Disclaimer: I own none of it.
Rating: G, probably.
Spoilers: Last Battle
Summary: Post Last Battle. Peter asks Aslan to look beyond Susan's inability to believe.
When Peter had first met Aslan, he’d been overcome with awe and respect. Being in the presence of such a breathtaking figure had brought him unconsciously to his knees and his heart had brimmed with wonder and fright. He had loved, admired and feared the lion instantly. And when the crown was placed on his fair hair at the coronation, he had known that even though he was the High King, he would always be beneath another whether he consented to it or not. This did not bother him in the slightest. He served willingly.
To Peter, Aslan was infallible. Everything was part of a plan. Even the things that brought him pain, even the clouds with no determinable silver lining, he always believed them to be threads in a tapestry that deft hands were weaving, and consequentially never complained when he was forced to bear great burdens or endure harsh trials. Aslan was a guide, a friend, a comfort. His faith was not without waver; when he tumbled back out of the wardrobe and into his old world, he had been shocked and hurt and confused, not to mention extremely disoriented. He had wondered why the Lion would do such a thing, to send him away from his home and immerse him in a world where he had what seemed like such a small part to play. But eventually, it all came back to being one thing in a greater scheme. So he had continued on.
He had been rewarded months later, when he was pulled from the train station and found himself back in his beloved Narnia. As he trod the beach with his siblings, exulting in the wonderful world around him, he had allowed a brilliant smile to light his face and rejoiced in being home. He had eagerly anticipated seeing Aslan again. It had been so much more difficult to feel his presence in England, where it was war and people did not smile, and laughed patronizingly at such things as magic and fantasy. So when Lucy claimed to see the lion, his heart had leapt in hope. But Peter, hindered by a year in a harsher world, had not been able to see and had led them away from him. When finally he saw that Lucy had been correct, his belief had again swelled, and he had soberly vowed to himself never to question the judgment of Aslan again. It was one of the only serious vows he had ever broken.
Peter’s last passage into Narnia – the one that came after a moment of blinding agony, his ears filled with the screams of his youngest siblings – was like falling from a great height, only to discover that he could fly. The world there was green and new and fresh, full of clean air and boundless possibilities. It was a welcome contrast to the grey, stale, industrialized streets of England. It was only in the quiet cool of the evening, after the last battle, that he realized that his perfect world was not quite perfect.
Seeking Aslan seemed pointless. The lion would come when and only when he felt the compulsion to. But Peter had done so anyway, and not been surprised to find him waiting, silently swishing his tail as he lay in the tall grass of a forest glen. His deep, golden eyes had met Peter’s clear blue in a moment of intense connection.
“Aslan,” the young man breathed, bowing low. The lion stood and surveyed the High King.
“Child,” he said, after a time. “You are troubled.”
Peter stood silently. Aslan understood. Of course he understood, he always understood, he knew everything, he understood everything. Then why…how…
“Lord Aslan. My sister…” he trailed off.
“She did not believe,” the lion replied.
“There were times when I, too, faltered,” Peter argued. “It is hard to believe sometimes.”
“And yet you, in the end, always returned.”
“She has not yet reached the end, then. Do you plan to call her at a later time?”
Aslan’s brow creased and he flicked his tail.
“Her path has veered from Narnia. There can be no redemption for her now,” he said. Peter clenched his fists and shut his eyes. Aslan understood. He must understand.
“Lord Aslan,” he said quietly, intensely. “Susan has not turned her back on your way. You must see this.”
The lion began to pace. Back and forth he went, watching the young man, moonlight playing over his golden back and casting unusual shadows upon the world. He seemed agitated.
“You suggest then, that even though your sister has denounced me and my land as a fairy tale, she has never stopped believing?” Peter almost flinched at this, remembering the time when she had finally stopped tolerating their talk of Narnia and had left, silently, saying everything while saying nothing as she closed the door in the disbelieving faces of her brothers and sister. He remembered being angry and bewildered. But there were other memories, too.
“My Lord,” he began. “There was a time when you told me that belief shows itself in many ways. I believed, always. Edmund and Lucy, too, they never had trouble keeping faith in you and in this world. For Susan it was too hard to believe outright, so she stopped listening to us. But she never strayed from your path, Aslan. She never stopped following you, even if she could not see who she was following or why. It is just like you said, Lord – please, look and see.”
