Secret Santa fic for Tonzura123 on Narnia Fan Fiction Revolution Forums.
Prompt was "Any Narnia story that is Pevensie-centric, Peter and Edmund-centric, or something that is just so cute one can't help but adore it." I like to think I succeeded. Maybe not pure cute-cute, but cute-angsty. I can't seem to just do pure cuteness. Spellings are British, so please don't tell me I misspelled things, fellow Americans!
As I am no British, male or dead, I am not the wonderful CS Lewis.
Peter was sick.
This really shouldn't have worried Edmund too much, or worried his fellow exiled sovereigns as much as it did – was simply a regular flu like Lucy got once a winter. It shouldn't have worried any of them in the least: Peter had fought off (and fought battles while sick with) the same type of illness every year in Narnia. (He always got it from Lucy, being unable, kind-hearted fool of a king, to stay away from his needing sister.) Problem wasn't Peter being sick, exactly. Problem was Peter was as sick now as Lucy had been their first year in Narnia. She'd been delirious from fever that first winter, shortly after the snow began to fall. All had feared it was the White Witch striking back at them from the dead, Edmund remembered, poking his head into yet another cabinet in the pantry. Still no honey. A hand raked through dark hair as he sighed.
It was hard enough being back in children's bodies while thinking like adults regularly, never mind dealing with delusions of battles and assassination attempts. That was why he was down in the old stone kitchen, rather than up talking Peter down from whatever terror held his High King in its grasp. He couldn't do anything to ease the current torment. Had damned near killed him (as it always did), watching Peter thrash, blond hair matted to his forehead with sweat and knowing that he could do nothing. Nothing, not this time.
All night he had been up with Peter, talking him to peace, talking him out of Beruna, talking him out of Ettinsmoor; now he couldn't talk. He couldn't speak to Peter – Peter didn't hear him. He swore under his breath, slamming his fist against the old oak cabinet, cursing louder when he caught his hand on a splintered edge. Without thought he stuck the punctured knuckle in his mouth, coppery blood both a warning and a reminder. By the Mane, where was the blessed honey?
Out of the gloom came a wrinkled hand, long fingered and steady in its movements. Professor Kirke opened the cabinet Edmund had just slammed his hand into and reached up on the highest shelf, shifting tins and jars aside until with a contented sigh he plucked out the honey jar. The old gentleman held it out to Edmund, the gentle smile on his face doing nothing to hide the concern lurking in his blue eyes.
"Here, my liege. Now I have already talked to Mrs. Macready, but I believe she still wishes a few words with you. You know how cooks get when their sacred kitchens are invaded; tell me the ingredients you're still looking for and I'll find them for you while you talk to her," his smile turned into a rueful grin, "I have never been particularly handy in the kitchen, but a dear friend has always told me I am excellent with finding and handing her the ingredients." Edmund smiled gratefully at his fellow Narnian and ducked out of the dark pantry to a rumble of thunder overhead.
The stormy weather should have made the foreboding kitchen extra gloomy, but it didn't. Instead, the kitchen was welcoming as Edmund placed the jar of honey next to his bowl and turned to face the Macready. The gray walls and stone floor weren't any brighter in the flashes of lightning, but it did seem cheery, for a lacklustre coloured kitchen. Worried, as all were for Peter, but cheery. Hard for it not to be cheery when all knew they were inside instead of out in such horrible weather. Cheery too because though Edmund was worried about Peter, he knew his brother would pull through. No illness had killed the High King during their reign, so no illness would take him in this war-ravaged world.
"Do you know what you're doing, boy?" Mrs. Macready asked with her attempt at a foreboding glare. It had been foreboding before Narnia, but no Human glare was threatening as a Centaur's. Edmund nodded, hair flopping onto his thin face. Still felt odd not to have his hair brushing the nape of his neck or his crown firm on his brow.
