Categories > Books > Chronicles of Narnia

it is a terrible thing to be alone

by peitho_x 0 reviews

aka the four times Edmund missed out on love and the one time he didn't

Category: Chronicles of Narnia - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama,Romance - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2020-09-09 - 8692 words - Complete

0Unrated
one
The first time was in his first year at boarding school, age ten. School was hard for him – the social aspect at least. Children can be mean to the point of cruelty and Edmund hardened himself to withstand it all.
But then there was William Massey. Where Edmund was all bristling sharp angles with an even sharper tongue, Will was soft and smiling. He dealt with bullies with a dignity that Edmund – knuckles bruised by previous interactions – could not help but admire.
So they became a team, partially out of need and survival, but also because of a string between them, invisible, but always taut.
And between sneaking out at night and stifled laughs and silent looks and the adrenaline that overcame the fear sometimes when being chased by bullies, Edmund began to understand what the older boys meant about ‘fancying someone.’ And when this realization came to him – as they stood panting in a broom closet as footsteps thundered past, grinning at each other – he was afraid Will could tell. He feared that he would be able to sense the way his chest fluttered a little differently when Will grabbed his hand to pull them out into the hall and sprinting off in the other direction.
He was afraid the other boys or teachers would tell as well – by the way his eyes lingered just a little too long on Will’s shining blond hair or his deep brown eyes.
Because, while he was not entirely sure on the specifics, he knew that this was bad, that he should not feel what he felt.
“Are you alright?” Will asked one day during gym class. “You’ve been acting a bit odd.”
Edmund felt panic rise in his chest but shoved it down with an eye-roll. “What do you mean?”
Will shrugged. “I dunno.” He looked at him with more intensity than Edmund thought he could handle. “You just…” He tipped his head to the side, then shrugged again. “I dunno.”
And Edmund tried to act normal, as not odd as he could. But the more he tried, the more he overanalyzed every action and word and look.
On his bad days, he was irritable.
On his good days, he thought – or, hoped – that Will felt something too.
His good days became few and far between.
One day, after provoking yet another fistfight with another boy, Edmund returned to his dorm from detention, where Will was waiting for him. They sat beside each other on the floor.
“Why’d you hit him?” Will asked finally.
Edmund shrugged. “I was angry.”
“At him?”
“No. Just angry.”
Will nodded and looked over at him. “That’s going to be a marvellous bruise,” he said, lightly touching the skin around Edmund’s left eye.
Edmund flinched at his touch.
“Sorry,” Will said quickly. “Did that hurt?”
“A bit.” It was an understatement. What hurt more than the growing bruise was the ache in his chest that had told him to flinch in the first place – an ache that combined his feelings for Will with the fear, frustration, and, frankly, disgust with himself. Inside him, Will had become associated with so many negative feelings, it was difficult to just see him as he used to, as the blond boy who was determined to not stoop to the bullies’ methods.
Will redirected his gaze to Edmund’s hands, which twiddled nervously in his lap. “Did you bloody your knuckles again?” he asked, reaching out to grab his wrist. “Or are they just bruised?”
Edmund pulled his hand away and quickly shot to his feet, turning away from Will. “Please don’t touch me,” he said, running a hand through his hair. His breathing was shaky and his hands a little sweaty. Every negative word he had heard associated with his feelings screamed in his brain.
“Ed, what –?” Will asked, laying a hand on his shoulder.
Edmund spun around, pushing Will’s hand aside. “I said, don’t touch me!” He pushed Will, but harder than he had intended, sending him sprawling onto the floor.
He expected Will to stay down, to look up at him with betrayal in his deep brown eyes. If he had done that, perhaps Edmund would have felt sorry quicker. Perhaps things would have gone differently.
But he didn’t.
Will, who had avoided every fight all year, clenched his jaw and sprung to his feet. “What is wrong with you?” he snapped, an edge to his voice the Edmund had never heard before. “I’m trying to help.”
“I don’t need your help.”
“Since when? We’ve been friends all year, Ed. What’s changed?”
With the feelings for Will had come the actions – the little excuses to touch him, to be around him. Edmund was terrified he might do something out of line, something observable, something not allowed. So he did something he would get good at – self-sabotage. “Maybe I realized I don’t need you.”
“No wonder you have no other friends, do you chase everyone else away too?”
And then Edmund did the other thing he was good at: he punched Will, square in the jaw. Will stumbled back a few paces. He looked at Edmund, looking angry and betrayed and confused about why Edmund was doing this. “Well, congratulations,” he said, bringing his fingers to his lower lip to see if it was bleeding – it was. “You now officially have no friends.”
After he slammed the door behind him, Edmund sank onto the floor, tears pricking his eyes. He no longer had to worry about doing anything that wasn’t allowed, but at what cost?

