Author's Note: To everyone who reads this story, I'm sorry that I haven't updated for a while. :)
Life went on, even when Peter was gone, and Edmund settled into his new life.
Susan left for St. Finnbar's a few days after their older brother's departure and there was a tear or two from his mother as well as Lucy, softhearted as she was. There was an odd silence to the house for the first week with two people gone, but the two siblings that had been left behind tried to make up for it with their own noise. Edmund couldn't remember the last time he had simply messed about for so many hours with only Lucy and it was nice - relaxing even.
She made up her own set of rules for him the day Peter left, to keep him from secretly moping about it.
The first of them was that they had to leave the house for at least an hour every day. She called it 'Walking Edmund' and, as much as he wanted to feel offended by it, he had to admit that it put him in a better mood.
The second was that he had to sleep on her spare bed, one of the set of two, in her room so that Lucy could keep an eye on him at night and make sure that he wasn't becoming an unhealthy insomniac without his former sleeping partner. Edmund protested at first, but she dragged him there and he didn't have the energy to argue anymore.
The third was that she insisted on instituting her own version of the 'fireside chats' that Peter regularly started every once in a while on a pleasant evening, just between the two, young men.
She pulled him into the study onto an armchair one day and seated herself as well, across from him.
"How are you feeling today, brother?" she asked, trying to imitate what she thought to be an older, more masculine voice.
"This is ridiculous," he stated flatly. "It isn't even dark yet."
She broke character and giggled, bouncing up and down.
"I've always wanted to do this! I kept wondering what you two talk about, all stuffy and serious, but I wasn't allowed to join in. Now I can because Peter isn't here and he gave me strict instructions to do whatever it takes to cheer you up."
She coughed and cleared her throat, returning to her boyish persona.
"So, what does your heart tell you, dear chum? Tell me all about it."
Edmund's eye fairly twitched and he stared at his sister, who was clearly enjoying herself.
"It shocks me - truly - how brilliant you are at impersonating our brother. Aside from the height, I can't tell the difference - really."
Lucy clapped her hands together, grinning.
"I know, right? I practiced."
"Yeah, I can see that."
She pouted and put on the glummest face that she could.
"Don't be a spoilsport, Ed. It'll be fun, you'll see!"
He hesitated, trying to decide whether it would be better to just amuse her or not.
"What do you think about the school year that's comin' up, my comrade?"
Edmund tried not to laugh outright.
"Since when have you started smoking a pipe, Peter?" he asked, looking pointedly at what she was miming.
"A habit I picked up, chum. You should try it."
He smiled and rubbed his neck.
"What do I think? I hope it's going to be a good year...and if it isn't - well - I guess I'll have to deal with that too."
"No worries, my fellow. You'll do fine."
"Seriously, Luce, he doesn't talk like that - "
He was shushed impatiently and Edmund went on.
"I do hope that our little sister keeps her nose out of trouble and that she pays attention in class instead of talking to squirrels in the window like last time."
'Fake Peter' nodded solemnly; stroking what seemed to be a long beard.
"Of course, it would be nice if I could get a part-time job, a paper-route or something, to help with the bills this year."
"Hmm," 'Fake Peter' agreed, running his fingers through his facial hair.
"But, I don't know if Mum would let me do that. She might feel guilty about it."
It was only a saddened Lucy who spoke this time when she said, "I didn't even think about it that way. You're probably right."
His eyes darted to the door that they had closed before beginning the session and he lowered his voice intentionally.
"I have something to tell you. I've been meaning to for a while now, but you can't say anything to anyone - especially Peter."
Lucy's back straightened and she became just as focused as he was.
"What exactly do you want to tell me?"
He leaned in closer and put his hand in hers, squeezing.
"It's extremely important, Lu. You have to promise me that you'll keep it between us."
She squeezed back and, instead of a girl, he saw a lovely queen, sitting there.
"You have my word - you know I don't break it."
"I think that Dad might be an alcoholic."
