Edmund Pevensie curled his fingers around the too cold digits of his baby sister, Lucy. He lifted dark, sad eyes to look at her face. She wasn't a baby anymore, but he wanted to protect her still. But how could you protect someone from something you couldn't see?
Edmund looked over as his older brother, Peter, re-entered Lucy's hospital room with two cups of coffee in his hands. He shook his head, looking back to Lucy's face.
"None," he said quietly. "I hate this, Pete. We fought dragons and evil witches, ruled Cair Paraval for years... and we can't do anything to help our baby sister." He took one of the mugs from Peter's hands when he got closer.
"I know, Ed," Peter said. "The doctors still have ho-."
"For how long?" Edmund interrupted. "She rarely wakes and she is just getting weaker. What if she isn't meant to get-."
"Don't." It was Peter's turn to interrupt. "We need to exhaust all possibilities. We can't lose hope."
"I just want her pain and suffering to be done," Edmund admitted. "Regardless of the outcome."
Peter was silent a moment, staring at Lucy's pale face. She looked so peaceful as she lay there, eyes moving beneath the lids. He felt tears prick but he forced them to stay away.
"I know," he finally said. He looked away from his sister, glancing at the cold, sterile environment of her hospital room. This wasn't where she was meant to be. She deserved to be in the finery of Cair Paraval again when they had ruled Narnia. The sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve. Queen Lucy the Valiant didn't deserve this.
"Where's Susan?" Edmund asked, breaking into Peter's musings.
"She took Mum home," Peter said. "So she could get some sleep."
Edmund sighed. "Who can sleep right now?" Peter couldn't answer him. Both brothers looked back to their sister, losing themselves in their thoughts.
Caspian stared out over the lily covered sea as the Dawn Treader slowly began to make its way back from the island that had led to Aslan's country. The island where he'd also allowed his heart to be broken as his one true love left his life forever. He'd only wish he had been brave enough to tell Lucy how he'd felt. Now he'd never get the chance, but a part of him knew that he never would. This was not her world, it never had been. Aslan knew that, which is why she and Edmund were never to return.
"Something troubles you, young King."
That was a voice that Caspian had not expected to hear anytime soon. He turned to see Aslan on the deck just behind him.
"Nothing that can truly be helped," Caspian said. "Too many thoughts on something that can never be."
"Your love for Lucy," Aslan said. Caspian should have known that Aslan would obviously be very aware of his feelings for the young Queen.
"Yes," he said.
"Your love is needed now," Aslan said. "Will be needed, as will your strength." The cryptic tone in Aslan's voice concerned him. He straightened, a frown marring his bow. He started to speak when a figure seemed to almost shimmer into view. For a moment he thought Ramandu's daughter, Lilliandil, had found her way to the Dawn Treader, but this was not a woman with pale blonde hair. This woman had auburn tresses and was wearing a dressing gown, she looked confused, her sea blue eyes confused. She seemed so familiar, causing Caspian's heart to shift. It only did that when...
"Lucy," he breathed out.
She seemed to see him, tilting her head. A beautiful smile started to form. "Caspian... Aslan... but, how can..." Her eyelids fluttered and soon she was collapsing to the deck. Caspian had never moved as fast as he did to move around Aslan to catch the young woman before she fully collapsed.
"What is wrong?" Caspian asked, cradling her to his chest.
"Lucy is dying."
Peter sat straighter as Lucy stirred in the hospital bed. He leaned forward, as did Edmund. Her lips began to move, but her eyes didn't open. Peter's eyes widened as he listened to what she was saying.
Edmund looked over his sister to look at Peter. He couldn't tell how he felt right now. Lucy was calling out names she hadn't murmured in years. Why would she suddenly be thinking of Narnia now? The doctors had warned the Pevensies that Lucy could have delusions, even reverting to memories that were more pleasant. Maybe this was one of those times. They had also warned them that the more frequently it occurred, the likelihood of Lucy's prognosis improving was slim.
"Luce," Peter said quietly, lifting her hand. "Come on, Luce. Come back to us."
"What do you mean Lucy is dying?"
Aslan knew that the question would be coming after Lucy had collapsed on the deck of the Dawn Treader. Caspian had remained silent, picking her up and carrying her towards the Captain's quarters; his quarters. He had merely glanced at Drinian, confusion evident on the older man's face when he saw the young Queen in Caspian's arms.
Once the Narnian King had placed Lucy into his bed, ensuring that the covers were keeping her warm, he had turned to the great Lion with his question.
"You know that Narnia is not Lucy's world, not originally," Aslan explained, padding on soft paws to the end of the bed. "It is why she and her siblings were only here a short time."
"I hardly call their time ruling as short," Drinian said, joining them.
"By Narnia standards, it was," Aslan said. "But their real home is far from here. England it is called. Once a nation at war when they first came, there is now peace."
"That is where Lucy was?" Caspian asked.
"Is." Aslan looked at the young king, seeing disbelief. "Make no mistake, Caspian. Lucy is still there."
"But..." He looked to where her slim figure lay.
"When she slumbers like this, then she has regained a semblance of consciousness there," Aslan explained. "She straddles two worlds. A chance to find happiness here if she so wishes as her time is short there."
"I don't understand," Caspian said.
"Lucy is very ill," Aslan explained. "She is dying, as I said, but her family remains hopeful that a miracle can occur that will reverse the illness."
"If Queen Lucy is here... does that mean there is no hope of recovery there?" Drinian asked.
Aslan was silent, sorrow filled the massive lion's body before his majestic head slowly bobbed up and down.
"Yes, Captain. That's exactly what it means."
"She spoke?" Susan asked as she set her purse and jacket down on a nearby chair. "She actually spoke? What did she say?"
Edmund and Peter glanced at one another, debating what they should tell their sister. Since their years in Narnia, Susan had slowly started to push away those memories. Whenever any of them brought it up, she quickly changed the subject.
"Well?" she asked sharply.
Edmund shrugged at his brother who turned to their sister.
"Lucy said Caspian and Aslan," Peter said.
"She... what?" Susan asked, frowning. Finally, she waved her hand. "The doctor said that she would be delusional..."
"Or revert to older, happier memories," Edmund said.
"Those were figments of our imaginations, Edmund," Susan said sternly. "It wasn't real."
"It was real," Edmund said. "Even Eustace and Jill know that!"
Susan started to speak but Peter shook his head sharply. "Regardless of what you believe or not," he said sternly to his sister. "It's what she said. And the doctor said such things are not a good sign."
"Should we have Mum come back?" Edmund asked.
"I just took her home," Susan protested.
"Then I'll go get her," Edmund snapped. Susan's spine stiffened and she was about to release a tirade on her brother before Peter spoke up.
"Mum can sleep," he said. "I'll talk to the doctors first, if they feel she needs to be here we can go get her and Dad both." He headed for the door, pausing a moment before turning to speak to his siblings again.
