Fic: Duty

Jun. 5th, 2009 11:55 am
[personal profile] gmtaslash
Author: [personal profile] gmtaslash
Fandom: Narnia (bookverse), Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: We are not C.S. Lewis. Because our Muse is Edmund and his was clearly Lucy.
Summary: Sequel to Honour and Loyalty (part one and part two). Edmund/Caspian, Caspian's POV. Edmund's return to Narnia is everything Caspian could have hoped for, at least at the beginning. But everything is a lesson.
Warnings: Slash, overthinking, confusion, drunkenness, hammocks, bulkheads, sailors' knots... the usual combo. Spoilers for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and it would really, really help to have read that. In fact, bits of the fic probably won't make sense if you haven't read it. Titles in the piece indicate at what portion of VoDT the action is taking place - this fic aims to fit around the book rather than take the place of any of it.

Beta-read by the wonderful [ profile] ansela_jonla


Cair Paravel

When Caspian says, the day after the Pevensies leave Narnia, that he wants to look for the seven lords, his counsellors give him the verbal equivalent of a pat on the head and make encouraging motions towards some of the daughters of influential Telmarine lords whose specially confirmed support would be particularly useful. Caspian, who hadn't meant that he wanted to set sail now, bides his time and makes it into an oath on his coronation day.

He then spends three years jumping through political hoops, thoroughly trouncing giants in border disputes, and still avoiding the daughters of noblemen.

Only Trumpkin ever thinks to ask him why he is so keen to sail East, and Caspian, for the first time since Beruna, tells his most trusted advisor a lie. Only a partial lie, a lie of omission, but a lie nevertheless.

'They were loyal to my father, Trumpkin,' he says, knowing how sincere he sounds and hating himself for the incomplete truth. 'I must make an example to all others that I remember loyalty. And besides, the Lone Islands have not had a visit from a Narnian monarch in over a thousand years. Surely we owe it to them to check on their well-being?'

'And to find out what's happened to the tribute they're supposed to pay us,' Trumpkin adds, diverted as Caspian had hoped he would be. The cost of establishing peace in Narnia had been paid in coin as well as blood, and thirteen hundred years of neglect, as well as a change in commonly-used currencies since the royal coffers had last been opened, from Old Narnian Lions and Trees to Calormene Crescents, meant that royal funds were much depleted. 'We have roads to repair amongst other things, and I must say, if you could sail back with a bit of tribute, it would come in handy,' the Dwarf says ruefully.

And so Caspian promises that he will do his best to make it so, and retreats to his chambers, and tells himself that it would have done Trumpkin no favours nor helped his peace of mind to tell him the truth - that Caspian hopes, amongst all his other goals, to forget the encounter between himself and King Edmund the Just on that latter's last night in Narnia. Hopes to forget the feel of the other king's body against his, the chill of the wind, the tender chastity of the kiss they shared. The tiny, illicit thrill that it had been he who initiated it, and the larger pull of disappointment, maybe even a tinge of shame, that he'd been the one to pull away. And most of all he hopes to convince himself that although King Edmund may yet return to Narnia, the odds that he will return in Caspian's time are so vanishingly small that it is not worth his time to consider the notion.

Caspian knows he needs to find a wife, assure a succession. He promised Aslan and High King Peter that he would do so, and thus hopefully safeguard Narnia from the same sorrow that eventually placed him on the throne. If he hopes to treat such a wife with any kind of honour, he must let go of his memory and attend to duty instead.

Four Hundred Leagues from Narnia

Aslan is not kind, thinks Caspian without any kind of rancour. Queen Lucy the Valiant is in Caspian's cabin, hopefully changing into something that isn't so saturated she'll catch her death, and King Edmund the Just is following Caspian out onto the deck. They found them floating in the ocean, of all places. They are the most welcome of guests, of course, but ... Caspian was hoping to be able to forget.

