Petra Arkanian never expected her last name to change to Delphiki; in fact, she hadn't known the name at all until after Battle School, until she was told that Bean had a real name, an actual name that parents would have given him, instead of the degrading moniker he had picked up on the streets of Rotterdam. Even after she learned his last name, it didn't occur to her that someday it would be her own. But time had passed and now she wasn't just Petra Delphiki, she was Petra Delphiki Wiggin.
Had she expected the change to Wiggin? More so than Delphiki perhaps, but not in the way that it had turned out. Petra had known Peter Wiggin only by name for a long time, even after Battle School, but still, she had dreamed of someday becoming Petra Wiggin. Not Mrs. Peter Wiggin; Mrs. Andrew. Mrs. Ender.
Maybe she was just as shallow as the rest of the world, and she only liked Ender because he was so good at what he did. But she knew that wasn't true. She knew that she had known him like few others had. He had depended on her, and she had let him down.
Peter looked like Ender, but not enough for her to pretend that he was his brother. Not that she would, even if it was possible. She still had her dignity, and she respected Peter too much to do that to him.
Petra Delphiki Wiggin lay in bed next to the prone body of her husband, the Hegemon. Her second husband, after Julian. In a way she barely considered herself married to Peter after all: she did not consider herself divorced or widowed, no matter Julian had done. It had been several years on Earth. How long, for Julian? Weeks? Days? Did he still ache for her the same way she ached for him? Time had dulled her wounds, but even with Peter silently standing beside her to support and protect her, she would never be healed. Not completely.
Peter reached out and took her hand, nuzzling her shoulder gently. "What are you thinking about?" he asked.
She blinked, realizing that she had been staring straight up at the ceiling. She answered, "Space."
He raised an eyebrow. "Space," he said.
"Space," she repeated, almost nodding. He said no more, waiting for an elaboration. "It seems that space has torn me away from everything that I have ever really cared about," she said bitterly. "My home and my family. Ender. And then my husband. Between he and I, there are light-years of empty, lifeless space." A pause. "I hate it."
Instead of saying something like You have every right to and holding her close, Peter hesitated shortly. She noticed, but she said nothing.
And then, quietly, he simply asked, "Ender?"
She hadn't been thinking when she had said his name, and she suddenly realized how much it must have hurt Peter. Like a blow straight to the heart. She reminded herself that she was not the only one in pain; Peter's wounds, the slow, consuming jealousy that had driven every action since his childhood would never heal either, but for different reasons. Petra doubted that he hated Ender, but she understood the bitterness he felt, knowing that everyone he cared about seemed to care about Ender more.
Petra kissed him on the lips. He barely responded, his eyes looking through her, hard and impenetrable. She wrapped his arms around him, calmly closing her eyes, but her mind was racing – she was desperate to say something to alleviate his fears, something to help him kiss her back, something to remind him that she loved him now. And that was what mattered.
Nothing came to mind, and even if it did, she didn't have the strength to say it. Peter was fragile, similar to the way Julian had been. But at the same time, so completely unlike the way Julian had always been. She fell asleep resting her head gently on his shoulder, while he rigidly held her, his eyes open and shining in the darkness.
When she awoke, a thrill of panic went through her body as she realized the bed beside her was empty.
She took a deep breath, patting down her urges to spring into action. Thinking rationally again, she knew that he had probably left the bed as soon as she was asleep, troubled by her words. Guilt began to tug gently at her insides, but she banished it immediately. She needn't feel sorry for herself. She would find Peter, reassure him with a kiss or a touch, and bring him back to bed so he could forget about her stupid reference to a boy who wasn't even out of starflight yet.
Peter wasn't in the kitchen, weeping at the table. He wasn't in the living room, sitting alone with the children's toys. He wasn't even in the bathroom, puking his bad feelings into the toilet.
She found him in Andrew's room, which shouldn't have surprised her.
