MFB18: A Brotherly Conversation

When Mrs. Dumplesugar made her way out to the courtyard, she saw that the irascible little prince had not yet come back from his nap, and was about to retreat to the comfort of the servants’ areas in the back of the castle. However, Peter and Lucy were just returning from their stroll, arm-in-arm, and caught up to her before she had quite disappeared.

“Mrs. Dumplesugar, have you seen Edmund?” Lucy asked.

“I have indeed, your Majesty,” the Raccoon replied with a nod. “He’s not feeling his best, I’m afraid, and I’ve just left him resting in his room.”

“Oh!” Peter gasped as though he’d been hit. “Is he… Is he all right?”

“Not to worry, your Highness — he’s a little out of sorts, that’s all. No doubt all this activity has got the better of him,” she said soothingly. “He was too excited from dueling this morning to eat his lunch properly and it must have weakened him. He said he wanted to rest where it was quiet, so I made sure that he was comfortable — although I daresay he might be glad for a little company, especially from his brother.”

She looked hard at Peter as she said this, as if trying to convey something without coming out and actually saying it, and Peter wondered (with a sinking feeling) how much she truly knew.

“I’ll go to him at once,” he responded, patting Lucy’s arm to get her to release him. “I need to speak with him on another matter, anyway.”

“Shall I come with you?” his sister suggested.

“No — no need to make a fuss and make our hosts worry. With any luck Ed will be well enough to rejoin us for dinner.”

“I should hope so! It’s our last evening here,” Lucy pointed out with some regret. Peter had not meant to be rude in walking away while she was still talking, but he was anxious to see what the matter was with his brother.

“Eh, my sweet Queen, you mustn’t fret and let on that something is wrong,” Mrs. Dumplesugar advised. “And I’ve a hunch that the High King will know how to set King Edmund to rights. Some things, you know, are best left up to the menfolk. Not many, but a few.”

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Peter strode quickly down the hall leading away from the courtyard, trotted towards the tower with the private chambers, then took the steps two at a time as he mounted four flights of stairs to their floor, and by the time he was in the corridor outside of their room he was in a flat-out run. How much of their previous conversation (and actions) Mrs. Dumplesugar knew became increasingly irrelevant as he reflected on the fact that she did know something, and that she had pointedly hinted at him to go to his brother. He burst into their room, expecting the worst.

Meanwhile, Edmund had begun to doze off in the stillness of the afternoon, his eyes covered with the damp cloth, but he stirred when the door was flung open.

“Ed?” Peter asked softly, not wanting to wake him if he were sleeping, but his brother’s arms moved as he approached. “Are you all right?”

“Peter? Where are you?” Edmund asked in some confusion, groping as though searching for his way in darkness.

“I’m right here,” Peter answered, sitting down beside him on the edge of the bed and lifting the cloth from over his eyes. Edmund blinked as he focused on his older brother, who was looking down at him with a face filled with worry.

“Oh! Oh, that — I forgot about it,” he mumbled and blushed in embarrassment, then turned a deeper red upon remembering why he had needed the cool cloth in the first place. From the way Peter was observing him, his swollen eyelids were no doubt betraying the reason as well.

“Ed… I’m sorry. I came as soon as I heard,” Peter began while setting the cloth aside and reflexively combing his brother’s hair with his fingers. “You’re not… not still upset about… this morning, are you?”

“No… Yes… a little,” Edmund confessed, his eyes closed to better feel how Peter’s hand was petting him. Right now he didn’t want to think; he just wanted to bask in the tenderness his brother was showering upon him.

“I’m sorry I put you out of sorts,” Peter sighed, his own heart crushed to think that he had caused his love any grief. “I should have waited until we were home… or at least on the ship headed home, so you could’ve enjoyed your last day here…”

“It’s all right, Peter,” Edmund told him, wishing that he hadn’t been caught with his eyes still red from crying. “You were only doing what you thought was best. I’m just… confused, I guess. I don’t understand what you were trying to get at.”

“How so?” Peter asked, now fearing that he had botched the affair so badly as to make matters worse.