Caspian is older. Edmund is older too. Taller, still lean and spare, still with solemn brown eyes and a wry smile. When Lucy emerges, they discuss the voyage. The two monarchs are still themselves - quick-witted, tactically minded. They recall details from thousands of years ago and from three years ago. It is so pleasant to be able to discuss matters of diplomacy and of ruling with equals that Caspian almost forgets the presence of Eustace, whom he can already tell is going to be a complete waste of time, and almost doesn't notice the tiny glances Edmund is darting at him.

Caspian is going to be strong. He takes the others down to the hold, shows Eustace the bunk, explains about hammocks, all whilst trying to be calm and rational and adult. Older, remember. Not so given to the brief insanities of youth.

On the way back up, Edmund inspects the ship's timbers with a keen and admiring eye. He runs his hand over a rail, meeting Caspian's eyes.

'She's beautiful,' he says. 'You must be proud.'

'I am,' says Caspian, running his thumb over where a nail sits flush in its bed, knowing he looks besotted. 'She is all that I could have hoped for, and her very existence shows all who see her that Narnia is prosperous once more.'

'I'll say she does,' Edmund agrees. 'She reminds me of the old days.'

They stand in silence for a moment, drinking in the ship - the dim light, the warm wood-smell of her, the creak of her timbers and the distant slap of sail - she is a tiny piece of Narnia afloat far away from home, and Caspian loves her.

'And how's your court, Caspian?' Edmund asks, suddenly. His eyes flash mischief. 'Still a snakepit?'

'I cleaned them out a little,' says Caspian nonchalantly. 'Fortunately the history books were most instructive on ancient Narnian political debacles.' Perhaps he isn't as capable of adult rationality as he'd thought. For Aslan's sake, why remind them both of that ill-fated conversation?

But Edmund is laughing silently, the gleam in his eye reveals it, and Caspian is suddenly so, so glad he's here.


The Governor was a craven little man, and not one of his lackadaisical men had even thought to go out and surmount some high point to try and espy the supposed fleet Caspian had brought with him. Caspian is disgusted with the lot of them, almost disgusted enough to wash his hands of the whole nation and see how they fare as one of Eustace's 'republics'.

The state of the horse that's brought to him is a disgrace. No Narnian would stand for such ill-care. But he mounts up anyway, thinking to order it, and all the other horses in the stables, groomed afresh (and properly) when he returns. But right this instant, he has a much more pressing matter to attend to.

Two days and a night in the slave-pens of Narrowhaven ... that is, if they are still there. They may have been sold off already, to hard-eyed Calormenes or to Lone Islanders wanting house-help or entertainment or bed-warming. Caspian's throat tightens at the idea of Edmund, or Lucy, Reepicheep, even the supremely irritating Eustace, given to such a fate. He can hear the whisperings of the men riding with them, noting that a Calormene merchantman is in dock and surely its master will have been looking with an eye for pretty youngsters to fill the pleasure-palaces that line the river to Tashbaan. Caspian sets his jaw. If they have taken any of his crew, he will order the Dawn Treader about and give chase, and may the seven lords be damned.

He has only just begun to know Edmund and Lucy once more. Lucy is already like a sister to him. And Edmund is his friend, something so precious that Caspian never dreamt of having it. A kiss lies between them, and Caspian knows that Edmund remembers it. Sometimes his glances are so piercing that Caspian feels they lay him bare, something that the boyish youth that is Edmund from England - Spare Oom in the old tales - has kept in common with the eagle-eyed King that Caspian remembers from the battle at Beruna. Caspian cannot bear the idea of those eyes dulled by servitude.

Miraz always chastised young Caspian for his overactive imagination, in the days when it looked like he might inherit after all, before Prunaprismia conceived. Caspian, assailed with images of Edmund in chains, Edmund in rags, Edmund and some gouty Calormene nobleman, cannot help but agree with his late uncle that perhaps an imagination is not the ideal thing to be burdened with if things go ill.

