Chapter 1: Of Finchley
"not a hero"
Peter squeezes his eyes shut against the tears that threaten to fall. Father clicks his tongue. “Be strong, Peter,” He says, clapping a hand on his shoulder. “They’ll need you while I’m gone.” Peter blinks furiously, tries to speak, chokes on his words. They’re stuck in his throat. Instead of speaking, he nods, and his father smiles encouragingly at him. Peter wants to hug his father, but the man has never been one for physical affection. He settles for a handshake instead.
Peter has been watching Edmund closely since Father left; he knows Edmund always looked up to him, can’t imagine that he would take him leaving well. He’s right, of course; Edmund takes it horribly. He’s sullen, sarcastic, and often mean. Especially to Lucy. Peter tries to be sympathetic and understanding, he does, but it’s easier to be angry. It's easier to pretend it doesn't hurt when Edmund scowls and yells at him.
The falling bombs rattle his bones, shake him to the very core. He’s scared—terrified, even, but he’ll never let anyone know. He’ll never tell them about the endless, gnawing pit in his stomach; they’ll never know about the rush of emotion that was more fear than anger when Edmund ran back into the house. They can’t know. After all, he’s the big brother, the man of the house. He’s supposed to be strong and brave, not small and weak. He’ll put up a front for them. He has to. He promised Father.
Peter doesn’t want to believe Lucy; he doesn’t, but there's something about the way she talks about this country that makes him believe that at the very least, she believes in it. That’s certainly enough to worry him, and it’s only made worse when Edmund joins in. He doesn’t know what to do—he’s just a kid, after all, and no one ever taught him how to deal with something like this. Maybe he shouldn’t feel like such a failure, but he looks at her eyes, big and wide and so hurt and he can’t help but feel like the worst person that ever lived.
There are talking beavers. Talking. Beavers. That are telling him he’s a hero—a King. But he can’t—he can’t be. He’s just Peter. Peter, who trembles with fear at the very sound of an explosion. Peter, who refused to believe his younger sister because he was afraid. Peter, who doesn’t know how to reach out to his younger brother, who sometimes doesn’t even want to. Peter, of Finchley. Not a hero, and definitely not a King.
Chapter 2: Wolf's-Bane
protector of Narnia
He can still feel the weight of the wolf on him; he keeps rubbing at his arms, trying to scrub the feeling off. Susan keeps glancing at him like she’s scared, or maybe just worried. Her eyes dart between him and the dead wolf. A sudden feeling of disgust washes over him. He did that. And yes, killing the wolf saved his sisters, and for that, he'd do it a thousand times over, but. He can’t help but feel like he committed a terrible crime, no matter how ridiculous it is. He had to do it, he had to, and yet—he looks at the dead wolf, again; it looks so small and limp. Peter feels as though he might vomit, can taste it in his mouth.
The Narnians are celebrating; they’re wild, untamable, overflowing with a joy that sets Peter on edge, his skin buzzing. The heavy feeling of the wolf’s body still haunts him, and he can’t see that there's much to celebrate.Not only that, but the back of his neck is prickling: someone is watching him. He knows he shouldn’t turn around and look—knows who it is, and yet. He turns, slowly, reluctantly. It’s Susan, of course. It’s the look on her face that really troubles him, knowing and sad, and before he can stop himself he’s moving towards her. “Susan,” He says stiffly once he stops before her. “Pete,” She answers quietly, and her arms wrap around him in a tight hug. He sags against her, shaking. He had not realized how badly the whole thing had affected him until she hugged him. She hums soothingly, rubbing his back, and she doesn’t tell him it’s going to be ok, or that he had to do it, or to be strong; she simply lets him feel what he needs to feel, and he couldn’t be more grateful for her.
Peter feels euphoria rise up in him when he sees Edmund again for the first time; it terrifies him. After all, shouldn’t he be angry? Furious, even? But instead he’s relieved, instead, he can’t wait to see his brother, to hug him, to reassure himself that he is real. But most of all, he feels sorry; more than anything, he just wants to apologize for not having reached out to Edmund earlier. For not knowing what to say or do when Edmund was drowning. For making him feel all alone. And he hates it, hates it with a ferocity that scares him. For a moment, he doesn’t feel like Peter, Wolf’s-Bane. He feels like Peter from Finchley.
