WARNING: You may find yourself victim to repeated stomach cramps and/or tears from laughing so much (or, alternatively, crying so much). This has a whole barrel of emotions (lovely, messy things those are ::grins::) tied up within it, so please enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own nothing in this marvelous universe; it all belongs to C.S. Lewis and Walden Media.
Author's Note: Brotherfic…in twos! ::grins widely:: This may look at least partially familiar to some of you, but some of it has been extensively revised, and I sincerely hope you enjoy any new material I've added! Just on a side note, I am working on the next chapter of Keeping the Faith, however slowly it might be, and wanted to get this fic up in the interim, since it's been in revision for a while now.
This is the namesake for my Brother Lessons fic series, though, certainly, it will not necessarily be the first of that series' arc. Other fics in this series include Second Nature and Drifting Loose. Please enjoy yourselves!
Summary: Four months after the events in Tashbaan and Anvard, two sets of brothers come to two very similar understandings…(Brotherfic) (Movie and Bookbased) (NO Slash)
Timeframe: Four Months after The Horse and His Boy
By Sentimental Star
"Aye, and how are you faring lad?" King Edmund's crisp voice cut through the cool evening air as Cor slipped outside to join him on one of Cair Paravel's many balconies.
He made a face as he came to stand beside the Narnian king at the rail. "I think I could do without the court life and servants. Aslan bless them all, but I can hardly lift a finger without someone running forward to help."
For the first time since Peter had left to face the Giants on the northern border, Edmund let out a full, hearty laugh. With twinkling eyes he turned to Cor, "Might I suggest hiding in the larder?" he asked, voice mirthful.
The newly-turned-fourteen-year-old gaped at him in wordless shock. This was King Edmund, yes? Stern, solemn King Edmund…who was not nearly so stern as he had first appeared?
His expression only heightened the twinkle in Edmund's eyes. "You look so surprised, young prince. Would it shock you very much to learn that I, at one time, felt exactly the same way as you?" His look grew thoughtful. "I still do, actually, but it is not necessary to hide nearly so often as I once did."
Cor slowly closed his mouth. "Your Majesty?" he managed.
The older monarch chuckled softly. "'Edmund' is perfectly fine, my friend. Your royal brother certainly had no qualms about using it when we first met." His eyes sparkled as he remembered the rosy-cheeked—rather rambunctious—six-year-old who had come to visit Cair Paravel with his parents what suddenly seemed like many long years ago.
At the thought of Corin, a graver air settled over the two on the balcony.
"How is he?" Edmund asked gently.
"Still unconscious," Cor replied quietly, folding his arms and letting his hands hang limply over the balcony's rail, gazing out to sea. "And the really awful thing is, I know that if he were awake he'd tell me to get over myself and quit being an ass."
"Sounds like Corin, all right," Edmund muttered. He quirked a small smile at the older of the two twins. "Most brothers tend to be asses when it comes to injuries."
It was then that Cor remembered Edmund, too, had a brother—older, if he had heard right. "My Lor--" he hastily changed his address at the older man's raised eyebrow, "Edmund. How…how do you be a brother? I'm still…rather new at all this," the boy admitted softly.
Edmund quirked another amused eyebrow at him. "Oh?" he smiled warmly. "It seems to me you already understood it quite well."
Cor flushed darkly at the jesting reminder of the state he had been in when he dragged Corin into Cair Paravel yesterday. If he recalled correctly, he had practically screamed for a Healer.
The older man chuckled quietly, before turning back to the ocean and sobering. "Realize, young prince, that being a brother—older or younger, it does not matter—is an even more difficult task than being king. As a king, you're expected to be there every hour of every day. As a brother, you need to be there every minute of every hour of every day. It can be dangerous to love, Cor, as I'm sure you're beginning to understand."
Cor shut his eyes tightly as he recalled how pale and vulnerable his twin had seemed yesterday. And Corin never liked being vulnerable.