And as Aslan did look, into Peter’s own rapidly beating heart, the other memories surfaced in succession.
Susan, embracing him on his graduation day, a look of gentle pride gracing her already beautiful features. Susan, smiling as she served soup to a downhearted, disheveled man in an old, worn building. Susan, laughing with Lucy as they pelted their brothers with snowballs on a wonderful wintry morning. Susan, visiting a dying child, soothing the bedcovers of the white hospital bed and comforting the sick stranger beneath them. Susan, holding Edmund to her tightly as they both wept for their father, lost in the war. Susan, working hard and faithfully donating some of her meager salary to charity each month. Susan, dressed in black and silently weeping beside several fresh graves, a look of unspeakable pain etched across her young face…
“Son of Adam,” Aslan said, “You were right to come to me. I fear I may have judged her too quickly.
“Oh please, Aslan. Please bring her back to us,” Peter pleaded. He would have been ashamed, at one time, to beg something from the lion. But he could not forget her cool hand upon his feverish forehead, or her trusting smile when he listened to her speak or even the little thinning of her lips when she tried to act older than she was. She was his sister. He would not abandon her.
“Tell me, High King. What made her turn away from an open faith?” Aslan asked. Peter looked at the ground for a moment, thinking.
“It hurt for her,” he said finally. “She could not bear to remember a place of such beauty if she could not return to it.”
“Pain comes to all of us at some point,” the lion returned. “Why could she not endure it?”
“Weakness, too, comes to all of us. Forgive her, Lord Aslan. Let her return to you.”
“You must give me time to think about what I have seen, Son of Adam,” said Aslan, and there was a finality about his words. Peter bowed his head respectfully but bit his lip. A glance from the lion let him know that he was to leave, and so without a sound he turned and walked away.
That night, Peter slept out on the plain. The wind, gentle as his sister, rustled the tall, soft grasses that formed his bed and swept throughout the sleeping land with little whispers. It tenderly brushed stray golden hair from the young man’s face as he dreamed deeply.
He found himself at the moment when their father had left for the war. Lucy was sobbing outright; Edmund was doing his best to hold back his tears but sniffed loudly. Peter remembered not knowing what to feel at that moment, torn between being strong for his siblings or crying, because he needed to. Then Susan had put her arms around him and whispered softly that it was all right to cry, and he had done so immediately, there on her shoulder. It was the first time he’d really caught on that she was acutely sensitive to his feelings and genuinely cared. And as he stood, supporting his eldest sister while she, too, wept, he felt strangely at peace.
His dream shifted, and he watched from a corner as Susan carefully applied makeup in a cheap silver mirror, readying herself to leave for a party. This had happened more than once before. Edmund and Lucy always disapproved – they said that a Queen wouldn’t go to a party and dress up just for the boys, and that she had better things to do. But Peter had always let her go without a word, because he understood the temptation and because there was something different about Susan when she went out. She never wore the carrion expression of a woman looking for a steady husband, but looked genuinely happy to have the chance to speak to people and get to know them. She did it to relax. Not to impress.
In a whirl of color, he was abruptly dancing at the coronation ball, laughing madly as he and Susan faked their way through a dance that neither had really learned. The formality had seemed so silly then, and after the ball, they had collapsed in a giggling heap on the stairs of the Great Hall and caught their breath. Lucy, cheeks pink and breathing heavily, had come skipping up after quite a lot of dancing herself, and the three had laughed as Edmund alone stood, looking dignified after an evening spent watching others make fools of themselves. Finally, Peter had leapt up and tackled his brother to the carpeted floor, ignoring the indignant yelp of surprise. Then all four had lay there, staring at the high ceiling and enjoying one another’s company, until some scandalized subjects had passed by and they’d gone to bed.
Slowly, Peter awoke to an early morning of quiet birdsong. The grass tickled his cheeks. Blinking in the sunlight that had spilled across the field, he ran a hand through his wind-tousled hair and turned his head sideways, away from the painful light. His half-lidded blue eyes were still full of sleep, but there was, unmistakably, someone sleeping beside him. Again, he blinked, but this time as if to assure himself that he was not dreaming any longer. Then a warm happiness had spread through his body as he silently pulled the other figure to himself, cradling her in the tall grass. He kissed her forehead, overwhelmed with brotherly love, and whispered,
“Welcome home, Susan.”