Title: After the Thaw
Fandom: Chronicles of Narnia
Characters/Pairing: Edmund, Peter (gen)
Disclaimer: The characters and situations of The Chronicles of Narnia do not belong to me. I make no money from this story. Please don't sue.
Warnings: Spoilers for The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.
Summary: Spring has come to Narnia, but the ice still tries to creep back into Edmund's heart.
Author's Note: Written for the 'keckle' prompt at Taming the Muse. Yeah…I had to look it up. I still had no idea what to write. Then I saw Prince Caspian, and the idea of protection from the ice grabbed me.
Her touch is like ice.
It always was, he realizes now. It was just easier to rationalize when they met in the frozen forest; harder to notice when it came accompanied by a warm cloak and Turkish Delight.
But it is undeniable in her dungeon. By the time they are off chasing his siblings, he's so cold that he starts to wonder if he could ever be warm again.
He sits on the floor of the sleigh, shivering. A couple of tears escape, freezing on his cheeks.
"Oh. Is the sweet prince sad?" the dwarf sneers.
"Edmund is concerned for his brother and sisters. He loves them so."
Long fingers caress his face before grasping his chin like a vice. He flinches, earning a curl of cold lips before they touch his cheek, a mockery of a mother's kiss to go along with the bone-chilling words.
"No need for worry, dearest. I'll not rest until I find them."
Edmund wakes in a cold sweat, trembling, icy tendrils reaching for his heart.
He's put it behind him in his waking hours, as much as is possible, anyway. What's done is done, Aslan had said. The great Lion also forgave him of everything, making him feel clean in a way he'd thought he never would again.
But at night, with his subconscious driving his dreams, he relives it. He knows he shouldn't; knows that all his mistakes have been paid for. It feels like disrespect for Aslan's sacrifice to still obsess over it now. But the memories bring back the emotions—the yearning, the terror, the shame. They are hard to simply push aside.
He can never go back to sleep after these dreams. He used to curl into a ball and huddle under the covers, tormented by half-coherent thoughts and shivering until dawn. He's since abandoned that in favor of wandering the castle. He likes exploring in the quiet; he tells himself he likes the solitude.
Tonight he winds up on the balcony outside the library, overlooking the sea far below. He sits on the floor such that he can see through the bars and watch the gentle waves rolling in.
The night would be pleasantly cool were he not still shivering from the nightmare. He hunches in on himself to preserve heat and just sits, his mind miles away from the beauty before him.
He hears the footsteps a moment before a blanket is unceremoniously draped over his shoulders. He doesn't bother turning to look. "I'm eventually going to learn who is ratting me out, you know," he announces matter-of-factly. "And when I do, they're going to get a stern talking to. The High King needs his sleep."
Peter scoffs as he settles beside him. "And you don't?"
It isn't as if this is a nightly occurrence, but when it does happen, Peter finds him more often than not. As much as he appreciates his brother's presence, he can't help but feel a bit guilty about it. "I don't have that much choice in the matter," he admits.
Peter's hand strokes his back once before he settles back against the wall. "Tell me," he says simply.
No need to elaborate; he knows there was a nightmare, and he knows what it was about. Edmund made a solemn promise once to tell Peter everything. One would think that the whole sordid story would have poured out by now.
But he usually divulges something new each night, some new detail that his dreams have dredged up. It's not that he's forgotten, just that he's pushed some bits of memory aside. Eventually, he's sure he'll run out. He wasn't with her that long, really.
It only felt like an eternity.
"She kissed me," he confesses softly.
"What?" Peter straightens, his tone suddenly dead serious and a bit dangerous.
"On the cheek," he's quick to clarify. "Like some relative…" But, no. More intimate than that. "Like a mother," he chokes out softly.
Peter's voice is still tight, anger held carefully in check. "She had no right to do that."
"I went to her willingly," he reminds. "I chose her over my family."
"She misled you," Peter counters.
"Yes, but I didn't exactly make it difficult for her."
"Ed…you were just a lonely boy." He holds up a hand to stave off the protest he expects any time he refers to Edmund as a child. "A lonely, hurting boy wrestling with difficult times. She played on your insecurities."