Edmund continued, well-acquainted with the thoughts currently swirling in the young Crown Prince's mind, "And it can hurt, far more than a sword wound ever could. As a king, that is even truer. Your subjects' welfare and happiness must come before all else…even your siblings."
His voice was very quiet as he finished, and Cor gave a hard swallow and an understanding nod. "Why then," he wondered aloud a few moments later, "do we love?"
Edmund turned...and smiled at him. "Because, young prince, it is more than worth the price that has to be paid. Had you no one to love, your life would be a very unhappy one, indeed. Can you imagine your life without your brother in it?"
Cor glanced down at his palms and shook his head. "No," he whispered, "not anymore."
"Well, then," a new voice suddenly spoke up from behind them, warm and strong and calming, causing Cor to give a startled yell as he and Edmund spun around to face the speaker, "you'll be happy to know that--"
Whatever else the speaker had meant to say—a tall man dressed in riding breeches, a rich, light blue mantle, and wearing a golden beard—was cut off by Edmund's relieved and joyful exclamation of "Peter!"
Cor could only stare as the king beside him practically lunged across the balcony and tackled—apparently—his older brother in an exuberant hug, causing the High King (for High King it must be) to give a rather undignified yelp as his arms were suddenly filled with an ecstatic younger brother.
"Ed?" asked cautiously by Peter.
Edmund merely shook his head and buried his face in the older man's chest. "Welcome home," he murmured against the fabric of Peter's riding tunic.
When the High King's face softened, and he leaned down to press a tender kiss to the back of Edmund's neck, Cor learned more about being an older brother in that one moment than he did in all the later years of his life combined.
(The Following Day, Cair Paravel's Healers' Wing)
Cor woke the next morning in Cair Paravel's Healers' Wing to a she-Hare gingerly plucking at his elbow. "My Prince?" she murmured.
Archenland's new Crown Prince smiled crookedly at her, stretching out the kinks in his back one by one. "Yes?"
She placed a tray piled high with fruits and sweet porridge on the small side table next to him. "High King Peter bids you good morn and asks that you meet him in his study after you have had your meal. He says it is a royal order, my Lord, that you eat."
It startled a laugh out of Cor, who had grown very nervous wondering what the High King could possibly want with him. He had rather forgotten that he was royalty himself.
"Please tell him that I shall," he replied at last, relaxing as he realized the oldest of Narnia's monarchs likely only wanted to check up on him.
The she-Hare curtsied and scurried out of the Healers' Wing, her job done and her message delivered.
For a while, there was no sound save the slight chink of china and silverware as Cor dutifully ate his breakfast…even if he really did not have much of an appetite. But he knew King Peter probably had a reason for ordering him to partake of the meal (and rather suspected it was from the older monarch's own experience that the command had been born). Just as a Healer (or was it a doctor? Cor was never really sure about these things) entered the Healers' Wing to perform his daily check-up on Corin, a voice spoke up, its comments rasped and creaky, "Looks good," and caused Cor to jump and his toast to go skittering across the plate, "Can I have some?"
Immediately recognizing it, the older of Archenland's two princes promptly spat his dew back into his goblet. Corin smirked up at him tiredly, blue eyes barely cracked open, but his smile warm and amused, "Well, not of that."
Cor stared at his twin, unable to comprehend the sudden turnaround in his brother's condition, for a grand total of about five seconds, before giving a low cry and all but launching himself at Corin.
Somewhere in the background, the table (and breakfast) went clattering to ground where a very amused Dwarven Healer dodged it. Corin had a split second to look after it longingly…before immediately thereafter being seized by panic as Cor practically crushed him in an embrace. It would not have been that bad—indeed, he might even have enjoyed it—if his twin had not chosen that precise moment to plant a warm, wet, utterly embarrassing kiss squarely on his cheek.
Both of Corin's cheeks turned pink. "Cor!" he protested loudly, ineffectually trying to swat at his brother with his one good arm. The other was swathed in bandages.
