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The Uneasy Path

Chapter Text

***

There are always two choices. Two paths to take. One is easy. And its only reward is that it's easy.
Author Unknown

***

"Well, have your way. The quest is ended. We all return. Get the boat up again."

"Sire," said Reepicheep, "we do not all return. I, as I explained before–"

"Silence!" thundered Caspian. "I've been lessoned, but I'll not be baited. Will no one silence that Mouse?"

"Your Majesty promised," said Reepicheep, "to be good lord to the Talking Beasts of Narnia."

"Talking beasts, yes," said Caspian. "I said nothing about beasts that never stop talking." And he flung down the ladder in a temper and went into the cabin, slamming the door.

- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Chapter One: What Happened In Caspian's Cabin

It was not long before he realized he was not alone and looked up to see golden fur and sad eyes looking down at him. And later he would think the room could not have been large enough to hold Aslan, but he fit well enough for all that anyway.

"Caspian," said the familiar, horrible, wonderful voice in a rumble, "what troubles you?"

And Caspian looked into his eyes and was certain that Aslan already knew the answer, even as he replied, heavily, "They will leave, won't they? Go back to their world, and leave me behind."

"Perhaps. Is that truly," he asked as he padded closer, "what you fear, Son of Adam?"

"Of course!" the king answered immediately, and then, because Aslan was looking at him and Caspian found he could not lie to himself, much less the Lion, he whispered, "…No."

"And what is it?"

"That she will leave," Caspian said softly. "She will, won't she?"

The Great Beast was silent for a moment before answering, and His voice was gentle when He finally did. "She has her own world, Caspian. And soon—far sooner than even she realizes, for this has been a long journey, and she has aged along with the rest of you on it—she will be too old for traveling between that and this."

Caspian nodded and buried his face in his hands and thought his heart would break.

"Why do I love her, if I cannot have her?" Why do you let me?

Aslan sat before him, tail swishing slowly, for a moment. And then he said, still gently and not answering the question yet, "You could grow to be happy with the daughter of Ramandu."

He could not bring himself to look up. "But would I forget Lucy?"

"No," the Lion said, with sympathy but without apology. "You will never forget her."

And the king of Narnia thought he would weep. "Then what good does any of it do?!"

"Peace, Caspian," rumbled the voice a little sternly, before it said again more gently, "peace." His tone was such that Caspian did look up, finally, both a little ashamed and a little surprised, for there was true sorrow in the voice like summer.

"She need not leave."

"But—but you said…"

"Walk with me, Son of Adam," and, though he would never be sure how it happened, Caspian found them both on the grass near Aslan's How back in Narnia, his arm on Aslan's back.

"Are you calmer now?"

"A little," he said slowly, and the Lion and the Son of Adam walked for a moment in silence.

"She is too old," and the sorrow was back again, "to travel back and forth. If she is to live in her world, she must learn the ways of her world. And to some extent, though she will never forget, she must put Narnia aside and learn to live as the women in her world do." And the Lion wept a tear, thinking, though Caspian would never know it, of another girl, one with dark hair, who put Narnia so far aside she forgot it all together.

"But she may stay, and return with you to Narnia," he continued, causing Caspian's heart to leap into his chest. "But only she may, for her brother and cousin have roles still to play before the last day ends. And if she does, she will not return to England. She is a Daughter of Eve, and your kind is made to live in one place, under one set of laws."

Caspian blinked. "But—but her family…"

"One world," softly, "not two. They will think her gone and taken, and hope for her return, those who do not know of this place. And then they will hope a little less, and then they will learn to mourn."

"You can't ask her to choose that," he said finally. "It's not fair."

"None of it," Aslan answered with a hint of a growl to His voice, though it was still mostly gentle, "is fair, Caspian. And does she not have the right to make her own choice?"

Caspian stared back at the gold eyes before saying, finally "You're not going to tell her, are you? I'm the one who has to."

"None of it," again, and the eyes that looked back at him were sad, "is fair."

They came to a stop at the edge of the trees, and Caspian tried to think. "Would she—would she be happier there? In England?"

"Son of Adam. That is," Aslan said, "part of her story. No one is ever told any story but their own."

Caspian demanded, feeling far beyond frustrated, "But how can I ask her that?"

"Then don't," was the answer, which was given to him simply, "and let her sail with the Mouse and her family. Or ask her and let her decide her own fate."

It was a long minute before Caspian nodded without saying another word and Aslan leaned over to gently breathe on him.

And then the Lion was gone and Caspian was sitting on the bunk again.

He was unsure how much time passed before he stood, face wet with tears, and went out to the deck again. Caspian stood and looked at his crew and his friends, and then he looked at Lucy, who was looking back at him anxiously. One moment was spent debating within himself before he was moving, going over and extending one hand to her.

"Milady," Caspian said slowly, taking a deep breath, "there is something we must discuss."

Chapter Text

***
Love is everything it's cracked up to be. That's why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more.
Erica Jong

***

Chapter Two: Lucy and Caspian Discuss the Choice

Lucy the Valiant was not feeling very valiant at the moment; uncertainty and mild concern had filled her instead from the moment he'd spoken to her on the deck.

Caspian had brought her into the room with him, his hand warm in hers, only to pull away once the door shut and fix his eyes on the blanket Lucy had left unfolded, on the carvings of the sea chest—on anything, it seemed, but Lucy herself. She had blinked, confused and worried and slightly hurt, but before she had opened her mouth Caspian had said, "Wait—wait. I need a minute, Lu. Please," in a voice that shook more than it had out on the deck when he'd asked her to come in and talk with him.

Lucy had bitten her lip and nodded, having nothing to do but watch him as he sat on the bunk and buried his face into his hands. And she had waited, but nothing came, not even after she had shifted the blanket a bit and settled next to him on the bed. She had reached for one of his hands, tried to pull it away and hold in her own, and she had been stunned when Caspian had resisted.

It had been a small thing, not even pulling away; his hand had simply not moved, where normally it slipped easily and eagerly into Lucy's own at the slightest of touches. It had been enough to make Lucy pull her own hand away as if she'd touched an iron scarlet with heat, and her concern grew, gnawing at her stomach as she rested her head on her knees and watched her friend. Something important was happening, though she couldn't quite pit her finger on what it was, and she was a bit afraid, Lucy realized, of what he might say, and suddenly it seemed like far too long a time was passing as they sat in silence.

And then it was just a moment again, and a different one came after it. Lucy licked her lips once without realizing it before saying, quietly, "Caspian," as her fingers traced the seams on the bunk's blanket. "You're worrying me." She did not say, Please, stop, but the tone held the request the words lacked.

He looked up at her soft statement, and his face was filled with a fear that shocked her, so unexpected it was, and even as her worry increased her confusion surpassed it. "Oh, Lu—Lu, I'm sorry, I am," and then both of his hands were pulling Lucy to him. She closed her eyes at his movement, not wanting him to see how grateful she was that he pulled her to him instead of resisting her touch again. For Lucy, touching those she cared for was second-nature; her hand in Aslan's mane, or on Edmund's shoulder, or Caspian's hand in her own, fingers twined together, brought as much comfort to her as anything else might.

After a brief hesitation Caspian guided Lucy's head to his shoulder, and his arms slipped as tightly around her as if on their own they could keep her in Narnia if only they were strong enough. His thoughts felt so numerous as to be overwhelming, and he had no idea where to begin. It made him feel something unnervingly close to despair when he thought on never holding her so again; at the same time, it took more effort than he wished to keep his mind from thinking on how he might hold her in a few years should she stay.

Caspian also found that he was a bit more afraid than he’d like to have admitted, which made him a bit angry at himself as well. He feared wanting Lucy too much to be fair to her, putting a choice before her that she should never have to make, and he feared the silence that would bring a farewell with it.

It would be easy, so very easy, to just say nothing. To say only that he'd miss her, as he'd miss them all, to say that they, she and Reepicheep and her family, should go on. Painful as a sword in his side, oh yes, but still easy; the fear said that it was better to bear the pain of loss himself alone than put it on the shoulders of a lady who loved her family. Better to dream of lost love, perhaps, than to have the knowledge of love unrequited, part of him thought. It was so much, too much, and the fear was so strong that he opened his mouth, ready to break his heart, before his eyes fell on the carving of the Lion that graced the cabin's walls.

Time had seemed to stop for Lucy upon entering the cabin, a moment that stretched into eternity of fear and concern and distance. Now it was Caspian who felt as if the sun had stopped moving, all life held still. He did not suddenly lose all fear, nor did he gain any certainty that all would turn out as he'd have it, and the possibilities kept racing through his mind over and over as if they were mice (the stupid, normal sort in our world, not the Talking sort like Reepicheep that Narnia has) and his mind was a wheel.

But with all the fears and questions, Caspian realized, there was something else. The fear was so great that he felt as if he were made of it, his heart and mind covered by dark, swirling clouds such as those that surrounded the horrible island where dreams became real. But there was something else, small and nearly hidden and drowned out, that began to make itself known in his mind. It was something that demanded attention, small as it was, as much as the fears howled for it. Caspian was momentarily reminded of moving into light after escaping that hellish island where nightmares became real.

The small part of his brain that wasn't torn up with the fears reminded him of walking with Aslan, and he felt a warmth, as warm as Aslan's breath had been, spread through his chest, bringing calm with it. Caspian's gaze began to take in Lucy, and it occurred to him that saying nothing would not spare Lucy the pain of parting from something—from people, for she loved all the crew—that she loved, just change for certain who she parted from. And that was enough, and suddenly the part of him that was focused on the calm, on the memory of Aslan's breath, and on the chance that Lucy might say, "Yes," was louder than the fear.