"My dear lady," he spread his hands for peace, speaking gallantly as he ever had in Narnia: more, for he had no real rank in England, "I shall endeavour to treat your kitchens as gently as those in a King's castle," not that such a promise was saying much – the Cair's kitchen was run by three warring cooks, a faun, a dwarf and an Orangutan. It had made for some rather interesting dishes, and rather interesting arguments. He had seen the results of such skirmishes on the kitchen. She grumbled but said no more – little brat had gotten nicer over the past few days, but she wouldn't put it past him to be cooking up something nasty for his already sick brother. The Just King sighed in relief as she left the kitchen, taking the maids with her, and began his contemplation of the honey.
It was through the honey that he hoped to pull Peter back to them. Nothing but ice and cool water and time would reduce his fever. Lucy and Susan were perfectly capable of taking care of that duty. Or rather, he amended, Lucy was. Susan would be too busy attempting to talk Peter out of the hallucination that had driven Edmund down to the kitchen in the first place. The dark youth scowled in remembrance of the event, turning the stovetop on with a savage twist.
Slavers out of Galma had captured Susan and Peter during one of the first years of their reign, before it was fully known Jadis was dead, when the two had gone for a private walk during the treaty-talks. Slavers had thought the two were just wealthy Terabinthians visiting their country. Peter at all of fifteen had to protect his fourteen year old sister from things that no girl her age should have to face, and he with only a stout stick, his fighting skill and words to keep them off of her until Lucy came down on the slavers with the Lion's wrath singing in her veins. Edmund had been stuck abed due to the fourth assassination attempt on Peter, shortly before the treaty-talks – he hadn't deflected the knife quite far enough from himself. Lucy had needed to tie him to his bed to keep him from coming with her. The empty saucepan was thrown on the stovetop and the too-high heat adjusted swiftly, scowl slowly fading from his features.
He was just grateful Lucy had packed a satchel of Lions with her when she went – the honey-spice smell of the treats was sure to remind Peter of the rescue, that he was safe. And while Peter wouldn't be eating until his fever fully broke and he came back to them, at least the girls could enjoy the biscuits. He would just have to make more for Peter later.
Edmund contemplated the remains of the jar of honey after he poured the cup-and-a-quarter needed into the saucepan, grateful that the recipe used so little of the rationed sugar, though it would use much of the flour. His and his siblings' ration stamps would go towards the biscuits, it was the least they could do. The honey had been gotten for free: beekeeper kept his hives on the Professor's land, and the house prospered by being paid with honey. The four of them had been ecstatic to sweeten their tea with honey after so long with it bitter, the rationed sugar needed for other things in Finchley.
The honey reminded him of Aslan. He was certain it did for most Narnians; clover honey was sweet and bitter and biting all at once, just Aslan was kind and merciful but not at tame Lion; the golden colour was His Mane and Tail and Eyes, all of Him that warm colour of living gold. The gently simmering butter alongside the honey lightened the honey's rich tones to that of His Coat, and it was another rationed item he was grateful the house received for services, in this case grazing rights. Small bits of sugar were poured into the honey-and-butter, Edmund stirring to keep them from browning, just as Mrs. Beaver had taught him. Once it was the right consistency and all blended in, Edmund turned off the flame and set it aside to let it cool.
"They are called Lions," he said conversationally to the Professor, taking two of Mrs. Macready's eggs from the older hands and fumbling only slightly as he couldn't help but try to crack them one handed in hands too small for the task. He shook away the scowl threatening, placing one egg on the scarred counter and using both hands to crack the other into the bowl placed in front of him, "named so for their colour and scent, akin as they seem to be to Him." The second brown-spotted egg was taken up and cracked the same way as the first. At least the Professor understood him, understood all of them, that they were adults, not children. He treated them as such, and listened as such, no matter how others would view that as odd. Baking soda, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom were rapidly tossed into the eggs, his whisk moving with a fury. That was the only outward sign of Edmund's worry.
