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Green Tea 24, Cream Puff 21, Jelly Baby 20

Author: rustydragonfly
Challenge: Green Tea 24 (bedtime), Cream Puff 21 (take the cake), Jelly Baby 20 (we're all just stories in the end. just make it a good one.)
Toppings: butterscotch, gummy bunnies (trope_bingo round 1 card: kidfic)
Extras: malt (cream puff PFaH: Bala : not without my _______)
Wordcount: 875
Rating: all ages, a few aside references to past loss and grief.
Story: Manifestations
Summary: Little Bala can't sleep.
Notes: Shameless fluff. That is all.



Nevi lay with her eyes open, and stared at nothing. Kija was asleep by her side, not bothered by the still, heavy air that pressed in on all sides. Night had fallen along ago, and all around was darkness and heat.

Something moved, unseen, pushing aside the drapes she’d put up for privacy’s sake. She sat up in an instant. “Who-”

“I can’t sleep!”

Nevi lay back down at the sound of Bala’s voice, her heart going from pounding to calm again. She opened her mouth, and the words “Go and lie down again, you’ll sleep eventually,” rose up, only to die, unspoken, on the tip of her tongue.

She knew what to do with children who couldn’t sleep. It was not something anybody had told her, but a fact of the world and the way things were and should be. You took the child back to their bed, told them they’d be asleep in no time if they just closed their eyes, and you reassured them - no, you didn’t tell them monsters didn’t exist, nobody did that any more, but you told them about strong walls and big fierce guard dogs, and they’d fall asleep knowing the monsters couldn’t find them.

She knew what she was supposed to do, and she put it aside.

“Let’s go sit by the fire, then,” she said. “But you should be quiet, because other people are asleep. Can you do that?”

-

“I don’t have enough stones,” Bala said.

There was still enough of a fire burning when Nevi sat down with her, by the longhouse doors, and they added a little fire, for it was not as warm here as back with the other sleepers. Nevi studied her daughter’s handiwork in the orange light. It had been one of her fancies lately to collect stones - she loved looking at the difference between big ones and little ones, rough and smooth, and all their colours. Right now her collection had been turned into a miniature village. Little piles were methodically stacked to make buildings, and a ring made a big, strong wall to keep the imaginary inhabitants safe.

But there was a gap, where she’d run out of stones. She had a few left over, but she’d declared, earlier, that those were going to be the people, because it was silly to have a town without those. “Maybe the wall is broken,” Nevi said, “so the people will have to fix it?”

“Oooh!” Bala grabbed a stone from her leftover piles, a big, grey, flecked one, and placed it by the pretend wall. “That means the monsters can get in!”

“But you don’t want the monsters to ruin all your nice work! Is one of those people a beast-hunter?”

“No! Because the monster ate him!” Bala grinned, all gap-toothed in the firelight.

“Bala! That’s not nice at all!”

“But you said monsters eat people!”

“Well....” What could she say to that? Bala was telling the truth - she couldn’t possibly fault her for reciting something Nevi herself had told her. “Yes, they do, but.. what about your village?”

“She’s going to save it instead!” Bala produced another stone, smaller this time, glossy, and a deep blue-grey in colour. This was a new one - she’d dug it up a few days ago and come running to show Nevi in her excitement.

“Who is she?”

“She’s you!”

“Oh! That’s very nice, but... I’m not a beast-hunter.”

“But you don’t get eaten,” Bala said, grabbing some more of the people stones. Nevi watched her go about her work with all the seriousness of a villager mending a real wall. “This one can be Aunt Kija, and this one...”

She didn’t need to be a beast-hunter. She was Bala’s mother, and in Bala’s eyes, at least, that meant she could do anything.

-

A few hours later, after the terrible stone monster had been vanquished and its body suddenly became fair game for the rest of the wall (Nevi didn’t know how that worked, exactly), Bala lay with her head in Nevi’s lap, asleep. Nevi felt her own eyes grow heavy too, as she sat in the fading firelight, but all around her, she could hear stirring. Other people would soon be awake, to spend a few nighttime hours talking and working in the dark, before retiring to bed again in preparation for the morning.

“Nevi. Have you really been there all night?”

She looked up, to see her father seated opposite from her, across the fire. “Bala couldn’t sleep.”

“Then you should have sent her back to bed.”

“It didn’t seem fair when I couldn’t either.”

Her father sighed. “Nevi. I know it’s hard on you. It’s hard on all of us. But you can’t always be fair. Life is not fair.”

“I know that,” she said, and inside, unspoken, she thought, do you think I don’t know? Do you not think everyone in this village knows? “She knows that. The world will have plenty of chances to show her how unfair it can be. It has had chances. It’s taken them.” She stroked Bala’s hair as she slept. “ Give us some games once in a while. Why should I have to be unfair, on top of all that?”

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
shake_the_stars
Feb. 28th, 2013 01:26 am (UTC)
It may be shameless fluff, but it was great :)
rustydragonfly
Mar. 2nd, 2013 10:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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