It was the part of him that noticed, despite the voice whispering so many things in his mind (whispering that she would never be his queen, that she'd never leave her family or a round world for a Telmarine king) that Lucy was warm and soft, yet strong, in his arms.

Caspian breathed out and felt like time had begun again as he let one hand start to gently stroke Lucy's hair in a soothing manner, noticed that somehow Lucy managed to smell like rose and lavender as much as the sweat and salt and dirt that all the crew lived with, and smiled a very small amount as she looked at him with her concerned gaze. "I am sorry, milady," he repeated, far more softly than he had before, and he began to let the words flow as they would, worrying less about finding the correct ones and more about being as truthful with Lucy as she had always been with him. "I have been—you do know, Lucy, that I should never choose to hurt you, do you not? That I'd never wish anything on you but blessings and that I'd cut off my own arm before hurting you? You do know that?"

There was a something that Lucy could not identify in his voice that made her bite her lip for a moment, but Caspian seemed calmer than he had yet since they entered the room. And it was an easy question, one she didn't require even a moment to think on. Lucy spoke a bit slowly, but only because she was searching his face for the cause of what was going on, studying his eyes and wondering at the emotions flitting across them. (Wondering about something else that she couldn't let herself think, for it would only hurt. We never stay.) "I know that, Caspian. Of course I know it. Why would you need to ever ask? Tell me what's wrong? Please? I promise," and her tone became teasing as her right hand rose towards his shoulder, "that I shan't be cross with you, if you're afraid I shall yell."

Her fingertips rested lightly on the fabric of his tunic, worn thin enough from so many washings that Lucy could feel the heat of his skin through the light touch. She felt herself flush and realized that she was noticing how blue his eyes were and how his stubble had grown through the day. For a moment, she considered pulling her hand back, but Caspian’s hand covering her own stopped the action before it started.

He smiled, a little, and replied, "Well, you are rather frightening when you're cross." The words were teasing, but the tone was just barely wrong, somehow a bit off and not right. Lucy could do nothing but watch him as he lifted her hand away and held it firmly in his own.

Silence filled the cabin, but it was brief this time before Lucy said, very simply, "Tell me."

Caspian took one slow breath and thought on oceans of shadows and one speck of light, of the feel of Lucy's palm, and inclined his head in a nod. “Lucy, I—you love it here, do you not?”

She blinked once, sure she’d heard him incorrectly, for it was a question she couldn’t imagine anyone ever needing to ask. “Of course I do,” Lucy answered, her tone a little more deliberately patient in a way that made Caspian inwardly wince.

“Well, I—that is—you can stay,” he blurted out, finally, inelegantly, and watched as Lucy’s eyes widened. He was sure, certain, that he looked like an idiot, but he couldn’t stop the words from rushing out now that he’d started. “If you like. Stay in Narnia this time, instead of leaving, stay for good. You could go back with us and be Queen again, like you should be.”

Lucy simply stared for a moment before delight crossed her face. “Oh, Caspian, can we? That would be wonderful—it’s all we’ve wanted, any of us, since—and Edmund’s lonely in school, even when he won’t admit it to anyone but Peter—“ And then she stopped, the look on Caspian’s face making her heart sink without yet knowing the reason. “…Caspian?”

And again, the carvings on the wall held his attention instead of her face. “You, Lucy,” he said finally, voice soft and carefully even. “You may stay. But only you.” He glanced at her for a moment, and he expression made him look at the Lion on the wall again. “Edmund—Aslan was here. He and I spoke, and I said—I said lots of things, but I told him that the thought…the thought of losing you was breaking my heart more than aught else.”

Lucy sucked in a swift breath, feeling as if a ravine had suddenly been dropped between her and Caspian, or an unfamiliar river that she didn’t yet know how to approach. “Caspian—“

“He said you could stay,” he cut her off, desperate to get it all out now that he’d committed himself to saying it. “But Edmund and Eustace—they can’t. They have things to do, he said, but—but you don’t. Not where you need to be in England, I mean. ”

He finished, wondering if he'd just managed to insult her, and was met with silence. When he could bring himself to look at Lucy again—Caspian’s heart broke at the look on her face, the way she looked more torn than he could imagine feeling, and suddenly he was horribly afraid he’d made the wrong choice in telling her. “You would be Queen,” he said after a moment, slowly and uncertainly, eyes now as fixed on her face as they had previously avoided it. “I—we could work as you and your siblings did, if you’d like. I would be King, and you Queen.”

Lucy’s mind whirled and raced with too many thoughts, too many protests, too many hopes, and now her eyes were the ones drifting all over the room, as if she thought she’d find the answer hidden behind an object or in a shadow. Despite that, she could not keep herself from saying evenly, “And your wife would be so fond to be mere consort, I am sure.”

Caspian winced at that, though he tried to get her to meet his eyes again. “I have no plans to wed any time soon,” he said quietly, and meant it.

“Really? I think Ramandu’s daughter would be surprised to hear that.”

At that, his eyes widened, so unexpected was the remark. “Lucy, are you jealous?”

“I’m—no, I’m—oh God,” she said helplessly, finally, and buried her face in her hands. It was then Caspian realized she was overwhelmed and near tears, and immediately he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close.

She wept for a bit, and he held her silently until she spoke again. “No. And yes. I don’t know. I’m—I can't think on anything of this, it feels like! I’ve never thought to have this offered, and to be in Narnia again is all I want, all I desire, but I—how can I leave my family? What would happen there?” she asked, suddenly, lifting her face to look at him.

Caspian closed his eyes for a moment and then forced himself to answer. “Aslan said—he said that obviously your siblings would know the truth, but anyone else—they would think you kidnapped or such, and eventually…” But he couldn’t bring himself to finish the sentence.

It was enough, though, and Lucy closed her eyes to keep more tears from falling. “Oh, my father—my mother—how could—Caspian, what kind of person would it make me to do that to them? To Ed, to Peter and Susan? How horrid would I be?”

“Not at all,” he answered, voice fierce enough to surprise them both. “You’re never horrid. You’re Lucy, and you’re loving, and you worry entirely too much about other people and too little about yourself, and you have the right to choose your own world and life. Aslan would not offer the choice if it were wrong, Lucy. He would not let you stay if it would be horrid. He couldn’t.”

Silence fell again, but this time Lucy only held herself, arms tightly holding herself as if to ward off the decision and pain as one could cold. “And yet,” she whispered, finally, looking at the deck beneath her boots.

After minutes where neither moved, she looked at him again. “What—we would be like siblings, then, as rulers?” Lucy inquired, eyes unreadable.

And here Caspian could do nothing but breathe initially, afraid to say the wrong thing, afraid of hurting her. He reached for her hand, holding it tightly, and then answered. “You would be Queen, and I King. But I don’t—I shan’t ever be able to think of you a sister, Lu. I’m sure of that. I’ll love you and protect you as your brothers would have you protected, but—“ He smiled, then, and shook his head a little when he saw how surprised she looked. “We would be friends and kin. Unless—if ever you should wish to change that, when time was right—well,” he finished lamely, “we could.”

“Oh,” she breathed, and this time when she looked at him it was with realization in her eyes. (It was also with a rather unnerved expression, the sight of which made Caspian's heart sink. “Oh, Caspian.”

And he found he could do nothing but shrug and wait for her to say more.

Lucy asked uncertainly, “Would—is Ramandu’s daughter to return to Narnia with you?”

His heart sunk a little at her saying you instead of us, but he knew it was foolish to expect her to decide instantly either way. “If she wants to,” Caspian said simply. “But as a free woman and on her own desires for Narnia.” Not for me. If—if Lucy should choose to go back with him, he realized, and yet never sought romance with him, then it would break his heart. But Aslan never said that the chance for Lucy to stay depended on her love for Caspian, and he would never be so cruel as to think it did. But he could not bring himself to think of romance with any other, even the Star’s daughter in the near future. Not even if Lucy left.

“Oh.” Lucy rubbed at her eyes for a minute before whispering, “You know me so little, though. No,” she cut him off when his mouth opened to protest this, “it’s true. Or it is in some ways. My Narnia was less tame than the one you know now, and I was not just a fairy tale queen. I may not rule as you would. I may not agree with you in all things.” She was rambling, and she knew it, but the choice before her was so overwhelming her mind kept jumping from one point to another, fixating on tiny details instead of the whole.

“Then we discuss until we reach agreement,” Caspian answered, and let himself hope a little that her even thinking about this was a good sign, while also being concerned at how disjointed and unconnected the conversation seemed to be. Though he could not, he knew, fault Lucy for handling it so; he was all too aware that if he were in her place he'd have no better handle on his thoughts. The last few minutes alone had been hard enough, and all he had to decide on was asking the question.

She had to decide the answer.

Lucy nodded once, twice, and then pinched the bridge of her nose. A sigh that seemed to come from her toes was followed with a murmured, “Must—must I decide now?”

He breathed out, realizing again how tired she looked, how lost, and leaned over to press a chaste kiss to her crown. “No,” he answered, for Aslan had said nothing on the subject. “We can stay here for weeks if you need it.”

Her smile was wry. “No. You couldn’t. But I shan’t take weeks anyway. I—I need to think, Caspian,” she managed, and stood, forcing herself not to pace. “I need to talk to Edmund,” Lucy finished, softly, and dreaded the thought.

Caspian was human enough to be a bit disappointed, and yet he loved her all the more to realize that for Lucy the decision had as much to do with those she loved as it did for what she would long for the most herself—whatever it was she chose. “Of course,” he answered. “I will join the men and tell them—I’ll tell them I spoke with Aslan. And that for the moment we wait. And I’ll send him in here to speak with you.”

