Disclaimer: Not in this lifetime, unfortunately. But maybe next.

Author's Note: I was re-reading manga four a few days ago when I was struck by a strange musing. At the time I received said musing, Rosette was thinking about how Chrono has changed—when they first met he used to glare and try to force her away, and now he's always smiling. And for some reason that made me wonder:

What if Chrono had actually found a way to make them leave? What would have happened if Rosette and Joshua had listened and left him alone? What if Chrono seriously meant it when he said to go?

So. . . this is the result of those questions. It's kinda corny and stupid, but I had fun with it and figured I might as well post it. XD Woot!

Please enjoy!

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"I said get out!"

The blonde girl flinched, fingers tightening around her younger brother's hand as two small stones whizzed past their ears; shattering like glass against the partially opened door. Fear shone in Joshua's wide blue eyes; pale legs trembling. "Sis. . ." he whimpered softly, nearly cowering behind her; quivering under the mysterious stranger's frozen gaze. His demon-red pools were aglow with fury. "Sis. . . Rosette, maybe we should do as he says. . ."

Rosette made a small sound in the back of her throat, something between a grunt and a squeak. Her golden braids irritated the back of her sweaty neck; her feet—which had moments before refused to listen to her brain, refused to move—began shaking, numb from walking and water. She reached out her empty hand, extending it towards the self-proclaimed devil. "N—no. . ." she replied firmly, though her voice shook with fright. Justified fright, if the murderous glitter in this creature's eyes was to be taken seriously. "Not without you—him. . . Chrono, you said, right?"

She took a step forward, dragging Joshua forcibly along. The odd boy hissed, backing further into the sheltering shadows of the tomb. "C'mon. . ." Rosette urged, trying to sound cheerful; forcing a kind smile onto her bloodless face. "It must be cold and lonely down here. . . as you said yourself, this is a grave. Why are you here all by yourself? Are you lost, too? We can help you find your way out. So why do you want us to go away. . . ?"

"D—dammit!" Chrono snarled, frustration and rage causing his already frayed patience to fizzle out. "Are you always such a brat? My business is no concern of yours! Take your sweets and your sibling and get out of here before I k. . . kill you both!" His ruby orbs darkened, full of emotion that he literally had to choke back. "G—go! GO! GO NOW!"

"!"

The earth shook and rumbled beneath them, a harsh swirl of wind ripping through the children's clothes like knives; crackling energy electrifying the thin air. Joshua yelped, yanking Rosette instinctively towards the door and the pathetic strip of light it provided. "Aaa—! Big sister—!"

". . ." She cast the panting demon on the ground an unreadable, silent glance. A glance under which he stiffened, petrified.

'What is. . . ?'

And then the two turned away, leaving him alone in the darkness once again.

X

In the Light

--Fear--

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". . . rrrrrgh!" Rosette scowled darkly, rubbing her face frantically against her pillow. Wet tendrils of dark yellow hair stuck to her cheeks and collar as she did so, the back of her nightdress sopping. The bunk bed squeaked in protest as she shook and rolled under her thick comforter, restless with curiosity. She heard Sarah sigh exasperatedly from the mattress underneath, groaning into a hand.

"Rosette. . ." the older girl mumbled, "it's past midnight. What's troubling you?"

The younger child flushed, stubbornly sitting up and wrapping her arms around herself. 'How could she tell. . . ?' "Nothin'. Everything's jake."

"Don't lie," the brunette reprimanded airily, the back of her hand resting lazily against her forehead. "Ever since you and Joshua got back, you've been acting strangely. You didn't touch dinner or beat up Billy for mussing the laundry or insist on a bedtime story or anything. And now you won't sleep? What happened out there to shake you up so badly?"

". . ." Rosette blew out her cheeks, glancing towards the full moon that hung just outside the window. She shivered; wishing its glow was a bit brighter. "It. . . feels like I'm missing a part of myself," she then admitted in embarrassment. "I dunno. . . like something that should have happened didn't. Like God screwed up again. See. . . while exploring. . . Joshua and I—er—met this. . . person."

