Absolution of a Dream
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy, their mother, and Narnia are all characters created by the wonderful CS Lewis. I promise to be good and give them back once I'm done. Until next time, at least…
Summary: Contrary to belief, Susan was not the only one who stopped believing in Narnia.
Author's N: I am looking for a better title for this piece - if anyone can think of anything, I'd be very grateful!
It was one of those few, rare and in-between moments where Edmund Pevensie was actually rather grateful for his brother's lack of interest in food recently, as he pulled him up the two flights of stairs to Peter's dorm. Still, he reflected, heaving a breath as he pulled his brother further into the school, it didn't mean he couldn't tell Peter off all the same – and he intended to. No one should be this thin. As they eventually reached the blonde's dorm room, the younger brother heaved a sigh of relief, and rolled his aching shoulders for a moment, gathering the strength to pull Peter the rest of the way. The brother in question was currently… well, Edmund wasn't sure if he were knocked out unconscious or just asleep. The amount of alcohol that Peter had consumed would suggest the latter, but the younger still wasn't entirely sure.
Carefully positioning his brother so Peter sat against the wall for a moment, Edmund pushed open the door, sighing in relief as he realised that his brother's roommate seemed to be absent. Another night of coming up with stupid excuses and possibly a report to the Head was exactly what Peter didn't need right now. Although; sometimes it sure was tempting. The brunette shook his head, dismissing the thought, and moved back to his brother, grabbing Peter by the arms and pulling him into the bedroom, over to the right bed, eventually managing (with somewhat of a struggle) to get the blonde onto it. Stumbling over to the chair next to the bed, he sat, forcing himself to take deep breaths, to coax his heart-beat back to normal as he glanced at his brother with a frown.
He had never expected Peter to be this type of person. Never expected that he would be the one to pull him back… although, he knew if circumstances were anything near normal, and the situation was at all reversed, Peter would probably do the same for him. Or at least, he hoped so. Tomorrow, Edmund knew there would be shouting, swearing – the idea of Peter swearing even now still made him recoil in disbelief, despite the fact that he'd seen it happen first hand – and probably a few insults directed his way. That was fine. Edmund had more than enough deserved all of them (one way or another) at some point in his life. But that didn't mean it hurt any less.
The thought trailed off as the door opened, revealing Peter's roommate. Edmund gave them a slight nod, trying to remember the boy's name, coming up with nothing. "Out again, is he?" The boy's voice is slightly clipped, doused in accusation. Edmund sighs with a shrug.
"You know how it is with him,"
"Didn't used to be." Edmund frowns, acknowledging the truth in the matter, and says nothing, glancing over at Peter instead, half to check his brother is still breathing. "Used to be a good student, him. Now out all night, barely comes to lectures. When he does, he's not listening," the boy shrugged, and sits heavily down onto his own bed. "Never thought him the type, really."
"Me neither," The brunette admits, and shakes his head. "Still… teenager, you know? Things change, but he'll be back to himself soon enough, I'm sure." Admittedly, Edmund is not sure at all, but he's unwilling to admit this in front of this person he barely knows. Insane as it sounds, he's unwilling to sully Peter's reputation any more than Peter himself has done… unwilling to back-mouth his brother. He pauses, turning to face the boy briefly. "Hey, d'you mind if I stay… just to keep an eye on him." He adds, with a grimace. The other boy shrugs a little.
"Sure. Long as you don't snore." Edmund snorts, rolling his eyes.
"I don't think I'll be sleeping tonight," he admits with a sigh, watching the other boy burry down into his bed, thinking longingly of his own bed, and shrugging off the slight feel of annoyance – he has chosen to keep vigil over Peter, after all. And if he returned to his own rooms, he'd only have nightmares that his brother has choked in his sleep or something. The brunette sinks back into the chair, rolling his shoulders a little, a light snoring taking up from the other bed. He looks over, and raises an eyebrow, realising that Peter's roommate has fallen asleep. "Just you and me, Pete." Peter mumbles something, and turns over in his sleep. "Just me then," Edmund amends, with a quirk of a smile.
He is grateful that his mother agreed to him coming here. The short letters from Peter had been nothing but antagonising, and being so far away from his brother after everything has been awful; a constant mockery to Edmund's worry. He doesn't know what good will come of him being here, or whether Peter will even be happy he's here, but either way, the brunette is glad he's come. For Peter, it seems, has rather fallen from grace. To catch the normally so responsible boy drinking was shocking enough – but to then hear the torrent of foul language as Edmund manhandled him from the student's common room almost had the brunette stopping in shock. It was only the warning sign of Peter throwing up that had kept him going – desperate to save some of his brother's dignity.
