"To War" by Gwenneth

Disclaimer: None of this is mine except parts of the plot.

Summary: Upon their return from Narnia, Peter is drafted to fight in WW2. After sustaining a serious wound, he returns home, still recovering. When Caspian sounds the horn, can Peter and his family find the strength to help restore Narnia to glory? AU movie-verse

A/N: This is AU movie-verse. I have not read the Narnia books and am not familiar with Mr. C.S. Lewis' characterizations. I've done my best to write these characters to what I've been told they are like. I have taken liberties with the characters' ages, and I have taken a few liberties with history. I have tried to make the battles I refer to here more accurate, but I cannot change the aspect of the story that has Peter drafted, even though there was no draft at the time I'm making one. It's central to the story and there is nothing I can do to work around it. I have the kids returning to their home a few months before the official end of the Blitz bombings, so that Peter can be in Greece in April 1941... I'm not a history buff, this is the best I can do. The engagement he fights in has to be lost and has to take place within about a year since the kids returned from Narnia. That rules out big engagements later in the war. These changes were spurred on by a few reviewers who said the historical inaccuracies were stopping them from reading the story and felt it would be a better piece if they were corrected. Because of the sheer volume of information, engagements and countries over which the war was fought, finding a battle that fit my needs was very difficult. If you do go back and read it, please let me know if you liked or didn't like the changes.

A/N 2: This story will cover from after The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe through and slightly beyond Prince Caspian.

Part One:

October, 1940...Finchley…

Peter sighed, picking through the mail as he walked back to the house. Bills, bills, and more bills, it seemed, were all the Pevensies ever got – occasionally interspersed with letters from Mr. Pevensie, who wrote them whenever he wasn't in the air helping protect Britain against enemy bombings.

After a few months in the country, the Pevensie children had returned to Finchley and it was now late October, 1940. The Blitz bombings continued, but they were targeting more industrial sectors now and so the siblings had been brought home.

Today there was no letter, only bills, and he knew his mother would be hard-pressed to pay them. Again. Though their father sent home all the money he made in the Royal Air Force, and though Helen Pevensie worked two jobs, things were still tight for the family.

"Peter? Anything interesting?" Helen Pevensie asked as she set the table for breakfast, not bothering to look up. It was a ritual of sorts. She would ask him the same question every morning, and if it was bills he'd say no, but if there was a letter from the family patriarch it garnered a yes.

"No, Mum," he said, tossing the pile onto a nearby counter and taking the stack of plates from his mother's hands. "It's unlike Dad to wait so long between letters."

Mrs. Pevensie nodded in agreement. "I'm sure there are many reasons there could be a post delay, Peter."

They ended all talk of the war and their father as Lucy came barreling down the stairs and into the kitchen. "Morning, Peter! Morning, Mum!" she chorused, her endless supply of cheer none the worse for wear that morning.

"Morning, darling," Mrs. Pevensie replied, kissing her daughter's hair with a small smile. "Are your brother and sister up yet?" Lucy nodded yes, and Mrs. Pevensie proceeded to holler down the hallway. "Edmund, Susan! Hurry up and eat or we'll miss all the good food at the store!"

Since the war had been dragging on, the Pevensie family and millions like them were forced to wait in line for food and hope that there would be something left by the time that they got there. Each of them would receive a little something, and they all went in the hopes that at least one of them would not leave empty-handed. It took the whole morning every Saturday.

"Coming Mum!" came the deepening, though still not fully-changed, voice of Edmund.

Susan didn't bother to reply, and instead just showed up in the kitchen doorway. "Morning, Mum, Lucy, Peter," she said, taking the nearest chair and sitting in it. Just as Edmund barged into the kitchen, there was a knock on the front door and Peter frowned.

"I'll get it, Mum," he offered, turning and exiting through the living room.

He reached the door just as a second knock came and pulled it open to reveal two men standing on the front stoop, garbed in dress uniforms with solemn expressions on their faces. One was wearing the uniform of a Royal Air Force officer, the other, a younger man, appeared to be in the Army.

Peter's eyes widened and he felt his heart leap into his throat as the older officer spoke. "Is there a Mrs. Helen Pevensie in?" he asked, clutching a piece of paper in his white-gloved hands.

"Uh…uh…MUM!" Peter's voice held a desperate plea and it brought Mrs. Pevensie scurrying into the hallway from the kitchen. She skidded to a halt when she saw the men in the doorway and her eldest son holding it open, his knuckles white and trembling.

