Title: We Burn So Bright Can We Outlast The Show
Beta: None, tragically (but I might ask anemonerose to look over this when she has time)/
Warnings: incest, established relationship, torture and injury
Spoiler Warnings: None, this takes place during the Golden Age.
Disclaimer: They belong not to me. Neither do the title/cut lyrics which are from two different Cat Empire songs.
Summary: There's Edmund kneeling in the mud and water of a battlefield while rain slicks dark hair over the bruises and cuts on his face as a sword presses against his throat.
Author's Note: Written for a prompt over on the kink meme.
The first part in italics is taken from my story 'I Had To Dream Awake', which is basically an overview of the Peter/Edmund relationship. This prompt just happened to fit in nicely.
There's Edmund kneeling in the mud and water of a battlefield while rain slicks dark hair over the bruises and cuts on his face as a sword presses against his throat. Peter following the movement of Edmund's tongue as it traces across his lip, greedily collecting the scant drops of water there.
There's beringed fist in Edmund's hair, dragging it back as hard eyes stare at Peter.
(Words like choose and love most echo in his ears.)
Edmund's voice is cracked as he croaks out his name
"Peter…" and after a moment the High King shakes his head because while he wants nothing more than to carry Edmund far away from all this, his brother is the thing he loves most and he would never forgive him if he gave up the whole of his kingdom just to get him back.
Edmund nods minutely, understanding. His eyes close as the sword rises, face serene and only the tiniest hitch in his breath. Then there's a red arrow protruding from the neck of the executioner and Edmund's in Peter's arms as both armies charge forward.
Stroking his brother's face delicately, oh so aware of the injures beneath his fingertips. But Edmund's smiling up at him, eyes bright despite the raindrops falling into them.
"Love you, Pete."
The ride back to Cair Paravel seems longer (longer than usual, longer than it has before, longer than anything ever has before). Every time the group stop or turns a corner or breathes Peter glances over at Edmund. Edmund whose eyes are shut, a slight grimace marring his features even sunk so far into sleep.
He almost falls every time he cranes to see his brother (hanging limply in the litter like a doll). His troops delicately pretend not to notice his distraction as the horse beneath him shifts as much as he can to compensate for Peter's obsessive observation.
He knows he should address his troops. They need to mourn for the dead and praise the living, but at the moment Edmund is so pale and so still that all his attention is focussed on the rise and fall of his chest.
Cuts and bruises stand out livid on the pallid skin but Peter fears that there's more damage there, hidden under the bloodstained clothes and the grime.
Grimly he fixes his eyes on the rode ahead, telling himself there's nothing he can do at the moment.
It doesn't help and it certainly doesn't stop him checking again after a few moments have passed.
Susan meets him at the gates, already changed from her travel-stained armour. Peter swings down from his horse, ushering the beast through. He goes, with a slight dip of the head and a weary "Your majesties."
"Any word?" Peter asks as he hugs Susan (watching the litter bearers approach over her shoulder with a keen eye). She pulls back and shakes her head.
"Still nothing," she tells him. "But she was only going up to the northern reaches. They'll find her." Peter nods grimly, jaw set.
His expression softens as Edmund is carried past. He steps forward, reaching out to brush the back of his hand against the swollen, discoloured flesh of Edmund's cheek.
He'd like to think his brother turns his head into the caress (that Edmund knows he's there, that he's responding to his presence) but he knows it's probably just wishful thinking aggravated by the movement of the stretcher. It's hard to tell.
After a moment Susan rests a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"Peter," she whispers and he jerks around to look at her. She nods to the weary stretcher bearers who have stopped as their High King examines his injured brother (consort, lover, so much more). He clears his throat, stepping back.
"Sorry," he tells them. "Carry on." With nods for their monarchs they trot forward into the courtyard of the castle and Susan slips an arm around his armoured waist.
"Come on," she tells him firmly. "You can see him once you've cleaned up."
He wants to resist, follow along behind the stretcher and find out where they're putting Edmund and what's going on (a darker part of him whispers that if Edmund dies alone he'll never forgive himself), but Susan steers him towards his own rooms.
"I'll sort it," she tells him, leaning around the bathroom door.
"But-" he tries to interrupts.
"I'll sort it!" she says more forcefully and he subsides. With various winces and flinches he peels off battle-worn armour and sweat-stained clothes. His muscles protest as he lowers himself into the bath but the hot water soothes his damaged frame and he's not sure how much time passes before there's a knock on the door.
"It's me," Susan's voice informs him, and he sits up, trying to look like he might not have just been asleep.
She pushes the door open and sticks her head through.
"They're putting him in here," she tells him. "They wanted to put him in his old bedchamber but I stopped them." Peter nods. It's too far away (he hasn't slept so well since Edmund was kidnapped and though he'd never admit it he's not sure he can make it that far at the moment) and Edmund always has nightmares in that room (perhaps even without being aware of where he is).
