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even a traitor may mend

Chapter Text

There is a celebration one night, and a farewell the next.

-

Edmund remembers thirty four years worth of life and does as he always does. He weighs his options, calculates the outcomes, and comes to his decision.

Though, as always, his timing isn't necessarily the best.

-

Edmund does the unthinkable. He stops at the entrance to the tree and steps back.

“Ed,” Susan and Peter hiss, seemingly in unison, but Edmund ignores them. They are wonderful leaders, a majestic king and queen, but they have done their part. They belong back in the world. And Lucy- she needs to come back, someday, but first she needs to grow. She needs to be a schoolgirl, have an ordinary life, before she can decide whether to return to Narnia forever.

Edmund, though, has made it through school. He has gone through puberty twice, but the second time- the normal time-was far worse. In Narnia, he was hero. He was King. He was Just. In England, he was fag. He was freak. He was pansy.

Here, he can help others. He can be himself. He didn't fall in love the first time ‘round, but (he finds himself looking at Caspian) he might this time.

“Aslan,” he says, being brave for the first time in his life, “I want to stay. I want to make a difference. I can do that a lot more easily here, where I can help Narnia- my home- heal.”

“Edmund,” Peter says, and Edmund swallows.

“I need to do this, Peter,” Edmund says. “I can be better in this world than the old one. I can help make Narnia herself better, just like we did so long ago.”

He turns to Caspian. “King Caspian X,” he says, “Will you accept my oath of fealty?”

(He doesn't want to have to do this, pledge himself to someone else, especially when he has these feelings toward them, but if that's what it takes…he'll give up his Kingship. He can be an advisor, not a King, if that's what it takes. If that's what it takes , he'll do anything.)

Caspian stares at him, and Edmund wonders if he sees the sixteen-year-old kid Edmund, the thirty-four-year-old king, or something in between. Edmund can never quite be sure himself anymore.

“No,” Caspian says, and Edmund feels like he's taken an arrow through the chest. “I will not accept your oath of fealty.” A small smile crosses Caspian’s face. “I will, however, invite you to be King with me.” Edmund's breath returns with a violent snap. The twenty-three-year-old Prince's face is one of hope, the kind of expression that Edmund is more used to seeing on Lucy's face than a battle-hardened warrior. Edmund wants to reach out, to pull Caspian into a kiss, but not here. Not now. He doesn't even know if Caspian likes men.

(He wants to know, though. He wants to know Caspian almost as much as he wants to protect Narnia.)

“I accept,” Edmund says, “Barring Aslan’s approval.” He desperately hopes Aslan won't deny him this.

The entire world seems to pause, and then Aslan nods. His nostrils flare and a warm wind ruffles Edmund's hair. “Edmund the Just,” he says, “You are a good man. If this is the choice you believe will do the most good for you and Narnia, then this is what shall be done.”

Edmund turns to his siblings. “Goodbye,” Edmund says, wrapping each of his siblings separately in a long hug. It hits him that he will probably never see Peter or Susan again in this life.

“My King and my Brother, my Queen and my Sister, I shall see you in Aslan’s World,” Edmund says, clasping Peter and Susan's hand in his. A weight lends itself to his shoulders as he recites the words of a final farewell.

“And to you as well,” Peter says.

“I’m proud of you, Ed,” Susan says, and there are tears in her eyes. He understands them. After years of ruling together, of weathering Blitzed London and the war against the White Witch and tempestuous negotiations with Calormen, parting hurts.

(But Edmund knows that he will be better suited to here, in Narnia. Susan will live better in England. They both know it, and he has accepted it. He hopes she can as well.)

He turns to Lucy. “I'll see you again sometime, Luce,” he says, and she gives him the bare bones of a smile.

“May your sword stay sharp, Edmund,” she says, and he nods.

“I love you all,” he says, and then he steps back to a few paces away from Caspian, Aslan, and the other leaders. He doesn’t join them (not yet)- he won’t feel comfortable with that until after his siblings leave and he is the only one left.

He stands there and watches as his siblings leave Narnia, entering into the old world. The last of Lucy's skirts disappears and he waits five, ten, fifteen seconds to move. He turns and faces a people that aren't truly his- yet. His people lived a millennia ago. But perhaps these people, today's Narnians, Caspian’s people, can become his. He hopes that they can accept him, the famous traitor. Edmund is all too aware of his reputation as the coldest of all the Great Rulers, the loner King. The impartial judge, the cool negotiator, the only Golden Ruler who never fell in love.

For one moment, he is nervous. Will this world, this age, accept him?

Then he remembers himself. King Edmund the Just, son of Adam and ruler of the Golden Age. He destroyed the wand of the White Witch. He was the master strategist in the defense of Anvard, orchestrated the escape from Tashbaan, and helped plan the defeat of the Telmarines. He has never lost a battle. He is no longer the Traitor King.

Caspian offers out a hand, and Edmund steps forward into a new (old) life.

Chapter Text

Three years later

 

Lucy swims up to the surface of the ocean, pushing against the weight of her sodden clothes. A pair of arms grabs for her, helping her to the surface, and Lucy struggles for less than a second before realizing that someone is trying to help her.

They break the surface and a familiar male voice says, “It's alright, I've got you.”

“Edmund?” she gasps.

“Luce!” Edmund crows, and she grins as they swim to the ship.

The sailors drop a swing for them and the two of them get pulled up, arms around each other’s shoulders. She notices small differences in her brother- a few inches of height, posture straighter, more toned muscles. It's so strange- she watched him grow up once, but even if he's growing at the same rate she is (and that's a big if, due to the differences between here and England), this is a different version of Edmund than she's ever known. There's a small scar above his lips that never existed in any life that Lucy knew.

They reach the top and sailors hand the two of them towels.

“How have you been, Ed?” Lucy asks breathlessly as she wraps the towel around her shoulders and thanks the sailors for pulling her up.

“Funny you should ask-" Edmund says as a familiar voice says, “Queen Lucy!”

She turns to find Prince Caspian dripping wet. Apparently he was one of the ones who jumped. “Caspian!” She shouts, and hugs him.

“Queen Lucy!” He says with a smile, returning the embrace.

Before she can ask anything, though, a certain annoying cousin has to ruin it.

“Where in the blazes am I?” Eustace practically screams as he marches across the deck, soaking wet.

“You're in Narnia,” a bald man says, and Lucy vaguely recognizes him as a Telmarine noble who had been the first to pledge himself to Caspian. “Land of the Warrior Kings, blessed by Aslan.”

“Kings? What kind of joke are you all playing at?” Eustace demands, but it's hard to take him seriously when he's soaking wet, pint-sized, and her own bloody cousin who she's had to live with for the past few months. “I demand you take me to the nearest British Consulate immediately!”

“I am the nearest and highest authority,” Edmund says, and offers out a hand. “High King Edmund the Just of Narnia, Emperor of the Lone Islands, Lord of Cair Paravel, Baron of Ettinsmor, Duke of the Seven Isles, Duke of Galma, Count of the Western Wood, Emperor of Dragon Island.” It takes forever to get through the title, but Lucy sees, to her pride, that a title such as that sits easily on his shoulders like it did in the Golden Age, rather than awkwardly like it did three years ago.

Eustace, however, snorts. “Awkward cousin Edmund, a King? Bollocks. I must be dreaming.”

“Lucy is also a Queen,” Edmund says, “Her Majesty, Queen Lucy the Valiant.” He looks at her for a moment before amending that to: “ High Queen Lucy the Valiant, now.”

“And Caspian is Prince-" Lucy starts to say.

“I am King and Consort, now,” Caspian corrects with a bit of a smile.

Lucy grins. “You and Edmund?”

Edmund nods, and holds up his left hand. Encircling the ring finger is an elaborate band carved of a greenish metal. “Last summer. My eighteenth or thirty sixth year, depending on the count.”

So it has been the same time difference between here and England, for once.

“It was brilliant, Your Majesty,” the bald Lord joins in. “The wood nymphs made a pavilion of living flowers for the wedding and the entire centaur army played the march. Narnians and humans alike attended, and some say Aslan himself attended to impart a blessing on the union.”

“Wait,” Eustace splutters, “That's unholy! That's foul! Two men engaging in...a union? By god, that's horrendous!”

Edmund doesn't flinch, his expression going stony, but Caspian’s nose wrinkles in disgust and Reepicheep, finally joining the party, roars, “How dare you say that about our kings? I shall smite you where you stand!”

And Eustace faints at the sight of a talking mouse.

 

Edmund’s limbs feel small, almost like he’s wearing a shirt a size too small. It’s a strange feeling, though, extended to the entirety of his body. Everything feels fragile, like his bones could snap so easily.

