Hey guys!

Here's the complete chapter! Hope you like it!

Also, a list of our characters birthdays, since Lucy's birthday is featured in this one:

Lucy: November 25th

Edmund: March 4th

Susan: August 28th

Peter: July 23th

Caspian: February 8th

Beth: April 18th

Adrien: June 12th

Cheers for reading!

Chapter 22. "There's a Place For Us."

"There was no part of him that was not broken, that had not healed wrong, and there was no part of him that was not stronger for having been broken." - Leigh Bardugo, Six Of Crows.

"She'd laughed, and if he could have bottled the sound and gotten drunk on it every night, he would have." - Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows.

"Are you angry?"

It took a moment for Beth to snap off the fascinating tale contained in Adrien's book, but when she did look up, she encountered Adrien's nervous gaze with a frown. "Sweetheart, please. Why would I be?"

Adrien wrung his hands together in a sheepish manner. "Because I tried to hide it from you? Because I didn't tell you I started reading the book you gave me?"

Beth cocked her head as she stood, a smile forcing its way onto her lips because, more than anything else, her little brother looked adorable whenever he thought he could hide anything from her.

As they were relatively in public, being in the gardens that were open for all habitants of the castle, Beth knew she should behave as the High Queen of Narnia and refrain from all of her emotions until she was in the comforts of her own private quarters, away from spying eyes. However, she was above everything a sister, and one who had a brother who needed her reassurance. And so, she carefully left the worn leather book on the bench she had been sitting on and walked towards her brother, who stood a few feet from her.

"Do you actually think I could ever be angry about this?"

Adrien tried to scoff, but his eyes betrayed his nervousness. "I suppose I don't."

Beth smiled at that. She grabbed her brother's face and placed two kisses on his forehead. "Of course I'm not angry, my dear brother. I could never be angry with you."

"Except for that time I ran away from Trufflehunter to release the River God, of course."

"I was not angry, I was scared." Beth paused for a moment before rolling her eyes. "But yes. I suppose you are right."

"High Queen Elizabeth. Lord Adrien."

Both siblings turned towards the entrance just in time to catch one of the gate guards bowing respectfully. Beth released her brother, but stood beside him as she smiled politely. "Yes my friend?"

The guard stood straight, yet gulped as the High Queen's intimidating gaze fell on him. "High King Caspian has asked me to inform you that you are being expected in the courtyard."

Beth 's smile grew. "Are we the only ones missing?"

"Yes, Your Majesty."

"Thank you, friend." Beth nodded her head. After the guard left, Beth looked down at her brother with a smirk. "How angry do you think they are?"

Adrien laughed at that. "That we have kept them waiting? The boys are furious, that's for sure."

"Peter wants to get to Cair Paravel as fast as possible. He is probably the angriest one. And Caspian wants to explore the site as much as we both do. He has to be quite anxious as well."

"I don't know. Edmund tends to get very upset whenever you are not beside him." Adrien shrugged. "Maybe we should walk slower."

"Agreed," Beth replied with a giggle. She clutched his hand affectionately. "Because it also gives me the time to tell you I understand why you didn't tell me."

Adrien's voice was small. "You do?"

"Of course. Sometimes, we have to process things that are way heavier than we expected. Even when it comes to your family, telling someone else sometimes means that we have to explain the situation, or even that we have to understand it. You deserved to understand it without any sort of extra weight or concern." Beth let go of Adrien's hand so she could exchange places with him as they reached the top of the stairs that led from their floor and straight to the main entrance of the castle. Leaving Adrien free range to grab the marble handrail, she wrapped an arm around his shoulders with a smile. "Besides, I got to read about your legendary bloodline now. That's more than enough for me."

Adrien frowned. "Bloodline?"

"Vocabulary lesson later," Beth replied before releasing her brother. She then opened the book, carefully flipping through its pages with a smile as they continued their trip down the stairs. "I think it's amazing you get to have a piece of your family. Learning about them, knowing the full extent of their mission, that must be relieving right?"

Adrien shrugged, eyeing the book almost with trepidation. "It's a lot, I admit. To know that my family has always served the Kings and Queens of Narnia…I mean, the first of our family - that history knows of -was the First General when King Frank and Queen Helen ruled, and was in charge of the defence against the supporters of the White Witch. Without Oreius, who knows if Peter and the others would have won against the White Witch. My father and sister were fundamental in the survival of the Narnians during our revolution against the Telmarines. Their fate was to protect Narnia. They have all died performing it."

"You threw Oreius' sword onto the river after the battle," Beth gently reminded him. "You do not have to follow your family's footsteps."

"But I became your brother. After my uncle died, anything could have happened to me. You didn't have to give me even a second glance. And yet, I became your family." Adrien took a deep breath. "What if this is part of it? What if I became your family because I am meant to protect Narnia?"

"You think I was forced to become your sister?" Beth looked down at him with bewilderment, yet tried to be as calm as possible in order not to fret Adrien. "That night, when I showed you our room and asked you if you wanted us to become family, you think I did that because of anything other than my love for you?"

By then, they had reached the bottom of the stairs. Two guards stood on either side of the closed main entrance, and made a move to open the large doors as they caught sight of the High Queen and the Narnian Lord. Beth shook her head imperceptibly and led Adrien towards the other side, away from any windows so their family didn't have the chance to catch sight of them.

"I don't know." Adrien's voice was small, his gaze on the floor as Beth knelt before him. "Maybe you don't know either. Maybe that was just part of my fate."

Beth sighed. She closed her eyes for a second before forcing herself to smile. As she opened her eyes again, she gently lifted her brother's face so he was looking at her. "I always believed coming to Narnia the way I did was part of my fate, even before Jack confirmed it for me back in the How. I could have met anyone in the woods, yet the one I met was Tor. My dad, the King, could have hated me. He could have thrown me into the streets. Instead, he adopted me and made me a Princess even though I don't have one drop of his blood coursing through my veins."

Against his will, Adrien relaxed slightly. "So you understand my point."

Beth smiled in amusement. "I understand what it means to have unexpected turns thrown your way. But, while life may be unpredictable and even terrifying, I do know that we still get to make our own choices. We still get to choose who is part of our family. You are my family because I love you, because we are comrades."

"Are Ersan, Tor and Torin your family?"

Beth pursed her lips as she took a moment to think of her answer. Ersan's sudden departure still haunted her. What he told her in that letter was that Torin had escaped his confinements, and there were now rumours of retaliation from the Prince and his supporters. Ersan had thus left as swiftly as possible to Anvard in order to secure the realm.

Even as the hours passed and she received no word from Ancherland that spoke of war, treason or mutiny, Beth still felt as if time had run out. She could only pray to find Tor and bring him back before Torin managed to gather enough support to do something reckless.

Could Torin be her family after this? They had never been friends but he was her brother, her family, so their nonexistent friendship was of no consequence for her. Now, with her father, her brother, and her people in danger because of him…it was difficult for Beth to decide what was him to her now.

As she had said before, sometimes sharing things with others meant explaining them. She wasn't ready to do that just yet.

"They are. They will always be my family." Beth stood up, walking back towards the entrance and smiling at the guards who once again moved to open the doors. "But you are my home, brother. I chose to be your sister because I love you. We are all comrades, after all."

"Except for when you are being unnecessarily protective, of course."

Beth rolled her eyes. They had finally reached the main entrance of the castle, so she smiled as the early morning sunlight gently danced across her features. It was just after dawn, so the castle wasn't quite awake yet. "Dude, look at our family. Do you think any of them are not capable of taking care of themselves?"

Adrien pursed his lips but paused as he took in the sight before him.

By the courtyard, the griffins were ready to take them to Cair Paravel. As they waited for the Royal Family, they were talking amicably amongst themselves and ruffling their feathers. Around them, the Telmarine staff walked stiffly, as if fearing one sudden move would cause them to attack.

Peter was the closest to them, his gaze flitting between the map in his right hand, the sky above his head and the compass in his left hand. His gaze was furrowed, focused, as if he thought he could materialise a faster way to their ancestral home. From time to time, he would turn and feel the wind blowing before nodding to himself, as if taking into account the ideal conditions for flying.

Behind him, Edmund and Caspian stood next to each other, mimicking the Magnificent King's actions and giggling amongst themselves. For Adrien, it wasn't as comical as the kings must have reckoned, but it certainly seemed so for the two young men. Caspian was practically wheezing as he watched Edmund's antics. The Just King meanwhile, had put his hands on his hips and was performing quite a remarkable performance, though his reddened face spoke of his own hilarity.