At that moment there was a polite cough from behind them. "Your…er…Majesties," the amused Dwarven Healer managed, unable to quite conceal a wide grin.
The twins stared at him dumbly for two whole seconds, before leaping apart (or rolling, in Corin's case), both sets of cheeks bright red.
As Cor and Corin determinedly looked anywhere but at each other, the Dwarf kept his gaze quite firmly trained on the floor. He would not do something so undignified as laugh, certainly.
(An Hour Later)
It was not as difficult as Cor had first feared to find his way around the castle. Edmund had quite kindly given him a tour of it yesterday evening when the High King had gone to greet their sisters, and all the Narnians were very helpful—indeed, even eager—when pointing the way to the Library or thus-and-such a room.
After he had left the Healers' Wing (as well as a highly embarrassed twin brother) and gotten rather lost, a Centaur—Cor thought he heard the name 'Oreius' in passing—had directed him towards the monarchs' end of the castle.
Now, the Crown Prince was wandering more or less aimlessly through the halls in search of the High King's study. When he passed one of the bedrooms in their Majesties' wing, Cor was rather startled in the next moment when not one, but two Narnian kings emerged together in the hallway.
Quickly, hoping not to intrude, he dodged behind a conveniently placed suit of armor.
Unfortunately, there was no way to move without announcing his presence and at the moment…neither Narnian king seemed to want to be interrupted.
"Are you sure you'll be all right, Ed?" the anxiety in the High King's voice was nearly staggering.
Slightly concerned that King Edmund had somehow been injured in his rush to defend the twins the other day (they had been followed to Cair Paravel by the half of their attackers they hadn't decimated), Cor peeked out from behind the suit of armor. He was just in time to see the younger of the two men fondly roll his eyes and gently clip his older brother upside the head, "I'm fine, you git. Stop worrying."
King Peter fixed his brother with a particularly harried look. "Ed, you spent half the night wrapped around me, how can I not worry?"
Cor was rather startled (though, not nearly so startled as he felt he ought to be) to see King Edmund blush and lightly punch the other king's shoulder, "Well, avoid getting a Giant's club in the stomach next time. I'm surprised Lu didn't drag you back to Cair Paravel and confine you to the Healers' Ward!"
"You're never going to forgive me for that, are you?"
"Why should I? It's such a good example of how completely reckless you are! And you wonder why I insist on accompanying you on every campaign—someone needs to make sure you don't kill yourself--"
"Ed," the High King looked distinctly guilty, "Ed, you know I wanted to bring you with me, but--"
Edmund sighed, "It's all right, Peter," he held up a hand, stemming his brother's immediate protest, "we went over this last night. I just don't like the fact that I wasn't there when you needed me. We agreed long ago that the girls would always be our first priority—or as much of a first priority as we could make them. There was just no way we were going to let Susan go to Tashbaan on her own, consequences be damned. We agreed on that."
King Peter subsided and, after a moment, held out an arm, smiling sadly. As Cor watched, King Edmund easily slipped into it, burying his head in the older man's shoulder. "Pax?" the High King murmured into his brother's hair.
Edmund nodded, releasing another sigh. "Pax," he agreed softly.
Another few seconds of silence, then King Peter spoke up again, "She blames herself, you know. Susan does, I mean."
"No surprises there," Edmund muttered. Then sighed, "I'll talk to her."
"Good," a faint grin flitted across the High King's lips, "I suspect you'll have more luck convincing her than I."
The younger king snorted quietly, gently shoving himself away from his brother's chest to glare into his eyes. "Rot," Edmund countered sternly, voice soft. "You're our big brother, Peter. There's almost nothing you can't convince us of." He slugged the High King's shoulder with his fist (not-so-gently this time), "So don't go offing yourself anytime soon."