He glances to the right and the left and his heart stutters. The room he only distantly recognizes, somewhere from the depths of childhood memory. His siblings look nothing like their regal selves; instead, in their places, lay schoolchildren.

His clothing is not Narnian; it is of coarse, drab fabric. He thinks he remembers this same outfit being stained with blood and grime in the palace of the White Witch all those years ago. He can still taste the stale stench of her dungeons, can still feel the bone chill of her palace.

He wants to rip these clothes off, burn them in the nearest fire.

“Ed?” a voice that sounds like it belongs to a story asks, but it’s not a story- it’s Lucy, a twenty-five-year-old woman in an eight-year-old body. Edmund runs his own tiny, delicate hands through his hair and finds it short, without a crown.

His crown is gone. His kingdom, gone. His chance at helping people, gone. He is back to being useless, to feeding words through insignificant, small lips. This body is pre-White Witch, pre-crushing betrayal of his siblings. This body does not know the calluses of war, the cold of a dungeon, the savouriness of Calormene food. This body has not grown.

This body is eleven.

The door opens and the Professor comes in. “What do we have here?” He asks, smile jovial, and Edmund remembers that he never got to meet Father Christmas. All he is, all he has, is of his own making. He clawed his way from the stupidity of betrayal into the wisdom of justice. All of that is gone now- everything he worked for, everything he loved, is no better than dust.

This is no fairytale; this is a horror story.

 

Edmund blinks. “So, Luce,” Edmund says, “Is this the infamous cousin Eustace?”

She nods. “I've been staying with him and his parents. Susan's going to school in America while Peter is at the Professor's.”

Edmund's face crumples slightly at the mention of their siblings, but then shifts back into a happier expression. "And you're here in Narnia with Caspian and I," he says, tone jubliant.

Lucy nods and Caspian chooses this moment to step into the conversation. “Let us get you into more appropriate clothing,” Caspian says, “I'm nearly certain Ed’s smallest tunics and trousers may fit you. If your cousin would like clothing, then we can provide him some as well.”

“Sounds wonderful to me,” Lucy says, “Ed?”

“Anything for my little sister,” Edmund chimes in.

Lucy rolls her eyes. “I'm not little anymore.”

“Still the youngest, though.”

She looks him up and down. He just mentioned his eighteenth year being last summer- that must mean that he's nineteen. For once, the ages must have matched up.

 

By the time she's changed, it is time for an early supper in the captain's quarters. Eustace doesn't join them- he is still unconscious down in Edmund's hammock.

“We eat the same rations as the sailors on our ship,” Caspian explains as they sit down to a meal of fish, bread, potatoes, and a small portion of vegetables. “It is better than most sailors’, to be sure, but still not to the standards of palace fare, I am sorry to say.”

Lucy shakes her head and smiles. “It's better than wartime England food, to be perfectly frank.”

Edmund nods. “I remember wartime rations- they were hardly better than a laborer’s.”

Years stretch between them for just a moment- years in which they have lived separate lives, worlds apart from each other. He has become King, far away from simple England, and she has advanced in school years.

“So,” Lucy says, royal etiquette kicking in as she carefully cuts through her fish, “You're my brother-in-law, then?”

Caspian nods, glancing fondly at Edmund. “Nearly a year, now. Our first anniversary is in…”

“Three weeks,” Edmund finishes. “We’ll still be on the sea by then. Perhaps we shall bring out the wine, or stop at the port at Avra and  allow the sailors the evening off. I'm certain that back in Narnia there will be celebrations. After all, we were married on the eve of the anniversary of your coronation, love."

Caspian smiles at Edmund, and Lucy sees in them what she saw in Anna-Mae and Peter back in England, what she saw with their Ma and Pa years and years ago, what she saw with the Beavers and the Foxes and Cor and Aravis of Archenland. 

“You're the first of the four of us to marry,” Lucy says nonchalantly, but she notices the shock barely disguised on Edmund's face. “Peter is engaged to a lovely lass named Anna-Mae, Susan refuses to be tied down, and, well, I'm not very interested in such a thing at the moment, especially when Narnia has been waiting for me.”

“Some might even say that eighteen-years-old is too young to be married,” Lucy continues, the hint of a smile on her face. She wants Edmund to see that she's teasing.

“Well, some might say thirty seven is too old,” Edmund says. His gaze slides to his husband. “And you, Caspian? What do you think?”

Caspian smiles, and it's a secretive kind of smile, almost as if he is about to share some sort of inside joke. “I do not know what it is like back in the England-world, Queen Lucy, but I think Edmund is the perfect age for marriage.”

She tuts. “No need for the “Queen,” Caspian. We are family now. You are my brother-in-law.”

Caspian grins. “That I am.” He looks to Edmund. “Edmund, did you hear? I am the brother-in-law of the High Queen of Narnia!”

Edmund rolls his eyes. “And the husband of the High King, yet your in-law is the one you get excited about?”

Caspian gestures to Lucy. “But it's the High Queen, Edmund,” he says, and Lucy has to smother a giggle at the sarcasm he he has picked up from Edmund over the past three years. “Queen Lucy the Valiant. You cannot get any more impressive than the woman who brought Aslan back.”

“Keep saying that, you ridiculous King,” Edmund says, spearing one of his potatoes.

“You know I love you, darling,” Caspian says.

“You have a funny way of showing it,” Edmund responds, and Lucy almost feels like she's been allowed in to witness something rather intimate. The two Kings of Narnia, teasing each other over dinner. What a strange and wonderful state this world has come to.

 

Most days Edmund cannot tell what is dream and what is reality. The world around him seems the dream, the colors drab and the magic gone.

(Dream doesn't even seem to cover it; nightmare would be better.)

Susan and Lucy seem to be getting along well enough. Lucy has always been good at adapting to whatever adventure comes about, and Susan always does whatever is necessary. They relearn life quicker than he or Peter do, learn how to fit into a world that Edmund left behind two decades ago.

Peter becomes reckless; Edmund never really succeeds at fitting in. He can never really shake the feeling that this is wrong , that they are needed, that he is needed-

He needs Narnia, and he is all too aware of it.

Edmund the Just spends the next five years trying, and trying, and ultimately failing to solve any of these problems. He is King Edmund the Just, the Great Diplomat, Duke of the Great Western Wood. He is used to the weight of a crown, the criticism of great kings and queens and ambassadors, not the insults of schoolboys who have no idea of the truth of the world and maybe never will.

(Worst of all is the knowledge that he'll be stuck here until the day he dies. There is no going back to Narnia, to his kingdom and his people. No going back to friends like Tumnus, to Kavé the Bear and Greeley the Centaur. No advisors, no friends, no one who knows who he truly is.)

In England, he can barely breathe.

 

“How's Eustace doing?”

Eustace refuses to change his clothing. Despite the chafing he must experience from the salt-water-soaked fabric, he remains stubborn in the clothing he brought to Narnia.

Edmund recognizes himself in the twelve-year-old. Edmund descended into snow; Eustace rose from the sea. Both dropped into a foreign world unfamiliar to them. Edmund remembers falling into a foreign land, full of anger and resentment and hatred for a world that wasn't his (yet).

Eustace is clinging to the world that he knows, and despite what Lucy or even Reepicheep may be hoping for, Edmund knows that it will take a catastrophe for Eustace to adapt. That’s what it took for Edmund to realize his place in Narnia all those years ago, to find the courage to be the King he was meant to be.

(Edmund just hopes that no one will have to die for Eustace to accept Narnia.)

“I don’t know,” Edmund says, answering Caspian’s question. “I haven’t seen him for a few hours.”

The boy in question comes tumbling out onto the deck, Reepicheep shouting of his theft, and what proceeds is one of the most interesting and, frankly, ridiculous duels Edmund has ever witnessed. One of his most skilled knights facing off against his, frankly, lump of a cousin. There is absolutely no contest between them, and everyone but Eustace knows it.

The duel ends with Reepicheep standing victorious (no surprise there).

“Are you sure he's related to you?” Caspian asks as Reepicheep keeps talking to Eustace, prattling on even after his victory. That is certainly one thing that Edmund values about Reepicheep: he is so open-minded, open to making friends out of those that mist people would seem uneorthy. “He seems so...unremarkable.”

“If you mean annoying, then yes,” Lucy says, “But so was Edmund before Narnia.”

“Hey!” Edmund protests, but Caspian is smiling.

“I've heard tales of Edmund as a child,” Caspian says. “You were said to be a bit of a brat.”

Lucy grins. “Even Kings had to come from somewhere.”

