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Essence

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1 – Mommy took care of it

These days disasters in the Candy Kingdom had been few and far between. She had been up for three straight nights but still Bonnibel smiled fondly thinking of latest – now under control – as though it had been a trip to Lake Butterscotch. She was so far on other side of sleep deprivation she knew she would never be able to fall asleep. Still, she thought as she made her way slowly up to bed, to lie horizontally would at least be something.

When she did get to her bed she found one extra body than she had been expecting. What it was about this relatively benign sight that made her suddenly punch drunk she couldn't quite say. Dimly she was aware it had something to do with being over-tired but she did not really care and allowed this sudden feeling of love overwhelm her like a wave. All thoughts of the disaster, the Candy Kingdom, and even being horizontal were doused as she watched these two most precious bodies sleep.

The rhythm of their breath was almost perfectly in sync. The arrangement of their limbs mimicked each other just as much and the limbs themselves – and the bodies they were attached to – did. Bonnie marveled at their similarities. She was nearly nine years old but it seemed there was always a new piece of Marceline to find in their daughter.

Bonnibel had lost track of the number of times she had said to Marceline, "I can't believe how much she looks like you!" Marcy would always smile and give her retort, "Maybe. But she basically is you, Bon. Besides, when was I ever purple?" In a way Marceline was right. For all the girl's long, lean and angular features – not to mention those teeth – even the casual observer could hardly fail to recognize Bonnie as her other parent. Certainly they had in common their candy coloring, but what they truly shared was more than bone deep. Like Bonnibel she was curious, a helper, and a problem solver. Most conspicuous, however, was her self-possession and that undeniable air of a natural-born leader (or, as Marcy called it, being a total boss baby). Marceline attributed this trait to Bonnie meaning it to be, for the most part, flattery. The Princess was not so sure she could claim full credit.

When they had decided to have a baby Bonnibel's greatest fear was that the child would be like her. She had never told Marceline this. She would have dismissed it outright anyway. But Bonnibel knew she was right to fear it - Goliad had proven that. Her fear turned out to be for naught. Though the girl's personality greatly recalled Bonnibel's, there was sweetness in her not even candy could account for. This softer nature was something that had taken Bonnie centuries to learn but was natural to the child. It came, the Princess knew, from Marceline. Bonnibel had never anticipated the pleasure of watching such a person grow up.

She turned her gaze to Marceline, her wife she supposed. Through a millennium their paths had crossed on occasion, entwined on others, but it had always been undefined and always proved impermanent. As Bonnibel built her kingdom and began her quiet lesson in softness, Marceline was learning the coarser lessons of self-preservation through hardness and apathy. Bonnibel knew she acted as teacher in at least one of those and it had left them standing on opposite sides of a wide, deep canyon.

What was it that brought them back together? Certainly it was attraction; you cannot live a thousand years driving each other crazy and not find it. Perhaps it was the journey into to the canyon, learning the mysteries of their deeper nature – both within themselves and each other. But Bonnibel understood that more than anything it was Time. Time bumps and batters us all, scraping against us until we yield to its inevitability. Mortals know this as death. For an immortal it is the notion of permanence that is destroyed. Or nearly so. When they relented their hard scrabble against Time they found in one another the closest thing to permanence either one could ever know. And for now – however long now might be – they had made peace with Time and found happiness. The proof of this slumbered sweetly in front of Bonnibel.

She bent to softly kiss Marceline; the vampire inhaled sharply and floated a few inches off the bed but did not open her eyes. Smiling Bonnie sat on the edge of the bed and whispered her name. A sleepy smile broke and Marceline open one eye and yawned, rubbing the other.

"Hey P Bo Cheeks. All fixed?"

Bonnie nodded, then pointed to their daughter.

"What happened?"

"Fever."

Worry must have shown on Bonnie's face because Marceline rushed to explain, "She's better though. Mommy took care of it." Marceline grinned widely and winked. Bonnibel knew better than to take this for pride, or all of it anyway. Normal, human childhood things – even fevers – brought to Marceline the happy relief she had not given the child the worst of her.

