Memories Inside of Her
A/N: Thanks heaps and heaps and heaps, guys. Art by the amazing Pax. Go and check out their other art.
Memories Inside of Her
Caspian caught up with Asmira – Buffy – as she left the How, apparently going for some fresh air. He silently fell in step beside her, just watching her as he had done all night.
She knew, knew
the plan to take the castle would end badly and she was still going along with it. He didn’t understand it and, in the end, as they reached the end of the field, he said so.
She looked at him sideways and simply observed, “You’re coming along, too.”
“Because I wish to free the Professor. You are merely catering to King Peter’s childish whims.”
He was stopped abruptly by a hand on his arm as the small woman turned him around to look at her. “Don’t mistake Peter, or any of them, for a child. They are not
He shook his head, unable to believe what he wasn’t seeing. He had been almost willing to believe after his discussion with King Edmund, but then Peter had presented his plan and it was impossible to think of someone so foolish and stubborn as a grown man.
“If not for him, then why are you agreeing with the raid?”
“My mission is to get you on the Narnian throne. To do that, I’ve got to keep you alive. To keep you alive, I’ve got to keep Peter alive. And to keep Peter alive, I’ve got to go on that raid.” She tried to sound callous, but the edge was missing from her voice, turned dull and gritty, as if she could not find the rage required to be so cruel.
“So this is all about the mission?” Caspian demanded, taking back his arm.
“Yes,” she replied curtly and turned to resume her walk, not caring if he followed or not.
There was a moment of silence as the prince contemplated what he had just learned. Then he called after her, “I don’t believe you!”
She stopped, crossing her arms, one eyebrow raised. “And why’s that?”
He smiled briefly, as if he’d achieved some goal. “The night my father died.”
Her expression fell, becoming as remote as it had been while they had discussed battle plans. “I was doing my job.”
Caspian’s smile didn’t falter. He had her and he knew it. “There was no threat to my welfare that night and yet you sat with me until dawn and told me stories when the rest of the court had altogether forgotten of my existence.”
She looked away from him in the trees, her gaze distant. “You weren’t supposed to remember that,” she mumbled, to herself, not to him. He didn’t think she meant for him to hear.
But he did.
“You were kind to me that night. Like a sister might be, or a mother.” The last came out hesitant and unwanted, a slip of the tongue and silly childhood dreams. Caspian had never known his mother at all, as she had died when he had been only two weeks old, but he had always imagined the things a mother might do based on what his beloved Nurse and his aunt had done. And since he had started brooding about Asmira and remembered that night, he could not help but feel that if he had had a mother growing up, she would have sat with him that night, just as the blonde had.
But he should not have said it out loud. Her expression became a frigid mask of something that wanted to be rage but couldn’t quite get there. “I am not your mother. Get that through your head, Prince. I am nothing
to you. You are a job to be done. Nothing more. Don’t delude yourself into thinking we mean anything to each other.”
This time when she started to walk away, he made no move to stop her for long minutes, standing rigid, frozen by her cruel words. He meant nothing to her. Just like he meant nothing to his blood family, to his people, to the Narnians who wanted only to be free but cared little for him. He was nothing. A burden. A mission. A job
No-one wanted him. Not really. Not ever.
“Why are you so mean to him?” the question, asked in the childish, high tones of little Queen Lucy carried through the forest on a breeze and reached him just as he was about to return to the How on numb limbs, feeling as empty as he ever had inside the castle walls, waiting for the day the Professor or Nurse wouldn’t come, would finally forget about him, too.
Now though, his feet carried him closer to the origin of the question without thought.
“I wasn’t mean, I was realistic.”
“But you care for him. You were worried before we found him, weren’t you?”
He found Buffy and Lucy sitting against the base of a tree, the older watching the younger making daisy chains in silence, seemingly contemplating her answer. Caspian held his breath.
“It’s better not to get attached,” she finally said.
“Why?” Lucy asked, without looking up from the deft movements of her fingers.
“I’ll be gone as soon as this is over.”
Silence again as the girl finished braiding the chain and tied it off expertly. She ran her hands over it once before tucking in her feet and rolling so she was kneeling. She reached out and placed the crown of flowers on Buffy’s head, carefully pulling a few strands of hair out from below it and laying them on top, to fix her work in place.
“But you are already attached,” she said very quietly as she sat back on her haunches to admire her work.
