Possible Spoilers/Warnings: Through LWW. Mentions of Edmund/Jadis, implied rape and use of blood and biting. Implicit one-sided Peter/Susan.
Summary: How the Pevensies grew up the first time, and too fast.
The day was still dark when Peter rose, grey morning light streaking across the sky. He ignored his washbasin and instead went out onto the balcony, his slippered feet making soft noise against the stone floor. Below him, the party was wrapping up; the ambassadors from Archenland and Calormen and lands still further distant had finally begun to yawn.
"I think that went well," said Susan from behind him. When he turned, she was still dressed in her ball gown, a queenly, dignified blue that made her look older than she was. How old was she? Measuring time was difficult in Narnia, it passed differently, but she must be twenty by now.
"Were you splendid?" he asked, more as a polite inquiry than anything else. Of course she had been splendid, and she knew it, too.
Susan smiled and her long, black hair shifted as she moved closer to him. She smelt a little of the lavender she had planted along the south wall of Cair Paravel, which she made into perfumes. "I didn't disgrace anyone, I hope, but Edmund looked very well. Much better than I did." She'd had Edmund's clothes laid out for him, the way she always did on special occasions. She'd learnt from the first time, when Edmund had shown up dressed in unrelieved black like an overgrown crow.
"Did anyone propose?" This was often a hurdle in negotiations.
Susan shrugged her shoulders, graceful. "Not that I noticed."
This meant, Peter thought, that there had been a proposition, if not a proposal. Susan dealt with these things with the coolness of experience. Lovers, if she had them, were neatly and discreetly arranged, like flowers in a vase, and anything that appeared to disturb her circles was quietly plucked away.
He had been looking at her too long. Her eyes, dark with kohl and dilated with weariness, were fixed on him, like a hunter sighting a hare.
"What is it?" she asked.
"I – " he considered his next sentence almost too late – "I'm concerned about Edmund."
"He doesn't need an awful lot of sleep," said Susan, grasping the point admirably for one who had been dancing all night. "Four hours, perhaps. The courts will get along without him for a little while."
Peter nodded, but he was thinking of Edmund's silences, not of what he had said but of what he had not said. It was not – it had never been – that Edmund looked tired, but that he didn't look at one at all, at least not in the eye, not when something was bothering him.
"Anyway," said Susan, giving into the threatening yawn. "This is neither the time nor the place. I should go to bed. What time do you ride out?"
"When it's properly light, I suppose. I'd better start turfing them all out of bed now."
"Useless articles," said Susan, but her voice was warm and affectionate. She turned to leave, her glorious hair sweeping behind her like a royal train. The scent of lavender was almost overwhelming; it made Peter think of England again.
"Su," he asked on impulse, "how old are you?"
Susan bit her lip. "I used to count the days," she said. "But it's so hard to keep track without calendars and things – seventeen, I think. I can't be much more than that."
"I see," Peter said.
"I think Lucy's birthday should be soon," said Susan. "If you want to celebrate, I mean."
"Ask her yourself," said Peter. It was her purview.
"Perhaps I will," Susan said, and it wasn't until the faint rush of air from the swinging door had passed that Peter breathed again.
The first thing Edmund did that morning was break the ice on his frozen washbasin. His reflection was dim in the cold dawn light and it rippled away into confusion, but still he disliked the face he saw.
He disliked the winter, too. He had been dreaming of it and, when he woke, for one long, horrible moment he believed the dream had come true.
He leant over and splashed his face, shivering as the pulpy ice trickled down his neck. Shaking off the last vestiges of sleep, he dressed quickly and efficiently. His clothes were utilitarian, not complicated, and he could dress in the dark of midnight if need be.
A gust of wind burst in, slamming the door behind her. "What time did you go to bed last night?" Lucy demanded.
Edmund calculated. He was good at calculating. "Two hours before Su did," he said decidedly, whether it was true or not. Su could deal with Lucy's burgeoning maternal instincts.
