"Threads That Are Golden Don't Break Easily", Narnia/Torchwood, Jack/Susan
Fandoms: Torchwood/Chronicles Of Narnia
Pairing: Eventual Jack/Susan [hints at past Susan/Caspian and past Jack/Digory]
Challenge/Prompt: crossovers100, 010. Years
Word Count: 9735
Copyright: Bits and pieces of Horses by Tori Amos
Summary: Susan meets Captain Harkness at various points in her life.
Author’s Notes: The bunny bit me and would not leave me alone. Don’t worry, Susan is entirely legal by the time anything of a relationship-type nature happens. Spoilers for both Narnia films, and also mild ones for the books The Magician’s Nephew, The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader and The Last Battle. And details have been taken from the Torchwood book The Twilight Streets. I’ve taken some major liberties with the timeline, but does anyone care? I’ve written this purely for me, not anyone else, and it’s an AU anyway.
[then opened my hands and they were empty then]
Two days after their return from Narnia – and already, the memories are fading fast – they’re out in the garden, making the most of the warm weather. While they may not remember their time in Narnia all that well (though they’ve spent time looking through Lucy’s wonky drawings, trying to re-establish some kind of connection), the things they learned have stayed with them. Pete and Ed have stopped trying to bite each other’s heads off, which is a relief, and Lu is as exuberant as ever.
Susan is sent inside to retrieve a ball so they can play a game, and is therefore the only one to see the car drive up the front path. It’s a lovely car, long and sleek and shining; a Daimler, Susan thinks from the illustrations in the boys’ picture-papers. She presses her face to the window to see who can possibly have come. They don’t know anyone important enough to own a car like that, and the old professor, while he’s a dear and has turned out to be so very helpful and knowledgeable about Narnia, hardly ever has visitors.
A tall man unfolds himself from the car, wearing an ankle-length military coat. Susan wonders what he can be doing here; and then her stomach clenches. Father. What if the man is here to inform them that their father has been killed? She’s not sure that soldiers actually call personally to talk to children, but now the thought has taken root in her mind she can’t think properly. Her hands are trembling.
Forgetting all about getting a cricket ball, Susan hurries from the room, shoes slipping on the uneven mahogany stairs. She comes breathlessly to the top of the staircase that leads to the entrance hall, listening as Mrs Macready walks to open the front door.
“Captain Harkness,” she acknowledges in a voice of ice. Susan had rather thought that the Macready hated her and her siblings more than anything (oh, children should be seen and not heard) but the way she addresses Captain Harkness implies that she would like to see him dead in the very near future.
“Mrs Macready.” An American accent; Susan lived in another world full of creatures like centaurs and fauns, and yet the sound of a voice from the other side of the Atlantic still sounds exotic. “You’re looking gorgeous as ever.”
Susan blinks in surprise, heart thundering so hard in her chest that she can scarcely hear the people down below. She curls her fingers against the wall.
“I suppose you’re here to see Professor Kirk,” Mrs Macready says testily.
“Yeah, I am. Is he in his study?”
There’s a moment before Mrs Macready replies; Susan pictures her pursing her lips tight. “Yes,” she allows at last.
“I’ll see myself up,” the man says, and Susan realises that he must be heading for the stairs. She quickly hides in the nearest room, pulling the door to so that she can peep through the crack. The familiarity between the man and Mrs Macready implies that Susan’s father is safe; but now she’s curious in a way she never was before she walked through the wardrobe.
The man is tall, Susan notes as he passes, and he looks like a film star. She bites her lower lip hard to remain silent, listening to the man’s footsteps echo down the hall. There’s a knock to the door of the professor’s study; Susan hears him bid the visitor to enter. She should go back now, but instead she slips off her shoes and tiptoes down the hall, automatically avoiding the creaky floorboards, to creep into a room near the study. Safely hidden, she can hear the conversation coming through the open door.
“Digory, you old bastard,” the visitor laughs, clearly delighted.
“Less of the old, Harkness,” the professor says, laughing too. For a minute, he sounds almost young. “You’re older than I am.”
“I don’t look it yet, though,” the man identified as ‘Harkness’ retorts. There’s a rustling sound, as if two people are embracing.
“Not that it isn’t always nice to see you, Jack, but why are you here?” the professor asks a minute later.
“Someone went to Narnia two days ago,” Harkness replies, voice suddenly hard and serious. Susan hears herself gasp, and claps a hand over her mouth. “Half the Hub fell in; Rhydian and Llinos are frantic. So I thought; well, who caused all that trouble with Narnia last time? And of course your name came up.”
“It’s not what you think,” the professor replies calmly. “It wasn’t me.”
There’s a pause, and a clinking sound like someone is opening the decanter of port the professor keeps in the corner of his study. “Those kids outside?” Harkness asks eventually.
Harkness swears quietly. “Was it the wardrobe?” he demands. The professor remains silent. “Digory, was it the goddamn wardrobe?”
“Yes,” the professor responds softly.
“I told you not to turn that tree into a piece of furniture,” Harkness snaps. “Oh, nothing will happen, you said. The last time you went to Narnia you nearly caused all of Cardiff to fall into a crack between the dimensions.”
“I did apologise for that, and Dr Gaskell got over it eventually,” the professor interjects.
“Alice didn’t,” Harkness replies. “I mean, ok, she was a little unhinged to begin with, but you didn’t help. You promised me the link between Narnia and this world had closed.”
“I thought it had,” the professor sighs. “Still, it’s not the children’s fault.”
“I’m going to need to talk to them,” Harkness informs him. “I need to update the file on what we know about Narnia and its people.”
“Narnia’s not a threat,” the professor says, as though this is an argument they’ve been having for a long time.
“Do you want to tell that to his majesty?” Harkness asks sharply. There’s a pause. “I promise I’ll be nice to them. I’ve got some bubble gum somewhere.”
“You’re all heart,” the professor murmurs.
“Wasn’t my heart you were interested in all those years ago,” Harkness replies.
The professor laughs. “That was a long time ago, Jack,” he says.
“You were one of our best agents,” Harkness tells him. “And we were an amazing team.”
“Yes, I suppose we were.” The professor sounds wistful, and tired.
“Do you think any of the kids have potential?” Harkness asks, quickly changing the subject.
