Title: Venomous Part 10/10 - "Amorous"
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction, not intended for profit or offense. I own no rights to the subjects.
Summary: The final chapter in the saga of Rosie and Carter's friendship.
Note: Thank you to everyone who reads this last chapter.
"I hold here in my hand the name of our 2008 Lake Monroe Homecoming Queen. And the winner is... Princess Rosie Gonzalez!"
The Queen-elect meets Principle Burkle's announcement with grace and humility, quite surprised by the outcome herself. With her plastic crown placed neatly upon her head, Rosie's eyes search the dark room for Carter, but cannot distinguish her face from the crowd. She clears her throat imperceptibly and approaches the microphone.
"Thank you... Since I've been here, I've learned many wonderful things. Most importantly, I've learned about friendship... and loyalty, and trust. And that those are not things that are just given - but things we must earn."
The lights swivel and turn, and Rosie can now see the angry and distraught face of Chelsea, seething under the glare of red disco lights; Brooke and Bull, keeping their distance from the thwarted princess and looking approving at Rosie. She can see Ed behind his camera, his smile so big it might cause him permanent damage, and the ever-cocky Donny, the boy that caught Carter's attention for so many years, looking bored and haughty - but throughout the crowd there's still no sign of Carter. So Rosie decides to try a more direct approach.
"So I want to thank... Carter Mason for teaching me these things... and for being my friend." The room quiets down and the lights turn up, searching through the crowd. Rosie's smile falters.
"Carter...? Where are you?"
But Carter isn't there.
Carter's heart pounds in her ears as she follows the mysterious and menacing General Kane and his guard, her mind racing. Should she reveal herself before something terrible happens? Should she wait until she's been taken out of the country? Would her dad and the PPP be able to save her then? And what will happen when Kane does find out he's been deceived? Was she a fool for risking her life in a stupid plan thought up by a stupid bait girl?
Better he have some stupid bait girl than the future Queen. I'll do whatever it takes to save Rosie.
Carter's loyalty to her best friend bolsters her courage and suppresses her fears. She keeps a dignified silence when Kane throws taunts and jeers over his shoulder at her as they walk.
"Ah, but you see, it was always going to be like this - with the power and influence I have, it was only a matter of time before I found you, Princesa. Although, I don't suppose you will be a Princesa for much longer..."
Turning a corner in the B Block, Carter can hear through the open window the distinct sounds of a helicopter, its blades chopping menacingly through the warm night air.
Stepping down from the stage, Rosie is far from ecstatic about her new crown and title - she feels an inescapable uncertainty and fear regarding Carter's absence. This was supposed to be a special night for them both; Carter wouldn't miss the most important part of the evening. Suddenly, being Homecoming Queen doesn't even matter anymore - all Rosie wants is to find Carter.
Quickly excusing herself from throngs of congratulating peers, Rosie exits the gym and searches outside for any sign of her best friend. She bunches up her dress in her gloved hands and quickens her pace to search the school grounds, and after another unpleasant but brief encounter with jilted princess Chelsea Barnes, Rosie runs the corner from the lap pool toward the curious sound of wind whipping viciously from the courtyard ahead.
Carter's dance shoes clap noisily against the ground of the courtyard, but the sound of the whirring helicopter is even louder, threatening to steal Carter away from her family, friends, and home. Carter realizes that this is what it must have felt like for Rosalinda to leave Costa Luna, uncertain about her future or the fate of her loved ones. Carter's heart cries out for her best friend.
Quite miraculously, Rosie answers.
"GENERAL KANE!" commands Rosalinda, proud and strong from behind the group, her voice heard clear over the chopping helicopter blades. Unbelieving, Carter removes her mask. But it's true - Rosie is walking toward them, confident and impressive, here to rescue Carter from her uncertain fate.
Kane recovers from his shock and assumes his cocky smirk again. "Weeeell, it appears as if everyone wants to be a princess! Unfortunately, it is time for the masquerade to end."
Carter shakes her head - protests about Rosie's decision to come forth - but Rosie's eyes are soft as she looks at Carter. "This is my fight, not yours..." Kane interrupts them and ushers Rosalinda toward the helicopter.
