"Sir," said Caspian, "I've always wanted to have just one glimpse of their world. Is that wrong?"
"You cannot want wrong things any more, now that you have died, my son," said Aslan.
"And you shall see their world - for five minutes of their time. It will take no longer for you to set things right there."
The Silver Chair, Chapter 16, "The Healing of Harms"
Caspian was glad to help Eustace and Jill thrash the bullies of their school.
Here he was, young again, with strength and vitality that he'd not felt in decades. He had wanted to be on a round world, their world, all his life and now here he was!
But he really couldn't appreciate the roundness in so short a time. Eustace used to taunt him that it really wasn't so remarkable but how could he know that when all Caspian had seen was an ugly building, prickly shrubbery, school children, and a dull autumnal moor. Yes, wrongs had been righted, but as one who was newly dead and feeling marvelous, spanking naughty children with the flat of his sword was not especially satisfying.
Amidst the sobbing children and hysterical woman, Aslan spoke a Word and the stone wall magically repaired itself, each piece fitting seamlessly with the other. The last stone sailed through the air, wedged itself in, and the commotion winked out, like a candle suddenly snuffed.
He was alone with Aslan and the birdsong. Caspian ran his fingers along the wall, marveling at how his hand was no longer heavily veined and frail with age, and hoped he might still sense something of the mysterious world on just the other side.
"My son?" Aslan said.
So strange that it had been so grayishly damp on that side and so brilliantly warm here.
"I know you said only five minutes, Aslan, to set things right there. And this we have done, yes?"
"Yes, Caspian, we have."
"You did say that now that I'm dead, I cannot want wrong things anymore."
"If that is meant to be a warning, I do not see how being dead is any different than being alive, for in both states, I should not want wrong things."
"Truly," Aslan replied. "I did not say this as a prohibition that works upon you now."
"As that is so…" Caspian took a breath and spoke of what was in his heart. "Five minutes was not enough."
"But five minutes is what you had."
"Yes, but five minutes where? I remember the stories about how time runs differently between there and here. Five minutes in Narnia or here in your country is not the same as in their world."
"I did say five minutes in their world," Aslan replied.
"You did, but it is also true that depending upon where and how it is measured, five minutes could be much longer in Peter's world."
Aslan rumbled and Caspian supposed that if he was alive, he would be frightened. "Sir, you say that as I am dead, the things I want cannot be wrong. Then I tell you what you surely know – for the good of Narnia I gave up what I selfishly wanted long ago. It is no longer wrong to want to be with Peter again."
"What if my High King does not wish the same?" Aslan said. "Perhaps he does not cherish the memory as you have?"
He hesitated. They had shared against the harsh, cold stone walls in the How and on a carpet of moss in the wood, had desperately silenced one another in a tent at the encampment, and tangled in silken sheets in the castle. Surely those searing moments were etched into Peter's memory and burned into his skin as they were into Caspian's. He wavered.
The advantage of having lived so long and now being dead was that Caspian trusted his judgment. He had done his duty. It wasn't wrong anymore.
"I want to know," Caspian said firmly. "I want to see Peter again. I want to be with Peter."
"For five minutes."
The way Aslan spoke, Caspian was not sure if it was a question. He would take whatever the Lion would give. "However that time is measured. But if it is only five minutes in their time, I assure you that your High King will be very disappointed. It would hardly be a reward for his loyal devotion to you."
"I suspect this style of argument is the result of your time with Edmund," Aslan said with growling harrumph.
And then Caspian was standing on a garden path in front of a yellow bricked cottage. He had to duck and step aside quickly, crushing a row of purple flowers in the process, to avoid a piece of toast that had just been spit out at him.
"Hello, Peter." Caspian dusted off crumbs and spittle he had not been able to dodge when his sudden arrival had coincided with High King Peter of Narnia biting into a piece of toast.
Peter stared, and that was enough to make Caspian flush again in the warmth of it.
It was as if it was yesterday, when they had been closeted in the How, only a few candles throwing off pale light, and the uncertain Is he? Does he? questions had been answered when Peter had shoved him up against the rocks and given him the rough kiss Caspian had ached for.
"You're not dead," Peter finally said, his eyes roving up and down in a hungry way that did not feel anything like simple curiosity.
"I am, but not here. How did you know?" He looked around. Where was he? This did not look anything like the back of the school he had left barely five minutes earlier. How much time did he have? "Did Eustace and Jill get word to you so quickly?"
"They did. Four years ago."
"It was but a few minutes for me, and…" A roar sounded behind him and Caspian jumped in surprise, crushing still more purple flowers. He whirled around and saw a big, hulking, shiny blue thing on wheels belch by in a cloud of smoke.