Peter watches his siblings with something akin to sorrow; they’re eating lunch, laughing, talking. They’re happy here, he can see it in their shining eyes and flushed cheeks. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen them this happy in England. And he’s sending them back, back to safety. He wishes the thought of it didn’t hurt so much, as he memorizes everything about them. Lucy’s bright, wide eyes, her innocent smile, her baby face. Edmund’s hesitant, disbelieving smile, as if he can’t convince himself that they all really love him, his dark eyes, his shaggy hair. Susan’s gentle, motherly look, her kind, sweet smiles, the loving looks she gives the younger ones when she thinks they aren’t looking, the way her cheeks are constantly flushed now, her eyes glowing. A sharp pain lances through him when he thinks of never seeing them again, of dying on the battlefield as he most likely will, with them in another world entirely. He doesn’t think he can bear it, can feel his heart breaking.
They’re staying, and Peter has never been more grateful, more angry, happier and—he bites his fist to muffle a sob. It’s his job to protect them, yes, but it’s more than that; he couldn’t live without them, and if somehow they die and he survives—he sobs again, face twisting in pain. There's movement from Ed’s side of the room, and Peter tries to stifle his next sob. It’s too late though, because Edmund is rolling over to face him, a worried frown on his face. “Pete?” He asks quietly. “Go to sleep, Ed,” Peter answers gruffly. Edmund frowns, more angrily this time. “Not until you tell me what’s wrong.” He says fiercely. Peter shakes as another sob fights its way past his lips. Edmund leaps out of his bed and crosses over to Peter. He sits on the edge of his bed and hesitantly strokes Peter’s hair, as if he isn’t sure he’s welcome. Peter buries his face into his pillows and lets himself sob freely. Edmund stays with him until he falls asleep, exhausted from weeping.
Aslan is dead. Peter wants to scream, howl, maybe punch something, but—he can’t. He can’t show such emotion when they’re counting on him to lead them into battle; but he still feels it, the wrenching pain, the hurt, and anger. The feeling of absolute abandonment. He hates it, wishes he could cut it all out and throw it away, but it’s impossible. All he can do is pretend the world isn’t ending, that he is as strong and brave as they want him to be. It seems to be working on most people but Edmund, and Oreius keeps looking at him like he knows, but he’s also looking at him like he’s worth dying for and that is the worst part. He doesn’t want to carry that weight for the rest of his life; if he manages to survive, that is.
Chapter 3: To The Clear Northern Sky
mostly just fluff and hurt comfort?? surprisingly??
To The Clear Northern Sky
It’s the day of the coronation, and Peter’s stomach is tied in knots. It’s early in the morning, so early the sun hasn’t risen yet, when Aslan finds him pacing the length of Cair Paravel’s library, muttering to himself. “Is something wrong, Dear One?” The lion rumbles. Peter freezes and swears softly. Aslan chuckles quietly as Peter flushes in embarrassment. “Sorry,” He says, digging his fingernails into the palms of his hands. Aslan pads up behind him, leaning his head against Peter’s side. Peter kneels down and buries his face in Aslan’s mane, breathing shakily. Aslan purrs, and it rumbles through Peter like thunder. He lets his shoulders relax, sighs quietly. “What if I’m not good enough?” He mumbles. Aslan is silent for a long moment. “Is my faith in you not enough?” He asks, amusement clear in his tone, as if he already knows. Peter’s silence is answer enough. “It’s not—it’s not that I don’t trust you,” He says slowly, after a long pause. “It’s just—” He struggles to answer, and Aslan interrupts him. “You doubt yourself,” Aslan says, voice gentle and understanding. Peter nods, a strange kind of guilt overwhelming him. Aslan’s laugh rumbles through him. “You will learn,” He says kindly, and that seems to be the end of that.
The boy is beautiful—part Dryad, part Calormen—and his gaze burns Peter. He feels constantly flushed around him, his heart racing and palms sweaty, shaking and it’s ridiculous, really—he tries to deny it, tell himself that he’s just curious , not enamoured. After all, he’s young for an advisor; in fact, he’s Peter’s age. Of course he’s interested, it doesn’t have to mean anything, really, except—except that he can’t quite shake the overwhelming feeling of something like fear, or perhaps longing, as he watches the way he moves, or the blur of his hands as he talks, or the way his eyes flash when he’s told a particularly good joke. Of course, the worst part of all this is that Lucy knows. She keeps beaming at him, and making odd comments. Only this morning, she’d made one that both puzzled and frightened. “You know, Peter,” She’d said, smiling that knowing smile of hers, “Narnia is nothing like Finchley.” Finchley? He’d wanted to ask. But instead, he’d just nodded silently. She smiled again, seemingly pleased, though he wasn’t quite sure why, and they went back to their meal. Of course, it was easy for Lucy to say, but she wasn’t the one going against everything she’d ever been taught. Peter frowns, striding through the servant’s passageway to the library. He’s so deep in thought he doesn’t notice the person before him, and crashes into him with a slightly painful thud. He falls backward and blinks rapidly up at the ceiling, shocked, until he looks around and notices the papers scattered around him. He leaps up and begins gathering them up, mumbling a quiet “sorry,” not even daring to look at the person he crashed into. They laugh softly, and Peter— Peter freezes. It’s him, because of course it is, how could it be anyone else? Peter’s heart stutters when he glances up to see the boy smiling at him, gaze warm and friendly. He struggles to breathe, and the boy’s smile grows, as if he knows , and Peter could die. He wants to ask what he’s doing here, but instead— “What’s your name?” He asks, horrified when his voice trembles. The boy’s smile turns softer. “Hamza,” He replies, and his voice sounds like the wind through the trees.