"Stop the fighting," he said. "Despite what you think or feel, Lucy remembered Narnia and everyone there as a memory, not her imagination. She she remembered it fondly. If holding onto that hope and that memory is what brings her back to us, I don't want to hear either of you speak ill of it or to each other on it. Understood?" Edmund nodded without thought, Susan following suit. It was obvious that the more stoic of the Pevensies was at a loss for words over what Peter had said. Instead of focusing on that, Peter left Lucy's hospital room to find a doctor. He suspected, however, that what they would tell them he would not want to hear.
Lucy's eyes cracked, her vision not quite clear as she looked around the room where she lay. The bed was amazingly soft, yet familiar as well. Though she had not slept in this bed in a number of years, she remembered the feel of the material beneath her back when aboard the Dawn Treader.
Lucy turned her head towards the achingly familiar voice of the young man who made her heart flutter. He hadn't aged a day since she last saw him. Reaching her hand just a scant few inches, he immediately moved over and clasped it between his own.
"Caspian... how long?" She licked her dry lips. Caspian didn't answer, instead pouring clear water into a goblet before helping her take a sip of the liquid. Only once she was re-settled and her hand between his own again did he speak.
"Not very," Caspian said. "It was only hours after we said good-bye on the island before you were once again on the deck of the ship." He gave her a gentle smile. "But I suspect it's been quite a bit longer for you."
"Yes, years," Lucy said softly. She shifted. "I don't know why I am so tired. I've never felt this tired before... or why I am here even. Aslan said..."
"You should rest," Caspian cut in. "I'll see if I can find Aslan and ask him to see you, but rest until then. Sounds like you need it."
There was a slight distance in Caspian's tone and posture that set Lucy on edge. She frowned a little, studying his handsome face.
"There's something you aren't telling me," she said.
"There is something you are not telling me. You know why I am so ti-," her voice trailed with a frown. Her blue eyes cleared and filled with tears. "Oh..."
Caspian hurried to her side, sitting on the edge of the bed. "Lucy?" he said gently.
"I'm dying," Lucy whispered. "That's why I'm tired. I remember... I'm in the hospital. I keep..." She looked at Caspian. "Is this nothing more than a dream?"
"No," Caspian said, vhemently. He winced when he saw Lucy flinch slightly. Reaching for her hand, he cupped it within his own.
"No, Lucy. This isn't a dream. But I don't know how easily I can explain it..."
Caspian swallowed, feeling emotions suddenly clogging his throat. "Aslan... he said..." he tried clearing his throat of the lump there. He took a deep breath before looking at her.
"He said you are very ill... in your other world," he said. "That there isn't..."
"Hope," Lucy whispered. A tear slipped from the corner of her eye. Caspian immediately moved, gathering her into his arms and pulling her to his chest. She found comfort being nestled against his warmth. She had missed being held in his arms, however briefly she had in the past. This is where she belonged.
"He brought me here, didn't he?" Lucy whispered against his chest.
"I don't understand how you come from there to here," Caspian said, the rumbling of his chest vibrating against her ear. It was one of the most comforting and warming things she had felt in a long time. "But you are here and if he brought you here because of what you face there... I am grateful."
Lucy pulled back from his embrace, looking into his deep colored eyes. What she saw almost startled her. How had she never seen it before? Technically, she had only just left him, but it had been years for her. They were now around the same age, but even before she hadn't been much younger than him. And she had always loved him, even as a little girl when she first met him.
"I should get Aslan," he said softly. "Rest. I'll go- Lucy!" She had collapsed back against the pillows, her breathing evening out as she immediately fell into slumber.
"She's waking," Susan said, quickly rising. She could see her sister's eyes cracking a little, but she wanted to sob when she saw no real recognition.
"Cas..." Lucy couldn't even finish croaking out the name before she succumbed to unconsciousness again.
"Damn," Edmund murmured.
"Language," Susan admonished.
Edmund turned a dark glare on his sister. "I am not a child, Susan," he said. "Stop treating me like one or thinking Lucy still is."
"Don't," Mr. Pevensie said as he walked over to his children. "No negative feelings within this room. Lucy needs everything positive we can give her. Now what was she trying to say?"
Edmund straightened, staring at his older sister as she gave him a hard look, silently imploring him to remain silent. Standing as tall as his father, he squared his shoulders before he spoke.
"Caspian," Edmund said. "She was trying to say Caspian."
"Caspian..." Mr. Pevenise frowned. "Caspian. Isn't that the name of the imaginary prince she so often spoke of?"
"Yes," Susan quickly said, staring at Edmund. "Just a figment of her imagination as a child."
Edmund's jaw tightened, but their father didn't notice the tension between the siblings. A frown creased his brow as he studied his youngest child, murmuring as he watched her. "The doctor did say this was a possibility," he murmured sadly.
"I'll be out in the hall, Father," Edmund said. "Would you like some coffee when I get back?"
"Oh yes, thank you Edmund," their father said. Edmund knew, as he turned, that Susan would be right on his heels to follow in order to berate him for bringing up Caspian to their father. So it was no surprise when he heard her voice immediately after the door closed behind them.
"Why do you insist on bringing up Narnia?" Susan demanded. "It is a piece of our imaginations as children."
"Narnia wasn't a piece of our imaginations, Susan," Edmund snapped. "It was real, you just don't want to believe anymore. And even if it *was* our imaginations, Lucy believed it and never stopped. She's dying, Susan. The least you could do is stop arguing over the existence of Narnia, especially around her!"
"She is not dying, she is strong!" Susan said, her voice lowering and terror filling the tone. "She's going to be okay, she's going..."
"Wake up, Susan," Edmund said. "I don't want to believe it. I do have some hope that she is going to rally and pull through. Realistically, however, I know that it's just a matter of time. How long can they keep her body alive when she isn't really there?"
"Oh really? She's not there, huh? Where is she, Edmund? Narnia? Some fairy tale land we all dreamt about as children to deal with the war?" Susan was back to snapping and disbelieving the one thing they had all held so dear. At least Edmund thought they all had.
"What's going on?" A new voice asked. Susan stepped away from her brother to take a few deep breaths. Edmund turned to the voice, seeing his cousin, Eustace Scrubb and Eustace's fiancee, Jill Pole, standing a few feet away from them.
"Edmund is being unreasonable," Susan said.
"Susan is being a bitch," Edmund quipped.
"Edmund!" Susan was appalled.
"You are," Edmund snapped. "Regardless of what your opinion is on Narnia, it's not Lucy's. And it's not mine or Peter's or Eustace's or Jill's. And you need to grow the hell up and stop bringing your insistence on the matter to Lucy's bedside."
Susan opened her mouth to release a tirade on her brother when Jill stepped between them. "Stop, both of you," she said. "If you insist on tearing into one another, at least have the decency to take it out of the hospital and definitely away from Lucy's room."
"You aren't even family, so stay out of it," Susan said, snapping off the angry words before she put herself in check. Her face fell and she flushed bright red. "Oh... Jill..."
