Susan could only watch in awe as the darkness faded and the water became the beautiful, clear blue it had been around Ramandu's Island. And there, in the water not a few yards away, longboats appeared. Longboats filled with the people who had gone missing in the green mists back at the Lone Islands. Cheers went up, and Mr. Rhince jumped into the water, causing elated laughter to erupt among the men.
Susan beamed, and laughed, and cheered along, until Caspian's hand slipped into hers. She turned from the happy sight of the reuniting family to face him: her friend, her King, her heart. "I love you," she whispered, knowing he'd hear, despite the ruckus the sailors were still making. "I love you." And then, she leaned in and kissed him, in full view of her siblings and the crew. And in that moment, she knew what she wanted. However stupid, or silly, or impossible, she wanted to stay here, in Narnia, by Caspian's side. She wanted to spend her life with him.
It was a rather chaste kiss, but all the same, it felt incredibly intimate. And far more public than even the kiss they shared the last time Susan had come to Narnia. But she didn't care. As they pulled back, Caspian beamed at her. "And I love you. My Queen," he whispered, only just loud enough for her ears.
They because aware of the catcalls and whistles and looked around, at the smiling crew. "It was about bloody time!" Edmund said, much to everyone's amusement.
Susan still didn't know how this was all going to end - an end that was now fast approaching - but at the moment, she was happy, and was tired of worrying about the future. She could live in the now for a few moments more.
After the refugees were brought on board, Eustace and Gael showed up, looking like they'd swam all the way from Ramandu's Island. But given that Eustace was a boy again, Susan suspected that Aslan had something to do with it.
Reep immediately jumped into the water to greet his friend while Lucy and some of the men pulled Gael aboard to be reunited with her parents. "Where the sky and water meet! Where the waves grow ever sweet!" the mouse sang. Then, he took a drink from the water. "It is sweet. It's sweet!" Reep exclaimed. "Look!"
And there, close to the horizon, the sea appeared white, and there was something sticking out of the water, as far as the eye could see.
"It's Aslan's country! It must be!" Reep said, swimming back to the ship and going up the rope ladder that had been lowered for Gael to climb. When he reached the deck, he bowed to Caspian. "Your Majesty, permission to scout it out?" he asked, hope filling his voice.
Susan's hand found Caspian's again, and he looked at her briefly. "Permission granted. In fact, why don't we all go? Lucy, Susan, Ed, Eustace?"
Edmund nodded. "We should," he agreed, his eyes on the distant waters. "I have a feeling it's where we're meant to go."
Soon enough, all five of them, accompanied by Reep sat in a longboat, while the two Kings rowed.
"So what was it like?" Edmund asked of Eustace. "When Aslan changed you back?"
It was a little odd, seeing their cousin now. He'd been a dragon for most of their journey, and before that he'd been a bit of an arse. But now, there was something in his eyes. He looked calmed, more sure of himself. More at peace.
"Like pulling a thorn from your foot," Eustace was saying. "Though being a dragon wasn't all bad. I think I was a better dragon than I was a boy, really. I'm so sorry for being such a sob."
Susan put a hand on his shoulder. She was so proud of how far he'd come since the beginning of their journey.
"It's okay, Eustace," Edmund said. "You were a pretty good dragon," he joked.
"And now you're a better person," Susan added. "You've grown into who you were meant to be."
Her cousin looked over his shoulder at her, as she pulled her hand back. "You really think that? Because I don't think I'm anything like I was before."
She shrugged. "I don't think Narnia really changes us that much. I think it just makes us into the best possible version of ourselves," she said, looking at each of her siblings in turn. "It teaches us lessons that we might not have learned otherwise. You might have been a brat, but you weren't a bad person. If you were, Aslan never would have let you into Narnia."
"Here here," Lucy said, and Susan put her arm around her little sister's shoulders.
"My friends," Reep interrupted gently. "We have arrived."
