rthstewart: (Default)
rthstewart ([personal profile] rthstewart) wrote2015-04-26 03:12 pm

Since it's been up in comments for a while..

After receiving two really sweet comments, one for AW and one for Rat and Sword, I decided to thank the readers with an AW blurb that I posted in comments on AO3. I'd wanted to get a new chapter up this month but that's not going to happen, I think, given how busy work and other things are keeping me. But I did start writing, and I'm counting that as a win, even though this is far in advance and won't actually appear for awhile.  It also shows a big point/reveal that's been part of the story for a really long time. By the time I get there, this will undoubtedly change, but the afternmath of John Pevensie accompanying Edmund and Peter for a round of drinks at a pub after Peter's made a tough, rotten decision, has been part of the story from the very beginning.

approx 2000 words
from Apostolic Way to come (which will probably be under another name)
It's 1948, give or take

ooOOoo

“Do you need any… can I help?”

“We’re fine,” Edmund grunted. “Years of practice.” Edmund was bent under Peter’s weight and the arm his brother had thrown across his shoulders. With an elbow, Edmund shoved their bedroom door open.

John could see he was superfluous because it was obvious that Edmund had guided his reeling, drunken brother to bed before. It was, like everything else John now saw, familiar, in a way that bespoke those years of practice that rationally he knew his sons had not lived.

Peter fell like a tree into the bed. John saw something he could do but Edmund got there first and removed Peter’s shoes.

“You already put out water and willow bark?” Peter mumbled.

“It’s called aspirin here,” Edmund said – one more of the many mysteries that had piled up that evening. “And it’s on the nightstand so you won’t go stumbling around in the middle of the night looking for it and waking me up.”

“Why can’t I get what you had, Ed? What you and Morgan had?”

Morgan?


John saw Edmund’s face tighten; their eyes met and his son looked away with an angry set in his jaw.

“You miss her, don’t you? You must. But you never talk about her.”

Edmund kicked Peter’s boots under the bed.

“Of course I miss her. Just because I don’t talk about it doesn’t mean I don’t.”

Peter’s arm flailed out and he caught Edmund by the hand. Edmund scowled but Peter, for all that he was blind with drink, held fast.

“Do you think I’ll ever have that Ed? Someone who loves me as much as Morgan loved you?”

Peter was too drunk to see the obvious pain he was causing his brother. Edmund sighed and took Peter’s hands in own.

“My brother and High King, do you desire the truth or the lie?”

“Lie to me, Ed. I can't bear the truth. Not tonight.”

“You will meet the woman of your dreams before the year is out. She will have Dalia’s wisdom and humour, Dinan’s beauty and sex appeal, and Mary Russell’s legs. She will be fabulously wealthy; she will adore you for you alone, and not because of the country, the crown, or the chocolate and stockings in your pack. You’ll elope to Birmingham…”

“Birmingham,” Peter muttered, closing his eyes. “I thought you were lying to me.”

“You shall have ten children and forty grandchildren and a house in the country full of cats, hounds and horses and no tripe ever. You shall become an MP for Labour and be knighted, again, and…”

Again?


“Birmingham? Not Gretna Green? Funny how that was in Narnia too. You and Morgan did that, vows over the smith’s anvil. I presided… I still remember the speech…”

“I remember it too; it went on for hours,” Edmund replied. “Go to sleep, Peter.”

Peter nodded and rolled over. “Thanks, Ed.”

Edmund pulled a blanket over his unconscious brother and John switched off the bedroom light.

Helen came out into the hall as they left the room.

“Is he…”

“Asleep,” Edmund said curtly.

Do you want some company?” Helen was speaking only to Edmund and he himself felt the odd interloper.

“Just a stiff drink and cursing,” Edmund replied. He turned away, toward the stair.

Helen’s warmth and concern for Edmund turned to a cool stare at him.

“I…”

“Yes?”

“I don’t understand what’s going on.”

Helen smoothed her dressing gown and crossed her arms over her front. “There is nothing to understand, John.”

“None of this makes any sense!”

“I’ll repeat what you told me,” Helen bit out. “You are imagining things. You’re just being hysterical. It’s fear of your children growing up. It’s the War. Go have a glass of wine. Take laudanum.”

Why had he never heard how wounded his wife sounded? Had he really said those things?

“Helen, they are talking like they are lunatics. But they can’t be, not all of them. Not everyone.” My brother and High King, do you desire the truth or the lie?   What he'd heard had all had the ring of truth. They couldn't all be lying, could they? A shared delusion?

She rolled her eyes, looking utterly disgusted, and turned her back on him. “You’re the bloody logician, John. Work it out.”
John stared at the closed bedroom door. Helen, though, had never needed locks to shut him out.

What did it all mean? High King? Edmund and someone named Morgan at Gretna Green? His little girl flinging knives and darts with such precision to become a London champion? He’d thought Peter had thrown his life away – a useless, wastrel existence. That wasn’t what he’d seen in the pub. How was it that every man at the Brick & Arms knew Peter better than his own father did? He’d lost count of the number of men who’d come up to shake his hand and offer him a light or a pint – a privilege, sir, to meet Peter Pevensie’s father.