Then, a shadow overhead made him flinch and he thought immediately of dragons. But this thing didn't flap; it whirred and buzzed.
"A lorry," Peter said, pointing to the blue thing on the – it must be a road, though it was hard and gray, with no stones or dirt. "The smaller one behind it is an automobile and overhead, that's an aeroplane."
"They are wondrous! Surely this is magic?"
"Of a sort," Peter said. "It's called engineering."
"Good morning, Mrs. Walker!" Peter called, and waved at an elderly woman on the next path over. She had a cat under her arm and was staring at him with her mouth agape. "My cousin, Caspian, has just arrived and we've not seen each other in a very long time."
Caspian inclined his head in a bow. "Good morning to you, madam."
"And good morning to you!" Mrs. Walker waved back. "Where ever are you from to dress like that? It's almost medieval! Though it does like fine on you, young man!"
"Caspian is from Canada," Peter said, smiling, "Where they do dress very well. Caspian does look fine, though, unfortunately, not suitable for our climate. If you'll excuse us, Mrs. Walker, but I think Caspian needs to get out of those clothes."
"Definitely," Caspian agreed fervently. "I'm ravenous, as well."
"I have just the thing to stuff you with," Peter replied in a voice that was bland only to one who didn't know better, and Caspian did.
"I hope I won't be eating alone. That would be impolite."
Peter laughed and opened his arms wide. "It is good to see you again, cousin."
Caspian bowed farewell to Mrs. Walker, who commented on how very formal Canadians were. He followed Peter into the little house. Peter slammed the door, fiddled with the door handle – even door knobs were different! – and Caspian heard a click he assumed was a lock.
Peter closed the distance between them in one long stride and poked him, hard, in the chest. "You are real. Not dead. Flesh and bone."
Caspian took Peter's hand in his own, laced their fingers together, and pulled him closer.
"Yes, I am very much alive here. I am not sure how much time I have. Aslan said five minutes, which could be a very long time…"
"Or we may have already wasted all of it talking."
Then, they weren't talking anymore. Caspian wasn't sure who moved faster, or first, but they met in the middle and pulled each other to the floor. Peter's face scraped across his own and their first kiss was deep and brutal. Moans of pleasure mingled with little cries of breathless pain. Grinding together, there was barely any space between them to shove hands into each other's breeches – some wild, disconnected part of his mind remembered that Peter called them "trousers."
The floor was hard, just as Peter's body was against his own. Smooth planes and muscle did not yield but fought back. Gentleness might come later if there was time for a later. He remembered where to bite Peter to summon the groan that could split rock. Peter knew just how to scratch him to make his hips buck and shake.
His hand was wrapped around Peter's cock, Peter's hand was tight around his, and they frantically pumped one another, joined in perfect rhythm, just as before.
"If you leave now…" Peter moaned.
"Not leaving," Caspian gasped. "Coming. Staying."
And then it was over and they were lying in a tangle on the floor.
As always, Caspian stirred first. Peter was a lazy sot after sex.
"You promised me food."
"No, I said I would stuff you, which I intend to do, later."
"Sooner," Caspian said, resting his chin on Peter's still heaving chest. "I don't know when my five minutes will be up, so I hope you have some oil in the house."
Peter barked a soft huff of laughter and opened his eyes.
Peter raised his fingers to stroke Caspian's face. He captured the roving hand and kissed Peter's palm.
"As fast as that was, it's already been five minutes. So we don't know how long you do have now, do we?"
They shifted, trying to get comfortable amidst the scattered clothes.
"How did you come to be here? Eustace and Jill said you disappeared with Aslan behind the repaired wall."
"So it was. We were in his country, which is beautiful, I concede. Aslan had told me that now that I was dead, it was no longer wrong to want certain things; so I told him what I wanted and he sent me here."
Peter's mouth turned into a sly smile. "All the things to want and have and you choose this? Panting, groping sex on the parlor's oaken floors?"
"Insatiable, as you say." It hurt, and always would, but to Peter, he had to tell the truth. "I did love my wife. We were very happy for the time we had and ruled well together. Her death and Rilian's disappearance were devastating. But I lived with the nagging guilt of the wanting ever since you left. And then, it wasn't wrong anymore."
"I've always wondered at your judgment, Caspian." Peter spread his long, wonderful fingers through Caspian's hair and pulled him down for a long, lazy kiss that made him very optimistic of the next five minutes and many more after that. But Peter broke away with a sigh and his mood turned somber.
"What is it? What's wrong?" Caspian asked.
Caspian's heart sunk. He hadn't misjudged, had he? "What? But…"
"No, no," Peter said hurriedly. "I mean here. Two men together is considered wrong, illegal, even."