“You want me to tell Lucy about the Horse and Salsa Incident, Caspian?” Edmund threatens, and Caspian visibly pales. Lucy giggles, but then Edmund turns to her with his eyebrow raised in that familiar you-should-have-been-wary look. She gulps. “Or how about the Faun Pasta Incident of ‘09, Luce?”

Now she's the nervous one.

Edmund smiles like the devious imp he is. “You both know better than to mess with me,” he says, then turns and saunters off.

Lucy and Caspian both stare at him as he heads over to talk to Lord Drinian. “He can be so terrifying,” Caspian says, and Lucy nods.

“Peter was always the majestic leader, the most skilled of warriors. He would charge into battle and the enemy would turn before him. His prowess in battle was unmatched. Whole armies cowered before his blade.

Edmund, though, was a different story. With only a few well chosen words, he could turn an army before it arrived. Kings and peasants alike were scared of him and his silver tongue. There's a reason why he was always our diplomat. A great many wars were averted because of him.”

“Glad he's on my side,” Caspian says.

“Trust me,” she says, “All of Narnia’s far better with him on her side.”

 

Edmund is rubbing his jaw from where the kid slugged him. He is aching but something in him, the pit that craves Narnia, has been temporarily soothed.

(Peter, however, is still a reckless idiot for starting that fight. He is the High King . He should know better.)

(Being in Narnia was never about being King. It was about being right, about being good .)

Edmund sits down on the bench next to his siblings and lets himself get berated by his sisters. He knows that jumping into that fight was stupid. He never would have even contemplated such a ridiculous stunt back in Narnia. Something in him just broke, though. He had been King, been Great, and here, in this ridiculous backwards place, he can do nothing.

Something pinches his back and he jumps. Light starts to fill the train station and they all grab for each others’ hands. The hairs on the back of Edmund’s neck stand up and he can feel the magic tickling his spine. He can smell sea salt and wet rocks, and as the train disappears ahead he can see a long line of coast.

For the first time in five years, Edmund laughs in true delight. He is back in his kingdom. He is back in the land he was stolen from.

He is home.

 

They're examining the inventory book when everything clicks for Edmund and, a moment later, Caspian and Lucy.

“Slavery,” Caspian spits.

“We are this land’s Kings,” Edmund hisses, “We should never have allowed this to happen. Narnia does not allow slavery within her borders.”

“We have not finished cleaning up the Telmarine mess,” Caspian says, “But that is no excuse.” Edmund can tell from the set of his jaw, the slow anger in his eyes, that he is just as angered as Edmund is. Contrary to the usual, though, Edmund is the one getting visibly upset while Caspian is managing to contain his emotion. Edmund knows where his own fury comes from and why he can’t really contain it. He witnessed the horrors of the White Witch’s rule firsthand. He saw the slaves, whipped and worked to the bone. One of his prime focuses as King, one that history doesn’t seem to remember very well, was rehabilitation of all of the White Witch’s victims. He would visit birthday parties, weddings, festivals, and funerals.

He had felt like what the White Witch had done was partially his fault. Even now, twenty eight and a thousand years after his betrayal, he still feels like he has to make up for that horrible mistake. It’s only right, after all. He was made King for a reason.

“I will raze this slave trade,” Edmund says. “I will destroy them all.”

Then screams echo through the room, and a moment later Lucy and Eustace are held captive by rough-faced Islanders. They demand Edmund and Caspian put their swords down, and Edmund thanks Aslan that neither he nor Caspian are wearing anything identifying them by their rank. This situation, precarious already, could get downright lethal if any of the slavers knew who they were holding.

Edmund sees the blade pressed up against his sister's throat and swallows. He glances at Caspian and, in unison, they slowly lower their blades and place them on the ground.

 

As soon as they're in the dungeon, the guards far out of earshot, Edmund turns to his husband.

“We can't let them know they have the Kings of Narnia in their grasp,” Edmund says, endlessly pragmatic. This is how their Kingdom works- Edmund is the strategist, the planner, the negotiator, while Caspian is the commander, the leader, the fighter. Both of them are warriors- there's a reason why they are known across the lands as the “Warrior Kings of Narnia"- but they have their specialties. It has always been a strength of their relationship that they recognize and accept each others’ talents and weaknesses. Edmund knows where he will succeed and where Caspian will, and he sends Caspian to do the things that he cannot. “We have to save Lucy and Eustace, though.”

Caspian nods, glancing around. “First we have to get out of this dungeon.”

“Right,” Edmund says, and looks around.

 

Then the mist swallows the boat, and they may have bigger issues to deal with.

(But not by much.)

Chapter Text

They exit the city to cheers, Lord Dorne’s sword in Caspian’s hands. It only fits that the Great Warrior, rather than the Great Diplomat, carries one of the magnificent blades. Edmund has Peter’s old one (his own sword, Oathkeeper, forged for him a thousand years ago, rusted away without the magic that sustains the one given to Peter by Father Christmas), and that’s enough for him.

On their way to the boat, Edmund can see Caspian eyeing up the grime-encrusted blade. “If you get that cleaned up,” Edmund says, “Dueling will be a lot more interesting.”

Caspian grins and looks up at Edmund. “Yes it will.”

-

Lucy exits the Kings’ rooms to find Edmund and Caspian fencing on deck, a rather large crowd gathered around them.

“It's tradition,” the Minotaur says. “Every afternoon, some pair of sailors duel. The Kings duel each other once a week. Besides Harendra and Lindley's duels, it's the highlight of the week.”

“I remember Harendra from the War against the Telmarines,” Lucy says. “She was a fantastic tactician and swordswoman. She led the charge against the Western flank and was at the front of army for the Battle of the Stone Table. But Lindley...I don't remember them. Tell me about them.”

(Her eyes don't leave her brother and brother-in-law, though. They fight so gracefully, so intensely- every blow would strike another man dead, but they anticipate each other so well that it is as if they are extensions of the same, sinuous being.)

“Lindley is a sailor who joined us from Archenland. He's one of the most ferocious boxers in all the kingdoms. It's said that he is descended from King Cor and Queen Aravis herself.”

“I met them, you know,” Lucy says. “A long time ago. Edmund and Susan may have known them better than I, having met Cor in Tashbaan, but I met them a few years after that, once Cor had accepted his throne.”

The duel ends with Caspian and Edmund with their arms crossed, swords a hair’s breadth away from each other's throats. They're both grinning, panting slightly from exertion, and a roar goes up in the crowd.

“Fourth draw in as many weeks,” the Minotaur says. “The Kings are evenly matched.”

Lucy watches as the Kings withdraw their blades, clapping each other on the back.

“I think they just know each other too well,” she says, remembering how although Peter was the far superior swordsman to Edmund- as proven both in battle and on the sparring grounds- he could never seem to win in a duel against his little brother. Edmund's ability to read people and pinpoint their weaknesses extended to being able to predict with pinpoint accuracy the movements of people he knew rather well.

“Not a bad point, Your Majesty,” the Minotaur says.

-

Everything falls apart in the gold room.

-

“We can use this gold to make Narnia great!” Edmund crows, clutching the recently turned gold shell in his hand.

“Narnia is already great,” Caspian says.

“But we could be powerful ,” Edmund says in that scary way he did all those years ago when he was talking about the White Witch. It's all of Edmund's ambition twisted towards dark aims, his carefully cultivated morals and efforts toward redeeming himself overwhelmed by an ends justify the means mentality.

A shiver goes down Lucy's spine. By Aslan, she doesn't want what she fears will happen.

“Narnia is already powerful,” Caspian snarls. “You disparage our honor to claim otherwise-”

“Not under you it isn't,” Edmund snaps.

I should have been High King,” Caspian growls, and his tone terrifies Lucy. She hasn't seen either of the two of these particular lads in three years, but she has had to deal with men since her last trip to Narnia. Men who think that they can take what they want, just because they're men, and because they have power. Caspian and Edmund never struck her as the type, but now, under the spell of this room, something is going horribly wrong. “I raised the Narnians to rebel against the Telmarines, I led the troops into battle, I command the armed forces. You are a diplomat . I should have been High King and you King and Consort. I am the strong one.”

“You were weak,” Edmund snarls. “I am the one with the brains, the wisdom, the backbone . You couldn't even kill your Uncle when he had wronged you, you coward.”

“Coward? Me?” Caspian spits, an expression of absolute hatred on his face. “ You were the one who abandoned Narnia, not me-”

“STOP!” She screams, and they blink at her, expressions harsh. “You two are partners, consorts. You love each other. Don't fight. This isn't you.”

Caspian and Edmund stare at each other for a moment, gazes blistering. Every angle of their body is aggressive, mean, angry , and then-

The shell drops from Edmund's hand. He looks at Caspian, and Lucy sees the lost little lad that turned up at the camp after he escaped the White Witch. The lad with nowhere to turn, the lad who had witnessed horror- caused horror- and wasn't sure if he could be forgiven. “Caspian,” he whispers, and reaches out a trembling hand.

