Characters are still not mine.
You all knew it was coming – the goodbye. I've mucked around with both movie and bookverse during this whole thing, but just a warning that the order of events for their goodbye is slightly out, if you're a die-hard movie verse reader.
Hope you still enjoy.
Aslan spoke often to Peter, sometimes for hours at a time. Occasionally, Caspian felt jealous when he spotted the High King with the Lion, but Peter's expression was always so grim when he walked with the Lion that Caspian was content to let Aslan keep his distance. He wanted nothing to destroy the joy which pulsed within him. He had never been as content as he was now with her.
Peter and Edmund were arguing over many pieces of parchment on which the plans for restoration of Aslan's How were sketched. Peter was fierce in his need to rebuild the sacred spot. Edmund, ever practical, was more worried about the integration of two very different societies.
"Caspian agrees with me – don't you Caspian?"
Caspian turned to find Peter looking at him expectantly. "Er – repeat the question please?" he asked sheepishly. Edmund sighed in disgust and pushed the papers away.
"It's no use talking to him Peter, Su's got him so wrapped around her little finger that she's all he's thinking about these days."
Peter laughed. "Give the boy a break; he doesn't have our years of experience in dealing with women."
Caspian snorted with surprise. "Years of experience?"
"We're older than we look!" Edmund defended, smirking at the Prince.
"History does not speak of your conquests! Where are your wives then?" Caspian challenged.
His laughter died in his throat as the jesting conversation suddenly fell flat. Caspian stared at their solemn faces, uncomprehending. Edmund sighed and there was a quick exchange of glances between him and his older brother which Caspian did not understand. He looked to Peter, taking in his clenched fists and white knuckles, before turning back to Edmund. Slowly, Edmund placed down his eagle feather quill and crossed his arms.
"I never got around to asking her, so no, no wife." Edmund paused and eyed Peter. "Pete was engaged."
Peter let out a long breath and purposefully loosened his hands, throwing down his own quill. "For a grand total of three days. I hadn't even got around to making the announcement before we got wind of the white stag."
"History does not remember they who stood behind us. But they were left behind, none the less." Edmund said.
"The myths, the legends, they all speak of a lifetime." Peter met Caspian's eyes, his jaw set grimly. "We know better than most what a lifetime entails."
There was a long silence. Caspian shook his head. He absolutely refused to understand what they were telling him. Edmund was staring at him, his dark eyes understanding. Peter stood up from his chair and strode to the window.
"I loved her, very much. But we were from different worlds." He turned around and met Caspian's eyes steadily. "Who knows how long we are given this time? A week more, five years, two days?"
Caspian's heart thumped painfully, he forced a laugh.
"Is this some sort of grand plan to break us apart? Some kind of save our sister from the dastardly Prince plot? What of the speeches of acceptance I received not even three days ago?" he asked.
"No it's not that. We weren't even going to say anything - it's just - we would have liked a warning," Peter met Edmund's eyes solemnly, "in order to say goodbye. We respect you enough that we'd like to give you that."
Caspian felt his world tilt. Peter was so sure, Edmund was so convinced.
But No, he didn't care what they thought. It wouldn't happen. Susan and he would have forever. He would not allow anything other than that.
"I won't let her go." He vowed.
"You won't have a choice." Edmund replied.
Abruptly, Caspian stood, glaring at the brother's solemn faces. He could see that they were only trying to warn him. But he wouldn't listen. He refused to believe it would happen that way again. He strode from the room, his ears ringing with their quiet words.
He glanced back and saw Edmund rise to stand at his brother's side, clasping his shoulder. The two teens had never looked more like grown men, their heads bowed, shoulders hunched.
Surely Susan would agree with him, he thought, several hours later. Surely she would fight with him for their future. Surely she would tell him that Aslan could not be so cruel.
He found her sitting, illuminated by moonlight, outside the castle walls and nestled in the long grass. He opened his mouth to hail her. Someone beat him to it.
It was Peter, his broad form folded itself until he was sitting by his sister's side. Susan leaned against his shoulder.
"Aslan has been speaking with me." Peter said after a quiet moment.
"I know." Susan didn't move her head or look at her brother.
