Disclaimer: The characters belong to C.S Lewis. The plot is mine.
Now Look at What You've Done
Author's Note: New warnings in chapter three for those opposed to the violence. I have also increased the rating to T just to be safe. The author is aware of child abuse and is strongly against the abusive use of corporal punishment. This chapter has been revised.
The next morning Mrs Macready came up early to collect the tray. She seemed to want to say something snarky but the sight of Peter's back had shocked her greatly. The Professor must have been very angry at the boy, she thought. She said nothing when she saw that the jug was filled with the bloodied water but it had chilled her. She glanced at Peter's youthfulness when he slept. Though she could not see his face, she could see that he was only just a teenager. His slender and pale form made him look even younger. Mrs Macready found herself reluctantly feeling sympathetic towards the young...man. He's not a boy anymore; she observed with a hint of sadness, he doesn't really have a choice. Somehow, Mrs Macready felt very convincingly that he was innocent.
Susan woke and saw her brother's bruised and bloodied back and sighed. It wasn't just a nightmare after all. Peter had slept on his stomach, shirtless, for comfort. She felt loathe to wake up him, to bring him back into this world of pain. Susan could see that Peter would be sore for days. She knew that he would hide it too but she would notice. How stiffly he sat at the dinner table. How he would wince when something brushed his back. How he bit his lip to stay silent. She would see it all. He would tell her in that infuriatingly selfless yet genuinely cheery tone, "I'm fine. Don't worry." Susan would be at his side anyways, the gentle nurse as always.
Susan's musing was interrupted when she heard Peter stir. "Don't get up yet," Susan said. "Rest." She emphasised the word in hope that her stubborn older brother would listen. He mumbled sometime like I'm fine and then groaned as he rolled onto his side. His eyes opened to see Susan in her nightgown, her hands on her hips.
"Peter!" Susan scolded in mock anger but her smile betrayed her. She reached out to steady Peter, ready to hold him if he felt sick.
Very slowly and painfully, Peter sat up on the bed.He dressed awkwardly and looked away so Susan wouldn't see his grimace.
Lucy had woken up and bounced straight onto Peter's lap, a bundle of energy. She looked up at him adoringly with her chocolate brown eyesand hugged him tightly. "Peter! Are you feeling better today?"
Peter stiffened at Lucy's touch. Lucy looked slightly hurt and her face fell. "Much better, Lulu." Peter attempted a smile but Susan could tell that Lucy's touch was paining him. She carefully pulledLucy away without opening any of his cuts.
"Lucy, you'll strangle him," Susan tried to joke. "Be careful. Come here darling. You ok?" Susan asked Peter.The elder sisterheld Lucyand tickled her.The younger sistergiggled and squealed, her hurt all forgotten.
Peter nodded tiredly. "I'll be fine." He gave both his sisters a small smile to assure her.
Instead of calling the Pevensie children down for breakfast Mrs Macready brought it up. For the poor child, she thought. "Here is your breakfast children. Don't make a mess." But Susan noticed that she said this less sternly than usual and smiled. On the breakfast tray, Mrs Macready had also put an extra jug of water, antiseptic cream and bandages.
"Thank you, Mrs Macready," Susan said earnestly. It had saved Susan the hard job of asking and she sighed in relief. The last thing Peter needed was more pain from an infection.
Susan sent Edmund to play with Lucy, while she tended to Peter's back. Edmund was glad to be outside. He had heard enough. As he left the room, Susan saw his face crumple with guilt as he eyed the bandages. Susan had noticed Edmund stealing glances at Peter all through breakfast, watching his older brother push his food around on the plate. Susan sighed again.
"You ok?" Peter asked in a concerned voice.
He is always trying to care for everyone, Susan found herself grinning. "Are you ok? I'm worried about you." Susan put her hand on Peter's forearm.
"I'm fine." At her frown, he relented. "Ok...it hurts...a bit."
Susan doubted that it really was 'a bit' and more like 'a lot' but she knew that he'd never say it. She knew Peter all too well and he'd never worry her like that. I think that is precisely why I worry about him all the time! Boys, she thought grumpily. With this thought she cleaned Peter's back a little more roughly than intended and he gave a small groan.
"Sorry, Peter." Susan's cool hands found the back of Peter's neck and she massaged it lightly, feeling him relax under her nimble fingers. "I'm sorry." For everything, she added in her mind. For all those times I've hurt you. I never meant to hurt you. She couldn't bring herself to say those words, instead she unscrewed the jar of antiseptic cream. This would probably sting a lot, Susan cringed silently.