The newly crowned Daisy Queen’s eyes were full of sorrow.
Caspian watched the two females for a few more minutes until he had himself back under control. Then he stepped out of his hiding place, their lack of surprise letting him know that they had been aware of his presence, making him feel like a wayward child. How was it that a twelve-year-old girl could have that effect on him?
“May I have the pleasure of you company?” he asked politely, receiving no verbal answer. Instead Lucy patted the grass beside her and started on another daisy chain, this one apparently meant for him.
He sat in the indicated spot on the girl’s free side and, as Buffy did, watched her work quietly. After some time, the little Queen started singing softly. “Queen of Spring, babbling rivers, youngest bloom and endless fields to run. She is the lively, lively, lively one.”
Caspian started after the first few words, blinking at her in surprise. He knew the nursery rhyme she was singing, as did almost every other Telmarine child, but the melody was all wrong. He had known it as a fast ditty all his life, but Lucy sung it slowly and with breaks.
As he still wondered where she had learned the words, she stopped singing and hummed the melody, before starting on the second verse, her voice sweet with little effort behind it as most of her concentration was on her hands. “King of Summer, longest day, brightest skies and splendid sun. He is the burning, burning, burning one.”
She hummed again and this time when she started singing the last two verses, Caspian quietly sung along, testing her slower melody. “Queen of Autumn, shining colours, golden leaves and harvest drum. She is the gentler, gentler, gentler one. King of Winter, whitened fields, crystal air and turn of the sun. He is the harshest, harshest, harshest one.”
As they finished their singing, Lucy beamed up at him radiantly, “You know the song!”
He smiled and resisted the urge to ruffle her hair, reminding himself of what Buffy had told him. They were not children. “Every Telmarine child does, I imagine. It is a common tool for teaching children about the seasons. But we sing it differently, faster and happier. How is that you know the words?”
Lucy’s expression fell. “The seasons?” she asked, “But have you forgotten what the song is about?”
He looked at her, head tilted, not sure what she was talking about but aware that she seemed stricken all of a sudden. “My Lady?”
“A faun wrote it,” she said, looking at him with big, watery eyes, “For the tenth anniversary of our coronation. It’s about us, Prince Caspian.”
“I am sorry, I do not understand.”
She smiled at him weakly and held out the half finished daisy crown for him to take. “I was the Queen of Spring.”
Her, the Queen of Spring? He guessed he could imagine it but it seemed impossible that Telmarines would sing of Narnian legends, that the song could have a meaning completely different from what everyone believed. “But clearly,” he argued, “the four verses describe the four seasons.”
The Valiant Queen nodded, then shook her head, lowering her hand with the flower chain back into her lap. “Yes, but it is also about us. I was spring, Peter was summer, Su autumn and Ed winter. It described us, too. I am the lively one, Peter is the burning one, Susan the gentle and Edmund the harsh.”
“Burning and harsh?” Buffy queried from the young queen’s other side.
“They called Peter the burning one because he was a terror it battle. He burned all that got too close to him. Once I got hurt in battle against the werewolves. I was trapped and their leader tried to use me as a hostage. Peter said that if he hurt me, he would hunt down every single werewolf there was.”
“Did he?” Caspian demanded, finally hearing what he had wanted to hear. Stories of war, stories that showed a man, a King, not an angry boy.
Lucy blinked up at him, biting her lower lip, saying sadly, “Werewolves are almost extinct.”
What? What did that have to do with…? “Are you saying they are on the brink of extinction because of the High King?”
She nodded gravely. “The pack leader almost bit off my arm.”
And as revenge, the King of Summer had slain an entire race, had killed almost every member of its kind. He had made a promise and he had kept it. Over Lucy’s head, Caspian met Buffy’s gaze and he understood her warning about treating them as children. Not only because Peter knew war, but also because of the way Lucy told of it. She had been hurt despite her brother’s warning. So he had killed those that hurt her. There was nothing childish about the way she retold the event.
“And Edmund was the Just,” she added, almost as an afterthought. “He was the judge and he was always fair, but when you didn’t deserve mercy, he didn’t give it to you. He helped Peter, back then, with the werewolves. Do you understand now why we sing the song slowly?”
Numbly, the prince nodded. He did understand. The song he had always thought to be nothing more than a nursery rhyme with a hidden lesson was so much more. It was a warning.
