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this morning that moves & holds me

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we’re extraordinarily calm and tender with each other
as if sensing the other’s rickety state of mind.
as if we knew what the other was feeling. we don’t,
of course. we never do. no matter.
it’s the tenderness i care about. that’s the gift
this morning that moves and holds me.
same as every morning.

— The Gift, by Raymond Carver

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

They’ve won, and Etheria glows for miles.

Glimmer hardly believes she gets to say that, but it’s all there, blooming under her feet or taking up the space in her lungs. A double rainbow dyed the sky earlier in the day, and even now, come dusk, the vibrantly blue bunny creatures that fluttered in from the Whispering Woods like dandelion motes hop and flap their wings around the castle, thumping against the rooftops.

Every minute of this day brought something new to discover, but really, it’s Catra’s face that Glimmer can’t unsee: disorientation that dissolved into the purest, most affirmed form of adoration when she’d found Adora in the field, all while Etheria reimagined itself before them. Bow shed his tears over it, and Glimmer let him all while swallowing back her own, if only because Catra’s affections wouldn’t last long enough to let it slide. (And Glimmer was right, obviously, because Catra’s so ungrateful and whiny that she’s probably still complaining about the waterfall in Adora’s room—and hers, now, by extension.

“Why the hell would you need one in your room, anyway?”

“It’s really useful for drowning Horde Scum.”)

They shut their doors a few hours ago, and Glimmer meant to do the same when she’d found Perfuma leaning over Scorpia’s shoulder, gushing over a sleeping Frosta. Scorpia whispered coos over her, using the tip of her pincer to push back Frosta’s at-home bangs when Glimmer offered to take her up to one of the guest beds.

Then Perfuma drawled out a long, heavy yawn, talking about how she needed to be in bed a whole hour ago in order to wake up in time for the sunrise tomorrow, and Scorpia was, of course, ensnared by this idea because, hey, it might be nice to see the sunrise, if, of course, Perfuma wanted the company, and then Mermista chimed in about leaving her eye mask somewhere in the castle the last time she slept there, and Sea Hawk was—

He was there too. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that Glimmer arranged accommodations, which is to say she stuffed them all in a wing of the castle that is very much at the opposite end of her own.

So now everyone’s finally in their rooms, sleeping, or not—she heard Sea Hawk break something in Mermista’s room—but it’s all far away from Glimmer and a quiet enough walk back to her bedroom that she can hear herself think about how she’d like to get out of these boots and mantle. She fights the heavy static in her arm to reach for the handle of her door when a, “hey,” ripples into a soft syllable from behind her.

Glimmer turns with a smile, and Bow smiles back at an arm’s length away. “Hey.”

“Busy?”

She links her hands behind her back, straightens her posture, and sighs out a heavy, “oh, swamped.” Then she waits for the disbelieving huff she expects from Bow to escape before rolling all her weight back on the balls of her feet to lean against the door.

“Too bad.” He hums and leans by the adjacent wall. “I’ve got a very serious task for you.”

“I’m listening.”

Which is a response that quickly loses all merit, because the hallway is mostly panelled windows, and its own dim lighting mingles with the moonlight sweeping in to illuminate Bow, and he looks so comfortable and like himself against the wall, arms crossed loose over his plated cropped top, one leg bent. Glimmer is sure when Etheria restored itself, it put a little of its overflowing magic into Bow, because he looks—

He looks—

She doesn’t have the word, or maybe she’s just embarrassed to search through the periodicals of every single descriptor she’s stored in the soft centre of her heart for him. It shouldn’t even be a concern when more obvious sentiments were made known tonight anyway, so it’d be stupid not to at least try and close some of the distance between them.

At her current pace, she can only stare at his lips like she’s expecting them to do a magic trick, but all they do is stop around whatever word Bow was going to say next and fall into a frown.

Glimmer—Queen Glimmer of Bright Moon, Leader of the Etherian Princess Alliance—sputters out a little laugh and adjusts her posture in a frenzy of movements that, quite horrifically, take her back to an age of rigorous princess training. “Sorry uh? Just, um— repeat that?”

