WARNING: As stated below, major angst to follow (not to mention some serious hurt/comfort in the second chapter)—you are forewarned!
Disclaimer: I own nothing in this marvelous universe; it all belongs to C. S. Lewis and Walden Media.
Author's Note: Hi, Everyone! ::snorts amusedly:: Would you believe this fic was inspired in part by my excited mother when she came back from the Sherlock Holmes movie several weeks ago? I really wanted to have Eustace say to Edmund, "It's elementary, my dear cousin…" and not realize where it was actually from. And well…this fic sort of evolved from there. It's the latest addition to my Brother Lessons series, and unlike my previous stories in this story arc, I'm planning on making it a two-shot! In spite of the inspiration, it (like most of my stories) is rather full of angst, especially this first chapter (though, the next chapter isn't exactly light-hearted, either). I hope you enjoy it!
Summary: Wherein Eustace is idiotically noble and Peter makes a promise he should have long ago…(Book and Moviebased) (Brotherfic) (NO Slash)
Peter's Age: 17
Edmund's Age: 14
Lucy's Age: 12
Eustace and Jill's Ages: 11
Timeframe: Six months after The Silver Chair
By Sentimental Star
Chapter One: It's Elementary
It first happened a year before his cousins had ever entered Narnia:
"Older brothers are bothers, aren't they?"
In later years (and after his own dramatic transformation), Eustace would come to recognize, much to his bemusement, that it had been his own twisted up way of trying to make friends with his second youngest cousin:
There was a suspicious sniffle and Edmund scrubbed his arm across his face where he sat facing the wall of his bedroom. "How would you know?" he mumbled.
For the moment, Eustace ignored the distinctly thick quality of his cousin's voice. He would tease Edmund about how crying was for girls later—he was much more interested in his current line of questioning. "It's elementary, my dear cousin--"
And Edmund had to hold back an involuntary snort of laughter as Eustace parroted a phrase he would surely be horrified to learn was from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
Eustace, however, continued to steadfastly ignore him. "Older brothers always think they're better than younger brothers," he failed to notice Edmund's shoulders suddenly tensing. "They always think they know more than you do and they always have to be right. They always order you around and expect you to listen to them without question. They think they're…" here, he shuddered dramatically, "gods when they really aren't. It's a fact of nature. Quite frankly, I think they're a menace," he turned back to his cousin at this point, not quite through pontificating, and completely missed the hard set of his jaw. "Let's face it, Ed, you'd be much better off without that sorry excuse for a--"
Pain exploded in Eustace's sinuses and with an unearthly howl, the younger boy fell backwards onto the floor, clutching his freely bleeding nose.
Edmund stood above him, fist clenched, knuckles bruised, and shoulders and chest heaving angrily. "No one…" and his voice wavered dangerously, "no one has the right to say those things about Peter except for me!"
Then he fled the room, leaving a dumbfounded Eustace in his wake.
The memory of that day still made him wince in remembered pain when he thought about it. Even now his nose wasn't really straight, but Eustace had changed enough to realize he deserved every bit of pain that came with it—no matter what Ed may say to the contrary.
Ed was the reason he stood here now, actually, in front of the doorway that led into Peter's room.
He had come over to introduce Jill to his cousins earlier this afternoon, right after they had all gone to church. He'd walked into his cousins' house to find Peter and Edmund…well, not screaming at each other (his cousins never screamed), but certainly, very unhappy with one another:
"…Lion's Mane, Peter…!"
Jill jumped at the overly loud voice as Eustace helped her out of her good frock.
Eustace grimaced and glanced inquiringly at Lucy, who had let them in. His youngest cousin returned the look with a grimace of her own.
"…I find you in front of a recruiting station—after looking for you for three hours, I might add—and you expect me to think--!"
"It's not what you think!"
Well, that was Peter. Funny, he'd never heard him so much as raise his voice to Edmund before (not that he was often around to hear it)—even before Narnia had changed them.
"How long have they been at this?" Eustace whispered to Lucy, hanging up their coats.
Lucy grimaced again. "Two days," she whispered back, accepting the plate of cookies Jill had brought with her.
Eustace's eyes widened. "Two days?" he hissed.
"Isn't…isn't that normal, Scrubb? I mean…" Jill trailed off hesitantly.
Eustace shook his head. "Not for those two."
Lucy frowned worriedly in the direction of the den, where the raised voices were still coming from. "No," she agreed quietly, "it's not."