"You're right," Jill said evenly. "I'm not family. Not yet since Eustace and I aren't married yet, but I am a family friend. More importantly, right now, I'm *Lucy's* friend. And Edmund is right, though not very diplomatic about how he said it. So stop this. Both of you. Lucy doesn't need her brother and sister bickering at one another when she's fighting and frankly, it's childish of you both."
"Jill's right," Eustace said, stepping up beside her and slipping his arm around her shoulders. "And I trust you won't speak to my fiancee that way again, Susan."
"Since I am so wrong, I will take my leave," Susan said, her back stiffening. She walked back into Lucy's room, grabbing both her overcoat and her purse. She gave her father a kiss on the cheek, giving him some excuse that she had some errands that she needed to run and would return later or the next day. Without speaking her brother or cousin, she quickly walked past the trio and down the hall before disappearing around the corner.
Edmund slowly let out a breath, sorrow filling his broad shoulders as he shook his head. "I handled that very poorly," he murmured. He glanced into Lucy's hospital room, swallowing at her too-still form. He leaned in and slowly closed the door to keep the warmth in and give the three people some privacy to talk without his father overhearing.
"Yes you did," Eustace agreed. "But I know it's not easy right now."
"Susan was never as strong of a believer as the rest of us," Edmund said. "Especially after the last time that she and Peter were in Narnia. Even in the year that passed from our original reign to when we returned to help Caspian..."
"Do you really think she is seeing Caspian?" Jill asked, a frown slipping over her features. "I mean... when we saw him..."
"I do not know what Aslan has planned or what Lucy is really seeing," Edmund said. "If she's seeing anything. They may just be memories of our time there before."
"What have the doctors said?" Eustace asked.
"The doctors are... trying to be as hopeful as possible. I think for our sakes, especially Mother and Father's," Edmund said. "But I look at Lucy and... I just..." He swallowed against the lump forming in his throat, emotions clogging what he wanted to say. "I just want Lucy at peace. I want her pain to be over."
Jill pulled away from Eustace and wrapped her arms around her future cousin-in-law, embracing him as he let a few tears slip his control. "I think that's what we all want, deep down," she said. "Just some can't fathom that it would mean letting her go if that's what will bring her that peace."
"I just wish I could understand it all," Edmund said, gathering himself together enough to pull away from Jill. "And if there is any sense to it all, is it possible that she'll end up in Narnia when gone here."
"I don't remember hearing mention of her when we were there last," Eustace said sadly. "I would think Caspian would have said something."
"Caspian was quite elderly that last time," Jill reminded Eustace gently.
"But even after? When Rillian was reunited with him?" Eustace asked.
"I don't know, love," Jill said. "And it has been a few years since we were there."
"Time can be so fluid, especially the differences between here and Narnia," Edmund had to admit, though there was a dull pain in his voice. "If she is destined to remain in Narnia... it is best. I just wish it would happen soon. I hate seeing her so fragile."
"We all do, Ed," Eustace said quietly. "We all do."
Caspian had hoped that coming up here would clear his head. So far it hadn't and he wasn't sure what to do or where to begin even mulling over the things that were in front of him. The fears that he felt for all that he could have, then suddenly it could be ripped away. He didn't dare hope for what he most wanted.
"You look troubled, dear King."
The voice was almost musical, slipping from the mouth of a woman that many of his men had said had uncharted beauty. Yet, to him, it paled in comparison to the woman that currently lay ailing in his own bed aboard the Dawn Treader.
Caspian turned, giving the star a soft smile. "I suppose that I am."
Liliandil moved over to him, her body awash in the soft blue light of her star form. "What troubles you?" she asked. "You look as if the whole of Narnia weighs on your shoulders ten-fold. I had suspected you would have been well on your way back by now."
"I did promise we would return before we began the journey back," Caspian said.
"Yes," Liliandil said. "You did at that."
Caspian smiled a bit, looking out over the waters that surrounded Ramandu's Island again. Liliandil watched him a moment, giving him time to process his thoughts. When he didn't speak of his own accord, she prodded at him.
"What weighs on you so?" she asked softly. "I do not sense your friends with you, except the dear Lucy." She was surprised when she felt a wave of sorrow so strong coming off of Caspian that she almost stumbled from it.
"It's complicated," Caspian said softly. "Very complicated."
"You care for her," Liliandil said. This wasn't at all a surprise to her, she sensed that when she first met them.
"Very much so," Caspian admitted.
"Then why does that make things complicated?"
Caspian stared out over the expanse of the sea. Had he not stood here just a day or two prior with Lucy and Edmund at his side as they spoke to Liliandil the first time? Had he not found himself mildly smitten and partially attracted to the lovely star? Now he stood, dread filling his belly as the one he truly loved lay on the Dawn Treader.
"She's dying," he said quietly.
Liliandil was shocked to hear those words. A soft frown marred her features as she shook her head, moving closer to Caspian. With the smallest of hesitations, she reached her hand out to rest it on his strong forearm.
"What do you know of the kings and queens of old?" Caspian asked, his eyes never leaving the dark horizon ahead.
"I know that they ruled during Narnia's Golden Age, which was over 1300 years ago," Liliandil said. "And I know that they were returned to Narnia three years ago when you used Queen Susan's horn to call for aid. But I don't think we ever knew or understood why they went missing while hunting the white stag."
"She comes from a place called England," Caspian explained. "In fact, after you met her and we defeated the darkness, she left again with Edmund and Eustace. I never thought to see her again as Aslan had decreed it was her last time here."
"Obviously that has changed," Liliandil said, sitting on a nearby bench.
Caspian nodded, his eyes distant and unseeing, even as he stared out across the expanse of the ocean around Ramandu's Island.
"She's older. Even though I left her not even a day ago, she is older. About my age now instead of a couple years younger. I always felt... wrong for caring for her as more than a sibling would because of the age difference," Caspian said. "Yet my heart wouldn't let me think of her as a mere sibling. It called to her. I felt it sing in her presence."
"Sounds like love to me," Liliandil said, smiling softly. "And she is here with you."
"I'm terrified of it," Caspian admitted.
"You... are? Why?"
"Not of loving her," Caspian said, straightening. He didn't turn to look at her still, instead staring out over the water in the hopes the answers lay amongst the watery depths. "I could never be terrified of that."
"I'm terrified that Aslan will change his mind and will send Lucy back, away from me," he said. "I'm terrified that she will regain strength and will heal in her world and she'll once again be taken away from me."
"What I know of Aslan, I can not see him being so cruel," Liliandil said. "If Lucy is truly meant to be here, with you, surely he would not take her away from you."
"He has twice before," Caspian pointed out.
"But it sounds as if this time is different," the star's daughter said. She gracefully rose and walked over to the young King's side. "Have faith in him, Caspian. You have before and he has not failed you."
"Deep in my soul, I know that," Caspian said quietly. "But I am still terrified of losing her for a third time. Because if I do, I fear it shall be forever."