Susan and Lucy stood side by side. They weren't talking to each other but their unimpressed expressions were identical as they watched Caspian and Edmund. As Adrien turned towards them, the two Queens suddenly looked at each other, and laughed despite themselves.

"Well?" Beth's own smile could be heard in her voice.

"I suppose not," Adrien grumbled, smiling despite himself. "Though the rest of the world should have protection when around us."

"That is a good point," Beth laughed before embracing Adrien by the shoulders. "We do not protect each other because we think the other is not capable. We protect each other because we love each other. Your family loved you, Adrien. This family loves you as well. And legacy or no legacy, you will never have to face anything alone."

Adrien lit up at that. "So we protect one another."

"And we fight side by side when the time comes." Beth finished with a knowing smirk.

"My love!" Edmund suddenly yelled from the courtyard. "If we don't leave now, Peter's neck vein is going to explode!"

"Edmund!" Peter yelled, fuming when Edmund, Caspian, Susan and Lucy dissolved into laughter.

"That's okay, Pete." Lucy quipped. "It's better than Edmund dissolving into tears because Beth wasn't by his side."

"Hey!" Edmund yelled, his cheeks bright red with shame. "That has never happened!"

They all fell in silence, Beth included, as they stared at him.

"Fine, it has happened twice. But it was when you and I had broken up! I had plenty of reasons to be sad!" Edmund finally snapped, his eyes pleading as they fell on Beth. He then turned towards Lucy with a snarl. "You are supposed to be on my side!"

Lucy snorted. "Since when?"

Beth turned towards Adrien with a smile."Shall we go?"

Adrien nodded dramatically. "Let's protect our family before they kill one another."

oOo

If the feel of her bow in her hands gave her the sense that she was in control of the time she had left, then the feeling of flying had to be her definition of freedom.

The last time she had flown, it had been when they were on their way to the Telmarine Castle for that wretched raid. She still remembered how she felt that night, that night in which she could finally let go of her anger towards Peter, her jealousy towards Beth, and her fear for her feelings towards Caspian. That night, even when on the edge of battle, she was free.

That night, even under the threat of war, even as she flew towards the enemy, even as she willingly put her own life at risk, she was finally at peace. How could she not be? Under the silver moon, caressed by the gentle nocturnal breeze, far from her siblings' bickering. How could she not be anything but at peace?

As she flew with her family towards Cair Paravel, Susan couldn't help but think of that night.

Yes, she was no longer in danger. She was on her way towards her ancestral home. She was about to spend her little sister's birthday in the place that had been host to some of her happiest memories. What was awaiting her? Days spent under the sun, with the white sand between her toes and the elegant waves of the Eastern Sea dancing on their own accord.

At that moment, if she had the choice, Susan wouldn't have hesitated.

She would have chosen to go back to that night when she was headed for battle.

Taking her gaze off the forest below her, Susan carefully looked up at her companions, silently thanking her stars that she was by the end of the group.

Peter and Adrien were by the front of the group. The young centaur, who had for some reason chosen Peter as his personal hero, was watching the Magnificent King in complete rapture, his eyes wide with excitement as Peter told the story of his war against the Giants back when herself, Edmund and Lucy were in Calormen.

Lucy, Edmund, Caspian and Beth were flying relatively side by side a few metres before her. Lucy and Beth were passionately discussing the differences between their childhoods in the England they had come to know. Lucy told Beth stories of Britain overcome by the war, while the High Queen returned the favour with stories of modern England, where they had colour tv, things called cellphones and laptops, and where girls were able to dress with much more freedom than during their time. Occasionally, Edmund and Caspian would pipe in with questions or their own stories about their own childhoods but were otherwise preoccupied discussing their shared passion for books and, as Edmund hadn't had much chance to read Telmarine books, Caspian was dutifully sharing everything he could think of his favourite novels.

Susan sighed. She shortly looked back, towards the direction of the Telmarine Castle.

If she turned her griffin around and went back to the castle, would they miss her? After all, they all seemed to be horribly alright with this turn of events. Or at least, they were all seemingly able to cope elegantly with their fate.

For Susan, the situation was perfectly clear. Therefore, she couldn't blame her family. Of course she couldn't. They were suffering as much as she was, for they were about to lose almost as much as her.

Peter, Edmund, Lucy and herself were going back to a world in which they were irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. No longer Kings and Queens, but normal members of the society. Susan would leave Narnia as the Archer Queen, leader of an army who would follow her every command, loved by thousands. She would reach England as a small girl, ignored unless she was ready to scream louder than all.

Her life had been split in two.

Half of her soul rested in England, with her mum and dad, with the coffeeshops she would go to with her friends for a session of gossiping, with the simple tasks such as tucking Lucy into bed, discussing a book with Edmund or cooking with Peter.

Half of her soul rested in Narnia, in the chess matches against Adrien, in the long rides she would go on with Caspian, the archery competitions she would have with Beth, the exploring of old corridors in the castle with Lucy, the debates with Edmund under the shadow of their favourite tree by the most hidden part of the gardens, the strolls she would take with Peter through the forest adjacent to the Telmarine Castle.

In Narnia, no one really understood what it felt to be divided in two except for her siblings and Beth. Not even Caspian understood completely what it felt to miss half of you regardless of where you were. But, in Narnia, she was accepted for who she was. They all knew her story and she was still loved by all. She was still deemed a heroine instead of a freak.

In England, she would only have her siblings.

And once they all went on their own paths? What would happen when they all embarked on their own quests to make their dreams a blessed reality? They all had different ideas of what they wanted in life, after all. Peter had always dreamed of becoming a doctor, so medical school would be waiting for him once they went back. Edmund still wanted to be a writer, although he didn't discuss it much. And Lucy, she wanted to be an artist. Susan could almost see her little sister in Paris, Vienna or Rome, praised and beloved by the most recognized critiques of their time.

And Susan? She wanted to be a lawyer. She wanted to make a positive change in people's lives, such as she had done it in Narnia. And her future did not seem easy, for starters because not many women managed to graduate from law school. Still, it was exciting. And lonely.

In England, she would be alone, a stranger to her own normal life.

Meanwhile, in Narnia, she would become a distant memory. She would slowly disappear, to her friends, to her subjects, to her loyal comrades in arms.

Even to Adrien and Beth.

Even to Caspian.

With that, Susan the Gentle finally managed to snap into her current reality. She gazed at Peter and Adrien, still talking by the front of the group. She studied Edmund and Beth, who were now talking in hushed voices, sweet smiles on their faces. She grimaced at Lucy and Caspian as they talked like the big brother and little sister that they were in all the ways that mattered.

She watched them all, and felt resentment brightening her gut with scorching, golden fire.

Aslan was to blame, yet again. He again had decided that they were no longer useful. They had done the job, they had risked their lives, they had mourned, laughed and cried. They had made their lives, yet again.

And again, they were shown to the door.

And the fact that no one else could see it made Susan feel terribly and desperately alone.

"Su?" Lucy suddenly spoke. She and Caspian had turned towards her, their gazes furrowed with concern. "Are you okay?"

Susan plastered a smile to her face. How could she tell the truth? How could she trust them entirely, when she knew none of them would understand her?

"I'm perfectly alright," Susan replied before gazing downwards, towards a forest that was more and more familiar to her the closer they got to Cair Paravel.

She would enjoy the days at her ancestral home. She would bathe in the Eastern Sea, feel the white sand between her toes and sleep under the moon and stars. She would celebrate Lucy's birthday, tease Edmund and Beth for their cheesiness and even exchange stories around the fire.

Then, she would go back to the castle.

And Aslan and herself would have a talk.

oOo

It was almost hilarious, how her life sometimes seemed to come full circle.

Not because she enjoyed those moments, of course, but because -once she remained silent - she could swear she could hear the Fates cackling at her.

Susan kept her gaze fixed on the statue made of her an eternity ago. She was crouched down, one of her hands lightly grazing the dirty marble floor beneath her feet. Her breath was shallow, her body so unmoving that she resembled a statue. Her hair fell freely behind her shoulders and down her back.

And her sapphire eyes, they were glazed, clouded with the ghosts of her past.

She remembered the last time she had been there, so vivid it almost felt as if it had happened five minutes before.