King Peter winced, rubbing at his shoulder where he had been hit, but finally laughed and held up his hands in surrender, "All right, all right, I won't, I promise! Lion's Mane, Ed, I thought we called Pax."
King Edmund actually pouted (how very strange it looked on a grown man!). "We did. I just thought I'd remind you."
The High King snorted softly and, without any warning, gently grabbed Edmund's head, pressing a firm kiss to his brow. "Fine. Now, scoot. I have a wayward Crown Prince to find."
Edmund rolled his eyes. "Peter?"
"You do know I'm twenty-four, right?"
His older brother's rich laughter followed Edmund down the hall.
When King Edmund left, Cor stepped out from behind the suit of armor, quietly observing the High King as he watched his brother traverse the corridors with an indescribably tender expression on his face. Seeing such warmth in the man's features drew the question from his lips without Cor's conscious consent, "How can you love so much? How do you love so much?"
The question was sudden, and startling, and rather odd, all things considered, if the expression on High King Peter's face was anything to go by. Cor flushed. The older man sighed, but motioned him out from behind the armor with a smile, "With everything that is in me. Why do you ask?"
"I just…" Cor struggled with his tears, "I've never—not really, anyway—loved before. Not like…" he gestured helplessly at King Peter and then down the hall King Edmund had just taken.
The High King's face cleared and he mouthed an 'ah.' "We haven't always been so, young prince," the older king advised him softly, leading them down a different corridor from the one Edmund had entered.
"Is it…" he hesitated. Peter waved him on. "Is it very hard? Learning to love, I mean?"
A startled smile crept across the older monarch's lips. "You've been talking to Ed, haven't you?"
Cor blushed. "I…I wanted to ask him some things, and well…"
The High King snorted lightly. "You got more than you anticipated, I wager."
Cor's cheeks took on an even rosier hue. His voice grew very, very small as he murmured, "Actually, that part came from you. I saw how you reacted last night. And I saw how you reacted this morning. And I thought…since I am—a little bit, that is—older than Corin…"
Peter understood now. "…That I might be able help you."
Cor peeked up uncertainly. "Would you mind very much, Sire?" he asked timidly.
A small grin touched Peter's lips and he held out his arm again, which Cor, after a great deal of hesitation, shyly slipped into, "I think I can manage something, young one."
(Two Hours Later, Cair Paravel Healers' Wing)
"Edmund, he kissed me!" Corin practically howled, struggling to sit up against the pillows on his infirmary bed, irregardless of his broken arm and bandaged head.
Edmund, who had been on his way to meet Peter and Cor in the older of the two's office and had stopped by the Healers' Wing to check on Corin, now walked into the ward only to be greeted thus. Biting back a grin, he gingerly sat on the edge of the bed, facing the younger of the two twins.
"Of whom do you speak?" he asked, controlling the laughter in his voice with great difficulty.
Corin scowled fiercely at him, finally managing to claim an upright position. "As if you didn't know."
It could very well have been Peter. He wouldn't put it past his older brother. But judging from Corin's reaction, he'd say it was far more likely to be a certain older twin. "Cor did?"
"Who else would it be?" the younger prince demanded. "He kissed me and it's your entire fault!"
Edmund raised an eyebrow, trying very hard to hide more laughter. Ah, poor, put-upon younger brothers; he would say something, but unfortunately, it would be rather like the pot calling the kettle black. "Actually," he pointed out mildly, "to be strictly accurate, it's Peter's fault."
Corin rolled his eyes. "Oh, yes, I forgot. This is the first you've seen him in six months—of course you'd go all sappy on him. Just my luck that my brother would happen to be there. And as if that's--"
But he suddenly stopped mid-sentence, the queerest look Edmund had ever seen him wear stealing across his face.
If he had not known any better, he would have said Corin was on the verge of crying.
"Young Highness?" he asked softly, gently touching the prince's chin.
When Corin turned to look at him, Edmund realized that, apparently, he did not know the younger man as well as he thought. A single tear trailed down the younger twin's jaw and slid through his fingers.
