A/N: Hi guys! I've been so busy lately, but I managed to write this down. This is based off of Lirenel's amazing work, "Letting Go," "Under a Swift Sunrise", and "Beginnings and Endings", so I highly recommend you read those first, since I don't think you'll understand this otherwise. I don't own Narnia. C.S. Lewis does. And the fics that inspired this one aren't mine either. Which is why I dedicate this particular fic to the lovely Lirenel.
Eustace Clarence Scrubb lay his head back against the pillows of his hard bunk, staring at the white ceiling above him. Once, he'd complained horribly about how uncomfortable the bunk was, but his travels aboard the Dawn Treader had set him in perspective. Now, he found it stiff still, and lumpy to boot, in comparison with the soft warm beds of Cair Paravel and Harfang (not that Harfang was anything to reminisce over in any case), but still preferable to the hard ground of Northern Ettinsmoor.
The blond-haired boy sighed and closed his eyes. He'd barely slept over the past few nights since returning to England, and despite being horribly tired, he still could not sleep. His mind was too restless and his heart too pained. Almost a week had passed and he had still not fulfilled his promise – still hadn't sent word to his cousins about the last few minutes he'd spent Home.
"Oh," said Caspian. "I see what's bothering you. You think I'm a ghost, or some nonsense. But don't you see? One can't be a ghost in one's own country. I might be a ghost if I got into your world. I don't know. But I suppose it isn't yours either now, now that you're here."
Before Eustace could even process the hope rising in his heart at his old friend's words, another voice cut across it, one just as familiar as Caspian's, and far more missed. "I'm afraid not, Caspian. My very dear cousin has a mission left to him still, in my old world if not in Narnia." Eustace spun and nearly choked on a sob, for there, standing tall and brave and looking just as Eustace remembered him but more whole somehow, was his much-missed cousin, Edmund Pevensie, the Just King of Narnia.
"Edmund!" he cried, dropping his sword to hug the dark-haired teen. The Just King was still a head taller than Eustace himself, which some part of him registered with annoyance, but mostly he couldn't stop crying. He remembered the foreboding building in his chest the last time he'd seen Edmund, when his cousin had asked him to stay strong for Lucy and Peter, and the devastation the day the man from the Merchant Navy brought Lucy the dark necklace with the cross on the end. He remembered envying Lucy the gift of hugging Edmund one last time before he died, a gift no one else got. And now here he was, feeling very safe and warm in his older cousin's arms.
"Well done, Eustace. Well done," Edmund murmured. Eustace realized that Aslan, Caspian, and Jill were standing behind him, but he suddenly couldn't bring himself to care. He'd missed Edmund far too much to have much of an opinion on what Jill thought of him at this point and he would hug him, pride be damned. And as for Caspian, well then. Caspian would just have to wait for his turn, because Eustace was far too happy to let go of Edmund right now.
Eventually, Eustace had to draw back, and he stood there, drinking in his cousin's presence, that he was alivenotdeadstillbreathingstillwarm and tears spilled freely over his cheeks. Caspian stepped forward, and the two Kings hugged, while Aslan and Jill stood off to the side, Jill twitching awkwardly. Oh, Jill!
"Jill!" Eustace realized how very out of place his companion – comrade? schoolmate? friend? – looked, and tugged her by the hand to where Caspian was releasing Edmund from their embrace, not noticing Edmund's knowing grin or Jill's blush. "Edmund, this is Jill Pole. She was my companion in my quest to save Caspian's son, Edmund the Second. Jill, this is my cousin, Edmund Pevensie. He's a King of Narnia."
Jill bobbed into a hesitant and rather clumsy curtsy (curtsies are not taught at the Experiment House), while Caspian grasped Eustace's shoulder. "I haven't gotten to thank you for saving Edmund, by the way. He seems to take after his namesake," he said with a significant look at the Just, who was standing to the side, smiling.
"Children," Aslan said, his voice sad but reassuring. "It is time for Eustace and Jill to return to their world." Eustace felt near to tears as he asked the next question, already fearing the answer. "Aslan," he asked, hesitant. "Will Jill and I – will we come back here?" Aslan nodded, a small smile on His muzzle. "Yes, dear one, and when you do, it will be to come Home at long last," He answered. A thrill ran through Eustace's heart, and judging by the look on Jill's face she felt the same.
"Aslan?" Caspian asked. "I've always wanted to see their world, if only just a glimpse. Is that wrong?"
"Here in my country, there is nothing you can want for that is wrong, my son, for this place is the birthplace of all things new, where life flows eternal and every tear is wiped from your eyes, where there is no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain." As Eustace heard those words, his heart swelled and tears welled in his eyes, and joy – pure and unmarred and true, rose in him.
