"Hey, PB, we found her!" Finn burst into the throne room of the Candy Palace, Jake a few steps behind him, while Marceline floated in after them both. She was exhausted, too exhausted to rush in. Her throat was sore, her back hurt -- even her skin ached, and she knew she was paler than normal; she could already hear Bonnie's criticism of her appearance from the black parasol with the skulls to the red high-tops and evening gloves. Glob, why did she let Finn and Jake talk her into coming here? She didn't need to see the princess, no matter how much she wanted to. She should just have gone home.
Still, a small spark jumped inside her at the thought of seeing Bonnie, and how worried she must have been to have sent Finn and Jake after her! Knowing that Bonnie cared was almost worth being forced to spend a day in bat shape, hiding under a bed in the sunlit bedroom and cursing Gunter for locking her in there. She'd survive.
Her stomach growled as she crossed to the dais, reminding her that she hadn't eaten since before the summons to the Ice King's palace. She was starved, and if her mouth weren't so dry, she'd be drooling over all of the food on offer. Too bad all of the red she saw was attached to Candy People. Bonnie would give her the stink eye for trying to suck the red out of any of her subjects, even Peppermint Butler. Marceline glared at him where he stood next to Perfectly Pink Princess Bonnibel Bubblegum. His red candy stripes looked oh, so sweet, and she wanted to sink her teeth into them and suck all the color out.
The teacups on the tray that Peppermint Butler held rattled nervously as he caught her looking at him.
"Finn! Jake! Thank glob!" Bonnie sat up even straighter, if that were possible. "I told you Marceline always takes tea with me on Tuesdays, so we could discuss the next tour for the band. I knew something had to have happened for her to miss it!"
Jake’s voice echoed throughout the throne room as he strode up the steps. "The weird thing is, it wasn’t the Ice King that had her. Gunter had her locked in one of the rooms the Ice King decorated for one of his kidnapped princesses. It had some huge windows, so there was light everywhere. But get this, the Ice King helped us get her out."
The Princess shifted uncomfortably. "Gunter is jealous of the Ice King's relationship with Marceline." She shook her head. "He doesn't like it when the Ice King pays attention to anyone else, and he's very rude in how he shows it."
Gunter. Yeah. Marceline fisted her hands. She was going to take that little penguin apart some day for what he had done to her. Nobody, least of all some stupid evil penguin with delusions of grandeur, put Marceline the Vampire Queen in a sun room with poorly painted daisies on the walls, for globs sake. It was undignified.
"Is Marceline okay?" Bonnie said faux-quietly to Finn. "I mean, her socks are torn."
Arrgh. Marceline dropped the parasol as anger flared through her, while the Candy People fled to the sides of the room as her fangs and claws shot out of their sheaths. Couldn’t Bonnie ever get that torn clothing was a fashion statement? Why did it always have to mean something?
"Why isn't she saying anything?" Bonnie asked. "She looks really angry. Her hair is turning into tentacles. That's never a good sign."
Marceline panted, her tongue lolling out of her mouth, her head flushed and on fire. She could feel flames literally leaping out of the sides of her face as her hair whipped around her like braided leather snakes.
"Besides locking her in the room, the Ice King thought Gunter stole her voice and put it in a bottle." Finn pushed himself in front of Jake. "She hasn't spoken since we got her out of the cell."
"Oh, no!" Bonnie looked terrified and rushed over to Marceline. "I am so sorry. I know what singing means to you, and I promise that I will help you get your voice back. You're just pretty scary looking right now." She gestured at the Candy People around them, most of whom were hiding behind Cinnamon Bun or shaking violently, their backs pressed against the wall. "Can you turn it down a bit?"
Marceline forced herself to rein her power in, dousing the flames and getting her hair to settle down. Why was it that anytime Bonnie criticized her, she flew off the handle? You'd think after all this time, she'd wouldn't be so brittle. She reminded herself that since Bonnie had become the band's manager this past summer, things were better. Music and the band helped heal some of the old wounds, and there was no way either of them wanted to give up on their revitalized friendship. Of course Bonnie would help, and it felt nice to know that she cared. Marceline just had to squash the tiny voice in her head that said she didn't need the help.
"That's better," Bonnie said as she took hold of Marceline's hand; Marceline tried to ignore how much safer she felt.
Finn slung his backpack off his back, unzipped it, and dug out a bright green bottle. "Her voice is in here." He opened the bottle, and a faint echoing version of the French fry song spilled out. "The Ice King said it’s fine, but he had to do some mumbo jumbo to get it away from Gunter."