Understanding flooded Edmund's face. "Oh, Corin…"
"I have a brother, Edmund," and the fourteen-year-old's tight voice cracked as he lost his clearly tenuous hold on his emotions. "I have a brother—I am a brother."
Corin had known of his twin, of course, long before Cor (or, as he was called then, Shasta) had ever met him. He'd heard stories of the great sea battle their father had waged in order to bring him back. He vaguely remembered seeing their mother cry on the eve of his birth every year for the seven years of his life she'd been alive (in fact, it was such an incident that had spurred him to ask his father about it in the first place).
And Edmund knew that there was an ache, hidden deeply within the younger prince, that no one had quite been able to fill until Cor—quite literally—stumbled into their lives.
That Cor, who was still learning the concept of family (and a loving family, at that), had finally been able to express that sort of affection towards his twin left Corin reeling and utterly unsure of how to respond to such a thing.
When he placed his arm around the teenager's shoulders, Corin gladly leaned into his chest, gasping out as the tears abruptly poured down his cheeks, "Whatever am I supposed to say to him?"
"Perhaps you needn't say much," Edmund offered softly, knowing there was far more truth to that statement than Corin would understand right now.
His own relationship with Peter was like that, after fourteen years of becoming reacquainted with one another—touch often said more than words ever could.
Corin sniffed loudly and rubbed roughly at his cheeks. "I hate this," he muttered.
Edmund, who knew almost as well as Cor how much Corin disliked showing any sort of weakness (though, truthfully, neither saw it as such), allowed the young prince to pull away and wipe at his eyes before gently rubbing his back. "Maybe, but after what you've been through, it's understandable. After what you've both been through," this added as an afterthought.
Corin snorted softly, sounding more like his usual self when he next spoke, "It's his fault. If he hadn't been such an ass and gone all noble on me, I wouldn't have had to make sure he was, at least, a living ass."
Edmund did not quite conceal the smile that threatened to break out on his lips this time.
"Ah, now why does that sound familiar?" a dry voice suddenly spoke up from the entrance to the infirmary behind them.
Corin jumped. Settling a steadying hand on the prince's uninjured shoulder, Edmund calmly turned to face the figure striding gracefully towards them through the hospital wing. "You really must stop this habit of yours, Peter," he remarked wryly, giving his older brother a slightly reprimanding look when the High King reached them, "or else we'll have to inform King Lune of exactly why his sons died from shock-induced trauma. That's the second time you've startled one of them."
Peter very un-kingly (or grown-up-like, for that matter) stuck his tongue out at his younger brother. "Blame Sulalit. He's the one Oreius chose to teach us stealth."
Edmund rolled his eyes fondly. "Yes, and Sulalit is a Leopard. That's how they naturally move. You, however, are no Leopard, and unless there's a very good reason to use stealth, you have no need to sneak around Cair Paravel."
Peter chose to ignore him, instead turning his attention to Corin as he sat beside Edmund on the prince's infirmary bed. "Aye, and how are you faring, lad?" he asked softly, giving the younger of King Lune's two twins a glance over to ensure all was healing as it should.
While Edmund choked at the exact echo of his words to Cor last night and Peter gave him a slightly worried look, Corin smirked warmly at the both of them. "You know, it's rather scary how alike you two are sometimes. With my luck, you've gone and done exactly what Edmund did yesterday night."
Peter, who had obviously been informed by his brother of all that had transpired while he was away (up to and including the twins' sudden arrival at Cair Paravel), had the decency to blush.
Corin, who had only intended to tease the two men who had been his friends and mentors for years, now carefully flopped back onto his bed with a groan as he realized his remark had merited far more truth than originally expected. "No, oh, no. You did, didn't you?" He looked at Edmund hopefully. "Can't I just leave him here?"
