Last Lullaby

Author: Carla, aka cali-chan.
Rating: PG-13.
Genre: Angst, drama, romance.
Pairings: Caspian/Susan... sort of.

Disclaimer: I don't own The Chronicles Of Narnia, C.S. Lewis and his representatives do. Please don't tell them I've kidnapped Peter so I can have my wicked way with him...

Warnings: Movieverse after Prince Caspian, but fits into book canon somewhat. Spoilers up to and especially for The Last Battle.

Summary: She would recognize him anywhere. It was impossible, she knew; there was no logical explanation for his presence but there he was, so close that her skin tingled just with the possibility that it could touch his. She'd gladly let herself be dragged into that frivolous world if it meant she got to see him every day.

Notes: Agh, where did the angst come from? I was going for happy, I swear! -hides- Oh, and also the title and a select few ideas come from the song Last Lullaby by Cage 9. It's an awesome song, and perfect for post-Narnia!Susan, if you ask me. Bittersweet yet hopeful, somehow.

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She first saw him at a party.

No, that's not quite true. She saw him once before, as she was walking by the park on the way to the subway station, with Lucy. But it was nothing more than a glimpse, so brief that her younger sister hadn't noticed it, and she had quickly convinced herself that she must have dreamt it. It wouldn't have been the first time it happened.

So by the time the invitation to the party came in, she had long banished that supposed daydream to the back of her mind. The party was in honour of an acquaintance's birthday. Susan didn't know the girl very well, as she was a year younger than her and didn't go to St. Finbar's, but she was the daughter of one of her father's business partners. The good man had many contacts that had been very helpful during the Pevensies' trip overseas last summer, so attending his daughter's party was the polite thing to do.

She didn't really mind attending, though she was the only one of her siblings that accepted to go. She rather liked dressing up and feeling pretty, and looked forward to an evening where she didn't have to worry about the weight of the times they lived in. Although it must be said, she was more sensible about it than most girls her age-- there would certainly be young soldiers invited and the girls at St. Finbar's were all aflutter with the possibility of snagging a soldier's attention. Susan privately thought her own mother rather agreed with the attitude (at least the thought behind it), but couldn't bring herself to heed her not-so-subtle hints; she did not mind meeting new people, but her heart wasn't in it. She wasn't hunting for a husband, she just wanted to have some fun, once in a while.

Now she thought differently. She'd gladly let herself be dragged into that frivolous world if it meant she got to see him every day.

She didn't speak to him that day... she wouldn't have been able to hear anything, anyway, under the furious sound of her heart pounding in her chest and reverberating in her ears. But she couldn't take her eyes off him even if she had wanted to. Because it was him... it had to be. He went by another name, his hair was shorter and his accent was different (was he American?), but she would recognize him anywhere. It was impossible, she knew; there was no logical explanation for his presence but there he was, so close that her skin tingled just with the possibility that it could touch his.

She waded in and out of different groups, only half-listening to conversations and giving mechanical answers as she kept him in her field of vision, as discreetly as she could, out of the corner of her eye. All kinds of confusing thoughts were running through her mind. More than anything she wanted to approach him, but didn't know how. She suddenly felt very shy. And fear was taking over her, fear that if she moved too suddenly the bubble would burst and she'd have to face the fact that she'd only see him in her dreams. She didn't think she was strong enough take that, not again.

As she was leaving, the movement caught his eye and he turned in her direction. His gaze almost moved past her but then he looked again, his eyes lingering over her with clear interest. It was then that she knew. There was no doubt in her mind; the moment was so eerily familiar that it made her breath catch in her throat.

She didn't tell her siblings about him, though she knew it was wrong. She couldn't bring herself to, for many reasons. First, there was the fear: that they wouldn't believe her, that they would tell her, perhaps convince her, that she was imagining things because she missed him so much. She also didn't want to make them worry unnecessarily; she didn't know why this was happening, and being the logic-driven person she was, she felt she needed to understand it herself before she explained it to them.

And perhaps she was also being a little bit selfish, yes. They'd had so little time together the first time around, and over and over she kept sacrificing her happiness in favour of doing the right thing. Was it horrible of her to want to have him to herself now, if only for a little bit longer? She hoped not, but regardless of that, she was going to follow her heart on this one.