“They’re a little young for me to be able to tell,” Digory says. “The oldest is only thirteen, you know.”
“You were pretty young, as I recall,” Harkness replies.
“We were all young once,” the professor sighs. “Except you, Jack. You always seem to be young.”
“It gets wearing,” Harkness promises. “Now, have I got permission from you to talk to these children and examine the wardrobe?”
“Just don’t do any lasting damage,” the professor tells him.
“I’m perfectly capable of looking at some furniture,” Harkness says.
“That wasn’t what I was referring to,” the professor replies. “At least finish your drink before you fetch them from the garden.”
Susan realises that the professor must know that she’s there; she quickly leaves the room and hurries back outside again, almost forgetting to put her shoes back on. Her head is spinning and although she doesn’t understand half of what she’s just overheard, she knows that it must be important.
“Su,” Peter calls, laughing, “We were beginning to think you’d gone back to Narnia without telling us!”
“We came back from Narnia instantaneously, Pete,” she returns quickly, tone more patronising than she means it to be.
“Where’s the ball?” Edmund asks.
“What happened?” Lucy adds.
“Listen,” Susan insists, and they obediently quieten. “There’s a man here to see us,” she tells them.
Peter’s face shows that he’s leapt to the same conclusion Susan did.
“No, it’s not that,” she assures him. “He dresses like he’s in the military; I think he might be a spy or something. He knows we went to Narnia.”
Edmund, whose face lit up when she mentioned the word ‘spy’, starts looking fearful.
“He’s friends with the professor,” Susan adds. “He said he was going to come and talk to us.”
Lucy tucks her hand into Susan’s, staring up at her with anxious eyes.
“What should we tell him?” Edmund asks.
“I don’t know.” Susan scuffs a shoe against the grass. “The truth, I suppose. I mean, he does already know about Narnia.”
“Peter?” Lucy hasn’t let go of Susan’s hand, but now she tugs at Peter’s sleeve. Their brother is staring into the distance, clearly thinking. “What do you think?”
“At least he isn’t Maugrim,” Peter replies, coming back to himself.
Susan smiles, and then Lucy squeezes her hand. “He’s coming!” she squeals, and surely the sound must carry.
“Hush, Lu,” Edmund mutters. “We’re not supposed to know who he is, remember?”
Captain Harkness really does look as though he should be in films, Susan realises, gazing up at him. He has piercing blue eyes and when he smiles at them with all his teeth, it’s not scary; it’s just plain charming. Her heart beats a little faster in her chest.
“Hello,” he says. “I’m Captain Jack Harkness, and I work for an organisation called Torchwood. I need to ask you some questions about Narnia, but first I’d like to see this wardrobe I’ve heard kind of a lot about. Who’d like to show me where it is?”
They all stare warily at him for a moment; Susan thinks she can see Peter wishing he still had his sword (one of the innumerable things that are still in Narnia, and probably will always be). Perhaps Captain Harkness can tell that they’re all thinking varying degrees of murderous thoughts, because his smile widens.
“Please,” he says steadily. “I’m not going to hurt you, I’m really not going to hurt Narnia. I just need to take some details.”
Lucy slips her hand from Susan’s, and takes a couple of steps closer to the stranger.
“I’ll show you,” she says, and the other three children relax. Lucy, as the youngest, might be the most trusting, but she also has that inherent ability to tell the difference between right and wrong in a way her older siblings can’t. If she trusts Captain Harkness, they will probably be all right after all.
“Thank you,” Harkness tells her. “And you would be…?”
“Lucy Pevensie,” Lucy replies.
“Well then, Miss Pevensie, shall we go?” Harkness holds out a large hand and Lucy takes it, her own little fingers looking so vulnerable against his. Susan smiles slightly, watching as Lucy tugs Harkness off towards the house. She glances at her brothers; they shrug, and the three of them follow.
The wardrobe has once again been covered up with a sheet; Harkness and Lucy pull it away, kicking it into one of the corners. Susan looks at the large, carved wardrobe with a mixture of regret and joy; it’s the first time she’s seen it since they fell back through it and sealed themselves off from their kingdom. Their kingdom; the idea of it is almost becoming a fairytale. She wonders what it will seem like by the end of the week.
“Do you boys want to help me pull it away from the wall?” Harkness asks, slipping his greatcoat off and kicking it away with the sheet. Susan automatically hurries over to pick it up and lie it flat; Harkness smiles at her, and she feels herself flush. Edmund and Peter both help Harkness pull the wardrobe forward a little, making a horrible screeching sound as it slides against the floorboards. Susan flinches, gritting her teeth, though finally there is space for Harkness to step fully behind the wardrobe. He taps on the back with his fingers, and Susan sees her dismay mirrored on the faces of her brothers and sisters; there is no forest back there, no white wood with lampposts and fauns and a lion slipping in and out of the trees. There is not anything, just the brick wall.
“Seems to have closed,” Harkness mutters to himself, stepping back out again. He raises his wrist, and Susan notices a leather band around it; like a smaller version of the arm guards she wore when archery was still an option. But Harkness is pressing at the wristband and it is making soft beeping noises.
“Is that magic?” Lucy asks, finally asking the question the other three have been resisting.
“Kind of,” Harkness replies distractedly, waving his wrist and the band up and down the length of the wardrobe. “Energy’s dissipated,” he adds, this time entirely to himself. When he turns back to the four of them, he realises that he’s isn’t going to get away with his vague response. “It’s technology from another world,” he explains, completely serious.
“Another world?” Lucy asks. “Like Narnia?”
“Another planet entirely,” Harkness replies. “There are all sorts of different lives and peoples on planets throughout the universe. This comes from there.”
“Oh.” There’s very little that can be said in response to that. Harkness grins around at all of them.
“Shall we see if we can get Macready to forget that she hates me long enough to make us all some tea?”
When Harkness has persuaded Mrs Macready to bring them refreshments, he comes back into the room and spreads the dustsheet over the floor like a picnic blanket, sitting down as though it’s the most natural thing in the world. Lucy instantly joins him, and so Susan sits down too, primly folding her legs together.
“Why does the Macready hate you?” she asks, although she’s aware it’s rather an impertinent question.
