Disclaimer: C.S. Lewis owns the Chronicles of Narnia, not I!

Rated: T for intensity

Special Note: Please keep in mind that all of the characters mean what they say literally. There is a particular bit of dialogue that this applies to. You'll know it when you see it.

Enjoy!

***

Susan Pevensie was the most cautious member of her family. Predictability was a comfort to her. Order, routine, logic. Those were the things that made her feel settled and secure. To break that routine was to break a facet of Susan's personality.

The trip to America had been a jolt to her placid way of life. Being somewhere other than home, in a new and surprising place, should have been unsettling. But it wasn't. Susan wasn't sure she could explain it. She decided she liked this way of life. Traveling, making new acquaintances, learning new things. Maybe, she thought, she would become a traveler herself. There were more ways to learn than to lock oneself up in a university. There were more ways to earn her keep than to become a secretary.

She felt a wave of sympathy for her brothers and sister when she thought how much less pleasant their summers must have been than her own. Poor Peter, slaving away studying for exams in Professor Kirke's tiny little cottage! Poor Lucy and Edmund, stuck with their dreadful cousin Eustace for so many months. A warm little glow of motherly affection filled her heart for all of them. Yes, even for her elder brother. Though he might deny it, Peter was often in more need of Susan's patient guidance than the younger two. It was a role she had filled many times in the past few years, and one she embraced fully. For Susan, to know that her siblings looked to her was to know her rightful place in life.

When the cab finally stopped in front of their Finchley home, the front door burst open with gleeful shouts. The next thing she knew, Susan was literally being dragged out of the automobile and into her younger brother's arms.

"Susan, Susan, Susan!" Edmund practically yelled her name in her ear as he hugged her.

"Edmund!"

She was laughing from surprise as much as delight, wondering why on earth her normally undemonstrative brother was suddenly so affectionate. But the next moment Peter and Lucy caught up to them. Susan had quite forgotten her high heels and fancy hat. Lu had knocked the hat sideways with a half dozen or so delighted kisses, and Peter had picked Susan's feet right up off the ground with his enthusiastic hug. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Edmund kissing Mum, and then Lucy skipped off to jump into Dad's arms, and then Edmund came back to hug Susan again, and suddenly the whole Pevensie family seemed to be in the middle of a game where every one of them just had to give all the others as many hugs and kisses as they could, whether they had been together in America or at Eustace's home or the Professor's cottage. It was breathless and full of laughter, and Susan couldn't remember ever being happier.

"Oh, I've such a lot of things to tell you!" she exclaimed, happily snuggling Lucy to her as they walked into the house. "I've been so many places and seen so much! Lu, you must come to America some time. It's frightfully jolly! Don't you think I look well, dear?" she asked, suddenly remembering her beloved hat. Susan set the pretty thing straight and laughed, knowing Lucy would admire the feathers.

"Delightful!" Lucy grinned, impishly setting the hat askew again with another embrace. "And not just because of your borrowed feathers, either! But simply because I'm so happy to see you again."

Susan laughed again. "You silly thing! They aren't borrowed at all, but bought and paid for!"

"Courtesy of my pocketbook," their father chuckled as he walked past them with Susan's suitcase, "As the weight of your valise can attest, my dear!"

"Oh, Dad!" the eldest daughter scolded. She swatted her father's arm playfully. "I couldn't very well wear the same clothes to the cinema as I did to the library, now could I?"

"Did you go to the library, Su?" Edmund asked with a smile.

"Of course!"

"Once!" their father called from the top of the stairs.

"Oh, Dad!"

"And the cinema?" Ed inquired wickedly.

"Dozens of times," their mother groaned. "And she dragged her poor, tired Mum along with her each and every time!"

Susan pouted, a hint of a smile hiding in the corner of her mouth. "Now Mum, you know that's not true! We only went once or twice a week at most. And you needn't have come if you didn't want to. I would have been perfectly fine without a chaperone."

"Rot!" their father called down, his voice muffled and echoing. "I don't trust those American boys with my daughter one bit!"

