Disclaimer: I do not own PPP, only the plot of this.

The Deep End.

  I'll swim the ocean for you.  

Carter hasn't seen Rosie in a little over an hour. She doesn't think much of it, as she's (unwillingly) spent the greater amount of her Saturday afternoon in the bait shop and Rosie never really had a profound gravitation toward worms and fishing poles. Carter doesn't mind at all when Rosie says she's going to finish her homework so that on Sunday she won't have any schoolwork to stress about. Carter encourages it, actually, because it'll give them an entire day to themselves that they both desperately want, judging by the way Rosie's lips linger on Carter's and how Carter's heart thrums a little harder, a little faster, before Rosie leaves.

The sun warms her back and it's the kind of heat that you can almost touch. It makes her drowsy, the light has cast a blanket of ultraviolet rays around her and she embraces the hands of the sun. She rests her arms on the counter in front of her as a makeshift 'pillow' and lays her head upon them, watching the world from a different angle. Her eyes are only half open, but she sees birds fly sideways and clouds where trees are supposed to be.

She only has another fifteen minutes before she can close up, and not many people show up after 4 o'clock, anyway, so she isn't obligated to stay awake for this last quarter of an hour. Not really.

There isn't much, in fact, that would tear her from this early phase of dozing because it dispels her mind, it gives her this false sense of security, this façade that she has nothing to worry over. It allows her to forget, only for the sake of sleep, that she fell in love with a princess, a queen-to-be, and that this very girl is a gunshot away from ruin. Carter can't really imagine how someone would want to kill Rosie, the math doesn't add up in her head and blood clashes fiercely with her untainted skin. Carter thinks Rosie is worth more than the tropical soil of Costa Luna because Rosie's heartbeat is better than the rhythmic roll of ocean waves that overlap one another on the lip of the shore.

Carter thinks Rosie is worth more than a lot of things.

Sleep doesn't come as easily to her today as it ordinarily would, and it almost makes her wonder if it's due to the breath of a higher being, a sign from God, that she doesn't completely slip off into unconsciousness because she would have gone without hearing the faint splash of water in the distance. Her head snaps up and the world spins a little too fast for her to see clearly through her fatigued eyes, but the way she feels ghostly, like she can't feel anything at all, is enough to push herself to her feet and she doesn't trip as she runs toward the lake.

--x--

Rosie thinks that if Carter had the choice of where her tears would fall, it would be this lake. And maybe that's what draws her here. These Louisiana waters know things about Carter that Rosie doesn't.

She wonders if the rocks that she can see at the water's floor are rocks Carter threw here. She can picture it.

Carter isn't violent, not in a self destructive way. Not in a destructive way at all. So Rosie can easily see her standing at the edge of this very dock, her feet pivoted and her fists clenched, arm reeling back every so often to heave a rock or two into the lake to vent her frustration.

She can see Carter crying here and she wonders if her shoulders will ever meet swollen eyes and tearstained cheeks, if Carter will ever choose Rosie over this water. Rosie knows she's less hollow than Lake Monroe as she gazes longingly at her own reflection and the fist pressed to her heart feels like deadweight to her chest. Everything feels heavier than it should and she wants to know Carter beyond first kisses and entwined hands.

It's not that she's jealous of this lake, but there's so, so much she wants to learn about Carter that it already knows, that it already has recorded beneath the rings rippling across the surface as Rosie draws shapes across the water with her toes.

She gathers her sundress a little higher on her thighs than she would ever wear it and dips her feet into the water, only up to her ankles until the goosebumps on her skin there disappear and then the water reaches her calves, then her knees. She wants to feel the comfort Carter does when she comes here and it's not calming her as the cold sinks into her skin, conflicting the heat of the sun on the rest of her body.

Rosie thinks that hands are best used for touching and she reaches for the face of the water, dragging her fingertips delicately as if she's touching something pure, something untouched. Her mind can't even catch up when she realizes she's reached too far and Rosie thinks the way the water wraps around her in a cold embrace is how Carter feels when she cracks open her heart here to drown it in Lake Monroe. She can feel it and she knows, in that moment, just as she looks up at the sun through the blurry glass of water and her lungs search for air that isn't there, that she can hold Carter better than anyone because she understands.

--x--

Carter may as well be the one drowning with how she can't breathe, how everything seems to slow down and speed up at the same time as she throws her baseball cap to the ground, abandoned, feet still running. She absolutely knows it's Rosie because she never did take more than twenty minutes to finish her homework and she had a certain fascination with the outdoors, only as far as watching and not so much as participating. The fact that she can't see her thrashing around, that there's no battle to resurface, is what squeezes the frantically beating muscle inside of Carter's chest as she clambers onto the dock.

"Rosie!"

She knows it's fruitless to call her name, but it brings a little bit of purpose to her helplessness as she scans the water from the edge of the dock.