"Don't." Peter's voice was muffled. Then he lifted his head from the pillow and said clearly, "Don't. Please." He had never pleaded with her in this way and Susan found it hard to refuse him.
"Peter…" Susan began. "The last thing you need is an infection. You-"
"I meant…" Peter propped himself up on his elbows with a grunt. He turned around to look at Susan. Blue eyes met hazel. "Don't. Don't be sorry." She stopped. His sister's eyes widened in realisation of what he said. He smiled shyly at her before lying down again.
"Oh Peter." How could I hurt him after he says something like that? Susan thought sadly. She found herself unable to say anything more. Instead she leaned forward and kissed him briefly on the neck. She could see him smile. Then she dipped her finger into the pungent ointment and liberally applied it to Peter's wounds.
The antiseptic cream stung agonizingly and Peter found himself trying to be stoic but failing.
"You don't always have to be so strong Peter," Susan said. "It's only me here. It'll be ok." Four words hung in the silence between them: I'm here for you.
Peter understood. He succumbed.
Outside, Mrs Macready froze as she heard Peter's cries. She had been about to collect the tray but the door was closed. She debated on opening the door until she had heard the quite sobs inside.
"I wish that you hadn't been so hard on the poor boy," Mrs Macready said as she placed the Professor's breakfast tray on his table. "Now look what you've done. The poor boy."
"He'll be fine. He's a tough one. These London kids are spoiled and not to be mollycoddled. He's learnt his lesson." The Professor spoke with a tone of finality and Mrs Macready gave him one last look and left. This time, she did not agree with him.
I did the right thing, the aged professor told himself. It was for the best.
Edmund didn't have the courage to approach his brother until a day later. He had been very quiet. Susan was washing Lucy's hair in the upstairs bathroom.
"Peter?" Edmund was hesitant.
Peter was sitting on the bed, reading a book. Edmund noticed that he was not leaning against the headboard like he normally did but on a pillow. There was also the faint odour of antiseptic cream that lingered in the room. "Yes, Edmund?" He put his book down lightly on the covers.
"I'mreallysorry." Edmund said as he stood at the foot of his older brother's bed.
"Come closer," Peter said. He really wanted to hug his brother and stop him from moping around. He could see that Edmund was torn up with guilt but he had wanted to wait until the younger boy took the initiative.
Edmund shuffled closer to Peter with his head bowed. "I'm sorry," he said desperately. "Are you going to…t-to punish me?"
"No. It's alright, Little brother. It's done." He held a repentant Edmund by both his shoulders. "Look at me." Edmund look at his older brother with eyes brimming with shame. "I never blamed you," Peter said lovingly. "Why can't you just do as you're told?"
"But…but why did you do it?" Edmund looked relieved yet confused. "You must hate me now. You never even liked me. Don't you want me to pay?" His lip trembled slightly and he ducked his head.
"Oh Edmund," Peter said softly. "I never did like you… I loved you. That's why I did it. I don't want you to pay, I just want you to be safe and happy. I could never hurt you like that. I promised Mother that I would take care of all of you. That's for always, not just when you listen to me."
"I'm so sorry Peter." More than you'll ever know, Edmund thought a he closed his eyes. The younger boy held his older brother, careful not to press too hard on his back. "I'll try not to let you down again." Edmund sniffled slightly.
"It's alright. I know." Peter ruffled Edmund's hair. He knew that Edmund had learned his lesson.
Susan and Lucy saw the two brothers locked into a hug and ran in to join them. Susan took one look at Edmund in Peter's arms and forgave him.
I'm going to take care of all of you, Peter thought protectively, even to the death.
Susan looked at him and squeezed his hand as if she knew what he was thinking. "You'll always have us Peter. You're not alone."
Mrs Macready paused at the door, holding the tray for lunch. She smiled, not quite wanting to interrupt this moment. The Pevensie children were really something special, she thought. And they were.
It took a month before Susan's gentle hands nursed Peter to a full recovery.
Sometimes when Edmund looked really closely at his brother, he could still pick out the scars on Peter's back when his older brother wasn't looking. The pale scars were not very noticeable but Edmund always seemed to be able to see them.
Peter had only disclosed the full details of that night to one person: Susan. He had told her once at the lake, after they had been swimming. As traced the scars on his back, she vowed that she would take care of Peter because he was always taking care of everyone else.
The incident was not brought up between the two brothers ever again but Edmund would never doubt his brother's love for him. Edmund knew. Every single time his brother gave him that look and told him to do as he was told. He knew why.