Marceline's eyes had closed again. Bonnibel kissed her once more before moving to the other side of the bed. A muffled, "Get some sleep Princess," followed her. She crawled in next to their sleeping child, propped herself on her side, and continued to watch her little family sleep while she herself was wide awake and awash with nostalgia.

Chapter Text

2 – It'll be our baby

Of course it had been Marceline's idea.

Though she had declined Bonnie's original offer to move in to the castle, over the course of a few years Marceline spent increasingly more time in the Candy Kingdom and less in her cave cottage. Every few months though she would go back for two or three days at a time. Marceline never offered up exactly what it was she was doing and Bonnibel, understanding the value of alone time, never asked.

It had been after one such hiatus that she had drifted into the lab, "Hey. Bonnibel." It was not a greeting, Bonnie could tell by her tone that she wanted something. But work takes precedence in the lab so Bonnie held up her hand signaling to Marceline that whatever it was would have to wait. What she had been working on that had been so important Bonnibel could now not recall for the life of her.

Marceline waited quietly for a couple of hours, drifting well out of the Princess's way, but not leaving the lab. Had Bonnie given this behavior a second's thought – had she even registered that Marceline was still there – she might have realized whatever it was that she wanted to talk about was serious. Marceline was definitely not one to wait quietly out of the way. Finally, Bonnie sighed, set down her clipboard, took off her goggles and looked up. She was surprised to find she wasn't alone.

"Hi," she grinned. She was happy to see the vampire and her experiment had gone well (that much she remembered at least).

"Hi!" Marceline swooped down with a toothy grin, grabbed the Princess by both hands and kissed her.

"I'm sorry, Marceline. I didn't mean for you to wait this long. Did you want something earlier?"

"Um… Yes? Yes." She looked away and took a deep breath. She seemed to be steeling herself to say something and Bonnie, now noticing how agitated she was, became a little worried. But she had learned that it was best not to push Marceline when she got that way, so Bonnibel waited. Finally Marceline looked back at her, serious but tender, as though she were about to deliver vows. She moved closer to the Princess and cupped her face in her hands.

"Bonnie," she whispered, "Bonnibel. We should have a baby." Bonnibel, who was expecting nothing more than to be kissed again, just blinked at her.

"Uh...I…uh." A cold finger touched her lips, quieting her stammering.

"Shhh. Just think about it." She then kissed Bonnibel on the nose, turned in mid-air, and glided out the door.

So, after the initial shock of the request wore off, Bonnibel thought about it. She thought about it over several weeks and in that time she made two important and surprising observations. One was that Marceline was very collected. She was not weird or anxious as Bonnibel had known her to be when she had an idea that was not coming to fruition quickly enough. She did not press Bonnie about on it at all; she did not even mention it. Bonnibel had never known she possessed that sort of patience. To her this conveyed her seriousness and made Bonnibel want to give this idea her full consideration. The second thing she observed was that whenever she did consider it, from whichever angle, it made her smile.

It had been about three weeks since the lab and they were just getting into bed. Marceline slipped an arm around Bonnie's waist and pulled herself closer. She hummed quietly, eyes closed, as they lay face to face. It had become one of Bonnie's favorite routines, she realized. She then realized that she never had a hope of saying no to this, to Marceline. What a reckless existence, to be in love. Bonnibel shook her head both resigned and amused with what she was about to do.

"Ok," was all she said, but there could be no mistaking what she meant. Marceline's eyes flew opened and Bonnie smiled and shrugged. The vampire seemed to inflate with happiness, in fact she floated off the bed so she was almost vertical, upside-down, her head still close to Bonnie's.

"Really?! You wanna?!"

"Yes."

A kiss, a yip, and the vampire was doing loop-the-loops near the ceiling. Bonnie laughed. When Marcy finally came back down she sat cross-legged on the bed, gathered both of Bonnibel's hands in hers, and looked down seriously at her.

"So you can do it?"

"N'doi, Marceline. Of course I can." A spikey smile answered.

"Of course you can." A moment was lost to bliss before Bonnie pulled them back to business.

"I'm not certain how long it will take." Marcy looked puzzled.

"It won't just," She made a bursting motion with her hands, "Pop! Out of a beaker or something – like your candy peeps?"

"No it can't work like that. You're part human so there will have to be a gestation period."