They sweep into the slave pens, and Caspian puts on his best King face and says the words expected of him, lots of 'our royal person' and 'our dominions', aloof and noble, and all the while his eyes search the building, hoping desperately for a shock of dark hair, a merry brown-eyed gaze, to catch his eye.

'We're here, we're here, Caspian!' Caspian, on his best noble behaviour or not, cannot help but breathe a sigh of relief. The crowd parts and he strides towards them, accepting and returning Lucy's hug, Reepicheep's bow. Edmund, however, looks at him with a coolly amused expression, one straight from the battle at Beruna, not from the comrade of the last few weeks, and extends a hand. They shake hands, gravely. He is about to ask for Eustace's whereabouts when the Calormene merchants come to make sure they haven't been cheated of their gold. By the time they are settled, Eustace has been brought forward, unwanted as a slave as he was as a shipboard companion.

'I see. As usual. Been enjoying yourself while the rest of us were prisoners. I suppose you haven't even found out about the British Consul. Of course not.'

Caspian, about to greet Eustace with a friendly handclasp, is taken aback. Lucy laughs, and pats him sympathetically on the shoulder. Caspian turns to Edmund, expecting some quip or other, and welcoming it even at his own expense, after having ridden here in torment from images of Edmund's wit extinguished by the lash - but all he gets is that distant smile again.

Before the Storm

They set sail again, a few days later, and the feeling between them all has changed. For a start, Drinian is much more watchful of the Kings and Queen on his ship; warier. After the disaster with the slavers, he daren't lose them again, Caspian supposes, though he wonders a little bitterly exactly where Drinian thinks they'll go, in the middle of the ocean, with precious little hope of finding land ahead. Eustace is still as irritable ever, and even Lucy's patience appears to be wearing a little thin with him. She seeks out the company of her brother and Caspian more often now, but, while Caspian enjoys her conversation, he's still trying to sort out Edmund's change of mood towards him; the other king has become very matter-of-fact all of a sudden, where before he was laughing, joking. It was Edmund the boy, or the man, he met for the first time at the beginning of this voyage, whose company he so enjoyed, and who seemed to enjoy Caspian's presence too.

But this, now, is the King Edmund he recalls from their campaign against Miraz. This King Edmund is all business.

Caspian himself is worried. There were no hopeful reports from Lone Island sailors, no indication of land ahead whatsoever. Ever since they set sail again he's been worried that it was the wrong decision, that East is the wrong direction. He wants to ask Edmund's advice, but finds himself shying from the other king - Edmund the Just is intimidating. He wishes he knew how to show Edmund that he doesn't have to be only a boy or only a king, that it is perfectly possible to be both. After all, he, Caspian, ought to know, if anyone ever did.

He also wishes he knew which decision to make - press on for heroism and the sake of the quest and his pride, or turn back, and be assured that his crew will live to see Narnia again.

He makes up his mind to ask Edmund for his thoughts. They are both kings, they are nearly of an age, there is no reason for him to blanch and blush and stammer when he ought to be asking his equal, his friend, a simple question. He makes his way down to the hold, having divined from Drinian that the other king had borrowed his maps and retreated in that direction. He descends the steps, heart in a nonsensical turmoil of nervousness. Stop that, he tells himself angrily. He was telling you unsavoury jokes about Calormene soldiers a week ago - he hasn't changed that much.

'Caspian,' says Edmund, before Caspian can begin to speak. He has a map spread out on a bench, held down with a salt-cellar and a pewter tankard. 'These maps don't extend any further than the Lone Islands, naturally. Have you considered setting some of the men to taking measurements so that we can map any islands we might come across later? You do have surveying tools, don't you?'

'We carry a full complement,' says Caspian. 'I can ask Drinian to see about depth soundings - we are already navigating by such stars as the Old Narnians mentioned as valuable for the task.'

'That's good,' Edmund replies, a bit distractedly. 'And we're doing all right for supplies, aren't we?'

'We are only three days from port,' Caspian points out. 'If we were short of victuals already, I would be worried.'

