This is a branch out into a new fanfic for me, so thank you for your patience as I start feeling my way around. This is to repay some of my debt of enjoyment to the very talented writers whose tales I have enjoyed for months.
My first effort is a character piece that wouldn't leave me alone after watching Prince Caspian for the hundredth time (blame the kid!). Having read the wonderful stories on this theme already written, I decided that one more interpretation couldn't hurt. So here it is. Please let me know what you think of it.
I don't own the Chronicles of Narnia, although I do have DVDs that are a little scratched from overuse, and a set of books that have been dusted off and reread a few times. I promise to put the toys back in the box after I'm finished. Finally, Elecktrum read this and sorted the mistakes - thank you dearly! The ones that are left are my own.
Summary: Peter has learned a little about temptation and Edmund helps him get things sorted again.
"I understand now," Peter said. He spoke as if he were agreeing with some remark of Edmund's.
Except Edmund hadn't spoken for at least twenty minutes. Trumpkin's second cousin had taken it upon himself to provide a 'meal fit for a king, two kings in fact' to celebrate the victory over the Telmarines. The spread rivalled the most glorious banquet at Cair Paravel. There were mushrooms stuffed with herbs, two kinds of soup, ham on the bone, pastry and gravy and the little white potatoes that Edmund loved with lashings of butter, as well as bread and jam, and what looked like a sponge cake hidden behind the milk jug. Edmund was just reaching to confirm this sighting and his attention was not on conversation. He mumbled something in the affirmative.
"I never did up to now. I forgave you, obviously, and I mostly forgot it even happened, but I never understood."
Edmund sensed the seriousness of his brother's tone. He replaced the milk jug in front of the sponge cake and properly faced Peter.
The elder boy was distracted, gazing at a tear in the canvas of the tent. He fingered the neck of a wine goblet and his plate of food was untouched.
"What are you talking about?" Edmund asked, but he could make a pretty good guess.
Things were fine, despite some anxieties along the way. That would have been enough for anyone but Peter. The battle against the Telmarines had worked out all right in the end. Caspian was a fine man to take care of Narnia, although out of loyalty Edmund reckoned he wouldn't be as good a King as his brother had been. Everyone was spending the night celebrating; the girls were dancing with some old friends among the long-lived dryads, Caspian was catching up with his tutor, and by the sound of the music outside some of the animals were trying to teach the captured Telmarines the Derassian folk dance. Everyone in the whole world seemed to be all right but Peter.
And Edmund knew what was eating him.
"The Witch," Peter said softly.
"It all worked out for the best though," Edmund said. He would rather not talk about this.
"I used to think about it, about what happened between you and the Witch. About how she tempted you and you let her in. . . and. . ." He paused. His eyes were bright with tears.
Edmund didn't think he could answer, even if he could have thought of something to say.
"I would imagine, or wish, that I had met her first, because I was sure I would have been stronger."
"Peter. . ." Edmund began.
His brother held up a hand. "Let me finish. I'm trying to apologise here, and I'm making a rotten job of it, but please, hear me out." He took a deep breath. "I had this idea in my head that it was because you were so angry and confused that she managed to tempt you to follow her. I thought she couldn't have done that to me. All this time, Ed, and I didn't realise."
Edmund felt sick, but didn't interrupt.
"Then today, she was there in front of Caspian and again I thought I could stand up to her better than anyone else. I pushed him out the way because I knew what she was, and I thought... I thought I knew better."
With unexpected violence, Peter slammed his hand onto the table. He swore, and it was a good thing that Susan wasn't there, or she would have torn a strip off him. "I thought I knew best, but when I was confronted with it, I was just as tempted as everyone else."
"Just as human, you mean."
For the first time, Peter looked his brother in the eye. "That's the point. I thought I was better than everyone else. I thought I was better than you. And look at me. I knew what she was; I'd seen what she did to Narnia. For heaven's sake, I'd seen what she did to you." The tears that had been threatening to fall spilled over and ran down Peter's cheeks.
"Peter, she tempted me with Turkish delight."
"And I knew what she was and I still would have fallen. It wouldn't have mattered if she had promised me everything. I should have known it was a lie."
