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To See The End Days Coming (The Waiting with the Dead Remix)

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She does not understand, at first, why her dreams are always of loss.

Prophecy, the centaur chief explains, while her limbs quiver still with fine tremors, while her stomach sits hardened in her belly with adrenaline, the cold stare and hot breath of a monster still too present, too real in her mind.

Peter doesn't hesitate, not for a moment; he nods and strides from the room, throwing out orders as though he'd been born to it. Lucy follows in his wake like a little boat, her high little voice piping out requests of her own, for hot tea and Susan's favorite desserts, a sweet child's remedy for all life's ills.

They are good at this, she thinks, her bright, golden siblings. They are sure and certain of this life. They will sleep through the night, and all the nights to come.

Edmund simply sits, watching her warily from under his lashes; how strange that an expression which had seemed sulky only months before now strikes her as cautious and calculating.

“I knew a story once,” she says, curling her fingers into fists, willing them to stay steady as her voice. “I think, at least – about a girl who was a prophet, only no one ever believed her.” They thought she was mad, a little corner of her whispers, in the forgotten, fading bit of her mind that recalls metal birds droning overhead, and an inhuman wail and fire in the night; the bit of her mind that holds a wardrobe, of all things, in utmost importance. Maybe, Susan thinks, she truly has gone mad. Perhaps something so horrible happened that her mind had simply-

“We believe you, Su,” Edmund says, and takes her hand clumsily, his smaller fingers digging into her palm. “I believe you.”

His voice is firm, and it is his certainty, more than Peter and Lucy's simple faith, that brings her back to herself, away from the picture in her mind, of a desperate girl with a silenced voice, screaming to be heard.

“Do you want me to stay?” he asks, and even if it seems odd, to have her little brother sit beside her bed as she'd sat so often beside his (he hates to be reminded of what a fussy child he'd been, how often he'd been too fretful and feverish to sleep when he was small), it's comforting somehow to have him there, as though his hand over hers tethers her to reality, keeping the dreams at bay.

***

It becomes her habit, over the years, to go to Edmund first with her dreams. Peter tends towards a literal slant that is ill-suited to interpretation, and Lucy hasn't the patience for it, preferring to throw all her energy into solving problems rather than puzzling them out.

The idea to write out her dreams is Edmund's. Unsurprising, since as often as not she finds him asleep at his desk, dark hair falling forward over creamy parchment, ink smeared across both his fingers and the pages he'd been writing.

He makes a book of them, though she avoids it like a curse.

“I've noticed it too,” he says one day, after she shudders at the sight of it in daylight, every dark stroke a record of pain and fear. “They never seem to be happy events, do they?”

Giant uprisings, assassins in the dark, Anvard's little prince floating alone in a vast blackness, dwarves trading in the furs of their fellow Narnians; these are all the warnings that come to her in the night, all the things that Lucy refers to as Aslan's great gift.

“I suppose preventing them is the happier part,” she says, rubbing at the circles she knows must ring her eyes, trying not to think of those times when prevention has proved impossible, of sights that have left even Peter's face pale and pinched.

“You do your best,” Edmund says, giving her a gentle shove in the direction of the bed, a blissful, crumpled oasis of peace. “That's all anyone can ask of you, even Him.”

***

In Tashbaan, she dreams of wearing red.

It clings to her, this gown; heavy and rich and the most ornate garment she has ever worn, it wraps her in its folds like a cage, wet and suffocating, sticky against her skin.

Before her stands a figure in the shadows, wreathed in smoke against a backdrop of flame so that all she can make out is the gleam of predatory teeth and eyes, topped off by a pair of absurdly long ears.

Something drips into her eyes, thick and hot, and when she reaches up, she finds her sleeves are made from raven feathers, and atop her head her hand feels curls not her own, and a pair of faun's horns, a stolen scalp set atop her own head like an obscene crown.

A coppery smells fills her nose, making her wanting to retch, and she realizes, with growing horror, that something heavy sits tucked under her other arm, clutched close to her body like a precious treasure; something she knows instinctively she musn't look at, musn't even think of.

“Do you not like your gift, my queen?” the shadowy figure purrs. “It is only what your actions have requested.”

Her limbs shift, unwilling; her hands curl around the heavy thing she holds and lift it, until Edmund's severed head is before hers, his blood still dripping down her dress.

In her dream, she cannot scream, the sound building in her throat until she feels she will die of it.

In reality, she wakes with a single, strangled cry. She hasn't woken screaming in years now; the dreams are too many, and she has seen too much.