Harkness laughs, white teeth sparkling in the light coming through the dusty windows. “I’ve been coming here for a long time,” he explains. “Digory – that’s your Professor Kirk – and I used to get in quite a lot of trouble when we were younger.”
Captain Harkness still looks young; he’s not white-haired and gruff like the professor is. Susan isn’t sure how to phrase this into a question, though, so remains quiet. Peter and Edmund have joined them on the floor, still a little wary around Harkness.
“Why do you need to know about Narnia?” Edmund demands; for all that he’s smoothed out since they’ve returned, he’s still the sharpest of them.
“Well,” Harkness begins, and looks uncomfortable, like he’s not sure how to explain. “Where I work, in Cardiff, there’s this big Rift in space and time.” He looks around at them, not like he’s daring them to disbelieve him – Susan will believe in anything, now – but to check that they actually understand. “It’s a bit like the rip you got through to Narnia,” he adds. “And from time to time we get objects and people from other planets and worlds who come through it. You with me so far?”
They nod, waiting for more.
“However,” Harkness continues, “It’s really unstable. You know about earthquakes?” There’s more nodding. “Well, when the Rift gets… agitated, shall we say, we get the biggest earthquakes.”
“Oh no,” Lucy says, getting drawn into this as though it’s just another fairy story. Harkness smiles at her.
“When people go to Narnia, it aggravates the Rift,” he says. “Really, really badly. When Digory went through, almost fifty years ago now, Cardiff was nearly completely destroyed.”
“Did we destroy Cardiff?” Peter asks, looking a little anxious. “We didn’t mean to.”
“There were two little quakes,” Harkness replies, “Just tiny tremors. A few trees fell over, that kind of thing.” Lucy and Edmund look immediately guilty. “Then, we had the mother of all quakes. Half the building I work in fell in.” He glances around at their stricken faces. “No one was hurt, don’t worry,” he assures them. “It just wasn’t helpful. So I had to come and check what had caused it.”
“It was us,” Susan mumbles, looking uncomfortably down at her hands.
Mrs Macready chooses to come in with tea at this moment, which is a welcome interruption. Not only has she brought cups, a teapot, milk and sugar, she’s also brought a plate of very welcome biscuits. By the time half the biscuits have gone, Lucy has run downstairs and brought up her drawings of Mr Tumnus and is singing his praises to Captain Harkness, while Edmund is eagerly recounting his feats of kingship. Harkness isn’t writing it all down, he’s just nodding and listening. It’s reassuring.
“Why is the king afraid of Narnia?” Susan asks, and then realises that she’s said too much. Harkness laughs.
“Which one of you kids was eavesdropping?” he asks.
“Good work,” Harkness tells her. “And his majesty is concerned about all other worlds, not just Narnia. I wouldn’t worry too much.”
Later, when they’ve run out of tea and things to tell him, Harkness gets to his feet, brushing crumbs off his hands.
“I’d better take my leave with Digory – Professor Kirk, I mean – and get back to Cardiff,” he says. “Lots to do.”
“Will we ever see you again?” Lucy asks. She’s said goodbye to a lot of people lately, whether she meant to or not, and she looks upset.
“Digory believes you’ll get back to Narnia,” Harkness replies. “I’m sure I’ll be back to tell you off for wrecking Cardiff when you do.”
They laugh; there are handshakes all around, all except for Lucy, who flings her arms around Harkness and doesn’t seem to want to let go for a minute.
“Chin up,” Harkness says, standing in the doorway. “The end of the war is closer than you think.”
Susan surprises herself by actually believing him.
[i can’t go; you said so]
Susan has been back at school for approximately a week when she is called to her headmistress’ office. She’s been keeping herself out of trouble, head down, just looking after Lucy, who is unused to boarding school and misses their parents dreadfully. Peter and Edmund seem to be getting into fewer fights, which is good and makes a nice change.
She enters the office with some trepidation, smoothing her itchy grey skirt with her palms.
“Mrs Munroe?” Susan asks, a quake of nervousness in her voice. She swallows it down; she was a queen once, after all.
“Wrong,” an American accent corrects her. Seated in one of the comfortable armchairs their headmistress keeps in the corner of her office is an all-too-familiar man.
“Captain Harkness?” Susan asks, almost unable to believe her eyes. “What are you- oh.”
“Exactly. Oh.” Harkness frowns at her. “Remember what you were up to on the sixth of September?”
Susan presses her lips together guiltily.
She thinks, on the whole, she’d prefer a telling-off from Mrs Munroe. At least then she could pretend that it didn’t matter.
“We… went to Narnia,” she admits quietly. There’s a moment of quiet. “But we didn’t mean to!” she blurts. “I mean, it was Caspian’s fault, I didn’t even really want to go back, not at first! Did we destroy Cardiff?”
“Only a little bit.” Harkness gives her an indulgent smile. “Come on, I’ve got tea and everything. Come and talk to me.”
“How did you get in here?” Susan wonders aloud, walking over to sit in an armchair opposite him.
“I’m your uncle from New York, if anyone asks,” Harkness shrugs.
“Right.” Susan leans over to pour the tea, feeling that being productive will make her hands stop trembling. “Lu will want to see you,” she adds. “Pete and Ed too, I suppose.”
“I’ve been to see your brothers already,” Harkness replies. “Their headmaster didn’t give me tea.”
“I don’t see what you have to talk to me about, then,” Susan tells him, though she doesn’t want him to just get up and leave. She has thought about him a couple of times in the space between their first trip to Narnia and here; somehow, Captain Jack Harkness wound up mixed up with the old country house and Professor Kirk (who still writes every couple of months. He is a dear); sometimes, Susan has found herself wondering if he was even real. She supposes that this answers that question, at least.
“I’m interested in hearing about some of it from your perspective,” Harkness shrugs. “Besides, it’s a long way back to Cardiff. I thought I should make a day of visiting you guys.”
Susan smiles, sitting back with the teacup balanced in her lap. “Are you still checking to see if we have potential?” she asks. It should feel awkward, just her and this virtual stranger of a man, but it doesn’t.
“You are very good at eavesdropping,” Harkness tells her, looking proud. “And yeah, I guess I am.”
“Potential for what?” Susan asks.
Harkness considers his answer, stirring sugar into his tea. “I’ll tell you if and when it’s time,” he replies.