The egg mixture was added to the cooling honey mixture and then the flour slowly added. Not that going slow did much to help. Edmund was uncaring as he began being covered in flour, just as he ignored that his hands were already sticky with honey. It was for Peter's sake, and the sooner he got the biscuits made and up to the bedroom, the better off Peter would be. Professor Kirke had proven to be as effective an ingredient hander as he had said he was. With all the ingredients in and flour flying everywhere, the gentleman had retreated from hovering near Edmund, instead making himself busy finding the thinnest pans available to use as biscuit sheets. Mrs. Macready was more for making cakes to go with tea, rather than biscuits.
Dough was rapidly dropped onto pans, Professor Kirke again showing his worth by doing so with the speed of a Cheetah. It was nary two minutes before the first batch was in the oven. Edmund knew he had no need for a timer – battle made him aware of the passing of time without a clock or candle to mark the time. Instead he busied himself with putting the ingredients away and cleaning his workspace, the next pan of 24 biscuits ready to go in the oven the moment the first was finished.
Professor Kirke began a tea, bringing the water to a boil just as the biscuits were cool enough to take off the pan and place on a plate. Their scent mixed with the comforting scent of tea to thoroughly take Edmund's mind back to Narnia, to the peace of their daily teatime and the occasional formal high tea when entertaining.
Two sets of feet creaked on the wooden stairs as tea and biscuits were brought to the sickroom. Lucy's eyes flew to the door as Edmund and Professor Kirke walked in, watching as Edmund's animated appearance drew grim and the Professor's eyes widened at the sight of the scars, thick and thin, ropy and smooth, white of long healed, pink and red of still healing that graced Peter's bare chest. The ice-water washcloths covered the worst of them, but she hadn't the heart to admit that to the suddenly pale gentleman. For all his shock, he managed to place the tea-tray on the nightstand, motioning for Susan to tell him what she would like. The Gentle Queen was down to her thinnest camisole and skirt, feet bare as they dangled over the edge of the heavy oaken bed. She didn't care, more concerned with the brother who held her tight to his overheated side. At least she'd convinced him to let her sit upright. She waved away the hot tea but eagerly accepted the beverage once several of the ice cubes brought up with the intent to cool down Peter were placed in the cup.
Held to such an overheated body the hot tea would have been akin to eating salt in a desert, but the cool tea allowed her to gratefully take one of Edmund's proffered Lions. The dark haired girl-woman made sure to hold the still-warm biscuit down near Peter for a few moments, gently wafting the scent across his face. He moaned and pulled her tighter against him, babbling under his breath. The honey-gold biscuit was again wafted, this time accompanied by Lucy's murmurs and hands soothing his sweat-matted hair.
"Peter, Peter, you're safe, I've got you, you're safe," the Valiant called out, rubbing at his temples as she snaked her arms through the headboard, neck craned over to see him properly. The bed had been pulled away from the wall to better get breezes. A goodly portion of the floor was wet from the rain thundering down from the open window, but the cool breeze was welcome after the muggy heat of the sickroom. Lightning flashed again, illuminating the room where four Narnians gathered around their companion. Peter jerked up and cried out, voice hoarse in his dry throat. The girls made to calm him with gentle touches, but he struggled still, no matter how they called for him and kissed his sweaty face.
Professor Kirke slipped out, muttering to Edmund about seeing to the second batch of Lions. Edmund nodded, knowing he was going just as much to give them privacy as he was for the biscuits. The Just King strode forward as his sisters looked to him with anguished gazes, thunder booming off in the distance.
"-Mund!" Peter shouted out, and Edmund ran the last few steps as Susan slipped off the bed to allow him on. All knew the incident with slavers was past. It was time again for brother to soothe brother through battle and strife. Dark hair mixed with light as Edmund hugged Peter, uncaring that his clothes were much too warm for being this close to his brother. He needed to be here, to wipe down the sweaty face with an icy cloth, to babble nonsense and deliver kisses to forehead and strangely-bare cheek.