"Did you sleep?" Lucy asked, narrowing her eyes.
"Such cynicism in one so young," Edmund said, very dry. "I did, as a matter of fact." Not for long and not very well, but Lucy had the weapons of curiosity and Being the Baby (Don't Make the Baby Cry) on her side, which was quite enough for him, thank you.
"Oh, all right," said Lucy. Always willing to believe the best of people, Lucy, and even when she knew the worst of one she didn't care a bit. "When do the courts open?"
"After Peter rides out."
"And who's first – ? Oh, Ed."
"Would you like to attend?" he asked, in the manner of one extending a courtesy that one devoutly hopes will not be accepted. Lucy nodded, short and sharp and cross; rather ridiculously, for she had nothing to be cross about.
They ate breakfast quietly, Lucy shooting worried glances at Edmund over her spoon. Peter rushed in and out, shouting commands in sergeant-major accents. Susan was still asleep, but then she had nothing planned until lunchtime.
" Archenlanders must be very active people," Lucy remarked, as the noise of the Archenland delegation stirring began to filter down from overhead. Small talk was so unusual for her – which was why they kept both her and Peter far away from anyone who had the diplomatic status to be officially offended – that Edmund paused in his contemplation of the patterns one could draw in an unfortunate bowl of porridge.
"It's true," he said noncommittally. "Mountain air, I suppose."
"Especially considering the late night they had," Lucy said, and Edmund understood that this was only Lucy's idea of subterfuge. Next time, he would count the moments until she cracked.
"I wouldn't know," he said. "I retired early."
"Early," said Lucy dubiously. "Peter retired early."
"Not as early as Peter. Or you."
"Tell Dublish," Peter said menacingly, in a voice that could be heard three floors up, "that if he doesn't show a leg right now I will come up there and make him."
"Have a safe trip, old fellow," said Edmund, concluding that the better part of valour, at least for today, was discretion, and abandoned his breakfast.
Most depressingly, Susan was awoken by Nelda long before time.
"Ngh," she said, and tried to crawl back underneath her blankets. No woman is a heroine to her lady-in-waiting.
"There is a message for you, Your Majesty," said Nelda, curtseying low. She rose with a deeply sickening dryad grace, which Susan envied desperately and had copied for years.
"From who?" Susan frowned and shook her head clear. A headache began to pound behind her eyes. "That is, from whom?"
"The Archenland ambassador, madam."
"Oh," said Susan. "Him."
She rolled onto her back and considered the Archenland ambassador. His name was Dar, one of the lesser lords at Anvard, and he was tall and dark – part-Calormene, on his mother's side. He had been the main reason the ball last night had gone on as long as it had; she'd wagered her favourite palomino that she could dance longer than he could. She'd won, of course; she wouldn't have endangered her horse for the world.
"What does he say?" she inquired, throwing her arm over her eyes.
"He begs a private audience with you, Your Majesty," Nelda said. "As soon as possible."
Susan sat up, stretching, but her shoulders were too tight for satisfaction. But her face was immobile. "Help me dress, if you would?"
Lord Dar was pacing the chamber like an anxious cat – were cats ever anxious? – when she entered, but he seemed pleased to see her and went to his knee instantly. "Majesty," he said.
"My lord." She held her hands out for him to kiss and he did so, rising. "What is your errand?"
"I received grievous news this morning," said Lord Dar. "My father is ill."
Susan was very still for a moment, her headache intensifying. "Please accept my wishes for his swift recovery," she said, quiet. "Let us know if there is anything we can do."
"I am most grateful," said Lord Dar, his eyes dark on hers. "Your kindness is renowned for a reason."
This seemed excessive, but Susan warmed to his courtesy. "You will leave today, I suppose?"
"I cannot return too soon. And – afterwards – "
" – afterwards?"
"It seems I shall not come back to Narnia. My business at Anvard will prevent me. Unless there is some pressing reason why I should..."