The way her stare sweeps up to his eyes is so obvious, so poorly executed that Bow must have caught it. Instead, he simply points his finger at her, “you,” then himself, “me,” and then up at the ceiling, “the roof. Was I speaking in First Ones, orrrr—”

“Nope!” Glimmer cuts before his quip has any time to settle and grabs his hand. A flash of sparkle-power pink flares off the grin on Bow’s face—“Us. Roof. Got it.”—before Glimmer magics both of them up on the gentle slope of the castle’s rooftop.

 

 

 

She can feel the shingles shift under her weight before she sees the stars hung up in the sky, worshipped by the moons. Bow gives her hand a little tug, and the two of them sit side by side.

It looks like it’s going to rain, a fine mist colouring the tops of trees in a dreamy pearlescent hue that would probably make Catra sneer before it tinted her gaze, all twinkled-lavender, always finding Adora. Glimmer keeps her head straight because she already knows how unfairly beautiful Bow would look curtained in the mist. To the left, two bioluminescent rabbits hop off the peak of another rooftop, free falling a few feet before they sprout their wings and glide into the purple haze of the forest. She nudges Bow to look and feels his arm move against hers when he laughs.

“God,” Glimmer pulls her legs up to hug them. “I really hope they don’t do that every night.”

“We’ve got Catra now,” Bow shrugs, and Glimmer stifles a laugh against her knees. “Cats are a rabbit’s natural predator, right?”

“Maybe if one of them bunny-kicks Adora in the face.” Glimmer ponders, and she can see Bow’s eyes narrow in her peripheral, along with the muscles in his jaw twitching to keep his scowl even. “Fine, She-Ra.”

“She-Ra’s still our friend.” Bow tells her, and duh, Glimmer wants to say, the difference lies in the tooth Adora won’t be missing when it’s She-Ra that takes one for the team, but his point all but boils away, bubbling in a quiet, contagious fit of laughter until the two of them are nothing but another pair of silhouettes making some noise in the mist and magic. There’s a gust of wind that catches in Glimmer’s hair and the folds of her mantle, and she lets it send her into Bow’s side. When he leans back on his palms, he settles one arm behind her back.

“Isn't it crazy? To think we’ve seen all that,” Bow muses with a soft voice, and Glimmer finds him looking up at the stars, the moons, and then beyond, “before we even got to see what Bright Moon really looks like.”

“Remember when it was completely empty?” Glimmer whispers, like if she says it too loud someone will take all the stars away again.

“No?” Bow replies, all wrapped up with a question mark. “Is that weird? We’ve been looking up at the same sky for years, and now it’s like I don’t know what it would be without all this.” His head pointedly slants from the sky to the ground. “And, I mean—this is our home. This is where we’ve lived our whole lives, and now it’s…”

“Different?” She finishes, like it’s obvious, but he shakes his head.

“It still feels like before. I don’t know.” He sighs, turning quiet like he does when he either really doesn’t know, or when he’s scared to be wrong about something he does.

“Come on.” Glimmer leans her weight against his arm. “You were saying something.”

Bow’s chest balloons with a deep breath. “It’s just. All this stuff. The stars, all these trees and flowers and— and the magic. They were always here. So technically, it’s not really new. It just feels like,” he gestures some thoughtful meaning with his hand. Glimmer raises her hand to do the same, and Bow smiles albeit a little distracted. “I just feel like we’re looking at something we’ve always known, or wanted, only for the first time, you know?”

She looks at Bow. Bow the Rebel Archer. Bow the Tech Master and Premier Member of the Etherian Maker Community. Bow, the youngest of thirteen, the only non-historian in the family. Bow and his gold chest plate and bleeding red heart and white top, always cropped. Bow and his smile that gets them out of as much trouble as Glimmer puts them in.

“Yeah,” is all she can say to this big, overdue truth, to Bow, who she stares at like he’s the most obvious thing in the universe.

“I mean,” he sighs, enamoured and still talking, because that’s just how he is when he’s enamoured. “We have stars, plural! Look at ‘em! That cluster there, around Polmiri? Dads used to read me these monographs before bed about how— what?”