If Edmund closes his eyes, and thinks very hard, he can almost see Cair Paravel; almost smell the Narnian air, which is somehow cleaner and sweeter than that in England. He can remember – vaguely – Peter as High King, a man full of laughter and kindness, but who was often too serious for his own good. Part of the brunette wonders whether that man has gone forever, like Susan seems to have. But no… for this is Peter: who always believed in Aslan, even when he pretended not to.
The younger King thinks back to the last time they were in Narnia, of Caspian's crowning. That was when everything changed, he thinks. When Susan became distant and prim, when Peter began to stray from them. His brother had almost managed before, when he'd started fights as a way of letting out his frustration. Edmund had understood his brother's rage then – he had been able to sympathise. But now…. He is struggling to reason with his brother's ways. Peter is falling from them all, and it is terrifying. Peter, who was always so strong. Peter, the consistent.
Susan has already shied away from them, and as a result Lucy clings to him, a last lifeline to a life they had once had, but might never have again. A last memory, as it was. He does not mind so much; he is grateful to be able to atone for the way he was before they were given Narnia. And besides, with Lucy, it is very hard for anyone to say no.
But if Peter falls, if Peter begins to think as his older sister does, Edmund wonders, worries, as to whom he can lean on. It is a selfish, selfish thought, and one he tries to repress. But seeing his brother like this; disorderly and passed out from drink; makes him afraid for the future. For if the High King falters, then what of the High King's people? What of the country that reveres the days of old? What of the brother and sister who hang to their brother's every word, who go to him in times of need? Edmund wonders, silently, though guiltily, whether his brother even cares anymore.
With a soft sigh and a stretch, he leans back in the uncomfortable chair, drifting off eventually into an unsettled sleep, the long hours of travel from Finchley to Oxford finally catching up with him.
It is sometime in the late morning that Peter Thomas Pevensie wakens; his head splitting with the now-familiar throb which means that last night was spent in the company of alcohol and friends too kind to refuse it. He quickly shuts his eyes away from the pulsing light behind his eyes, and groans loudly. "Lion's mane," He has a vague memory, a vague wisp of a dream… a brunette, tugging him from a room. The brunette seems to be his brother, but that is ridiculous, for Edmund is in Finchley, and for a moment Peter's heart throbs a little with homesickness.
The blonde cracks open an eye: and looks about, half expecting to see his brother there. But Edmund, as expected, is nowhere to be found, and stupidly, Peter is a little disappointed. Opening his eyes further – cautiously – he is quickly aware that his roommate, Stephen, is watching him with a raised eyebrow, and tips himself into a sitting position, wincing as his stomach curls. "What was I drinking last night?" he asks, trying to sound non-committal.
Stephen snorts, and shrugs. "No idea, mate. Listen, though, you better shake up a bit. Your brother's here- he went to get you some food." Peter's eyes widen. Edmund is here? He swallows, and nods.
"Right… um… when did he…?"
"No clue," The other boy shrugs "Slept on the chair last night though, and I don't think he's exactly happy with you either, Pete. Better think up of a good excuse for whatever he found you up to last night." He eyes the blonde briefly, critically. "I take it you haven't told him about your… endeavours?" Peter snorts a little at the very idea of telling Edmund… he can just about imagine how well that'll go down.
The blonde sighs, and stretches, forcing himself into a standing position, wincing a little as the throb in his head quickens its pace a little. "Better get myself sorted, I suppose. I assume he is coming back inside, yes?" he asks, and Stephen nods.
"Far as I know. Isn't a very talkative chap though, is he?"
Peter laughs softly, wincing at the pain it creates. "No, not really," he agrees, deciding not to explain that with Edmund, it is not so much that he is not talkative, it is that his brother simply does not say words just to speak – he tries to make everything have some sort of… effect. The older brother worries a little what words his sibling has stored up for him.
Nearly half an hour later, he steps out from the bathroom, looking and feeling a thousand times better, and is almost about to dismiss the entire incident of last night as a dream when a voice – cool with thinly veiled fury – pounds into his head. "What. The. Bloody hell. Were you doing?!" The once High-King of Narnia gives a rounded chuckle, tries to ignore the look of anger in his brother's eyes as he reaches up, tousling Edmund's hair gently.