It only takes Hamza several days to corner Peter in the library and kiss him; it burns, just like everything else about him, and Peter gasps and—he tastes like cinnamon and Bacchus’ wine. Peter shudders and it should be in revulsion or surprise but it is neither of those. It’s longing and something else, something that burns. He wants to pull him closer, but there's another part of him that wants to push him away and hide, his emotions overwhelming him. Hamza seems to realize something is wrong and pulls away. “Hey,” He says softly, stroking Peter’s cheek. “Are you ok? Did— did I overstep?” He asks, gentle, a worried frown creasing his forehead. Peter reaches out and smooths it over, smiling tremulously. “No, it’s not—it’s, well,” He sighs quietly. “It’s just that the place I come from isn’t as accepting as Narnia,” He says, thinking of what Lucy said. “You could be jailed, or… worse.” He finishes lamely, shuddering at the thought of what “worse” was. Hamza looks horrified, and Peter has a brief moment to feel terribly guilty, before the boy pulls him down into his arms and hugs him fiercely. Peter relaxes and lets himself be held, slowly breathing in and out. Hamza smells like apples, and Peter smiles into his neck. “I’m sorry,” Hamza breathes. “It sounds like an awful place.” Peter thinks about his vague memories of the place for a moment. “Yeah,” He says after several seconds of silence. “It was.” Hamza pulls back from him, lets his hands fall to Peter’s waist with a slight smile. “Do you want to try that again?” He asks hopefully. Peter lights up. “Please,” He whispers; he’s so happy in this moment that he feels as if there is a sun in him. Burning, filling him with light.
Peter faces the giants, his soldiers behind him, and wishes more than anything for his king and queens by his side. He misses Susan’s fierceness and tenderness, he misses Lucy’s bravery and faith, he misses Edmund’s quiet, steady strength, his good judgement. But most of all he misses their laughter and smiles, their love and companionship, the strength they give him. And, loathe as he is to admit it, he misses Hamza: his burning eyes, soft laughter and sweet kisses. It makes him feel ridiculous, a king so dependant on others, but he can’t really help it. He wouldn’t be who he was without them, can’t wait to get back to them. To be home.
His homecoming is received with as much fanfare as expected. His siblings immediately surround him, chattering and laughing and wrapping their arms around him, hugging him tightly, and Peter’s not an idiot, he can read between the lines: they missed him too. A lightness fills him, and he beams at them, just happy to be surrounded by the people he loves most in the whole wide world. They eat together and pile into Susan’s large bed together, glad of the closeness after so many months apart, and later that night he sneaks out of the palace to meet Hamza in a secret glade, and they laugh and talk and kiss and dance and all is well.
Four weeks after his return, Susan pulls him aside, smiling secretively at him. “So,” She says quietly. “Hamza?” His heart stutters in his chest, and he must look absolutely terrified, because her mouth pulls into a sad frown. “Oh, Pete, no.” She says quietly, resting her forehead against his. “It’s ok. I— I didn’t come to judge. I—” She pauses, seemingly unsure of herself. “It’s ok,” She whispers. “I, um. I like girls, so I couldn’t judge you if I wanted to, and I wouldn’t even if I didn’t like girls, because Pete, you’re my brother and I love you. More than anything.” Peter’s throat aches, and a tear slips down his cheek. “Thanks, Sue,” He whispers. “For everything. And, um. Do you have anybody?” Susan grimaces and shrugs. “I’m not sure,” She says quietly, and he smiles reassuringly at her. He knows how that is.
It’s Midsummer’s Eve, and the flowers are all in bloom, the trees overladen with fruit. Everything looks brighter, and Peter can’t stop smiling. They’re in the woods, dancing around a bonfire, his siblings are there, happy, and Hamza is holding his hand. All is as it should be, and Peter just wants to pull Hamza into the circle of dancers and dance with him, and so he does.