She had stood there, for the first time in a year dressed with her beloved Narnian gown, the reassuring leather strap of her quiver pressing against her chest, her hair free from the restricting British hairstyles. She had stared at her statue with reverence, the truest image left of who she was back when she had everything she wanted.

She had stared and she had felt everything. Happiness for being back in her home. Guilt that she had doubted, that she had broken down so easily and had secretly believed she would never see Narnia again.

Tender hope at the promise she made in that moment. The promise that she would never doubt again.

Truly, Susan would dissolve into laughter if only the urge to cry wasn't stronger.

"You left us quite fast, sister."

Susan barely had the instinct to hold herself in position, the hand she still had on the floor preventing her from topping over. She glanced shortly to her left, only with enough time to make sure Peter was alone, before looking again at her statue. "I wasn't aware I was participating enough to be missed."

"You are our sister." Peter sat on the last step of the stairs before shooting Susan a kind smile. "You don't have to participate to be missed."

Susan closed her eyes for a second, debating whether to run from the conversation that was about to take place or to instead stand up and scream every single thing she was angry about.

She took a deep breath, clenching her jaw as she made a third choice, sitting down on the filthy floor and looking at her brother as emotionless as she could manage.

It wasn't Peter's fault. She had to remember her family was going through the same thing.

She just had to remember that.

"I felt guilty when we came back." Susan bent her knees before her, resting her chin on them. Her gaze always on her brother. "I felt that I had doubted Aslan the entire year we were in England, only for Him to bring us back."

Peter snorted at that. "You at least weren't damaging towards those around you. I was angry when we came back, because I felt Aslan had brought us back only because we were needed."

Susan stood up abruptly, not even noticing the angry tears gathering in her eyes. "You never told us that."

Peter shrugged. "I thought none of you would understand. Lucy has always been able to understand Aslan's plan for us far easier than any of us. Edmund and you were happy getting to know Beth and Caspian…and it was quite heavy, you know? Feeling so much anger towards Aslan was poisonous, it felt as if I was being torn up from the inside. It wasn't until the raid and the White Witch's curse that I was able to feel anything else other than anger."

Susan choked a sob, impatiently rubbing her eyes as a few tears started to slip from her eyes. "I thought none of you would understand my anger. I knew it was different for Edmund and Lucy, so I thought you were also not going to understand. Peter, I have felt so alone. I have felt so angry and so misunderstood that I almost thought I was growing insane!"

"My dear Su," Peter hadn't spoken so lovingly since the Golden Age of Narnia. He quickly climbed down the last step of the beaten down stairs and enveloped his little sister in his arms. Peter smiled, in sadness over his sister's pain, yet in relief as his sister was seemingly finally opening up to him. As Susan buried her face into his chest in a vain attempt of shushing her sobs, Peter rested his chin on her head and closed his eyes. "Please know that you can always talk to me. Even if I hadn't been able to understand, I would have listened. I would have tried to understand."

"I allowed myself to trust that this time we would get to stay!" Susan cried mournfully. She clenched her brother's damp shirt with her hands. "We met Caspian and Beth and Adrien and all the others and I lowered my barriers! I allowed myself to consider them my friends! I allowed myself to think of Beth and Adrien as my siblings! And Caspian, I allowed myself to-."

"I know," Peter intervened, his voice pained as Susan dissolved into tears again. "You don't have to tell me. I know."

"I'm so afraid, Pete." Susan was whispering now, for the last thing she wanted to do was to expose everything that had been building up inside of her. What she understood though, was that she no longer had the restraint. Since her worst nightmare became real, she hadn't spoken to Peter about it. And yet, now that she had, he had listened, he had understood, and he hadn't held it against her.

It felt as if the dam was broken. It felt as if she had been adrift, her body slowly sinking into the sea, and a lifeline had been suddenly thrown her way.

"I'm so afraid," she repeated, her face still hidden from view. "Peter, I just, I don't know if I can make it. To wake up everyday expectant only to go to sleep heartbroken. I'm not going to make it and I'm so afraid because I know I will disappoint Lucy and Edmund and I know Caspian, Beth and Adrien will be expecting us every single day as well - it's just not fair Peter! We just can't keep holding up our lives, expecting something that we have no idea when is it going to happen!"

Peter took a deep breath, his eyes on his own statue as he tightened his hold on his sister. His eyes were awash with tears too, both because the pain in her sister's voice was snapping him into two pieces and because he understood everything she was saying. He felt the same, after all. "I'm afraid, too. I'm afraid I'll go back to being the angry idiot I was when we went back the first time. I'm terrified that I won't be able to make friends because the life I've had has been too different from the ones the boys my own age have had, and so I won't be able to trust anybody. I'm so afraid that I won't be able to make a successful life for myself in England because I will be constantly expecting to be brought back here for another war. I'm so terrified that I will start to wish for a war to make havoc in Narnia the moment we leave just so we will get to come back sooner."

Susan looked up at his brother, her face contorting in deep pain as she took notice of the grief painted across his eyes. "You won't be alone, Pete. I will be there, too. Even if we end up broken, we will be broken together."

Peter laughed as he wiped his tears. He slowly let his sister go so he could approach his chest. He opened it reverently, and smiled fondly at his belongings, all of them as familiar as old friends - yet strangers after everything that had happened.

"When we talked on the tower, back when King Ersan arrived at the castle, you said you didn't want to come back to Narnia. You said that if we had to leave, you would ask Aslan to stay in England. After we learned we were going back, both Lucy and Caspian told me the same thing. Are you still set on that?"

Susan clasped her hands nervously. After Lucy's and Caspian's reactions, she needed Peter to understand her. She needed someone that understood this wasn't a choice she wanted to make, but rather one she needed to make in order to survive. She needed someone who wouldn't resent her for this, but that would understand that she had run out of strength after such a long time fighting.

Susan was terrified of what he would say. Still, she nodded slowly.

"Yes." Her voice was hoarse. "Once we go back to the castle, I will talk to Aslan and demand that I'm not brought back."

Peter remained still for a moment. His hands were gripping the edges of his chest, his shoulders tensed. His head was slightly bowed, his gaze fixed on some point inside that piece of his old life.

Then, he turned around, leaning against the chest as he stared at his sister. Maybe he was processing her words, maybe he was making sure she meant what she said. In any case, he nodded slightly after a second, his head cocked. "When we talked that morning in that tower, I told you I would fight beside you, no matter what. Do you remember that?"

Susan pressed her lips together. Then, she nodded.

"Do you remember what you said in return?"

Susan bowed her head in sadness. "I said I was tired of fighting. I said I couldn't fight anymore."

"Is that still the case?"

Susan ignored the twin tears that rolled down her eyes. She distractedly rubbed her chest, trying to relieve the anguish she was feeling. Then, she nodded.

"I meant what I said before. I will always fight beside you, no matter who or what our enemy might be." Peter mused. He looked around him with a sad, yet peaceful smile. "Now, I can see that what you need is something different. I understand that you don't want to fight anymore and I respect that. In a way, I too don't want to fight anymore. I don't think I'm being asked to fight now."

Susan looked up, confusion painted across her features. "Peter?"

"Whether it hurts us or not, Narnia is in good hands. Caspian and Beth will make sure of that. It took me the longest time to accept it…I'm not sure I have accepted it completely but I don't think that's relevant. I know they would do anything to keep our people safe." Peter shrugged, laughing lightly before shaking his head. "If my words aren't a sign that I've grown, I don't know what is."

"Peter," Susan was anything but amused. "I can't let you give up your hope of coming back. You don't have to give up anything just because I'm afraid."

"Thank you, sister, but I'm not doing this for you." Peter shrugged as he took a step closer to his sister. "If anything, I'm doing this because you were brave enough to announce your decision alone. And, Su, I might have not been as…angry as you have been but I have felt the same. I want to make my own life. I want to finish school and go to college. I want to become a doctor. I want to learn how to be a part of one of my worlds without being afraid of my time ending before I could say goodbye or before I could leave things in order. I want…gods, I wish it didn't hurt, I wish it didn't break my heart."

"I know," Susan's lip trembled. There were few times where her brother had cried in front of her and each and every one of those times had broken her irrevocably. "I know, Pete. It breaks me too."