(In this instant, Edmund is no King. He is lost and he is fragile. He is a husband, unsure. He is lover, afraid.)

Caspian blinks and his expression drops as well. He steps forward a step and then stumbles forward a bit to wrap Edmund in a quick embrace. Their bodies tremble against each others’, and Lucy can see the relationship that Reepicheep claimed legendary. The way Caspian clutches at the back of Edmund's shirt, the way Edmund whispers endless reassurances into Caspian’s ear- Lucy can almost see it.

“Let's get out of here,” she says, eager to see the back of this place.

They nod, though barely separate.

 

Edmund remembers the moment he met Caspian.

(Well, he remembers the moment he first laid eyes on Caspian.)

Lucy and Peter had disappeared from their campsite when he woke up, and he immediately nudged Susan awake. “You can still track, right?” He asks, gesturing to Lucy and Peter’s sleeping spots, and she nods, standing up. They wake Trumpkin quickly and then move on their way.

They follow the trail all the way down to where they can hear clashing swords in the distance. Then, all of a sudden, the sounds break off as they hear Lucy scream, “No! Please, stop!”

They start to run, Edmund withdrawing his blade as they go, and Susan shouts “Peter!” right as they round the side of a bush. They find Lucy standing there, staring at Peter and a dark-haired, handsome man in what looks like a derivative of Telmarine armor. Narnians of every species surround them.

The man tilts his blade (one that looks suspiciously like Peter’s) down, glancing at it, before looking up. “High King Peter,” he says, the truth dawning on his face.

“I believe you called,” Peter says with a small nod, shifting his feet just slightly. Edmund knows Peter well enough to detect the change in his posture signalling the shift into the mindset of High King.

“Well, yes,” the man says, and Edmund hears the Telmarine accent in his voice. If they’re surrounded by Narnian forces and no one’s attacking, he must be Prince Caspian. “But I thought you’d be older.”

“If you’d like, we can come back in a few years,” Peter says, and Edmund recognizes the usage of battle tactics- a bit of reverse engineering, if you would. Peter is, whether anyone notices or not, showing his power over the situation. To anyone who does not personally know the Pevensies, it would seem like they have no necessity to defend Narnia. Truly, though, they fight to the death to save their Kingdom, even if these are not the people they once knew.

Caspian practically scrambles to protest. “No, stay,” he says, shifting a bit, leaning in to the conversation. “You are just… not exactly what I expected,” Caspian says, and looks at Susan, Lucy, and Edmund. His gaze, though, stops on Edmund.

After a few moments of Caspian staring, Edmund says, “Well, neither are you.”

 

Edmund feels hollow, like every one of his insides has been scraped out. He's only ever felt such burning hatred in his life three times- once, to the White Witch for trying to kill his family, once to the rapist that had been brought before the Court back in the Golden Age, and once to the White Witch again when she had tried to tempt Caspian and Peter into unleashing her. He never in a million years expected to feel such anger, such disgust, towards his husband.

They curl up next to each other at the fire as they wait for the ship to come in the morning. Everyone else falls asleep quickly, exhausted from the day, but Edmund stays awake, haunted. He can feel Caspian awake next to him, hear the breaths that signal that he is awake. It's not a sound that Edmund is terribly used to- Caspian is normally the one to fall asleep first, back home in the castle.

Sometimes Edmund feels every one of his thirty eight years, bones practically aching with knowledge and cynicism, and sometimes he feels nineteen, fresh and young and unsure of what he's doing. Right now, he feels more unsure than ever. He's supposed to be the collected one, the King who always keeps his head and makes- excuse the pun- just decisions. In that gold room, he had done of those things. He has been as hot-headed as Peter or Caspian on their worst days.

And to his husband . That feels almost worse than everything else about this situation, almost worse than being tempted by power like that. That he lashed out at Caspian like that- just, no. How could he have done that? He swore to himself years ago that he would never hurt the ones he loves, that he would never betray them. It doesn't matter whether there was a spell involved or not- Edmund said those words. He did what Peter did after that battle, three years ago, when he had been feeling guilty and had called Caspian an invader of Narnia. Edmund had brought up Caspian’s greatest insecurity- his fear of cowardice, of his inability to kill his uncle- and flung it in his face.

“Caspian,” he says, “Have you ever-” And for the first time since his first childhood, he stumbles over his words . “H-have you ever resented me for stealing your throne?”

“You didn't steal my throne,” Caspian says. “I rule equally with you in all ways. My title- well, I never thought I would get to live past being a Prince, so becoming King and Consort Caspian X instead of, say, High King, was not too great of a burden, especially as I am able to rule with you .”

Edmund swallows. “I feel the same. Years ago, when I was the King to Peter's High King, I never expected to become High King. I was content to be King Edmund the Just, the diplomat, never commander or leader. And now...I still sometimes wonder why I am high King instead of you, Caspian.”

“You are a leader, Edmund,” Caspian corrects, and his tone holds that conviction that Edmund’s sorely lacks at the moment. “Not a flashy one, not a grand one, but a great one. Our men look to you for wisdom and just decision-making, for strategy and cunning. You are not just any diplomat- you are one of the greatest in Narnian history. There’s a reason why even Trumpkin listens to you. You are inspiring, in your own way. You have charisma, but it’s a different sort than your brother’s. You speak, and people find themselves listening whether or not they intended to.”

Edmund, for the first time in many years, doesn’t quite know what to say in response to that. Compliments are okay when received from the Council members and their subjects, but he’s never been the most comfortable with receiving praise from those he sees as equals or greater than him.

So, instead, he asks a question on a different topic, but one that he needs to speak about. “Do you remember the night of our wedding?” Edmund asks.

“You mean a long kissing session followed by cuddles?” Caspian asks, a note of humor to his voice. Both Edmund and Caspian do not experience sexual attraction towards people. Their wedding night was rather intimate for them, but for a traditional ceremony it would not have come close.

Edmund nods. “I promised you that night that I would always treat you fairly, that I would love you to the best of my best abilities and never, ever , seek to hurt you. Today, I failed you in this.”

“And I you,” Caspian says. And this is what they do- they understand each other. They both seek to try and understand each others’ motivations, each others’ thoughts. They seek to forgive each other as soon as possible, seek to try anything to fix things when they're broken. This is the kind of person they both are: willing to try anything, even things that will break them, to help others heal.

This is their deficit and their strength, and Edmund knows this all too well.

He rolls on his side and slings his arm around Caspian’s waist. Caspian smiles, and Edmund notices, as he sometimes does, the physical differences between them. The beard on Caspian’s face, his sun-flushed skin, and his larger body and height, vs Edmund's clean-shaven face, pale skin, and his smaller physique. They make a striking picture.

He knows that someone looking at them may find this relationship strange. The High King of Narnia in a nineteen-year-old’s body and his husband, a twenty-six-year-old Telmarine and Narnian King. He himself, in the occasional moment, thinks of the two of them and struck by the unbelievability of their relationship. Three, seven, twenty seven years ago, he wouldn't have dreamed of this.

And yet…

He leans in and presses a soft kiss to Caspian’s lips. The King smiles slightly and tucks his body in slightly closer to Edmund's.

“I will not fail you again,” Caspian says. “I swear it.”

“And I to you,” Edmund replies.

I love you, Edmund thinks, and this he knows is true with every fiber of his being.

There are a few moments of comfortable silence before either of them speak up again.

“When we get back home,” Caspian says, “We should find some way to get rid of all this stress, this tension.”

“When we get back,” Edmund says, and savours the words. Narnia is his home, his one true love (save Caspian, of course, but he knows that Narnia will always come first to both of them.) “We should throw a celebration. Show Lucy and especially Eustace the ways of the dryads and dwarves and fauns.”

“As grand a celebration as the coronation,” Caspian says, and Edmund nods. Caspian smiles. “Sounds like a wonderful idea.”

 

The first time Caspian truly considers Edmund is the moment in which he slays the White Witch, in which he prevents Caspian and Peter from falling to the worst of their promises.

There are legends of the Battle of Beruna, ones that Caspian has listened to since he was a child.

Most of the legends focus around King Peter leading the charge, of Aslan showing up and saving the day and vanquishing the witch. Legends of Queen Lucy healing the injured and dying with her healing cordial, of Queen Susan taking out entire armies with her arrows. A few and far between about Edmund helping plan the Griffin’s attack, supposedly modelling it on the battle practices of his home land, England-world.