Aslan watched Lucy sleep. He stood in the gap between two worlds. In two realities he watched, one where his beloved dear one slept peacefully, cradled in the warmth of a feather bed made for a King. Her king. Aboard the Dawn Treader, she slumbered in peace. Caspian's name but a whisper upon her lips occasionally as she shifted in blissful unawareness.
In another reality, she lay far too still, drugged to keep the pain at bay. Occasionally a grimaced crossed her face even as her body reminded her of the ravages of the disease within. Even now, his name and Caspian's were but a murmur away as she tried to distinguish between the two.
He felt Caspian's uncertainty. He felt Edmund and Peter's hope for their sister's peace. He felt Susan's sorrow and anger over all that was happening to Lucy and the rest of the family. It made him sorrowful, himself, because she did not have enough faith within to embrace Lucy's destiny, even if it meant letting her go.
The time was coming and he knew that soon he would make the invitation. He suspected he knew what Lucy wanted, but he could not be certain and would not speak for her. He knew of her love for Caspian, that had never diminished despite the knowledge that she was never meant to see him again. A second chance was before her, but it saddened him that the cost was so high for those he held dear to him.
They would be together again. It was inevitable. Perhaps not all, but those who mattered would be welcome to his country and to Narnia again. He only wondered if it would be the Narnia they remembered or the true Narnia where Reepicheep now lived.
"Did she wake at all?" Peter asked quietly as he shed his overcoat. Edmund glanced over at his brother.
"No, not really. Only murmured again," he said.
Peter eyed Edmund after his brother turned his head back to their sister. His gaze flickered to Eustace and Jill who sat nearby.
"She spoke of Caspian," Eustace said. "At least that is what Edmund and Susan said. When we got here, they were in the hallway." Eustace didn't have to tell Peter just why his siblings were in the hallway. There would only be one reason for that.
"Ed, why-," Peter started.
"Do not try and defend her, Peter," Edmund broke in. "I don't care what Susan thinks regarding Narnia. She has no right to voice her negativity in front of Lucy. If she can hear us, it just makes things worse."
"I was going to suggest you go get some coffee," Peter said quietly. "You've barely left Lucy's side. Stretch your legs, get some fresh air. Hell, have a smoke if need be. I'll sit with her."
Edmund winced a bit, realizing that he was jumping to conclusions again. He hesitated, his eyes flicking to where his brother stood.
"What is it?" Peter asked.
"I'm afraid to leave her," Edmund admitted, his cheeks coloring. "What if she takes a turn for the worse while..."
"Edmund, we can't-," Peter started.
"But we have to," Edmund said. "We need to face reality, Peter. Lucy is dying. She's calling out to Aslan and Caspian again. It must mean something."
"Memories," Peter said. "The doctor said-."
"As she got worse," Edmund interrupted, his voice cracking. "As she got worse, she would..."
"Stop," Peter said quietly. "Stop, Ed, I..." He swallowed the lump forming in his throat. Taking a few steadying breaths, he lifted his head to look at his brother.
"I need to stay hopeful. Until there is no hope left. I don't know how I know, but I will and I just... I can't... I can't think of anything but the hope right now. I need to focus on that."
"For how long?" Edmund asked him, his brow puckering in a frown. "How long do we cling to her and make her suffer?"
"Peter, no," Edmund said. "We love Lucy, but how can we make her stay in this existence any longer simply because of hope."
"Because what if our choice is the wrong one?" Peter snapped. He took another calming breath. "What if we give up and she comes back to us? How can we live with ourselves, knowing that we gave up on her strength and that is what prevailed? We didn't believe in her once, hell I didn't believe in her twice. We were proven wrong."
"This isn't about the existence of Narnia or seeing Aslan, Peter," Edmund pointed out. "This is her health, her life."
"Edmund, please," Peter said quietly. "I know you want her to be at peace. Deep down I want that too, but give me this much. Please. I can't give up, not yet."
Lucy's eyes cracked as she slowly became aware of her surroundings. She blinked a few times, frowning as she noticed the unfamiliar surroundings of a room from long ago. She shifted to a seated position, groaning a little at how sore and stiff she felt. Memories started to hit her of her conversation with Caspian earlier. She really was on the Dawn Treader, but it also meant that she was still sick. How long was she to remain here?
"Lucy, you are awake," Caspian's voice broke into her thoughts.
"Caspian," she said softly. "I thought I was..." She broke off as she saw Liliandil step into the room behind Caspian. She felt her heart ache at the sight of the beautiful star. She remembered, all too well, how Caspian and Edmund had both reacted to her appearance. She also remembered how Caspian had said he hoped they met again.
"Queen Lucy," Liliandil said, smiling. She moved over to the young woman. "His Majesty spoke of your presence. I had to come see for myself when he said you did not seem well."
"I am feeling better," Lucy said quietly. "You... you are traveling with Caspian and the crew now?"
"Oh not at all," Liliandil said, settling on the edge of the bed beside Lucy. "It has been but a couple days since I saw you."
"We stopped at Ramandu's Island to stock up on provisions before the journey back to Cair Paraval," Caspian explained to Lucy from where he stood, leaning against the wardrobe in the room.
"Oh..." Lucy saw the understanding, and mild hurt, on Caspian's face.
"Caspian explained that you originally left Narnia once more," Liliandil said. "I am glad that you were returned."
"I am too," Lucy admitted. "I just wish I wasn't so tired while here. It seems my times here are shorter and shorter."
Liliandil glanced at Caspian in time to see him wince before he let a mask cover his features. Pushing off of where his lean body was leaning, he walked to the bed.
"Dear Lucy, here is hoping that Aslan will allow you to grace us with your presence for a good amount of time," he said. He wouldn't, couldn't, voice his hope that Aslan would allow her to remain here and find health again rather than return to England where she was dying. He couldn't be so selfish to pull her from those she loved there, despite his own love for her. He was but one man while he knew that at least her siblings would mourn her passing in her world, if not others. Perhaps he was too hopeful in that she was without someone to love as he loved her.
"I am feeling stronger," Lucy said, interrupting Caspian's thoughts. "Do you think I could go onto the deck? I have missed being here so."
"Of course," Caspian said easily. He walked back to the wardrobe, opening it to pull out his dressing gown. Despite being older than the last time he saw her, the garment would still seem overly big on Lucy's slender frame. Her face and body had matured, but she was still quite petite and barely came to his shoulder.
"This will help keep you warm," Caspian said. As he walked back over to them, Liliandil helped Lucy stand. He was grateful for the star's understanding that he wanted to help her more as she stepped aside so Caspian could wrap the garment around the young queen's form.
Lucy lifted her head to watch Caspian's face. She never forgot just how handsome he was, how much she had longed for him to look at her in a way that he had once looked at Susan and had even looked at Liliandil. For him it had just been a few short days since he had been struck by her beauty, while for Lucy it had been years. She wondered what his thoughts were now, but as his dark eyes turned to look into her own, all she saw was warmth within the depths. And something more.
