"How did you ever manage it, Edmund?" Caspian sat on a coil of rope, golden hair blowing on the steady breeze. He seemed to be watching Lucy play one of her endless games of chess with Reepicheep.
Edmund stopped pretending to sharpen his sword. "Manage what, then?"
"All of it, I suppose." He shrugged. "One minute, you're a commoner, and then you're a king, and then you're a commoner again, and a boy again. And to leave Narnia, too - I couldn't bear any of it."
"I...did. I was dreadful when I first came here - traitor, you know." It had taken years for him to say it so casually. "So going back to England and a boy again - I'd got the second chance from Aslan, of course, but it was almost a way to make it right from the beginning. And I did miss my parents. We made ourselves forget, you know. When we were kings and queens - we made ourselves forget England at all because we were never coming home, and just thinking that hurt. Lucy would cry at night. And then Narnia felt like a dream. But Peter - he was the real king, the High King. He did the real ruling, like you do. I was just there to help. He had the power. Him and Susan, really."
"Do you think Peter and Susan would make themselves forget Narnia? The way you did England?"
Edmund looked at him in shock. "Never! Not after going back last year. I'm sure of it. It's part of us - it and Aslan. And you." He smiled.
"Me?" Caspian blinked. His eyes were very blue, like the sky around them. "But you were a man here. You became a boy again."
"I wonder. I looked like a man, surely, and had a man's strength, and everyone called me one. But I don't feel different now than I did then. So - am I a man now? Or was Edmund always like this? Lucy says she felt like a little girl again, and Peter - Peter never changed. Susan won't talk about it. I don't know. It didn't gall, not even when I went back to school. Kings of Narnia get taught to fight and ride and dance, and a bit of arithmetic. I was happy to be learning something else, and not to wonder which princess I'd be wedding."
Caspian looked sad at that. "I will have to wed. I don't know if I'm ready for that, but I am king and I must create a line."
"I will never get married." Edmund thought that Caspian's hair looked like a banner on the breeze. "I didn't want to as a man - no woman captured my attention. Peter looked - he smiled and joked about it - but I didn't." He paused. "I looked..."
"At boys?" Caspian licked his lips. He didn't seem shocked or outraged.
Edmund looked down at his sword. "Yes. Blokes who wanted to marry Susan, or even Lucy." He looked back at Lucy, who seemed to be in check. "And then there were boys at my school - older ones, mainly. And it's wrong. Unnatural. And I won't outgrow it."
He'd told no one - not his father or Peter, or Susan. Lucy wouldn't even understand. Maybe Aslan could help him, but he'd rather doubted it. Aslan had already helped him. And now Caspian would...what would Caspian do? He looked back at his sword, remembering how he'd spent hours in the courtyard, trying to wear himself out. The touch on his arm startled him.
"You have beautiful sisters. But the boys in your family are equally beautiful." His smile was as bright as the sun. "I dreamed of Peter after you all left. I dreamed of Susan, too." Edmund couldn't look at that smile any longer. Peter and Susan - who would always be taller and older and more good-looking - how could he compete? Even if he wanted to? Caspian knelt to look at Edmund's face, and prevented Edmund from looking away. "I dream of you now, King Edmund the Just, and I'm happy to have it so."
And the current King of Narnia stroked his cheek and his eyes made promises that they couldn't say under the bright banner of his hair.