"He wants to speak to you."
"Why don't you come when he calls you?" Peter question was slightly disapproving in tone.
Susan sighed. "Because I don't want to hear what I know he will say."
"And how do you know what he will say?"
"I can see it in your eyes, Peter. You've never been good at hiding your worry for me."
Peter huffed with annoyance, but did not rebuke her statement. "You can't deny Aslan's will."
"I know. I'm just stalling, I need time."
They were silent for a long time.
Finally, Peter said hesitantly. "I know you like him Su, but perhaps it would be better if you started to distance yourself now."
Susan raised her head to glare at her brother. "Would you have distanced yourself? Or would you have held her tighter in those last days, kissed her longer, told her how much she meant to you?"
Peter's silence spoke clearly.
"Don't ask me to do something you yourself could not have done." Susan chided.
Peter ran a hand through his hair sheepishly. "I'm sorry, I just worry, you know that. It's just - he's helped you so much - you've come so far, I'm worried that you'll revert back to what you were before."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because it would seem an insult to his memory, to rip apart what he healed."
"It won't be as easy as all that."
"I know." She turned her head to smile weakly at her brother. "But at least I'll have you and Ed and Lu. He won't have anyone."
Caspian stepped back, away from their spot. Then he was taking another step and then he was running.
He won't have anyone.
Yes, yes he would. He would have her, he wouldn't let her go.
Suddenly, he could see the deeper meaning behind everything they did together. There was a muted desperation in the way that she clung to him. There was an echo of the eminent pain that thudded in each pulse of his heart. Each of her touches lingered. Each of her kisses searched deeper.
He didn't want to believe it. He wouldn't believe it. Aslan would not be so cruel.
It became his mantra.
Aslan would not be so cruel.
He tickled her to relieve her frowns. He hugged her to raise her spirits. He spoke freely of their lives in the future. Always together.
Aslan would not be so cruel.
His heart thudded painfully as she laughed. His fingers twisted in her hair as she sighed.
Aslan would not be so cruel.
When he could not snap her out of one of her moods or when her lips became a little to desperate against his, he would turn a blind eye. It was nothing, not related to their leaving. It was girl problems. Anything except that which made his heart skip a beat.
Aslan would not be so cruel.
They had escaped, just for a few minutes, from the dark halls of the Telmarine castle where Peter and Edmund had commandeered the Lord's council chambers to begin merging the two countries. He really ought to be there, so should she, for that matter. But right now, he was on a mission to secure her by his side. Forever.
Settling down in the eastern gardens, he pulled her into his arms and she leaned against his chest without a complaint, her head resting on his shoulder.
"I have something for you." He said softly into her ear, pressing a kiss there.
"Hmmm?" her fingers brushed along his arms.
"A gift from the King of Telmar and Narnia to the Kings and Queens of old."
She smiled, her eyes bright. "What could you possibly give us, after restoring peace to our land? What could top that?"
He chuckled and from his pocket pulled a small slab of marble and placed it within her hands. He could feel her confusion. Her long fingers turned the rock over in her palms.
"Do you recognise it?"
She peered up at him. "Should I?"
He smiled. "I recovered it from a place which is pivotal to Narnia's history."
Her breath suddenly caught in her throat. Gently her fingers ran over the smooth surface.
"Cair Paravel. It's marble."
"Correct." He tucked a strand of hair behind her small ear. "I am rebuilding your castle."
She turned in his arms to stare at his face with wide eyes. "Rebuilding the Cair? Why?"
He nodded, amused at her astonishment. "I thought, perhaps, that you might like living there better than in the dark halls of Miraz's castle."
"Living there -?" He cut off her protest with a quick kiss to her soft lips.
She pushed him away gently, her eyes wide. "Caspian, I don't –"
He ignored her stubborn protestations. "Susan, what I want most, is for you to be happy. Together we will be rebuilding Narnia, lighting the darkest vestiges of our people's history. Won't you just say thank you?"
She let out a long breath, her brows furrowed. Finally she smiled at him weakly. "Thank you. My people will surely rejoice when their castle is restored to them."
"I will rejoice only when my people are content."
They were silent. Susan's face was pinched slightly, a worried frown pulling at her lips.