Time seems to slow down as Carter watches helplessly, her best friend being stolen by a ruthless dictator. Heartbreakingly, she wonders if this will be the very last time she sees her...
Striking as a flash of lightning through a sky of black omen, Major Joseph Mason swings open the helicopter doors in front of Kane and smiles winningly, "Good to see you again!"
"What is the meaning of this? You are interfering with official business of the sovereign land of Costa Luna!" rages Kane.
"Maybe this'll fly in your country, but here, it's called kidnapping," answers Mason. The Director, seated in the cockpit, cockily kicks her crossed leg and tilts her head, "Ve are turning you over to zhe international authorities."
Stunned and with no other option, Kane scampers with a swish of his cloak, pursued hotly by an almost jovial Mason, who's been looking forward to this moment for quite some time.
Breathless, Carter runs into Rosie's arms, her relief and joy and exhaustion and worry all cascading together in a torrent of emotion, rendering her speechless and only capable of holding on tighter to her best friend who is so much more.
As the whirring of the chopper blades slows and the wind around them dies down to a small breeze that ruffles the hems of their dresses, Rosie attempts to catch her breath through her tears.
"I can't believe you would do this for me," Rosie sniffs heavily.
Carter pulls away and her brain still can't function quite right, so she says something about being a princess and best friends and rainbows or something equally silly, but Rosie still smiles proudly at her and reaches up to her crown.
"You are truly a princess now, Carter Mason. You rightfully deserve this." Rosie places the crown lightly upon Carter's head, but the moment is ruined by the unmitigated wrath of Chelsea Barnes. Looking as vehement as a fire-breathing dragon, Chelsea huffily takes the crown. Outraged, Rosie steps forward, but Carter's arm holds her at bay. "Let her go - she needs it way more than I do."
It's at this moment that Mason returns with a captured Kane, and Carter laments her fate. "Ooooh, I'm in soo much trouble..." she mumbles as she walks slowly to her father.
Rosie looks on with a warm smile on her face as Carter attempts to explain herself. She feels her heart expand when Carter and Mason share a strong hug, as if she too felt the embrace.
Later, when the Masons and Rosalinda are safely back at Lake Monroe, Mason throws an arm around Carter as they walk from the car to the front door.
"You're dang lucky Señor Elegante trusts me as well as you do - he called and informed us of your little plan tonight."
"Woah, wait - so you knew the whole time?"
"Yup. The Director decided to stand down and wait for Kane to appear - I didn't like it one bit, of course. But she was right to trust in you; you brought Kane out right where we needed him. Maybe you've got a future in the Program, eh?"
"Pfft, yea right, dad," Carter replies as Mason ruffles her hair and kisses the top of her head. He then approaches Rosie and opens his arms for a hug, which Rosie gladly obliges. "I'm so happy you're safe, Rosalinda. Thank you for being so brave through all this."
"I didn't do it on my own - I am so grateful to both of you, you have done so much for me."
"Get some sleep Rosie; tomorrow morning you'll be on your way back to your country, and your family."
Carter walks up and takes Rosie's hand lightly, leading her to the bedroom. Silently, they slip out of their formal wear and into more comfortable attire, and Carter again takes Rosie's hand, leading her to her own bed, not willing to be separated on the last night her best friend is in Louisiana.
Facing each other, they hold hands and each other's gazes fondly. As Rosie's thumb caresses the back of Carter's hand, Carter's eyes brush over Rosie's face, shifting from her hairline to the shell of her ear, between her eyes, dark but shining, to her nose with the light splash of freckles only visible when so close, and to her lips, curved down slightly in sadness. Carter notices Rosie's eyes tracing a similar path across her own face, and she can't bear the thought of Rosie seeing the same sadness reflected in Carter's eyes.
"Don't be sad - you'll be with your family again soon," Carter's voice cracks with barely hidden emotion.
"But it means leaving the family that I have here... it's a joy and a heartache at the same time."
"The fairytale has to end sometime - we need to go back to reality," Carter replies wisely. A heavy silence falls upon the two for a moment.
Rosie sniffs and uses her shirt to wipe the corner of her eyes. "Believe it or not, I'm going to miss wearing your clothing," she giggles softly. Carter snags a bit of shirt between her fingers and rubs. Tears roll silently down Rosie's cheeks into the pillow. Carter frowns and wipes them away. "Don't cry..." but she can't think of a reason why not.