"Then what was it, Peter?" Edmund's voice reached them again, sounding slightly incredulous. "A gamble? A whim? A bloody hare-brained scheme to avoid University applications?"
Eustace heard Jill valiantly try to stifle a giggle, his friend clearly very aware this wasn't a matter for laughter. Frowning even more than Lucy, Eustace turned back to his youngest cousin, "Is Peter planning on attending University?"
Lucy hedged. "Ed wants him to," she replied finally.
Eustace scowled. "Peter, I take it, doesn't."
Lucy dropped her eyes, but nodded her head. Jill awkwardly rested an arm around her shoulders, uncertainly patting one in comfort.
Eustace sighed, anger dissipating. "Have you thought of interrupting them? Ed, at least, sometimes tends to be a little hot-headed…" he smirked faintly, "at least when it comes to Peter." And, oh, how well he knew that.
Lucy raised an eyebrow, but let that interesting tidbit of information slide. "What are you planning to do, Eustace?"
Eustace shrugged. "This," and proceeded to march in the direction of the den, the girls scurrying after him.
"But, Eustace--" Lucy began.
Eustace turned and fixed her with a surprisingly honest stare. "Peter can't do this, Lu. Not like this. It'll destroy Edmund."
Thought, but not added (and still felt nevertheless) was, /Not to mention you./
Before either of the startled girls could get a word in edgewise, Eustace turned and entered the room, pointedly clearing his throat, "You know…it's rather rude to greet your guests with a shouting match…"
Jill, who had been intending to remark on how noble he was acting, winced and hurried into the den, Lucy on her heels.
Needless to say, were it not for Peter's timely intervention or the appearance of the girls, Edmund would have once again knocked him flat.
But, he thought with a wince, gingerly touching his nose, he might not have minded so much. At least it would have forced Edmund to release some of the pent up tension that had clearly been building up for a while now.
Hence why he stood outside of Peter's door and not Edmund's. He might have been willing to risk his cousin's wrath in the heat of a fight, but he wanted no part in the breakdown afterwards, once Edmund had cooled down sufficiently to do so.
His cousins never argued, anymore, over petty things.
Lucy and Jill were with him now, trying to get Edmund to talk, and Eustace gladly left them to it. He had another mission for himself in mind.
Taking a deep breath, he raised his hand and knocked soundly on Peter's wooden door.
"Go away," the retort was harsh, grating, and rather strangled, all things considered.
Eustace winced. He had been so concerned about Edmund's possible reaction that he completely forgot Peter could often be twice as emotional as his younger brother.
Resigning himself to his fate (and the possibility of a very messy reaction once he was through), Eustace more or less forced the door open and shoved his way inside.
He ducked just in time to avoid a pillow launched directly at his head. "I said, go--!"
Eustace raised an eyebrow at the furious-looking Peter who stood in the center of his room, holding his ground and keeping his face impassive, but mentally gulping (Lion's Mane, High Kings were scary when they were angry). Without a word, he held up the pillow he had snatched out of the air.
Peter's reaction would have been comical were it not for the botches of red highlighting his cheeks. For several moments he merely stood there, dumbfounded, staring at his cousin. Every once in a while he shut or opened his mouth, struggling to find the proper words to express his surprise.
"Oh," he muttered at last, as his anger effectively fizzled out, "I thought you were…"
"You thought I was Ed," Eustace stated rather matter-of-factly.
"…Yeah," Peter acknowledged faintly.
Eustace gave a noncommittal grunt and firmly shut the door behind him, stalking over to replace the pillow he had rescued on the bed. He surveyed the room around him a moment, taking in his surroundings, before giving a snort and abruptly swiveling to face Peter. "Edmund loves you, you know," stated bluntly and with very little preamble.
Tiredly, Peter scrubbed his face. "I know," his voice cracked.
Eustace raised his eyebrow again. "Do you?" he asked mildly.
It was Peter's turn to raise an eyebrow—and he lifted them both, edging on polite disbelief. "Yes, I'd rather say so."
Eustace's gray eyes hardened. "Then tell me something, Peter, do you know how many times you've made him cry?"
For a moment, Peter looked completely taken aback—whatever he had been expecting Eustace to say, it clearly was not that. As the first flicker of pain, and worry, flitted across Peter's countenance, Eustace, for a moment, wished he could take his harshly spoken words back—but only for a moment.