He blundered ahead, aware that it could potentially hurt but thinking that perhaps this if nothing else, might keep her by his side.
"Well to complete their contentment, I think we should give them a reason to celebrate."
"A festival?" She seemed to perk out of her dark contemplative mood.
"No. A wedding, Susan." He heard the emphasis in his own voice and waited for her reaction.
He grasped her hands tightly and lifted her chin to stare into her wide eyes. "Do you not understand? Ours. Our wedding."
For a long moment she seemed frozen and then she jerked out of his arms, spinning to face him. She appeared panicked, her eyes wide. "You're asking me to marry you?" she squeaked.
"Yes, I want you by my side, Forever!"
"I can't promise forever, Caspian."
"You know why!"
"No! No I do not! Don't you want to stay? Don't you want to believe that you can?"
Her eyes were anguished, but it seemed the words would not come. She shook her head weakly, her fingers twisting together in her lap.
"Susan? Do you love me?"
"Yes." It was the quietest of whispers.
"Then do not despair. We will have months, years, our whole lives. Aslan would not be so cruel to us."
She hesitated and then turned her bleak eyes away from him.
"For all that you did to help me during my time of need, you're doing the exact thing that I did, Caspian."
"You're hiding from the truth. You don't want to face our separation. Believe me, you're only making it harder on yourself."
"I am not hiding! We will not be separated!" he could hear that his own voice was laced with desperation and irrational anger.
Wordlessly, she grasped his fingers tightly and brought them to her lips.
"We won't be parted." He vowed to her, willing her to believe it. She smiled weakly and averted her eyes.
Time passed. He was crowned. They walked amongst the first walls of the New Cair.
Aslan would not be so cruel.
He had said it so often, that he had begun to believe it.
So when he was told by a faun to gather the people, in Aslan's name, he had become secure in her presence, so it did not create fear in his heart as it should.
When he went to find her and Edmund gave him a smile and a shrug and said she had gone walking with Peter, it was not an unusual occurrence, so it did not create fear in his heart as it should.
When he found her, Aslan between her and her brother, he had learnt to trust in the Lion, so it did not create fear in his heart as it should.
When she turned to him, tears in her eyes, her fingers clenched in the Lion's mane...it took a few moments for the smile on his face to melt away.
Caspian stared at her resigned face. He blinked and the rose tinted glasses he had been stubbornly clinging to were torn from his eyes. He could no longer pretend. His fairytale had just been shattered in a million pieces. His fingers began to tremble, his brain whirled, the earth spun.
It was only the Lion's eyes which kept him from screaming. Their golden depths were full of regret and pain.
Aslan could be so cruel
Peter coughed in the strained silence. "I'll give you a minute then." He touched Susan's arm briefly as he left, his fingers squeezing his support. Aslan took a rumbling breath, nudging his nose into Susan's limp hand. She smiled briefly at his ticklish whiskers, but her face was quick to fall as the Lion pulled away.
"We will await your arrival, Queen Susan."
She stared after the Aslan, not wanting to meet Caspian's gaze, not wanting to proceed with the goodbye.
"Now?" Caspian asked her in a flat voice, breaking the silence.
Susan turned to him and nodded minutely. "Yes."
Her answer tore the air from his lungs, ripped through his last shred of composure. Not even a day to say goodbye. Not even three hours to touch her delicate face. Not even fifteen minutes to kiss her sweet lips.
"Aslan has said –" she licked her dry lips and breathed deeply. "-Aslan has said that Peter and I won't be coming back to Narnia, ever."
"It is Aslan's will." She raised her head to meet his eyes and he finally saw the tears running down her cheeks. It was only as he noticed hers, that he realised his own cheeks were damp.
Before his eyes, it was as if her image wavered, caught between two realities. It was in his head of course, but he needed to touch her, needed to make sure that she was real, that it had not been a very elaborate, very wonderful dream.
He reached out and grasped her hand. Her fingers in his were warm; the tears in her eyes were diamonds. A breeze lifted strands of her dark hair and whipped them across his face; he revelled in their soft caress. Her creamy skin was bright in the noon sun, her endearing freckles stood out in contrast. His eyes darted over her face, the rest of his body it seemed, had frozen in denial.