Clearly referring to Cor. Edmund barked out a laugh. "Sorry. Tried that with Peter already. Doesn't work. He'll still manage to find you, regardless of whether or not you were able to slip away in the first place. Big brothers are notoriously stubborn like that."
While said High King scowled at his brother and said brother smirked back, Corin scowled at Peter. "It had to be you, of all people."
Deciding he could always have it out with Edmund later, Peter turned to the prince and raised an eyebrow. "And pray tell, young prince, what is so terrible about it being me, of all people?"
"You're a mother hen, that's what," Corin grumbled.
Edmund, whom Peter thought was finding this situation entirely too amusing, finally lost the battle with his mirth and practically fell over as a fit of laughter engulfed his slender body.
While Peter idly wondered if he could somehow knock his brother off the bed and still make it look like an accident, Corin turned his scowl to Edmund. "Of course you're going to laugh about this. You haven't just had your brother reintroduced into your life. I didn't even know what being a younger brother meant until this morning, you know! So what about it, O High King," this directed at Peter, "any words of advice for poor, put- upon younger brothers?"
Seeing no help would be forthcoming from Edmund, who had dissolved into a second fit of laughter at those words, Peter allowed himself a smug smirk. "Deal with it."
Corin gaped at him. "W-What?" he finally sputtered out indignantly a few moments later, having sufficiently recovered his voice. He whirled on Edmund and demanded, "Deal with it? How in Aslan's name am I supposed to 'deal' with it?"
Edmund, unfortunately, was laughing much harder than Corin felt he ought, and could barely force a word in edgewise. "Sorry," the younger king finally gasped as the prince started to scowl. "Sorry. He's right. Unfortunately for you, he's right." And dissolved into another fit of laughter at the decidedly petulant look Corin wore.
As his one source of commiseration was being singularly unhelpful, the younger of the two twins huffed, and gave it up as a bad job.
When Edmund recovered himself enough to properly speak, he found himself leaning hard into an utterly bemused Peter's side…and promptly smirked, realizing he knew exactly how to help out Corin.
His older brother knew him well enough to be appropriately wary. "Ed?" he asked cautiously.
Blithely, Edmund ignored him, turning to the sulking Corin with a grin. "And what would your Highness like to know how to 'deal' with?"
Corin rolled his eyes. "Kissing," he reminded the younger of the two Narnian kings pointedly.
Edmund grinned. "Oh, that? That's easy. You can put up the token resistance," and he demonstrated by ducking away from a startled Peter who had, in fact, been reaching out to do just that. "Or, you can do something like this," and just as quickly turned back, reaching up to gently grab Peter's chin and plant a warm, wet, very sloppy kiss on his older brother's cheek.
Peter, who had been expecting nothing of the sort, turned bright red, and his hand flew up to cover his cheek as he spun to stare at Edmund.
His younger brother merely smirked affectionately in return.
An errant snicker escaped Corin. "I think I'll like that last one, especially if Cor is half as easily embarrassed as Peter."
While Peter looked distinctly miffed (and showed that displeasure by all out scowling at the both of them), Edmund kept smirking and draped himself comfortably over his older brother's back.
Hopelessly outmatched, the High King dropped his head back against his fellow monarch's shoulder with a soft thunk and a small groan. "I refuse to claim any part in this. I did nothing. I am totally ignorant of what has passed here. You are just doing this to torment me--"
"Oh, poor you," Edmund retorted warmly, grinning down at his older brother's upturned face indulgently and dropping another kiss on his forehead.
"Edmund?" Peter peeled open one of his eyes to peer up into his younger brother's face.
Said king grinned at the aggrieved tone of the older man's voice. "Yes?"
"Why do you insist on torturing me?"
Edmund's grin widened. "I love you, too, big brother."
Corin snorted fondly, rolling his eyes as he listened to the two's good-natured bickering. "Oh, Aslan, if this is what Cor and I will be like two years from now we're all in trouble," he muttered.
He needn't have worried. It only took one.