two
The second time was in Narnia, a handful of years after the coronation. Edmund was a young man, growing into his position and earning the respect of every person he met.
One of these people was Zuhair el-Tahir, a nobleman from Calormen who often accompanied trade delegations and was close with the Calormene ambassador in Narnia. He had an open, friendly face, an eye for art, and a love of philosophical conversations.
He and Edmund would spend hours walking in the gardens together, discussing a wide range of topics. He was keen in a quiet way, soft words piercing to the core of a topic. Edmund loved the way he spoke, his slight accent curling the familiar sounds into something new.
And, of course, Edmund would practise his Calormene as well. Zuhair was a patient teacher, and when he laughed at an oddly constructed sentence, it was a kind laugh.
One day, Edmund returned from one such walk with Zuhair to the sitting room he and his siblings shared.
“And how is Zuhair today?” Susan asked as he came in.
“He is well,” Edmund said, walking over to where she and Lucy sat on the couch having tea. “He told me the most fascinating thing about –”
“You call everything he says fascinating,” Lucy interrupted. She mimicked Edmund, “You won’t believe what Zuhair told me today. That reminds me of something interesting Zuhair said.”
“He’s an interesting person, Lu,” Edmunds said rolling his eyes.
“I swear, you spend more time with him than with us,” Lucy said.
“Are we talking about Zuhair again?” Peter asked, entering the room. “Has he replaced me as your brother yet?”
Edmund rolled his eyes again. “You guys are the absolute worst. The one time I actually have a friend and you won’t leave me alone about it.”
“Of course, we’re happy you have a friend,” Susan said in a gentler tone.
“It is, however, our prerogative as your siblings to tease you about it,” Peter added with a grin.
Although he knew what his siblings said was all in good fun, it sometimes made him remember that first year at school. It felt like such a long time ago, but some memories were still clear in his mind.
And the more he thought about it, the more he realized that perhaps what he had felt for Will was similar to his friendship with Zuhair. In fact, he was quite certain that his feelings for him were at least a mix of platonic and romantic – if not more.
Edmund had tried to avoid romance; he considered it distracting from his duties, and besides, it was not like he was lonely, he had his siblings. There had been interested parties, either fathers on behalf of their daughters, or women themselves. He had turned them all down – as kindly as he could.
He was sure they were all very nice and may have made good wives and queens but had just not thought that was what he wanted. He had not felt for them the way he thought he should about a prospective wife
But Zuhair was different. His vibrant formal clothes and light makeup that Calormen sometimes wore at important events would make Edmund’s knees weak. He looked forward to every opportunity to spend time together. Every touch gave him a secret thrill, just as they had so many years ago. But there were more touches now.
Calormenes tended to be more affectionate, more comfortable with physical touch, even between men. Edmund had learned the common greetings; embraces and kisses on the cheek were common.
While it was nice to be able to interact like this with Zuhair, it also complicated things for Edmund. Actions that he would have associated with more romantic feelings did not mean the same in Calormen. He was not sure of Zuhair’s feelings and was afraid that he might someday misinterpret something and not only ruin their friendship, but also throw a wrench into Narnia and Calormen’s relationship.
But even with all these fears – and the vague memories of the apple-cheeked blond boy from his past – Edmund began to suspect that his feelings were not one-sided.
One evening, as they walked on the parapets of Cair Paravel, he was feeling particularly confident and asked, “So, is there any young lady back home anxiously awaiting your return? You have been here for a long time.”
“Are you growing tired of me, Edmund, that you ask me this?” Zuhair said with a smile.
“Of course not, I am merely curious.”
“My father expects me to marry the Tisroc’s grandniece.” Edmund tried to hide his disappointment, but Zuhair continued. “But I have no plans to do so, so I am afraid your majesty will have to tolerate my presence a while longer.”
“Good,” Edmund said. “I quite enjoy tolerating your presence.” He searched Zuhair’s smiling eyes hopefully.
“And you?” Zuhair asked. “I heard the Lord of Muil returned home unsuccessful in obtaining your hand for his daughter. How many is that? Thirty-seven?”
Edmund laughed. “That sounds a bit too high to be correct.”
They stopped at a spot that overlooked the countryside surrounding the castle, all forests and fields and farms.
“Did none of the many, many ladies catch your eye then?” Zuhair asked. “Or were your reasons for refusing political?”
Edmund looked over at him, trying to see if he was asking what he hoped he was. “It was not political,” he said, slowly. “I… I was simply not interested.”
Zuhair nodded, looking at him intently. “It was the same for me back home. Here, as well actually. None of the ladies interested me.”
They were dancing right around it now, and Edmund felt like he could not breathe. He did not want to get his hopes up, but, by the Lion, it seemed quite obvious.
He tried to think of something to say, something charming with a hidden meaning. But his mind was blank, so he quickly cleared his throat. “I should be going. Peter – he uh, wanted to talk to me about… something. I’ll, I’ll see you at breakfast tomorrow.”
And he very nearly ran off, leaving Zuhair standing alone, slightly confused.
Edmund closed his bedroom door behind him, leaning against it. He closed his eyes and tried to control his breathing. But all he saw behind his eyelids was Zuhair looking at him intently, waiting for him to confirm something he had never told anyone, something he had never even said out loud.
He certainly was not ready now, since the mere prospect of telling even his closest friend had sent him running.