"Do you want to come and see him?" she asks, slightly reproving but resigned.
"Yes," he replies immediately and she sighs, coming into the room and picking up a towel.
"Alright." She hands it to him as he climbs out of the bath (feeling ancient and stiff). "But not for too long."
Under the ministrations of the various doctor's who hang about the court Edmund's colour has not improved. He looks frail tucked into the huge bed by himself. The bruises are the only colour now, cuts neatly cleaned and bandaged.
"There's little we can do for him your majesties." An elderly faun tells them, shaking his horned head as Peter leans on Susan's arm (feeling like an invalid). "Is there any news from-?"
Peter shakes his head.
"Nothing yet," he replies, eyes fixed on his brother. The faun bows.
"Then I'm afraid there's nothing else to be done. He's retreated from the damage done to his body and, perhaps, some injuries to his mind." Susan nods as Peter pulls away from her, tentatively moving towards the bed.
Injuries to his mind.
He fights for calm as he searches for some sign of hope in his brother's beaten face and broken body. The other doctors part respectfully at his approach as Susan speaks softly behind him.
"Thank you doctor. Could we perhaps have a moment alone?"
Peter barely notices as the various figures trickle out of the room around him.
He stops at the side of the bed, bracing himself with one hand, using the other to brush Edmund's hair back from his face.
The damage is better revealed now that his skin has been wiped clean and Peter runs a finger over his slightly parted lips (the bottom one uncomfortably swollen) and up to up his cheek.
"Peter." Susan's tone is so quiet as to insinuate itself into his mind almost without conscious processing.
"I'm not leaving," he murmurs. She sighs and he can feel her scrutiny even with all his attention focussed on his brother.
"Alright," she finally concedes. "But you have to rest. You're not going to wake him by staring."
One she's gone Peter climbs awkwardly up onto the covers beside Edmund, taking exaggerated care not to bump him.
"I'm here," he whispers, letting his head sink onto the pillow where he can still watch Edmund's face while one hand settles over the reassuring beat of his heart. "I'm here."
As he slips deeper into his own mind Edmund skips through thoughts and memories, jumping about in time as he tries to hold onto one thing.
Peter had him. He was safe.
It grows harder as everything seems to become vague around him, his world centring itself on the pain, which ebbs and flows like the tide.
They broke his leg first.
He remembers hanging between two muscle-bound goons, watching dusty, travel-stained horses chase off through the woods after the sounds of Philip's retreat. Hoping desperately that Philip would get back to the castle. Knowing that he had to.
He was so focussed on the direction in which his horse had fled that he didn't notice the meaningful look that passed between his captors or the sudden increase in pressure on his arms.
It was only when the fallen tree-branch smashed into his knee that he registered. His scream rung inside his head mixing with his own harsh panting as he slumped, his full weight hanging in the hard fists.
He could see the break, his leg hanging limply. It made him queasy just looking at it and he forced himself to turn away, finding the dark eyes of his captor watching him for the first time.
"Now, I think, you will not run." The man managed, though the words were somewhat mangled by an unidentifiable accent.
Those same dark eyes bore into his as a fist curled in his hair, digging sharp nails and jewellery into his skull.
"Tell us," his breath was heavily laden with the scent of all kinds of food and acidic wine.
Edmund didn't reply, only whimpering slightly as the fist curled tighter and one huge hand squeezed his shoulder, compressing bruises and reopening wounds that had only just begun to scab over. He could feel blood trickling over skin (too sensitive to be ticklish) and soaking into the dirty fabric of his clothes as the coarse voice took on a coaxing tone.
"Your brother will die." In spite of himself Edmund's eyes jerked back onto the man. A blackened grin split his faces as he latched onto this crack in the armour. "First he will watch us kill you, so he will know what is coming." Edmund swallows and shifts his gaze to the wall. "We will skin you alive little king." The voice is even harder to understand lowered to a dirty whisper and filled with malicious glee. Edmund blinks slowly, refusing to react, and the man gives a disgusted snort, releasing him.
Edmund yelps as, instinctively, he tries to take the weight. His leg collapses out from under him and he falls hard. He sits up awkwardly and tries to shift into a more comfortable position, feeling bone grating with every movement.
When Edmund next becomes aware he's not sure whether he's dreaming. Or where he's dreaming.
He knows he remembers the cell and the torture and the pain in his leg because it's still there as he slips out from underneath old, scratchy woollen blankets and limps across the wooden floor to the window.
He thinks he remembers being rescued. Remembers Peter's tears mixing with rain and his own relief on his skin. Half-remembers the jolting pain of a litter.