Lucy nodded and then looked at him, truly looked at him, as if she could see all he was—good and bad—and Caspian caught his breath to feel the—the strength, the power, almost, of that glance. “Thank you, my friend,” she whispered, and then glanced at the floor for a moment before looking up again. “I—Caspian…thank you for this, too. For asking me at all, I mean,” Lucy finished, and a weight lifted off Caspian’s chest.

If nothing else, he had given her the choice. And she had not condemned him for putting it before her.

It was something, and it was enough for him to give her a smile, one that was small and sad and a bit crooked. He leaned down to kiss her again, this time on the forehead, and whispered, “How could I not, lady? To do otherwise would be to decide for you, and I am not such a fool as to risk that.” It brought a tiny smile to her face, as he'd hoped, and he stepped backwards. “I’ll send him to you.

As Caspian stepped back out onto the deck and sought out Edmund’s gaze from among all those that had fixed on him, he felt both a surge of relief and a twisting, sick feeling in his stomach. The relief came from the fact that he'd brought himself to at least ask, that at least he would not think himself a coward and wonder, What if? in his years to come, and that she was considering it.

The sick feeling, however, came because Caspian suddenly had the strong suspicion, as he walked towards the Just King, that Edmund would not thank him for this as Lucy had.

Chapter Text

***

"A Brother may not be a Friend,
but a Friend will always be a Brother."
Benjamin Franklin

***

This was not how it was supposed to happen.

 

For a moment,Caspian felt that deep within the marrow of his bones as he watched the door to the cabin that had been his and had been Lucy's and now would be someone's again and--

 

Oh.

 

Edmund's face looked as if it had been carved from stone; only his eyes, when they landed upon Caspian, gave a hint of the emotions the younger man was keeping held tightly within himself.

 

And Caspian knew that he had been right, and that Edmund might never forgive him for what he had done in the past half of an hour. (And yet—and yet,when the door closed behind Edmund without Lucy following him out, Caspian's heart skipped a beat. This had to be dealt with, first—if it could be, to any extent it could be—but then—but then he would see Lucy in the cabin that seemed to be hers for at least a while more. Or so he hoped, even knowing from holding Edmund's gaze that the hope might be shameful.)

 

Caspian was still as Edmund walked towards him, a little surprised to find he was almost frightened of the elder king. For that, he saw clearly,was what the man before him was; the younger man Edmund his friend was not present on the deck. King Edmund the Just, however, brother of Lucy the Valiant and second to the High King, was, and Caspian dropped his eyes a bit when the shorter, younger, elder man stopped in front of him. The silence that followed when the leather boots stopped sliding on the wooden deck felt thick and heavy, even as Caspian was logically aware that the waves were rocking against the ships' sides same as ever, that there were all the creaks and groans and distant murmurs that had come to be merely background after months of this small place being home.

 

It was Edmund who broke the silence first, voice low and even and saying only, “Walk with me.”

 

Caspian was not sure if it was a request or a command, but he knew he'd obey either, and so he only nodded and followed his king as the latter led him up to the crow's nest. It was cramped—just barely big enough for both of them, and not even Reepicheep could have fit in as a third if needed—and it was as close to privacy as one could get beyond in the Queen's Cabin. (And oh,Caspian realized, again, that he had come to think of it as that, and the hope that was warring with guilt in his stomach made its presence known all over again.)

 

Edmund seemed to be in no hurry to talk, only gazing out at the sea, and Caspian found himself wishing to fidget, to start to say something,anything, to apologize—and yet, he knew not what to say.

 

And so he waited for a while, eyes on the king whose eyes were staring at the waves towards the east. He waited until he could bear it not more, and then Caspian whispered, “If I must beg your pardon, King Edmund, I would—I would do so before you leave. I would have us part as—“ And he stopped, not sure how to follow that.

 

Edmund, however,smiled grimly, and Caspian's heart began to ache. “As brothers? Aye, well, I suppose odds are equally good we'll end up that no matter what as that we'll not. Though should events play out that brothers we are, I doubt I'll be there to greet you as such.” His tone was carefully low and nothing else, not bitter, but his shoulders were tense and his eyes—Caspian had to shift to see them,and he resisted sucking in a breath to see the pain held within.

 

“Edmund—“


“Oh,I doubt she even is letting herself think of the possibility now. Or won't admit it. Bloody stubborn woman never would forgive herself if she stayed for just a man.” His lips quirk into an unhappy smile. “Even a king. Oh, aye,” he added, a bit bluntly, finally turning to look at Caspian. “The Queen Lucy has decided to return to the Cair where once she was châtelaine and to the throne she sat on as Queen and Empress. And you will remember that she is so,” Edmund finished, his voice a slight hiss.

 

Suddenly Caspian realized that if it had actually come to a fight on Deathwater Island that he might very well have not walked away without help of Lucy's cordial. This was an ancient king being exiled from his land as his sister-queen was allowed to stay; this was a brother being forced to accept that he'd have to deliver home to the rest of the family the news of his sister's disappearance, knowing his parents would think it her death.

 

And he ached inside, realizing that he was at least as responsible for the choice Lucy had made as Lucy herself. And so he swallowed hard before saying helplessly, “I will, Ed—my lord. I promise I shall. She is not second to me, nor should I ever think it so. If anything, I owe her my fealty.”

 

Edmund snorted, then, and it was a bit more of Edmund his friend, if still an angry and hurting one. “Right, Lu'll bloody well accept that. She's not,” and it was sudden, almost, as Edmund looked more sharply at him, “staying because of you.” Caspian must not have controlled his face as well as he thought, for Edmund gave a tired sort of laugh. “Oh, I know you care for her. She's too young for you, but she's also too old, and she's well aware of it. And as I said, I believe I see more of what is likely to happen here than she does. She is my sister,” and here there was nothing but grief on Edmund's face, even as his voice continued even as ever. “I think I know her better than anyone else but Aslan, and sometimes better than she knows herself. She loves you, but she doesn't know how yet. And she's afraid to love you and let you love her beyond in friendship. Perhaps you'll convince her, perhaps you won't; I'll place my bets, but even so I'm well aware Lucy has ever been her own woman.” And then he sighed and looked so tired that Caspian could not help but reach out and rest a hand hesitantly on his friend's shoulder.

 

Edmund stilled, a little, but he did not move away from the touch; Caspian chose to believe this had nothing to do with the small amount of room either of them could move about in. “She is staying,” the Just King continued,softly, his eyes now staring longingly towards the West as if he could see the shores by Cair Paravel itself if he looked long enough,“for Aslan and Narnia. And I am not so cruel as to remind her of duty elsewhere, even if—“ Edmund's jaw worked once, slowly, and Caspian feared what might have been said in the cabin below them.

 

“--She has made her choice. She shall stay. Eustace and I shall go on with Reepicheep, and—and I think I, at least, shall never come back.” Aslan had not spoken to Edmund, but he could feel the age settling on him. He had glanced one too many times in the water and seen his face and eyes look too much like Peter's and their father's to not know that he was also too old to travel back and forth between worlds.

 

It was, perhaps,the only thing that made him able to leave that cabin and shut the door behind him, even after—after Lucy had—no. He wouldn't think on it; what was done was done, and things could not be unsaid. Especially as they had been true.

 

“If you ever hurt her,” Edmund said finally, evenly, “I will make you suffer for it. Come what may and hell to pay, I will find a way, Caspian. Do you understand?”

The older man's temper flared, for a moment, and he felt himself start to stiffen, was ready to open his mouth with a retort and--

 

And he saw more clearly than ever how weighted down Edmund's very shoulders were with grief, with the weight of the tasks before him, and he swallowed hard. “I swear to you, my lord and king,” Caspian whispered instead, “that I should rather die myself than be the cause of any pain to her.”

 

Silence fell between them again before Edmund nodded once, briefly, and turned the half-way about needed to face the other man straight on. “You are her family now, whatever role she may choose for you to fill.” The words were true, and yet Caspian's heart felt cold, a bit, realizing that Edmund had been honest with him; they might likely marry, for all sorts of reasons, and it was equally likely that he'd watch her grow old alone or marry another and never be aught but something like brother and kin to her.

 

Caspian reminded himself, though, that she was staying, and all else could wait. He could wait. As long as he needed to or forever, if needed, and now there was a chance.

 

And he reminded himself, as he slowly reached out to clasp his brother-king's arm, of the cost of that chance. “I did not wish this pain for you, my king,” he whispered, and Edmund allowed himself to smile a little, sadly, and lean in enough to return the embrace. (For, in Narnia, one of the lovely things is that when you need to beheld, to be hugged, by someone you love, none will think the less of you or mock you for doing so, even if you should be young men holding each other. Narnians do not fear showing their friends that they love them in all ways, and they do not stop for fear of others thinking the love might be that of lovers rather than friends. They do not fear love at all, really, and know well it comes in all forms.)

 

“I know,brother,” Edmund whispered back, once, and then turned away to begin the climb down to the deck.

 

And it was time,then, Caspian realized. Edmund slowly approached the bewildered Eustace and the Mouse who looked both sad and wise, and Caspian breathed slowly as he moved toward the door of the Queen's Cabin to knock upon it.

 

It was time for the King, his cousin, and the knight to say farewell to their friends and their Queen.

Chapter Text

***

"Such parting break the heart they fondly hope to heal."
Lord Byron


***

Chapter Four: The Parting at the Edge of the Sea
None of the crew spoke of it often, though they would have had a hard time explaining why, if asked. There was something more than solemn about those minutes on the deck, something less than sacred; significant, certainly, but more than that, too. It was as if the sea itself observed the parting of King Caspian, the Queen and her Brother-King, her cousin, and the Mouse.