"Helen Pevensie?" the RAF officer asked, but not really needing to since it was obvious that it was she. "It is with deepest regret that we bring news of your husband, Henry George Pevensie." He faltered when Peter's breathing seemed to stop (which it actually did), then continued. "Pilot Officer Pevensie was killed in action during an engagement with the enemy in September. He died heroically and you and your family have our deepest condolences."

Peter could sense his mother fall before it happened and quickly released the door and lunged toward his mother, whose legs had collapsed out from underneath her. The younger of the two soldiers caught the door as Peter caught his mother. She let out a loud moan as her eldest son lowered her into the nearest seat and Ed, Susan, and Lucy tumbled into the room.

"Peter, what-?" Susan stopped dead, Ed and Lucy smacking into her in their haste. Her eyes took in the scene and then she raised a shaking hand to her mouth and sobbed out, "No…no…no."

Edmund's eyebrows furrowed as his eyes darted from the soldiers, to his weeping mother in Peter's arms and the solemn expressions all around. "Dad?" he asked quietly, grabbing Lucy's hand as she reached up for him.

"I'm sorry, young man," the younger soldier said. He stepped forward and extended the paper in his hand towards Peter. The blonde stared at it, blinking, then reached out and took it. It trembled violently as he opened it and read: We are deeply sorry for your loss. Stop. Henry Pevensie to be awarded posthumous medal for services rendered. Stop. Pilot Officer Pevensie died heroically in battle and will not be forgotten. Stop.

The paper fluttered to the floor as Peter folded in on his mother and let himself cry. The two were quickly swamped by Edmund, Susan, and Lucy, and the five Pevensies shared their grief while the two soldiers quietly closed the door behind them and moved on to the next unlucky family.

November 12, 1940…

Helen Pevensie's hair was unkempt and her clothing rumpled, but she didn't care. She hadn't since she'd gotten the news of her husband's death. She didn't ask Peter if there was anything interesting in the mail anymore – there couldn't be. Not anymore.

Her eldest son cast worried eyes on her slumped form, hunched over the stove, as he hurried outside to collect the post. It had been a long, hard month since the news of Henry Pevensie's death had reached his family and in that month, his widow had not been doing well. She went about her business with a listlessness and rarely, if ever, smiled.

Peter had tried to step up and manage his family, but it was hard for the 16-year old to manage in a world where one his age garnered little respect. It was frustrating, because Peter had once been High King Peter the Magnificent. A ruler of a country. A leader in battle. An adult. Now, he was just a boy like so many others who had lost fathers – trying to keep his family together.

As he entered the house he reached a letter in the pile that caused him to falter, nearly tripping on the welcome mat just inside the door. The letter was addressed to Mr. Peter Pevensie, 25 Dorset Drive, Finchley. The return address stated that the letter was from the Department of the Army.

Swallowing, he turned the letter over and slipped his finger under the flap ripping it open. Inside was a neatly folded letter, which he extracted and with shaking fingers, unfolded.

Mr. Peter Pevensie, you are hereby ordered to report for active duty with the infantry as per the draft recently instituted by the Department of the Army. Failure to report will result in arrest and imprisonment. The train departs Finchley station at 0700 sharp on the 15th of November.

Peter crumpled the letter in his fist as he clenched his hand tightly. This couldn't be happening. He was only sixteen and he had a family to take care of. They had already lost Mr. Pevensie to the war, and now the army wanted to take him from his family too. "This'll kill Mum," he whispered.

"What, dear?" Mrs. Pevensie asked, leaning into the living room from the kitchen to find her eldest son standing there with a near-death grip on a piece of paper. "What's that you've got there, Peter?" She stepped over to Peter and, surprisingly, reached out and took the envelope from his hand. He hadn't thought that she'd reach for that and hadn't held it tightly. She turned it over and her mouth opened in a gasp. "What'd they say, Peter?" she asked looking up at him now.

"Uh…um…Mum, let's eat something first, okay?" Peter asked.

Mrs. Pevensie shook her head. "Peter, what does the letter say? Were they wrong about your father? Is he alive somewhere? Give it here, Peter." She held out a steady hand and Peter stared at it like it was something out of a horror show.

"What's going on in here?" Susan asked, entering the room still tying a bow into Lucy's hair as they headed for the kitchen. Edmund came in from the kitchen, still munching on a piece of toast.

Peter was still clutching the paper and now looked fretfully from his mother to his siblings. He knew there was no escaping it and he sighed heavily before extending the paper to his mother.

