No Means No

I'm trying to reach electrum's hand to give it a shake of heartfelt gratitude for betaing this story . . . but she's so high up on that pedestal. Wait I'll get a fire engine ladder, that might reach her. LOL Thank you E, you're the best.

(Third year into the Pevensies' Reign)

"You know what he's going to say," Lucy said as she looked at Edmund sympathetically.

"He's going to say 'no'. You know how Peter can get." Susan's tone was likewise as she swished her skirts to the side, taking her seat at the breakfast table next to her sister.

"'No' about what?"

All three turned with a start as they realized their older brother entered the room without their knowledge. They became unsettled as he joined them and took his seat next to Edmund with a good morning smile.

No one said a thing, only avoided his eyes as they each became suddenly interested in the food on their plates. Peter's smile faded as he grew suspicious, especially when he saw Edmund dishing a mountain food for himself, more than he was usually coerced to eat.

After a few moments of tinkling glasses and light scraping of forks, Peter quirked his right brow as he looked at each sibling and said, "No . . . about . . . what?"

The girls reluctantly glanced at Edmund who received a slight kick under the table from Susan.

It didn't go unnoticed.

"Ed?" inquired Peter.

Edmund pushed his food around as he slightly shrugged his shoulders. The steam from the eggs and blueberry muffins danced from his plate, teasing and daring him to take a tempting bite. As he continued to watch the intricate choreography of the steam rise, Edmund chanced a quick glance at Peter and saw that he still had his eyes on him.

"Well is anyone going to tell me what I'm supposedly going to object to? Lu?"

Lucy looked innocently at Peter with wide eyes as she avoided answering by pointing at her mouth full of toast. His eyes narrowed at her cute and innocent display. Next he cast his eyes over to Susan who avoided him all together. She looked up as she studied the moldings near the ceiling as if she were wondering what animal or spirit created such an amazing piece of architecture.

"Okay, since no one wants to enlighten me, I guess I'll begin my breakfast."

"Peter I'm coming with you to put those Ogres in their place!" The words rushed out of Edmund's mouth before he could stop himself, and he winced with the realization of what he'd done before he was ready to do it.

Peter blinked at Edmund as he slowly chewed his sausage. As he took his time swallowing he watched as his brother tried not to squirm under his ever watchful eye.

Rarely would you see Edmund squirm, even in the face of his enemies, but that look from his brother was always disconcerting. But despite it all he was prepared for battle against the Magnificent.

"Isn't it satisfying to know the answer to something before you ask? Please pass the eggs, Su," said Peter as if the matter was closed.

"I'm not asking you, Peter. I'm a king too and I have every right to go and…"

"No, Edmund! You just got over the flu and it was a nasty piece of work this time."

"Peter…"

"You're not even fully recovered. Look at you! You've lost so much weight, you don't look strong enough to hold a feather much less a sword . . . and you're so pale. Well, paler than usual." He held up a finger for silence as Edmund tried to protest further. "It's spring yes, but there's snow on the ground still, and pneumonia would likely develop in your weakened state if you come with me."

Peter heard a gasp from Susan.

"Need I remind you of what happened last year?"

"I knew you would bring that up!"

"You were so near death with pneumonia that it made it into the Chronicles."

"I've been out of the sick ward for a week now," said Edmund in irritation,

"and it's not fair to use rank to deny..."

"Oh, excuse me! Did you think I was speaking from the High Kings position?" Peter removed his crown as the girls braced themselves. "I wear many hats in this family Ed! Guess which one I'm wearing now when I say, no means no!"

The attending servants quietly exited the room as they recognized that hat too and did not wish to be anywhere near the vicinity of it and Edmund, who saw it the most.

Only the snapping and popping of the roaring fire in the large hearth could be heard as the brothers eyes bore into each other.

Unfortunately for Edmund - who appeared just as imposing as he matched his brother stare for stare - tried to swallow the little tickle that began at the back of his throat. Nonchalantly, he broke eye contact to drink the cool water in his goblet to sooth and calm the irritation. After the last swallow of sweet victory Edmund proudly puffed out his chest, and was instantly betrayed as a coughing fit erupted.

A smug Peter cocked his right brow and return to his breakfast without another word.

Defeated, Edmund's shoulders slumped as he realized that cough sealed his fate in the eyes of all his siblings. Ineffectively he tried to will that rare, fatherly hat away. It made plenty of appearances in the sick room when he was at his worst; cooling his feverish brow, changing his damp shirt, and helping him up from his bed to the loo to relieve himself from drinking an abundance of fluids. He was grateful then for that hat, especially during the fever induced nightmares, but now he wished the rim would curl up and the whole thing would crumble to itsy, bitsy, minute pieces just to be carried off with the lightest of breezes going towards some far off unheard of land.

