MFB29: Puffy Rolls, Bellybuttons, and Logic

The two kings had only time enough to wash their hands (and for Edmund, to change his trousers) before they needed to scramble down the stairs to dinner.

“We must talk about this later,” Peter cautioned, his face muddled with worry and guilt. “I should never have agreed to it… I should’ve never let you talk me into—”

“Oh, Peter! Dry up,” Edmund interrupted with some exasperation as he adjusted his clothes. “You’re making a great fuss over nothing. Think about it: you would’ve done the same thing in your own room, and only embarrassed yourself if the girls and Mr. Tumnus had heard you.”

Peter sighed in resignation, realising that his brother truly had no notion of the impropriety of physically pleasuring another male, let alone a near relation.

“It’s not ‘nothing’! And we will talk about this,” he reiterated, but was obliged to hold his tongue as they dashed to catch up with their sisters and the Faun.

Dinner felt tedious to Peter, since he had to try his best to be engaging to their guest, the courier from Archenland; but to his relief Queen Susan was as charming as ever and kept most of the knight’s attention. Edmund smiled beatifically and had extra helpings of everything, his appetite apparently whetted by their activity, and Peter caught himself envying his brother for his unperturbed conscience.

It seems almost cruel to teach him how wrong it is, the High King thought to himself, playing with his potatoes, but it must be done — if for no other reason, to keep him from begging me to do that again! It’s clear now that I have no restraint where Edmund is concerned, so I must simply make sure to not be caught in tempting situations. And Ed must learn to stay within the bounds of decorum. Of course, the hard part is to teach him where those bounds are…

Peter managed to endure the rest of the evening, which was quite pleasant otherwise. Some of the Fauns entertained them with music, and one of the Centaurs told the story of how King Frank and Queen Helen (who were the ancestors of King Lune and Queen Primela) had become the first monarchs of Narnia. When they finally left the Great Hall, Lucy invited Faril to join them in the den for a game of chess, which at least took Peter’s mind off of his worries while he watched his sister play a well-matched game with the knight. Of course, Faril might not have been playing at his best, since Susan talked to him throughout the match, trying to get some information out of the taciturn knight that would help in their preparations for King Lune’s visit.

Peter found his eyes wandering over to where Edmund lay on the floor with Per, playing a separate game with the wooden chess set (and occasionally letting Per take one of his pieces). The oldest Pevensie, despite his penitence at his most recent lapse in self-control, could not help staring at the curves of his brother’s backside and legs, and had to wrench his gaze away with some effort.

The children had begun to yawn early in the evening, since they had been outdoors at the beach almost all day; however, when Mrs. Hoppinger pushed a cart laden with tea things into the room, they perked up immediately. Not only had Felicity prepared chamomile tea for everyone, she had also taken Queen Lucy and Queen Susan’s descriptions of profiteroles and made some quite passable facsimiles thereof.

“Puffy rolls!” Lucy cried in delight, using the term coined by Peter when he had been very small. “Oh, Felicity! They look marvelous!

“They smell marvelous, too,” Susan said, admiring the pastries as she helped the Stoat serve them out.

“Are they filled with pudding?” Mr. Tumnus asked, inhaling the sweet aroma.

“Creamy custard,” Peter answered him, his mouth watering already. “Felicity, I ought to say that you shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble, but I must admit, I’m glad you did!”

She beamed all over her sleek, furry face as she stood on her hindquarters and clasped her paws together, her whiskers twitching nervously as she waited for them to take the first bite. Of course the “puffy rolls” were delectable, and she was soon basking in the praise she deserved, even from Faril, who — though he had never had a profiterole before — declared that it was the most delicious pastry he had ever tasted.

“I think we should plan on serving these to our friends from Anvard, when they come,” Susan remarked after savouring the last bite.

“Oh, do let’s!” Lucy agreed.

“You might need to practice making them a few times before then, though,” Edmund suggested with a sly grin, eliciting a round of laughter, and after finishing their cups of tea, the group dispersed to retire to their own rooms.

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Peter had barely finished changing into his nightshirt when Edmund tapped on a glass pane of his open balcony door.

“You did say that you wanted to talk,” he reminded when Peter glanced at him, startled.

“Yes. Yes, I did,” the older boy murmured, watching him saunter into the room.

