Even Gods Grew Tired
A/N: I did not
forget my promise. But my new computer arrived yesterday (and it's purple and has a backlit keyboard and squeeeeee) and I spent the entire afternoon pushing around files and cleaning out my hard drive. I apologize.
Even Gods Grew Tired
Less than forty eight hours after the Battle of Beruna, the last survivor of the royal bloodline returned to Telmar in the company of four kings and queens and a lion that walked ahead of all of them, a king of kings.
Buffy, who had not been really seen or noticed since the battle, walked with the foot soldiers toward the end of the column, quiet and solemn. Waiting.
Peter looked for her, later, after the feast, as soon as he could get away, but he didn’t find her. Nor did Caspian when he went looking for the woman that had kept him alive long enough to return to this castle as a king of his people. Lucy looked briefly for her but gave up when Aslan told her to leave the blonde alone.
Buffy would be found when she wanted to be found. Until then, she haunted the castle like a ghost, walking the halls she’d once known but now scarcely recognized. Less than two days after Miraz’s death, the servants had already packed away most of the traces he had left. The heavy drapes that had covered most windows were gone, the torches had multiplied.
The dreary castle was turning into a light and airy place before her eyes. Another sign of her impending departure. Buffy never walked peaceful worlds. They had no use for her.
In the end it was the lion himself who found her walking Prunaprismia’s rose garden well past midnight, after everyone else had long since gone to sleep. She was strolling along with no certain direction, trailing her hands over flowers and leaves, already missing this place. Missing Narnia, just beyond the castle walls and river.
She would have liked to pretend she did not know why she missed this wild land so, when she had not missed anything very much in fifty years, but she did. She missed it because she had let herself fall in love with it, and its people, and because of its very nature.
Narnia was different from all other worlds she had walked. All but one.
“Sister Sineya,” Aslan rumbled in the dark behind her.
She turned slowly, not surprised to find him here, or to be found. He inclined his head lightly and brushed past her, finding a balcony overlooking the city in the moonlight. She followed, as he knew she would.
“I want to hate you,” she said, after they had spent a few minutes staring into the distance.
“I know, dear sister,” he answered, his voice a rumble, deep as the earth.
“But I can’t,” she added, refusing to look in his direction. “I know what Narnia is.”
A land where anger and hate and rage and grief had no place. A world where the good always won and the bad always lost, where love and friendship and loyalty always prevailed, in the end. A land that was warm and soft and wild and wonderful.
“It’s some kind of heaven,” she spoke out loud what she’d known since setting foot on the Narnian soil, since she’d felt the first trickle of her anger draining away. She’d hated for fifty years, but Narnia allowed no hate.
“You can feel it.” Not a question.
“Yes.” Not an answer. “I recognize heaven when I find it.”
The lion nodded and sat, waiting for her to ask what she needed to ask, her voice only bitter now, the rest of her drained dry. She couldn’t hate anymore. Couldn’t even hate that she couldn’t hate. She was just empty. Hollow, after so long.
“If this is heaven, what’s that make you?”
“I am Aslan, Sister Sineya ,” he said, with some amusement in his voice, “Son of the Emperor beyond the Sea. I am not a tame lion.”
It sounded so much like a line learned by heart that she smiled blandly, wondering who bought crap like this, made up titles and phrases to describe something that entirely surpassed any description. What’s in a name, she wondered, but said nothing. They all had their little names and titles, their ideas of self.
“Why do you call me that?” she asked instead, knowing that in this, at least, she stood a chance of getting an answer.
His turned his big head to look at her even as she stubbornly kept her eyes on the sleeping city below. She could not hate here, in this world, but she remembered that she wanted to and she would not give in.
“Is that not what you are, dear one?”
She broke her own promise and looked at him, glowering. He smiled. She had not known lions could smile. But then he wasn’t a lion, was he?
“I’m not a god.”
He shrugged and she turned away again. “Yet you are my equal. I walk the worlds when they are born and you…”
“Ruin them?” Yes, she could still be bitter.
“You are there when they fall and change. Through no fault of your own. We witness, Sister. In that, we are equals.”
“If we’re so equal, then why don’t I get a say in where I go? In what I do? If we’re so damn equal, then why do you get to order me around like a dog?” She wanted to scream, but her voice failed her and all that was left was a whisper. The anger had taken all else.
“Everything changes, dear one,” he used that damn name again and ignored her glare, “You changed when you used magic to make others in your image. You became what you are. Sister. That is why you had to leave.”
“Because of what I did? Did I break some rules or something?”
