Title: Acquittal

Summary: Peter despairs after his disastrous mission fails, but his brother is always there for him.

Rating: K+

Pairings: None

Disclaimer: All of the characters from The Chronicles of Narnia were created by C.S. Lewis and thus belonged to him, though now perhaps they belong to Douglas Gresham, Walden Media, Disney, Fox, and possibly several other individuals or companies; at any rate they do not belong to me, and I'm not making any money by writing this story.

Author's Notes: This fic is definitely (Prince Caspian) movieverse. It's a little AU as the timing doesn't quite fit with the movie and Edmund gets to play big brother, but I think he needed to. Also, this missing moment has been done before (by many, I believe) so I can't claim an original idea.

"The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary." - Isaiah 8:13b-14a

"Jesus replied, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" -Matthew 22:37-39


"What do you mean, you think it's stupid?!"

Edmund did not back down. "I mean I think it's stupid, Peter. You're showing off and it's going to get us all killed."

Peter had had enough insubordination for one day. He hit him. Hard.

He waited for Edmund to hit him back, but he did not. His brother only gave a slight hiss of pain and leaned against the wall, careful to mask the wounded look in his eyes before he looked back up. Peter felt a sudden shock of shame, but he shoved it away and glared at his brother. "Do you have a better plan?" he asked scornfully.

"No," said Edmund quietly. "But Lucy's right. Aslan might have a different one."

"Aslan isn't here!"

Edmund closed his eyes. Peter didn't like the look of them when they opened again. "I think we should at least ask him to help."

"And if I don't?" demanded Peter. His eyes were hard, and it made Edmund sick to know Peter was so far gone that he would make Edmund choose between Aslan and his brother. But he could hear the desperate plea behind the challenge: Choose me. Promise you'll always choose me.

Edmund bit back his grief and turned clear eyes on his brother, forcing himself to speak. He had known this hour would come.

"I love you Peter. You are my brother and my King, and I would do anything for you, in this world and every other. Whatever you command me, I will do. Wherever you send me, I will go. If you order me to storm the castle, I will obey." There was a chilling satisfaction in Peter's eyes, and Edmund took a deep breath. "But my life is forfeit to the Lion, and my love for him surpasses every other. You know where my allegiance lies."

Whatever pleasure or desperation had been in Peter's eyes disappeared. It was replaced by fury, followed quickly by pain and stark betrayal. He sneered at Edmund. "So be it." With a final glare he lifted his head and walked away.

Peter stormed into the cave where the Stone Table stood, rage combating the despair that threatened to consume him. He stared at the relief of the Lion, his heart hammering and his eyes wild.

"It's my land!" he screamed. "Mine! My plan should have worked!"

He knew he looked murderous. He was certain that his wrath would have commanded even the idiot Caspian to obey him; would have commanded all of Narnia to do so... all but Aslan. He sank to his knees in defeat.

"Aslan," he whispered. "Why didn't you come to me?"

He fought his torment long, but it would not be kept at bay. Peter remembered well the agony and arrogance that had driven him for the last year; the pride which had kept him from Aslan and from his family; the searing jealousy toward the boy who had been given his throne. He knew what he had done to his people and the Lion, and he knew why.

It was too much, and Peter fell apart.

The figure hunched over in the firelight looked somewhat less than magnificent. Edmund snuck quietly into the room which had filled them all with such awe until the sounds of soft sobbing reached his ears.

Though Edmund knew Peter must have heard him- Edmund could be stealthy, but his brother always knew when he was there- Peter did not try to hide his tears; Edmund knew he was ashamed and Peter felt no right to hide that now. He owed his brother more than he could repay for his loyalty; if Edmund saw him in disgrace Peter knew he deserved far worse. He was guilty and they both knew it.

Edmund sat down quietly beside him, his back to the Table and his face to the Lion. He was careful not to disturb his brother. Peter's head was bowed and his eyes were closed; his face was buried in his knees. His hands were clenched tightly where they met around his legs.

Edmund was close enough now to hear his brother's words. "I'm sorry," Peter whispered, over and over again. "I'm sorry." Edmund knew he wasn't talking to him. He sat beside Peter for what might have been hours, his own eyes closed and his head bowed in reverence, whispering his own prayers to the Lion. Peter shook violently as he begged the Lion's forgiveness. "I knew," he whispered. "I knew you were there when Lucy saw you; I just didn't want to admit it if I couldn't see you too." Silent tears streamed down his cheeks. "I knew we shouldn't go to the castle, but I wanted to be right..." He trembled. "Aslan… Aslan… please…"

Peter fell into silence and time went on without him.

Finally Edmund could bear his brother's misery no longer. "Pete-"

Peter shook his head. He had been quiet for a long time, but now something like a sob escaped him. Without looking up, he reached out and grasped the sleeve of Edmund's tunic. Peter grit his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut tight, shaking silently. Whatever Edmund had meant to say was lost; he simply stayed still and let Peter hold onto him. Finally Peter raised his head, his eyes full of pain and sorrow.

Peter's thoughts turned from Aslan to his brother and he began to weep. His selfishness and sense of entitlement had hurt Edmund as badly as they had hurt him, if not worse. "I almost got you killed," he whispered. Peter choked on a sob as he recalled the conversation he'd had with his brother a few hours before he had sent his army to its death.