“I suppose you want to lecture me on how wrong it was to do what we did,” Edmund said with a casual shrug of his shoulders, “and how wrong it was of you to give in to what I wanted.” He plopped down on Peter’s bed, then leant back on his elbows to regard his brother.

“So you do understand,” Peter responded dryly, although he knew well enough that Edmund was only parroting what he had heard him say before. Peter sat beside him on the bed, keeping a safe distance away, and feeling wearier than he had in a long while.

“I think I understand what you’re trying to say. But I’d like to hear you go through it again, point by point,” Edmund stated. He was feeling rather magnanimous at the moment, for all of the disappointment and bitterness he had felt before (upon Peter’s declaration that their intimate contact was impermissible) had been quite thoroughly dispersed when he had discovered, much to his surprise and delight, that this was not altogether the case — he merely needed to ask Peter at the right moment in order for him to succumb to his wishes. Even the fact that their bedtime tea had been served in the den with the others, precluding his chance to sit on Peter’s lap, hardly bothered him now.

“All right, then,” Peter sighed, running his hands through his hair as though that would help him to straighten out his thoughts. “Where to begin? Well, first of all, it’s not natural for… for two boys to get involved in this sort of… intimate behaviour.”

Edmund cocked an eyebrow while his lips curved upwards in sardonic humour. “But it would be natural to have a girl do that? Come on, Peter — you know jolly well that they wouldn’t know what to do!”

“W—Well, of course not! But it would be different, you know, with a girl — that is, with a woman. When you’re married.”

“Oh, right. Because you’d be making babies.”

“Exactly.”

“And you said they have a special place in their body where a boy’s — or a man’s — thing would fit.”

“So I’ve heard,” Peter responded. “And please don’t ask me any more about that, for I really don’t know. Father said he would explain everything when he got back…”

“I’m guessing it has something to do with their belly buttons.”

“Um… belly buttons?”

“Well, think about it! When you see a lady who’s in a family way, it’s her belly that’s sticking out, right?” Edmund remarked, sitting up and outlining a protruding belly with his hands. “So if that’s where the baby is, it stands to reason that you’d plant the seed, so to speak, near there. I’m guessing that girls’ belly buttons are different from ours.”

“I suppose,” Peter said uncomfortably. “I always figured it was in the same place on them as, you know… ours is on us.”

“Oh! Golly, you may have something there,” Edmund said, considering the idea. “I guess we could ask Susan about it if… if we needed to.”

“I don’t much relish that thought.”

“Me either.”

The boys lapsed into silence for a moment, then Peter tried to start afresh.

Anyhow, the whole purpose of it is to make babies, and it’s not something we should play around with.”

“But Peter,” Edmund countered, “it’s not ‘playing,’ it’s practicing! You said so yourself, and that’s what Father told you. And besides, it’s not like we can not do anything, when it gets that way.”

“Yes, but… we shouldn’t be doing it with someone else! It should be private,” Peter replied, already sensing the beginnings of that sinking feeling which signified defeat.

“All right, I can see the sense in not… ‘sharing’ it (as you phrased it) with a stranger,” Edmund conceded. “But really, if it’s something that Father would be teaching us if he were here, then since he isn’t here, the next logical person to fill his shoes is you. As much as you can, anyway.”

Peter looked at his brother in dismay.

“Yes, but… even Father never touched me. Not there. Not like… like that!

Edmund dismissed this with a shrug. “You said just now that he hadn’t explained everything to you yet. Maybe he would have, when you got older.”

Peter gaped, then swallowed, and spoke again.

“Look, Ed… I was at school for a good deal longer than you, and… well… I’ve seen some rum things, all right? And one thing I do know is that it’s not decent for two boys to… to do the sort of things we’ve done. It… It simply isn’t right.”

“But you’re talking about two boys who’re just friends and schoolmates, right? Not two brothers.”

“Well, yes. But I’ve never heard of any brothers who… who were involved like this.”

“So? You said yourself that this is a private matter. And I wouldn’t be too keen on talking to anybody else about it, myself. So even if there were other brothers who helped each other out like this, you wouldn’t necessarily have heard about it. That doesn’t surprise me.”

Peter felt as though his room — perhaps even the world — were slightly off-kilter, and that he was beginning to slide off of it.

“There’s still the matter of incest,” he said, grasping at whatever handhold he could find on sanity.