Marceline flinched as she looked at the bottle. She'd given that bit of her voice to the Ice King hoping it would help him remember her; as usual, it hadn't helped. She felt angry and embarrassed that she couldn't do anything to help him. Floating over to Finn, she snagged the bottle out of his hand and recapped it, shoving the cork back in as hard as she could; no one needed to know what a failure she had been where the Ice King was concerned. Blissful silence descended, and she tossed the bottle to Bonnie. Maybe she could use it after all.
"Can something be done?" Bonnie asked Finn.
"The Ice King thought so."
"We couldn’t figure out how to put her voice back, so we brought her to you," Jake added.
"Yeah, we figured you could use your sciencey stuff to whip up a voice injector."
"Or maybe one of those old books you had could tell you how to do it. The thing’s like Peter Pan’s shadow," Jake said, looking around the room. "No matter how much soap we put on it, we can’t get it to stick. We figured you might be able to do better."
"You can, right?" asked Finn. "This is something pretty simple for you, not like making a zombie antidote or anything."
"Nah, it’s like making Candy People," Jake said. "They’ve all got voices, so this should be a snap."
"Not exactly..." Bonnie's voice drifted off. "It might be a little more complicated than that."
"Oh, my," said Peppermint Butler. "I better see to the kitchen." He picked up the tea dishes and scurried away as an awkward silence descended on the room.
Bonnie shrugged. "People are weird. It’s not like working with candy."
The little voice in Marceline's head refused to quiet itself; she really didn't need the help and the fuss of everyone around her. Her voice wasn't really stolen, just temporarily strained. She swirled her hand around, putting the parasol up and adjusting it to just the right angle. She'd blow out of here, and her voice would come back eventually. This sort of thing always worked itself out. No matter how nice it felt to be the center of Bonnie's attention, it was better if she handled it on her own.
Bonnie laid her hand on Marceline’s arm, stopping her, her touch both soothing and electric even through Marceline's gloves. For some reason, it made Marceline want to rub her cheek against Bonnie’s hand, which really was pretty embarrassing. "I do want to help you, Marceline. It just might not be easy, that’s all. I will make sure you get your voice back." She stroked her hand over Marceline’s arm, feather-light. "I’m going to need to know the details of what happened, so I can figure out how to put your voice back."
Marceline felt her face flush with embarrassment; she really didn’t want Bonnie to know that she was a softie where the Ice King was concerned. Those details felt personal, private, like the songs she wrote -- then again, that was what Gunter had used to lure her into his trap. Crossing her arms in front of her, Marceline tucked her head to the side in her ‘don’t talk to me’ pose. She really did not want to go through this.
"It’s okay if you want to write it down." Bonnie’s voice was soft and intimate, sending a shiver up Marceline’s spine, something inside of her craving that intimacy. "I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t need to know." She picked up the cushion of her throne, handed it to Finn, then opened the seat. "Here," she said. "I’ve got some paper and pencils stored in this drawer in case an idea strikes and I need to write it down."
Marceline grimaced as Bonnie handed her a notebook and pink pen taken from the compartment in the throne. Biting into the pen, Marceline drained all of the color out of it and tossed it aside. She felt a lot better after having a snack.
"Oh." Bonnie blinked. "I guess you were hungry?"
Fine. She'd do it, only she'd make it look a lot worse than what had actually happened. Marceline thought, and then threw herself into creating a huge shadow-play of what happened, covering the entire wall of the throne room. Finn, Jake, Bonnie, and all of the Candy People still in the room were spellbound by the dark shapes moving over the walls, showing her at home working on music, the sudden appearance of the Ice King's beacon -- "Help me, Marceline. You're my only hope"-- and the way she fled the house immediately to help. She played out the whole incident, with only a few embellishments, including how Gunter had locked her into the room just as dawn broke.
At that point, she froze. Marceline really didn’t know how to deal with the next section. She was part-demon, a vampire and a necromancer. She could change into a wolf or a dozen other scary monsters, while the penguin was merely an evil little shit who happened to be good at petty theft and capable of finding the most hideously powerful artifacts ever hidden from mankind.
Or maybe it was simply that Simon -- the Ice King -- kept misplacing his magical artifacts and Gunter found them, which was more likely, because that stupid crown and its gems of evil power had scrambled his brains so much that he couldn’t remember if he liked jam on toast on any given day.
