Disclaimer: I don't own Narnia or any characters you may recognize from the books or the movies, I wish I did but I don't...
Summary: Christmas is a magical time of year. This year it might even change a King's heart.
A/N: This story is a part of my A Light in the Darkness universe. Enjoy!
24 Yule 1015
The Christmas Eve Ball was going to be the end of him. Edmund was certain of it. He had somehow found himself trapped in Peter and Thalia's company as they made eyes at each other. He sighed as Peter stopped once again and pulled Thalia into his arms. As his brother kissed his wife with enough passion to make Edmund question whether the lummox actually remembered he was out there too, he couldn't help rolling his eyes. This was why he hadn't wanted to go with Peter and Thalia to find the extra holly and mistletoe that Susan just insisted she needed for the wedding. "Because it has to be just perfect, Edmund!" Right, Su. Because Peter's really going to pay attention to the task you saddled us with when he has Thalia around and no William to compete for his mummy's attention.
Grabbing the basket stuffed to overflowing with the obnoxious little weed (as Aravis always called it), Edmund hoisted the basket he had filled with holly boughs a little higher. Peter was so lucky that the mistletoe hadn't fallen out of the basket. "I'll just take these back to the Cair before Susan skins us both."
Peter didn't respond. A quick glance proved he was still kissing his wife as he dipped her. Edmund rolled his eyes. What a surprise. "You two are going to freeze that way," he grumbled as he marched away from them. Not that they were listening.
"Christmas is just such a magical time, Ed," he mockingly quoted his sisters' arguments for why they had to have the wedding today. "Of course, we have to do all this flimflam and plant traps for single bachelors everywhere. Maybe even you will find someone and fall in love." He cast a dark look at the basket of obnoxious weeds and added, "Lion forfend!"
Why his sisters insisted on pretending that he had not been consistently telling them for fifteen years that he had no intention whatsoever of marrying was beyond him. Other than their obsession with matchmaking and other ridiculous mush. As if it weren't bad enough that he constantly had to beware of the ladies who plagued the Cair with their generous ambitions and underwhelming good sense. He was still trying to escape Lady Adele's clutches. He heartily wished he had been able to send her back with Corin in the summer. But, he had been unable to find a way to do so without letting the loathsome lady know that he had indeed been affected by her presence (even if it wasn't in the way her deluded brain insisted). And so, Lady Adele remained. She had been practically hunting him since Yule began and the decorations went up.
And where in the worlds had his Wolves wandered off to now? He scowled at the thought they were once again bothering William. His nephew would be one in two days and he had begun to master the art of walking (if mainly while hanging on to someone's leg, fur, or the furniture), which Remus and Romulus found absolutely fascinating. At least they weren't crawling after him anymore. Nothing like two grown Wolves crawling on their bellies in the wake of a baby.
Edmund shook his head at the thought. The only thing that could cause more trouble was if the Greybacks had run off to see-
Edmund grunted as he strode right into someone. "My apologies. I did not see you there. I-" He paused as he looked down into wide brown eyes. "Lady Raisa, it seems I must apologize yet again. Are you harmed? I didn't tread on your feet, did I?"
He glanced down to where her verdant green skirts concealed her feet and then looked up again. Raisa's fair skin had pinked but she only gave a little shake of her head, making the dark red curls bounce against her shoulders. "No, Your Majesty." She gestured to the baskets. "Queen Susan will be pleased you found these."
"I should hope so," he said with a tad more vehemence than he had intended. Catching himself, he grimaced. "I apologize again, Lady Raisa. I am being rude. My sister's errands may annoy at times but that is no reason for you to bear the brunt."
"It is all right. Tarrin is griping about the silliest things last I checked, including the shade of his tunic." She smiled quite prettily just then, her brown eyes sparkling and a dimple appearing in her right cheek. "I must admit that I was quite cruel and teased him over the difference in sable and obsidian."
Edmund found himself smirking in response. "Quite naught of you, madam. I must remember never to fret about the shades of my tunic in your company or Aslan alone knows how your teasing should overset me."
She laughed. Not a thin, false laugh like Lady Adele used, but a true pleasant laugh. Not airy, but full and refreshing. Edmund felt his smirk grow into a smile in response. Raisa's dimple was more pronounced, her eyes shining with amusement, and her pink lips looked rather kissable at the-
Edmund almost flinched at the thought. This was Tarrin's little sister! He was older than she was by five years and she was Tarrin's sister! He was not attracted to her. He was not…
He abruptly realized that Raisa was speaking to him and he hadn't heard a word. Feeling his face heat uncomfortably, Edmund cleared his throat. "I am afraid I must continue my litany of begging your pardon but I most unwisely allowed my attention to wander for a moment. What was it you said?"
Raisa's smile faded slightly, just enough for her dimple to vanish. When had he even noticed that she had a dimple? Ugh. She blinked at him. "I asked if I might clip some of the holly bunches. For the wedding crown, you understand."