She made some nonchalant enquiries about him, without much luck. He was a soldier, they'd tell her, in the reserve... stationed in London, awaiting deployment. But nobody could tell her much more than that. She made friends with the popular cliques, gathering invitations to parties and events, in hopes he'd be at one of them. It took its toll, as she got wrapped up in it. Suddenly her schedule became hectic-- the social scene was her one way to find him, and she got so focused on that, that she no longer had time to be the old Susan.

She knew her siblings had noticed, and she knew they didn't approve. They were disappointed in her, wondering why she was acting so different. She saw it in Peter's hard gaze whenever she came home too late for propriety. She saw it in Edmund's confused glance whenever he found her lost in a daydream. She saw it in Lucy's sad look whenever she said to go home without her, that she'd be back later. She knew she was hurting them, and she hadn't meant to, but she couldn't think of what to say. She didn't even know how to begin explaining.

Despite all her best efforts, ironically, it was him who found her. He walked up to her as she was taking the underground one Friday after school; he saw her standing on the platform and recognized her from the party... just thought he'd say hello. It made her feel a bit like the floor below her vanished and she was left unsupported, to know he didn't remember what they once had. She tried to gauge his expression, looking for any spark of a memory, but found none. Still, she didn't let it bring her down, because one thing was for sure: it was him. He was standing there, right in front of her, looking every bit as handsome as he'd been on that day when they said goodbye. He may not remember their past, but she didn't care; she'd take him in any way she could get him. He could get to know her, anyway. He wanted to.

He accompanied her that day, all the way back to Finchley. His own route was very different from hers, he admitted, but they were immersed in such a comfortable conversation that he didn't mind having to take the long way back to his place. He gentlemanly carried her books as they strolled down the streets, and she was in complete bliss. She recognized in this new him all the things she loved in his old self-- his strength and determination, his eagerness and sense of humour, his humility, how respectful he was of her. Surely he must have thought her silly at some point, because she kept looking at him like she couldn't quite believe her eyes. If he did, though, he said nothing. More than once she had caught him looking at her as well, while he thought she wasn't looking.

When they separated, just a few blocks from her house, he asked her if he could see her again. Her heart danced. As he handed her back her books, their fingers lingered together far longer than necessary, and their eyes remained locked on each other for a small eternity. He smiled at her, that boyish grin that she so loved. The wind blew her hair to one side and she smiled back, blue eyes shining, as she pulled it behind her ear. No more words were needed. It was perfect, as it should have been from the beginning. No wars, no separation... just two people who cared for each other deeply, regardless of the world. Any world.

He wasn't allowed to be out in town very often, but he would visit her whenever he was. They grew a little closer each time. Sometimes his visits would coincide with a party or event, where they were free to laugh and talk and dance at their leisure. Most of the time he had to see her at school. Somehow he found a way to sneak into St. Finbar's campus, and he would weasel his way hiding behind fences and inconspicuous corners until he found her. She thought it was hilarious, the first time she saw him from a classroom window, standing in the shadow of a tree in the yard and looking around as if lost. She would find a way to go down to him and they'd take walks along the edge of the schoolyard, where they wouldn't be caught.

A few times he only made it there at night, and he had to throw stones at her dormitory window to catch her attention. Her roommate was startled, but she understood: when love called, you just had to go, no matter what time it was.

He kissed her one of those nights. By that tree in the schoolyard, under a rare starry sky, and for no other reason than because he thought she was gorgeous even if she was wearing her pajamas, a thin overcoat and slippers. And though he didn't remember what it once felt like, she did, and it was so familiar. He wasn't surprised or slightly scared as he had been then, only gentle and reassuring, but each time he poured all of himself into it. That hadn't changed and she hoped it never did.

Only once did she work up the nerve to ask about Narnia. It was a Saturday; she told her family she'd be at a friend's house, studying. They didn't contest her excuse, but she could see they didn't buy it. She saw Edmund gaze at her in a lacklustre way as she walked out the door; he probably thought that the real purpose of the get-together was to giggle and talk about make-up and boys. He didn't exactly get it right, but that didn't make her feel any better about lying to her family.

She met him at the park, and they walked around holding hands. They were both more silent than usual, governed by a rare melancholy mood. After a while they sat down on a bench; he held her gently and she laid her head on his shoulder, feeling content. In this setting, the words simply came flowing out, in the form of a story... a story about a beautiful, gentle Queen forced to abandon her beloved Kingdom in the least expected moment, and her despair at having to leave it behind. A story of how she was called back, to a time when that wonderful place lost its splendour, and how she had to take part in battle, although she despised hurting others, to bring her Kingdom back to what it used to be.

