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FIC: An Island Could Never Break Your Heart
newgirl:zooey
little_giddy
FIC: An Island Could Never Break Your Heart
Fandom: Narnia, [movieverse]
Summary: AU. Caspian and Susan are on the night watch during the Blitz. 'I, at least, had that. God forbid anything happen to my mother, but if it did, I could still call London home and be welcomed in it.'
Rating: PG13
Words: 1500ish.

Written for the weekly drabble a thon at susancaspian , week #12: 'music.' 

I am ill, officially. My throat hurts, my glands are swollen, my head aches and I can't sleep for sneezing (of all the blasted things). Hence writing this. I'm sorry for any massive errors in history or grammar.

----
</lj>
December 29th, 1940. London.

The next morning, the world would hear about the burning ruins of buildings all over London, the heaviest bombardment of the Blitz, and they would forget about the approaching New Year. Or, rather, they would remember and wonder how to celebrate when the Germans had given us such expensive entertainments.

I remember Caspian sitting on the cold flagstones of the factory. We had been there every night for months, taking naps throughout the night, prodding each other awake at intervals. Through the autumn to the bite of winter, the layers had been swapped and piled and wrapped around us until we merged into a single ball of rags, coats and blankets.

There was nothing improper about it, as I'd imagined patiently explaining to Lucy, Peter or Edmund, had they been able to witness the spectacle. At night, it was just a cocoon of not-cold to hide shaking limbs under. In the morning it was exactly what it was: a pile of rags and layers of varying degrees of filthy, the dirtiest on the outside and ten layers away from our skin.

Pete would have had a fit, even though the idea that it was in any way inappropriate was funny for many reasons. Firstly, Caspian wasn't the sort to act in a way less than gentlemanly. Secondly, there was the troublesome manner of the many layers of clothes we wore and the bone-weary tiredness that had settled into our limbs from months of sleeping in a stone-floored factory. The mountains of cloth and the  donated mattresses put plenty distance between our backs and the floor, but they couldn't change the deep, centuries old cold of a building never properly warmed.

Pete would have had a fit, but I didn't think about Pete. That only led to worrying about Pete. Lucy and Edmund were safer, even if Ed had resented it. Just young enough, Mother and I had bundled him onto a train and stuffed him full of reasons why someone had to take care of Lu and he had to, being the only other one of us young enough for evacuation. He wasn't a child, still, and we knew that. But he wasn't a soldier yet either, by age or inclination.

Caspian shook my arm lightly. He rarely spoke, but I didn't mind that.

"Was I falling asleep?"

"No. You were worrying."

Thanks to Caspian being under a woolen hat pulled down low and in the darkness of the blackout, there was no chance of seeing his expression. I'd gotten pretty used to his tones by then, though, and this one was laced with both his own worry and amusement.

"I was."

Caspian's accent hadn't been softened by the year and a half spent in London, but his English had improved dramatically. When we'd first met, he'd written things on a patch of concrete near the lamp in white chalk if he couldn't say it. Then the bombs had started and we'd craved the distraction. Even when the bombs were only every now and again, we'd kept up his English lessons; if the bombs weren't falling, we were waiting on them. I'd wake up to smudges of white chalk on my legs and sleeves, showing how dark with dust and factory dirt my clothes were, and half scrawled words partly stricken out on the ground by the extinguished lamp.

I shot him a smile and leaned forward, the weight of the clothes making me feel like I was tipping on a pivot like a madly spinning globe. Taking the snack I'd brought with me, I offered him half. A porridge bar. They'd been better back in September, when we could still pillage berries from the hedgerows. Now that fruit was rare and rationed and out of season, the bars were plain. Still, it was the best we could do with porridge oats, given that we made them with water.

Caspian took the offered half. "Please thank your mother."

I waited until the first bite was in his mouth. "I made these ones."

He chewed carefully, slowly and for longer than strictly necessary. I heard him swallow and wondered if I should bother trying the half in my hand. 

"Please accept my thanks."

This time, the tone was definitely amused and only slightly pained. I couldn't help but laugh.

"Is it terrible?"

A silence. "Perhaps more water. For longer."

I took a bite and chewed it. And chewed it some more, because it was really quite chewy. Eventually I swallowed. "Yes. Quite. I'll bear that in mind."

I heard a soft laugh. I would have prodded him, but with the layers we were wearing, he would have had to have been a princess with a sensitivity to peas to feel it.

My mother hadn't been keen on Caspian as a watch partner for me. Too old, for one thing - mid-twenties to my sixteen. And foreign. My mother was a wonderful woman, but it did take her time to adjust to putting my safety in the hands of a soldier who didn't happen to be British. I spent my waking hours - when I wasn't working, or watching - convincing her that he'd been on the other side of the Spanish conflict, and that no-one who'd seen the ruins of Guernica first-hand could be complacent about air raids.