Peter's and Edmund's eyes suddenly went sharp and alert. Lu's eyebrows shot up, a mixture of pride and alarm on her face. Susan groaned inwardly. They had always reacted like this to her suitors… beaux, rather.

"You had a date?" Peter asked, his voice polite and wary.

"A date?" their mother laughed before her daughter could respond. "She had a dozen at least!"

Susan rolled her eyes before saying patiently. "There were only three boys, Mum, and-"

"And you had to have a new frock for each one of them. My, my, I'm surprised President Roosevelt didn't invite you to tea! You certainly dressed like the Queen of England, sailed across the ocean from the east for a royal visit." Chuckling, their mother walked off to see what kind of damage her three other children had done to her kitchen in her absence.

Susan shook her head at the silliness of her parents, then turned back to her siblings with an impish smile, fully prepared to dodge the barrage of concerned questions about the behavior of her beaux that she knew would be forthcoming.

Instead, she was surprised to see the three of them staring at her gravely.

"Now, don't go making a fuss," she said gently. "They were nice boys, all of them. Do you really think Mum and Dad would have let me go out with any other kind?"

Lucy was the first to recover. "Of course not Susan dear," she said, an odd half-smile on her face. "You… you must have had a lovely time…"

Susan nodded happily. "Oh yes! I'll tell you all about it, I-"

"Su," Peter interrupted suddenly. "Don't you think Lucy and Edmund look well, too?"

"Of course," she raised an eyebrow in puzzlement, taking the opportunity to brush a stray lock of hair out of Ed's face. He scowled, as he always did when any of his siblings fussed over him and he was pleased. But somehow his expression fell flat, having none of the inimitable Edmundishness it normally did. Susan frowned.

"Don't they look as if they… they have kind of a glow to them?" Peter pressed, a queer look on his face.

Susan looked at them in surprise. "Well, no… no more than usual. Have you been in the sun much, darlings? Ed isn't sunburned, or anything…"

Peter sighed and shook his head. "Never mind."

But clearly her older brother did have something on his mind, for he stared at her intently as the four of them trooped upstairs.

Finally Susan couldn't stand it. "Whatever is the matter, Peter?"

For one long moment, she thought he wasn't going to reply, and she wondered why the prospect of not knowing what was going on was a relief to her. But finally, Peter spoke.

"Susan," he said, "You're not the only one who went away to another country this summer."

***

Susan stared at the painting in her hand. It was all gold and green and purple, all promises and adventures and a whole other lifetime. A lifetime that her younger brother and sister had just told her was at its close. Susan stared at the Dragon-headed ship and felt something, like a weight that had been holding her in place, suddenly release. She slowly put the picture down.

"That's it then," she whispered. "It's over."

"What was that?"

Susan glanced up. Edmund was staring at her.

"It's done, isn't it," she said firmly. "Narnia. No more falling through wardrobe doors for any of us. We're not kings and queens any longer. We're just us."

"But Aslan told us that once a King or Queen-"

Susan cut her older brother off with a silencing hand. "Here? In England? Do you really think he meant you were to be King of England, Peter?"

"But that's just what he is." Lucy protested. "It's just what we all are! Maybe he isn't the King, but he is still a King, and always shall be. You didn't stop being English just because you went to America, did you?"

"Of course not. But-"

"Then I don't see how there's any difference!"

"Because I'm not still living there. Don't you see, Lucy? You talk as if you're still living in Narnia."

"And always shall!" Lucy retorted.

"As shall I," Peter spoke up.

"Oh Peter, not you too!" Susan shook her head worriedly, thinking that at least her older brother should see sense! She turned to Edmund, hoping that her somber, straight-thinking brother would side with her.

But Edmund only watched her with a sort of troubled resignation on his face. "You see, Peter?" he said quietly. "I told you…"

"Told him what?" Susan demanded.

"A bunch of rot!" Peter declared, beginning to look angry. "It's absolute rot, Susan, the very idea of us not being Narnians any more!"

"But we aren't!"

"We are!" Lucy cried.