'Of course. I'm sorry, Caspian,' Edmund says, leaning his chin on his hand and looking frankly at the other king. 'Peter always used to tell me I worried too much.' Caspian moves to sit down with him, thinking to broach his question, but instead Edmund jumps up. 'I think I'll go for a walk on deck,' he says brightly. 'I wanted to ask Drinian what constellations he steers by.'

He leaves abruptly, leaving Caspian bewildered and a bit angry. He sits there for a few more minutes, staring glumly at the maps. You'd think I smelled, he thinks to himself morosely. Or that I'd come at him with a knife, or something. Birds and Beasts! I just wanted to talk to him!

After a while, deciding that there is nothing to be gained by sitting and staring at a map of what is, in all reality, the way back, Caspian retreats to bed (well, hammock). He grits his teeth to Eustace's litany of the day's complaints, and wrestles his sea-boots off and gets into his nightshirt in a foul, foul mood.

Edmund comes to the hold a little while after that; Caspian pretends to be asleep. With his eyes almost closed, he can feign slumber whilst watching Edmund hop around on one leg, stripping off his breeches and getting caught off balance by the motion of the ship. The tiny smidgeon of light that comes through from the gaps in the decking above them is enough to illuminate Edmund in pale silver.

Caspian finds himself watching every movement, feeling almost predatory, and there is a growing feeling of heat and tightness between his thighs. Well, at least that's something he knows how to deal with.

He reaches down and takes himself in hand, finding some comfort in the fact that he can at least control this, even if he cannot control the ship or the weather or the way his hammock is reacting to his restlessness, or the fact that he wants the youth in the hammock next to his with a ferocity that startles him not a little. He squeezes his eyes tight shut, and bites his lip, and strokes slowly and deliberately at himself, determined to keep control for as long as possible. The hammock moves with him, and he fears it will give him away, for he's hardly in time with the roll of the ship in the swell. but he doesn't care, has to grab this moment, this illusion of being in command now, or he might lose it forever.

It's no use. It must have been an illusion truly, for it doesn't last, and he spins out of control far too fast, his throat locking with a moan he daren't give voice to, the canvas both cradling and chafing him, a feeling he's used to, if not so literally. It's what he came out here to escape, in part.

But this whole voyage is going too fast, changing direction on him too often, he thinks angrily as he attempts to clean himself up, hampered by the hammock. He has reigned in Narnia for three years and has never once felt so out of control as he does now. Being uncertain is not something a king ever ought to be. Caspian glares into the dark, clenches hands sticky with his own mess, and makes a decision. He isn't going to hang back any longer. He is going to do something, by Aslan. And if he gets an answer he regrets, at least he will have the certain knowledge that he had the courage to try. Courage in this matter, not in any other, he reminds himself, thinking that it is easier to be brave and make this hard decision than to choose to abandon his pride for the sake of lives, and turn the ship about.

The Storm

During the storm, Caspian looks up to see Edmund hauling on a rope, trimming sail frantically. They're both drenched; everyone's drenched; it seems like there's just as much water in the sky as there is in the sea and on the lurching, rolling deck. Edmund tosses his head, flicking soaked hair back from his face, and his eyes catch Caspian's, grim and determined. The rain is leaving nothing to the imagination; his clothes are soaked through, clinging to his sparse frame. Caspian knows he looks the same. Any other time he'd be appreciative; not now. Now they are all fighting the sea for the life of their ship.

It's too late to turn back now, is all Caspian can keep thinking. Rhince's wife may never see him again.

Caspian is helping Rynelf to get control of the sail when, just as the Dawn Treader lurches, Edmund is thrown against the railings and almost topples overboard. Caspian's heart clenches furiously. He wills himself to let go of the rope, to lunge for the other king. But countering that is the knowledge that, if he lets go of the lines, Rynelf may very well be whipped overboard as well, that the sail could be lost, that they could spend the rest of the storm sail-less and wallowing at the mercy of the waves, and the knowledge that taking responsibility means giving up the freedom to make selfish choices. Fortunately, Edmund rights himself in time, hauls himself back up and keeps fighting the ropes and the rain and the wind, but Caspian cannot shake the sick feeling that the sea could snatch him back at any moment.