Caspian’s favorite story, though, had always been that of King Edmund and his bravery in battle. Everyone speaks of Susan, Lucy, Peter, of the sacrifice of brave Oreius and the charge of Aslan, but Edmund- Edmund had been a hero. He had charged into battle against the woman who had betrayed him, and destroyed her greatest weapon. Eleven-year-old King Edmund had been stabbed by the White Witch, a mortal injury if it hadn’t been for Lucy’s healing cordial.

In Aslan’s How, Caspian stands there, unable to move his hand away from the White Witch’s, until Peter pushes him out of the way. He lands on the ground and has to watch as the White Witch nearly convinces Peter to give her blood.

Then a blade protrudes from the White Witch’s stomach, and the ice shatters.

King Edmund appears behind where the ice stood, sword in hand, face emotionless but dark eyes empathetic. Caspian stares at him as Edmund lowers his sword, says, voice carefully even, “Oh, I know. You had it sorted,” and walks out of the room.

(For him to stab the White Witch like this, to slay her with the same injury that she wrought on him in his first battle, seems like cosmic justice.)

Edmund Pevensie is far stronger than anyone gives him credit for.

Chapter Text

And then Edmund nearly gets himself killed (and saved) by Eustace-Dragon.


That night, Lucy ends up in the royal quarters with Caspian and Edmund.

“I never held a grudge against you for staying,” she tells Edmund. “You always belonged here the most, Edmund. Susan and Peter did not need Narnia, though the opposite way around was true, and no matter how much I loved this world, I have never truly needed it. You, however- you needed Narnia just as much as she needed you.”

“I cannot deny that,” Edmund says, taking a sip of his drink.

Caspian's gaze travels between the two of them. "You are both extraordinary people."

Edmund turns his head to his husband and smiles. "I cannot deny that either."

Lucy grins. "Quite the compliment, Your Majesty."

"Nothing less for Queen Lucy the Valiant."

"I wonder what they'll call you," Edmund says, and when Caspian raises an eyebrow he clarifies, "In legend. The man who united the people of Telmar and Narnia, the commander of the armies of Narnia-"

"The husband of the High King," Lucy adds, perhaps to tease, perhaps not.

"If I am remembered in centuries, just as you four were- which I severely doubt, by the way- then I hope I am remembered well. What they call me, though- that shall be based on my deeds, not by what I choose."

Edmund smiles proudly to Lucy. His husband is an amazing man. "Sounds like the words of a true king."

"And like a man who chose to marry Edmund," Lucy says, "Seems like you have adopted a few of his diplomatic talents."

Caspian nods. "I hope I have. My husband is immensely talented."

"And so is mine," Edmund flirts, smile sly.

Lucy's nose wrinkles in false distaste even as she grins. "Too much affection," she complains, "You two want me to leave you alone?"

"That would be nice," Edmund says, and Caspian rolls his eyes.

"Stay, Lucy," he says, "We shall tone it down."

"Good," she says, resisting the urge to giggle. She hasn't seen her brother in three years- to be able to tease him like this, just like in old days in England and their reign in Narnia, is not only great fun but also comforting.


In an enchanted mansion on an Isle of invisible creatures, Lucy happens upon a book of spells. The pages fly open to a page of beauty spells.

Lucy is a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl, but she is also a thirty-five-year-old Queen, and she will not be tempted by a beauty spell, no matter what page the book lands on.

She continues past the beauty spell to the enchantment that will lift the Invisibility curse.

-

That night, she falls asleep thinking about a beauty spell, about what may have been if she hadn’t landed in Narnia, had fallen in with a boy back in England rather than ruled a kingdom of her own.

When she falls asleep, she falls into a nightmare.

 

She is at a party back in England, wearing a well-pressed floral dress. She is walking arm in arm with Edmund, who is wearing a suit. (She can’t remember the last time he wore a suit, can’t remember the last time that she saw him out of the rich fabrics and leathers of Narnia.) He is smiling as she can never remember him doing in England.

“Where’s Caspian?” Lucy asks, and Edmund raises an eyebrow.

“Caspian who?” Edmund asks, and Lucy’s heart plummets. What in Aslan's name Is going on? “Is he one of your friends, Luce?”

“Your husband,” Lucy says, and Edmund’s expression verges somewhere between disgust and fear.

“Luce, what are you talking about? Heather wouldn’t like you joking about such a thing.”

“Heather?” Lucy asks, and her nineteen-year-old (because in this hellscape of another world, he is not thirty eight, wise and weary in a world that is not his) brother frowns.

“My fiancee, Luce, your soon-to-be sister-in-law.”

But Edmund's queer. And has no interest in sex, to begin with. A fiancee? A girl? What kind of hell has she landed in?

“I want to go back to Narnia!” she shouts, ripping her arms away from Edmund’s.

“Narnia?” he saks. “Is that some play world? Luce, you’re acting strange. What’s wrong with you? Why are you saying such horrible things?”

She feels like a child throwing a tantrum, not a thirty-five-year-old Queen dealing with things properly, but this is a nightmare. This is not her Edmund, King and husband and diplomat- this is a version of Edmund that grew up bitter and never fought a White Witch, became a diplomat and figured out his place in the world. This Edmund is wrong.

Her hands fly to her head. “I don't want to stay here anymore!” She shouts, and the people around them start to turn. Edmund stares at her like she's insane, and she's never felt anything as devastating as the look of disgust on his face. “I want to wake up, I want to wake up-”

 

She gasps awake, Aslan standing at the foot of her hammock, warm gaze fixed on her.

“That was horrible,” she gasps. “Edmund was so lifeless, so wrong-”

“Peace, dear one,” Aslan says, and she falls quiet. “Your brother is doing well in this world. He is in the cabin just over, asleep next to his husband. You have nothing to be afraid of there.”

She lets out a sigh of relief. “Thank Aslan.”

Aslan smiles. “No need, dear one.”

Lucy stands from her hammock. “But I must clear my mind on this. Aslan, it was terrible. Edmund without a Kingship is not an Edmund I would like to know. He is still bitter and restless, without a nation to run. He has no avenue for his redemptive quest, nothing worthwhile to throw himself into. Not only that, but Edmund was also set to marry a woman. He has never, in thirty eight years, shown interest in one.”

“Your world has learned many lessons it has since forgotten,” Aslan says, “And it will learn them again in due time."

Lucy sighs and lays her head back.


Edmund is leaning back against the railing of his and Caspian’s balcony, basking in the sun. He doesn't normally have a quiet moment like this back at the Palace, and he is enjoying this while he can.

(To be completely honest, embarking on this voyage with Caspian was not for entirely altruistic motives. Edmund knew going into this that although their quest would be strenuous, there would also be moments like this- peaceful, calm times when he can just be with Caspian. Edmund may be High King, but he is also a married man. He craves moments where he can have peace and quiet with his husband.)

“We can't be sure the other Lords even made it to Ramandu’s Island,” Caspian says, and Edmund looks back into their room. Caspian is sitting at their table, examining the three swords that they've retrieved so far. Caspian sets down the blade he was holding and turns to look at Edmund. “How can we be sure that they weren't tempted as well?”

Edmund lets go of the railing and walks into the room. A cool breeze hits his skin as soon as he steps into shadow, the warmth of the sun disappearing. “Maybe this is all part of the test.” He sets a hand on the table, looking at Caspian. “Remember what Coriakin said. ‘Seek the blue star. Stay true to its course. Never yield, and never falter.’” He lifts his hand from the table and gestures to the swords. “They were tempted, and they faltered.”

Caspian leans back in his chair. “And we almost did too.”

Edmund swallows. The conversation over the gold pool- what Lucy christened Deathwater- is not one he likes to think about. Reminders of his betrayal, of the poisonous words he spoke to Caspian

“But we can fix this,” Caspian continues, “We won’t be tempted again. We are stronger than that.” He gives Edmund a smile. “I believe in us.” Edmund smiles back, gazing fondly at his husband. They stay that way for a moment or two, enjoying the sight of each other.

“Now,” Caspian says, and leans forward slightly in his chair. “I do believe there are some things we could do that would be far more entertaining than speaking over swords.”

Edmund raises an eyebrow, not yet consenting to smile. “Chess, perhaps?”

“Perhaps,” Caspian says, a similar teasing tone to his voice.”Or…” he says, and stands so that he can reach Edmund on a proper footing. “Perhaps we could do this.” And then he leans in and kisses Edmund.

They break the kiss and Edmund lets out a small laugh, resting his forehead against Caspian’s. “Sounds wonderful to me, love.”

A knock on the door startles them out of their reverie. “Your Majesties,” The familiar voice of Lord Drinian says, and they break apart to look at the door.

“Yes?” Caspian asks, and Lord Drinian enters.