It was a story about a charismatic young Prince who was destined for greatness, but was driven away from it by the greed of his own kin. A story of how he rallied those he considered nothing but a fairytale, those who considered him their enemy, to fight on his side to regain both what belonged to him, and what belonged to them, and unify the two under his determined reign.

But more than anything, it was a story about a girl and a boy, and how those trying times forged a deep understanding between them, and brought them together. It was a story about the sweetness of first love, a feeling built on subtle words, soft glances and stolen moments, that slowly but surely blossomed into something beautiful. And it was a story about the dull ache of separation, dotted with what-ifs and could-have-beens, in the knowledge that there was a future unwritten for them, never to have the chance to develop.

He paid rapt attention to her words, never once seeming uninterested. At times he would stare at her with an awed expression, and other times he would stare forward, gaze lost somewhere far away. She wondered what was going through his mind at the moment, and couldn't stop the hope from bubbling in her chest: was he remembering? Could he remember? She had told herself to stop expecting the old him to come back, to learn to love the new him, and she had... but this small glimmer of a possibility was bigger than her.

"And I wonder..." she uttered, as bravely as she could, yet still barely a whisper, "...if he was somehow brought back to her. To... to me. If we've... been given a second chance."

He was silent for maybe a minute longer, and she opted to lift her head up from his shoulder to look at him, anxiously awaiting for his response. When it came, though, it wasn't what she wanted. "Wow, that's some story, love! You should try writing for a living." She felt the air rush out of her like she'd been punched in the gut. He wasn't remembering... he was just blown away by her "tale." She had been silly to think he could have been anything else.

He must have noticed her crestfallen look, because he asked her if there was a problem, had he said something wrong. She assured him it was nothing, she just took these things too seriously sometimes. There were tears in her eyes, and he saw them. He gathered her to him and it was a small measure of comfort; but then, he would innocently ask one other question, completely unaware that he was all but stomping on her heart: "You don't... really believe all of that, do you?"

Well, of course she didn't, she replied. Or something along those lines... the words felt foreign to her ears as she pronounced them. It hurt, but she couldn't believe, not anymore. He didn't remember, and she could not push Narnia onto him by force; she would not risk alienating him in any way. From that day on, she resolved to never think about Narnia again. It had been a magical experience, certainly, but she'd be a fool to keep looking back, when she now had everything she needed to finally be happy in this world. And if someone around her mentioned Narnia, she would play it off as a childish thing, a fantasy. It was easier that way, and perhaps if she said it enough times, she'd convince herself it was true. Her siblings never forgave her for that.

Towards the end of her last term, things got complicated. His duties increased, and he didn't have as much control on his free time. She insisted on seeing him regardless, even going as far as missing classes in order to spend time with him. He didn't approve-- she was so close to graduating, and he didn't want her to get into any trouble that could put that in jeopardy. He also did not like the fact that they had to hide; he understood the necessity of it while she was at boarding school, but he didn't see why she wanted to keep him separate from her family. She saw it in his expression whenever she talked about her parents or her siblings: he could see how much she really loved them, and it amazed him, given that he never had that. They'd been together for a while now and he was a part of her as much as she was a part of him; he'd like to be a part of her family as well, if he was allowed. He loved her, his intentions were the noblest, and he'd like the opportunity to seek her affections properly, with her family's blessing. It hurt him, he often told her. He wanted to shout out his feelings for her from the rooftops... why didn't she? Was he not good enough for her family? Was she not serious about what they had?

She tried her best to calm his fears, but she wouldn't be deterred. She brought up many excuses, each one more forced than the last one. Her family was a very conservative one, or her father was too overprotective, or her older brother would never accept it, or her younger sister would not understand... Each phrase made her feel guiltier and guiltier, but she could not let him meet her family. They would know. She had put Narnia behind, but they hadn't: they would know, and they would ask questions. Things would get complicated, and he'd get confused, or worse, think them all crazy. And she would lose him again. She couldn't let that happen.

It was a tense period; they got into many an argument, letting each of their personal paranoias lead their hearts, and at times the only thing that kept them holding on was the knowledge that after her graduation, things would be much easier for them...