He tried so very hard to memorise her. So very hard to make sure he would never forget. He felt tears well up and over his eyes. Seeing his despair only heightened her own, she struggled to remain strong.
"I'm sorry." It was her frail words which awakened his body and he suddenly pulled her to him desperately.
"No I'm sorry. If I hadn't been so stubborn, we could have had longer to say –" he couldn't say the word.
So instead, he kissed her fiercely and for a moment she yielded to his touch before pulling away. Desperately she wiped at her cheeks and attempted to rein her emotions. She smiled at him, trying to make this bearable, but her smile wobbled and her cheeks were wet again instantly.
"Listen to me, you'll find another."
Even before she had finished the sentence, his head had begun to shake negative, begging her to stop that line of thought.
"There will never be another." He swore vehemently, pulling her back into his arms, and tucking his head into her curls. "No one will ever compare to you in my heart."
Susan sighed deeply. Gently she rested her head on his chest, her hands grasping his vest tightly. She was quiet a moment, taking deep breaths, their exhalation tickling his neck.
"I will follow you." He said to her, pulling back and grasping her small face between his large hands. It was a wild plan, a wish only destined to be unfulfilled. "I will beg Aslan to let me go with you."
"And what will happen to the Telmarines and Narnians?" she rebuked him gently, her hands rising to cover his on her face. "Would you desert your people for the whims of your heart?"
He wanted to say yes, yes, he would abandon them, but the part of his heart which could only ever belong to his country tugged at him viciously. As a man, yes, he could desert his country. As a King, no, he could not.
He could not leave. She could not stay.
His brain felt like soft cotton, his limbs heavy around her. He would never see her again. Ever. It was taking everything he had just to comprehend that fact.
"What will I do without you? I have no one." He whispered brokenly, pulling her closer and pressing desperate butterfly kisses across her damp skin.
She was silent moment and then suddenly pulled away, slipping their intertwined hands from her face and holding them tightly to her heart. He could feel the racing beat of her pulse under his finger tips.
"I'll tell you what will happen." Her voice shook, but she blinked back her tears to stare at him with conviction.
"At first it will seem, as you open your eyes that first day after I am gone, that your heart could not simply bear continuing. But you will make your feet get out of the bed. You will stand, get dressed and put on your crown. You will push through the days, even though they seem to drag forever, grey and cloudy, even when the sun shines hourly."
He wasn't even aware he was shaking his head. Her words had started to unfreeze the panic which threatened to overwhelm.
"Yes- listen to me – You will eat your breakfast, hold parliament, sit on your throne, answer letters from Archenland. During the day you will focus on everything you can possibly think of other than me. But every night, when you are alone and not able to distract yourself, I will haunt your dreams. My smile, my touch, you'll relive every single moment we shared." She took a deep breath and he pretended not to hear the shudder of her tears.
She stroked his cheek. "And then one day, you will wake up and realise that something is different. It will take about three seconds for you to realise that you didn't dream of me that night. You'll be horrified and desperately try and remember everything all over. But gradually, during the days that follow that first, you will realise that many hours go by when you don't think of me at all." One of her hands drifted up to tangle in his hair gently. "Gradually, I will become nothing more than a fond memory. A first love, warped by time, shaped by emotion."
"No I won't forget, I won't" He said it fiercely, pledging it's truth and denying it was a useless oath. He knew as well as she did that time warped, changed, moved forwards relentlessly.
"I'll still be there" she said, touching his chest where his heart beat painfully, "and I will take comfort in that fact, but I will not be forefront."
"How do you know it is so?"
"Because, that is what happened to me when I left Narnia that first time and returned to England."
She was calm now, stoic for him, because his whole body shook like a leaf in the wind. He clung to her as a dying man in the sea might cling to a raft.
"Will you not miss me at all?"
For a moment her face screwed up in pain and a single tear trickled down her left cheek. She let him wipe it away gently as she struggled to regain control of herself.
"I will miss you for many nights a thousand days and unlimited hours."
