AN: I don't own The Princess and the Frog, Disney does, but everyone reading already knows that. This fic was written in response to an LiveJournal contest where the challenge was to do something creative inspired by a still from a Disney movie, and the still given was one of Tiana and Charlotte as children, so I decided to write something about their friendship.

"From Different Worlds"

By EsmeAmelia

One was white, rich, upper-class, who got whatever she wanted, whose bedroom was full of dolls and dresses, whose dream was to marry a prince and become a princess.

One was black, poor, lower-class, who had to get by with little, who didn't have many toys, whose dream was to open a restaurant with her father.

They met when Charlotte's father hired Tiana's mother to make little Charlotte a play dress. The girls were both three.

"Daddy," Charlotte immediately asked, tugging on her father's pant leg and pointing at little Tiana, "why is she brown?"

Big Daddy fumbled for a moment at the awkward question. "Uh . . . well sweetie, you see . . . that's the way God made her."

"Oh," said Charlotte, who didn't seem quite satisfied with the answer.

"Now why don't you go play with her?" the father quickly said, gently nudging her in Tiana's direction, preventing any further discussion of her race. He feared for a moment that Charlotte would ask Tiana herself why she was brown, but fortunately, she just said hello. After Tiana said hello back, Charlotte grabbed her hand and led her away, eager to show her room to her new friend.

And after that, a routine started. Every time Charlotte saw a pretty dress in a storybook or a painting, she wanted one just like it and begged Big Daddy to call Eudora to make it for her – but she never forgot to also beg him to tell Eudora to bring Tiana with her.

By the time the girls were five, they were best friends who could hardly remember a time when they didn't know each other. No matter how many dresses Charlotte had, she was always asking for another one, always coming up with a reason for Tiana to visit again. They pretended they were princesses, played with Charlotte's dolls, listened to Eudora read them stories, after which Charlotte never failed to fall backward in excitement that the princess got the prince.

Tiana, of course, wasn't as interested in princesses as Charlotte was, but she faithfully wore the toy crown that Charlotte had given her. She loved wearing it because it reminded her of her friend.

"Daddy," Tiana asked one evening after returning from Charlotte's house, "how come we don't have a big house like Lottie?"

James sighed at the question. His daughter's brown eyes were shining, as if she expected him to magically build her a house as big as Charlotte's. "Well baby," he forced himself to say, "it's because we don't have as much money as she does."

"How come?" Tiana asked in the most innocent of voices.

Cause we were born that way. Cause we don't belong to the rich class. Cause our skin's brown. Cause the world doesn't give a lot of money to people like us. Cause no matter how hard we work, we always get the bottom end.

All those answers and more went through James's head, but he gave his daughter the simplest and most vague.

"Cause that's the way things are," he said.

When they were six, Charlotte finally visited Tiana's house for the first time, after much begging from both the girls. All three parents were hesitant to allow it, but they all found that they couldn't resist their daughters' pleas for too long.

Charlotte wore her pink princess gown and brought along one of her many dolls. At first her eyes sparkled when Tiana showed her around the house, but later, as they were playing in Tiana's bedroom, a question came up.

"Tia," Charlotte asked, "how come your house is so small?"

Eudora heard the question as she passed the bedroom door. She froze, her hands clenching, her teeth grinding, momentarily angry at the six-year-old for asking such a thing. How dare she, with her endless supply of dolls and dresses and money, make fun of their house like that! She pressed her ear against the door, listening for how her daughter would answer.

"Cause it's enough for us," Tiana was saying. "That's what Daddy says."

"But don't you ever wish it were bigger?" Charlotte continued, so innocent, and yet still her words pierced Eudora's heart.

"Not really," said Tiana. "If it were big, it wouldn't be special when I go to visit your big house."

Now Eudora was angry at her daughter. Hadn't Tiana been taught to be proud of who she was instead of feeding the idea that rich people were better?

"Besides," Tiana continued, "I like my house the way it is, don't you?"

There was a moment of silence. Eudora tensed up again, on the verge of bursting in the room and telling both of them not to talk about things like this, but then Charlotte spoke up, saying three little words that calmed her down.