“Well, you said we couldn’t touch each other like that because we’re family, and you can’t marry within your own family, right? But, I mean… we’re both boys, so it’s not like we could marry each other to start with!”

Now it was Peter’s turn to blush, as he opened his mouth to reply but no good response came to mind. It was just as well, for Edmund had not finished.

“And then this morning, Lucy was sitting on your lap (like she always does), but nobody thinks that’s a bad thing — they actually think it’s adorable! Not that I want to sit on your lap, really, since I’m too big… I wouldn’t want to crush your legs, you know. But if we’re supposed to be so concerned about not getting involved with our own siblings like that, shouldn’t you be more careful about what you do with Lucy and Susan? Not that I’m saying you should, because I think it’s all rot, but then why is it such a big deal for us to touch each other? We couldn’t make a baby if we tried.”

Peter continued to gape at his brother while his mind was a riot of consternation. His uninjured left hand had long ceased combing Edmund’s hair, coming to rest on his knee; and, missing it, Edmund now claimed it with his own.

“Think about it, Peter,” he said reasonably, playing with his brother’s fingers. “If you happened to get both of your hands hurt and couldn’t use them at all, you wouldn’t ask Su or Lu to help you go to the bathroom, would you? No! You’d ask me. Or maybe Mr. Tumnus or someone like that. But I’m sure you’d feel more comfortable asking me, because I’m your brother. I’ve got the same equipment (or almost — I know I’ve got some catching up to do) and it wouldn’t be half so embarrassing to ask me as to ask anyone else. At least that’s how I’d feel if I were hurt. I’d come to you first, and only if you weren’t around, or weren’t able, would I go to someone else for help.”

The matter-of-fact manner in which his younger brother made his points allowed Peter’s benumbed mind to start functioning again, and also in a rational way.

“Ed… Do you think… what we did, yesterday, was the same as… going to the bathroom?” Peter managed to ask.

“What? Well, sure. It takes a bit longer, but it’s got to come out eventually. You just have to move things along until it does.” Edmund looked up from fidgeting with Peter’s fingers to see astonishment mingled with growing comprehension in his brother’s face. “Why? What are you getting at?”

“Oh, Edmund! Oh, Ed, Ed, Ed,” Peter murmured, wanting to laugh and cry and tear out his hair all at once. “How could I have been so blind? And how could I have done such a poor job of explaining it all to you?”

“Explaining what?”

“Ed… what happens when we… well, when our bodies get… excited,” he finally got out, flushing a bright red, “is a totally different thing from when, say, we have to urinate. It’s… oh, great Scott! How can I even begin to explain it if you don’t understand? I must’ve done very badly right from the beginning…”

Edmund had been gazing up at Peter from where he lay, but seeing him so frustrated in his attempt to describe this elusive concept, he sat up and flung his arms around his brother.

“It’s all right, Pete,” he assured him. “You don’t have to do it all at one go. I don’t understand it yet, but… I’ll take your word for it, for now.”

Peter was touched and relieved, and found his arms wrapping naturally around his brother’s slim torso as well.

“Thanks, Ed… I’ll try to come up with a better way to set it out for you. I just… I know what I know, but I don’t know how to make you understand it, too.”

Edmund nodded, his cheek rubbing against his brother’s. “Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere… or at least, not without you.”

Peter felt a smile form on his lips as he ran his hands slowly over Edmund’s back.

“That’s good to know.”

He could feel Edmund’s suppressed giggle, which sent his heart all a-flutter within him. Little did he know that there were bees buzzing within his brother as well, making the younger boy feel as though he were being tickled from the inside. For a long moment they were both comfortable in each other’s arms, but neither dared to move lest it cause the other to break away.

“You know what this reminds me of?” Peter whispered after a while, still stroking his brother’s spine.

“What?”

“That time… we thought you were dead. When Lucy’s cordial healed you.”

“Oh! You mean when the White Witch stabbed me?”

“Yes.”

They stayed locked in their embrace for a minute more, each recalling the sobering events leading up to that joyful reunion.