Peter smiled, ignoring his red eyes as he rubbed a hand against his chest. "It will hurt, but we have left before. We have lived with pain before and we are real proof that a person can live with pain. And, I think, there will be less pain for all involved if you and I ask to stay in England. There will be less pain, and we will all have more of a chance to make our own lives, relatively free from the ghosts of our pasts."

"Except for our dreams." Susan smiled at last, even as her eyes shone with tears. "I expect we shall return to Narnia in our dreams."

Peter gulped. "Well, I suppose that's all we can aim for."

Susan laughed loudly, almost harshly after their heartbreaking, anguished conversation. As soon as she started laughing, she stopped, feeling almost guilty that she had allowed herself to do anything but cry. "So, we will talk to Aslan?"

"We will talk to Aslan." Peter took a deep breath and opened his arms. Susan fell into them without a word. "We talk to Aslan and the others…well, we'll hope they'll understand, whenever we end up telling them."

oOo

Lucy was the last one left by the beach.

Susan had been the first to wander off silently, Peter soon following her with claims of making them all some food for lunch. Caspian, Beth and Adrien had wandered off together, wanting to explore that mystical place thoroughly. And Edmund, he had been set on getting reacquainted with his home, intending to start by the place they had saved Trumpkin and see how far he could get.

Lucy was left alone by the water, but soon enough made it out and into the sand, not really seeing so much fun in being in the sea on her own. Of course, the sand was immediately sticking into the edges of her skirts and her hands and hair were uncomfortably sticky from the salted water but really, she was at home, more at home than she had been during her entire second journey in Narnia. How uncomfortable could it actually be?

She lifted her skirts slightly, baring her knees before hugging them. She rested her chin on her arms, her eyes wide as she tried to take in as much as she could from her home.

Before her, the sight was almost impossibly stunning. The water was of a blue hue, yet it shone so much it seemed silver from where she sat. Its waves, rhythmic and calm, seemed a sort of lullaby, greeting her in a way most familiar. Above her, the sky was mostly clear and of a beautiful, intense navy blue. By the horizon, some fluffy clouds could be glimpsed but they were so far off they were no contest to the Sun, so bright it was like a flashlight in the middle of the sky.

The more Lucy took in, the more moved she was. This was her home, in a way England could never be. She had seen war in both worlds, but she had known hope, faith and unconditional love in a way she knew she would never know in England. Narnia was the home of her favourite memories, it was the home of her favourite people. Narnia was the place in which she had found her life, her purpose, and herself.

She knew, deep in her heart, that she would always come back. As much as it broke her to leave her friends, her subjects, and her home, she knew that she would always come back. To her, Narnia was more than the sum of its parts. It was more than her friends, it was more than Aslan, it was even more than who she was there.

Narnia was the feeling of faith she held onto whenever life was harsh. It was the hope that kept her together when her life was marred with doubt. Narnia was where she was complete, more than in any other place.

More than that, she knew she could live with pain. She had done so before. More than that, she knew she would never experience the worst of pains, for she knew she would always come back to her home.

Lucy raised one of her hands, supporting her face tenderly as a wave of bittersweetness and relief flowed within her. Relief because she had been worried her sister's doubt and lack of faith had affected her as well. Bittersweetness because, until she was back, she had to say goodbye to her home.

Lucy chuckled once, sadly, as she blinked and the tears that had been gathering in her eyes rolled down her cheeks. She hugged her legs tightly and buried her face against her knees.

It was so nice to know that, as much as she had changed during their second journey to Narnia, some things - her favourite things about herself - had remained the exact same.

"Hey, are you alright Lu?"

Lucy's head snapped up, and turned almost in its own accord to glare at Edmund, who was plopping onto the sand beside her with a sigh. "I'm going to put a bell around your neck so people know you are coming."

Edmund smirked at her sister before laying down and closing his eyes blissfully. "Because my steps are silent or because I'm a menace?"

"Can't it be both?"

"I came here because I was worried and now I'm being insulted." Edmund titled his face so it would be under Lucy's shadow. His eyes never opened. "I'm so happy right now."

"Cry me a river, dear brother." Lucy lay beside him, smiling when Edmund frowned in protest as the sunlight was again directly bothering his eyes. "I thought you were going to explore as much of the island as you could?"

"Forgot to pack my lunch. Also, I was getting lonely. I want to see if I can convince Beth or Caspian to come with me since they wanted to explore so badly." Edmund shrugged. "Besides, it's good that I came back, since you were crying and all."

"I was not crying." Lucy huffed as she too closed her eyes.

"The dried streaks under your eyes say otherwise, my dear."

Lucy sat back up again, impatiently rubbing her face as she did. "Must you analyse everything?"

"Don't you know me?" Edmund remained unmoved, maybe to give her sister some space, which Lucy secretly appreciated. "Of course I must."

Lucy snorted against her will. She drifted her gaze behind them, towards the ruins of their ancestral home. No one was watching them, no one was even in sight.

"I was thinking about the fact that we're leaving. And I was thinking that even now, I know we will always come back because this is our home. It needs us as much as we need it." Lucy kept her gaze on the ruins even as Edmund sat up beside her. "It is a relief to feel this way. I've changed so much that I thought I was going to ask to stay in England like Susan."

Edmund's eyes widened. "She said that?"

Lucy felt guilty. "It isn't my story to tell so she can explain it to you but she said that. Right after Peter told us we were leaving."

Edmund's shoulders dropped. "Well, she's leaving home. Her anger is understandable."

"Of course it is." Lucy replied evenly. "But so are we."

"She's leaving the one she loves."

"So are you."

Lucy felt even more guilty as something in Edmund's gaze seemed to crack. She made a move to hug him but Edmund smiled sadly.

"I am but I know we will be back. We have to come back." Edmund sighed, this time with sadness.

"Are you thinking of asking Aslan to stay in England? Now that you know Susan will do so?" Lucy was almost afraid to ask but she needed to do so. She needed to know how this trip changed her brothers and sister, in the same way it had changed her.

Edmund lowered his gaze for a moment as he thought of the answer. Then, he shook his head. "No. You know, giving Beth a promise ring was about making a vow, to her and to myself, that I was going to remember and love her no matter how much time we spent apart. But I know our lives will continue. Beth and I agree that we cannot pause our lives waiting for the other. We are more than our love for each other and more than that, we are friends as well as soulmates. I know we will come back because this is our home. And, if I come back and for some reason we are no longer together, I will still hug her with as much love as I have for her now."

Lucy bumped her shoulder against her brother's. "That was awfully romantic, brother."

Edmund laughed awkwardly as he rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, I guess. You said some of you didn't change with this trip. I guess that happened to me as well. I still want to remember everything about our lives in Narnia, all of the good and not-so-good moments. When we go back I'm going to keep writing about our lives here and maybe write a book of it. I guess what's changed is that I no longer feel like my life in Narnia rests in my memories…I feel like it rests in the people I love."

Lucy's laugh was bubblering as she wiped the fresh tears that rolled down her face. "I feel exactly the same."

"I don't think I need to ask Aslan to stay in England because all of you are home. Leaving Narnia will break me, leaving my soulmate and my friends will almost kill me but I've been through worse, and I know I will still have a life and the possibility of being happy and safe. I know everything is going to be okay, and I know I will see everyone here again."

Lucy rested her head on Edmund's shoulders. "I'm so happy you are my brother, Ed. This would be much harder to do without you."

Edmund laughed as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "When we first came to Narnia, we were almost enemies. Our journey has come full circle, wouldn't you say?"

Lucy shook her head. "This has only begun. I still have time to hate your guts all over again."

Edmund's laughter was so loud that it broke the peace that had once again settled in that deserted beach.

oOo

Lunch was a silent affair.

Caspian, Beth and Adrien had made it back from their walk to find that something had changed in the Pevensie while they were gone. Peter and Susan, who had never been the best of friends, now seemed to have bonded over some joint decision as they built a fire in order to heat the food they brought from the castle. Edmund and Lucy, meanwhile, were silent as they set the utensils for their picnic on what used to be the Throne Room and still, their demeanours were filled with tender hope.

As everything was ready by the time the trio made it back, the process of sitting down to eat was an easy one. One filled with deafening silence, yes, but an easy one.

Beth threw a glance at Edmund, who was sitting by her right and grinned when he winked at her. She then exchanged a look with Adrien by her left before she directed her gaze back downwards at her plate. Adrien then gulped before looking towards his left, smiling toothfully when Susan ruffled his hair before throwing him a sweet smile. The young centaur then looked in front of him at Caspian with raised eyebrows before taking a sip of his cup.