They all looked over, and saw that the thing sticking out of the sea was actually a wall of water, like a perpetual wave, just about to crest. Before it lay a thin strip of beach, where they went ashore. Just over the water, Susan could make out the stop of a mountain, or a rock, and she thought she saw birds flying.
At Eustace's voice, they all turned to see the majestic lion walking beside them. "Welcome children. You have done well. Very well, indeed. You have come far, and now your journey is at its end."
Susan's smile fell and she gripped both Caspian and Edmund's hands.
"Is this your country?" Lucy asked, curious and kind as always.
"No, my country lies beyond," he said, looking towards the wall of water.
They all followed his gaze. "Is my father in your country?" Caspian asked softly. Susan entwined their fingers and gently squeezed his hand.
"You can only find that out for yourself, my son," Aslan replied. "But you should know that if you continue, there is no return."
Caspian released her hand and walked towards the water. Susan wanted to call out to him, to tell him to stop, but if this was his decision, she would accept it. And she would find a way to go with him. He walked right up to the water, and held out his hand, let the water run over it. And then he withdrew and turned back to them.
"You're not going," Edmund said. It wasn't a question.
"I can't imagine my father would be very proud if I gave up what he died for," he replied. "And there are things here that I could not leave behind." His eyes were on Susan's, and she couldn't help her own eyes welling up as his had done. "It's like you said. Narnia makes you a better version of yourself. I don't think I was that person yet when we set off on this adventure."
"You are now," Aslan said. Then, he turned to the other humans on the beach. "Children?"
"I think perhaps it's time we went home, actually then," Edmund said, his eyes apologetic as he looked at his younger sister.
"But I thought you loved it here?" she asked, looking surprised and sad.
"I do. But I love home, and our family, too," he said. "Susan's again proving to be the smartest of us, because she was right. Narnia teaches us to be better. And it has. Besides, our family needs us."
The tears now silently spilled from Susan's eyes and Caspian came to stand beside her, encircling her in his arms as Reep stepped forwards. He humbly asked for permission to see Aslan's country for himself, and was granted his request. "My country was made for noble hearts such as yours. No matter how small their bearers may be."
"No one deserves it more," Caspian said, and Ed was quick to agree, even going to far as to bow to the mouse. Reep then had his own emotional goodbyes with both Lucy - who was granted a hug - and Eustace. The boy was in tears, and Reep was touched by his friend's words. "What a magnificent puzzle you are. And a true hero. It has been my honour to fight beside such a brave warrior… and a great friend."
And with that, he was sailing a tiny boat over the wave, and then he was gone.
Aslan turned back to the remaining adventurers.
"This is our last time here, isn't it?" Lucy asked tearfully. "We've learned all we needed to learn."
"Yes. You have grown up, my dear one, just like your brother Peter," Aslan replied.
Lucy went over to him and buried her hands in his mane. "Will you visit us, in our world?"
"I shall be watching you, always."
"How?" she asked, wiping away a tear as Edmund came to stand beside her in silent emotional support.
"In your world, I have another name. And you must learn to know me by it. That was the very reason you were brought here. That by knowing me here for a little while, you may know me better, there."
"Will we meet again?" Edmund asked.
"Yes, dear ones. One day."
Aslan stepped back and turned to where Caspian and Susan stood, still with their arms around one another. Susan sighed, wiped away her tears and turned to face Caspian fully. She stood within the circle of his arms, safe and loved, and she never wanted to leave. But it seemed as though she could not have what she wanted.
"I love you," she breathed. "More than I ever thought I could love anyone. And I would gladly spend the rest of my life by your side. But I can't. Edmund is right, our family needs us. I can't leave them," she said.
Caspian shook his head. "No, Susan, please." His voice was barely audible, but Susan could hear the torment in it. It was mirrored in her own heart as well.
"What did you learn?"