“Fine.” Susan takes a sip of tea; it’s too hot and scalds her tongue, but she’s already scowling. She feels like a stupid child, and finds herself obscurely wishing that she was not wearing this ugly school uniform.
“Tell me about Caspian,” Harkness says, catching her off-guard. Tea slops over the sides of her cup and into the saucer, and Susan stares at him.
“I will kill Edmund,” she mutters.
“It was Peter, actually,” Harkness replies. “I think he thought it was quite sweet.”
“It wasn’t sweet at all,” Susan mumbles, not looking at him.
“Tell me, Susie,” Harkness says.
Her head snaps up. “I’m Susan,” she replies firmly.
Harkness wrinkles his nose. “I think I’ll call you Susie,” he decides.
Susan doesn’t have the strength to argue, and anyway, she thinks that she’d lose. “He was nice,” she shrugs, and it feels inadequate. “And he was charming, and he clearly liked me. It wasn’t anything important, it was just… there.”
Harkness laughs. “And I hear you got your first kiss out of it.”
“Why are you so interested?” Susan asks, but she’s smiling which ruins her hostile tone. “You can’t put this in your files,” she adds hastily.
“I won’t.” Harkness winks at her, and she spills a little more tea. Her heart is pounding in her ears, both from being reminded of Caspian, and… well, she’s not sure what.
“Tell me about you and Professor Kirk,” she retorts, trying to make Harkness as uncomfortable as she is.
Harkness laughs lazily. “He was nice,” he suggests, refusing to be embarrassed. “And he was charming, and he clearly liked me.”
“It’s illegal,” Susan remarks.
Harkness leans forward in his armchair. “And what’s a nice girl like you doing knowing anything about that sort of thing?” he asks quietly.
Susan flushes harder, staring past him out of the window, and refusing to reply.
“How old are you now?” Harkness asks after an awkward minute of silence.
“Fourteen,” Susan replies. She bites her lips together, trying to find her words. “Aslan says Pete and I are too old to return to Narnia,” she admits softly. “We can’t go back.”
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” Harkness tells her.
Susan nods, smiling a little helplessly. “So you won’t have to come and interrogate me any more,” she continues.
“I might come and see you anyway,” Harkness replies.
Susan puts her teacup back down on the table before she can cause any sort of permanent damage to it. She feels so red it’s amazing that there’s blood anywhere in her body but in her cheeks.
“I think we should go and find Lu,” she mumbles. “She’ll want to see you.”
“Sure.” Harkness puts his cup down too and stands up. “Little Lucy Pevensie,” he murmurs.
“Not so little any more,” Susan replies. “None of us are.”
Harkness stops her at the office door. “It gets easier,” he tells her. “Growing up, I mean. It starts out feeling like this, where all you seem to do is lose stuff, but after that it gets a lot more fun.”
Susan smiles at him. “Thanks,” she whispers, and means it.
“Let’s go and find Lucy,” Harkness tells her, fingers brushing her shoulder for a moment.
“I am halfway through a Geography exam,” Susan informs him.
“I’m more important,” Harkness says, winking at her. “Besides, I’ve got a present for you.”
He produces a piece of paper from one sleeve with a flourish. Susan takes it and unfolds it; neatly typed on it are all the answers to her test.
“This is cheating,” she says reprovingly, folding it back up again and slipping it into the sleeve of her school jumper.
“You’re welcome,” Harkness replies.
That evening, when Susan is discussing with Pete and Ed what they actually told Captain Harkness, and how they are never to mention things like her slight infatuation with a certain prince ever, ever again, Susan catches sight of the awkward-looking boy who tried so hard to get her attention on the first day of school. He can’t compete with Caspian in any way, but somehow that makes him more appealing.
“Want to go for a walk?” she asks him. It’s turning into a beautiful autumn evening, and they’ve got about half an hour until they’ll be missed.
“Phyllis-” he begins after a while.
“My name isn’t actually Phyllis,” she confesses, looking down at her shoes, “It’s Susan.”
Later that evening, she receives her first proper kiss; it’s wet and strange and turns her brief contact with Caspian into the stuff her own personal fairytales will always be made of. But it’s not bad as such, and it’s the beginning of grounding herself back into this world that she can’t get herself back out of.
Susan never does learn his name.
[and i would if you would but you never would]
New York is crowded and brilliantly lit and beautiful; Susan can scarcely believe her eyes, no matter how many weeks she stays there. Father is lecturing, and she’s only here because her parents believe her to be the pretty one. The one who will never amount to all that much. She thinks of Pete, back at home, studying with Professor Kirk for the summer – he’ll go far, she is certain of that – and, of course, of Ed and Lu staying with cousin Eustace. She pities them, though there’s the resentment that she and Peter can never quite shake; Ed and Lu can still go back to Narnia one day. Since travel between the worlds is so fast she’ll have to hope her brother and sister choose to tell her; otherwise, how will she ever know if they’ve gone back?
It’s a decidedly wet evening, and mother and father are ridiculously excited over an opera of some kind. Susan has new shoes, which pinch, and misses her siblings more than ever. It is almost like a dream when she bumps into a man in the street, and he grins down at her with immaculate white teeth.
“Hey, kid,” he says softly. “Well, not so much a kid any more…”
Susan blushes. She is sixteen, nearly seventeen, with all the vanity and insecurity that comes from that age.
“Captain Harkness,” she replies automatically, the words falling out of her mouth because she’s completely stunned. “What are you doing here?”
By now, her parents have come hurrying back to Susan.
“Are you all right, dear?” her mother asks. Her mother calls everyone ‘dear’, though Susan has always rather hoped it’s because of fondness than because she can’t actually remember her children’s names.
“I’m fine,” she replies. “This is…”
“Professor Harkness,” Harkness says in a good, broad Scottish accent, holding out a hand. “I’m one of Miss Pevensie’s teachers.”
It is such a blatant lie that Susan can’t see anyone believing it. Nonetheless, her parents nod, shaking Harkness’ hand and smiling.
“I was wondering if I might talk to Susan about one of her essays from last term,” Harkness continues, and Susan wants to stamp on his foot or something equally childish to get him to stop, because the lies are not even good lies and yet her parents seem to be buying every single word.
“Well,” her mother flutters, “We do have tickets to Tosca, but Susan has never really liked opera, have you Su?”
