|Primary Characters:||Peter, Edmund|
|Description:||Peter finds Edmund’s womanizing offensive. One day, he confronts his brother about it, and that has a startling effect on them both.|
A courtier entered the room, bowed and announced that their visitor had arrived.
Peter, High King of Narnia, bowed, trying to accept the news gracefully. However, in reality, he had to struggle not to scowl at the announcement. Lady Sindara was one of the lovelies ladies in all of Archenland. She was young, pretty and most charming. Peter loathed her.
Queen Lucy smiled, dimpling as sweetly as she had when still a child. At present, she had very few memories of her childhood in that other world, as they referred to it, should its existence ever be touched upon. As far as they were concerned, Narnia was the real world.
Queen Susan turned to face her sister, looking equally pleased.
“We shall have to take her to all our favorite places and -”
Peter stopped listening. It was all very well for his sisters to enjoy lady Sindara’s visit. After all, they would. They were ladies, after all. What else did ladies enjoy, but tea parties and walks in the garden and picnics in sunny glades?
He longed for the stimulation of stirring rides along a beach, mountain climbing or rafting through rapids. Of course, that wasn’t the trouble, really, and he knew it well enough. His eyes turned to the fourth member of their royal quartet. King Edmund, his brother.
With the state visit dragging on for weeks on end, it would be ages until he and Edmund could hold a tourney or even practice fencing. For some reason, ladies did not enjoy sports, as a fellow did. Besides, there were other, far more complex reasons for dreading the visit, reasons Peter hesitated to even touch upon in his mind.
Just as he had expected, Edmund did gaze, eyes wide in anticipation, towards the portal through which presently, the lady’s entourage was beginning to enter.
Lady Sindara’s fair curls bobbed charmingly on her head, which was tilted at just the right angle. She had big round, blue eyes and a tiny mouth, that had the appearance of a rosebud. Her cheeks were rosy, but not ruddy, and just rounded enough to look pretty and not plump.
Peter forced his mouth into the requisite smile. It would be a long day.
To his relief, the courtiers and servants knew the etiquette and the program to be followed, as diligently as if this had been a diplomatic mission, whereas in reality, it was merely a pleasure jaunt, dreamed up by the lady Sindara’s brother, sir Willes, who was smitten with Queen Susan and was hoping to ask for her hand in marriage before the end of the year.
On that score, Peter had no concerns. Susan had more suitors than gowns, it seemed to Peter, who was profoundly bored by fashion and indeed his sisters’ suitors. In all fairness, very few suitors had as yet approached Lucy. Perhaps at the age of nineteen, his sister was a tad too young to attract them by the droves as did her older sister.
The following days saw Cair Paravel turned into a madhouse of picnics and outings and costume balls and treasure hunts and more of the same, leaving Peter with a constant frown on his face, and a pounding headache in his temples.
Even the sports had to be limited to a tame round of croquet on the lawn outside their throne room. The girls, not surprisingly, seemed to be enjoying themselves tremendously.
Edmund was rarely to be seen except at the formal dinners in the evenings. He had contrived to be lady Sindara’s constant companion and before long, the lady too, appeared to be conspicuously absent, while Lucy and Susan and various members of the party from Archenland were playing their vapid games.
To Peter’s relief, Lucy at least, still practiced her fencing, early in the mornings and she told him Susan once in a while used her bow, having a target set up at the end of the garden. However, when Peter himself attempted to relieve the boredom, by working on his swordplay, his most constant companion, his brother Edmund, was nowhere to be seen.
Knowing what was required of him, as High King of Narnia, Peter gritted his teeth and did his duty.
Though he tried to absent himself whenever the opportunity arose, his sisters were skillful at seeking him out and dragging him back to their senseless games.
Susan could be especially trying.
“Oh, Peter, you have to come. I already promised you will present the prize.”
“The prize for the best costume.”
“But we already had a costume ball last week.”