"I'm sorry, Mum," he said, before turning and moving past her into the hallway and into his own room, closing the door with a soft "click" behind himself.

Mrs. Pevensie's eyes scanned the paper quickly and with a cry she dropped it as if it had scalded her hands. She quickly pushed past her three youngest children and headed straight for her eldest's room, sobbing now.

Susan stooped down and lifted the paper from the ground, smoothing the wrinkles out of it as Edmund and Lucy crowded around her. Her eyes skimmed the letter quickly. "Oh no!" she cried. "Peter's been drafted!"

Edmund looked up at his elder sister with wide eyes. "Drafted? As in, into the army? As in, they're going to send him off to war?" His head snapped to the bedroom door that was still open and through which there was still a loud crying. He turned on his heel and hurried towards it, his sisters right behind him.

Peter was sitting on his bed, with Mrs. Pevensie in his arms, her head buried in his shoulder as she cried. He was blinking back his own tears as he lifted his head and his eyes met those of his brother and sisters. There was a silent apology in them, as if he needed to apologize for something that was out of his control.

"Oh, Peter," Susan breathed, hurrying forward and wrapping her arms around her brother from behind. Edmund clung to their mother, and Lucy wedged herself into the Pevensie tangle somehow. It was a long while before they separated and wiped their eyes.

"I wish you could run away," Helen said with a small shudder, "but I know you can't. Oh, Peter, promise me you'll come back to me!"

He gulped and shook his head. "Mum, you know I can't." He watched her tears start to fall again. "But I can promise to be extra careful…it's the best I can give you."

She nodded and enveloped him in another hug before standing. "The 15th is in three days. We'd best make the most of those days." She hurried from the room, muttering about making a good, hearty meal, leaving the four siblings in Peter's room.

"Pete?" Edmund was the first to breach the silence. "Peter, are you all right?"

His blonde-haired brother shook his head slowly. "I don't know, Ed. I mean, we rode into battles all the time in Narnia, but this is so very different. I'm not sure how I feel. I just know that I hate to leave all of you behind. And if something were to happen to me…"

"Stop it!" Lucy called out. "Don't even think that, Peter. Nothing can happen to you. Aslan wouldn't let it. He just wouldn't." She flung her arms around her brother, who lifted her into his lap. "He wouldn't, would he?"

Peter sighed. "I don't know, Lu. I don't know how much sway he has here. This isn't Narnia. But come on, we should stay with Mum right now. She's going to need the support."

The other three nodded and filed solemnly out of the room to rejoin their mother in the kitchen.

Seven months later…May, 1941…

In the months since Peter's departure, the entire family had taken to attending church every Sunday and were currently scrambling around in a mad dash, trying to get ready and out the door in time for the service.

"Mum! Where's my muffler?" Edmund called out, rummaging through his closet. "I can't find it anywhere!"

His mother's disembodied voice called back, "Check the closet by the front door, Edmund! And hurry up, we're late!"

Slamming the door to his own closet closed, Edmund bounded to the living room and opened the closet near the front door. "There it is," he murmured to himself with a small frown. He was just about to hurry off to find his shoes when a knock at the front door. "Wonder who that could be?" he muttered as he distractedly opened the door, still tugging lint off of his muffler. "Yes, can I help y-?"

He froze.


Carrying a letter.

Wearing dress uniforms and solemn expressions.

He felt like a freight train had just run him over and he clutched the doorjamb until his knuckles turned white. One of the soldiers looked familiar and when he spoke it was with a wobble in his voice. "Is there a Mrs. Helen Pevensie in?" he asked quietly.

"Who's at the door, Ed?"

The woman in question came into the room, shrugging on her coat, and looked up. She froze, her eyes wide.

"Mrs. Pevensie?" the young man asked, wringing his hands together. Upon her nod, he continued. "It is with deepest regrets that we bring you news of your son, Peter Michael Pevensie." With a shaky breath, he continued. "Corporal Pevensie died in Greece in early April. You and your family have our deepest condolences."

There was a thump as Helen Pevensie hit the ground and the young soldier gasped. Edmund released the door and ran the short distance to his mother, the soldier's words not sinking in yet in his haste to help her to a seat.

Susan and Lucy were in the room too, now, but neither had moved a muscle since the dreaded words left the man's mouth. "Not Peter. Not Peter too." Mrs. Pevensie kept repeating those two phrases over and over, rocking slowly back and forth. Edmund kept a hand on his mother's shoulder and looked shakily back at the soldiers.