The night of their anniversary arrives, and as promised the Dawn Treader stops at Avra’s final port. The sailors pile off, ready to drink and make merry. Lindley and Harendra, in their infinite wisdom, lead the charge.

Reepicheep and Eustace the dragon make themselves comfortable on the end of the docks, where they carry on an indiscernible (mostly one-sided) conversation. Lucy and Mia, the daughter of the sailor they picked up in Doom, are exploring the Island. Edmund and Caspian have the ship pretty much to themselves.

They head up to the top deck, prop up a bottle of wine on a pile of rope, and grab two glasses from the cabinet in the captain’s quarters.

“To one year of happiness, Caspian,” Edmund says, and raises his glass.

Caspian raises his glass in turn. “And to many more,” he toasts, and they both toss back a shot. Then: “A dance, Your Majesty?” Caspian asks, eyes twinkling as he sets his glass down on a  clean section of the deck and outstretches his hand.

Edmund grins and takes his hand. “Of course, Your Majesty,” he says as Caspian’s free hand goes to Edmund’s waist and Edmund’s goes to Caspian’s shoulder.

They then proceed to dance around the deck of the ship, shifting from a waltz to a shuffle to a jig. Edmund has taught Caspian a number of English and Narnian dances over the years they’ve known each other, and Caspian has done the same with a number of Telmarine dances. Soon enough their laughter is echoing out over the docks and the seawater as they devolve into sillier dance moves.

What a strange sight, Edmund thinks: the Kings of Narnia, behaving like drunken newlyweds.

It’s been one terrific, incredible year unlike any Edmund has lived, in this world, England, or the Golden Age. Caspian has been his rock, his fervent supporter.

He has made being High King less of a burden and more of a shared duty. Caspian, being the leader he is, has made the mantle of almighty leadership easy to slide into. Though Edmund has far more experience, Caspian has used his own, separate knowledge to pick up the places that Edmund lacks.

“I love you, Caspian,” he says, and the King smiles.

“I love you too, Edmund,” he says, his natural accent easing through his carefully cultivated Narnian one. Edmund loves Caspian’s voice, whether his natural, free accent or the accent of his chosen homeland.


They make their way to the final island, where they find the Lords frozen around their table. There they meet a star, the daughter of the wizard they met on the Island of the Dufflepods.

The star looks at Edmund and says, voice echoing slightly, “The Traitor King, Edmund of the Golden Age.”

Edmund bristles. He hasn't heard that title in years, since the dwarf, the wer-wolf, and the hag tried to bring back the White Witch. They had tried to tempt him, had nearly succeeded in tempting Peter and Caspian, but one whisper of the long-ago disparagement had stopped any possible betrayal. Edmund lost his life to the White Witch long ago- only the miracle of the cordial had saved him. The title of Traitor King is one he never wants to relive.

“I am Edmund the Just, King of Narnia,” he says to the star, fingers itching to pull out his sword. “I have not been traitor in-” seven, twenty seven “-thousands of years.”

The star stares at him, and then nods. “The Dark Island is where you need to go.”

He wonders at her behavior towards him, why she seems to distrust him so. Then she eyes Caspian, and he gets it. It’s not an uncommon occurrence that people, usually foreigners, eye Caspian in such a fashion. Edmund understands that Caspian’s appearance is striking, physically attractive in a way Edmund will never be. Edmund is used to such reactions to Peter, Susan, and Lucy back during the Golden Age, and he has always known that compared to his fellow rulers, he has always been the least physically attractive one. It has never quite mattered to him. He had no interest in the physical side of things, and up until three years ago he had had no one he considered his own.

Now...now, he has Caspian. Caspian is his husband. Edmund is not a naturally jealous person, not anymore, but that doesn't mean he has to watch a star flirting with his husband like that.

"Can you instruct us the way to the Dark Island?" He asks, and she stares at him before answering. 


Caspian’s coronation takes place on a bright summer day, merely a few weeks after Peter, Susan, and Lucy are gone.

“By the power vested in me, by election and by conquest, I, High King Edmund the Just, crown you Caspian X, King of Narnia, Lord of Telmar, Duke of the Lantern Waste, and Count of the Western March,” Edmund says, and places the silver crown on Caspian’s dark hair. “May you serve Narnia well in all your days and all your ways.”

He turns to face the gathered Telmarines and Narnians and withdraws his sword. “Long live the King!” He says, hefting his blade in the air.

A roar goes up as Edmund sheathes his blade and offers Caspian his hand. Caspian stands, facing his people, and takes Edmund's hand. They stand before their people as the crowd roars, Narnians and Telmarines alike rejoicing.

-

At the celebrations that night, Edmund and Caspian end up drifting off into the same corridor.

“Edmund,” Caspian says, “I like you.” He chuckles nervously. “I think that's what you are supposed to say, right? I've never admitted anything like this before.”

“Like me?” Edmund asks, not wanting to get his hopes up. His first deep interest in someone perhaps, well, ever, and he didn't really expect it to be reciprocated. Caspian is probably just displaying his respect, his friendship. “I see you as a friend as well, Caspian-”

Caspian shakes his head. “That's not what I meant,” he says, and glances away from Edmund. “Of course this is what trips me up,” he says, almost to himself, “Not fighting a war, not leading a nation, but telling a boy I like him.” Caspian looks back up at Edmund. “I like you, Edmund. I have feelings for you. And I understand if you don't return them- trust me, I'd understand if someone like you didn't reciprocate my feelings. It will just be easier for us if I get this confession out of the way.”

Edmund smiles and leans in. “I don't think you'll have to worry about that.”

Caspian's brow furrows. “Really? Why?”

Edmund leans in and presses his mouth to Caspian's. Caspian’s hands drift to Edmund's back as Edmund's hand shift to Caspian's hips. Nothing in his groin stirs- it never has, it never will- but his heart begins to pound. Caspian does feel as he does. His fears are unneeded.

When their lips separate, Caspian rests his forehead on Edmund's. He is not smiling, though. “You're just sixteen,” he says, a note of trepidation in his voice.

“Or thirty five, but who's counting,” Edmund says, and Caspian gulps. Edmund sighs. “Age is weird with my siblings and I,” he says, “You learn to ignore it, and remove it from equations. Instead, you focus on the relationship itself and if you work as a partnership. If it does, then you proceed.”

Caspian raises an eyebrow. “Sounds a bit practiced. Have you had many partners?’

“No, but Susan has dated a bit. She's the one who made up the dating rules.”

Caspian frowns. “‘Dated?’”

“It’s like a sort of informal courtship,” Edmund explains. “And I’ve never participated in the practice.”

A pause, and then: “Perhaps we could participate in it together.”

“Perhaps,” Edmund says, but it sounds more like yes.

Chapter Text

He sees his greatest fear in the mist, and it's not the White Witch. It's not a Sea Serpent. It is Cair Paravel burning and Caspian dying.

He swallows back tears and thinks calming thoughts. Caspian’s kisses, Lucy's hugs, the satisfaction of seeing his subjects happy and safe. His fears fade from the front of the most.

Unfortunately, Caspian’s fear of a Sea Serpent does not.

-

The sword begins to glow and Edmund knows what he has to do. He charges forward, past crashing waves and salt in his eyes and fallen sailors, to thrust the blade upward and into the soft roof of the monster’s mouth.

He feels a sharp, burning pain shoot up his arm as he yanks his brother’s sword out of the monster’s mouth. The body of the monster falls, light radiating from the wound he just inflicted, and Edmund looks down at his arm. A gaping hole pierces through his shoulder, and he is losing far more blood than he can survive.

He collapses to his knees as the mist dissipates, sun shining down through the clouds. The sword clatters to the deck of the ship as Edmund’s vision begins to blacken.

It can’t end like this, he thinks, and not because he is dying in battle- no, he always expected his death would be in service of Narnia. It's that he’s dying without saying goodbye to Caspian, to Lucy, to-

“LUCY!” Someone far away, almost back in England, screams, and Edmund finds himself being held by someone, his shoulder elevated. Caspian’s face swims above him, and Edmund tries to get out the words I love you. They don’t come, because his mouth is heavy, and his vision is nearly gone, and-

 

He is walking around ruins, wondering what strange new land he and his siblings have been pulled to this time.

“Who do you think lived here?” Lucy’s voice calls, and he turns the corner to find Susan holding something familiar.

“I think we did,” she says, twirling the chess piece in her fingers, and his breath catches in his throat.

“That’s from my chess set,” he says, reaching out, and she hands him the piece of his old life- the chess knight that he used to play matches against Kavé and Greeley. A sigh escapes his body as the gold touches his fingers, as he finally gets to hold a piece of his home after five years away. Holding this tiny token, Edmund is King again.