Desperate strength surged through his limbs. "Then fight for us! Come, we will petition Aslan together." He released her and strode two paces, dragging her with him. Her reluctance hindered him and he turned to face her once again, impatience and panic threatening to take away his civility.
"Do I mean so little that you will not fight?"
"No, it's just – I cannot deny Aslan's will. Even though I may desire nothing more than to stay here, it is his will that I return to my home. You may not understand right now, but Aslan is not just a magical Lion. He's bigger than you could ever think he is. I simply cannot deny Him." She replied softly.
Caspian stared at her.
He could do nothing. He was not strong enough. He was not powerful enough. He would never see her again.
"I love you. I always will." He said to her fiercely. Defeat coursed through him as he pulled her into his chest. He buried his nose in her dark curls and inhaled deeply.
"As I love you. Forever." She replied, her soft breath sending shivers down his spine.
"Susan!" Peter was standing at the top of the steps. Susan took a deep breath and began to pull away. Panic made Caspian's fingers grasp her tighter still.
"Not yet!" he pleaded.
Susan paused and turned back to him. Gently she reached out and framed his face in her warm hands. She pressed one soft kiss to his lips with the lightest of touches. "Peace, King Caspian. In time, all will be well."
Her soft voice, full of conviction was the only thing which made him walk towards the High King. Her fingers, still within his were the only thing which controlled the upheaval within.
Please, Please, Please, Aslan could not be so cruel. Though the mantra was useless, he still said it out of habit, out of desperation. He clutched her fingers tighter. Please.
He said something, something about Telmarines and Narnians living in peace. He had no idea how his mouth formed words, no idea how his brain worked past the fog long enough to sound coherent. He had a feeling Aslan had something to do with it. The Lion's eyes never left him, and even though Caspian was fighting resentment towards the King of Kings, he gravitated towards the calm and strength that Aslan provided.
"We'll go." Peter finally said. The crowd gasped, Caspian's heart sank. He had been hoping, praying with all of his heart that it was all a nightmare or that it was all a cruel horrible joke.
But then the High King was approaching him and solemnly handing out the legendary Rhindon, clasping him in a brief one armed hug.
"I'll look after her. It will get easier. Trust me." Peter murmured into his ear softly. Caspian could only nod jerkily. Lucy hugged him fiercely and for a brief moment, his pain was even more acute. He was losing all of them. He hugged Lucy back even tighter than she grasped him. Edmund gave him a brief handshake and a shoulder numbing punch.
"Thanks, for everything" Edmund muttered, his eyes briefly moving to Susan and then back to Caspian, bright with gratitude.
Then she came to stand before him. He struggled with words.
"I wish we had more time." He choked. She struggled with an answer, her hands twisting in her beautiful blue and white skirts.
"It wouldn't have worked out anyway." She finally said softly, giving him a small smile. Her lips trembled, eyes darting to the crowd briefly.
"Why not?" A different kind of pain surged through him. Surely she would not leave him with such a callous remark?
"I am thirteen hundred years older than you. Edmund's accused me of robbing the cradle."
Caspian vaguely heard Edmund's cough and Peter's snort of laughter.
But then she was retreating, turning away from him and he was frozen, unable to do anything except watch her walk away. Susan hesitated. Caspian's heart leapt. She whirled around and threw herself back into his arms. He didn't think of the crowd, he didn't think of her brothers, he kissed her desperately and without reservation. This would be their last.
All too soon, she pulled away, trailing her soft fingers across his jaw. Her blue eyes were dark with emotion.
"Goodbye, King Caspian, favoured of Queen Susan." She whispered. He could no longer reply. His voice was grasped by the same dark feeling of uselessness which curled its fingers around his heart and squeezed greedily.
Caspian could feel the weighty stares of the crowd. He could feel the deep penetrating gaze of Aslan.
Slowly, Peter disappeared.
She did not look back. He was glad she did not. The King would not have been able to stop the man from throwing their body after her through the tree.
He watched until the last glimmer of her was gone from his world.
He watched until the crowd around him began to disperse.
He watched until the sun set and through the tree's arms he could see the beautiful Narnian sky.
He watched until he fell asleep and could finally be at peace, in her arms once again.
A week passed.
