Disclaimer: I do not own the Chronicles of Narnia
It began as a slip from Lucy.
Everyone in the parlor froze and turned to look at the blushing twelve year old. Her eyes averting the surprised gazes of her three fellow rulers. The brunette gave a delicate, embarrassed cough, "My apologies, I meant to call for Susan."
Susan's eyes went soft at the thought of her little sister considering her a mother figure. Their brothers returned to their paperwork after the confusion had settled as it took quite a lot of it to sustain a kingdom as large as theirs. Meanwhile, Susan set aside the list she was making for those she must remember to invite at the next ball they hosted. Lucy pouted at her sixteen year old sister and held out the book she was reading and pointed, "What does this word mean?"
Susan tucked a lock of her ebony hair behind her ear and smiled as softly and as kindly as her title of Queen Susan, the Gentle would suggest. She handed back the book and answered her little sister's question before going back to work. Out of the corner of his eye, King Edmund, the Just watched his sisters interact. The youngest of the siblings was still pink from her slip up. Unbeknownst to their elder siblings, Lucy truly saw them as her parents and Edmund shared the sentiment. The had discussed merely two nights before how often Susan and Peter had cared for them even before they had become kings and queens of Narnia.
It was Peter who taught Edmund how to ride a bike and play baseball when their father couldn't. It was Peter who held Lucy to sleep when she had nightmares and Susan who sung to her. It was Susan that taught Edmund how to tie his shoes and read. It wasn't their parents who looked out for them at boarding school or stopped the bullies.
Edmund used to resent the attention Peter and Susan gave him. He wanted their father to be the one to stop him from starting fights at school and his mother to be the one to tell him to be kind to Lucy. Narnia had taught him to be grateful that he had his siblings to help guide him.
When they had first entered Narnia through the wardrobe in the Professor's spare room, Lucy was nine, nearly ten, and still very much in need of a mother. Susan, although she was barely much older than her sister is now, understood her sister's need for parents and tried her best to be the mother that she, herself, never had.
Although, their parents loved them, Peter and Susan knew that their parents were not the most responsible people. In many ways, their parents were children themselves. They preferred to go to parties and spend money on lavish things. They were attentive materially, but emotionally they were disconnected from their children besides the parting declarations of love. They had always wanted children, but had no idea what to do with them.
Peter, always the oldest and most responsible, had looked out for his parents as well as he could along with his sister. When Lucy came into the world, she was both a gift and a burden. Edmund in his weaker moments would blame her for the lack of parental attention.
Peter and Susan were the best parents either of them could ever ask for.
The week following Lucy's slip up, both she and Edmund would call Susan "mother" between themselves. They did it so often that eventually they would say it to her face. Their red cheeks would portray their humiliation, but Susan was secretly pleased each time. Inwardly, Peter wished they would see him as a parent as well, but he understood that if they could only see him as an older brother. It hurt though and the pangs of jealousy rang throughout his torso. It was even worse when he saw Susan's blissful, dreamy smile that he began to call her "Motherly" smile, for he knew the reason behind the bounce in her step and the light in her eyes.
War soon called him and Edmund away in the winter and they parted, leaving Susan and Lucy clutching hands as they held back their tears to stay strong before their boys. Their old foe, the White Witch, was long dead, but her followers were not done plotting. Peter looked back at his castle until Cair Paravel and his sisters had become mere dots in the grand expanse of snow, marking their path with wagon wheels, clumpy boots, and horse shoes. Only his brother's sigh drew away his attention; the younger boy looked aged despite his young thirteen years.
"Dear brother, whatever ails you to draw such a sigh from your lips?" Peter teased with a smirk and a quirk of his brow. His brother returned a joking sneer and a loud snort, "Only an overbearing old man!"
"Oh, you wound me with your silver tongue! It's quicker than your sword." The Magnificent High King clutched his breast and moaned while his brother struggled not to fall off his horse, laughing at such undignified behavior. They bantered back and forth until Philip warned him to hold on tighter and, properly chastised by the Horse, Edmund behaved, regaining his breath. Peter became solemn and asked again, "Edmund, I do sincerely wish to help if I may."
"I think not, but if there is, I shall gladly request for your aid," Edmund admitted sheepishly. The blond stroked his thick scruff, thoughtfully before announcing, "You are in love."
The Just King's blush would be the envy of fine wines, "I never insinuated such a notion."
"Ah, but you have not disagreed with it either." And as older men are wont to do, he teased the young boy in love and inquired about the one in question.
"She's smart, beautiful, kind, and valiant, but I fear I will never be enough for her." The red faced boy answered, truthfully with a hapless shrug. Carefully, Peter pondered about his answer before replying, "Regardless, I believe you should try. You are a king, appointed by Aslan himself. What woman would not be impressed by your valor?"
The two boys continued on through their journey, discussing Edmund's mysterious lady and bantering when the occasion called for it. As night settled and the pair settled into their tent, releasing infectious yawns. Edmund was halfway asleep when Peter bade him a good night and he responded, voice thick with sleep, "G'night, Dad."
The seventeen year old king covered his mouth, preventing his gasp of surprise from waking his brother. He pulled his blanket over his shoulders gleefully, his warm cheeks a symbol of his joy. A deep chuckle reverberated through his chest as he tried to keep his laughter contained. His eyelids drooped and he drifted off to a peaceful rest.
The weeks after returning from their campaign were hard for the youngest Narnian king. His nightmares of his betrayal and his captor plagued him even when awake. Bags formed under his eyes and bruises caked his skin from when he thrashed in his sleep. His siblings were worried of course, but he insisted there was nothing left for them to do.