Caspian in turn sighed before clearing his throat, looking between Lucy and Peter, who were on either side of him. "Do you think we will be able to build Cair Paravel exactly as it once was?"

Peter nodded slowly. "I think so. There are many books - all of them passing safely from generation to generation amongst the Old Narnians, of course -that will be able to make up for whatever details we don't have time to offer during the time we have left."

"You don't have to build it like it once was, though." Edmund added, his mouth filled with rice. He rolled his eyes when Susan glared at him but still swallowed before continuing. "I mean, Cair Paravel will still be home to all Narnians even if it isn't ëxactly as it used to be."

"We weren't here the first time around," Caspian nodded at Beth and Adrien. "It is going to be different because we aren't in the Golden Age anymore."

"We aren't in the Golden Age yet." Beth smiled reassuringly at Caspian before looking at the others. "But just like the Telmarines - the New Narnians - can find their home in all remaining vestiges of the Telmarine Dynasty, the…Old Narnians should be able to find something they recognize in Cair Paravel."

Lucy seemed about to cry but refrained herself and instead smirked evilly. "When you get to the Orchards, could you build a treehouse?"

Edmund choked on the piece of trout he had just put inside his mouth. Beside him, Beth blinked. "A treehouse?"

"Don't pay attention to her." Edmund growled once he was able to breathe again. He then glared at his sister. "You are turning too old for these sorts of games, sister."

"Well, brother, I disagree." Lucy smiled beatifically in return. "Especially since we are once again children."

Adrien looked at Susan with wide eyes, his voice dropping to a whisper. "I'm so confused."

Susan chuckled despite herself. She looked at Peter, Edmund and Lucy, who looked at her with amusement, rage and undiluted glee respectively, before turning to the remaining three. "When we were crowned, Lucy was 11. Of course, the three of us - mostly Peter and myself -, understood that she needed to have royal responsibilities. After all, Aslan Himself had crowned her Queen with the rest of us."

"Still, we wanted her to have some sort of normal childhood, especially since we were away from Mom so Susan and I were in charge of her, officially. And so, we tried to take the hardest responsibilities for ourselves." Peter continued with a fond smile, his eyes holding a faraway look. "Edmund took that as an invitation to taunt her whenever he got the chance."

"That's an exaggeration, I was not a brat!" Edmund defended, his cheeks reddening despite himself. As everybody laughed, he covered his face with his hands in a poor attempt of covering his flushed state. "Ugh, I hate you all."

"We wanted to let you be a kid too, Ed. You just didn't let us." Susan laughed without restrain, the beautiful sound a relief to everyone else. It had been a while since the Gentle Queen allowed herself to be carefree. "You were most certainly a brat."

"The Brat King," Lucy mused. She smiled at her distressed brother. "Aslan should have named you that."

Edmund uncovered his face, uncaring of the fact that the blush had now extended towards his neck. "You are just jealous you were overcoddled and I wasn't."

"I tried to stop them." Lucy grumbled. "They just didn't listen."

"See?" Edmund smirked victoriously. "Jealous."

"Stop," Beth gasped, tears streaming down her face as she laughed. She nodded at Susan. "What happened then?"

Susan wiped her eyes before continuing. "Well, we had the dwarves build Lucy a treehouse by the Royal Orchards, as they were the most private of them all, so she wouldn't have trouble being a kid without some idiotic Lord or Lady trying to make her be an adult."

"Being a Queen and being an adult do not go hand in hand in Narnia so I digress, but I appreciate the sentiment." Lucy intervened. "I actually loved my treehouse. It was mostly hidden by the leaves of the apple trees so I could read and paint without anyone bothering me. Of course, I used to steal so many apples during the day that I would be full by the time dinner came so Peter wanted to take me to the Royal Physician at least once a week."

"Had you told me the truth, I wouldn't have insisted." Peter argued, his smile betraying his amusement. "I only found out when you were 14 and only because Tumnus told me so."

"Ah, yes," Lucy laughed. She looked towards the horizon, as if she was actually looking for her oldest friend. "I will never forgive him for that betrayal."

"Anyways," Edmund continued, his smile fond, if only slightly melancholic. "There was this one time the Great Lord of Archenland was coming for a visit. Now, this was very early in our reign so we hadn't met King Lune just yet."

"The Great Lord was coming for a sort of evaluation, right?" Peter asked, looking at Caspian, Beth and Adrien when Edmund nodded. "They wanted to be sure we could be good allies for Archenland after everything that happened with the White Witch. Not unlike the sort of meetings you are going to have now that Miraz is gone."

"Was this Great Lord a nice person?" Beth asked to diffuse the sombre atmosphere that threatened to envelope them with that last comment. "I mean, by the way you speak of him, I take it you weren't a fan of him."

"I don't know if I had to be a fan." Edmund shrugged. "He was decent enough but he had been at court his entire life, raised to be the best possible subject of the Archenlandian Crown. So he was extremely stuck up and formal. We were very different."

"You hated him, then." Beth quipped, smiling when Edmund looked at her guiltily.

After a moment, the Mighty Just King looked down at his plate with shame. "I hated him."

As everyone laughed, Lucy pointed accusingly at Peter and Susan with her fork. "And still, when the moment came to decide who would welcome him into Narnia, you chose Edmund over me!"

"So many years have gone by and still, you are sore about it!" Edmund intervened with a laugh.

"How many years exactly?" Adrien asked.

Lucy frowned. "This was during the second year of our reign, so fourteen years, give or take."

Edmund shook his head. "Fifteen, if we take into account the years we spent in England."

Peter shrugged. "Add the thirteen hundred years that have passed since then, if we take into account the Narnian time."

"And if we take into account the English time," Susan countered. "It would be a year and change since then."

"My head hurts." Caspian deadpanned.

"Gotta love the mess our family is," Beth smirked at Caspian. She then turned towards the two eldest Pevensie. "You chose Edmund over Lucy, then. Why?"

"You are supposed to be on my side, love." Edmund reminded her softly as he leaned towards her.

"She is the Wise one, brother," Lucy argued. "If she isn't on your own side, there's a reason for it."

"Well, our advisors and I were dealing with the first threats that came from the Giants by the Northern Territories, who had always been faithful allies of the White Witch." Peter shrugged. "And Su, you were in charge of preparing our first tour towards the Lone Islands, right?"

Susan nodded. "Tumnus and I were. I guess Edmund was in charge of welcoming the Grand Lord of Archenland because of the reputation that preceded him, mostly. And since Edmund was our best diplomat, even then, we thought him the best for the job."

"And I took that personally," Lucy admitted sheepishly. "Especially since Mr. and Mrs. Beaver told me the Grand Lord wasn't a fan of women in charge. And so, I went towards my treehouse to hide until I could sneak back inside towards my room."

"And then," Edmund snorted. "I had the fabulous idea of taking the Grand Lord for a tour through the orchards."

"And they walked directly under me," Lucy pressed her lips together in a poor attempt of hiding her mirth.

Caspian looked at her with pure dread, while Beth did so with a mix of amusement and the sort of horror one experiences when witnessing an unavoidable crash.

Adrien gulped before asking slowly. "What happened then?"

Lucy shrugged. "I may have thrown them some apples."

"Some apples," Edmund repeated in disbelief. "It was at least twenty and they fell on us like pouring rain."

"Only harder." Peter added, covering his laughter with a cough when Susan glared at him.

"How did you manage to throw twenty at once?" Beth asked with interest.

"Oh, I had them in a basket." Lucy was unfazed by the different reactions she was causing in her family. "I thought it would be convenient to avoid having to pluck apples from the branches around me every few minutes."

"Convenient," Edmund deadpanned. "The Grand Lord fainted! He spent the remainder of his stay in the hospital!"

"Lucy!" Caspian gasped while Beth and Adrien dissolved in laughter.

"What?" Lucy crossed his arms defensively. "They did not have to go to the Orchards!"

"You did not have to throw the apples!" Edmund retaliated. "Thank Aslan King Lune found it as hilarious as you did, otherwise we could have faced war!"

"She wasn't the only one who found it hilarious," Peter commented, snorting when Edmund and Susan glared at him. He then turned towards Beth and Caspian. "Probably don't build a treehouse this time around."

"Of course not."

