Disclaimer: Not mine, not profiting, etc.
A/N: Forgive me if I've made a mess of the canon. It's been a while since I've read the books... *hangs head* Again, note, this is movieverse.
Memory Keepers 1/2
Some days he felt far too old to be sitting among 22-year-olds with pens between their teeth and ink smears on their fingertips. When leafing through pages of history and mathematics, he often found himself flexing his right hand, curling aching fingers around the illusion of a beloved sword. Some days he would just stare at his hands and wonder at how untouched they looked but how worn they felt. Hands that had dealt out life and death, and wielded war and peace, now looked like those of a boy who rarely ventured outside of the walls of his university.
His siblings knew what he saw whenever he turned to the nearest window, eyes fixed unconsciously on a single point, shoulders and back losing the tension they always carried. More specifically, what was a where and a whom inextricably bound up as one and the same.
In Narnia, everything was sweeter and brighter, free from the damp London gloom he had almost learned to accept. Even the sea tingled with a fervor on his skin and tongue.
"Peter?" That day, it was Lucy's voice that drew him away from thoughts of a second, better world. "Do you think heaven is at all like Narnia?"
"I don't know, Lu," he replied after a moment's pause. Times like these reminded him of just how alike they were.
"Would it be wrong to hope that it is?"
"It's never wrong to hope." It was hope that helped him to breathe deeply, and kept the memories clear and close to his heart.
He was cleaning Rhindon when he heard Caspian's voice behind him, soft and curiously unfamiliar, perhaps because it had lost the steel-edged accusation of moments ago.
"I would like to apologize for how I spoke earlier. It was wrong of me to doubt you." Caspian's dark eyes held no pretense, only humility and regret.
"And I was wrong to blame you. I would've done the same in your position." It was only after Peter spoke that he realized his anger had gone and, with it, his resentment towards an inexperienced prince who would become king in his stead. And suddenly, he no longer felt the childish, temperamental pull of his other, already half-forgotten existence.
They stood unmoving for a long moment, as if adjusting to a change in the air, a shift in the space between their bodies that made Peter's limbs looser and skin warmer. Then Caspian's eyes slide to Rhindon and he asked, almost shyly, "May I?" as his right hand rose tentatively.
Peter nodded and watched Caspian's fingers touch down reverently on the blade and carefully, gently trace the engraving in a manner so intimate that he felt warmth spreading thickly through his chest. His eyes traveled over those fingers- long, elegant curves- and nearly fluttered shut when they finally went still, achingly close to his own hand that gripped Rhindon's hilt.
"It's beautiful." Caspian's eyes were filled with a glorious darkness that swallowed Peter's heart.
When Edmund came back from his third and final journey, they sat in silence, neither knowing where to start or if they should speak of it at all. Peter gripped his thighs until his hands went numb and he couldn't stand it any longer.
"How is he?" The question itself was unassuming but his voice strained urgently, fearfully against the decay of year-old memories.
"He's well, and unchanged for the most part." Edmund spoke slowly, as if he wasn't sure how much to tell. "Not as hot-headed as he once was but still stubborn as hell."
At those words, Peter could almost imagine Caspian standing before him and he smiled even as the ache thudded straight into his bones and became too much to bear.
"He hasn't married," Edmund added, like an afterthought that might have been better off unsaid.
It was a double-edged truth that was at once soothing and accusing. King Caspian X needed an heir and Peter understood this, perhaps better than any of his siblings. But he needed Caspian, just Caspian, to remember as painfully and deeply as he, selfish as it was. Still, Edmund did not judge or try to understand and for that Peter was grateful. Sometimes, he felt that his little brother was far wiser than he.
"He remembers. I can tell from his eyes he remembers every day." The certainty in Edmund's voice was enough to undo him completely.
In passion, Caspian's pupils disappeared entirely into the inky rings of his irises. During those times, Peter saw Caspian through the blur of heat and lust as an otherworldly being whose beauty terrified and moved him beyond the edges of everything he knew. Caspian would call out his name as they arched against each other. Peter, just Peter, as fingernails carved into slick skin and bodies swayed towards that coveted moment of oblivion. It was when time fell away and only they were left, aware of each other and nothing else.
Afterward, as Peter's eyes fell shut under a warm, foreign heaviness, their fingers would tangle loosely. Only when he returned to London did he understand that heaviness and give it a name. Something like love but denser and more tragic than he'd ever seen it.
Susan adjusted to London the quickest and Peter wondered how her heart managed to travel so far from Narnia.
"If you were given the chance to go back, would you?" Peter asked one afternoon, overcome with the urge to return to Professor Kirke's wardrobe one more time.
"I don't know." Unlike Edmund, Susan tried to understand but never could. "I don't think I would. I've gotten used to London. I like it here." Her eyes searched his face and whatever they found made her frown in disapproval. "This is your life now, Peter. Narnia was just a wonderful fairy tale that couldn't last forever."
"This is my life now," Peter echoed with a caricature of a smile. "You're right, Susan. It's just difficult to remember sometimes."
Yet these were the times when he found it easy to remember why they were never close.
It was the night before his return to London and Peter stood by Caspian in the garden, submerged in a sorrow deeper and darker than he'd ever felt it.
"Will you see the same moon in London?" Caspian's voice was thick with everything he couldn't bear to say, starting with goodbye.
Peter took breaths that sounded loud and broken to his ears. "Does it matter?"
"Maybe not, but it is comforting to think so." Caspian turned to look at him, face shadowed but still more beautiful than any memory Peter could try to keep of it.
For the first time, Caspian's sentimentality struck a sharp, ugly chord in Peter's chest. He didn't want to be comforted. It was the illusion of security but never the certainty, a certain contentment that quieted loneliness but never cured it. And in that moment, he lost his grip on everything he was supposed to hope for.
"Promise me that you'll forget." His hands and jaw clenched against the compulsion to touch one last time.
"Promise me that you will not." Caspian was neither defiant nor stubborn, only pleading. He raised his hand but stopped it mid-reach, perhaps afraid that Peter was already a loose fragment of his imagination.
Peter turned away from the voice that too often made joy and madness indistinguishable. "I cannot," he replied, not really knowing if he meant that he could not promise or that he could not forget.
However Caspian comprehended it made him smile wistfully and close his eyes. "Nor can I."
When Peter opened his eyes to the feeling of Narnia for the last time, he smiled knowing that he would never again return to London. Then he laughed, knowing that he would never again be too old to hold on tightly to what he loved.