Author's note: So Chapter 4 is finally done. It's taken me a while to write since I had run out of inspiration and I was swamped with school this past week. I haven't written all week until today. But the chapter is finally here! This chapter is mostly about Edmund. Enjoy!

Chapter 4 – It's Later

Sunday morning dawned bright and early. As Lucy climbed out of bed, she wrinkled her nose in disgust. Part of it was because Peter was gone; the other half was because of a fetid odor rising up the stairs from the kitchen. Lucy plugged her nose and quickly tramped down the stairs. Yes, the smell was definitely coming from the kitchen. As Lucy entered, she noticed Susan by the stove, working frantically, and Edmund asleep with his head on the table.

"What happened?" Lucy asked. Her voice sounded strange because of her plugged nose.

"Hey, Lu," Susan sighed. "Edmund decided to make pancakes for us but he isn't an early riser and fell asleep, leaving the pancakes on the stove burning. I've been trying to make them for him so he can get some sleep." Lucy smiled.

"Poor Ed," she sympathized. "He's trying to fill in for Peter."

"I think he should leave the pancakes for me to handle," Susan smiled. "At least you have something interesting to tell Peter about! He'll laugh!"

"You're right," Lucy agreed. Susan turned away from the stove for a moment to look at Lucy and Edmund.

"I don't think I can salvage the first couple batches of pancakes," she sighed. "How does oatmeal sound?"

"Okay, I guess," agreed Lucy. "Sounds better than burnt pancakes."

"Poor Edmund." Susan shook her head and brushed a lock of hair out of her face. "He's not much of a cook."

"Agreed!" laughed Lucy.

"Not what?" Edmund mumbled sleepily. Suddenly, he shot straight up. "Oh, no!" he moaned. "I forgot about the pancakes and fell asleep, didn't I?"

"Yes," Lucy answered. "Susan took care of them though."

"Thanks, Su," Edmund thanked.

"Welcome," Susan responded as she began getting out bowls. "It's always good to have a Plan B."

"Oatmeal?" guessed Edmund, yawning and stretching.

"Yep," Lucy answered, getting up and starting to set the table.

"Sorry I ruined breakfast," apologized Edmund.

"It's okay," Lucy replied. "I'll set the table, you go start getting ready."

"Alright," Edmund agreed, getting up from the table. He thumped loudly up the stairs and disappeared into his room just as Mrs. Pevensie entered the kitchen.

"Whew! Susan!" Mrs. Pevensie was holding her nose. "What are you cooking?"

"Sorry, Mum," Susan explained and told Mrs. Pevensie about Edmund's pancake disaster.

"He was trying to do something nice," Lucy spoke up.

"Yes, I see that, dear," answered Mrs. Pevensie. "It's a pity that he fell asleep." Lucy face became a little troubled but she didn't say anymore. She knew Edmund hadn't been sleeping well.

"Breakfast is ready," Susan announced cheerily, covering up the fact that she too knew about Edmund. Edmund thundered down the stairs and leaped into his seat. He suspiciously eyed the bowl of oatmeal in front of him.

"What?" Lucy teased. "Do you think it's poisoned, dear Ed?" He smiled and dug in.

Edmund sat glaring at the clock ticking on the wall. 6:48. Another minute passed slowly. 6:49. Edmund sighed dejectedly and stared at the cold piece of chicken still sitting on his plate. He wasn't hungry and he didn't want to eat; he didn't think he could eat. He sighed again.

Lucy and Mum had gone to visit Aunt Alberta, Uncle Harold and Eustace for the next two days, leaving Susan and Edmund home. Edmund would have liked to see Eustace but he didn't have the heart to go. Susan had remained to look after him. Besides, she didn't have much of a connection with Aunt Albert or Eustace. The only thing she could talk to Eustace about was Narnia. And lately, she had begun to mention it less and less. Every memory seemed to have Peter in it and it hurt her to know he was gone.

The steady rain dripped down the window panes in monotonous waves. Edmund didn't care. With Peter gone, the pleasure of life seemed to have left him. Everything seemed dull and bland. Even church had lost its usual appeal.

