Disclaimer: The Chronicles of Narnia is the intellectual property of C. S. Lewis and his estate. No money is being made from this story, and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Note: This story is my stab at the obligatory 'problem of Susan' story everyone who writes Narnia fanfiction seems to produce sooner or later. Inspired by the 4/15/09 word #106 on the 15_minute_fic livejournal community. Book canon.
Summary: "The thing is," Susan tells Edmund once, "you have to live in the world you're given."
"The thing is," Susan tells Edmund once, "you have to live in the world you're given." No matter what you remember, no matter what you dream, the sky is above you, the earth below you, and people all around you, boxing you in, setting the limits of the possible and the permissible.
Maybe she's meant to be strong enough to shatter those limits. But Susan knows herself, and she knows with a quiet, cold certainty that sooner or later she'd break under the strain of that battle.
Yielding is better.
She wraps Narnia and Aslan deep inside, a warm ember to touch in her weakest moments, and gets on with living. Talking about magic lands inside wardrobes will make people call her mad. So she pretends not to remember. Behaving like a queen will make people think her over-proud, naïve, or mad again. So she watches her classmates and imitates them, scrupulously. Expecting equality will only bring heartache. So she learns to chatter and focus on trivialities in public, and bend all her intelligence to finding a job and saving money and making a place to call her own.
Maybe then, once she's established her sanity, once she's disguised herself with years of commonplace behavior, once she has mundane security, she can pull out that ember and blow it back to life. Or maybe not. Maybe Queen Susan the Gentle will always be her private heartbreak and exaltation.
And would that be wrong? Not everyone is called to glory. Not everyone is called to testify in flame and stars and trumpets. Not everyone is taken living into heaven. Most people simply live as best they can.
This is what Peter and Lucy won't ever understand. So Susan laughs through frozen smiles and slides into her chosen disguise and watches them blaze like comets, scorching through the limits of this world of their exile. She watches how they gather fear as much as admiration, how they walk in growing isolation, how they puzzle helplessly over England's petty cruelties and injustice. This is the world they're given, but they refuse to accept it.
"The thing is," Edmund tells Susan, "the world you're given may not be enough."
"So who changes: you or it?" she asks.
Edmund smiles. "Peter would change the world. Lucy would change the way she saw the world, and make the world change in return. You would change yourself."
"And you?" Susan asks.
Edmund shrugs. "I don't think one man can change a whole world alone. But I worked too hard to find myself to start living behind a false face again; there's too much danger I might forget it's only an act. So I fight what I can't endure and endure what I can't fight, and trust that Aslan will help me find the balance."
"I'm no use at battles," Susan tells him. "I'd go mad. Or I'd come to hate... well, you know. I'd rather become a stranger to myself than hate him. I'm not strong enough to stand alone against the world."
"Who says you'd be alone?" Edmund asks, and leaves Susan to stare at her careful shields of clothes and make-up in silence.
Now Susan counts the bodies at the morgue, picking her way gingerly over the frozen floor in her heels and nylons and pretty floral dress. She can survive even this, she knows. She can continue in her chosen path, her camouflage of ordinary life. But... what if Edmund was right? What if she risks a stand? She whispers Aslan's name, and the ember in her heart stirs with a swirl of gold.
She was never one for battles, always the first to compromise. And that's a virtue, too - knowing when to yield - but any virtue, carried to its logical extreme, becomes a vice, a trap, a smaller box within the prison of the world.
Susan reaches down with one hand to close Lucy's eyes.
England is the world she's given. One way or another, she will make it be enough.
AN: Thanks for reading, and please review! I appreciate all comments, but I'm particularly interested in knowing what parts of the story worked for you, what parts didn't, and why.
Special Notice! furies has remixed this story for Remix Redux 9 as Once a Queen (The Reality Bites Remix). You can read it at archiveofourown. org/ works/ 189900