He recalled with clarity the times Edmund had been there for him since they had first come to Narnia so long ago. Edmund had been there for him in England too of late; a memory flashed in his mind of the last time the police had caught him fighting in the street. Peter hadn't stopped; he had continued to chase the foolish children who had dared to mock him while Edmund deliberately took the beating meant for his brother. Edmund had never complained.

Nor did he now. He didn't move or speak; he only cried silently with him. It was a long time before Edmund heard his brother's voice.

"I'm sorry, Ed." Peter's voice broke as he clutched at his brother's tunic.

Edmund closed his eyes and squeezed Peter's shoulder, trying to hold them both upright. "I forgive you."

Peter's breath hitched and for a moment he couldn't speak. When next he could it was only in a whisper. "I can't- I can't believe what I've done. I was so stupid."

Edmund had been there. "I know," he said softly.

"I was so jealous."

Edmund had been there, too. "I know."

"I just wanted my throne back so badly," Peter murmured. "I was so-so-"

"Proud?" supplied Edmund.

There was a long, uncomfortable pause. "Yes."

Edmund smiled. "You aren't now."

There was soft, derisive laughter. "No."

Peter shut his eyes again and hours seemed to pass. Finally he released his brother, and both boys leaned back against the Table, reassured. Peter took a deep breath. "I think Aslan has relieved me of my pride."

Edmund was happy to hear Peter speak so reverently of their King, but he knew that had been difficult to say and more difficult to endure. Edmund turned and looked up at the Lion on the wall. "That's hard to take."

Peter nodded. He followed Edmund's eyes to the relief of the Lion, and something in his own eyes changed. Edmund thought he might be shaking.

"But it's good... What's wrong?"

Peter's gaze never left the Lion's, and his voice was more awed than his brother had expected it to be. "I'm afraid."

Edmund was confused. "To die?"

"No," said Peter. "But I was afraid that you would." Edmund looked down, wishing that he had been more careful with his torch, but Peter continued. "…that Susan would. I was a fool to let her come." He shook his head. "Now I'm afraid for all those I sent to their deaths… for nothing. I've been so sorry… but now… I'm afraid of what Aslan will do to me when I see him."

Edmund's eyes lit with understanding, but he was grateful that Peter no longer doubted he would see Aslan again. "You can't bring our people back from the dead. They'll have to face Aslan on their own."

"But some of them didn't even believe he existed! What's going to happen to them?" Peter had been far too concerned with his campaign to care about the state of his soldiers' souls.

Edmund's voice was gentle. "I don't know, Pete. There's nothing you can do about that now. But you can remember it in the future."

Peter bowed his head. All those soldiers… He closed his eyes as their faces haunted him. When he looked up, Edmund was less gentle.

"You're right to fear Aslan though. He isn't safe, and it's a terrible thing to fall into his paws when you've betrayed him."

Peter's face paled, and Edmund put a hand on his shoulder.

"But he loves you, Pete. Even more than I do. More than Su or Lu or anybody ever could. He knows you're sorry, and you won't do anything like this again. I think you'll be all right when you really see him."

Peter looked wretched. "You never lost faith once you gained it. Even when you couldn't see Aslan, you wanted to follow him. I knew what I should have done and I turned away."

Edmund was thoughtful. "So turn back." Peter looked confused, so Edmund elaborated. "What does Aslan want you to do?"

Peter knew the answer to that; Aslan himself had told him once. "To act justly, love mercy, and walk with him. Humbly," he added. "To walk with him humbly." Peter hung his head. "He wants me to follow him." And not to force others to follow me, he added in his head.

"What else?"

"To love him, heart, soul, mind, and strength," said Peter quietly. "To belong to him. And to love others. To put them first..." He groaned inwardly. To put Caspian first.

Edmund looked at him confidently. "You can do that. All of that. You used to all the time. You taught me how." Peter sat up a bit straighter. "I think you'll be all right," repeated Edmund. "And you can lead these people. But you have to do it Aslan's way. And I think it's pretty clear that Aslan has appointed Caspian to be the new King," he added softly. "You'll always be High King, Pete. You'll always be my King. But you have to step aside."

Peter thought about that. He still didn't want to, he still didn't understand what Aslan was doing, and Caspian was still not his favorite person. But his brother was right. Peter knew he owed the rightful King an apology, and he meant to give him one. He bowed his head and asked Aslan to help him to change his heart, and to be with the families of the soldiers he had sacrificed so freely. He thanked him for the lives of his brother and sister and Caspian, and all those who had survived his idiocy. Finally he turned to Edmund.

"Thanks," he said sincerely. "I will."

His brother breathed a sigh of relief and gave him a rare, Edmund-initiated hug. "You're welcome."

Edmund stood up and offered his hand to his brother, and Peter took it and let Edmund pull him to his feet. He allowed himself a grin when his brother couldn't pull him all the way up.

Edmund grinned right back. "I'm going to be as tall as you are, you know. And stronger."

Peter ruffled his hair. "Not as I recall."

Edmund wrinkled his nose and pushed Peter's hand away, making his brother laugh. "I'm going to find something to eat," he said, and Peter laughed again; Edmund was always hungry and he never liked to be reminded that Peter was taller. Edmund walked to the entrance and looked back at Peter. "Are you coming?"

"No thanks," said Peter quietly, staring back at the likeness of the Lion who never changed. "I think I'll stay here."