He was looking at her; searching her face for an answer. He had a handsome countenance, and handsome manners, too, if how he treated the young fauns of Cair Paravel was anything to go by. He had made her laugh, last night, which was something to be treasured when Peter's mind was in Ettinsmoor and Edmund walked the halls at night like a guilty spectre and even Lucy sometimes seemed daunted by the task they'd been given. And he was human, a rare enough thing in Narnia, and sometimes it was good to speak with someone who understood the particular limitations of one's body.
But he was an Archenlander, and she really had no illusions on that point. Even the best knight in the world would protect his liege lord before his lady love. It was a shame, but there it was.
She said, all Queen Susan the Gentle, "You must do as your king bids you, of course."
"Of course," said Lord Dar, and bowed again. She gave him leave to depart and left the chamber herself, moving quickly – but not running – towards her rooms.
She found the bottle of lavender scent on her dressing table and clutched it in one hand as she sank down into her chair.
In England, she thought, in England, Mother and Father would have invited him for tea, but they were not in England and likely it would all have been for nothing either way.
Philyre, a linden dryad, was telling her story. She spoke in a dry, rustling voice that held no emotion; her account was strictly factual. Edmund would have thanked her, but one shouldn't show bias, even when one's mind was made up.
"He grabbed me in the dance," she said. She was sturdy for a nymph, like her tree, and her leafy hair was thick and curly. "I pulled away, because I didn't want to dance with him."
Edmund nodded. Lucy was above them, in the gallery, and he wondered what she was thinking. He didn't look, though it would have been plain on her face. Pawing through someone's thoughts sometimes felt uncomfortably like a violation.
"Only he wouldn't let go," Philyre continued, her voice flat as the plains. "He wouldn't let go."
Edmund's attention flickered, thinking of a grip like cold iron. His bicep hurt suddenly with remembered bruises and he bit his lip until it was tender.
"He pulled me against him – " right up to her chest, and he couldn't move, couldn't even fight, caught by her gaze like a mouse mesmerised by a snake. Like a rat mesmerised by a snake. "And he dragged me away from the dance even though I kicked him and sank my teeth into him."
Edmund touched his shoulder. She had once bitten him hard enough to draw blood, and had sat up, her mouth painted red with it. She'd laughed at the tears dripping shamefully down his face, like a crybaby, like a child.
"I screamed." Philyre was gazing at him directly, leaning forward as if in plea, although her tone was as level as ever. "I screamed so hard that I couldn't speak for a day afterwards."
But screaming did no good.
When Philyre had finished – she was the last person involved with the case to speak – Edmund gestured to Chlorus the satyr.
"I have heard the evidence and I sit in judgement." Ritual words that they'd made up themselves one feverish night spent trying to wrestle the Witch's prisons and torturers into something resembling a fair and decent legal system, and they always sounded so stupid. "To threaten a fellow Narnian is a heinous crime, and for that alone you would be punished, Chlorus. Your crimes are worse, however, and for that we strip you of your right to be called Narnian, of your right to be dealt with as we deal with Fauns and Talking Beasts, with Dwarves and with Naiads. The next ship that leaves the harbour is for Calormen, and you sail on it chained to an oar."
The courtroom was silent, save for Philyre's gasping breaths, her hardy branches shaking without a breeze.
"You have the next hour to make your farewells." Edmund took up the hammer that did him for a gavel and tapped it on the desk. The court began to clear, but Lucy took the opportunity to slip down from the gallery and kiss him on the cheek.
"Mr Tumnus is going to preside over the next few cases," she said. "You can't do it all yourself, and besides, it's lunchtime."
She steered him out of the courtroom and away to her own chambers, neatly bypassing the Calormenes on their way to meet Susan. There was a light meal laid out, cold meat and salad vegetables, which Lucy scowled at.
"They know I don't like tomatoes," she said, shaking her head until her hair fuzzed out like a mane.
"They're good for you," Edmund said. "Eat up."
