|fic - for 5_nevers
||[Dec. 23rd, 2006|11:58 pm]
title: Selective Sight: 5 things Susan never saw
fandom: Chronicles of Narnia
summary: Susan is perceptive and self-centered. Never a good combination. Centers around her point of view of Peter and Edmund, and the things she never saw happen between them.
After the war, when Papa was home again, they moved into a small house with only three bedrooms. Susan and Lucy had the room facing the west, while the boys took the tiny closet masquerading as an actual bedroom for their own. When school started, and Mamma got terribly sick, she again became the mother to the two little ones, though Edmund was now taller than her by three inches.
Susan never saw how Peter would gently shake Edmund awake, uncurling white fingers from where they fisted on Peter's bedspread. She never saw Edmund's bedspread, how the creases there were less pronounced, more forced than those on Peter's, as if trying to drive the point home that someone sleeping there, and no beds were being shared. She never saw how Edmund's head would angle upwards to kiss Peter's cheek, and on one fateful day, his mouth.
Susan notes differences. She sees how pale Edmund has become in the long days of Peter at boarding school, and how golden Peter is when he comes home on breaks, brimming with stories and gifts and hugs for the girls but only hearty slaps in the back for Edmund. Susan combs her hair before she puts in the curling papers, and thinks enviously of Edmund's own dark curls, how stark they look against his cheekbones as he leans against the windowsill, watching Peter bring girls home for dinner with the family. She begins to notice that the girls all look alike, short and bony, with bobbed curly hair and large grey eyes.
One day, warned that Peter would bring another girl home, Edmund climbs the apple tree in the backyard, and he stays there, munching on sour half-ripe apples, too lazy to reach for the riper ones.
"Symbolic," Lucy comments, as she picks flowers for the centerpiece. Peter shows up half an hour before dinner, and Susan tells him to call Edmund for dinner. She does not ask about the bright red mark on his cheek, or if she should set an extra place for the guest.
Two minutes later, Lucy comes running into the kitchen, strewing summer wildflowers behind her.
"They're fighting," she says to Susan, who shrugs silently and takes out the roast from the oven. She knows it's not her place to interfere between Peter and Edmund, because there are just some things you don't talk about, some things you don't mess with.
And so, Susan never sees how Edmund launched himself at Peter, remorseful, apologetic Peter, and pummeled him with his fists and his tears and his rage. She wasn't there to see how Peter finally took Edmund into his arms and sighed, feeling a completion he never found with all the girls he brought home for dinner, and how Edmund's hands fisted tightly in Peter's hair as their foreheads banged together before they kissed.
Wintertime comes and Susan is sixteen and lovely. Boys come to see her and take her out to picnics and movies and whatnot. She's wearing a red dress tonight, and Matthew, who goes to school with Peter and Edmund, is coming to take her skating, where all the gang will be.
Running around the second floor with her bathrobe on, looking for her shoes, she catches a glimpse of Edmund and Peter hunched near the fireplace downstairs, drinking what looks like eggnog and laughing. Lucy comes to join them, wrapped in a blanket and sneezing. Susan spots her shoes, still in their box, beside the potted plant on the upstairs landing, and she grabs them, hurriedly dressing and pulling on her shoes. She rouges her cheeks and puts on her best delighted face, knowing that it will have to be used tonight, given that Matthew is boring and she really does not want to be out tonight, in the cold.
She goes downstairs and as she passes by the sitting room, she makes up her mind to ask her siblings what they're doing tonight. If it's better than being outside and acting happy, she'll pretend she's sick to Matthew, poor, sweet, uninteresting Matthew.
She accosts Lucy as the girl is going to the kitchen to fetch more eggnog.
"What're you and the boys doing?" Susan says curiously, sitting down at the table. Her feet are already killing her in her new shoes and she takes her right foot out to rub its chafing ankle gently.
Lucy bites her lip before she turns to face Susan. "I'm reading 'A Christmas Carol' and Peter and Edmund are talking about Narnia."
Susan tosses her long dark hair as she laughs, and Lucy holds her head up. She knew Susan would laugh like that, dismissive and mature. In her head, she matches Susan word per word as Susan repeats her oft-heard statement regarding Narnia.