The light makeup they had applied for the dance is smudging round their tearful eyes, but Rosie thinks Carter has never looked more beautiful.
The next morning was spelled with grey clouds, the bright blue endless sky replaced with gloom. After Mason fails in his attempt to get the girl's to eat something, he ushers them outside to the field where Rosie was bitten by the snake, where they watch as a Princess Protection Program elite black helicopter lands to take Rosalinda back to her home.
Mason claps a strong hand on Carter's shoulder and offers an encouraging smile before he takes his leave and goes to address the pilot, leaving Carter and Rosie alone in the swirling grass and vast grey sky. The vacuum of space around them seems to have sucked up all the words Carter wanted to say.
Silently, Rosie lifts the golden chain that holds her mother's locket from her neck, and delicately holds it in both hands to Carter. Carter shakes her head in slight disbelief. "I couldn't - that's yours - "
"This necklace reminded me that I was a princess, and that it was my duty to be composed and brave through all my trials. But you reminded me that I was still just a girl who needed a friend. Now it is a reminder that you always have a friend in me, Carter. That I am loyal to you, as you are to me." And stepping closer, Rosie links the chain around Carter's neck. Their faces are just inches apart, and the dull thunder of circling helicopter blades in their ears puts them in a world of their own.
"I'm a better person because of you," Carter says as softly as she can while still being heard over the wind. Rosie smiles and rests her hands on Carter's chest and rubs the golden chain between her fingers, admiring it. She wets her lips before she speaks, looking into Carter's eyes. You've always been a good person, Carter - it just took you awhile to see it for yourself."
Carter feels her eyes prickle with tears. She shakes her head slightly with speechlessness. "I can't think of how - I want to tell you - "
"I'm so happy to have met you - " Rosie interrupts.
Carter feels Rosie's fingertips touch her jaw and hears the shift of the gravel as her foot moves closer between her own dusty converse shoes. All the colors are brighter and on her lips she can taste something sweet, and it must be from Rosie, because that's all that matters in the world to Carter now as Rosie's lips are pressed so, so gently against her own. Closing her eyes, she can feel the warmth in Rosie's touch on her cheek and shoulder, can feel the strands of hair blowing around her face and neck, can feel her heartbeat loud in her chest. Feeling like she's hurtling through space, she grabs hold of Rosie's wrist and the belt loop of her jeans. And just when she feels like she might scream from the feeling of falling and the butterflies in her stomach, the kiss ends.
The world comes crashing back down around them, and the whirring of mechanical blades reminds them that this is goodbye. Carter pulls Rosie into a tight hug.
Carter grasps the locket around her neck as she watches the helicopter lift off and slip above the clouds. To her left, Mason clears his throat and looks out through the trees toward the lake.
"So, uh... That was nice of her... Giving you that necklace... and that kiss..." Carter feels a prickle of embarrassment as she turns toward him. He's scratching his neck and tugging on his boots before stomping them to the ground.
"It means a lot for us," is all she can think to offer as she gazes at the clouds again. Mason stops fidgeting and looks at his daughter. He doesn't quite understand the vague answer, but he relaxes to find Carter so calm. He places a hand on her back and starts to lead her back to the house. "Don't worry, Pal. I'm sure we'll be seeing her again."
Rosalinda's coronation ceremony was pushed back, by special request of Rosalinda herself, in order that Carter and Ed may attend once the semester ended and summer began. Carter had never been so excited to receive a letter from Rosie, requesting that she not only attend the ceremony, but stay for the summer months in the palace as the Soon-to-be-Queen's special guest.
Costa Luna is more beautiful than Carter had ever imagined. It had the tropical palm trees and sandy beaches that Carter assumed an equatorial island would, but it also had adobe brick shacks and open markets in dusty squares and old Spanish lighthouses and tan fortresses, its history as a trading port etched in the very rock of the island. And the mountains, so green and lush and unlike anything Carter had ever seen in Louisiana.