What was said amongst them was heard by few, though more could see their expressions; Drinian alone was able to hear all of it, as he had his own farewells to say, and Rynelf heard most. They all heard King Edmund say to his cousin, “I'll tell you later,” when the latter asked what was going on, shortness making his tone a bit louder, but after that, only snatches of conversation were carried by the East Wind to the men's ears.

But they would never be able to forget the moment, the expressions and the words they did hear, any more than those who were saying good-bye could themselves.

 

 

 

***

“No, tell me, what on earth do you mean we're boarding without Lucy?!” Eustace demanded as the girl in question approached, Caspian a step behind her.

Reepicheep looked unsurprised and slightly sad, while Drinian, who had been standing with them, had to bite his tongue to not echo Eustace's own query.

“I told thee,” Edmund started, and then stopped. He was speaking as a king, he realized, to a subject, but this was Eustace, his cousin. Lucy's cousin. And no matter what control he was clinging to, no matter how he clung to it, he owed him more than short words and putting this entirely off. He breathed in, slowly—breathed in the salt air and ocean, breathed in Narnia, and understood, inside, a little more of how Lucy could do what she was about to, and wished selfishly that somehow they all could stay—and then breathed it out again. “Aslan,” he said finally, and now it was just Edmund talking to his cousin, “has allowed her to stay. And she's chosen to. I'll—look, Scrubb, I'll tell you more, I shall, but right now...” He trailed off, unable to find the words to finish, and it was a sign of the growth Eustace had gained on the ship that after opening his mouth again he closed it instead and merely nodded.

 

 

***

One thing all those who could see the event remembered was the tightness of King Edmund's jaw, the sorrow on the Queen's face mixed with the decision in her eyes. When the Queen—and it was then, perhaps, that many of them began to think of her as The Queen more than Lucy, or even Queen Lucy, theirqueen, for now and for perhaps a rather long time—bent over to pick up Reepicheep and hold him close, bury her face in his silver, silky fur, one or two smiled at the sight. All, however, were touched, especially when Reepicheep briefly hugged her back and pressed his small pink nose to her cheek, whiskers twitching, before scrambling down and towards the boat that he and the two boys were to take.

They remembered the looks on Caspian and Edmund's faces—serious on both, sorrowful on the former's and controlled and tight on the latter's—as they first clasped arms, and then held each other tightly, though none could hear what words passed between them.

 

 

***

“Remember what I said, Caspian,” Edmund quietly spoke near his ear. “Keep your vows, or I will keep mine. Keep her safe, brother.”

Caspian swallowed the lump in his throat, wished he could somehow do the same with the hard knot in his stomach, and replied only, “My King and my Lord. I will. Be well, be strong, and know that—know that you are always welcome, brother. Always.”

“I doubt I will be about to be welcomed,” Edmund said after a pause, though he would continue to hope up until the moment Aslan gently confirmed his fears about returning, “but I thank you,” and then pulled away.

 

***

None of them, though, could bear to watch the siblings say good-bye to each other. Each found himself looking away, focusing on the task that should be done at that time, rather than watching them part.

 

 

***

“Edmund,” Lucy said softly, and there she trailed off. Her eyes were wet, though no tears fell, and inside she found herself struggling over the matter again, wondering if she should just jump in the boat with them now.

And knowing, despite her thoughts, that she could not.

She watched her brother look at her, breathe in and out, and memorized the sight, knowing it might be a very, very long time and worlds away before she saw him again.

“All that could be said has been,” he said finally, and reached out to touch his sister's cheek with his right hand. “You have been more than sister to me, my lady. My friend, and my queen. I wish you well, and will ever find a way to you, should you need me.” And then his pale eyes softened, a little, saddened, and Edmund whispered, “I love you, Lu,” and pulled her into the embrace they both never wanted to break.

Until, of course, they had to.

 

 

***

The parting between the Queen and her cousin was shorter, and the faint murmur of Eustace's voice caused many of them to look back to that spot of the deck again. None were surprised to see the slight discomfort in the boy's stance, not to mention the confusion on his face—many of them had the same expression on their own—or the way he hurriedly hugged Lucy and was hugged in return, and then backed away; perhaps if he had known more, known that Lucy was not to return, Eustace would have spent longer on parting, but that is a story of what would have happened. No one is told what might have been.

The boy shook Caspian's hand, firmly, and then—Reepicheep having already bid his King good-bye—they all stepped into the boat.

Edmund's eyes never left his sister's until the boat was resting in the waves and he had to begin working with Reepicheep to navigate it East, East, further East.

The thing that all the men, though, remembered clearly as could be, was how the Queen stood on the deck, King Caspian's hand on her shoulder, and kept watch on her brother and the rest of the boat's occupants long past that.

Lucy watched them until the boat was a speck, and then until not even that could be seen.

It was only when Caspian gently pulled her up into his arms and carried her to her cabin that she moved away; it was only once he'd closed the door and held her tightly and rocked her, having realized how much she'd been struggling to make it through this, how exhausted and drained and pained she was from it all, that she let herself begin to sob. It was the kind of crying where you let out so much pain and exhaustion that you cannot even care that your eyes are red, or if your nose leaks mess onto the shirt of the person holding you, and she gave herself over it it. The only thoughts in her mind were prayers; prayers that Aslan would give her family the strength to get through the pain she knew was coming to them because of her actions.

And that perhaps, someday, He might be so kind as to let them understand that which no one but He knew, that she had only a gleaming of that He'd given her: that it was not only for herself, nor Caspian, that she was staying. That much was to come of this choice, for many, many more than just Lucy and her family and Caspian.

But that was far away, and the thoughts that dominated her mind were filled with wishes for pain to be lessened and and borne best it could be, for Aslan to help as He could, and for Edmund to forgive her someday for making him the one to tell the news to Peter and Su.

 

 

***

The boat sailed East, and the crew of The Dawn Treader went to their tasks, began to turn the ship about so it could begin its long trip back West, to Cair Paravel and Narnia, and Lucy cried into Caspian's shoulder as he rocked her back and forth the same way the waves rocked the ship.

Chapter Text

***

Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it enkindles the great.

- Comte DeBussy-Rabutin

***

            Caspian held her long past the time her tears stopped falling; even then, her body shook as if she were somehow managing to freeze in the warmth that came from this wonderful, lily-sea-filled place, and he held her more tightly yet. Perhaps a blanket—but no, her skin was warm.

            This was a cold that came from within, and it was one that Caspian knew far too well. He had felt it more than once in his life—at the news of his Uncle having killed his father, at the news of his own impending assassination at Miraz's hands, at the fear no one would come to answer the horn, when the Pevensies (when Lucy) left the first time, when he feared they'd all (when Lucy, too) would leave the second, the never-ending chill of fear that he was a fake, that he'd never been meant to be king, blood or not, and that someday Aslan would realize it...

            He understood the cold that came from within, and so he held her tightly and kissed her crown, golden hair looking even more like true gold in the darkness and shadows of his cabin, as if the light reflecting off of the rich wood of the walls showed Lucy as she truly was—and it hit him all over again.

            For Aslan had said that Lucy, too, had aged on this journey, and Caspian had known it.  She'd come to him once already, shyly, saying she needed larger tunics. (He has swallowed hard upon looking at her, realizing why, realizing Lu must be binding her chest, and quickly turned away to pull out larger ones for her from a trunk before hurriedly leaving.) Edmund and Eustace had as well, of course—as had all of them—but with Lucy and Edmund...

            It had been more than the rest, too fast, and he remembered how Lucy, once before, had smiled at him and his surprise at how she easily lifted a jug that he knew would have been too heavy for her a mere two weeks before. "It's the air," she'd said, tilting her head back to the sun and letting it warm her face. "Narnia's, I mean. It remembers us, and what we once were, what we looked like. It happened the last time, too, but we weren't here long enough for it to do much but strengthen us and remind us...of what we are." What, not who, she'd said, and he'd wondered a little—and now he saw clearly.

            She should be, he thought, around 13 by now.

            She looked like she was closer to 15—closer to his own age.

            In some ways, he wished he'd realized this when he was not holding her so close.

            Caspian was but a man, as he well knew, and a teenaged one at that.  But Lucy was in pain. It was easy to push the thought of her body's new form to the back of his mind to consider later if needed (ha! If needed—he'd consider it, to his shame, and what it might mean, though he'd never dare disgrace her by considering it in inappropriate fashions. With her already in his head and heart, though, he doubted he could help but think of this new realization.)

            Then he realized Lucy had stopped shaking but was still sitting sideways on this lap, her eyes closed and head on his shoulder and—if he was right—just breathing him in. (Him, he corrected himself, and the sea, and the scent of wood and oils and cedar and preservatives and the scent of human sweat that the very wood seemed to have absorbed and mixed with the salt of the sea and the warmth of the sun into a perfume that was natural and, if not sweet, then not sour either.)

            "Thank you," she whispered a few minutes later.

            As she made no move to rise he only kissed her head again, quickly and briefly, and whispered into her hair, "Aught I can do, milady Queen."

            It almost made her laugh, and it did bring a half smile to her face, and for that Caspian was glad. Reluctantly, he loosened his arms—but only slightly, enough that she could pull away if she wished.

            Apparently, she did not.

            Lucy was a tactile person—many the times he'd drawn comfort from having her hand on his shoulder or in his own, though he knew she often touched others on the crew...