Edmund arrived at breakfast the next day to find Zuhair’s chair empty.
Lucy noticed his confused expression. “Zuhair left for Calormen late last night, something urgent apparently. I assumed he’d told you.”
He shook his head. “I suppose he must have been in a hurry.”
“Are you alright, Ed?” Lucy regarded him with concern.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he said absently.
“Your Majesty?”
Edmund and Lucy turned to see a pageboy approaching them with an envelope.
“El-Tahir Tarkaan asked me to give this to you at breakfast, King Edmund,” he said.
“Thank you, Leo,” Edmund said, taking the letter. He turned to Lucy. “I had better read this now, my apologies to Peter, Su, and the lords and ladies.”
Lucy nodded and Edmund hurried out of the room. He did not open it until he was safely in his study, with orders to the guards that he remained undisturbed.
Dear Edmund,
I apologize for my hasty departure, but I feared I may have crossed a line with you. I am not normally so frank and straightforward with my feelings. I hope you can forgive me for my lapse in judgment.
I realize that what I implied is not accepted by many, in both of our countries.
If you desire it, we will never see each other again. But I would like to say one last thing: If my assumptions about you were correct, I hope you will be able to someday trust someone with that part of yourself, if not with me then someone else. It is a terrible thing to be alone.
Farewell, my good friend,
Zuhair el-Tahir

Edmund sat back in his chair, tears forming slowly in his eyes. Zuhair’s last sentence had struck him in the core and all that time of hiding, of shame, of loneliness, seemed to suddenly come out into the light. He felt seen in a way he never had before.
He quickly pulled out a piece of paper, a pen, and an inkpot. If he hurried, the letter could catch him before he got to Archenland.
Dear Zuhair,
Please do not apologize for your words. You were correct in your assumption, but I was not quite ready to admit it yet. Perhaps in writing it will be easier.
I want you to be the person I trust this with, so I beg you to please return.
I anxiously await your response, either by letter or in person.
Sincerely yours,
Edmund Pevensie

Letter in hand, he rushed out to find his most trusted messenger. “Go after Zuhair,” he said. “and give him this.” He added, quieter, “I trust your discretion with this message.”
She nodded. “Of course, Your Majesty.” She hurried off toward the stables, nearly running into Peter.
“Ed, there you are!” he exclaimed. “The White Stag has been spotted in Lantern Waste! We’re going out to hunt; the girls are already in the stables!” His eyes shone with excitement.
Edmund nodded. It would probably be good to distract himself from waiting for Zuhair’s response. “Very well, let’s go.”

three
The third time was a crush, really, not a lot more. Edmund had been happy to return to Narnia since it was the place he had started to feel like himself again. But it was a very different Narnia they had come to – a Narnia where Zuhair had been dead for at least two hundred years.
So while he and his siblings all mourned the losses of their old friends and acquaintances and old life, he mourned, for the second time, what could have been. He had often imagined having stayed home from the hunt, Zuhair returning to Cair Paravel, and them living their lives, while likely in secret, at least together. Instead, Zuhair had likely returned to find Edmund and the rest missing. He wondered if he had returned to marry the woman his father had chosen for him or had eventually found another man.
In his time back in England, Edmund had learned to accept who he was and the things he felt. It was a slow, almost imperceptible process, but by the time they were sitting on the train platform before being pulled away by magic, he found that his shame had lessened remarkably.
And then they were thrown into a war – a brutal, bloody one that seemed hopeless – to put Caspian X on the throne.
Caspian reminded him of Zuhair a bit, in appearance at least. He had long black hair and his olive skin was a few shades lighter than Zuhair’s. And, of course, he was younger, but so was Edmund now.
As a person, Caspian was different. He had a quiet fury about him. His royal upbringing made him calm and dignified, but Edmund could see what bubbled beneath the surface: anger at what happened to his father, outrage at the plight of the Old Narnians, and determination to set everything right. He held a lot on his shoulders and Edmund, remembering what it was like to suddenly be king at a young age, felt he understood him.
He thought Peter was too hard on him. Although they were technically the same age, Peter had more experience.
And though Caspian was a natural leader, Peter expected too much of him sometimes, and Edmund could see that it irked Caspian how he sometimes treated him like a child.
Just as he had in the old days, Edmund became the mediator, and thus spent a lot of time talking to Caspian, trying to make peace between him and his brother.
“Your brother can be immensely infuriating,” Caspian said. They were up above ground – Caspian always seemed to gravitate toward open air after an argument with Peter.
“Yes, I know,” Edmund said patiently.
Peter’s words still hung in the air, ringing in both their ears. You invaded Narnia, you have no more right to lead it than Miraz does! You, him, your father; Narnia’s better off without the lot of you!
“But you don’t,” Caspian said. “You’re brothers, it’s different.”
“I ruled under him for fifteen years, Caspian,” Edmund said. “I know.”
The argument had been a variation of the one they had been having for over a week. Peter wanted to attack Miraz’s castle, while Caspian didn’t Edmund thought both of them had a point, but since Caspian knew their enemy and was technically the leader, and Peter had more experience and was well-respected and admired by everybody, they never fully came to an agreement. Today it had turned personal, and Edmund knew they had both taken it too far this time.
Caspian looked at him curiously. “What was Narnia like in your time? I’ve heard stories, but you were actually there.”
“I think we should probably focus on the present,” Edmund said. “If you don’t recall, we are in a war.”
Caspian laughed dryly. “I’m sure Peter and I will make up again, we always do. I want to know about the kingdom I want to restore this country to.”
Edmund sighed and sat down beside him, letting his feet dangle off the edge. “It was… light,” he began. “I don’t think people called it the Golden Age just because that’s what you always call good times, but because there was no real darkness. There were tensions and even battles with other nations, but nothing like this.” He looked at Caspian. “You can’t expect your rule to be like that. The defeated Telmarines may grow restless, they may try to rise against you. There will always be tension there.”
“You’re certain we’ll win?” Caspian said after a moment of quiet between them.
“Lucy is certain will win,” Edmund said with a smile. “And she tends to be right.”
“It must have been difficult to leave,” Caspian said.
Edmund nodded. “It was. Lu and I had lived in Narnia longer than we had in England by the time we left. It was our home.” He thought of Zuhair. “Does Narnia still have contact with Calormen?”
Caspian shook his head. “We know of it, but since Archenland wants nothing to do with us – understandably – no one has been there in a long time.”
“It’s wonderful there,” Edmund said. “Much warmer than Narnia. The language is fascinating, and the clothing and architecture are so different.”
“I must make sure to establish a relationship with Calormen then, as well as Archenland.”
“They are a valuable ally and trade partner.”
They were quiet for a moment. “Very well, you may make peace between Peter and me now,” Caspian said, touching a hand to Edmund’s knee. “Try and convince me that storming my uncle’s castle is a good idea.”
“It isn’t,” Edmund said suddenly.
Caspian stared at him. “What?”
“I think you’re right.”
“But your brother –”
“Is more experienced in battle, I know,” Edmund said. “But you know the castle, you know your uncle. You’ve told us that the castle only has one way in and out, and the gryphons can only carry one person at a time. If something goes wrong, which, let’s face it, is likely, we could lose a lot of people.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying,” Caspian said. “But if that’s what you think, why aren’t you telling Peter that?”
Edmund hesitated. Why did he go to Caspian first? “Peter said some things that were out of line. You were angry. I wanted to make sure that you were alright.”
Caspian looked at him curiously. He exhaled and smiled faintly. His features softened in a way that they hadn’t in weeks, and as Edmund noted how his eyes looked lighter out in the sunlight, he realized why he had come to Caspian first.
“Thank you,” said Caspian, his voice gentle. “But you should really talk to Peter, he’ll listen to you much more than me.”
“Right,” Edmund said, standing up. He started to go back underground but turned back. “For the record, I think you’ll be a great king and deep down, I think Peter does too.”
Caspian nodded and Edmund just managed to pull himself away from his deep brown eyes. This was really, really not the time.