"Ready?" Caspian asked. Without even realizing he was moving, he had pulled Lucy's long auburn hair from beneath the dressing gown and let it fall down her back once more. He didn't want to stop touching the silky length, but he knew that he needed to.
Lucy smiled softly, nodding. Her eyes closed softly and her head automatically tilted into Caspian's touch as his fingers brushed against her temple to push part of her hair behind her ear. Despite how tired and drained she felt, a life filled her at the touch of Caspian's skin against hers. It was a feeling she had not fully understood when she was but a little girl and met him the first time. She understood a bit more the second time she saw him and she was older, starting to enter that phase of being a teenager that she remembered from her time in Cair Paraval growing up and even from watching Susan go through the same thing. Now the feeling had returned, stronger than before. Perhaps it had never diminished, as Lucy had never forgotten Caspian or stopped thinking of him in those years since she last saw him. She couldn't dare hope that she was being given a second chance. Too often she had been in Narnia and pulled away. She couldn't hope for this time to be different under the circumstances. Aslan could, and most likely would, change his mind about her return.
"Ready," Lucy finally said. She wouldn't let worries of what was to be cloud the enjoyment she was feeling now, being back in Caspian's presence. Taking his arm, she walked with him out of the cabin.
The crew paused and turned, seeing their King emerge with the woman they remembered as a young girl, but still loved all the same. Many of the men half-bowed or nodded to Lucy, others smiled widely at seeing the young Queen again. Lucy lifted her head, seeing Drinian a short distance a way. He bowed his head to her, resting a hand over his heart in respect. It made her own ache as she realized that someone very important was missing besides her family. Reepicheep.
Instead of allowing herself to mourn saying good-bye to a dear friend, she looked around the deck of the Dawn Treader. Night was starting to fall around the island and the sea, the sun turning into an array of dancing colors across the ocean as it set. It was a sight Lucy had never thought to see again.
"It's still so beautiful," Lucy said, standing on the deck of the Dawn Treader. "I never thought..."
Caspian jerked his head to where Lucy stood beside him. His arms immediately came around her as Lucy collapsed. He moved with her, allowing himself to cushion her as he went to the deck with her.
"Lucy!" Caspian said. Her breathing was so even, so calm, it terrified him. He pulled her to his chest. "Lucy, please, please wake up."
"My King!" It was someone from the crew, he barely recognized the voice in a daze, but soon Drinian was kneeling beside him as was Liliandil. Both had mirror images of fear and concern showing on their faces, unable to do something for Caspian or Lucy.
"We need... I need..." He was at a loss for words.
"It is time."
Caspian's head turned to stare at Aslan as he stood on the deck. The crew moved out of the lion's way, eyes wide as they watched him walk to the pair. Everyone knew of Aslan, everyone believed in him, but so few had actually seen him in the flesh.
"It is time, Caspian," Aslan said again, staring into the King's eyes. To the astonishment of all, Aslan slowly began to fade.
"It is time." And then he was gone.
Caspian began to shake his head, swallowing. "No," he said. "No, no, NO! Aslan! NO!"
Sobs were ripped from Caspian's lips as he gathered Lucy close to his chest and began to rock. The sounds broke his crews' hearts.
"No," he sobbed. "No, I can't lose her. No!" He lifted his head and screamed.
"What's going on?" Susan had seen the commotion as doctors and nurses raced into Lucy's room. As she entered, Peter and Edmund stood back, their eyes wide and horrified as the doctors and nurses surrounded their sister. Their mother and father, who had returned earlier, stood on the other side of the room. Their mother was hysterical as their father held her back with a look of pure grief on his face. He wanted to run to his daughter, to plead with her to be okay, but his wife needed him now to keep her from doing the same and getting in the way.
"She..." Edmund swallowed the words that suddenly clogged his throat.
"They are trying to sa..." Peter couldn't get the words out any better.
"It is time, children."
A voice they had never expected to hear again came from nearby. The three older Pevensies turned, eyes wide and shocked as Aslan's majestic form filled the small space in Lucy's hospital room.
"Aslan," Peter said, dreading filling him. A heaviness started to press on his chest. Seeing the lion now could only mean one thing.
"It is time," Aslan said, sorrow and joy filling his voice.
"Time for what?" Susan asked.
"For Lucy to come home."
Peter felt his heart drop to his toes. He hadn't wanted to admit what it meant that Aslan was standing there, telling them it was time.
"Lucy is home," Susan said, ever the one to fight back. "She is home. She is going to be okay!"
"Aslan," Edmund said, his voice rough. "I just need to know one thing."
"No, Ed," Susan said. "Lucy is going to be fine!"
Edmund ignored his sister and focused solely on Aslan's feline features. "If Lucy is revived and survives this... will she be the same?"
Aslan was quiet, sorrow filling his majestic form. Slowly his mane started to move, his head shaking a negative response. Edmund felt tears forming.
"No," Aslan finally said. "No, she won't. Lucy will forever live almost a half life if she were to survive. She will never be the same, vibrant young woman you all love."
"But..." Peter asked.
"Lucy is in Narnia," Aslan said. "She can live there as she always loved. Healthy, vibrant, full of life."
"Lucy always loved Narnia," Edmund said, turning his head to his brother. Peter slowly nodded.
"You are sentencing her to death," Susan said. She spun to her parents, hoping to implore them into talking some sense into her brothers. At that moment, she realized that they weren't reacting to the massive lion in their daughter's room. None of the other people were either. All were working on bringing Lucy back.
"Only you can see me," Aslan said, though his voice sounded more hollow to Susan's ears. "And the decision is up to Lucy to go."
Edmund and Peter turned towards their sister's bed. There Lucy stood, looking healthier than she had in a very long time.
"It is time, child."
"Why... I thought I was in Narnia," Lucy said, frowning. "I remember... falling..."
"You were," Aslan said. "And it's time for you to come home."
"No," Susan said firmly. She tried to step in front of Lucy, but a sob caught in her throat as Lucy walked forward and right through her sister.
"She's already gone, isn't she?" Peter said, his throat closing some.
"Yes," Aslan said. "Her life will continue in Narnia, but her time here is over."
Edmund felt tears slip onto his cheeks. He looked at his sister, standing beside Aslan. It was a place she always wanted to be, had always longed for. Now it could happen forever.
"We love you, Lucy," Edmund said. Lucy gave her siblings a soft smile, but said no words. She let her love shine in her eyes before, all too soon, she turned and walked through the sudden gate of light that had formed behind Aslan. Then the light, and Lucy, was gone.
The machines in the room were loud, but the silence was deafening at the same time. They were barely aware of the doctor turning to their parents, telling them that there was nothing they could do. Lucy was too far gone and the illness that had plagued her had finally taken its toll. They were barely able to move as their mother collapsed against their father and sobbed her heartache. One by one, the machines were turned off, the staff of the hospital left. Soon all that remained were the Pevensies and the silence.
The crew of the Dawn Treader couldn't move. They could only stand and watch, helplessly as their King sobbed on the deck of the ship, cradling Lucy to his chest. No one could tell if she was alive or not and many of the men wouldn't even move to wipe away the tears that were sliding, unbidden, on their own faces.