"Person?" Sarah straightened slightly, sounding a bit more alert. "But there shouldn't be anyone for miles! How far out did you go?"

"It was a traveler," the blonde interrupted insistently, smart enough not to admit the truth. (Ms. Jane would have her skin for taking Joshua into an underground tomb—even if the trip was on accident.) "But he refused to help us or talk to us or anything. He was weak and tired and all alone—but he wouldn't accept our help. He wasn't even friendly about it!"

"Hmm. . ." the teen thoughtfully straightened her glasses on the bedside table, then shrugged. "Sounds like any other pill. What's got you so worked up about him? Why not forget him and get some sleep?"

The girl scowled into her knees, ocean pools narrowed. "Because," she hissed, fists clenching, "it seemed to me like he was. . . scared of something. And I just—I just walked away! I should have helped him, even if he didn't want to be helped. . . I should have done something! All I did was offer him some cookies. . . maybe he doesn't even like cookies! Maybe devi—I mean, travelers— are offended by cookies and I just made things worse!" Rosette cried, breathless and frantically toying with her blankets.

Sarah smiled. Rosette could hear it in her tone when she began speaking again, moments later. ". . . I doubt that," the brown-locked child murmured. "You probably just startled him. Or maybe he was just too afraid to realize you were only trying to help him. What was it, you think, that frightened him?"

The little one frowned. "How should I know? It didn't seem to be us—he had no trouble yelling. And it certainly wasn't the scary gr—er, cave we found him in. The only thing he seemed to move from was the. . ." She blinked—then gasped. "That's it! And that must be why he didn't want our help to get out!"

"Huh? What are you tal— what are you doing?" the brunette barked, shooting upright as a loud BANG echoed beside her; the wooden floor shuddering. "Get back in bed!"

Rosette shook her head, frantically pulling her coat on over her nightdress; stuffing the glowing bedside candle into a nearby lantern. "I can't!" she whispered seriously, pushing Sarah back down when she tried to stand; tangling her up in a quilt. "I have to get there before sunrise—to help him! Don't tell Ms. Jean I've gone!"

"ROSETTE—!"

But by the time Sarah managed to pull off the blanket, the orphan was gone—having disappeared into the night right outside the now-opened window.

X

He glowered in the blackness, chin resting weakly against his kneecaps. Silence had returned—had been clogging the tomb for quite a while. But still. . . Chrono had been unable to return to his haunted sleep. Rest alluded him—

For in his mind that girl had yet to leave. In his mind, no comforting lull had taken place. He could still hear her, hear her speaking over the pounding of his racing heart.

"C'mon. . ."


'Why. . . ?'
His fingers clenched.

"It must be cold and lonely down here. . . as you said yourself, this is a grave. Why are you here all by yourself?"

'Why. . . !' His teeth gnashed.

"Are you lost, too? We can help you find your way out."

'Why won't you get out of my head!'

"So why do you want us to go away. . . ?"

The Sinner felt his eyes slowly slide open, staring blankly at the fuzzy gloom. 'I don't understand. . .' he mused darkly, irritation dripping from every pore on his body. 'Why can't I forget her face? Her words? Her eyes?' He flinched unintentionally, leaning purposively against Magdalene's casket. The rough bite of the rock on his back soothed him, keeping him sane. But no pain on earth could erase that girl from his memory. '. . . those eyes. . . so blue, so intense. It was as if she tried, she could read me like a book. Like an open, awaiting book. But if she could. . . if she did. . . what did she learn?' A small noise echoed through the grave, a grumbling sort of whimper. He didn't like to think about it.

". . . no. . . !"

'. . . I wonder. . . did she and the boy make it out all right?'

". . .rono. . . !"

The devil began to frown pensively; brow creased in mild worry and guilt; when he suddenly stiffened, disbelief etched all over his face. 'What the—?'

"Chrono. . . !"