Peter's blue eyes narrowed. "What has that got to do with anythi--"
Impatient, and hurting for Edmund, Eustace snapped, interrupting him, "Answer me, Peter! Do you?"
Inside, Eustace was mildly shocked by how protective he felt over Edmund—Lucy, too, for that matter. He was also rather stunned by how angry he was feeling on their behalf. He supposed in some ways he understood it—they had been more his family in the past two years than his parents had during his entire life. But that did not stop his mind from reeling, /Have I really changed so much?/ he wondered.
Peter had apparently reached the same—or a similar—conclusion, for his face had softened, and Eustace felt his own face turn red under that gentle look. "You're doing this for Ed," it wasn't a question.
Embarrassed, his anger effectively quashed, Eustace scowled at his oldest cousin before looking away. "Maybe," he grumped, but was quick to add, "You still haven't answered my question."
Peter sighed wearily, pinching the bridge of his nose, and slumped tiredly down on the bed. "No," he finally admitted, nearly inaudibly, "I don't."
This time, Eustace really did regret his harsh tone. He only hoped that Peter understood he was acting this way because he hated seeing his cousins—all of them, really—so upset. (Actually, he didn't really want Peter to know, because that would just be too embarrassing, but he wasn't about to take his words back now.)
"And, anyway, what makes you think you do?"
Eustace, in spite of Peter's abruptly hard tone, made a small noise of amusement. He had expected this. Edmund was Peter's younger brother, after all. "I don't think anything, Peter. I don't even guess." He sighed, and rubbed the back of his neck in exasperation at Peter's growing scowl. "Oh, dry up. I'm just saying…that you tend to be—used to be—whatever…rather blind where Edmund's feelings are concerned."
"Really?" Peter's voice was sarcastic. "Do tell."
The tone rolled right off of him. "Guess," Eustace retorted shortly, turning away and vigorously rubbing his nose.
Peter laid a frustrated glower on his cousin, and would have told him exactly what he could do with his guessing game…when he noticed the younger boy's actions. "Ed punched you," he stated, sounding rather surprised (even as a small, very guilty part of him felt a little vindicated), "…didn't he?"
Eustace scowled, causing Peter to give a small, startled laugh, and gave his nose one last, hearty rub as he turned back to his eldest cousin. What he said next immediately quelled all laughter, "Today? No. A year before he ever set foot in Narnia? Yes."
It garnered exactly the type of reaction Eustace had anticipated: as their current discussion and all its implications coalesced and registered, Peter drew his breath in sharply. "He…he what? He hit you over…over…"
"You, Peter," Eustace retorted softly. "Four years ago, Edmund hit me over you. Over something…unpleasant…I said about you. Hit me jolly hard, too…" mumbled. No need to go into details if Peter wasn't interested; his oldest cousin seemed stunned enough already.
"Four years ago? You're sure?" at Eustace's scowl, Peter's eyes widened. "But he…how could he…we were…we were…!"
Eustace heaved an exasperated sigh. "Listen, Peter…clearly, I never knew you four…as well as I know you now. I obviously wasn't there when you went to boarding school, but I know Ed…wasn't like he is today, and that he—and you—used to fight a lot when we were younger. But has it ever once maybe occurred to you that you were the reason he fought at all? That maybe it wasn't just anger, or hurt, or frustration that made him lash out, but also maybe because someone, somewhere, may have insulted you…or otherwise?"
He could see dawning comprehension of his point clearing Peter's face and heaved another, rather more relieved sigh. "Finally! Lion's Mane! Ed wasn't kidding when he said you had a thick skull!"
A small, shadowed smile flitted briefly across Peter's lips in reply as he stood up and remarked, "You really aren't like the Eustace I remember, are you?" When said younger boy huffed and scowled, blushing embarrassedly, Peter chuckled sadly and—much to his cousin's chagrin—lightly ruffled his hair, "You'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now. Thank you, Eustace. I needed someone to knock some sense into me."
Eustace huffed again and sat down on the bed, crossing his arms over his chest and continuing to scowl, "Just bloody well hurry up and make amends with Ed and I'll be happy."
A half-grin crossed Peter's face, "Right," and with a wave he was out the door in search of Edmund.
As soon as his eldest cousin left, Eustace dropped his scowl. Shutting his eyes and tilting his head back to face the ceiling, he whispered, "Please…please let them be all right."