Disclaimer: This is an über, so I can proudly announce that the main characters are mine and only mine! Even so, I managed to violate Renpics copyright once or twice in this fic. As if they care.
Size: About eight pages.
Summary: When you are sleeping over in a scary house and your parents are out, you really want to have a good friend by your side.
Rosie liked going in the car. She liked the dozey feeling of half nodding off in her seat and watching the landscape slide by. She also liked listening to the relaxed talk of her parents in the front seat. She didn't listen to what they said - they always talked about such boring things - but she liked the sound of their voices.
Today was a windy day. Rosie could see the trees bend and the autumn leaves dancing in the wind. Occasionally there were so many brightly coloured leaves blowing by outside the car window that it looked like she was travelling in a jungle. She spent some time pretending that she actually was travelling in a jungle, that she was a famous explorer looking for new and unknown animals in Africa. (She knew that Africa was far away, just under Europe on the map on her bedroom-wall.) She had already found the Ozerlo, the Tiron and the Burafe when the car slowed down and stopped. Her mother went out and opened the door for her. Rosie had already loosened her seatbelt. She could actually do that herself, but she had promised never to do it while they were driving.
"Here we are now darling" said mummy and smiled at her. She had a flower in her hand. They would give it to granny as thanks for inviting them to her house. Rosie jumped out on the car and looked around. They had parked at the side of the road, just outside a brick wall, surrounding a garden. In the garden was a house.
"Mummy, will there be any other children here?" she asked as she took her mummy's hand and let her be led towards the house where their relatives were already gathered together. Her daddy came after them, carrying the overnight bag. Mummy patted her on her head and answered.
"There will be one other girl for you to play with. She's uncle Rory's daughter. She is some years older than you but I am sure you two can have fun together." Mummy's voice had that slightly pleading edge grown ups use when they are saying "I am sure" without actually meaning it, but Rosie was far too interested in the garden to notice. It was crammed with flowerbeds and old gnarly trees. In one corner was a half broken shed and next to it a little cage. Intrigued Rosie regarded it, and suddenly she jumped when she saw an eye inside the cage look back. A gleaming black eye in a face of white feathers.
"Chickens" she cried out and freed her hand from mummy's. With as much speed as her short legs could master she ran to the cage. Her parents smiled at her and continued to the house. Rosie didn't pay them any attention. Parents usually had some kind of grown up business to mind. The best way to deal with it was to let them go on with it and find something to do on your own until they came to look for you. They always did.
The chickens gave her an arrogant look when she bent over the cage and went back to whatever business chickens have to tend to. Rosie tried to talk to them in her sweetest voice and offer them some leaves she found on the ground, but they didn't pay any interest. Slightly disappointed she turned her back against the stubborn birds, and suddenly she was standing face to face with another girl. She was a bit taller than Rosie and she had black hair. Her face looked pretty, but her clothes were dirty and slightly torn. She gave Rosie an intrigued look.
"Why are you talking to the chickens?" she asked.
"I wanted to stroke them" Rosie answered truthfully, and curiously added "do you live here?"
"No" the girl answered. "My granny lives here, we are visiting her." She made a face. "I really didn't want to come but my parents made me."
"Why didn't you want to come? Don't you like your granny"
The girl shrugged. "She is all right, I suppose, as far as grannies go. But what am I supposed to do here? I have no one to play with, and she doesn't even have a TV. I thought every one had a TV"
Rosie considered this for a moment. As far as she knew grannies spent most of their time baking cakes and sleeping. TV:s wasn't part of their normal pastimes. But on the other hand, this was the first time she was ever visiting any granny's house, so she didn't really know what to expect. She smiled brightly.
"Do you want to play with me?"
The girl gave her a doubtful look that Rosie recognised only too well, so before the girl had time to answer she quickly continued.
"And don't say that I am too little, because even if I am little I can still be fun to play with and I bet that when you was little you wanted the bigger kids to play with you and was sad when they didn't!" She took a breath and stared cheekily at the girl whose face was now more amused than gloomy.
"As a matter of fact, I did. And they did actually play with me because if they didn't I whined until they did." She smiled for the first time and took a step closer to the little blond girl. "All right, let's play then. My name is Clair."
"My name is Rosie" said Rosie.