They stepped into the house this time, instead of leaving the family to their grief as last time. The younger of the two, who had looked familiar, stooped in front of Mrs. Pevensie. "Madam, I am so very sorry for you and your family. I was floored to have to visit your home for a second time in less than a year."

That got Helen's attention and she looked up at the soldier, realizing that he had accompanied the messenger last time. This time, he had been the messenger. "I…I…my husband and son. When will this war end? When it's taken my Edmund too?" She gripped her only remaining son's hand tightly and the young soldier shook his head.

"No, madam. They can't draft your remaining son. He won't be taken from you by the army, madam."

Helen let out a small breath and reached for the paper the soldier still held. "A posthumous medal," the older soldier said, speaking for the first time. "Actually, one of many he received. Your son was quite the fierce young man, it would appear."

Edmund, Susan, and Lucy exchanged knowing glances through their tears. "Yes, he was magnificent," Lucy managed before turning and running from the room with a sob. Susan hurried after her.

The soldier stood. "If you need anything, please contact us," he handed Edmund a small business card with a recruitment office listed on it. "It's the least we can do for the service of your husband and son."

They left quietly and Edmund drew his mother into a strong embrace. They said nothing. There was nothing to say.

April 6, 1941…Greece…

"Corporal, get your squad up and moving. We're retreating to this position. We're getting pummeled here." Lieutenant Ramsey pointed a smudged finger at a small red dot on the map of the surrounding Greek countryside that was spread out in front of him. "Be quick about it, we're about to be vastly outnumbered."

Corporal Peter Pevensie, scruffy blonde hair peeking out from under his army-issued cap, nodded and hefted his rifle strap higher on his shoulder, snapping out a crisp salute and "Yes, sir," before turning on his heel and hoofing it back to his squad.

When the Germans, supported by the Italians, Hungarians, and Bulgarians, had rushed into Greece intent on conquering the area, Peter's division had been one of those that had been quickly mobilized and sent to try and route them.

Peter barely restrained himself from huffing at that memory. The British, American, and New Zealand forces were completely uncoordinated, and it was no wonder they were about to retreat to the island of Crete. Rushing about the continent had taken it's toll on the men, and Peter's skin and bones look was proof enough of that.

" 'Bout time, at that," he muttered to himself as he ran towards his nearby squad, keeping low and quick as he did so. "Third squad," he called out as he ran, "Pack it up! We're leaving!"

There were grunts in the affirmative and a half-dozen "About times" as the mud-caked soldiers, weary from the hard rain, gathered what little they had and prepared to retreat.

The sun was beginning to dip and Peter glared up at the heavy clouds that were moving in. It looked like rain – again. A fellow corporal, echoing Peter's orders to his own squad, came up beside the blonde. "How goes it, Peter?"

The latter shrugged. "So-so, Arty." He glanced toward where he knew the German lines to be, before shifting his gaze to the nearby woods that had up until now been a bit of a dead zone. He had a funny feeling it wasn't empty, and he'd had that feeling for a few days now.

Arty frowned. "You're looking at the woods again mate."

Peter sighed. "Just a feeling, Arty. Just a feeling."

The dark-haired corporal, who eerily reminded Peter of his brother Edmund, let out a deep breath and looked at the woods more closely. "Your 'just a feelings' have an uncanny way of being right, Peter." He tugged on the strap of his rifle as it slipped down his shoulder. "It won't be too soon to get out of here, that's for sure. I could do with a little less mud for a while. I feel like it'll never come off."

He was about to go on when a sharp report sounded from the direction of the woods. Peter's gaze snapped to the woods, all of his attention focused on them and he missed the jerk of his neighbor. He didn't however, miss the gurgling gasp or the body slumping against him. "ARTY!" he cried out, arms outstretched to catch the falling corporal as more reports whined and tufts of dirt were kicked up around them. He saw his friend's eyes roll up until only the whites were showing. Blood ran freely down the young man's chest from a ghastly neck wound. He was dead.

Peter's battle instincts kicked in and he lowered Arty to the ground, remaining low as he rushed along the lines. "RETREAT! RETREAT!" he yelled. "They're attacking from the woods, we have to get out of here before they surround us!" He shoved a young private hard in the direction the squads were pulling back and turned to move to Arty's squad, who he knew was now without leadership. As he ran, he felt the occasional bullet tear into his clothing, though thankfully few hit his skin. In the back of his mind, he thought that this was a very bad idea, but the High King in him refused to let him leave anyone behind if he could help it.

