A/N: I'm not sure where this came from, it's quite angsty. I love the relationship between Peter and Susan, I think it's possibly one slightly neglected by the movies and I find it very interesting. This oneshot centres on Peter's feelings about Susan's loss of faith. Not incestuous in any way, shape or form, just sibling love.
Also, I couldn't help but feel that my writing dropped a little in standard of late, but I thought this one returned to my usual standard. It's for all of the lovely people who take the time to read and review my stories! Please, please review, I'd love to know what you think and criticism is welcome :)
The door to the dance hall opens suddenly, sending a cold blast of air swirling among the hazy, alcohol-soaked revellers. Loud welcomes die in the mouths of those nearby. He is clearly here on business and not on pleasure. He is the only man in the hall with his second-to-top button done up, who doesn't smell of cheap booze and women.
The tall, blond man surveys the room coldly, before starting to pick his way single-mindedly across. His steps tap smartly on the stained wooden floorboards, clean and sober, carefully avoiding the shattered glasses. The crowd shrink back from him, exchanging glances and muttering. He is here to take one of them away, that much is clear. A few of the sillier girls flutter their eyelashes and smile enticingly, but he barely gives them a look, brushing them away and continuing towards a smoky, dim corner.
There she sits, the social queen, with an attentive man on each side and a ring of admiring girls listening to the drunken tale she is loudly regaling them with. One by one, they become aware of his serious presence, stood with taut patience on the outside of the circle, and drop into silence until she is giggling and spinning her story alone.
His voice is harsh and gratingly clear.
Susan, where have you been? You should have been home ages ago. Mum and Ed and Lucy were worried sick. Come on, I'm taking you home.
She looks up, squinting at him, and then gives a wide smile, dragging a cocktail off a nearby table and holding it unsteadily out to him.
Don't be such a bore, Peter. Why don't you join us?
He bites back the barrage of furious refusals, that he will never ever join her because she is asking him to do so much more than share a cocktail with her. She wants him to let go. To forget, as she has. She wants him to fall along with her, because she never was any good at being alone.
No, Susan. We're going home.
There's a hint of danger in his voice that she should recognise, and she does, after a moment. She clunks the glass offered to him and her own back down onto the table, and hauls herself up with none of the grace she once possessed. She turns and gives an exaggerated pout to her attendants-
Sorry, boys, not tonight.
Peter hopes fervently that she means hearing the rest of the story, because he does not want to think about what else she may be implying. One of the men, the smarmy, rat-faced one, snatches at her hand. He will not let his prize go so easily.
So who's he, your nanny or something? Have another drink, Susie, ignore him.
Peter grits his teeth and wills himself not to punch the man. He loathes to hear her innocent childhood nickname, which she had tolerated only from his lips when they were adults in another world, twisted and dirtied into something suggestive and vulgar.
No, she will not. Excuse us.
He winds an arm of iron around her waist, and steers her firmly away, back through the crowd, out of the doors. She shivers a little in the cold. What had happened to his practical Susan? This one was in such a hurry to get to her parties that she forgot her coat and the biting chill of the London nights. He shrugs his jumper off and wordlessly hands it to her. She accepts it without a fuss, because after all it is cold and somewhere inside her she knows that he is not trying to baby her, as she had claimed a few times before. She staggers heavily on the steps, tripping and almost falling, but he pulls her close to him, catching her as he always has and always will. She smells of drink and strong perfume and his jumper. He bundles her into the automobile and then clambers in himself, and they begin the drive home in stony silence.
He looks over after a few minutes to find that she has drifted into sleep. Now, even under the smudged make-up and the slightly torn dress, he can see his younger sister. How fiercely he misses her. Lucy sobs and pleads and begs her to remember, Edmund regards her with a simmering rage, liable to explode at any moment. Peter goes back and back and back again over everything that has been said and done and tries to find a way to make this his fault, because then she won't have to suffer the pain at the end of the fall and maybe he can make it alright, but he never does. It isn't really his fault, and he can't find a way to fix it no matter how hard he searches. Hers is a slow destruction, gentle, as she was once called. It is the agonising crumbling away of everything she once was to them, until they are left with a stranger whose face is their Susan's, and even that she tries to cover and smother with powder and paint. A whole third of him is hers, and oh, how she makes him bleed.
