Author's note: Hello all! My muse has so kindly returned to me, and inspired me to do a multi-chapter fic. I know that the whole 'Peter at school' line has been done many times, but I put several twists on the plot in my mind so it'll be different. Hopefully it turns out the way I want it to. ;)
And if you have any ideas to what's behind the title of this story, I'd love to hear them. Just a little thing I'd like to know about, if you've got the time.
An enormous thanks to my beloved little sister for proofreading this chapter for me. You rock, Boo!
Disclaimer: My disclaimer for everything I post is in my profile, but it's best to put it on the stories as well. ahem I do not own any of the characters that appear in this fic. They are all property of C. S. Lewis. My brilliant hero. Oh...and I'm broke, so it won't really do any good to sue me anyway.
A Battle Without Weapons
Edmund walked slowly down the beach, lightly kicking up sand with his bare feet. The sun in the distance gave the sky a warm, pinkish glow. The waves lapped gently at the shore and a small breeze caressed his face as it passed.
Abruptly, the scenery changed. it was pitch black all around him. He couldn't see his fingers if he held them out in front of himself. A blurry illusion of Lucy appeared in front of him, making his heart speed up a little. She was distraught and holding a quivering dagger out in fear. The youngest queen's voice came alive in the darkness, panicky and fear-constricted.
"Edmund! Edmund, where are you? Oh, do come quick! They've captured Peter!" Her face was wrought with terror as she cried out for him.
Then she gasped and whirled around. She dodged something Edmund couldn't see and faded out for a moment. Then she reappeared, panting and clutching her side.
"Edmund, help us!"
She ducked something and dodged out of sight. Edmund gasped and tried to go after her. But a rock hard, invisible barrier kept him where he was. He fought with it, trying desperately to catch a glimpse of his sister.
"Edmund?" It was Susan, she was looking straight at him but yet her gaze was pinned on something behind him. Something he couldn't see. She couldn't see him.
"Edmund, are you there? It's Peter, he needs you."
Suddenly she whirled with a gasp, as if something had startled her. Then she turned back to him, her face panicked.
"Edmund, please, we need you!" she cried.
Then she stumbled, as if she had received a blow. A quick gasp and then she fled from Edmund's vision.
Edmund called for her, desperately fighting with the unyielding barrier. Then Peter appeared. But unlike Susan and Lucy, he was not calling for Edmund. And he wasn't alone. Hordes of beasts surrounded him like a flood, each intent upon killing him from what Edmund read. An unbidden yell came from Edmund's mouth as he watched Peter fight. Rhindon flicked to and fro in a silvery dance as it felled his attackers.
Edmund slammed his fist furiously against the solid restraint, calling his brother's name frantically as he desperately tried to help him. And then his body ceased to move as a new enemy appeared. His blood ran cold. It was Her. Cold and white. He stared in unmatched horror as she advanced on Peter, who was unaware of her presence.
/Peter! Behind you/ Edmund called for his brother again, yet there was consistently no avail.
His throat closed in hot fear. /Peter/ His body came back alive, pounding and thrashing insistently at the invisible wall.
Edmund cried and yelled for his brother, hoping against hope that somehow the sound would get through. But it was all in vain. Edmund tried to turn away from the scene, but he could not turn. He tried to close his eyes, but they would not close. He was forced to watch as she came up behind Peter and in a swift stroke, pierced him through with an icy sword.
And Edmund screamed. Louder and more piercingly than he had ever screamed in his life.
It was as if time had cruelly slowed itself. Edmund saw Peter turn slowly, almost gracefully. His face was slack in surprise as he stared at the Witch's satisfied smile. His eyes darted around, and Edmund knew he was looking for his siblings. He was looking for him. And as his enemies faded and disappeared, he crumpled to the ground.
/NO/ Edmund staggered backward, flinging himself away from the scene, mouth opened in a soundless scream. /Peter/
And suddenly the barrier lifted, throwing Edmund to the ground. Edmund flung himself forward to his brother's prone form on the icy marble floor.
/Aslan, help him! Oh, God, do something please! PETER/ Edmund grabbed his brother's shoulders and pulled him into his lap, shaking him desperately. /Peter, say something, please! Do something! Oh God, don't leave me Peter! I tried! I swear, I tried to come/ Tears fell hot and fast down his face as he sobbed. /Oh, God/
Edmund hopelessly pressed his hands to the wound. Sticky blood gushed out, coating his hands in a sticky red glove. And then, just like the Witch and her minions, Peter faded away.
/No/ Edmund felt the floor in front of him in wild anguish. /Come back! I'm sorry/
The barrier closed in around him once again, closing off his oxygen. The faces of his sisters appeared around him.