"But that's..." He floundered, shocked. "They can put aeroplanes in the sky but men having sex with each other is wrong?"
"It's extremely hypocritical, as it's rampant, but yes, what we just did could land us both in jail." Peter's eyes flitted about the tiny room. "Good thing the shades were drawn."
"We are Kings, Peter," Caspian said firmly. "I am dead. What we want is not wrong and if the problem is where we are, we'll just go somewhere else."
Caspian thought it was a very fine pronouncement. Peter, though, just laughed at him. "Caspian, do you have any idea where you are?"
Peter was mocking him, not too kindly. Caspian, though, knew just how to punitively deal with Peter at his most sardonic. He rolled over, straddled Peter between his legs and pinned his hands down over his head. Peter was nicely stretched out for Caspian's own enjoyment. He leaned over and whispered, "I am where I want to be, High King, and I'm not going anywhere until I have used up ever second of my five minutes on you."
Everyone was wonderful and Caspian embraced the Pevensies, Eustace, Jill, Professor Kirke, and Miss Plummer as the large, extended family he had never had before.
Still, even with all the support, it wasn't simple or easy. Caspian hadn't realized how very complex their world, England, was.
There were things he needed. They mostly seemed like needless, burdensome paper, but everyone nodded very gravely and convinced him they were important. There were things like an identity card, birth certificate, and passport, which Susan procured with a smiling, "Don't ask too many questions."
He became William Caspian, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He had to find work, which was hard, as there really wasn't much he could do in the middle of an English market town where Peter was sharing a tiny house with Professor Kirke – they'd been very fortunate the Professor had not come home unexpectedly that first day.
Everyone worked very hard, all the time. Peter was studying music and piano in London, teaching history and grammar at a local school, and trying to play at night in clubs and restaurants.
Their world was amazing. The variety of people, the strange food, the miracles of warm water and lights that didn't blow out in a breeze were all incredible. It all moved so much faster. It was often damp and dirty, though Caspian found curious beauty even in the brave, broken buildings and took to painting them often. The damage of the war was unbelievable, truly catastrophic in scope, and yet there was so much energy being expended to heal the wrongs. He didn't mind standing in the ever present lines, queuing they called it, but then Caspian hadn't been doing it the last six years, either.
Sharing so small a space with the Professor was difficult and they did feel they were a terrible imposition upon him. But there was very little housing to be had anywhere. Anything that might be safer, like the artists' villages in Cornwall, were too far for Peter's studies. Slowly, Caspian absorbed the fear Peter felt and it hung over them. The houses were squeezed next to one another – their cottage shared a wall with Mrs. Walker. Neighbors were very close by and, although kind, were also inquisitive. Every time they might relax, there would be a notice in the newspapers of some prosecution that reignited the fear.
After six months – and some unknown percentage of his allotted five minutes – Caspian decided that he really should see Canada as he was claiming to be from it. They'd also heard rumors that there were places in the Americas on the East and West Coasts that were more kindly to them, and had work and housing. So, Caspian would do reconnaissance and travel to the Americas -- places the war had not touched so profoundly. He would see Susan, who was doing something mysterious in New York and Washington, and Edmund, who was reading law in Boston. Once Peter completed school, they would tour as far as the trains and buses could take them.
The slow, cheap steamer across the Atlantic to Boston was glorious. Caspian had never thought he could sail the sea of a round world and it was everything he had hoped for. The Atlantic was wild and mysterious, the stars were unknown and exciting. He prowled one end of the ship to the other and found that, though the engines were a new thing to be learned, and the navigable waters unfamiliar to him, his own years as a seafarer served him very well. Within a week, he was a valued member of the crew and earning a seaman's pay. When he disembarked, with two job offers, a letter of recommendation, and free passage back to England, he knew that whatever his destiny was in this new world, it had to include the sea.
Three days after his arrival in Boston, he wired Peter – really, their modern communications were astonishing – Pack your music and my paints. Meet me in Provincetown.
By the time Peter arrived, Caspian was already working on the ferries between Boston and Provincetown, crewing aboard a fishing boat that sailed from the harbour, and selling his New England seaside watercolours to a local shopkeeper who was turning them into postcards to sell to the tourists. Edmund had located teaching and music gigs for Peter in Boston. Caspian rented a cottage from a couple who, given their own proclivities, obviously did not care a whit what he and Peter did with the mineral oil (and might ask to use some if they ran out).
"It's perfect, isn't it?" Caspian whispered on their first night as he pulled a spent, sweaty, exhausted Peter into his arms. As much as he loved Peter for his sharp humours and sharper edges, there's was nothing like a thorough fucking to sand away all his roughness.