There it was, out in the air, and she paled visibly.
"Are you sure, Edmund? Are you absolutely sure? Don't scare me like that without being sure."
So, he told her the entire story with their 'strolls' and the details in between. She was horrified.
"My god, why didn't you tell me about it before, you silly, silly man?" she questioned the thirty-year-old, hugging him tightly.
"Didn't want you to worry," he mumbled into her soft neck.
"I can't imagine what it must have been like for you, all by yourself," she mused aloud. "How many times a week does he do it with you now?"
"Three, usually," he told her. "He'll have to do it by himself more often when we start going to school."
She sat back down, slightly breathless.
"How exactly did you hide it from Peter? He knows everything. Once, I was in the opposite side of the house and he immediately knew I was eating the sweets that Mum told me that I couldn't have. "
"I managed somehow."
"Why does he bring you with him? That's such a foolish idea for a full-grown man trying to hide a bad habit."
"I think it makes him feel better about it," Edmund confided. "He isn't alone somehow."
"What are we going to do about it?"
That was the big question, it seemed, and unfortunately, he didn't have an answer.
"We watch and we wait for now. He might break out of it without interference. Who knows?"
"Edmund," Lucy only said in a slow, drawn-out fashion.
He rubbed his temple.
"Don't look at me like that - what else am I going to do? Just tell him to stop and he'll do it, just like that? You know that won't work."
"I don't know about anything else, but you can't keep going to that pub with him."
"I have to go when I'm able, Lu. Don't you understand? It's dangerous there. What if he doesn't make it back home one day?"
She shook her head.
"It's dangerous for you. Dad can take care of himself, but you're fifteen."
He was quite resolved and nothing she said would sway him.
"I'm fifteen and I also have twenty years of experience in my brain," he reminded her, tapping his skull. "I know how to handle a situation."
"I'm not saying that you don't," Lucy said softly. "But, I don't know what I'm going to do if you end up on our doorstep, all battered up."
His gaze softened and he kissed the back of her hand once.
"Trust me, love," he began, using a rare endearment. "I'm not going to get hurt."
"I can't believe I'm going to just watch you do this. Peter is going to be so angry with me."
"He won't know and, even if he did, he would know it wasn't your fault."
They talked for a while after that and Edmund thought that the 'not-really-fireside-chat' was a good idea after all.
School started in August and both Edmund and Lucy went dutifully.
It was strange not to look over his shoulder and see his brother there, to have nobody to share a secret smile or an unspoken understanding. As a lone Pevensie, he baffled teachers and students alike with his oddly mature behavior.
Some people liked him in his first month and some people didn't. Thankfully, he didn't run into any major problems and he made a few, fairly friendly companions out of boredom. They played games on the lawn during breaks and reluctantly made their way into the buildings when these periods ended.
It was the same, standard thing every day and Edmund daydreamed to make it bearable. History and Politics were the only classes where he became interested, but then a pupil would raise his hand to say something ignorant or some obviously incorrect assumption and he would groan to himself secretly. He often thought about what Lucy was doing, not too far away, in seventh form and wished that he could sprint off to visit her.
He much preferred the way he had been tutored in Narnia, under Oreius. Now, that was a fine education.
The school in England was...some inefficient form of trying to stuff facts into the heads of children and making sure that they were definitely miserable while you were doing it.
When he came home on his bicycle, Lucy was waiting for him and then the best part of the day started. They did all sorts of things, from tag, hide-and-seek and practicing waltzing in the garden to baking, reading quietly and making fun of the homework their teachers had given them.
"What are we supposed to learn out of this, Edmund?"
"I don't know, Lucy. I don't know."
Their mother seemed to be in a good mood most days and Edmund felt that things were okay.
In September, their father got his job back, but he was still drinking. Edmund didn't know how he had the time do it, but he was - there was no mistaking the alcohol in his breath when he came too close. Miraculously, there were no accidents to speak of.
