The third time was a crush, really, not a lot more. Edmund had been happy to return to Narnia since it was the place he had started to feel like himself again.
But it was a very different Narnia they had come to - a Narnia where Zuhair had been dead for at least two hundred years.
So while he and his siblings all mourned the losses of their old friends and acquaintances and old life, he mourned, for the second time, what could have been.
He had often imagined having stayed home from the hunt, Zuhair returning to Cair Paravel, and them living their lives, while likely in secret, at least together.
Instead, Zuhair had likely returned to find Edmund and the rest missing. He wondered if he had returned to marry the woman his father had chosen for him or had eventually found another man.
In his time back in England, Edmund had learned to accept who he was and the things he felt.
It was a slow, almost imperceptible process, but by the time they were sitting on the train platform before being pulled away by magic, he found that his shame had lessened remarkably.
And then they were thrown into a war - a brutal, bloody one that seemed hopeless - to put Caspian X on the throne.
Caspian reminded him of Zuhair a bit, in appearance at least. He had long black hair and his olive skin was a few shades lighter than Zuhair's.
And, of course, he was younger, but so was Edmund now.
As a person, Caspian was different. He had a quiet fury about him.
His royal upbringing made him calm and dignified, but Edmund could see what bubbled beneath the surface: anger at what happened to his father, outrage at the plight of the Old Narnians,
and determination to set everything right. He held a lot on his shoulders and Edmund, remembering what it was like to suddenly be king at a young age, felt he understood him.
He thought Peter was too hard on him. Although they were technically the same age, Peter had more experience.
And though Caspian was a natural leader, Peter expected too much of him sometimes, and Edmund could see that it irked Caspian how he sometimes treated him like a child.
Just as he had in the old days, Edmund became the mediator, and thus spent a lot of time talking to Caspian, trying to make peace between him and his brother.
"Your brother can be immensely infuriating," Caspian said. They were up above ground - Caspian always seemed to gravitate toward open air after an argument with Peter.
"Yes, I know," Edmund said patiently.
Peter's words still hung in the air, ringing in both their ears.
You invaded Narnia, you have no more right to lead it than Miraz does! You, him, your father; Narnia's better off without the lot of you!
"But you don't," Caspian said. "You're brothers, it's different."
"I ruled under him for fifteen years, Caspian," Edmund said. "I know."
The argument had been a variation of the one they had been having for over a week.
Peter wanted to attack Miraz's castle, while Caspian didn't. Edmund thought both of them had a point, but since Caspian knew their enemy and was technically the leader,
and Peter had more experience and was well-respected and admired by everybody, they never fully came to an agreement.
Today it had turned personal, and Edmund knew they had both taken it too far this time.
Caspian looked at him curiously. "What was Narnia like in your time? I've heard stories, but you were actually there."
"I think we should probably focus on the present," Edmund said. "If you don't recall, we are in a war."
Caspian laughed dryly. "I'm sure Peter and I will make up again, we always do. I want to know about the kingdom I want to restore this country to."
Edmund sighed and sat down beside him, letting his feet dangle off the edge. "It was... light," he began.
"I don't think people called it the Golden Age just because that's what you always call good times, but because there was no real darkness.
There were tensions and even battles with other nations, but nothing like this." He looked at Caspian. "You can't expect your rule to be like that.
The defeated Telmarines may grow restless, they may try to rise against you. There will always be tension there."
"You're certain we'll win?" Caspian said after a moment of quiet between them.
"Lucy is certain will win," Edmund said with a smile. "And she tends to be right."
"It must have been difficult to leave," Caspian said.
Edmund nodded. "It was. Lu and I had lived in Narnia longer than we had in England by the time we left. It was our home." He thought of Zuhair. "Does Narnia still have contact with Calormen?"
Caspian shook his head. "We know of it, but since Archenland wants nothing to do with us - understandably - no one has been there in a long time."
"It's wonderful there," Edmund said. "Much warmer than Narnia. The language is fascinating, and the clothing and architecture are so different."
"I must make sure to establish a relationship with Calormen then, as well as Archenland."
"They are a valuable ally and trade partner."