His son had been the famous Richard Russell’s last student! Had the respect and sponsorship of Digory Kirke! Had thrown it all away to enlist as a common RO? And then hadn’t survived a year at Oxford?

It made no sense.

He wandered into Peter and Edmund’s room. Peter was curled up, sound asleep, facing the wall. Squinting in the dark, he noticed for the first time that the tin soldiers were gone from the shelves. Of course they were. But when? He’d gone to war to try to keep his family safe and come home to find he was surplusage, the old tent and boots no longer wanted, a faint malodour, and an unpleasant reminder.

He turned about in the boys’ room but there was nothing for him to add. Edmund had done everything, as, he’d come to see, Edmund always did. I’ll always be your logistics man, my King. Moving you is still easier than moving an army of herbivores.

John was perversely pleased that he could at least pull the blind down so the sun wouldn’t trouble Peter in the morning.

Just as he was reaching for the cord, he saw, through the window, a shadow under the lamppost across the way.

There was a cat, an enormous cat with bright yellow eyes, under the lamppost, staring right at him.

The cat blinked. He quickly drew the shade.

John followed the sounds of Edmund’s muffled swearing and clinking of glassware downstairs.

Edmund had broken out that bottle of Jamaican rum.

“I know you don’t want company…”

He hoped his son might say something to lessen the anxiety and discomfort – a, “Not at all, please join me.” Edmund did set out an extra glass on the trolley and indicated it with a jerk of his head. But he then settled on the divan, turned away, and was pointedly and stubbornly mute.

As he passed the picture window, John looked outside again. The cat was still there. “I hope that cat doesn’t get into the rubbish bins.” It was lame but at least it filled the silence with something other than the ticking clock and Edmund’s dour scowl.

Edmund looked up over the rim of his glass, finally making sharp eye contact.

“A cat? You saw a cat?”

“Yes, right outside, under the…”

“Lampost,” Edmund finished dully.

“Does it hang around here a lot?

His son nodded, closed his eyes and let out a heavy sigh.

Another oddity in an evening full of them. “So you know it? Him? Should I go out, or…”

At the sounds of Edmund muttering under his breath, John turned away from the window.

“Ed?”

“He knows I’m angry with him,” Edmund said.

“Who? The cat? What are you talking about?”

Edmund scrubbed his eyes. “God, I suppose, though the theology is muddled to be sure.”

How did they go from cats to God? “God knows you are angry with him?” Maybe there really were shared delusions.

“We’ve never quite worked that out,” Edmund said. “And don’t sound so shocked or disapproving, Father. I assure you, whatever divine power is skulking about this evening, I know Him and His will far better than you do.”

“Edmund! That’s quite enough!” John wasn’t even sure what he was angry about, except that he did not understand and Edmund’s flippancy was aggravating.

Edmund opened his eyes.

“Do not presume to lecture me on this, Father. Peter, for the first time in his long life of selfless duty, finally had the opportunity to do something he really wanted, with someone he truly cared for, and now, instead, it’s back to giving everything to everyone else, with nothing left for him. It’s just as it was before. He knows I’m angry, I have cause to be angry, and how we work that out is between us.”

John sagged onto the divan. “I don’t understand, Edmund. Any of this. You aren’t mad but it all seems mad.”

“We’re all mad here.”

That was a reference he did get and had read the story to Lucy when his little girl still sat on his lap at bedtime. “‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’Alice remarked.”

Edmund pulled out of his slump and took a deep sip of his drink. Another mystery. When had Edmund developed a taste for rum of all things?

“When I said you could join us tonight, I did wonder if it would be your night down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass…” Edmund shook his head. “And now it seems it is and my wits are scattered to the winds. I am now not in the proper mind at all, which is, I admit, not fair to you.”

“I don’t…”

“You don’t understand. I know. Please, give me a moment to work out the best way forward here.” Edmund rose from the divan, carefully balancing his drink and crossed over to the window.

“Is that cat still there?” John asked.

“In a manner of speaking, he never leaves.”

“What…”

“A moment longer, please, Father.”

His son had not framed his response as a plea, but as a simple statement of fact. It was a sore trial, but John waited.

“Well, I am going to put this in his paws,” Edmund finally said.

“Paws? Are we back to that damned cat?”

“Of a sort. After tonight, I think he owes me a boon.”

Edmund came back to the divan and set a hand on his shoulder. “You say you wish to understand?”

John nodded. “Yes. I …” He found his voice uncomfortably tight. “I am a stranger in my own home.”

“Then, you must go upstairs, get on your knees or into bed, or however you do this, and ask.”

“Ask who? For what?”

“I suppose you might call it prayer to the divine. But there is nothing rote about this. You seek understanding, so you must ask. You must mean it, sincerely. Also, I earnestly entreat you to apologize first.”

