Panting as he lay upon Edmund, Peter nuzzled his brother's hot skin and, once he had caught his breath, peppered it with kisses. Edmund's smooth chin, his tender throat, his damask cheeks – all were lovingly caressed by Peter's lips. If the High King felt any misgivings about allowing himself to so freely express his love, they were forgotten when Edmund began returning the gestures with hungry kisses of his own. When their lips met, almost by chance, they were lost in a maelstrom of desire and long-denied passion. In their eagerness they devoured one another, tongues wrangling and teeth gnashing as they tasted of each other's sweetness.

Their hands were not idle, either, grasping for better handholds as though the very air might seek to tear them apart without proper anchorage. Edmund trembled with joy to feel Peter's rough palms sliding over his torso, and he rose up to meet them, presenting his lithe young body unreservedly to his lover.

CENSORED FOR ADULT CONTENT

When they were both spent beyond all sense or comprehension, Peter bent over his lover to press his lips against the dark-lashed eyelids – the delicate petals of flesh hiding the flashing orbs which had oft tormented him in his dreams. When they opened now, however, they were filled only with the soft glow of love. Peter wept, not knowing why, as he kissed his brother repeatedly.

"Peter… Pete…" Edmund mumbled, "I love you… I love you… so much!"

"Ed… Oh, Ed… I love you, too…"

Their mouths locked for a long, delectable moment. When they parted for lack of air, Peter hovered over Edmund, poised on weakened limbs, and looked full into the face of his love.

"Edmund… So… beautiful," he panted, feeling as though his heart had burst open and bled itself onto the lovely creature lying now beneath him. "Why… Why are you… so beautiful? You drive me to distraction… to madness…"

Edmund's mouth fell open – further open, for he had already been gulping in great draughts of air – as his brother's words sank in to his mind.

"I… do?" he asked, astonished.

"Yes!" Peter cried, burying his face in Edmund's neck. "Why else would I give up all reason – every last shred of it – to touch you so? What would drive me to seek that which is forbidden, against all seemliness and decorum and… and natural affection, to use and abuse you so? I cannot bear it! I cannot… bear it…"

So saying, Peter fell limply upon his lover's body, unable to muster the strength (either physical or otherwise) to tear himself apart from Edmund. Shame overcame him as he realised what he had done and, even more, what perverse delight he had taken in it.

"But… Peter," Edmund began, "you don't need to bear it! I love you more than anything, and I will gladly let you do this to me – and more – if it pleases you. It pleases me, too! In fact, it is the most wonderful thing I have ever known, the most wonderful thing I have wished for in all my life." Wrapping his legs around his brother to hold him close, Edmund gave his shoulders a little shake. "Peter, don't be an ass! I want nothing more than to have you use me so, as often as you wish, for as long as you may. I would wish to be your wife, if I'd been born a girl; if I hadn't been your sister, that is, although that's not right, either. If I'd been born to another family, I might never have known you, and that would have been awful! But if I'd been your sister, we couldn't have done this for fear our children would have been born with deformities. By gum! I'm making a fair muddle of this," he sighed.

"The fault is mine," Peter whispered. "I should never have allowed this to happen."

"Confound it, Peter!" Edmund yelled and, with a surprising burst of strength, overturned his brother so that their positions were reversed and he straddled him on his knees. Staring down into Peter's upturned face, he forced him to meet his eyes. "I love you! And not as a brother! It took me long enough to sort out, but now I know: I would marry you if such a thing were allowed. But since it's not, I'd rather have the next best thing, which is to be your help in this until such a time as you must take a wife. Don't deny me this, Peter, or… or I fear I shall…die," he ended with an ill-concealed sob.

Peter's expression had grown from shock to wonder as Edmund had poured out his fervour. Now he stroked his brother's dark locks and placed his palm gently on his cheek.

"You can't mean that," he murmured, scarcely daring to breathe. "It's not possible."

"I can and I do!" Edmund declared. "And I don't give a fig if it's unnatural or… unseemly! Ilove you," he insisted, "and I want nothing more than to be with you, to be by your side, whether you go to war or to bed. I would gladly give up everything I have, everything I hold dear, if only I could be your wife!" A tear fell out of one eye and dropped to Peter's tunic as Edmund fought to control the quiver in his lips. "Why was I not born a woman?" he whispered as though to himself. "Why could I not have been given the chance, at least, to become what I most desire? What fault did I have – what crime did I commit – to be destined to live so close to the one I love, only to be denied that love forever?"