"Second Squad! Corporal Smythe is dead! You need to leave now! Go quickly!"

He gestured away to where his own squad had already evacuated. The squad had seen Peter around and knew him well. They wasted no time in following his orders. He urged them along, firing his rifle at the incoming German troops who were swarming from the nearby woods.

Machine guns and rifles were firing from both sides, hoping to take out as many men as they could. Peter quickly found himself hard-pressed to keep out of the line of fire and realized he was in a very precarious position.

So, he turned and took a step in the direction he had come from, only to freeze. Somehow, unbeknownst to him, the Germans had gotten around behind him. Now, one stood six feet away, rifle and bayonet leveled at Peter.

With a small grimace, the man fired and Peter was knocked backward and to the ground before he had a chance to move an inch in any direction. His hands clamped on his lower left side and his mind flashed to images of Edmund and the White Witch's wand, embedded in his brother's flesh. Was this sharp, agonizing pain that stole his breath away what his brother had felt on the fields of Beruna?

He didn't have time to think on it before another shot was fired, hitting him in the right shoulder. The double impact of the pain knocked him unconscious. The troops advanced along formerly British and French occupied land, routing out the retreating forces and killing anyone in their way. In their wake, they left a trail of corpses – young, old, fair-haired or dark, plump or rail-thin.

The attack had been swift and furious.

Hours later, the rain started to fall and with it came consciousness for one wounded soldier, presumed dead. Peter Pevensie gasped as awareness returned to him, his torso and shoulder on fire and the muddy ground around him rapidly swelling with water.

With a strength born of desperation, Peter rolled over and dragged himself along the ground to a place slightly higher than where he had fallen. There he collapsed and sobbed in pain, praying someone would find him before the water rose too high or he bled to death.

Unfortunately for Peter, the first voices he heard were decidedly not British and he couldn't understand a word they were saying. He jerked as a wave of pain ripped through him and a pained gasp escaped him. The voices ceased immediately.

Then there was a man, soaked to the bone, dressed in what Peter vaguely recognized as a German medic's uniform. Kneeling in the mud beside Peter, the man was speaking, but the boy couldn't understand him and shook his head weakly.

Instead of leaving him, the man reached forward and searched for Peter's ID tags inside his shirt. He frowned, as they were caked with mud and not legible. He looked down at the bloody mess of the young man's torso. When he asked the boy if he was a soldier, he received a confused look and then a small nod, which was all Peter could manage, his eyes fluttering as he struggled to remain awake. The young man whimpered in pain and held his breath, then jerked when it was hard to draw in more. The man laid a hand on his chest and leaned down to whisper soothingly in his ear.

Peter's eyes slid shut and he fell limp, never uttering a word. The German medic glanced around. Taking in the barely discernible features of the uniform, he knew this soldier wasn't German, but he didn't see any other medics – he expected they were retreating with the rest of the army -- and he couldn't just leave the boy here.

So, he acted.

Tugging Peter upward, he cut the uniform shirt from the boy's body, leaving only a white undershirt and mud-covered uniform pants. Since the both would be removed when the boy was operated on, the medic knew he could fool his fellow soldiers into thinking the boy was a wounded German soldier. So long as he didn't speak. Seeing as the medic was unsure he would even live, he doubted that would be a problem. The blonde hair and blue eyes gave the boy the appearance of a German anyway.

Reaching down, he pulled the ID tags off the boy's neck and tossed them into the mud.

Lifting the young man up, grimacing at the lack of weight, he hurried away toward the nearest ambulance and climbed aboard, tapping the driver to let him know this one was now full.

It had been exhausting. It had taken a long time and an ever-widening incision to locate the bullet inside the young soldier, but Heinrich Mulner had found it and discarded it with a disgusted look on his face, muttering about damned wars and dying children.

He sighed as he realized the young man's chances were rather slim. But his resemblance to his own son had been so uncanny that Heinrich could not leave the British boy behind to die of his wounds or drown in the muck.

As the nurses moved the gurney out of the operating ward, the doctor peeled the bloodied gloves from his hands and hurried to wash the blood off before running a hand through his hair and moving into the recovery ward. He watched solemnly as the nurses settled the young man on a bed.

He was pale, too pale really, but there was nothing to be done for it. He could only hope the boy would live, as it was out of his capable hands now.

Two and a half-months later …June 1941…

The blonde-haired youth was so still. His chest moved, yes, but the rest of him hadn't in a long time. While the young man had regained consciousness a few times over the long weeks, and Mulner had been able to get him to play along with his ruse, and had even managed to get him to walk around once, infection after infection had plagued him since.

