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Title : Putting the Natives at Ease
Author : Gunbunny
Fandom : Narnia
Pairing : none
Rating : No sex and no violence. :sigh:
Summary : No parent wants to know this about their children.
Disclaimer : Not mine. CS Lewis'.
Feedback : I accept burnt offerings and alcohol.
Archive : http://burntcopper.com/fic , anywhere else feel free.


The pub's bustling, most of the men having just got off work. Robert Pevensie's meeting some of his friends for their weekly catch-up over a pint.

"Tim, good to see you. How's army life treating you?" David asks when another man joins them, then gestures at the rest of them. "Tim here decided to stay rather than getting out like most sensible men did when his term was up."

"Awful as ever, but it's a job. I've just come back from Malaya, and it really makes you appreciate our winters." Tim says, putting his pint down. "I never want to see another mosquito."

"Malaya?" David asks. "Robert here's eldest's out there right now."

Tim grimaces. "My sympathies. Well, he should be fine - most of the young officers seem to be just about coping. Army's making men out of the wetter ones," He takes a mouthful of his pint and grimaces at the taste. "Christ, this is bitter even for bitter. And then there's the ones who don't seem to need any encouragement."

"The type that take to it like ducks to water?" Bill queries. "One of the lads in our regiment during the war was like that."

Tim chuckles, though it's not a humorous chuckle. "There's one young officer, all the men who've come across him would call that an understatement. The lad's a savage bastard killer and no mistake. The brass don't even have to wind him up to watch him go. There were rumours he already knew how to kill when he joined up."

"Good lord." Robert says, sipping his pint. "I hope mine isn't stationed anywhere near him. Do you think he'll be up on a charge?" He'd met his fair share of mad bastards during the war. You always hoped that they'd get picked off by the next sniper or grenade as soon as possible because you heard stories of the ones that turned. The thought of Peter serving with the officer Tim's describing doesn't bear thinking about.

Tim snorts. "Hardly. Vicious bastard, but only in a fight. Quite civil the rest of the time, is Peter Pevensie. If it wasn't for the killing instinct we'd be glad to have him." He pauses. "Aside from the good looks and the way the men follow him slavishly. That's just Mother Nature playing favourites."

He doesn't notice Robert stiffening at the mention of the name, or the looks the others shoot at him. Pevensie is not a common name by any stretch, so the chances of the killer Tim's talking about not being Robert's son are slim to none. And you never want to hear that your child turned into that.

-----

Robert Pevensie picks up the teapot and pours himself a cup. He learned to take it without sugar from being a two spoons a cup man when he signed up. He doesn't pine for it as much as his wife, who still misses it terribly. His children used to have an incredibly sweet tooth, but it seems their tastes changed during evacuation. They tend towards honey for the most part, with a craving for fruit. He supposes it's better for their teeth, but it's not like you can get fruit any easier than sugar on rationing. He takes it outside to the garden, where his eldest is sipping at his own cup, home on leave.

"How are you finding army life? I know a lot of men find it quite a change," Robert asks, lighting a fag. Possibly an understatement. Nothing on civvy street prepares you for being shot at, or the sheer boredom that mostly comprises army life.

"Fine. I'm quite enjoying it, really," Peter answers, smiling. "I've found I suit it."

"Even taking orders? I seem to remember you had problems with that during your school days."

"It's working out fine," Peter reassures him.

"War's a funny thing, you know. You think it's going to be one thing, but it's never what you expect," Robert says, staring off into the distance, tapping the ash off his fag.

Peter shrugs. "It wasn't anything I didn't expect, though I'll admit it took a little while to get used to using a gun."

"The pressures of combat get to some of the lads," Robert says carefully. "Make them react in odd ways."

"I know. The ones who seem the bravest are sometimes the most useless ones, and the little weedy one who got bullied back in training turns out to be bloody good in an ambush," Peter says. "You learn to spot them, though." That one's said with calm authority, and gives Robert some idea of what his son is like as an officer. At least he's not the boasting type. Robert hated those. Everyone did.

"No pressures yourself?" Robert asks. He's not sure how to broach the subject of his actions in the field. He's quite sure most fathers in this day and age never feel the urge to ask their offspring about killing people.

"No, none. Why should there be?" Peter asks with surprise, then turns to greet Edmund as he comes out. "Everything all right in there?"

"Susan would like a word," Edmund says. "She says it'll be quick."

"Do you think she means that?" Peter asks.

"Well, she's not in one of those moods..." Edmund shrugs. "I think you're safe. But it'd probably be better to get there sooner rather than later."

