbled another apology, "I am sorry Lady Yasmina, I uh… I must go."
Before Caspian could shuffle off, "Your Highness?" her hands clasped under her breasts, resting on her stomach.
"Yes?" clearing his throat, Caspian carefully kept his gaze fixed on a point over her shoulder – his eyes were continually being drawn to her fullness otherwise.
"It," pausing, flustered, "it is not my place Your Highness, but please accept my thanks for sparing Inigo thus far."
Rubbing the back of his neck, supremely uncomfortable, "Ah you are welcome?" his voice trailing off into uncertainty.
Knowing that this was very much unlike himself, Caspian tried to call on who he was, on some sort of dignified response. And couldn't. Feeling like some gangling foal, all knobby elbows and knees, Caspian struggled. He wanted to blurt out a stream of questions – what was it like being pregnant? Did it hurt? Was it uncomfortable? Did she have everything she needed? Was there anything she wanted that he could do for her? And what did her stomach feel like – could she feel the child inside her body growing? Was she scared that she was going to pop like a pinched grape? Why was it that her stomach was so hard? Could she sleep on her side or her back without feeling like she was going to be crushed under the weight, or could she still sleep on her stomach? And if not – what did she do? Was it possible to still have sex? Or did she feel like nothing was her own or like she was carrying a large basket of fruit around her waist?
"Where does it come out?" blurting out.
Her eyes widened, "Your Highness?" clearly taken aback.
Gesturing vaguely, "Um."
"The baby?" her hand going to her stomach, stroking it briefly.
Nodding, then Caspian shook his head, "Actually no, I am sorry Lady Yasmina, that was inappropriate and I believe I have something important I must see to that will not get done if I do not do it now and that would not be," his words rushing together, "a good thing and so I shall –"
"It will come out the same place it went in," giving him a strange look.
A strange look he justly deserved. Because any village idiot knew where a baby came from, and Caspian had delivered foals before, so truly human physiology wasn't all that different from a horse's – as he understood it. It was just, giving himself a shake, that it didn't seem physically possible. Babies were small but not so small that they should be able to come out of such a tiny hole without tearing a woman in half. (He wasn't really aware of the fact that in some cases, yes, a woman could be torn in half… to one degree or another.)
Biting his lip, Caspian somehow managed to not say any of that, "Ah, yes, indeed. Lady Yasmina I," looking around trying to find something to use to excuse him from this whole ordeal and spare Yasmina (as well as himself frankly) any more of this… surreal exchange, "I must bid you good afternoon."
She moved to curtsey then winced, hand pressing into the small of her back, "Oooh."
Alarmed, "Lady Yasmina? Is there aught I can do for you?" worried, feeling utterly useless. What was happening? Was she going into labor or something? And if so – what was he supposed to do? Grab cold towels? No that didn't make any sense – hot ones maybe? Lukewarm ones?
"Oh it is nothing Your Highness," wincing again, waving one hand at him.
Swallowing, eyes still wild, Caspian took hold of her elbow, lending her some support – he didn't want her falling over again, "Perhaps you should see one of the healers."
"Truly Your Highness, it is nothing."
Caspian couldn't see how it would be 'nothing' – for goodness sake she had a little person growing inside her body! How could it be 'nothing'? There was no way that it wasn't something major. And he wouldn't be held responsible for something happening to the young pregnant woman. Susan would never let him hear the end of it…
Grunting, firmly pressing her hand to the crook of his arm, "Nonsense Lady Yasmina, a healer shall see to you at once." Holding up his hand to forestall her protests, "I insist."
She sighed, then started to dip into another attempt at a curtsy but Caspian's grip on her hand where it was tucked into his elbow urged her to not attempt that again. Wracking his brain for acceptable conversation that would fit in with their roles as Telmarines, male and female, Heir and Daughter… Biting his tongue, and forcibly turning his eyes to some distant vantage far ahead (very far ahead) Caspian guided Yasmina towards one of the physicking rooms. Coming up with nothing, Caspian decided to go with his gut and speak with Yasmina as he would Susan. After all that had seemed to work out in the end and Yasmina was carrying his youngest Cousin…. The black thought rose unbidden, that the child she was to birth could pose a threat to his Throne or to he and Susan's progeny. Teeth grinding, Caspian's vision dimmed in repressed anger at that idea. Taking hold of that anger, of that irrational rage, Caspian strangled it into submission. It was happening more and more but he knew that it was for the best to just grin and bear it.
Under control once again, "How have you been adjusting?"
"To what Your Highness?" their pace very slow, forcing Caspian to take small steps or risk bodily dragging Yasmina behind him.
It was irresistible and he found his eyes being dragged down to the fullness of Yasmina's body, "To…" to what? To pregnancy? There was no way he was going to ask that! Clearing his throat, "To the How."
"It is very different Your Highness," voice steady, neutral.
Telmarine men never asked such things. It indicated an actual… curiosity for another's wellbeing. Which was unacceptable. But Caspian did wonder about those sorts of things. A King, a Ruler, was supposed to ensure that his flock was taken care of, comfortable (to a point and to use an adjective that Susan would), so that said flock would produce a maximum sustainable output. Not that he would admit that to himself too openly, let alone to Susan without being under extreme duress. Knowing he must be making her uncomfortable, but unable to resist Caspian pressed further.