"We will absolutely build a treehouse." Beth shrugged when Caspian turned to her in outrage. "What? A treehouse should be so much fun."

"That was probably one of my favourite memories in Cair Paravel," Lucy admitted. She looked around her with a soft smile. "In the beginning, I missed mum a lot so, while I loved Narnia, I wasn't as happy just yet. That afternoon was one of the first times Cair Paravel felt like home."

"You are the sweetest, sister." Edmund deadpanned, but he too looked around him with tender, melancholic love. "But I know what you mean. I guess that the first time Cair Paravel felt like home was when we held a feast to commemorate the first year of our reign - the first year that Narnia was free from the White Witch. It was the first time I came into a room with the three of you and I was respected and welcomed."

Beth grasped his hand before kissing his cheek lovingly. "You should have been welcomed since the first day you fought for Narnia."

Caspian smiled at them before looking around him. As the sun slowly finished his dance across the sky, the sight around them was slowly reaching golden hour. Behind them and to their right, the four ruins that used to be the Thrones of Cair Paravel were ablaze, its white marble almost iridescent under the sunlight. The grass around them was tall, a sort of yellowish green and swayed softly following the soft breeze that had appeared a few hours ago. To their left, the entrance to the Treasure Chamber was partially shadowed by the ruins towering over it. In front of them, the balcony in which Lucy stood a lifetime ago and watched Aslan's departure, now gave way to the sea of blue before them, the sky above turning pink the more the sun neared the horizon.

"I really wish this place can become home for us as well." Caspian said finally. His voice was hoarse, filled with emotion.

"It will," Peter promised. He too looked around him. His eyes held a dreamy look, as if he was seeing something else entirely. "This is our home because of the memories we made in it, nothing more or less than that."

"Cair Paravel was my home since the first time the four of us sat down together for dinner." Susan admitted quietly. She turned towards Peter with a small smile. "You and Ed were joking around over who knows what and Ed served Lu the food that was too out of reach for her. It was the first time we were a united family, instead of four kids who had gone through too much."

"Cair Paravel became my home the day we were crowned." Peter added, raising his hands in surrender when the others snorted at his comment. "I'm sorry but it's true! It was the first time we had a clear purpose, and a place in which we were safe and protected. It was the first time I felt no longer alone, but surrounded by friends who would help us no matter what."

After a moment in which they all pondered those memories in silence, Beth leaned her head on Edmund's shoulder before grabbing Adrien's hand. Slowly, everyone grabbed each other by the hands as the High Queen smiled with melancholia. "Cair Paravel won't be home without you, not entirely. But we can make sure we honour you by making it so for everyone else."

"And by making Narnia and the world remember that we got to this point because of King Peter, Queen Susan, King Edmund and Queen Lucy, who loved Narnia so much they sacrificed everything to save it again." Caspian clasped Peter's shoulder before raising his cup. "Cheers to our family."

As they all raised their cups, celebrating the home that would carry on whether in Narnia or in England, the Pevensie looked at each other in understanding. Not in acceptance, not just yet, but they had time, to talk, to forgive each other and to understand that, even if their paths separated, they would still be each other's home.

oOo

Under the sunset light, Cair Paravel and its surrounding grounds were even more stunning than normal.

Until then, the trip had been filled with joy and positivity, of course, but it had also been a farewell of sorts. A farewell to their current journey. A farewell to their lives as Kings and Queens of the Golden Age of Narnia.

As such, to say it had been filled with emotions would be the understatement of the year.

And so, in that afternoon by the beach with only the sunset, the gentle wind and the rhythmic dance of the waves as they neared the shore for company, Edmund felt peaceful at last.

Or, maybe they had nothing to do with it, Edmund thought as he smiled towards his right. Maybe it had everything to do with the girl skipping rocks by the shore, her feet naked as she gracefully continued her actions.

"I keep thinking of all the things we could have done, had Cair Paravel remained standing to this day."

Beth, who had crouched as she carefully chose a stone, smiled as her gaze lifted towards her beau. "I am unsure whether to be curious or apprehensive."

"I don't know why, you know me better than anyone else," Edmund replied. He reached for the High Queen in a manner as natural for him as breathing was, and wrapped his arms around her waist. "Of course you should be apprehensive."

Beth laughed, her posture relaxed as she placed her hands on his arms. As peaceful silence grew between again, she rested her head against his chest and smiled with optimism. "It's not over yet. We haven't had the chance to have a life in Cair Paravel yet, but that doesn't mean we can't have one when you come back."

Edmund kissed her covered shoulder before hiding his smile against it. "Oh, really now?"

Beth turned in his arms, gazing up into his hazel orbs with a soft smile. "We will rebuild Cair Paravel again. I will spend every spare minute I have here, recreating our home. And when you come back, you and I will marry here if you still want to. We will marry and our family will live here for the rest of our lives and the next generations to come."

Edmund, who had been smiling fondly at his plans, sobered up as his love talked about their family. "Do you think we will have the chance to have a family? What if we come back and we are both really old or something prevents us from having our happily ever after?"

Beth lifted her hands, slowly caressing his chest, neck and at last his face. She watched closely as he closed his eyes, serene under her ministrations. When he opened them again, she smiled and pressed herself even closer to him.

"I don't know what is going to happen," she whispered. "But I know that you are my family, and that you own the biggest piece of my heart. We deserve our happily ever after and we are going to get it. I know we are."

Edmund smiled, his eyes bright with unshed tears. He rested his forehead against hers. "I believe that too."

Beth raised an eyebrow in a playful manner. "Even if you come back and we're both old and wrinkly?"

"You would still be the most beautiful woman alive, without a doubt." Edmund replied without missing a beat. He laughed when Beth merely levelled him with an unimpressed look and leaned down to kiss her longingly. "I don't think you understand the extent of my love for you, my Queen. I can wait hundreds of years if that's what it takes, because I know that all paths will lead me back to you."

Beth shook her head, her eyes spilling happy tears for the first time since that afternoon in the woods where they first met. She stood on her toes to kiss him as much as her smile allowed her, her hands burying themselves blissfully in his hair. "I'm so lucky. To adore you and be adored by you in return, I never thought I would even get to be this happy."

"I'm glad that you believe me," Edmund whispered, rolling his eyes playfully when Beth looked at him questioningly. "When you were angry at me at the How and the Telmarines showed up, I asked you whether you believed me when I told you I love you. I'm glad you do."

"I always did. Even when you were insufferable and I wanted nothing to do with you, I always believed that." Beth turned around in his arms to once again look at the setting sun, who was by now merely a spot of blinding light by the horizon. She sighed contentedly when Edmund continued to kiss her cheek, the side of her neck and her shoulder in a lazy manner. "Can we make a promise here and now?"

"Anything," Edmund mumbled as he continued laying lazy, loving kisses wherever he could reach on the beautiful creature that was his beau. He wondered whether he could leave a hickey on the side of her neck but rapidly decided against it, for it would be unbecoming of the High Queen of Narnia. He should have used the time they had when she was merely a Princess of Archenland and they were in the middle of the war.

Right then, he wondered whether she knew what kind of power she had over him. Truly, she could ask anything of him and he would agree in a heartbeat.

At that moment, Beth danced away from him. Edmund turned instinctively towards her, already feeling the pang at the loss of her warmth, but she stood merely a few steps away, her hand unstretched towards him.

"We promise that when you come back, we will marry in the forest at night. It will be a fitting ceremony for the High Queen and the legendary Just King Of Old, surrounded by the elements that we were both crowned after. Aslan will marry us and we will have a grand feast to celebrate our love and the continuation of the Narnian Royal Family."

"Okay," Edmund replied carefully. He slowly walked towards his beau, secretly confused, yet his arms already extended before him, for he craved the feel of her small figure against him. "I can promise that but I must admit I don't understand. I already kind of thought our wedding was going to be like that."

"Our wedding will be like that," Beth continued, her voice soft. She grabbed his hands and interlocked their fingers, her gaze never leaving his. "But the afternoon before, let's promise we will get married right here. Only our family and us. Caspian can be your best man, Lucy and Susan can be my bridesmaids. My dad and Tor will walk me towards you, Adrien can be our ring bearer and Peter may be the one to marry us."

Edmund smiled, the most beautiful smile he had ever uttered, for those plans where everything he wanted for his future. "And Aslan?"

