Thaw - [Adventure Time]

A/N:  This fic was inspired almost in its entirety by an idea of Yamino’s, and therefore this is for her.

I hope y’all enjoy it!

Words:  4,500

THAW

She has just wedged herself firmly into her favorite couch cushion, her dinner tray in one hand and her television remote in the other, when the rightmost wall of her living room shivers and explodes. 

Instantly she is engulfed in a needle-prick cloud of frost.  Frozen shards pepper her from shoulder to shin—her belongings spray everywhere.  The penguin sampler she so lovingly crafted and hung above her mantle goes sailing over her head into the kitchen; her shelves full of videotapes and books crash to the floor and scatter.  Plastic cracks, crunches and she opens her mouth to screech her outrage, jerking to her feet, but two chapped, scabby knees slam into her ribs not a second later and she is bowled backward over her couch’s arm, upending her dinner tray, losing too her remote. 

Her assailant rides her mercilessly down to the floor and pins her there, digging elbows into her shoulders, throwing weight onto her chest such that she gasps and flails, wheezing for breath.  With a mournfully metallic tink-tink-tink her tiara skitters away and then one of those same knees from before, glob, shifts to thrust itself high between her legs.  Twisting in her hair next, fingers wrench her head aloft and heat washes over her cheeks as Fionna the Human snarls furiously into her face, “Where is he, Ice Queen?”

Fine little flecks of hot, summer-smelling spit alight on the monarch’s nose.  On her lips.

“Where is who?” manages the Ice Queen.  She adds next, strangled, “You wretched girl, get off me!”  She tries kicking her legs but Fionna is heavy, sturdy, and without her tiara the queen lacks her usual measure of supernatural strength.  “You are crushing my—”

“Where,” revisits the smaller woman, “is Gumball?”  Like chips of ice, Fionna’s eyes glitter in glacial regard down at the trapped monarch.   Her scowl would stand a chance at being foreboding if her teeth weren’t chattering behind it.  The bridge of her nose is an angry, windbitten red and there is snow in the kink of her hair that peeks from beneath her cap’s fringe, tiny half-melting flakes that soak the blond color down to a duller, flatter yellow.  “Where is he?” she demands.  “I know you have him!”

Shunk!  Fionna’s sword, all rust and nicks, buries its point in the floorboards nearby the Ice Queen’s ear.

“You don’t know anything,” the monarch shoots back.  “He isn’t here—”

“You’re lying!” growls Fionna.  She leans forward over her nemesis.   Her knee slides higher; her palm furls in a star over the Ice Queen’s shoulder and she gives the older woman a shake that could, the monarch notes, be firmer.  More vehement.  Fionna’s just not cut out to be menacing.  “You always lie!”

The Ice Queen can’t help gifting the girl an exasperated smirk.  “And you always overreact, my dear.”

“Don’t be nasty, lady.  I’m not your dear.”  Fionna’s eyes cut sideways.  Presumably she’s examining the queen’s lair for clues as to the whereabouts of her precious prince.  Her weight shifts the slightest bit and the Ice Queen, with a momentous wriggle, drives a knee up into the girl’s stomach.  As Fionna huffs out a wounded, “Nngh!” and slumps, the Ice Queen kicks out from beneath her.  Rolling onto her belly, she arches up onto her elbows and scrambles for her tiara.  She stretches her hand out to seize it—

“No way!” barks Fionna breathlessly.  The Ice Queen is forced down to the floor again as the shivering little home invader pounces on her, landing squarely in the small of her spine.  Fionna snatches up the tiara.  Fabric rasps—she shoves it into her rucksack, writhing around atop the indignant monarch like a trout.  “Tell me where Gumball is, Ice Queen,” she insists, “or you’re never getting this back!”

“I don’t know where he is, you ignorant little thief—”

“You’re lying again!”  Fionna drops her chest down against the Ice Queen’s shoulder.  The cold, wet tendril of her hair tickles the older woman’s eartip.  She smells like cotton, like marshmallows, like fresh fuzzy socks and maybe even faintly of cats.  “You wouldn’t be trying to fight me if you didn’t have him!”