"Different is not a bad thing, it is merely… different," taking a good look at Yasmina measuring her response. The wall of female stoicism was up, and he felt the annoying urge to knock it down, "Your child's world will be very different. One where my youngest Cousin will be surrounded by many wondrous things and well educated in being a Narnian Royal as is appropriate."
The only indication of shock was a tiny pause in her next step and the very carefully measured tone of her voice, "As Your Highness wishes."
"If you bear a Daughter," pondering aloud, throwing the idea out there, and warming to it with greater ease than he thought possible, "and Susan an Heir, it would only make sense that they marry."
"You are too kind Your Highness," shoulders tensing, her fingers tightening incrementally on his forearm.
Deciding that it was unkind to push her anymore – not all women could be Susan he supposed – and he changed tacks. Without even pausing to think on the oddness of his actions, Caspian was so used to dealing with Susan by this point, he asked her her thoughts on his words. Forgetting of course his earlier anger at having been so changed by his interactions with Susan and the Narnians in general, and how un-Telmarine he had become.
Readjusting his stride (again – he kept finding his steps lengthening against his will), "You do not think it would be a good match?"
"I do not understand your query Your Highness," small lines formed at the corners of her mouth, muscles tensing even further, her only outward sign of distress.
And here he had once again failed to remember that Yasmina was a true Telmarine female. Men were to be avoided, feared, respected, obeyed and worshiped. While women were spoken to, never spoke, never disrespected a man, and never would they share something so intimate as a thought or feeling with a man. Women were able to provide polite conversation on command, silly things about the weather or possibly music, nothing more. Intelligent women were desired and loathed, and eventually beaten into submission and enforced ignorance. Yasmina was obviously one of those who had never fought her lot, smart enough, far thinking enough, to hide any possible independent thinking and not share it with any man. Caspian groaned internally. How must he look to her Telmarine eyes? He was a man, and men didn't care about anything other than themselves and their Sons. Then he was the Crown Prince, he was to be King, and her man had laid him low… She must be asking herself what he was hiding, what his motivations were for his kind words and sweet offers.
Irritated, he growled, the sound rumbling low in his throat. Beside him Yasmina jumped, then calmed. Anger or irritation were normal displays from men, and he'd just acted 'normal' to her, and that comforted her. Whereas with Susan she would be upset or bothered by such a demonstration. Annoyed even further, put out with himself, with Yasmina, and of course – with Susan, as it was Susan's freakish notions that had forced Caspian to become accustomed to a woman who actually spoke with him. And now it actually annoyed him when a woman acted as she was supposed to! Yet another rumble was issued, and Caspian had to stop moving, his hands clenching into fists, while Yasmina shrank in on herself minimally – only enough as was customary for a Telmarine woman – to show her submissiveness. Struggling, Caspian reigned himself in once more. It was getting to be a bad habit, he should be yelling, shouting, throwing things, issuing orders. Something. Anything! but what he was doing.
Taking a deep breath, "Come Lady Yasmina, we are almost to the healer, I shall see you the rest of the way. After that, I must bid you good afternoon."
Passing the currycomb over Peredur's haunch, while in the next stall Inigo working on his blood bay, Caspian found himself lulled. Once upon a time Inigo and he would go hunting, not daily, but at least every third day. Afterwards they each would care for their steeds rather than let the stableboys do so. The moment was familiar and quiet, and from this angle Peredur closely resembled Destrier, glossy black coat gone thick with winter's growth, but still that sleek shine to it. Instincts warred, one saying that this was normal, that this familiar filial bond with Inigo was worth more than retribution. On the other side Telmarine rage and ideology argued the fact that Inigo was dangerous that there was no hold strong enough to bind his Cousin. And who could he talk to about this? Not Susan, certainly, for she would tell him to forgive Inigo, to accept this.
But Caspian knew Inigo. Driven, ambitious, perfect and oh so classically Telmarine, Inigo, who not only was Caspian's torturer – but also could be a claimant for the Throne. Inigo was skilled in law, in persuasion and diplomacy, in poisons and architecture. Caspian was skilled in warfare, in tactics, in command and hunting. Repressing a bitter laugh, Caspian's hands paused in their work, glancing over Peredur's back towards Inigo who was quietly massaging his mount's shoulder. Who could he trust? Susan didn't know what a Telmarine truly was, so her advice would lack the necessary wariness.
He could ask Inigo, for that was who he turned to in days gone by. But that made neither sense nor would be prudent. Of course Inigo would outmaneuver him – saying that he was trustworthy and lying through his teeth, or would caution Caspian that he wasn't trustworthy – thus making him look trustworthy, and throwing Caspian off. Destrier, who while couldn't give advice, had done much in the way by simply listening, allowing Caspian's words to tumble out so he could come to his own conclusion. Peredur should by rights fill that role, could theoretically listen or give advice, but Peredur's advice would be tainted. Hatred for all things Telmarine would yield poor fields for planted thoughts. Making a sound of disgust, Caspian grabbed a different brush, so that he could ease the beginning of a nasty snarl out of Peredur's mane. This left him with what? Nothing really. Glenstorm, who would be perfect otherwise, didn't have the time, nor the grasp of Telmarine politics, social mores, or the sort of strange freak relationship the two Cousins had, and thus his thoughts on the matter would be entirely useless.
