One year later
Warden sighed faintly, sitting on the rope swing under the tree, kicking a hoof through the snow idly. It was near harvest season, and he had leisure time while he waited for the berries to ripen. The north field was ploughed, ready to be planted, and his first vineyard helper, an earth pony named Green Hoof, was taking a break for a few days visiting her parents.
The soft jingle of Kuno's collar filled the air, helping Warden reminisce about the brief time he had spent with the changeling. He was still in love with her, but it had been so long since he had seen her. He wasn't sad any more, just melancholy. He obviously wished that she hadn't left, had wished that he could convince her to stay. It was almost like losing Swarm all over again, but Kuno had left him so much stronger than when she had found him.
After the events of Canterlot, the hate-search for changeling had dropped off a little. He hadn't heard much from down south in recent months, too busy tending to the vineyard, but he hoped that Kuno was happy, wherever she was.
A particularly harsh jingle of the bell made Warden look up, and he blinked once, slowly.
Kuno was sitting in front of him, quite visible against the snow, with her collar in her mouth, watching him.
Warden shook his head to try and clear it, rubbing at his eyes.
Kuno gave a wry smile, raising a brow. "Took a while to track you down," she murmured, her voice muffled by the collar.
"K-Kuno?" Warden murmured.
"That's my name!" Kuno said with a happy nod.
Warden pounced on her, dragging the changeling down into the snow and wrapping his hooves around her tightly, kissing her urgently, his heart swelling in his chest until it was hard to breath. "Y-you're here!"
"You don't have to strangle me!" Kuno giggled, dropping the collar aside and then leaning in to kiss the pegasus gently. "Thought I'd come check up on you."
Warden nodded, gently pulling back, and then rubbing his nose against her own slowly, pulling himself up out of the snow, and then staring at her. "I don't believe you're actually here... I never thought I'd see you again," he said, his voice breaking.
"Well, I left something behind. Something I had to come get," Kuno pointed out with a smile, picking up her collar and jingling it faintly.
Warden's face fell at that. "Oh..."
"Help me put it on, silly," Kuno said, seemingly oblivious, turning away from him and presenting her neck.
Warden stepped forwards, gently sliding the collar over her neck and then fastening it. "There..." he murmured, petting her neck.
Kuno turned back to face him, bouncing once in place and then grinning at the jingle the movement produced. "You wouldn't believe what I went through."
"Busy?" Warden asked, crunching through the snow back to his seat, still carrying a pronounced limp.
Kuno nodded in affirmation, pulling herself up onto the seat next to him.
"You taught me a lot of things... but I wanted to know what love is. For a creature that feeds on something to not even know what it is..." Kuno shook her head slowly, wrinkling her nose.
"Love can't be quantified," Warden said with a snort, peering sideways at her. "Even if you do feed on it."
Kuno nodded once. "I figured that out... took a while though. But I found out what love is."
"Oh?" Warden asked, raising a brow. "And what would that be?"
"Love is... really fricking hard to explain," Kuno said, waving a hoof with a snort. "It's like food. It fills you up and makes you warm and tickly inside!"
Warden smiled at that, and then nodded. "You found someone?"
"Boy, did I ever! Well... s'more like he found me, really," Kuno admitted, frowning for a moment,and then shrugging. "He's really brave, and strong, and smart, even. Not much of a looker though."
"Sounds like me, except he's brave, strong, and smart," Warden said with a wry grin.
Kuno nodded, giggling once. "He taught me a lot about love, you know... even if he didn't really mean to."
"Everyone teaches us something," Warden said pensively.
"Sure do, but he taught me more!" Kuno said with an earnest nod. "Challenged how I thought just by being around me. He's really cool like that. But... I wasn't sure if I loved him, so I sorta... ran away."
"You're good at that," Warden said with a soft smile.
"But... I figured out that I am in love with him," Kuno admitted, leaning closer to him, laying her cheek on his shoulder. "Because... without him, I just felt... empty. You know?"
"I really don't," Warden admitted with a wry smile.
"I felt like... I dunno. I could get love from anypony I wanted. But he was different... everypony I went to after that was inferior. It was like his love was the only thing I wanted. I mean, I don't think I could ever walk four miles for him with a broken hoof, but I'm no you," Kuno said with a nod, nosing his shoulder gently.
"He must be one lucky stallion to have you," Warden said with a soft sigh.
"And he said he'd marry me," Kuno gushed, "And I didn't, not once, not even a little bit in my head, think that this was a bad thing. I could see myself spending my life with him."
"That's nice," Warden muttered, inching away from the changeling. "I'm really happy for you..."
Kuno frowned deeply at that, pouting. "You're jealous, aren't you?"
Warden sighed and nodded. "I guess I am... this mysterious stallion is getting everything I was fantasizing about. I can't help it."
"Well this mysterious stallion said that if I got rid of Daggertail, he'd marry me, so he's kinda trapped," Kuno said with a sage nod.
Warden spluttered at that, his eyes going wide.
Kuno lifted a hoof to his muzzle, and pulled him close, rubbing her nose against his own gently, silencing him from anything he was about to say. "Marry me, Warden."
Warden blinked several times, his cheeks flushing with warmth. "B-but, I..."
"Don't make me get the rope and convince you," Kuno threatened with a grin. "I think it could be quite fun wrassling you down in all this snow."
"But... you left!" Warden protested weakly, utterly confused.
"Because I didn't love you!" Kuno said, huffing once. "Or at least... I didn't think I did. But... after I left, I just felt hollow and empty. The love I stole from others just... it wasn't enough any more. It was food, but it wasn't what I needed. It was like stale, hardened bread compared to a fresh loaf of cinnamon roll."
"I... I don't even know what to say..." Warden admitted, staring at the changeling, shocked.
"Say 'yes'," Kuno said, waving a hoof firmly. "You love me. I love you. Let's get married and have a vineyard together. We can even get a dog!"
"This isn't a game, Kuno," Warden said, exasperated.
Kuno snorted once, and then wrapped her hooves around him, kissing him with a heated, fiery passion. "I left you once, Warden. I regretted it immediately. It took me nearly a year to get up the courage to come back. Are you really going to turn me down?"
Warden gave a sigh at that, shaking his head and kissing her warmly in response. "Look, obviously I'd get around to saying 'yes' eventually, but you're throwing kinda a lot in the mix all of a sudden!"
"Oh come on!" Kuno said, exasperated. "It's just a formality! I already own your soul! You stood up to the Guard Captain for me!"
"And got my ass beat," Warden pointed out with a wince.
"And got your ass beat like hell," Kuno corrected with a silly grin.
"And you still haven't said it," Warden stated, nudging her once with his nose.
"Said what?" Kuno asked blankly.
"The three little words I wanted to hear from you," Warden said with a slow nod, deadly serious.
Kuno nodded gently at that, and then wrapped her hooves around him. "Say you'll marry me."
"Say it and I will," Warden countered, rubbing his cheek against her own lovingly.
Kuno pulled back, staring into his eyes, and then smiled.
"Warden. I love you."