A warning to beware of the burning King and his just brother, of the Valiant Queen and even, in a way, the Gentle Queen by association alone. Not children. He knew that now.
Suddenly Buffy spoke up. “Hold on. Did you say Peter was the King of Summer?”
Lucy looked at her, a comical expression on her face. “Yes?”
She startled as Buffy jumped to her feet, brushing off her dress with fire in her eyes. She turned to Lucy with a solemn expression on her pretty face. “Excuse me, I have to go and kill your brother.”
She took off before Lucy could to more than eep
Peter was alone in the room that had quickly become the royal bedroom once the siblings had arrived at the How and Caspian had insisted on sharing what had been ‘his’ room until then with the rest of them.
He was lying on his bedroll, staring morosely at the ceiling and second guessing himself, as had become his habit over the past year. His brooding was interrupted by quiet footsteps followed by a tart, “Belonging to summer, huh?”
He winced as he sat up, facing Buffy and taking a moment to marvel at how quickly they had all adapted to calling her by her real name. It was like the other one, the made up one, had never been hers to begin with, had never fit.
“How did you figure it out?” he asked, ducking his head.
“Your little sister likes to sing when she makes daisy chains.” There was a fondness in her voice that made him look up and notice for the first time, that she had been crowned by Lucy. He remembered a hundred different occasions when Lucy had disappeared into Cair Paravel’s gardens only to come back with new crowns for all of them. When Peter or Edmund had tried complaining, she had simply told them it kept them humble and their pride down to size.
Lucy, for all her childish whims, had always been the wisest of them. Still, did she have to sing that
“I meant nothing by it,” he assured Buffy, not quite meeting her gaze.
She hesitated in the doorway for a moment before entering the room with a mighty sigh and sinking down in front of him, on Edmund’s make shift bed. “Blatant arrogance and chauvinism aside, Peter, I don’t belong to you.”
that!” He’d just been running off his stupid teenaged mouth again. Hadn’t he?
“Do you?” She asked.
Instead of responding, he raised his eyebrows and just looked at her, head tilted to one side. It was a look that had, once upon a time, made minotaurs shuffle guiltily.
Then, “It’d never work, you know?”
“Well, for one, I’m too old for you.”
Peter snorted. The matter of age had given him too many headaches already in the past year. Every time he tried to figure out how old his siblings were, his head started spinning. “How old are you? Physically, I mean? Twenty? Twenty-five?”
She inspected her hands for a moment. “A month or so short of twenty-two.”
“So you’re twenty-one,” he corrected. “That’s only four years older than me.”
“Ah, but I’m in my late sixties, actually.”
“And I’m in my thirties. Or, if you want to be specific about it, in my thirteen hundreds.”
She chuckled involuntarily. “You’re looking pretty good for a pile of dirt, though.”
He grinned widely, watching her freeze as she realized what she’d just said. “Peter, no. Whatever you’re thinking, no.”
“Why not?” he demanded. He hadn’t really thought about it before now, hadn’t exactly had time to consider romantic entanglements but if Susan could flirt with Caspian, Peter could flirt, too. Sure, he didn’t really know Buffy and she didn’t know him, but what he knew, he liked. Her company was soothing and she didn’t look at him with her eyes filled with expectations.
Besides, Peter had watched enough people die, here and there, to know that sometimes you didn’t need love. You just needed a bit of happiness before everything was taken away. Here, now, he wasn’t some love sick, desperate teenager. He was the High King, a man in his thirties, who knew what he wanted and how fleeting the good times could be.
“I have no interest in you,” Buffy answered, distant again all of a sudden, all joking around forgotten.
Peter leaned back on his elbows, mustering her from head to toe and back. Finally he offered, “I don’t think you’re half as cold as you would like us to believe.”
“Oh, really?” Biting sarcasm.
“Alright then, you want the truth?” She was looking at him like she expected him to refuse.
He smiled. “That would be nice, yes.”
“I’m messed up. I’m paranoid, violent, pissed off as hell, broken, bitter and tired and I’m going to be gone as soon as this war is over.”
Somewhere along the lines this had turned from a hypothetical conversation into a real one, an accumulation of reasons why the two of them together would be a bad thing. But if they had so many reasons against it, that had to mean they wanted it, didn’t it? And that meant… Peter had no idea what that meant, only that it did mean something.