"Aren't!"

"Are!"

"Enough!" Edmund interrupted, pale but calm. "Yelling about this isn't helping matters any." He put a hand on his sister's shoulder. "What is it Su?" he asked in a soft voice. "I know it's hard to hang on, but-"

"I don't want to hang on!" Susan protested.

She shook her head again, the look in her brother's eyes telling her that, although he hadn't yet declared to still be Narnian, he believed it just as firmly as Lucy and Peter did. She saw that the three of them were still deeply rooted in Narnia, and it frightened her. How did they expect to ever be happy in this world if they were so entrenched in that? Didn't they understand?

"I just wish you would all try to be happy here," she said gently.

"We are happy!" Lucy protested.

"But not… not completely happy. Not as if you loved this life fully."

Edmund snorted. "Oh Su. How could England ever compare to Narnia?"

"Exactly my point," Susan pressed. "How could anything, in reality or imagination, compare to what we have right here?"

Peter's jaw dropped. "I say! Don't you think it should be the other way around? England can't hold a candle to Narnia, you mean to say!"

Susan sighed. "No, Peter. That's not what I mean to say. Yes, Narnia was beautiful. Yes, it was a perfect dream. Yes, we had a whole other lifetime where we were something different. But the fact is that it's over now. And if we all cling to that other lifetime so tightly, we'll never be able to live the lives we have now."

"Susan!" Shock covered Lucy's face. "How can you say that! You talk as if remembering Narnia is a bad thing!"

There was a very long silence as Susan's siblings stared at her, their eyes pleading with her to refute what Lucy had just said. To lie to herself and to them for just a little longer. But Susan couldn't do it. She was the sensible one, the protective one, the one who had known, the first time they came back from Narnia, that home was England, and would be from now on.

"Maybe," she said quietly, "It is."

Three sets of eyes went wide.

"Don't you see?" she plunged ahead. "If we're really never going back, then what use is it to fret over this? Remember how hard it was when we first came back?" she pressed. "Remember how odd and cast out we felt? How we felt as if we were strangers in our own home?" She turned to her older brother. "You Peter! Surely you recall how hard it was to go from being at the height of existence to just a child in a war-torn country!"

"Susan!" Edmund reproached, throwing an anxious glance at Peter. The older boy had gone very still, his lips pressed tightly together and a harsh flush on his cheeks.

"I'm sorry if those words pain you," Susan said gently. "Please, I just don't want any of you to be hurt! Pining for Narnia can't possibly be good for your spirits. Remember what that did to us the first time? How for months we couldn't look at one another without seeing just how strange and ill we all were?" She stepped forward and gently touched Edmund's face. Ever the susceptible one to troubles, he was. "You looked just as you do now, Ed," she said worriedly, seeing him through the gray lens that was England.

"He looked well in Narnia!" Lucy insisted, clenching Edmund's shoulder with her hand. "On the Dawn Treader he was as hale as he was when we hunted the White Stag! We both were!"

"And you, Lucy!" Susan worriedly brushed a wisp of hair out of her little sister's face. It was Lucy that Susan feared for the most. Her ardent, defiant little sister, with all of her courage and passion and infamous Lucy Pevensie stubbornness. "Don't you understand, dear? You can't just keep living in that world when you're in this one. Life keeps moving forward. Even in Narnia, life kept moving forward!"

Lucy stared at her, a small frown on her face. "But part of me does still live in Narnia," she said softly. "My heart, Susan."

Susan shook her head. "And what of your heart here, Lucy? Are you not going to live and love in this world too? Would you deny yourself even that? Some day you'll understand," she said patiently. "Some day you'll meet someone, and fall in love, and realize that you do have a future here-"

"No."

"What?" Susan stared in surprise.

"I said, no," Lucy repeated firmly. "Don't you remember, Susan? I vowed to take no other love than Aslan for my whole life long."

"But – but that was in Narnia!" Susan gasped. "Surely here-"

"It doesn't matter. I meant that with all my heart and I still do."

"Lucy!"

