WARNING #1: If you have not yet had the chance to see the new movie The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and do not wish for it to be spoiled, wait until you see it before reading on! I repeat, SPOILERS, ahoy!
WARNING #2: It also occurs to me that I should probably warn you to have a box of tissues well at hand if you're easily reduced to tears. This will be three chapters of angsty, sappy, messy, emotional moments and I'll do my darnedest to make them count.
Disclaimer: I own nothing in this marvelous universe; it all belongs to C.S. Lewis and Walden Media.
Author's Note: Hi, all! This is a request-fic for CoveredInGlitter—Edmund's thoughts, feelings, and actions during the single combat between his older brother and Miraz—Movieverse style. I've seen the movie once (mixed feelings on that, although certainly, there were points—like this one, actually—that I really loved), and had intended to wait until I could see it again to write this fic, but well…those plot-bunnies bite hard :winks:. On an aside, many of you will be happy to know I have completely revised certain portions of Nighttime Demons (and posted them, so go have a look!) and am now currently aiming to get out the fourteenth chapter as soon as possible. At any rate, please enjoy!
Summary: And this, this is the hardest part about being a younger brother, the worst part about being the younger king…(Moviebased)
By Sentimental Star
Chapter One: A Brother and a King
(Four Hours Before Single Combat)
There are certain advantages to being a younger brother. For one, you get away with things that usually leave your older brother sputtering in indignation (and trust me, Peter is quite amusing when he's flustered). For another, people will underestimate you—and when your older brother needs that element of surprise on his side, it's all the more advantageous.
Of course, there are other perks, too, especially when you are the younger of two kings. You are never quite so old that you can't sneak into your older brother's hammock when you're cold. You don't attend boring political functions because you are needed elsewhere for small diplomatic matters. You are never in the front line of a battle because, of course, you aren't the High King and you're far too precious to your older brother (who, incidentally, is the High King) to be stationed in the direct line of fire. You won't usually die because that same need to protect usually spurs your infuriatingly self-sacrificing older brother into situations where he nearly dies half the time trying to keep you, your sisters, and your subjects safe. Unless it is a tournament you are not involved in single combat because you can't stand the thought of…
Damn it, Peter!!
I drop my head between my legs and dangling arms where I sit scrunched up in one of the many torch-lit corridors of Aslan's How, sucking in several sharp gulps of air as I squeeze my eyes shut against the tears burning at the back of my eyes. Wonderful, I'm hyperventilating.
Definite Telmarine accent with a hint of Narnian working its way through. Caspian.
Doubly wonderful, I'm panicking in front of the last person I should be panicking in front of.
A hesitant hand rests on my shoulder.
A gasping sob shakes my frame as I struggle to control my breathing.
Silence a moment, then, "…You are worried for your brother, aren't you? His skills with a sword are not what the Chronicles say they are?"
Red. On the bright side, I can actually breathe again.
I snap my head up to glare at him where he crouches in front of me. "The High King's skills were legendary in our time. I assure you, your Highness, the Chronicles do not exaggerate them."
Inwardly, I wince at how cold my voice is. I truly do not want to antagonize Caspian more than Peter has already—or did, anyway; I think he's finally decided to quit being a blockhead and trust in the will of Aslan, and, perhaps equally important, to trust in Caspian.
Truthfully, I think if Caspian learns how to become a good leader (a lesson Peter has had to re-learn here), he will become a good king, as well. Perhaps more than good. He has the potential to usher in a new Golden Age, and we were the ones called to help him.
I know we weren't exactly welcoming to him, and Peter was an ass, but I like to think my brother has remembered what it means to be a king of Narnia; therefore, I do not take insults directed at him lightly. Especially when they are false.
Caspian surprises me. He smiles slightly, "Then why do you doubt them? You worry, yes, but with skills such as his, he is more than a match for my uncle."
I blink at him, utterly unable to come up with an answer to that and secretly grateful for the reassurance.
He catches me off-guard when he chuckles at my apparent inability to speak, "And here I had heard stories of how King Edmund the Just was a master diplomat."
