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Memory Keepers 2/2

He was born and bred to understand duty and what it encompassed: his people, his country, everything but him. The moment he became king, he learned that whatever Caspian wanted fell gracelessly into irrelevance. That is, Caspian the boy, whose hand still trembled around the hilt of his sword and whose heart still raced towards the unattainable. Caspian the king, tenth in his line, lived in responsibilities, never in dreams.

Still, there were moments when he slipped and the two realities collided at the point of a memory.

The High King of Narnia was exactly what he had expected and not at all. His stance, head held high and shoulders straight, spoke of power and nobility. Yet his smooth cheeks and slender limbs were the innocence of a boy, hardly older than Caspian. A snide comment darted through his lips as he turned away from Reepicheep and Caspian couldn't help responding in kind.

"Well then, you will probably be wanting yours back." He had not given in to petulance for quite some time, but something about the way Peter's mouth curved dug its way into his chest.

He raised the hand that gripped the legendary sword; its weight pressed sweetly into his palm. Peter snatched it back with a dangerously contained defiance that heated his irises to a startling, nameless blue. Caspian suddenly and inexplicably wondered what color they were in laughter.

Although none could call Caspian a suspicious man, he confided in few and entrusted his life with fewer still.

"My king, tell me what's on your mind." Trumpkin's deep voice rumbled through Caspian's heavy thoughts. "You can trust me you know."

Caspian smiled lightly and turned his head away from the window to Trumpkin, who observed him with shrewd eyes. "I trust you with my life."

The dwarf grunted and dismissed the words with a wave of his hand, although Caspian suspected he was flattered.

"Are you concerned about me?" Caspian couldn't help teasing his friend a little. Trumpkin scrupulously maintained his reputation as a rough-edged curmudgeon, but Caspian knew he was capable of caring deeply for others.

"I'm obligated," Trumpkin replied gruffly. "Now, enlighten me."

Caspian turned back to the window and chewed at his bottom lip in a manner unfit for a king before replying.

"How easily do you think one could visit another world?"

A raised eyebrow was the only indication that Trumpkin heard the question. Caspian searched his face for a subtler reaction and found the slightest narrowing of blue eyes, as if Trumpkin were weighing the difference between the answer Caspian believed to be true and the answer he hoped to be true.

"From what I've seen, it's not for any one creature to decide. The Kings and Queens of old could because they were meant to bring about the Golden Age. The Telmarines could... perhaps because you were meant to be king."

Trumpkin spoke more softly than usual, as if it would make honesty sound less certain. Still, Caspian felt a thick, unforgiving pressure coil around his heart until he could distinguish hope from reality all too clearly. He heard the uneven edges of a deep breath around an afterthought of thin comfort that he couldn't bring himself to resent.

"But perhaps, those other worlds aren't nearly as far away as we might think."

Caspian imagined the edges of Narnia and beyond them, a foreign place that spoke his name in a familiar voice.

That day Peter sat beside him on the rocks, hair ruffling in the wind and eyes reflecting a pale blue day. When they were not busy quarreling like children, they enjoyed each other's company. Caspian found that he felt freer around Peter; he fought with less restraint and conversed with more ease, although he couldn't say why.

"Do you miss home?" Peter kept his eyes on the horizon.

Caspian thought of cold walls that echoed loneliness instead of laughter. "It stopped being home when my father died."

Peter shifted his weight and tightened his lips before saying, "I'm sorry."

"Do you miss yours?" Caspian asked quickly to evade the subject of a past he no longer wished to recall.

"No," Peter replied a little ruefully but without hesitation, "I can't think of it as home, no matter how hard I try."

Likewise, Caspian could not imagine that Peter might belong somewhere else. And he realized, quite against his will, that there was a part of Peter—one unthinkably foreign part—he could never know. Peter went on, oblivious to the frightening weight that had settled unexpectedly onto Caspian's heart.

"When I went back, the last time, I saw people and places that might have mattered a long time ago, but not anymore. Even after weeks and months, I felt… like I was a grown-up trying too hard to remember his childhood."

As a strange sort of consolation in that moment, Caspian saw fully the man Peter had become in Narnia, now weighed down by a sorrow borne out of inevitable loss and tempered by fragile acceptance.

"Do you consider Narnia your home then?"

"I thought I did. It certainly feels the same. But, when I really look around, I realize that it's almost like being in London. More beautiful of course, but the same struggle to remember. I suppose that's what happens when you move one way and your world moves another."

When Peter finally turned to look at Caspian, his eyes were not those of a grieving king, but of a lost boy.

He looked out from the bow of the Dawn Treader to the darkening horizon and anticipated the night, when the sea would become nearly indistinguishable from the sky. Night was when the immensity of the world overwhelmed him and evoked, at once, a certain glory and a certain despair. When the last hues of sun finally disappeared, he found that the final night of his voyage was no exception.

"Prolonged contemplation can be a dangerous thing, my liege. It may or may not enlighten the mind but it will surely torment the soul." Edmund's voice was soft but traveled surely on the wind.

Caspian turned around and saw solemn eyes that belied a playful smile. "Then let conversation be the cure," he replied good-naturedly although he knew which subject Edmund wished to broach.

They stood side by side in silence as Caspian waited stubbornly for Edmund to speak first.

"Perhaps I misspoke, and time rather than contemplation is the danger."

"Yes, that I cannot deny," Caspian said quietly as a coldness, apart from the chill of the sea, overtook him.

"I suppose there are some things you can't forget. But sometimes, you have to remember the past without living in it." Edmund kept his eyes fixed on a point in the darkness and Caspian couldn't help thinking that, despite appearances, he and his brother were painfully alike.

"For better or for worse," Caspian whispered through the growing tightness in his throat.

Edmund turned to him then and said, with the kind of sadness that allowed for a smile, "I like to think that no tragedy lasts forever. Then I can remind myself that one lifetime isn't such a long time to wait."

"No, it is not," Caspian agreed. What he could not say was that he did not lack patience, only the strength to face the one kingly duty he had not fulfilled. He could not yet bring himself to forfeit his heart for an heir and make marriage a means to an end. Not for the first time, he imagined that his sentimentality would be his downfall.

Caspian liked to lick his way into Peter's mouth, catching teeth and tongue, as they swallowed each other's groans. He reveled in the feeling of Peter's fingers catching his hips and jerking so that their bodies met with perfect timing. The last night was no different, just slower and more cautious as if they were bracing themselves for the collision that would send them hurtling in opposite directions.

"Caspian." Peter's voice sounded younger and less certain than he'd ever heard it. "What I asked of you before, I--"

"It doesn't matter." Caspian shook his head and laid an unsteady hand on Peter's chest. Their hearts beat to the same melancholic rhythm. "For once, let us not think of the future."

He knew how impossible that sounded. Still, he closed his eyes and thought of a happiness free from the order of the world. An order that saw fit to join lives and then break them apart again without regard for the wreckage that would remain. Anger ran furiously in his blood and he quickly opened his eyes for fear of losing himself.

"What do you think happiness really is, Peter?" He felt that after this night, he would no longer be able to live with sentimentality.

Peter studied his face for a moment with eyes that carried his entire world. "Knowing you've found something you can bear to lose because, if only for that short while, you were not alone. I, for one, am happy knowing that."

Caspian always knew that Peter was the stronger one.

For the second and final time in his life, he found himself at the bow of a ship, marveling at the night. He felt freer and happier with his skin damp from salt water and tight from anticipation. Most knew that he was seeking Aslan, but few knew that he was seeking something else entirely. Something that called to him as death did, from a far better place that lay just past the edge of the world.