Edmund gave up on his chicken and wandered into the living room, looking for something to do – not that he expected to find anything. Susan had been gone all afternoon and wouldn't be back until later.

Edmund paced to the door and stared out into the bleakness. He wondered if it was raining on Peter. The telephone in the kitchen began to ring. It slowly pulled Edmund out of his wanderings and back to England. He returned to the kitchen and picked up the phone after its third or fourth ring – he couldn't remember which.

"Pevensies." Edmund's voice sounded dry and strange to him.

"Edmund?" came the voice on the other side. Edmund's heart leapt for joy. Could it really be?

"Peter!" Edmund exclaimed joyously.

"Ed!" Peter answered. A smile spread across Edmund's previously dejected face.

"How are you?" asked Edmund.

"Jolly well enough," Peter answered. "A bit wet, but that's all. How are you?" Edmund fell silent. Should he tell Peter what he was struggling with? He didn't want to burden him any. Edmund knew how much Peter worried about him and the girls already.

"Edmund?" Peter repeated. "Are you okay?" Weariness won over pride.

"I-I'm not alright." Edmund's voice quivered.

"Edmund, what's wrong?"

Edmund found himself longing for Peter's arms. He wanted Peter to comfort him; to stroke his hair; to give him a hug.

On the other end, Peter was wishing he could be there for Edmund. He had known that his decision to join the air force would hurt his little brother. But he hadn't realized just how completely it would crush Edmund.

Edmund was ready to beg Peter to come home but he remembered Aslan's words.

"What's done is done."

"Peter," Edmund blubbered. He closed his eyes tightly against the tears threatening to fall. He hated to cry; especially in front of Peter. "I don't think I can make it."

"Of course you can't make it," Peter cajoled, his words startling poor Edmund. "You can never make it alone. But that's what faith is for. Have faith, little brother, and Aslan will help you through. It might seem like he's given you more than you can handle, but if you trust him and ask him for help, he'll get you through."

"Thanks, Pete," Edmund choked out.

"I always have believed that you were the strongest of us," Peter remarked. "And I still do, Ed. As long as you trust, I don't think you will break. He won't let you go."

"Peter," Edmund replied. "It's later."

"What do you mean?"

"I said we'd talk later," reminded Edmund. "Remember? You were in the middle of your death speech again, and I told you to save it for later? We never did get a chance to speak of it… And now it's later."

"So it is," Peter gravely agreed. "Are you sure you're ready for this?"

"Yes," Edmund answered determinedly. "You will be heading to war shortly. It only takes one bullet, you know." Peter understood what he was implicating.

"Alright, Ed," he agreed reluctantly. "I really didn't want to have to give you my 'if I die today' speech." Peter began to recall what he had tried to tell Edmund the day of the duel with Miraz. Peter spoke again. "I had really just wanted to apologize to you. I had acted so beastly and been so arrogant and proud. Pride does come before a fall. I know that from experience now. And I don't think I will ever do it again, mind you."

"Peter, it's alright. I forgive-"

"No!" Peter interrupted. "I didn't deserve your forgiveness. I pushed you away. I pushed you, I ignored you, and I hurt you, Edmund. I let you go. I could have made things right! I wanted to tell you that I love you, that you mean the world to me; I could have fixed it. But I still pushed you away. I left you alone to struggle with both of our responsibilities."

Edmund could hear Peter's voice escalating. His older brother was still blaming himself.

"Edmund, we both lost our home, we were both upset and dealing with hard times, but I did nothingabsolutely nothing to help you. If anything, I made it worse. You tried to help me, but I – I just pushed you away. And I finally realized that I was going to lose you. Whether I died in the duel or not, I was going to lose you. You were slipping away from me."

"Peter-" Edmund tried again.

"Edmund, please," Peter begged. "Let me finish. I would have died to know that you still even cared about me – if you could after all I had done. You've always been there for me and I thought you always would. I never dreamed I could lose you; that I could push you so far away. It was my fault, Edmund, and I take the blame. I thought I had lost you a second time." Peter paused but Edmund was confused.

"A second time?" he wondered. "When was the first?"

