Author's Notes: Sorry, I totally suck at posting things here. This was written back in February of 2009. There's a bit of Susan/Caspian implied, but it's mostly Susan gen, and it incorporates Prince Caspian!film canon and The Last Battle!book canon.
When All Will Be Forgiven
The first time it happens, it is an accident. After that day, the one she never talks about, she takes to walking alone for hours on end. No more parties, no more friends, no more lipstick or fancy clothes. All that remains, and all that life is for Susan Pevensie, is the sound of her own footsteps on the soft ground of the woods.
She likes the woods, for some reason. The trees. It reminds her of something, almost, like home and yet another home and memories she has forgotten. The pull this feeling has upon her heart is sometimes enough to overpower those other feelings, and that emptiness when all feelings seem to subside.
Sometimes, she catches herself wondering why the trees are so still and so quiet. And this makes so little sense that it is enough of a distraction, and she forgets, pursuing other thoughts that are not quite remembering, but familiar all the same.
The first time it happens, it is an accident: careless but not carefree, Susan is walking one moment, and the next, she is slipping on the moist rocks and moss and leaves. And then she is falling, and falling, down the slope of that little cliff that overlooks the river she has always meant to follow, one of these days.
For a split second, she sees a garden, and a vast plain of grass greener than anything she has encountered in a long, long, time—but even as her vision fades to black, she argues, Never.
And there is a hopeful face, so close to her heart and yet lost. Funny, how the last thing she thinks she will ever think is the name of a boy who does not exist except in childish stories.
(She wakes up in a white hospital bed two afternoons later with a broken leg and a small gash in her forehead like the work of a quickly-wielded dagger. The analogy, coming unexpectedly and unbidden into her mind, brings an odd taste into the back of her throat. The nurse tells her she is lucky, not only in the comparative mildness of her injuries, but to have been found as soon as she was: the enormous tracks of some animal or another littered the ground about where she had lain.
"They think it was a bear," the nurse shivers.
And Susan does not know why she suddenly wants to suggest that maybe, just maybe, could it not instead have been a lion?
This, of course, is absurd.)
The second time it happens, it is not an accident. It is not a whim. It is the result of a single, nagging thought: But why not?
She has grown wild, or at least that is what everyone whispers behind their hands as she passes. Susan, Susan, once at the center of everything, of gaiety, of frivolity and life, is at all times now in the woods, neglecting society and herself. She once—or perhaps more than once—fell asleep against the trunk of a pine, awakening to a grey dawn and a policeman displeased about having to escort her home.
The second time it happens, the river is just there. The water, frigid and rushing, is just there. Susan is here, but there is nothing blocking her path.
She moves forward, step after step straight as an arrow's course, until the river is to her ankles. Then to her knees. Then to her waist, and her pleated skirt balloons up about her hips. When the water skims her chest, she draws in one last gulping breath out of habit and slides beneath the icy surface. The water is strangely calm, despite what it appeared from above, and she has to struggle to keep from floating back to the top.
But when her breath runs out, she cannot stay. Her head spins, spots form; and this time, the faces she sees are too familiar. Terror grips her, for more reasons than just one. With all the strength she has, she kicks off from the bottom of the river and breaks through and free; and then she drinks in the air like sunshine after a month of clouds.
Somehow, she swims to the grassy, muddy bank. Somehow. At one point in that eternity, she thinks she feels someone pulling her, helping her. But when she lies upon her back, dripping but safe, and choking in hasty, frightened breaths, there is no one to be found.
She notices the animal tracks, though. Huge paw prints. And the indentation or two of a boot-clad foot.
(The nurse tells her to be more careful.
"They'd want you to," she insists, and Susan stiffens. "They'd want you to go on livin' like girls your age ought."
Susan's face twists cruelly as it has never done before, and she snaps: her patience, and herself as a whole, a being, snap right in half.
The nurse only listens with a sad smile and eyes of pity, until she says, at length, "All is forgiven, in time.")
The third time it happens, she is not certain whether she means it to or not. Things become muddled in minds like hers, after all.