"Gestation?" There was a pause before understanding dawned in the form of the vampire's widest smile yet.

"Like… you're gonna be pregnant?"

Bonnibel was still nodding when Marceline started looping the ceiling again, laughing with glee. It took longer for her to resettle this time but once she did she clarified, "I mean it'll have to be you right? I'm all…" she gestured to her stomach area, "You know. Plus there can be no vampire princesses."

As soon as the words left her mouth a shadow crossed her face. She look both frightened and angry. Bonnie simply rolled her eyes, untroubled at this abrupt change in demeanor.

"Honestly, Marceline. You didn't even consider the fact you could pass vampirism on when you cooked up this idea?" Marceline just glared at her. Bonnie sat up, sighing again as she did so, though when she spoke her tone was gentle, "I can't guarantee it won't happen. But I'm pretty sure I can avoid it. From what I know about creating life forms and what I learned during your de-vamping procedure…" Marceline's glare intensified, "…I'm sure that the baby won't be affected." Marceline crossed her arms but said nothing so Bonnie continued, "But if you really want to have one, it is a risk you have to be willing to take. You had to have known that – even if you didn't want to think too hard about it." Marcy huffed and dropped her gaze. Bonnie waited.

Marceline sat staring and picking at the sheets for a few minutes before she looking back at Bonnie. When she did a look of wonder, untouched by a millennium, spread across her thin face.

"But it'll be our baby?" she whispered, eyes misty.

"It'll be our baby."

Chapter Text

3 – Best Moms EVER!

The sleeping child flared her nostrils and inhaled deeply. She was smelling the air. Bonnibel smiled at this most idiosyncratic gesture, not only did it show the power of nurture versus nature - it was freaking adorable. She repeated the sniff then reached out her arms toward Bonnibel saying, "Mums," as she did so. Bonnie obliged her daughter, pulling her in close. The girl hadn't even opened her eyes. What she had smelled that told her that her mother was there, Bonnibel didn't know. Marceline maintained she never had a particularly good sense of smell pre-VQ days but Bonnie was beginning to suspect it had been better than that of a human.

What did that matter though? Bonnie thought as she held her daughter close. The girl's ninth birthday was fast approaching and moments such as these were soon to expire. No matter how long you lived, childhood was fleeting. Bonnie frowned at the thought of the upcoming birthday because outside of the very existential problem of childhood sat the very real problem of the birthday itself. Despite Bonnibel's best efforts, some how every birthday party they had held for their daughter had been more chaotic than the last. Now they – her parents and presumably the people most interested in her safety – were planning to add to the mayhem. How Marceline had convinced her it was a good idea she didn't know. Well if she was being honest she did know and it irritated her. In fact she had spent the last few weeks feeling either apprehensive about the birthday party or annoyed at how easily Marceline could manipulate her. It was no wonder the Kingdom had devolved into chaos. The Princess huffed in exasperation replaying the memory of a few weeks prior when Marceline had, once again, visited Bonnibel in her lab with an idea.

 

The idea was to give their daughter something fun for her birthday. Marceline had talked a few circles around it before getting to her point. "So you could isolate some of my hover power, bottle it, and..." she made a o with her mouth and breathed in, "Bam! Little lady can fly! Like she's always wanted." While Marceline had not passed on any vampire traits, the the girl had certainly inherited her soul sucking abilities and so Marceline wanted to also give their daughter the gift of flight.

Marceline prattled on, unable to stop delivering her speech now that she had started. Bonnibel sighed only half listening; she could not decide if she was more incredulous that Marceline was suggesting they should have a flying nine-year-old in the house or simply surprised that she had not seen this coming for years. She had been in the lab for hours and while it had been a very productive day she was tired and felt dull-witted. Marceline knew this, Bonnibel herself had told her just a few minutes before, and she was sure it was about to be used against her.

"Look, Bon. I've been practicing." Marceline closed her eyes, her face contorted in concentration. She sort of hiccupped and then breathed out slowly. A misty fug hung in the air just in front of her lips. She sucked it back in then opened her eyes, "See!" Bonnibel narrowed her eyes; she felt the trap coming.

"How can you be sure it's isolated?"