"And I am moving forward! Aslan told us we could find him here, remember?" Lucy caught her sister's hands in hers. "This isn't the end! It's only just another job that Aslan has for us! We can still seek Aslan-"

"At the expense of what?" Susan cried, frightened by what her sister seemed to be proposing. "You're willing to throw yourself into looking for Aslan-"

"Yes!"

"For how long?"

"However long it takes!" Lucy declared. "Don't you see, Susan? We've all the time in the world, now!"

Then her eyes widened and brightened, as if her own words had somehow struck a chord in her heart. A slow flush swept over her face. Susan stared in bewilderment as Lucy seemed to change before her eyes, so familiar and so different. Susan looked at her brothers and saw them turn to one another slowly, a satisfied smile between them. They recognized this look on their littlest sister's face. Susan felt as if she were being left out of a secret.

"Oh Aslan!" Lucy breathed, her eyes fluttering shut. "Thank you, Dearest Lion!"

Susan, watching her sister float between worlds, could only hug herself against a sudden chill and shake her head in distress. It was terrible, but she couldn't deny it. Her sister hadn't really come home at all!

Peter came to put an arm around her shivering shoulders. "Susan," he said gently. "We three have decided that we shall talk about Narnia every day, to keep it alive in our hearts. And we should very much like it if you would join us."

"Oh Peter!" Susan wailed.

"Please, Su." Edmund caught her hand in his and rubbed it gently. "Think how wonderful it will be!"

"Just think of it, Susan!" Lucy begged. "The four of us, together as we have always been, with Aslan, here in England! And when we find him, we can introduce him to Mum and Dad, and tell them all about Narnia, and-"

"No!" Susan shook her head rapidly now. "No, no! I'm sorry, but I just can't." She backed away from her siblings. "Please," she said in a shaking voice. "I can't bear to see the three of you just give up on living this life, but if this is what you have decided, then I see I cannot change your mind. I only ask…" She took a deep breath. "That you not speak to me about Narnia again."

"Susan!"

Peter's voice was raw with shock, Edmund's face was pale and frightened. But Lucy… Lucy looked only very, very disappointed. It was a look that Susan had seen on her face very rarely. A look that the younger woman had reserved for only the most grievous offenders in the Narnian courts. A look that made Susan squirm like a child under her younger sister's gaze.

"One day," Lucy said slowly, "I think you shall wish you had considered your answer more carefully, Susan."

Susan pressed her lips together. "I shan't."

"Shall."

"Oh Lucy," Susan sighed wearily, turning to her unpacking. "When will you stop pretending?"

The next instant she found herself being spun back around to face Lucy, her chin grasped firmly in the younger girl's hand. Over Lucy's shoulder, Susan could see Peter and Edmund, shoulder to shoulder and blazing-eyed as the Kings they had been for fifteen years. She blinked and looked down, staring not into the eyes of little Lucy Pevensie, but the warrior Queen whom Susan had loved and been in awe of those many years in Narnia.

"When?" Lucy asked quietly. "When shall I stop pretending? The day I die, Susan Pevensie. That is the day I stop pretending that England is my home. That is the day I'll look back at this little mockery of a world and laugh. Because on that day I know, one way or the other, I'll be with Aslan again. He's a country unto himself, oh my Sister, and I intend to find him, even if I die doing it." She nodded once, as if deciding once and for all. "Damned if I don't."

***

Please remember my note at the top before you disown me entirely! Lucy means what she says literally! It is not meant to be casual profanity. I openly accept any and all flames for this line, okay?

Now, having said that...

*flings arms wide and collapses on the couch*

Done, finally! I apologize for having taken so very long to get this written, but I had a few specific threads I wanted to tie in, and I certainly wanted to portray Susan fairly! Overall I am pleased. Although, if not for wanting to show the beginning of Susan losing Narnia, I would have liked to make it a nice, fluffy, happy ending...

Thank you ever so much to those of you who have read and reviewed! Your encouragement and helpful nudges are what got me to finish this before I gave up on it. I do hope you have enjoyed!