Author's Note: Although lots of other authors have tackled this scene, I felt like I needed to write one before I began my own big Narnia story that I have in mind. Therefore, I present to you an Edmund/Peter brotherfic. This takes place the night of Aslan's sacrifice, which, if I remember correctly, is the night Edmund returns to his family. It's mostly canon-compatible, except for one small spot, but it's not overly important. No slash.
Nagging Reminder: Please, read and review.
Disclaimer: I own nothing except for my own words, and even those are part of a commonwealth.
Peter peers up at the night sky, searching its darkness for answers. But the answers to his questions are like the stars - whenever he scrutinizes one, it dims and almost glimmers out of sight. Only by looking at it indirectly, through the corner of his eye, can he see the star glisten.
Peter does not like circuituous answers, however. His questions, although he realizes and acknowledges that they are not simple ones, demand straightforward answers. Complicated answers, or ones that walk a complicated path to fruition? Useless.
His questions are many:
How are they ever going to win the battle to come?
Where is Aslan?
Who in their right minds is going to follow a thirteen-year-old boy into battle?
Where are Susan and Lucy?
How are they going to stop the magic of the White Witch?
Where is Edmund?
Recognition dawns at last as Peter realizes this last question has the straightforward answer he seeks. Edmund is presumably asleep in the tent, the very tent adjacent to the sprawled form of Peter Pevensie.
But since all of these other questions have such abstract answers, Peter cannot help but bring himself to his feet and enter the tent to ensure that he's right about this question having an easy answer. Edmund, after all, has never been one Peter could count on to stay in one place. Edmund was always moving, always active, always getting into trouble or being exactly where he shouldn't be at exactly the wrong time.
So Peter pushes the tent flap open gently, not wishing to stir Edmund if he truly is asleep, as he hopes. He needn't have bothered, he notes, as Edmund is still awake, reclining on one of the two hempen hammocks - the hammock which Peter feared would never house an occupant.
"Hullo, Edmund," Peter mumbles awkwardly.
"Hi, Peter," Edmund replies. Peter almost doesn't catch it, for the response is so quiet, so awkwardly quiet for the usually brash, outspoken Edmund.
Peter takes a step forward, into the tent, into the convoluted path, and lets the flap fall, shutting out the stars.
"Are you all right?" Peter asks.
Edmund looks up at Peter. Whispers of the night grace his countenance, coming to rest underneath his weary, dull eyes. They were not always like this, Peter remembers; they were brown, yes, but a brown that was not lifeless. They were a brown that was full of energy, full of mischief, full of mystique.
Now, they are frozen into apathy.
"I'm fine," Edmund murmurs, flicking his eyes to the roof of the tent. There it is again: that soft, quiet voice that has Edmund's tone but nothing else of Edmund in it. Peter notices, too, that the voice is devoid of any whininess, any defensiveness, anything at all, really. Simple, factual, to the point.
Just how Peter liked things.
"I thought I told you to get some rest," Peter chides. He's still standing, about three feet from the hammock, unsure of what to do with himself.
Edmund continues to stare at the roof of the tent, hands reclining behind his head.
"I've been trying," Edmund admits, slowly.
Peter purses his lips, very nearly biting them. Something about Edmund is off - bollocks, everything about Edmund is off. He's quiet, he can't sleep, and most of all, he's not even complaining about it.
This is not the same Edmund that left him at the Beavers' Dam.
And suddenly, Peter has a flash of insight.
"Nightmares?" he asks, taking a minute step towards the hammock.
Edmund flinches slightly, but keeps his eyes glued to the tent's roof, hands cemented behind his head.
"Memories," Edmund corrects him, his voice's volume dropping even lower.
Peter blinks. He hadn't expected Edmund to admit to it. The Edmund he knew would have bellowed out like a charging rhino that he didn't have nightmares, that he just didn't feel like sleeping, that he wasn't weak.
But this Edmund, alike in body but not in form, alike in substance but not in style, this Edmund has none of that impetuousness anymore. This Edmund is admitting to his fears.
And Peter, still blinking in surprise, starts to feel an odd feeling in the pit of his stomach for this new Edmund, but he can't recognize it, not yet.