As she had said, every night he dreamed of her touch. Every night he spoke to her in his dreams. Each morning it was a challenge to drag himself out of his silken sheets and put on his crown. But he persisted. Because he could not abandon his people.
He wrote letters of greetings to Archenland and carefully worded treaties to Calormene. He sent search parties into the hills to find the hidden Narnian's who still resided there in fear.
She would have liked that.
One thing, though, he was sure she would not have approved of. He had been avoiding the great Lion.
His feelings fluctuated daily, tipping from one end of the scale to the other with no warning. He hated the Lion. Yet he needed him, needed his strength and his comfort. He seethed against the injustice, yet he understood that some things were out of his control.
He was sitting forlornly on his balcony, gazing upon the country he had chosen over his heart, when suddenly he was quite aware that he was not alone. Aslan's great paws made hardly a sound as he shifted next to the King of Narnia. For the longest time, they said nothing.
"She would have been my Queen." His voice sounded harsh, accusing in the dark.
Aslan's reply was mild. "She already was a Queen."
Caspian's anger stirred. "But she would have been Mine."
Aslan's rebuke was calm. "No, Caspian, She always has and always will be Mine."
Caspian fought for a way to remain angry when the Lion's very presence seemed to do nothing but calm him.
"I love her."
"You cannot even begin to comprehend my love for her, dear one."
He wanted to deny it, wanted to shout, wanted to prove that he had loved her more than anyone ever would. But something immense in the Lion's golden eyes made him quieten.
"Why did you have to take her?" he asked softly, his anger disappearing in favour of his pain.
"I cannot tell you any story but your own."
"Then why did you have to take her from ME?"
Aslan chuckled briefly before nudging Caspian's hand with his nose, urging the King to pet him softly. "Sometimes, I must do things which pain me deeply. Sometimes I must intervene in the lives of men in order to set things on the path which must be."
"So we were always destined to be apart. We were doomed from the beginning. What was the point?"
"The point?" Caspian was almost curled up against Aslan by now, his fingers combing through His mane.
"You helped a woman in her time of need. You set her free from her past, liberated her from her memories and pain. In return, she taught you much. She taught you the delicacy of a woman, the dedication needed to make a relationship work. Tell me you will settle for any woman who behaves anything less than a Queen. Tell me that she did not teach you patience and gentleness, that she did not humble you and teach you to evaluate yourself as not just a King, but as a man. She taught you much Caspian, just as you taught her." Aslan pressed his nose to Caspian's forehead. "Now ask me again, what was the point?"
Caspian was silent. He sat entirely within Aslan's paws by now, his head leaning against his chest. "Will it get easier?"
"Did she not tell you it would?" Aslan's reply rumbled through Caspian's body.
"And do you not trust her word?"
"It just hurts – so much."
"Yes, dear one, it does."
"I miss her."
"I know. But her memory comforts you, does it not? Or would you rather you had never met her?"
"No! I would not give those moments for anything."
'Then remember them with joy, not sadness. It will take time, but in the future, the pain will not be so raw, the hurt will be bearable."
It was peaceful, here in the Lion's arms. Like nothing was too big to overcome, nothing was too small to be inconsequential. Caspian sighed deeply. "I know you will not tell another's story. But Aslan, will she be happy? Will she be ok?"
Aslan breathed and it was more like a soft warm breeze which lifted his hair and brought the sweet smells of summer than a Lion's breath. "Susan will face many trials, as will you, dear one. She will wander from the path I have chosen. But have faith. For once a King or Queen of Narnia –"
"Always a King or Queen of Narnia." Caspian whispered, his small voice just a tiny undercurrent in the great Lion's rumblings.
Finally content, exhausted and emotional, King Caspian the Tenth curled up within the Lion's paws and rested.
He was not alone. He never would be.
If no one else, he had Aslan.
That was enough.
Wow, so the end. It once again turned out way longer than I planned. I contemplated splitting it but didn't in the end. Most other author's chapters are around 2000 – 2500 words, does anyone have an opinion on my chapter lengths? Especially this one. Too long, too short?
Anyway, thanks to all those who kept reading, especially those who took the time to review. It's only a very small portion of people who read who actually take the time to review so I thank those people very much for their written support.