I don't own Narnia or the Pevensies. I just can't come up with a witty disclaimer afterthought because I'm feeling about how Peter's feeling right now.
Author's Note: Gift fic for Sera and Tails, reviewer number five hundred of The Sea and the Siblings. Yes, I know four hundred hasn't been done yet - sorry Hadrianna, I'm getting there. And for anyone who's wondering, I will be writing another long Narnia fic; I have a plot and everything. So um. Yes. Go read now, shoo.
Peter, though he would never ever in a million years admit it, was sick.
He got up in the morning with a splitting headache and a dizzying, near-crippling sense of nausea, but there was no way – no way in hell – he was going to let anyone know that. He rose from his bed, splashed his face with cold water from the basin at the window, dressed in the first respectable outfit he found in his closet, and stumbled forth into court life. The sunlight burned his eyes. The political issues couldn't find a chink in his headache to clamber through. The noise made him want to retch.
"Are you all right, Peter?" asked Susan worriedly.
"Yes, fine," he slurred, forcing himself to sit a little straighter in his throne.
The day pushed on. Peter felt as though his temples would collapse under the pressure. He was freezing, teeth chattering despite the warm spring air, or sometimes he felt as if he'd been stuck in a steam oven and left to die.
"You sure you're not sick, Peter?" asked Edmund, leaning over to look at him closely.
"Absolutely," he said hoarsely, and black dots swam before his stinging eyes.
Lunchtime approached. Courtiers bowed and left, and the bell rang somewhere in the kitchens to signify that the Banquet Hall was now open to all who wished to dine. The sound rattled agonizingly in Peter's skull. He levered himself off his throne with much effort, took one queasy step forward, staggered, began to fall, and was halted in the process by Edmund, who stepped in and caught him.
"I'm putting you to bed, Peter," said Lucy firmly, and took him by the hand.
"Quite sure," he mumbled, his eyes drooping shut as he slipped off Edmund's shoulder and landed splayed on the floor.
He wasn't certain how he got there, but suddenly he was being forced to sit on the edge of his bed, and someone was pulling his boots off for him. Before he knew what was happening, his clothes were being removed and the mystery person (Ed, judging by the calloused fingertips) was tugging his nightshirt over his head and pushing him back to lie on the blankets. At the moment he was boiling, so when his younger brother made a move to pull the covers over him, he grunted weakly in protest. Thankfully he was understood and he heard Edmund desist to pull up a chair by his bed.
A minute later the door opened, closed, and he felt someone sit down beside his head. Suddenly, something cool and damp had been placed upon his forehead, and he thought he had never felt anything more soothing and wonderful. Small hands began to gently massage his shoulders, working away at his tense muscles. He gave an appreciative whimper which turned to a violent shiver as a wave of cold swept over him, setting his teeth chattering and his body quivering uncontrollably. A chair scraped against the stone floor, and the rolled-back covers were pulled up and tucked beneath his chin.
"Ed, could you open the windows?" he heard Lucy ask, but her voice seemed to come from far away. There were footsteps, dulled in his feverish hearing, and abruptly a warm breeze began circulating the room. He shuddered beneath the silken coverlet. The door again opened, then shut, and something was set down on the bedside table with a soft clank.
"I brought some lunch for us all," came Susan's voice. "How is he?"
"I'm fine," he managed to say, his tongue feeling swollen and his mouth dry. There was an unconvinced pause, a derisive snort from Edmund, and to his immense disappointment the cloth was pulled from his forehead . A cool hand replaced it and was quickly removed, a small gasp escaping its owner's lips.
"Peter, you're burning up!" exclaimed Susan.
"No I'm not," he mumbled, but he was ignored. There were shuffling footsteps, some more clinking noises, the sound of liquid being poured into several goblets, and another chair was dragged across the floor to rest near his bed. Someone climbed onto it next to him again, and he carefully turned his head and opened his eyes to see who it was. Lucy's familiar blue eyes stared back at him, a steaming cup in her hand.