"Oh." Well, that was just blindingly brilliant, Ed. Very impressive. Suppressing a grimace, Edmund quickly offered her the basket. When she didn't immediately take it, he glanced down and flushed. As though she had asked for mistletoe. When had he turned into a dolt like his brother? Ugh. He quickly placed the mistletoe's basket on the floor and then offered Raisa the basket of holly. "Do you need a knife?"
She gave a little nod. He pulled out his dagger and then hesitated. "Maybe I should do this. I mean, cut off what you want. Of the holly berries. Bunches." Pevensie, you dolt! What is wrong with you? He cleared his throat again. "So which ones do you think will adorn the bride's hair?"
She looked up at him with a faint smile that made his heart leap for some reason. What was wrong with him? He was not attracted to Raisa. She was Peridan's daughter, Tarrin's sister. No. He wasn't interested in marriage at all. Raisa bent her head to study to the holly boughs and he smelled some sort of flowery scent from her hair. The sudden urge to lean down so he could get a better idea of the flower, something that seemed to fit her, that was making her silky dark red hair even more intoxicating, both shocked and horrified him. He wanted to move back but he couldn't without giving away that he was…affected by Raisa's presence. Oh Aslan, why? He had been doing quite well without any silly girls beyond his own sisters interfering in his life. He had no desire to have feelings for a woman who saw him as nothing more than a source of power. Something that…Raisa had never done.
"I think this one and then these two from the next bough, oh and the one right here."
Somehow he managed to follow her directions and cut the holly bunches free for her. She took them eagerly but didn't leave right away. Instead, she tilted her face up to look at him. The sudden thought occurred to him that he had a basket of mistletoe at hand. What would it take to snatch up one and use the tradition to steal a kiss? It would be quick and she was looking so-
Twin howls interrupted his thoughts. Then the happy shout of "Alpha!"
"Alpha, we found you!"
"We missed you!"
"Are you going to get growled at by Queen Susan?"
"Why can't we ever play with the puppy?"
Relief warred with irritation as Edmund turned to his Wolves. The twin grins, pink tongues lolling out of their mouths, made it difficult to maintain a stern mien. He ignored the pang of disappointment as he caught a glimpse of Raisa moving away. Of course, she would leave. His Wolves had helped embarrass her more than enough since she returned to Narnia. "Where have you two been?"
"Looking at the puppy, Alpha," they chorused happily, tails wagging.
Great. "I thought I told you two to leave William alone today."
"You did, Alpha," Romulus pointed out.
His brother nodded, still grinning. "We went to see the General's puppy."
Dreading the answer, Edmund still forced out the words, "What did you do?"
"Nothing. Just watched."
Romulus snorted. "I watched. You made the General's mate angry at us again. That's why she chased us out of the den."
Remus glared at his brother. "I did not! She was mad at you. You're the one who knocked the book over and woke the puppy up."
"You licked the puppy. The General's mate saw you lick her puppy."
Edmund groaned. "You licked the puppy? Why?"
Remus raised mournful yellow eyes to his. "I just wanted to greet the puppy. The General's mate doesn't let us in her den much."
"Can't imagine why," Edmund muttered as he ran his free hand through his hair. No doubt Oreius would be once again lecturing him on why he and Kat don't want his Wolves around. Because listening to that lecture a hundred or more times for the last four months wasn't enough. He picked up the basket of mistletoe with a sigh. "Come on, you two. We have to get these decorations to Susan before she skins me. And, how many times must you be told that you are not allowed to lick puppies?"
"Are you going to lick Raisa?"
The Christmas Eve Ball was in full swing. Edmund grimaced as he took a step back, putting the marble column festooned with holly, ivy, and ribbons between him and Lady Adele. He didn't care if it wasn't the diplomatic thing to do, he was not going to be within arm's reach of the clingy and conniving woman. He warily waited but the lady never appeared. Perhaps he had managed to avoid her, after all.
Allowing himself to relax for a moment, he surveyed the crowd. Peter and Thalia were dancing…well, they had been dancing now they were standing beneath one of the mistletoe sprigs hanging over the dancers with their lips locked while the Narnians cheered. He rolled his eyes as the musicians struck up another tune and Peter swept a blushing Thalia into his arms. His brother stole more kisses as they danced out of Edmund's sight. Thank Aslan.
He scanned the dancers, wondering where his sisters had gotten off to, before spotting Susan dancing with Peridan. Lucy, on the other hand, wasn't anywhere he could see. However, he had no doubt that she was with Tarrin. He also wasn't going to risk being hunted down by Lady Adele just to see if Lucy was under the mistletoe with Tarrin Peridanson.
Since Kat wasn't there to run interference (she and Oreius had bowed out of attending the ball in favor of spending time with their baby), Edmund knew he had best sneak away from the ball before Lady Adele found him. Moving stealthily, he worked his way from the shelter of the columns toward the doorway. He was only feet away when he was stopped in his tracks by a lady. Raisa's rich brown eyes met his for a moment before she murmured, "Your Majesty. Lady Adele is by the refreshment tables, so now would be the best time for you to take your leave." Her lips twitched as she added, "When your sisters are preoccupied as well, Sire."