"May I see it too, Aslan?" Edmund asked. Aslan nodded. "Both of you may see, though for five minutes of their time only, and only so the four of you may set things right," He replied.
The next few moments were a blur. Aslan had Jill draw the fine dirk she'd used in Narnia as a weapon, and sent Eustace to retrieve his sword from where he dropped it on the grass earlier (Edmund and Caspian both had their swords and teasingly lectured Eustace about dropping his), and told the four of them to use only the flats of their blades against the ones He would send them against. They walked through the wood, with Caspian and Jill both walking with Aslan, while Eustace and Edmund hung back. Of those moments, all Eustace could really remember was the warmth of his cousin's hand against his back, and how wonderful it was to see Edmund alive again.
As they neared the wall, Edmund tugged on Eustace's hand, signaling him to stay back. "Yes, Ed?" Eustace asked curiously. He didn't really mind. He knew that the moment he'd have to say goodbye to Narnia and Caspian and Edmund and Aslan was very close at hand, and anything to prolong that time was welcome. Edmund smiled at him fondly. "I wanted you to know that I meant what I said and I really am proud of you, Eustace. You've grown so much from the spoilt brat we dreaded spending time with at Cambridge, and I'm so thankful for all you've done for Peter and the others."
Tears welled up again in Eustace's eyes. The pain of the wound of Edmund's death had hurt so much for so long, and only then, when he'd hugged his cousin on the Mountain had it healed. Would going Back mean reopening the wound? "I almost didn't manage it, Ed. It was so very hard to stay strong, especially for Lucy and Peter. I almost failed you!" he admitted in a rush, closing his eyes and gritting his teeth, expecting Edmund to reprimand him. Instead, his cousin's strong arms went around him, and he leaned against Edmund's chest. "You never would have failed me Eustace," Edmund murmured, pride ringing in his voice. "Not even if you tried, you never could have failed me when you kept relying on Aslan. He carries us through all struggles and burdens."
They remained like that for a short while before Edmund released him to look Eustace in the eye. "Can you do me another favor when you get back to England, Eustace?" Edmund asked, and Eustace nodded immediately. "Anything."
Edmund looked to the side, at the colorful wood with the jewel-like birds, tears glistening in his eyes. "Please, tell Lucy, Peter, and Susan that I'm so sorry for leaving them like that? Tell Lucy I'm sorry for not telling her, and Susan that it took me that long to talk to her again? And Peter, oh Peter. Tell him how sorry I am for breaking my promise."
Eustace gulped down the sobs rising in his throat as he thought back to his three remaining cousins in England, and how painful it had been to watch them in the months following Edmund's death. "I-I will, Ed."
"Good. Thank you, Eustace. And don't be too sad when you go back, okay? I'll see you again soon, cousin. Give them all my love and my apologies. I miss you all very much."
Eustace sucked in a deep breath, before standing and going to the phone. His parents had insisted on one in his room, and he'd never been more grateful for it now. Uncle James and Aunt Helen were out of the country, in America again for Uncle James' teaching, which meant only one of his cousins would answer the phone if he called. They'd probably be very cross with him for waking them up this late, but he couldn't let this wait any longer. He'd promised.
After a few rings, the other end picked up and Peter's voice – gruff, stiff, sad – came through. "Hello?"
"Eustace? Do you have any idea what time it is?"
"I know, and I'm sorry, but this can't wait."
"…What's happened, cousin?"
"First, call Lucy and Susan."
"Do you want to hear it or not?"
A frustrated sigh, then footsteps. Eustace took a deep breath. He could already his throat thickening and the hot salty tears building up behind his eyelids. No, he could do this. He had to do this. A few more seconds, then Lucy's familiar voice, sleep-muddled but kind (not cheerful, not joyful, not for awhile now), came over the line. "Eustace? What do you need?"
"Lucy. Are you, Susan and Peter all there?"
"Yes, but what do you need to tell us that's so pressing it couldn't wait 'til morning."
"I made a promise."
A sob built up in his throat as he thought of the sadness shining in Edmund's eyes, regrets of leaving his family behind, sorrow that had no place in Aslan's country. "Lucy, please!"
"Eustace, what's wrong?"
"Lucy, you need to sit down, all of you and listen carefully please. I went back. And I saw him."
"No. Someone who misses you all very much, and wanted me to tell you how sorry he is for not saying goodbye."
A/N: I'm telling you, I cried writing this. Please review! Reviews are necessary for life, you know.