When the desperate letter is discarded (no, little brother) and the heartfelt plea is over (never, little sister), Susan seats herself on the kitchen ledge, and waits, legs swinging. The knock on the door is expected, but awful, she almost pretends she is not home. But she has not been home for a long time now, and Peter never did mind.
The door swings open. Two feet and two worlds now lie between them. Susan defies, as she always has.
He stands quietly in her doorway, undemanding, the one sibling who never rebuked her and yet the one who asks the most of her. Because no matter what she says to Edmund, no matter what she tells Lucy as she turns her gilded back, this is the basest betrayal. She enacts it anyway.
"I'm busy," she invents, "prior arrangements, you know. I'm so sorry, do give them my love." And oh, she tosses this word around so lightly like a feather on the wind, never flying quite the way she wants it to, drifting off on its own journeys till she's forgotten where, exactly, she wanted it to go.
He bows his head, his jaw clenches, he will not push. Susan, Susan, tender as ever and she cannot accept that now.
"I am sorry, Peter," she murmurs and they both know the other is misunderstanding. "Next time?"
It is a hollow offer from a hollow girl in a hollow world, but he takes it, because he always does, because he always will take her, sins and all. Peter, Peter, Peter, please? Wisps of childs' voices mutter in her ears, ghosts of daisy chains and garlands in her hair and a time when brother meant safe, not en garde. That time is gone, and with it a castle in the air (on the sea) where Princesses (Queens) ruled in all their fair glory. The day has passed, it is night now, and she can build her own fire (and burn on it).
Gentle, hesitant hands tilt her chin up, blue eyes searching hers so plaintively she wants to comfort the little boy all over again. "I am fine," she exclaims rather petulantly, even to her own ears, but she cannot bear the alternative. "I hope you enjoy yourselves - the old Professor is so charming and quaint. I'm sure it'll be fun, revisiting our childhood. Now, you should go, Peter, you'll miss the train." She smiles, dried lipstick tugs at her mouth, her cheeks flame with rouge and anger and sorrow and a deep regret she cannot quite countenance.
"I'll hurry," he says softly, and turns. For one unbearable moment they are caught in the tangle of their own making, double crosses and averted gazes and the raw wounds coated with bright smiles and polite conversation. Then, swiftly, he catches her in an embrace that is all memory and no substance, or rather all his love and her weakness.
"Goodbye," she mutters, and watches as the sunlight crowns his golden hair as he turns the corner.