“I beg to differ!”  Working one arm from beneath herself, the Ice Queen thrashes, tips onto her side, and shoves at her adversary.  Her thumb catches Fionna’s cheek—the scrape of her nail leaves a white streak across the chapped flesh.  “You just broke into my house!  Literally!  Why wouldn’t I fight you?”  She finishes, pushing with all the force she can muster, “Get off!”       

Fionna slides unwillingly backward off the monarch.  The Ice Queen lurches to her feet—Fionna mirrors the motion.  They face one another there in the ruins of the Ice Queen’s living room, snow howling in through the gaping hole in the wall, the mangled corpses of tapes strewn around them.  Fionna’s fingers inch toward her sword, still notched in the floor:  the Ice Queen takes up the nearest threatening object she can find and brandishes it at the human.  It turns out to be a ceramic mug shaped like two polar bears hugging each other.

There is a moment of tense consideration.  Fionna’s eyes dart from the television to the Ice Queen—to the kitchen, the mouth of the hallway, the fallen bookshelf.  Back to the Ice Queen again.  “Gumball!” she calls.  Cocking her head, she listens—tries a second time, “Peeg, c’mon!  Get out here, man!”

“He,” the Ice Queen reminds her visitor, “is not in residence.”

Fionna’s fingertips find her sword’s hilt.  She palms the weapon—sweeps it aside, glaring at the monarch.  “You just want me to believe that,” she mutters accusingly.  “You’re hiding him.  You’ve got him tied up somewhere, gagged—”

“Spare me your indulgent fantasies, brat.  He isn’t here,” the Ice Queen repeats, and amends, “I would never gag him besides.  I love to hear him scream.”

“Yeah, well, that’s sick.”  But Fionna has begun to look unsure.  A frown curls her mouth.  She’s got a dimple, the Ice Queen notices—just one, low in the crook of her right cheek.  How curious.  “I don’t believe you,” the human says, except it actually sounds like hmm, yeah, she just might be toying with the idea.  “I don’t,” she insists, and goes on, “you’ve hidden him, I can feel it—”

“I think there’s a cream for that.”

Fionna’s frown deepens.  “Hey, yeah.  Uhm.  Speaking of cream… what’s that crud all over your face?”

The Ice Queen blinks.  She reaches up with her free hand to brush her fingers over her jaw.  They come away smeared with a green, filmy substance and she swallows, the first vestiges of an embarrassed flush kindling at her collar.  “Oh—ah.  Uhm.  This, er.”  Until Fionna’s mention of it, she’d forgotten about it entirely.  “This is an evening face mask.”

“It looks like snot,” Fionna determines.  “Thick, caked snot,” she adds, making a gagging noise.

The monarch snaps back, “It is nothing of the sort!  It’s avocado—honey, yogurt—”

“Gross old lady garbage,” singsongs the human teasingly.  She lowers her sword:  hesitates.  Resheathing the blade next, she ventures, “Why’re you wearing that junk anyway, dude?”

The Ice Queen shakes her polar bear mug at the girl.  “It is absolutely not junk.  It helps to keep my skin healthy and smooth.”

Squinting at the monarch, Fionna shrugs and supplies, “But your skin usually looks fine.”  The compliment is so freely given and unexpected that the Ice Queen stiffens to hear it.  Rare heat climbs her throat and Fionna, rocking on her moccasined feet, drops her gaze curiously down her enemy’s form to observe, “You’re dressed kinda funny, y’know.”

The Ice Queen looks down at herself.  She is garbed in an aqua negligee and a pair of pale pink bunny slippers—she feels vulnerable, yes, but not as though she is wearing anything unreasonable.  “How is this funny?” she growls.

A floorboard creaks.  She glances up and finds Fionna ducking under the mug.  Fearlessly the girl reaches to pluck at the nightgown’s hem, rubbing the fabric between her coarse thumb and index finger.  She smiles.  Her large, rounded foreteeth pucker the flesh of her lip as she admits, “I dunno.  It’s just… shimmery.  And soft.  I guess I’m used to seeing you in your big floofy dress—”

“My dress is not floofy,” the Ice Queen defends.  “It is magnificent.”

“Floofy,” Fionna maintains.  “It usually makes you look like you have a really huge—”

Her gaze descends still more:  widens next.  The human chokes on her breath, her expression suddenly a mix of awe and surprise, and the Ice Queen cocks her hip and nudges, “A really huge what, pray tell?”  She adjoins, “See something you like?  Tsk-tsk.  Manners, Fionna—my eyes are up here.”  She snaps her fingers before her enemy’s blazing red nose.

