A/N: Hi! Sorry it's been a while since I've published anything. I should really be working on the next chapter of Always, but I was singing in the Chapel Choir at school today and this just struck me. I hope you enjoy it, please review and let me know if you like it :)
He stands on the old stone steps of the little church and greets each of his parishioners by name.
He likes to think that he's a friend to all of them, a constant. He's always been here, greeting them on their way into church every Sunday with his welcoming smile and thinning hair that had once been flaming red. It's a small parish. Everyone knows each other, calls out to one another when they pass in the street. They are all from the same corner of suburban Finchley. He has watched his parish change. People are born, he baptises them, marries them, holds their funerals. They die, and become a memory engraved in stone in the churchyard. He has watched his parish grow and diminish, and grow again. He has watched many of them leave into the care of a military chaplain. He has seen the children mature, and grow into adults, and have children of their own. He smiles at old Miss Huddersleigh, and shares a joke with Mr Peagram. This is their ritual. He performs a specific greeting with each parishioner, and thus their companionship is kept alive. He can estimate at what time each of them will arrive, and what they will be wearing and who they will be with.
He glances down the road, and sure enough, the Pevensie brood are rounding the corner and strolling towards the church. This is the only family that disconcerts him. He remembers how they used to be; hurrying down the road late, Helen frantic, trying to shepherd her children ahead of her like a mother hen with her chicks. The eldest, Peter, doing his best to help their mother, snapping at his brother, pulling his youngest sister along by the hand. Susan fussing over her Sunday clothes and fixing her hair for the fourth time. Edmund sulking or running off or getting his sisters' dresses dirty, much to the irritation of Helen and Peter. Lucy, the youngest, still yawning and rubbing her eyes, tugging at her dress. They were a family fast unravelling, particularly the two boys. The father's departure had unbalanced them and they were teetering precariously. He remembers that he used to put them in his prayers.
Helen used to dash up the steps, clasp his hand, apologise breathlessly, turn to give her children a sharp look as she told him that they were late as if he hadn't realised, as people often seem to do when they are in a rush. He would give her the same kind, patient smile every time, tell her not to worry and usher her inside. She'd turn and beckon to her children. Susan would come first, give him her prettiest smile, and he'd comment on how nice she looked, to which she would giggle, thank him, maybe blush a little with pleasure at having her efforts to look ladylike recognised. She'd take Lucy's hand from Peter and lead her up the steps, and he'd bend over to greet the shy girl, who'd look down at his feet while he greeted her and then give him a tiny but glowing smile. She'd follow her sister into the church, and then Peter would give Edmund a small push up the steps. Edmund would turn, open his mouth angrily, but Peter would shush him and nod his head at the pastor. Edmund would glare confrontationally at him, and he would find it hard to greet the bad tempered boy who would then stomp into the church. Last came Peter, a boy so anxious to be a man in the absence of his father. He would give a quick but pleasant smile, and the pastor would give him a firm, grown-up handshake.
Now it is Peter who comes first, almost a real man now, a strapping seventeen-year-old with a smile like the midday sun. His anxiety has evaporated, and he shines with the same quiet, regal confidence that all of his siblings share. He walks arm-in-arm with Susan, whose sleek, uncommonly long dark hair is twisted up into a neat knot on the back of her head. She no longer tries to make a show of herself, she has no need. Her stunning beauty is a spectacle in itself. Behind them walk Edmund and Lucy, less sedate but similarly arm-in-arm. The dark cloud of aggression that had always seemed to lurk around Edmund has vanished, and now he laughs companionably with his siblings. His face is open and smiling, and there is no trace of the sullen, angry boy he had once been. His eyes hold wisdom far beyond his years. Lucy walks with him, chattering enthusiastically, seeming now to give off permanent waves of joy and vivacity. The rift that had once existed between the siblings has been sealed. Indeed, the four of them are easily the closest family he had ever seen. Helen walks behind her children still, but there is no need to chivvy them along now. They are in perfectly good time for the service. They are a million miles from the way they used to be, and in this parish where people live and die and everyone is pleasant but no one is extraordinary, they no longer quite fit.