He's teasing me. I can't believe it. He's teasing me.
I give a rather wet snort, liking him more already, and swipe at my damp cheeks. "Really? They must have failed to mention certain cheeky princes who came charging in to save our kingdom."
I am pleased to see him blush slightly. Seems he's learned a lesson in humility, too. "I do not know if I can live up to you and your brother and sisters," he admits softly.
Strangely, I am compelled to reassure him. "You don't have to, Caspian," I reply. "Ours was a different time, a different Narnia. Trumpkin is right—it is a more savage place than the one we remember, the one we served. How can you live up to what we did, when it is so different now? You have held the Narnians together, and you have called us here to help. I think that says something about how much you are willing to give for our people. Now you need to learn how to let go."
It is true, Caspian has enormous potential…but he must learn that mercy is for those who would give it, and revenge is not the path to fulfillment, however motivating a factor it may be.
And with an uncle like his, that is going to be doubly hard.
He is quiet a moment, processing that, before asking very, very softly, "And did you learn that, King Edmund?"
I grimace sadly, shaking my head. "Yes, but not very readily. I had to, or half the battles we won as kings would not have ended as happily," I press my lips together, "as they did."
Caspian shifts to sit beside me on the earthen floor, dropping his hand from my shoulder and resting his wrists on his knees as he gazes straight ahead at one of the carvings on the wall.
Ironically, it is the one that depicts me shattering Jadis's wand.
"Were you scared?" the question is sudden, and throws me until I realize he's asking about the moment the carving across from us depicts.
I snort faintly. "Absolutely terrified," I inform him without hesitation. "That, as you know, was my first battle. And I could barely lift my sword, let alone use it, but, well…fighting for your life does tend to teach you skills far faster than you can ever dream of—that I'm also sure you know."
His half-choked laugh let's me know in no uncertain terms that he does.
"I'm not sure what the Chronicles say about that battle, or what Doctor Cornelius may have told you about it, but the reason I was idiotic enough to race head on to face the Witch was not because of some misplaced sense of heroism, although Peter may say different--"
Caspian softly interrupts me, "You did it to save your brother…didn't you?"
I whip around to stare at him, jaw slightly slack. Precious few people outside my siblings and I know exactly why I charged Jadis that day at Beruna—Oreius, Tumnus, Philip, the Beavers, all of whom are dead. Aslan, whom Lucy and Susan will set out to search for at any moment; our close friends from Archenland—Cor, Corin, Aravis, King Lune, who also are gone.
But no one else. I doubt there was any way for it to get into the Chronicles. So to find that Caspian knows…it's a bit disconcerting.
He shrugs, smiling sheepishly. "It was not so hard to guess when I see how you interact with your brother."
I smile weakly. "We've often been told that."
Caspian nods. "There are pictures of you two in battle on the walls here. They always show you side by side." He hesitates a minute, and then seems to gather up his courage to ask, "What is it like?"
"Having a brother…what is it like?"
I have to grin. "Annoying."
It startles a true laugh out of him. "I can see how it might be. Especially when your brother is High King Peter?"
"Oh, Aslan, yes. He can be incredibly dense, always overly noble, ridiculously self-sacrificing, and I…" Dear Aslan, my voice…! It's cracking. Ruthlessly, I quash down a sudden sob, "…I can't imagine my life without him."
He gives me a very startled look for that, and as I bend down to rest my forehead on my arms, fighting tears with every ounce of my strength, I can tell he's trying to reconcile the image I've given him of my brother with the image that was presented to him when we first met.
Finally, he speaks, hesitantly, as if ashamed, "I…I think I can see that now. I did not want to before, but now--"
"Caspian," it's my turn to interrupt him, and I do so hastily, raising my head, before he can blame himself anymore for how he behaved. I know just how self-destructive it can be. "The Peter you met when we first arrived is not the Peter you know now. Yes, perhaps, things could have gone smoother, but that Peter was not High King Peter; that was Peter, a twenty-eight-year-old forced back into a fourteen-year-old schoolboy body. None of us took the transition between Narnia and our first world very well, Peter least of all. The entire time we were here, before we met you, after we met you, during the night raid on Miraz's castle, just after it…that was Peter trying to do everything on his own, trying to make it right again, and it was vastly out of his ability to do so until he put all that aside and trusted in Aslan." I sigh and bow my head, rubbing the back of my neck and muttering under my breath, "Just as I have to trust Aslan will arrive before anything happens to Peter."