"Narnia? Lucy, darling, that was so long ago! It's delightful, though, that you and the boys are reliving your childhood days, talking about the games we used to play," Susan jams her foot back into the damnable shoe and to her credit, she does not wince. She hears the doorbell and she gets up hurriedly, reaching for her skates and coat and muff. She smiles up at Matthew as they enter the sleigh filled with faces that should be familiar, but aren't. She smiles at all of them though, and she tries not to think that she would give anything to be in the sitting room with the boys, talking about Narnia. She smiles wider, convincing herself that she is happy to be out here in the snow, and that her face, her delighted face, did not have to be used earlier than necessary.
She spends her night skating alongside Matthew, replying empty epithets to whatever it is he's saying. Because she is here tonight, and not at home, she doesn't see Lucy fall asleep in her bed, Dicken's masterpiece abandoned beside her as she snores softly.
Because she is not home tonight, she never sees how Peter stokes the fire and closes the sitting room curtains tightly, and how he and Edmund talk only of Narnian summer, and nothing about the long winter of Edmund's betrayal, Edmund's trauma, Edmund's pain. She never sees how Peter tickles Edmund, who laughs and laughs until he can no longer breathe, and that is when Peter kisses him.
Susan never sees that either.
drink to me only with thine eyes
"No drinking," Peter says, sternly, from his place at the head of the table. Chastised, Lucy puts down the golden goblet, and Mister Tumnus ruffles her hair playfully. Susan turns back to her conversation with the ruling monarch of Archenland, delighting in his accent and his eyes raking over the collar of her dress. On her other side, Edmund pours himself a second goblet of wine, only to catch Peter's disapproving gaze. Defiantly, he gulps the wine down, refusing to wince as his untrained tongue recoils at the taste.
Susan looks at Edmund, whose lashes form half-moons of shadow on his cheek, as he bends closer to the Duke of the Lone Islands, who blushes but does not move away. She then turns to look at Peter, whose grip on his steak knife tightens with every silvery laugh from Edmund, with every movement of the Duke's hand closer to Edmund's arm. The King of Archenland asks her, solicitously, if anything is wrong, but she waves a dismissive hand as she clutches her head with the other. Glancing from Edmund to Peter, she bites her lip, feeling as if she were on the brink of a great discovery, but always, always being held back by something. She shakes her head again to clear her thoughts and she smiles, comely and sweet, at the King of Archenland, who blushes and refills her goblet with dark wine. She thanks him and Peter nods, approvingly.
Archenland has no queen, but would readily welcome a Narnian monarch.
Dimly, she hears the Duke speak softly of the sunlight of the Lone Islands, and she hears Edmund's every playful parry.
Edmund knows his own beauty, how people say that he is Susan's masculine equivalent, beautiful and gentle and wise. At first Susan was shocked at how princes and dukes and caliphs and knights would bestow their affections on Edmund, who never seemed to show the proper distaste for this kind of union. But eventually, she came to accept how Edmund would always be the one being chased, never the one doing the courting or the chasing, and she didn't mind anymore when one of her suitors would remark that his own younger brother would like to visit Edmund as well.
What she didn't understand was why Edmund would never commit to anyone of these men. Granted, he was young, and prone to amazing bouts of childishness, when left to his own devices, but he toyed with his suitors, asking impossible favors, never making promises or commitments. What Susan never understood even more was Peter, who would entertain royal families regularly, but would never make a move on any of their adoring and adorable daughters.
The King of Archenland, asks her, shyly, if she wants to dance. She smiles at him and takes his hand, demurely, and she lets him spin her round and round, and she thinks no more of Edmund and Peter and men and women and love. She thinks now of swirls of light and color and cloth, and she wonders if the boy from Archenland will kiss her tonight, or if he'll wait as he's supposed to.
She doesn't see how Edmund refuses the Duke's invitation to dance, and instead watches fondly as he whirls Lucy around.
She never sees how Peter escapes the clutches of his dance partner to escape the hall with Edmund, who laughs drunkenly and allows himself to be stolen away. Susan never sees Peter and Edmund down by the water, Edmund stripping his robes easily to jump in the water, laughing and whooping. Peter follows him, drinking in the sight of Edmund's pale skin in the dim light, the reflection of the water against his red and cheerful face.