He cannot even dispel it when they finally make it to their hammocks. He lies awake into the night, listening to the storm howl itself into oblivion, smelling Eustace's poorly-cleaned up vomit, and thinks of a war, three years ago, when a High King threw himself into single combat against a tyrant far older, heavier and more cunning than himself, and wonders if that choice was responsible or selfish. If Edmund had fallen, could Caspian have leapt after him?

It burns his heart to think that he could not have.

After the Storm

It is dark and close in the hold. Caspian jumps as questing fingers part the hot, sticky air and touch his hand. Edmund's fingers, thin, rope-burns and callouses evident, and a faint gritty feel that might be salt. They are in their hammocks, but the dry, gentle snores from the bunk suggest that Eustace is asleep, and Caspian's fear of being lost, of having brought this crew out here to die slowly of thirst and hunger leads him to accept this tiny sliver of comfort. He knows Edmund isn't feeling much better; Eustace and Lucy weigh on the other king's mind. Edmund's hand is unnaturally warm in Caspian's, but it is also strong, and reassuring. Edmund has been in situations like this before, in another life. He understands. He must, or he wouldn't ask for this contact, distant as he's been lately.

Perhaps this is why Edmund was so serious, before the battle at Beruna. Perhaps this is why Peter was so reckless. The knowledge that other lives rest on one's decisions is a terrible weight to bear. Caspian isn't so sure he can be just a boy any more. But perhaps, perhaps he can be a man. Perhaps that is where the line lies. Boys can be careless and carefree. They can be princes. Kings need to be men.

Edmund had to be a man so young, Caspian thinks, a trifle sadly. Landing on this boat must have seemed like such a respite from responsibility, until Pug and his men, at least.

Caspian's fingers are gently stroking Edmund's palm, now. He feels Edmund shiver. Suddenly a tiny gleam reveals that Edmund has turned to face him, but the hold is dark as pitch, and as warm and sticky as well. The ship lurches in a swell, and Caspian clutches at Edmund's hand. There is a creak from the other hammock, and Edmund is scrambling out. He feels a lot nearer, now, and Caspian leans precariously out of his hammock, wanting to be closer. This voyage, this danger, is his fault, and the brooding, implacable sea almost frightens him. Caspian wants this comfort. Edmund's heart is pounding, though, and Caspian hates to think about Edmund being nervous, when he has always been so strong.

He leans even closer. 'Be careful, you twit,' hisses Edmund. 'You'll wake Eustace if you fall out.'

'Then I shall not fall,' Caspian mutters, and another lurch later and he is sitting next to Edmund. Their hands are still entwined. Their shoulders are touching. For the first time in weeks, Caspian feels like they are equals, something he has not felt since before Felimath. 'I - we nearly lost you,' says Caspian wretchedly.

Edmund's breath is catching, just a little, and his leg is twitching where it is braced against the planking beneath them. Caspian reaches over and tries to still it with his free hand.

'Do not be afraid,' he says, bracing one palm against the other's knee, the other hand still clasping Edmund's tightly. 'This calm cannot last too much longer. Surely we will reach a current, or find a breeze, sooner or later. Have faith in the ship.' He pauses, not sure if he should say it, but then adds: 'Have faith in Aslan.'