His spine straightened instinctively; almost jumping a mile in surprise as the frantic pitter-patter of small, running feet started echoing off of the high stone walls— a tiny, but growing, voice accompanying the noise. A familiar voice. Too familiar.

"Wha—?" he stuttered in shock, whipping plate-sized eyes towards the door when it was pushed open (with difficulty); the wheezing blonde from this afternoon falling inside with a 'meep'. The demon felt all of his senses leave in that moment, watching her nightdress-clad chest move up and down with her heavy breathing; a lantern clutched in one hand and the open throat of her red jacket in the other. Her already light skin was clammy; her eyes a bit more hallow than earlier. ". . ."

She blushed under his stare, but quickly calmed down and returned the gaze with one of equal fervor, her candy-pink lips slightly puckered. ". . . I'm back."

". . . So I see," he replied shortly, still in a semi-stunned state. Getting to his feet with a wavering wobble, the boy pushed himself a few feet closer before crouching, cautious, as if she may attack. "But why? I told you to go. And judging by your attire, it must be past your bedtime. So what are you doing here?"

The girl offered him a small smile, crawling until she came to the tomb's stone steps, sitting comfortably down upon them with the light in her lap. But regardless of how nonchalantly she acted, the blonde had yet to lose the glimmer of nervous timidity that was hiding inside her eyes. . . eyes that shifted pathetically from shadow to shadow. "You didn't mean it when you told us to go," she informed him confidently. "That's why. I figured it out, you see."

". . ." Chrono blinked flatly at her, baffled and annoyed. . . but at the same time, charmed by her innocent grin. "Figured out what?"

"Why you were so mean." Giggling a bit tensely, she watched the flame of the candle dance inside its glass container. "Earlier today. . . you were scared, weren't you? I know 'cause being afraid makes me angry, too. Because I feel weak and helpless. So I get aggressive. . . like you did." Looking up, she tilted her head with an artless sort of air. "I'll tell you a secret, Chrono, if you promise not to razz me for it." There was a noiseless pause— one that she interpreted as a silent agreement, but was really due to confusion ('Razz? What does that mean?'). So, lowering her voice to a stage whisper, she leaned forward and declared: ". . . I'm afraid of the dark."

The Sinner said nothing, though his expression spoke volumes: Afraid of the dark? Then what the hell are you doing down here in a tomb in the middle of the night?

"Yep," the girl sighed, sounding a bit disgusted. "I am. This candle is from my room at the orphanage—Ms. Jean lets me keep it lit 'til morning, even though it's dangerous, 'cause I can't sleep without it. But. . . I think you're the opposite, aren't you?"

Chrono grew rigid, feeling her bright azure stare pierce him from the entrance. "You're afraid of light, aren't you?" she whispered knowledgeably. "That's why you didn't want to come with us, and why you stay in the shadows. Isn't it?"

". . . yes."

"Why?" Rosette snorted, sounding exasperated. "I don't understand how the light can be frightening—it's not like the dark. It's not like the light hides things or makes them look like monsters. Don't you like being able to see the world around you? Don't you like being able to see?"

He smiled humorlessly. ". . . I just don't like the things I've seen, is all." Sighing, he turned his back to her, rubbing his forearms rapidly. "I don't expect you to understand."

". . ." The small blonde set her mouth in a tight line, opening the lantern's little flap of a door. Cryptic answers made her furious. After all, as her friends at Seventh Bell knew very well, she didn't have the patience for riddles. "It sounds like you're giving up, Chrono," she announced coldly—calling his attention back to her face. "And honestly, that makes me mad. Even madder than being afraid makes me! . . . I guess I was right earlier— I can sort of see me in you. . . and that makes me want to puke."

"!—?" Chrono blinked, utterly taken aback. Why that impudent little—! "Gee, thanks . . . !"

She smirked for a second before continuing. "Well, I like puking just as much as the next guy. Which is to say, not at all. So I decided on my way over here that I'd fix us both. And I'll do that by making a deal with you."