"Now would be the time I would usually ask you what was going through that bizarre mind of yours," neither jovial, friendly nor serious. Utterly absent of charm or machinations.
At least – as far as Caspian could tell.
Snorting, "Much time has passed since those days Inigo."
"True," then he quieted.
Thankful for the silence, Caspian hunched his shoulders, feeling tired and far older than his twenty odd years.
Stamping one huge hoof, "Good, I can't stand useless chatter, let alone from the King of Nothing and a Lord of Crap."
"I do not believe your opinion was requested Horse," a grunt, "but now that you have given it, I appreciate your candidness. It is very Narnian of you."
Caspian almost laughed, the dry tone and infinitesimal roll of his dark eyes typical signs of his sarcasm, as Inigo's rejoinder was tossed over the dividing wall.
Patting Peredur, "At least now I am not the only one who oversees large quantities of fecal matter, the lack of company was becoming quite trying."
"Does this mean the good Horse likes me?"
Tail swishing violently, "Hardly. I doubt even Aslan Himself could make me like you. Either of you," the Horse's head swung about to eye Caspian.
"Do the three of you suppose you could tone down the viciousness? Some of us like to believe that we can all get along," Luis exited his stall grousing, "and live happily ever after. And if we can't, I still like to believe it. So it would please me if you could stop dashing my happy little delusions."
"You've been spending far too much time with Her Majesty," Peredur whinnied, "you're beginning to sound like her."
Whacking Peredur's huge cheek, "Mind your tongue. My wife is not to be made sport of."
"It does seem you are outnumbered here Horse," Inigo leaned over the dividing wall, eyeing Caspian's Steed, "when it comes to matters of Her Majesty. Even I will not tolerate such slander."
Luis naysayed them, "Actually she wouldn't mind. Particularly if you said it to her face…"
Frowning, "I do not follow," moving to rest his back against Peredur who shuffled in an attempt to dislodge him, but failed.
"She'd laugh in his face and tell him he's a good horsy, and here have a carrot," equine laughter that verged on a giggle. "Until of course, like most of the Beasts, he was ready to follow at her heels like a lost puppy, begging for attention." Puffing himself up and taking on Peredur's mannerisms, as he paced back and forth in front of the stalls, "I am a proud Stallion, and I say that humans are shit, and I don't care for any of them at all!" Cocking his head, "Oh Your Majesty, I think you're too soft and weak. You're useless! Oh. You… you have an apple for me? And a carrot – and… oh yes that feels very nice," ducking his head shaking it side to side, as though he were Peredur having a conversation with Susan, "and could you scratch there? Oh yes that's perfect," arching his neck, "And I hate humans and they all should be eaten by Aslan. And… oh oh my yes, please my back itches right there and…" while sidling this way and that, "Would you care to go for a ride?" Eyes widening comically, "I would ever so much love to take you for a ride Your Majesty and tell you all my nasty opinions and complain like an old nag. Ohhhh my aching joints… ohhh my aching baack. I hate everyone. Except you Your Majesty, and could I please have some extra oat mash?" Pawing the ground, mirth readily apparent as Peredur, Caspian and Inigo stood there, mouths agape in shock, "Until you prance around like a yearling, rolling about begging for every single scrap of her time. Like most of us…" a pointed look was thrown Caspian's way. "We all melt eventually."
Peredur bugled out a challenge, "Come here and say such things!"
"I don't think you could take me old man," snorting, Luis danced closer, bucking so that his hind legs slammed down chipping stone beneath them. "You have size, muscle, and nothing else on me. If you and I were in the same Herd, I would be Stallion and you would be banished. Your brains are a tad… lacking. As is your foresight – to say the very least and not even mention your manners. And with that, I have much better things to do." Tossing his mane, and stepping light and daintily, "Like seeing if Su has a crabapple for me," as he minced off, tail held high, neck arched with his nose in the air.
Seemingly unable to stop the hearty guffaw, Inigo's shoulders shook as he attempted to repress it. Caspian could all too readily see it, and knew the laughter was being curtailed after the first couple that had leaked out. Irritated, Caspian grumbled to himself not being so daft that he hadn't picked up Luis' insult, matching Peredur's own soft rumbles. Hauling Peredur's saddle off the back rack, he went to sit in the corner of the box stall, uncaring that it probably agitated his Steed, only wanting the comfort of equine flesh nearby while he cared for the tack. While he could see the humor of Luis' mockery, Caspian was in no mood to deal with it.
"Your thoughts are still a multitude," the voice was muffled by wood, but from the sound, Caspian could tell that Inigo was mirroring his actions, so that their backs were pressed to the same wall.
"And you wish me to do what Inigo? Talk with you? Unburden myself and take your," hissing the word, "advice?"
Straw rustled, "You will listen to nothing I say, so I shall say nothing. But you have much to say, and I will listen. You have nothing to lose by letting your thoughts flow and settle," a clink, probably from the bridle and bit, "and much to gain by it. It is a lesson I learned many years ago Caspian, if left too long to your own thoughts with no outlet, you become dangerous to all. With no outlet, you begin to latch onto dark inner demons and grasp at those around you whilst madness descends upon your mind. Destrier is no more," Caspian's fists clenched at the simple statement, "your lady wife will try and fix whatever she sees as a problem, and Peredur would only tell you what an abhorrent insult to him your very continued breathing was."