"D'you want to talk about it?" Peter whispers, taking another tiny step forward.
Edmund's body seizes up, as rigid as the stone figurines of Narnian creatures that the White Witch has transmuted. Peter looks worriedly at Edmund, his breath starting to catch in his throat. There was something dreadfully wrong here. Was Edmund ill? Should he go and get help?
His thoughts are stilled as Edmund's eyes sharply cut to meet his.
Something breaks inside of Peter, something that's been holding him back, and he bridges the gap between the two, moving forward and awkwardly clambering into the hammock. He hesitates for the briefest of moments as the last bit of driftwood inside of him tries to hold back the dam of this action, but then he makes the decision: Peter puts himself right next to Edmund, turned inward so he can see Edmund's face and body.
Edmund isn't moving, but his eyes are still locked on Peter. Peter raises his to meet Edmund's when he is finished situating himself. For a moment, they remain on one another, then they both look away.
For Peter, the pain is too much.
"You don't have to. Aslan said to let it go, and I am. I mean, I will, but...well...if you need to talk, I'm here, okay?" Peter says. He reaches out a trembling hand. (Why is it trembling? Why is he so afraid? And why does he feel like he cannot tell Edmund that he is afraid, too?) The hand slowly reaches Edmund's shoulder, and when it connects, Peter squeezes hard.
He's just about to remove it when he feels a hand on his own, squeezing equally as hard.
The hand is cold, so cold, and something breaks inside of Peter again. It's as if the dam keeps breaking, then reforming as it cascades down the river, but the water keeps trying, keeps breaking it.
And this time, the water pushes so hard that the dam goes flying into the air and out of the way of the river.
Suddenly, Peter's arms are hugging Edmund tight, tighter than he's ever hugged anyone before and he's crying weeping sobbing and Edmund is so cold so very very cold but he's warming up and before he can get a grasp on his mind his mouth is opening and he's saying,
"I'm so sorry, Ed, I'm so sorry. I should've done something! I should've seen it coming! It's all my fault. It's all my fault," Peter sobs.
Edmund shifts in his arms, and for one frightening moment Peter is afraid Edmund's going to get up and leave him there. It's what he deserves, he thinks, but he's too afraid to face the pain.
And then Edmund has his arms around Peter, and they're latching onto each other like a tree's roots clinging to the nourishing soil.
"It's not your fault, Peter," Edmund whispers, and even though his voice is controlled, it's still quiet, and he's crying just as heavily as Peter.
"Yes, it is!" Peter insists, squeezing even tighter, "If I hadn't been so terrible to you, you wouldn't have...wouldn't have..." he trails off. He can't say the word, because if he says it then it's true and he doesn't want to believe it still can't believe it still won't believe it...
"Peter," Edmund says sharply, breaking their embrace to push Peter out so that they're face-to-face.
"Look at me, Peter," Edmund commands, holding Peter by the shoulders. Peter slowly raises his tear-stricken face, still crying, to meet the equally as wet but somehow more fiery visage of Edmund.
"On the way here, Aslan told me something really important. He said, 'Everyone is responsible for his own destiny.' Yes, I...I betrayed you. And Susan, and Lucy, and Aslan, and all of Narnia, and I feel terrible about it. And if I could take it back, I would. In a heartbeat. But it was my choice, Peter. My choice. Nobody else's," Edmund finishes, breathing somewhat heavily as if the admission took all of the strength he had.
Peter raises his own hands to Edmund's shoulders. Now that the dam in his mind has been washed away, he sees the answer to his question clearly and simply.
Where is Edmund?
The Edmund he knew is still here.
The fire that Peter once knew is still there, the spunk that made his brother so fun to play against in a round of cricket, when he'd stomp around pitching a deliberately overdramatic fit whenever he messed up. The White Witch tried to snuff it out, tried to freeze it under layers and layers of cold, torturous ice, but she failed. Peter can see the fire back in Edmund's eyes - a fire which, oddly enough, rekindled because of Peter himself.
Peter takes a deep breath.