"Drink this," she said. Catching his suspicious look, she laughed lightly. "It's just tea."
Nodding feebly, he reached up and took the cup from her, bringing it to his lips and tipping most of the warm drink into his mouth. It tasted absolutely, positively disgusting. Forcing himself to swallow, he glared at her with all the venom he could muster (not much) and rasped,
"You little liar!"
She waggled a finger at him playfully and retrieved the cup, which was still about half full, then proceeded to lift his head for him and force the rest of it down his throat. When he had finished, coughing and spluttering, she set it on the tray Susan had brought up and looked at him apologetically.
"I knew you wouldn't drink it if I told you it was medicine," she said.
"When did you get so smart?" he whispered hoarsely, his eyes slipping shut again, then flying back open as Ed snarkily commented,
"When did you get so stupid?"
Peter growled but before he could attempt to get up and maul his little brother, Susan interrupted.
"What Edmund means to say, Peter, is why didn't you tell us you were sick?" she said quickly.
"M'not sick," he protested.
"Really now," said Susan, beginning to sound irritated. "You're not fooling anyone, Peter. I do wish you'd grow up a little."
He didn't reply, but fully aware of how childish he was being, he rolled onto his side with his back to his siblings, scrunched his eyes shut and pulled the covers up over his head, still trembling with chill. There was an exasperated sigh from somewhere behind him. His entire body felt clammy and very, very heavy, and his head was still pounding relentlessly. After a few minutes in which he could hear his family eating their lunches quietly, Lucy tapped his shoulder through the sheets and said in her most polite, wheedling voice,
"Won't you have something to eat?"
"Just a piece of fruit?" coaxed Susan.
"Eloquent," remarked Edmund.
They gave up on the fourteenth try and left Peter to lie beneath his blankets miserably. He curled up into a ball, wishing they would just go away and leave him to be sick – no, not sick, never sick – not sick in peace. At last they finished; he heard more clinking and clanking and footsteps, the creak of the oaken door as it opened, and the thud as it shut. Emerging from underneath the covers, he was startled when his youngest sister pounced on him with a cheekily disapproving glare.
"You stay in bed," she warned. He shuddered weakly, and her gaze softened. Brushing some of the hair away from his damp forehead, she sat upon the edge of his bed and rested a hand on one broad shoulder gently. "Shall I sing to you?"
He made a noise that indicated a lack of preference. In truth, his head hurt so badly that he didn't want to hear anything at all, but he didn't have the heart to tell Lucy this. She smiled, squeezing his shoulder, and he thought he caught a glimpse of something very mischievous in her eyes before she opened her mouth and began to sing in her clear, pure voice:
"I once had a brother, a monarch so mad,
He claimed he felt good when he clearly felt bad,
No sillier ruler had ever been had,
Than Peter the King of Denial."
His eyes snapped open, indignity spreading across his flushed face like ink on wet paper. Lucy scooted slightly away from him, out of reach, but continued her song gaily.
"His family, they tried to assist him but no,
He pushed them away every time he felt low,
A sillier ruler we never did know,
Than Peter the King of Denial."
Peter pulled the covers back up over his head and groaned piteously.
"Now Peter, the King of the Clear Northern Skies,
Should stay here in bed 'till he's fit to arise,
You're not fooling us with your Peterly lies,
Oh Peter, the King of Denial."
Lucy leaned over, patted where she guessed her brother's shoulder to be, and slipped off his bed into one of the chairs next to it. She remained very still and silent for about ten minutes, when she judged by the steady rise and fall of the covers that Peter was asleep, and only then did she get up to leave the room. As she exited, she stole a final glance back at the bed and the tray still standing next to it, then headed off down the hallway. She tapped a passing servant's shoulder on the way to court and asked him to please make sure the High King didn't leave his bedroom until he was absolutely, positively sure that he was well enough.
That evening, Peter came down to join them at dinner, looking much improved.
"Still sick, O High King?" asked Edmund. Peter glared.
"I never was."