April 26th, 1937. I'd memorised most of the stories he'd told me about Spain, the ones set before and after the war. I'd heard stories, at the time, about people my age running off to join the fight. I had mentioned them, hesitantly, to Caspian one night in late September.

"You wanted that? To fight?"

"I
did. Do you still want to fight?"

I'd suddenly felt young and foolish for ever wanting to be in a war, talking to this man who'd seen it and thinking of my brother, who was living it. My protests that Edmund had to be stupid to want to enlist early felt very much like the kettle calling the pot black.

Caspian hadn't answered and his silence had been answer enough. He didn't want to want to fight, having seen the ravages of war and ruins of cities, towns and bodies, but nor could he happily sit by while others fended off the enemy. It was why we both watched for fires; we wanted to do something. The nurses wouldn't take me, and you needed both legs to be functional to pass an army medical.

"Do you mind if I sleep?"

"Go ahead."

I shot him a smile in the dark, forgetting he wouldn't see it, and nudged his right leg with the heel of my left foot. Nudges, occasional touches through layers and infinite subdivisions of tones of voices were our ways of communicating. With no one else to focus on and the object of the watch so jarring to our quiet, it was easy to pay such complete attention to him.

1937. While his world had shifted and slipped beneath him, while Caspian had been leaving his uncle and running to the resistance, I had been surrounded by those who were only ghosts in the dark to me now. It was stranger still to think that I hadn't known him; there had been a time when I hadn't known him. War had been quietly encroaching on our lives when it had already shattered the order and peace of his.

Stupid New Year, I remember thinking. I honestly didn't mind being on the watch again, though I did more shifts than I had to and slept away from home more than in it, because New Year didn't mean parties. It meant my mother and I staring at seats that should have had Lu, Edmund, Peter and Father in them, trying to summon reasons to ignore the spectres in the room. She would have rather been getting on with some work, ignoring the holiday the way we did our best to be oblivious to all but church on Christmas, and I would rather pretend it was like every another night. The thought of the separation from my siblings becoming a thing of years was hateful. One had been long enough.

And still it hardly compared. Caspian, quietly and unassumedly volunteering for the night watch after being politely turned down because of his English or his leg at almost every other port of call, a resistance leader lowered to distributing ration booklets by day because they thought him too stupid to cheat the system, had lost his people, his home and his country. I, at least, had that. God forbid anything happen to my mother, but if it did, I could still call London home and be welcomed in it.

He'd told me the story of their escape haltingly, struggling to find the words in two languages for his hate and disappointment. He had been taken from Barcelona a week before it fell on the 26th of January. They'd seen it coming, heard about Tarragona, Girona and Catalonia on the road, even though Tarragona had fallen before the others. The others in his group had carried him and tended to him until he was able to walk, then they'd made their way over land to Calais. Walking and transporting the injured, staying away from all members of the public in France thanks to paranoia that someone, somewhere might be a fascist and deport them back to Franco's regime, stealing and foraging; it had taken until April to reach Dover. Then admission to Britain - an old teacher of Caspian's, half-Spanish, had vouched for them.

It'd taken three weeks for Caspian to tell it all, and I don't think his hesitation was based on his then-basic English. He heard, occasionally, of people he'd known making it out, living in France or making it as far as the USA, but those reports numbered so few among the flood of rumours and statistics of captures and executions that they could only matter more.

I looked over and saw his closed eyes between gaps in the blanket.

At least England offered him rest. Menial jobs such as this might not have been what Caspian wanted, but it might have been what he needed.

I could think things like that, despite the age gap. Maybe it was my old soul, as he'd once said, or maybe it was because the war had taught me something about people and the way that age doesn't guarantee sense.

We'd never spoken about feelings and so on, especially not the ones I knew I had for him, and he returned. There were two attitudes. We might die tomorrow; do anything. We might die tomorrow; we have more important things to think about than quasi-doomed, definitely frowned upon matches. The age difference, unfelt by either of us, was the very reason he was allowed to sit with me. As an adult, supervising a child. Sixteen is hardly a child, and twenty-six not that much older in the scheme of things, but I was aware of not damaging his new life in this new country and he was so hell-bent on proprietry that he wouldn't so much as sit close by until I said so.

I was thinking silly thoughts along those lines, the same thoughts as I never voiced to anyone but Lucy, when it happened. Silly thoughts, as I said, but I don't think I would have been ashamed of them had they been my last. I was picturing happy futures, with no date in mind because we'd all stopped admitting to solid hopes like 1941, 1942 and Christmas, where Peter came back a dashing success of a pilot, Edmund never had to leave and Lucy had all sorts of stories to tell of pranks played on housekeepers. In my mind, my parents watched from the corner, amused as always and- yes, I shared glances with Caspian, amused and exasperated as always by my family. Yes, I thought firmly, holding and examining the picture in my mind.