“Oh c’mon,” groans the younger woman.  But she does look up again, muttering, “Freakazoid butt,” under her breath.  She huffs, “You’ve got squid hair too.”

“Curlers,” the Ice Queen corrects tersely.  “Part of my nightly regimen.  Now if you’re quite finished criticizing what I wear in the privacy of my own home,” she retorts as Fionna opens her mouth to speak again, “I’ll take my tiara back, thank you.”  She thrusts her hand expectantly into the space between them, the palm up, wiggling her fingers.

Fionna curls an arm protectively about her rucksack.  “I dunno, man.  You could still be hiding Gumball.  Maybe you froze him again.  Or—or something.”  And then, “I need to check the rest of your house.”

The Ice Queen’s free hand hooks into an instinctive claw.  “Reconsider, girl.  You need to remove yourself from my property before I—”  She makes to swing her mug at the human.

In response and quick as a blink, Fionna has the monarch’s tiara out of her rucksack and stretched aside at arm’s length.  Whipping her sword to the fore again, she touches the edge of the blade to the glittering headpiece and announces, “I don’t like it any more than you do, geez!  But if he’s here I have to save him, and I don’t feel like I can trust your word that you aren’t hiding him, so either show me the rest of your place and prove your freakin’ innocence or I’ll break this, Ice Queen.  I really will.”  Even as she issues this threat she manages to both look and sound vaguely apologetic. 

The Ice Queen fumes.  

“Use what brief measure of brainpower you possess,” she hisses, “and think about this for a moment, will you?  I am in my nightclothes.  I was about to eat dinner.”  She gestures—with no small degree of lament—to the array of still-frozen chicken nuggets littered amidst the wreckage of her living room’s floor.  She likes them crunchy.  “I even had a movie picked out to watch.  Do you sincerely believe that I would be engaging in all these mundane rituals—that I would be entertaining myself with a film I’ve seen countless times already—if I had a prince here to play with?”

Fionna gives the monarch a look that is equal parts contrite and stern.  “I didn’t sincerely believe you would dress up as Prince Gumball and spend an entire day hanging out with me, not to mention invite me to a party as your date,” she murmurs, “but all that stuff totally happened, so yeah.”  Flicking her sword’s tip such that it tings against the tiara’s rim, she urges simply, “Don’t think I won’t destroy it, Ice Queen,” and edges toward the hallway.  She drops the tiara back into her rucksack.

Essentially powerless to stop her, the Ice Queen follows Fionna down the short corridor.  She watches as the girl peers into her bathroom—grimaces too in seeing her ferret her dirty, nailbitten hand through the linen closet, turning over freshly folded towels and washcloths. 

The worst moment of the night so far, though, occurs when Fionna, easing the door open with her foot, steps into the Ice Queen’s bedroom.

No other person aside from the Ice Queen herself has ever been into the bedroom.  The monarch isn’t at all pleased to have her rival shatter that tradition.  “This is a heinous invasion of privacy,” she mutters darkly.  “You should be ashamed of yourself—”

“So should you!”  Fionna grins, turning her head to survey the chamber.  “You spend your time creepin’ on princes, sheez.”  Thoughtfully she considers the Ice Queen’s sky-colored comforter:  the pewter sconces on the walls, flickering now with vanilla candles halfway burned down their wicks.  The room’s small, stacked fireplace and its embers, glowing like orange eyes in the grate.  “Hey,” the girl nudges curiously, “why d’you have a fire in here, Ice Queen?  Do you, uh… do you get cold?”

Fionna herself is shivering faintly, notes the monarch.  Her white rabbit’s hat is soaked, the felt ears drooping and sodden; dark splotches on the human’s sweater mark where snow landed first and melted next.  Her bare knees, red as holly berries beneath her skirt, knock together for the chill and her breath is making clouds in the air, wavering, nebulous things spun of silver.

Pursing her lips, the Ice Queen stalks past her enemy and moves to the fireside.  She puts down her mug—picks up the poker leaning beneath the mantle. 