“Apologize? For what?”

Edmund long, steady stare was so deeply uncomfortable, John had to look away, feeling an embarrassed flush rise.

He felt his son’s hands over his own. “When you are so close, do not let shame stop you from the understanding you seek and the forgiveness I believe you do want.”

John stared at their twined hands. There was so much… He felt tears forming and pulled his hands out to angrily brush them away

“Grace is there for us all, Father, but you must ask for it. And then you must humbly listen for the answer.”

John finally spoke his fear.  "I think it's too late.  It's too large..."

"No, Father, it is not."  Edmund leaned forward and solemnly, like some monarch of old, kissed his brow.  There was a scent of spicy rum and the sound of a cat's rumbling purr.  "May your eyes and heart be open." 
jjhunter: closeup of library dragon balancing book on its head (library dragon 2)

[personal profile] jjhunter 2015-04-26 07:48 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh my heart and garters.

This snippet is like Edmund's kiss. I want to go wandering with the touch of it lingering.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

[personal profile] branchandroot 2015-04-26 08:14 pm (UTC)(link)
*flails a little* Oh. Oh, I honestly didn't think this would happen, and thank goodness it does. Okay, I think I'll probably get through AW without wanting to kill the man more than a few times, and probably not for long.
autumnia: Kings and Queens of Narnia (Pevensies (Aslan's How))

[personal profile] autumnia 2015-04-26 09:52 pm (UTC)(link)
Ohhhhhh... seeing this totally makes up for the lousy day I'm having (being sick again).

My first thought is poor Edmund, having to once again be the one to explain Narnia to a parent. But his mother was far, far more receptive and willing to understand; how John will take it is a big mystery though I suspect he begins to truly realize now after all these years how much he doesn't understand his family. He just had a very broad summary of things thanks to Peter's mumblings.

I'm curious as to what exactly was the rotten decision Peter made that ended up with him so terribly drunk (how any beers does it take to equate to drinking vast amounts of Lightning?).

So the Cat is watching under the lamppost. How unsurprising but still, I'm a bit surprised to see Him paying very close attention to his Kings and Queens. And I suppose Edmund asked whether it was finally time to come clean with his father about their past. Aslan hasn't made it easy for them at all but perhaps now the family can begin to reconcile.

"Long string of Wait, What?"s

(Anonymous) 2015-12-09 04:10 am (UTC)(link)
I love these bits in all of your stories, Rth. Those moments when a Pevensie says something too wise or too fantastical for his/her age. Like when Peter tells Richard about Cheetas- and refers to Morgan as "my brother's lover". Richard's reaction is just classic! Oh, I am so looking forward to reading this! Somehow, they are lucky enough to have found acceptance among these other loony bins(Russell's and Co.) so they are safe saying crazy things. Also, I am glad John will get his redemption. I love that your characters struggle more than most Pevensie renditions. They don't worry about the banal things, and they get down and dirty with the deep questions. Also, the amount of research that goes into each of your chapters is astounding. That is, I am assuming you are a normal human being and can't pull obscure references and quotations out of your pocket. If you can, I hope you can take me under your wing,sensei, for you are an Abnormally Clever and Interesting Personage. Not to mention, I would read your grocery lists. Anyway, don't keep me waiting!
-Kathleen
gingicat: drawing of me based on wedding photo (Default)

[personal profile] gingicat 2015-04-26 09:56 pm (UTC)(link)
More please!

Also, backstory on the Pevensie marriage!
brokenallbroken: (otter)

[personal profile] brokenallbroken 2015-04-27 04:15 am (UTC)(link)
[happy dance] Can't wait to see the rest!
cofax7: climbing on an abbey wall  (Default)

[personal profile] cofax7 2015-04-28 06:33 am (UTC)(link)
Oh, very neat.

One does feel a bit sorry for John: it's all very very confusing.
syrena_of_the_lake: (Default)

[personal profile] syrena_of_the_lake 2015-05-16 03:02 am (UTC)(link)
This is so very satisfying to read -- vindicating for Helen, certainly. It's also messy, and so true to real life: it's not as easy as finding out the truth and all is suddenly forgiven and forgotten. But -- and this is one of the things that I have always valued most about your stories -- it is also compassionate, even (especially) towards those who "deserve" it the least. As always, I look forward to more, and am happy for a glimpse of what's to come. Thanks for sharing!

(Anonymous) 2015-05-24 04:42 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for linking me to this snippet! And for writing it in the first place, of course. Ahhhh but now I have such a burning desire to both see John realise all the faults of his character, and to know what passed in between Rat and Sword and this extract!

Standingonasoapbox
psyche29: A brown eye with rainbow eyeliner all around it (Default)

[personal profile] psyche29 2016-03-07 07:47 pm (UTC)(link)
I am so very, very behind in All The Things. I just read this now, and it is so lovely to have found.

I look forward to AW, all of it, when you get to it. ♥