His expression never wavered as he answered with a shrug, “And I’m angry, confused, bitter, sad and messed up and will probably be sent back to England once this is over. What’s to lose?”
“Everything,” Buffy answered immediately as she stood, looking down at him. “Lucy said it, I’m already too attached. Leaving here is going to be bad enough already and I don’t… Why start something that’s bound to end?”
“That’s very nihilistic.”
She snorted and half laughed as she turned to leave him alone again. “Yeah. Wonder where that comes from.”
“Why do you always wear green?” Peter asked, apropos of nothing.
She looked at him askance. “I don’t exactly have a full wardrobe on me, do I?”
“You want to know what I think?” he asked, rolling to his feet as well.
Predictably, she shook her head and turned towards the door. “No.”
Not deterred in the least, his arm shot out, catching her around the waist. He had no illusions whatsoever about the fact that she had allowed him to catch her, though. He took it as a good sign. She wasn’t screaming yet, wasn’t raging and cursing Aslan for her predicament. In fact, she had yet to get angry at anyone all day, as far as he knew. And she had obviously stopped fighting with Lucy at every turn.
“Green is the colour of hope,” he whispered in her ear, pulling her closer.
“And you really are a child if your believe that,” she retorted, eyes fixed ahead, ignoring the way his breath felt against her cheek and neck. “Now let me go.”
He considered it for a moment before simply saying, “No.”
She could have broken his hold. She didn’t.
“Not before you tell me why. The real reason this time.” He wasn’t asking about her choice of dress either and they both knew it.
They stayed like that, his arm around her waist, her back to his chest, too close for propriety, for almost five minutes until she slumped, shoulder sagging.
“I don’t wanna hurt,” she finally admitted before violently wrenching out of his hold and fleeing the room.
She still wasn’t screaming.
For the longest time after Buffy’s abrupt departure, Caspian sat in silence, watching Queen Lucy play. He had better things to do, admittedly, but he couldn’t very well leave her alone in a forest swarming with Telmarine scouts. Even if she wasn’t a real child, she was small and weak as one.
So he sat and waited and let his thoughts drift to everything he had learned in the past twenty-four hours since meeting the siblings. Adults in children’s bodies. He hadn’t been able to see it until Lucy’s song. Until her story.
Blood and death and memory inside of her, inside of all of them. They acted like children, Peter most of all, Susan least, but they were not. If you looked into their eyes, you could see them as they really were. Old and sad.
Grieving, perhaps, for a Narnia that none but they remembered.
He tried to imagine travelling a thousand years through time to find everything he knew completely changed and found he could not. So instead he tried imagining being an adult in a child’s body and failed there too, because he had yet to be a real adult. He acted like one, fought like one, but in his heart he was seventeen years old.
He had no concept of how they had to feel.
He was torn out of his reverie by a hand on his knee and a soft voice. “Caspian, it’s finished.”
Queen Lucy held out a second crown of daisies and he took it with apprehension.
“It’s for you,” she said.
He tried not to grimace. There was no way he was wearing a flower crown. King Peter was already undermining any standing he had with the army. He didn’t need to be caught wearing flowers to enforce the notion that he was useless as a leader.
“Would you not rather wear it, Queen Lucy?”
He was met by a tiny scowl. “It’s Lucy,” she ordered, “Or I’ll have to call you Prince, Prince. And it’s much too big for me.”
She pushed the crown at him again and looked at him, expectantly.
“It’s easy,” she told him, jumping to her feet and taking it from him, trying to put it on his head as she had for Buffy. He resisted until she spoke again. “You just have to forget your pride and be yourself.”
His hands fell away. Be yourself? When had he ever been allowed that?
He realized that his moment of inattention had cost him because suddenly the small queen pulled back, laughing brightly, her hands empty. Timidly he reached up to feel his head and yes, there it was. He had been crowned Daisy King to match Buffy’s Queen.
Lucy, sensing that he was about to remove the offending object from his person, grinned impishly and asked, “So, are you as sweet on Susan as she is on you?”
He sat, gaping, his mind stalling completely. The Valiant Queen giggled.
A bit over a day later, after all preparations were finished and the raiding party ready to leave, they set out. Peter and Glenstorm were at the head of the column, going over the plan for one last time with a reluctant Caspian trailing behind, listening in but not bothering to protest anymore. He had been shot down too many times to count in the past day and he had no desire to bring morale down further by openly fighting the High King.