            But did she touch them as much as she did him? Edmund, certainly—Eustance, now that he allowed it, almost as much—but Caspian thought (and hoped he was not fooling himself) that her hand had lingered on his shoulder for a second more than on others', that she'd held his hand that much more tightly.

            Oh, Lion help me. The trip back would be more difficult, he now realized, than the trip forward—and in very different ways.

            But Lucy, he reminded himself, had her own reasons to stay, though he knew them not—and for now, the best he could do would be to support her and be there for her in all ways he could. (And somehow, though he suspected that now she would deny jealousy, he thought one way he could help her would be once he made her believe that the Star's Daughter, lovely as she was, was returning with them (if she was) for Narnia, and not as his wife-to-be. Or was that his own hope again?)

            It took him a moment to realize Lucy had just said his name for the second time.

            "Aslan, I'm sorry, Lu. My mind was a million miles away for a moment," and the look on his face, so crestfallen and truly apologetic, brought a gentle, reassuring smile to Lucy's face and a warmth to his heart. Even now, she comforts me too.

            He had felt many things for Lucy since he'd first heard of her in childhood tales, and more yet since meeting her both in winning his thrown and this second time, with them both older.  Perhaps too many things.

            It was not the first time he felt wonder, but it was the first time he realized that this woman—whatever she looked out on the outside—truly did have more years than he and that she had a—a gift, a talent, a quirk—he didn't know what it was, but it was something lovely, something like her being a healer, yet having nothing to do with the flesh.

            It was something he found himself feeling very humble before, as she gently murmured, voice low and a little hoarse from her tears, "Silly man. There's no need for apologies. Mind's drift. And we...have been here a while, I think," she concluded, glancing out her round port window to see how the light had shifted. "I have kept you to myself for comfort while you have a ship to tend to too long," and he felt himself anger a little—at whom, he knew not—at the words.

            "Hang it all, Lucy, I'm not the captain, and you're more important than me hanging over Drinian's shoulder. Don't you know that?"

            He felt badly the minute he said it, but the shocked look on her face faded into a mixture of two emotions; something thoughtful, and something...

            Something he did not dare to even try to name.

            "Now I do," she whispered, and after a moment she kissed his cheek, very lightly, yet closer to his mouth than she ever had before.

            Caspian could barely breathe, as he convinced himself the placement had more to do with the rocking and shifting of the Dawn Treader than her choice. (Ignoring the fact that Lucy had walked with ease, like she was dancing to the sound of the waves, on the decks since her first week here, ignoring the fact that balance had never been her issue in anything; the only time he'd seen her slip was when they were bound as by the slavers and she did not have her hands nor arms to steady her; the scar that had formed from where the gash on her leg from the slippery, sharp rocks had cut it still filled his heart with too many emotions to count.)

            Their eyes locked and she smiled at him, a smile that reassured and said, Everything will be fine, all shall be well, all shall be well, my friend, and this time he refused to be the one to break the gaze first.

            She did not either, merely asked after a moment, quietly, "Are you certain I might stay here, Caspian? It is your cabin, and-"

            "-and you are Queen, and I'll not hear another word about it," he said firmly. He almost added, Or Edmund will return and kill me, but caught himself in time, promising himself he'd bring no more grief to her eyes than what was already there, no matter how well Lucy had already hidden it.

            Ever the queen, and now most of all. The thought was intimidating—but she was Lucy, still, and he could not believe that the tales of her laughter and love were false, even if, perhaps, the tales of her strength and willingness to do anything for Narnia, the warrior queen who was closest to the Lion, the barbarian Queen of the North, who rode to war protect her land and people, were as well.

            Thinking on it, he wondered why it had taken him so long to admit to himself, let alone Aslan, that he had fallen in love with the woman inside the girl—girl? Young woman? He thought soon, and perhaps now already, the second was the more accurate by far—who was Queen and Empress and Valiant and still laughed with delight and made him dance with her on the deck, periodically playing a prank on one crewmate or another. (Never cruel ones; the one who faced the prank ended up laughing just as hard as the rest of the crew.)

            Lucy, the Empress, and Queen, once and always and yet now again.

            Lucy, ever Valiant.

            Lucy, who he'd once heard Aslan's rumbling voice call, "Lioness," and who had blushed when he'd asked about it and whispered only that if he really wanted to know, she'd tell him if he asked again in three months time. (Three months time—12 days from this one.)

            Lucy, the London girl.

            Lucy, who sometimes was also playmate and seemed to realize, without him ever having told her, how lonely a childhood he had lived, who let him experience parts of it, even now, with her, and who told him ever more stories of-

            -of the world she'd left behind, and his heart fluttered again, for now, Narnia was her world, the only one.

            All of these thoughts filled his mind in just a few seconds, distracting him as Lucy slowly shifted off of his lap, though one hand reached to hold his as she settled next to him, looking downwards.

            "We have much to talk about," she said finally. "And most practically..."

            He loved to see her blush, the one that could never hide due to her coloring of skin and hair both.

            "...Either on the island of the Star and his Daughter," and he caught the tiniest of twitches at the words, one he thought had more to do with the Daughter than the Star himself, "or on the Magician's Island, the one with the Duffers...I, um. Seem to be growing more. Perhaps...one would provide me with clothing of—of a more complete wardrobe.  Appropriate for a woman."

            Caspian blushed slightly, and Lucy looked bemused instead of blushing from embarrassment as she had been dong mere moments before. "What are you thinking of? It's unfair to keep secrets, Caspian."

            Like hell he was telling her. "Just...that I hope they have things to your liking, milady Lucy," he said, recovering as he rose and bowed to graciously kiss her hand.

            And she laughed, the first true laugh he'd heard since this morning. "My lord and king, you lie to me," she teased, "and one day I'll get that answer from you yet."

            Caspian could not help but smile back, even as he sought the safety—for him, for her, for them, he didn't know—of the cabin's door. "One day, lady, I will tell you, if you ask again. But I believe it's my turn first, as the three weeks are almost up."

            And even Lucy could not pretend her cheeks were still rather red now, but her smile, though shy, remained. "Even Steven. Fair is fair. Perhaps we'll learn much about each other before we return home."

            At her calling the Cair, calling Narnia, that simple, one-syllable word—home-Caspian's grin could not help but widen. "Perhaps, my lady. But for now, I leave you to the rest I know you need, deny it," he continued you, cutting her off even as she opened her mouth to do just that, "though I suspect you will. And as I suspect I will rarely," and that was dry, "win any argument with thee, I would be grateful if thou wouldst be so kind as to grant me at least one, if only this one."

            Her smile returned, if slowly. "All right. But promise you'll come wake me for dinner and share it with me?" There was something behind the smile, hidden in her eyes and under her voice, that made Caspian pause before he forced a smile in turn.

            "I can think of no finer company," he replied, bowing once more—too deeply, and making her laugh, as he'd hoped—and closing the door behind him.

            For a moment he just stood there, eyes closed, thinking of that expression and tone again and reluctantly admitting to knowing it was fear and loneliness combined.

            Caspian made a promise to himself, then and there.  Before the ship was half-returned to Narnia, Lucy would no longer have reason to feel either.

            Hopefully, she'd never feel either again.

Chapter Text

***

Brothers and sisters are as close as hands and feet.

- Vietnamese Proverb

***

            Eustace had long since left Edmund alone in the room, the silence that spread between them once Aslan had sent them home-for Edmund, his final trip home-too thick and cloying for the younger youth to stand.  While it was sound, not scent, it reminded Edmund of the Calormene incense they had so briefly choked on in the slave market. There was nothing to say to break it, nothing to do to comfort either of them.  Thankfully, Eustace had grown in the months in Narnia and on the ship, and he was now able to understand that his cousin's pain was far greater than his own.

            So he had left the older boy, gone downstairs quietly to make tea.

            Alone, Edmund sat and stared at the painting, the painting he knew he would somehow take with him when he left his aunt and uncle's home. The painting of the ship his sister was still on.

            Salt burned his eyes, but the tears refused to fall. No matter how badly he wished they would, they clung to him, and all he could do was stare at the ship and wonder at the appearance of a small blonde figure near the stern.  He was sure that before they had fallen into the painting there had been no such figure there.

            He needed to start to think of what they would tell the family. Edmund knew that, and he knew it was urgent; he and Eustace would have to come up with something, a story they could know by heart and stick to.

            Yet all he could think of was the conversation he had had with Lucy in the cabin.

            "Ed-please, please don't." Her eyes, pale green like spring grass-and how right that had always seemed, after Narnia-were shedding tears for both of them after his outraged protest. "You don't understand, and Lion help me, I can't-I can't explain. But I need you to believe me on this, Edmund. If nothing else, believe this: Aslan was here. And what I do, I do for Narnia-and for you. And for Peter and Susan, and mother and father and England, too! I can't explain the details, and I don't really know all of them. But this is something-do you think I don't know what it will mean?" And even in his pain and rage, Edmund's heart shattered a little to see the despair in his little sister's eyes. "I know. I know what this will do to our family. But I also know that this choice...oh, Ed, so much hinges on it.  I can't know all of it, but the little I do-there's a story. About a cup and a tree and a green hill and-oh, I can't explain that, it was something in the Magician's book. But that's part of this, too."

            "You're speaking nonsense, Lu," Edmund had replied, coldly, but his face was concerned now.

            Her laughter was both choked and mixed with tears. "Am I? Perhaps. Perhaps it all is nonsense. But you trusted me once, Edmund when no one else did, when I saw Aslan in the gorge the last time we were in Narnia. Please. This last time," and Edmund's heart froze, knowing that for Lucy to say that her mind truly was made up, "trust me again."

