A/N: More implications. Fight me!

Words: 1,723


CONNECTION


As a child, Bubblegum loves the sun: loves the way it glistens in the whorls and wipples of her frosted kingdom, all spangles and shining glitter. She loves how it feels on her skin—loves that its heat melts and melds things together, rivers of newness, chocolate and cream and cappuccino. The sun is amazing, coaxing to life the world beneath it, caressing with its rays all of Ooo and painting there a glorious sea of colors.

But then Bubblegum meets Marceline, and the sun is all right, sure, but the night is better, the moonlight still best of all, and—well, Bubblegum isn't a child anymore. Marceline tells her so in whispery laughter, in creeping quiet, in silvery sibilant songs that are sharp sometimes and others not. Bubblegum creeps out in the evenings to hear them. Her friends tease her about it, her subjects voice muttered concern, and Marceline especially cackles and says after the fourteenth time Bubblegum snags her dress on the trellis outside her window climbing down to the gardens, "You're like my little pink shadow, geez! Don't you have a life, Bonnibel? And isn't it, you know, kinda creeptastic—hanging out with a sorta-dead chick all the time?"

It is summer. The days are long, so long, stretching forever from one horizon to the next. Bubblegum could argue that she doesn't hang out with Marceline all the time because the sun, that stupid giant glowing ball of buttmunchery, it hurts her friend. Sometimes not even a huge umbrella can help when the sky is cloudless.

But she doesn't want to argue, so instead she answers primly, "Play that one tune again for me," smoothing her torn skirt and passing up her friend a strawberry. In daylight said strawberry was crimson, slick with juice, sticky on the royal's fingertips. Now it is gray, like a stone, and Marceline plucks it away and presses it to her lips until it is snow-pale and soft. Marceline once said colors sustained her. How is that possible, wonders Bubblegum—and how do colors taste anyway? She licks her lips, thoughtful, and resumes, "It starts off like—"

"Yeah, yeah, I know." Marceline chucks the drained strawberry into the bushes. She eyes the castle behind Bubblegum, frowning. "You want me to play it right here? Now? That little butterscotch dude—"

"Peppermint Butler. Peppermint."

"Whatever. He'll be totally up in our business if he hears us. And you went through all that rigorous exercise getting out here…" With a smirk, Marceline tosses back her voluminous mane of hair and taps her chin with two fingers. A moment later she extends both hands to Bubblegum and determines, "Right. C'mere."

Her palms are broad, smooth: chilled when Bubblegum touches them, her nails searching instinctively for lifelines long gone. How many years ago—decades?—did they run out? "What are you going to do?" asks the princess. "Marceline, your skin—it's freezing—"

"Sorta-dead," Marceline reminds Bubblegum. A twitch of her elbows and a snap of her wrists sends the princess soaring skyward like a bug off a snapped bedsheet. Biting out a scream, the royal flails and claws as the insurmountable force of gravity pulls at her again. But then there are arms around her, cradling her. They are strong if not cold, and Marceline laughs into her ear, "Man, pipe down! The whole kingdom'll wake up!"

"You—you threw me!" spits Bubblegum, more shocked than afraid.

"I tossed you." Marceline's cheek brushes her brow. "You're a scientist, right? You should know the difference between throwing and tossing." They begin to drift. The wind nibbles at them, curious, and the vampire's hair is both coarse and quick as it whips over the bare flesh of Bubblegum's arm.

"Well I don't know, so please explain!" Bubblegum demands, except she really doesn't care, not even a single bit, because the ground is disappearing into the darkness and they're higher than the trees now. Her dress billows. A tingling, flurrying sort of weightlessness has settled in the pit of her belly and Marceline's hold—Embrace, Bubblegum's mind postulates, it's an embrace—is comfortable. Secure. Across the land so far below them there is a river, winding through the plains like a thin glass snake gone pewter for the moonlight.

Marceline chuckles. Her breath is strawberry-scented and shivery-sweet, and she says, "When you throw something, you don't intend it to come back to you. Tossing's different because you expect whatever it is you've tossed to return." For a moment she sounds so knowledgeable, so magnificently studious, so brainy, and Bubblegum's heart lurches in surprise and—something. Something else. But then Marceline finishes, "That's just physics, baby," and the illusion breaks. The lurching in the royal's chest, though, continues. It's not altogether unpleasant.

"I know all about physics and that is not even remotely accurate," Bubblegum protests. "There are steadfast and specific rules—"

"Eh." The vampire shrugs. The motion rolls down her arms, through her hands, into her fingers: those tighten over the royal's hip and shoulder and the distance between them, if there was any to begin with, lessens just a little more. "Point is, I wasn't gonna let you fall."

