Title: The Cold Truth
Disclaimer: I do not own the Chronicles of Narnia, for which I'm sure the characters are very glad.
Note: The answer to challenge 6 – Truth. This was partially inspired by mangler2florin1's youtube music video set to Simple Plan's "Perfect World", but is not a complete correlation, especially since this is not a deathfic. It is somewhat dark, though. I twisted one of the character's personality, so do not expect one of my usual sibling-bonding fics. Also, this is, of necessity, a bookverse AU.
Susan hesitated at the doorway of the east parlor, the area Lucy had immediately designated 'the family room' the moment they found it on their first tour of Cair Paravel. She watched her three siblings, Peter sitting on one of the large, comfy chairs with Edmund and Lucy playing dice-bowl on the floor, a game that the two would play for hours if not disturbed. And Susan had already ordered that they were not to be bothered at all that evening. Now, it was time for her to put on her own game-face and fulfill the goal that brought her here in the first place.
As she stepped into the room, Lucy was the first to notice her presence. "Susan, you've come to join us!"
Edmund turned his head and gave her a welcoming grin. "Come on, Su, she's beating me again. I need some help here!"
Susan could not help but smile back at her younger brother, the one they had come so close to losing recently. Edmund had changed so much since his experience with the White Witch and then returning to them, to Aslan. However much she wanted to help him, keep that warm smile on his face, that was not her mission. "Sorry, Ed. I came to fetch Peter, I need his help on one of the many projects I have to get done."
Despite protests from all three, Peter eventually rolled his eyes and left with Susan, who led him through the Cair. "What do you need me to do, Susan?"
Having reached her second destination, a little-used room far from any who might overhear their conversation, Susan opened the door for him, and, after following him in, she closed it firmly behind her. Turning to her older brother, her eyes narrowed. "I need you to tell me the truth."
Peter frowned. "The truth about what?"
Susan crossed her arms. "Something is going on, Peter. I don't know what it is, but I can feel it. It has been hanging around you ever since…ever since the Battle of Beruna." Her heart sunk at the guilty look in his eyes. Oh, how she wished she was wrong! "Peter, your face…when Lucy saved Edmund with her cordial, I saw your face. There was something," she took a deep breath and closed her eyes for a moment, hating the memory, "something so wrong in your expression. Peter, what was it? What was that look, what is it I see when I look at you now?"
Peter turned to the side, not looking in her eyes. "I don't think you really want to know Susan." It was not a denial, it was a warning, but Susan could not let this drop.
She grabbed her brother's arm, forcing him to look at her. His blue eyes were cold, like the ice that had so recently melted away in Narnia. "Tell me, Peter. Please, tell me. And tell me the truth," she added as he looked like he was about to tell her a comforting lie.
Peter stared at her, his eyes now piercing. "When Lucy healed Edmund…I was disappointed."
The knot in Susan's stomach tightened, and her heart shouted its rejection of what she was about to hear. "Disappointed about what, Peter?"
The pause seemed endless, yet was over too soon. "I was disappointed that Edmund survived."
Susan could not hold in her strangled gasp. "Peter!" she whispered, half in denial and half in despair. He did not respond, only kept his eyes steady on her. She searched them, hoping to find some sign of a lie, some sign of dark magic that caused her brother to speak like this. There was no lie, no magic, just Peter's familiar blue eyes shining with the horrible truth. "How could you?"
Peter did not even look apologetic at having so bruised her heart. "You asked for the truth, Su. I'm disappointed he lived through the battle, that he ever came back from the Witch at all. Though I suppose he is still useful in his own way, taking some of the burden of kingship and all."
Her soul screaming at his words, Susan brought a hand to her mouth in shock. What had happened to her brother? It was not even as if he acted so differently; if she had not seen the look in his face and sensed some problem, Susan never would have suspected Peter felt this way. "But…you treat Edmund so much better now," she noted, desperately clasping at any strand of hope.