Removing and holding up the candle, brow furrowing seriously, the orphan opened her mouth. . . and gave him her proposal. "If I stop being afraid of the dark—will you stop being afraid of the light?"

". . ." He simply watched her for a moment, expression— and motion—less. What in God's name was going on? Who was this girl? What made her think he'd agree? And why— "Why do you care?" he inquired hotly, lip curling and an untraceable frostiness in his tone. "Why do you care what happens to me?"

She considered for a moment, chewing the inside of her cheek. Then she beamed sadly. "Because nobody should live like you are—cold, alone, and afraid." A pause. "Besides. . . you sort of make me feel. . . safe. And whole. And I like that. And—though you're kinda weird and you make me wanna throw up—I like you."

'—She li—?' His insides disappeared, an ancient warmth coursing through his tired veins. "Y—you. . ."

"Not you. My name is Rosette." With that, she giggled. . . and blew out the candle.

X

"I had forgotten," he murmured softly, breaking the shushed spell around them for the first time in hours, "how beautiful sunrises can be."

Rosette nodded wearily, curling her quaking hand more tightly around his as they trekked farther and father away from the mouth of the cave, stopping in a grassy field surrounded by trees and jutting rocks. Her flesh was still covered in a sheen of cold sweat from sitting in the icy darkness for so long—not to mention the psychological strain the whole ordeal had had on her—, but the pink roses of health were quickly returning to her cheeks. "I told you. . . nothing to be afraid of."

Chrono hesitated for a moment, half tempted to say 'I was never afraid in the way that you thought'—but stopped himself just in time, realizing that the statement would not be worth it. . . nor would it be entirely true. So instead he simply bowed his head in agreement, pulling her beside him when he decided to sit on a ledge to watch the horizon for the first time in fifty years. Early birds chirped and sang, the last insect songs of evening dying away. "Sorry," he apologized when she cast him a questioning look. "I'm still feeling quite weak. As I mentioned earlier, I haven't got much energy left."

The child considered this. "You mean to say that you're still hungry?" Patting her jacket pockets, she hummed thoughtfully. "Well, I've still got a cookie, but I think it's just a bunch of soggy crumbs, now. . ."

The demon chuckled. "No, that's not what I meant. But thank you, anyway." He smiled slightly and closed his eyes, allowing the soft wind to play with his hair. Unfortunately, this sorely-missed sensation was interrupted by a poke in the side, along with a mild glare. He stiffened under it, puzzled. "What's wrong?"

". . . I'm not sure," she decided after a beat. "You seem. . . different. Already. You were so mean and loud earlier and now you're. . . I dunno. Calm and nice. What happened?"

He shrugged, an unexpectedly kind look on his face as he did so. "You," he admitted softly. "Like you said—I was afraid. . . and angry. . . and depressed." 'The light reminded me of darkness—my darkness. . .' "But. . ." 'The darkness of my regret and sorrow." "Now I'm not." 'Because sometimes you need that darkness. . .' "Thanks to you." '. . . to balance out the light.

Your light.'

"Besides. . . you sort of make me feel. . . safe. And whole. And I like that. And—though you're kinda strange—I like you."

'Whole. . .'

Rosette made a face. "I didn't do much—just pulled you out of that smelly grave. No need to get all icky on me. If you do, I'll be forced to hit you." She demonstrated this with one of her two small fists, jabbing his shoulder with all of the threat of a feather.

'Me too.'

Chrono shook his head, expression as warm as the rising sun. "Are you always such a brat?"

'That's why, I think, I was so mad. I've been incomplete so long. . .'

Rosette grinned toothily, punching the air with a hand. "Yep! But you'll get used to it."

'This sudden and unwanted feeling of totality frightened me.'

He laughed quietly, ruffling her hair without even thinking about it. She turned magenta, leaning slightly into his touch. "I'm sure I will."

'But I think this is where I'm meant to be, for now—'

And with that, the two fell silent; watching the rosy glow of dawn overtake the land; still slightly unsure of the present and future—but knowing they'd figure things out soon enough.

'In the light.'

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