“You do not age.”
She looked at him, surprised at his non-sequitur and then quickly looked away. She had changed. She did not age. She’d had to leave her world. She was… different?
“Are you telling me because of what I became, I had to leave my world?”
“Yes, I am,” he confirmed, smiling like a proud parent. “Your powers rose above what they were meant to be and they needed to run their course. In due time, sister, your powers will fade away, as they were meant to and you will age again, someday soon.”
“But why all the different worlds? Why all the-“
The pain and the heartache and the silence and the grief and the anger and the hate and the longing and the loneliness, too much to bear.
“I walk the worlds as they are born. You walk the worlds as they fall and change,” the lion repeated, infuriatingly calm and patient. Then, as if sensing her scowl, he added, “That is the nature of your power. It cannot be contained in one world. Your power-“
“Needed to run its course. Okay, I get it. I let Willow cast that spell and the end result was this. I get it. I have to keep moving until I fizzle out and then I’ll keel over and finally have my peace. Thanks, I feel heaps better now.”
“Do you really?” He sounded curious.
She gave him a look
There was silence as they stood next to each other, brother and sister, lion and woman, one serene the other just tired. She’d always thought knowing why this was all happening to her would make it easier, would give her closure. All it gave her was the knowledge that it wouldn’t end anytime soon and that, worst of all, she had no-one to blame but herself. She was the one that had insisted on that spell. She was the one who…
Bitterness. So much bitterness.
They should have left her in the ground.
And now here she was, in another heaven, in another world where she could find peace, and it meant nothing. She wouldn’t be allowed to stay, had already stayed far too many years, waiting for this war to come, sitting at the edge of heaven, never knowing it was there. Technically, she mused, she was not in Narnia anymore. So why couldn’t she just open her mouth and scream, scream until her voice snapped and broke?
The answer, she figured, was sitting next to her. Narnia and Aslan. Aslan and Narnia. It might as well have been the same damn thing.
She couldn’t stay. But –
“You’re going to sent the Pevensies back, aren’t you?”
“They must go home.”
She snorted. “They are home. This place is their home.”
“They cannot stay.”
“Why not? Because they haven’t been tortured enough? Because they haven’t sacrificed enough? They spent a year in their old world, with nothing to prove they weren’t insane and nothing but their faith to cling to and they pulled through. They made it back here, didn’t they? Whatever test this was, they did it. Leave them alone at least, if you won’t leave me in peace. It’s bad enough you waited to come so long as you did.”
“You misunderstand, dear one. This is not – “
“Yes it is. It’s about you and what you put them through. You could have finished this war before it ever began, but you chose to let them fight. You gave them a life and then you took it away, turning them back into children and then you called them up again
and they came. They
came. You didn’t.
“We both know you could let them stay here. But instead you choose to throw them out of heaven. Someone did that to me once, you know? Pulled me out of heaven. I tried to kill myself. Just to get back. Even you can’t be that cruel.”
Finally Aslan moved, stepping closer until they were shoulder to shoulder, his voice low and urgent. “I am not cruel. But they must play their roles, for the sake of both worlds. They must do as they were meant to do and things must be as they have to be.”
Letting children fight his wars was a way to keep the world safe. An easy way. They fought, their home was saved and a god need not make and break a new world.
Even gods grew tired.
With one strong, quick step, Buffy stepped away from the lion, her face darkening and finding, despite the impossibility, a spark of rage in heaven. “That’s why you and me are not alike. I am human. You’re a god. And you know what the problem with you gods is? You don’t know us.”
“I do know-“
“No! You know what we think and what we feel, maybe, but you don’t understand
what it means to be human because you’ve never felt it. You think too big. All of you, no matter what world or name, you always think in terms of good and evil, of life and death and saving worlds. You use
me for all those things and you think you do it for the good of mankind.
“You’re not. Humans don’t give a shit about good or evil or the world.” She flung up her arms, voice rising, stepping farther away from him with every sentence. “We care about each other. About our
lives and our
future and sometimes we hurt for what’s right and we sacrifice but we do it for us
. For the people we love. For our friends. For our family. We think small. These kids did what they had to do. They did what you wanted them to do. Now fuck
the greater good and let them be happy. No more tests. No more pain. Just leave them alone. They deserve better than to have a god run their lives for them.”
She spun on her heel, intent on walking away to find another quiet place and work through all she had learned and figure out if it changed anything. She did not think it would. Knowing meant nothing and once she left Narnia, they anger would come back and she would drown again, forgetting the things she had learned here, had felt here. Just like she had forgotten all she had felt in her home world.