But they weren't. Barely a few weeks before the end of term, the Rector confronted her about her unexplained absences. She would still graduate, by grace of her good academic performance, but the situation had to be reported to her parents, it was unavoidable. She tried to dodge it, but in the end she was forced to confess that she'd been seeing someone in secret.

It was the worst dispute she could ever remember witnessing among her family. Her father was furious; he couldn't believe his mature, responsible daughter had lost all her sense of priority over some boy. Her mother, though she understood the matters of the heart, felt terribly hurt that Susan had kept it in secret. They had raised her better than that. Edmund never said anything, but his expression spoke volumes. He remained in the background, trying to comfort Lucy, who was deeply upset by her sister's attitude and all the screaming.

It even extended far later than just that day, when Peter (who was at Oxford, studying and assisting Professor Kirke as a waiver to his mandatory Royal Army service) came back to visit the following weekend. He was livid, and some of his harsher accusations drove straight home-- how could she be so stupid, what had she been thinking, it was like he didn't know her anymore. He thought she loved Caspian.

"I do," she told him as frankly as she could, through her tears. She would not apologize for wanting to be with the one she loved. She had never wanted to disappoint them, and because of that she would take the punishment regardless of the fact that she was overage... but she didn't regret anything.

Needless to say, she was strictly forbidden from seeing him again. During schooldays she was strictly monitored, and during weekends she was not allowed out of the house, except perhaps to the market or the library, and that was only if accompanied. She was being watched with hawk eyes. She knew he had tried to reach her at least once... she had heard an argument outside her window. She could only guess her father had caught him and sent him away. If it had been Edmund, he would've recognized him, and she'd seen no indication of that. She was miserable without him, of course, but she stayed strong. It was only for a little while, and things could only go up from there.

Things did get a little better once she started working. Her punishment was lifted, except, of course, for the "not seeing him" part, but since she wasn't being chaperoned while at work, that was but a technicality. Her job wasn't particularly demanding: she was a typist at a law firm, and her bosses didn't particularly mind that once in a while she took longer on her lunch break, to spend time with him. It was a peaceful summer.

Come late August, he found out he was to be deployed to Belgium.

He had been expecting it, but she hadn't. For a few days after the news broke, it was like she couldn't take air in, even if she was breathing. She went through the motions of daily life without thinking about it, but whenever she did see him, she broke. She was terribly scared that something would happen to him. She knew he was an able fighter, but this was a different world: one with no place for swords and arrows, only bombs and other terrible weapons that could kill you without even being in your vicinity. How could she ever let him just walk into that? She just wanted to crawl into his arms and never let go. But she understood she couldn't; it was his duty, and she more than anyone knew that coming out victorious weighed more than any one life. In a sense it was almost like going to war herself-- and she would do it exactly as she once did: proudly.

He was given two days completely to himself before he was to depart; it was less than for the rest of his regiment, because he wasn't national and he didn't have a family to spend the time with. In truth, she was all he had in this world: her and his duty. She took measures to spend as much time as possible with him; her bosses, as sympathetic as they were to her plight, could not afford to let her have both days off, but they did let her have the afternoons free to be with him.

The first day, she took him on a tour around London. He hadn't had much opportunity to go around and see the sights-- those that were still standing after the air raids, anyway-- and she couldn't, in good conscience, let him leave the country in such a clueless state. So she guided him through town, and they visited palaces, museums, parks, a wide variety of shops and even the pier. They dined at a very picturesque little restaurant tucked in a corner of downtown London. She told him about the places she had visited in the countryside, where everybody was friendly and grass was evergreen. He marveled at her enthusiasm, even she did (had you asked her a year previous, and she would've described England as dull and gray), but she insisted she had to let him know all of this, so he would know that there was not one joy in Belgium that he couldn't find in Britain. He laughed at that, assuring her that he wouldn't even dream of thinking Belgium superior to England in any way, for England had the one thing that would always make it the best place on Earth for him: the present company, of course. She teased him for being cheesy, but loved every second of it.