The aches that plague him fade a little as he leans on the windowsill, staring out over the sea.
It's peaceful, as the breeze soothes his skin. He can feel the last of the tension draining away. He's not sure which part of his memories is the dream now. He shivers, trying to remember details that are rapidly slipping through his grasp.
Then somewhere nearby a siren goes off. Harsh blaring notes that aren't at all at home in the Narnian air.
He lifts his gaze to find heavy storm clouds bearing down on the castle, which suddenly seems vulnerable (poised like it's about to take a dive into the sea below it). In amongst the cloud there are giant black monsters that dominate the sky, monsters made of metal, bearing down on him.
He shies back because although he doesn't really recognise them he instinctively fears them. Because this isn't right. These things don't belong here. They don't belong in Narnia. They belong to…
He turns, pain disappearing from a child's body.
He stares at the familiar room and wonders why he ever thought he was somewhere else. Then Peter's face is above him. Peter grabbing his hand urgently as words seem to come from a long, long way away.
Peter wakes up in the middle of the night, suddenly aware that he is far too hot. Edmund's face is flushed as he tosses and turns under the covers, eyes darting back and forth, still shut, as he mutters thing into the night.
Loathe to leave his brother's side Peter curls himself more tightly around Edmund, ignoring the sweat that begins to stick cloth to skin.
"Shhh," he whispers, stroking Edmund's hair back and planting kisses on each of the creases on his brow. "Shhh."
He's not sure how long he stays there, curled around Edmund as his brother struggles indiscriminately. He knows it's just past dawn when Susan comes in. Even with the rosy fingers of the day stealing into the room he can see the circles under her eyes.
"She's on her way back," she says, dropping onto the bed where Edmund is calmer but no cooler.
It takes a moment for the news to sink in.
"Lucy?" he asks, propping himself up as best he can without disturbing Edmund. "They've found her?"
"Mhmm." Susan nods, lying back on the pillows on the other side of Edmund. Peter looks dubiously down at his brother, pushing his hair back once again.
"Will she make it?" he asks in a very small voice. Susan sighs, her eyes sliding shut.
"I don't know," she whispers. Peter lies back down, almost totally lost in the dread of the moment.
"I'm afraid," he finally breaks the silence. He turns his head to look at Susan, tucking Edmund's damp hair underneath his chin.
He finds her watching him, her expression exhausted and concerned and sympathetic all at the same time.
"So am I," she whispers back. He reaches out, stretching one hand over Edmund, and she takes it, squeezing his fingers tight.
Three days pass while Peter waits.
He spends the first day curled up beside his brother as he stirs and mutters intermittently.
His presence seems to calm the younger king. He leaves the room only briefly, while the healers are tending to him as best they can, and comes back to find Edmund thrashing violently, his mumbling raised to shouts.
"No! Father must come with us to the shelter! Peter, please!"
Not understanding, Peter hurries to his side.
This time Edmund does turn into his touch, quieting as he leans down, pressing a kiss to one burning temple and whispering.
"Shhh. It's alright. Anything you want Ed, anything."
The healers back away and the ancient faun nods to him.
"Perhaps it would be better if you did not leave your majesty." Is all he says. "The natural healing will take longer if he cannot keep still."
Peter simply nods, crawling back into the bed and leaning against the wall, pulling Edmund's head into his lap and stroking his hair (through which he can feel the heat of his skin) as he listens to his brother's soft ramblings.
Peter spends a restless night curled around Edmund.
When he does sleep he dreams of what Edmund endured and of worst case scenarios.
He dreams of Edmund tied to a chair, knife an inch from his eye as he strains against bindings that are obviously cutting into chafed, raw skin.
He dreams of Edmund slumped in a pool of blood, reflection of a contorted face in dark liquid.
He dreams of Edmund screaming, face broken open by panic as his hands are held in flames. Flesh coming out blackened and smoking as the fire spreads.
He dreams of Edmund lying completely still, chest unmoving but eyes open as he stares at the ceiling. Lips moving as he continues to mumble emotionless messages.
He wakes with a start in the grey light just before dawn.
His eyes feel grainy, his limbs weak and uncoordinated and it takes him a moment to register that Edmund isn't quite as hot as he was.
He gently shifts his brother onto his back, stroking Edmund's slack face.
"Ed?" he whispers, feeling alone and secret. "Please wake up. Come back to us Ed. Come back to me." His eyes shift rapidly under their lids and his mouth falls open ever so slightly as he draws in breath.
Peter watches intently for long minutes before the healers come in, Susan not far behind.
Peter continues to hold Edmund's loose hand as he waits, Susan almost crushing his other (as if she can somehow make up for the Edmund's limp grip, as if she can use somehow will her strength into Edmund, using Peter as a conduit).