Arriving the day before the coronation, Carter was understandably miffed at being unable to speak or even to see Rosie, for she was wrapped up in any number of official duties and royal preparations. Doña Sophia Montoya greeted Carter, Ed and Major Mason and made no little matter of the gratitude she felt toward them for keeping her daughter safe.
"You are a part of the family now, we owe you so much," she gathered Carter up in her arms and kissed her cheeks with the ferocity that only Latin women seem to possess.
After having been given a tour of the palace and having a quaint cup of coffee on the veranda of the dining hall, Ed and Carter were shown to their guest rooms, while Doña Sophia and Mason left to join the Director who had just arrived.
"So, Ed. You don't have a thing for Rosie, right?" Carter asks as the both lay on their backs on the huge bed in Carter's guestroom, staring up at the uniquely decorated ceiling.
"A thing? Like, a 'more than just friends' thing? Uh, nope. I mean, she's great, really pretty and nice… but nope… why, she say anything about me?" he perks up.
"No! I mean, she didn't say anything. I was just asking." Carter is quiet for a few seconds. "Because I think I might," she admits very, very quietly.
"...Huh? You? You mean like, a thing? A more than friends thing?"
"Yea maybe. I don't know… yes." Ed turns over on his side and lays his head on his tucked elbow, scrutinizing Carter. Carter is adamant however, on staring at the ceiling. Her fingers twitch, and she's not sure if she wants to scratch nervously, or just punch Ed.
"Huh," he says finally. Carter spares him a glance out of her right eye. "Hmm?"
"I just mean… well, I think it's cute."
" 'Cute' ?"
"Yea, I mean... You went from hating her guts to having a thing for her in like, a month. It's cute."
"Oh. Well... it just kinda happened, I guess. I've never met anyone like her before. And I... I think she feels the same way."
"Well, if you both feel something, you should talk about it, at least. It's no good if it just sits in your chest."
When Ed says this, Carter's figurative light bulb goes off in her head. She's quiet again while she tries to ease the constrictive feeling in her heart.
"Ed… Rosie once said that you looked at me… like you wanted something more… is that… was she right?"
Now it's Ed's turn to stare fixedly at the ceiling. "… Maybe. Possibly."
Carter squeezes her eyes shut and loathes the awkward tension that has now fallen upon them. Things were so much simpler before hormones showed up.
"Listen, Ed, I just - "
"No, I get it, Carter. I got it a long time ago, trust me. We're friends, and that's all I need. I know where we stand."
"... I'm sorry Ed."
Ed sighs heavily. "Don't apologize for what you feel. Like I said – I know where we stand. And to be honest, I think we'd make better friends anyway. I like having you as my best bud."
"Same here," Carter smiles softly. Ed holds out his hand, and Carter shakes it amicably.
"Joo do look lovely in bloo, Señorita," Elegante swoons as he brushes her shoulders and smooths her silky dark blue dress in the mirror of his workshop studio. "But... is dat..., isnn' dat Princesa's locket?"
"She gave it as a gift... but, it's still got the pictures of her parents in here," Carter laughs sheepishly. Elegante's gaze softens and he places a warm hand on her shoulder, ignoring the sounds Ed is making as he struggles to put on his tie without strangling himself.
"Den, if joo would like, I have something dat may suit joo better." And he goes to his desk, fiddles with some scissors, and comes back with his hands cupped, graciously held out to Carter. And lying within them is a perfectly trimmed, perfectly locket-sized picture of Rosie, looking beautifully un-royal with her hair down and a simple cotton shirt, her gaze directed somewhere off camera.
"Chaken last summer at da lake. Ay, Bella, bella."
"It's... perfect, thank you," Carter says in awe.
And Elegante gently takes the locket from her neck and replaces the picture for her then links it once again over her shoulders. "Dere. Joo look beautiful, Señorita. Now, come, da cerremuny will begin shortly. Ay! - Señor Ed, please, doo not tug on dat! Let me assisst joo!"
"I present to you, Queen Rosalinda Marie Montoya Fiore of Costa Luna!" bellows the arch bishop, placing the shining white-gold royal crown atop her head, and the crowd jovially responds. The excitement of the event gets the better of Ed, who yells at the top of his lungs, "LONG LIVE QUEEN ROSIE!"