Peter managed to nod into his chest. "Much bigger bed, too," he finally said.
"Our landlords have been very accommodating. They are looking for a piano for you and own a club in town they want you to play at. They didn't complain when I took down the wall clock."
"Still no timepieces?" Peter asked.
"You won't even find an egg timer in the kitchen."
"Especially not an egg timer," Peter replied. "Though, we probably should get at least one alarm clock."
The five minute countdown ran for another 3 years. Caspian became complacent enough to permit an egg timer in the kitchen and Peter would wear a wristwatch. There was the sea, music, painting, teaching, work, family nearby, and a community that welcomed them.
The nightmares began one night, just as the Nor'easter was blowing itself out.
He woke up in blackness, screaming.
"Caspian!" Slowly, painfully, he was able to follow Peter's voice out of the terrifying dream.
"What happened? What was it?"
Their shrill telephone started ringing.
"Better take that call," Caspian gasped, waving Peter out of the bed. "It could be Edmund or Susan."
"With the same dream?"
Caspian nodded. "Go. I will be fine." He pulled a blanket closer. He was freezing and the rain was still beating hard against the windows.
Peter hurried to the phone. Caspian couldn't hear who it was, but at this hour, and the timing, there weren't many other options.
"It was Edmund," Peter said, coming back a few moments later with another blanket. "I told him we would call him back once you told me what happened. It must have been about Narnia?"
Peter climbed back into the bed and Caspian let himself be cozened a little, gratefully accepting the warm blanket and Peter's warmer body.
"I saw my wife's family, Peter. The Stars. They were all falling from the sky. They were dying. Something is wrong in Narnia. Something is terribly wrong."
It was all a sleep-deprived rush after that – more nightmares – they all had at least one. Susan finagled emergency airplane tickets for the four of them and they were back in London within the week.
Caspian wasn't at the dinner when the apparition appeared. He had been trying to talk to Susan and smooth over her terrible row with Peter over what to do about what they all felt was a crisis in Narnia.
"I am through with this, Caspian!" Susan said angrily. "I know what Peter is going to try to do and he shouldn't. If you're being here isn't proof enough of Aslan's power to bring us to Narnia if he wills it, than nothing is. He has to let it go and he's an absolute cad to judge me for thinking he's wrong when I'm the one who is putting her faith in Aslan."
Something in Susan's purse began to beep. Caspian knew better than to ask, for Susan never explained. She thrust her hand into her bag and muted the sound. "I have to go. Peter will listen to you, Caspian. Tell him to trust in Aslan and to forget whatever it is he thinks he'll be able to do."
Caspian joined the others at the house. Ominously, the tale and the plan were all just as Susan had predicted.
"He had a Narnian look," Peter said of the apparition. "He reminded me a little of you. Perhaps he was the King? One of your descendants?"
"If he truly was a ghost, that means he is dead here," Caspian pointed out. "So, perhaps he wasn't Narnian at all."
No one accepted his twisted logic. Caspian wished Peter did not sound so enthusiastic about their plan. Seeing over and over the death of Narnia in his dreams was a terrible reminder that he was also dead. If his five minutes here were measured in Narnia time, surely the death of Narnia meant that time would finally run down. Before they went to bed, he wrapped the nightstand alarm clock in a towel and shut it away in the closet.
Susan probably had the right of it, but he said nothing and tried to quell the nagging doubts. If Aslan wanted someone to come help, he would summon them. On the other hand, Caspian desperately hoped that Eustace and Jill could save Narnia from the terrible fate he was seeing for, perhaps, that would stop his five minute countdown. So he joined in the plan and dutifully helped Peter and Edmund with their caper. It seemed he was surrounded everywhere by synchronized wristwatches, chiming bell towers, and railway timetables.
Their theft of the rings succeeded and now, finally, they would transfer the rings to Eustace and Jill. Caspian wanted nothing to do with the rings. He didn't even want to see them when Peter eagerly showed him the box. Putting a ring on meant death. Here, in this world, with Peter, he was alive.
On the train platform, with Edmund and Peter, he stared at the station clock, willing the hands to stop moving. Five past the hour was always the worst. He turned away just as a whistle sounded.
"Is that their train?" Caspian asked.
Edmund looked up from his paper and squinted at the fast moving train coming towards them. "Yes, it's the 005 to Bristol."
"I say, that train doesn't look like it intends to stop, does it?" Peter said.
Reaching out, he clasped Peter's hand firmly in his own. With a scowl, Peter tried to pull away. "Not here..."
He didn't need to look at the clock or Peter's wristwatch. He knew. "Our five minutes is up, Peter. Good-bye."
Caspian felt a hard jolt and heard the roar of the Lion.