Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Author's N: My many thanks to Angel 8621 for her betaing and feedback before I posted, it is much appreciated.
Edmund is nine when their father begins to pack for war. He sits upon the chest that lies at the end of his parent's bed, watching with hurt eyes as the one ally he has prepares to leave him. In his selfish, childish mind, the brunette does not think of how this will affect the rest of his family. All he knows for certain is that his father is leaving him. The brunette does not say goodbye to Henry, as his father moves downstairs, cap firmly on his head. He stays in his parent's room, staring angrily at the wall and hating everything, everyone, for taking his father away.
"Eddy?" The small boy does not even flinch at the use of a nickname he only allows from his father. His older brother comes and sits awkwardly on the bed next to him, clearing his throat a little. "Do you want to come say goodbye to daddy?" Edmund's eyes narrow, and suddenly he hates Peter, too. It is unfair, completely and utterly unfair, but it feels good to be able to lash out at something, even if it is at someone who has done nothing wrong.
"Go 'way," He replies childishly, and kicks a little at the floor. Peter sighs, and Edmund feels the creak in the floorboards as his brother gives up, and leaves the room. It is only when he hears the motorcar outside that the brunette jumps from his seat, and moves to the window, watching his father disappear into the vehicle.
The station is noisy, and filled with crying mothers and children. Lucy is clinging tightly to Peter, and Susan is trying to act brave, and older, and somehow Edmund hates the lot of them. He refuses his mother's goodbye kiss, and shrugs Peter aside when his brother tries to take his hand, to lead him through the mob of children and onto the train. Anger builds up inside the brunette, and he longs to punch something. Unfortunately, even despite the circumstances, he knows his mother would not let him get away with punching one of his own siblings, and so he clenches his fists instead, and makes it as awkward as possible for his siblings to bustle him away from everything they know.
Four years after their last adventure in Narnia, Edmund watches as Peter packs slowly and surely for battle. His stomach is clenching icily, and fear courses through him. He is angry; but this time, the anger is not at Peter, who cannot control Britain, not at his mother, who cannot control Peter, but at himself. He knows he is far too young to be going into battle – but so is Peter. Selfishly, he wants to cling to his brother, and force him to stay. He knows he can, too. Over the years in Narnia, and then here in England, he has learned what words to use to his advantage to gain Peter's submission. Of course, he rarely uses it except in dire need; Peter is High King, after all. But the fact is; Edmund knows that Peter wants to do this; he, for some reason, feels he has to. And as much as the brunette might hate it, he sort of understands, too.
So there is no accusation in his eyes, only a simple sort of sadness as he watches his brother pack, and as the blonde stands, dressed already in his uniform, his brother stands with him, and gives him a shaky smile. "You come back, you hear?" he asks, firmly, but seriously.
Peter studies him a moment, then sighs. "I can't promise that, Ed. You know I can't." He pauses, studying Edmund a moment longer, enough for his brother to shuffle his feet a little, uncomfortably. "But now you hear me. I don't want you joining this war, Ed." The younger boy's eyes widen in surprise, and he opens his mouth, perhaps to argue, but his brother silences him with a raised hand. "This isn't Narnia, Ed. We aren't generals or Kings, or even vaguely important-" again, he has to raise a hand, as Edmund jumps from his seat, eyes blazing. "Just listen. There are guns and things we can't even comprehend. Somewhere out there, father is in this war too, and … Aslan help me, Ed, if I find out you're in this thing too, I…" The older brother swallows, and sits down heavily. "I can't risk losing you."
Suddenly, Edmund's throat is all too tight, and he barrels forward, crushing the blonde in a tight hug. Peter's arms wrap around them, and they stay like that for several moments, just taking and giving comfort. "Aslan is with you, Pete." He whispers, quietly. "I trust that He will bring you back to us." A tight squeeze is his response, and the brunette buries a little further into his brother, still desperately unwilling to let his brother into this war which is filled with such hatred.
Two months later; and there is still no word from Peter. Edmund watches as another son returns to their neighbourhood, but cannot help himself from wishing it were Peter. Somewhere deep down inside, he is grateful that another young man has survived this vicious world... but Edmund is no fool, and he knows that everything has its balance, its price. He cannot help but wonder whether Peter's death will be the price for another's life.
During the next few weeks, he and Susan fight continuously. She has forgotten Narnia, and he is angry – furious – that she could have forgotten such a pivotal moment in their lives. Susan is calm and collected as she rationalises with him; which in turn makes Edmund all the angrier. Eventually, he walks away from her, into his and Peter's room, slamming the door hard, and collapsing onto his knees, offering a prayer to Aslan.
An hour later, a note is passed into Susan's room, under her door. The brunette frowns as she sees it, hesitantly picking it up by two fingers, and opening it to reveal her brother's neat script. It is only as she reads the words that the first hint of tears appear, and soon Susan is running from her room to her brother's, opening the door and crushing Edmund into a tight hug, along with the promise "you will never lose me",
It has been nearly three years, and they are all of them older, wiser, and a little sadder. Edmund wears a tux of black and white, and thinks somewhat sadly that Peter would have loved to be here. Susan enters the room, and gives him a brave smile, her hair done up, wearing a dark green dress. It reminds Edmund of some of her dresses in Narnia, but he does not say. Susan will not speak of Narnia, or Peter, or their father. Sometimes, Edmund wonders if she has forgotten them altogether.
He stands next to Lucy, wearing a proud but sad smile as he escorts his sister up the aisle. Part of him cries for what he is losing – another sister, another moment – but part of him could not be happier for his dear sister. Lucy is wearing a dress of pale green; a simple affair, but then Lucy had never liked fancy things. Upon her head, she wears a small circle of gold, and Edmund privately thinks of the crown she had once worn in Narnia. At the far corner stands her betrothed, the man to whom Edmund must entrust his sister's life. He is loath to do so, but it is not his place to deny Lucy. Only Peter has that right.
Lucy is half way through her vows when Edmund spots the blond, moving down the ailse, and shuffling into a seat near the very back. The blond is older, wearier looking – and far skinnier than Edmund has ever seen him – but it is he. The brunette's eyes widen, and he sends up a silent thanks to Aslan for his brother's life.
They wait until the ceremony is done with, until they set on him. Edmund, Susan and Lucy all run at their brother, knocking the cap from his head, and sending him sprawling into the grass with a laugh and a shout, suddenly all children once more.
Lucy's beloved smiles and watches them with a roll of the eyes, and when Lucy looks up at him, she nods. "Yes, this is my brother, Peter. He is home."
Peter stands, and draws Susan and Edmund up with him, before stepping over to the man, holding out his hand to shake. "Sir," he states quietly. Dimly, Edmund thinks it wrong that Peter, of all people, should call someone younger than him 'Sir'. The other man smiles, shakes Peter's hand. "My sister's wellbeing and honour lays in your hands, brother-in-law," States Peter. "Guard it well. Protect her. Be unto her as she would be unto you." Their new brother-in-law gives a thoughtful smile, and then nods.
"I will." He assures, and it sounds to Edmund a little like a vow.
It is well into the celebrations when Edmund is eventually able to sneak away, though he does not feel comfortable leaving his brother's side for long. But Peter is dancing with Susan, and even though everything seems as it once was, he cannot but remember those terrifying years when everything was shrouded in doubt.
He walks out into the summery but chilled evening, and finds a secluded spot, far away from the hall. The Just King of Narnia drops to his knees, closing his eyes, bowing his head.
"Thank you, Aslan. Thank you for my brother."
Author's N: Thoughts and criticisms much appreciated, as always.