Author's Note: A short one, this time. Thanks so much to my fantastic readers and reviewers. You guys are awesome, and I love hearing what you think.

028. Children

Other children, Edmund learned, could be cruel.

The bigger boys would pick fights with Peter (and some of them were much bigger, especially to his six-year-old eyes), leaving his brother bruised and bloody. Edmund couldn't understand why Peter stood to fight, why he didn't just back down or run away, and Peter never told him. All he would say was that he had to, and Edmund would help him clean up late at night, when he didn't want to make Susan or Lucy worry. And every time, he made Peter promise that it would be the last time, even though he knew it wouldn't.

Susan had to endure the taunts of the older girls; girls who teased her for her long, brown hair, calling her plain and ugly. She bore the taunts with a kind of stoic grace, but in the privacy of the room that she shared with Lucy, she let herself cry. She tried to hide it from her siblings, but Edmund knew. He hated the sad look in his sister's eyes, hated the other girls for putting it there. And most of all, he hated not being able to do anything about it.

Lucy, thankfully, was spared the direct cruelty of the other kids at the Orphan School. Even the biggest bullies drew the line at teasing a four-year-old. But, she saw everything that went on with her little family, and she knew what Peter and Susan were going through, as much as they tried to hide it. And Edmund could see how much it hurt her to see her brother and sister being hurt. So, he did the only thing he could. When Lucy came to him in the middle of the night, he held her, and rocked her, and whispered that everything was going to be okay. And sometimes he even believed it, himself.

Other children could be cruel, and Edmund made a vow that he would never be one of them.