Disclaimer: I own none of it.
Rating: PG for mild violence.
Spoilers: None at all.
Summary: Pre LLW - Edmund is upset. Peter tries to help.
“Edmund.” Peter’s voice was firm. It echoed off the tiled floor and walls of the boy’s lavatory eerily, accenting the emptiness of the room. “Ed, I know you’re in here. Come out.”
A slight sniffle came from the last stall. Peter’s footsteps sounded clearly, resolutely as he came to stand before it, facing the door with his hands clasped behind his back.
“Come on, Ed,” he coaxed.
“Go ‘way,” came Edmund’s voice miserably, then another loud sniff. Peter held back an irritated sigh.
“I just want to see if you’re okay.”
There was no reply, and there was silence until a small, muffled sob. The older boy ran a hand through his hair unhappily, tapping his foot.
“Ed, are you hurt?”
“Leave me alone!” Edmund shouted.
“Edmund,” said Peter calmly, unfazed. “I’m not leaving until you tell me if you’re all right. Now come out of there and talk to me face to face.”
“No,” came Ed’s voice thickly, as if he had buried his face in his knees.
“Look, I talked to the other boys. They said they won’t do it again if you…”
The door of the stall suddenly burst open, catching Peter square in the jaw and knocking him to the floor, lip split and bleeding. In the doorframe, Edmund towered above him with a look of unmistakable fury and pain written across his face. His hands were clenched in fists and his shoulders were shaking with wrath. His dark eyes, one wreathed in an ugly shiner, both red from crying, blazed with an implacable mix of envy and anger as he glared down at his elder brother sprawled on the bathroom floor.
“I don’t need you looking after me!” he bellowed, voice hoarse. “I don’t need you or Dad or Mum or anyone! Hear that”
He aimed a kick at his brother, whose eyes were wide open in stunned disbelief. Edmund bent over and brought his face as close to his as possible, then screamed,
“I don’t need anyone!”
Peter opened his mouth, then closed it speechlessly. After a moment he tried again.
“Ed,” he said dazedly. “I thought you…”
“You thought what?” the younger boy demanded. “You thought I was some…some baby who needed protecting? You thought I was weak? I can take care of myself! I don’t need you!” He was sobbing now, little angry tears coursing down his red face.
“No, Ed,” said Peter. “I never said that.”
“No, of course not, you’d never say it,” spat Edmund, sniffing loudly. “But you think it all the time, just like Susan and Lucy do, and even Mum and Dad sometimes. Oh, yes, Edmund, he’ll never live up to Peter, darling Peter with no faults! I can see it in your eyes, the whole bunch of you! You think I’m stupid! You think I don’t notice but I do!”
“You’re mad, we never think things like…”
“Stop it!” Edmund hollered. Trembling all over, he screwed his eyes shut. “I hate you!”
The words echoed around the empty bathroom, fainter with every repetition. There was a silence, punctuated only by the small, gasping breaths of the younger boy.
“No, you don’t, Ed,” Peter said quietly. “And we don’t hate you. We don’t think you’re stupid, either.” He wiped blood from the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand and pushed himself to a sitting position. Suddenly, Edmund stumbled forwards, falling to his knees and pitching forward, body wracked with sobs. On instinct his brother’s arms shot out and reeled him in. Desperately digging his fingers into Peter’s scratchy uniform blazer, Edmund buried his face in his elder brother’s shoulder and allowed the older boy to run a hand soothingly up and down his back as he shook with misery.
“There you go,” said Peter gently. He brought his other arm around the younger boy’s shoulders and pulled him into a close hug. “Shhh.”
He held still for a long time, cradling his brother there on the floor, until finally Edmund’s weeping subsided. It was a while before he realized that Ed was asleep. Glancing at his watch, he realized that he was ten minutes overdue for cricket practice. But as he brushed a bit of dark, curly hair from his brother’s freckled face, he decided that they could start without him.
He had more important things to look after.