In October, Lucy turned fourteen and they celebrated it with gusto. She got four, new dresses and Edmund helped to decorate the cake. As his own, personal present, he promised to donate some of his money to a charity for orphans that was special to her. Susan sent a pretty hairband and some coral lipstick from boarding school. Edmund made a note to himself to remind Lucy only to tell Peter about the hairband when he called the house from Oxford. Peter, himself, gave her a monogrammed, fountain pen and a whole weekend with him, doing whatever she wanted to do.
Their older brother had sent letters from time to time for his mother, Edmund and Lucy individually. There had been no piece of paper for their father.
Edmund had received six thus far.
'Dear Ed,' it would say. 'You're an idiot and I love you."
That was how it always began.
He said that he had gotten a nice enough roommate, who didn't talk in his sleep about raspberry scones like Edmund did, and that they were getting along swimmingly. His professors were impressed with him and London was swarming with busy people. He missed the peace of home and having someone call him 'my liege' at least once a day.
When Edmund wrote him back after the second one came, he explained that the High King was simply spoiled and that he thought it was good that he was finally getting it through his thick skull that he was a common civilian in their world. Peter had retorted that he remembered a time when they had just gotten back from Narnia and Edmund had been squirming with shame to stand waiting in a line for tickets or complaining that he wished he had brought his solid, gold chess set with him.
He had yet to respond still.
His little sister was delighted when Peter telephoned them and Edmund took the phone carefully when she said that he wanted to speak to him. It was an expensive call and he knew that they didn't have a lot of time.
"Hullo?" Edmund spoke into the plastic.
"Ed!" he heard and a rush of longing swelled in his chest at the familiar sound.
"How - how are you?"
"Fine. I might be better if you wrote me more letters."
The tone was accusatory and he laughed.
"I'm sorry. I know I'm bad."
"You're terrible, that's what. If I didn't know you well enough, I might even say that you hadn't read mine."
The trouble was that every time he sat down to reply, he would get emotional and not know what to write down. It was very difficult to compose a letter when you couldn't think straight.
"You know that I have, you dolt."
"I've won the argument," he said with a satisfied chuckle. "This proves that I miss you more. I'm the one who's begging you to remember me."
"It doesn't prove anything," Edmund said quietly. "I'm the one who's dying over here."
There was an intake of breath on the other end of the line. Peter's voice cracked a little when he spoke.
"I miss you and Lucy so much - you can't even imagine. I wake up first thing in the morning and wish I could see one of your faces. I'm half tempted to force Harold into my bed so that I can think I'm touching you."
Edmund almost doubled over in mirth and Lucy cast him a curious look.
"Please, please, don't do that to the poor boy," he got out, gasping.
"Wouldn't dream of it - I might get kicked out and then I would be an odd, homeless sort of royalty, wouldn't I?"
"The first one that London has ever seen," he agreed, grinning widely.
"I can't wait to come home. It's different for everyone else, but I'm taking three weeks off, you know. I'm going to be getting more holiday time in the future. I might be able to come down every two weeks or so."
Edmund was in shock.
"But - but how?"
There was a chuckle.
"University is different, Ed. I can't explain right now - I've got to go, actually."
There was a long pause and neither said anything. Suddenly, an image of a train accident and his brother's mangled body came to mind. It was pure paranoia that this would be the last time they spoke and he knew that, but it evoked a reaction out of Edmund anyways.
"Love you," he choked out.
Silence for a while and then, "Love you a hundred times more."
Peter hung up and Edmund put the phone back. When he turned around, his mother and Lucy were gawking at him on purpose.
"I told you, Mum," Lucy said in a stage whisper. "They're married."
Edmund growled and started towards his little sister as she giggled.
It was a day before Peter's arrival and Edmund was at the 'Four, Grey Horses' pub again.
He had thought that it would be a good night, initially. As it was a Saturday, he shouldn't have been surprised because his father took him there every Saturday, but he had seen that Frank Pevensie was in an extraordinarily good mood and had hoped that he wouldn't need a drink that evening.