"Why didn't you come, Edmund?" Lucy asked, staring at him with a stricken expression.
"Peter's gone." Susan said, her face twisted in disappointment at her younger brother, tears slipping down her face in silent sobs.
/I tried/ Edmund tried to scream, thrashing furiously, unaware of the violent sobs wracking his body. /I tried/
Aslan's majestic face replaced the girls'.
/Aslan! Help my brother! Help Peter/ Edmund cried, shaking with relief at seeing the lion.
"That was your task, Son of Adam," Aslan intoned, "and yours alone."
/NO! Come back! I couldn't do anything/ Edmund kicked fiercely at his enclosure.
Aslan faded and left him in darkness. The thick, coppery smell of blood was all he knew.
"PETER!" Edmund shot bolt upright, the high-pitched scream just leaving his tongue.
Peter's name echoed loudly in the room. He whipped his head this way and that.
He couldn't breathe. His throat seemed to be closing in on him, collapsing inward. Edmund gasped in a panicked rhythm, breaths coming short and shallow. Next to him, Peter was sitting upright, frowning sleepily at him. On the floor at the base of Peter's bed was a suitcase. It was packed and ready to go for the next morning. Ready to go with Peter to the university.
Edmund felt like retching. He clutched his stomach and forced the nausea away from his throat.
"Edmund?" Peter asked, swinging his legs over the side of his bed.
Edmund choked on air and scrambled away, tumbling over the bed.
"Edmund, are you alright?" Peter rolled out of bed in alarm, hurrying to Edmund's side. "What's wrong?"
Edmund looked up at him in hazy terror.
"Ed?" Peter reached out towards his little brother, but Edmund backed away.
He stared at Peter's hand like it was a ghost, he stumbled over his feet and fell to the ground.
"Edmund, what's up?" Peter touched Edmund's shoulder.
"NO!" Edmund cried.
He flung himself away from his startled brother, throwing himself at the door and running blindly through the small hallways of their house. Tears coursed down his face in the terror that had not faded away. The guilt and the horror pursued him faster than his worried brother did.
He dashed around the corner and ran smack into his older sister with Lucy trailing behind her.
"Edmund!" she exclaimed, startled, as she caught him. "Whateve-oh."
Susan saw the tears on her little brother's face as he struggled to get away from her, but she held him fast. Peter veered around the corner behind him. Edmund gave a cry of frantic protest and struggled harder.
"Edmund," said Susan softly yet authoritatively. A tone she had often used as Queen of Narnia. "Edmund, calm down. Take deep breaths."
Edmund fisted his hands in her robe and took shuddering breaths as he tried to calm himself down.
"That's it," she encouraged, rubbing his back, "You're alright."
Edmund caught a glimpse of Peter. He looked confused, worried, and a little hurt. Edmund buried his face in his sister's robes. He wanted to cry again. He hadn't meant to hurt his older brother. It just scared him so much, and hurt him to look at Peter after the nightmare. It had seemed like he had betrayed him all over again.
The terror of the nightmare began to fade as Susan murmured softly to him and continued to run her hand up and down his back.
"Let's go back to your room." She suggested after a moment. "And I'll go get mum."
Edmund shook his head violently.
"Alright," said Susan, "well..."
"Let's go to our room," Lucy suggested, tugging at Susan's sleeve and then looking to Edmund for consent.
Edmund clenched his teeth against his emotions and nodded, taking a steadying breath. Then he followed his two sisters into their room. He didn't dare look at Peter again.
"So what happened?" asked Susan, guiding him to Lucy's bed, which was closest to the door.
"Dream." grunted Edmund nonchalantly.
"More like 'nightmare', I think," Susan sighed, "Elaborate, Edmund. Don't hide."
Edmund folded his arms and leaned back against the headboard, tilting his head back and staring at the ceiling. He blinked several times, willing the rebellious tears to reside.
"Peter died." he said bluntly after a moment, voice threatening to break.
He continued to look at the ceiling, the image of his brother bleeding to death still fresh in his mind. He took a shuddering breath and pressed his lips together tightly.
Bloody hell, Edmund, don't cry.
"And?" Susan prompted gently.
Edmund's head snapped down from the ceiling, a fierce glare on his face. Lucy was sitting at the base of the bed, hugging her knees and looking sympathetic. Susan looked understanding as she sat in front of him. Peter was standing next to one of the posts at the end of the bed.
"That's all," he snapped angrily.
"We know that's not all, Ed." Lucy whispered. "Please don't run. We want to help you."
Edmund sighed as she entreated him with her large sea-green eyes. He looked away, running a distracted hand through his dark fringe.
When he spoke, it was carefully controlled, though it trembled ever so slightly.