He was aware that there was a whine in his voice just as he knew he ought to bear the visit with better grace, but at present he was just about reaching the end of his tether.
“Yes, but this is different. It’s a pageant. We’ll be recreating the time when -”
“Yes, yes, by all means. When will you expect me?”
“Now. Well, the presenting of the prizes will take place after the pageant is over, but you must be there to -”
“Alright. I’ll be there. Just give me a moment.”
“Jolly good. I’ll tell Lu to expect you then. She has the most splendid costume and you should see Sindara’s -”
But Peter had already stridden off, leaving behind the rustling of his tunic and the sound of a door slammed shut rather too loudly.
He went into the back garden, an enclosed, walled in, out of the way place. This was his special, private place, to which he would withdraw to escape the boredom of the less exciting aspects of his kingship – the signing of treaties, dispensing of the royal justice and other administrative tasks he abhorred. He’d take the excitement of the open air, any day, rather than stuffy throne rooms and desks overflowing with official documents.
Peter removed the thin chain he wore around his neck and clutching the key hanging from it, he prepared himself to unlock the door. The only other person who had a key was his brother Edmund. At times they would play a game of checkers, not chess, out there, or merely sit there, to escape the girls’ constant chatter.
He missed the keyhole and his hand touched the gate, which swung aside. Peter frowned. That gate should not be standing ajar like this. It was a private place, to which no servants or girls had access or at least, he amended, should not have access.
Barely had he finished the thought when the sound of a female voice giggling reached his ears. His frown deepened. He stepped through the gate and entered the garden. The scene unfolding before him, did little to relieve his tension.
Edmund was chasing lady Sindara round the garden, to the accompaniment of her delighted screams. As Peter watched, Sindara stumbled slightly and Edmund caught up with her. He pulled her into his arms, but as he did so, he raised his head, glanced towards the door and his gaze locked onto Peter’s. Smiling, he pressed Sindara to his chest, then proceeded to squash her lips beneath his own. His gaze barely left Peter’s.
In the end, it was Peter who backed away, his mind in a turmoil of mixed emotions, the predominant one being rage. How dared Edmund? Their special place.
Five minutes later, Peter had assumed his position, facing the giggling and preening participants of the pageant. The majority of them were female. Only a scattering of males, mainly boys, were wearing those ludicrous costumes.
Lucy, Peter had to admit, looked very convincing in armor and leggings, looking almost exactly like a young knight. If it had been permitted, Peter would have liked to present her with the prize, but he knew he could not be seen to favor any member of his own family or indeed his own household. He would have to find someone belonging to the Archenland retinue who looked halfway decent.
Frowning in concentration that all but eluded him, Peter at last rather lamely handed the first prize to a little boy, who might have been lady Sindara’s youngest brother. The child was wearing a very elaborate costume, making him look very convincingly like a dryad, a male one, naturally.
His choice appeared to find favor even with Peter’s own sisters. Lucy and Susan clapped their hands enthusiastically.
Searching his mind for inspiration, Peter at last handed the second prize to an elderly lady, who had taken on the appearance of a pastry cook. She even had a trayful of baked goods that delighted the children and ladies present.
The third prize he abruptly gave to one of the ladies-in-waiting, who had accompanied lady Sindara. She blushed a vivid pink, clearly not expecting the honor. Indeed, Peter himself wondered what had possessed him to single the girl out. She seemed to be a few years younger than Lucy and plump and graceless. Her costume wasn’t even very well made.
At a guess it was supposed to give the impression of a mermaid, but if so, the resemblance was very slight and it certainly wasn’t becoming.
An embarrassed silence followed Peter’s unorthodox choice, then lady Sindara reappeared among them, looking flushed and disheveled. She thanked Peter profusely for presenting her dearest friend from school with the prize.
When the chatter had died down, Peter himself found that he was blushing. His action might be construed either as overt flattery of the lady Sindara, something he abhorred at any time, or – equally unthinkable – as if he favored the plain-looking young girl over all the other, more resplendent ladies-in-waiting.