Her friends, her lovers, they had faded as Peter and his siblings and their friends would. Purged by helpless rage.
Behind her, between roses that weighed down the night air with a sickeningly sweet smell, Aslan rumbled, “You say humans are selfish. Yet you argue for the sake of others and not your own.”
She considered saying something, anything at all, just so he wouldn’t have the last word, but she kept her mouth shut. She was human, no matter what he claimed, and he was a god. He knew nothing of her and she knew nothing of him. He thought he loved her and she knew she hated him, would hate him, once she had her distance.
He cared for her in that nonsensical, all encompassing way of gods that liked to pretend to benevolent and she hated him because he had pulled her into this world and let her remember heaven, let her feel something other than darkness and now he would take it away.
How it goes. How it went. Gods pushing her around the board like a pawn, forward and never back, sideways to kill and always in the first line of defense.
Even without her shroud of anger, she and him were absolutely, fundamentally different. They could never agree. Never. She was human. He was not.
So why even try? Why argue with him? He thought himself omnipotent and he would do as he felt was right, no matter what she did.
“Why?” He called after her, demanding and confused, honestly lost. A lost god. She almost laughed.
He really didn’t understand. Even after all she’d yelled in his face, he didn’t understand why she argued for the sake of those four kids.
“If they go back,” she threw over her shoulder, “What will happen to them?”
And then she sped up until she was running, not wanting know his answer. She knew it already, in the most basic terms. Loss. Pain. Denial. Searching for meaning and finding none, throwing oneself into stupid, dangerous, suicidal things, just to feel, to remember, to try and give it all meaning. Dying and hoping for peace.
She knew it all.
The Pevensies, if sent back, would end like her.
So much bitterness.
Edmund was fleeing from Trumpkin’s drunk rendition of an old Narnian hunting song, when he suddenly heard steps behind him in the all but abandoned hallway. Steps that were as familiar to him as the tattoo of his own heartbeat.
Peter had finally come to him.
His older brother called out for him to stop and for a moment Edmund seriously considered giving his brother a hard time and just walking on. Then he stopped, grinning wryly to himself. As if he ever could go against Peter. He was absolutely hopeless when it came to being strict with his brother.
“What is it, Pete?” he asked as the other boy caught up with him, not entirely surprised when his answer came in the form of a hand that grabbed his arm and pulled him sideways into an empty office.
Once inside, Peter let go immediately and stepped back, suddenly shuffling his feet shyly. “Ed,” he started, “I have… I mean… I….”
Ed snorted. His brother was rubbish as apologies. Always had been. “I know, Peter,” he acknowledged the attempt. “It’s okay.”
“No it’s not,” the High King protested, surprisingly vehement. “You said save it for later. Well, now’s later.”
Actually, Ed had never meant what he’d said, never expected Peter to actually come out and say anything. They had made their peace with the past year, both of them. By heart, by sword, by crown. That was all that was needed. But apparently not this time.
The younger king leaned back against a heavy oak desk and offered with a sigh, “Alright then.”
Peter quirked an amused eyebrow at him but then sobered immediately. “I was an arse. All last year, in England, I was wretched to you. And I’m sorry. I was just trying to make things right, but instead…”
“Idiot,” Edmund said fondly.
Peter looked up from the floor, hurt.
“We fought together for fifteen years and you still think you have to do everything on your own. The girls and I can help. We want
to help, but you never let us.”
“Think you have to protect us all the time. Here’s news for you, Pete, we’re all grown-ups inside. We can take care of ourselves. And
,” he stressed when his brother made to interrupt, “That means asking for help if he we need it. Can’t you trust us, Peter? Just a bit?”
In typical High King fashion, Peter turned his face away and readily shouldered the blame for everything, guilt weighing him down visibly. “I’m sorry,” he muttered, barely audible.
“Like I said,” Ed grumbled, “Idiot.”
Then he crossed the distance between them and hugged his bloody stubborn brother until he relaxed and hugged back just as tightly. Susan and Lucy, who had been lurking in the doorway for a while, joined in a moment later and they had their first real hug since before they had stumbled back into England.
All four of them, wrapped around each other, close and warm, alive and breathing. Family.
They all rather tactfully ignored the wet stains on Peter’s cheeks.
“What will happen to them?” she called and ran, leaving him with the answer ringing in his ears.
Life. Hardship. Confusion, separation, denial and desperately clinging to a past and a life of which they had no proof. One turning away, hiding herself so deep, she forgot who she was. Three staying true, staying together, tumbling, falling, dying among the screech of metal and the crying of broken bodies.
