WARNING: Should I even issue these anymore? ::shakes head amusedly:: Be warned, you may want tissues if you're easily prone to tears.
Disclaimer: I own nothing in this marvelous universe; it all belongs to C. S. Lewis and Walden Media.
Author's Note: Hello, all my lovely readers ::grins::! Hope your summers are going well (and are far more relaxed than mine ::winks::). At long last I've gotten out this little fic of mine that I've been working on since…I don't know when. It can be seen as a sequel of sorts to Second Nature, and will be a part of a (mostly new) series of one-shots I'll hopefully be turning out whenever inspiration strikes me. All take place in the universe of Brother Lessons, a fic that I'll hopefully be able to post sooner rather than later as it is currently undergoing extensive revisions. No worries about Keeping the Faith, Nighttime Demons, or any of my other multi-chapter fics, though. I'm working on those, too. Enjoy!
P. S. This fic was inspired by another I'd read quite a while ago (six months, at least, I think), called Everything. It belongs to GuitarGirl496, so many thanks and a dedication to her!
Summary: Peter finds out…(Siblingfic) (Book and Moviebased) (NO Slash)
Peter's Age: 18
Edmund's Age: 15
Lucy's Age: 13
Susan's Age: 17
Timeframe: Three years after Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair
By Sentimental Star
"You should have hit her back, Ed!"
Edmund winced as his little sister pressed a cool compress to his left cheek where he lay on Peter's bed. "You and I both know how a certain beloved High King would react to that."
Lucy rather thought Susan was the one who should be worried, but didn't say so.
"Even if she is a girl, Ed--"
"She's our sister, Lucy," Edmund interrupted quietly.
"Oh, and a fine sister she makes!" the younger girl retorted hotly.
"Don't tell me to let it go! She had no right, no right!"
"I got her angry, Lu," Edmund opinioned softly.
"But she's never hit you before, Edmund!" Lucy cried, adjusting the cold compress as it slipped, revealing a livid red bruise across his cheek.
"It's my fault. I brought up Narnia and I shouldn't have."
"No, you didn't. I did. You just overheard. And then she started being perfectly beastly and—and--" Lucy was too upset to even speak properly. She adjusted the compress constantly and her hands fluttered with agitation.
She only stopped when Edmund reached up and trapped her hand in place. "Lu?" he asked softly.
The dam burst: "I'm so angry at her, Edmund! And I don't know what hurts worse—the fact that I've lost my best friend or the fact that she's forgotten Narnia!"
Edmund sighed, lightly touching her hair. "I'd say they're about equal, Lu. Thank the stars Peter hasn't forgotten. Lion's Mane, if he had…I'm not sure I'd be able to handle it."
"You don't think he will? He won't, will he, Edmund?" Lucy's question bordered on faintly begging.
Edmund smiled, patting her hand. "Not he," stated with conviction.
"How can you know that, Edmund? I thought I knew Susan best and now…" her trembling voice faded off.
Her brother shrugged, smiling sheepishly. "I can't. But I can believe it—because I believe in him. Trust Aslan, Lucy, He'll help Su come around."
"But when? When, Ed?"
Edmund shrugged again. "I don't know," admitted honestly. "It might be tomorrow. It might be ten years from now…have patience, Lu. She'll find her way back to us."
"Lu, do me a favor, will you?" Edmund asked some time later, when the cold compress had grown warm and Lucy was switching it out. "Don't tell Peter about this. He'll find out soon enough."
Lucy frowned slightly, and was about to reply, when a soft voice spoke up from behind them. "Don't tell me what?"
Lucy whirled around with a cry, dropping the used compress on the quilt as she did so, and Edmund struggled to sit up, keeping the new one in place with one hand. "Peter!" he exclaimed, torn between joy and apprehension.
Their older brother leaned in the doorway of the bedroom he shared with Edmund, arms crossed over his chest and suitcase at his feet. A backpack was slung over his left shoulder.
He took the situation in at a glance: on a sunny afternoon, chill though it was, Edmund and Lucy were inside; Edmund held a cold compress to his cheek, and Lucy looked like she was either about ready to cry or snap at him. They also, for some reason, were on his bed—even though Edmund's would have made more sense because it was closer to the door…
He pressed his lips together, worried and unhappy. This was not the greeting he wanted to receive his first time home since leaving for University. "What happened?"
