~*~

Approximately two years after Jill's death, and his acceptance of Aslan, Joshua Pole decided he wanted Susan Pevensie as his wife. However, he didn't feel up to the task and the responsibility of being a proper and respectable husband for such a special woman, and nowhere near ready to assume the blessed title of being a father to a child or children, should they have any. No, Josh still had some internal demons that were waging war on his soul and setting his heart on fire. So, he calmly packed his things, retreated to his old flat just outside of London, and was determined to stay there until he and screamed and sweated each and every one of them out.

The first night was the toughest. He'd emptied the entire flat of unesscecary items and belongings, keeping basic furniture and keeping his old radio. Next, he went to the cabinet and deposited all of bottles into the trash, and placed the bin outside for the trash collectors. Next, he went into the medicine chest, and henceforth took all of his extra medication and promptly flushed in all down the loo before he could have second thoughts. With those goals firmly completed in his mind, all he could do was wait until the pain was over. The restless came first, followed by the shivers that made his teeth chatter so hard he'd bitten his cheek multiple times. Curled up in the corner of his cot, blanket clutched tightly between white knuckled fingers, he sat. Cross legged, eyes closed, head titled back against the wall, as the tremors nearly overcame him, and he cried out in such anguish it was like his insides were being tossed about, trounced on, and set ablaze. He directed his beleaguered mind towards Susan, sweet Susan with her charming smile, and dazzling dark eyes. Her petite waist, and cool hands. He moaned in his evident delirium, his rough nails clutching at the sides of his head as he flopped back onto the bed in pain, succumbing to a sleep riddled with his darkest nightmares.

~*~

The second night, Josh was on his knees, breathing like he'd run a ten mile jaunt from his old days in basic training in the army. The ghost of the past haunted him now, pulling, clawing and clutching at him as he lay there in more discomfort than the previous night. He looked up, seeing his sister not in her normal attire, but adorned in rags, a hallow look about her, her slender hands like claws, swiping at him, tearing at him.

"You were never there for me Josh! You left me alone! Why didn't you save me? Why did you let me die!"

Josh sank to the floor, moaning into his hands. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" the skies outside grew dark and thick with the smell of something truly putrid, and Josh retched miserably. Crawling back to hiss bed, he managed to pull himself halfway onto it, when the accusing voice of the Pevensie brothers filled the room with their bitterness.

"Fancy we'd let that rot with our sister! Look at you! Shameful cur that you are! You call yourself a proper man for our Susan? Be gone, and take the foul taint of liquor with you!"

Peter stood over him, his eyes burning with a righteous fire, mouth set firmly into a scowl. Edmund appeared beside him, arms crossed, looking more fierce than Josh had ever remembered either man being in life. The brothers masks of anger stood firm, unbent, and unmoving. Josh curled into a ball, rocking back and fourth.

"help me….. help me…… Susan! Asaln! God!"

He needed his drinks- his pills. Oh what he wouldn't give to wrap his hand tightly around the neck of a bottle at this moment, to wet his parched throat with a cool refreshing drink! The boys in the barrack would let him, even his enemies let him have a thimble of wine when he was a prisoner! He had to make this agony end! His mind stubbornly made up, he began to crawl towards the door, stopping for breath every couple feet. He mustered up enough strength when the door opened itself, and a cool winter breeze filled the room, washing away the stench of his sins. He hid his face, tears shamefully and sloppily flowing down his stubble hardened cheeks. The scene of jasmine and a lady's cool hand touched his face.

"Josh….. Josh….. Josh…. Its me… Its Susan. Oh, you poor dear…. Let me help you."

Not Susan! Anyone but her! He batted her cool, unblemished hand away from his face, too weak to cry out, too tired to yell. Still, Susan came, She put her purse and coat down on his table, and took off her gloves. Sweet, cool hands, loving hands were taking his wretched form into her arms, cradling him to her breast, rocking him as if he were a baby, and in a way, he was. He'd retched upon himself, soiled himself, his skin was off color, and his hair messy and sweaty. He shook from hunger, fatigue, chills, and nausea, and still she hung onto him. Josh snuggled tighter into her embrace, his dirty fingers grasping at her perfumed bosom like a dying man clinging to a raft in the middle of the sea. He pressed his lips tightly together in fear of letting forth more profanity spew from his lips, or vomit. Susan got Josh to his feet, and into a chair. Too weak to do more than moan like kitten, he drifted into another sleep plagued with darkness.

~*~

"God help me…. Please… Aslan…."

"I'm here Josh. I haven't left."

"Susan….. Su… please…. Pleae…."

He was flat on his back, Susan in a chair beside him as he suffered through a final night of pure pain and terror. Her hands were constantly wringing out the cool towel for his head, while another set lay for washing his body. She'd brought fresh sheets for his bed, and food for him when he was strong enough to eat. She cracked the window open, and played soothing songs on his old record player. When he could sit up, she'd take down his old bible he hadn't carried since his war days, and read Psalms to him until he fell asleep. Since Susan's arrival, his dreams became less and less frequent, and the visions and voices stopped. Indeed, sometimes the evenings felt cooler, sweeter, and he could take small tablespoons of broth.

"Su, I'm so sorry…..I'm so horrible… so wretched."

"We are all Josh, but it doesn't matter. I care for you."

I care for you. I love you. She'd said it, and meant it. He heard it, and believed it. Slowly, her hand drifted across his chest, enveloping his larger rougher one. Her tiny hand seemed so flawless, like it'd break like glass. But it held the hidden strength of a strong, and powerful godly woman. His equal, and they were equal under Aslan and his father. Josh ran his fingers weakly across her own, looking at with her a smile of unspoken thanks and a thousand pardons. Susan accepted them all, leaning down to kiss his freshly washed face.

"Susan… will you…. Marry me?"

Her answer was quick and decisive. Her tone proud, and understanding. Gentle, yet firm. She littered his recovering body with more gentle kisses, taking him into her arms, and he did likewise, as best he could, wrapping his arms around her waist.

"Yes, Josh Pole, I will marry you. Yes."

She'd said it, and believed it. He heard her, and remembered it. They had a long way to go, but they would trudge out onto the unknown road of recovery, and they would do it together.

~FIN~

A/N: Yes, I realize this piece is a LOT darker than my other Oneshots, but I wanted to be realistic. I wanted t portray Josh is a pretty rough guy that just needed a bit of cleaning up, and with Aslan and Susan's help, I think he'll be ok. Please review!