"Aslan may marry us in our second wedding. The first one is for our family, for the people who love us and who we love the most." Not being able to contain herself, Beth pressed a small, fleeting kiss to the corner of his mouth. She laughed when Edmund turned it into a thorough kiss and by the time they pulled away, she was completely breathless. "Let's promise it will be small, beautiful and filled with the love we have for each other. Let's promise we will have that right here, in the first place we talked about our plans for our home and our family."

Edmund nodded eagerly, biting his lip as he snaked his arms around her waist. He kissed her forehead and her nose before smiling. "I swear, my love."

"Good," Beth replied, reaching up to kiss him, her arms tightly wrapped around his neck. "I love you."

"I love you," Edmund replied, immediately, reaching down for another kiss.

After what felt like an infinite amount of time, yet one painfully short, Edmund sighed as he rested his forehead against hers. "We should be going back."

"Or…" Beth trailed off, pausing to kiss Edmund again. She bit his lower lip, dissolving into merry giggles when Edmund let out a sound between a surprised gasp and a moan.

"Oh, you're mean." Edmund tried to grab her, intending to tickle her, but Beth had danced away from him again.

"Or, we continue walking. I want to plan our lives together some more." Beth extended her hand, biting her lips when Edmund only looked at her with blown pupils. "Think about all the snogging we can engage in under the cover of darkness."

Edmund looked behind him, where the ruins of Cair Paravel and their family awaited. Then, he turned towards his love, who looked even more enticing than normal with her rosy cheeks, her swollen lips and her tousled locks.

"Let them miss us," Edmund as last replied, running towards Beth, laughing as she squealed when he lifted her by the waist and spun them.

Now, the reader may wonder whether they had realised the sun had long ago set, the sky growing darker by the second. The writer wonders that as well.

Not to worry, though. As a couple very much in love, our protagonists had better things to worry about. The writer secretly thinks that the couple in question could not see the growing darkness around them, for their happiness was enough to light up their surroundings.

oOo

"Well, look who finally showed up!" Lucy exclaimed from the bonfire as two shadowy figures made their way towards them.

"Truthfully, I thought we weren't going to see you until tomorrow!" Peter added, his laughter soon growing louder as the missing couple were at last under the light of the bonfire.

Both of them sported the messiest hair in their entire lives, their lips were swollen and their cheeks rosy, though that may have been because of the embarrassment rather than due to other activities.

Edmund's shirt was slightly wrinkled, as if it had been thrown onto the sand and worn again in a hurry. Beth's dress' buttons had been put on the wrong loops, which she only noticed as she looked down at herself under the light of the bonfire.

Beth at least had the decency to look embarrassed, hiding behind Edmund as she corrected her appearance. Edmund was too proud for that.

"Go on, get it all out. I'm sure this is hilarious for all of you." Edmund growled. He turned his back towards them, towering over Beth to give her more room to cover herself.

"It's not hilarious for me," Adrien grumbled, his face completely ashen as he cowered in his seat by the fire beside Peter. Peter snorted loudly at that, covering his tiny face with a large hand as he laughed with the others.

"I will remember this," Beth said weakly as she left the safety of Edmund's shadow. She sat down besides Lucy, smiling when Edmund plopped on her other side, interlocking his fingers with hers.

"Are you sure you want to?" Susan asked, her smile wide and genuine even if her eyes were slightly too wide.

"Shut up." Beth replied pleasantly before looking around her. "Now, have you brought it?"

"We have," Susan nodded, her eyes twinkling. Since the lunch a few hours before, Susan had grown much more like she had been for most of their trip. There was a sort of sad disposition about her, as if she was readying herself for a future battle…and still, she seemed to be calm, rather than desperate. It seemed as if she, at last, had come to accept her fate. And that, more than anything, brought peace into her heart in a way nothing or no one else had managed to.

Lucy looked slowly around her, noticing how everyone seemed to know what her sister was talking about. At last, she set her eyes on Peter, the one who had always complied with her desires. "Brother, what have you brought?"

Peter clasped his hands together, adopting an expression of faux seriousness. "Now, you may remember tomorrow is your birthday."

Lucy rolled her eyes. "Of course. I was there."

Edmund frowned. "We were there. I'm not so sure that you were. I mean, you were born that day but you do not remember that so-."

"My head hurts," Beth was the one to complain this time, laughing despite herself when Caspian reached forward to bump fists with her.

"Welcome to my world." Caspian winked at her before looking at the Just King. "Brother, I'm not sure a philosophical discussion is most fit for this evening."

"Gods, you're so stupid." Lucy sighed before giggling and hugging her older brother. "But I love you anyways."

"You only say that because we brought you a surprise."

"So?"

"She does take after you, brother." Peter raised his hands in surrender when both siblings turned to him with dangerous expressions in their faces. "I'm just saying."

"Anyways," Beth called loudly. She smiled at Susan. "Care to do the honours?"

"Of course." Susan replied pleasantly as she stood up. Without another word, she turned and disappeared into the growing darkness.

"Where is she going?" Lucy asked.

"Do you remember the day Lu was born?" Peter asked Edmund, completely ignoring his youngest, currently pouting sibling. "You bit the nurse who asked you whether you were happy to be an older sibling."

"Edmund!" Beth yelled as they all laughed at the expense of the Just King.

"I was a year and a half old! How was I supposed to have any sort of control over my actions!?" Edmund defended himself, his eyes wide as he pointed at his brother. "If anything, he should have kept an eye on me!"

Peter laughed at that. "Why do I have to do anything with that!?"

"Well, you are our professional over coddling mother-hen," Edmund argued in return, his arms crossed. "So I figured you were so since the moment Susan was born!"

"Ah, you little sh-."

"Anyways!" Susan very loudly interrupted her brother's colourful words as she made it back into the light. This time, she did so carefully, for she was carrying a very large, sugar-topped, chocolate cake with her. Thirteen white candles stood proudly on the cake. "We actually went to meet Lucy several hours after she had been born, right? We did get to stay with the neighbour for most of that day, I believe."

"Yes, and Peter threw his glass of milk all over the carpet because he got scared of the neighbour's cat."

"You don't even remember that day," Peter accused as he stood up.

Edmund shrugged innocently as he also stood. "So? Mom told me."

"Children," Lucy intervened. She stood up between them in a slow manner, her eyes on the cake Susan was placing on a log before her. "Will you allow me to enjoy my birthday cake? How did you even bring this without me noticing?"

Beth smiled sheepishly from her seat. "I might have brought it in a container in my bag. Of course, there was some magic involved. Otherwise, there was no chance it would have arrived as perfectly as it has."

"We made it the night before leaving, while you were packing your bags." Caspian added. Beside him, Adrien nodded enthusiastically with a big smile on his face.

"You know how it took you a while to find that orange dress and your favourite nightgown?" Adrien finished proudly. "I might have something to do with it."

Lucy rolled her eyes as she knelt before her cake, a smile breaking through her angry facade as everyone laughed.

"Happy birthday Lu," Lucy softly read before looking up at her oldest sister with a smile. "And a Lion drawn beside it. That was you, wasn't it?"

Susan shrugged humbly. "You will always be the artist of the family but I did my best."

"I love it and I love you," Lucy promised as she reached to clutch Susan's hand in hers. The Valiant Queen then turned towards the others. "As I love all of you."

"We might not be sisters by blood," Beth said as she stood beside Edmund and behind the birthday girl. Caspian and Adrien followed her. "But you are my sister in every way that matters and I love you very much."

"The same goes for me," Caspian added. He reached down to clasp her shoulder in a heartwarming manner. "You are the sister I always wanted."

"You are my best friend and I love you," Adrien said in a rush and in shyness, his cheeks ablaze with furious redness. He crouched down beside the birthday girl and looked at her with wide eyes. "Can I help you blow the candles?"

"Of course," Lucy laughed as she hugged Adrien. She looked up at the rest of her family. "I love you all so much. And thank you so much for the cake but it's not midnight yet."

"It will be so in five minutes." Peter interjected, his eyes in the stars.

"Were we at the beach for that long?" Edmund turned towards Beth in disbelief, his eyes widening when Beth shushed him.

"Dude, they had just forgotten about that!"

"Trust us, we are never going to forget about it." Susan rolled her eyes. She left the small gathering in order to approach the fire, grabbing a small stick from the ground as she did.

"I might have to burn my eyes and get new ones." Lucy commented, laughing when Beth cursed softly behind her. "Language."