He had to admit, Inigo was right.
But only to himself.
No one else had to know that…
Especially about Peredur.
"And what will you do di Sopesbian?" rescue oddly enough came from Peredur. "Be the voice of reason, the understanding ear?"
"Actually no, but Caspian has never managed to simply talk to a wall to work through his thoughts," there was a grunt, "which would have been better for all involved. At least for me, because if he had learned such a skill, I would have been spared many headaches and dreary hours spent listening to his ideas of honour, heroism, right and wrong and how to rule. And the various merits to sueded leather breeches or boiled leather breaches. An experiment that failed horrifically I may add… Now, as this does not concern you, or your large, equine mouth, I would take it as a personal favor if you would keep your damnable lips fastened tightly shut."
Soft creaking from his teeth grinding together, "How honourable of you then to subject yourself to headache on my account," Caspian strangled the oil cloth in his hands like it was Inigo's neck.
"It is not for you," coming out close to a snarl, and Caspian could imagine the look on Inigo's face, "it is for my child and it is for Her Majesty to whom I owe everything. I owe you nothing that is not easily given. But my debt to her far outweighs anything you could claim, and so I shall take any headaches you could possibly give me as a favour to Her Majesty. Now – speak until there is nothing left and be done with it."
Before Caspian could say a word, Peredur left his stall, went around and yanked the door on Inigo's horse's stall open with his teeth, shouldered the blood bay aside, and stood over Inigo, "I pledged to Caspian, and I may hate him, but I also serve him. You snake, with how you slither in the grass, you damn Telmarine, you should learn to watch your mouth - when it regards to myself and to my Rider. Even if I despise him, only I may insult him. Now as you aren't me, that means you need to hold your tongue."
"Or what Horse?" sometimes Inigo's bravery startled Caspian, between the two of them, it had been Inigo who avoided the losing side as often as possible. Or excessive risk to his aristocratic person. "You shall kill me? You are welcome to – on His Highness' command. Or Her Majesty's. Otherwise… I do believe your hooves are quite tied."
Rubbing his temples, Caspian tipped his head back, listening to the quibbling, unsure whether he was annoyed, amused, or a bit touched by it all.
Sighing, "Be quiet both of you and get some practice listening to me. I think I will let the both of you bear the burden of my headaches rather than carry them myself." Closing his eyes, blocking out the sight of beige stone ceilings, "My thoughts have run amok and keeping track of them by myself is no longer feasible. So, open your ears, and do not make me glue your mouths shut – for I will if I must."
Horse and Cousin ceased their bickering, both recognizing the seriousness of Caspian's tone under the gallows humor. Gathering his thoughts, Caspian tried to focus. It was harder than it used to be, but so long without an outlet that didn't force him to think (the way Susan did who was always asking questions or pushing him this way and that) made it complicated.
"I am unsure of where this is going," hand flopping on the saddle in his lap, gesturing aimlessly, "this war for my Throne is no longer simply a fight to depose Uncle. Change will come - swifter, stronger, and more violently than the winds of war. Afterwards there are so many other things – who to execute, who to pardon, what to bequeath to the Narnians, how to incorporate them and be incorporated by them… Who to trust in the here and now. Inigo, should I kill you? Should I trust you? Should I," weak laughter at the absurdity, "forgive you? Susan and the Council… how do I plan for their reaction, then use it to my advantage?"
Now was when Susan would have told him not to worry, to forgive Inigo, to follow his gut instincts on how to make everyone work together, and everything would be perfect la di fucking da. Perhaps Susan's sharp tongue was rubbing off on him, not just her peculiar values, her turns of phrase cropping up in his mind at times. Being as that was neither here nor there, Caspian continued to ramble, sometimes in circles, sometimes with more purpose, until he was hoarse. The only thing that let him know that Inigo and Peredur were listening was the sporadic grunts or shuffles and a lack of snoring.
When he was finished, Inigo said not a thing, just got up, putting the tack away, bowed then walked off. True to his word, Caspian's Cousin didn't offer any advice or thoughts, and had merely let him do what he needed – which was to talk. Peredur had come over by this time and stood there, staring long and hard. Inscrutable, possibly measuring, but just as likely to be plotting Caspian's long and painful death, Peredur grunted at him once, then nosed his shoulder. Horsy breath fell over his face, and Caspian breathed in the pungent smell before blowing back at Peredur. For whatever it was worth, Caspian's mind was momentarily empty now, and beyond that he no longer cared.
Stretching, yawning, Caspian's back cracked after he entered he and Susan's room. Now that it was no longer their office as well, they didn't spend quite as much time there, but that was both a good thing and a bad thing. A good thing because that meant when they were there, that was their time. But it was bad because Caspian could not just simply grab Susan up in his arms and take her whenever he so desired as when they spent so much time here before. Moving deeper into the room, his boots not making any noise over all the rugs that had been installed recently, Caspian disrobed partially, dropping his jerkin and heavy green tunic on the floor. He could clean it up later, or Rosetta would get it. Frankly he didn't care one way or the other.