Glimmer smiles, cheeks chipmunked with restrained laughter and shrugs. Bow narrows his eyes, and so she rebuffs with a squeaky, “nothing,” exactly one second before it spills out of her.

“It’s not funny!” Bow says with offended dignity, and Glimmer rests her hand on his knee, patting it like she’s soothing a sore spot.

“I’m sorry, it’s just— it’s cute! That whooooooole library, and your dads didn’t have a— a bedtime story, or even a book with pictures?”

Bow ruefully mutters something about diagrams under his breath, and just as she envisions Tiny Bow with Big Boy Spectacles drooling over a rustic, hand-drawn schema of the galaxy, Glimmer feels a finger poke into her side.

“No, no, okay, I’m sorry.” She breathes in deep, swipes at her eyes, and looks at Bow with the remnants of a smile. “I’m sorry, I swear I’m listening,” she says, and waits for Bow to open his mouth before one last, “is what Tiny Bow probably said to his dads when he was falling asleep five minutes into listening to an entire research paper about astronomy at six! Years! Old!”

Glimmer keels over, snorting. Bow groans all the air out of his lungs.

“You know what?” he starts with a grave pout on his face, “I am going to take my very cool, very interesting astronomy facts, and I am going to share them with someone who can appreciate them.”

Glimmer feels the slightest motion of his arm moving away from her back before she latches her arms across his torso. “No, okay!” she concedes. “Okay, this time I promise, I’m done, it’s all out.”

Bow peers at her. Glimmer bats her eyelashes and smiles with too much teeth, only easing her grip once his arm returns to support her back.

“Okay,” he begins round two with a cleared throat, “Polmiri, the big pink one? That was the first moon the Etherians documented. But then, Shaan came along, and for a long time, astronomers thought they were the only ones …”

Bow carries the timeline with a confidence that would bring his dads to tears. He tells her a tale of fire and ice: Polmiri with its sulfur dioxide snowfields, and Shaan with its volcanic ruptures. That the other ten moons weren’t even classified as such when they were first seen because of how much smaller they were, or because some of them orbited Etheria in the opposite direction.

Then he moves on to the origin of the names, an old Etherian fable of two women. Polmiri, who was cursed to drown if she ever stepped foot in the river, and Shaan, who lived as a farmhand on the opposite side. (Bridges weren’t a thing; it’s something Glimmer asks almost immediately, of course, and Bow smiles like he was ready for it.)

He tells her about the serpent—the cluster of stars placed perfectly between both moons—a long and limpid creature with river stones for teeth that breathed under the water, that snapped the thickest logs and crushed the heaviest wodges of slate. He tells her about Polmiri’s quest up the highest rolling snow dune to yank the Fractal Flake out of the Capricornus’ eye socket, and how she used it to turn the river and its guardian serpent to ice before she was able to cross it to Shaan.

It’s a better story than any bedtime dissertation, and all while Bow’s pointing at the moons, his arm slung over her shoulder, Glimmer’s looking at the milky crescent of his nail.

 

 

 

After Bow finishes talking about Polmiri and Shaan, there are only ten moons left. Glimmer's mind drones off with the longest groan ever recorded, but he loses stride in his tirade soon enough, tuckering out after the seventh moon and fifteenth constellation he tries to recall from a separate book he’d read in his dads’ library.

“Speaking of,” Bow manages through a stifled yawn, “I should head out. My dads really wanna see me. You know, make sure all the pieces are there.” He mimes a concerned paternal face and checks over his wrists, touching the skin exposed at his torso.

Glimmer stretches her arms forward and hums. “Can’t blame ‘em.”

He makes a small noise of assent but gives absolutely no indication that he’s going to leave, and a silence settles its way into the bones of the conversation. She looks between him and the direction of his dads’ house. “I could teleport you if you’re tired?”

“Sure.” Bow nods, utterly rooted in his spot. The moonlight stays draped over him, unflinching against his face and throat and arms.