Fionna tenses.  “Hey, watch it—”

With the poker the queen stirs the embers in the grate.  They snicker as they fall, spitting slivers of flame.  A wave of heat washes across the chamber.  Fionna gasps:  hard, startled gooseflesh ripples up her legs.  Pretending not to see how her aggressor twitches closer to the fire, the monarch admits, “Mostly it’s for atmosphere.”

“A-atmosphere?”  Fionna’s teeth are chattering.

“Mmn.  The crackling sound—the scent of the wood burning.”  Setting the poker aside again, the Ice Queen allows, “I no longer remember exactly what it’s like to be cold.  Or warm.”

“Oh.”  Rolling her sword into the lee of her hip, Fionna shamelessly turns her rear toward the fireplace.  She rubs it:  said rear, not said fireplace.  Her skirt bunches under her fingers and the Ice Queen wonders—not quite idly—how old the girl is now, to have evolved curves like the ones under the pleated, snow-drenched fabric.  “Well,” Fionna resumes, “take it from me.  It’s flippin’ freezing in here.”

“Might I remind you that you contributed to the temperature by knocking a huge hole in my house?”

The smaller woman sticks her tongue out at the Ice Queen.  Her eyes squinch shut and it would be so easy, the monarch reflects, yes—so easy to take up the poker again, to lunge for her and smash the cold steel rod into her temple.  But Fionna’s smiling too, a sweet little smear of a smirk that’s not mocking so much as it’s playful, and the Ice Queen’s hand stills before it really even starts toward the potential weapon.  When was the last time someone fearlessly, freely smiled at her?

“What was I supposed to do?” asks Fionna.  “All up and just knock on your door?  Oh hiiii, Prince Kidnapper Extraordinaire—how are you this fine evening?”  She pitches her voice deep—it rumbles in her chest, curling with a flicker of laughter there.  “Have you seen my dear friend Gumball?  He appears to be missing!”

“He’s probably with the Vampire King, you know,” sighs the Ice Queen, “not wanting to be found in the first place.”

Fionna’s smile fades a bit.  Her sword drops such that the tip of it hits the bearskin carpet stretched out before the fireplace.  “What do you mean, not wanting to be found?”  The girl’s brow furrows.  “Peeg and Marshall are my best buds, man.  If they’re together they’d definitely want me to find them—”

“Into voyeurism, are they?” pursues the monarch keenly.  “Can’t say I’m terribly surprised—that vampire is an exhibitionist in every way and the sweet little Candy Prince has to wind down somehow too, I’d imagine…” 

She trails off when Fionna blinks at her blankly:  once.  Twice.  Three times.  A fresh flush railroads suddenly into the girl’s cheeks and she squawks, “Oh man, no!  No way!  They aren’t—”  But she stops, eyes widening; the fingers hooked about her sword’s hilt slip.  “They aren’t,” she tries a second time, strangled.  “They—”

For a moment she struggles.  Watching her, the Ice Queen feels a sense of typical vindication—and a pang of something else too, something far more fleeting.  Sympathy?  Pity?  Whatever it is, it stifles her urge to immediately bait Fionna.  She offers a mere, “They aren’t what, dear?”

Fionna’s head snaps aright and her sword with it.  A stormy scowl erupts over her features.  “Don’t mess with me, Ice Queen,” she huffs.  Turning on her heel, she sweeps across the room to the closet door—catches the knob.  Yanks it open.  Not an instant later she has plunged into the smaller chamber, throwing aside clothing and accessories like confetti.  A hanger boomerangs from the depths of the closet too, nearly clipping the Ice Queen’s chin.

“Hey!” she yelps.  “Those are my things!  Show some courtesy!”

The shruppppp of shredding fabric is Fionna’s reply, followed by a chagrined, “Oops,” and the next query of, “geez, what is this stuff?”

Fionna emerges from the closet with a scarf caught on her hat’s ears and a ruined garment clutched in the hand not holding her sword.  Shaking said garment at the Ice Queen, she demands, “Is this a miniature costume of me?”