To ward off more infections, the doctor had moved the boy, Peter he had learned, to an isolated room in the back of the hospital.

One day, all work that went into protecting his identity paid off.

Blue eyes fluttered, slowly wrenched open by the stubborn boy that sported them. A nurse noticed the struggle and called Dr. Mulner over. The latter leaned over the boy and spoke. "Peter. Can hear me?"

Peter's gaze shifted lazily to the man and he licked his lips before a tiny voice managed to say, "Yes."

Dr. Mulner smiled. "Good, good. Perhaps this time, you will get well."

Peter's eyes closed again and he sighed. His breathing was easier than it had been since he'd arrived. A good sign. Dr. Mulner took his temperature, and while a little high, it was not worrisome. He looked to the nurse, a good friend who knew the young man was not a German soldier, and smiled. "He may yet live, Helga, he may yet live."

It was a bright, sunny day in August, 1941. But the blonde-haired youth slowly inching up the walkway toward number 25 Dorset Drive, Finchley, was not smiling. He was too busy trying not to collapse in exhaustion.

After being smuggled out of the hospital by Dr. Mulner and Helga, it had been hard to find his way back to England. He had finally managed to reach Crete and then secure a flight back to the mainland on a cargo plane, the crew of which taking pity on the boy obviously in a great deal of pain. No one had believed him when he said he was a soldier, cared for by a German doctor and finally returning home after a few months. He had no proof, no ID tags or uniform to back him up.

For two months, he had traveled, stayed away from German troops, and trekked until he had caught another plane into England.

None of that mattered now. He was nearly to the door and all that mattered was reaching it.

A shaky hand reached out and knocked three times, slow and measured knocks that echoed in the quiet morning. No one was out and about right now, but churchgoers were undoubtedly preparing to leave.

The blonde heard scuffling on the other side of the door before it was flung wide open and a young, dark-haired boy opened it, calling out in frustration, "For the love of the lion, no we don't want to buy a vacuum doo-hickey!"

Dark eyes finally looked out at the man in the doorway and widened so much it looked like they were going to pop right out of the boy's head. "Puh…Puh…MUM!" In seconds, Peter Pevensie was enveloped in a hug from his younger brother Edmund and he winced hard, trying to pull away.

Edmund felt the jerking and immediately released the body he had never thought to see again. "Peter?!" He was nearly bowled over by his mother, who had seen the familiar face and blonde hair from the kitchen doorway.

She slid to a stop as Peter flinched away and held up a shaking hand, his left clamped to his side as he hunched over with a wince. Mrs. Pevensie moved slowly, reaching out and pulling Peter forward into a light embrace, tears of astonishment and joy pouring out of her in torrents.

Lucy and Susan skidded to the door in stocking-clad feet and with wide eyes stared at the disheveled blonde in their mother's grasp. Peter's face was still scrunched up in pain and he had only wrapped his right arm around his mother. But it was something.

"You're alive! Peter! Oh Aslan!" Lucy didn't even care that she had said the name of the great lion in front of their mother, not like Helen Pevensie would have heard it anyway, so focused on her son was she.

Edmund was frowning and wringing his hands as he watched the pinched expression of his brother grow even worse. "Mum, why don't we let Peter in, he looks tired."

Mrs. Pevensie relinquished her death-grip hug on her son, but kept his hand in hers as she moved into the house. She didn't notice that he was struggling to walk, but Edmund did and he put a steadying hand on his brother's shoulder, which earned him a pained smile, but a smile no less.

"How can this be?" Susan exclaimed, coming forward now with Lucy bouncing up and down beside her. "They told us you were dead, Peter!"

That drew the young man's attention. "Dead?" He frowned. "They must have just assumed when they left," he muttered, hand still clenched tightly to his side and drawing the concerned gaze of the ever over-protective King Edmund the Just.

"Oh, but now you're here and you are never leaving me again!" Helen reclaimed her position of hugging Peter, still oblivious, it would seem, to the fact it sent him reeling. But even though it hurt, he would not move her. He let himself relax against the softness of his mother and buried his head in her shoulder as she stroked his hair and sobbed.

The three other siblings looked on, unsure what to do. They were bubbling with excitement at having Peter back, but also budding with curiosity as to why they'd been told he was dead. And Edmund, in particular, wanted to make sure his brother was physically all right – since he didn't really look it.