When the doctors finally retreat from the bed Peter glares at them with exhausted, impatient eyes.
"Well?" he asks. "Is this a good sign?" The faun stares at him with old, old eyes that understand and endure his pain.
"We cannot say," he finally replies, after Peter has dropped his gaze away. "He has retreated further into himself. There is nothing more we can do until the younger queen arrives." Peter sighs as they shuffle out and Susan redoubles her grip, adding her free hand.
"It'll be alright," she tells him. "She'll get here."
Susan stays for a little, while Peter lies beside Edmund and tries to fathom what his brother might be thinking.
He must fall asleep at some point because when he looks around Susan is no longer in the room and the light has shifted.
He dreams of her whispered nothings, saying things like we're waiting for you and don't slip away. And he's forced to remember that while he loves Edmund so does Susan. That she's the one who goes after him after fights while Lucy helps him nurse his wounded pride.
And now she's out there, holding everything together for them. He'll have to thank her.
He falls asleep holding Edmund's hand and listening intently to his brother's breathing.
He wakes up several times during the night, panicked that Edmund's chest isn't moving. Each time he waits until he hears his brother draw breath and each time it takes longer for him to fall back to sleep.
He's not sure when he decides that he's fully awake. It's only shortly before Susan joins him. The healers don't come at all.
After an hour of looking miserable in the chair Susan joins him on the bed.
She lies full length beside Edmund as Peter braces his brother's body in his lap, gently cradling his head.
Each breath seems to be a struggle.
There's a pause between each one and it catches unpleasantly on the exhale. Peter finds himself falling into the rhythm of it and each time his chest burns he waits patiently until Ed breathes again.
Each time he has to wait a little longer.
Just as the sun is beginning to set a trumpet call goes up from the walls.
The notes fall through the windows like leaves onto a pond and Susan jumps like she's been abruptly woken from sleep.
"Lucy," she whispers, with the same reverential hush one hears in sacred temples. Peter moves slowly, suppressing the rush that's flowing up through his body, his heart buoyed by hope.
He struggles out from under Ed while Susan braces his shoulder. Slides off the bed and accepts the weight that she shifts to the edge. She helps him adjust Edmund in his arms then leads the way from the room, sweeping rapidly through the corridors.
Peter follows behind, trying to compromise between a desire not to jar Edmund's healing wounds and the need to get him to Lucy before the pause between each breath stretches too long.
He's relieved beyond measure when Mr Tumnus's curly head appears on the stairs, Lucy leaning heavily on his arm.
"Quickly," she says, her voice slurring a little as her whole world narrows to Edmund. Peter presses close to her as Susan takes her weight from the faun.
Her fingers tremble as she tries to open the bottle and Susan steadies her, guiding their hands to let a single drop fall between parted lips.
They all wait as the pause between Edmund's exhale and the next inhale stretches longer and longer.
Then he breathes in.
Then, quite normally, takes another breath.
His eyes flutter and open and Peter can feel his legs trembling as confused eyes blink up at them.
He's aware of gentle hands guiding him down to sit against the wall of the corridor, then Susan by his side, Lucy curling up in her lap with a tired sigh.
Edmund blinks again.
"What happened?" he asks, shifting a little in Peter's arms but apparently content to stay put.
"You nearly died." Susan's voice is soft but still composed and Edmund's face shifts into something that looks a little like guilt.
"Oh," he says, looking around at them. "You all look awful." Peter lets out a strange, strangled laugh and Edmund looks at him like he might be deranged (and he feels a little like that really).
"Yes," Susan says, in that same gentle tone. "I suspect we do." She looks down at Lucy, who is asleep against her shoulder, and strokes her hair. Apparently unwilling to do anything about her appearance she closes her eyes, wrapping her arms tightly around her little sister and letting her cheek settle against her head.
Peter watches them for a moment before Edmund's hand on his chin brings his attention back down to his brother.
"You're crying," Edmund says, tone caught somewhere between sleep and wonder. Peter sighs a little shakily.
"It's been a long time," he manages (not entirely sure what he means to say). Edmund leans up, pressing his lips gently to his.
"I'm sorry," he says, sounding truly repentant, and Peter's laugh is more honest this time, though there's still a hint of bitterness.
"Don't be," he says, pulling Edmund as close as he dares. His brother still winces a little. "Just don't let it happen again." Edmund nods, leaning his head against his shoulder at such an angle that his lips brush Peter's neck with every word he speaks.
"I won't." They both know it's a lie but Peter hums in sleepy agreement, leaning sideways a little so he can rest against Susan, his head gently bumping hers.
He almost misses Edmund's whisper.
"I love you Peter," he shifts a little, pulling Edmund closer.
"Love you too Ed," he mumbles, fingers gently tousling Edmund's hair as he drifts deeper into sleep.