Checking it, the Ice Queen is unable to disagree.  Uncertain whether to feel ashamed, defensive, or a combination of both, she snipes, “I like to sew, okay?” and snatches the costume from Fionna.  “And look at this—look at what you’ve done!  You’ve ruined it.  This took ages—”

“Dude!  Why”—Fionna throws up her palm—“do you have a little costume of me in your closet?”  Her mouth twitches and she turns to rifle through the aforementioned closet again.  Hangers rattle, clack.  And a little costume of Gumball!” she realizes.  “Oh my glob, you’ve even got one of Lumpy Space Prince…”

“I like to sew,” repeats the Ice Queen stubbornly.  She continues, “It’s a harmless hobby!”

“A hobby,” echoes Fionna.  She sounds skeptical about the harmless part.  Stepping close to the monarch, she reaches to tweak the ripped sleeve of what the Ice Queen privately thinks of as The Adventuress Outfit.  “What do you do with them?” she manages.  “These don’t look like the one you made of Peeg that time—they’re too small for you to wear yourself.”

“That’s none of your business,” the Ice Queen snarls.

As though by cue, one of the monarch’s beloved penguins waddles past the bedchamber’s threshold bedecked in an ensemble reminiscent of the same vampire king they discussed not moments prior.  Complete with tiny plush axe-bass.

“…wow,” Fionna observes at length.  “Uh.  …yeah.  I really just… don’t know how to respond to that.  Seriously.”  And then, “Nice craftsmanship, though.  Solid.”

“Thank you oh so much,” the Ice Queen grates miserably.  She shoves her face into her palms and scrubs her hands down her cheeks.  “Are you satisfied now?  Have you humiliated me thoroughly enough or do you still have another ace up your—”

Something in the closet shifts, falls.  From the chamber and out between Fionna’s ankles rolls a soft, rounded object.  It drops flat over the human’s feet.  It’s a cat bed, purple, obviously handmade.  Along its edge, lovingly embroidered, is the name CAKE in delicate lavender filigree.

The little fire in the grate snaps.

Closing her eyes, the Ice Queen straightens and turns away from her enemy.  She folds her arms:  cups her hand over her mouth too, drawing her thumb harshly down the line of her lips, feeling the points of her teeth prick her flesh. 

“I should go,” Fionna admits quietly.

“Yes.”  The Ice Queen doesn’t bother looking back at the girl’s face.  “Yes, you should.”

There is a pause, and the monarch gets the distinct idea that maybe Fionna wants to say something else—that maybe the human is reaching for her, a hand gingerly extended as a bridge into the small space between them.  Fabric rustles.  The Ice Queen remains, as ever, frozen.

Footsteps, finally:  pattering away across the room and down the hall, fading into nothing.  For several minutes the Ice Queen does nothing but stare into the flames of her bedchamber’s fireplace.  At length she stirs, though, to neaten the room:  she picks up the cat bed, tucks it gently back into its cranny in the closet alongside an assortment of dusty felt mice and jingle-balls.  She replaces the costumes on their hangers, smoothing their creases, tidying their buttons and clasps.  Last she banks the fire again, gripping the poker so tightly it leaves a white comma on the blue scape of her palm. 

She pauses on her journey back down her hallway to wash off her face in the bathroom—to ease free her hair’s curlers too.  Her locks feather down around her face like wisps of pulled cotton.  Heaving a silent sigh, she sweeps them back under her hand’s heel, clips them there, and proceeds into her living room.

Already an inch of snow has accumulated over the floorboards, heaped in a slushy pile nearby the collapsed bookshelf especially.  Disappearing footprints mark the path of Fionna’s departure, and hanging on a shard of the fractured wall is the Ice Queen’s tiara.  It lists slowly to and fro in the wind, its gems frosted, its crest aglimmer in the frail moonlight of the blizzardry night.

Picking her way through the wreckage in her slippers, the Ice Queen takes up the tiara:  spins it in her hands and settles it atop her head where it belongs.  She shivers at its familiar pulse of power—at the way it fits in such perfection on her skull’s slow slope.  Flexing her fingers next, she sends all the snow in her living room sailing out through the hole in her wall.  She mends that afterward too.

She has just begun to collect her tapes and books when there comes a knock at her door.

Straightening, the Ice Queen frowns toward her kitchen.  She misheard, surely—or perhaps it was a load of snow falling from her roof.  A log rolling off her woodpile. 

But no!  It happens a second time and then a third, a stringent, insistently peppery sound that can only signify a fist hitting the barrier. 

