Disclaimer: Not mine, not profiting, etc.
Raised in a household in which affection was rarely given, let alone displayed, Prince Caspian X nonetheless dreamt about love. The magical, heroic kind that fit into the Narnian tales with which his professor entertained him. Although a small part of him accepted them for what they really were, entertainment and nothing more, the rest of him went on believing them with all the beauty and vigor of youthful idealism. Admittedly, he did not know how exactly to define love, but he was sure it was not the lukewarm smiles his aunt and uncle shared, Miraz's careless charade, or Prunaprismia's ill-concealed resentment. Caspian wanted love that was equal and knowing and glorious. Yet he never imagined that once he found it, he would spend a moment holding on and a lifetime letting go.
As a child he had regarded the Kings and Queens of Old with something close to hero worship, if only through his professor's masterful retellings of the Golden Age and all its splendor. He would trace the pictures in his texts with a careful finger and wonder if he'd ever be as brave and wise as Peter the Magnificent. He'd even gone so far as to imagine himself kneeling before the High King, fearlessly offering up his sword and his allegiance.
Years later, when he found himself face-to-face with said king, he was unpleasantly acquainted with just how far reality could fall from imagination. He couldn't help feeling a sharp prick of disappointment; he was not standing in the presence of a High King but of a boy. Sweeping legends wrapped up in an unremarkable display of youth and stature. Yet in the same day Caspian realized, with some shame, the hastiness of his judgment.
"He is every inch a king, isn't he, Professor?" Caspian smiled in self-deprecation, wondering if anyone would say the same about him one day.
"Yes, I never doubted it." Doctor Cornelius looked at him astutely. "And you were born to be one. With time, any seed, no matter the size, can become a mighty tree. With time, my boy."
"I just cannot believe I let myself be fooled by appearances," Caspian said quietly, more to himself than to his companion. "I should have known better."
"None of us expected it, dear Caspian," Cornelius replied kindly. "We are all guilty of misjudgment at some point in our lives."
At that Caspian fell silent, feeling slightly reassured but still regretful. He conceded that his head had been much too inflated with fantastical stories, that his expectations had exceeded all reason, and that seeing was never equivalent to knowing. He thought of the ease with which King Peter commanded respect, of the love with which he led the Narnians, and of his own folly. He now understood in part what it took to be a king—not physical strength, or age, or even experience, but the deep-seated conviction that he could and would do right by his people, no matter his mistakes along the way.
He found that even the torchlight and shadows in Aslan's How could not obscure the guilt that shone brightly in Peter's eyes. He quickly came to realize that an excessive display of authority was Peter's way of compensating for his failures. The most unbearable of them all, he guessed, was what gave that shade of blue its most tragic charm.
"It's hard to imagine that I've been dead to them for 1300 years." Peter sat on a flat stone with Rhindon beside him, his rigid posture belying his companionable tone.
"You've become a legend."
"I abandoned them," Peter responded flatly. His eyes became hard wells that held the ripples of his heartache and Caspian couldn't tear his eyes away.
"Not willingly. They still love you and fight behind you, with you. To the death."
Peter sighed and looked down at his hands. His hair fell loosely against his forehead, dense threads of gold and Caspian swallowed the urge to feel them sift through his fingers.
"I can't help feeling like… an imposter. Like when they look at me, they see a kid, not a king who has the right to ask, to command them to fight to the death. And for what? For the Narnia that I had a hand in destroying."
Something immense and furious swelled in Caspian's chest.
"You cannot take the blame for my uncle's tyranny. There are few people truly aware of the kind of man he is and I am one of them. Believe me, you are nothing like him."
Only when his voice reverberated sharply through the How did he realize that he had jumped to his feet. He sat back down abruptly, jaw clenched against indignation towards his uncle's self-interest and Peter's self-pity.
"I'm sorry, I--" The lost, startled look in Peter's eyes cut away Caspian's sharp edges.
He sighed as his anger trickled outward and away, and he wondered if they would ever exchange lighter, happier words. "Don't you see? You give them hope."