Peter just shrugged. "Lucy only got upset when we fought. I don't know why she cared, but she didn't like it when I hurt Edmund's feelings. Besides, it's not very kingly to treat someone badly, no matter how much they deserve it." And by the tone in Peter's voice, he certainly believed Edmund deserved it.
Susan shook her head, wanting this all to just go away. She began to wish she had never confronted Peter. "He's your brother!"
"He's a no-good traitor, always has been, the little beast. He nearly got us killed, he did get Aslan killed, or have you forgotten that? No, we would be better off without him." He gave Susan a smile that made her sick to her stomach. "Maybe we'll get lucky in the next battle."
That broke the last thread of Susan's control, and with a loud crack she slapped Peter's face as hard as she could. She did not think she could hate anyone more than she hated Peter at that moment. As he rubbed his aching face, Susan thought back to how it had been in the past. When had Peter turned into this? When had he developed this irrational hatred of their younger brother? Surely…surely at some point Peter had loved Edmund, a time she could make him remember and fix this.
A horrible realization dawned on her. There never had been a time. From the moment their parents had brought Edmund home from the hospital, Peter had either ignored or tormented his brother. There had never been jokes that did not have some undercurrent of malice. Peter had not fought Edmund's bullies as he had Susan and Lucy's. There had never been comforting hugs, food snuck from the kitchen at midnight, no soothing of nightmares. There was nothing to fix the relationship between the Pevensie brothers, because there had not been any relationship in the first place: only Edmund striving for the love his brother would never give.
Susan clenched her fists and glared furiously at Peter. "You will never, ever say any of this again, to anyone. I don't care what you feel towards Edmund, you will never tell him that you wished – wish – him dead. You will act as if you care for him as much as for me or Lucy, no matter if you hate him. I will not have him suffer anymore."
Now it was Peter's turn to cross his arms. "Why should I? I don't care if he suffers at all."
It took all her control not to slap him again. Already the red mark on his cheek would take some explaining, so Susan just continued to glare. "Then don't do it for Edmund's sake. I'm…I'm starting to doubt you would do it for my sake." His guilty look confirmed her statement. "If not for Edmund, if not for me, do it for Lucy." At that, Susan knew she had him. Peter would do anything for Lucy; he would probably kill himself if it made Lucy happy. The older girl often resented the favoritism, but now at least it might do some good. "You're right, Lucy hated it when you and Edmund fought. She hates it when you treat him badly, and if you told her that you wished Edmund dead it would crush her. It would destroy the light in her eyes, you know it would!"
Peter hesitated only a moment before nodding. "Alright, then. I'll treat Edmund as if I care he's breathing. For Lucy's sake. You have my word as High King." Then he pushed by Susan, leaving her to sink to the floor of the empty room and weep.
The High King kept his word. No one could tell by his words or actions how he truly felt about his brother. In fact, most Narnians believed them to be the closest of brothers, willing to die for each other, not knowing that only the younger would actually do so. If Marus, a satyr lieutenant, ever wondered why Susan ordered him to keep an eye on Edmund in battle, and never leave his side, when the devoted High King could protect his brother, he never questioned her.
Edmund, Susan daily thanked Aslan, never suspected. He was thrilled that he had finally been accepted by Peter, and in his eyes his older brother could do no wrong. Lucy, too, remained blissfully unaware, never noticing how Susan's eyes tightened when the younger sister had to heal Edmund from a particularly nasty wound gained in the training arena. Neither of the younger Pevensies thought anything of it when Marus took Peter's place as Edmund's sparing partner.
Sometimes Peter's acting was so good that Susan began to doubt that the conversation between the oldest siblings had ever happened. Every once and a while, though, in the aftermath of a victorious battle or a sickness that could not stand against Lucy's cordial, Susan would see that same look on Peter's face. The look that made her shiver from the coldness in those blue eyes, and hug her younger brother a little more tightly than usual. Edmund, of course, would ask her what was wrong, but Susan would force a smile and tell him how much his siblings loved him.
She would never tell him the truth.