Title: Phileín tén Adelphón
Disclaimer: I do not own the Chronicles of Narnia or the crossover character I borrowed for this.
Note: The answer to challenge 22: Love. As the title suggests (classical Greek meaning 'to love a brother'), this is not erotic love, but fraternal love. Which means not slash/incest. Not that I would write that anyway, I just wanted readers to understand that this is purely about love for one's brother. This is also a slight crossover, but knowing the other fandom is not necessary for reading this, in fact, I don't even call the character by his name. I'm actually not quite sure where this story came from, and I wrote it rather late at night, so if it's confusing please tell me how I could make it better.
Peter, High King of Narnia, sat with his back against a large maple tree, his head buried in his arms as he tried to hold back tears. He knew he shouldn't be here, alone in the gardens. He should be inside the castle, in the healing ward, watching over his brother who even now struggled against the horrible fever that held him in its grasp. But he could not. He could not show how Edmund's pain broke his heart, could not show how he cared. So even as Edmund pleaded with fever-glazed eyes, Peter had just looked at his beloved brother with heartless frost and left without any words of comfort.
How often had he turned away from Edmund so in these past few months? For the year since they had been crowned rulers of Narnia, the two brothers had grown close as they healed the rift that had been between them before. After that year, though, near the anniversary of the Battle of Beruna, the rift opened again as Edmund took a wound in battle meant for his older brother. Peter shuddered as he remembered the horror of that fight as he realized that Edmund had nearly been killed. Killed because he loved Peter. It had been then that the High King vowed that he would break Edmund of loving him, for how could Peter stand it if he lost Edmund because the younger brother could not bear to lose the elder.
So Peter became like ice to his brother, keeping him at arms length and further, for his own protection. The hurt in Edmund's eyes nearly shattered his resolve, but Peter remained firm in his vow. Even now as the younger king burned with fever, Peter left him alone for fear he might destroy the barrier he had built between them.
"You should not fear love, young one."
Peter's head shot up, shocked to see the figure of a man standing before him. He was not Archenlandish or Calormene, that was certain, for his hair was dark as the night that was swiftly approaching, but skin pale and eyes grey like the sea. "Who are you?"
The man smiled, though his eyes held an echo of pain. "A friend sent by the one you call Aslan."
Though still wary, Peter felt a sense of ease about this stranger and somehow knew that he spoke truthfully. The man seemed to recognize this acceptance for he moved forward and sat next to Peter. Up close, the High King saw that the man was dressed in a tunic of a different style than any he knew, and that he carried no weapon, only a white horn similar to the kind which his sister, Susan, carried. "Why has Aslan sent you here, friend?"
"Because I understand why you fear your brother's love."
Peter gaped. How did this man know his inner thoughts? "What…"
The man laughed softly. "I too have - had - a younger brother. We both were warriors who fought against the darkness encroaching on our lands. And my greatest fear was never for my own safety but for his. It is the right of all older brothers, I think, to want to protect their younger brothers from harm."
"Edmund," Peter paused and took a deep breath as he found necessary every time he thought of that last battle. "Edmund nearly died. He used his body as a bloody shield to protect me and he nearly died." Oh, how he wished he had used a curse other than 'bloody', for that only brought up images of Edmund lying motionless on the grassy field.
The man placed a gentle hand on Peter's shoulder. "And you think keeping Edmund away from you, hurting him, will stop him from doing so again." Peter nodded and the man sighed, shaking his head. "If only it could work that way. Unfortunately, it only makes things worse.
Peter looked at the man's face, grey eyes looking into the distance as if seeing a memory play out in front of him. "What do you mean?"
"I once tried the same with my own brother. We were not often in the same battles, but it would happen often enough that I noticed his recklessness when it came to protecting himself if I were in danger. I did what you are trying, and it did no good. In the very next battle he took an arrow that had been aimed at my back. It did not matter how I tried to keep him from the danger of loving me, it did not work." The man looked down at Peter. "You cannot stop your brother from loving you. You cannot stop him from risking his life to save yours, just as he cannot stop you from the same. Or do you think he could make you hate him to the point that you would no longer protect him?"
Peter glared. "Never! I could never hate Edmund, no matter what. I would die to protect him…"
Even as the realization hit Peter, the man nodded. "As my brother told me after I confessed the reason behind my actions to him, younger brothers believe they have as much right to protect their loved ones as much as the elder does. Peter," the man's eyes turned even more serious as he used the High King's name for the first time, "Peter, death could take you, could take your brother, at any time. You will never stop fearing for him, but do not let that keep you from showing him your love, lest you lose him and he believes you hate him for that is worse than death. I am thankful that I learned this quickly, that my brother and I had time together before we were parted for the last time. Our father…I do not believe he did and he suffered greatly for it."
They sat there in silence for a long moment, Peter contemplating the man's words and the man remembering his past. Then the man stood and helped the High King to his feet. Peter clasped the man's forearm in a firm handshake. "Thank you, sir. I think now I will go see to Edmund. Will you not stay as an honored guest?"
Smiling, the man shook his head. "I thank you, but my mission here is complete. Go to your brother, and may He who here is called Aslan bless you and keep you and yours safe."
"And you." Peter started heading towards the door, but stopped and turned back to the man. "Sir, your brother…how did you handle his death?"
The man gave a humorless laugh. "I did not." At Peter's questioning look, he continued. "In the end, it was not I who had to grieve the death of a loved one."
Before Peter could inquire further, the sound of a door slamming behind him startled the king and he turned around. Seeing that it was only a wind that had blown a door shut, Peter again turned only to find himself alone in the garden. After staring a moment, he shook his head and hurried into the castle, dashing quickly to the healer's ward.
There he found his brother asleep, his face pale against the white pillow. Kneeling next to the bed, Peter brushed Edmund's dark hair away from his face, pleased to feel that the fever had broken. "Oh Ed, I'm so sorry," he whispered. "I just wanted to protect you. I couldn't live with myself if you died to save me, died because you loved me. I'm sorry."
"You should be." Startled, Peter jerked his hand away only to have it caught in the pale hands of his brother. Edmund's dark eyes, now open, glared at him. "You git, you have no right to tell me not to love you. You're my brother, and I'm not about to let you get killed if I can help it, and no amount of you trying to keep me from loving you will stop me.
Peter gripped Edmund's hands tightly. "I know. I just…I don't want anything to happen to you. I love you, Ed."
Edmund smiled and shakily pushed himself into a seated position. "I love you too, Peter. And I will be careful. Just don't expect me to sit by and let you get killed."
Peter pulled his brother close so that Edmund, weakened from fever, could lean against his shoulder. "As long as you don't expect me to sit by and let you be killed."
"Deal." The brothers managed to shake hands before pulling each other into a tight embrace. As they did so, a long, clear note rang outside Cair Paravel, the sound of the horn lying on the wind then slowly disappearing into the night.
Edmund looked at Peter, his forehead furrowed in confusion. "What was that?"
Peter just smiled as he glanced towards the window that looked out over the garden. "A friend. Just a friend going home."
Did anyone guess the crossover character? The big clue was the horn he wore, which is, in fact, the Horn of Gondor, meaning our other older brother was, of course, Boromir son of Denethor from Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. And if anyone's wondering how Boromir could be in Narnia…the background I have is that he serves Eru(the Emperor over the Sea) as a sort of guiding angel wherever he is needed.