“Which one?” Peter asks, and though Edmund may feel King, Peter is still the daftie he was back in England.

“I didn’t exactly have a solid gold chess set back in Finchley, did I?” Edmund asks, and the realization sinks in. He is truly in Narnia, though who knows how many years in the future. Kavé and Greeley are long gone. All of his friends, the people he cared for, his allies and enemies- all gone. Every person he once knew, who he lived with, is dead. All those lives, temporal and fleeting.

And now, so long after… what is this Narnia like? How far after their reign are they? Does this world even remember who they are, and if it does, does it remember them with favor? Are they demons or heroes, monsters or legends?

(Is he still a King, a leader and hero of Narnia? Or is he the Great Traitor again, doomed to suspicious looks no matter what he may do to try and protect Narnia?)

He looks to Lucy, and to Peter, and to Susan, bathed in the light of Narnia. Can they find their way in a Narnia that is not their own?

 

The world flashes.

 

He is a lifetime, an adulthood and a childhood, ago. He is standing in the camp, eleven-years-old with an open cut on his lip and the White Witch claiming his blood. He is small, no King, no hero, just a traitor.

He glances over at Peter, hoping to see strength, but all he sees is terror. Peter is terrified for Edmund, for what may happen to him by the White Witch’s hand.

He looks away and back to the White Witch. He would rather face his death, which the White Witch certainly is, than see his brother weak.

 

The world flashes again.

 

“You should be High King,” Caspian says the day after Edmund's siblings left. Edmund is still adjusting to the idea that he'll never see Peter and Susan again, the implications hitting him in waves. This, however- this is strange. This idea is one Edmund has never even remotely considered before. He, High King?

“No. Peter is High King. I would never even think to be High King.”

“High King Peter will never return,” Caspian says. “You are the highest ranking of the Golden Rulers left. The position is yours, if you'd like to have it.”

Edmund has no idea what to think about this idea. How could the Great Diplomat ever become the High King of Narnia, the leader above all others?

“But you are King,” Edmund says. “You are destined to rule over Telmarines and Narnians alike.”

“I am not King yet,” Caspian says. “And you are. You have two more decades of experience of ruling than I do. It just makes sense.”

“If you are willing to trust me with your throne,” Edmund says, “Then I shall trust you in return.”

 

Flash.

 

Everything is cold. He is lying on a field, unable to concentrate on anything other than the pain in his torso and the fact that White Witch’s power has been halved. She cannot turn his allies and friends to stone. He has wrought Good.

He knows he will die, and he is okay with that. He broke the White Witch’s wand and turned the tide. He can only trust that Peter, Susan, and Lucy will take care of Narnia without him.

His eyes fall shut, and-

 

A drop of something wet lands in his mouth, and he instinctively swallows. His vision begins to clear and the pain in his shoulder dulls. He blinks and he finds Caspian and Lucy above him, tears and ocean water mixing on their cheeks. Caspian pulls Edmund up against his chest, and Edmund can feel the force of his sobs wracking his body.

“Please,” Caspian gasps, “Please don’t ever do that again. I can’t lose you. Not yet.”

Edmund can barely work up the energy, but he manages to nod. Caspian presses a gentle but firm kiss to his forehead, and Lucy takes his free hand and squeezes it reassuringly.

Edmund is exhausted and in need of bandages, but he is alive. That’s what matters.

-

And he sees, of all people, Eustace in human form, dressed in a Narnian tunic and trousers, swimming towards the Dawn Treader. “Guys!” Eustace shouts, waving a hand, and Edmund’s jaw nearly drops.

Reepicheep jumps into the water, singing a joyful tune, and Caspian and Lucy join Edmund at the ship’s railing. “Lower a rope swing down,” Caspian orders, a smile on his lips, and a couple of sailors jump to fulfill his orders.

Eustace ends up on board and Edmund wraps in a hug. “You sacrificed yourself for my crew and I,” he says. “I don’t think there’s any way I could repay you.”

Eustace just grins. “Don’t worry, cousin. I don’t think there’s any reason why you’d have to repay me. After all, I was just saving your life as your crew saved mine back when Lucy and I landed in Narnia.”

Edmund almost cannot believe What he is hearing, and yet- he sees himself in Eustace. He knows what he himself managed to become in Narnia- why should Eustace be any different? “What happened to the Eustace that arrived in Narnia?” Edmund asks.

“He grew up.”

-

They get to the End of the World and Reepicheep sails over the great wave into Aslan’s Realm. There are tears, but they all are quite happy for the brave knight.

Edmund hangs back slightly with Caspian, arm in a sling, as Aslan opens a portal. This journey is for Lucy and Eustace, not him. Not for the High King of Narnia.

And then Asian says: “It is time for you three to return.”

It takes a moment for that to compute, and when it does, Edmund can’t help his response.

“Leave my Kingdom? My husband? My home?” Edmund has never been anything but respectful to Aslan, even as he was rejecting the offer to return before, but this- this is madness. “Aslan, you must be mad.”

Aslan makes that expression that Edmund has always equated to a lion’s version of a smile. He doesn't know why, because his heart is breaking. He will fight, as he always does for Narnia and Caspian, but if Aslan truly desires for him to leave then that is what he will have to do. Aslan's will is almighty.

(Edmund, for the first time since he was shoved back into England, nine years ago, feels tears burn the back of his eyes.)

“Dear one,” Aslan turns and addresses Lucy, “Where do you believe home to be?”

Lucy’s expression is conflicted, but eventually she says: “Narnia, Aslan. Narnia is my home. It's always been my home.”

“Then if you so desire, to Narnia you shall return,” Aslan says, and Edmund’s heart skips a beat. Then that means-

“I may return to Narnia, Aslan?”

“Was there ever any doubt, son of Adam?”

For a split second, yes. It had felt like Aslan was about to tear Edmund's heart out, force him to go back to a world that he'd long ago decided never to return to. He’d built a home here, in Narnia, with Caspian and their kingdom, and it had felt like Aslan was about to rip that away from him.

He doesn’t have to fight, and he can’t help but be grateful.

Aslan turns to Eustace. “And you, my dear son? Which way will you turn?”

Edmund watches as his cousin visibly fights himself before saying, “I'd like to stay in Narnia, Aslan. England was my home, but here in this world I have become a far better person than I was at home. I’d like to stay here and live a good life. I’d like to see my cousins’ kingdom. I'd like to be better.”

Edmund realizes that Eustace’s words are almost the same as the ones he spoke three years ago, making his case not to return to England with his siblings. Make the world better, in a world that could make him better- that is exactly what Edmund had asked for.

The portal slowly closes, and Aslan stares at them for a moment, warm gaze fond. “Good luck, my dear ones. Narnia will do well with you here.”

And then he walks off. They watch the great lion until he disappears into the shimmer of heat above the beach.

Edmund turns to Caspian, his husband. “I'm staying here, with you.”

There are tears gathering in Caspian’s eyes. “I thought I had lost you,” Caspian says, “Twice in as many days.”

Edmund takes Caspian’s hand in his. “Never, until the day one of us falls. I swore this to you the day of our wedding.” He leans in and touches Caspian’s cheek with his free hand. They lean into a kiss, and the world feels right.

Then they part, and despite the years in his eyes Caspian is smiling. They will have years together. 

“I can’t wait to go home,” Edmund says, and Caspian grins. He turns to Eustace.

“Sir Eustace,” he booms, and Eustace stares at him like he’s gone mad. “Are you ready to see Narnia?”

Eustace’s look of shock transforms into a grin. “I can’t wait.”

 

Edmund takes the final steps across the platform and away from the last place his siblings stood in Narnia. He is the last Pevensie left, now (or at least until Lucy returns, and who knows how long that may take). He is the last of the Golden Age Kings and Queens. He is the only one. He is King and he is nothing. He is a man displaced, a man stranded in a time that is not his, in a world that he was not born to.

(And he can’t wait for this.)

He meets Caspian’s gaze. “So,” he says, aware that Aslan is still standing there and half of the kingdom is watching from the streets, “Where do we go first?”

Chapter Text

Six Weeks Later

 

They enter the city streets in a parade not as elaborate as the one three years ago, but still rather decent for Eustace’s first.

Caspian and Edmund ride in front, the golden Crown of the High King on Edmund's head and a similar, silver crown perched on Caspian’s hair. They are dressed in the nicest of the clothing they had on the ship, tunics embroidered in silver thread and textiles rich. Lucy and Eustace ride behind, Lucy dressed in a stunning blue dress and Eustace in a well-sewn tunic, vest, and trousers. A circlet of flowers sits on Lucy's hair, temporarily denoting her status as Queen until she acquires a true crown. The Lords and the rest of the sailors walk behind all of them, having more than earned their place in the procession.