Rosie must have struggled beneath the restrains enough to push herself even further from where she slipped in, because Carter spots her several feet from where she's standing and she doesn't bother kicking off her sneakers before she dives in after her. She can immediately feel that a place that was once a haven has made the sudden transition to a prison and she doesn't care if this lake dries to a mere puddle as long as Rosie is still breathing.

Carter feels as though the water may as well be solid and the seconds tick by like a bass drum in her ears, her limbs fighting their way to a girl who is far too motionless.

Rosie's dress floats about her like lifeless butterfly wings and Carter will be damned if she never flies again. It all feels too surreal, as she hooks her hands underneath Rosie's arms, holding her close and her feet kick their way to the surface. It's like breaking through ice when they push through the window of water above them and Carter holds Rosie up with one arm, using the other to swim back to the dock and the blood in her veins feels like something much, much thicker.

She can't hoist Rosie up with most of her body focusing on staying above the water, so she scrambles onto the dock first, gripping one of Rosie's hands all the while to keep her head above the water. Reaching with her other hand, Carter grips the underside of Rosie's shoulder and grounds her feet firmly, yanking her as carefully as she can onto the dock.

Carter's own heart feels waterlogged as she falls to her knees, both legs on either side of Rosie's hips and she doesn't so much as think as she covers Rosie's lips with an open mouth, fingers pinching her nose.

Carter felt it before she saw it, when Rosie's eyes fluttered open as she felt a rush of hot air in her chest that wasn't hers and her palms pressed urgently against Carter's shoulders so she could breathe. She pulls away, her chest heaving and her clothes dripping a rhythmic pattern of water onto the wood of the dock and simply stares at Rosie, her eyes wide and her heart thudding on cymbals.

It takes her a second to think, but Carter crawls off of Rosie so she can sit up and she hits the middle of her back firmly with an open palm as Rosie coughs painfully between gasps.

Breathing has never felt so primal before and Rosie swallows as much oxygen as she can, more than aware of Carter's malleable eyes on her.

Rosie feels a little foolish because Carter can only hold eye contact with her for a few moments before she grasps the back of Rosie's neck and kisses her, hard, like she needs Rosie more than air. Her eyes are open and Carter's are closed, and she watches the tears roll down Carter's cheeks as she kisses back. Only then does she know that time is the only thing she needs to learn because Carter wants her and will teach her. Rosie means more than royalty to Carter and she's never been loved like this, so unconditionally and so raw.

"Rosie -" Carter pulls back, flushed and breathless, both of her hands framing Rosie's face. "What happened, what were you thinking?"

Rosie angles her head away from Carter, ashamed, only to have it gently pulled back to face her.

"I did not mean to fall in, Carter. I was only trying to…I only wanted to know more. About you. And I know that you love this lake dearly, so I wanted to understand," she murmurs softly and Carter gazes back at her with a questionable expression.

"My God, Rosie, just ask. I'm not going to freak out if you ask questions," Carter tucks a strand of Rosie's damp hair behind her ear, resting their foreheads against one another. "I've never been so scared," she whispers, biting her bottom lip.

"I'm sorry, I just wanted to know," she answers, shaking her head with a wavering breath. "You mean so very much to me and I want to know everything about you. You fascinate me, Carter."

Carter recoiled to search Rosie's face and the smile that touched her lips was very real.

"I'm not the fascinating one, Princess."

Rosie arched a single eyebrow, a look of mock offense until she let out a giggle.

"But you are. You put me as a person before me as a princess and you are the first to do that."

Labels mean nothing to Carter, even if Princess Rosalinda Maria Montoya Fiore has a lovely way of rolling off of her tongue like velvet. Rosie Gonzalez makes her skin crawl just as much.

"Yeah, well, I quite like you as a person," Carter mumbles, smirking as she presses a kiss to Rosie's neck and she can't remember being so relieved to feel her pulse beneath her lips.

"I-I quite like you, too, Carter," Rosie manages through an inaudible gasp, her nails scratching lightly at the nape of Carter's neck.

"Do you like me enough to stay away from this lake unless I'm with you?" Carter murmurs against Rosie's damp skin and she can feel Rosie breathing against the shell of her ear.

"I've learned what I needed to."

"Yeah?" Carter leans back and Rosie nods. "Good, I've got a lot to teach you, then, eager learner," she says with a smile and a tap to Rosie's nose.

Rosie laughs, standing to her feet as Carter pulls her up gently, holding their entwined hands between their bodies and they both think they might be having a moment.

"I cannot wait."

Carter glances down, for no particular reason, and then the moment is ruined as fast as it had come while she nervously huddles in front of Rosie, as though she were shielding her. Rosie opens her mouth to ask, but Carter answers before she even can question.

"Lesson number one," she says lowly, almost comically. "That dress is not waterproof and I'd suggest you stay right behind me on the way back to the house, 'kay?"

Rosie crinkles her eyebrows in confusion before looking down and she gasps as her arms fly over her chest. Carter only laughs and links a hand with Rosie's, pulling her along as they walk back to solid land and Rosie molds into Carter's back like an over effective magnet.

~Fin