The boys shake his hand firmly, and the girls dazzle him with their smiles. It's been this way since they returned from that secluded house in the country, living with an eccentric professor. He doesn't miss the way they dip their heads slightly in an old-fashioned gesture of respect, or the way he suddenly has an urge to bow to them, which he squashes quickly and then wonders at. He supposes that war must do strange things to children, but there is a hole in this reasoning that tells him there should be something more. Their mother totters up the steps after them. He greets her too, and she gives him a vague smile. Helen seems permanently in awe of her offspring now, as though she can't quite believe that she had raised four individuals with such presence and grace.
He listens for them in the first hymn as he always does. Lucy's bright, ringing soprano and Peter's soaring tenor are easily picked out of the congregation, and if he listens a little more closely, he can also make out a smooth, clear alto and a rich bass, belonging to Susan and Edmund respectively. Their voices twine together effortlessly into a beautiful harmony. He glances at his decrepit choir and wonders if he couldn't persuade the four of them to sing for one of the services.
He watches them through the readings, and notices that each of them has clasped hands with the siblings next to them. He cannot quite hold back his surprise when he notices the two boys with their hands locked together, such affection is unusual between boys, although Edmund's other hand has been claimed by Lucy. They four listen with rapt attention to every word. In previous years, preachers and readers would battle to keep the attention of the youths in the congregation, the Pevensie children included, but now their attention is fixed solely on him. Despite having led the services for more years than he'd care to count, he can't help but feel oddly nervous under those four piercing gazes, three blue-one like the sky, one like the sea, one like glass-and one dark, intense brown.
Every Sunday, they go up for communion in precisely the same order without fail. Even if they are not sitting in that order, they will rearrange themselves to kneel that way to receive the bread and wine. First Edmund on the far left, then Peter, then Susan, then Lucy. He can never resist delivering the communion to them in that way too, even if it means disrupting the order of the congregation. He feels that it is somehow right. Today is no exception, and he notices that Peter touches all three of his siblings subtly-hand, shoulder, small of the back-just before they kneel.
As they drop to their knees before the altar, a shaft of golden sunlight blazes through a high window and falls on the four of them alone, lighting their faces and making the rest of the church seem dim. They bow their heads. The pastor blinks. It is as though he has never really looked at them before now. Every colour on them is intensified. Rather than just blond, Peter's hair seems to be spun gold. Instead of pale, Edmund's complexion is the shade of new snow. Lucy's freckles seem to dance on her nose. The hair of the middle two, previously black, is now woven darkness and raven feathers, the barest hint of reddish brown in Susan's. Her lips are the colour of rose petals, and he thinks that he has never really seen blue before he looked into Lucy's laughing eyes. Peter's tan skin glows bronze. Instead of four children, there are two noble warriors and two gracious ladies. The searing light paints their clothes until he almost thinks he can see sweeping gowns and cloaks, and tunics and knee-high boots and sword-hilts glittering at the boys' hips, all in every bright, rich colour imaginable. He thinks he sees four crowns made of light, two glimmering gold, two shining silver.
Suddenly the sunlight dies, and he blinks back coloured spots from his vision. He squints at the four children that are not really children, and sees no crowns or swords or cloaks. The colours are plain-blond and pale and black and pink and sea blue and tan. He shakes himself, glancing around uncertainly, and then continues tremulously with the service.
By the end, he has convinced himself that he saw nothing at all unusual. He bids the parishioners farewell as they leave the church with smiles and friendly waves and more handshakes. When the church is at last empty, he sighs in relief. He had not seen the Pevensies leave, but he had bid farewell to Helen, so they must have gone with her. He hauls himself back up the steps to go and check the pews, and then pulls to a stop just inside the door. They have not left at all. They are sitting on the steps up to the altar, all four of them, leaning on each other. The sunlight has once more streamed down onto them, and they are once more wearing crowns made of light and clothes from another world. He catches his breath, and feels a warmth in his soul that tells him he is blessed to have seen this. He has witnessed something beautiful.
He waits outside for them, and when they finally emerge, they do look a little surprised to see him. He gives them a special smile. He knows. They have been touched by the Lord. They are iridescent.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed it, we are, of course, speaking of the Lord and Aslan as one and the same, sort of. Holy Trinity, Three in One and all that. I wasn't quite sure how to finish it, but there it is. Please review, I'd love to know what you thought :)