Beneath the water their hands link and their limbs slide together, and Edmund gasps, arching his back as Peter strokes knowledgeable, familiar hands down his body, but Susan never sees that.
all grown up and nowhere to go
Susan doesn't wake up in time to take the early train with her siblings. When she wakes up it is nearly nine in the morning, and has to wait another six hours for the next train. She moves through the empty house at a sedate pace, unhappy at her marvelous summer's anticlimactic ending.
"I wish something would happen," she says to her reflection in the mirror, as she scrutinizes every inch of skin on her face for blemishes. She's the best-looking girl of her form in school, and she intends to stay that way. She goes to her room to dress and look over her school things one last time.
It is eleven when she hears the doorbell ring. She is in the kitchen, thinking if she should have lunch, and instead makes herself a chicken sandwich, too lazy to cook for herself. She munches on it, careful not to drop crumbs on her brand-new traveling dress, which she will show off to the girls before she has to change into the itchy school uniform that is also brand-new, what with Lucy getting all her carefully-kept hand-me-downs, as Edmund received Peter's. Her legs are smooth because of the nylons, which makes it such a shame, she thinks as she goes to open the door, that she will have to change them into boring old knee-high socks for school.
"Miss Pevensie?" is what the man says to her, when she pulls the front door open. She finishes her sandwich and wishes she had a napkin to wipe her fingers on. She extends her hand to shake the man's outstretched one.
"Yes, I'm Susan," she says, her voice high and young and immediately, she feels embarrassed by this, because the man is so serious and his face is rugged and manly and so are his shoulders. She smiles at him, nervously, and he returns it, tight and sort of sad.
"Miss Pevensie, I'm Lieutenant Hastings," is what the man says, and Susan knows what is coming next, but she ignores the buckling feeling in her knees and her knuckles turn white as she clasps her hands together.
They drive in silence to the school where the bodies have been laid out, unclaimed and unnamed corpses of children. It is high noon and stiflingly hot in the school's great hall. Susan clutches the policeman's arm as he guides her through the bodies.
This is hell, Susan thinks wildly, seeing a young boy's unseeing eyes and hearing his mother's keening wails. The smell of blood and gore is pervasive, and Susan tries not to retch. She keeps her meager lunch down, no matter how. So much damage, she thinks. So much damage comes from two trains crashing together, leaving nothing of the people inside.
"Is this your sister?" Lieutenant Hastings asks her gently, his arm around her as she looks upon Lucy's calm face. "We found her name inside her school jumper's tag."
Susan looks at the cut above Lucy's eye, the blood all over her hand-me-downs, and she releases the policeman's arm to wrap her own around Lucy, who feels cold and heavy. Susan begins to wail, and she shakes and screams and refuses to let go of her sister.
She rocks Lucy, who she had complained was too old and heavy to be rocked three years before, when Lucy had turned ten. She rocks Lucy and she hums to her, lullabies that provoke memories of sleepless nights in the Professor's house, and in Narnia, afterwards. Tears cloud her eyes and her breathing is clogged by snot and grief.
"God," is what Susan chokes out. Aslan, is what she thinks. Where have you taken Lucy?
Because she is overcome by Lucy, or what Lucy has become, she does not see Lieutenant Hastings nod at his companions, who move towards two bodies in the corner. Susan never sees how Edmund remained unscathed, except for the gaping wound in his lower back, which untreated, had quickly become infected, and in the hours he remained unfound, fatal. She never saw how Peter protected Edmund, wrapping long, lanky arms around the smaller body, tucking Edmund's face into his neck. Peter looked as if he were sleeping, sleeping with his arms wrapped around Edmund, their bodies so tightly enmeshed a breath of air could not have passed between them.
There is nothing remaining on Peter's back; it is one large wound that continues to bleed. His hair is matted and the back of his skull is crushed; Susan never sees that.
Later, Susan, lying in her bed, tries not to think of the things she never saw, Lucy hitting her head against the window, her small body catapulted out of the train by the impact. She thinks only briefly of the boys, and more of her parents and Lucy.
Susan doesn't think of how she never saw Peter feeling the crash, launching himself across the space between the seats of the compartment to kiss Edmund, hurriedly, playfully, before wrapping his arms around Edmund, just before everything went dark.
Susan thinks, instead, as she tosses and turns in her bed, of the things she will never see again, Lucy's smile, Edmund's dark curls, Peter's eyes. She thinks of her losses and she buries her head in her pillow, tired of thinking, and wishes she would never wake up again.