They would see his blue eyes open and lucid again. They would, and soon! He couldn't keep up a fever like this much longer, that Edmund knew from experience. His honey-sticky fingers curled around the edge of the pillow as willed Peter open his eyes and look at him. The High King moaned again and held him all the tighter. Edmund relished in the closeness, ignoring the pain. Soon, soon, it had to be soon! Peter was hot, so hot, it had to be soon. A scarred back arched in pain and Peter groaned, panting. The High King lay still, so still, no more restless movements. If it wasn't for the heart Edmund felt beating under his hand, he would think his brother dead.
It was a wretched stillness, the silence allowing the sound of rain to come through, not just thunder, but the violent lashing of rain as the summer storm lessened to a shower that all four would have gone out to play in, in Narnia. Lasting for moments that felt like hours but really passed like heartbeats – the tea hadn't had time to fully cool – Peter sighed, deeply and gratefully. His breathing turned from shallow and pained to slow and snoring. He was asleep. The fever had broken; everything was going to be fine.
When Peter finally opened his eyes some hours later, it was with a slow blink that coalesced into confusion at the sight of Edmund's head on his chest, Susan and Lucy sprawled at the boys' feet. Edmund looked up as the breathing under his head changed, and a smile lit his dark features.
"Peter!" the glad cry was taken up by all the siblings, though Peter only allowed them to cosset him a little. He felt rightly that they had done so enough for a good long time, no matter how weak he currently felt. They ignored his pleas and went right on cosseting him, plying him with water (Lucy), getting him a clean set of sleeping trousers and sleep shirt (Susan), and helping him to move from sweat-soaked sheets to a cool and clean bed across the room (Edmund). The Just King refused to move from Peter's side, curling up next to him. It hadn't been precisely a life-threatening illness (even without her cordial, Lucy was a Healer), but it had still worried Edmund. Peter accepted his brother glued to his side with aplomb. He was like this when any of the others were sick, but doubly so when it was Edmund; it was only fair that he allow his other half the decency of the same.
He blinked at the scent wafting up from his younger brother, and tilted the shoulder-resting head up to meet his gaze.
"Aslan?" he asked pointedly, both disappointed and relieved when Edmund coloured rapidly and shook his head in the negative. So it wasn't His scent on his brother; He hadn't taken just Edmund back, or come here.
"No," Edmund replied softly, twisting his clean sheets in honey-and-flour coated hands, "I made Lions." A smile blossomed on Peter's tired features. Edmund had always been the best baker of the four. Susan could plan out and prepare any sort of meal involving meats and fruits and vegetables, but always left the baking to Edmund. Every feast they had worked like that, Susan planning it all with Edmund's input, and then both going to oversee their areas. It wasn't a Feast that didn't involve one monarch or another brushing flour off of Edmund or out of his hair.
"I'd love one," Peter said, reaching with his free hand for the plate he saw just beyond his brother. Edmund shoved him back down on the bed and grabbed one himself, handing it to Peter.
"Stupid," the younger boy told the older thickly, dark head back down on Peter's chest, "you were delusional all last night and today until a few minutes ago, and you want to be moving around now? Not on your life." Peter sighed, biscuit placed beside him and began running a hand down Edmund's shoulder, trying to soothe.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know."
"Of course you didn't know, you bloody idiot, you were the one hallucinating! I could help for most, but then you started in on Galma, Pete. Ruddy Galma!" His hand tightened on Edmund's shoulder as a gasping shudder ran through the younger brother. He knew how badly the incident affected Edmund. It had been the only time any of the other three had been captured or under attack that Edmund hadn't gone to help them. Peter had known in Narnia how it had affected him, but hadn't thought it would carry over to England. It seemed he was wrong.
"Ed, I'm so sorry," the words, and the remorse that went with them were easy. "But we're safe now, we're here and safe." The words seemed to provide little comfort as Edmund twisted his neck to glare at him.
"Not good enough, Pete," Edmund said thickly, "but it's the best you can do for now. Later I want a sparring match." How a sparring match would make things good enough Peter didn't know, but he wasn't about to question the logic of his brother, merely accepting for the moment, not pushing as he probably should. He was too tired and achy for that, especially with a still-slightly warm biscuit waiting for him. He bit in, then discarded the treat as tell-tale liquid fell was felt on his chest.