Lucy's eyes suddenly snapped open and she took a gasping breath. It startled everyone around them, especially Caspian as his head snapped up to look at Lucy's face.
"Lucy?" Caspian asked, his voice shaky.
"Caspian?" Lucy said, her voice husky. "What..." Her hand came up and fingers brushed against the man's damp cheek. "Tears?"
"Thank Aslan!" Caspian gasped as he pulled Lucy to his chest, hugging her tightly. He buried his face in her hair, breathing in the scent. He let the smell of her fill his lungs and wash over his body to reassure himself that she was okay. "Oh thank Aslan."
"Caspian, what are... what is it?" Lucy's arms wound around Caspian, returning his hug. "I remember a hospital room. Seeing Aslan and my family... what..."
Caspian went very still against Lucy. With great reluctance, he loosened his hold on her so both of them could look at Aslan. Once again, the great lion stood aboard the ship's deck, watching them.
"Aslan!" Lucy said, smiling. Her smile faltered some. "Wait... am I..."
"You are in Narnia," Aslan said.
"For how long?" Lucy asked quietly.
"Forever." Caspian felt his heart starting to pound. Forever? Did that mean...?
"I'm dead, aren't I?" Lucy whispered softly. She felt Caspian move closer to her, drawing her back into his chest.
"You passed away in your world, yes," Aslan said. "Your time there is over. But your time here..." His gaze shifted to Caspian.
Lucy was not unaware of the look. She shifted to look at Caspian herself, studying the man's face. Suddenly the warmth she had seen in his quarters intensified and there was something more within the depths, something she had seen suppressed before as if he had been hiding it from her.
"What does he... mean?" she asked him softly.
"He... he means that..." Caspian had to lick his lips, his mouth suddenly dry. What if she didn't want as he did? What then?
"He means that your time here in Narnia could just be beginning. Again. With me," he said quietly. "If... if you want."
"If I..." Lucy swallowed the sudden nervousness she felt. Words were failing her, but she needed absolute certainty. A part of her knew what Caspian meant, but she needed to know.
"What do you want?" she asked quietly. She could not, would not, look to Liliandil. Too many uncertainties still plagued her from her memories.
"You," Caspian said softly. "Lucy, I want you. Losing you, saying good-bye a few short days ago... It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Something I never want to do again for a very long time, if ever. Just now... I thought I lost you all over again. I thought Aslan had changed his mind..."
"It's been years for me," Lucy said softly. "I never... I never thought I'd see..." She swallowed the tears that wanted to fall. "Liliandil..."
"A friend," Caspian said. "A new friend, and I hope a dear one for us both in the future." Caspian shifted his body to cup Lucy's face in his hands.
"Dear sweet, Lucy the Valiant," Caspian said. "It's you I love. Now and forever. I want you by my side in Cair Paraval and I hope that you will have me."
Lucy felt tears slip onto her cheeks, but her smile was still radiant. She covered one of Caspian's hands with one of her own. "I will always have you, King Caspian. Now and forever."
Lucy breathed in the air of Cair Paraval deeply as she stood on the balcony of her former rooms. She was currently sharing them with Liliandil, who had chosen to return with them after all. She was curious if romance had started to blossom between the star and Caspian's rather stoic captain and friend along the way as Liliandil was often in Drinian's company since they had returned to Narnia.
She was grateful to be back and had to laugh at the hustle and bustle going on now that news had emerged that she had agreed to become Caspian's wife during their return journey to Narnia. Every merchant in Narnia was preparing for the festivities that would take place in honor of their King's nuptials, especially with the knowledge that it was to one of the Queens of Narnia's Golden Age. It pleased her to see how Narnia had, in fact, grown and prospered under Caspian's rule. She had always known he would be a good and fair king, despite the tumultuous beginning to his reign and gaining his rightful place as King.
Turning away from the sights below, Lucy walked back into the room. She couldn't shake the feeling of sorrow she had been feeling. Caspian had worried she was not as truly happy as she proclaimed, but she had reassured him that she was. She suspected much of her sorrow was due to her family not being there with them and knowing she may never see any of them again.
"You fret, dear one."
Lucy spun on her heel and smiled. "Aslan."
"You come upon a festive occasion and yet you fret," Aslan said, padding over to her.
"It's nothing," Lucy said, smiling softly. Aslan merely tilted his head and she knew that it was not an answer that would satisfy him.
"I miss them."
Aslan bowed his head in understanding, padding on large paws over to her. Lucy easily folder until she sat on the floor as she had when but a child. Aslan settled down in front of her, crossing one paw over the other in a show of relaxation.
"It is understandable that you do," Aslan said. "They are your family and you love them. But fear not, my dear one. You will see most of them again."
Lucy frowned. "Most?" she asked.
"It is not your story to know," Aslan said, his voice taking on the usual cryptic quality she had always associated with him. Unlike many, it did not frustrate her. She knew Aslan would never steer her wrong or any of them, even when she desperately wanted answers he couldn't give.
"The friends of Narnia will be reunited again," Aslan said. "When the time is right. That time is not now, however. It is a loss for you. As they mourn you in one world, you must mourn your time away from them here."
Despite the happiness she felt at her future in Narnia, tears still filled Lucy's eyes as she realized that Aslan was right. She had to mourn her family, even though they were still alive in England. They would be mourning her death there, never to truly understand that her future was bright here in Narnia.
"It is okay to cry, dear one," Aslan said softly. "Sometimes it is necessary to cleanse what ails us." She said nothing, simply bowed her head and let the tears fall. She soon found herself cuddled against Aslan's body, her face buried in his mane as she felt her heart break then begin to mend.
Peter picked up a picture that he had kept with him all the time, staring down at it. When had it been taken again? He studied his face, and Lucy's, in the image. They had been so young then. It was probably a few days after they had turned from Narnia that second time. Peter had been crestfallen at the knowledge that he and Susan would never return to Narnia. That they had outgrown it. Susan had embraced letting go of the fairytale, but Peter had loved Narnia and all it had been to him.
Lucy had been the one to help him through the loss of it all. They had become closer as siblings because of it. He would do anything to protect his little sister. A protectiveness that had become stronger during their first adventure in Narnia when he almost thought he had lost her in the river when the White Witch's guard were after them and he had lost his grip on Lucy when the river swept them downstream. When he had seen her, wet and shivering, he had never felt such joy in his life. He had treasured every moment with this sister from that day on, even when she had been at her most annoying as the baby of the family.
Who was there for him now as he mourned? The one who helped him deal with so many losses was now the one lost to him forever. His face screwed up as the pain assaulted him. Peter pulled the picture to his chest, hugging it as he slid along the wall until he was seated on the floor. And he sobbed as his heart broke.
Susan sighed and slammed the book in her hand shut, tossing it onto her bed. She had read the same sentence for the past half hour, but nothing penetrated the fog of sorrow she felt. Nothing felt right anymore. So many had come by, visiting, giving their condolences, and all Susan wanted to do was scream at them to go away.