He should have taken the cheek and run. Instead, he laughed. "Perhaps I was merely looking for the appropriate defender." Before he could reconsider, he found himself holding his hand out. "Perhaps you would be willing to render such a service to Narnia as to shield her Just King from the dangers of the Christmas Eve ball?"
What is wrong with me? Please say 'yes.' There was probably something terribly wrong inside his brain. He was acting like Peter. And yet he didn't care as elation swept over him when Raisa placed her slender hand in his and smiled up at him. "It would be my honor to fulfill my family's tradition of protecting the Four, Your Majesty."
He was ridiculously pleased when he led her to join the dance and found it was a slower waltz, no partner changes required. Edmund looked down to find Raisa smiling up at him and he couldn't help an answering smile. By the Lion, what was wrong with him? It was like being snared by Leto all those years ago, only... Only Raisa was different and her spell was of an entirely different kind. By the Lion, what was he going to do?
He tried to come up with something to talk about, the wedding, the bride and groom, the babies, his Wolves (No! Definitely not them!), anything but every subject he rejected. Instead, he guided Raisa through the waltz and tried to figure out when she suddenly became more than Tarrin's sister and Peridan's daughter or even Susan's lady-in-waiting. What was happening to him?
The dance ended far too soon. Edmund experienced a pang of disappointment when Lucy and Tarrin ended up under the mistletoe but he and Raise did not. Lion forfend! What was happening to him?
He didn't want to get married. He didn't want to fall in love. That was for his sisters and Peter, not for him. Someone had to keep their heads on straight, after all. Raisa was still gazing up at him and he opened his mouth to make his excuses and leave. That's not what came out. "Would you like something to drink?"
She nodded. And that was how he found himself escorting her to the nearest refreshment table. A hot chocolate was easy to grab, although he was hoping for something stronger for himself. He handed Raisa her drink and then turned toward the wines only to stop when he spotted Lady Adele coming toward them with a very determined glint in her eyes.
Raisa spoke up then. "Perhaps we should have some fresh air as well, Your Majesty. It is rather warm, is it not?"
"It is," he agreed, almost dropping to his knees to thank her quick thinking. "This way."
He offered his arm and escorted her through the crowd to one of the smaller balconies. The crisp winter air filled his lungs and cooled his warm skin. He looked down at Raisa as she sipped her chocolate and all words escaped him. She looked…beautiful. There was no other way to describe her. The moonlight kissed her cheeks. Her dark red curls had been carefully styled into a braided chignon with several holly bunches decorating either side of it. The dark green gown from before had been replaced by a bright green gown that had silver wreaths embroidered along the hem and neck. It suited her.
They stopped and looked at each other. Edmund cleared his throat. He wasn't even sure what he had been about to say, but it was probably a good thing she interrupted. "You were saying?"
Raisa looked up at him for a long moment then she nodded to the ball carrying on behind them. "I believe that Lady Adele has left off hunting you for now. And, I really should go in before my mother begins to fret that I am attempting to trap you."
She had already started to move away when Edmund impulsively grabbed her hand. "Wait."
"Yes, Your Majesty?"
He opened his mouth then closed it before he tried again. "I was wondering if I might have another dance. Before the ball ends, that is. I am certain you have a number of admirers clamoring to be graced by your presence tonight."
"Oh." She was going to refuse. It probably wasn't proper by Archenlandish standards. But then she offered a shy little smile. "I should like that, Your Majesty."
"You would? I mean, good. That's good. Thank you." When had he turned into a blathering idiot? Ugh. "Let me escort you in."
He led her to the arched entrance and then paused. Looking down at her, he added, "I enjoyed our dance, Lady Raisa."
"So did I, Your Majesty." She glanced up at him then her gaze traveled above him and she blushed adorably before dropping her gaze.
Edmund looked up. A ribbon-bound bundle of the obnoxious little weed was dangling above their heads. He should not have felt elated at the sight. Before he could think about the consequences, he looked back at Raisa. "Lady Raisa? May I?"
She nodded but didn't look up.
He gently hooked a finger beneath her chin and pushed up. For a moment, they looked into each other's eyes and then he bent and kissed her. It should have felt no different than any of the other mistletoe kisses he had exchanged over the years but it did. Somehow this felt different. He wanted to deepen the kiss. To take her in his arms and kiss away any fears that he thought her capable of entrapment. But, then good sense reared its head and he broke the kiss, feeling strangely disappointed when she bobbed a curtsey and hurried away.
Edmund watched Raisa vanish into the crowd of merrymakers. What had just happened? What had changed? Why was he…such a dolt? He should have said something. What in the world was he going to do now?
A/N: Please Read and Review! Okay, here is a little teaser for you. Something nice and sweet and fun for Christmas. I may or may not have a new chapter for Brightened up tomorrow. In any case, from my house to yours, have a very merry Christmas Eve and Christmas! Leave a review and let me know what y'all think about this one.