And then, back to Narnia. Back home.
Humans thought small.
Fuck the greater good.
If he let them stay, allowed them to live and die in heaven, Susan would never fall and her siblings would not die so senselessly.
Their faith would remain untested, their strengths untapped.
Their hearts whole and their souls light.
Did he need to test their faith once more?
Did he doubt them?
There was the one question every god asked, and he knew he was no different: Did they doubt him? Have faith in him? It was faith that kept him alive, doubt that killed him. Gods died when no-one believed in them anymore.
He was a god, she said, and never human.
He was tired of walking the worlds for so long, of always seeing the same tragedies.
But what if he turned it all around?
What if he asked not if they doubted him, but if he doubted them?
The answer was easy.
He did not.
Even Susan, the potentially fallen queen, lost in her own world for so long, he could not doubt.
Eastwards he thought, what does that change?
The answer came across the Sea, echoing with a chuckle of mirth. A lesson taught, of all people, by a humanchildgod.
The answer came across the Sea, whispering, It changes everything.
And everything changes.
“Where’ve you been hiding?” Peter asked from behind her, coming up to the alcove she’d hidden herself in, staring out the window. At Narnia, again.
“Had a fight with Aslan,” she told him, as flippantly as she could manage, which wasn’t much. “Didn’t you hear me scream?”
He chuckled and it fell flat, too, with worry. “No. Trumpkin was singing. What did you fight about?”
He didn’t expect her to answer him and so didn’t mind when she avoided the question. “I know now why I keep getting kicked around the multiverse.”
“You do?” he sounded surprised and genuinely curious. She nodded and made no move to protest when he squeezed in next to her, a single digit tracing the skyline of the forest on the window.
“It’s my own damn fault.” She smiled as she said it, melancholy and exhausted.
“How so?” Afraid to push too far and have her lock down the gates, but needing to understand, too. It was a physical need, this desire to know what was inside her head, to know her
“I did something, back home, it made me… more than I was supposed to be, I guess.”
“And that ‘more’ is the reason you are here?”
She shrugged, tugging at a strand of her golden hair in something akin to confusion. “I think… I think that ‘more’ is what made it necessary for me to jump between worlds. I don’t…,” she looked up at him, taller even when sitting down and frowned, “I understand it, inside, but I can’t put it into words.”
Peter opened his mouth to demand hows and whys and then stopped himself, remaining silent, just waiting for Buffy to speak or not speak. She let go of her hair, hands dropping into her lap, helplessly. “I blamed Aslan and his buddies for so long. I was so angry with them, so pissed off, ready to tear them to shreds for the screaming injustice of it all and now… it’s me, Pete,” she confessed, using his siblings’ nickname for him for the first time. “I’m the one who did this to me. I’m the one to blame. I’m the one…”
Somewhere far away, a door opened and the sounds of the banquet spilled into the night, loud and bright.
“You’re angry with yourself now,” Peter summarized, surprised to see her shaking her head, sending her curls flying.
“No. I’m not. We conquered this place. Aslan is here.”
“What does that have to do with it?”
“Everything. This place, it’s Narnia now. Or as close as it will get for a while. And all my anger,” she shrugged again, lifting her head to meet his gaze head on, her eyes shining impossibly green in the dim moonlight. “It’s gone. I was trying to hold on to it until tonight but now that my reason’s gone, too... I’m empty. Just. Empty. Narnia takes away all the hate and the anger and the rage, all the negative things. Narnia is…love, I guess. But I don’t remember anything but anger.”
There were a thousand questions swirling in Peter’s mind about Narnia and what it had to do with her anger, about how she felt and what was going on. Her words made no sense at all. But he knew, without asking, that Buffy was, in this, like Aslan. There were things she would not talk about, would not explain. Things that had to remain unspoken until he understood them on his own. And then it would be unnecessary to speak of them.
So the next question that left passed his lips was not one of those but another that came completely out of the left field, making even him stumble when it presented itself.
“Do you love me?” he heard himself ask and immediately blushed a scarlet that was usually reserved for Caspian dealing with the Pevensie sisters.
But Buffy, this new, fightless Buffy, did not scream, did not fight. Empty. She was empty.
She let her head fall back against the wall, staring at the shred of sky visible through the window and answered, “I don’t know.”
Peter, mirroring her pose, watched the moon stand still for minutes on end before confessing, “I wish we had the time to find out.”
Buffy chuckled dryly. “So do I.”
When he lowered his head to look at her, she was crying.