"Peter...well, anyway..." He took a deep breath. "And I couldn't do anything about it. You called for me to help him, Susan. Lucy, you called for me too. But I couldn't come. I had to watch as she stabbed him." He was shaking in anger now. "I held you as you died, Peter. And then you faded. Just like everybody else did."
Edmund's jaw shook visibly as he clenched it hard. He determinedly avoided looking at his siblings, choosing instead to stare a hole through the window. He couldn't see it. He couldn't see the silvery moonlight splashing in and onto the rug. All he could see were his hands from the dream, coated with sticky, coppery blood. He could see Peter's warm, sun-like hair streaked with the same color. A deep red.
"Have you been having nightmares like this for long?" Susan asked softly.
Edmund nodded shortly.
"Precisely how long, Ed?" Edmund felt his stomach jolt unpleasantly as he heard his brother's voice.
Edmund steeled himself against tears and slowly turned to face Peter. Now he had reached a no-turning point. The signs were all there in Peter's face. He could see it in the way the china-blue eyes were set and the determined angle of his jaw. Edmund opened his mouth, but suddenly, Lucy stirred at the end of the bed.
"I think I'll go make tea," she whispered.
"At this time of night?" Susan asked incredulously. "You'll definitely wake Mum."
Edmund's gaze flickered to them in time to catch Lucy's 'look' directed towards Susan.
"Of course. We could all use some," the youngest said pointedly, holding Susan's gaze emphatically.
Then she hopped off the bed and scurried from the room on her light feet. Susan must have gotten the message for she, after a moment's pause, stood as well.
"I'll go help her," she said, before adding defensively, "she burned herself last time she tried to make tea."
And she whirled and disappeared from the room like a graceful masquerader. Edmund stared after her in blank confusion. Why would they leave? He knew for a fact that they were certainly not going to make tea. He suspected that they would probably head to the room he and Peter shared for the night.
Across from him, Peter cleared his throat. "Well?"
Edmund met blue eyes, only to receive one of Peter's notorious 'I'm-your-brother-don't-try-anything-because-it's-not-going-to-work' looks.
"Eight weeks," he sighed resignedly.
"Eight weeks?" Peter's clear eyes widened in astonishment. "Edmund, this has been going on for eight weeks! Why didn't you tell me?"
Edmund lifted his shoulder in defense, "Yes, Peter, eight weeks. I didn't want to bother you."
"Bother me?" asked Peter in amazement.
Edmund rolled his eyes at his brother in mild exasperation. Peter sometimes got stuck in a state of echoing when he was surprised. In Narnia the habit had dissipated, under Edmund's strict eye, but it appeared to have an annoying rebound tendency.
"Echo," he reminded his brother.
Peter disregarded him and gave him a long, calculating stare. Edmund sighed irritably and looked away.
"Eight weeks," said Peter again, realization mixed with pain slowly crept into his eyes. "That's the same time my acceptance letter came in."
"That has absolutely nothing to do with it," lied Edmund easily, looking Peter straight in the eye.
Despite the situation, Peter began to grin, half-amused, half-sad.
"Liar," he accused softly, "You always look at me like that when you lie."
Edmund sighed. "Alright, alright, I give. Yes, that may have played a part in it."
"Edmund, you should have told me. I could have helped," said Peter, sounding dismayed.
Edmund waved it away and there was a dead silence. A pin dropping would have seemed like a small bomb erupting.
"Perhaps I should just forget it and stay here." The remark was soft, and self-directed.
Peter looked thoughtful as he looked past Edmund.
Edmund turn a fierce glare onto his brother. "Oh, no you don't, Peter," he growled. "Don't you bloody dare!"
"Ed-" Peter sighed.
"I am bloody well not going to stop using the word! You listen to me," Edmund leaned forward, eyes glowing vibrantly. "You're going to the university. It's what you've wanted your whole life...well, your whole life in England." he amended. "It's time you stopped killing your dreams to take care of me. I'll be fine."
Edmund growled warningly and reached forward to gently cuff his brother on the side of the head.
"Don't you bloody dare," he repeated firmly. "Or I'll haul your sorry body all the way over there by myself."
Peter chuckled. "I doubt you could carry me at all, my dearest brother."
"Only brother." Edmund corrected swiftly, a twinkle in his eye at the memory the banter brought up.
Peter smiled and moved around the bed to join Edmund at the headboard. Edmund tilted his head around to look at him with a scrutinizing eye.
"Don't worry," Peter laughed, "I'm going. Don't look at me like that."
Edmund shook his head, all traces of amusement had left his face. "I know you're going. I'm not threatening you."
"Then what are you doing?" Edmund moved as the query was voiced, causing it to become rhetorical. Peter knew what he was about to do.
