It's a pleasant day to be at sea; no storms, and even a little sunshine. But you're standing alone at the rail of your balcony, staring out at the ocean, unable to find anything in your immediate future to be happy about.
You've lost count of the days since you lost Edmund. Instead, you keep torturing yourself by replaying the last time you saw him over and over in your head: watching him walk into a wave that meets the sky - and out of your life. You'll never see him again.
You let the Dawn Treader sail straight past Ramandu's island, because there's no joy for you in meeting the Star's daughter a second time. All you notice is Edmund's absence and how much you're hurting. (You need no reminder of how he is for ever lost.) There's nothing to find on Ramandu's island except pain.
Besides, part of you is impatient to be home. You last saw the place months ago and, as its King, you feel guilty about having stayed away so long. You also want somewhere safe and familiar where you can recover from Edmund (and, if you are lucky, begin to let yourself fall out of love with him). In theory, you think, that'll be easier and less painful to do where Edmund has never lived - or not in this era, at least. So that is what you tell yourself. Even though you know you don't believe it.
But the journey home takes months. You know this shouldn't surprise you, but it's irritating all the same. You'd been at least a month out of Narnia when you and your crew pulled Edmund and the others out of the sea. Afterwards, you'd been so consumed by Edmund nothing so mundane as time's passage had mattered at all. It's only now, in hindsight, you can admit to yourself you'd been courting Edmund. And that goes a long way towards explaining why you are now in so much pain.
You sleep with his clothes in your arms. They still smell of him enough that your brain's tricked into thinking he's still with you. It blunts the edges of the pain, and you've found yourself better able to function, but it's a temporary fix. You know you must accustom yourself to this new reality. But the Royal Cabin is now too large to sleep in alone.
Waking up in the middle of the night, over and over again, becomes normal for you. Turning, on instinct, towards the warm body you still half-expect to find beside you happens more often than you want to admit. And when you wake up the following morning, always alone, it takes time for you to remember where you are. When you realise, again, that Edmund is gone it brings a stabbing, vicious pain. It takes everything you have not to break down, and it's a battle you don't always win.
These are the mornings when others on board learn first-hand how your temperament has changed. Your temper is now more volatile and unpredictable than before. And you find it almost impossible to meet Drinian's eyes, because you don't want to see the clear pity in them.
Everything hurts. Everything reminds you of Edmund. And thinking about Edmund does nothing except make things worse.
Edmund's not dead, or he wasn't the last time you saw him, and grieving for a living person is unbearable. But time moves in different ways in your world than it does in Edmund's. And your only other choice is to forget all about him and deny what he is to you.
You would rather die than let that happen.
More time passes; the weeks seem innumerable, interminable. You live through it all as if the days have no meaning. For how can they have meaning when the only person you'd want to share that meaning with is gone?
Your soul protests returning home without your lover beside you. But you keep the pain to yourself. You don't want to share the truth of who Edmund was, and will always be to you, with anybody. You get to the point where you feel certain you cannot spend one more moment aboard this ship shrouded in memories. How can you move on when everywhere you look you're reminded of Edmund, and how large a hole in you he left behind?
You turn the problem over and over in your head, trying to find an answer you can tolerate. Before you manage it, the turrets of Cair Paravel come into view, soaring proud against the sky. Almost home. You sent messages ahead of you as soon as the Dawn Treader was back in Narnian waters. The ship docks where the river Rush meets the sea, and the stifling accoutrements of monarchy are waiting.
Horses, soldiers, flags. Everything expected for a King's much-awaited return. Everything you had not missed while you were away. But despite all the decorations there is no sign of your regent, Trumpkin. This disquiets you.
When you ask, nobody will tell you where he is. You know he's waiting for you, because they tell you that much. But where is he? The information you already have is useless. You're in a crotchety sort of mood anyway, thanks to the dream you had last night. You'd dreamt of Edmund, of sharing desperate kisses and more with him. Pure wish-fulfilment, and you know it, but knowing doesn't mean you can stop. And when you still can't accept his absence, waking from dreams of him to reality brings still more pain.
It takes time to disembark from the Dawn Treader. By the time you have, there is still no word from Trumpkin and your patience evaporates. Yet another casualty of your inability to control your temper. You open your mouth, about to snap out something irritable and unhelpful when you notice movement from the corner of your eye. Turning, you see a person walking towards you who you'd recognise in a heartbeat.
But it cannot be him. It's impossible.
You refuse to believe what your eyes are telling you; Aslan had been so adamant Edmund was leaving for ever. And you'd felt obligated to go along with it because, well, that's how things happen when the Lion's involved. But since Edmund left you, you've spent your days unable to remove him from your head or your heart. Your people, you know, would like you to marry. They expect you to give Narnia a Queen. But even the thought of letting anyone replace Edmund is more than you can countenance. Yes, you will need an heir one day. And at present you have no way of solving the problem, which means you'll need to find an answer at some point that hurts Edmund as little as possible when you do.
But today is not that day.
For a moment or two, flabbergasted, you freeze in place. But as soon as you notice it is already passing, and it isn't even a conscious thought to start running towards him. You don't care who sees you. Or what anybody else thinks. When you have him in your arms, feel the warmth of his body against you, you'll believe this is real. You'll believe the last few months were nothing but a bad dream, already fading with the dawn.
You almost choke on the words as your emotions threaten to overwhelm you. This is a literal dream come true. You hold out your arms for him, for any and every part of him you can reach. When at last you reach him, and feel him pull you into a bruising embrace, you can no longer hold back the tears.
It has been too long since you last had this man in front of you. And in all the long, painful, months since, no-one else could hold a candle to him. Gazing down at him, still stunned, it takes a few moments before you can make your body obey you. But then you move a shaking hand to cradle his jaw. And you watch his eyes flutter closed as you use your thumb to caress his cheek. He's here, he's here, after so many months of thinking you'd never see him again, and your heart can scarce contain the joy.
You move to cut any remaining space between you. When you are flush against him, you move your other hand into his hair. You're desperate to touch him after having spent what feels like an eternity being unable to do so. He murmurs your name under his breath and, having been starved of the sound, it's the most beautiful thing you've ever heard. You can hold back no longer. Leaning across, you brush a kiss across his lips. As his eyes open again, you smile at him. A smile that, when he returns it, soon becomes a grin.
'Caspian, please ...' he breathes, and at that, you use the hand still cradling his jaw to tilt his face towards you. Still smiling, you give in to what you both want and kiss him full on the mouth. His response is immediate as he kisses you back. The kiss stays soft for brief moments. And then the embers always smouldering between you catch fire; the kiss becomes ferocious. You lose yourselves in the passion of it.
This is proof: no matter what happens, your love for Edmund (and his for you) will never fail.
Edmund will hold your heart from now until eternity.