Ed, I was so scared. I thought I had lost you. Forever. I thought she had killed you. I wish there was something I could have done to stop it from happening. I wish I had been there for you, so you wouldn't have had to have been 'responsible for your own destiny.' But I couldn't. I was just so scared.
He wants to say those words, but he can't open his mouth to let them out. Instead, he just stares at Edmund, who finally takes a deep breath of his own to prepare to speak.
"She kept me locked up in the dungeon. Whenever the guard came with food, he'd say things to me. Like how worthless I was, or how I was gonna die when the Witch got tired of me, and how terrible I'd been to you all. Like how they'd destroyed the Beavers' Dam where you guys were staying. I was so scared. But all I could do was sit there, and wait...wait to...to die," he says.
Pain: it's not what Peter wants to hear in Edmund's voice, but it's something, it gives it color, gives it some life, and for that Peter is thankful. But now he feels like he has to say something. Something meaningful. Something to get rid of that pain, that cold, cold pain Edmund feels.
But Edmund takes another breath, so Peter just squeezes his shoulders a little more tightly.
"I thought I was never going to see you all again. I thought I was never going to get to say that I was sorry, and I know sorry's not enough to cover what I did, but..." Edmund trails off.
Peter takes a breath now. The pain is getting to be too much. He has to try something, anything, to get rid of it.
"Ed, you're back now. You're home now. That's all that matters," he insists.
They stare at each for a few moments, hands on each other's shoulders, before Edmund drops his eyes.
"She was going to make me a Prince. A King. And all I could think about was...was making you my servant. How...how am I ever going to make up for that?" Edmund whispers.
No more whispering, Ed. No more fear. No more pain. We were so close to getting rid of it. I'm not giving up now.
"Don't you see, Ed? You already have. I don't think I've ever been prouder of my brother in my entire life," Peter says.
Edmund's head snaps up.
"You mean that?" he asks, his voice not daring to believe it, but it's there. It's there. The hope is there, the hope is back, the hope that never left but was just frozen, like everything else.
"Of course!" Peter replies, and suddenly Edmund is in his arms, crying again, and it's Peter's turn to be strong. He strokes Edmund's back soothingly, almost instinctively, clutching at him just as fiercely as Edmund grips him. After a while, the hiccuping tears start to abate and Edmund's sob-wracked body begins to smoothen. They release each other, each face still shining with tears, but Peter notices that Edmund is smiling.
His brother has never looked better than he is now: face tear-streaked, dark hair tousled and stringy, bruised and cut and scarred, but smiling.
"We should get some rest. Tomorrow's gonna be a big day," Peter says wearily, as if the battle itself has reloaded itself onto his shoulders. He moves to get out of the hammock just as Edmund reaches for his shoulder. The hammock capsizes, and the two cry out as their bodies unexpectedly collide with the tent floor. Edmund lands on Peter, limbs askew, but Peter doesn't mind. Not one bit.
Especially because Edmund is laughing.
Slowly, Peter joins in as the two disentangle themselves. Edmund gets to his feet first and holds out his hand to pull Peter up, which Peter takes. He's surprised that Edmund has that kind of strength now.
His brother is growing up, right before his very eyes.
And he really has never been prouder.
The laughter dissolves into small titters as Peter moves to the other hammock, Edmund returning to his. Just as he situates himself into a comfortable position, he remembers the one thing he's forgotten to say in all of the trials of the day:
"I love you, Ed."
A few moments of silence, then:
"Love you too, Pete."
Peter smiles to himself. Edmund hasn't called him 'Pete' since...well, he can't remember. His memory of home, of his mother and the war, is getting fuzzy, like trying to reach into the water and grab onto a fish - even when you've got it in your grasp, it's still hard to hold onto as it squirms and gasps for air.
But Ed's calling him Pete now, and somehow the simpler moniker makes him feel like the rift in their brotherhood, that cruel, heart-ripping pain, has finally been mended. The dam of ice has been broken, the water is rushing through again, and nothing will ever stop it ever again.
Author's Note: Did I get it right? I hope so. Please review and tell me what you thought of it. Constructive criticism is always welcome.