He has to pull the automobile over. He can't see the road with his sight so blurred. It has been a long, long time since last he cried like this, helpless and frustrated and burning to save her if only she'd let him. He wants to gather all the shattered pieces of her together in his arms and make her his Gentle Queen again, but they are so many and so lost, he's no longer sure he can.
There's a slurred mumble from the passenger space, and then a little gasp as she notices that he's crying. Then she's there, pulling him close, and for a bittersweet moment she is his Susie again. She fumbles for a handkerchief, clumsily wiping his tears away, and then he crushes her to his chest because he's got to be near her every second that she's here, even if it could just be the drink that's taken down her walls. She doesn't object at all for the first time in a while, but presses closer to him, savouring the contact and protected feel she has long been craving, although sober, she would never admit it. Sober, she has convinced herself that she doesn't miss it. At some point, she starts to cry also, because deep inside she knows that she has hurt him, and Edmund and Lucy. She melts into his embrace as she has not allowed herself to do for a long time, and eventually, when they are wet with one another's tears, she slips into a deeper, more wholesome slumber.
Peter collects himself forcibly, and then drives on.
When they arrive home, he hasn't the heart to wake her, and he doesn't want to snuff out this fragile hope that has kindled in his chest. So instead he lifts her out of the automobile and carries her carefully into the house, cursing softly at the door handles. He supposes that he should be grateful, that she is merely sleeping and not struggling to haul in pained, gasping breaths, that his hands are not slick and red with her blood as they had been too many times in another place, another life. But this steady perishing of the brightness in her eyes and the faith in her heart is almost worse than life-threatening wounds. At least with those, he can press desperate hands against the bleeding and whisper comfort into her listening ear, and bear her away to somewhere safe. With those, he can take all the blame for not being strong enough or fast enough to protect her, so that it is he who is torn apart and not her. He'd take a thousand arrows for her, a thousand sword strokes. He'd breathe his last breath for her, bleed himself dry for her, for any one of his younger siblings. But he is utterly powerless against a willing, self-inflicted destruction. He cannot take the blows she rains with a fierce perseverance upon herself, although heaven knows he's tried.
He succeeds in opening the door without dropping Susan, and creeps into the living room. He had sent Edmund and Lucy to bed some time ago, and Mother is slumped over in her chair with a frown carved into her brow, fast asleep, still awaiting their return. He will see to her when he is done with Susan.
She's heavier than he remembers, or it could be that he is weaker. Here there is no Centaur general to bark instructions in his ear and force him out on long runs in full armour, and though strong, he is sure that he is physically far from what he once was. Nonetheless, he creaks up the stairs, wincing at the noise, and reaches the room Susan and Lucy still share, despite them both growing up and in different ways. He lays her as gently as he can on her bed, tugging off her shoes and sliding out her hairpins. He doesn't really want to sleep himself, to acknowledge that the day is over, because today he saw a precious glimpse of her and they are getting so far between that he can never be sure if each is the last he will see, and tomorrow she could wake up and paint on all her falsehoods again. He sits and stares, keeping vigil for far longer than he should, and then eventually whispers a second loving goodnight to a sleeping Lucy before he crosses back to Susan. He drops a kiss on her forehead and sends up yet another prayer that his sister might be finally returned to him, then pads into his own room to bid Edmund an equally tender goodnight and then fall exhaustedly into his bed, hope flickering painfully in his chest.
In the morning Peter wakes to see his jumper folded too neatly on the end of the bed, and he hears Susan's bright, fake laughter downstairs, and his heart breaks all over again.
A/N: I like to think that Susan got to Aslan's Country in the end and rejoined her family. Please review, I'd love to know what you thought :)