She felt lost, so incredibly lost. Peter was keeping to himself, mourning as privately as he could in order to be strong for them. But for what purpose? Edmund walked around in an angry fog, when not spouting off something to them in private about Lucy being at peace. Peace? What good was peace when their sister was gone? What sort of peace was that to die?
A few times, Narnia had been mentioned but Susan would hear none of it. In order to keep from snapping in front of their parents, she would simply leave the room. Narnia had been in their imaginations and she resented that her brothers continued to bring it up as an excuse for accepting that their sister was now dead.
Getting to her feet, Susan walked over to her closet and began looking through her clothes for something for the funeral. Her movements became angrier and angrier before she finally began ripping things off the hangers and throwing them around her room. She did her best to keep the noise level down, finally grabbing a pillow from her bed to scream into it. She collapsed onto her bed sobbing as her heart broke.
Edmund leaned his head back against the window frame where he sat on the padded ledge. He could hear the noise in Susan's room as her anger took over. He closed his eyes, swallowing at the lump forming in his throat. He wanted, needed, to believe that Aslan had taken Lucy back to Narnia. He had to.
Even as he made his mind focus on that, he still wished he could see her one more time. He had left too many things unsaid. Even thought he had rarely left Lucy's side since she had fallen ill and went into the hospital, there were still so many things he hadn't told her. Maybe, like Peter, he had always held out hope that a miracle would occur.
But a miracle had, only it wasn't the miracle they had all wanted. Now there he sat, wishing he had just a little more time to tell her all he had wanted to. His heart broke as he realized he would never get that chance.
Lucy saw Aslan approaching in the mirror behind her. She smiled softly at the majestic lion, so glad that he was going to be in attendance on her wedding day. She only wished that she did not feel such sorrow. She loved Caspian. She adored that she was going to become one with him, but the feeling would not dissipate.
"You are troubled, dear one," Aslan said, using the pet name for her that he always had.
"I'm confused," Lucy said. "Today is a joyous day and yet I feel sorrow as well. An immense wave of sorrow overtakes me and I do not understand why. I thought I had dealt with these emotions already."
"One chapter is closing and another is beginning," Aslan said cryptically. "Come. There is something you must do before a new chapter can begin for you."
Edmund stared at his hands as they waited for the car that would pick them up and take them all to the church where Lucy's funeral would be held before she was taken to the cemetery. He was trying to hold onto the image that she was really in Narnia forever, not unmoving in a coffin that was to be placed into the ground. A tear slipped from his eye and slid down his cheek before he quickly dashed it away.
"I wish we could see her one last time," Peter said quietly. "Just to know that Aslan got her safely to Narnia..."
"Narnia doesn't exist," Susan snapped. "Aslan doesn't exist. It was nothing but a figment of our imaginations as children. Stop talking nonsense. Lucy's dead! If Aslan were real, he wouldn't have let her die. He failed her."
"Aslan never failed Lucy," Peter snapped back. "He loved Lucy. And Lucy loved Narnia. He took her to where she most wanted to be. She never stopped-."
"I never stopped believing and I never will."
Peter spun around as he heard her voice, Susan's jaw dropping. Edmund rose and looked, eyes wide at his sister who was a vision in white. As he studied her, he realized that she was not dressed as an angel, but an ethereal bride. A true Queen preparing to wed.
"Lucy," Peter whispered.
Lucy offered them a sad smile, yet joy also radiated from her face. "Do not be sad," she said. "For this is a most joyous day for me."
"Joyous?" Susan asked, incredulity slipping into her voice. "Joyous? We mourn you and you say it is joyous?"
"As you mourn me in this world," Lucy said. "I marry in another. Aslan knew I would need to see you this day. He has allowed me this one gift on my wedding day. To let me understand the sorrow I was feeling when I should be elated. And to let you see and understand that I truly am okay now. I am at peace, I am happy and I am where I belong."
"You belong here, with us," Susan said. She still stubbornly refused to believe, once again, in Narnia and all it stood for. She refused to believe that her sister, despite seeing her now, was in a place beyond preparing to be put into the cold, English ground where she would forever lay.
"I am where I belong," Lucy said firmly. "Regardless of what you believe, Susan, I was not going to survive what ailed me. Aslan knew that and he brought me home. Where I belong. Where I will be with the one I love and we are to be wed."
"Who?" Susan and Peter both asked as Edmund said: "Caspian."
"What? Caspian?" Susan asked as Peter frowned. He knew that Lucy had a crush on Caspian even shortly after returning the very last time he and Susan were in Narnia. And he knew, from what Edmund had said, that they had seemed closer the last time Edmund and Lucy had gone with Eustace, but...
"Yes," Lucy said, smiling. Edmund was not surprised, but Peter noticed that her smile was more radiant than the stars that shone in the sky. He could see the love in Lucy's eyes and knew that despite the potential for never seeing him again, Lucy's love hadn't diminished for Caspian over the years and had only grown.
"How much time passed?" Edmund asked.
"Aslan brought me to Narnia just moments after we would have left the last time. They were preparing to sail back to Ramandu's Island," Lucy said. "I was aboard the Dawn Treader."
"And now you are marrying Caspian," Edmund said, giving her a sad, but happy smile. "I wish we could see it."
Lucy moved towards her brother, reaching for his hands. "I wish that too," she admitted. "But please do not be sad for me. For today really is a joyous day."
"Not for us," Susan said bitterly.
"Susan, please," Lucy said.
"I understand why she is upset," Peter said. "I am glad you are happy and that you will find happiness and peace with Caspian. But you won't be here with us."
"Do not lose faith, Peter," Lucy said. "A day will come when we will be together again in Aslan's country and it will feel like but a day has passed."
"Narnia doesn't exist," Susan said. "Aslan doesn't!" Lucy's heart broke as her sister spun on a heel and quickly left the room, heading to join their grieving parents.
"She never did believe as much as you did," Peter said sadly. "Despite all that we saw and experienced."
"I fear for her," Lucy admitted. "That her words and actions will lead to her not being a friend of Narnia. I do not want to think that I'll never see her again."
Edmund brushed his knuckles against his sister's cheek. "You truly believe in Aslan's country?"
Lucy gave her brothers a beautiful smile. "Of course," she said. "To see me standing before you should show that. To see me in my wedding dress..." She squeezed Edmund's hand and reached for Peter's. "Promise me something."
"We can try," Peter said. He smiled when Lucy gave him a soft glare. "Of course."
"Remember this," she said. "Remember me like this, not the sickly creature you saw waste away before I finally joined Aslan and Caspian. Promise me that. Promise me that any tears you shed today are ones of joy for the journey I am about to embark on. Not tears of sadness because I am not here with you. We will be together again, I promise. It may be years for all of us, but it will seem like no time has passed when we see one another again."
Edmund's eyes filled with tears. "Luce..."
