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: "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" was inspired by the 1/25/10 word #127 on the 15_minute_fic livejournal community. This story has been altered slightly from its livejournal form. (Also, I have finally gotten Peter into a story where he actually gets to talk and be a main character instead of lurking in the background and/or being talked about by other people. That took some doing, I will have you know!) Book canon only.
Summary: They forgot England for fifteen years. Peter wants to know why.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose. -- Kevin Arnold
In retrospect, Peter would not have found it especially implausible for the others to forget. Lucy was young. Edmund had every reason in the world to avoid mentioning the past. Susan lived in the present moment, making the best of whatever situation she found herself in. It would have been understandable for them to put England aside in favor of Narnia.
But Peter should have remembered. He should have worried about their parents, alone and suddenly childless, grieving with no resolution. He should have thought about the difficulty heaped on Professor Kirke, who would have to explain over and over again how four children had vanished without a trace. He should have wondered how the war had gone.
Back in England, Peter wondered at how lightly and easily his memory had slipped away. He should have remembered. That was what he did: remember what was important, so he could make the best decisions for his family and his country. Only magic could have made him forget.
Magic, or Aslan.
One year or one thousand years later, Peter met Susan's eyes on their last morning in Narnia and silently pled for a minute alone with the Lion. She nodded, gracious as ever, and murmured something about a pebble in her shoe, no need to stop on her account, she would catch up.
Peter and Aslan walked on through the forest. Aslan's heavy footfalls shook the ground but made no other noise, while Peter's boots snapped and rustled through twigs and the thick mat of last autumn's decomposing leaves. Now and again, a bird flashed through the sun-dappled branches, or a squirrel darted up a tree and screeched in territorial annoyance. Dumb beasts, all of them; the Talking Beasts knew better than to intrude on Aslan when he wanted privacy. There was no chance they would be overheard.
Nevertheless Peter struggled to find the right words to avoid sounding accusing or ungrateful or disrespectful. There must have been a reason -- a good and just and sufficient reason. He knew that. And yet.
"Tell me your troubles, Peter," Aslan said, turning his great, golden head slightly and catching Peter's downcast eyes. "Do not worry about the words. If you speak from your heart, you cannot speak awry."
"Why did we forget England?" Peter asked. "When we ruled Narnia, we only remembered this world. We forgot that we had another family and another country. I let all my responsibilities fall aside without thinking twice. That's not like me. Aslan, sir, did you make us forget?"
Aslan was silent for a moment. Then he said, "High King, when you ruled Narnia, where was your attention most needed?"
Peter considered the question, wondering if it had hidden angles. He was sure he was missing an obvious answer somewhere, a solution to his tangle. Edmund could have ferreted it out. Lucy would have seen straight through to the truth without a moment of doubt. But Peter was left to puzzle through the problem step by plodding step.
"My attention was needed most in Narnia, on all the business of state," he said after a minute. "And I had to be strong for Su and Ed and Lucy."
"Did England need your attention while you had no way to return there?" asked Aslan.
"No," Peter admitted. "But I still feel that--" He groped again for words, half-wishing Susan were here to put his thoughts in order for him. One hand brushed the hilt of his sword, and Peter gripped Rhindon, drawing strength from the steel and the memory of his years as both ruler and servant to Narnia.
He had been bound to Narnia, flesh and blood and soul. He ought to have been bound to England the same way. "I feel as though I betrayed a trust when I forgot," Peter said.
"That is both a sign of your great heart, and the reason I veiled your memory," said Aslan. "No man can serve two masters, Peter, and for a king to give half his heart to a foreign land is disaster for his own country. You forgot when it was time for you to forget, and remembered when it was time for memory to be renewed. Do not fear," he added. "You will never forget again, neither England nor Narnia. Both worlds are yours forever, though you and Susan will only walk in the flesh in one from this day forward."
Peter drew a breath, but he was never sure what he might have said; Susan rejoined them before he could speak. "Thank you for slowing your pace," she said, smiling with the extra glow she always developed in Aslan's presence, as if he gave her strength to open her heart to the world. She was beautiful, and she was happy. Peter didn't want his doubts to spoil these last hours in Narnia for her.
And in truth, what good would it have done for him to remember England during those years? What could he have done but make himself miserable with impossible wishes, and make Su and Ed and Lucy miserable as well? What harm had it done to forget?
If they had returned to find fifteen years gone on the other side of the wardrobe, their forgetfulness might have been betrayal, but no time had passed. Aslan had returned them the very moment they had left. Peter had been spared a decade and a half of useless grief and pain, in return for fifteen years of fulfillment and joy. He had learned to be a man without the crippling weight of helpless worry.
"I wouldn't have chosen that path for myself," he murmured into Aslan's ear, "but I understand why you chose it for me. I'm sorry for second-guessing you, sir. I won't do it again."
"It is the duty of a king to make the decisions that are right for those under his care, and the burden of a king to know that they will rarely understand the reasons for his choice, nor be grateful for his work," Aslan said gravely. "I am honored by your trust in me."
"Always," Peter said, daring to lay his hand on Aslan's mane. On Aslan's other side, Susan echoed him and smiled.
The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting. -- Milan Kundera
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.