"Mum?" Peter said with a slightly high pitch to his voice -- a pained pinch. "Could you ease up, now? Please. I…I'd love to stay like this forever, but it kind of hurts some."

Mrs. Pevensie lurched back as if she'd been slapped and her eyes fell to where Peter was unobtrusively clutching himself. Her eyes glistened with yet more tears. "I'm so sorry, Peter. I didn't mean to hurt you!"

He reached forward and brushed the tears aside. "Don't worry, Mum, you didn't know."

Free of all arms now, Peter shifted uncomfortably and frowned. "I don't suppose someone could help me sit?" he asked shyly, gesturing vaguely to where he had yet to release his side as reason for his inability to do it himself.

Edmund nodded and slung Peter's right arm over his shoulders so he could lower him onto the seat. Peter sighed in relief when he was seated and finally flashed his family the smile knew and dearly loved.

Susan surged to her feet then. "I'll get us some tea, you must be thirsty Peter!"

Her brother nodded at that and watched as Susan rushed off to make the family drinks. A small smile crept up on his face at the decidedly domestic action that he realized now he had sorely missed in the trenches of war.

The remaining Pevensies were uncertain how to start the conversation, so Peter took the first step. "I'm sorry they told you I was dead. It must have been wicked hard, that. If I'd known, I would have tried to get word to you sooner…" He sighed. "Though, I don't know it would have been possible."

Edmund frowned. "Pete, where have you been all this time?"

His frown deepened when Peter bit his lip. It must have been really bad for the question to bother him that much. But Peter looked up and met his brother's gaze and said, "I guess I better start at the beginning. We should wait for Susan…"

And so when his sister returned, Peter launched into the tale of how he was wounded, taken in by a caring German medic, put back together and after months of recuperation and then months of travel, had managed to return home finally.

By the time he finished, his voice was a mere whisper and he was refusing to meet the eyes of any of his family. It wasn't shame, no, but guilt. Guilt for hurting them by getting hurt and guilt for making them worry.

Edmund and Susan knew their brother had a thing for piling on unearned guilt, and took it into their own hands this time. "Peter, look at me," Susan said, kneeling in front of him. "I know you feel horrible about what we went through, thinking you'd died. But you can't blame yourself…don't grimace at me, Peter Pevensie, I know that look…"

Helen watched the interplay with interest, uncertain why it seemed her children were suddenly wise beyond their years and closer than ever. Lucy put a hand on her arm and drew Helen's gaze to her. The young girl smiled and gestured to Edmund, Susan and Peter. "He always blames himself," she said. "For everything. Even stuff that isn't his fault…and Su and Ed always try to get him to see reason."

Mrs. Pevensie watched Peter look over at Lucy and purse his lips. Then they tightened and his face pinched for a minute as he rode out what was obviously a wave of pain. She was surprised when Edmund beat her to the punch and reached out to force Peter to lay back.

His brother tried to protest, but was in no condition to thwart a worried Edmund. He looked between his family members before returning his focus to Ed, who was busy unbuttoning the plain white shirt Peter was wearing.

That done, he pushed aside the over shirt and untucked the undershirt from Peter's black pants revealing a reddened bandage that had been wrapped all the way around his brother's torso. Peter grimaced as Edmund reached into his mother's sewing kit and withdrew scissors. Without looking up, Ed called out to his sister. "Lu, can you get new bandages from the first aid kit?"

The girl nodded and hurried off. Peter mouthed a 'thank you' to Edmund, glad that he had sent the youngest Pevensie on an errand. In a moment, Ed was gingerly peeling away the soiled bandage.

He gasped in dismay.

It looked like Peter had been nearly sliced in half by a sword. A long incision marred his torso nearly from one side to the other. It was still oozing blood, which confused all of them but Peter, who knew it was because he had aggravated it a little too much trying to get home. Mrs. Pevensie and Susan both gasped and Edmund's frown got so deep it was frightening.

"How did this happen? I thought you said you were shot, Peter, and months ago at that," he muttered, partly to himself, but partly to his brother. Peter breathed in sharply when Edmund gently wiped some dried blood from his side, but did answer.

"I was," he said, grimacing. "But…" his voice lowered and he glanced around for Lucy. "But they couldn't find it, so they had to keep moving around until they did. That's why it's so…long."

"And the blood?" Susan prompted.

Peter frowned. "I got jostled a lot trying to get home. It reopened a bit is all. It'll be fine in time," he said quietly.