She did because she hated to upset the cooks, but her expression was of one martyred. Licking the juice from her fingers, she said, "Did the case today upset you?"
"Not at all," said Edmund.
"Oh," said Lucy. "Only it looked as if it might have." She munched pensively on a lettuce leaf. "After all, you didn't get more than an hour's sleep last night."
Edmund, about to recoil, forced himself to stay where he was. "I see you've been talking to Kokachik."
"I do, occasionally," Lucy said, unbecomingly demure.
"I need," Lucy said. "Ed, I'm worried about you. Please, can't I do anything to fix it?"
She looked very young and hopeful, her pleading face turned up to his. It made Edmund feel, conversely, very old and tired. Lucy believed in things, in herself, that all the world's problems could be solved if you attacked them hard enough. Edmund had left that behind; he was a different person to the one who'd gone through the Wardrobe the first time. Well, of course he was. He hoped he was, at least. What a fat-headed thing to say.
"There's nothing you can do," he said, and reached out to ruffle her hair. She ducked and flung her arms round him.
"I love you, Ed," she mumbled into his chest. It made him feel a little bit better.
In the afternoons, Lucy usually took care of what Peter called "handwriting practice" and she called bumf. Susan didn't like that. It was not an activity she enjoyed, but between Peter galloping off to parts unknown and Su being gracious and Ed sitting in court, they all said they didn't have the time to do any paperwork.
Lucy plonked herself down at her desk and attacked her list of Things to Do.
- Issue a Royal Proclamation about the treatment of dumb beasts
which Peter had handily left notes about, and not so handily hadn't bothered to explain. But she knew what he meant and the blasted thing was easily drawn up and then passed on to Ed's army of scribes, some of whom contrived to hold pens in their mouths.
"And yet," Edmund had said, tweaking her nose, "their handwriting is better than yours."
- Write to King Lune about Corin
- Write thank-you letter to the Tisroc for the jewelled nightingale
- Issue a letter of marque for the Glorious Lion
Boring, boring, boring. The letter of marque brightened her day for a moment – pirates! Lucy had a knack for getting along with pirates, if she weren't Queen she'd quite like to be one. Maybe the Glorious Lion would take her on a voyage. Only round the Lone Islands – it wouldn't be fair to leave the others on their own for so long – but that'd be enough. For Lucy, quite the best part of living at Cair Paravel was living by the sea.
Lucy laid down her quill and rested her chin on her palm. She stared out of the window, perhaps interested in the robins outside.
Bladram was a Werewolf, highly intelligent and rather more vicious than average. He'd fought at Beruna – not on the right side – but had crawled on his belly afterwards, swearing enchantment. Aslan had been gone by then, so Peter had erred on the side of forgiveness.
Edmund, Lucy remembered, had not.
And now Bladram had turned up in Narrowhaven, though no official notice had been taken of him as yet, and he was talking. Mostly about the White Witch and how she hadn't been as bad as everyone thought, and aren't taxes much heavier nowadays? And it wouldn't be so bad, but some Men who had friends high up in Tashbaan were eating it all up and were sending him lots of money to keep talking like that.
Other Werewolves, who considered themselves a little hard done-by under the new regime, were beginning to look thoughtful. Even Gedring, and Gedring was trusted at Cair Paravel.
There were things that could be done about Bladram. All right – Lucy dragged it unwillingly out into the open – there were many things that could be done about Bladram, but the most practical would be to have him killed quietly, if it were to look like an accident. You couldn't let people talk, that was the trouble, else she'd challenge him to a duel then and there.
She scrawled on parchment: talk to Peridan, who would blend in rather well on Doorn and who was nice and efficient at killing people, Peter said. She wouldn't even have to talk to him, really. Just pass him the note with Bladram's name on it, for Peridan knew perfectly who he was.
She called out to a pacing guard and patted the parchment into his hand with a coin and instructions to deliver it. There, it was done, and Lucy ignored the sense of unease in her stomach. It was only finishing off what Aslan had begun, to protect Narnia. Aslan killed people, too. He wasn't a tame lion. He'd shown them how to do it. He wasn't a tame lion at all, at all.