At the door, she runs into her brother, looking impossibly alert for all that it's the dead of night in a strange city.

“I heard you scream,” he says by way of explanation, though she's sure she didn't, certain she can feel it still, trapped in her throat, clawing to escape. “What is it?”

This time, at least, the dream takes no interpretation, even if it takes all her will not to reach up, to make sure his neck is still solidly attached to his shoulders, a foolish shadow of fear clinging to her like a shroud.

“If we stay here, you'll die. You'll all die,” she says, and does not add, and it will be my fault.

“Then we'll leave,” he says, decisively, as though such a thing would be so easy. “Tomorrow, as soon as we can hatch out a plan.”

Susan is suddenly so, so tired; tired enough not to argue or to fret, to point out all the dangers and logistical issues involved in fighting a strength so much greater than their own.

“Go back to bed, Su,” Edmund says, catching her as she sways on her feet.

“You'll stay until I fall asleep?” she murmurs, barely able to hear her own voice.

“I always do.”

Still, her eyes refuse to close, springing back open every time they shut out the steady light of Edmund's lamp, the gleam of his eyes and the steel by his side, until finally he sighs, and casts her a sidelong look.

“I'm not going to die, Susan.”

“Promise?” she says, stretching out one hand in the darkness.

“On my honor as a Narnian.”

Her fingers are the smaller now, and his gestures no longer clumsy.

***

It stings, when she dreams of leaving Narnia; all the more so when Edmund says words he has never said to her before - “It was only a dream, Su.” - and she finds herself, for the first time in the life she can remember, alone and adrift.

Lucy tries her best to fill the void, with hugs and chatter and a parade of various furry and behooved residents of the Cair through Susan's rooms. Peter, of course, attempts to mend things for her, in his stern, big brother way, though she knows perfectly well that ordering Edmund to do something has never had the slightest positive effect on his actually doing the thing in question.

It confuses her, too, the way they don't seem to mind. Lucy takes the news almost serenely, as she always has anything that bears the mark of Aslan's guiding paw. Peter, for his part, seems more concerned with making certain the kingdom will continue to run in their absence; the question of what will happen to himself and his siblings without Narnia seems to concern him not a whit. “No use in fretting over what can't be changed, Su,” he says with a shrug, when she finally finds the courage to ask. “So let's focus on what can be altered, while we're still able.”

Only Edmund seems to mind, to feel it is as keenly as she does, even if he won't admit it.

When he finally stops arguing, stops treating her like a pariah in her own home, she's so grateful to have him back that she doesn't think to ask for an apology.

***

“I always believed you,” he says, that first horrible night back in England. “I just didn't want to.”

“I know,” she says, because she'd never been able to doubt his loyalty, not really; she had to believe that much, if she believed in anything at all.

***

The dreams don't come to her in England; they slide away with all the rest of it, into a smokey, blurred picture of a past she can't quite remember, or doesn't want to; when the others speak of adventures and beautiful landscapes and old friends, Susan remembers blood and horror and fear.

Sometimes there is more, when she remembers waking up to the scratching of Edmund's quill, or the quiet drift of paper as he turned the pages of a book; when she remembers feeling warm, and safe, and calm.

Here there is none of that, and she spends what feels like years staring sleepless at a plaster ceiling, until her mind grows tired of remembering, and she trains herself to fall asleep to Lucy's quiet breathing beside her, and nothing more.

***

She does not dream of the train crash, and can never quite decide if that's meant as one last blessing or curse from the Lion; to have no warning, no chance to stop it or join in weighed against the blissful virtue of not having seen the end this time.

(Something in her wonders – would they have believed her now anyhow? If she had picked up the telephone and rung Edmund, would there have been that awful, final hesitation? It's best, perhaps, not to know, not to have that particular leaden bit of karma weighing at her core.)

Eventually, she decides she has had enough of endings and loss, and calls it a blessing.

Now, her dreams contain the most prosaic of events; breakfast, picnics on the beach, riding home on a crowded train car, but always with all of them, always together.

***

When she wakes, it's to the sound of a merrily crackling fire, and the distant sharp chill on the edges of consciousness that one gets when the snow is fresh-fallen and the entire world seems clean and delightful and full of the most innocent temptations.

In the moment before she stirs, there's also the scratch of a quill on paper, and when she stretches her limbs, his hand is there to hold hers as though he's been waiting for just that, all this time.

“Edmund,” she says, drifting still, somewhere in the space between sleep and finally waking up, “I had a dream.”