The rest of the war passed in a flash and Edmund tried very hard to not be distracted by Caspian. He tried to ignore how Caspian fought like a thunderstorm, blades flashing like lightning and a roar rumbling at the back of his throat. He tried to quell the surge of pride in his chest when Caspian refused to kill his uncle, thus deliberately showing how he would be a different, better king.
And when they rode victorious to the Caspian Castle, he tried not to think about how they would probably have to leave soon, and he had not had the chance to sort out his feelings, much less say anything to Caspian.
So he didn’t say anything.
The evening was spent dining and dancing, reminding Edmund of their coronation all those years ago. And of course, Caspian was a good dancer. Edmund watched him spin first Susan then Lucy across the dance floor. His graceful movements were so much different from the hacking and slashing swordsman he had grown to know.
Lucy finally dragged him to his feet to dance. “Are you alright, Ed?” she asked, face flushed. “You look like you’re a thousand miles away.”
Edmund smiled. “More like a thousand years.”
She nodded, understanding.
Some time later, Edmund noticed that Caspian was missing from the main party and set out to look for him. He found him in a side hallway, looking out a narrow window. Joining him, Edmund saw that the window was pointed east, toward Cair Paravel.
But instead of looking at the rolling nighttime countryside, Edmund looked over at Caspian. He looked more earnest, more mature now. The fury in his eyes had died a bit and he looked at ease.
“Tired of the party already?” Edmund asked.
“I just needed some air.” He turned to him. “How long will you and your siblings be staying this time?”
Edmund looked out the window, avoiding Caspian’s eyes because if he saw what he hoped to see in them, ignoring the growing warmth in his chest would get a lot more difficult. “I don’t know.” He glanced briefly at Caspian. “Has Peter said something?”
Caspian shook his head. “I know you have your own world, but I wish you would stay and help while everything is settled.” He exhaled a laugh. “That makes me sound selfish, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Edmund said. “I wish we could stay too.”

“We’ll go.”
Edmund felt his stomach plummet at Peter’s words. “We will?” He had thought he would have more than a couple days of peace in Narnia before having to leave.
“Come on,” Peter said, looking solemn and slightly sad. “Our time’s up.”
He glanced over at Caspian, who looked like he was trying to hide how crestfallen he was. Edmund probably was not doing as good of a job of hiding it, because Susan nudged him and said quietly, “Don’t worry Ed, you and Lu will be coming back.”
It was not as heartening as she meant it to be. The last time they had left and come back, Edmund had missed an opportunity he could never get back. And it looked as though history was going to repeat itself.
But there was nothing he could do. So, he shook Caspian’s hand firmly, just like Peter, and wished him all the best.
And he forced himself to not look back, as they walked through the doorway, only forward, toward England, and school. It was just a crush; he’d get over it.