Angrily, he tried to put the incident out of his mind. In a little while it would be time for dinner and after that, he would at last be allowed to retire to his rooms.
To his relief, the state visit eventually came to an end, and for a brief time, calm settled over Cair Paravel again.
However, the peace did not last for long. Susan and Lucy always contrived to have some of their friends visit. It was beyond him how they always seemed to be making countless friends. Noble ladies, all manner of female creatures and of course, their old friends, who Peter, in all fairness, didn’t mind seeing.
It was barely a fortnight later, when he again caught Edmund with a young woman, this time on a parapet. His brother was – but Peter hastily backed away deciding to seek out the solitude of the library. Not that he would be reading. It was just a calm, quiet place and at least there, he reasoned, he would not find his brother pursuing young ladies and worse –
After about half an hour of brooding, Peter came to the conclusion that he might as well go to bed. He was already on his way to his bedroom, when the thought of spending so many hours inside the stuffy, perfumed atmosphere inside the castle, made him change his mind. Instead, he made his way to the small, private garden where he had caught Edmund with Sindara.
With something like glee, Peter recalled that Sindara’s marriage had been rather hastily announced only last week. A marriage to a Calormene prince, no less. He fancied Sindara could not be entirely pleased with such a match. What Edmund might think pleased Peter even more.
The thought of Edmund made Peter once again descend into despair. Seeing his brother acting as he did, was tormenting, and had been ever since – Peter tried to recall when Edmund had begun to take such an interest in girls. Could it be as long as four years? Surely not. In any case at the very least two years and quite probably three.
Before then, Edmund had been, just like Peter, suspicious of strange females, at least young, pretty ones. In truth, everyone but their own sisters or safely middle-aged or non-human women. Then one day, Edmund had been transformed into this alien creature whose appearance Peter recognized but not his behaviour. It was as inexplicable as it was distressing.
In the past, the two brothers had always been able to run off and do boys’ things. Wrestle, fence, race their horses or any other physically challenging activity. Until the day when suddenly, they could not even speak and Peter could barely stand to look at Edmund.
This time, the gate into his private garden was locked and not a sound came from the softly rustling leaves of the hedges. A faint sprinkling of dew caught the sun’s last rays, doing something to restore Peter’s cheer.
He sat down at his favorite bench, and slowly felt the tension leave his body. This was exactly why he kept this private spot. It was the one place within the walls of Cair Paravel, where he could leave the rigours of his position behind and just be himself.
His features relaxed and he closed his eyes. Immediately after they sprang open again, and he strained his ears. Wasn’t that the sound of someone walking in his direction? He sprang to his feet, not alarmed, as much as dismayed. If he found that Edmund had brought that girl –
It seemed his brother was equally surprised to find him here. This, for some reason, stirred Peter’s anger again. After all, why should it be so unexpected? The garden was his, as much as it was Edmund’s.
“Why did you bring that stupid girl in here?”
“Yes, her. It was supposed to be -”
He’d been about to say ‘our special place’, but stopped himself in time and finished lamely.
To Peter’s astonishment Edmund merely grinned defiantly.
“Well? What do you have to say about that?”
“You heard me.”
The look on Edmund’s face so angered Peter he took a step forward, seized with the impulse to grab Edmund and –
Edmund shrugged and sat down on the bench Peter had just left, then leaned back, making himself comfortable.
“Look at me.”
His entire posture was provocative. If Peter wasn’t mistaken, his brother was actively seeking a confrontation. He couldn’t see why, but if that was what Edmund wished for, he could certainly oblige him.
Peter grabbed Edmund’s shoulder and pulled his brother to his feet, wrenching him around, none-too-gently. He twisted Edmund’s arms around his back, and held him so hard, Peter’s own hands began to ache. Even so, Edmund didn’t flinch or try to break out of his grip.
