Note: The last chapter! I hope everyone has enjoyed the story. Again, thank you to laily7429 for betaing, and to those who have commented on the story; you have all helped me become a better writer.
The abrupt transition was so jarring that Edmund forgot how to breathe for a moment. He only remembered when Peter bumped into his back, the older boy just as disoriented. Edmund quickly turned and steadied his brother, who smiled warmly, if dazedly, in return. He heard Susan sigh and saw Lucy glance behind her, her face stiffening when all she saw was the train platform. Edmund winced just looking at the dark, claustrophobic tunnel he was now stuck in. Narnia never felt so far away.
The four stood there in silence as the train in front of them slowed to a stop. Even after the doors opened they didn't move until a boy called out to someone named Phyllis – while, strangely, looking at Susan – to ask if she was getting on the train. The boy's voice jolted them out of their stupor, and they rushed to grab their bags and hop on the train before the doors closed.
Despite the noise in the traincar, Edmund felt like he was surrounded by unbearable silence. It was the silence of his siblings, the strained looks on their faces, on Peter's face; and with each moment he felt the tension on their bond tightening, close to breaking again. Desperate to keep this from happening, Edmund almost frantically rummaged through his knapsack, reaching for anything that might help him break the terrible silence.
He frowned as his hand met air where it should not have met it, and the confusion actually calmed his fear. "Susan?" She looked over at him from where she had been studiously ignoring the boy who had called her Phyllis. Edmund turned her attention to his knapsack. "What happened to my torch?" Indeed, his birthday gift was missing, despite the rest of his clothing and possessions – long gone in Narnia – being back as if nothing had happened.
Susan's eyes widened and she looked among her siblings as she tried to formulate an explanation. "During the raid…there was a Telmarine…my bow got knocked out of my hands for a moment…it was the first thing I could grab…Oh Ed, I left it in Narnia!"
It was as if she didn't know whether to be appalled or puzzled. She was leaning more towards upset when Lucy interrupted with an exclamation: "Oh, so that's it!" When her siblings looked at her, she explained. "Before we left, I saw a little Telmarine girl using something cylindrical to hit her brother and make him stop bothering her. I thought it looked familiar, but it was covered with so much mud…" Lucy trailed off at the blank looks she was getting.
It was surprisingly Peter who finished the conversation with his comment, "Then it's a good thing she has it instead of Ed." Peter grinned. "For my sake, at least."
Susan stared at Peter and Edmund choked on air. When was the last time Peter had tried to make a joke? Not even in Narnia, not even after speaking with Aslan after the battle. It was enough to turn the moment solemn; only Lucy ruined it by giggling. Which set Susan off laughing, and Peter kept smiling, so Edmund just gave in and elbowed his older brother. "I don't need a torch to beat you, old man."
Peter's eyes narrowed playfully. "Care to place a bet, laddie?' he asked as he grabbed at Edmund's neck to try and pull him into a headlock.
"Not on the train!" Susan almost shrieked as Edmund nearly bowled into her while escaping, but there was a smile on her face as well.
Reluctantly, the boys settled down, knowing they probably shouldn't make a scene – they were kings, after all. The atmosphere remained happy and content, though, and if Edmund stood closer to Peter than normal English boys usually did their brothers, well, he could blame it on the crowd in the train.
As the girls began chattering to each other about school, Peter looked over at Edmund. The smile on the older boy's face had faded, but the light remained in his eyes. "You don't have to worry about me, Ed. I intend to keep my promise." Blast, Peter must have noticed his near panic in the train before. Edmund glanced away, frustrated and slightly ashamed that, despite his resolve, he had let himself fall back to fearing the worst. He wanted to force himself to have faith, but now, especially when Aslan's comfort seemed so far away, it was just so hard.
"Edmund," Peter's soft voice forced him to look up into intense, blue eyes. "As you are my strength, brother, I will be yours." Like it had been before Peter had fallen away, when they had supported each other in all things. It was as much a promise as that which he had given at the manor in Beruna. Edmund would be there for Peter, as always, but now Peter was there to be the pillar of their family once more.
Edmund nodded solemnly, accepting the charge and the promise. "And may Aslan guide us in this and all things."
"Let it be so," prayed Peter, and it was a true, fervent prayer that brought smiles to both their faces.
The train lurched, and the moment was broken. But both Edmund and Peter knew, as intrinsically as they knew their own heartbeats, that the promises spoken would endure. That they would hold fast to their oaths and to each other, even until life released its hold and Aslan called them home.