A/N: The summer during Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Peter is at the Professor's house, feeling close to home.
Disclaimer: I don't own Narnia or the Pevensies. Wish I did, though.
Close to Home
Narnia was waiting beneath Peter's closed eyelids. It was waiting for him. He sat in the sunlit grounds of Professor Kirke's house and smiled. He had come to the country for two reasons: the one he had told his parents and the one he hadn't.
He had told his parents that he needed to get away for a while, go someplace to study for his exams; his father had been all for taking him with to America, but his mother had argued that it was too expensive. Peter had already written and received the Professor's heartfelt and excited consent, and he had assured his father that this arrangement would allow his mother and Susan unlimited girl-time while his father was at the business meetings that were the reason for the trip to America. And Peter would much prefer staying at the Professor's anyway. This was the official reason for Peter's summer-long vacation in the country.
The second reason—the one that he had not told his parents but had shared with the Professor—was that he felt closer to Narnia when at the Professor's house. Closer to home. And right now, sitting under the shade of the apple tree, Peter's memories settled around him in the dusty summer silence. And he felt closer to Narnia than he had in a long time. He bit into an apple he had pulled from the tree before sitting against its wide trunk, thinking of his last time at Cair Paravel. His smile turned bittersweet. The devastation fourteen-hundred years had caused to the castle had nearly destroyed him, but the apples had helped to soften the blows, among other things.
Laughter erupted behind his eyes, and a bright image bloomed in the dark of him mind: four, young, barefoot kings and queens, eating apples in the shade of an overgrown orchard, gazing out over a changed landscape, so familiar, so home. His heart yearned to return to that time, that place… But Aslan was not ready for him yet. He had learned to wait. But he had always—ever since he was a child—always hated waiting.
He sighed and opened his eyes, gazing at the house, in all its stateliness. His eyes wandered over the window he knew opened into the Spare Room. He had not returned to the Spare Room this summer. He had not returned to the Wardrobe. He knew he could never get back to Narnia that way. The only forest that would ever be inside would be a forest of old fur coats. But he had accepted that, and had not gone seeking a way back in a long time.
He remembered when they had first come back, stepping out of the wardrobe into their younger selves. He had been shocked, then angry. He had spent night after night sneaking out of bed, afraid to wake Edmund, but needing the proof that there was really no way back. His fingertips remembered the feeling of the smooth wood as it ran beneath his searching hands, searching for a crack, an open seam that the Magic had forgotten to close. But he had never found one, no matter how many nights he sank to the floor of the wardrobe, sobbing, praying, wishing for a way back home. A second chance.
Peter took another apple from the branch above him, burying the core of his first in the soft earth beside him. He had stopped searching for ways back in. He had not cried since that last night before they were to leave the Professor's house and return to London. He had thought they would leave Narnia behind as well as the country. But Lucy had convinced him that he carried Narnia with him, wherever he went. He realised she was right, and that was the night he had accepted, and begun to wait.
But that didn't stop him from feeling closer to home in the Professor's house. He had never stopped hoping or believing, even after Aslan told him that there would not be another Call. Susan had given up on Narnia after that. But not Peter. He knew they would return, and while he was no longer actively searching, he knew where to find Narnia: beneath his closed eyelids, deep in his heart.
He felt someone sit down next to him and opened his eyes. The Professor smiled at him from under his bushy eyebrows. Peter smiled back and handed the old man an apple.
"Still there?" the Professor asked, eyeing the red of the fruit before taking a bite of it. Peter nodded.
They sat in companionable silence for a moment before the Professor cleared his throat.
"A letter came today, form Edmund and Lucy. They've been back. A sea voyage with Caspian. They've seen the very end of the earth."
Peter felt a twinge of jealousy that evaporated at the Professor's next words.
"Aslan told them they would not return."
"Are they still hoping?" Peter asked, his eyes filling with tears, on behalf of his siblings' loss—a loss he himself had lived with for far longer than they. "Do they still believe?"
"Oh, yes. Very much so." The Professor twisted the stem from another apple, and looked at Peter askance. "They are not all Susan, Peter. They will not forget." He paused. "She hasn't either."
Peter sighed and nodded gently. He missed Susan—the old Susan, Susan the Gentle, Queen of Narnia—the Susan that was now buried under layers of nylon and makeup. He put Susan out of his mind, and thought of the quiet sadness that had filled him when Aslan had told him he would not return home. He thought of writing to Edmund and Lucy, asking them to come to the Professor's house, so they could commiserate together. So he could look after them. He smiled suddenly.
"We will though," he said.
"Hm?" The Professor's eyes twinkled as he asked the question, as if he already knew the answer.
"We will go back. Despite what Aslan says. Not even He can keep us away from our home." Peter quirked an eyebrow, twirling an apple around and around in his hand.
"That's the spirit."
They smiled at each other in the dusty sunlight, and laughed. They were bonded in Narnia, and they were bonded in faith and hope. They sighed together at the bittersweet memories that haunted them, and whispered stories of long-ago adventures into the silence that settled around them. They sat that way for a long time, remembering and waiting, and eating apples in the sun of an almost-Narnian afternoon. Waiting in a place that was close to home.
A/N: Sorry about "Footsteps," you know, the one I promised you at the end of "Good-bye." I have about three paragraphs at the end that I need to rewrite and then it should be up here. I hope you enjoyed this in its stead. :D