Glimmer breathes through her nose, confused and impatient, but mostly a little overwhelmed. “Or?”

“Hm?” is all he offers next to her. She hates that his poker face is good when it doesn’t need to be.

“C’mon, Bow.” Glimmer prods her elbow against his side, but he blocks part of the impact with his hand. It leaves a warm spot on her arm before Bow slides it down her forearm to lace their fingers together, and her irritation, entirely fabricated to begin with, dissipates. “Or?”

“Or,” Bow starts, and she can hear the smile on his face, “we could take the long way.” The pad of his thumb is a little rough, like it has been since they were young—since he could grip a bow—but it follows the rise and dip of Glimmer's knuckles in a way her skin has grown familiar with.

She tilts her head back and groans into the sky and all its stars and moons. “You want me to walk after we just won a war? Haven’t I done enough?”

“Come on. Look at all this!” Bow’s free hand sweeps out to the Whispering Woods. “How are you gonna pass up a walk in the forest tonight?” Glimmer groans again, for longer and just as loud, but her head snaps back to stare at the trees in defeat. “I think it’d be nice. You, me,” his voice drops to a whisper, “the sky. This view.”

Something about the way he says this makes Glimmer want to curl into his side and smile until it hurts. Instead, she closes her eyes, makes a show of breathing in and out, and before the smile on her face blooms completely, she squeezes his hand and glows pink.

 

 

“We’ll walk from here. Happy?”

They’re standing in the Whispering Woods, well past its entrance. From the roof it looked almost the same, dark and dense with just an added gloss of that dreamy mist overtop, but in the dead centre its glowing core reveals itself. It’s too bright and alive and fantastical to believe. The two of them stroll at a pace Glimmer hasn’t really moved in for years, staring up at the stars or the trees that smudge the sight of them, forearms brushing. Around them, the sounds of their world whisper over one another in chirps and crunches. She thinks she wants to say something about it, but she can hardly find a place to start.

Bow’s gone quiet too, and neither of them make any noise beyond small sounds of wonder, but it’s fine. Glimmer glances at Bow, sometimes finding the moonlight glossing his lips, sometimes finding him glancing back. She smiles at him, almost shy, and he smiles back, and then they look at the moons, or a flower — and it’s fine, because they’ve lived in this comfortable space their whole lives. Except—

Except it’s that buzz that lives and breathes under Glimmer’s skin, that can’t be stuffed down anymore, not when it spilled its guts out in the middle of a war, and all she can do is rub her hands at the side of her thighs, careful enough not to gather Bow’s attention when she does.

“Hey, look.” Bow finally says into the silence between them, and curves from the path. He crouches by a bush. “Echo Tongue!”

“What?” Glimmer comes up behind him, steadying one hand one his shoulder to look over.

“Echo Tongue.” Bow fiddles with the small plant at the roots. She feels his shoulder jerk back with a yank, and then he turns, presenting her with an Echo Tongue. “I read about these once with my dads.”

In his hand, a purple honeysuckle sits on top of gleaming, pink leaves that, to no one’s surprise, flop out of their root like tongues. Bow inches it forward, cradling it in his palms like that time he smuggled a baby bird over to their sleepover.

“Is it,” Glimmer shudders, “is it gonna lick me?”

Bow sighs, removes a hand from under the plant, and pinches a leaf with his thumb and index finger. No licking. Glimmer was kind of counting on it to get out of this, but as the alternative presents, she grimaces and reaches out to poke the leaf. Its surface is grainy and damp. She absolutely wants to die.

“It sure is… I mean, it’s there. I see it.”

“You hate it.”

“Why does it have to look like a tongue?” She pulls her hand back and wipes it on her shirt. "What's the 'echo' part about?"

“It's a plant that can mimic certain animal noises," Bow grins down at it. "That's how it catches its prey.”

“Ohmygod." Glimmer swallows down some bile. "Oh my god, why did you let me touch it?”

“What? You're fine!” She narrows her eyes, fingers curling in like a bird's talons to cradle a bundle of magic, just enough for Bow to cradle the plant closer to his chest. "It's sleeping, Glimmer."