“No,” Susan replies carefully, wondering if everyone but her has gone insane.
“I’ll bring her straight to your hotel afterwards,” Harkness adds, “I won’t let her get into mischief.”
Susan bites her lower lip hard to stop herself from bursting out into desperate giggles as her parents agree to this stupid proposition. They hurry off to catch a taxi, and Harkness takes Susan’s arm, pulling her under his large umbrella.
“I think I should be worried,” she mumbles, “That my parents seem perfectly happy for me to go off with a complete stranger.”
“I’m not a complete stranger,” Harkness protests.
“All I know about you is that you work for an organisation called Torchwood, you and Professor Kirk were once… close, and you don’t seem to age at all.”
“Well, that’s more than most people know about me,” Harkness laughs. “And anyway, Susie, your parents aren’t as irresponsible as you think.”
He reaches into the pocket of his military greatcoat – the war’s been over for nearly four years, but apparently no one has mentioned that to him – and brings out a large, silvery object about the size of Susan’s fist.
“What’s that?” she asks curiously.
“It makes people… suggestible,” Harkness replies, tone off-hand. “Your parents will have a lovely time at the opera and they will never think twice about you going off to dinner with a strange man.”
“You hypnotised my parents,” Susan says flatly. “I think I should go straight back to my hotel.”
“At least let me buy you dinner first,” Harkness coaxes.
Susan is sorely tempted.
“Stop using that stone,” she orders.
“I’m not,” Harkness replies, looking earnest. “I’m honestly not.”
Susan suspects that now she is really in trouble, but reluctantly agrees to accompany Captain Harkness to a nearby restaurant. No one looks twice at them, and she finds herself wondering if this is really all as scandalous as she finds it.
“Are you following me around?” she asks, fingers tapping a nervous tattoo on the tabletop.
“No,” Harkness shrugs. He’s taken the greatcoat off, but is still smartly dressed in a white shirt with black braces. “I’m here to help the Torchwood office in New York.”
“Oh.” Susan looks down at her hands, folded neatly in her lap. She feels young; Captain Harkness still makes her feel like a child.
“I’ve got news of your brother and sister,” Harkness tells her, when a waitress has brought them drinks. Susan stares at him, already knowing what he’s going to say, but needing to hear it anyway. He smiles. “They’ve been back to Narnia,” Harkness confirms.
Susan feels all her breath rush out of her chest. “I didn’t know,” she admits.
“It wasn’t long ago,” Harkness tells her, “I went to speak to them before I left England. I suspect there’s a letter coming for you.”
“Good grief,” Susan mumbles, trying to smile. She wonders what they did, what she and Peter weren’t part of. “Are they… all right?”
“Apparently they went sailing with Caspian,” Harkness tells her, a knowing smirk playing around his mouth. “Lucy and Edmund and that Eustace kid.”
Somehow, the idea of that nasty little brat Eustace getting to go to Narnia while she and Pete had to stay behind makes Susan angry. She bites her mouth together to keep herself from saying any of this out loud. Harkness raises a curious eyebrow at her, but Susan flushes and looks away, refusing to give him any of it. Dignity at all times; she has so little else.
“That must have been nice for them,” she says stiffly, reaching for a glass of water on the table and taking a sip.
“You don’t have to lie to me, Susie,” Jack tells her. Susan could reply that she doesn’t like it when he calls her ‘Susie’, but that would sort of be a lie, and she suspects that Captain Harkness wouldn’t listen at all.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she mumbles, reverting back to childishness because she’s got nothing else.
Jack laughs like something amuses him. “We could talk about something else,” he suggests.
“What would you like to talk about?” Susan asks, wondering exactly what she could say that could interest Captain Harkness, who seems to know altogether too much about everything.
“Well, what are you doing in America?” Harkness shrugs. “I was surprised to see you here.”
“Mother and father doubt I’ll amount to much,” Susan tells him lightly, though it still stings to say it. “I’m here to learn about the life I’m to lead, I suppose. I’ll be pretty and someone’s secretary or something, and then I’ll marry and live a jolly life of parties. Then I’ll be a mad old lady in a country house, I suspect, counting my jewels.”
Susan feels sick just saying it, feels so sick she wonders if she’ll have to get up from the table and run away. Captain Harkness seems to understand, for he narrows his eyes at her.
“You don’t sound enthusiastic,” he remarks. “Don’t you want something else?”
Susan swallows, and then tells him what she doesn’t ever tell anyone. “I was a queen once,” she mutters. “I was Queen Susan, and it was lovely. But I did that once and I don’t get to do it again, so now I’ll take what I’m given.”
“You’re more reconciled about it than the others are,” Harkness informs her. “Lucy and Edmund have now apparently outgrown Narnia, and they’re mad as hell about it.”
“I don’t have a choice,” Susan reminds him. “There’s no use being angry.” Her voice is soft and low and so very sad; she swallows hard, trying to look sensible about it all.
“So what do you think of America?” Harkness swiftly changes the subject.
“It’s wonderful,” Susan replies. “It’s wonderful and it’s strange and it’s not like anywhere I’ve ever been before.”
Harkness laughs, a lovely, rich sound. Susan’s fingers twist in her lap.
“You Brits are always like that,” he informs her.
Susan frowns at him, as their waitress brings them salads to begin. “You’re not from around here either,” she says firmly. “You’re not from America. I don’t know where you’re from. Maybe not even this planet.”
“Very good,” Harkness murmurs, half to himself. Susan gets the feeling that she’s passed some kind of test that she didn’t even know she was taking.
They have a nice meal; Susan relaxes enough to enjoy Harkness’ company, and he’s all charm as always. He walks her back to her hotel afterwards.
“Goodbye, Captain Harkness,” she says primly, suddenly feeling uncomfortable.
“Go on,” he coaxes, “Call me Jack.”
“I don’t know you nearly well enough for that!” Susan exclaims, a warm flush igniting in her cheeks.
“I love propriety,” Harkness laughs softly. “Take care of yourself, Susie.”
He leans down, and his lips graze her cheek. Susan curls her fingers into her palms, hard, while her heart hammers against her ribcage. It hasn’t beaten this hard since she faced down the Telmarine army, and she wonders who she was more afraid of.