            She was, after all, his little sister, and she was Lucy.

            She had always seen more than the rest of them.

            So he had done the only thing he could do. He had slowly moved to wrap his arms around her, planted a kiss to her forehead, and whispered, "All right," as he felt his world begin to end.

            Edmund breathed in and out, staring at the painting and surprised to find that he had approached it.  His fingers gently tracing the small blonde woman's hair before his hand dropped limply to his side.

            "I trust you, Lu," he whispered finally as he made himself turn and head toward the door, forcing himself to go seek out his cousin and begin to prepare for the hell that was to come. "I just pray you have someone to trust, too."

            He shut the door firmly behind him and pretended that the blur in his vision was from moving too quickly, rather than from the tears beginning to break forth like they would never stop.

Chapter Text

***

A person doesn't know true hurt and suffering until they've felt the pain of falling in love with someone whose affections lie elsewhere.
- Rose Gordon

***

            Caspian had been honest when he told Lucy what he felt for the Star's Daughter and--more importantly--what he did not feel.

            Lucy asked uncertainly, "Would—is Ramandu's daughter to return to Narnia with you?"

            His heart sunk a little at her saying you instead of us, but he knew it was foolish to expect her to decide instantly either way. "If she wants to," Caspian said simply. "But as a free woman and on her own desires for Narnia." Not for me.

            Yet Caspian still felt a drop in his stomach as he heard Drinian's call that Ramandu's island was within sight; he knew that he had found the young woman with star's blood in her veins to be beautiful, to the point he had not realized he'd not learned her name until after they had left the island behind.  He knew he had, as Edmund called it, flirted with her. (He knew in part because Edmund had managed, without a word nor even directly pointing at his sister, to draw Caspian's attention to Lucy's face and the pained expression upon it.) As he thought back over their brief conversation, he also knew that she had taken things he had said far more seriously than he had meant them.  She heard words of love when he had, unkingly as it might be, been caught up in the momentary infatuation of her exotic beauty.

            He felt no pride in this.

            He felt even worse about it as they neared the shore in one of the ship's boats...and yet, despite himself, Caspian found that his focus kept shifting to Lucy.  The young woman sat next to him in leggings and a long tunic, her hair having grown impossibly longer since they'd begun heading West. (For while her age seemed to be settling, leaving her at something, he thought, like sixteen—only two years his junior—Narnia remembered her looking a certain way at sixteen. It remembered hair that had not been cut since she was nine, that hung loose like a curtain of gold all down her back. And so its air continued to affect her, though it had ceased the rapid aging; done with that, it now reminded all in this world, including Lucy herself, of both who and what she had been and still was.)

            Lucy caught one of his glances, as some of the men pulled the boat up through the shallows and onto the sand, and, after a brief pause, she smiled a little and self-consciously, tucking a thin braid she'd woven on one side of her head behind that side's ear.

            Caspian smiled back and allowed himself to take some comfort in the fact that he had told Lucy before the left the ship that he would have to seek Ramandu's daughter out and speak with the lady.  To take comfort in that, and in how Lucy had responded to him.

            "But as I told you," he'd started, then stopped in surprise when Lucy pressed two fingers to his lips to silence him.

            "You told me. If she comes, it is for longing to be in Narnia, not for you." Left unsaid, but something she also knew from him: the Star's Daughter would have to long for Narnia because Narnia she could have.

            Caspian she could not.

            While he and Lucy had only spoken one time, the day at the edge of the sea, of his feelings, while they had a long journey ahead of them and nothing should be rushed, while Lucy at times was literally in some no small amount of pain as her body ran through puberty, years' growth packed into weeks…

            Something was different, even if Caspian (nor Lucy) could have said what that was, exactly. In Caspian's case, all that he knew was that her two fingers on his mouth felt like a kiss itself, and that was joy—and that she believed him, about his feelings toward the lovely daughter of Ramandu, feelings he'd clarified to her while alluding to his feelings for Lucy herself.

            And the mere possibility that she was taking those feelings seriously, that they remained in her thoughts—even the possibility was grace.

            Caspian helped Lucy out of the boat, knowing full well she did not require his hand; she took it anyway, and their boots crunched on the wet sand and pebbles as the group made their way towards the table with the three sleepers.

            There Ramandu awaited them.

            "Welcome, King and Queen of Narnia," his elderly yet strong voice rang out. "I had thought you would arrive today."

            Lucy could not help but blink. "You—you knew I'd be back?"

            The ancient celestial shook his head. "When you left here? No. Only that King Caspian would be given a choice that related to you. But the birds speak to each other, spreading news faster than your ship can move. The one who brings me my bit of youth each day told me what his choice—and your own—were, and the decisions reached by each of you." The elderly man smiled gently at her, his long white beard shifting across his chest with the movement. "I remember shining on you, oh, so very long ago, seeing you looking as you do now. Narnia delights in your return."

            "And I in returning to it," Lucy said softly, but her eyes were glancing at the figures around the table.

            So were Caspian's. "They're still asleep. I thought—"

            The Star cut him off, and his tone was not as gentle as it had been with Lucy. Still, it was not that of a raging father, and Caspian thanked the Lion for what graces he might be granted this day.

            He felt as if he'd need each one.

            "They shall be woken shortly. There are two ways to break the enchantment that causes their sleep, and the one that would be used today depended on the choices made both by you and the queen. Her presence in Narnia brings back to the land something that was lost when the Telmarines tried to civilize it. It is something not even a good king of both Man and Beast can return; only the Daughter of Eve who has awakened old and wild magics with her return." Ramandu's eyes focused on Lucy again. "You know of what I speak, Lioness."

            Caspian started at the name, but Lucy did not; her gaze did not drift from Ramandu's, though her eyes became unfocused.

            She remembered calling to the trees when last they were in Narnia, remembered feeling the life begin to pulse more quickly as the dryads slipped back into reality, their spirits starting to awaken under bark and moss and climbing vines.

            She remembered His voice purring in her ear, his breath warm and sweet on her small face.

            And Lucy remembered the gift he had given her, a title she had never shared with others before beyond Capsian the one time by accident in passing.

            Now you are a Lioness. And now all Narnia shall be renewed.

            A small part of Lucy could not help but think, I'll never get out of explaining what that means now to Caspian, and then she found herself focused as the Star continued.

            "Will you take on this burden, child?" Ramandu asked gently.

            Caspian had been glancing rapidly between Lucy and Ramandu. At the Star's question, however, his expression shifted to true worry, and he began to demand what Ramandu meant by that.

            He never had the chance, for Caspian was cut off.  Lucy was the one who had spoken up, too, her voice suddenly sounding—sounding as if something that had been dormant had woken in her, as Ramandu claimed something was awakening in Narnia. (Unfamiliar though the tone was, the smile on her lips, like the one in her eyes, was familiar ever.) "I will." She reached for Caspian's hand and squeezed it reassuringly without breaking her gaze from Ramandu's.

            She simply, Caspian realized all over again, knew him that well; knew he'd be worried for her.

            And he marveled that it could be so.

            He still would have cut in, asked what was meant by "burden," but Ramandu's eyes had darted from Lucy to him, now. Caspian had not noticed before, too relieved by the Star's tone not being one that he thought he might well deserve, but when Ramandu looked at him, the ancient eyes were filled with compassion more than wrath.

            They also held an authority not to be questioned, however.

            Not even by a King of Narnia.

            "Then when the King returns from speaking with my daughter, I will tell you how to break their curse.  And he shall help you do so."

            Lucy bowed her head and squeezed Caspian's hand one last time before letting it drop, her hands clasping each other behind her back as she gave him a last, gentle smile.

            He wasn't a coward; Caspian knew that. He still did not want to go, did not want to face the woman who he had misled, accidentally, deliberately, consciously, or otherwise.

            Wanting did not matter here; need and responsibility and honor, however, all did.

            The King squared his shoulders, took a breath, and—with a last glance at Lucy—he began to walk alone up the path Ramandu had indicated.

            Caspian went to seek out Ramandu's daughter.

Chapter Text

***

"Love is hard to find, hard to keep, and hard to forget.”
- Alysha Speer

 ***

            The island was much larger than Caspian had previously thought, and he hiked through a forest for nearly three-quarters of an hour before he found her.

            She was sitting by a waterfall, the mist from it seeming to decorate her, enhance that ethereal beauty that had so enticed him before.  That had caused him to so hurt Lucy, she who was his heart.

            The daughter of Ramandu's face lit up with joy at the sight of him, and his heart hurt for her as she ran to him; it hurt even more when he gently grabbed her arms to stop her from holding him, causing her face to fill with confusion.

            I must be honest.  That is all that is left to me and honorable.   "Hello, dear lady," he said softly and saddened as her face brightened some.

            "My lord, you have come back!  Have you completed the quest?"

            "Aye.  We reached the end of the world--the sights were lovely, the water sweet and lily filled.  Reepicheep, King Edmund, and Eustace left us there, though.  I fear that we shall not see them again."

            There was a pause, a long one, as the smile faded from her face.  "And the Queen Lucy?" she finally, slowly asked.

            Caspian took a deep breath and let the words out with his sigh, though his eyes never left hers.  "My lady the Queen returns with me to rule Narnia as once she did.  Your father said--"

            "--said that she will break the curse of the sleeping men.  And more than that, though you'll not know it yet," she interrupted, her face crumpled and voice cold.

            "Lady--"  Caspian paused.  "...You've never shared your name with me."

            "You never asked for it.  Now it is not yours to have, nor shall it ever be.  You love the Queen, not I.  I have no place in your life."