The magic withers off her fingers in small, pink plumes, but she keeps her hand ready out of general principle. “How can you tell?” she asks, and when Bow pointedly looks to the side and shrugs a little does-it-matter shrug, Glimmer stresses again, "Bow. How. Can. You. Tell?"

"Okay, look," he starts, and Glimmer absolutely wants to die, "it's in the name! When it's awake, I mean, the leaves kind of, y'know, move, like..." Bow blinks, and she blinks back. Then, Bow pokes his tongue.

Glimmer fires up her hands.

"Glimmer! No!" he startles in that squeaky pitch his voice sometimes reaches.

"I am going to kill it with fire."

"It just grew back!" Bow places the Echo Tongue by the bush and pleads with his hands. His eyes do that sparkly thing while his lip juts out and quivers. Glimmer hates it, and she hates herself when she puts her magic out.

"If you ever make me touch this kind of stuff again." She warns, using her best Queen voice. Bow drops the act faster than he did the stupid plant and grins, because that voice never worked on him, and it never will, and it's a happy fact that will always live between them.

“Pretty sure you’re gonna have to deal with weirder stuff now that everything’s reviving itself.”

An, “ugh,” slips out of Glimmer before she can stop it, and when Bow senses this shift and gives her a look, concern that etches itself in the arch of his brows, she rubs at her arm and chews the inside of her cheek. “Come on, we gotta keep going or your dads are gonna send a search party.”

Glimmer walks ahead, but within a few steps she feels a warmth at her side, sees the familiar gold and red in her peripheral.

“Hated the Echo Tongue that much?”

“It was wet.”

“You could always ask Perfuma for a favour.”

“She’d just give me some hippie bull about how every plant is unique and special.” Glimmer says without any of the bite, or any attachment at all. The truth is, unless she looks down at the familiar lilac of her boots, she's overwhelmed by the colours in the forest, its vibrant spots lingering on her eyelids no matter where she turns next. Her hands are just about to meet and tangle at her stomach when Bow grabs one and laces his fingers through.

“Yeah, but she’d still do it.”

“I know.” She closes her eyes for longer increments than a normal blink, ignoring the way Bow squeezes her hand for more.

“So,” he asks, “what’s the problem?”

"What problem? I don't have a problem." Glimmer replies a little too scripted, and maybe she's picked up the pace from stroll to a five on the scale of urgency; the crunches under her foot feel different, even sound different.

“Is that why we're jogging in the forest? In the middle of the night? 'Cause we don't have a problem?”

“We're speed walking.”

“My dads speed walk.”

“And they look great.”

Glimmer feels his hand squeeze her fingers before she's yanked back. They're back to a strolling pace, the colours around them vibrant and steady again, no longer a melange against the violet darkness.

“So.” Bow says with his patient voice, which means he may as well have snapped them together with electromagnetic cuffs.

She huffs, “oh my god, it's nothing," then huffs again, "it's nothing serious. It’s just,” before her shoulders sulk with a nervous sigh. Glimmer waves her hand around in a nondescript swoosh. “I don’t know. The Echo Tongue, the flying bunnies, the... the whole flood of stars!”

“Are we just naming things we see?” Bow lifts their hands to point left. “Tree, tree, tree branch. Oh man, is that a bush—”

“Gooooooooooood.” Glimmer drawls for as long as it takes to drown out his voice. "You’re not funny.”

“Come on.” He smiles at her, dropping their hands with a sway. “Spit it out.”

“Fine.” She stops in her tracks, looking around at the mushrooms with too-big caps and the array of twinkling eyes that peer from the bushes. “You know how I am with… with change! I’m all — no, change bad! Things have to stay the same or it’ll all be ruined, blah blah blah. You know?” She looks down at her boots, dirty and worn and digging into the tracks. “And I... I felt like we just got good at fighting. Now I have to, I dunno, keep these Echo Tongues and bunnies happy, and make sure their futures are all set, and, and—” And she’d conclude her point like a true dignified royal, about how at some point war had become easier than peace, but letting Bow pull her close and groaning into his chest feels much better right now.