“That hurt like billy-oh,” Edmund remarked. “I thought I was a goner for sure…” “So did I,” Peter added, squeezing his brother just as the pang of remembered fear tightened around his chest. “Even after she’d given you a drop… you went still for a second, and I thought… I thought… I was so afraid…”

Peter swallowed hard, unable to finish his sentence, and felt his brother clutch him back just as tightly.

“I’m all right, Peter! Don’t let’s think about what might have happened — there’s no need to dwell on it,” Edmund said, hoping to not cry again. Knowing how much his own close brush with death had affected his brother somehow made his eyes fill with tears.

Peter nodded, and realised that he could feel his brother’s heartbeat against his own breast. He drew in a deep breath, expelling it equally slowly while keeping his grip on Edmund as though he would never let go. And Edmund, although he felt constricted in his brother’s arms, would not have asked for release even if his bones were being crushed.

“I was so glad to hear you cough, and see your eyes open,” Peter concluded. “As long as you were alive and safe… nothing else really mattered.”

Edmund wondered whether his whole body had become hollow, for the bees seemed to be buzzing and tickling him everywhere now. In fact, he thought he might burst from all their humming, and was glad that his brother had such a tight hold on him.

“I guess… everything else is secondary,” Peter droned on, as if to himself. “I should just be glad that you’re safe and healthy… and happy, too, I hope. If you’re a bit confused about… how society thinks, we’ll work on it, but it’s not the worst thing that could happen.” Another thought occurring to him, Peter suddenly loosened his arms enough to peer into Edmund’s face. “Ed… you are happy here, aren’t you? Even though we aren’t in England with your schoolmates, and Mum and Dad?”

“Of course I’m happy!” was his quick answer. “I’ve never been happier, to tell the truth. And why would I miss going to school? I mean, sure, I’d made a couple of friends there, but by Jove, I have so many more friends here in Narnia — and much more interesting, too!”

Relieved, Peter smiled, sending rays of warm sunshine through Edmund’s soul.

“Good. I’m glad to hear that,” he replied and hugged his brother with unfeigned affection. “Oh! And that reminds me of something else — I need to ask you about Per.”

Of course Edmund was in agreement that the boy should be given the opportunity to serve in the court of Narnia, if he so chose, and hoped to take him riding to meet all the Beasts and Creatures of the Great Forest. The only question was whose squire he should be.

“Yours, I should think,” Edmund said, completely content now with his brother’s arms loosely clasped about him. “He’s around my age, so it would be strange for him to be mine.”

“I had thought of that,” Peter replied, “but all the things a squire would normally do for me, the Fauns and other chaps at the castle are already doing, and I’d hate to put them out by bringing in someone new. But as you’re getting older, we could say that you’ll be needing someone to help you manage additional tasks — don’t ask me what they’ll be, for I have no idea — but it would stand to better sense, don’t you think? And it might be easier for him to talk to you, since you are so close in age, and you would have more time to help him get used to Narnia.”

“All right, then. I suppose it doesn’t make that big of a difference when it comes right down to it, since he can help us both,” Edmund conceded. “I just hope he’ll accept the offer!”

Peter wrung out the cloth again in the basin to cool it, settling his brother comfortably back down on the bed the way he had found him, before heading out to inform King Lune of their collective decision.

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When Edmund rejoined the party in the courtyard later that afternoon, as the final banquet was being prepared, their host summoned Per to their little circle and told him that the younger king of Narnia was in need of a squire and had offered the post to him. Stunned, the boy could barely stammer his thanks.

“Oh, good! So you’ll come, then?” Edmund asked him directly.

“Yes, of course! I mean,” here the boy faltered. “Your Majesty,” (addressing King Lune) “please excuse me if I sound more eager than decorous, for your kindness to me has exceeded all that anyone could expect — especially such a one as I…”

None of them had breathed so much as a word about his father, and yet Per himself could not help but be mindful of it.

“However, I must confess, your Majesties,” he continued, “ever since I met Mr. Tumnus and Mrs. Dumplesugar, I’ve longed to see what other wondrous Creatures there might be in the North, and this seems like a dream — like the best of dreams coming to life!”

So with that being settled, the farewell banquet for the Narnian envoy began with great celebration and lasted long into the night.


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