Peter stared at him, seemingly uncomprehending, until he replied, "And what about you? You give them a future."
It was then that Caspian began to understand just how deep the tragedy ran.
Outdoors was where Peter seemed happiest. Hours before his duel with Miraz, Caspian found him at the highest possible point of the How, sitting with his back against the rocks and knees drawn up to his chest. It was a position that might have projected vulnerability if not for the unnerving calm in Peter's eyes and the firm line of his mouth. Caspian knew that Peter would fight bravely just as he knew that his uncle would not fight fairly. His lips twisted in grim amusement; they were both fighting for the same thing—Narnia—but that was also where the similarity ended.
"When it's all over, I'll have to show you what's beyond the How, the full glory of Narnia." With his face to the sky, Peter closed his eyes. "The sun-bleached crags overlooking golden sand and the clearest, bluest water you'll ever see. The woods covered in soft moss, canopied by massive trees that let in just the right amount of light, where the rustling of leaves are the dryads whispering and laughing."
Peter's voice was at once light and aching as it traveled through his memories and weaved for Caspian a fragile tapestry of the most beautiful world he could hope to see.
"And do your siblings see Narnia the way you do?" Like a lifeline were the words he left in his thoughts.
Peter opened his eyes and blinked once. "I don't know. They love it as much as I do though, just in different ways I think."
Caspian raised his eyebrows in unspoken curiosity and Peter continued his train of thought.
"Susan sees Narnia as her freedom, to do what is unexpected rather than what is expected. She's lovelier and wilder here than she'll ever be in London." A soft smile appeared on his lips but a heaviness Caspian didn't understand pulled at his eyes. "As for Edmund, whatever man he hopes to be, well, he is that man in Narnia. It's hard to remember when I ever thought of him as my little brother. And Lucy, her belief in Narnia and in Aslan is... stunning. I think she's always preserved that unwavering childish devotion that first tied her to this place."
As Peter spoke of them, Caspian knew that he loved his siblings the way they all loved Narnia—differently but completely, with a full and unshakable heart. He took a deep breath that chilled his lungs and made him feel emptier than he was. He may not have family but he had a purpose now.
"And what is Narnia to you?" Caspian finally asked.
After a long moment, Peter turned to him with pale, clear eyes that made the summer sky look less than ordinary and replied, "Everything."
They woke up to the sunrise on Peter's last morning, leaning against the balustrade of Caspian's private balcony. The warm, glowing streaks had only begun to illuminate the gardens; the far corners still clung sleepily to darkness.
Their hands rested on the railing but didn't touch, as if they were already trying to get accustomed to loneliness.
"I feel that it will take me a long while to get used to being called King." Caspian licked his lips that still tasted faintly of Peter.
"You will be a great king. Greater even than Peter the Magnificent."
Caspian knew Peter teased when he couldn't bear to sound serious. Yet, he also did not doubt Peter's sincerity. "Such lofty standards you set for me, my king." Caspian quirked his lips.
"No." Peter shook his head and turned his face so that the new sun drew from his eyes their most spectacular shade of blue. "Peter. Just Peter."
Caspian couldn't help but reach over to bring their hands together, thinking that, in the glare of the morning light, the colors of their skin didn't look quite so different.
There was a time when Caspian X dreamt about love in the fantastical way that children dream when they only have their imaginations to guide them. Now, in his dreams, he saw gray foreign lands and golden ships cutting through dark roiling waters. And he would wake with a dizzying sense of urgency, and the haunting feeling that he was meant to be somewhere else.
He'd always heard that time healed all wounds, or perhaps only that time made it easier to forget. Yet he found that even when he remembered less and less clearly, the shifting shades of Peter's eyes or the shape of Peter's hands, he felt just as strongly. Strongly enough that he still floundered erratically between faith and hopelessness.
Until one night, he began to have a new dream. One in which he looked upon magnificent stretches of water and earth, pure and untraveled, that whispered to him, here you will never need to dream again.