A/N: This is the first chapter of what was supposed to be a one-shot, but turned into a four-chapter fic. It was edited by my wonderful cousin, Whispi (even though she's not an official beta). A million thanks, because this would not be nearly so good without your help!
Summary: Instead of just walking away, Caspian jumps through the trees after Susan. After three days of paradise spent with him, Susan must make the hardest decision of her life. Will she keep Caspian with her forever, or will she be strong enough to send him back to where he belongs?
Disclaimer: No characters, places, names, or anything else you recognize belongs to me. Everything belongs to C. S. Lewis and Disney.
The end is near, I feel it dear
But I am not afraid
Step, step right over the line
And onto borrowed time
When it's life, not waiting to die
Waiting to divide, to divide
~ Borrowed Time, A Fine Frenzy
My name is Susan Pevensie, and I'm a realist. That's one of the reasons why switching back and forth from London, the real world, to Narnia is so hard for me. Narnia isn't real, not exactly, and when I have to live there like it's reality, then turn around and live in London again like that's reality, it throws me off and makes me angry. I also don't like to dream about things that won't come true, because that just doesn't make sense to me. Dreaming and sighing won't ever make anything happen – I've learned that the hard way.
I also never lie to myself, at least, not up until I met Caspian. Then I started lying and pretending every day. But after the last big battle, a few days ago, I realized it wasn't going to work and I finally stopped ignoring what was going on. I admitted the truth to myself for the first time - I'm in love with Prince Caspian. Not just a "schoolgirl's crush" type of love, either, a different kind of love, one that fills my whole heart and would take over my body forever if I would let it. But I know that we can never be together, and so I don't let it take over. Dreaming only makes the hurt worse, like Lucy's dreaming about returning to Narnia is going to make what she's about to hear all the more awful.
Even after everything that's happened, I still can't believe we're really leaving – again. At least we got some forewarning this time – I cope much better when I know what's going to happen. I don't like surprises. Like the one of which I'm about to tell Caspian.
At this point, I realize I've been daydreaming, and I pull myself back into the real world. I feel Peter's eyes on me, and I turn to look at him. From what I can gather, the Telmarines have just gone through the trees, and the others are upset. I can see in his eyes what he's about to do, and I can't stop him.
"We'll go," says Peter, stepping forward.
"We will?" Edmund asks immediately, sounding incredulous.
"Come on," Peter says, both sadness and resolve on his face. "Time's up." He turns to Caspian and hands him his sword, the one he got from St. Nicholas the first time we ever entered Narnia.
"I will look after it until you return." It's Caspian's voice, of course. He thinks we're coming back again, like we did before. I don't know if I want him to know the truth or if I just want to leave and let him wonder and hope for the rest of his life.
I feel Aslan's great eyes upon me, and I know I can't keep silent any longer no matter what my personal feelings are. The waiting is starting to get to me anyway; at this point I think I'd rather everyone just know. "I'm afraid that's just it," I say, my voice louder than I mean to make it. "We're not coming back." At long last, my eyes lock with Caspian's and I can see him realize what my words mean.
Lucy breaks our moment, giving me an excuse to look down at her and away from Caspian's dark eyes. "We're not?" she asks, sounding confusedly upset.
"You two are – at least, I think he means you two," explains Peter gently. Lucy's brow furrows, her mouth starting to crumple inwards. "But why? Did they do something wrong?" She asks worriedly, turning to Aslan.
"Quite the opposite, dear one," says Aslan, "but all things have their time." I feel a stab of anger towards him for making me leave but not the others, followed almost instantly by one of shame. I understand why; I don't have to like it. It will make my life easier, because now I can forget about Narnia and not worry anymore. I shouldn't be upset – this is all I've ever wanted – but strangely enough, I am.
"Your brother and sister have learned all they can from this world," Aslan explains. "Now it is time for them to live in their own."
Learned all I can from this world, I repeat to myself. This world hasn't taught me anything. I never even wanted to come here in the first place! All that I've gotten out of this experience is a wish that will never come true – the wish to live here forever. But after today, that won't ever happen. And Narnia, and going back and forth from it to London, have reinforced the fact that I can't stand change, or uncertainty, or surprises, or anything like that. Narnia throws me off, pushes me off my feet and off kilter. I don't like Narnia. So if that's what "learned all I can from this world" means, then I guess I can leave with a free conscience.
"It's alright, Lu," Peter tries to comfort her as he always does. Why isn't anyone comforting me, I ask silently and plaintively, before kicking myself – I'm a grown-up girl and I don't need someone to hold my hand. I can take care of myself. "It's not how I thought it would be. It's all right. One day you'll see, too." He pauses, turns halfway to me, and then turns back. "Come on," he says, and starts to walk away. I fall into line last, as we say goodbye to all the friends we have made this visit, except one.
"It's time," says Aslan, and my heart jumps. Where did the time go? All of a sudden it hits me, that I'm leaving and not coming back, ever. It feels like I've suddenly wasted my whole life. So many things that I've wanted to say, and do, and now I never can. The finality of this is staggering. I'm never going to see Caspian again.