            "That need not be so!" He was nearly desperate to comfort her someway.  "You have my friendship.  You have the offer of a place in Narnia.  You could have--"

            "Could I have thee?" she asked formally, interrupting again.

            Honor and honesty required him to slowly shake his head.  "Nay, lady. You cannot have what I cannot give.  Somehow the Queen Lucy came to own me long ago, though I'd not realized it.  And she owns me.  My heart is in her.  I no longer have the right to  give it to another."

            She nodded, slowly, and looked toward the waterfall rather than let him see her tears; the mist hid them well.  "Had you taken me, I would have given you my name.  I'd have born you a son with strength of heart and courage beyond that of other men, and--"

            "Stop."  His voice was firm.  "As the Lion says, no one is meant to know what would have happened."

            After a pause, she whispered, "May he forgive me and my weakness for violating his command.  And may he accept my penance." 

            The mist no longer looked as if it were made of water; it was golden, and it wrapped her fully, replacing close with a sheath for simple modest, but one made of light. 

            One made of starlight.

            "What are you doing?" Caspian demanded anxiously.

            "Penance.  I told you what would have been, knowledge not meant for mortal men.  Knowledge stars carry within them--even half stars.  I will take my place in the heavens, rather than set foot on Narnian soil, and watch over you and--and your Queen, the Queen Lucy--for your lifetimes.  Only then may I set foot on soil again."

            She was fading before him, gold erasing features and leaving only brilliant light behind.

            "May I not have your name?" he cried.  "I beg your forgiveness, but your name--"

            "I am a star," came her voice, as the light ascended.  "Your astrologers will name me.  Ask a centaur when you return home."

            And she was gone, leaving behind a man half consumed by guilt and half consumed with relief to his shame, shame which seemed to grow by the moment.  Shameful though it might be, he was well aware how many worse ways that could have gone.

            Caspian did not immediately return to the others.  Instead, he stood there for a few minutes in silence, mentally both apologizing to Ramandu's daughter and thanking her for not reacting with anger.

 

After a moment, he built a small cairn where she had been standing before leaving and turned around.

 

It was time to return to Ramanu, and more importantly to Lucy.

 

Time to find out what Ramandu's words had meant, and what Lucy had unknowingly given her word she would do.

Chapter Text

*** 

Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That's what little girls are made of.

- Bethany Hamilton 

*** 

            When Caspian returned alone to the others he could not but help immediately noticing Ramandu's expression.  For the first time, he saw sadness fill the ancient star's eyes, even if it touched not his mouth nor any other part of his expression.  "My daughter?"

            Caspian winced internally, unable to believe otherwise than that if he had behaved better last time that the star's daughter would be there now.  "She--she spoke of what might have been," he said finally, and the older man bowed his head as his eyes closed.

            His pain was so palpable that Lucy moved to gently touched his arm.  After a moment he lifted his head, placing his wrinkled hand over her young (but not so young as it once had been) one.  "She will watch over you, my dear.  You and your King, Caspian, both," and he ignored Lucy's blush.  "But now it's time to tend to the sleepers."

            Lucy's blush immediately faded as she nodded and asked simply, "What shall I do?"

            "Wait," Caspian interjected.  "What if this hurts you, Lu?"

            Ramandu looked exasperated at the interruption, but Lucy spoke before the star could.  Her voice was equal parts gentle and firm.  "Yes.  It might hurt me.  But it won't harm me.  Pain shared is pain halved, and my pain is yours.  I know this, as do you.  And I must serve the Lion who let me stay in all ways, as you know.  This is but the first of many, and perhaps it will never grow easier to see it happen.  For you, I mean.  But I need you by my side every time.  If I am a Lioness, I need my mate to match my courage, whether he wishes it or no."

            Caspian was speechless--at the tone of Lucy's voice, at how old she sounded, at the love in her expression, voice, and words all. Humbled, he bowed his head and knew that he would never match her courage--she was a Lioness, but he was no Lion.

            He could hold his tongue when it came to doubts, though, and he could be there for her, fearful though he might always be.  So he bowed his head and managed, voice low, "Who am I to stop a Queen of Narnia, she who is called Lioness and Valiant, from doing that which she judges to be right?"

            Lucy came over to him at that, taking both of his hands in hers and kissing them gently before squeezing them.  She smiled at him like the sun shining down upon his face--and had she grown older yet again simply in the time he'd been gone?--and dropped his hands.  Lucy spent a moment simply taking in Caspian's face (for bravery does not eliminate fear) before turning to face Ramandu.  "What shall I do?"

            "It is about correcting what was put wrong.  By these men in part, yes, but mostly by someone else a long...long time in the past.  Far enough in the past that those who lived during that time have become legends and fairy tales in this one."  He moved towards the table, picking up an item.  "These men help strengthen a lock of sorts forged long ago.  And you, my dear, are the key.  You recognized the White Witch's knife."  He held out the item he'd picked up moments before so they could all see it clearly.  "Do you recognize this?"

            Lucy's face lit up again.  "It's mine!  My dagger from Father Christmas!" 

            "Yes.  Lost again, it was thought, when you last left Narnia.  Such things, however, end up where they are most needed.  And your cordial you carry with you, I see.  Did you know the Witch carried a potion herself in a similar bottle?"

            After a pause, Lucy said only, "Yes.  I smashed it under my foot when we found it.  It was naught but glass." 

            Her own bottle, Caspian vaguely remembered, was said to be made of diamond, but most of his mind was occupied with worry at similarities being drawn between his love and the Witch.

            Ramandu respectfully handed Lucy the dagger that was hers by right.  "It belongs to you, and it should remain on your hip at all times, my Queen, if you would take an old star's advice."

            "That I will, and I thank thee--but what do I..." Lucy trailed off, eyes seeming to be glazed for a moment.

            Ramandu's voice was gentle.  "The Old Magic, the Wild Magic that Narnia needs back--you carry it in you.  In your soul and mind, your body--and your blood.  So it tells you what to do, to fight the remnants of the Witch's magic that the knife managed to carry within it.  Remnants that have locked part of her to Narnia even now."

            "Aye," Lucy said quietly and walked towards the table.  Caspian wished to stop her, but he forced his hands to remain at his sides.  He still could not help but bite his lip.

            An empty goblet was on the table before each sleeper. Into each Lucy put several drops of cordial, its sweet smell strong enough that Caspian and his men, who looked as uncertain as he, could smell it almost overwhelmingly.  Oddly, though, the level of cordial in the bottle seemed to be the same when Lucy capped it as it had been before she poured the first drop into a goblet.  That done, she let the bottle hang from one side of her hip--and now he saw the other side of the leather loop wrapped around her waist had a place for the dagger again.

            The dagger's sheath she placed where it belonged, but the blade she drew; the steel of it looked silver to him, and it sparkled in the golden sunlight.

            Then she slashed her own palm with it, and though the cut was obviously deep Lucy's expression did not change at all.  Caspian, however, nearly shouted the outrage he felt; only Ramandu's glare kept him unwillingly silent at first, and then he found himself speechless with awe at the fact that the smell from the cordial seemed to intensify as the smell of Lucy's blood mixed with it.

            This time the liquid poured rapidly into the goblets, Lucy's own life's blood rapidly leaving her body.  Yet still, she gave no sign of feeling pain or weakness, nor even light-headedness. Upon finishing, she stood at the end of the table where the Witch's knife that had caused this sleeping curse rested.  Again, Caspian almost cried out as Lucy reached for it with her bloodied hand.  This time, however, he was silent on his own, trusting her to know what she was doing.  Ramandu had said the magic was in her mind, among other things, and told her what to do; after smelling her blood, he had no doubt the Star was right about magic being in it.  It was a sort of magic unfamiliar to him, but he could feel deep within himself that it was utterly Narnian despite that fact.

            And so he chose to trust the rest of the Star's words.

            To trust Lucy the Valiant herself.

            Her bloodied hand above the Witch's knife, Lucy spoke in a strong, calm, and even voice that gradually grew louder.  "You've tried to linger in this world past your death.  In the name of the Lion and his Breath and the Emperor over the Sea, I banish the last of you; by the Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time, I remove the remnants of your power; in the name of the High King and my own, as Empress of the Lone Islands and Queen of Narnia, I break this curse.  Sleepers, awake!" With that Lucy's hand dropped to grip the cursed knife firmly.

            Not an hour ago, he'd seen one woman consumed by light; now he saw another.  Where the first light had been almost silver, this light was far more golden, the golden shade of Lucy's hair.  It spread from her to each of the sleepers, growing brighter until all but Ramandu had to cover their eyes.

            When Caspian finally felt he could safely lower his hands, the first thing he saw was the slightest of stirrings amongst the sleeping men.

            The second thing he saw was Lucy, and she was beautiful.  Older again--his age, he realized, heart pounding--and dressed as she would have been long ago, the style of the green dress (green like her eyes) matching her perfectly, the silver crown standing out in her hair as gold never would and matching the straps that tied her gown shut on both sides.  Her hand no longer bled, to his relief, nor was there a single blood stain upon her.

            "Hello," Lucy said, her smile small and filled with love, and the word seemed perfectly appropriate to him.  Hello is what you say at the start of something; normally the start of a meeting, but the start of a change in a relationship, yes, it fit that too, he thought.  Caspian bounded up the few stairs that separated the two and drew the Queen of Narnia into his arms.

            The men from the ship could not help but cheer, and even Ramandu smiled as he moved towards the slowly waking sleepers and gestured for the men to do the same, as Lucy pulled the King of Narnia into a kiss.

