The thing of the matter is that, really, Edmund is the only one she can talk to, these days.
Peter is Peter and keeps to himself. In part because he is the eldest, and in part because of things left over—memories that aren’t quite complete—from when he was a High King over all others, and kept his own counsel out of necessity.
And Susan, well, Lucy loves her, as she loves Peter, too, but she doesn’t like Susan very much at times, now. None of them are the children they once were—some mornings, when he’s home, Peter smells of alcohol, and Edmund has come in more than once, late, after Mother and Father have gone to bed, with his clothes not quite right, blushing only a bit when he sees Lucy, waiting up for him—but Susan revels in throwing off all traces of who she once was. Perhaps that’s the way she deals with not being There any longer, but Lucy finds she has no patience for it.
Edmund, though... He does come in late, and he does do things that leave him sometimes smelling of women’s perfume, and with clothes rumpled, but he still teases her, gently, like he used to. And he’s a bit more of the grave king she remembers, but that, too, is familiar in its own way. Edmund is the one who was there in Narnia each time with her, who sailed to Aslan’s country with her and believed her when she said she saw a lion, and shifted under her hands when she healed him from the Witch. Edmund’s the one who would smile for her, even when he’d become the serious King Edmund the Just, if she asked him, or teased him enough. And, yes, he is the one who said they were just playing make-believe, too, that Lucy told silly stories, and she doesn’t forget that or even pretend that she does, like the others do. Forgives, but doesn’t forget, and she thinks he knows and...and appreciates that fact, because he knows he won’t ever forget it himself, and knowing that she remembers also means that he knows that she still forgives.
“If Judas had had a sister to hold him after Jesus had died, Lu, things would have been different for the bastard.” And it’s one of the few times she’s heard him swear, but he’s having one of Those Nights, that he’s always had—had even before they came back—that Susan doesn’t know about and Peter doesn’t know how to handle. One of those nights where he doesn’t even come in, just sits on the back steps with a bottle he nicked from their father’s room, and she sits with him, robe around her, feet bare, and holds him again.
And Lucy, well, Lucy’s not innocent herself anymore, really. She’s not Susan, not by far, but she goes with a boy, too. One who’s probably too old for her, but then, she remembers her 25th birthday, so perhaps she’s also too old for him. And she remembers touches that weren’t quite appropriate but were loving and lovely and made her sigh, touches she doesn’t let this boy try, now, though she thinks she might someday. And if no one else knows about him except for Edmund—because, really, she doesn’t want to keep secrets from him, even knowing he’ll disapprove of some things she might tell him—even if Mother and Father don’t know, Lucy’s content to do some things for herself.
But she’s still Lucy, even for all that, and he is the one that she talks to. The one who may not so much mean the most as be the closest. So it’s not surprising, really, not even to Edmund, that she’s up every night, sitting on the couch and reading, or listening to the radio, or both, when he slips in. Sometimes he’s more sober than others.
Tonight he’s somewhere in between. Enough there that his eyes aren’t quite focused and his face is a bit flushed, enough not that his walk is stable, more or less, and he doesn’t curse when she flips the other lamp on. “Hello, Lu.” The look she gets is almost sheepish. “It’s late. Shouldn’t you be in bed?”
“Rather. As should you.” Rising and leading him into the kitchen, where she has the tea waiting, and pours him a cup before refilling her own. “Your shirt’s buttoned crookedly.”
“Oh?” Looks down and blushes, fixing it before taking the drink from her. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” It’s not, really, often that he goes out, but it’s more frequently than it once was. Not enough that she worries, exactly, but enough that she—they, really—have developed a routine. Lucy sits next to him on the sofa, when they return to the living room, sipping from her mug. “Have a good night?”
“I suppose.” He doesn’t really talk much about what he does when he’s out. Edmund may be only a year her senior, but he’s still Lucy’s older brother, and he, like everyone, shelters her, in some things.
She accepts this. Once it annoyed her. Now it’s a comfort, to know that they all, even Susan, care enough to do that. And, as for Edmund, he shares more with her than with anyone else, except for Aslan. She doesn’t need, any longer, to know everything, and she thinks that might be a sign that she’s grown up again.