"When the Witch stabbed you," Peter answered. "That was my fault too. I hadn't looked after you-"

"No," Edmund interrupted. "No, that was entirely my fault. I was wrong. I was pushing you away, that time. We do not need to speak of what is passed." Edmund was right, Peter realized. It was under Aslan control the whole time and they had come out stronger because of it.

"Peter," Edmund reminded. "You're not going to lose me; not now, not ever. There is nothing you could say or anyway you could do that would make me stop loving you. Hang it all, Pete, you're my brother after all."

"Ed, I'm so glad you are always there," Peter answered, with a teary voice. "But I promise I will never push you away like that again. It nearly destroyed us the first time, I won't risk it again."

Edmund sighed contentedly. He and Peter both had lighter hearts after their discussion. Peter told him about life on the base and about his friends. At first, Edmund felt the familiar pang of jealousy, but it quickly faded. He was too tired to be angry anymore.

Peter said there was something peculiar about the one captain, Jones. Once something about Peter being magnificent had slipped out before Jones could check himself. But Peter had heard it and wondered. Now Edmund was pondering the strangeness. It could have been just a coincidence, but why would Jones hide it?

Edmund glanced outside as headlight flashed on the wet windows. Susan was home. Not terribly late, but late enough to make him worry. He yawned as the backdoor opened. Susan stepped in and began taking off her wet shoes and coat. The rain outside seemed to come in torrents of heavy water. Susan stood up and took off her fashionable hat.

Edmund stared at her.

"What?" Susan asked. Edmund continued to gape at her neat bob. Her silky, dark locks were cut off!

"Y-your hair!" Edmund stuttered. "W-what did you do?"

"I got it cut," Susan answered, matter-of-factly.

"I see that," Edmund retorted. "Why did you cut it?"

"Because I got a job," Susan replied.

"A job? Where? Doing what?" demanded Edmund.

"Where? At Hawker Aircraft," Susan answered smoothly. "Doing what? Riveting airplanes."

"But what about nursing school?" protested Edmund. "Besides, I'm the man of the family; I should be providing things not you. Not the other way around!"

"Ed," soothed Susan. "It's not for money. Yes, I get paid, but that's not why I'm doing it. There's a war going on and it's time we did our part. This is a way I can help. I work the first shift at Hawker's from six till three and then attend night school from three thirty till eight."

"Then if you are doing your part, I might as well too," Edmund declared. "I'll drop out of school and work until I'm old enough to fight."

"Edmund, no," Susan commanded. "Peter wouldn't want you to." She briefly touched the locked hanging around her neck, picturing Peter's picture and their father's inside. "He'd want you to finish your education. He knows you want to go to law school."

"Yes," Edmund agreed. "But if doing this means we get the war finished sooner and Peter could come home sooner, I'd much rather skip school."

"Edmund," Susan reminded gently. "You're not talking me out of this. You can't drop out of school."

"Fine," Edmund sighed.

"Now up to bed," Susan scolded. "You should have been upstairs a long time ago."

"You shouldn't have been tardy," Edmund retorted. Susan gave him a hard look and Edmund felt reproachful of his hard words. "Sorry, Su," he muttered. "I was just worried about you. That's all."

Susan began to get busy cleaning up Edmund's half-eaten dinner. "Did anyone call while I was out?"

"Well, yes," Edmund replied. "Peter called." Susan whirled around.

"Peter called?" she gaped.

"Yes," Edmund answered. "About forty minutes ago or so." Susan muttered something and turned back around.

"Su?" Edmund asked, getting up and going to stand beside her. He put his hand on her shoulder. He was taller than her now, and she had to look slightly up at him. "Peter said to tell you hello and that he loved you." Susan nodded, her eyelashes thick with tears. Instinctively, Edmund put his arms around her and gave her a hug. "And I love you too, Susan." He held on to her for several minutes before she pulled away. Edmund was still getting over the shock of her chopped off hair.

"To bed now," she commanded, dabbing at her eyes with her handkerchief.

"As you wish, milady," Edmund teased.

Author's note: There, I hope you liked it! Please review. :)

P.S. Was Susan's hair-cutting unexpected? I may back up a bit and tell Susan's side of the story in the next chapter, or the one after that, cause we need to check back in with Peter.