The crowd is baffled for a moment, unaware of Rosalinda's nickname, but then Carter steps in and echoes his cry, and Rosie, from several yards away, smiles winningly at the two. Doña Sophia repeats the phrase enthusiastically in Spanish, and the crowd finally cheers in kind, much louder than before. A few hoots and hollers are even heard from the balconies and rooftops, where young village rascals have climbed in order to view the special event. Flower petals of red and pink are tossed joyfully into the air, and the royal guard salutes with a ceremonial trumpet march, as Rosalinda descends the throne steps and makes her way through the crowd. As she approaches Carter and Ed, her smile widens to be almost uncontainable on her face, and Carter feels that same joy trill through her own body. It was, undoubtedly, a beautiful ceremony.
But more so than witnessing her best friend crowned, the moment Carter has been waiting for finally arrives that evening during the royal festival in the town market place. Being a small nation, the royal feast is held in the heart of the community, and townspeople and royal guests alike mingle and celebrate under the rising evening moon and colorful lanterns. Finally, Carter is able to speak with Rosie, and she initiates the conversation with a bone-crushing hug.
"It's been too long since I've done this, so just bear with me as I get it out of my system," Carter speaks, her voice muffled by Rosie's shoulder.
Rosie laughs heartily, "I have been just as excited to see you, Carter. I'm so happy you're here." Carter steps back but holds a firm grip on Rosie's gloved hand.
"You were amazing today. Really. I still can't believe it, my best friend is Queen. It's crazy!"
"I always wondered what it might feel like to wear this crown, " Rosie muses as she lightly touches the jewel on her head. "...And?" Carter asks.
"It feels heavy," the queen replies blandly. The two just look at each other for a moment before bursting into laughter.
"Walk with me," Rosie says, turning and slipping past the crowd to head around a cluster of houses. Rosie removes her gloves so she can take Carter's hand, feeling her warm skin. Carter notices the friendship bracelet she gave her in Louisiana is still securely tied on her wrist.
Their wandering path leads them through a community garden, in full bloom with fragrant tomato vines and basil plants, smelling sweetly of summer, hiding them from the festive sounds of Spanish guitars and clapping hands floating on the breeze.
"It's kinda weird being alone out here, after all the excitement of the past few days."
"To be quite honest, I've been looking forward to spending time with you, more so than all the preparations and celebrations of this week," Rosie smiles and squeezes Carter's hand.
"So have I... and I ... have to tell you something, Rosie..."
Rosie purses her lips but her eyebrows arch up in interest. Carter stops walking to face Rosie, taking both her hands in hers and preparing to dive in, with one big deep breath.
"Just cutting straight to the point, here... I'm not sure what's going to happen from now on... how our lives are going change... but I just know, that I feel something very strong for you, and it's hard for me to imagine you not in my life somehow." Rosie is silent and urges Carter to continue, to verbalize the unspoken truth between them. Carter swallows, trying to wet her very dry throat.
"I - I love you. With every part of me. And I really want to kiss you again." It seems to take an eternity, a whole eternity where Carter feels like she's balancing on the edge of a very tall, very fatally dangerous precipice - until Rosie smiles.
" 'Sometimes in the winds of change, we find our true direction'." Carter smiles back uncertainly. "Is that like, your Shakespearean way of saying you love me too?"
"It's an anonymous quote that I think is apt - our friendship grew out of turmoil in my country and a wayward snake in tall grass. I wouldn't be the same today if I hadn't met you. Nor would I have had the chance to fall in love with you."
A tidal wave of joyous relief sweeps over Carter, almost powerful enough to knock her from her feet. She holds tightly to Rosie's hands, and rubs her thumb over the back of them. "So... we shouldn't be afraid of the changes that are coming, is that what you're saying?"
"I'm saying we can make this work if we really want - "
"I really, really do - " Carter interrupts her, and the world is sucked away in the instant her lips touch Rosie's.
Carter and Rosie eventually meander out from the town gardens and back towards the palace, the crescent moon high above them and the stars shining brightly.
"Ah, Mi Reina es aqui!" they hear from behind them. Rosalinda's Royal Guard, Dimitri, is trotting towards them, his ceremonial sword swinging at his hip. "Alteza Real, Señorita Carter - Doña Sophia and The Director of the Princess Protection Program request your presence in the Audience chambers. Por favor, follow me."