Caspian's hand goes on my shoulder again as he kneels in front of me. "You love him very much." It is not so much a question as it is a statement.
I groan and lean my head down even more. "More than the breath in my body."
Caspian does not receive a chance to reply to that as two sets of quiet footfalls head our way along the corridor. Even without looking up I know who they belong to.
Peter rounds the corner with Doctor Cornelius behind him and pulls up short when he catches sight of me practically in tears on the floor. "Ed?" a note of well-concealed panic creeps into his tone.
That's my wonderfully irritating older brother—overprotective to the last, especially of me.
His quick footsteps cross the rest of the distance between us and then his warm hand is on my left shoulder as he crouches down in front of me, worried blue eyes raking over my bowed head. Yes, I know that with my eyes closed.
Caspian stands, but doesn't move away immediately. I feel him studying me intently before he turns to my brother, "You are very lucky," he tells him softly.
I feel myself blush, and pray Peter doesn't notice.
He shoots Caspian a startled, bewildered look.
Caspian probably just smiles at him. Then he turns to me. "I take my leave of you, King Edmund."
And I finally raise my head, opening my eyes to smile faintly up at him as he sweeps into a bow. "Edmund, Caspian," I respond with a slightly thick chuckle, as I usually do to subjects who are also my friends (although, certainly, he isn't a subject). "Just Edmund."
He gives me a bright grin when he realizes that I now consider him an equal. "Edmund, then."
He sketches a second bow and turns to go, intent on joining Doctor Cornelius who has stopped a respectful distance away from the three of us, when Peter stops him with a hand on his arm.
I am absurdly pleased to see my brother smile at Caspian, and to see Caspian, after a startled second, to smile hesitantly, almost shyly, back. "You'll find Queen Susan and Queen Lucy searching for a horse in the stabling area. I think you will be able to help them far better than I." He turns a great deal more serious, and intently meets Caspian's eyes. "I meant what I said after the Council, Caspian. We are not here to take your place, but to put you into it. I am only sorry I did not think to do this before."
And that is every bit the High King speaking. I don't think I have ever been prouder of my brother.
"What do you think of him, Ed?"
Caspian and Doctor Cornelius are gone. There is only the two of us here now. And as Peter settles down beside me on the dirt floor, I know he wants my honest assessment of Caspian. He has always trusted me in matters such as this, and I am incredibly grateful he has finally asked me now, "He will make a good king, Peter," I tell him truthfully. "I believe Aslan will approve. Narnia is in capable hands."
A small smile touches his lips as I watch him and he shakes his head faintly. "Incredible," he murmurs, looking down at his hands.
I raise an eyebrow. "Peter?" the one-word question hangs between us.
He raises his head…and smiles fondly at me. "You. You're incredible." The smile turns wistful as he reaches out to smooth his hand over my forehead. "You never doubted for a moment and you've been far more of a king than I on this trip."
I blush. "Peter--" I try to protest. Obviously, he isn't aware of how utterly terrified I am that things will go wrong, that I'll lose him—after just finding him again—before Aslan arrives.
His hand gently slides down the side of my face to cover my mouth, cutting me off. "Fear is not the same as doubt, Ed. You taught me that." He smiles again. "Even if you haven't quite learned it yourself."
I grimace lightly at him. When his hand drops away, I mutter, "I never thought I'd be grateful for the day when you nagged me."
His smile saddens. "I'm sorry," he offers simply. "I haven't been a very good older brother lately, have I?"
I'm left reeling. Where is this coming from? This is a Peter I haven't seen since our first time in Narnia. And as much as I hate to admit it's true…"Pete," I reply cautiously, "yes, you were an ass, but I always knew that you would come to your senses sooner or later."
