and all that stands between the soul's release
this temporary flesh and bone
and know that it's over now
I feel my fading mind begin to roam.
Goodnight, Travel Well by The Killers
The thing about the end of the world is that it gets increasingly difficult to find coffee.
"Bugger," Edmund declares, staring in dismay at the few remnants of coffee beans in his bag. Susan shakes her head and sips her tea, which she thinks she will always be able to find more of. This is, after all, England, though perhaps it would be more accurate to say that once this had been England. It's autumn. There is a chill in the air, tasting of winter and forgotten places. Susan has always disliked the autumn.
"The winter always creeps up on us," she says, and Edmund shrugs stiffly.
"We should move on," he says. "We've almost exhausted the supplies around here."
"Yes," Susan says. She gets up, her breakfast finished, and passes behind him, placing a hand on his shoulder. His skin is cool, and she drops a kiss to the crown of his head before moving to the bedroom.
They are practical people, and this house has no more significance to them than the last. You live on what you can get, these days. Susan brushes her hand over the bloodstain on the table and then walks out, pack on her back. The sun is bright and warm, and she drops a hand to her knives, just to make sure she can draw them with ease.
"Ready?" Edmund asks, and she nods.
"Ready," she says, and they start walking.
If she had ever thought about a zombie apocalypse, it would have been of them all together – the four Pevensies, as they had always been. Instead it is just her and Edmund, the dark side of the family. They rarely smile these days, their motions through the day tired. They miss the balance Peter and Lucy had once provided, and winter is coming.
Winter is always coming.
They stumble upon a small camp, carved out of the woods, fenced in and as cozy as things get these days.
"Peter Pevensie?" Edmund asks the man in charge, as they always do, but the man is already shaking his head, not having to check.
"Has he passed through?" Susan asks, and the man checks through his list of travelers, coming up blank. "Thank you," Susan says, invariably polite, and then, "Can you add our names? Susan and Edmund Pevensie. We're going east."
"Good luck," the man says, and they keep going. They don't stay at these places, not anymore. It is better alone, away from the constant obsessive paranoia and hope for a cure.
Back in the first days, Edmund had come for Susan, and together they had gone looking for Peter and Lucy. They found Lucy, ravening and half-gone already.
Afterwards, Susan had wiped Lucy's blood from Edmund's face, scrubbing as much of it away as she could, her fingers steady, and then kissed him.
They had buried the body in Narnian tradition without a word, Susan finding the silver for her eyes and Edmund digging the grave. There had been no linen to wrap her body in. They hadn't lingered, after. It was too dangerous. Peter hadn't been in his apartment, but neither was his body.
They find a town, miraculously untouched by the tides of war, empty and silent. There are cigarettes in the little corner store, and Edmund takes a pack and offers one to Susan, lighting it with over careful gallantry.
"My lady," he says, and Susan nods at him.
"My lord," she answers. They sit on the counter together and smoke in silence. They share a last cigarette, trading it back and forth, and finally they get up and wander through the rest of the town.
She tries to count her blessings. She is no longer forced into remembrances she does not wish. She put Narnia behind her after Aslan banished her, and if she was bitter about it she refused to show it. She put up her facades and only Edmund saw through them. It was for the best, she supposed, that Peter and Lucy didn't understand what she was doing. They would have pushed through, and the fragile advances she had made would have been ruined.
Now there is only Edmund, who never forces her into reminiscences or says "Do you remember?" with hopeful eyes. He knows she does, and he does not wish to remember any more than she does.
This should be a good thing, but Susan closes her eyes and aches for the laughter of her sister, the gold of her hair and the way her smile always lit up a room. She aches for Peter and the warmth of his nearness, how he used to smile at her like she was the only woman in the world. She and Edmund are cold and hard, and without the balance of their siblings they are left rocking and unsure, searching for footing.
If Peter and Lucy were here, Susan thinks, they would be able to make the shadows in Edmund's eyes go away. She can do little for him but remain close.
They take turns at insomnia, waking to find the other circling the room quietly.
By the time the first snow comes, they have found the smallest, warmest house in the town and prepared it for the winter, stocking it with everything they could find. As the snow falls Edmund paces, and Susan sits quietly, watching him over her book. She understands. Edmund's regrets are old and eternal, his demons cold.
Susan's regrets are newer and sharper, memories of denial and anger. She ignores, for the most part, that she has ever known anything but this life. It is easier that way. What she has done cannot be undone.
"You should eat," she tells Edmund. "We mustn't neglect ourselves." He doesn't say anything, but he sits down beside her and takes the bowl of stew. After dinner, she puts on a record and pulls Edmund off the bed they dragged into the living room. He rolls his eyes but lets her pull him into an old Narnian dance, a waltz of sorts. "Your hands are cold," she says. He doesn't answer. She didn't expect him to.
They sleep together now. It is comforting to have someone you trust close to you, among other things. They are too practical to pretend it is anything but what it is. Susan found long ago that lying to yourself either doesn't work at all or works far too well. She only lies to others, now, and never to Edmund. It's not worth it.
She learns how to knit. Edmund laughs at her, but two months into the winter he finds a second pair of needles and knits a scarf.
It is an absolutely awful scarf, and she tells him so.
"Just because you're knitting lace already," he mutters, bumping her shoulder with his.
"It isn't that difficult," Susan says, and Edmund kisses the back of her neck, brushing her hair off of it. Despite the warmth inside, she shivers. "Edmund," she says in warning, and he smiles.
"Am I distracting you?" he says innocently, lips brushing against her bare skin. Susan thinks for a moment of Peter and Lucy, and what they would think.
"I'm finishing this row," she insists, and he laughs softly.
Edmund sharpens his knives regularly, checks the cartridges in his gun. Susan keeps her weapons clean, but it has snowed so much they're drifted in, and she doesn't think zombies will come here. Even they must find it cold outside.
The two of them venture out a few times, through tunnels in the snow. Ostensibly it's to get more wood, so that they always have more than enough, but it always ends with Edmund raiding the store for cigarettes, Susan lecturing him on theft and addiction as she filches packs off of him. He always chases her back to the house, flinging snow.
Afterwards, he pretends that he is disappointed with her, shaking his head sadly as she chain-smokes with him.
"Do you think Peter's alive?" she asks one morning. She knows that Edmund will not lie in an attempt to protect her. He gave up on keeping her safe and quiet a long time ago, when they were still children, though that had never lasted long.
"I don't know," Edmund says. "He's a fighter, but so was Lucy."
"Yes, she was," Susan murmurs. Her hand goes to the cross around her neck, taken off of Lucy's body. It is all she has left of her sister. She has nothing left of Peter but memories that are already stretching thin.
"Just us now, I suppose," Edmund says.
"I suppose," Susan says, and then adds, "You've grown so tall. Perhaps taller than in Narnia."
"More worries there," he says. Susan laughs.
"Zombies don't count as worries?" she says, rolling over to face him. He's propped on one elbow, watching her with a curious half smile on his face.
"I've still got you," he says. "You make it hard to worry."
"Don't flatter," Susan says.
"Never," Edmund says.
Sometime in March the snow begins to melt.