Rating: PG/K+

Genre: Hurt/Comfort/Angst/Drama

Summary: For the hc_bingo challenge, prompt "De-Age". "I thought I was the only grown up. But we were all just kids, myself included."

Author's Note: The "De-Age" prompt was throwing me, because I was thinking of all those stories I've read where the character is, literally, somehow de-aged until they're a child again. THEN I remembered this scene in Rule of Rose (As well as recently having it thrown out there that Jennifer could very well have actually been a child the entire time, and… Well, if you've played the game, you know what a complete mind-f it is).

Disclaimer: I don't own Rule of Rose. It belongs to Atlus Games.


Adults ruled the world.

They knew that, all of them. Adults controlled everything in the world, and children had so little a say in things. That's why they strove to become adults, so that they could be infallible and strong and make their own decisions and pave their own way. That was why they emulated the cruelty they saw in Mr. Hoffman, in Martha, in Gregory, in the adults that had failed and abandoned them.

Jennifer thought she was so mature. She acted like a grown-up, like the ones her parents were: Kind and gentle and wise. She tried to be nice to everyone even when they were cruel to her, like her mother. She tried to help everyone even when they eventually turned around and put her down again, like her father.

Adults never put up with children abusing them. Never. Children did not abuse adults. Adults abused children. And so maybe, if she were a grown-up, Diana and Meg and Eleanor and Susan and Xavier and Thomas and Nicholas wouldn't be mean to her anymore. Maybe they would look up to her, like they did Clara. And Jennifer would never treat them badly.

She imagined herself a tall and beautiful young woman, round-faced like her mother and blonde like her father. Her hair was longer, neat, clean and combed and pulled into a bun; at the orphanage, Martha couldn't be bothered to style hair, so it was kept simple or short or both. She was slim and clear-skinned, and though her dress was grey it was beautiful and her shoes were shiny and clean: The clothes of a grown-up young woman, not a child.

But it didn't work.

When she towered over Diana, all the redhead did was get a chair to meet her eye-to-eye. Other times, they just knocked her to the ground. They still shoved her into the bag with all those bugs, they still poured water on her, stuck that rat in her face, scared her half to death and killed Brown.

Her façade fooled no one. They saw through the mask of adulthood that Jennifer tried to project, and they made her every bit as small and insignificant as they were. But Jennifer clung to the illusion that she was a grown-up, fearless and unyielding. Ultimately free, able to leave the wretched orphanage if she wanted to.

Maybe that was why they were so hard on her, Diana in particular. Maybe they scorned her for clinging to her fantasy, for imagining that she was more than what she was, what they all were: Children. Maybe they hated her for being able to make even herself fully believe that she was grown-up.

When they take Brown, when they kill him and leave him in the attic for her to find, when she sees the Aristocrats standing at their altar and sees Wendy come down offering roses and love, the illusion shatters.

Jennifer tried to be an adult for so long, drew their ire, and now Brown was dead. She didn't want to be an adult anymore. She didn't care. All she cared about was her dead best friend on the ground, and how she had failed to protect him like the grown-ups had failed to protect them all.

There was only one thing to do, one way to fight, one way to make herself strong: She had to stop holding on to her fantasy. One day, she would be an adult. But today she was a child, and her peers were children as well, children who did not respect adults- they respected other children.

If she was going to be strong, she had to let go. No more fear, no more cowardice, no more trembling in fear. She would have to be her own comfort and support. No more waiting and hoping for other to love her. It was time to love herself.

Jennifer stands.

And though she's no more than maybe four feet, she stands tall.