"Yes, sister, you have no one else but yourself to blame," Peter added with a smile.

Lucy could actually hear how strong Beth's pout was. "That's not true," the mighty High Queen replied. "I have him to blame!"

"Yes, blame the boyfriend! That is so fair!" Edmund deadpanned to the amusement of everyone else.

"On September 5th this year, we were ready to go back to school in England. Now, it's almost November 25th and we are in Narnia, about to celebrate our beloved Lucy just after we won a war. What is life?" By then, Susan had managed to light all thirteen candles. She then took a moment to hug her younger sister closely. "I'm so proud of you, sweetheart. I hope you have the happiest of years. I love you so much."

Lucy felt herself close to tears as she took notice of the utter love behind her sister's gaze. She could have said so much in that moment but she knew Susan was aware of most of it. Instead, she returned her sister's hug with the utmost strength and feeling. "I love you so much, sister. Thank you for all of this."

"One minute to midnight!" Beth called as Susan stood with them. "Shall we sing Lucy? Mind you, if any of you sings out of tune you are having cake last."

"So funny," Peter scoffed before kneeling to hug Lucy. "Here we go then! Happy birthday to you-."

As her family sang to her, Lucy looked up towards the stars, her eyes bright and filled with unshed tears as she realised just how lucky she was. To have an even bigger family, to be surrounded with brothers and sisters who loved her so much and who would kill and die for her, Lucy was really lucky.

All she could do in that moment was make the three wishes, as birthday customs dictate.

So, after a moment in which she silently thanked her stars for giving her the family that now surrounded her with love and warmth, Lucy looked down at the thirteen lit candles that awaited for her.

And, as her siblings finished the song with an uproar of applause and whistles, Lucy blew the candles with a big smile and giggled as she allowed herself to be hugged by Peter.

"Happy birthday dear sister," Peter whispered as he pressed his cheek to hers. "Did you have time to make all three wishes?"

Lucy nodded before looking at him with a mischievous smile. "I did. I will never tell though."

For once, Peter's answering smile was as mischievous as hers. "That's my girl. I'm very proud of you, Lu. I love you."

Lucy hugged him tightly at that, laughing as she felt the others falling on them in a group hug. "I love you too. I love all of you so much."

oOo

Back when she was made the Crown Princess of Archenland, she accompanied her father King Ersan and her brother Prince Torin in what was her second tour of Narnia.

During her first journey, Beth and Tor had saved Caspian from the fools who wanted to kidnap him. And it was also during that trip that Archenland and Narnia reviewed their commercial treaty.

During her second journey, Beth and Ersan had spent many hours with Miraz and his advisors in an almost useless attempt of strengthening their commercial treaty after many Telmarine attempts of jeopardising it. And, at the moment she was left on her own devices, Beth spent her time with Caspian, busy reminiscing about better days in which Tor and Caspian's mom were around.

It was during their second to last day in Narnia that they all visited what was once Beaverdam, now renamed in a fashion too ordinary to be voiced. That small, quaint town was home of the largest storage of wood in Narnia, being the nearest town to the Western Woods. While Telmarines were too afraid of the forest to actually explore it, they knew that if their numbers were large and their weapons many, they could cut down the trees by the perimeter of the forest without suffering any losses.

For some reason, Beth had not forgotten about it. Maybe because it was her first contact with her true home. Maybe because the connection she felt with Narnia had always been too strong.

Whatever the reason was, as Beth looked around slowly, taking in the sights around her, she recognized the town immediately, even though it had changed in the years since she had stepped foot in it.

That morning, the town was deserted, unnaturally so. The houses, the roads and the markets around her were in a perfect state and still, there was a sense, almost a feeling in her gut, that there was a danger lurking right beyond the extent of her sight.

Beth looked down at herself, frowning as she noticed the armour she was downing. The armour was not different from the ones Peter and Edmund had worn during the last battle against the Telmarines. The only difference was that the lion painted on her breastplate was golden and that she was wearing a golden battle dress underneath her armour.

Slowly, hesitantly, she raised her hands towards her head, and cautiously felt the several braids interwoven into one unique braid that fell down her back.

She was ready for battle. Who her enemy was, she didn't think she was aware of their identity.

"My dear. You've come so far."

Beth turned around, her eyes widening at the stranger before her.

The woman before her was too ethereal, too gracile, too perfect to be considered human. She was tall, so tall that she would be able to tower over Caspian even. Her raven hair fell down her back in waves and her skin resembled the paleness of the first snow of the season.

The tunic she wore was quite simple, silver with blue embroidery and yet, it felt forced on her, as if she would have rather worn armour.

Her eyes, lively and bright, were as green as Beth's had once been.

Beth had never seen that woman in her life. Still, she knew who she was. Of course she knew. It felt as if she had known her her entire life.

"Mother." Beth bowed her head after a moment. "Mom."

Princess Amirah, High Priestess of Charn, the Keeper of the Worlds and the mother of High Queen Elizabeth of Narnia smiled tearfully before reaching forward. She hugged Beth tenderly yet tightly, like she never wanted to let go. Beth jumped slightly, yet she closed her eyes, slowly leaning into the hug after a moment of hesitation.

It was too soon when Princess Amirah leaned down to whisper in her ear.

"He's coming for you. You know of whom I speak. Be ready, my love."

Beth opened her eyes, and she was no longer in her mother's arms. She was no longer in that deserted town. She was no longer dressed for battle.

She was laying on the grounds of what used to be the Royal Orchards of Cair Paravel. Above her stood the crimson fabric tent they had set when they first arrived three days before. So far, everything was the same.

Alas, around her, the havoc was different from what she was used to. Susan and Lucy were rushing to pack their bags, while Caspian and Adrien were talking to the griffins and Peter was reading a letter with a furious expression on his face.

Sitting beside her, Edmund was looking at her from above with concern.

"What happened?" Beth asked before coughing, her voice slightly hoarse.

Edmund gave her his water bottle before helping her sit up. "You were having a dream. You kept talking about your mother, your biological mother…and Jack. You were glowing."

"I was?" Beth frowned before looking at herself, gasping softly as she caught sight of the golden hue on her skin. As she looked back towards Edmund, she didn't have to ask to know that her eyes were ablaze as well. "What happened while I was out? Why are the griffins here?"

Edmund rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly before cradling her hands into his. "My love, we received word from Archenland. I'm so sorry, your brother Torin has overthrown the King."

Beth stood abruptly, her eyes lighting up even more with that golden hue. Her hands clenched into fists as she tried to control her powers.

"And my father?" She growled.

Edmund gulped. "Your father has been imprisoned. Archenland is on the verge of a civil war."

I couldn't spoil Lucy's birthday. Let's just all pretend Lu had an amazing day joking around before things went to hell all over again. Next chapter - battle incoming and the final part of Amirah's story. I've been waiting so long for this, I'm so excited.

I'm so happy with the two scenes in which the Pevensie basically decided how they wanted to deal with the end of their second journey to Narnia. I have been thinking a lot about how the Pevensie would feel about this. Both in the movies and the books, the Pevensie learn both that they are leaving and that Peter and Susan aren't coming back at the very end. I never liked that, it always felt so abrupt of an ending for such beloved characters. And also, when it comes to Peter and Susan, I've always felt like they deserved to make at least some choices in regards to their own lives.

I wanted to kind of split them here so I could explore just how different they feel. I think the whole thing of Peter and Susan being "too old" to come back means that they are more aware of what England can offer them and they know that in some ways, England is their home too. I think that they both have more clear ambitions of what they want to do with their adult life than Edmund and Lucy. And, I think that Susan is maybe more pained about leaving Narnia than Peter is, but I think they both know they can create their own lives and that's why they want to stay in England. So they can create a life without it being jolted without warning.

I want to clarify that I'm not talking about Susan forgetting about Narnia like she seems to do in "The Last Battle". Right now, I think she very much plans to remember Narnia and that's why it hurts so much, because she loves it dearly. I think that's another reason why she doesn't want to come back. Because hope is the one thing that can keep us alive, but it is also the thing that can kill us.

About Edmund and Lucy, I think that they know they can be happy in England but I think that for them, being in England is still about surviving rather than about making their own lives there. They will try, of course, because they do not want to waste any time waiting, but I think that for them, their real life is in Narnia. That's why for them, having faith and hoping they'll come back is not difficult at all.