They spent all of the afternoon together. Clair and Rosie chased each other round and round in the garden. They climbed in the trees and made a neat pile of sticks. Clair even managed to convince the chickens to let Rosie stroke them, even if one of them picked her hand while she was lifting it up. Clair didn't think it hurt much at all, but Rosie insisted on kissing it to make it better. The chicken didn't apologise even when Rosie very sternly asked it to. Clair had to admit to herself that it was much more fun to play with the little girl than she had thought. Rosie was full of laughter and crazy imagination. She had a way of changing the dullest of pebbles into a gateway to a magic kingdom, just waiting to be explored. As for Rosie, she felt like she was in God's own playground and had met an angel to play with. Clair was brave as lion and still gentle as a flower. She never left her standing under a tree looking up, she always helped her climb them and made Rosie dare to do things she had never had the courage of even think of before. And she did it just because, Rosie felt, she really liked her. Rosie felt that she liked Clair very much too.
After a while their parents came to see what the girls were up to. Clair's mummy was a tall lady in a flowery dress. She patted Rosie on the head and took them inside to say hello to granny and eat a slice of cake. Granny smiled at them and patted them on the head, and after that they were allowed to explore the house. They found a fat, black cat sleeping on granny's bed. It wasn't at all happy to wake up by being stroked by the two girls. It hissed at Clair who hissed back, and then it sneaked away with the tail high in the air and left the girls alone to jump in the bed until Rosie's daddy came and told them of for doing so.
Granny had a fireplace with real burning logs in it. Rosie was a bit scared of the flames at a start, but when she saw that Clair wasn't afraid, she wasn't either. They sat together in a cosy armchair and looked into the fire. They had been playing for hours, only interrupted a few times for dinner and some more cake. The grown ups were doing grown up stuff and the girls were left with each other. Rosie was resting her head on Clair's shoulder, lazily playing with a strand of her hair and listening with half an ear to the older girl. Clair was talking about everything she wanted to do when she grew up. She was going to have a horse and a big house and be a famous actor. Or maybe a space woman. Rosie closed her eyes and sneaked a bit closer to her friend.
"'m not sleepy" she mumbled, mostly to herself. And just a minute later she was fast asleep. She never felt Clair cautiously sneaking out of the armchair and gently putting her head down on a pillow. She was already dreaming about her and Clair riding on a white horse through the night sky, in search for the Burafe.
Rosie woke up. Normally she was sleepy in the mornings and took a long time to be really awake, but this time she went from sleeping to wakeness in just a heartbeat. She was surrounded by darkness. The smell wasn't right and she could hear sounds. Creepy sounds of the wind in the trees and the barking of distant dogs. For a terrible moment she couldn't remember were she was and what she was doing there. All she knew what that she was alone in an unfamiliar place and that it was dark. And someone was moving close to her! Rosie heard herself scream when the shape suddenly came out from the darkness, leaning towards her, touching her! It outstretched a hand and took hold of her. But the grip was gentle and soft. When the shape spoke it was in a friendly and concerned voice. It was Clair.
"Shhh, take it easy Rosie. It is only me." she said, sitting down next to Rosie on the bed. Rosie threw herself in the older girls arms and started to cry.
"There, there. I am here now. There is nothing to be afraid of." Clair hugged her and rocked her to and through.
"Where is my mummy?" Rosie asked with a tiny voice.
"They went out for a walk. When you had fallen asleep we put you in bed. I am sleeping just in the next room so I could here when you woke up." Clair could feel Rosie's heart beat very fast, close to her own. The little girl's eye were wide open and filled of tears, and even if she had stopped crying now there still came a little sob now and then. She stroke her over the hair and kept whispering nonsense words to her.
"Did you have a bad dream" she asked when Rosie seemed to have calmed down a little bit. Rosie nodded.
"It was you and me" she said slowly, as if being afraid for even talking about it. "We were running, it was in a forest. A dark forest filled of tall, gloomy trees bending over us from all directions. It was a woman there, hunting us. She was laughing all the time and she came closer and closer, she wanted to kill us. She had a huge sword and her eyes were all white…" The words flowed out of Rosie's mouth like water from a tap. Now and then she interrupted herself for a short sob when the horrors of the nightmare were brought back.
