Bonnibel had lost a lot in her life. Sometimes things went missing, or people died, or friends went on long journeys with very little explanation as to why and didn't even stay in contact. Poof. Vanished. Just like that.
Just like that.
There was an easy tell for when Bonnibel was upset. She would become overly invested in her science projects. Instead of leading her kingdom, being the caring and attentive princess she was meant to be, she would become somewhat of an antisocial goblin, growling angry words under her breath, snapping at Peppermint, dismissing any outside connection to the world.
Not this time, though. There was no keeping her out. Somehow, in some fantastic and mind-boggling way, Marceline found her way inside. She found her way in and she didn't leave when told to. She was relentless and disobedient. The most vulgar creature Bonnibel had the pleasure of knowing.
She grounded herself when with Bonnibel. The princess wondered why many times. She could fly. She could take to the skies and go as high and as far as she wanted to. So why, why, why, why did she stay inside? Why?
She stood there, stood, peering over Bonnibel's shoulder. She didn't say anything. She was spying, but it seemed like a pointless endeavour considering she made her entrance very obvious. Maybe she wanted Bonnibel to speak first, to greet her kindly, not coldly.
"Hi, Marceline," she finally said, her voice hoarse from underuse and fatigue.
"Oh! You can talk! I was wondering if you'd turned into a lumping mute, since I've tried to call you about, hmm, a million times!"
Her voice became an octave higher when her emotions flared. She really was bothered by Bonnibel ignoring her, which was funny. So funny. She had the audacity to disappear for four years without even a letter, and she's the one complaining about being ignored? Funny.
"I'm sorry, I've been busy."
"Doing what? All I see is a bunch of paper and a few hundred neglected citizens."
"I haven't been sleeping well. My lab work relaxes me."
Tiredly, very tiredly, Bonnibel picked her pen back up. She hadn't looked at Marceline yet, even though the vampire was close. She was leaning over her shoulder and, yes, there it was. Marceline's hand touched her arm. It was a light touch, a feather on her coat.
The breath in her ear was the part that came as a surprise.
"I know how to make you relax," Marceline whispered, her feather-hand becoming stronger, becoming a clamp.
Bonnibel turned now, confused. It was a mistake. It was the biggest mistake. Marceline had done nothing different. Her hair was as dishevelled as the day she crashed into the princess' life, and her clothes were odd and looked to be scavenged from a warehouse thirty years ago. She was the same as she'd always been, but for some reason, it always stunned Bonnibel to see her. She was a sunset over the ocean that was the same each time, but never any less beautiful.
It ached. That's it. It ached to see Marceline.
Bonnibel sighed then, not because the vampire was vague, but because she couldn't do anything else. Whatever she wanted to do all those years ago, she still didn't have the courage to do now.
Marceline grinned, finally leaving the floor to recline on her back, floating leisurely around the lab now she had the princess' attention.
"I made up this bath recipe. Sometimes I fall asleep in the tub because it's so relaxing."
"You could fall asleep in the mouth of a giant," Bonnibel countered. She wasn't sure why, but Marceline brought out her sarcasm more than anyone else. She wanted to be rude and playful with the vampire, and she was. She was more herself with Marceline than with anyone else.
Marceline chuckled. She had the sweetest laugh. Sometimes it was sinister, but at times like this, it was a precious tinkle, a caress of the ears. Bonnibel had no chance of hiding the smile that spread over her face when she heard it.
"Ah, see, you are interested in my secret recipe. I can come over tonight if you want- do it all for you," she suggested. She was so calm, so at ease. How could she be? Bonnibel was stiff and uncomfortable. She felt sweat beading her palms.
"I'd like that," she lied.
Of course, Bonnibel didn't want Marceline there with her when she needed to get undressed. Marceline was not shy. She dropped her clothes in front of Bonnibel so many times that the princess lost count. Sadly, it wasn't for the purpose Bonnibel longed for. It was for sleepovers or the quick removal of recently stained shirts. Nothing more. Never anything more.
Bonnibel knew why she couldn't sleep. She'd lost something important. She lost something so important that she herself felt lost without it, which was silly. She was a woman of science, not sentiments. She should be able to cut her ties to any object, especially a simple piece of fabric. But she couldn't. She ached.
Marceline arrived late that night, sitting on the rim of the tub with a few containers and drawstring bags filled with sand-like substances. She ran the bath and flicked her ingredients in, smiling proudly, as if this bath would solve all Bonnibel's problems.
It wouldn't. A bath couldn't fill the void. It couldn't replace what she lost.
The vampire stopped scattering her secrets and glanced at Bonnibel.
"I've never done this for anyone before; I wanted to thank you for rescuing Hambo. I know a bath doesn't really repay you, but it's a start, right?"
Now Bonnibel remembered why she gave up her treasured shirt. It was for that smile, that childlike twinkle in Marceline's eye that only arose when she saw Hambo again. He was her physical reminder of an important time in her life. People needed mementos like that.
Bonnibel's shirt was a lie. She wore it every night, because Marceline's scent still lingered in the stitches. If she imagined hard enough, it was almost like the vampire was in bed with her. She'd fooled herself after a while. She'd believed her own fantasy. Now with the shirt gone, she was thrust back into reality. The reality where Marceline was just her friend, where she always had been, and nothing happened. Nothing ever happened because Bonnibel didn't know how to make it happen.
Marceline lifted a fist and bopped Bonnibel's arm lightly.
The princess was daring and careful. She wanted to leap, to be hasty, to be frantic, but she moved slowly. She moved slowly so Marceline would have the chance to stop her, or to back away.
She didn't. She sat there on the edge of the bathtub, her arms spreading, welcoming.
They hugged. Marceline's face was lost in Bonnibel's chest and Bonnibel's face buried into the thick black hair that carried the smell she'd been missing all this time.
"I'm glad to help," Bonnibel said, feeling Marceline's hands loosen. No, not yet. She wanted to hold her for a moment more, be stuck in the scent and in her arms, because she ached for it.
But Bonnibel had learnt how to control herself long ago. She let go and stepped back. The bath was almost full. She turned off the taps and Marceline stood up.
"Let me know if it helps."
Marceline left the room, left the castle, but she was still there, trapped inside Bonnibel's heart. That was a place she would never leave no matter how much Bonnibel wished she would.
The princess dropped her dress and climbed into the bath. It was a little too hot, but she didn't mind. It smelt of berries and was a light pink colour. The salts had dissolved and Bonnibel enjoyed how it felt, but she still had pain.
She felt every single stab Marceline had caused and she didn't know what to do.
And she cried. She cried in the tub, because she was a coward. All the times she'd wished she'd said something or done something were there in her mind. She'd been cruel at times, only because she was angry at herself for not being brave enough to confess.
She cried harder.
The bath didn't help.