They heard Lucy approaching and Edmund let the old bandage lay back over the wound, hiding it from the young girl's view. Even though Lucy had healed many a wounded Narnian with her cordial, all it ever required was a drop in the mouth, never her seeing the mortal wounds.

"Here." Lucy thrust a wad of bandages into Edmund's hands and settled back into her mother's lap. Helen, taking a cue from Edmund, lifted her daughter and with a plastered on smile carried her into the kitchen vowing to whip up a quick batch of homemade, warm cookies to go with the tea Susan had made.

Edmund and Susan waited until they were gone, then Edmund revealed the wound again and rebound it. Peter managed to remain quiet throughout, but clenched his teeth so hard at times it was a wonder he didn't crack them.

"I wish we had Lu's cordial," Susan muttered. Peter nodded emphatically between two pained gasps. Finally, Edmund was finished and he levered his brother into a more comfortable position, reclined lengthwise along the couch with his back to the arm.

The three eldest siblings sat in silence for a few minutes before Edmund suddenly darted away. Susan moved to go after him, but Peter extended his hands to her and wordlessly begged her to help him up.

She frowned, but did so.

With a grunt, Peter wobbled then moved slowly down the hallway, using the walls for support. He reached his brother's room and without knocking, went in. Edmund had his back to the door and it was shaking with silent sobs.

Hearing the creak of the door, he sniffled and wiped furiously at his face, but didn't turn. "Su, I'm fine. You can go back to Peter."

A small smile graced Peter's face as he reached his brother. He said nothing, just reached out and spun Edmund around by the shoulder. The younger brother let out a half-restrained sob, at which point Peter drew him into a hug, half leaning on him for support.

"Shhh, Ed," he whispered. "I know what you're thinking, that you hurt me when you hugged me and when you cleaned me up. But really, I'm all right, you needn't feel bad."

That only increased his brother's sobs and Peter sighed, leaning his head down against Edmund's dark hair. They stayed like that until Peter began to tremble from fatigue and too much activity.

Ever alert, Edmund noticed and lightly – very lightly – smacked Peter's left arm. "You shouldn't be up," he said, chiding his elder brother. "Come on, let's get you back down and comfortable, oh mighty High King."

Peter smiled at that and nodded.

As they passed Edmund's desk, he pulled his brother to a stop. "Hey, that's my letter," he said, pointing at a well-creased piece of paper on the desk. Dirt and ink smudges decorated the edges, and Peter's elegant scrawl flowed across the page.

Dear Mum, Susan, Edmund and Lucy,

Things are well here. I can't tell you where here is because of regulations,
but I am doing fine and yes, mum, I'm eating. Whenever I get the chance
to eat. It's been a long time since I've been able to write, but a few things
have happened since I last did.

First, I've been promoted to Corporal and am now in command of a small squad of men. It's a bit surreal to think I have these soldiers' lives in my hands, but so far everything has gone well.

I have also made a good friend, another Corporal named Arthur Smythe,
though everyone calls him "Arty." He's a little older than I am, looks a lot
like Edmund, actually. Maybe that's why I like him so much. Whenever I
see him, I can't help but think of you, Ed. I miss having you around.

Mum, someday I hope you get to visit some of the places here. I'm in a
beautiful region, despite the war I can tell it would be a great place to

Susan, I hope you aren't reading all the time and are at least having a
little fun. You need to have enough fun for both you and I, since I can't
have fun for myself.

Lucy, I loved the poem you sent me and I keep it in my coat pocket and
take it out to read it when I need a little cheering up. I'm sure
He would
be proud of me too.

Ed, there are too many things I want to say to you and I'm afraid I just
can't say most of them in a letter. I think you know what I mean by that
so I won't elaborate. I miss you.

I love all of you and can't wait to see you again in person.


"You kept this?" Peter said, fingering the letter. "I didn't think I was writing anything special."

Edmund took the letter from Peter's hand and folded it carefully before tucking it into a drawer in his desk. "This came a few days before we got word you'd been killed," Edmund whispered. "I fished it out of the rubbish bin and have kept it ever since."

The brothers were silent before Edmund shook his head and said, "Come on," before leading Peter back to the living room. Soon the whole family was reassembled and they began to fill Peter in on what had happened while he was away.

It was only a matter of moments before Lucy had to grab the teacup from her brother, for Peter had fallen fast asleep, his head resting against the back of the couch and his hands tucked neatly across his middle.

All talking ceased and the four Pevensies simply sat and enjoyed their brother's quiet breathing. He was back. He was alive. He was relatively well. It was far more than they could have ever hoped for last night.