"Understatement of the year when it comes to Susan," Peter says, and strides inside quickly.

"Is there a problem?" Roberts asks. He's never quite sure how his children trained each other to fear the others' actions if they don't come fast enough when called. They don't react that way to anyone else, certainly not their parents or teachers at school, or their bosses and commanding officers. The Pevensie children are well-known for being singularly unimpressed by authority. Not in an impolite way, but something about their demeanour tells you that they're doing you a favour by complying.

Edmund shakes his head. "No, not as such."

Robert takes a few more puffs on his fag before deciding to ask Edmund. His younger son has always been rather observant, and at least knows what makes his eldest tick. Nothing Peter does seems to surprise him. It's true for all the siblings, but Robert can't quite see himself asking his daughters. And by the comments they let slip out, it seems they understand better than most the pressures of the battlefield, even if he has no idea how they acquired that knowledge.

"About your brother."

Edmund raises an eyebrow. "What's he done now?"

"Nothing. I - is he really as fine as he says?"

Edmund nods. "More content, at any rate. Peter knows what to do with himself when he's out there."

Well, that could explain most of it. There's a lot of men that found life out there easier than civvy street. Orders and goals are easier than worrying about household bills. "And he's not suffering bad dreams? A lot of the lads used to suffer from those."

Edmund shrugs. "Peter's had nightmares on and off for years. It's par for the course. It doesn't mean anything in the light of day."

Robert won't even try to understand that one. He takes another drag, steadying himself for this one, staring resolutely at the trees near the back of the garden. "I heard some tales - though it's quite possible that they were talking about someone else - when I asked if anyone had any news on him. Any chance you'd know? He talks to you."

Edmund pauses, and out of the corner of his eye, Robert can see him tilt his head towards the floor and then back up again. Considering his answer. "What sort of tales?"

Robert swallows. "They called him a savage bastard killer."

"Ah." That response is non-committal even for his younger son, who seems to have perfected the emotionless, considered tone. He'd probably make a damn good civil servant at this rate. "Peter is very efficient in a fight and believes in covering all eventualities. It might possibly come across as a little alarming to those who expect battles to be played by Marquis of Queensbury rules."

"Covering all eventualities?" Robert queries, not liking the sound of that one.

"The enemy should go down fast and stay down, so you don't get any nasty surprises later." Edmund clarifies. His mouth quirks. "He's found that a large proportion of officers aren't very good at improvising with whatever comes to hand."

Robert very carefully tries to not swallow at that one. That statement just unfurled a picture in his head of some of the men he'd come across during the war - the type you never tried to turn your back on if you could help it. And Edmund's reaction implies that he's the type of man who sees nothing wrong with it. Which implies that the rest of his children might too, given the girls' matter-of-fact acceptance of the pressures of war, something his wife could never grasp. He doesn't want her to ever have to.

----

Helen Pevensie looks up as her husband comes back into the kitchen, putting his cup on the table, having left his fag-end in the little pot outside. Edmund came through earlier, having delivered a message to Peter, but his father stayed outside to finish his cup of tea in the weak sunshine. Her younger son had smiled at her, picked up a book he'd left on the sideboard, and went to see what the result of sending his brother inside was. Edmund is a reassuring sort of boy. He played up a bit when he first started school proper, but grew into the sort of boy who was always calm and matter-of-fact.

"Did you have that word with Peter that you wanted?" she asks, picking up the cup to put it in with the small pile of washing up from the morning, what with all the children being home for once. She'd got used to having an emptier house, but it's nice having it feeling full again.

"A bit. He's enjoying the army," Robert replies, distractedly, clearly still worried about something. He won't tell her what it is, but it's almost certainly related to Peter being called up. She supposes it's like her father's worries. They didn't want their sons going out fighting like they had to. "Edmund says it suits him better than civvy street."

Helen wipes her hands on her apron. "You should be glad that he's doing what he's content with."

Everyone's children came back from the country changed. They were older, for a start. Some of them were wilder, some had no manners, some had been turned into country children with not a trace of London in them, complete with accent. The Tovey twins had come back well-behaved and with a strong work ethic, and wasn't that a surprise, considering the little louts they had been. The Pevensie children, though, came back... odd. It wasn't something you could put your finger on. They were polite, well-mannered to the point of cautiousness, but you always felt as though they were looking right through you, with eyes that had seen more than even the soldiers who came back hollow-eyed. Everything seemed unimportant to them, and they kept staring off into the distance, as though something was missing.