“It would be if we were making babies,” Edmund pointed out, “but the fact is, we can’t. We’re not even doing the same thing as we would with a girl! It’s totally different, like you said, and to be honest I don’t think it’s even sex, really. It’s just practicing for it, making sure that everything is working all right.”

Closing his eyes in weariness, Peter groaned and lay back on his bed. Edmund turned to gaze down upon his brother, and felt the bees (which had been humming happily ever since Peter had touched him and helped him achieve release that afternoon) press against his insides, giving him a surge of warmth. He lay down beside Peter and snuggled against his chest affectionately.

“Look here, Pete. I think you’re doing a great job of standing in for Dad, even if you haven’t figured out everything yet. I just wish you wouldn’t beat yourself up for every little thing, especially when I don’t think you’ve done anything wrong!”

Peter took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly. His arms had wrapped themselves around his brother’s slender form almost on their own, and he could not deny that it was extremely comfortable to hold him so close, to feel him resting in perfect repose against his own body. He was so tired, and his mind was so numb, that he would have gladly fallen asleep in that attitude.

“Ed, I need you to at least… respect the fact that I have a problem with this whole… situation,” he said, choosing his words. “And I think I’ve already given you the reasons for it: first of all, because we’re being… intimate, or doing something that feels (to me, anyway) like it should be a very private matter. Second, because we’re both boys, and it’s… unnatural. Our bodies are made so that we can have babies, and this whole… process, if you will, is meant for that. It just doesn’t seem right to… well, to relieve ourselves like this, and… enjoy it.” Peter blushed furiously as he admitted this last part, but doggedly continued. “I know it feels good, and I’m not denying that, but… just because something feels good, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s right. You of all people should know that.”

Edmund acknowledged this in silence, thinking back to the Turkish Delight that the Witch had fed him. It had certainly tasted good (he could still remember how light and sweet it had been), although it had only left him hungry for more. In that respect, he suddenly realised, his desire to experience pleasure at his brother’s hands certainly seemed similar to the enchanted sweet.

“Thirdly, because we’re brothers,” Peter went on. “Whether we’re making babies or not, it just seems more… unnatural. I’m supposed to be taking care of you, like you say, in Father’s stead, and part of that is to make sure you learn what’s right and wrong. I mayn’t be perfect myself, but I want to do my level best with you. And I really don’t think that… indulging in this sort of activity is… helpful.”

“Maybe we could ask Aslan,” Edmund finally spoke up, “if he ever comes back.”

“I’ve wished to talk to him about this, as well as a lot of other things,” Peter said, almost to himself. “But before I forget, there’s one more reason why I’m so worried that… that we’ve been going about this all wrong: and that is how young you are, Ed. You’re still only a kid, and I don’t want you to be doing something that… well… is best left for when you’re grown up.”

“Oh, Peter!” Edmund protested. “If my body’s old enough to be doing this, I should think I’m old enough already!” He pushed himself up off of his brother so he could look down into his face. “And as for your other concerns, I can respect that you have them, but I really don’t agree. First off, because it’s not like we’re doing the same thing as we would with a girl — our wife, I mean — to make a baby. Second, because a girl couldn’t know what it feels like for a boy, so only another boy (or a man, like Father) would know how to teach it to start with. And third (or whatever — I forget what order you made your points) because I wouldn’t go to a stranger to teach me something like this, when I have a brother! It makes perfect sense to me that you should be the one I should go to.”

Now Peter felt as though he really had slipped off the edge of the world, with nothing beneath him to keep him from falling. Point by point, Edmund had knocked out every one of his objections, and like a table with no legs, his reasoning had fallen flat.

“Oh, Ed…” he murmured, unable to form another coherent thought, let alone to argue.

“If it makes you feel any better,” Ed said in a softer voice, seeing how distressed his brother was, “I’ll think it over. You had a point when you said how just because something feels good, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good; but I want you to at least consider that, on the other hand, just because something feels good, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad.”

Peter opened his eyes to find Edmund’s brown ones looking back at him with tenderness, the candlelight flickering in their depths. It took him a long moment before he could speak again.

“All right. I’ll consider it,” he assented.

“All right then,” Edmund replied, then bent over to place a chaste, brotherly kiss on Peter’s cheek. “Good night, Pete.”

“Good night.”

Peter listened to Edmund’s soft footfalls as he padded back to his own room, then dragged himself off of the bed so he could climb under the covers. Blessedly, he fell immediately into a deep, exhausted sleep.


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