The siren call of Susan's sleeping form dragged him to the bed, and he was careful to make sure his belt didn't clink as he removed it. It wouldn't do to wake her. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Caspian tugged his boots off, then crawled the rest of the way onto the deep pile of blankets. Spring may be approaching, but this far north winter's hold would be tenacious, and the wet was pervasive and got into everything. His bones were constantly achy, and his knees cracked for an hour after he woke in the morning, while Susan was always shivering from it. That worried Caspian, but the healers assured him that she wasn't coming down with anything, and that it was only her body trying to adjust to Narnian winters. Leaning on an elbow, he watched her sleep, the weight of the day no longer bearing down on her. Young, oh so young, once more, Susan's pale as fresh cream complexion was relaxed and lovely. Daily austerity had crept up on her, robbing her visage of that sweetness, but it also added to Susan's beauty in its own way, making her ever more exquisite to Caspian.
Pressing a kiss to her temple, breathing in the scent of lemons and peppermint, Caspian sighed. He hadn't meant for her to carry so much, he hadn't meant for her to carry anything – all he had wanted was to have her with him. Always. Thankful as Caspian was for Susan's help, he wasn't happy with her status, she wasn't trained for it, and she wasn't prepared to deal with the stress. Now she was doing much better but this was too much, and it robbed them of so much time. Stroking her cheek and forehead with the back of his hand, Caspian felt himself fretting over her mental wellbeing, and not just her physical.
A tiny whimper made Susan's full raspberry lips quiver.
Becoming fully alert, Caspian watched her a moment.
Face scrunching, brow furrowing, she shuddered once from head to toe and then another tiny high pitched whine worked its way out. Leaning closer, so her mouth was near his ear, Caspian listened. It wasn't one brief whimper – but a continuous, rising, falling moan.
Resting his hand on her cheek, calling softly, "Susan wake up."
She didn't respond at all, when usually she was a fairly light sleeper. Giving her a gentle shake, he called her name again. Once again nothing happened, the whine coming from her still continuing, its eeriness making Caspian shiver.
"Susan, wake up," sharpening his tone.
With a twist, Susan rolled over, hands becoming claws. Catching her by the wrists before she could gouge him, Caspian wrestled with her for several long moments. Sleep and desperation combined in his wife, making her buck violently, far stronger than usual and her unfocused blue eyes were frightening. Pinning her arms over her head, straddling her legs, Caspian kept calling Susan's name, trying to wake her up fully. The terror in her eyes ate at him, what was she seeing that scared her so? What nightmare vista left Susan so petrified that she couldn't respond to him and wake up?
Frantic, Caspian let go of her hands, ignoring how they went to his face as he stretched out over her, covering her with his body. Pressing his mouth to her ear, Caspian whispered fervently to her, clutching Susan tightly.
"You are safe, please wake up, it is I, Susan, it is your husband, Caspian, please, wake up, Susan, wake up, I am here, you are safe," the litany echoing her unceasing moan. "I shall let nothing hurt you, you are safe… Please awaken."
Letting her tear at him, Caspian tried to comfort Susan, he had never seen her have a nightmare before, so he assumed this was normal for when she would have a bad dream. Nails dug into his back, biting at him through the linen of his undertunic, and he held in his hiss, not wanting to startle Susan. Who knew what sort of reaction she would have? Sobbing started, as her blows landed with increasing weakness, still fighting him, but worn out, like she was drained of strength. Caspian didn't stop murmuring in Susan's ear, protecting her from everything with his body pressed tightly to hers.
It was choked, "Caspian?"
Breathing a sigh of relief, "Yes Susan? I am here."
"Is it you?"
Not understanding, he nodded, moving so he could look into her bloodshot blue eyes, "Yes. I am here, I swear I will let nothing hurt you."
Lips trembling, Susan's eyes squeezed shut and she hiccupped once, "Okay."
"I give you my word Susan, you are safe," whispering, pushing dark hair off of her freckled cheek. "The nightmare is over. It was just a bad dream. I am here to chase it away, it cannot hurt you. I will not let it."
She was stiff, eyes still tightly closed, "Thank you."
Nuzzling at her face, Caspian's lips sought hers as he whispered, "I love you."
Beneath him Susan shuddered mightily, eyes popping open to look at him long and hard. Searching. But she already knew he loved her, he had said it to her before. Not with the sort of frequency she said those three weird little words that strung together to form a magical phrase to him, and even then she didn't say it every day or every other day, while Caspian made a point of telling her as often as he could squeeze those words out without prompting. She needed him to do that, and as they were true, and he wanted to keep her happy… Hiding any dissent, irritation or qualms away, Caspian rested his forehead against hers, looking into her eyes.
After a time, Susan tilted her face, so she could kiss him, her soft lips clinging to his own. Lashes fluttering, giving him brief glimpses of her skin, or her dark hair, Caspian abandoned himself in her sweet mouth. Groaning, Caspian's hands worked out from where they were pinned under her back, stroking Susan's sides, rubbing firmly. Tired he may be, but she always stirred his flesh, even with something so simple as a kiss. Susan turned her face away, breaking free of his lips, but he trailed them from her ear down the side of her neck.
"Caspian?" it was a whimper, hands pushing at his shoulders.
Stopping, keeping his hips pressed to hers, he panted, "Yes?"
"If I asked you to stop – "
Before she could complete the question, Caspian rolled off of her, hating how she tested him sometimes. It was her right though, and it made her feel more secure. Anything that kept her with him was something he could bear to do if he absolutely had to.