On the second day, there was no pretending everything was alright. After lunch, they went to a park just a few blocks from her house, and stayed there until night fell and a while longer. They sat on the grass, against a tree, where they could hold each other without being seen by the whole of Finchley walking down the sidewalk. Sometimes they would talk, sometimes they would be quiet, just thinking. At one point she was drifting in and out of sleep, lulled by the beating of his heart as she rested against his chest. She breathed him in, trying to keep a flash of him, just the memory of this moment, in the forefront of her mind. He would softly kiss the crown of her head, feeling the same way. She didn't want to lose him.

"I won't die," he told her earnestly, as if such a promise was in his power to keep without a doubt.

"I know," she whispered, as matter-of-factly as a whisper could be inflected, while she delicately traced the contours of his breast pocket with the tip of a finger. Then, she sighed; a sound that spoke of deep regret. "...But maybe it's your time to cross the portal and leave me behind."

He didn't understand, and she made like she didn't notice. It was too late to explain. Instead she moved closer and buried her face against his neck, closing her eyes as he started combing his fingers through her long, dark hair. She closed her eyes in a silent prayer, perhaps asking the stars to stop moving in the sky, perhaps for time to stop its course for a little while, so that these very few hours they still had could stretch on forever. Because all she could do now was have faith in him... or in a certain God she pretended she didn't believe in, perhaps, if in no one else... and wait.

He walked her to her house. They held each other's hands and measured their steps carefully so that their destination didn't arrive too quickly. As they approached, however, they both saw a lone figure standing at the doorway; she recognized it as her mother. His steps slowed down even further as he wondered what to do. She didn't panic; they'd already been seen anyway. She'd given her family one of her standard excuses-- that she'd be at some sort of social function with her clique-- but clearly her mother had thought it better to wait up for her, or perhaps she had suspected something. Whatever the reason, there was no use trying to cover up now.

He was still looking a little bewildered as she pulled him closer and stood on her tiptoes to give him a light peck on the lips. Then she chuckled when she saw him not-so-subtly glance sideways, to see if there was any reaction from her mother. Upon hearing her laughter, he relaxed. He kissed her forehead tenderly and she closed her eyes again, savoring the moment, for it may be their last.

He kissed her once more, very fervently, on the back of her hand, then stood back and acknowledged her mother's presence with a nod of his head. After a slightly tense pause, her mother nodded as well. Both let out a breath they weren't aware they were holding, taking it as a positive sign. With a serene smile she walked the last few remaining metres to her porche, her mother stepping aside to let her in. She took one last look at where he was standing and saw him turn and walk away. Then she closed the door behind her.

That night, she cried herself to sleep in her mother's arms. She hadn't done that since she was six.

As she walked from the underground to her workplace the next morning, she found the sounds and colors of busy London to be dull and dreary, like she used to. Once more, her happiness had been taken far away from her, and she was not given a choice. She wondered, not for the first time, if that was the reason she was put on this Earth: so that her heart could be broken time and time again.

Because, allowing herself to think for one second of that time and place she forced herself to forget, she could say that, truly, she'd gone through every possible reason for heartache in her relationship with him. First, having to leave him behind, and just as bad, having to convince herself that it was for the best, that it was the right thing to do. Then, finding out that he had moved on-- she didn't pine, wasn't the pining sort... she had been happy for him, she really had, but at the same time she couldn't help hurting for what couldn't be.

And then his death... that piece of news had hit her the hardest. Because all she wanted was for him to be safe and happy, and knowing he was gone... it broke her. She spent countless nights locked up in her room, where no one would see her, crying despairingly. Alone, because while everybody grieved for him, no one could understand that it was much worse for her. She wasn't just sad because she was never going to see him again... she was devastated because she was never going to see him again. The certainty of death had decimated even the tiniest glimmer of hope she wouldn't admit to herself she still held onto. Just knowing he was still there, somewhere-- but no, fate couldn't even give her that.

And now this? Now that she had gotten him back, she had to let him go again? Now that she had him with her, as unfathomable as it had once seemed, nothing short of a miracle, really... she had to see him leave? Go away to suffer, to be hurt, possibly to die? Would she have to go through the horrible sorrow of his death again? It was too much to ask of her.

What made it even worse this time around, was that she was truly alone. The last time she had gone through something like this, she'd had her siblings to hold her up, to soothe her pain, even unknowingly-- they didn't understand what she was feeling, not really, but they still tried to comfort her as much as they could. This time, she didn't have that luxury, and how she missed it. Her relationship with her siblings had changed... and she knew it was her own doing, she didn't blame them for their resentment at all, yet still she craved their support.