"Because," Marceline shrugged, "I just know. I feel it – in my demon soul. But still – you could check it. Right?" She delivered the question with bald slyness. She knew exactly what she was doing and wasn't even trying to hide it.

For the sake of her pride, Bonnibel tried to resist the bait of a new experiment. She also shrugged then turned away, "Hmm. I suppose I could but I just don't know if it's a good idea, Marcy."

The vampire had floated lazily over to face her that sly grin still in place. She hovered just above the ground in front of Bonnibel and pulled her close so their foreheads touched. "Aw, come on Princess. We'll be like the best Moms ever." She punctuated each of the last three words with a trail of kisses starting at Bonnibel's nose and ending on her neck. Marceline's lips hovered there a moment, ghosting pink skin with the tips of her fangs. Bonnie sighed, only half annoyed now. Marceline lipped the spot playfully before leaning back into the air, pulling Bonnie onto her lap and floating upwards. In spite of herself, Bonnibel laughed. Marceline put her arms behind her own head and reclined fully in midair, grinning wolfishly at her. A trap within a trap. But Bonnie found, as she walked fingers up Marceline's newly bare midriff, she was less concerned about her pride. Her marching fingers found their mark and she flicked Marcy playfully on the nose.

"You're not being fair, Marceline."

"That's because I don't want you to say no."

"What if it gives her the wrong idea about her powers? – her Abadeer ones?"

"No way, Bonnie. She's too good of a kid."

"That's true. But that's just it. Essie is a kid. Shouldn't she be older? Sixteen maybe?"

"What - no, Bonnie - This isn't driving. That's way more dangerous! In fact, this will make things safer for her." Bonnibel leaned down so their torsos were flush. She folded her arms across Marceline's chest and rested her chin on them giving Marceline a look of mock, wide-eyed interest.

"Oh really. Safer. How?" She drew out the l's while rolling her eyes.

"Well, she'll never be in danger of long falls! Pretty great for a kid who lives in a castle, right?" Bonnie had to admit she had a point. Before she could argue Marceline cut her off.

"Listen, Princess," She ran her fingers through the princess's hair and pulled her in closer, "I'm prepared to get my way on this no matter what. So just say yes and we can skip to the good part."

Bonnibel closed her eyes, huffing. Marceline hummed softly, waiting.

"Ugh. Fine, you butt." Bonnie's eyes flew open as she felt herself righted midair; but Marcy didn't drop her, she'd never drop her. Bonnibel's face was peppered with kisses as they lowered to the ground. She pushed the vampire away, her half annoyance back, but started gathering supplies. Marceline swooped around chanting "Best Moms ever!" The Princess smiled as she worked.

The entire thing took all of ten minutes. Marceline plucked the bottle out of Bonnibel's hands as soon as she had declared it a pure specimen.

"I'll be keeping this. Just in case you try to change your mind," she said tucking it into a pocket. She knew the Princess too well, but Bonnie waved her off. "Whatever."

The vampire floated just above her smirking.

"So," Bonnibel said casually, "Was that the" - she flashed air quotes -"'good part'...or?" Marceline's smirk split again into her wide wolfish grin.

 

Essie stirred slightly, pulling Bonnibel out of her reverie – and her complacency. She became annoyed anew with Marceline. Pathetic, she thought. Even a memory made her goo. Then she started to fret again. If the last eight birthdays were any indication there would be plenty of things to go awry and she still wasn't sure adding sugar-fueled, flying nine-year-old to the mix was the best idea. Then again said a small voice in her head, a voice sounding a lot like Marceline, Essie is a good kid and maybe that was the least of their worries. Then another voice in her head, one that sounded exactly like Marceline, chanted "Best. Moms. Ever!"

Bonnibel smiled as she closed her eyes, her brain finally settling into sleep.

Chapter Text

4 – Party Time!

Hunson Abadeer had been taken with their daughter from the start. It was a source of both great happiness and great annoyance for Marceline. Bonnibel, for the most part, was just wary. He had appeared a few days after her birth, declared she was a perfect demon and that he was going to give to her the gift of deathlessness.

“Whoa, Dad. No way,” Marceline had moved between Hunson and chair where Bonnibel sat holding the baby. “You can’t just give people’s babies deathlessness!”