By now, Peter’s eyes had grown used to the nearly complete darkness in the walled in garden. He could easily make out the lines of Edmund’s face and even discern the glitter in his brother’s eyes.
Breathing heavily, Peter pushed his face almost up to Edmund’s, glaring furiously at the younger man.
Even now, Edmund did not say or do anything. He merely stood, at ease, despite the hard grip his brother held him in.
Something inside Peter’s mind snapped and for a second, he lost all sense. His pulse pounding deafeningly in his ears, he crushed Edmund’s lips beneath his own. For a breathless second, everything else ceased to exist. His world narrowed to include only the flesh under his hands and lips. It was as if Edmund’s body melted into his, molding itself after his shape.
Knowing this was folly and worse, an abomination in the eyes of – but Peter shut his mind off from all outside influences and for the first time in years released control over himself. Forgotten were his duties, his position as High King, all but the pounding of his and Edmund’s hearts.
It took him a while to realize that Edmund, far from resisting, or pulling back in distaste, was returning the kiss and pressing his body into Peter’s every bit as intensely.
For another moment, they allowed themselves free rein over themselves, then at last, Peter withdrew slightly, to gaze wonderingly at Edmund, who suddenly seemed at once intimately familiar and utterly alien.
“All those vile women – you were mad for them and now -”
“Can’t you guess why I pursued them? Really? Use your brains, Pete.”
For a second or two, Peter’s mind was a blank, then the realization hit him, and his earlobes and cheeks heated up uncomfortably.
“To make me – jealous.”
The last word was a mere whisper. There was no question implied. Peter was sure he had the answer now and it baffled him, though deep down, it also pleased him, while at the same time terrified him.
“I wanted you to finally admit you wanted me and – do something about it.”
Heat and cold alternated through Peter’s body, as he considered the implications of their new relationship. Could they bear to carry the burden of this secret? Would – would they be punished for their unnatural feelings? Even if their sisters and the ever present courtiers and servants could be fooled, would Aslan –
But the thought of the Lion did not inspire either fear or shame in Peter. He assumed that in this, he was beyond shame. When he dared to touch upon the feelings he had for his brother, Peter found that the only possible name for them that he knew, was love. Could love be a crime? Was it really wrong? Or was love merely love – whatever form it took? The thought made his head spin, but as the minutes ticked by, and nothing happened, Peter decided that his love was worth risking even Aslan’s rage.
Edmund looked pleased. Smug even, like a cat that knew where the pitcher of cream had gone and who might hide a drop or two of white in the white spots on its chest, where its tongue had missed it.
As if on cue, Edmund’s tongue shot out, tauntingly and a low growl escaped Peter’s lips. He silenced it in the most convenient way by hungrily devouring his brother’s mouth, lazily tasting his tongue. For a moment, they amused themselves by letting their tongues wrestle for supremacy, then settling for languidly sinking down on the bench together, arms and legs entwined, just like the tongues.
Peter began to fumble underneath Edmund’s tunic, struggling to undo clasps and buttons, tearing the expensive fabric, then finally baring his brother’s chest. Entranced, he let his fingers travel across the smooth skin. The chilly night air or the exploring fingers raised goosebumps all over chest and arms and neck.
Peter dipped down to let his tongue slide over Edmund’s neck, following its lines to the shoulders. He lingered over the clavicles, exploring the hollows there, then continuing further down, pausing to breathe on the chest. His tongue shot out sampling the taut skin, toying relentlessly with the nipples, until Edmund was moaning softly.
Peter’s hands continued further down and made their way inside the leggings. Edmund strained against his hand, leaning into him, still moaning softly, until the noises he made formed a wordless plea. Taking pity on his brother, Peter began to apply himself to the act with more diligence, but Edmund reluctantly pulled away, only to fling himself at Peter, struggling to remove his garments.