"Anything you wish my Queen," hoping his voice sounded normal, straining to hold in the cracking of his tight vocal chords.
Turning so she could look at him, "I didn't ask you to."
his eyes with his forearm, Caspian reached for her with the other,
dragging her to his side, "You were going to. And so I have. Are my
The leather of his trews was tented over his aching cock, and he was glad he hadn't had the energy earlier to strip fully. Susan would only take it as pressure and would give him that look that made her seem so tiny and vulnerable. As though that wasn't bad enough, the worst part was when she looked like that, all Caspian could think about was throwing her down and fucking her until she screamed. When she looked so soft, so fragile, so innocent and sweet – Caspian wanted to drown in it. Of course that was the exact opposite of what he must do or worry over Susan fleeing him. Now she actually had the power to do such a thing without fear of him following afterwards. Before, before she was Queen, before she was a princess, before she was his wife – Caspian had worried even then that she would run away. Even then he couldn't bear that thought, as Susan had wiggled into some niche in his soul that he hadn't realized was empty, making herself totally at home there. He wouldn't do without her, and now he had to actually work at keeping Susan with him.
Caspian didn't like it.
But he didn't hate it either. Not really. It was just one of those facts of life, some duty that was irksome but necessary, and as such was just to be accepted. And if inside the privacy of his own mind Caspian roared over it and fought tooth and nail to not just imprison Susan in their bedroom once more, then that was his business. Nor was it something anyone else need know. Least of all Susan.
She huffed, "I didn't ask you to, and I wasn't going to!"
Sitting up enough to drag his shirt over his head, "Then what were you going to do? Your usual course of action is to ask me if you wanted me to do something and asked me to do it, would I. My answer will be 'yes', naturally," grunting, standing up, Caspian shoved his pants down his legs, "and then you will ask me to do whatever the aforementioned task was. And thus – I will do it. A simple cause and effect quiz that even someone of as limited intelligence as myself can figure out eventually. I may be little more than a simple barbarian who knows not much of anything outside what I was taught, but I am able to grasp lessons after they have been beaten into me enough times." Flopping back down, shuffling the covers until he was under them, "Now that I have gone through the whole argument for both of us, may we kiss, say we are sorry for the disagreement and go to sleep?"
"I wasn't going to," it was a whisper, "I don't mean to be difficult. I just wanted to know if you would."
Cracking an eye open, "What do wish of me then?"
"Nothing," shrinking in on herself.
Watching as Susan lay down, curl into a tight ball, her back to him, still dressed in the day's clothes she had been so tired that she hadn't even removed them at all, Caspian bit back a groan. Every other step forward, they had to take a step back? Did it have to be that way?
"You are lying and," hands going to the ties on the back of her dress, "what is more we both know it. It is not 'nothing', it never is as simple as 'nothing'. I do not hate proving myself to you Susan, I merely wish that it was not so random and predictable."
A tiny frown, head twisting so she could look at him, "That made no sense."
"The tests strike at random times for no seeming reason, yet each test is the same," brushing hair away from her neck, Caspian inhaled her scent again, loving it as he always did, "which is boring and insults my intelligence and devotion. And as an added bonus of irritation to the ordeal that makes it boring in ways I cannot even describe. Try something new."
"Like what?" squirming to help him get her disrobed.
"For instance you could just tell me to do something for you," grunting. The outer vest of her dress came free and was thrown in some random direction, "And I do not mean simply sexual favours. Be creative."
Pulling away, Susan turned to look at him, chewing her lip, "What if I want something… sexual?" blushing for some reason at the word. It wasn't like they had any such physical secrets, yet at times Susan would look at him shyly as though she were new to all this. "And what if what I want… isn't all that creative?"
Propping himself on his elbow, "If it is what you desire, then that is what you shall receive."
"What if you weren't in the mood?"
Snorting, "When am I not in the mood?"
His words seemed to have made her uncomfortable, "Caspian, do you want me because… I'm here and it's convenient, or," she stopped, looking anywhere but at him, "or are you always this… lusty?"
"I desire you," trying to formulate the words, Susan's insecurity bleeding from her pores, "because you… are beautiful. Because you are… intelligent. And because I simply do." Reaching out, laying his hand on the dip of her waist, trying to pull her close once more, to lay beside him, "I have never heard of some law that required someone to have a list of reasons why they found another person desirable. It is not as though I sit and say to myself 'what is it I find so alluring about Susan?' The reasons may be simple or complex, but I do not know all of them. For instance," moving closer, since Susan wouldn't, "you do not go wandering off in mental circles asking yourself such questions -"
"Actually," she interrupted, "I do."
Unable to stop himself, Caspian laughed, until he realized she looked serious, "You do?" Incredulous, "Why ever for? Do you not find it to be a waste of time? Time that you could spend with me rather than trying to pinpoint an exact 'why' of things, or spend working, or with yourself, or… or… or anything for that matter?"
Smacking at his hand, making him jerk it away at the sting, "You think I'm stupid for it!" Squirming, Susan made to get off the bed, "You think it's stupid that I think about you, that I try to figure out why – oof!"
Caspian rose to his knees, reaching out to grab Susan, drag her back, and pin her down, a smile tugging at his face, "I do not think it is stupid, I do not think you are stupid. What I think is that I like you how you are and that you are very you." Shaking his head, "Even if that is impractical at times."