Despite it all, they still loved her and didn't want her to hurt, she knew; it was in the little details, and she could see them, they were there. Some nights she would cry herself to sleep, and sometimes, just before fading out of consciousness, she would hear someone come in and carefully cover her with an extra blanket. She knew it was Lucy, because she'd feel her light weight settle on the foot of her bed... the young girl would stay and watch her sleep for a while, never saying anything... then, just as quietly, she would walk out, closing the door behind her.

She could also feel Edmund's gaze on her whenever she happened to look out the window. She had thought she was being discreet, but given how smart he was, he could probably put together that she was actually checking to see if the mailman had come by. If the mail did come, later on in the afternoon she would find a neat bundle of envelopes on the floor by her bedroom door. She would be the first one to sort through the mail that day.

Peter was never home, and things were still touchy between them after their last argument (there was no one quite like Peter Pevensie to hold a grudge... except perhaps herself...), but even then, whenever he called, his tone would soften as he asked if she was really alright. He would point out pieces of news he'd received about the war, just in case she hadn't heard them on the radio already-- he didn't know she was especially interested in news coming in from Belgium, so he'd just mention everything, but she always sat through it anyway, knowing it was his way to feel useful somehow.

She noticed these little details, and she felt grateful that despite the fact that she'd pushed them away, they still wanted to reach out to her. However, it wasn't the same as it used to be; they were guarded around her, almost retreating into their own little circle, and it made her feel all the more lonely. Yet again she wondered if maybe she should just tell them about him, about everything... but still she felt that the wedge between them was still too wide. Perhaps when he came back to her, safe and sound, and there was once again a future in the works for the two of them... yes, she would tell them then. She would tell them she believed, she remembered... and hope they could forgive her.

His letters helped. They didn't arrive too often, and he never mentioned the actual fighting other than when something important happened (which she would have already heard on the news anyway), but he wrote all about their daily life, how his fellow soldiers in the regiment were the biggest goofs he'd ever met (he went into great detail about all the pranks they pulled on each other), but were all so much fun and the best friends he could have. It wasn't much, but it was a reassurance that he was alright, not only that he was alive but that he was still living fully, despite the horrors of war.

Months flew by, and as they did, more and more it seemed like her life revolved around the radio in their living room, and not much else. Every announcement of a battle won, every tiny shred of hope that the conflict might be coming to a close, would absolutely made her day. He wasn't in Belgium for long; their campaign there was a success and by December, his regiment had moved further east.

She wasn't the only one anxiously hanging on the news reports. By the time the new year rolled around, everybody was on tenterhooks about it; the generalized opinion among the British was that the end of the war was near, and consequently spirits and energy level rose with that bubbling idea.

The Reich came down by late spring. Europe celebrated.

He was nowhere to be found.

Days passed with their usual drab routine, and she heard not a single word from him. Not one letter, not one sentence, not one sound. She was deathly afraid he'd been sent to Japan, and that's where her mind flew whenever she found herself thinking about him: to Japan, and to her fear. She kept up her day to day logistics as efficiently as she could, but she was infinitely distracted and everybody could see that. Her employers' favorite pasttime was asking her if she was alright. Her socialite acquaintances began fading to the background-- she didn't have the strength nor the will to attend any more of their frivolous parties, and they didn't take kindly to her ignoring them, choosing to shun her in retaliation. And that was completely okay with her, for she preferred to spend every available second locked in her room, reading his few letters again and again, the light from her window dimming more and more as the seasons changed.

Her mother started to genuinely get worried. She would come and spend the evenings with her in her room, bringing in her favorite books and reading them out loud to her, because she wasn't reading anymore and it was strange, she said, the world was strange if it was a world where Susan didn't read. And she would reassure her mother that she was fine, just a little tired; and she would think of Japan as she was treated to all sorts of literature, from Russian classics to recited definitions off Oxford's dictionary. Towards the end she would sit there on her bed and try to chuckle at her mother's comments about Lucy, Peter and Edmund, for she insisted they were acting oddly and were up to something. She said she would let her know what that something was once she caught them red-handed; but she never even had the opportunity to notice this so-called strange behavior, and she never got around to asking. Her siblings weren't around her much those days.