"Is that any way to treat your beloved brother?" He rebukes gently. From Edmund, there is only silence. Peter sighs, and turns to face him, opening his mouth to spew out one of the many excuses he has developed over the months, only to close it again at the look on his brother's face. Edmund, only sixteen, suddenly looks ten years older, his face etched with worry, anger, and weariness. Peter swallows, and reaches forward to touch his brother's shoulder, but the younger brother sidesteps him, and his eyes narrow a little.
"You really think it's that easy?!" he snaps, and Peter is startled to see that Edmund seems to be shaking a little. "You think I can come to your University, wanting to spend time with you, and find you drunk, swearing and carrying on like a bloody drunken dwarf?!"
"Ed!" Peter snaps, but his brother is unstoppable.
"Bloody hell, Peter! Why didn't you tell me what the hell you were doing?! Why didn't you mention this – in any letter? Actually, why the hell didn't you write?!" Edmund holds up a hand, with a bitter laugh. "No, I can gather why, I think. Didn't want your little brother coming in and ruining the fun for you, did you? Well hear me now, Peter. It stops. Whatever… game you're playing. It stops right now."
The string of explicative that Peter lets loose startles them both, and Edmund actually takes a few steps back, staring at his brother as though he doesn't recognise him. In fact, it's not too far off the truth. Peter feels guilty seconds after he has spoken, and opens his mouth to apologise, but the damage is already done. Edmund steps back another step and nods slowly. "Right. I see how it is." He shakes his head, turning and grabbing a duffel bag that Peter has not yet noticed, and the older brother's throat tightens as he realises what it means.
"Ed…" he begins, but the other raises a hand, stopping Peter short in whatever he was about to say.
"I'm not staying to get insulted. I get enough from Susan," he says, then freezes briefly, shrugging a little at the slip of information, as though it doesn't matter. The older brother raises an eyebrow. Under normal circumstances, he'd sit the brunette down, get him to explain exactly what he meant… but these aren't normal circumstances. For one, Edmund has come to university only to find his brother drunk and disorderly. For another, Peter has just sworn at his second in command, his brother, his best friend. Peter, as a rule, does not swear in the hearing of any family member – least of all at them. The blonde feels guilt clog up his throat, and he swallows bile, taking a slow breath, trying to think of a way to rectify what has happened.
"I'll see you at the end of term," Edmund's voice is lower in volume, so much so that Peter has to strain his ears a little to hear it. "If you're coming back, that is." There seems to be too much loaded within the question, and Peter shudders at the gravity of it.
"Ed, please… you only just got here,"
"Yes, and I can see what a mistake that was." Terrifyingly, the older can see strikes of the brother that was before Narnia, before Jadis and her trickery, before holes were mended in hearts. Though Edmund is nowhere near the child he was back then, Peter can see trickles of him in his brother, and it terrifies him. He wants to plead with his brother once more, but holds back, perhaps wisely, and steps away a little, swallowing. There is something in Edmund, some sign of defeat that Peter has never seen before… and he has a horrible feeling that it has something to do with their Gentle Queen.
Before Peter can form an adequate response, Edmund is gone, the door shutting hard behind him, leaving his brother staring in guilty surprise.
It is almost three months before Peter is allowed home. Three months of trying to write consistently to a brother who responds only with candid letters that tell his sibling nothing of his own life but plenty of their sisters. Though Peter appreciates the news, what he really wants is for Edmund to speak to him properly, or at least to write to him as he once had. But Edmund is a stranger in those three months, and on the train home to Finchley, Peter's heart is heavy with remorse for the way he treated Edmund – who had only, really, been trying to help.
The blonde moves up to the doorstep hesitantly, his bag in one hand, and knocks thrice, hoping that he'll be met with kinder candour than his letters have been. It is a few minutes before the door is opened to reveal his mother, looking tired but happy. "Peter, dear!" she exclaims, drawing him into a tight hug, before releasing him. "Let me look at you!" She pulls away to study him. "My how you've grown! So tall! Although far too skinny," She chides, and Peter cannot help but roll his eyes a little, well naturedly. "We'll have to feed you up, son!" She chuckles, leading him into the house. "We weren't expecting you until later today! Not that we mind, of course," she adds with a smile.
"Where is everyone?" Peter asks, looking about, expecting to see Lucy or Susan, or even Edmund, but seeing no one.
"Oh, Lucy and Susan are still at school, they come home tonight, and Ed is at art school. He'd have told you all about that, of course." Peter's heart drops into his shoes, and he looks, frankly, shocked. Helen pauses, glancing at him, her face forming a frown. "But darling, he came up to see you three months ago; he said he told you…" She trails off, with a sigh, realising. "That boy, honestly. Sometimes he's the most wonderful child, and sometimes…" she shakes her head.