four
The fourth time was when Edmund realized he had not, in fact, gotten over it.
The painting in Lucy’s room felt like a cruel joke. It was a very Narnian ship, as they had both observed upon arrival, and Edmund was not sure whether he would rather sit looking at it all day or avoid it at all costs.
For in addition to its very Narnian-ness, it reminded him of a conversation he had had with Caspian.
“Were the Lone Islands a part of Narnia?” Caspian asked. The challenge to Miraz had just been drafted and Emperor of the Lone Islands had been among Peter’s titles.
“Are they no longer?” They stood in one of the many passageways of Aslan’s Howe as Edmund waited to leave to deliver the challenge.
Caspian shook his head. “Telmarines have always feared the water. That is why the castle is built inland and the forest was allowed to grow wild. No one has gone out to sea in… years.” He looked pensive.
Edmund sensed there was a story there. “Who were they?”
“Seven of my father’s closest friends and allies,” Caspian said. “Miraz sent them out to sea to get them out of his way. None of them ever returned.” He smiled sadly. “Even so, I have always been intrigued by the idea of sailing.”
The look in his eyes after he said that was how Edmund imagined he would look on a ship. Eyes focused on a faraway spot, slight smile on his face.
So when, after being barged in upon by Eustace, the painting began to move, Edmund thought he was imagining things. Until Lucy gasped. Until sea spray hit him int eh face, bringing him farther back in his memories, to sailing on the Splendor Hyaline.
That was when he began to hope. As the bedroom was engulfed in water and slowly transformed into open ocean, he hoped that this time, Narnian time would be kind to him.
Then the ship was bearing down on them and several sailors had dived into the water and Edmund realized, at about the same time as Lucy did, that there was a possibility they did not wish them well. He swam desperately, pulling his arm out of the grip of a man he didn’t recognize. From somewhere to his right, over the splashing of Eustace, he heard Lucy’s surprised voice, “Caspian?”
His heart stopped as he heard Caspian’s response, clear as day. “Lucy?”
“Ed, it’s alright,” Lucy called out, although he had already stopped resisting his rescuer. “It’s Caspian!”
He didn’t get a good look at Caspian until they were on deck. His soaking clothes clung to his skin, his shirt especially leaving nothing to the imagination, so much s that nearly made Edmund look away in modesty. He looked more than a year older than the last time they had seen him. Edmund suspected that more than a year had passed in Narnia. Caspian had never been a particularly shy or overly uncertain person, but he was much more comfortably confident now. As they went through introductions and explanations, he saw how Caspian interacted with the crew and felt that surge of pride again. Caspian had grown into his title, and it fit him perfectly.
In days, it was as though Edmund and Lucy had been on the voyage all along. There was no stiffness or awkwardness with Caspian, Drinian or the rest of the crew.
And Edmund decided that he liked peacetime Caspian. While he had admired Caspian’s strength and determination in wartime, this Caspian laughed more, an utterly joyful sound that sent a nervous stutter through Edmund’s chest.
It was some of the most relaxing time Edmund had spent in Narnia. He and Caspian sparred, bodies close and hearts thumping, and swam in the waves, wrestling and trying to push each other under, and when the sun set, they looked up at the stars. He and Caspian soon found that the Telmarines had created new constellations which were different from the ones he had been taught as a young king. They stayed up into the early hours of the morning, exchanging the legends they saw told in the skies.
And so, they would lay, side by side on the deck of the ship and on various beaches, not touching, but close enough that if either shifted they would briefly brush arms. Edmund would stare very deliberately upwards, and a moment of silence would pass between them before their conversation continued.
When they finally went to bed, hammocks swinging next to each other, Edmund would try not to overanalyze everything that had happened since arriving.

“And have you managed to find a wife in those three years?”
“No, I have not,” A small, maybe coincidental, possibly entirely imagined, glance at Edmund.

Drinian’s knowing looks following them, as though he could see into Edmund’s heart.

Lucy’s ever cryptic observations springing up when Edmund least expected them. “You seem different, Ed.”
“Well, we’re in Narnia,” he said quietly. “We’re always different in Narnia.” She had always been observant, good at reading people.
She nodded. “It’s a good different.”


And every look Caspian gave him, every word they exchanged, was locked in Edmund’s memory, pieces of evidence in the essays he composed to convince himself of the thing he didn’t believe possible. He wished it were like a puzzle or a math problem that if he got all the pieces he needed in the right spots, he would see the answer, the big picture.