Peter moves towards the tree, Lucy and Edmund following him to end up in a line, with a place left beside Peter for me. I start to move towards it, then turn. I want to close out this part of my life firmly, shut the door and not leave any chinks for light to show through. If I'm never coming back here, I need to forget, to move on completely. I look at Caspian, and everything suddenly seems so overwhelming that I don't know where to start. "I'm glad I came back," I begin hesitantly.
I'm startled to realize that we've never really talked about this, about our feelings for each other. My feelings seemed so plain to me from the first battle that I guess I never wondered if he felt the same way about me. I know I love him, but suddenly I'm not so sure about his feelings for me. And since I'm leaving forever, I guess there's no real harm in asking.
"I wish we had more time together," he responds instantly, and I scramble to get my thoughts back in order.
I have to answer, but I feel the need to be sly, in an effort to cover up my own pain which is curling in my chest. "You know," I say coyly, taking a few steps towards him, "it never would have worked anyways." I try to sound nonchalant, but my heart is thumping inside my chest. So much is riding on his answer.
Since when did I depend on others for peace of mind, security, and confidence? I've always depended on myself, counting on me totally and fully for everything I needed. It's partly because of my previous time in Narnia, since I did grow up while I was here before, but for the most part it's just fundamentally a part of who I am. But now, all of a sudden, nothing matters more than the answer to my question: Does Caspian love me or not?
The answer comes almost immediately. He is genuinely confused, taking a small step towards me, and to my delight, speaks the words with the meaning that I've longed to hear, "Why not?"
"I am thirteen hundred years older than you," I say gently, all pretending gone. This was never going to work out and he needs to know it.
His eyes widen slightly, then a small smile appears at the corner of his mouth and he lets out a breath that could have been a small laugh. A small smile appears on mine, and, confident that we understand each other and I can go, I turn away to walk to my family, leaving forever.
But as I turn, I feel my heart beginning to break. With each step I take, my feet feel heavier and heavier. My breath comes shorter and faster. What is wrong with me?
My steps slow, then stop altogether. Before I can think through my actions, I turn and walk to his side, moving quickly in case someone tries to stop me. In one fluid movement, I stop before him, turn to face him head on, lift a hand and place it on the back of his neck, reach up, and press my lips against his.
His lips are still at first in his surprise, but they quickly soften. They caress mine as gently as his hand presses against the small of my back. The pressure, so light at first, becomes greater, and I respond, my lips opening slightly as I drink in every inch of him.
As though from far away I can hear gasps from the crowd, and a part of my brain realizes that it's shocking for them to see their Telmarine prince, their new king, kissing someone unusual like me. Usually that would bother me, but at the moment I can't care. I'm completely focused on the kiss, not wanting to miss a second. This is the only one we'll ever have, and I want to make it count.
After what seems like both a second and a lifetime, we both pull back at the same time, and look into each other's eyes. His are full of wonder, but shadowed. I imagine mine look much the same, except I'm afraid they might look a little shinier than usual. And then in the same movement we move towards each other again and hug as tightly as we can, putting all our emotions, feelings, and unspoken words into this embrace that somehow feels even more meaningful and lasting than the kiss.
Finally, I pull away. Neither of us speak – everything we feel has already been said without words. Our eyes lock for one last, breathless, endless second before I turn and face my brothers and sister. Peter looks sad and understanding in his big-brotherly way, but also a little like he wants to laugh, a combination that would usually make me annoyed, but right now I'm concentrating too hard on not crying to be angry at him. Edmund looks grossed out, which doesn't surprise me, and Lucy just looks slightly amazed. I can't help but feel the same way myself. I slide into the line between Peter and Lucy, who squeezes my hand. I look down and try to smile a little, for her sake.
I don't look at Caspian again. I'm too afraid that if I do, I will run back to him and never leave. And I don't want to do that, because I'm so tired of switching back and forth between worlds that I decide I'm glad to be going back. I'm glad I'll never see him again. I can leave him in a special place in my heart, a place set aside for a first love, and move on. Everything will work out for the best and I feel selfishly relieved that this decision is out of my hands. Usually I like to decide things for myself, but not this time. This time I can't bear it.
And then, after dreading and hoping and waiting, it's over. I didn't know what I was expecting, walking through trees off a cliff, but it's a lot easier than I thought it would be. It was literally as though we walked through the tree, onto the train platform, like stepping through a doorway. Here we are, standing in a row, just as we had been when the magic of my horn had pulled us to Narnia all that time ago.
We all look sideways at each other, and I smile in part relief, part – I don't even know what. My lips tremble. I've never felt this unsure, this unsettled. The train pulls up to the platform in a rush of wind and sound, but just as Peter is about to speak, someone else beats him to it.
It's the boy I had forgotten about, with the glasses. "Aren't you coming, Phyllis?" he asks.
After looking at my family (the boys look confused, but Lucy's laughing; she clearly remembers the conversation by the newspaper and magazine stand), there's a scramble for our luggage, and then we all step forward onto the train. I can't help but feel tiredly amused. From Prince Caspian to this? Will my life ever cease to surprise me?
My answer to that comes much faster than I would have wished. And of course, I want to take back my words the moment it does.
Reviews are greatly appreciated!