Disclaimer: Peter Pevensie and all the characters and situations in the Chronicles of Narnia belong to C. S. Lewis and not to me.
WHEN HE COMES BACK
She turns big brown eyes up to him as he sits beside her, knowing the look has always tugged at his soft heart and gotten her her own way before.
She is rewarded by a tinge of uncertainty and even pain in his eyes. She loves his eyes, blue and calm and shining as summer sky, eyes that hold something inexplicably, deeply complex and mysterious and, at the same time, something as pure and simple as truth. Those eyes are what first drew her to him, more than his tall, finely muscled body and flawlessly handsome face or the low, sweet tones of his voice. More than the golden hair that crowns him as he sits here bareheaded at a drizzly London street corner.
It is the word that first and always comes to her mind when she sees him. She doesn't know why. He's just a working-class boy, barely out of university, no different from thousands of others. And yet–
And yet, he is.
Even in his humble, easygoing simplicity, he is somehow magnificent.
This time she whispers the words, making them sweet and intimate as she nestles against him, one soft hand caressing his clean-shaven cheek, lips tantalizingly close to his. She sees a little spark kindle in those eyes she loves, one he's been carful to keep contained, stayed by high ideals of honor and integrity, but one she knows is there. It occurs to her that, if someday they were to marry, she need never worry that he might stray. His principles are ingrained and not based on circumstance. It is all his nature to stay true.
He is ever and always the perfect gentleman, chivalrous she might have said if it didn't sound so old fashioned. Yes, chivalrous suits him. Magnificent.
"I have to," he breathes against her cheek, the words warm and trembling, the touch of them enough to make her own heart flutter. "It won't take long."
"Why do you have to go at all?"
He sighs. It's not the first time she has asked this, but she hadn't liked the answer he had given her before, so she tries for a different one.
"I have to," he says again. "Ed's waiting for me."
"You're going to see another girl," she accuses, even though she knows it's just to bait him.
He only laughs. She loves his laugh, soft and warm.
"Don't be daft. Why would I take Edmund along if I were going to see another girl?"
She pouts. "You take him everywhere else."
There is something infuriating about the closeness of these two brothers, something she doesn't understand. And, yet, it is something strong and pure and incredibly sweet, something intrinsic to her love for him, something that makes him who he is. After months of silent scrutiny, she isn't sure his brother is quite convinced she's worthy of him. At least he doesn't look at her quite so searchingly anymore with his fathomless dark eyes, eyes that, consciously or not, make her feel as though she's been weighed and found wanting.
"I don't take him everywhere else." There's a touch of humor in the blue eyes now. "Not everywhere."
There's a touch of resentment in her tone, though she offsets it with a grudging little grin. They've had this conversation before.
"We've–" He shrugs a little. "We've been through a lot together. More than most brothers, I expect. I've told you before."
"But you've never told me what." They've had this conversation before, too. "What have you been through together? I know you were sent off to the country during the war, but nothing ever happened there. No bombings or anything. And then you came home and went back to school. What have you been through? Why won't you tell me?"
As usual, there's a wistful, faraway look on his face, and she can see that he's torn deciding exactly what he should and shouldn't say. As usual, he repeats what he has told her before.
"You wouldn't believe me, love. No one would."
"Tell me. Please tell me." She takes both of his hands in her small, lace-gloved ones, squeezing them as hard as she can. "If you love me, please tell me."
He looks at her for a long while and then glances behind him. Who did he think to see? Whose trust might he think would be broken with this telling? He looks back at her, looks deeply into her eyes, and gives her an uncertain little smile.
"I love you. You know I love you." He draws a deep, steadying breath. "Let me just take care of what I have to now, and then I'll come back and tell you everything. You'll think I'm mad. You'll never believe it, but I swear on my honor it's true. And you know I love you."
She laughs an almost silent laugh. No other young man in these modern times swears by his honor, but there's no other young man she's certain she need not doubt. Still it's not enough for her. She hasn't won yet.
"If you love me, you'll tell me now."
"Darling, I can't. The train's due any minute. Edmund is waiting for me. We have to meet our sister and cousin and some other friends and–"
"If you love me, you'll stay."
"I can't stay."
His blue eyes plead for her understanding. Her only response is a pout and petulant refusal to look at him.
"Please, darling. I won't be gone long, and I'll tell you everything. Love me enough to give me a few minutes. Please."
She does not respond.
"I love you," he says at last, a wistful sort of plea, and still she doesn't look at him.
Seconds pass, and she knows he's waiting. She knows his eyes are on her, tender and hurt, his every emotion laid bare for her to see, but she doesn't look at him. Finally he lifts her hand and brings it to his lips, touching it with a warm, achingly tender kiss.
When she hears the quick sound of retreating footsteps, she looks up, and her eyes widen.
She stands halfway, one hand on the back of the bench to support her, and her voice is loud enough to turn a few heads, but he's already lost. Lost in the crowd. Lost to her sight.
She sinks back down, wanting to cry. She is crying.
"I love you." The words are barely a murmur now. "I don't care what it is. I don't care if you never tell me or if you do and I don't understand any of it. I love you. I love you."
She dabs at her eyes with her little lace handkerchief and manages a smile. She'll tell him. She'll tell him as soon as he comes back.
The very minute he comes back.
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