“What is the name of your country again?” Caspian asked one evening as he, Edmund, and Lucy sat around the uncompleted map of the Eastern Ocean.
“England,” Edmund said.
“What’s it like?” he asked.
“Boring,” Edmund said at the same time as Lucy said, “Different.”
Lucy smiled. “What Ed means is that there isn’t a lot of sword-fighting or sailing ships.”
“Are there different weapons?” Caspian asked. “Or is there simply no need for them.”
Edmund and Lucy exchanged a look. “Oh, they’re needed,” Edmund said. “We have guns,” he said with some distaste. “They can kill a man from a distance and do more harm than arrows.”
“I’m surprised you speak of them like that, Ed,” Lucy said. “Given that you tried to lie your way into the army.”
Caspian looked at Edmund. “Why would you have to lie your way in?”
“Because our dear Edmund,” Lucy said teasingly. “is not yet eighteen.”
He rolled his eyes. “Shut up, they would’ve let me in had you not busted me.”
She sighed. “Honestly, you’re almost as bad as those boys who only enlist to impress their sweethearts.”
“Well, there’s nothing like a man in uniform,” Edmund said.
“So, no sweetheart to impress then?” Caspian asked, his gaze a bit more intent now.
Edmund realized with a start that it was very important how he answered this question. So, of course, he stammered his way through it. “Well- I am not really, erm, interested in the girls back home.”
Lucy looked at the two of them. “Well, if you two are going to spend the rest of the evening discussing the pros and cons of Narnian versus English girls, I think I’ll take my leave.”
Caspian was still looking at Edmund and panic overtook him as he realized he was – once again – not ready to answer the question in his eyes. So, he rose quickly, with Lucy. “It’s getting late.” As if to mock him, the clock struck seven. “I should get to bed. Goodnight, Caspian, Lu.” He tried to keep his pace reasonable as he exited and hardly breathed until he was lying in his hammock. He groaned and pressed his pillow over his face. Wonderful, he thought.
When Caspian came in, some time later, Edmund pretended to sleep. He heard his footsteps stop at his side and stay there for a long moment. After a long moment of silence, he heard him sigh quietly and then murmured, “Goodnight, Ed.”
It took everything in him not to open his eyes to see Caspian’s expression right then. And as Caspian walked to his hammock, Edmund regretted not having done so. Maybe that had been the final piece of evidence he needed.
Caspian’s boots hit the ground with a thump and his hammock creaked as he lay down on it. Only then did Edmund risk a peek through his eyelashes, and he saw Caspian looking up at the ceiling with his brow slightly furrowed, and an odd mix of sadness and hopefulness in his eyes.
And as Edmund drifted off to the swinging of the ship, he wondered if perhaps his wishes had been right after all.
He and Caspian kind of danced around each other after that, only speaking when in larger groups and never interacting with only the two of them. Edmund hated it, but he wasn’t sure what to do about it. A layer of awkwardness had come between them as they both watched each other carefully.
Lucy noticed, because of course she did, and after a few days, decided she had enough. She dragged Edmund from a conversation with Reepicheep (“Sorry, Reep, important family business”) and Caspian from his daily exercise routine – which Edmund had been both avoiding and finding excuses to witness. Lucy, displaying remarkable strength, pulled them into the captain’s cabin and shut the door.
She turned on them, hands on her hips. “Have you two had an argument or something?”
“No,” Caspian and Edmund said at the same time. Then they glanced at each other and quickly looked away.
Lucy narrowed her eyes at them. “Well, whatever this is, you two need to sort it out, and I will sit outside the door until you do.”
“Lucy, please be reaso-” Caspian said.
“No, Cas,” Lucy interrupted. “I am being reasonable. You two need to be on good terms with each other for this journey to succeed.” She spun on her heel, left the room, and closed the door behind her.
Caspian sighed and sank into a chair. “It’s like she doesn’t even know I’m the king.”
Edmund exhaled a laugh, sitting across the table from him. “You’re basically a part of the family,” he said. “So, you’re Lu’s brother before you’re her king.”
He smiled. “I did not expect that acknowledgement to first come when I’m locked in my room like a naughty child.”
They were quiet for a moment as Edmund stared at the table
“So, should we make up some mundane argument and tell Lu that we’ve worked past it?” Edmund asked, finally meeting Caspian’s gaze.
“I would actually like to know why you’ve been avoiding me,” Caspian said.
Edmund blinked. “Me? You’ve been avoiding me.”
“No, I –” Caspian sighed. “Okay, so we’ve both been avoiding each other.” He looked at Edmund meaningfully. Expectantly.
And that was when the destructive urge reared its ugly head again, after being held in check for so long. “Yes,” Edmund snapped. “I have been avoiding you because I didn’t know how to say this to you.”
Caspian sat back a little at his outburst. “Say what to me?”
“This expedition you’re on.” His mind was racing, trying to piece together an argument. “What’s the point, really? What benefit does Narnia gain?”
“My father’s finds were capable advisors,” Caspian explained calmly. “I know they would help me rule Narnia well.”
“Would they?”
Caspian was so taken aback that he simply stared at Edmund.
“Because as far as I know, every Telmarine ruler before you were not a friend of the Old Narnians, so who is to say your father’s friends would be any different?”
“I could convince them,” Caspian said, trying to regain his hold on the conversation. “They’ll listen to me.”
“Like Miraz did?”
When Caspian’s jaw clenched, Edmund knew he had hit a nerve, and although it was what he intended, he felt the guilt of bringing up such a sensitive topic.
“My uncle was a power-hungry tyrant,” Caspian’s voice was tense, like a clenched fist, only just holding back. “there was no reasoning with him.”
“Or maybe you simply weren’t capable.” Edmund’s tone was straightforward, not overly cruel, one he had perfected in his past years of both spymaster and negotiator for Narnia.
Caspian rose slowly. “Do you think you would be a better ruler, you and your sibling who run off to your own country when things get hard?!”
Edmund was on his feet as well. “That’s not true!” His fist banged on the table.
Caspian was walking around the table to him. “You only ruled for fifteen years, hardly enough time to fully stabilize a country after a hundred years of tyranny.”
“That was an accident,” Edmund nearly snarled. “And we came back to help you.”
“Only when I called,” Caspian was right in front of him now, their height difference glaringly obvious. “And then you left, when I needed you. I had a family again and you left me.” His voice, so deliberate and controlled before, was now on the edge of breaking.
Edmund looked up at his deep brown eyes that now swam with tears and something in him shifted. This argument, meant to hurt Caspian and push him away, had somehow cathartically pushed them closer together than ever.
He gently, cautiously, lifted a hand to cup Caspian’s cheek, thumb brushing away a tear that had escaped. Caspian’s entire body seemed to sigh at his touch. “I didn’t want to go,” Edmund said, the gravel in his voice surprising him.
“I know,” Caspian breathed, ghosting a hand over Edmund’s forehead, pushing his hair out of his face.
And as though they possessed one mind, Edmund stood on his toes a bit and Caspian lent down a bit, and their lips touched just a bit before they pulled away. The tender look in Caspian’s eyes, however, sent Edmund up for more and they kissed for real this time.
Caspian held Edmund’s face in his hands like he was afraid he would break, and Edmund gripped Caspian’s collar like a lifeline, and the kiss was everything they needed it to be: a half-made promise wrapped in a lot of hope, backed by conversations in torchlit tunnels and one to three years of longing.
When they broke apart, they looked at each other, mouths half-parted in wonder and surprise.
“I suppose we can tell her we’ve made up,” Edmund said, breaking the intensity for a moment.
Caspian’s laugh at that sounded like it had been trapped in his chest for too long. He leant down and pressed his smiling lips to Edmund’s again.
“I’m sorry I said all that,” Edmund said, more seriously. “I was just afraid of telling you the truth.”
“What truth?” Caspian asked with a small grin.
“That I’ve been wanting to do that since I saw you tackle a soldier off a horse in battle that one time.”
Caspian shook his head, smiling. “We will need to talk about what this is, but for now, we must tell Lucy we are now on good terms.”
Very good terms, in fact,” Edmund said, kissing him again.