Either way -- whether Gunter stole it or found it -- it didn’t matter. She should have been able to get herself out, not hide like a child under the bed, afraid that the big bad light would get her. Marceline rubbed her hands over her eyes. She had stood alone for a thousand years, there was no way talking -- well, something like that, anyway -- about this was going to break her.
Determined, she showed herself pacing the room as sunlight filled it, how there were fewer and fewer shadows, how she had to shrink and hide herself away. She was sweating from the effort when she was done and turned to look at her friends, who had gone eerily silent.
All three of them stood there, staring at where the last image had faded, their eyes wide open and pure white.
Bonnie was the first to blink and refocus on the room. "Oh, Marceline."
Finn nodded. "Yeah, that looked like it sucked."
There was another awkward silence as Marceline stared at them all; she didn't need their pity.
Finally, Bonnie looked at the bottle with the bit of Marceline's voice in it. "We better look at this in the lab. It might get explosive."
Marceline nodded and floated over to join her, waving at Finn and Jake.
"Later, PB, MarMar!" Finn waved back at them. "Come on, Jake. Treetrunks said she was making pie today."
"Think I’ll find Lady Rainicorn first," Jake said, following him out the door. "She might like some pie."
With a deep sigh, Bonnie tilted her head to look up at Marceline. "MarMar?"
Marceline kept it cool, leaning back and crossing her arms, the parasol keeping her in deep shadow. It was Finn. What more could she say?
"True enough." Bonnie beckoned Marceline to follow her as they made their way to the lab. "Though think I prefer Marceline."
For once Bonnie's lab was quiet -- no zombies, no plague, no creature from an alternate plane of existence attempting to ooze their way into the Candy Kingdom. Marceline was bored within ten minutes as Bonnie ignored her, delving deep into her equations and books.
She looked pretty cute while she did it, too, what with her pink hair pulled back in a ponytail and her pink safety goggles perched on her head and her white scientist's coat. Some of her hair straggled down the side of her face, and there was a brush of talc on her cheek from the gloves Bonnie wore. She wasn't the Perfect Princess right now, more a mad scientist, and Marceline really liked that.
Marceline wandered over to look at what was on the shelves, but the place was just too quiet. Every time she reached out to poke something -- Science the rat's cage, some interesting looking beakers, or that pile of greenish-yellow zombified flesh -- Bonnie would hear her and call out a distracted 'please don't touch.'
Seriously, was Bonnie even aware that it was Marceline she was talking to, rather than Finn? She knew how to handle herself in a weird paranormal emergency.
"Don't stare," Bonnie said as she poured some yellow gloop into a boiling pot. "This is the tricky part."
Fine. She'd do something else. Taking out her guitar, Marceline crossed her legs tailor-style as she floated above the end of the counter next to where Bonnie worked. Running a few chords revealed that the lab had really good acoustics, and Marceline thought would be a shame to waste them. Bonnie didn't seem to mind -- wouldn't have mattered if she did mind anyway -- so Marceline strummed some tunes while Bonnie did her thing.
The music took on a life of its own inside Marceline's head, building like storm winds and flying along like clouds in the sky. Oddly, the sound was a little more joyous than normal, with Bonnie working intently beside her; the two of them jazzing together like melody and harmony for once. The room filled with the sound, seeming to push Bonnie to work faster with the ebb and flow of the music Marceline played.
Words formed in Marceline's head, nothing that she could point to as a lyric line, but all of them -- smart, stubborn, driven, controlling, rigid, charming, and beautiful -- were words that described Bonnie. She wished she had as much faith in her music as Bonnie had in her science. She always seemed so pulled together.
She let the words spin out of her, traveling through her fingers and into the air, wrapping around Bonnie and holding her gently. The words shimmered with power in Marceline's eyes, sinking into Bonnie's hair and skin. A couple of the words -- rigid and driven -- shattered and fell, rather than being absorbed; they didn't completely fit after all.
"That's nice." Bonnie smiled as she looked up from her chemical set, her eyes magnified by her bright pink safety goggles. "I don't think I've heard it before. Is that new?"
Marceline nodded, feeling caught out. Music and lyrics weren't quite magic, but they could feel like it in the right circumstances. The brittle friendship would take a huge blow if Bonnie thought Marceline was trying to enchant her.