“But I can! I never have because I didn’t want to. But now I do! And don’t you see Marceline – now you don’t have to rule the Nightosphere – she can! I know she’s part gum or whatever, but she’s a real Abadeer. I can tell.” He attempted to side-step Marceline. Bonnie stood up and took a few steps backwards, clutching the baby to her. Marceline continued to block him, his efforts to get to the baby becoming more aggressive.

“Dad. Dad. No, listen. It..has…to be…her…choice!” Marceline gave a final shove and he stilled.

“Fine. Maybe next year then.” And so, every birthday since, despite Marcy’s exasperated insistence that she is still not old enough to make such a decision, he asks Essie if she wants to be deathless – or at least tries.

When Hunson Abadeer enters the castle on the day of the birthday party, Bonnie and Marceline instinctively move to run interference. But Essie’s already spotted him.

“Poppa!!” She squeals as she pelts toward him. Her Poppa stoops to receive her, scooping her up and tossing her in the air. Essie shrieks with delight as she flies through the air. Marceline shoots Bonnibel a told-ya-so look. Bonnibel merely rolls her eyes.

“Come on, let’s go keep an eye on him.” This turns out to be unnecessary. Any attempt Hunson may have been making to give their daughter deathlessness is thwarted by another arrival.

“Uncle Finn!!” Essie shrieks as she pulls herself away from her Poppa and hurdles toward the man in the doorway.

“Mini Princess!” Finn yells back, just as enthusiastically. After getting a big hug and whispering something into his ear – making him laugh – Essie and Finn join the other three, hand in hand.

“Mr. Abadeer,” he nodded a greeting at each of them, “Hey, Marcy. Hey, Princess.”

“Hello, Finn the Human.”

“Hey, Finn.”

“Oh, Finn! I’m glad you could make it.”

“Are you kidding? And miss Mini’s beeday? No way. That’d be bonk.”

“Bonk!” Shouted Essie, giggling. Finn grinned guiltily. Before she could open her mouth to say something about language, Bonnie felt Marceline give her shoulder a squeeze. She allowed the foul word to go un-scolded. Better than getting another lecture – from Marceline of all people – about “Birthday Privileges”.

Finn was bouncing tentatively from one foot to the other. “Uh, Marcy? Can I talk to you a sec?” Finn asked, then added, “Gotta question about Min-Prin’s pres.” He winked at the girl.

“Sure, man.”

Finn walked away, Marceline floated behind. Bonnibel frowned slightly watching them retreat. Things had never been quite the same between them after she and Marceline had got together, or at least things between Bonnie and Finn. He and Marceline never seemed to miss a beat.

She knew, that he knew, they would never be together, but people like Finn can never banish all hope – even a hope he didn’t know he was still harboring. Faced with the reality of Bonnie and Marcy and the "rightness" (Finn's words) of it probably snuffed that last little flame of hope. He needed some distance from her. At first she understood but now it’d been 12 years and the distance remained. And now it was her that held on to a small hope that the strangeness goes away. Maybe it’d been so long he didn’t even realize he was doing it. Or maybe she’d internalized it so much that she wasn’t letting him get close. Or maybe they just never saw each other for long enough these days for things to really repair. She sighed and stroked Essie's hair.

“Let’s join the party. Want a drink, Hunson?” She led her daughter and demon-in-law toward the drink table.

Marcy and Finn were finishing up their conversation as they moved to join them. “…and we can put our present at the end of it? This is going to be so rad.”

Finn nodded but looked worried, “Is PB going to totally flip?”

“Well, you know Bonnibel,” Marceline answered, which did not putting Finn at ease at all. She paused, watching a tense Bonnibel watching her Father carry their daughter on his shoulders, then added, “Nah, she’ll be fine. She’ll be too wrapped up in stopping Dad trying to make Es deathless again.” Finn still looked a little apprehensive, but he pulled two presents out of his backpack – one oblong, one miniscule – and placed them on the gift table. He then joined the group, greeting his old friends.

