Disclaimer: The characters and other things from The Chronicles of Narnia don't belong to me (sadly). Credit goes to those who do own them.
An ice-cold feeling ran through her veins, paralyzing her, as the heard the collective gasp behind her. She willed herself to turn around but she could only do so halfway, enough to see her groom wear a mask of complete shock. It was it was his eyes that confirmed her worst fears and broke her heart.
"I thought she was never to return!"
"She's so beautiful, much more than this stranger our king brought home!"
"Oh, the poor lass, she's too late!"
"No! It's the other one that's to be pitied! She's got no hope now that the queen is back. You saw them kiss before haven't you?"
"Look at the king, seems like he still loves her after all!"
Murmurs echoed, clashing with each other, all such painful things to hear. She wanted to cover her ears with her hands but they would not move. She could only breathe—inhale, exhale, one after the other.
It took all her strength to force her body to twist and finally see for herself if her deepest fear had indeed materialized.
She blinked, as if doing so would erase the mirage but the Gentle Queen was there. The expression on her majesty's face mirrored the one she imagined on her own face—shock, disappointment, agony and love.
Queen Susan's jaw was clenched, her fists closed as they hung limply on her sides, as she stared at them. She seemed to be contemplating the decision—fight or flight.
Ramandu's daughter watched as the queen closed her eyes and took a deep breath, seemingly trying to calm herself. The queen opened her eyes, looked at her groom then at her, giving them a small nod before taking a most lonely seat at the very back with her hands clasped together on her lap. She sat still, stared ahead and dealt with the rising noise of conversations around her with such grace only a true queen could muster.
Hope began to flood her body with warmth until the king placed a hand on her arm, stilling the sensation and allowed her to remain frozen once more. King Caspian offered her no words, just an apology with his eyes.
It was something he had to do, his eyes tried to tell her. She is queen of Narnia; she does not deserve this welcome. We can wait, can we not?
She understood even though she did not want to. She wanted jealousy to possess her just so she could rage and demand what she deserved, what he owed her on this day she expected to be perfect. History, she knew, would never be kind to one who has not done anything for Narnia but the very least she knew she deserved some dignity. It pained her but out of love for him she would agree to his request.
But the unspoken question was rhetorical. He did not wait for her acquiescence for he had already taken steps away from her, towards the queen. She could hear the clock ticking. It was as if the world had already begun counting the moments when he began to slip away from her. She could do nothing but watch helplessly. Fight or Flight. She chose the latter as she ran from her own wedding.
But no one saw it, not even the groom. For all of Narnia was consumed with watching the reunion of the king and queen, an event they did not expect but were all secretly hoping for. She was the only one who did not witness as the king approached the queen, an unbroken connection between them as they stared in each other's eyes, and bow before her. She did not see how he hesitantly held a hand out to his old friend, the same one that touched her skin moments earlier. She did not see how the Queen refused it but stood up and allowed him to lead her away from the crowd.
She kept running, farther and farther away, as if the distance would chase away the wound inflicted on her heart. She found her way deeper and deeper into the forest until she had strength no more and she merely lay on the ground, beneath the canopy of the trees. The sunlight filtered weakly from the intertwined branches as the hope faded from her. It was not a battle she should be fighting for she could never measure up to his one great love.
It was not something he ever mentioned himself. She had assumed that perhaps it was simply a past he had gotten over, unfinished business that could be brushed aside. It only dawned on her much later that it was raw pain that stopped the king from even mentioning her name, save for the one time he told her a tale about their second visit to Narnia.
However, this affliction of his was not shared by the rest of Narnia who openly talked about this Queen Susan. Maybe to compare her love for their king or merely to reminisce, they told her of how they met in a time when Narnia was in dire need of saving. They regaled her with stories of how they fought side by side and how he saved her. But the one story that shook her, the one that told her of the depth of it all, was the one the king himself told her, the story about how he realized he was in love with the queen.
He was imperfect but to what extent he did not understand at the time. Their night raid was a failure and he was a lesser man back then. He gave in to the lure of greater power—he unwittingly agreed to bring back the White Witch. The ritual began and his fear began to grow but the Pevensies came, all but one, and ended things in the nick of time. He was filled with shame finally realizing what his weakness could have cost all of Narnia. And then she came, spoke no words, bestowed only a look on her brother and then stared into his eyes. Her disappointment was palpable and it struck him, much sharper than the blade on his hand. His blood pulsed in his body, driving him to run after her, his mind composing the most eloquent apology but his heart stopped everything, for it felt the guilt of being unworthy of the queen's forgiveness.
He sat alone outside Aslan's How as dusk settled on Narnia. He had wanted to sort out his emotions and find a way to forgive himself for what he had done. He dissected every second, every action but he found himself going back to that single moment when she looked at him with piercing blue eyes reflecting his regret. Even as a memory it affected him to his very core and it planted the seeds that fueled him to become a better man. He saw her as the symbol of Narnia, goodness that must be repaid not with betrayal but with the courage to do what was right. He had assumed that was it and that was why he was affected, it was that simple. But deep down he knew this was a matter of the heart that extended farther than nobility. He was still haunted by the look in her eyes and it remained to have power over him as strongly as before.
It was then he realized he sought redemption in her eyes for he wanted his love returned. He kept spinning circles in his head because he missed the most important detail of why he felt tortured by his mistake. It wasn't merely that he failed; it was because he failed her. In the days he spent with her, the desire to see her unharmed had grown and become second nature to him. He would do anything in his power to protect her. Instead he went ahead and almost put her in greater peril by bringing back a powerful enemy. It tore him apart that it was his own hand that put her in the direct path of danger.
To the king it was a memory to be relished, a great reminder of his love and a continued motivation to be good. But to the daughter of the star, it only brought lancing pain, as she understood the fact that Queen Susan would always be first in his life, with her as a far second. For the man she loved, spoke like it was not a thing of the past but a reality that will last as long as his heart was beating. His quest for redemption, to be a man worth of this queen, was a lifelong commitment that he had sealed even before he went on the Dawn Treader. The star's daughter never stood a chance. A pained smile graced her face as she realized that it was when he told his tale that she understood how much she had fallen for him.
She pieced together all she knew of them. Theirs was an epic tale, a meeting that defied the odds but crashed as reality set them on different paths. She laughed bitterly as she realized that even living in different worlds did nothing to diminish their love, as she was witness to earlier. Her own tale with the king paled in comparison. But her heart refused to let her give up easily; already it was closing in on her mind, pushing it to find ways to still make it work. Her breathing quickened as panic rose once again, her heart trying to beat its way out of her chest.
'Stop, just stop,' she said to herself as she closed her eyes.
Calm took over and she gave in to a deep slumber, untainted with dreams or nightmares. She slept peacefully and when she awoke she was disoriented but refreshed. She stood up, prepared to walk back but she found herself already in her room in the Telmarine castle.
She looked frantically around her and saw a scene that caused her heart to beat faster. She saw her gown laid out before her, everything else she was to wear, just as it was yesterday.
"My lady, it is time to get ready," said the voice that accompanied the gentle knock from the door.
"For what…" she whispered.
As if she was heard, the voice continued, "Must prepare for your wedding now, my lady."
She gasped, not wanting to believe, waiting for the ground beneath her to cave in. But her fears already started to vanish and her heart filled once more with joyful anticipation of what was waiting for her.
It was only a dream.
A/N: A one-shot for now. Still thinking if this can become a full-length story :) Hope you like this!