Edmund went to answer, but Lucy beat him to it, "Ed got into a fight."
"Lucy!" the cry was a protest and came from Edmund.
The younger girl turned to him, frowning. "What? It's true. You got hurt because I--"
"Lu," Edmund interrupted sternly, "we've been through this before. It wasn't your fault."
She sighed, picking up the compress from where she had dropped it. "Oh, all right. I know you'll never say any different."
Edmund smirked warmly (if painfully) at her.
"Will one of you please tell me what's going on?" Peter's voice, when he spoke, was mildly irritated. "Ed got into a fight?" He sounded as if he didn't believe that himself.
There was about two seconds of hesitation before Edmund finally gave in—sort of. He sighed, "She's right. I did."
Peter looked torn between being scandalized and being amused. "Over what? With who?"
"Lucy and Susan," Edmund replied cryptically in answer to the first question. He didn't answer the second.
Thankfully, Peter either didn't notice or chose to ignore it.
With a sigh of his own, he pushed off the door and picked up his suitcase, making his way over to his bed. Sitting on the side not occupied by Lucy, he placed both backpack and suitcase on the floor. "What a greeting I've received: Susan in a temper," he reached out and chucked Lucy's chin with a faint grin, "Lucy without her smile. Edmund in a fight…" Gently, he eased off the cold compress, critically examining the spreading bruise on his brother's cheek, "Over Lucy and Susan, hmm? I hope you gave him as good as you got, in that case. Someone has a mean right hook."
Edmund (and Lucy) were silent. They could hardly tell Peter it was a girl who had hit the younger boy. Least of all that the girl was actually Susan.
"Hang on," Peter frowned, finally noticing something was amiss, more closely studying Edmund's face. "This looks like a handprint."
Edmund pressed his lips together. Once again no information was forthcoming.
Peter looked up. Took note of Edmund's expression. And frowned even more. "Let me see your knuckles." It wasn't a request.
Without a word, Edmund slipped his hand into Peter's. The older teenager's face went tight as he rubbed a thumb tenderly over unblemished skin. "You flaming idiot," he muttered thickly, pulling a startled Edmund almost completely into his lap. "You got yourself into a fight you couldn't even win." A kiss was brushed against his forehead. "It was actually a girl, wasn't it? One of Susan's "friends," I take it."
Edmund just pressed a hand to Peter's chest (over his heart) and leaned his cheek there, pleased to feel his brother's own hand come up and stroke through his hair.
Before any of the three siblings quite realized it, Edmund had fallen fast asleep.
When she noticed her youngest brother sleeping like a little child, all wrapped up in Peter's arms, Lucy smiled sadly and reached out to smooth his hair when it became apparent Peter had noticed it, too, and had frozen out of sheer surprise and not so little worry.
"Not long after you left for Uni," she began explaining softly, "Susan started going out more. That left Ed trying to field everything you had done without Susan's help. Between us, we managed to take care of it. Actually, Ed more than took care of it, and he did it beautifully, too. But he's not as strong as you are, Peter." Her oldest brother immediately opened his mouth to protest, but Lucy held up her free hand. "Wait. Don't interrupt. I mean physically, Peter, and you know that just as well as I do."
"He basically pushed himself to exhaustion, you mean," the older boy surmised unhappily.
Lucy gave him a weak smile. "Basically."
Peter groaned and started gently stroking their brother's hair again. "Sodding, stubborn prat," he muttered.
The younger girl raised an eyebrow, her smile becoming more pronounced. "Be glad he isn't awake to hear that."
Peter grimaced lightly. "Good point."
Unable to help herself, Lucy grinned. "Of course it's a good point. Little sisters always have good points."
In spite of himself, Peter gave a quiet laugh. "And such humility, too!" A wide smile decorated his face, "Well, Queen Lucy, perhaps you'd like to get off your high horse, hmm? And give this wandering vagrant a proper hug."