It’s a nice sort of silence, as they sit there, and Lucy looks out the window at the night sky. She can just barely see part of a constellation, between the leaves—on the edges of the town, the lights are dark enough to allow that—and if she squints, she can pretend it’s the Leopard.
“Why do you do this?” It’s not exactly sudden, when he asks, though it does break the quiet. She looks back at him, at the not exactly perplexed, but honestly wondering, look on his face, and something in her breaks a bit to realize that he doesn’t know why she’d bother. That part of him still thinks he isn’t worth even this..
She doesn’t answer him for a moment, just looking at him, and then, slowly, “Do you remember, when we were first there, and I couldn’t sleep during the night because I missed Mother?”
His face clouds for a moment—Edmund doesn’t remember as much as Lucy, about the first time they were there, but then, no one remembers as much about those fifteen years as she does, and that is, she thinks, her blessing, and that is her curse—before he nods.
“Do you remember how you would come crawl into my bed with me and hold me, until I stopped crying, and when we woke up you would go and sneak us in sweets, even though Susan said being royalty was no excuse for eating in bed?”
He hadn’t. But he does, now that she’s reminded him, blushing a bit as he nods again.
“Why did you do that?”
“Well...oh, hell, Lu, I’m too drunk for this,” as he rubs his face with one hand, trying to answer, pulling up memories he’d not thought of in years. But this, he finds, he knows the answer to easily. “Because you needed me.”
“Because I was—am—your sister. And your friend,” she finishes for him.
“Then there’s your answer, silly man.” Almost says boy, but he’s not, really, any more than she’s a girl, and the thought’s a bit of a sad one, if an accepted one.
“But...” And maybe it’s a bit of one of Those Nights, too, because she can see it in his eyes. But I’m me.
“It doesn’t matter.” Simply. “It never has. You’re Edmund. And yes, you’re the one who helped the Witch,” and he flinches, but she says it anyway. And he’s grateful, a bit, in a way that’s perhaps masochistic and perhaps just raw, still, that she does. Aslan forgave him long ago, but forgiving himself? He’s not sure that will ever happen.
“And you are the one who held me,” she continues, reaching out and taking his hand, “and practiced dancing with me, when the dryads taught us, and helped me with my French last year, and wanted so very badly to have a duel, of all things, when that beastly man from Galma who was visiting made the remark about me.” Faint smile. “And you’re my brother. Isn’t that enough?”
His hand tightens around hers a bit. “Sometimes I feel like nothing will ever be enough.”
“I know. But for me, it always will be.” It’s very simple for her, that way. For Lucy, it’s always been simple. There’s good, and there’s evil. There’s right, and there’s wrong. There’s the Lion, and there’s the Witch. And there’s her brothers and sister, and she will cling to them—even Edmund, even, though it’s a bother, at times, Susan—and protect them and comfort them, as long as she can.
Peter is the Eldest. Susan is the Beauty. Edmund is...well, Edmund is many things, really, some he’d like to forget. The Traitor and the Penitent and the Wise, in his own way that he’s only starting to learn to be comfortable in again.
Lucy is, she thinks, just Lucy. Once she was the Valiant, and maybe she still is, but very few people in this world will ever know that. And she is the Baby, yes, but she’s not a baby any longer, which she knows Edmund, at least, sees, as he casts worried looks at her on the nights she goes out, and is waiting for her when she returns. Not as late as he ever is, but enough that he’ll scowl out the door at Joseph before pulling her in.
Lucy thinks, as Edmund curls up a bit against her, his face very young and the hint of tears in his eyes, that she might be the Comforter. To Peter, when he’s worn himself out with studying and she begins to ramble about dragons, making his lips quirk, or how brilliant he’ll be when he takes the exam, as if it’s just another adventure. To Susan, on the moments when she can’t make herself forget, trying to remember the land that’s the reason she was once happy and the reason now she isn’t, Lucy reminding her of the Fauns and the Naiads and picnics on the beach.
And to Edmund, now, as she brushes at his hair and holds him close, kissing his temple as he drifts off to sleep, simply telling him that it’s alright and he’s loved. That he’s forgiven, and worthy.
She thinks, perhaps, that one day she might even get him to believe it.
For now, Lucy simply holds her brother, eventually falling asleep herself, head resting on his, as the sun comes up outside.