"Ed, I'm forced to agree with Peter," Susan sighed sympathetically, placing a comforting hand on his. "It is too soon for you to venture out, you could have a relapse. I know why you want to go. And I'm sure Peter will do his best to remember he is not immortal," she said, glaring at Peter, whose cheeks heated to an embarrassing shade of red. This caused his stern fatherly hat to slip in order to be replaced by a well chastised knit cap.

After Peter recovered, he looked at his younger brother- knowing how he hated being cooped up for too long- and gave him a tender smile. "Please, Edmund, for my sake, stay here at the Cair. If you go I'll not be fit for combat worrying about you."

"You'll worry anyway!" said Edmund as he rolled his eyes, still upset over his untimely defeat.

"True," chimed in Lucy with a sweet smile towards her eldest brother, causing his heart to melt completely.

"Yes, but brother dear, it will be a different sort of worry, you see. I'll worry about the girls spoiling you to a point of being no good to me on the next campaign. I know I'll come back to find you lounging on the fluffiest of pillows while being fed sweets and gentle kisses from these two."

"Peter!" cried Ed indignantly, which caused the tension to completely dissipate as his siblings laughed at his expense.

"Come on, Ed, eat up. You can see me off if you promise to bundle up."

Both girls chimed in with, "He promises," before Edmund could protest.

"You see," whispered Peter, "they're starting already. Good luck, chap."

Oreius stood with the rest of the army in the courtyard waiting for the High king to mount his unicorn to begin the latest campaign. He watched, proud of the stature Peter grew into and was still growing. He looked every inch a warrior; a golden, powerful, dangerous warrior to be avoided if you had the honor to be his enemy. He defended his family, his people and his lands with courage and strength. Narnia's adversaries underestimated the 'little king,' but quickly learned as his mighty blow slaughtered their dreams of victory. Oreius found himself wondering if all human children were such as these, then decided against it. Aslan would not put just anyone on the four thrones, therefore the royals were unique and there could only be one High King.

Oreius inconspicuously, along with the rest of the army, watched the private exchange between the royal siblings. Before ever leaving home, the High King kissed and hugged his queens good-bye. His overwhelming love for them is shown in each endearment, it was as radiant as the Narnian noon day sun. He rubbed noses with the littlest just to hear one last giggle, which brought endearing smiles to the whole regiment.

The queens took a step back as all eyes fell on the High King's brother. Oreius wondered why Edmund was wrapped in so many coats. Was he still that sick? He decided it must have been an inside joke as only his siblings laughed. Point taken, Peter removed all but the final layer and gave them to his valet, who stood off from the family, waiting to serve his king.

Peter's laughter turned into a soft smile as he looked at Edmund, whose actions lightened the mood of his parting. The youngest king's eyes spoke of his disappointment and sadness while pretending not to be out of sorts. But like always the elder knew. Peter, holding him tightly, whispered, "Take care, Ed. Take care of our girls, and don't let them spoil you too much." Edmund's smile increased.

Peter pulled away and looked deeply into Edmund's eyes as he cupped his cheek. "I mean it; take care of yourself. I can't afford to loose my youngest brother."

"I'm your only brother, Pete!"

"All the more reason," Peter said seriously and softly pressed his lips to Edmund's forehead. "I love you, Edmund. Never forget that. Especially if you're haunted by 'her' in your dreams while I'm gone."

He looked at the girls and said, "I love all of you and I promise to be back in a week at the most." When he mounted his unicorn he was surprised to find Edmund grasping his knee. His eyes were so intense it almost took his breath away.

"Ed?"

"Those Ogres are a nasty lot, Pete. Promise me you'll remember that you have an army with you. Because if I hear one word about how you're trying to take them all on yourself, sick or not I'm coming to find you."

Peter smiled endearingly and ruffled Edmund's hair. "Love you too, little brother and I promise."

"You heard him, Oreius!"

"That I did my king."

"Hold him to his word."

"Yes, my liege," he replied as he gave a Centaur's bow.

The army turned to leave but not before Peter heard, "Come on, Ed, let's get you out of this morning air, it's much too chilly. Perhaps you'd like some cocoa," said Susan.

"And your favorite cookies to go with it in the sun room!" said Lucy excitedly. Trapped, Edmund looked up helplessly at the sound of Peter chuckling as he looked back at him from the unicorn's forward march.

"Good luck, Ed," he shouted with a burst of laughter that carried beyond Cair Paravel's gates.

fin