"That's why it's called temptation. It's hard to resist." Edmund felt uncomfortable; like he was the older brother, or a priest taking confession.
"But I should have known better."
"No, you shouldn't have. She was a witch, the most powerful one that ever lived, and what are we beside that?" He leaned across the table. "Just poor Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve."
Peter let a little smile touch his lips. "Temptation is in our blood, isn't it?" he said.
"Welcome to the world of us mere mortals, Peter." Edmund turned back to the meal, hoping that this might be the end of the conversation. Although he doubted it. Peter never could keep his feelings inside. When he needed to talk, he talked.
"I'm not finished," Peter said. "I was trying to apologise. I'm sorry that I ever doubted what she did to you. I'm sorry that I didn't understand before."
"It's all right."
"It's not all right. I was a prig and an idiot."
Edmund couldn't help smile. "Yes you were. But I would never hold that against you."
"So that's over. Good." Edmund took a slice from the cake that had looked so appealing a moment before.
Incredibly, Peter seemed to take the hint and they sat in silence. Edmund tried a couple of mouthfuls of cake, but it seemed dry and tasteless now. He had to wash it down with hot tea. He tried to ignore Peter's eyes on him.
"Oh, for Aslan's sake, spit it out, Peter."
Peter sighed. "The only difference between now and then was you."
"You've said some ridiculous things in your life, but that takes the biscuit. What do you mean the only difference?"
"You were there today, when the Witch tempted me."
"That's what family do."
"I didn't do it for you."
Edmund pushed his chair back and stood up. He was surprised at the sudden irritation he felt. "Is that what this is about? You're right, you are an idiot Peter." His hands were shaking, and he realised it was more than irritation. He was angry with the burning fury he hadn't experienced for years. He snapped. "Don't you remember? You weren't there because I didn't want you to be. It was my choice. I chased you all away. I didn't want your help. You would have been there if I had asked you. It was my fault you weren't."
He didn't have the stomach to say more. He swept the tent flap open and the cool night air hit him after the stuffy interior. There was a faint smell of crushed grass in the air, and the river rushed beyond the small stand of trees. It was toward this that Edmund hurried. He ignored the inquiries after his health from a couple of animals, but knew that when Peter came looking for him each creature would point him in this direction.
Once he reached the water's edge he paced, muttering under his breath. Damn Peter for the self-righteousness that made Edmund want to punch his lights out. Even now, after all those years had passed, Peter still thought he should have prevented Edmund's slide into temptation. That arrogant, self-important...
Edmund clenched his fists. Damn him for bringing up things that Edmund had tried to keep hidden for a long time.
The elder boy slipped to the river bank and sat on the dry ground. He didn't speak.
Eventually, when the anger was burnt away or hidden again, Edmund came to sit. Moonlight shone on the unruly water and the sounds of the camp were far behind. Neither boy spoke for a long time; each was far away and lost in his own thoughts.
Edmund was remembering the conversation that changed his life. He had never talked of what had been said, and in truth, could never recall the words except in his dreams. He knew, though, that there had been power in them, and that they were the moment when Edmund stopped being the nasty bully of Finchley and started to become a King of Narnia. It had been many years before he truly understood the gift that Aslan had given him before the Battle of Beruna.
So he recognised what it was that Peter so desperately needed. It was the same thing that Edmund had required all that time ago, without even knowing it.
Peter needed forgiveness. Aslan had forgiven Edmund and now it was time for Edmund to do the same for his brother. Without it, he would never be able to heal.
But Edmund didn't have Aslan's head full of the wisdom of ages, and didn't know how to begin. So he said simply, "We're all right, you know."
It was enough. Peter heard beyond the simple words. He smiled, an honest, tired smile that wasn't as big as Edmund had hoped, but was a start.
"I wanted to say thank you, for doing what you did back there, and for... you know, this."
Edmund leaned against the trunk of an oak tree, the last of his anger fading away with the rushing water. Forgiveness was a funny thing. "Yeah, I know," he said. "Think we're sorted now?"
"I think we're getting there," Peter said.
And they were.