The older woman seemed to have run out of encouraging words to say. After a while, all her comforting attempts boiled down to the idea that maybe after so many obstacles, one had to conclude that it was just not meant to happen. Great love, even an interrupted one, was always a blessing: better to have loved and lost, and all that. She'd even gotten her father to try his hand at it, and he would hold her tight, murmuring against her hair how things would be better now, how everything would go back to the way it was before the war. Sad comfort. She didn't have the heart to tell them she didn't want to hear these things, for she was afraid she was starting to believe them.

Then the telegram came. He was okay. He was coming back.

She didn't mention it to anybody, although she was sure her mother had noticed that she was suddenly smiling more often. Nobody else did, though; her father, because he was so busy-- now that the war was over, everybody had to put in more hours at work. Her siblings were busy with their own thing, whatever that was... she hadn't heard as much as a peep from them in the past few days. Her mother was literally the only person around; at times when she was up in her room, she could hear the sounds of her mother shuffling around in the kitchen and it almost felt like the house was haunted. But she was too giddy to even be bothered by it.

That day, she was all alone. Lucy had been gone, staying with professor Kirke for the week. That very morning, early as sunrise, Peter had come up to pick up Edmund and her parents; she wasn't sure where they were going, although she had heard something about train tickets, so she guessed they would be out at least overnight, if not for longer. At one point she was sure her mother had asked the boys to see if Susan would like to join them. Peter had harshly ignored the suggestion. Edmund had managed to convince his mother that she was probably not in the mood for trips.

She was thankful for it at the moment; she hadn't mentioned the reason, but she tried to convey this to Edmund as they were leaving the house. She lingered at the top of the stairs as they took some very light baggage to the car, and he'd looked up to meet her gaze. In his eyes she could see a mix of disappointment and concern that went straight to her heart. Then he looked away, and they left silently, every one but her youngest brother thinking her asleep.

She didn't say a word. She should have said something.

She didn't know that would be the last time she ever saw them.

He arrived at her doorstep nearing noon, fresh from the ports, even carrying his baggage. They did not go out at all that day; they stayed inside, holding onto each other for dear life, content to have the opportunity to touch each other after such grueling separation. He did not talk about the war, and she did not talk about his absence. Instead, they made plans for the future.

He would only be in town for a day; he was being sent home immediately, as he was not national, and his assigned ship would be leaving the next morning. As such, he wanted to reassure her that he would only be away long enough to get his paperwork in order, and he would come back to her. He'd meet her family and properly ask for her hand in marriage. He whispered this against her hand, for he was kissing her fingers when he spoke, and it made a shiver run down her spine. Where previously she would've panicked at the prospect of them recognizing him, she was no longer afraid; she was only amazed and excited that this really could happen.

That night, she gave herself to him, completely.

They made love in her room, in her bed-- but their surroundings mattered not, as they were completely focused on each other. He would carress her sweetly, softly, like she was something delicate that could break at any moment. She did not mind; she felt much like that herself, as if his skin on hers was the only thing that could convince her that he was real and not just a figment of her imagination. Even afterwards, as he was asleep and she laid her head on his chest, the tips of her fingers would linger over the lines of his body and she would marvel at the fact that he was safe, and he was back at her side, and they could be together.

She couldn't get enough of him... his scent, his presence, his touch, his kisses... she had never, ever, been happier in her whole life. It was almost like her own personal paradise, her very own Narnia, and even better than that, because it was a Narnia with him. She was unaware of anything else. She could not know that as he took her to the height of feeling, on the other side of town a train was derailing and would change her life forever.

When she woke up the next morning, pleasantly sore and with the brightest smile adorning her lips, he was already gone. By her pillow he left a note filled with promises and signed with an I love you, and on her forehead the lingering tingle of a kiss that she was sure had not been just a dream.

She never heard from him again.

She would only let herself wonder, years later, as she stood frozen by her family's gravestones, what had happened to him. What had happened to her, to her life. All her hope was taken away repeatedly, and her once bright future, even now, felt like an empty page that mocked her. Everything felt in vain, but still she wouldn't back down. It was who she was. Perhaps one day, once she was done digging herself underground, she'd finally be able to understand.

.


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Author's Note: Abrupt ending? That was the idea. Erm... if it's any consolation, I'd like to think his ship sunk or something. To, uh, keep with the transportation disasters theme. -runs away from readers with pitchforks-