It is quick, though, with much less lead-up than the previous two. She steps off the curb and into the street just a pause belatedly, still determined to cross as if nothing is amiss. The headlights come toward her, the horn blares… There is no time to think, and all the time in the world to react, and yet she does nothing.
She blinks, calm. Perhaps she even steadies herself to stand firm, waiting.
But at the very last second, she feels someone seize her and pull her back. The cab races past, nearly not missing her, as she staggers. Her flailing arms catch upon something sturdy and metal behind her, and she clings. Her heart races. People gawk briefly, mutter to themselves and shake their heads, and then move on. Someone in an odd-looking coat pushes the opposite way through the crowd, but he is gone as soon as she thinks she sees him. Susan looks around. Once again, her rescuer, the silent voice of reason, is nowhere.
She breathes, in and out, and gazes up. What she is holding to so tightly is a lamppost. Light pours out above her from inside its little case of glass, softening the sharp stars beyond it. Susan stares, up and up, until that lamp is the only thing that she can see, and it is like a thing from a dream.
She has never paid much heed to lampposts, almost as if she has been avoiding looking right at them, but not quite. Their presence she accepts as a given thing, a part of all the like things in the world that serve a purpose but mean little more than nothing.
Susan stares; but the warmth she feels from this has nothing directly to do with heat and light. It comes from somewhere she cannot place.
It comes, perhaps, from fairytales.
("Found her like that," says the policeman. "Hasn't spoke a word."
The nurse thanks him.)
The fourth time it happens, it does not actually happen, for abruptly she remembers, and the kitchen knife she has been using clatters to the floor amidst a rain of vegetables.
Narnia, Narnia, NARNIA.
Her mind sings the word, the wind carries it, the flowers outside the window whisper it in forgotten voices grown timid from disuse. And memories flood back to her like loyal hounds.
"I believe," she realizes, panicked. "I believe."
Such a game she has played, pretending otherwise.
(The nurse bandages her finger quietly; but she glances at the change upon Susan's face not quite with worry, not quite with satisfaction.)
She has dreamed of the same place every night, the same rolling hills and forests and castles. Tonight, though, for the first time, that place once more has a name. Tonight, she dances with dryads and fauns, and she laughs until her cheeks hurt and her sides ache.
She does not realize that it is a year from that day, the one she never talks about. Somehow, she has forgotten, or at least pushed it aside as she heals.
She hurries onto the train—the first time in a year she has even dared to near the station—and finds a compartment to herself someplace in the middle.
It urges forward, slowly at first and just as she remembers, so the familiarity of the motion is a comfort. She settles back against the seat, and closes her eyes to the city now rushing past the window. She is going to the country, as she did so long ago, going not to forget or to remember, precisely, but to begin anew and afresh. It reminds her only partly of the old, good things, and that is enough.
The fifth time it happens, she believes she is dreaming. Her eyes flutter open in shock as the train gives a horrible lurch, and then—
Whiteness, at first.
Only whiteness, but not of the blinding, painful kind. It is purity, gentle, and it bathes her skin in the sweetest glow. When she breathes in, at once the air makes her feel stronger; her heartbeat steadies.
She is standing upon the top of a hill, impossibly high over—everything. She almost thinks to recognize what lies down below, but she is distracted: before her, two golden gates swing open wide, and she knows.
She is hardly through the gates when three pairs of arms lock around her and pull her close.
"Susan, Susan!" Lucy cries. "I'm so glad! Mother and Father are here, and Eustace, and the Professor, and Aunt Polly, and—and everyone! Mr. Tumnus and the Beavers!"
"That's wonderful," she says over and over.
And over Lucy's shoulder, briefly, Susan sees that great Lion, the one she used to love so, the one she had forgotten. Aslan nods, and says, without ever really speaking, "All is forgiven, in time."
When all other reunions are made, and all happy tears shed until she can cry no longer, she finds one last face. That hopeful face, those wide eyes that drink in every part of her.
She touches his cheek. "I'm still too old for you, you know."
He shakes his head, all but rolls his eyes—skyward? (But what is above them, now?)
"Once a Queen of Narnia," Caspian murmurs into her hair, "always a Queen of Narnia. I knew you would come back."
But no, she thinks. Not back.