They sank down onto the soft grass, so hot by now, that the chill of the dew only sent thrills through them, but made no greater impression on their overheated bodies.
For a while, no other sound was heard than their breaths and the occasional groan or whimper.
Afterwards, Peter cradled Edmund to his chest, burying his nose in Edmund’s hair.
Despite the languor, he couldn’t help return to his earlier thoughts, speaking the words out loud.
“Is this wrong? Are we doing something horrible? Will Aslan punish us?”
Edmund’s mouth was pressed against Peter’s chest, thus rendering his voice slightly muffled, yet Peter had no difficulty discerning the reply.
“I don’t know. Does it feel horrible to you? All I know is, I was going crazy, trying to make you see how I felt. I knew what you wanted, and I wanted it too. It was plain to see in your eyes and in the way you – Wrong? Perhaps, but if so, I don’t care about being right. If I can’t be with you, I don’t want to be here or anywhere else. I love you, Pete. Always have.”
“Me too, Ed. Forever. It’s only ever been you. That’s why I couldn’t bear – seeing you with those girls – it was like a dull, relentless pain inside me, that never went away. Like an unhealed wound, festering and aching.”
Edmund raised himself up, on his elbow, lightly pressing his lips against Peter’s, then deepening the kiss.
“I’m sorry I made you suffer so, but it was the only way I knew of to open your eyes. Can you forgive me?”
Peter pulled Edmund close again and covered his mouth with his. For a moment, neither man spoke.
At last, Peter let go of Edmund, when it seemed to them both that they would suffocate for lack of air.
“What do you think?”
“Mm. You’re very gracious, my King. And besides, I didn’t enjoy it. Much.”
“Oh, really? Not much?”
“Not much, no.”
“I could never bear the thought of marrying. Taking a consort. The only consort I could ever imagine taking is you. And that won’t do, will it?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps not. I don’t want to think about that now. This is just for us. Not King Peter and King Edmund, just you and me. Surely we deserve some happiness too, not just duties and responsibilities?”
“Of course, in a way, it’s quite exciting. Surrendering myself to my King. Yes, even if we’re not really kings now, I like to think of you as my King.”
“Then command me.”
“Right. Ed, I command you to love me. No, wait. That’s not right.”
“You don’t have to command me to love you, silly. Just make me do something.”
Peter buried his face in Edmund’s hair, then pressed his lips to his ears, his command a husky whisper.
Edmund’s low laughter sent a thrill down Peter’s spine.
“I hear and obey, my King.”
Edmund hastened to match his actions to his words.
Much later, they fell into a deep, dreamless sleep, Edmund pleasurably wrapped around Peter. That was how they awoke, just before dawn, to shamefacedly and silently make their way to their respective rooms, after one last stolen kiss. The chill of the night air did not bother them. They might as well have rested on linens and soft blankets.
Filled with a wild exultation, Edmund stealthily made his way into his room. At last. It had paid off in the end. No more chasing after useless females anymore. As he sank down on his bed, a hint of sadness crept into his exhilaration. Would their love ever stand the light of day or would they always be doomed to haunt the darkest hours of the night, to take their pleasure and consummate their love? The question found no answer, and in the end, Edmund dismissed it.
They had the present. If that was all they had, they would make the most of it. Some day, they might be called upon to answer before Aslan, but until then, they would take what they could and worry about consequences another day.
Edmund stretched out on the bed, feeling strangely unfulfilled despite everything. He already missed Peter’s arms around him and without thinking, he hugged himself, then, when even that proved inadequate, he let his own hands retrace the paths Peter’s hands had travelled on his skin.
At the moment of release, the image of his brother’s face hovered in his mind. I love you, Peter. His brother’s name ringing in his mind, Edmund dozed off, satiated at last.
Edmund’s name echoed in Peter’s mind, as he too, fell into a deep slumber, letting go of his concern for the future. Everything was fine now. Edmund belonged to him and him alone. Those pesky women would not have him.