"Gracias Dimitri; but I must ask that you refrain from such formalities with me - My change in status has not changed who I am."
"Ah Si, Mi Reina - erh, Rosalinda. Gracias," he smiles politely.
Lady Sophia and the Director both look up from their conversation as Carter and Rosie enter the Audience hall, a large mahogany conference table taking up most of the room, and Mason standing just behind the two women, still wearing his PPP uniform.
"Good evening, ladies. Ve haff some very important issues to discuss vith you both, if you'll haff a seat," the Director directs them to two chairs beside the table in her curt accent. From behind her, Mason gives a thumbs-up to Carter, who struggles to hide her smile.
"Carter, I'd like to virst address you - Congratulations. You showed a most impressive reserve of bravery and vit in your plan against General Kane. Zhe Program is indeed grateful to you." The Director smiles at Carter, who is feeling a little flustered at all the attention. She nods slightly, not trusting herself to speak.
"I haff been conversing vith Agent Mason for some veeks now about an opportunity zhat you may be interested in - " behind her, Mason's smile is threatening to split his face, " - an opportunity within the Program... as our virst 'Junior Agent.' "
"Huh?" Carter asks, quite lamely.
The Director smiles and turns to Mason, clearly reading his excitement. Mason steps forward, "When the summer ends, you'll be getting your GED back in Louisiana, and then we'll both go to HQ to begin your training as a Junior Agent with the PPP. For the most part, you'll be acting as a Princess Liaison- perhaps later you'll be part of an extraction and protection force, but for now you'll be assisting princesses in adjusting to their new placements," he finishes almost breathlessly. "If you want to, that is," he adds as a second thought. Carter can hardly believe it.
"Uhm... YES! Please, yes, awesome, that's so... so - "
"Cool?" Rosie supplies for her, her hand going to squeeze Carter's under the table. "Yea! So cool."
"Excellent. Zhen ve haff an agreement. You may enjoy your summer here in Costa Luna, and zhen, as Mason has said, begin your transitioning as an agent."
"Now, Rosalinda..." The Director turns her attention to the Queen. "Ve at zhe Program realize zhat perhaps zhis may be asking too much, but zhere is a place for you as vell, as Carter's partner. Your cool temperament and righteous loyalty make you an excellent candidate for zhe Program. But, as I said - ve understand zhat your virst priority is to your country."
Rosalinda looks down at her lap, her mind racing with excitement. The room waits with bated breath. Carter squeezes her hand. Rosie looks up at her mother, who nods at her. "This is your decision, mija. Whatever you feel is best for you."
"I am eternally grateful to the Program, and it's agents, for what they have done for me and my country. I would therefore be honored to assist in any way I am able."
"Excellent!" The Director claps her hands together and stands up. "Ladies, thank you so much. Ve shall discuss zhis in more detail at a later date, but for now, it is late, and if I am not mistaken, zhere are still celebrations to be had!"
"Only for the grownups though," Mason comes and pats Carter on the shoulder. "You two should get to bed." Carter rolls her eyes at her father, standing up and then wrapping him in a bear hug. "Pretty exciting to be following in your old man's footsteps, huh?"
"Take it easy, there, Pops. It's not all about you, ya know."
"I know. It's me and you, pal."
"Me and you, dad. And now Rosie too!" Carter adds excitedly, grabbing Rosie into the hug.
Out on a palace balcony under the shining sun and the swaying Costa Luna flags, Carter holds Rosie's hand and swings them back and forth gently between their bodies.
"Did you ever imagine that things would end up like this? Kane's on trial for his crimes, your family's safe, your country has a new Queen, and you're gonna be working for the Program with me?"
"It's almost to good to be true," Rosie laughs lightly, and Carter reveals in the fact that she'll be hearing that laugh for many years to come.
"Sounds like a fairytale, to be honest."
"I'm perfectly fine living in a fairytale with you, Carter."
And when Rosie kisses Carter, her hand caressing her jaw and her body so close Carter can feel her warmth, Carter admits that she would never want another reality.
~~\/~~ FIN ~~\/~~
Thank you for reading!