Lucy watches as her brother and brother-in-law ride next to each other, waving to their people (who clearly love them) as they go by. Edmund sits confidently in the saddle, just as he did nine years and a millenia ago. He is High King now, just as Peter was for years, and Lucy can't help but think he fills the role well, although in a different way than Peter did. The Great Diplomat, Edmund the Just, is ruling alongside his husband, a capable King in his own right.

It brings a smile to her lips.

Eustace leans forward. “Cousin,” he says, “You seem used to this.”

“I was a Queen, once,” she says, “And it's easy to slip into being one again.”

“What shall I do in this world?” Eustace asks. It is clear he is trying to be better, to turn his back on the self-centeredness of his past.

She smiles. “Do whatever you believe to be right. Edmund, Caspian, and I will help you with whatever you need, in between our duties.” She leans in slightly and confides, “Though to be honest, I don't believe that my duties will be as time-consuming as they were during the Golden Age. Caspian and Edmund seem to have everything pretty well covered.”

“I'm sure they'll appreciate your advice and talents,” Eustace says.

She smiles as she leans back. “That’s quite sweet of you, Eustace.”

“I’m trying,” he says honestly.

---

There is a feast. Edmund and Caspian occupy the two thrones at the center of the main table, though at least half of the feast is spent with them bouncing table to table, conversing with their subjects and friends. Lucy and Eustace sit in places of honor at the table, as do the Lords. Lucy and Eustace’s places, however, are at the Kings’ right and left hands. Lucy sits in the seat to Edmund's right, representing her position as High Queen, while Eustace sits at Caspian’s left, the seat belonging to the guest of honor in a time without four monarchs.

This isn't the kind of banquet Lucy is used to. She is used to small meals at the Scrubb dinner table, her and Eustace and his parents sitting in tense almost-silence. She is used to feasts with four sibling monarchs, with Peter and Susan seated in the center with Lucy and Edmund on their sides. She is not used to two Kings in the center, her brother and brother-in-law sitting together as the power behind the throne.

(Even her dress is different- it is light blue, in an off-the-shoulder style that bares far more skin than her traditional court gowns. Fashions have changed in a thousand years’ time, though. Showing her collarbones isn't as strange of an idea as it may have been in years past.)

Well, she'll have to learn how to operate in this new arena. She has always has been rather good at adapting, at pushing past her fears. After all, she isn't called the Valiant for nothing.

“Your Majesty,” a familiar, gruff voice says, and she whirls to find the dwarf Trumpkin standing there, a few more grays in his orange hair than the last time she saw him.

She grins. “Trumpkin!” She pushes back from her seat and rushes to give him a hug, which he reluctantly accepts.

“How have you been?” she asks.

“As well as I could be,” he responds with a sardonic tone, and she grins. She missed this dwarf more than anyone else in new Narnia. Despite his abrasive nature, his dry humor and clear loyalty is welcomed. He is a true ally and friend, and when she left the New Age the first time she missed him dearly. She is looking forward to further counsel and conversation with the dwarf.

(Maybe it will be easier with people she knows- she's feeling a bit more comfortable knowing that at least one person here, other than her family, is someone she trusts and admires.)

---

Later on, Edmund swings back to her, a plate of cheese and grapes in his hands. Unlike most of the savoury, traditional Telmarine foods on the table, this is familiar, a callback to the simpler food of the Golden Age.

“Here, Luce,” he says, smile brilliant, “Grabbed some of your old favorites. Think we should share them with Eustace?”

Lucy glances over at Eustace, who actually is speaking to Cornelius, of all people.

“Is that Caspian’s tutor speaking with Eustace?”

“Cornelius?” Edmund asks, and she nods. “Caspian’s former tutor, to be truthful. He's one of our greatest advisors on our Council. I would probably only count Trumpkin, the centaur Diana, and Lord Drinian, Caspian’s first mate, as trusted of advisors as Cornelius is.”

“Trumpkin is a trusted advisor?”

“He brings a voice of cynicism to the table,” Edmund says, “And a necessary representation of the dwarves and the disenfranchised. It’s important to listen to and not forget.”

“Practical as always,” Lucy says.

“Thank you for the astute compliment, sister,” Edmund says, smiling a bit crookedly.

“Always, brother,” she says, returning his smile as she takes the plate of food from his hand. He heads off in Caspian’s direction and she smiles, watching her brother’s customary smirk fade away into a genuine smile in the presence of his husband. Love and duty sit equally well with him.

The music starts up, and Edmund takes Caspian’s hand. “The dancing shall begin,” the High King says, “And we must begin it.”

Caspian smiles. “As you wish, Your Majesty.”

---

Caspian and Edmund escape the banquet at midnight, leaving Eustace and Lucy to celebrate with the rest of the Court and crew.

They slip away, hand in hand, smiles on their lips. They may be Kings, may be warriors, may be the faces of a kingdom, but they are human as well. They understand what it is like to love and to be giddy.

They tumble onto the bed, layering kisses onto each others’ faces.

Caspian smiles as he and Edmund eventually part. Exhaustion sits in his shoulders, a pleasant weight compared to the stress of their voyage on the Dawn Treader. Laying here with his husband is a far cry from watching him bleed out on the salt-sprayed deck of their ship, and Caspian couldn't be happier to be here.

“Goodnight and great love, my High King,” Caspian murmurs, fingers entwining loosely with his husband's.

Edmund smiles sleepily. “Goodnight and great love, my King.”

And they fall asleep, the faint strains of music floating up from the ballroom below and the gardens outside.


Four Months Later

 

“A thousand years ago,” Lucy says, telling her tales of the Golden Age to Eustace as she tends to do. Eustace laps up every scrap of detail he can about the truth behind the legends of his cousins. To think that Lucy, and Edmund, and even the two cousins he never met but still heard of, ruled such a grand era, is a bit mind boggling. “We lived in the castle Cair Paravel. Three years ago, when we arrived here for the first time since the Golden Age, we found naught but ruins. Ed actually found a piece of his old chess set.”

Tonight dinner was supposed to be a small group- the two Kings, the Queen, Eustace, and their closest advisors- but Edmund and Caspian ended up being called out on an emergency and so they had to apologize and leave. This led Eustace and Lucy to have supper in Lucy’s drawing room.

"The ruins of Cair Paravel must be awesome," Eustace says.

Lucy nods excitedly, curls bouncing against her shoulders. "They're breathtaking," she says, and then grins. “Would you like to see the ruins?” Lucy asks, and Eustace nods. He is fascinated by the culture and history of the land he has adopted as his own, and to see the ruins of the palace that once housed his royal cousins would be amazing.

Eustace and Lucy ride out to the ruins of Cair Paravel the next day, neglecting to bring any servants. After all, there is really no need for a quick day trip.

They spread out a picnic blanket on the grassy cliffs and Lucy weaves further tales of the lands around them, telling tales of battles and celebrations alike. They pass the afternoon like this, enjoying the fresh air and the view of the ocean.

At about three clock tolls pass high noon, they hear shouts and at first they ignore it. Cair Paravel is a well-traveled spot under Caspian and Edmund’s rule, the ruins of the High King’s once palace becoming a place of vacation, almost a privilege of sorts.

Then the shouts get louder, and Lucy hears her name. Not her title, but “Luce! Luce!”

She turns to find Peter- by Aslan, Peter, she never thought she'd see her brother again- running at her, a dark-skinned woman hand-in-hand with her eldest brother.

Before she gets a chance to interpret the fact that Peter is here, in Narnia, he speaks. "Lucy!” Peter shouts, “We’re back in Narnia! Can you believe it? Aslan said we couldn-” His voice cuts off as he notices the gown she’s wearing. “Wait. You’re already in Narnian clothes. What’s going on? And how was Anna-Mae able to come?”

Oh, the woman with her brother must be Peter’s fiance. Wait, Peter’s fiance. Edmund’s husband.

“Peter, meet cousin Eustace,” she says, gesturing toward her cousin. Peter’s eyebrows shoot up. Oh, that’s right, he’s only ever known of Eustace’s pre-Narnia reputation. “You’ll never guess what’s happened since the last time we were in Narnia.”

“Try us,” Anna-Mae says, and Lucy remembers Peter’s last letter describing his fiancee. A brilliant woman training to be a doctor. To be not only a woman but to be of African descent takes great stubbornness and a brilliant mind, and to somehow win Peter’s heart (not as great of a feat as Anna-Mae’s own accomplishments, but still a noteworthy one), especially after he swore never to love again after Ravenna the wood nymph, are incredible feats.

“Come to the Palace with us,” Lucy says, standing from her seat on the grass. “Eustace and I have a lot to tell you about.”