Peter swallows hard, and bites his lip. "I'm afraid I upset him when he came," he confesses softly. "I'll speak to him though,"
Helen frowns, sighs, and places a hand on her son's shoulder. "I'm sure you didn't mean to, dear. Ed has been awfully sensitive of late. But why don't you go up to your room, hmm? Unpack, and relax a bit. I'm sure you're exhausted from the travel. Edmund is back tomorrow." she gives him a light smile, and Peter nods, hugging her one more time before making the small trip upstairs, into the room that he and Edmund share, glancing over at his brother's side of the room, smiling a little at the tidiness of it all, before setting his own case down, and moving to sit on the bed, closing his eyes for a few minutes, simply to relax.
He is woken an hour later at the sound of younger sister pouncing on him, and laughs as she bounces onto the bed next to him. "Peter! Oh, Peter, you're home!" Lucy's cries of happiness are loud enough to make the elder boy wince a little, but he does nothing except smile, and pulls her into a hug.
"Of course I am, goose!" he teases, before reaching down and beginning to tickle her, mercilessly, causing Lucy to giggle unstoppably. It is when Susan comes in, and raises an eyebrow at the both of them, that the room suddenly feels… colder. Peter stops in his administrations and smiles up at their sister. "Hullo, Su!"
"If you two could stop acting like children," Susan's voice is clipped, cold, and Peter freezes a little, frowning at her, noting how Lucy seems to go still in his hold. "Mother says that lunch is ready."
"I say," he murmurs, as she turns and whirls from the room. "Did I upset her or something?"
Lucy frowns and cocks her head at him. "Ed didn't tell you?" At Peter's bewildered look, the younger girl sighs. "I thought he mightn't. She's been like this for a while now…" she wrinkles her nose. "She's usually not so bad, but since Ed went to art school, she's gotten worse." She shrugs. "It's not so bad, really. But sometimes, she's… well."
Peter frowns, shaking his head. "Perhaps she's missing Narnia," he murmurs softly, though he knows its no excuse for her treating their siblings this way… not htat he can say much, he thinks, thinking back to his treatment of Edmund months before. Lucy flinches, and the older boy's eyes widen briefly in surprise. "Luce?"
"Just don't' mention Narnia in front of her, Pete. Please?" The blonde hardly has time to answer, his head reeling in shock, trying to understand, when Susan pokes her head through the doorway, looking even more annoyed than before, if possible.
"Are you two coming or not?!" She snaps, before shaking her head and leaving the room once more. Silently, Peter stands up, and leads Lucy out of the room, noting with a little sadness the way his sister clings to his hand – so tightly it almost goes numb.
It is another two days before Edmund returns from school, and when Peter opens the door to welcome him home; he almost reels back in shock at how changed his brother is. Edmund looks… old. Wary, somehow, and tired beyond belief. The older boy hesitates, and steps back, allowing the brunette into the room. A year ago, he would've hugged his brother, but now, he is not so sure that it would be welcomed. Besides, Edmund looks very much as though he might break with too much handle.
His brother greets their sisters and mother with a wary smile and soft words, before moving wordlessly past Peter, and up to the room they share, dragging his case behind him. Peter follows, determined to get to the bottom of this, hoping that Edmund will confide in him. But when he enters the room, only seconds behind his brother, Edmund is already curled up in his bed, drifting toward sleep.
The half-scream jolts the blonde from his book, and he starts up, staring over to Edmund's bed, where his brother is shaking violently. Without a second thought, Peter bolts over, sitting on his brother's bed and trying to pull Edmund into his arms. But the brunette will have none of it – fighting against him in unconsciousness, sobbing beneath his breath. "Peter, please!" the plea cuts through the elder, and he swallows, responding only by holding Edmund closer, trying to wake him gently.
"Ed, it's me! You're safe… Edmund!" He shakes him lightly, but nothing seems to work. Seconds later, Lucy runs through into the room, and before Peter can even berate her for being up past bedtime, she has pushed him from their brother's side, and has Edmund's face between her hands, speaking in an assertive voice he has not heard since Narnia.
"Edmund, its Lucy. Your sister. You're dreaming, and it's time to wake up." Peter opens his mouth to argue that the words will never work, but seconds later, Edmund's eyes fly open. HE gasps a breath, looks about blindly for a moment until his eyes settle on his sister.
"P… P… Peter…" He gasps out, and Lucy nods, drawing him into as close an embrace as she can manage.