They were ambushed three miles north of Owlwood, and it wasn't even Ettin raiders, which might have made it worth their while. Peter brought Rhindon's hilt down on the Dwarf's skull with a satisfying crack and swung the blade across to slice – fruitlessly, for he dodged – at his fellow bandit's neck. But Felfus was ahead of him, crunching the edge of his shield into the Dwarf's collarbone and bringing his dagger down to stab him in the back.
"Thanks," Peter said, quick and already turning to find the next one – only there was no next one. He relaxed.
"Sire," Gedring said, his voice strained. He was struggling into a proper shape, neither Man nor Wolf, and the sight was disturbing. Peter looked past him to the Mouse Begatees, who was curled up on his side and bleeding heavily.
"Missed one," he whispered as Peter bent over him. "Sorry, sire."
"Be at peace," Peter said, and closed his eyes for him when he couldn't any more.
He rose with fresh blood staining his hands – that of Begatees or the bandits, he wasn't sure – and bowed his head. The company was much subdued, he thought, glancing up through his eyelashes. And damn, they were one soldier down and with two days yet to the border. Burying Begatees would slow them down, but it had to be done.
It was quite possible, Peter thought, that today was his birthday. If Su were seventeen, that made him a year older and change – old enough to be a soldier anyway, never mind all that business with people joining up underage.
He directed two of his men to start digging graves – one for Begatees, one, a bigger one, for the bandits, because one couldn't leave bodies to rot in the open air. The long day seemed to sink heavier onto his shoulders as he walked away. Getting too old for this, he thought, but did not laugh. There was no one here who would get the joke.
Lucy was standing on his balcony when Edmund returned to his chambers. She was growing taller; they'd had to make new clothes for her every season this year.
"I saw about Bladram today," she said, her eyes fixed on his face. When he showed no reaction, she let out a quick huff of air.
"That's good," said Edmund, mild as milk. "Needed seeing to."
"Sometimes I think I want them all dead," said Lucy, sounding ridiculous standing there in a childish dress and plaited hair. But Edmund looked at her, and did not think so.
"It was a long time ago," was all he said, however.
"I wish I'd killed her," Lucy said.
"Bloodthirsty, aren't you," said Edmund lightly. He did not want to think of the White Witch tonight.
"I know it's wrong," said Lucy, frowning repressively. "But she was evil – " She broke off and glared at the chilly stone.
Edmund was silent for a moment, before saying, "I don't know that I'd be any use at condemning people for helping her. Probably best that you did it, in the end." Because he knew – very well – that fear and fascination were almost the same thing to the Witch, except in that she preferred fear. He hadn't been half so attractive to her when he liked her, but his dread and shame she had enjoyed. A great deal. He was not truly capable of condemning someone who might have been similarly used by her.
"You're different now," said Lucy, not passionately, but with the quiet, impenetrable faith of the true believer.
"I don't know," Edmund said, tracing the mortar between the stones with his fingertips. "How do we know if we've changed?"
Lucy leant her shoulder against his, the weight slight but palpable. Her sigh was long and tired, this time. "We get older."
"Oh," said Edmund. "Is that all?"
They stayed watching the sunset for a very long time.
What I want: Hopefully this is okay - I'll give you a list of Things Betsy Wants To See Written Someday and you can do whichever you want, or combine them, or stuff.
Prompt words/objects/quotes/whatever: Lucy the Valiant, assassination organizer (a.k.a. hunting accidents) - Jadis/Susan, what could have been - Edmund/Jadis, the empty spaces inbetween, things left behind - Peter/Susan, any LB AU, 'this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper' - Susan&Edmund (or Susan/Edmund), LB AU, both left behind in England, traveling the world, do you remember, adventures (with someone else, even other fandoms? your choice!).
What I definitely don't want in my fic: PWP. Or even a large percentage of smut.