“The fifties are coming,” Harkness calls back to her as he walks towards the lift – or elevator, as Americans call it – “You’ll like the fifties.”
“How do you know?” Susan shouts after him, but he’s already gone.
[and if there is a way to find you i will find you but will you find me]
Susan does like the fifties. London begins to shrug off the war in earnest, although of course there’s still a way to go, and whilst her siblings grow impatient with this world that they’re stuck in, Susan makes the most of her bad lot. Cousin Eustace writes a letter, notes on I’ve been to Narnia again, and this very strange American man came to see me afterwards, though Captain Harkness does not come to see Susan again. She feels disappointed, and then hates herself for it. He was a chapter of her life, as was Narnia, and now she must put them both away in the same neat box and try to step forward.
For a time, Johnny Ray is all she wants from a man. The music changes, the clothes start to change. It’s a new decade, the war is old news, and people are ready for a change. Peter is studying to be a lawyer, although Susan knows that his heart’s not in it. The transition from King to mere mortal has never sat well with him, though he’s doing his best. He’s handsome at twenty-two, and doesn’t like it when Susan moves out of their family house to share a home with some other girls. She’s a secretary, and wears nylons and flutters her eyelashes a lot. Lucy scowls at her lip colour, although she too loves the radio and the new sounds that spill from it.
He’s waiting for her after work. Susan is wearing shoes with heels, which click merrily on the pavement. She is twenty-one, and the world is laid out exactly as she wants it; or, at least, as best she can get it, which is not the same thing. Still, she’s learning to compromise.
“Susie.” He’s swishing alongside her, wearing his outdated coat and a smirk. “Missed me?”
“I didn’t think I’d ever see you again,” Susan replies blankly. “Captain Harkness.”
“Still can’t call me Jack?” His blue eyes are teasing and he still doesn’t look a bit different from when she saw him last. The four year gap has dragged Susan up into a somewhat reluctant woman, but Captain Harkness is still a young man with a charming smile. For all she knows, he always will be.
“Not yet,” Susan tells him, but she’s got a pointed trace of promise in her tone; she’s learned how to flirt, something which always seems to disgust Edmund.
“Let me take you for a drink,” Harkness offers, and this is all still somewhat improper and Susan doesn’t care enough to say ‘no’. Captain Harkness makes her reckless, and she suspects that she’s not the only one to be affected in this way.
They both have glasses of Coca Cola – arrived from America, and oh Susan loves the bubbles and the sweetness – and Harkness smiles at her as though he can’t get over the fact she’s not a little girl any more.
“You always have an angle,” Susan murmurs to Harkness. It’s been her experience that he never just turns up; he always wants something.
“You don’t trust me?” He looks amused, rather than upset.
Susan laughs. “Never.”
Harkness laughs too, the rich roll of sound that Susan pretends she never thinks about. Then his face turns serious, blue eyes sharp in his face, and he leans closer.
“You’re ready, Susie,” he tells her calmly.
Susan’s mouth opens, smudged red lipstick and she felt so grown-up until Captain Harkness walked down the street towards her. Now she’s twelve again, heart fluttering, and still not entirely sure why. Or perhaps she does know why, and she’s still too scared to admit it.
“There’s a place for you,” Harkness continues. “At Torchwood. If you want it.”
“Helping people from… other worlds?” Susan says slowly, testing out the sound.
Harkness’ smile is rueful. “Well, that’s part of it.”
Susan thinks of London and parties and the girls she lives with. It’s an easy sort of life, skimming the surface. Her siblings hate it, of course, but she can’t remain as pure as they insist she must. Still, she can’t stop herself from yearning for more than the wedding ring, the modest dresses, the dinner parties, the false smiles. She had one incredible future of independence, and she thought it was too much to ask for two; but perhaps it isn’t.
“I won’t hold it against you if you refuse,” Harkness tells her, “It’s dangerous, and not for everyone.”
She shrugs minutely. “If you’ll have me…”
Harkness’ smile spreads warmly over his face, apparently genuinely pleased. “Welcome to Torchwood, Susie,” he tells her.
Somehow, Susan thinks that she always knew this was going to happen. She knew from the moment Captain Harkness told Professor Kirk that he was looking for ‘potential’; she knew when he came to see her even when he didn’t really need to. And she finds herself grinning back, feeling delighted and slightly relieved. She’s not going to crumple into the shallow, constantly partying girl that Ed and Lu seem to be convinced she is; she’s going to go to Torchwood and shine. She can never return and be a queen again; but maybe it doesn’t matter. Susan has, after all, learned to compromise.
Later, he walks her home. Her mouth is sticky from Coca Cola, and she thinks that her make-up is smudged, and she doesn’t care.
“By the way,” Harkness says, nudging her with his elbow, “Can you fire a gun?”
Susan considers this. “I’ve never tried,” she replies. “But I was a magnificent archer, once.”
Her fingertips are soft, her nails painted. No more callused tips from the bowstring. Pressing her fingers to her palm, Susan is surprised, and wonders when she became this woman. Maybe when Aslan turned his back on her, and pushed her out of her kingdom forever. Maybe when he promised that she was too old for Narnia, and she grew up just to spite him; or just to prove him right. It’s all a little hazy, and a large part of it seems to have been an accident.
“Be in Cardiff in a week,” Harkness tells her, perhaps sensing her momentary unease. “I’ll show you the world like you’ve never seen it, Susie.”
Susan thinks about telling him to actually call her Susan – for the new-found maturity she’s experimenting with – and she also thinks about telling him that she’s already seen more incredible things than she could count. She’s been to a land trapped into permanent winter by a Witch who breathed out frost and turned creatures to stone and seduced Susan’s little brother with Turkish Delight, of all things. She’s ridden centaurs and been crowned Queen and grew up only to become a child again. She’s watched massacres, and been given a bow and quiver of arrows by Father Christmas himself, and fallen for a prince – only not quite, and that joke went stale years ago.
In the end, she just smiles broadly at Captain Harkness, and says; “I look forward to it.”
[maybe i’ll find me a sailor, a tailor, and maybe together we’ll make mother well]
They called her Queen Susan the Gentle; though right now she has black blood splashed across her face and a gun in her hand and she doesn’t think that anyone in Narnia would recognise her now. If they did, they’d turn away in shame, or possibly disgust.
