I wasn't going to write this story. Really, I wasn't. I had all sorts of dialogue planned and figured out who would do the talking and whether or not I could get away with a hug, but I said to myself: No; I will be strong; I will persevere.
And then I watched Prince Caspian on DVD for the first time and saw the approximately 0.85 seconds during the final battle with the Telmarines, which were, in my opinion as a freakishly rabid Edmund fan, the best moment of the movie. You know. Peter and Caspian and the gang just had the How doorway destroyed so they can't get back in, and Aslan still hasn't shown up, and they know they've got to make one final charge that will probably end in their deaths, and just before they start running toward a huge group of people who really want to kill them, Edmund practically leaps into the frame, runs right up to Peter's side, throws down his crossbow, grabs his sword, and then looks right at Peter like: "Ok, I'm next to you. We can get started now."
The caliber of this fic isn't very impressive, but really, after seeing that, I didn't have much of a choice.
Note on the language in this fic: I don't usually employ "swears" in my fics, mostly because I think it's out of character. This time, though, just seemed to fit. No offense intended.
He does more for Peter than he thinks Peter even realizes.
"Girls get off here?" asks Peter's voice—way too loudly—in his ear.
It's not just because he's his brother. Brothers have...well they have things they have to do. He has to dive into that brawl at the tube station and beat on the greasy fellow who's trying to bust Peter's head open. He has to slide down a ridiculously bumpy roof—he's still got bruises down his back—and land on a chap who's about to fire a crossbow at Peter and not let him fire the bloody crossbow. He has to stand behind a sheet of ice that's not cold and stare at the back of a woman who's not there and try to think of something, anything that he can do with a sword and his bare hands that could possibly make it all go away and stop tricking Peter into becoming what he's not. (He decides on stabbing it, even though he knows a sword won't be able to touch something this magical, but to his surprise, everything shatters and then Peter is whole again.) These aren't choices and they aren't sacrifices. They're part and parcel of family-ness and he would do it for the rest of them too.
But he does more for Peter.
Edmund jumps in his seat (a difficult talent, but one he's mastered). "No, next stop, and then they get on the north train and we take the eleven-thirty." He winces. "How is it I can remember that off the top of my head when I've been in Narnia for three days?" It's like being dizzy, he thinks, even though you know you're spinning in the right direction.
"I've always thought time goes a little loopy between here and there." Peter plops down next to him and tries unsuccessfully to stow his suitcase under the bench. "I mean—obviously—but have you noticed, we haven't eaten since Caspian was crowned..." he checks his pocket watch, "...five hours ago, but I'm full from breakfast in Finchley. Queer, isn't it?"
"I wish we were still wearing our Narnian clothes," Edmund grumbles. "Why can we get our British school uniforms back, and not my torch?"
"Didn't it break during the raid?"
"Shouldn't make a difference. You ripped your shirt and it's back all right."
Peter squirms. "Starched just as stiff as when we left, too, fancy that."
The train whistle screams—they're drawing nearer to the station and slowing down. Edmund can hear girls giggling in the next compartment over and a few small families and some teenagers making their way down the cramped aisle to get off. It isn't until after they've moved on and are making good speed again that Peter, who seemed to be deep in thought the whole time, speaks up. "Suppose it was me and not just my shirt."
Edmund imagines a ragged rip down Peter's belly instead of down his shirt, and he has to blink quickly, because...well, it has to go away. "Suppose you were starched?"
He knows it won't work, but still.
"You know what I mean," Peter leans closer, conspiratorially, almost. "D'you think I'd...?"
He sighs. Can't avoid it now. "Be back on the tube in London?"
"Or disappeared. I don't think it works like that—tied to England except for trips to Narnia. I think...when you're someplace, you're actually there. Like you were born there." Peter's face is troubled. Dark. The worst Peter face. "I don't think I'd come back."
Edmund's mind flashes back to Miraz's massive shield thundering against Peter's jaw and head.