"Eddie?" The face that met his was lined with grief, dark eyes wild with pain. No matter how Edmund had tried to tell himself he wasn't worried, it wasn't the worry that got to him now. It was the memories of a long-ago worry.
"Could have killed you, Pete. Could have killed you and just taken Su and done what they wanted to her." The words were a bare whisper, loud in the still and silent room. (Lucy had closed the window on her way out, helping Susan with the soiled sheets), "and there's no way I could have stopped them." Peter crushed Edmund to him, holding the younger boy as he shuddered, tears escaping from the eyes of both brothers.
"You didn't have to, Ed, Lu took care of them right off."
"But what if she hadn't!" Edmund pressed, "what if she'd gotten captured too, then it would have been just me. I would have been alone. I... I don't want to be alone, Pete."
"Won't be," Peter promised, "you'll never be alone. Aslan will be there. Aslan will always be with you, Ed, you'll never be alone." The younger boy shook his head, smearing tears on his face and Peter's chest.
"Not the same. Aslan isn't the same as having you there, or Su or Lu." Peter couldn't deny the truth in the statement, instead running his hands through Edmund's hair again, attempting to calm his brother but unable to deny himself the luxury of a few tears. His brother's greatest fear was his own. Being alone. Being alone because he had failed, he had failed them all, and they had died. He wouldn't, he couldn't go through that. Neither could Edmund, it seemed.
The younger boy glanced up at the feeling of tears not his own soaking into his hair, and glared again, sorrow buried under protective anger.
"You've lost enough water, Pete, stop crying." It was Peter who shook his head this time. Edmund sighed, wiping under his eyes before levering himself up to better glare at Peter. "Stop it, I mean it. No more tears from Mr. Magnificent." Peter chuckled at the old nickname and instead revelled in having his arms full of his brother, tears slowing.
Edmund huffed, reaching over to the nightstand for the biscuit tray and grabbing two Lions, sticking one gruffly in his mouth before stuffing one in Peter's as the other boy opened his mouth to speak.
"No more talking, unless you want me to turn into a watering pot, and to deal with the wrath of Lucy," he warned, rolling his eyes as the blonde chuckled again, narrowly avoiding spraying the room with crumbs.
That was how the girls found them, curled up in one another, Peter still in his sweat-soaked bottoms on clean sheets – or non-sweaty sheets, for there was no way to call crumb-coated sheets clean. Edmund's head still lay on Peter's scarred chest, moving in tandem with the blonde's breathing, even as his was loud snores. Both were asleep, and it seemed had taken it upon themselves to finish off the first batch of Lions all by themselves. Lucy clucked her tongue in dismay, they would likely wake up with nasty stomach-aches, the pair of them.
Quietly the girls picked up the empty tray and the tea-set and left. There were still plenty of Lions downstairs, and a Professor awaiting their stories of Narnia.
Lions1/2 cup white sugar 1 1/4 cup butter 1 1/4 cup honey 2 eggs 1 teaspoon baking soda 4 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon ground ginger1 teaspoon ground cinnamon1 teaspoon ground nutmeg1 teaspoon ground cardamom In a saucepan over low heat, melt together sugar, butter and honey. Let cool. Mix together eggs, baking soda and spices. Gradually add to cooled honey mixture. Slowly add 4 cups of flour to mixture. Stir until well blended. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) until golden (about 12-15 minutes).
Recipe adapted from "Old German Honey Cookies" on allrecipes dot com.
Be sure to have a strong arm, as the dough will be very hard to stir by the time the last of the flour is added; if one is using an electric mixer, just be careful of flour splashback.
For a more flavorful biscuit, add higher quantities of any or all of the spices, or add in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Adding more honey will only cause problems in baking, as the additional moisture from the honey will throw off the baking time and potentially give a too moist biscuit.