Briefly the Ice Queen considers not answering it.  Just as briefly she crosses the kitchen and jerks open the door, sending a spray of icicles from the jamb straight into Fionna’s face.

Brushing those icicles from her jumper, Fionna looks up at the Ice Queen through her lashes.  She’s chewing her lip with those little rabbit teeth of hers; snow specks her cheeks and her throat is cherry for the relentless push of the wind on it.  She opens her mouth and the Ice Queen expects her to suddenly start spewing a ridiculous apology, but instead Fionna says, “Yeah, uh.”  Her tongue darts out, wets her lips—they’re chapped horribly and only getting worse.  “So,” she resumes.  “What movie were you gonna watch?”

The Ice Queen sneers.  “Save your pity,” she retorts, “and get out of here before I turn you into a meat popsicle, girl.”  She proceeds to slam the door.

Or she tries.  Fionna thrusts her foot into the jamb and the door jounces against it.  Its panes rattle.  Another spray of icicles showers down from the gutter above and the human, looking aside, blurts out, “I think you’re right about Peeg and Marshall.”  Her teeth chatter—her chin wobbles.  Maybe she’s cold, but maybe she’s something else too and she confesses, “And Cake’s hangin’ out with Lord Monochromicorn tonight and what lumpin’ movie were you gonna watch, Ice Queen, huh?”  Dropping her rucksack down into her elbow, she opens it, digs through it:  ultimately unearths a flat, shimmery package.  “Look,” she insists.  “I, uhm.  I even have some popcorn.”  She squints into the glow of the monarch’s kitchen.  “You do have a microwave, don’t you?”

“What kind of question is that?” barks the Ice Queen.  “Of course I have a microwave, you foolish—”

“Great!”  The girl lunges past the queen back into the kitchen, her moccasins squeaking on the tile.  “Get a bowl then, ’kay?  And hey, where’s the salt?  We can’t,” she maintains, “have popcorn without salt.  That’s just unnatural.”

Unnatural:  two sworn enemies standing together in a kitchen, plotting snackage for a movie night.

The Ice Queen sweeps to Fionna, knocking her back against the countertop.  Their knees jangle—the human swings a hand up defensively and the monarch catches it, clutching the chilled, slippery knuckles in her palm’s crease.  Between them the sachet of popcorn crackles.

Lowering her head, the monarch leers into Fionna’s cheek.  “We,” she hisses, “will have salt and a caramel drizzle.  Otherwise the popcorn would be criminally lacking and I cannot”—she scrapes her nails deftly over Fionna’s hand—“allow that.”

Fionna glares up at the Ice Queen—or pretends to glare.  A smile’s shadow flirts with her mouth’s corner.  “Fine,” she grunts.  And then, persistent, “What movie are we watching?  Because I also have a copy of Heat Signature and it freakin’ rules—I mean, if you want something new—”

“We are watching Titanic,” the Ice Queen provides.  She leaves off Fionna and turns to look through the nearest cabinet for a bowl.  “The salt’s in the spice rack.  Careful of the microwave—it’s old and the door doesn’t catch well.”

“Cool, yeah.  Sure.  Okay.”  The plastic wrapper crinkles.  Titanic?  Aw dude, that’s not a chick flick, is it?  Full of slobbery kisses and romance junk—”

For the second time this night the Ice Queen cuts in, “It is magnificent.”  Encountering a bowl that should be suitable for the popcorn once it’s finished, she drags it down from its shelf.  She turns to place it next to the microwave and runs into Fionna with it instead, nearly knocking free the girl’s hat.  The fabric ears of the thing are dripping.  “Take that off,” the monarch snaps before she can stop herself.  “You’ll catch your death in it.”

Fionna grins.  “Whatever,” she says, but she tugs off the cap and tosses it aside.  It lands on the monarch’s table amidst envelopes and a baking apron.  “Hey, Ice Queen?”

“Yes?” acknowledges the taller woman stiffly.

Leaning around the queen, her hair all golden cowlicks, the human reaches for the microwave door and prods, “This isn’t gonna be a sad story, is it?”  Her eyes flicker aloft and maybe, realizes the monarch, she’s not just asking about the film.  “I hate sad stories.”

The microwave’s door sticks as usual.  Furling her fingers over Fionna’s, the Ice Queen helps her to pull it open.  She determines, “Wait and see.”