All the guests had arrived. Adults were eating and chatting, the kids were occupied playing beast slayer – featuring Finn as the beast, and T.V. hovered on the perimeter taping furiously on his phone. The present table was sagging under the weight of presents. There were presents from the guests as well as from neighboring kingdoms. Bonnibel saw amongst them the glossy red package Cinnamon Bun had brought on behalf of the royal Flame Family. The year of Essie’s 4th birthday, Phoebe had come with the new Flame Prince in tow. The baby had had a spectacular case of the hiccups and had burnt down the majority of the great hall. After that, even thought they continued to invite them, they received only regrets from the Fire Kingdom. She also spied a bright, lemon shaped package that, Bonnie knew, contained nine lemon candies. The Earl had never been invited. Bonnie didn’t see their present, it could have been buried but she suspected Marceline was still guarding it somewhere. She looked curiously at Finn’s presents. She had seen him and Marceline chatting about them when he set them down. They seemed to be planning something. That worried her a little, but not as much as Hunson. He had never been this long in Essie’s presence without mentioning deathlessness, making her heir to the Nightosphere, or even what a lovely little demon she was becoming. Hunson, like his daughter, only seemed to be able to resist his impulses when he really wanted something. And yet, here on the table was a present from him. It wasn’t hard to guess which one was his – it was wrapped in what looked like live snakes, though Bonnie had difficulty deciphering a head amongst the bundle. She hoped the snakes themselves weren’t the present. She sighed and resigned herself to whatever chaos was going to come out of these packages and decided to just enjoy herself at the party.

She looked around for Marcy. It took a moment to find her. She was hovering between the two groups, kids and adults, of mingling guests. She wasn’t facing Bonnibel but she could tell by her posture she was sad. Something about joyous occasions seemed to stir sadness in Marceline. Bonnie walked up behind her and wrapped her arms around her waist. Resting her head on her shoulder she whispered softly in her ear, “I love you.” She could see Marceline’s eyes close at the sentiment and she turned and embraced Bonnie back. “I love you too, B Bel.” Marceline continued to hold her, eyes closed like she was trying to ground herself.

“Are you thinking about Simon?” Marceline nodded.

“And my mom and all the others…” Her eyes screwed up.

“And do you feel sad or guilty?”

“What difference does it make? It’s all awful.” Marceline tried to pull away but Bonnie held her fast.

“You know there is a difference. It’s ok to feel sadness for people you’ve lost. But you shouldn’t feel guilty because you couldn’t save them. You’ve saved so many people. Just about everyone here. Me. Me especially.” Marceline was no longer trying to pull away. She was looking at Bonnie hard and Bonnie knew she wanted to believe her. The best she could do was keep trying and maybe one day she would.

“Let’s go check in on my Dad.”

“Probably a good idea.”

Nearly all the presents had been opened. Only Finn’s present remained on the table. Then theirs, Bonnie reminded herself. Among the pile of already open presents Bonnie estimated she’d have to confiscate about half. Surprisingly, Hunson’s present was not among them.

And while Bonnie thought it common courtesy to ask a child’s parents before giving them a pet, she could hardly expect this of Hunson. “Don’t worry!” He’d exclaimed over Essie’s joyous squeals, “It can practically take care of itself!” Bonnie was almost certain he was telling the truth this time as the creature had clearly come from the Nightosphere. It mostly resembled a kitten – except for the horns, the fine scales that cover it’s body, and the fact that it kept changing colors. If Bonnie was being honest, the thing was dang cute. And it had clearly taken to Essie. After the initial excitement of its arrival, it had curled up in her lap and fell asleep for the remainder of the present opening.

“Ok Min Prin! My turn!” It was Finn. He was handing over the oblong package. In a blink Essie had ripped off the paper and unsheathed a beautiful miniature, but definitely real, sword. She jumped up and down – sword in hand – shrieking. The demon kitten slid to the floor with a hiss.

“Uncle Finn!! This is the greatest, greatest! Thank you! Thank you!” Bonnie was speechless. She saw Finn give her the slightest of guilty glances. She felt a squeeze around her waist. Marceline.

“Essie, maybe put that sword in its sheath until Uncle Finn can teach you some safety?” Essie grinned at her Moms and put the sword back in the sheath. “Ok, Finn," Marceline continues, "Go ahead.” Finn cleared his throat and produced the tiny cube from behind his back with a flourish.