Still she bore that irritated cast to her features, lips puckered, eyes narrow, "You're just trying to mollify me so you can have your way with me."
"No, I was trying to answer your usual barrage of questions in such a manner that you would understand," still having that grin pulling at him, "to make you happy and reassure you. And then to have my way with you."
Swatting at him – playfully this time, "You're an animal."
"I thought I was a barbarian?" dipping down to nip at her neck.
She made a breathy noise, neck arching when his lips touched that spot that made her coo. Breaking her focus, keeping Susan muddle headed, Caspian suckled where neck and shoulder joined, gentle and teasing. The taste of salt on her skin always made him crazy. Actually, she always made him crazy, made his body go on alert whenever he touched her for more than a few brief seconds. Craving always hit him at the oddest times, the need to be near Susan overpowering Caspian's willpower more often than not, and it usually was because he wanted to simply be closer to her. But being closer to Susan would lead to Caspian touching her, and then touching her would lead him to wanting and needing her, then to taking Susan. If it was at all possible at the time. Or he would become irritable, short tempered, and itchy actually.
Susan was an addiction, and the pulse that was beating against his lips, and the sound of her rapid breathing was like water to a dying man for him. Bracing his weight on his arms, Caspian drug his face over Susan's neck, then to the gap in her shift over her breasts, letting out a throaty thrum of desire. It was echoed, Susan thrust her chest up, pulling the neck of the pale yellow linen shift open for him. Nuzzling at the full roundness, turning his face to the side, he rubbed his stubbly cheek over the luminescent pearl that was Susan's breast, making her giggle. Fingers wound through his hair, massaging his scalp, tugging him gently, so his lips were hovering over the raspberry that was twisted into a tight peak.
Making a circle with the tip of his nose over her nipple, "Mmyes?"
"Do you think," she hesitated, legs wrapped around the backs of his thighs, and he glanced up at her, "that you could um… kiss me?" When he moved to kiss her on the mouth she shook her head, "Not there."
Scooting down her body, "Of course."
Susan lifted the hem of her gown, "All over please," flushing as she stroked her stomach, fingers brushing over her thatch.
Closing his eyes, Caspian rested his cheek on her mound, basking in Susan's proximity, "Anything you desire."
Her palm passed over his face, caressing him, "You make me feel good when you kiss me there. Special."
wasn't sure what to say to that, so he didn't say anything,
stroking the inside of her thigh with his hand in lazy sweeps.
Nudging her legs farther apart, he set to pleasuring her slowly.
Licking the crease of her thigh where it joined her hip, then
nibbling with his lips at a petal before blowing a jet of air over
her sex. A sigh and Susan shifted to accommodate him, her flower
opening enough to give him a glimpse of mauve folds. Pressing his
mouth to her, sweeping through and tasting the light bitter saline,
whetting his appetite as it always did, driving Caspian to let his
tongue dance from the bud at the apex of her womanhood swirling over
it before sucking long and hard.
Muscles in her abdomen tightening, Susan whimpered, hips shifting on their bed. Working his arm under her thigh, so he could wrap it around her leg and press on her stomach keeping her in place, Caspian let his other hand move to her entrance, tracing it delicately. He had to cock his head so he could complete that maneuver and keep the touch teasing. Susan didn't strain against his grip like she usually did, begging, but she did moan and sigh continuously, the silky flesh of her calves or the slightly rougher texture of her foot stroking his back. When she seemed close to climax, Susan reached down to cup his chin, asking him wordlessly to stop.
"Susan?" frowning Caspian paused, "Is something wrong?"
She sat up, struggling to pull her shift off, "No. I just want you in me. Please?"
It wasn't like she seemed frantic or needy, but there was something off. Susan wasn't fighting him, clinging, or pushing him away – just… Unable to place his finger on it, Caspian obeyed readily. Legs wrapped around his waist, Susan now bare tugged at his shoulders, arching up towards his body, entreating. Stretching out over her, Caspian tangled his hands in her hair, kissing her long and slow. Fingers grasped his prick as Susan positioned him at her entrance, caressing his shaft, rubbing it over the delicate little lips of her femininity. Sighing through his nose, Caspian moved closer, penetrating her in a swift plunge. There was a short gasp from Susan, her thighs flexing strongly around his hips.
Moving smoothly Caspian arched his back and shoulders, tucking his face into the side of his wife's neck, forestalling his body's demands. It wanted to rush, to thrust wildly until he was spent, yet that wasn't what their joining was to be this evening. Susan clearly desired more than brief pleasure, and Caspian aimed to give it to her. Even if his fatigued, traitorous body demanded otherwise. Calloused fingertips dug into the muscles of Caspian's back, Susan whimpering as she writhed. Panting as he lapped at the silky skin of her throat and felt the softness of her belly against the hard planes of his, and the moist heat that grasped him, sucking his cock in deeper, Caspian struggled for control. Spongy ridges clasped at his girth, sending scintillating shocks from his nerves up his shaft, short cries wrenched from Susan driving him onwards.
"Caspian," voice hitching on his name, different than pleas for more or sounds of satisfaction.
Rising up on his elbows, groaning, "Susan?" unable to formulate something more coherent.
"Not," pausing, Susan scrunched her eyes closed, palms pushing at his chest, "not like this, please?" desperation that sounded horribly close to fear coating the words like arsenic laced molasses.