As though to cement this declaration she gives Bubblegum a squeeze, a soft compression of biceps and elbows. There is something about it that makes the princess want to reciprocate. So she does, wrapping her arms around Marceline's waist just above the vampire's spike-studded belt and fang-skulled buckle. She returns the squeeze and thinks, By her logic, that's a toss, not a throw. I wonder which she was expecting?

Marceline shivers. "Are you cold?" asks Bubblegum immediately. She realizes just as quickly that it's kind of a stupid question. Marceline is probably always cold.

The vampire says nothing. They descend suddenly, though, plunging down through the night and the clouds and the moonlight, and Bubblegum clutches at Marceline and buries her face in the other girl's shoulder. Rushing by her ear, the wind sounds like steam hissing from a teapot's spout, and Marceline smells distantly of spring showers and apples. It surprises Bubblegum, but then again it's a rational thing, the lingering scent of detergent on her friend's clothes. Vampires must have to do laundry too.

They land. Marceline's legs plant in a sharp V on firm ground, startling Bubblegum because it's only one of a handful of times she's noticed the vampire not hovering. A cursory glance reveals that they are in the middle of a meadow of some kind, the grasses shush-shushing around them at waist height, the moonlight washing the whole of it a chiaroscuro of silvers and slates. "Oh," Bubblegum observes. Her voice seems overly loud here, in a place nothing but the wind calls home. "Oh," she tries again, "it's—it's so quiet and pretty."

"Pretty," echoes her friend. Bubblegum turns her face up and discovers Marceline looking at her, really looking at her. The other girl's gray cheeks bruise blue and Marceline huffs, forcing her eyes elsewhere.

Marceline is still cradling her. Bubblegum is still hugging Marceline.

Bubblegum is a scientist. She is extraordinarily intelligent and once she might have loved the sun, yes, but she's recently started taking midnight flights with a vampire, ripping her dresses on trellises to get down to the gardens where that vampire is always waiting for her no matter how much grief she gives the princess about it, and now they're alone in a pool of moonlight and seriously, it doesn't take much for Bubblegum to make the metal leap that, "Hey, this is chemistry, Marceline!"

Marceline blinks at her armful of enthusiastic princess. "Uhm. Say what now?"

"Chemistry!" Bubblegum almost shouts it. Science is fantastic! "The interaction of and reactions between different kinds of matter! Entropy!"

Again Marceline blinks. Slowly. "Uh…"

"We react and respond to one another in such dynamic processes—we generate heat," Bubblegum effuses.

Marceline's arms quiver. "Heat, wow," she manages. Her face is nearly purple. Bubblegum reaches up to touch her friend's cheek, curious as to whether a vampire's blush holds a kindle. It turns out the answer is (almost) yes: under her hand there is a coil of phantom heat, maybe the result of a heart that has remembered how to beat a bit. "So," Marceline attempts, "yeah. Hey. So you're cool with… heat. Between us." It isn't quite a question.

"Fascinating," Bubblegum answers, a whisper. She leans up in Marceline's grip and ponders what else of her is—or could be coaxed to be—warm. Marceline's mouth opens, maybe to retort, maybe to laugh, maybe to tease, and the princess thinks oh, what a wonderful opportunity for field research! She presses her hands to her friend's collar. She stretches the last little bit and takes the other girl's lower lip between her teeth. Gently she nips at it, tasting strawberries, and then Marceline is kissing her back because this, yes, this is a kiss and it is warm, warm and golden and drizzly. Like sunlight.

How organic, Bubblegum thinks, too smart to understand that she actually means romantic.

They break apart, Marceline to growl and Bubblegum to breathe. "Chemistry is awesome," opines the vampire gruffly, her fingers picking idly at the hem of Bubblegum's shirt the same way they so often pluck at her guitar's strings. "Don't you have a degree in it or something? Wanna show me a few more, I dunno, equations?"

"I'm an expensive tutor," rebukes the princess. Already her hands are wandering up toward Marceline's face again with the intent to cup it, to pull it closer. "You couldn't afford me."

"Don't bet on that," Marceline admonishes. She grins. Her fangs shine and her smile is jaggedly wonderful and even though they aren't flying anymore, the feeling of weightlessness returns to Bubblegum's belly in a bright, boiling rush. "I'll pay you in songs," the vampire offers, adding next, "and I might know a thing or two about chemistry you don't yet. We could tutor each other, Bonnibel."

Bubblegum pretends to think about it. Her head is all stars and theorems and formulas; her chest aches and she's craving strawberries, the yearning thick in her mouth. Under her fingers Marceline's cheeks are sharp and soft together. She rubs her thumb over one and feels the flare of fire in it.

"Please," says Marceline.

Bubblegum begins, "Lesson one."