"He's here, he's safe. He hasn't forgotten," she promises, though there is an edge of sharpness in her voice that has Peter flinching, despite the fact the words are not aimed at him. Her words hit him, and he reels, standing up and moving away from his siblings, Lucy's words penetrating his brain as he finally realises, finally understands.
I get enough insults from Susan… his brother had said, three months ago. And Peter starts to wonder if, finally, he is beginning to understand. Lucy's later words, her voice as she pled with him not to mention Narnia to their sister… it burns, it hurts… and the older boy cracks, running from the room and downstairs, into the livingroom where Susan and their mother are sat. He moves to Susan's side, and grabs her by the shoulders.
"Tell me it's not true!" he shouts in her face, and Susan's eyes are wide with shock. He is a barely aware of their mother rising to her feet in surprise. "Tell me you remember! Susan Pevensie! Tell me you remember!"
Susan's eyes are eerily calm as she stands, pushing his hands away from her. "I really haven't the slightest idea what you're talking about, brother." Peter is left, gobsmacked and reeling, as Susan picks up her book, and leaves the room.
It is almost half an hour later when Edmund makes his way downstairs, encouraged by Lucy, and into the living-room, where Peter is still sat on the floor, his head reeling from everything he has learned. The blonde looks up as his brother enters, with two cups of tea, managing a weak smile as one is passed over to him, tempered as he likes it. He takes a sip, barely registering the liquid, his mind still on Susan. He swallows, and takes a breath, grateful that their mother long ago retired to her bed. "I'm sorry, Ed." It's not what he planned to say, but he's grateful it's the first thing that leaves his lips, for it is the truth – and perhaps it is also the most important thing he needed to say.
Edmund sighs, and sits on the sofa a little way away from his brother, carefully keeping distance as he rotates the cup in his hand. He says nothing, and Peter shifts awkwardly, his knees now starting to hurt a little from where he is sat. "Ed…? Eddy?"
"Don't." Edmund's voice is sharp with pain, a hint of wistfulness seeping through, and Peter winces a little at the raw quality. "Don't call me that. Please." The words sting, as perhaps they were meant to, and Peter swallows, nods, standing up with a wince, and moving to sit on the chair abandoned earlier by Susan.
"I've been a royal ass, haven't I?" he asks, his voice cracking a little. Edmund looks up, startled, and then manages a weak smile.
"Just a bit," he admits softly, swallowing. "I just…" he sighs, closing his eyes briefly, and Peter feels his throat constrict with guilt. He places the cup on the table, and moves to Edmund's side, kneeling next to him.
"Ed. Look at me." His brother does so, and Peter is startled to see the warning of tears in his eyes. "I haven't forgotten. I'll never forget. And, more importantly, I will always love you. For you are my brother, my shield, my guide and my friend." He repeats the oath that Edmund had sworn to him so long ago, and Edmund's eyes shine with unshod tears.
"And you are my brother, my King, my guide, my sword, and my strength," the words are choked, but heartfelt, and Peter's spirit is lifted a little by them. He reaches forward, and presses a firm kiss to Edmund's forehead, a sign of respect and fellowship they had installed long ago in Narnia, and when he pulls back, Edmund is smiling a little, though the smile is watery. "I love you, brother mine." States the elder, and the brunette moves forward, encasing Peter in a tight hug.
"And I you. Even if you are a completely infuriating idiot at times."
"Pot. Kettle." Peter responds calmly, but with a grin.
"If you two are quite finished cuddling each other," Their younger sister's voice trills through into the room as she enters, with a grin at the sight of the two of them, and the brothers exchange a look. "Mother wants you to help with dinner. Even though we all know Ed can't cook, and Peter always likes adding-" Whatever she is about to say, though, is lost, as by unspoken agreement, her brother's pounce on her, causing Lucy to squeal with delight as Peter tackles her with tickles, whilst Edmund does likewise, both of them – unfortunately for her – knowing her weak spots. "Edmund, Peter stop! No!" Lucy laughs, and Helen stops in the doorway, chuckling softly at the sight of her children, playing together for the first time in months.
In the kitchen, one Susan Pevensie hears the laughter of her siblings, and bites back the longing she feels, wiping a tear from her eyes, as she resolutely begins to chop the vegetables, reminding herself that her siblings are childish and foolish – putting all thoughts of games and laughter from her head, for a final time.
Author's N: It's been quite a while since I wrote anything of merit, and though this piece really jumps about quite a bit, I wanted to play with the idea that perhaps Susan wasn't the only one who lost faith in Narnia – even if it was regained again by the others. Also, I wanted to reacquaint myself with the brothers. As always, comments and criticism are much appreciated