Apparently, he had been wrong and was hauled out of the house directly after dinner. Lucy had whispered to be careful and he was trying to be.
"Eddy, ma boy," his father slurred, already far too gone. "You'ze got sum spulunk! I like dat."
Edmund frowned and tried to make sense of that sentence.
Why tonight? Why did he have to do it tonight when Peter might be able to spot a hangover the next day?
They were sitting at the bar on the high stools and beefy men, who had similar drinking problems, with biceps that were as large as watermelons surrounded them.
"Bur, ya brozer. He gotz no spulunk."
Edmund had the vague impression he was talking about Peter.
"What is 'spulunk'?" he asked patiently.
"Huh? Spulunk is spulunk. Eetz tha spiritz in ya. Ya gotz eet from me. Me! Notz ya brozer."
Edmund promptly gave up trying to understand and touched Frank's hand.
"We have to go home now. Mum will be worried about you."
They had never been out quite so late. It was eleven already.
"Go? Go! Don' wanna-"
At that moment - and Edmund wished he could have froze time and rewinded - his hand swung out in his excitement and it hit a guy behind him, just as ridiculously sloshed. He recognized the instant when the man's eyebrows drew tightly together and he understood that he had been attacked in some form and therefore insulted. Edmund jumped down to get between them and create a barrier.
"I'm sorry, sir. It was a misunderstanding-"
A fist crashed into Edmund's eye because he was too close to duck before it hit him. Spots of black erupted in his vision and it took him a moment to assess the situation again.
"Whaz da bloody hellz you doin' wit ma spulunk?!" his father screamed madly at the large man.
Oh, god...Get him out, Edmund Pevensie. Get him out.
He followed his inner instincts and dropped to the ground to yank sharply on Frank's foot. His father slipped down off of the stool, just as he had wanted him to, and narrowly missed a swipe from the aggressor. Ideally, Edmund wanted him to pass out so that there would be no fuss and he could sneak them out of the door. The giant wasn't at his brightest at the moment so perhaps he wouldn't find them.
But, Frank had not passed out and that was a problem.
On the floor, Edmund whispered urgently to him.
"Dad, don't make a sound. Don't-"
"You'ze arsehole! You'ze a pisser!-"
Edmund clamped a hand over his father's mouth and targeted a pressure point to make him go limp. It worked, but their pursuer had spotted them.
Fast - we've got to get out of here fast.
The crowd was so thick that it was making it hard for the man to get to them, but Edmund needed something more. He tipped over a stool with a strong kick and observed as a brawl develop behind them.
That was good - much better.
Frank was tall, but he was also lighter than most men and his son wasn't weak either. Edmund heaved him to the front of the pub and stepped into the cool, fresh air, slamming the door behind him.
His arms were already sore, but he could bring him back to the house - he had to. He ignored the looks of amazement from night owls, who happened to be strolling about so late, and trudged forward.
After what seemed to be forever, he reached his doorstep and almost dropped his father when he entered.
Chills crawled up his spine and something like a loud bomb exploded in his brain. He sensed the ominous, irate presence without seeing the figure because that was what happened after bleeding, crying and laughing with the same person for thirty years and he knew exactly who was there.
"Edmund Pevensie," his name came out of the darkness, every syllable a hiss of rage. "Where the bloody hell have you been?"
Why 'tonight' of all nights did Peter have to decide to come back a day earlier than he had told them?
He slowly placed their unconscious parent on the wood and leaned back against their front door, exhausted and not ready to deal with the king that he was sworn to. His blonde head emerged out of the shadows and his furious eyes gleamed in the moonlight.
"Pete, I - "
"Don't 'Pete' me! I sit here for four hours, waiting for you, with our, little sister begging me to go to bed, telling me that you're alright and I wonder why. I wonder why our darling would do that and now I know. Now, I damn well know why!"
By this point, Edmund was sure the whole house could hear him.