Edmund smothers a slightly bitter laugh. 'It's hard not to,' he mutters quietly, and then: 'We shouldn't be talking.' His order to be silent is too abrupt for his only concern to be his cousin. If Edmund is uncomfortable with speech, then Caspian will be silent. He strokes Edmund's knee, gently, up and down, trying to calm the jitters out of him as he would calm a nervous horse. Edmund seems not to object, for he leans further into Caspian's side. Caspian is relieved that his gesture is being taken in the spirit it was given; he only seeks to comfort Edmund. Of all the people on the ship, only Edmund knows what this sort of suspense is like, and during the day, he is always striding around, making plans, helping and guiding people. But even Edmund the Just cannot be in control all the time, least of all of his own emotions. Caspian lets his hand slip further up Edmund's thigh, lazily and slowly, not wanting to startle the other king. Just like the kiss on the tower - slow, tentative. Edmund is reacting, too, to Caspian's gentle touch in his lap. He suddenly draws a sharp breath, and a rustling sound indicates that he's twisting, trying to see Caspian in the dark, dark hold. Caspian keeps his eyes closed. There is nothing to see anyway; the darkness is too thick.


'Sssh.' Caspian strokes more deliberately, showing his purpose clearly, boldly. Edmund draws breath sharply, harshly, trying to stay silent for his cousin's sake but having trouble.

'Caspian, we -'

'Must I gag you?' Caspian asks, feeling a pleasing heat curl in his chest and a little amused by Edmund's small protests. He can tease Edmund, he's learnt on this voyage. He has a sense of humour, or he did before Felimath. He teases Edmund now, hoping to find Edmund the boy, Edmund the man, not just Edmund the king, beneath his hands in the dark. 'You asked for silence. You need comfort...' he adds quietly, knowing it to be true. They both do. This ship, in this accursed calm, is overwhelming. It is almost funny that it takes the worst of misfortunes to goad Caspian into seeking what he wants from Edmund - now of all times they do not need distraction, and yet ...

'I -' Edmund begins, but Caspian refuses to let him talk his way out of this. He reaches blindly in the dark for Edmund's head, pulls him around. His lips find Edmund's more by good luck than anything else, and a trace of sea-salt clings to the other's mouth, and there is a smell of sweat and tension around him. It is intoxicating, and Caspian revels in it. He reaches down, smoothing his hand over the bulge in Edmund's thin nightshirt and feeling the shivers that produces. Edmund's head jerks back and hits the bulkhead they're leaning against. While he's gasping at that, Caspian uses the diversion to reach under the nightshirt.

When Edmund's hand lands in Caspian's own lap, Caspian removes it gently. He cannot have distractions. 'Later,' he whispers heatedly into Edmund's ear, speeding up his strokes as he feels the tremble within the other boy's frame that signals impending release. He makes one more, tiny, gentle motion, and Edmund is undone. He bites Caspian's lip as he reaches completion. That reaction has Caspian chuckling, until Edmund practically climbs into his lap and takes him in hand, and then it is no laughing matter.

'Shut up,' Edmund mutters vehemently. 'If I need it, you do too.'

Edmund's touch is tantalising. Caspian has trouble keeping himself silent, especially when Edmund climbs fully into his lap and brings both hands into play. And when he wriggles down further, until he can take Caspian into his mouth -

Caspian does not recall much more from this moment on except heat, moisture, and a building feeling of pressure. When he feels he can take no more he suddenly remembers Edmund, Edmund's inexperience, and, steeling himself, pulls the other away, and back up, to cuddle into his shoulder, and to kiss. Edmund, all determination, snakes a hand back down and finishes him with a few long strokes.

It is a sudden relief, a feeling of contentment. Later, Caspian doesn't know how much later, they clean each other off with their nightshirts and awkwardly scramble, with legs that feel like jelly, back into their hammocks, worn out.

Caspian cannot bear to have their contact cut, though, and reaches out across the divide, and takes Edmund's hand once more.

They take comfort in each other again, a few days later, and slowly Edmund's attitude loosens, until they hit their first island, first landfall after the Lone Islands. That night, they drink, they celebrate, and late into the midnight watch, they manage to break Edmund's hammock through ill-thought-out haste and perhaps a certain fuddling of their senses by wine. Caspian is thankful both that Eustace sleeps like the dead, and that Edmund learnt how to tie a sheet-bend last time he went sailing.

Part Two
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