One night was far worse, he began to moan and thrash, but the moaning soon became shouts of pain and grief. Susan, being closest, heard him and barged into his room. His sheets were drenched with sweat and his hair was plastered to his forehead. She shook his shoulders desperately, "Edmund, please wake up! It is just a nightmare."
He bolted up and pushed her off, pulling his knife out from under his pillow. His chest heaved as Susan, with wide eyes was sprawled on the floor, "Mum?"
"No, it's Susan." She gingerly corrected. He said nothing in response, refraining from correcting her that he meant what he said. He lowered his knife. Cautiously, Susan crossed the room to wet a cloth and fill a bowl. She moved slowly, inching her way onto his bed, not wanting to startle him as she patted the sweat from his face. He stared blankly at her, not really seeing her. He was thinking of his nightmare and how he had been ordered by the White Witch to kill his family. His hands bloody and his face caked with their blood. Their faces blank, horrified and half drowned in the gore. He had screamed while their own wails were permanently etched on their lips.
It wasn't until she moved off the bed that he spoke, "Please don't go."
"I won't. I just want to grab you new clothes." Susan promised. Edmund looked down at his sorry state and was suddenly aware of his discomfort. He nodded as his older sister riffled through his drawers. She held up a shirt with a thoughtful expression, "I remember when I was so much taller than you, now I daresay we are the same."
"You and Peter go on about our childhood as if we were old maids." He snorted with a sort of teasing fondness. His sister faced him, jokingly grimacing. She tossed him his clothes and turned back around for the sake of decency. He laughed at her as he shoved his limbs into the correct clothing parts, "My dear sister, I still have the same body parts as when you and Peter would chase me around the bath."
"Who sounds like an old maid now?" She huffed with a pout, remembering how troublesome the Just King was when it came to bath time. He was not hard to get into a bath, but getting him to stay was quite a trick.
They fell silent, the dying fire in the hearth being the only voice in the wintery night. Susan peeked around as he announced his state of dress. Her brother smiled at her and the pair tore off his sheets for the servants to wash in the morning.
They sat for a while in his armchairs by the fire before Edmund spoke, "Su?"
"Can Lucy and I call you 'Mum'?" It had been weighing on his mind and he had come to the conclusion that it couldn't hurt to ask. She had never rebuked their slips, but she might simply be dismissing them. Susan looked about ready to faint. Her face morphed into a radiant smile as she launched into his arms, engulfing him in a hug. It was very unQueen-like behavior, but she was too overcome with emotion to be bothered.
They woke up the next morning with cramps from falling asleep in the chairs, but happy nonetheless. Edmund's nightmares ceased afterwards and Cair Paravel was peaceful once again.
Summer rolled in and so did the storms. Rain pounded the castle and the four monarchs were reminded of the day Lucy discovered Narnia. Lucy teased Edmund, "You were such a big prat then."
"You were far easier to tease too. You could hardly stop yourself from hollering for Peter! 'Oh Peter come save me!'" He replied with his tongue between his lips, mocking her voice.
"You knave! I did not sound like that," She returned in like before tickling him, treating him like the child they hardly have had time to be. Light hearted banter was proof of their improved relationship. Susan and Peter watched their ruckus fondly. The rest of the day remained dreary, but their spirits were bright as they dined. Edmund and Susan gave them farewells as they departed for diplomatic purposes in Telmar.
Peter sighed as he dozed off in bed later that night. He loved his life in Narnia. His family was so much closer and he could feel himself mature. The storm worsened outside his window and lightning flashes preceded thunder. He felt calm though, any man would if their life was as put together as Peter's at such a young age. He studied his callused hands and thought about his father. He vaguely remembered being tossed in the air, family picnics, and the zoo; his life in England was becoming a blur. He remembered the several nannies he had by the age of eight. At that age, Peter felt that he could take care of himself and his siblings. He struggled a lot between wanting to be a child and feeling that he had to be a grown up.
A large clap of thunder snapped the High King out of his thoughts. His bedroom door opened with an equally loud bang and a figure burrowed into his sheets. The lump shivered with every roar of the storm. Peter sat frozen, his eyebrows shot way up.
Tentatively, he poked the shaking mound, "Lu? What in the name of Aslan are you doing?"
"Can I sleep in here? Please Dad?"
Peter quickly became flustered and stuttered, "Whatever for?"
"… Thunder." She murmured slowly poking out her head like a frightened turtle. Her big brown eyes big like a begging puppy. Peter knew he couldn't resist. Lucy knew he couldn't resist and she smiled as he sighed, "Alright, since you said please."
She cheered then screeched as another clap sounded. Her older brother chuckled as she cuddled into him, burying her face in his chest. She looked up at him with a pout, "It's not funny!"
"No," he agreed, "but you are rather adorable."
Her pout got bigger as she whined, "Dad, stop!"
He squeezed her in a hug. He remembered the first time he held Lucy and how tiny she had been. She was delicate, but had gripped his finger so tightly he was afraid it would leave a mark. His parents had to let him carry her home from the hospital because he had refused to let her go. Seeing her smile up at him warmed his heart and from that moment on he promised to protect her. She still seemed so tiny and precious to him; it was hard to accept that she was growing up. He whispered to her, "I will always protect you."
She grinned at him, "I know. That's why you're my dad."
He smiled softly and watched her fall asleep before following her into dreamland.
Years later, when they had stumbled once more back through the wardrobe, it was hard for the four of them. Susan and Peter were so used to being the parents that it was weird to hear their names from the younger two at school. Occasionally, Edmund or Lucy would call for them and have their birth parents answer instead. The four of them learned discretion and to ignore the weird looks of their classmates. The adjustment was rough and they found themselves drifting apart if they didn't make a conscious effort, even if others found them oddly close knit. They were still Kings and Queens of Narnia, but above all they were family.