Andrew had his own bedroom, unlike his brothers and sisters. Bella and Poke were attached at the hip, being outnumbered by the boys in the family, and had insisted on bunk beds in their room. Ramon always dogged his older brothers in whatever they did, and while Julian had consented to sharing a room, Andrew had claimed that Ramon was too annoying to spend the nights with in the same small space. Andrew was somewhat fussy, a little snobby, and almost frighteningly smart. Petra had never said it aloud, but the child almost reminded her of Peter more than Bean.
Andrew was fast asleep. Peter was sitting on an old rocking chair beside the boy's bed, his eyes on Andrew's face, slowly rubbing Petra's son's small hand.
She stood in the doorway. She knew that he was aware of her presence, but she wasn't about to speak, to tear him away from this silent moment with his adopted son.
Then, quietly, Peter said, "He looks like him."
For a second, Petra wasn't sure who he meant.
"He looks like Bean, I mean."
A pause. "Except..."
"Bigger?" offered Petra, a small smile appearing on her face.
Peter almost laughed, but it sounded a little too much like a sob. "Yeah," he said. "That's probably it."
Silence. Petra took a step forward and put a hand on her husband's shoulder, then leaned down and kissed her son on the forehead. The little boy shifted slightly in his sleep, but otherwise remained undisturbed.
Petra said, "I love you, Peter."
Hesitation. "Do you mean that?"
She didn't bother answering that, because even if he couldn't admit it to himself, he already knew the answer. "Why is this so hard for you?" she asked quietly. "Why is it so difficult for you to believe that somebody loves you?"
Peter blinked, then ran his free hand down Andrew's small body, smoothing the sheets on top of him. "I don't know why, Petra," he whispered. "I don't know why."
Before Petra could say anything more, Peter bent down and pressed his lips to the crown of Andrew's head, gently brushing the child's hair with his hands.
Andrew wiggled slightly, then his eyes fluttered open. Instinctively, his arms went up, curled around Peter's neck. The boy was barely awake, but one clear word slipped from his lips before either Peter or Petra could tell him to go back to sleep.
"Daddy?" murmured Andrew.
Peter held Petra's son for a moment, then pulled away.
"Goodnight, Andrew," he said quietly. "I love you, kid."
"I love you too," replied the child sleepily, and, then Peter left the room, and Petra followed.
Peter stood in the hallway outside Andrew's room for a long time, and Petra stood with him, waiting.
It was only when Andrew's gentle snores became audible again that Peter allowed himself to hold onto his wife and cry quietly into her shoulder.
My views on Peter/Petra have very much changed in the past few months. I used to think that Peter deserved someone who loved him first, and that as beautiful as Petra and his love was, there should have been someone else. But I do believe I was wrong about that. I don't think Peter was ready for any kind of love by the time Petra and Bean were together, because he didn't have any friends and he didn't know how to be liked or how to like other people, and he always fell short to himself, and he couldn't even love himself and he was so bitter and cynical. He had no idea how to love. Petra and Bean, I think, taught him absolutely what it means to be in love. And somewhere alone the way he just found himself drawn to that kind of relationship, but he didn't know how to do it with anyone, and so, really, Petra is the only woman he could have ever loved. She knows him better than most people. As terrible as it sounds, if Bean hadn't left, I don't think Peter would have ever found real love.
This realization hits home for me, because it means that in a way, Bean's leaving did a very, very good thing for the people he loved. It's...tragically beautiful? Tragically fortunate, maybe. Unfortunately fortunate? Who knows? Peter Wiggin means a hell of a lot to me personally, and he's filled with so much pain and regret and self-hatred for what he did to his little brother, I can really see him seeking some serious redemption from those who love him. He is easily loved, but he doesn't even know that yet. That's something Petra is trying to show him, at this point.
Sorry for rambling on; the Peter/Petra dynamic is one of the best relationships in the entire series, even though we got so little of it. I think I love it so much because I didn't see it coming at all (the little "I love you" at the end of Bean's letter - the sweetest, most shocking thing in the series, I love Peter so freaking much it hurts) and yet it makes so much sense. Now I've written so much you've probably forgotten what the story was about, haha, but anyway, tell me your thoughts, both on the story and on Peter Wiggin and on Peter/Petra.
Thanks for reading!