Disclaimer: Narnia and the Pevensies belong to C.S. Lewis.
A/N 1: This barely even qualifies as a story, but it kind of ambushed me entirely, took a couple of hours that I can't actually spare, and now I am going to call it finished, post it, and warn any other plot-bunnies to stay back.
A/N 2: A bunch of Narnia fic apologizes for Susan. They explain that she has a right to be bitter and to turn away from Narnia and her siblings, but eventually her anger will fade and she'll re-find her faith, etc. It made me think, this is a Queen of Narnia? The Gentle Queen? No. There is another reason for her to turn aside, to pause in this world, even knowing that the next one awaits.
A/N 3: 4/9/11, This fic was originally posted on 10/21/2010, but then the wonderful animus_wyrmis offered to beta it for me. I was elated to accept, and am now re-posting the new and improved version.
Pausing to Smell the Roses
There were roses outside the window.
The window was set too high in the wall to peer out, and Susan was too old now to climb up using the bars as leverage, as some of the other hostages had done. But despite the increasingly foul smell of the crowded cell, she could smell the rose scent on the air.
She breathed deeply with closed eyes as she led a prayer circle to help sooth some of the hostages. "The Lord is with us, always, if we have but eyes to see…"
Susan had taken to using "Lord" as her preferred term back in her teenage years. "Aslan" got her weird looks and disapproval, while all the other terms promoted one religion over the others. Almost all religions, though, knew the Lord. In this cell, she reminded herself as well as the others of the Lord's greatness but also of his mystic. Sometimes it was hard to see any goodness or greatness. Sometimes it was hard to find the Lord. Sometimes you had to ask for help.
Susan finally concluded with, "May the Lord grant me such eyes." Lucy had always had such eyes, but sometimes Susan needed help. She needed help to see the roses. When she finally opened her eyes, though, what she saw instead was a new guard by the cell door.
The man jabbed a finger in Susan's direction. "You. Come here."
Susan gave that disrespect the look of disapproval it deserved, but didn't otherwise protest. After all, he had waited until her prayer was complete. She rose from her seat on the dirt floor of the prison with an elegance that belied her years and came from long experience wearing queenly robes in situations ranging from war-time ambushes to week-long forest celebrations.
She murmured soothing nothings to the other hostages to keep them calm as she made her way to the door.
Susan was a wife, a mother of three, a grandmother of four, and a successful diplomat of decades' experience. Her presence at this embassy had been a last ditch effort to prevent just this from happening. Clearly she had been flown in a bit too late. Having failed to prevent the situation entirely, she focused on preventing further escalation and on keeping the other hostages calmed. She sat tall and spoke gently to the others, in the way she had learned from speaking to her subjects in Narnia and her children in England.
Susan was gentle with the other hostages, even the irritating ones who yelled about how this couldn't possibly be happening. She was gentle with the crying ones and the ones in shock. She was even gentle with the pompous ones who had tried to negotiate with their guards, after they realized that no amount of bribery or threat would sway a fanatic who didn't have the keys to the door anyway. Susan was just grateful that there were no children. Many of the embassy workers had been upset with her when she had demanded that all of the most fragile residents be evacuated back when she first arrived.
Their dislike of her had gone through an abrupt reversal when they were taken hostage and their families and children were already safely elsewhere. Now, most of the hostages clustered around Susan because despite the violence, the threats, and the grime of their prison, she sat tall and serene, and showed no fear. She was, after all, a Queen of Narnia. Once a Queen of Narnia, always a Queen of Narnia. Queens could show no fear—she had learned that lesson more than once and in more dangerous situations than this. Now, she barely even felt any fear and certainly none showed on her face as she made her way to the door.
When the door opened for her, she swept out with all the regality she could muster. This new guard looked unsure as his role of guard and captor was transformed by her actions into that of servant and courtier.
But his stance firmed and the contempt returned as a few of the other hostages cried out for her not to go, not to let herself be taken somewhere alone with the enemy. But even if she had not wanted to learn why the guard was summoning her, she certainly did not want to see the results of an open conflict between armed insurgents and scared hostages. At least a few of the other hostages realized how much worse this situation could get and moved to restrain the more hysterical of their cohort from attacking the guards without a plan.
She smiled, gently, back at them. "Don't worry. There is nothing to fear."
"Nothing to fear?" Her captor looked rather annoyed. "You think I don't plan to kill you?"
She smiled gently at him too, and decided that telling him that she knew he was merely her guide to someone with more authority would be unnecessarily snide. Instead, she spoke another truth.
"I have been wondering when I will next see my brothers and my sister. They did not approve of my stay here."
Her children had not approved of her trip to this embassy—apparently with good reason—but her siblings hadn't approved of her staying in this world. Peter and Edmund and Lucy had all disapproved of her, at the time of their death and for several years prior. They had died, leaving for the Lord's lands and taking their parents with them, while still disapproving of her. She had found life and love in the world of their birth, while they had all yearned ceaselessly for Narnia, looked only for what they no longer had. She had long wondered if, had they just learned to love this world half as much as they had Narnia, they might have stayed longer.
"Then maybe you should have listened to them."
"No, I am quite glad that I didn't."
She had loved Narnia and she still loved Aslan, but she hadn't allowed that to blind her to the world she lived in. She had learned her lesson in Narnia: her time in any world could end at any time. So, Susan Pevensie moved on with her life and discovered that life moved onwards too. She had found a wonderful husband, raised three amazing children, and doted on the most adorable grandchildren in all creation. She had been and continued to be determined to enjoy what time she had in this world.
There would be time to catch up with her siblings later. There would be Narnia and Aslan, but later.
"You think you're going to get out of this?" He sneered at her, but she couldn't even bring herself to disapprove. The sneer was so clearly fake, an attempt to cover his growing uncertainty. She was reminded once more of the infighting in Narnia, after the White Witch was gone. Even those fighting against Aslan had still wanted to believe, wanted to be convinced.
That convincing had often been the Gentle Queen's role. "I'm not sure, at all," she said. "But I am as ready to go when my Lord calls me as I have been to stay and help in this world."
"You won't ever see your brothers and sisters again if your government doesn't do what we say."
"On the contrary," she corrected him. "My brothers and sister have been dead for nearly fifty years. I will see them one day, no matter what." Even after fifty years, even after making a loyalty oath to the Queen of England, Susan was always and forever Susan the Gentle, Queen of Narnia. "If I return home to my children, they will kiss me and lecture me. If I return home to my siblings, they will kiss me and lecture me. Wherever I go from here, I will be greeted with love."
She smiled at her guard as he led her past the roses. She paused a moment to smell them. The guard did not protest.