Beside, walking close to Peter had the distinct advantage of keeping him away from Queen Susan, who was barely on speaking terms with her own brother. Ever since Queen Lucy’s observations the day before, he had been avoiding the older of the two sisters whenever possible, blushing furiously on the rare occasion when he could not.
Buffy, who was, like Susan, avoiding the High King had set up shop at the end of the line, her entire demeanour more icy than anyone, including Caspian, had ever seen it before. She rarely spoke more than a word or two at a time, kept her face blank at all times and stared off into space regularly.
She had even sent King Edmund, usually the most patient of all his siblings, packing when he had tried to make conversation with her. She had simply answered all his questions with a monotonous ‘yes’ or ‘no’, obviously not listening at all, her focus turned entirely inwards. In the end, the younger King had retreated to the middle of the column where he had met up with his sister, walking glumly beside her, like a man walking to the gallows.
Four of the five key players for the raid were not on speaking terms with each other and the fifth had all but given up trying to shake some sense into them.
The rest of the raiding party had watched indulgently as their leaders had quarrelled back at the How but now that the attack was looming ever closer, tension rose and morale went down. How were they supposed to win a war, much less a battle, when their leaders were sulking like children?
No-one knew an answer and so, as the afternoon progressed, the column grew more and more quiet as a blanket of apprehension settled over it.
No-one, not even those who knew little of the risks involved in the plan, could quite shake the feeling that they were marching to their doom.
At the end of the silent column, more of a funeral march, really, people marching to their own funeral, Buffy walked, refusing to talk to anyone, thanks to High Idiot Peter and his refusal to let things rest at all.
Lucy had said it, she was already attached to these people, these children who weren’t children at all. They reminded her too much of home, of herself, of things she had tried to forget for so long. She could not help but be drawn to the weird mixture of adult seriousness and the childish ability to laugh in the face of gloom. Lucy was too adorable for words and Edmund and Susan were both smart and interesting, wise, each on their own way. Caspian had long since grown on her in the manner of a little sibling, someone to watch over and be proud of. And Peter. Peter who burned like the sun, stubborn and proud and stupid and more alive than she’d been in fifty years.
Do not get attached. It had replaced her old First Rule many years ago and she had always stuck to it religiously before. But this time it seemed impossible. Ten years in this strange world and only a week with the siblings and Caspian and she cared
. She cared enough to make her ache and for the first time in a long time, want.
She wanted to stay.
And her anger, her sword and shield against the emotions battering her, was failing her, failing altogether.
It made her bitter, so bitter, that she knew she would not be able to stay. As soon as this war was over one way or another, she would be whisked away to start all over again elsewhere.
She would lose the five children that had grown on her so quickly.
And if that realization, the knowledge of loss to come, wasn’t bad enough, Peter had to go and open up old wounds. When had she last taken a lover? Ages and ages ago. When she’d still hoped.
She had lost him like she lost everyone else and she had, at the time, thought it would kill her. She’d thought that the pain of losing him would manage what Glory and an army of hell had not. To break her into tiny, dead pieces.
Never again, she’d sworn. Never again. She’d drawn up the anger, built the walls and stopped hoping, stopped dreaming, stopping living
. She existed. That was all anyone could ask of her. No more than that. Not ever again.
Until Peter made that stupid quip about her belonging to him, bringing up the mere idea of her and him. Of them. She should have run right then.
She didn’t want to get hurt. That’s what she had told him before rushing out on him. But now, after the possibility had been presented and her heart had not rejected it as completely as her head, she already hurt.
Don’t get attached, but she was attached.
Don’t dream, but she was dreaming.
Don’t get hurt, but she would be. She was.
Did that mean she threw all her rules to the wind and simply lived, for as long as she had?
Or did that mean that she had to lock herself up tighter, had to push them away harder, to minimize the pain later? Could she even do it? Here, in this damn place, this country?
In the end it came down to a single question. Was she brave enough to invite all that pain? Or was she too afraid?
The answer, something that would have been so, so clear once upon a time, when she’d still been brave Buffy, the one that never stayed down, never admitted defeat and never stayed afraid for long. But she wasn’t that person anymore.
She wasn’t stubborn as a brick anymore.
No more Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Here she was only Buffy, the girl who wasn’t allowed to even die.
And she had no answer to that one, all important question.
See, there's a reason I'm not going to become a songwriter when I grow up.