Peter pulled Edmund down upon himself, clasping him against his breast in a vain effort to be conjoined with him at their hearts.

"Oh, Edmund! It was no crime, only a cruelty of fate, that made us brothers! For I would gladly give up my crown and all else, if only I could take you for my love and my wife," he confessed. "But don't wish to be a woman on my account – for, as unnatural as it may be, I love you just the way you are."

Edmund, though he had so lately despaired, felt a surge of joy at Peter's words and pressed himself away from him so as to better observe his face.

"You do?" he asked. "You would? You truly, honestly, would make me your… wife?"

"If I could, yes," Peter answered, resigned to admitting the truth now that his actions had belied it. "I love you… I have loved you… for a long time now."

"But… But…" Comprehension finally dawned in Edmund's mind. "Do you mean to say… that I was the one you wanted? Not the Mermaid, not Lucy, but… me?"

"Yes," Peter said, wanting nothing more than to kiss his astounded brother on his rubious lips again. "I told you, there never was a Mermaid. But I couldn't jolly well tell you that I'd fallen in love with you – with my own brother, like a senseless fool! – let alone have the girls catch on. So when you came up with your idea about the Mermaid… well, I wasn't about to tell you otherwise."

"Oh, Peter!" Edmund cried, half laughing, half angry. "What an enormous ass you've been! If only you'd spoken up and told me the truth, right from the beginning, what needless worry you might have saved me! Not to mention yourself," he added, with a tender stroke to Peter's cheek. "For I would have been happy to oblige you. I daresay I might not have realised it myself at the time, but I've been in love with you for a long while as well. I simply couldn't figure out the bees because I wasn't thinking in the proper direction."

Peter squinted up at him in confusion. "What's this about bees? And what did you mean about Lucy, before?"

With a self-deprecating chuckle, Edmund explained, "I kept feeling like I had a swarm of bees and hornets in my stomach, buzzing and stinging me, but didn't know why. It took me forever to put two and two together – I felt them whenever I was jealous… of you. Whenever you were talking to someone and seemed to be enjoying yourself, or when those girls in Anvard came up to you with food and drink. It wasn't until I'd talked to Per and Darian that I knew it was a sign of being in love. I'd never paid much attention to those sorts of things, you know, so it had never occurred to me that I might have caught it myself. And as for Lucy, after you'd told me you weren't in love with a Mermaid, I was trying to think of who there might be – someone you might love without being able to marry – and she was the closest guess I had."

"You didn't guess too far off," Peter said with a sigh. "I might as well have fallen for Lucy, or Susan for that matter…"

"But Peter! That's the beauty of it," Edmund interrupted excitedly. "It's not like you have to worry about having a baby with me, so we might as well enjoy this while we can! If you want me this way, and I know I want you just as much if not more, what better arrangement could we have? And don't give me all that rot about it being improper; it happens all the time at Anvard and nobody's the worse for it."

Peter gaped at his brother, his mind working too sluggishly to refute what Edmund had said. It ceased functioning altogether when Edmund bent down to shower him with playful kisses.

"You are… such a… ridiculous… worrywart," the younger king declared between planting his lips on Peter's exposed skin, "but I love you… so much! And I have… no idea… how you managed… all this time… without telling me! It would have… driven me… insane!"

"Perhaps I am," Peter murmured, then clutched Edmund tightly to halt his ministrations. "Perhaps I really am crazy, Ed, for now I don't care! I want you so much… I love you… so much!"

Pulled back into his brother's embrace, Edmund thought he might burst for sheer joy. "Then we can be crazy together, Pete. I shan't mind anything so long as you're with me."

Peter laughed a bit breathlessly, for he felt rather winded by this sudden turn of events, but as the heat of Edmund's body permeated his own and transferred the strong, steady heartbeat of the younger boy to him, he heaved a sigh of relief. It had been hard to keep such a momentous secret from his brother for so long, and it was unutterably satisfying to clasp him in his arms, the euphoria of their combined release not yet having faded. They lay there, snuggled together as though the searing sun's rays were not enough to warm them, for a long while. Edmund was content to lie there in silence, simply enjoying the long-sought-after intimacy with his love, and Peter could not for the life of him say why such sweet communion had seemed so abhorrent to him before. In fact, it seemed the most natural thing in the world.