His little sister smirked warmly. "Wandering vagrant, my arse, High King Peter the Magnificent." But she lightly barreled into his side, careful not to disturb Edmund who really did desperately need his sleep.
"You've been spending entirely too much time around Edmund," he muttered, putting an arm around her shoulders and gently kissing the top of her head.
Lucy grinned and snuggled into his side.
"Lucy?" Peter asked at last, when they had been silent for a while.
"Hmm?" she nuzzled into his shoulder.
"If Ed got into a fight over you and Susan, why isn't she here, too?"
Lucy hadn't wanted to explain, that much was obvious, so he'd decided not to press her—for now, at least.
As it turned out, Peter discovered why far sooner than either of his youngest siblings would have liked.
He noticed it as soon as Susan entered the dining room for supper, apparently a great deal happier now than when he had first returned home. Then, she had barely acknowledged him, now, however…
Peter, where he had been sitting at the table with Edmund and Lucy, abruptly found himself with an armful of exuberant younger sister.
"Oh, Peter, how are you?"
Beside him, he felt Edmund stiffen in his chair.
"Fine, Su," he wheezed out, patting her back and at the same time trying to look over her shoulder at Edmund. Instead, he caught sight of Lucy on the other side of Edmund and frowned slightly, furrowing his brow. Lucy was not smiling, as she had been mere seconds before Susan entered the room.
His littlest sister caught him watching. Flushed. But remained obstinately silent.
"Silent" and "obstinate" were two words he'd never thought he'd use to describe Lucy, let alone in the same sentence.
As he watched, though, something in Lucy's face eased, and she flashed a faint smile in Edmund's direction.
It still wasn't very happy, but rightly surmising Edmund had done something to elicit it, Peter turned his full attention to Susan, who had since settled herself in the chair next to him. His own smile came easily. "So, how have you been, Su? I hear you've been busy lately. Parties, is it?"
The glance cast in Lucy and Edmund's general direction was imperceptible, as was the slight narrowing of her eyes, but Peter noticed it nonetheless, and carefully shelved it away for later contemplation. She gave a small shrug and a beatific smile. "Just a few. You ought to come to one while you're home, Peter. The Wrights are hosting one next week, you know. Everyone's been talking about it."
Peter laughed. "Oh, Su, I couldn't. That would be improper."
"Peter, Samantha was especially eager when she heard you were in town."
Her particular emphasis on "especially eager" did not go unnoticed by Peter, but he chose to ignore it, instead smiling gently at her. "I appreciate the invitation, Su, but I really shouldn't. I'm needed here." Under the table, he lightly touched Edmund's knee.
He was absolutely sure he wasn't imagining it when the younger boy released a nearly silent sigh of relief and relaxed imperceptibly.
Susan must have noticed it, too. She frowned. "Peter, really. It's only one night. Edmund and Lucy are fully capable of taking care of themselves."
Peter gave a warm snort. "'Fully capable?' We are talking about the same siblings, right? Or, at least, the same brother." He grinned at Edmund.
"Pot. Kettle," the younger boy answered simply, deliberately ignoring the sudden grin that wreathed Lucy's face.
Peter also grinned. "My point exactly. You're fully capable of taking care of everyone but yourself."
Smirking, Edmund raised an eyebrow and opened his mouth to retort something along the very same lines…when Susan spoke up, tersely, and not at all joking, "I don't need anyone to take care of me."
It put an end to the light-hearted atmosphere, and Peter was left to wonder (and worry) why Edmund's hand suddenly went to his bruised right cheek.
At that moment their mother came in with supper and both Edmund and Lucy leapt to their feet to help her.
Peter took the time while they were eating to discreetly observe his siblings. When there were conversations, they took place almost exclusively between Lucy and Edmund, between Lucy and their mother, or between Edmund and their mother. When Edmund spoke with Susan there was an underlying current of tension, and Lucy and Susan didn't speak at all. In fact, the two girls seemed set on ignoring each other.
So there was something there.
What was perhaps the most telling, however, was the way Susan studiously avoided looking at Edmund's cheek or Edmund's eyes.
Peter did not like the direction that train of thought was leading him in, especially when it chose that moment to crux.