"I really love your music." Bonnie's cheeks reddened slightly, and she wouldn't meet Marceline's eyes. It was..sweet. "Maybe...you could sing it when I'm done?"
Sing it? Marceline blinked. That wasn't what she'd expected. She'd just been improvising, passing the time. There wasn't really a song behind what she was doing, but hey, if Bonnie liked it, why not? She could figure out something pretty cool by the time it was ready; not anything worth taking out on-stage, but certainly good enough for the two of them together.
Strange to think that she'd once sung about how she was just a problem for the princess, and here Bonnie was, helping Marceline out. Over the course of the summer, they really had become friends. Little things, like the fact that she'd first started using Bonnie's first name to needle her, and now it was just another nickname like Peebles or MarMar. Except it was a more private, more personal. She was the only one who called her Bonnie.
Bonnie slept in a 'Scream Queens' T-shirt, and Marceline had seen it. She had borrowed clothes from Marceline, and slept in her bed when it got too cold one night. Marceline might be a vampire, but she was also half-demon, and she never worried about freezing.
Bonnie had pulled her out of a dark funk on the trip, reminded her of how good her music could be. Marceline had seen the Princess angry and pissed off and disappointed, completely open, the emotional opposite of the so careful ruler she had to be in the Candy Kingdom.
Marceline kinda missed her, missed the way she'd been on the road. It was always a little bit of a shock to see her each Tuesday, buttoned up and polished when they met for tea.
Turning back to the guitar, words formed in Marceline's mind like the shadows she'd spun on the wall earlier, giving voice to the song she couldn't sing.
Bonnie, why do you hate your name?
I think it's perfect for you,
Like sunlight in rain.
When it's just us two,
it seems a shame
to let the Princess rules
take away your name.
Bonnie added some sugar to her current mixture. It fizzled purple then blue as Marceline laid down a chill jam, only to clear up as soon as she stopped.
Bonnie frowned. "I think the mixture may be sensitive to music."
Aces. Marcelline could work with that. Bonnie made a few more attempts -- less sugar, more salt, a little reggae and a lot of punk rock -- before the potion stabilized. "There!" she said as the liquid passed through yellow, green, and orange before settling on a deep blue. "Now I just have to add the voice extract, then --"
She stopped, momentarily puzzled, then glanced at Marceline. "I think we may have a problem."
Not that that was anything unusual. As it didn't look like a sudden invasion of flesh-eating zombies -- something which had happened on more than one occasion -- or a wormhole that was destroying the universe, it probably wasn't that big of deal. Marceline flexed her cramped fingers while Bonnie explained her concerns.
"Look, your body works like this." She dragged a white board over to Marceline and began drawing on it. "Your magical body uses your fangs and your ability to suck the color red from stuff to get its nutrition, while your physical body uses your regular teeth and digestive system to process food for energy."
So? Marceline thought. What's the big deal?
"We have to find a way to merge the two, so your magical body can absorb your voice and place it in your physical body where it belongs."
That sounded right, Marceline thought. Add a few drops of food color, turn the thing red, hand her a straw and she'd drain the color out, snick-snack. And if Bonnie's potion was as good as she thought it was, she'd feel fine afterwards. And if it didn't work, no problem. She'd always healed fast and was a little surprised her throat still ached.
Bonnie grimaced. "I can't change the color without destabilizing the mixture. So I can't turn it red."
Oh. Okay, that was not the best news she'd ever had, but she'd figure something out. A sore throat wouldn't kill her, not without a lot of blood and magic to go with it; even if it took a couple of days, she'd be fine eventually.
She would be fine. Absolutely fine. Eventually.
Looking around, Marceline spotted the robot that Bonnie had brought along on their last road trip. The little guy painted stuff red, so Marceline could always eat. She whisked it off of the back shelf and brought it over to Bonnie. It looked a little broken, but nothing she couldn't fix, right?
Bonnie shook her head. "It has to be edible. Something magic neutral, but it has to have a strong physical form that you can sink your teeth into, nothing you can drink through a straw." She tapped her pencil against her teeth. "Apples would have been great, but Treetrunks used them all to make pies. Berries, too."
Marceline slapped Bonnie's forehead. Hello, pies? They're physical, right? No sweat. Berry pie with magic sauce on top.
"Ow." Bonnie rubbed her forehead, glaring at Marceline. "I don't actually know what you are saying, you know."
Marceline rolled her eyes and grabbed Bonnie's pencil: BERRY PIE
"Oh! Excellent thought." Bonnie immediately rang for Peppermint Butler.