Peter was the most off-balance, spending his first year back getting into fights almost constantly where Edmund had calmed down completely, no longer the child that made trouble or did anything from spite, but Peter did stop it after going back to school again. But they all seemed not quite connected, and so very, terribly sure of themselves. The way people who come from old money are. She's just glad she has them. She has to be. If Peter's found his calling in the army, surely that's a good thing and one less to worry about.

Her husband is a good man. He sees some things. But he's probably never walked into the kitchen to find Lucy balancing one of the sharpest knives on its end, and then flipping it idly. Helen doesn't know if her husband's seen their youngest's habit of playing with knives. Let alone the time Helen found a knife under Lucy's pillow the morning after she left for school. She's quite sure that he'd have told her, since though it's a commendable thing that her youngest is so devoted to pursuing medicine as a career, it's certainly not commendable to do that. Her eldest daughter grew graceful and ladylike, having landed herself a good job at the Ministry of Agriculture. And somewhere she became the sort of person who could get a bad situation under control quickly, calmly, and able to silence women three times her age with a look. The Finchley WI still brings up the way Helen's daughter rescued that show on occasion. She's still the only person Helen's seen who can call her eldest to heel with a word, never mind that they do tend to let him have final say on most things, and Helen wonders when she came to use that as a yardstick.

The sound of feet on the stairs heralds their children rejoining them. "Is everything all right between you two, Susan?" Robert enquires as she enters the room, her siblings behind her.

"Quite alright." Susan says, but she's wearing that smile that both of her parents privately term as 'putting the natives at ease'. Behind her, Peter's looking slightly sheepish but chastened, while Edmund is his usual calm self.

Lucy just grins. "He's learned the error of his ways, never fear."

"Lucy." Susan says calmly.

"Oops." Lucy says, though her tone indicates she's unrepentant. Helen and Robert catch glances. Helen shakes her head minutely, and Robert nods. Best not to ask. It's better this way.

END

Comments

( 64 comments — Leave a comment )
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gestalt1
Jun. 2nd, 2010 06:58 pm (UTC)
I absolutly love this fic! Psycho!killer Peter is my favourite Peter.
hungrytiger11
Jun. 2nd, 2010 07:02 pm (UTC)
This is brilliant! Even in stories that happen in England the Pensvie parents are often not mentioned or are on the edges. Having their look at the children really gives a lot of insight into how they have changed and where they do and do not fit into this world anymore.
burntcopper
Jun. 2nd, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
As the fic says, I always got the impression that the Pevensie parents were majorly freaked out by their children but couldn't say anything because they were mostly so polite and well-behaved. And I'm a sucker for outsider POV.
cidercupcakes
Jun. 2nd, 2010 07:26 pm (UTC)
Oh, I loved this. Such a wonderful outsider's perspective, a little unsettling and eerie. I love the little details about Lucy and Susan and Edmund worked into the background of the A plot about Peter. Well done!
burntcopper
Jun. 2nd, 2010 09:36 pm (UTC)
I do everything by understatement and restraint. mwhahahahaha.

Lucy, Susan and Edmund : working under the radar to freak their mother out. the problem with the girls is it's so difficult to write how strange they appear, since Susan is a diplomat by training, which mostly translates as terribly efficient and putting people at their ease and those are really useful job skills - and what mother's going to be able to disapprove of that? Lucy, on the other hand, has had a knife as a security blanket since she was 10/12.
autumnia
Jun. 2nd, 2010 07:44 pm (UTC)
Coming over here from narnia_fiction. I liked this -- it's nice to see what the Pevensie children are like from their parents' point of view. It must have been tough for Robert to hear that Peter was seen a killing machine!

I also loved how it's set up so we see the boys from their father's view, and the girls from the mother's. Little glimpses into all the changes once they came back from the Professor's, and how it's affected the way the four of them grew up (again).

This is an interesting universe, I'll have to go back and check out other stories in it as well.
burntcopper
Jun. 2nd, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC)
I always reckoned the father would notice the stuff that was wrong with his sons, since that's what he's got experience in, and his daughters - well, one's got a wonderful reputation and a nice job. What more is there to say?