"I told you I didn't need any help!" the hissed whisper redirected Peter's attention to the threshold between dining room and kitchen. He was just in time to catch Edmund relieving Susan of several cocoa mugs from her overburdened stack of dishware. "Just because Peter is here does not mean--"
"This has nothing to do with Peter," Edmund retorted severely, voice low. "I offered to help because I wanted to. Damn it, Su! When did you become so dense?! In case it's escaped your notice, I love you and will never say any different, no matter how you treat me."
Peter had heard enough. The sound of his chair scraping harshly against the wooden paneling of the floor was sudden and loud, and caused all three of his siblings to jump and spin around to face him as he stood.
There had been no mention of this in Edmund's frequent letters to him. Even Lucy's letters had only hinted at it. He had noticed no mention of Narnia was made in Susan's letters (when she sent them), but had dismissed it as inconsequential.
He was regretting that decision now, and the fear of loss—which had risen so often when Edmund or one of the girls was injured—had returned full-throttle. Only now, it was directed almost exclusively at Susan.
Had they realized he'd been watching, quite a different conversation would have taken place. And it both angered Peter, and broke his heart: when had Edmund felt the need to hide anything from him? When had Lucy not said a word in defense of Susan? And Susan…sweet Aslan, what was he supposed to think of her now?
Because to be brutally honest with himself, he no longer knew. The Susan he remembered was never so callous, and most likely would have been point blank furious if anyone had dared raise a hand to her little brother.
Too angry to think and too choked up to speak, Peter clenched his fists at his sides and glared at her with all the ire his aching heart could muster. Susan shrank back.
Sorrow flooded his face and mixed with the anger, tightening his face so much that it literally ached to look at him.
Lucy took his hand and he swung his head jerkily to face her. The younger girl almost took a step back, but after a moment, squared her shoulders and set her jaw, giving his hand a tender squeeze.
When Peter began to shake in her hold, Lucy prompted swiftly, "Ed."
Edmund immediately dropped the mugs on the table and quickly skirted its edge, coming around to stand in front of Peter. Peter latched fiercely onto his arm, burying his head in the younger boy's hair, inhaling and exhaling shakily.
Feeling his brother tremble against him caused something in Edmund's face to harden.
He could forgive Susan her harsh words. He could even forgive her treatment of him. But the way she had treated Lucy and, especially, what this was doing to Peter…forgiveness would not come so easily.
Without another word—or even sparing a glance at her—he gently pulled Peter out of the room.
Only Lucy remained behind, standing in the doorway between the foyer and the dining room, and wearing such a raw expression of sorrow that Susan was unable to force anything past her suddenly very tight throat. "I hope you know what you did," her little sister began tremblingly. "I hope you realize what it's done. And Aslan, I hope you seek to mend it. You've hurt the two of them far more than you've ever hurt me, and I cannot honestly tell you if it will ever be all right again."
Susan went white and Lucy left the room.
"She slapped you?!"
That was the explosion which greeted Lucy when she slipped into her brothers' room, shutting the door softly behind her. Edmund stood at the center of it, arms crossed over his chest, and watching Peter as he paced the floor in agitation.
Her younger brother did not look particularly annoyed or angry, just tired: "What do you want me to say, Peter?" Edmund sighed as Lucy skirted them to sit on his bed. "Yes, Susan slapped me. She was angry, Peter. How else would you expect her to respond?"
"With some form of restraint!" Peter retorted sharply, coming to a halt in front of Edmund, fists clenched at his sides and shaking from sheer fury. It was clear he was barely restraining himself…from doing something undesirable.
It was, therefore, unsurprising to Lucy when his hands came up to card through Edmund's hair. Their older brother had always been rather a tactile person, and whenever he felt strongly about something, he usually expressed it through some form of touch. As Edmund usually always tended to be in the vicinity when it happened, he also tended to be the one Peter was the most expressive with. They were teased mercilessly (and, by a few, cruelly) because of it.
Neither one ever indicated they cared.
"Even when I was angry with you, even when you scared me half to death, I never raised a hand to you!" the older boy cried. "Any one of you!"
"That is because you are Peter and not Susan," Edmund countered quietly, loosely gripping his brother's wrists.