"For heaven's sake, I know you're cross, but please lower your voice, " he told him steadily.
His brother got closer and closer until his hands had grasped both of his shoulders. There a small 'thump' sound as his back was pressed against the wall - not too hard, but not gentle either. Edmund wasn't scared. He knew that Peter would never physically hurt him, at least not intentionally.
"You lied to me," he bit out.
"I didn't lie. I just didn't tell you," Edmund corrected.
The grip became tighter for a second.
"Don't be a smart aleck. You lied about this massive, awful thing and kept it from me. You lied and you frightened me half to death."
Trembling fingertips brushed up his face and found the part that was an ugly bruise, circling there.
"Who gave this to you? Who the hell gave this to you and what were you doing? Why is our father drunk? God, Edmund, why would you lie to me?"
He was afraid that his brother would start yelling his head off again, but, instead, his neck dropped and his forehead pressed into his shoulder.
"You can break my heart, you can rip me in two by disappearing for four hours and coming back with a black eye."
The emotional toil of the day wearied Edmund and he was faint. If Peter hadn't been pinning him there, his legs might have collapsed.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I didn't know that you were going to be here."
His brother's stare was intense and unyielding as lifted his head.
"And, if I hadn't been here? You would have never told me, is that it?"
Edmund, always striving to be honest, nodded.
"I wouldn't have told you for as long as I could."
The wind whistled past his ear as Peter punched the wall.
"Why? Why, damn it?"
Edmund had, had enough at this point and he grabbed his arms to hinder him from attacking something near them again.
"Because I thought I could sort it out by myself, alright? I knew that you couldn't deal with leaving us if you knew about Dad being an alcoholic. Is that so difficult to understand?"
Peter sucked in a deep breath and became even angrier.
"How dare you. How dare you decide that by yourself? You do not hide things from me, Edmund Pevensie. It does not matter whether you think I can handle it or not. I take care of you, Susan and Lucy - not the other way around."
Edmund was tired - so tired - and hot tears were beginning to prick at the backs of his eyes.
"You aren't going to do this to me ever again. Is that understood?"
There was an undeniable command in his words, but Edmund was getting upset now.
"I wanted to help you, idiot," he sniffed. "You do everything all the time and I thought I could do something for you - let you go to Oxford without worrying about us. That's all."
Something shifted in his older brother's eyes and he pulled the short fifteen-year-old to his chest. A hand caressed his hair gently, affectionately and Edmund wanted to sob because his big brother knew and it wasn't something that just he and Lucy had to figure out.
Peter was there and that was all that mattered.
"You've been so brave," he praised. "But, you're always brave, aren't you? How long has this been going on?"
"Weeks and weeks and weeks," Edmund responded, nuzzling into his shirt.
"What happened to your face?"
"We were in the pub in city center and Dad provoked someone accidentally. I got in between."
"The pub?" Peter got out with a gasp.
"Geez, stop it-"
"How dare he take you there? Why would you do that, Edmund? That's such a stupid thing to do. You're never going there again - over my dead corpse, you will!"
Edmund let him go on and on about it and hold him there because he knew that it made him feel better. When Peter had calmed down, there was a faint groan from a side of the hallway and he glared in the direction of the noise.
"I'm going to take care of this," Peter swore. "You and Lucy don't have to do anything. I'm going to protect the both of you."
"Don't do anything rash tomorrow," Edmund warned, looking him in the eye. "I mean it, Peter. You've got to stop being cross first."
"Cross?" Peter questioned in disbelief. "Cross? I'm furious and I've a right to be! He's put you in danger. The selfish git put you in danger. I'm having a meltdown right now, just thinking about it!"
"I can see that," Edmund pointed out dryly, watching the nerve in his jaw twitch.
"What do I do with that? How do I just let it go? I can't and you know that."
"Try to forgive him," he muttered, tucking himself under Peter's chin and breathing in.
"I missed you."
"Missed you a hundred times more."