Eventually, however, both young kings realised that they would be missed by their sisters and the rest of their folk. Peter was the first to speak, squinting up at the sun which had by now traveled noticeably in its course.

"I say, Ed… we had better be getting back."

"I suppose you're right." Edmund peeled himself, with some difficulty, from Peter's side to sit up and assess their location. "Those rocks don't look like they'd be easy to climb at all. And they're probably scorching from being in the sun all day."

"Yeah. We may be better off swimming back, if you're up for it."

Edmund grinned at him. "I'm sure I can manage. And if not, I'll have you haul me to shore and rub my leg again."

Peter blushed, though it was barely visible on his tanned skin. "As long as we can find a cove that's sheltered like this one and hidden from sight… for you know where that might lead…"

Edmund leaned close to his brother and impudently kissed his nose. "I should think so! Or at least I know where I would like that to lead."

"Ed…" Peter began, then hesitated.

"What is it?"

"I was just thinking, you know… it wouldn't be good to have the others catching on. But I just… I don't know how well I'll be able to let on that I… that we… are only brothers."

Edmund grew sober on the instant. "I know we have to be discreet about it, but you're right: I'm not sure how I'm going to hide the fact that… well, that I'm so happy!"

Peter drank in the smile that threatened to engulf his fair brother's face. "You truly are… happy?"

"Yes," Edmund replied, his eyes dancing with light. "I can't remember a time, in this world or the other, when I've been any happier."

Peter impulsively pulled him close to kiss his coral pink lips once more. "Neither can I," he whispered, gazing down upon his love with unveiled fondness.

"We'll just have to pretend to be very close brothers," Edmund suggested with an impish grin. "Because, after all, we really are."

"Yes. And more," Peter pronounced while gently tracing the curve of Edmund's cheek with a finger. "So much more."

They kissed again, savouring the depths of their love, before finally moving back into the water.

"It's just as well that we're swimming back," Edmund remarked, ever the practical one, "since we've made rather a mess of our clothes. We should wash out as much as we can before we go back."

They grabbed handfuls of fine sand with which to scrub their tunics, and when they were both certain that no discernible stains remained, they struck out for the beach where their sisters and friends were awaiting their return. They explained their long absence by saying they had gone exploring among the rocks of the north shore, though they had found surprisingly little of interest.

‹‹‹‹‹ ж ›››››

Peter declined to take his bath with Edmund and Peridan that night, fearful that the sight of his brother's naked beauty might make his desperate attraction obvious to the new Knight and Mr. Griswold. He took his turn after the two younger boys had finished and left for their respective rooms.

A short while later, Edmund tapped on the windowed door leading from the balcony into Peridan's room. Startled, Peridan dropped the old broom handle with which he had been practising some swordfighting lunges.

"Sorry," Edmund said with a wince as the stick clattered on the floor. "I was hoping you might have a moment."

"Of course, Your Majesty," the Knight responded gravely, thinking there was something amiss.

Edmund slipped in and closed the door, took a deep breath, and started, "I need to ask for your help in a… personal matter. And I must ask you to swear to secrecy. Nobody can know – not even my sisters. Especially my sisters," he amended.

"My Lord, you know my life and fealty are yours. Ask of me whatsoever you will, and I shall strive to obey."

Edmund smiled, genuinely relieved. "I know you will, Per, and I can't tell you how glad I am to have you here, for there's nobody else I could ask this of." He perched on the arm of a sturdy chair and motioned for the other boy to make himself comfortable as well. "I remember when you and Darian had… come together… you said it was wonderful – the most wonderful thing that had ever happened."

"Yes. It was," Peridan affirmed, a slow smile curving the edges of his mouth.

"And yet you had also said that before, with the other men of Anvard, it had been… painful."

A faint shadow swept over the Knight's brow as he nodded. "Yes. At the hands of uncaring men, it can be a torment and a horror."

"I need to you tell me – to show me, if necessary – how to ensure that it is pleasurable, not painful," Edmund confided.

Peridan gaped at him for a moment, then swallowed back the obvious question. He knew the young King would only ask for such information if he had reason to believe that he would need to use it.

"Of course, Your Majesty. Where shall we begin?"


A/N: If you are 18 or older, you can read this story in its entirety at my website, Thea Nishimori dot WordPress dot com. The chapters here on FF will grow increasingly sparse due to self-censorship.