"She's never hit you before, Edmund!"
"Lucy said the same," Edmund replied with another sigh. "I know. Trust me, I know. But you have to realize…things aren't the same as they were when you left, Peter."
"What do you mean?" he asked miserably.
Edmund sighed, and exchanged a pained glance with Lucy. The younger girl stood up and took Peter's hand, leading their older brother over to sit on Edmund's bed. "You may want to sit down for this, Peter," she advised him quietly, sitting down next to him on the mattress as Edmund knelt in front of him.
Those nine words scared Peter more than anything else he had heard today.
Edmund drew in a deep, shaky breath to steady himself and stated softly, "Peter, she's forgotten Narnia."
Peter's breathing hitched as he stared disbelievingly between his two younger siblings. "What?" he breathed. Lucy started gently rubbing his hand.
Edmund took another deep, not entirely stable, breath, and closed his eyes to shut out the heartbreak coloring Peter's face. "Su's forgotten, Peter. To her, it's as if Narnia didn't ever exist. As if…" he opened his eyes, "Queen Susan the Gentle didn't ever exist. For all intents and purposes," his voice began trembling, "Queen Susan is dead."
The older boy fought to keep his voice steady, "And…Aslan?" not sure if he really wanted to know.
As Edmund squeezed his eyes shut, and shook his head, Lucy took up the narrative, voice terribly quiet, "Whenever we mention Aslan, she says, 'Yes, the old professor was a dear, pretending to be a lion like that.' She thinks of them as games we played as children."
Peter's breathing doubled up. It was clear, even as their older brother leaned back and shut his eyes, trying desperately to regain his equilibrium, that his mind was reeling. "Why didn't you tell me?" Peter finally managed to ask, as his voice cracked.
He opened his eyes when he felt Edmund's hand curl gently around his cheek. When their despairing gray depths locked on his own, the younger boy smiled sadly. "Because we didn't want you looking the way you do now."
"We were just…" Lucy fumbled with the blanket she had pulled around her shoulders, trying to keep it in place with one hand without letting go of Peter's with her other, "we were afraid we might lose you, too."
She squeaked when Peter suddenly grabbed her by the waist and pulled her tightly into his side, kissing her firmly on the forehead. "Never, Lu," he whispered fiercely, before repeating the action with Edmund. "You will never lose me. That I promise you."
When Susan creaked open the door to her brothers' room later that night, she found all three of her siblings sprawled out across Edmund's bed, sound asleep. Peter was protectively caged on either side by the two young ones, whose limbs were flung haphazardly everywhere. Still, they managed to surround him, making it clear they would not let anything touch him if they could at all help it.
Susan felt her conscience twinge. One thing none of the three younger siblings could abide was hurting Peter. For so long he'd protected them, sometimes been the only one to protect them; it was only natural that they would want to return it tenfold. He had a place in their hearts and in their lives that could not easily be broken.
Goodness knows she'd tried. She did not like having to be accountable to Peter when, in the end, he was really only a year older than her.
But somewhere inside her she remembered that he had essentially raised her—essentially raised all of them; had taken care of them when their parents couldn't and nearly gotten killed (several times) because of it.
She knew that whatever debt Peter felt he owed them, for whatever reason his mind had come up with, they, in truth, owed him far more. She knew Edmund and Lucy felt the same—and that, passionately. But she did not like being reminded of those ties to another life, to another Susan.
And when Edmund had reminded her of it, she'd hit him.
Shaking her head, willing her tears not to fall, she crept over to the bed and stood there, gazing down at her beloved siblings for what seemed like endless minutes until her mother entered the room and jumped upon finding her there. "Susan," she gasped, not-so-quietly, and pressed a hand to her chest. "Darling, what are you doing in here?"
Susan merely shook her head again, and rapidly blinked back tears as she tenderly brushed back Edmund's dark hair and tucked one of Lucy's auburn curls behind her ear, before leaning down and softly kissing Peter's cheek.
Their mother was just befuddled enough not to ask when Susan slipped past her into the hall without a word. Nor did she or her oldest daughter notice when Edmund cracked open his eyes and smiled sleepily at Susan's departing back as she headed for the door.