“Ahem,” he kneeled and offered the cube to the girl, “My Mini Princess, may I present to you your very first… dungeon quest.” Essie stopped bouncing and looked skeptically at Finn and then the cube in his hand. He continued.

“It’s a portable dungeon! You just push that button,” he pointed to a recessed button on the side of the cube, “and BOOM! DUNGEON QUEST!” Essie took the cube; her finger strayed toward the button. “Wait! Wait! You need a little more space, Princess. And whoever is near you will go into the dungeon too!” Essie’s eyes were wide as she turned to her Moms.

“Can I do it now? Please, please, please?” Marceline answered before Bonnie.

“Of course! In fact you have to. Because our present is at the end of the dungeon!” Marceline beamed at Bonnie and leaned in close to whisper, “Best Moms ever.” Bonnibel shook her head. Now she knew what she and Finn had been discussing before the party.

“Well I can’t say ‘no’ now, can I?” Finn and Essie exchanged glances, waiting. “Ok. But we are coming with you – Mommy, me, AND Uncle Finn. I’ll get my pack-pack.” Bonnie turned and walked out of the hall. Whoops and shouts followed her.

Finn had deemed the courtyard a large enough space to deploy the dungeon. “It’s actually a lot bigger than this but it’s got some time/space warp biz. You just need the space for the antechamber.” This intrigued Bonnibel.

“Where did you even get this Finn?”

“Mars. Don’t worry, Princess. I checked the whole thing out. It’s perfect for Mini.”

“And the sword?” Bonnibel raised her eyebrows. She wasn’t letting that one go. Not yet.

“Well that I had made.” Bonnibel’s eyebrows went higher. “I got my first real sword when I was nine. And look! Still whole!” Both his and Bonnie’s eyes found his metal arm, Finn blushed, “Well mostly whole. And – Oh I forgot! – It has a safety blade. It will never cut its owner.” He smiled at Bonnie. She gave a non-committal grunt and walked past him toward Marcy and their daughter, both of who were chanting “dungeon” over and over. The demon kitten, now a dark purple streaked with undulating silver, wound its way through Essie’s legs chirping excitedly. It was clearly coming too.

“Ok Mini, you ready?” Essie stepped into the middle of the three adults. She was still in her birthday clothes, a red romper; her new sword was belted around her waist; her demon kitty perched on her shoulder. She held the cube on her palm the way Finn had showed her and pushed the button. A noise like a balloon popping went off and they were engulfed in darkness.

Finn had decorated the antechamber with balloons and a sign reading “Happy Nine, Mini!” He and Marceline were near the wall fiddling with some controls. For a space of a second Bonnie saw the little bottle with flying essence, a bow tied around the neck, before Marceline stuck it into the wall and pushed a button.

“There are a couple different settings,” Finn explained, while he coded something into the key pad, “We’ll start on the default.” He pushed yet another button and the antechamber vibrated with a large thrum. A door appeared.

“Ok Mini. After you.” Bonnibel looked down. Essie looked slightly apprehensive for a moment then her expression hardened and she marched forward into the dark corridor, demon kitty swaying on her shoulder. Finn followed behind, Bonnibel and Marceline brought up the rear. Marceline slipped her hand into Bonnie’s and squeeze. She was grinning with excitement. And Bonnie, in spite of herself, grinned back.

Chapter Text

5 – Dungeon! Dungeon!

 

The dungeon had it all – riddles, mazes, booby-traps, and creatures to battle. It was enough to be fun, but nothing too dangerous Marceline had remarked. So far, thought Bonnibel. They followed Essie’s lead, allowing her to choose the paths and try the puzzles. She asked for their help during the first few chambers, but her confidence grew the further they went on.