The creatures from the other side of the universe – Jack says, and Susan assumes he’d be the one to know – are vicious, and people have died. They won’t come quietly or even at all, and so it’s come down to this. A backstreet in the middle of a storm, a couple of guns, her and Jack and the filthy business of slaughter. There was something noble in her bow and her quiver of arrows, however foolish that sounds. There’s nothing noble about this. And she doesn’t really care any more.
Jack goes down in his own blood, a set of claws – or are they talons? – raked up his chest, and Susan hears herself screaming into a clap of thunder. His eyes are open as he falls onto his front, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth, mixing with the rain on the pavement. She kills the remaining creatures without really noticing what she’s doing, and runs over to Jack’s body, rolling him over. His face is speckled with blood, dirt and rainwater, and his white shirt is pinky-red. Tears are streaming too fast down Susan’s cheeks; she can’t understand how Jack could ever just die, not when he’s lived at least half a century and yet still looks like a young man.
A moment later, Jack starts spluttering, and his chest is heaving in air underneath Susan’s palms. Through the rents in his shirt, she can see that his wounds have closed up entirely. Since arriving at Torchwood last year, she’s seen some strange things, but nothing like this. Susan can’t help herself when she starts screaming. Jack pushes himself upright, saying oh God, Susie, but she can’t bring herself to look at him, and she tries to pull away when he wraps his arms around her. He doesn’t let go, and in the end she slumps weakly against him.
“You don’t stay dead,” she mumbles dully, realising the truth. “You die, but you don’t stay dead. That’s why Professor Kirk got old and you never did.”
Later on, when she’s dried off and changed her clothes, Susan is in the Hub – the cavernous underground Torchwood base of operations – with a cup of tea. The others have gone home for the night, but she doesn’t want to go back to her flat just yet.
“Hello,” Jack says quietly. His hair is still damp, and he looks a little awkward. Susan technically outranks him – he’s not a full-time Torchwood operative, and is often sent off for weeks at a time – but she still feels a little in awe of him. Her fingers curl into her palms.
“Hello,” she replies.
Jack breaks into that smile that wouldn’t look out of place on celluloid, and walks quickly towards her. He’s carrying what looks like a record.
“I’ve got a present for you,” he explains. “Well, it’s a present for everyone really, but after today… I thought you should get it first. Come on.”
Susan follows him to the record player that they keep in the corner, and watches as Jack drops the needle onto the record.
“No one in England has this yet,” he explains, as the crackle of the vinyl begins. “I got some friends in America to send it over.”
Susan’s about to ask for a little more clarification when the man’s voice pours out. The record isn’t like anything she’s ever heard before, and she feels a prickle down her spine. This isn’t music like she knows it, and the man singing is rough and smooth and just listening to the short song makes her skin tingle. Jack is about to speak when the record ends, but she shakes her head and plays it again, revelling in the sound.
“Who is that?” Susan asks, and she sounds breathless.
Jack laughs; he’s clearly enjoying her amazement. “That’s a young American man called Elvis Presley,” he tells her. “And he’s going to change the world.”
Susan can honestly believe him. Jack continues to grin at her. “He won’t come over to the UK for a year or so,” he adds. “You may be the first person in at least Wales to hear Mr Presley.”
“How do you know this?” Susan asks. Jack won’t tell her the truth, because he never tells anyone the truth, but Susan thinks that maybe if she perseveres long enough she’ll piece it all together.
Instead, Jack says: “Just you wait ‘til the Sixties. You’ll love The Beatles.”
Susan frowns. “The who?”
“No, that’s a different band. You’ll probably like them too.”
She laughs. “Now you’re making fun of me.”
Jack winks at her. “Only a little.”
It’s been a long day. Jack died in the rain in front of her and now her body is crackling with tired energy from music like she’s never heard it before. Susan thinks Lucy would like it, but she can’t tell her. Her family know what Torchwood is, but she’s not allowed to tell them that she works for Torchwood now. The rift between Susan and her siblings is widening, and she doesn’t know what to do about it. There are too many lies now, too many things tangling around them.
And Susan looks up at Jack with the record playing over again, and this time she knows what to do. This time she isn’t a scared little girl, and she knows what she wants. Jack must see it in her eyes, because he takes a step closer, and his hands wrap around her wrists. Susan closes her eyes, and for a minute she remembers Jack taking Lucy’s hand nearly ten years ago; how small Lucy looked in comparison. She wonders how small she looks against Captain Jack Harkness, and then she can’t think at all as his mouth touches hers.
For a moment, Susan remembers Caspian, though she hasn’t thought of him in a while because something about the memory still stings. He must be long dead now, of course, because eight years of normal time are probably equivalent to about ten thousand in Narnian time. There’ve been a string of boys between Caspian and now Jack – though not a long string, Susan still has standards, after all – but she feels that same sense of anticipation and discovery. Fourteen again, just for a moment.
Behind them, the vinyl crackles on and on and on.
[as long as your army keeps perfectly still]
It’s an August afternoon and Jack has been gone for a month and a half. Susan pretends hard enough that she doesn’t miss him, but of course they all miss him; with Jack gone, things seem somehow darker and more serious. Torchwood draws everything in, and the world outside ceases to matter. It’s magic of another kind, and there isn’t an Aslan to roar in and save everything. Guns no longer unsettle her. And it takes a lot more to make her scream.
Susan is at her desk typing up a report when a pair of hands cover her eyes. “Any guesses, Susie?”
She turns, trying to keep a delighted smile of recognition off her face. “Jack.” But her lips twitch up and give her away.
Jack winks at her, but the smile on his face is a little frozen, and not quite right.
“What is it?” Susan asks, immediately alert. Jack shakes his head slightly. “Let’s go and talk somewhere else.”
They end up in the conference room, and Jack pulls all the blinds closed to ensure that they’ll have privacy.
“I’m sorry, Susie,” he tells her, and places manila files on the table. Susan reaches for them, and begins to skim through. “The monarchy were always happy to stay well out of things, but the government are getting insistent now. The war in Korea, and the threat of nuclear attack from Russia…”
“They want to get into Narnia,” Susan interrupts hollowly, looking at the page of neatly-typed research in front of her. “But they won’t make it through.”