Chapter Text

04/10/16: Two new chapters up as soon as the term ends around the 16th of May. In the meantime, I've updated, edited, and added to chapter 9. There were some grammar errors and typos that I missed due to writing this with a fever. Some of what I added or changed is simply to do something along the lines of making a description more vivid or altering the phrasing of a statement.

But two things I added are extremely important. If you guess which they are, I'll write you a minific.

I'll be doing the same to each chapter that's already up; when I finish a chapter, I will delete the existing notice and post a new one with the info from the old notice as well as a note letting you know which chapter has been edited.

And how many, if any, important things have been either changed or added.

Chapter Text

***

Part of spiritual and emotional maturity is recognizing that it's not like you're going to try to fix yourself and become a different person

You remain the same person, but you become awakened. 

- Jack Kornfield

***

            Caspian was not quite certain all of what had taken place after the kiss broke and before they returned to the ship.  He knew that Ramandu had provided Lucy with a trunk of clothing that would fit her body that had aged in that brilliant instant.  He only knew it, however, because he was watching Lucy go through its contents at the moment in her cabin, murmuring her pleasure at the mixture of tunics, leggings, boots, and gowns.  He did remember Ramandu and Lucy speaking to each other quietly as he and the other men helped the no-longer-sleeping lords, using their knives to cut off the majority of their lengthy hair and beards before explaining over a rather long period of time all of what had happened while they had slept.  He knew that Ramandu had given them his blessing.  He knew that the star had looked at him with the gentlest expression Caspian had received from Ramandu yet when the star told him to support his queen throughout both of their lives.

            He knew that the warmth that had filled his being at Lucy being called his queen had yet to leave him. 

            But, for the most part, Caspian only knew that he was filled with such joy as he had never felt before, a joy that had only been surpassed by that he felt in the Lion’s presence.  A joy of a different sort entirely filled him now as he sat on the bunk, delighting simply in Lucy’s presence and feeling no need at all to say anything as he watched her.

            She had always been lovely in one way or another, but now that she was grown—a woman’s body to match the woman that had always been within—she was beyond beautiful.  He was familiar with her internal beauty.  Caspian felt no guilt in savoring this new and mature external beauty as well.

            Finally, Lucy finished going through her new belongings.  She came over to join him in sitting on the bunk, and it seemed perfectly natural that she rested her head on his shoulder as she sat down next to him.  Caspian took her hand in his after turning his head and bending it slightly so it rested against hers.

            Neither felt it necessary to break the silence that had fallen nor did either of them find it at all uncomfortable.

            Finally, Lucy spoke, her voice soft (and, Caspian noticed yet again, different than it had been, aged as her body had been).  “Those poor men.  They shall need tending to the entire time back, I think.  Though not as much as Lord Rhoop; did Ramandu tell you how he had to move the poor man to a bed because he was occasionally shaking even in that healing sleep?”

            “I’m…to be honest,” Caspian admitted sheepishly, “I’m not sure if he did or didn’t; telling the other three lords how long had passed and how much had happened kept me a bit distracted.”  Though not as distracted as Lucy had kept him, which both of them knew and neither said anything about.

            “He is better than he was…but I rather think that I shall need to spend time alone with him each day for a bit,” the queen who had been given a healing cordial because she was a healer at heart replied after a moment of smiling very slightly.  “He has been healed by that sleep a great deal, but adjusting to waking life will be yet hard on him, I suspect.”

            “And you shall make it less hard,” Caspian said simply and with utter confidence in his words.

            “I hope your faith in me is justified.”

            Another few moments of silence filled the cabin.  Caspian found himself suddenly and intensely grateful to the Lion that he had found this amazing woman with whom he could share silence and find the quiet as meaningful as any words might be.  He mentally thanked Aslan for Lucy’s presence and that he had been told he could give her the chance to stay in this world before Lucy’s words broke him away from the prayer.

            “You wanted to stop me from waking them when you knew it might hurt me.”  Her voice was as gentle as it was soft.  “I’m certain it was hard for you when I cut my hand.”

            “Aye,” was the only reply Caspian could honestly give before asking her, “How did you know what to do?  What to say?”

            Lucy shifted a bit before pulling away from his shoulder enough so she could look him in the eye as she replied.  “I…don’t quite know what to tell you.  I just…”  She trailed off for a second or two, then said simply, “I knew.  I can’t tell you how, but…I knew.”

            Caspian found the peace that had filled him since that moment of light that engulfed Lucy being replaced with uncertainty and slight tension that could easily become worry.  “I suppose it…it must have been Aslan, then, but Lu—do you know what Ramandu meant when he said something about you carrying a sort of magic in your, well, blood?”

            Lucy bit her lip for a moment before saying slowly, “Yes, but I don’t…I know what he meant, but I’m not certain I can easily put all of it into words.  It’s…you’ve changed so much of Narnia back to how it should be, Caspian.  You may be a Telmarine—but you are a Narnian king.  The first since Peter and Susan and Edmund and I,” and her eyes became a bit sad, though her face remained the same, as she mentioned her siblings, “left.  But all that passed before you—all that was done and drove the Narnians who aren’t—weren’t?—human into hiding, that sent the trees into such a sleep—it…it sapped away at the Magic.  Narnia is still not what it was.  And that’s not your fault, not at all,” Lucy hastily added.  “But I think…I think that it is vulnerable still, in a way that you cannot fix, to some sorts of attacks.  Attacks by those who are everything Aslan is not.”

            Caspian was silent for what seemed to him like an eternity as he took all of that in and thought it over.  When he did reply his speech was slow.  “I cannot fix it…but you can, can’t you, Lu?”

            “I…stayed here for many reasons,” Lucy answered, and he knew that meant yes.

            “What do you need to do?”

            “That—that I don’t know, Caspian.  I don’t know much more than what I’ve told you.  Though,” and her voice was reluctant as she continued, “there’s another thing.  Something entirely different, I mean, but—but connected, perhaps.”

            She trailed off, and he reached over to tuck a strand of hair behind one of her ears.  “You can tell me, Lu,” he said gently.  “I promise not to yell at you.” 

            The last was said a bit playfully, and that made her relax (as, to his delight, did his touch) and, after sighing, continued.

            “You are a good king, Caspian.  But one thing that—that Edmund and I noticed is, well…you don’t always make all of the connections you should.  And sometimes…sometimes you are too kind.  My siblings and I…we had to deal with those who followed the Witch and weren’t killed in the battle.  We learned very, very quickly how to be hard.  How…that there are times when you cannot be as merciful as you might wish to be.”

            Caspian’s brow furrowed.  “I’m…still not going to yell at you, Lucy, but I don’t know what you mean.”

            She grimaced briefly.  “Caspian, what do you think—when Pug sold me to that Calormene.  What do you think would have been my duties after a few years?”

            His blank expression made her mentally want to shake him.

            “Concubine, Caspian,” Lucy said quietly.  “I would have been a concubine.  Whether I wished or, as would have been the case, not—no!” she exclaimed quickly at the sight of his thunderous expression.  “No, Caspian, you cannot do anything to Pug when we reach Narrowhaven!  You’ve already given judgment!  But you didn’t think before!  You cannot change what you have done, but you must learn from it!”

            Caspian was silent, head turned from her and bowed for several seconds.  Lucy merely waited, giving him however much time he needed.  She knew there had to be a battle going on inside of him, and only he could fight it.

            Finally, he spoke.

            “If I must learn,” he said, voice low, “then you, lady queen, must teach me.  For I have erred, I now realize, because of the very reasons you have said.  And I have wronged you because of them.  I beg your forgiveness if you would grant it.”

            When Caspian had turned from her he had also pulled away from his hand from hers.  Lucy now took his in her own, holding it tightly and squeezing it briefly.  Her voice was earnest as she answered him.

            “If thou wronged me, my lord, then any forgiveness that needs to be granted is given to thee, freely and gladly.  Thy teacher I will be in this if thou truly do wish it to be so.  Though I do not think the lessons will be to thy liking,” she answered, a note of warning creeping into her voice with the last bit.  The speech she had once used in the Golden Age was something she had slipped into unconsciously.  Yet upon finishing and realizing how she had spoken, Lucy felt the style of speech was both fitting and right.

            After a moment, Caspian turned his head to look at her once more and gave her a crooked smile.  “When we reach Narnia, ask Doctor Cornelius about if I liked every lesson he’s given me or not.  All, however, were necessary.  At least in his opinion,” and with those words the tension in the air broke.  Once again they were just Caspian and Lucy, sitting together and talking and being.  “I’ll learn as you teach, Lu.”

            “All right, then,” was her simple reply as she leaned forward and gave him a light and brief kiss that surprised him.  She smiled faintly, cheeks just barely pink, upon pulling back.  “When we are back there, we’ll meet with Lord Bern.  I think that the lessons may take a long while, though.”  Her voice became light and teasing with the last sentence.

            “I hope they last for more years to come than you can imagine,” Caspian said seriously, charmed at how her blush deepened at his words.  His heart warmed at the sight as well, and he was severely tempted to kiss her again.  It would not be proper, however; they were alone in her cabin.  The light and brief kiss she had given him was all that they could share at the moment.

            Whatever he wanted, it would have to suffice.

            He mentally shook his longing away and suddenly stood, pulling her up with him with their still joined hands.

            “Lessons can wait, though, I rather think.  Let’s go meet with Drinian.  We can see how the lords are afterward, too, if you like.”

            “It sounds like an excellent plan,” Lucy answered, cheeks still slightly pink and smile wide as they walked towards the cabin’s door.

            In the back of his mind, though, a thought had begun to niggle at Caspian as something Lucy had said to him slowly began to register minutes after the words were said.

            I don’t know much more than what I’ve told you.