Aslan's voice broke through their bubble and both turned to face the lion. "What did I learn?" Susan repeated. Then she looked down. What did she learn? Lucy learned about vanity and her own self-worth, and Edmund learned about his jealousy and he needn't feel inferior to anyone. Eustace learned how to be a better person overall, and to believe and have faith. But what did Susan learn? "I wasn't supposed to come back," she whispered. Then she looked at the lion and took a step away from Caspian. "You told me and Peter that we'd learned all we needed, and that we wouldn't come back. But I did."
A smile entered the lion's eyes. "So you did. It was your heart, child. That which is Narnian can never truly leave Narnia. And you had already given a part of it away when you were last here. And now, you have given it away, freely and fully. It is Narnian now, and cannot leave this land."
Caspian strode forward. "She is to stay here?" he asked, hope evident in his voice.
But Susan was still confused. "But what about my family?" she asked, looking at her siblings and her cousin.
"Those who have a spark of Narnia inside them will remember you. Those who do not, will forget."
"So, Peter, Edmund, Eustace and I will remember, but…" Lucy said, trailing off as she glanced at her brother.
"Mum and dad won't," Edmund finished.
For a moment, they all stood there in silence, letting that sink in. Edmund was the first to speak. "I'll miss you," he said, coming over and enveloping his sister in a hug.
"I'll miss you, too," she whispered, giving him a quick squeeze.
As soon as she pulled back, Lucy stepped into the hug. "But… I don't know what… what to do without you," she sobbed.
It broke Susan's heart a little to see the usually so strong, valiant Lucy like this. "Oh, Lucy. You are a Queen, and the strongest person I have ever met. You don't need me, not anymore. That was your lesson, remember? You needn't be like anyone else, when the person you already are is so magnificent."
"But… will we see each other again?" Lucy asked, pulling back to look at her big sister.
"As Aslan said; one day. One day we'll all be together again."
Then came Eustace's turn. "I, uhm… thanks," he said, standing a little awkwardly.
"What for?" Susan asked.
"You tried to make it easier for me, in the beginning. And, just… thank you. I'll miss you, cousin."
She grinned at him. "I've said it before; you're better person now, Eustace. Go show the world how great our family is."
He grinned back at her, and then stepped back to join his cousins. Lucy was still a little teary-eyed and Edmund likewise was not entirely dry-eyed. But together they stood as Aslan roared and a tunnel appeared in the wall of water. Eustace turned around one last time. "Will I come back?" he asked of Aslan.
"Narnia may yet have need of you," the lion replied, and Susan smiled. Perhaps there was a possibility of seeing her cousin again, if not her siblings.
The three of them turned back to the tunnel, straightened their shoulders and stepped in. Slowly, the tunnel closed behind them, and Susan and Caspian were left alone on the beach.
Susan stared at the wave for a moment, before it really sank in that she was never going to see her family again. She'd never hear Lucy excitedly tell her about the ordinary adventure she had, or Edmund speak of battle strategy with Peter. She'd never hear her mother hum as she cooked, or watch as her father fell asleep on the couch reading his newspaper. She'd never discuss the future with Peter anymore…
Sinking to her knees in the sand, she allowed herself to mourn their loss, to let out all the tears and pain, and scream at the unfairness of it all. Thought it all, Caspian sat with her, held her and wiped her tears away, telling her he loved her, over and over again.
Only when she was cried out did Susan feel better, a little less weighed down by the loss of her siblings. Caspian helped her up and kissed her gently.
"Let's go home."
A/N: Or is it? Seriously, let me know if you think I should write an epilogue or just go ahead and write a sequel about Susan adjusting to life in Narnia at Caspian's side, and about the blossoming romance between her and Caspian. And whatever else their future holds. I left a few tiny things open that I could talk about in a potential sequel, and I do have some vague ideas, but it all kind of depends on what you guys will say.
So, sequel, yay or nay?
OR, epilogue, yay or nay?
Let me know what you thought of the story as a whole! Please, please leave me a review, I reply to every single one. I love talking to you guys and getting your perspective on the narrative.