Jack shakes his head. “I wouldn’t bet on it; they’ve been using Harriet Derbyshire’s Rift Theorum to look into the possibility of getting through into other worlds. We won’t need magic if we’ve got cold, hard science.”
Susan was never very good at physics, which is fine because they’ve got Dr Singh to deal with that sort of thing, but she has learned a few things since joining Torchwood, and the technology Torchwood One is developing does look like it would work.
“But they can’t,” she says weakly. “Narnia… they’ve got crossbows and trebuchets and swords, and none of it would be any match for the machine guns and the chemical gases that we have.” It’s been months since she last cried, but her eyes are filling, blurring the pages in front of her. “Jack, we’ve got to do something!”
Jack stops pacing and sits down in one of the padded leather armchairs they keep in the conference room. He looks exhausted, and Susan doesn’t think she’s ever seen him exhausted before.
“Look,” he begins, “Technically, the only evidence we’ve got of Narnia existing is the testimony of you and your family. The insistent word of children. Yes, Digory and Polly opened the world up in 1900, but that can just about be explained away.”
Susan sinks into a chair opposite Jack’s. “What does that mean?”
“It means that I can probably put together a report claiming that the Rift activity is related to something else entirely, invent some kind of alien world that gets too close to our orbit or something. The government don’t know what they’re dealing with, they’ll believe me. And I can completely misplace the Narnia files.”
There’s something he’s not saying; the slight edge in his eyes that tells Susan he’s lying. “What aren’t you telling me?” she demands. “Jack, what are you leaving out?”
Jack sighs heavily, and meets her gaze firmly. “Look, Susie,” he says, “What would put the final nail in the coffin of this stupid Narnia invasion idea would be if you testified that Narnia had never existed. That it was just a really vivid game that you and your siblings played as kids and it all got out of hand.”
Susan just stares at him. “I can’t do that,” she says desperately. “I wouldn’t even be here right now if it weren’t for Narnia.”
“If you want to save Narnia, you only have two options,” Jack tells her, and he’s stopped being the Jack she’s come to know so well over the last year. He’s hard and cold and impenetrable, and for a second, Susan irrationally hates him. “You can leave Torchwood now, and I’ll lose the files and lie as best I can.” Susan swallows, because she knows what Jack isn’t telling her; if she leaves Torchwood, she’ll be dosed with their experimental memory loss pills. The formula is still being perfected, but Torchwood Protocol doesn’t care about that; Susan might lose all her memories of Torchwood, but on the other hand she might forget everything that’s happened since her fifth birthday. The odds aren’t great.
“Or I deny Narnia ever existed and pretend I just had an active imagination as a child?” Susan asks. “That my little sister was actually mad?”
“I always got to you guys after all the transporting energy had dissipated,” Jack points out. “Other than the Rift cracking open, there’s actually no evidence that any of you went anywhere.”
Susan sighs. “If it was as simple as lying a little, you wouldn’t be looking so serious,” she tells him. “What’s the catch?”
“These are uncertain times,” Jack points out. “Politically, the world’s a mess. Wars are brewing everywhere. The atom bomb is being tossed around as a real threat. No one’s going to settle for just your word on one occasion.”
“And what exactly does that mean?”
Jack suddenly loses the ability to look her in the eye. “You’ll be bugged. Torchwood One has got access to technology that’s far better than our own. You’ll be taped all the time, and if you slip up; if you even mention Narnia in any seriousness to your siblings, all our hard work won’t pay off.”
Susan wonders if she’s going to be sick. The world feels too bright and vivid, and her breath is coming too quickly in her chest.
“You’re not really giving me a choice, are you?” she mutters hopelessly.
“I’m sorry, Susie,” Jack tells her quietly.
Susan bites her tongue for a moment, until the pain helps her focus a little. “When do I need to testify?” she asks.
Later that evening, by some horrible serendipity, Peter calls her. He has no idea that the telephone number actually connects him to Torchwood; he is not allowed to know. Susan has wanted to tell him that now she works with Captain Jack Harkness, and oh, he’s a more incredible man than they ever dreamed, but she can’t. She can’t risk it.
“I haven’t spoken to you in ages, Su,” he says, sounding pleased just to hear her voice. Susan feels sick, and almost wants to tell him the whole truth. But who knows if, even now, Torchwood One can hear this telephone call?
“I’ve been busy,” she says lamely, forcing her voice to stay steady. “Sorry, Pete.”
They manage small talk for a while, until, of course, Peter brings up Narnia. A half-forgotten memory of Caspian, an argument from nine long years ago. Susan knows that this is her test; and whether she passes or fails could change Narnia’s whole future. With that knowledge in mind, she clenches her free hand to stop it from shaking.
“Narnia? Oh, Pete, are you still playing that old game?” Her voice sounds false and bright, but it is at least even.
“What do you mean?” Peter sounds angry, his tone harsh.
“Well, you are nearly twenty-four now,” Susan points out, her heart thudding so hard in her chest that she can barely hear her own voice. “It seems strange that you’d still hold onto that childhood game we played to get through the war. How silly!”
She shuts her eyes, feeling damned. Peter is silent, as though he can’t work out what to say. Susan doesn’t wait for his recrimination.
“I’ve got to go,” she trills, “I’ve got an invitation to the most wonderful party. I’ll speak to you soon, Pete!”
After she puts the telephone down, she twists her hands together for a moment, knowing now that there is no way back.
“I think… I think I’ve just lost my family,” she tells Jack, and her voice is quivering. He nods, looking sad.
“They won’t ever know what you did for them, and I’m so sorry.”
Susan swallows. “Aslan might know. One day.”
Jack reaches for her, and she pulls away. He frowns a little, but she doesn’t explain.
Susan sighs, and says she’s tired. Jack just nods, as though he understands.
[they say that your demons can’t go there]
There’s a train crash that takes her parents and siblings suddenly and sharply one afternoon. Susan tells herself that Aslan would never let them all die; that they’re probably safe and happy somewhere, and tries to move on with her life. Sometimes, she can be found gazing out over the water of Cardiff Bay, prayers that aren’t to God on her lips. Mostly, she does the best she can.
(Susan Pevensie outlives Buddy Holly by almost three days. Jack Harkness counts it as an achievement, and locks her in a drawer.)