"Yeah," she said, "I do."

The girls were both fourteen when James was killed in the war. Charlotte and Big Daddy attended the funeral, wearing black like all the others. Charlotte asked if she could sit in the front pew, even though that space was usually reserved for the family of the deceased. The preacher was about to refuse her request, but then Tiana stepped in, saying of course she could sit with them.

The girls held hands for most of the service. Tiana was always on the verge of tears, but never actually cried, as if the tears got lost on the way out of her eyes. She was numb, unable to listen to the preacher, only able to look at the casket in which her father lay, never to wake up.

"I'm so sorry, Tia," Charlotte said at one point, giving her friend's hand an extra squeeze.

Tiana said nothing, didn't even look at her friend, but she gave her hand an extra squeeze back.

It wasn't until James was buried, after all the mourners had left except Tiana and her mother and Charlotte and her father, when Tiana's tears finally started flowing. And once they started, they wouldn't stop. Sobs exploded out of her. She wailed like a small child, not caring who was watching – indeed, the people watching seemed to disappear. Nothing mattered except the fact that her father was gone forever, leaving her with a hole in her being that would never heal.

But then a pair of arms wrapped around her, pulling her close, patting her back, trying with every bit of her will to help Tiana fill that hole.

They were Charlotte's arms.

When the girls were adults, after a wild adventure, Tiana married a prince, the prince Charlotte had tried so desperately to get for herself. The swamp animals had been their witnesses and a strange voodoo lady had been their minister. Though it had been a lovely ceremony, both bride and groom had felt there was something missing.

"You know," Naveen had said, "it is a shame that our families didn't get to see our wedding."

Tiana nodded, thinking of her mother – and of Charlotte, who had given up her dream so Tiana could be happy.

"Perhaps . . ." Naveen said, perhaps thinking out loud, or perhaps stating a plan that he had already made, ". . . we could have a second wedding as humans." He took her hand and pulled her close to him, dancing slightly. "One with all the music and food, all the things a wedding needs."

Tiana smiled at her new husband.

"And besides," he said, a sudden seriousness in his voice, "if you are to be my wife, we must make sure our marriage is official in the public's eye."

Tiana nodded. "That sounds wonderful."

"I'll get it, Daddy," Charlotte called when she heard the knock on the door. Perhaps whoever was on the other side of the door would distract her from worrying about Tiana – poor Tiana, doomed to spend the rest of her life as a frog, all because she hadn't been quick enough to kiss Naveen.

All because she had been selfish enough to think kissing a frog prince had to come with marriage.

Selfish – that's what she was, that's what she had always been. Obsessed with her own wishes, barely noticing Tiana's troubles. What kind of friend was that? She didn't deserve Tiana's friendship – she never had. After the two enchanted frogs hopped away, Charlotte had wandered the streets all night looking for them, but to no avail. Now she might never see Tiana again.

What would she do without her?

But to her complete surprise, she opened the door to find a very human Tiana on the other side, wearing a fancy, sparkly dress with a matching veil.

"Tia?" Charlotte sputtered. "What . . . how . . . . you . . . how come you're not a frog?"

"I'll explain soon," Tiana said, wearing the biggest smile Charlotte had ever seen. "First off, I have something for you." She produced two letters. "This one's for your daddy, and this one's for you."

Charlotte ripped open the letter without even looking at the fancy seal. Her eyes widened to their limits when she saw it was an invitation.

Prince Naveen of Maldonia and Princess Tiana of New Orleans request the presence of

Charlotte LeBouf

at a ceremony commencing their marriage

. . .

She didn't bother to read the rest of it. In an instant she threw her arms around her friend, squeezing her almost to the point of smothering, tears of joy streaming down her face.

"Oh Tia," she squealed, "I'm so happy for you! I'm so very very very very happy!"

Tiana gently pushed her friend back so she would have enough breathing room to speak. "I knew you would be, Lottie." She squeezed Charlotte's shoulders. "Thank you, thank you so much for last night."

Charlotte sniffed happily, wiping her eyes. "I love you so much, Tia."

"I love you too, Lottie."

THE END