Whereas Edmund was the rock that I get the feeling Helen was incredibly grateful for. And as much praise as Susan gets, she knows that she's far too advanced for her age and upbringing. Finchley is not the seat of the Howards.
peterjevans
Jun. 2nd, 2010 09:47 pm (UTC)
Excellent story! And once again displaying your talent for subtle, highly atmospheric menace… Really good dialogue, too. Me likey!
littlerhymes
Jun. 3rd, 2010 12:13 am (UTC)
Awesome! I love all stories about the consequences of coming back from Narnia and this pov works so well. :DDD
burntcopper
Jun. 3rd, 2010 01:35 pm (UTC)
I finally got the girls in it, Ro. FINALLY.
croissantkatie
Jun. 3rd, 2010 12:46 pm (UTC)
This is wonderful! They all are (I just went and read the others xD). I absolutely love them, the characters are all just so perfect. And I won't think of something slightly more coherent to say, but I can't really be bother =]
bnharrison
Jun. 3rd, 2010 08:00 pm (UTC)
this was such a satisfying read.
newredshoes
Jun. 3rd, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC)
Wow. I really love this kind of story, where the consequences of canon get played out like this. Recced!
voleuse
Jun. 3rd, 2010 08:35 pm (UTC)
This is SPECTACULAR.
rymenhild
Jun. 3rd, 2010 09:18 pm (UTC)
I just got linked from newredshoes and spent a pleasant hour reading this and all the rest of your Narnia fic. (Well, except for the NaNo. I'll save that for an hour that isn't supposedly dissertation time). I really like your take on the Pevensies. I think my favorite touch is the way they exude all the wrong class cues, as kings and queens and war leaders who return to the British middle class and confuse everyone's meters of appropriate social behaviors.

I also like that your Pevensies get the chance to grow up in the world. Dropping The Last Battle permits you to show us what kind of adults they all become in our world.

If you're planning to write more in this universe, I think I need to friend you to see what happens!
tricksterquinn
Jun. 3rd, 2010 09:33 pm (UTC)
Oh man, this is the BEST sort of Narnia fic! I love how well it gives us each of them, while through outsiders eyes. And how their parents know that they just do not want to know.

I will be memorying this like whoa. I will definitely also be checking out your other work. Wonderful.
ladyjestyr
Jun. 3rd, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, awesome. I'd never even thought of how the children must seem to their parents, after everything. This was brilliant, and now I'm jonesing for more. :)
fox1013
Jun. 3rd, 2010 11:32 pm (UTC)
This is amazing.
greyandgrey
Jun. 3rd, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC)
A friend of mine rec'd this, and I've just gone back and read everything in this universe (at least, everything under your "national service" tag) and I'm seriously so in awe of this fantastic series of stories! I love the way all of the siblings are still so normal with one another, completely preserving the way they learned to relate to one another in Narnia, but they're so out of sync with the rest of the world. I love the way Peter and Edmund fall into old fighting habits together, and how Susan can still command Peter's attention. And I loved the tiny glimpse of Lucy - I really want to see more of her! I mean, it's bad enough with the older ones who are young adults, but how would the world take a child who is that world-wise and self-possessed?
allthelivesofme
Jun. 4th, 2010 12:59 am (UTC)
Saw newredshoes's rec to this; love it. Makes so much creepy sense.
tiferet
Jun. 4th, 2010 07:18 am (UTC)
This is love.
philomytha
Jun. 4th, 2010 08:11 am (UTC)
Oh, this is marvellous. I especially liked the glimpses we got of Susan's skills learned in Narnia, since she never got much credit in the books. And the habits of command and power that they've all acquired and that just don't fit in their family. Brilliant.
bantha_fodder
Jun. 4th, 2010 11:37 am (UTC)
Oh, delightful! I love it!
be_themoon
Jun. 4th, 2010 12:04 pm (UTC)
ooooh, fantastic. You did a great job! Somebody further up said that they're normal with/to each other but out of sync with the rest of the world, and YES. I love that Susan and Lucy are just as fine with the war now as Peter and Edmund, consider it normal. That Peter finds his ability in battle perfectly normal, and that Edmund's not too concerned about his nightmares.
liminalliz
Jun. 4th, 2010 12:58 pm (UTC)
Oh man, this was an mindbender, I love this Pevensie Parent POV and how almost troubled they are with these aliens they just got back from the country! I enjoyed this a lot!
(Deleted comment)
burntcopper
Jun. 4th, 2010 07:28 pm (UTC)
lucy denies any comments about security blankets. and susan is really, really bored.
(Deleted comment)
dealan311
Jun. 4th, 2010 05:04 pm (UTC)
There is so much about this that I love. Well done.
penmage
Jun. 4th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
This. is. fabulous.
elaran
Jun. 4th, 2010 10:22 pm (UTC)
oh wow, that was awesome. love x a lot lucy and edmund!
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