They were quiet for a moment. "Very well, you may make peace between Peter and me now," Caspian said, touching a hand to Edmund's knee.
"Try and convince me that storming my uncle's castle is a good idea."
"It isn't," Edmund said suddenly.
Caspian stared at him. "What?"
"I think you're right."
"But your brother -"
"Is more experienced in battle, I know," Edmund said. "But you know the castle, you know your uncle.
You've told us that the castle only has one way in and out, and the gryphons can only carry one person at a time.
If something goes wrong, which, let's face it, is likely, we could lose a lot of people."
"That's what I've been saying," Caspian said. "But if that's what you think, why aren't you telling Peter that?"
Edmund hesitated. Why did he go to Caspian first? "Peter said some things that were out of line. You were angry. I wanted to make sure that you were alright."
Caspian looked at him curiously. He exhaled and smiled faintly.
His features softened in a way that they hadn't in weeks, and as Edmund noted how his eyes looked lighter out in the sunlight, he realized why he had come to Caspian first.
"Thank you," said Caspian, his voice gentle. "But you should really talk to Peter, he'll listen to you much more than me."
"Right," Edmund said, standing up. He started to go back underground but turned back. "For the record, I think you'll be a great king and deep down, I think Peter does too."
Caspian nodded and Edmund just managed to pull himself away from his deep brown eyes. This was really, really not the time.
The rest of the war passed in a flash and Edmund tried very hard to not be distracted by Caspian.
He tried to ignore how Caspian fought like a thunderstorm, blades flashing like lightning and a roar rumbling at the back of his throat.
He tried to quell the surge of pride in his chest when Caspian refused to kill his uncle, thus deliberately showing how he would be a different, better king.
And when they rode victorious to the Caspian Castle, he tried not to think about how they would probably have to leave soon, and he had not had the chance to sort out his feelings,
much less say anything to Caspian.
So he didn't say anything.
The evening was spent dining and dancing, reminding Edmund of their coronation all those years ago. And of course, Caspian was a good dancer.
Edmund watched him spin first Susan then Lucy across the dance floor. His graceful movements were so much different from the hacking and slashing swordsman he had grown to know.
Lucy finally dragged him to his feet to dance. "Are you alright, Ed?" she asked, face flushed. "You look like you're a thousand miles away."
Edmund smiled. "More like a thousand years."
She nodded, understanding.
Some time later, Edmund noticed that Caspian was missing from the main party and set out to look for him. He found him in a side hallway, looking out a narrow window.
Joining him, Edmund saw that the window was pointed east, toward Cair Paravel.
But instead of looking at the rolling nighttime countryside, Edmund looked over at Caspian. He looked more earnest, more mature now. The fury in his eyes had died a bit and he looked at ease.
"Tired of the party already?" Edmund asked.
"I just needed some air." He turned to him. "How long will you and your siblings be staying this time?"
Edmund looked out the window, avoiding Caspian's eyes because if he saw what he hoped to see in them, ignoring the growing warmth in his chest would get a lot more difficult. "I don't know.
" He glanced briefly at Caspian. "Has Peter said something?"
Caspian shook his head. "I know you have your own world, but I wish you would stay and help while everything is settled." He exhaled a laugh. "That makes me sound selfish, I'm sorry."
"Don't be," Edmund said. "I wish we could stay too."
Edmund felt his stomach plummet at Peter's words. "We will?" He had thought he would have more than a couple days of peace in Narnia before having to leave.
"Come on," Peter said, looking solemn and slightly sad. "Our time's up."
He glanced over at Caspian, who looked like he was trying to hide how crestfallen he was.
Edmund probably was not doing as good of a job of hiding it, because Susan nudged him and said quietly, "Don't worry Ed, you and Lu will be coming back."
It was not as heartening as she meant it to be. The last time they had left and come back, Edmund had missed an opportunity he could never get back.
And it looked as though history was going to repeat itself.
But there was nothing he could do. So, he shook Caspian's hand firmly, just like Peter, and wished him all the best.
And he forced himself to not look back as they walked through the doorway, only forward, toward England, and school. It was just a crush; he'd get over it.