"My nastiness, you mean," he says ruefully.
"No. Not saying there wasn't nastiness involved, but that was never the heart of it. We both know that," Peter says pointedly.
They do, and they've talked about it before. Though he refused to excuse his actions, Edmund had finally admitted that yes, they had stemmed from hurt and fears and yearnings for relationships he didn't seem able to work. What was frightening was how very easily Jadis had picked up on it and used it to her advantage.
He absently puts a hand to his cheek, remembering. The moment is vivid now. He'd sat there stiffly, refusing to give her the satisfaction by trying to fight. A few more tears had fallen as the yearning for his family—for real affection—had soared.
Peter gently grasps his hand, pulling him from the memory as he pulls it away from his cheek, squeezing once before he lets go.
Edmund offers him a soft smile. He has to admit, talking to Peter does always tend to help.
On their third nightly encounter, Peter had addressed the solitary exploring routine. "You don't have to wander around alone, you know."
"How else am I going to learn all the secrets of Cair Paravel?" Edmund had returned, because he couldn't really respond to the statement. He'd known it was true, that he could skip the introspection and go straight to his brother. Peter's become overly affectionate since they came to Narnia…or rather, since Edmund was rescued. The newly christened High King is sensitive to his brother's feelings and infinitely patient with his doubts and fears. He wouldn't mind at all if Edmund simply came into his room and crawled into the warmth of his bed, seeking comfort like he had when they were smaller.
Aslan's love is at his core, but Peter's affection and faith are what fortify the armor around Edmund's heart. Peter keeps the ice at bay.
He knows Peter sees the big brother mantle as an imperative to always protect them from the friction of the world, to stand between them and anything that might hurt them. In fact, Peter's become a bit drastic with that of late.
He also knows his brother would give anything to turn back the clock; to have protected him in the first place. But it was never Peter's fault. Edmund was responsible for choosing his own path, for allowing jealousy and hurt to make him a traitor.
As much as he needs the protection his brother offers, he also needs to be able to stand on his own. When faced with his next difficult choice, he wants to make the right decisions. He wants to stand at Peter's side, not behind him, shielded from the world. That is why he won't allow himself to play the scared child.
Peter breaks into his thoughts with a pronouncement. "You know, if you're going to skulk around the castle at night, you should at least have proper attire." He gestures to Edmund's bare foot peeking out from the blanket. "Where are your slippers? Or socks, at least?" With no further warning Peter grabs his exposed foot and tugs it into his lap, warm fingers moving to massage warmth back in.
It tickles, and Edmund yelps an indignant, "Peter!" that breaks in a giggle as he instinctively tries to pull away. But he's already off-balance, and he only ends up sprawled awkwardly back on his elbows, foot still securely in Peter's grasp.
Peter's grinning at him, amused. Edmund rolls his eyes and pointedly tugs on his foot. Peter doesn't let go, instead raising an eyebrow. "Don't you dare," Edmund scowls.
It's the wrong thing to say, for Peter takes it as a challenge. Fingers scrabble against his foot and he can't help but giggle again as he brings his other foot up, planting it against Peter's thigh and pushing until he loses his own balance and tips the other way.
Peter's laughing too as he regains his balance and relents. He offers him a hand and tugs him upright. Then he keeps tugging, pulling him off-balance such that Edmund tips into him. He plants a kiss on his cheek, on the very spot Edmund had reached to protect earlier. It's warm and sloppy and brotherly…almost fatherly.
Edmund wrinkles his nose and rubs at his cheek with obligatory disgust, but the gesture makes tears prick at the back of his eyes.
Peter catches his gaze and smiles. "It's only an hour 'til dawn. What do you say? A game of chess before all the business of kingship?"
"Only if you are prepared to be crushed, dear brother."
"Crushed? Brave word, little brother." He grabs for Edmund as he stands, only succeeding in getting a handful of blanket.
Edmund twists away, snickering and leading Peter on a merry chase to the chess set.
There are more nights like this, many more. But they become fewer and further between as the days are filled by maturing and healing. Eventually, the dreams fade.
When winter comes 'round again, he can handle the cold.