His face, I am alarmed to note, tightens in sheer agony as he reaches out to cup my face in his hands, and then laces them together behind my head, gently yanking me closer to him. "I…I just wish I hadn't been so late. Or received them in such a way."
I look into his eyes—blue, stormy, tormented—and know he's thinking of absolutely everything he has done wrong this trip…and what their cost has been.
"I should never have left Caspian alone with Nikabrik. I should never have insisted on raiding Miraz's castle. I should have listened to Caspian, to you, to Lucy. Then maybe they'd…" His voice catches and he can't complete his litany.
The hands he has placed on the back of my head slide down to my neck and then my shoulders, before his arms suddenly engulf me and pull me flush to his chest.
He is shaking as he clings to me.
A droplet of wet warmth falls onto my neck.
His head drops onto my chest and a second tear follows.
I have to say something.
Moving my arms from where they are pressed between us, I circle one arm tightly around his back and use my other hand to stroke his hair. "Should have, would have, could have…Peter, everyone makes mistakes," my voice catches as several more tears fall onto my neck from Peter's eyes, and I know I'm silently crying, too. "Ours are just more costly than others because we are kings. It's cold comfort, but we've lived with that knowledge our entire lives. And how do you know something worse wouldn't have happened?" At the shaky sob into my chest, I firm my hold on him. "You don't know, Peter. And that's what makes it all right."
His voice breaks when he speaks. "I should have trusted in Aslan."
"Yes, you should have," I acknowledge as gently as I know how. He winces against me but does not pull away. "But you do now, Peter, and so, you always will. I know you, Pete—you never make the same mistake twice. I have full faith in that."
I have full faith in you.
But I don't tell him that. I've never been able to, really. I just hope my actions can speak for me.
The strangled (albeit slightly muffled) chuckle that rises from my chest startles me a little. "Caspian was right," he murmurs against me, then raises his head. He leans over to nuzzle my cheek, cracking a smile. "I am insanely lucky to have you."
If I wasn't blushing before, I certainly am now. "You're welcome, Peter," I manage to whisper.
A smile against my cheek and then he pulls back, swallowing and dropping his eyes from my face as his thoughts take a darker turn. I tense, knowing what is coming next, but do not release my death-grip on his shoulders.
Reaching out, he tenderly places a hand on my heart and gently starts rubbing it. His voice is terribly quiet when he next speaks, "This duel has every chance of going sour, Ed. You know that don't you?"
My throat seizes. This is not something I want to talk about.
I can only nod.
He takes a deep breath to steady himself and finally glances up, every single thing he is thinking and feeling at this moment displayed for me to read in his eyes. "If the worst should happen, Ed, take care of the girls, will you? And…and make sure they know I love them. And, Edmund, I…I…oh, Ed, I never meant to be such a blockhead. I--"
"Stop," my own voice breaks and my hands are shaking where I still grip his shoulders, their knuckles white. "Peter, stop. Please."
I don't want to hear this. I really don't want to hear this.
Raising one badly trembling hand to brush away the last of the tears still clinging to his cheeks, I am acutely aware that mine haven't slowed a bit. "You don't have to say anything. Please don't say anything. I've--"
But he's already shaking his head. "Ed, I have to. Please. You have to know. I want you to know. You've always--"
I cry out softly. "Peter, stop!"
And he does, if only because of the sheer amount of pain in my voice.
He sounds just as ravaged as I am.
Because this, this is the hardest part about being a younger brother, the worst part about being the younger king.
I choke on a sob, squeezing my eyes shut. "Because if you don't, if you say what I know you're going to say, then there is no way I will be able, in good conscience, to send you out onto that battlefield!"
Above me, Peter sucks in a sharp breath.
Before I know quite what's happening, I abruptly find myself jerked once more against my brother's chest. His arms crush me to him and several rough kisses are pressed to my face. He's trembling again.
"Oh, Aslan, Ed…" His voice cracks.
I can't bring myself to care.
I told Caspian I had learned to let go.
It doesn't get any easier with repetition.