"I'll be sure to let you know when Lucy and I go next," he manages. "If I ever pop up in the living room covered in blood, you'll know I got myself killed by a drunken Minotaur or something."
Peter's face doesn't improve. Edmund frowns. Well it had come out as a pretty shoddy joke anyhow. "I don't really fancy the idea of going to Narnia with nobody but Lucy, though, to be honest. I mean, you and Susan...well, you're you and Susan."
Peter is silent.
He does more for Peter.
He thinks it's a little bit because he's afraid. He's afraid to see what will happen if he draws back completely and lets Peter stand on his own. Of course Peter thinks that's already happened; he thinks he does everything himself, and that his brother is just his brother, just his best friend. For Peter, that's all he thinks he needs.
That's his goal, though. For Peter to think it is all he needs...
(He has to be honest. Sometimes he'd like him to know.)
"Look, back in Narnia—"
Peter's voice breaks, and Edmund nearly yelps. Brothers' voices aren't supposed to do that. It's so damnably uncomfortable and when Peter starts talking like Edmund knows he's about to start talking it forces Edmund to think about things he prefers not to think about if he's actually around Peter and is probably going to be expected to meet Peter's eyes at some point...
Normally he would try to say something to get Peter's thoughts on another track, but there's something wrong with his throat right now.
"It's not..." Peter is staring at his hands. Oh God, moans Edmund internally, not staring at his hands—that's the worst sign...
"Well it's just that, I haven't...really been very fair to you, Ed. And...well, I mean I'm sorry and all that." He's still staring at his hands... "I've not really given credit where credit's due, and you've been brilliant, and I've been...Well the point is thank you. For..."
Now he looks up. It's time.
"Well you know what I'm talking about, don't you?"
Silence. Edmund's trying to learn how to swallow again.
"I mean how could I ever do anything on my own?"
Edmund has to look at his hands.
Sometimes he'd like him to know.
He'd like Peter to know that he ran through a field of stone dust and battle-crazed Telmarines so that he could plant himself at Peter's side just before they ran away from the collapsed How and towards the multitude that wanted to kill them. He'd like him to know that, actually, he almost didn't make it out of Miraz'z keep, that if it hadn't been for a convenient gryphon he would have been somewhere in the heap of dead Narnians during the silence after the gate was shut, and that even so he made one more pass over the castle yard in full view of a courtyard of Telmarine archers to make sure that he couldn't see any red and gold surcoat among the corpses, and that he and his gryphon found Peter on his horse and flew with him from the keep to Aslan's How while he rode five horselengths behind the very last of his defeated men. He'd like him to know that he hyperventilated when Peter was busy trying not to let Miraz kill him, and the Bulgy Bear—the Bulgy Bear!—had to make him sit down and put his head between his knees until they heard the swords stop clanging. (As a matter of fact, he didn't really want Peter to know this one, actually.)
He wants him to know he's not after recognition (he thought he was, honestly, until this point—thought he was looking to be acknowledged, for a pat on the back for once). He's not interested in himself (when was it ever about him? he's forgotten the last time it was...), he doesn't even really care if it means anything to him.
He just—he can't believe he's thinking this—god—he wants Peter to know that he loves him.
Peter's still looking at him.
His voice comes out funny. "I couldn't care less about credit, actually, Pete." No, he will not look at him. "I just want you to know."
Please dear Aslan don't ask "know what", Peter...
But Peter doesn't. He just says "God, Ed, I do," and for a horrible moment Edmund thinks he's going to hug him, and then Edmund will have to hug back, and they're on a train for heaven's sake.
Three long seconds pass.
Edmund slings an arm roughly around Peter's shoulders and tugs, and Peter sort of comes up against him a little, and they let go before they've had a chance to settle like that, of course, even though a crazy idea comes into Edmund's head that he could hold on really tight for a bit and use both arms, if he wanted to. Which he doesn't.
He does, after all, more for Peter than he thinks Peter even realizes.