"We ran as fast as we could but she came closer and closer and you turned around to face her, you had your own sword and was going to fight. You shouted to me to run away but I just couldn't because I knew that she was going to kill you and we stood there together and she came closer…" she stopped talking and hid her face in the older girls hair. Nothing more than sobs could be heard from her now.
Clair listened to the little girls story with growing discomfort. Rosie's amazing imagination and gift for bringing stories to life that had made her so fun to play with earlier in the day was still at work, now filling the darkness with nameless horrors, soundlessly drawing closer. She remembered that they were alone, that the grown ups were somewhere else and had left them in a spooky old house. She felt Rosie move uneasily in her arms.
"Is there such things as ghost."
"No, not in real life is there no ghosts" Clair answered and wished that she could believe it herself. Suddenly Rosie gasped and stared at her with a face white of horror.
"There is a monster under the bed!"
"There is no..." Clair begun, but then she heard it too. The hissing and snuffing and crawling and clawing. Faint, but steadily growing louder. Rosie shivered in her arms. Clair felt like she had a lump of ice in her chest. "What shall we do" she whispered with a voice trembling of fear. Her eyes were fixed on the edge of the bed. She feared every moment to see something crawl over it, towards them.
"Clair" Rosie sobbed "I'm scared". It broke the spell. Clair gently loosened her grip of the frightened little girl and looked her in the eyes.
"Don't be scared Rosie" she said, trying to stop her voice from tremble. "I will... I will go down there and see what it is." Rosie stared at her with wide eyes.
"Are you not afraid of the monster Clair" she whispered with a strange mixture of awe and fear in her voice.
"Yes I am" Clair confessed. "I am very scared, but I will do it anyway. I will do it because... because of you." She said the last words without thinking, but when she heard herself say them she knew it was true. She took a deep breath and started to rise from the bed. She felt Rosie's hand on her arm. When she turned she look into a face of deepest seriousness.
"You are going down there, even if you are afraid... you are doing it for me?" Rosie spoke silently, as if she was afraid that speaking the words to loud would destroy them. Her eyes were wide, not in fear but in wonder. She smiled bravely at Clair through the tears and put her hand on Clair's own.
"Then I am going with you." she said calmly. Clair stared at her.
"You can't go down there" she exclaimed. "You are so scared of it and we don't know what is down there."
"That is why I am coming. I am scared, but so are you. And I won't be scared when we are together. Maybe you won't be as scared if I am with you either." Rosie was silent a moment and when she continued it was with a voice filled of emotions that she didn't fully understand herself.
"I will go with you Clair" she said. "Now and always. I won't leave you alone. I will always be there for you. I need you, and you need me. Both of us. Together." She didn't knew where the words came from, but they were there and they felt just right, like something she had wanted to say for a long time but not until now the time was right.
"I will always be there for you too Rosie. You and me, we will stick together." Clair said with tears in her eyes, not of fear but of deeply felt emotions. Their hands were grasping each other hard and they looked deep in each others eyes. They felt it as if their hearts in that moment opened up and spilled their contents in their eyes, allowing it to flow freely between them. Without knowing it the two girls by these simple words forged yet another link in a great chain of love, connecting uncountable generations with each other. Somewhere deep in their minds something stirred and moved, giving a little hint of how much they one day would come to mean for each other and maybe also how much those who had been before them had meant for each other, again and again in all times.
"The two of us will always stick together" Clair repeated. "Forever."
Hand in hand they rose to their feet and bent down under the bed to face the monster. They were both scared, but they were together.
It was dark under the bed, dark as night before the stars illuminated the night sky. They held each others hand as they crawled under the bed. It was dusty and it smelled dry and old, just like the rest of the house. Rosie had to fight an urge to sneeze when the dust tickled her nose. There was no monster in sight.
"Can you see anything?" Rosie whispered.
"Nothing at all" Clair answered. "Maybe we just... wait!"
Rosie had seen it too. She bit her lip not to cry out loud and she squeezed Clair's hand so hard that it must have hurt. Just a little bit in front of them, where there a moment ago had been nothing but darkness, an unsteady, glowing light was forming, slowly drifting towards them.
The light was about as big as Rosie head. At first, it was nothing but just a dim light, but as it came closer Rosie started to se contrasts in it. Lines and shadows and texture. It almost looked like - but surly, that was only her imagination - a face. Then it spoke.