The pie was a deep purple, and it smelled incredible. The color was a tiny problem -- deep purples could be nasty, like having too much vinegar in a sauce. It would have been great if it had been a purple-red or purple-pink, or some other shade that Marceline preferred but this one had barely enough reddish tint to qualify as a purple rather than a black.
"Maybe if we added some whipped cream?" Bonnie tossed a large dollop on top of the crust, and where the deep purple juice met the white cream, the color thinned enough that Marceline was ready to give it a try.
She sank her teeth into the cream and the pie crust, the tartalicious berry juice seeping into her mouth, and felt a slight buzzing in the back of her mind. She sucked and felt the color slide into her, rich and dark, with a hint of sweetness. At the same time, the crumbly pie crust and thick mixture of berries and cream coated her tongue; she crushed the melange in her back teeth and swallowed.
Mmm, tasty. She took another bite, then drained the color from the pie as fast as possible, giving herself a color rush in the process. She felt light-headed and dizzy, and ran her tongue over her lips. Glob, that was good.
"Well? Did it work?" Bonnie asked anxiously.
Marceline swallowed. Hey, her throat felt great! "Rad."
She could see Bonnie swell with pride. "I'm so glad! I know how much your music means to you, and if you couldn't sing--"
"Yeah, about that," Marceline interrupted, figuring she better come clean. "I lost my voice because I'd been up rocking out the night before, and spent the next day yelling at Gunter. He didn't actually 'steal' my voice. The bottle was a gift to for the Ice King. There was only a little bit of my voice in it."
"Finn didn't know about the present. The Ice King didn't remember it, either." She tried not to think about how much it hurt to say that, both to let Bonnie in on what happened and to let her know that she'd failed. "So, yeah, well, I kinda...exaggerated. Just a little. And maybe the whole imprisonment thing, too."
"So this was one of your practical jokes?" Bonnie looked ready to pop. "I busted my gumdrops to make you a very scientific infusion that would give you your voice back, and you didn't need it?"
"You know I heal fast." Marceline hesitated. "Look, my voice would have come back on its own eventually, but it might have been days, even with my special powers. I would have been alone in my head all that time, and trust me, that's not always a good place to be." She shrugged. "I've got a thousand years of memories, and sometimes I sing about stuff so I don't get overwhelmed." She grimaced as she remembered how bad it could get. "So I'd've survived, but it would have been..."
"Oh." There was a world of understanding in that one little word. Both of them had spent far too much time alone. Bonnie had created the Candy Kingdom out of her loneliness; maybe she could forgive what Marceline did out of her own. "You could have stayed with me, you know."
"Yeah, I know. And it would have been fine until I got on your nerves again, and then we'd've fought, and the palace would have been destroyed and the rivers would have run red with blood and undead Candy People would have wiped out everything in their path -- You know I'm no good living with people long term."
Bonnie sighed. "I know. That was pretty much our breakup last time."
"Tell me about it." Marceline settled down on the ground and threaded her fingers through Bonnie's, holding her hand. "Everything's cool?"
"I guess." Bonnie squeezed Marceline's hand, then lifted her chin slightly. She untangled their hands and stroked her cheek, right by her lips. "You've got whipped cream here. It's sorta - pink."
"Oh. Thanks." Marceline looked around to see if she could find a towel or something, but Bonnie held her hand up.
"Allow me." She stepped in closer and gently slid a finger across Marceline's skin. It made her shiver, reminding her of summer nights when they spooned up together, and not just because Bonnie was cold. "There, that's got it."
Her voice was a little breathless, her heart pounding. Marceline leaned over and licked the whipped cream off her finger, and Bonnie's eyes grew wide. She nipped a little at the tips of Bonnie's fingers, and the Princess didn't pull them back.
"I didn't mean to scare you."
"You don't scare me, Marceline. Not anymore." She leaned in and kissed Marceline, her lips soft and welcoming. Marceline couldn't help but respond, sliding her hands up Bonnie's arms to her cradle her face. Bonnie's breath came faster, and Marceline forgot to breathe as she let her hand stroke over Bonnie's neck and skin.
When she pulled back, Bonnie's cheeks were flushed, her eyes wide. Her hair was mostly out of its ponytail, and Marceline couldn't help but smile. "After what happened, I think I need a shower. Mind if I use yours?"
Bonnie grinned back at her. "Let me lead the way."