The next few weeks were some of the happiest of Edmund’s life. Between the battles and new islands to explore, he and Caspian would sneak off together whenever they could. They found spots where no one came, the space behind the food rations, the galley at night when the cook had gone to bed, and – when truly desperate – the lowest levels of the ship.
Except they had never spoken about their relationship which Edmund was secretly grateful for. Any talk about what they were would lead to a talk about the future, which had the looming threat of his return to England.
So instead, they took all of the time they could together, both with the knowledge it would inevitably end, but never acknowledging it.
Edmund was feeling better than ever, more confident, less in his head. “Good morning, Drinian,” he said when he ran into the captain one morning, hair slightly mussed and Caspian’s scent on his skin.
“Might I have a word, Your Majesty?” he asked.
Edmund sobered. “Is everything alright?”
Drinian pulled him aside. “Your Majesty,” he began. “You know I have a lot of respect for you, however, I am concerned that your relationship with Caspian may do more harm than good.”
Edmund blinked, he thought that no one had noticed. “What do you mean?”
“I am not blind,” he said dryly. “I know what happens on my ship. And normally, I would not disapprove, Caspian seems very happy. However, I understand that you and your siblings never stay for long.”
There it was again: the ticking clock that swung above their heads like a hypnotist’s prop.
“I am merely concerned for Caspian’s heart at your departure,” Drinian finished.
Edmund nodded but didn’t know how to respond. “Thank you for being frank with me, Drinian. The problem has been on my mind and I am grateful Caspian has around him those who care about him.” And with his diplomatic phrases at an end, he quickly took his leave with a nod to Drinian.
He had just made his way to the bow when Caspian appeared. “Good morning, darling,” he said quietly, pressing a quick kiss to his cheek.
Edmund looked around the still mostly empty deck. “Someone could have seen that,” he hissed.
Caspian shrugged and smiled at the bright blue horizon.
“You’re in a good mood,” he commented, joining him at the railing.
“So were you, two minutes ago,” Caspian said.
“Yeah.”
He looked at Edmund. “What is it?”
“Nothing.” It really was nothing; if they worried about Edmund’s eventual departure, they would ruin their time together. So Edmund smiled at Caspian, a real, soft smile that he hoped expressed everything he could not say.