Rolling off of Susan, Caspian grabbed her hand, urging her to follow, "Come, tell me what is –"
She cut him off, straddling him and sliding down his prick, as her mouth came down on his. His lips parted in a surprised gasp, the cool air having kissed his heat and then to have Susan's body envelope him so quickly, even as her tongue invaded his mouth, her hands in his hair. Groaning, Caspian reached for her waist, keeping Susan pressed tightly to him as he got his bearings. Bedding was bunched under Caspian, a distant and only mildly noticeable sensation of irritation stemming from that, which was quickly forgotten as Susan braced her hands on his chest. Experimentally she shifted without him guiding her, and Caspian forced himself to relax.
It was a wonderful torture, it had been far too long since he'd last let her take the lead in the bedroom. But he vowed that that may have to change, watching her figure through hooded lids as she found a rhythm that she liked. Rubbing palms over every part of Susan that he could reach, Caspian thrust his hips up and against Susan's, flexing every few beats to make her shiver.
Susan threw him for another loop, chewing her plump bottom lip, "Caspian?"
"Mph," which was about as intelligible as he could get what with Susan hovering above his tip, having slid away, "what?"
"Umm… I… I want you in me," but she didn't mount him once more, just continued hovering.
Biting his tongue, "I am right here," squeezing pelvic muscles so his length wobbled, grabbing her attention.
"But I don't want to be… I don't want you watching me, and I don't want you over me or behind me," said in a rush.
He was too tired for this, all he wanted was to finish and go to sleep. The next day would be appallingly long, as they always were, and this time before bed was supposed to be their time. Their time to be together in any way they so chose. And yet, Susan was fussing, making things difficult. Suppressing the irritation (he'd been so close and Susan hadn't even let herself peak once, and she'd been even closer than Caspian several times), Caspian sat up, pulling her near.
Modulating his voice, "Is this more comfortable?" hopefully hiding how aggravated, worried and all around exhausted he'd become from the rigors of the day and their lovemaking.
"I'm sorry," heartbreaking whisper, and Caspian felt horrible as she pressed her face into his neck.
Tightening their embrace, "Susan, tell me what you need, what you want. I will do it, you know this surely? But I do need you to meet me partway in this."
"I don't know," mumbling.
Stroking her back with his fingertips, "Susan," sighing knowing that anything he said would come out wrong, Caspian continued, "I am tired, you are tired, and we should probably rest." Caspian could hear Susan swallowing, most likely another apology, or maybe words of anger – he couldn't be sure, "But I wish to be with you. You wish to be with me, yes?"
"Yes," infinitesimal nodding.
Sighing Caspian tucked his chin over Susan's cheek, "Then what do you think we should do," turning his head this way and that so the stubble on his face scraped her gently, liking the way her soft skin felt against his coarser, "about this then?" Closing his eyes, bone tired, "I am open to suggestions."
"I… don't know," her arms, far more muscular than he'd expect of someone so soft, her time spent with bow and Horse having toughened her up some, squeezed Caspian before relaxing, "I'm all topsy-turvy. I don't know what I want."
Twisting, Caspian flopped over, dragging Susan with him, "Then perhaps you should sleep on it?" not letting go, he started stroking her back, "You could wake me up when you awaken and have come to some sort of conclusion."
Rather than answer him, she wiggled and Susan pulled away enough so she could look up at him, "You're so much different than you were."
It wasn't said like she found it to be a bad thing. Caspian tried to remember, but at the same time he didn't feel like he'd changed that much from the way he had been. He knew he had changed, yet he was too tired to think on it overmuch. Brushing a stray tendril from her pink cheek, Caspian thought that maybe he should be more confused than he was. Susan's observation should also have hit close to home, and at one point would have irritated him more than it was. How many times had she tried to guide him into the mould she desired (it was more like shoving, but it had worked) and it did appear that he had become someone not quite himself. It didn't feel like it though, except the fact that he had to think so damnably much, and use words to express himself, and that he couldn't just order or boss people around the way he'd been used to. Other than that, Caspian felt he was still the same – with some additions.
That at times ruled his life.
And kept him from doing whatever he felt like
Growling, Caspian lay his hand over his brow, massaging the tight muscles of his forehead, "Woman, I try not to think about those sorts of things. Could we try and just simply… sleep without some huge conversation about… what is the word I am searching for?" Grumbling, Caspian shifted onto his back, keeping Susan tucked into his side, "Ah yes, the state of our relationship. Or my status as your husband, or you as Queen, or – or any of that. Perhaps we could just have a simple session of sex and then sleep. That would be my preference."
"Do you still want to?" her leg was sliding over his thigh, but Caspian didn't think Susan's heart was in it.
Making a face, "I do believe I have a headache suddenly, and we should sleep." Climbing from the bed he went to blow out the lanterns, washing the room in darkness but for the two torches near the door, "In the morning or at least after an hour or several of sleep if you are so desirous of coupling I would more than gladly oblige." Flopping onto their bed, making it creak, "If that is sufficient?"
Susan rolled into him as soon as he was under the covers, "Would you hold me instead?"
Settling in, "You need never even ask such a thing ever again," slipping a leg between hers, Caspian locked their bodies together, "as you may always take that as a fact of life."