"Xeena" it said with a voice like a heavy piece of furniture being moved over a stone floor. It hovered just in front of Clair now and it was a face. Rosie could see the mouth moving and the eyes staring. It was the face of a woman, proud and cruel. Her eyes were like bottomless mineshafts, her hair were like old, mouldy cobweb and her mouth was formed in a smile of that kind foxes smile when they spot a caged rabbit.
"Xena" she said again. "It has been a long time now. I hope you haven't missed me."
Clair couldn't take her eyes of the burning face in front of her. Every part of her body screamed at her to get away from there, but still she didn't move a muscle. It was something with the woman that erased all thoughts of escape from her mind, erased all thoughts at all except from simply emotions of fear, but also some kind of wicked admire for the being in front of her. Somewhere in the back of her brain a thought about snakes and mice yelled to make itself heard, but she dismissed it.
"Who are you" she managed. She felt like she should know the answer, and somewhere deep down in her heart she did. And that part of her also knew very well the name that the burning face had addressed her with.
"Have you already forgot me Xena" the face mocked. "After all we have been going through together, oh dear. We were on the same side once, you know. I could have made you great, but instead you denied me and betrayed me. Eventually you tried to kill me too, even if you of course couldn't do that. I suppose I have to remind you then about your old friend Alti."
Saying that her eyes widened. Clair screamed as if a knife was being thrust into her body. Rosie felt her twisting and tearing as if she was fighting an invisible opponent. Desperately she managed to keep her grip of the older girl's hand.
"What have you done to her" she screamed while Clair interrupted her frantic struggling and fell down in a sobbing heap on the floor. The face seemed to notice Rosie for the first time.
"Oh, it's you. Xenas little bitch I see. Isn't sweet how the two of you always seems to bump into each other. You got an early start this time and no argue." The face glanced at Clair who was now painfully rising her head.
"Liked that Xena? It was a bit of your past you saw. I have much more to show you." She laughed, an insane, bloodthirsty laughter. Rosie saw Clair's face turning white in pure, intense terror. She felt a red-hot rage starting to burn in her. A hatred stronger than she had ever felt in her short life for this thing, not even a real human, hurting her friend so much and even laughing about it. Before she knew what she was doing she freed her hand from Clair's and hurled herself forward, screaming with all her might.
"You get of her you old, stupid WITCH!"
She slammed with her fists at the face, making it bounce away as a rubber ball. Alti tried to say something but Rosie didn't let her. She fell over the old shamaness again with nails and elbows and knees and a burning rage that could have melted rocks. Desperately Alti tried to avoid the furious little girl but it was no use. The light floated away like a bubble and the lines that had made out the face's features were now only lines and nothing more. The moment after the light flickered and died.
The two girls were surrounded by complete darkness.
They lay on the bed. The room was still filled of darkness, but it was darkness of the unscary kind, the one that is only absence of light and not the one that is filled with ghosts and monsters. Rosie and Clair hold each other very tight and cried. It was Clair who finally spoke.
"You were very brave down there" she said, giving Rosie a faint smile. Rosie smiled back.
"I couldn't let her hurt you. I just couldn't. You would have done the same for me." Clair nodded thoughtfully.
"Yes I suppose I would. I wouldn't want her to do it to anyone, what she did to me." She was silent for a heartbeat and than added. "You least of all."
Rosie felt a happy tingling in her stomach when she heard how honest the last words were spoken. She looked shyly at Clair and hugged her tighter. A sudden fear came over her.
"Don't tell me what she showed you" she pleaded hurriely. Not yet. Tell me tomorrow.
"I won't" Clair promised. "Some things are too scary to talk about at night-time." They were silent for a moment, and then Clair spoke again with a low, almost whispering voice.
"She will come back" she said, more as a statement of fact than anything else. Rosie regarded her with a concerned expression and when she saw the fear in her eyes she nodded.
"Yes she will" she said in a businesslike manner. "She will try again whenever she has a chance. But when she does, I will be there. Even in one hundred years, I will be there for you. You and me Clair, we will always be together."
The looked at each other and they knew that Rosie was right. They would always be together, whatever happened. Because sometimes you are not complete without another person, and that person is not complete without you. When that is the nature of things you can spend your hole life looking for your other half, if your are unlucky enough not to find it. But sometimes you are lucky enough to find your soulmate early in your life and when you do you will never let go, whatever it takes.