Then came Ramandu’s Island. Throughout their conversation with Lillandil, Ramandu’s daughter, Edmund noticed the way Caspian looked at her and felt a slight twinge of jealousy. Once their objective was clear – sail to the end of the world and leave Reepicheep there – and they had cast off again, Caspian pulled Edmund aside.
“I know you’re cross with me,” he began.
“I’m not cross with you,” Edmund said.
“Well, I’d be cross if you looked at Lillandil like I did,” Caspian countered, a little confused.
“I’m not cross,” Edmund repeated. “I quite like her really. I think you should take her up on her offer to go to Narnia with you.”
“What? But she was clearly implying –”
“Yes, I know what she was implying –”
“Do you want me to marry her, Ed?” Caspian’s question was quiet, but that did not take away from its bluntness.
“You could do worse,” Edmund shrugged. “She’s pretty, well-spoken, has friends in high places…”
“I don’t understand.” His eyes were almost too much for Edmund to handle. “I care about you, Ed, and I don’t want to marry a woman I only just met, I –” He sighed. “I lo –”
“I’ll be going back soon,” Edmund exclaimed, panic rising at the almost declaration. “I don’t want you putting all your hopes on me when we both know I’m not going to be here much longer. I’m only suggesting you make plans for the future. You will need to marry and provide heirs and you were clearly attracted to her, so –”
“Is this jealousy then?” Caspian asked, who had looked at Edmund nearly dumbstruck has he spoke.
“No,” Edmund said. “It’s me being realistic and a good advisor. I’m not saying her specifically, but someone. Someone you can get along with, someone you can trust.” He sighed and pressed his palms to his eyes. “I was hoping we could just bask in ignorant bliss until the very end, but…”
Caspian laughed. “That doesn’t sound like us.”
Edmund looked at him and smiled. “No, you’re right. It doesn’t.”
So while the last couple days aboard the Dawn Treader were not quite as filled with secret smiles and sneaking into dark corners, the understanding between them was like a sturdy, but no less soft mattress – not as decadent as a plushy surface but much more practical.
Both set about memorizing every bit of each other, and although it was never acknowledged, both knew what the other was doing. So when Caspian ruffled Edmund’s hair on deck and commented how much it had lightened since his arrival, and Edmund watched how Caspian’s dark eyes flickered in candlelight, it was a reminder of how although they knew their time together would come to an end, a version would always stay. For the rest for their lives, Edmund could see Caspian, the seafaring king looking out at sea, and the lover in dim light, and Caspian could see Edmund, eyes flashing defiantly in a fight or the thoughtful tilt of his head.
Side by side in the rowboat, arms straining with the oars, Caspian and Edmund rowed closer and closer to their goodbye. They walked up the smooth beach towards the towering wave, Aslan’s presence blanketing them comfortingly.
And they did not ask if Edmund could stay, for they knew the answer.
“This is our last time here, isn’t it?” Lucy asked tearfully.
Edmund’s hand grasped Caspian’s without turning his head.
“Yes, child,” Aslan’s sweet, deep voice rumbled. “For you and your brother, it is.”
Too soon, it was time for goodbyes. Edmund threw his arms around Caspian, kissing the corner of his mouth for a split second as he passed. Caspian held him close. “I love you,” he whispered.
The words didn’t scare Edmund this time. “I love you too.” They pulled away, the sturdy understanding in their eyes.
Edmund led Lucy and Eustace toward the opening in the water. Only once they were inside did he turn back. As the water closed over the entrance, he took his last look at Caspian, who stood tall at Aslan’s side.
When they finally left their Aunt and Uncle’s, Lucy and Edmund had one last look at the painting. After having been on the real thing, it seemed to have lost its magic. Or perhaps that was simply because it was no longer a door to Narnia.
Among all the regrets and wishes that piled up in Edmund, a prominent one was that he would never get to see the king Caspian would become. He would have been very happy to know that his favourite Caspian – thriving, happily exploring new islands – became the Caspian known to history: Caspian the Seafarer.

the one time
Although Edmund was younger when he died, Caspian went first. He was an old man, his dark hair turned grey and his skin rippled like the ocean. He had lived a long life, and though it was not without tragedy, its was an overall good one.
Upon his arrival in Aslan’s country, he felt different: stronger, less frail. He felt young again, but in a more idealistic sense. He knew without trying that this body could run faster, swim farther and lift heavier things than he ever could while alive.
He saw his father and mother again, and his wife – who was more his best friend than lover – and those he had known and those he had only ever heard of. But through all this happiness, he kept looking for something. Someone.
“Is Edmund not here yet?” he asked Aslan.
Aslan shook his large head, mane ruffling in the breeze. “Not yet, my child. Recall that time is different in their time and yours. He is still a young man.” His eyes sad and Caspian did not dare ask further.

Edmund was still a young man when he left his world for the last time, and it had only been a few years since he last trip to Narnia. The train ride was already fading in his mind when he arrived.
His siblings were with him, and the other friends of Narnia. Aslan greeted them. “Welcome home, my children,” he said.
They had all gone to explore, but Edmund hung back for a moment, uncertain. “Aslan,” he asked. “In Narnia, how long –?”
“Yes, he is here,” Aslan answered his unasked question. “He has been waiting for you.”
Edmund’s heart leapt and he had run a few steps before turning back. “Thank you.”
Aslan nodded and smiled slightly. “Go on, my child.”
Nearly tripping over his own feet, Edmund ran until he found himself on a beach. The sand was warm under his inexplicably bare feet. Waves rolled gently and the wind carried the salty spray toward land.
And there he was, walking toward him. Caspian, barefoot and bare-headed, not dressed as a king, but a sailor.
All the hurry evaporated from his chest and Edmund walked towards him at a regular pace. There was no need to rush, they had all the time in the world. So when they reached each other, they took a moment to look, seeing the eyes and freckles and hair and smiles that had frequent appearances in their dreams.
“Gotta say, I’m relieved you’re not old,” Edmund said finally.
Caspian laughed and pulled him close, foreheads touching and his hands cupping Edmund’s face.
And when they kissed, it was not desperate or hurried or anything that their previous kisses had been. It was not an end, or even near an end.
It was a beginning.
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