When one chamber was suddenly swarmed by unsavory, skeletal beetles she charged in shouting, “Come on guys! Let’s smoke ‘em!” Marceline laughed as she transformed into a bat and swooped around to join in. Even Bonnibel found herself momentarily caught up in the fight, but a burst of flames in her periphery brought her attention back to her daughter. She blasted the last skele-beetle then started forward toward Essie, but realized she was unharmed. Essie had been fighting an enormous skele-beetle, larger and gnarly-er than all the others, and it lay singed and motionless at her feet, a tiny sword hilt sticking out of its head. The demon kitty paced in front of Essie, little tendrils of smoke coming from its nostrils. Marceline hovered in mid-air, still a bat, and looked sideways at Bonnie. So Hunson was telling the truth, it could take care of itself. And so, apparently, could their daughter.

Finn joined them, his face was streaked with dirt. Bonnibel turned to him, shaking off her momentary shock, “Finn, please tell me the number of creatures in this chamber are dependent on the number in the party.”

“Uh…,” he started, but he was already moving toward Essie, “Yeah. Sure Princess.” Marceline, back to normal, landed beside Bonnibel. “Come on,” She said, grabbing Bonnie’s hand, “I think we’re here!”

They joined Essie who turned to them grinning, the demon flame-kitten back on her shoulder. “My first Boss Battle, Mom! Did you see! Did you see what Velvet can do? He can breathe fire!” Her moms grinned down at her. “And look,” she continued, pointing to a large double door in front of them, “I think the end’s in there.”

She looked a little downcast. Marceline kneeled down beside her and whispered, “Yeah, but don’t forget. Your present is in there too!” Essie’s face lit up and she started forward toward the doors. She gave a shove and they opened into a brilliantly lit room. They all blinked into the final chamber, Bonnibel awestruck by what they saw. All of the guests and some of the banana guards were there lining an aisle, all of them faced toward Essie, smiling. Then they started to sing. She looked back once toward her moms, wearing her biggest smile yet, and walked in. Bonnibel looked at Marceline who was wearing a smirk. “Surprise,” she whispered, kissing Bonnie on the cheek, “Come on. Let’s go give our baby her present.”

They followed Essie to the top of the chamber where the small bottle sat on a plinth. The guests had all gathered behind them. Essie looked at the bottle, then curiously between her moms. “Happy Birthday, Es,” Marceline said, “Let me show you what to do.” Bonnibel watched as Marceline showed her how to breathe in the flight power. Essie did it but still clearly did not understand why she was doing this. “Now, said Marceline, “close your eyes and feel yourself LIFT off the ground.” Essie closed her eyes, she stood there for a few seconds and then she lifted a few inches off the ground and hovered there. The crowd of guests gasped.

“Ok, baby. Now, open your eyes.” Essie’s eyes opened and she looked around, still confused. She looked at Bonnie, who just smiled and pointed toward her feet. When she realized she was hovering, her eyes widened comically and she let out a small “Oh!”

Then she laughed and rocketed toward the chamber ceiling. Bonnibel drew a sharp intake of breath and had the urge to look away. But Marceline was there to steady her. “Nice work, mom. Look at how happy she is. And… unharmed!” And just as Bonnibel started to relax, she realized what they all had missed in their excitement and apprehension, the demon kitty, Velvet, had still been on Essie’s shoulder when she had taken off.

Bonnie saw it happen in slow motion. Essie flipped over in mid-air, Velvet let out a yowl, as he was unseated. Marceline took off to catch him, but she’d never make it. Essie was frozen at the ceiling in terror. The demon-kitty plummeted toward the ground, twisting in mid-air. And then, five feet from the ground, he stopped. He hovered unsteadily with the pair of tiny, leathery wings he had just unfurled. The guests, momentarily silenced in horror, gave a collective sigh of relief. “HA!” Bonnie heard Hunson exclaim, “I didn’t even know it could DO that!”

The little flying demon flame-kitten was making his way back to his airborne master, who was streaking down toward him. Essie caught him up in her arms, kissing him. Velvet’s guttural purrs echoed around the chamber.

Marceline landed back next to Bonnibel, looking paler than usual. “Phew,” she exclaimed, “That was close.”

“Yes,” Bonnie agreed, “That would have been a disaster.”

“Well, yes,” Marcy said turning toward Bonnibel and smiling wickedly, “But what I meant was, you were almost right.” Bonnie rolled her eyes but pulled Marceline toward her. She hugged her tightly, over Marceline’s shoulder she watched their daughter play mid-air with a demon and was, for once, very happy to be wrong.