Edmund shifted all the way around to face Peter, an odd look flitting across his face. He reached out and let his fingers hover just above Peter's shoulder. Then, without touching him once, he traced his brother's outline with swift, sweeping motions.
Peter sat still, quietly observing Edmund's odd ritual. Edmund was memorizing him. Memorizing him in the only way he knew how. To be honest, the older boy was flattered. Edmund had only done this once before...to their father. Seven words flashed into his mind.
"You think you're dad, but you're not!"
That Edmund would be doing this to him now was more than he could comprehend. But he made himself sit back and allow Edmund to continue.
Edmund began to outline Peter's face in the air. And then he did something different, surprising to Peter. With a slight flick, his hand reached out further and put a feather light touch on his cheek. Then he traced again, his fingers ever so slightly brushing the surface of his brother's face.
"You've never done that before," Peter remarked quietly when he was finished. "Why now?"
Edmund shrugged and moved back to his spot against the headboard. "If I touch you I'll be able to remember longer."
"I won't be gone for that long, Ed." Peter reminded him.
Edmund blinked. "I know."
"Then I don't understand." Peter shook his head slowly.
"Don't you?" asked Edmund, shifting his head to face him.
He fixed Peter with a hard stare. "Did you ever see me do this to Dad?"
Peter shrugged, "Once."
"Right before he left," Edmund nodded. "But I never touched him."
Edmund made a noncommittal noise in his throat. "I'm not sure I really know." He narrowed his eyes thoughtfully, a faraway look taking over his face. "Perhaps I was afraid...maybe I didn't want to remember him if he didn't come back. Perhaps it was just pure cowardice."
Peter looked at him and put an affectionate arm around his shoulders.
"You will write me when I'm away?" he asked, changing the subject.
Edmund smirked. "The question is will the head tolerate an influx of letters bombarding his office every day."
Peter hugged him impulsively, "I shouldn't have even asked. But," he continued on a more serious line. "You will tell me if you have any more nightmares?"
Edmund didn't reply.
"Edmund," said Peter warningly, pulling his chin around so he could look at him.
"Swear to me you won't come dashing home if I do," said Edmund. "Swear it on your position as High King. Then, and only then, will I tell you if I've had nightmares."
Peter raised an eyebrow. "I could always ask Lucy or Susan," he pointed out.
"Do it," ordered Edmund firmly, though the corner of his mouth twitched slightly. "The Narnian way."
Peter gave him a playful shove and stood up. He faced Edmund, who mockingly regarded him loftily, a superior look flooding his features.
Peter bit back a smile and kneeled. He put his left hand on his right shoulder and spoke.
"To my Lord, King Edmund the Just, Duke of Lantern Waste, do I swear, dutifully, my oath to remain at my place of study despite report of his horrid nightmares. He shall write me daily, and in return, I shall submit to his request. A request upon which one exception I beg of thee."
Edmund, who was smiling now, no longer able to maintain his lofty expression, raised an eyebrow delicately.
Peter continued, "If thy sisters, our kin, do contact me with concern for your nightly ghosts, I shall return. My return justified by right, and position as High King."
Edmund nodded approvingly. "Then as my position allows, my dear and honorable High King, my brother, I grant it. And may it be that you never hear a single word about my nightmares from our feminine kin."
"It shall be as has been said here tonight," said Peter with a grin, rising and giving Edmund a Narnian bow.
Edmund abandoned all pretense and, smiling, launched himself off the bed to tackle his older brother, aiming precisely so they would land on Susan's bed. He certainly didn't want to wake their mother by landing on the ground.
Peter laughed at him and pushed him off. Then he tackled Edmund.
"Hah!" he said triumphantly.
Edmund shook his head, "You haven't won yet, big brother."
He grinned deviously and stuck his fingers into Peter's ribs on either side. Peter pulled back reflexively, a surprised gasp escaping his lips before he started laughing.
"Edmund...stop..." he gasped between laughter as he tried to evade Edmund's merciless fingers. "...you'll...wake mum..."
"That's just too bad," said Edmund with a mock-innocent expression.
Peter pulled his elbows in to shield his ribs and then grabbed his brother's forearms.
"The girls'll wake too." he pointed out with a grin.
"Alright, alright," said Edmund, relenting. "It's not my fault you can't admit defeat."
Peter ruffled Edmund hair fondly and then returned to Lucy's bed. Edmund followed him, jumping over his legs and settling in next to him with a tired sigh.
"I shouldn't have done that," he yawned, sounding not the least bit repentant. "You'll never wake up for the train tomorrow."
Peter smiled and closed his eyes, leaning back and resting his head against the headboard. "I'll wake up." he murmured.