Her eyelids press against the cool fabric of his shirt, but she knows he’s looking down at her, staring the way he does when he’s pensive, like he’s figuring out the picture in a puzzle. There’s relief in that, because Glimmer knows whatever he’ll say will be soothing, if not accurate, but it's also met with a chill, too; she’s never felt more seen than when Bow’s picking her apart.

“You’re right.” He says after a moment, sighing so deeply her head move with the rise and fall of his chest, and rests his chin on her head. “The bunnies, especially. They’ll need good jobs to provide for those big families.” She tries to groan again, but it only melts away into laughter. Bow lets her stay that way, smiling into his shirt until it’s effortless, before he says, “you’ll have your friends, remember?”

“Right. Them.” Glimmer feels him pull back. “Kidding! I know, obviously.”

“Good.” He smiles and takes a step back, letting his hands slide down her shoulders to lock at her wrists. “And you have your dad, and all your allies, and,” he quiets, only waves a hand like he’s made his point, except Glimmer wants to hear the last name on that list if only because it’s the one she’s dying to hear, over and over again. Instead, he breathes out and smiles. “Hey. I have one last place in mind. Wanna teleport?”

Glimmer blinks. “Oh, now you wanna teleport?”

“Shouldn’t have even—” Bow huffs under his breath. “I knew you’d be like this.”

“Teleport?” Glimmer spits out heretically. “Why would we teleport when we have,” she pulls away from Bow with a grand step and sweeps her hand around in a flourishing rainbow, “this sky! This view! The stars, Bow, the stars! Plural—”

“If you teleport us one last time,” Bow says, flat and loud and tired, “I’ll come first thing in the morning with my dad’s pancakes.”

Surely pancakes go down well with solving the war-torn problems of a reimagined kingdom you command; that’s what she thinks as queen, at least (or, more accurately, someone who’d like to see Bow in the mornings.) Glimmer hugs his arm and squeezes close to his side. “Deal. Where to?”

 

 

They end up about half a mile west at a clearing that looks familiar, like most parts of the Whispering Woods, and entirely different, also like most parts of the Whispering Woods. Glimmer releases her grip on Bow, and he begins to stroll towards the centre to look around them.

She takes a few steps, kicking up fresh grass and watching it flutter back down while her brain runs white noise. “So, why’d you wanna come here?”

Bow goes on in his slow, nostalgic circling of the place. “I mean, something kinda changed here too, didn’t it?” Glimmer blinks at Bow until he stops his spinning. He stands a few feet apart from her, firmly rooted with a smile on his face. “Come on!”

“Come on what?”

“You don’t remember?” he asks, but before Glimmer can offer up another stony response, Bow squeezes his arms around himself. “Oh, Bow,” his voice pitches high, and he bats his lashes at her. “I love you. I love you.”

He watches her as his arms relax back to his sides, and Glimmer wants to watch him back, but she resigns to look around, taking in one tree, then the other, then a bush, and a few other things that were there hours ago, and still are, just different now. And then she’s staring back at Bow, wide-eyed. He’s still smiling, leaning his weight on one foot as the other taps against the fresh grass. “Do you remember that? Hm? D’ya remember?”

“Do you remember that— shut up!” Glimmer lowers her voice a few octaves just short of Ogre Bow before standing tall, arms crossed. “You’re such a jerk!”

“You looooove me.” he sing-songs, and it’s the worst line ever sung. Her face is burning, obviously because she’s having an allergic reaction to how bad it is. “This is where you said it.”

“Oh, did I?” Glimmer twists her face into what she knows is some ugly, off-base expression of Bow’s, but she doesn’t care. In fact, this whole thing Bow’s doing where he’s being exponentially cooler about all this than her isn’t funny anymore. “Uhhh, y’know, I remember this is where you didn’t kiss me.”

The intended result is immediate. Bow’s satisfaction washes off in slow-motion, small cracks that seep into his face until only a thin line remains and he has to bring his hand to itch at the rosiness on his cheeks. “What are you — what do you mean? I did!”