"Please," Lucy said quietly. "For me. As a wedding present."
Peter bit his lip, a sob wanting to release its hold on him. He cleared his throat a few times, his head lowered. When he lifted his head to look at her again, he gave his little sister a tremulous smile. "For you. As a wedding present."
Peter and Edmund looked over as Lucy turned. There stood Caspian, dressed in his full regal wedding attire.
"Aslan said it's time, my love," Caspian said, his eyes full of love and warmth for the youngest Pevensie.
Lucy felt tears forming. She gave Caspian a tremulous smile and a nod before turning to her brothers. Peter wrapped his arms around her, squeezing her close. He closed his eyes, wanting to give into the sorrow that was filling every inch of his body- but he had made a promise. He pulled back from the hug, looking over to Caspian as Edmund took Lucy into his arms.
"Promise me you'll take care of her," Peter said. "And love her."
Caspian offered his old friend a smile, extending his hand to him. "I will and I do," he said. They clasped forearms before Peter pulled Caspian into a hug as well.
"Thank you," he said quietly.
"Always," Caspian said. He nodded to Edmund, noting how he had grown and matured since Edmund last remembered them meeting. For Caspian, it was only a few short weeks.
"Remember," Lucy said. "No tears of sorrow. Only tears of joy."
"We wish you a long and happy life, Lu," Peter said, his voice thick with tears. "We'll meet you again."
"You better," Lucy said, laughing even as tears slipped onto her cheeks. "Don't ever forsake Aslan. Always remember him, teach your children about him. When it is time for you to come to Aslan's country..." She looked at Caspian. He put his arm around her and she leaned into his side before looking back at her brothers. "We'll be there. Waiting to welcome you home."
"Good-bye, Lucy, Caspian," Edmund whispered. "Until we meet again."
"We love you, Lu," Peter said quietly. "We'll always remember."
Lucy smiled at her brothers. Caspian bowed to the once Kings of Narnia before turning to lead his future wife back towards the light that separated their worlds. Pausing just before they entered it, Lucy turned back. She needed to see her brothers one more time. Giving them a radiant smile and a wave, she took Caspian's arm and left their world. Forever.
Caspian frowned as something pulled him from slumber. His hand moved to his left where his Queen should have been, but the bed was empty. Fully awake, Caspian sat up, expecting everything to have been a dream. He frowned when he saw the lace from Lucy's wedding veil draped over a nearby chair. At least that hadn't been a dream, nor had their wedding night. So where was his bride? He heard a soft swish of fabric coming from the balcony that looked out over the beach of Cair Paraval and he knew.
Lucy stood on the balcony, staring out into the night. Despite seeing her family, she still felt a slight hollowness at the knowledge that she wouldn't see them again for a very long time. Though perhaps it would only be a few weeks. She never knew how Narnia would compare to England.
"You seem very far away," Caspian said, breaking into Lucy's thoughts.
Lucy turned, smiling softly at her husband. As he wrapped strong arms around her, she melted into his embrace. "A little," she finally admitted. "I keep thinking about my family."
Caspian shifted his head, pressing a soft kiss to the skin of Lucy's bare shoulder before resting his chin in that same spot. "I am not surprised," he said. "I would have been surprised if you weren't thinking about them."
"It's my wedding night," Lucy said, a touch of embarrassment in her tone. "I should be thinking only of my new husband."
Caspian smiled softly before lifting his head and straightening. He shifted his body so he was able to look into his wife's lovely face. "My love, wedding night it may be, but the knowledge that you are forever gone to them is not an easy emotion to deal with," he said.
"Aslan said-," Lucy started to protest.
"I know." He was quick to reassure her. "But it could be some time before you are reunited and I worry that you will only be reunited with a scant few. You heard Aslan's words. That those who are friends of Narnia shall find its joys again."
"Susan," Lucy said quietly. "You mean Susan."
"Mmm," Caspian murmured. "Mostly her, yes. But anything can happen to make any of them stop believing in Narnia and are no longer its friend."
"Peter and Edmund would never stop believing," Lucy said firmly. Her vehemence brought a smile to Caspian's face.
"Then, my love, we shall see them again," he said. He took her hands and lifted them to his lips, pressing a lingering kiss as his love and need for her shone in his eyes.
"Come. It is our wedding night, after all." Lucy simply smiled and allowed her husband to lead her back to bed.
Edmund carefully made his way through the many headstones of the graveyard until he came to a fresh mound of dirt. As was typical in England, the weather was overcast. It felt like his entire life had been overcast since the day of Lucy's funeral when they had truly said good-bye to her. The weather had gone between a cold drizzle to pouring rain over the past week since her funeral had taken place. Each day he found himself heading towards this very spot, only to find some reason to not finish the journey.
Despite Edmund's promise to Lucy before she returned to Narnia one last time, he could not bring himself to celebrate her joy that day. Instead he had turned into himself to face the pain he felt. Only he hadn't dealt with it at all. He hadn't faced the pain. It was slowly consuming him. Many had said that a week wasn't quite long enough to deal with it, but he felt as if he were failing his sister by not living up to his promise.
"Lu, I am trying so hard to remember you are in a better place," Edmund said to the dirt. "I know you are. I saw you. I saw how much love you have for Caspian and he has for you. But I just..."
His breath hitched, but he pressed on.
"I left so many things unsaid between us," he said. "So many things. I never fully apologized for how I was to you when we were children. I never fully apologized for doubting you about Narnia. For doubting you ever. I wasn't worthy of you as a sister and I knew that. Yet I took too long to realize just what you were to me. To all of us. Now you're gone."
He knelt, his hand pressing down into the muddy earth covering Lucy's grave. The rain started to fall harder and it mingled with the tears now slipping down his cheeks.
"I love you, Lu," Edmund said. "No one could ever have a little sister like you and not love her. I am so sorry for being a git so often to you. I always promised myself I'd make it up to you, somehow, but I never expected to run out of time with you."
A slash of light appeared across Edmund's hand. He blinked a few times, flexing his fingers and felt the warmth. He shifted his head to look towards the sky. Warmth spread through him as he saw a cloud, shaped much like the head of a lion in full roar above him. The single ray of light that now warmed his hand came from its mouth. He watched, fascinated, as the cloud shifted, the lion's mouth looking as if it were closing and extinguishing the small ray of light as it did so.
A laugh escaped Edmund's throat as he shook his head. He looked back at Lucy's grave, his fingers flexing one more time in the muddy dirt. He moved and placed the single pink rose he had brought on top of the mound before straightening. The rain was starting to come down harder and soon his hand was free of the mud.
"See you soon, Lu."
Edmund turned, his hand clean and his heart open. For the first time since making his promise, he actually felt like he was the man his sister deserved as a brother. He made another promise to himself that he would see his sister again. And Caspian. Even if it took years to do so, he would see them again. He would make sure that when he had children, that they knew very well who Aslan was, what Narnia was all about, and most importantly all they could ever know about their aunt, Lucy the Valiant. Queen of Narnia.