I shook Caspian awake. "Sirens."

"Only sirens?"

I shook a little harder. "And- the guns."

He was immediately awake and alert, pushing away the blankets and standing. He offered a hand and I took it, feeling him pull me to my feet with only the exactly required amount of force. While Caspian threw the blankets and the provisions into the corner, I cleared the rest of the clutter. I can move faster on my feet, you see.

Sirens meant suspicions and sightings. Guns meant they were right overhead.

A half-hour into the bombing, they got our right wall. We got out, we raised the alarm; we did everything we were meant to, but it was only when we got to the nearest avenue that we saw it. Half of London, or so it seemed, was burning. Caspian had gone pale, I suspect I had as well, and there were no fire crews or hoses left for a factory on the outskirts with everything else in flames. We stood in the middle of the street, the close, prickling heat of nearby flames being pushed in our direction and then shifted suddenly by a wind, the two extremes alternating over and over. We waited two hours in the silence, listening to the peculiar music of distant bombs still falling and fires still burning, for aid that didn't come. The fire in our building burnt low of its own accord, running out of things to consume, and an exhausted-looking man with papers and pens came and noted on its demise in the early hours.

The next morning, the world heard about the burning ruins of buildings all over London, the heaviest bombardment of the Blitz, and they forgot about the approaching New Year. But we forgot only for a moment, while the wreckage cooled and the smoke over the debris faded, and spent it in my mother's house. It was another day, and we were only home because we'd yet to find somewhere new to watch. Mother, Caspian and I crouched over the wireless for the beginning of 1941, imagined so many other faces known and unknown doing the same, and remembered that we were still alive. 

END.

Thanks very much, all comments appreciated.

Kay x


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(Deleted comment)
Thank you very, very much! I really wanted to try out the two of them in AU and see how it would work - I'm glad you liked it!

I'm quite speechless. No, not quite, totally speechless. That was one of the most touching stories I've ever read. Everything you described, every small detail, was perfectly fitting. I can only say: you did such a wonderful job :)

Thank you very, very much! I'm incredibly flattered. I'm amazed it turned out as well as it seems to have - I wrote it while annoyed with the world at 2am :D

You have no idea how much I'm looking forward to this *EEEEG*

As much as I'm looking forward to writing it, I think :D This could pretty much be a scene from it - I deliberately put it into her POV so I could decide that later, *cheats* :D

Awesome. Really.
It felt extremely real, I could almost hear the sirens and the guns, feel the dirt on my face.
It's amazing, you're very skilled!

(Sorry, it's Ludovico EInaudi - it's cool that you're listening to him! He's my fellow countryman :D)

Thank you very much! :D

(Ah, right- sorry, i must've mistagged my files ages ago! I love listening to his stuff- he's really rather brilliant.)

(Deleted comment)
Dietro Casa is my current favourite, but it changes every week or so :D

Hee, thanks. I'm getting closer and closer to writing an epic, shameful crossover that I promised kathpup.

First I just want to say that since I'm still on a modem I always save fics on my comp to read later... and then forget to comment. Such a thing I did with this one and your last one. *le sigh*

Anyways, just wanted to say that that they are both greatness and awsomness!

*hugs the fellow sick-one* :)

*hugs back*

Thanks very much- hehe, tis cool. I just like knowing they're read and enjoyed :D

(late to the party as always, but what the heck xD)

oh, this was definitely very interesting. the premise is excellent, not your usual type of narnia AU, and let me tell you-- this is definitely my type of AU. i really loved the effort you put into adding details, like mentioning dates and historical events, it made it all the more real to me and i always love that. your style is also very good, i liked how despite it being in the first person, it was not so much "trail-of-consciousness," because those often feel a bit fragmented to me. in your case it was first person, but her "voice" was mature enough that it felt closer to a narration, even though it still had that personal feel. that is a great thing to accomplish, so great job with that ^-^

i also loved the way you presented their relationship as a sort of "they both know there's something between them, but it's not quite out there" thing; it's absolutely the way i see it as well, that was the feeling i got from the movie and it's what first attracted me to the couple, so i absolutely adored that =3

this was awesome, i loved it ^^

Oh, wow. Thank you very much for the amazing comment - you've made my day!

I'm a bit of a history geek. The Spanish Civil War is one of my current obsessions. :D

Thank you very, very much for the comment on Susan's narration - I really wanted it to feel like she was older, but still herself, if that makes sense.

Again, I can't thank you enough!

wow!!! this is amazing.

thank you so much for writing something so real and so beautiful. I loved it very much. I love the transposition in WWII and how well you connected it to the narnia world and its characters.

a very well written one shot :)

Thank you very, very much! I'm really glad you enjoyed it.

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