how to belong

Cair Paravel
Eastern Narnia

Megren walks through an orchard of new apple trees, most between the height of her shoulder to barely above her head. She has dressed in clean and pressed squire’s clothing for the meal that has just passed, and even braided back some of her hair in an attempt to make it a little more suitable for such an occasion.

Lanisen has been quiet all through the afternoon and supper, the sort of anticipatory, half-anxious quiet of somebody whose situation has escaped their control and comprehension and who is now stuck somewhere between excited and uncomfortable. He has also spruced himself up as well as he can for dinner, but his best falls rather short of Megren and Darrin’s. He seems to breathe easier outside the castle, some of the worried tension leaving his shoulders, and he looks at the young trees with respectful interest.

Megren turns when she hears him coming and grins, closing the distance between them.

Lanisen pauses beside a tree just at his own height and considers it intently. He shifts and glances at Megren. “Do you s’pose these ones talk?” he asks quietly.

Megren says, “If they do, they’re withholding now.”

Lanisen says, “Maybe they’re too young.”

Megren says, “Maybe.”

Lanisen moves on, stepping lightly just in case the trees do talk. He seems to be making for the east side of the orchard.

Megren falls in beside him. “Was it all right that we said yes?”

Lanisen glances at her, quick and uncertain and a little guilty. “To– yeah, of course.”

Megren says, “I would have asked you if I could have figured out how.”

Lanisen says, embarrassed, “It’s, it’s not– it’s all right, don’t…”

Megren screws up her face punishingly at him.

Lanisen glances at her sidelong. He rubs the back of his neck and drops his hands to his sides, watching the ground in front of them.

Megren extends her arm around his back to grasp his shoulder and squeeze him into a brief, tight side-hug, pecking his cheek lightly.

Lanisen wilts a little against her, wrapping an arm around her in return. “You fit so neatly wherever you go,” he says after a moment. “I wish I could learn that from you.”

Megren wrinkles her nose. “Do not,” she protests lightly, as if the observation were an insult.

Lanisen glances at her wryly.

Megren says, “I’m glad you said we should come here.”

Lanisen nods, agreeing silently. He glances up at the castle, its pale walls stained flame-colored with the early sunset.

Megren drops her arm, her gaze following his.

Lanisen exhales softly and rubs the side of his face, overwhelmed.

Megren whispers confidentially to him, “We’re in /Narnia/.”

Lanisen lifts his eyebrows and lets out a short breath of laughter.

Megren exclaims, “Narnia!”

Lanisen says, “At, at the castle.”

Megren says, “We could do anything.”

Lanisen glances at her questioningly.

Megren asks, “I mean, we went to Narnia. what can’t we do?”

Lanisen says, “Oh. Haa, hm.” He squints a little and shakes his head.

Megren punches him lightly in the arm.

Lanisen steps to the side to avoid another. “I think,” he says, and stops. He glances at the castle again.

Megren glances at him.

Lanisen rubs the back of his neck and makes a small frustrated face. He shakes his head slightly.

Megren screws up her mouth.

Lanisen asks, “Where should we go next?”

Megren asks, “You think where should we go next?”

Lanisen asks, “What?”

Megren says, “You said “I think” first.”

Lanisen says, “Oh.” He shakes his head. “Never mind.”

Megren says, “I’m very bad at not minding, though.”

Lanisen says, “I’ve noticed that about you.”

Megren asks, “So what is it I’m not to mind then?”

Lanisen looks frustrated again. “I don’t–” He pulls his lips between his teeth. “I don’t even know, I don’t know how to say it, it’s only–” He stops for a moment and ducks his head, lowering his voice to confess, “It’s– I feel here like I feel in the mess at home, like– like I don’t belong and everybody around me knows it, and I think if, if I can only…”

Megren makes a thoughtful noise.

Lanisen doesn’t say anything else, and looks unhappy to have said this much. He glances self-consciously at the trees.

Megren says, “You and Honeydrowse got on.”

Lanisen says, “I didn’t mean there.”

Megren makes another thoughtful sound.

Lanisen says, “I don’t know what I’m tryin’ to say, it’s, I’m sorry, don’t… don’t pay it any mind.”

Megren says, “I think I feel that way sometimes, only it doesn’t keep me out of places.”

Lanisen glances at her.

Megren says, “Like,” she takes a breath. “I did feel that way at dinner tonight, but also I knew I was invited even if I don’t belong, and everyone can see it, I’m still invited; they’re letting me here and want me to have a good time and to learn to belong, at least a little.”

Lanisen doesn’t say anything to this. He watches the ground.

Megren says, “The guard, too. Definitely squiring.”

Lanisen nods.

Megren asks, “It’s work, it’s– you’ve got to say to yourself ‘I want to belong and they want me to belong’, and then you’ve got to act like you believe it even if you don’t feel it, but it’s, it usually works?”

Lanisen rubs the side of his face and doesn’t answer.

Megren screws up her mouth and watches him.

Lanisen says, “I’m, I’ve been tryin’, I can’t– I don’t know. It came up so fast, is all.”

Megren says, “I’m sorry if we should have said no.”

Lanisen says quickly, “No, it’s– I wouldn’t’ve wanted you to, I wouldn’t– I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m tryin’ to figure this out.”

Megren agrees immediately, “Sure, all right.”

Lanisen glances at her uncertainly.

Megren lifts her brows.

Lanisen looks a little worried, like he’s not sure what meaning he’s supposed to take from this, but he lowers his eyes.

Megren says again, “Well, I’m glad we’re here.”

Lanisen nods slightly.

Megren asks, “Have you gone in your room?”

Lanisen hesitates and nods.

Megren asks, “What’s it like?”

Lanisen says, “It’s… the nicest room I’ve ever seen. It’s huge, there’s windows…” He glances at her a little helplessly.

Megren asks, “Can I see?”

Lanisen says, “Yeah, of course. What’s yours like?”

Megren says, “I haven’t gone yet.”

Lanisen glances at the darkening sky.

Megren says, “Show me and then we’ll look at mine.” She looks up. “Unless you want to wait for the stars.”

Lanisen says, “I don’t, I don’t mind. Either way.”

Megren says, “I think they won’t be very easy right next to the castle lights.”

Lanisen says, “All right.”

Megren says, “Let’s go see.”

Lanisen nods, rubbing his elbow. He darts a glance up at the walls, then lowers his eyes and turns back toward the gate.

Megren squeezes his shoulder again.

Lanisen offers her a small apologetic half-smile.

Megren kisses his cheek again and pushes him toward the gate.

Lanisen keeps moving, shivering slightly in the cooling air.

Megren muses as they walk, “I wonder how a person finds hot tea in this castle.”


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