Glimmer’s wearing her best shit-eating grin; it pairs nicely with the diadem. “Uh-huh.”

“Don’t uh-huh! I," his voice cracks to make way for something a little shy, "I kissed you.”

“Mhmm.”

“Don’t—” Bow huffs. “Okay. You were there. I was there. I kissed you. You got kissed."

“Yeah,” Glimmer drawls and inspects a fingernail. “On the forehead.”

“Exactly!” Bow’s fingers go from digging into his temples to gesturing at the ground, like his point sits right there on the grass between them.

“That doesn’t count!” feels like a good thing to say in the moment, but who’s to say, really, when Glimmer’s firing off. The gravity and consequences of these instances usually make themselves known just after; sometimes she’s the one to catch herself, and other times something will shift, either in the air or on a person’s face.

Bow’s mouth parts in a small ‘O’, and his brows raise. The same pearlescent twilight that floats around them feels thicker, like it’s shrouding them from the rest of the wood.

“Okay,” Bow draws the vowels out, and Glimmer can all but hear the hamster in his brain sprinting on its wheel. Slowly, the tug of a grin lifts his cheeks. “So what would count?”

“I—” Evidently, the hamster in Glimmer’s mind must be dead, because she draws a blank, standing around stupidly with her toes wiggling in her boots. “Shut up.”

“What?” Bow’s hands raise in surrender as he saunters at her, kicking up dirt through the mist.

“What?” Glimmer mocks again, and it’s supposed to be devastating, except her baritone cracks, so she’s forced to turn her back to him.

“Hey, you said it didn’t count, I just wanna know what—”

“Shut up! You know.”

“Do I?”

“I swear, Bow.”

When she turns, carrying a mild and harmless ball of pink confetti-magic in her fist, she sees Bow jump off his back foot, darting through the mist with his arm outstretched for her. There’s a squawk of surprise that stifles in her throat when he yanks her forward, and any instinct that flares in her muscles to pull back loses its tenacity when she feels his mouth smushed up against her cheek.

“Did that count?” His voice is muddled by her ear and his breath is hot. When he pulls back the feeling is still fresh on her cheekbone before he moves for the other side of her face, pressing a kiss to her brow. “What about this?”

“Bow!” She pushes on his chest, his arms—he’s kissed her temple, under her eyes, the bridge of her nose—and it gives her enough room to twist around, but his arms only coil around her again. Bow secures his hands over his elbows and lifts her into the air; Glimmer’s feet dangle for just a second before she pulls her knees up. “Bow!” She screams through a fit of laughter, goosebumps erupting at the spot on her neck where he tries to kiss her through the curtain of pink hair.

“Not that, either?”

Glimmer feels a soft kiss at the top of her head before Bow lets her down. She squirms around in his arms to face him and rests her forehead against the heart on his shirt. The mist around them cools her down as she catches her breath in big gulps of fresh air that hiccup with the occasional giggle between the both of them.

Eventually she peeks up and finds Bow, warm and red. All she can manage is a, “you suck,” and all he does is grin with deep laugh lines and little creases by his eyes.

“Uh-huh.”

“And for the record, none of those counted.”

“No?” Bow hums, but his hand moves sure and firm up her neck; his fingers curl into her hair and his thumb follows the line of her jaw until it bumps into the pearl drop earring.

Glimmer tips her face into his hand. The simple act of crossing the space between one another has always been easy, and Glimmer could take up the rest of Bow’s night by recalling all those easy instances. Tonight, though, there are stars, and though they were not earned through easy acts, she’s alive and well to see it. She has her kingdom back, her friends and her allies, even her father, and these are all beautiful changes that she survived, that she could flourish with tomorrow, and the day after that.

“Think I could try one more time?” Bow asks, and when he leans forward his forehead to rest it against hers, Glimmer thinks they’ve been working to close this distance their whole lives.

“Make it count,” she drops her voice to a whispered pitch, and Bow smiles at her.

He pulls her in by the waist, fitting himself into her spaces, and so Glimmer does something she’s always known, and leans into his.