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we'll take it slow (and grow as we go)

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“your room looks the same,” marcy comments. there is something so hesitant in her voice; shaky, like she was trying to sound normal but fell flat. 

 

when anne looks at her, she’s fidgeting in her wheelchair, hands interlocking and releasing. her hair is long, long enough to hang in her face, obscuring her eyes from view. it’s strange; even when marcy was little and her hair long, she would always tie it out of her face. it’s annoying when i can see it, she had always rationalized. 

 

there is no such rationalization here. 

 

“i missed the way it looked so i didn’t change it,” anne says, and then stops, because there is a heavy-handed message in those words, one that has marcy’s expression - or what little anne can see of it - falling, her shoulders tensing. 

 

“i didn’t mean it like that,” anne adds, quickly, and she outstretches her hands and then stops. her arms fall limply to her sides without the momentum, but it just feels strange, now. different. she doesn’t know how to approach this marcy, doesn’t know if things are the same. 

 

“it’s okay, anne, you don’t have to apologize to me.” there’s a quiet not ever in marcy’s tone, and she sniffs, finally glancing back up. “i like your room, anyways. it’s always been so cozy. you even kept the stars up.” 

 

“of course i kept the stars up.” anne moves, then, to help marcy get across the room, over to anne’s own bed. her hands take the handles of the wheelchair - and boy, was it a pain to have gotten that chair up the stairs in the first place, but marcy could barely keep herself on her feet without it - and marcy tenses, hunching over to avoid any accidental touches. “what was i gonna do? take down your dorky constellations?” 

 

“they’re not dorky, they’re precise!” marcy’s expression stretches into something more familiar, some of the light returning to her eyes. “you were the one that asked me to help you place them!” 

 

anne sticks out her tongue. marcy sticks hers out in return, and then they’re both laughing. it feels so painstakingly familiar ; despite everything, marcy herself hasn’t really changed. anne doesn’t think she has either, not in any way that matters. they’ve both evolved into something different, something better, but deep down they’re still the same. anna-banana and marbles. 

 

“you can sleep here, i even picked out some pajamas for you.” anne turns, then, because seeing the expression on marcy’s face aches in a way she can’t quite explain. “they might be too big though… i think i might’ve grown a bit, half my things don’t fit me right anymore.” 

 

“ah,” marcy says, lamely. 

 

when anne turns back around - with an armful of things that don’t quite fit her anymore, but would probably fit marcy now - she’s staring at anne with something longing and soft. her hair still spills in her face, but her eyes are visible at least. 

 

“...marbles?” 

 

marcy blinks, and then frantically looks back down at her lap. her cheeks are flushed. “sorry, sorry. was i staring?” 

 

“you don’t have to apologize to me,” anne says, and, to her own surprise, she means it. after everything, she doesn’t want to hear the words i’m sorry leave marcy’s lips again. “ever. okay? not for anything.” 

 

anne, ” marcy says, with the slightest exasperation to her tone, as if she’s going to complain. 

 

marcy, ” anne mimics, and she sets the clothes down on her bed and then sits down herself, patting the spot next to her. 

 

marcy hesitates, but then she’s very weakly climbing out of the chair. her legs tremble with effort, but she takes the steps needed to make it from the chair to the bed, all but collapsing onto the spot next to anne. 

 

“i thought you’d be more upset with me,” she says, quietly, like it’s some earth-shattering revelation. she draws herself upwards, legs flopping against the bed semi-uselessly as she curls into herself. “i dreamt about it. to prepare myself mentally, i think.” 

 

“i was mad at you,” anne admits, “for awhile. but coming so close to losing you… it made me realize that i didn’t want to lose you. i meant it, that day in the ant cave. i never want to lose you again. and it was so close, marbles, you were gone and i didn’t know if we’d ever get you back or if you’d ever be the same goofy, adorable marcy we all knew, or if-” 

 

“- annie, ” marcy interrupts, and she reaches for anne’s hands. she hesitates before they touch, though, fingers inches away from anne’s own. “i’m here now. i… i don’t want to make any more promises i can’t keep, i don’t want to do that to you again, but i’m…” 

 

here. you won’t lose me again. i promise. 

 

anne can hear it in her tone as she trails off, and she sniffs. marcy’s hands still hover awkwardly over her own, so finally, finally, she reaches upwards, tangling fingers around marcy’s hands. it feels… the same. this, at least, has not changed; anne has always been able to hold marcy’s hands. 

 

“you won’t,” she whispers, squeezing marcy’s hands. “you won’t leave again. i know you won’t. and i’m not gonna leave you alone either. we’re in this together now, right? no more secrets?” 

 

“no more secrets,” marcy echoes, and she sniffs, and then stifles a sob. her hair is falling into her face again, and now that anne is close enough to see it, she subconsciously releases one of marcy’s hands to reach forwards, tucking a soft lock of dark hair behind marcy’s ears. 

 

marcy sobs. 

 

“hey, hey, don’t cry.” anne tugs marcy forwards into a hug, pulls her into her chest. marcy’s hands end up balling into anne’s shirt, anne’s arms around her shoulders, and they fit together in a way they always have. this, too, hasn’t changed. “marce, it’s okay. it’s okay. i’m here now, see?” 

 

“i missed you so much,” marcy whispers, and she’s trembling in anne’s arms. “i wanted to get back to you and sash so bad, i swear i did-” 

 

“-i know, marbles, i know.” anne carefully rubs her back, tangles fingers into her hair. like this, marcy is tangible and real and how was anne so hesitant to touch her before? she never wants to let her go. “you’re safe now, i promise. i’ll never let anyone hurt you again.” 

 

“i can protect myself,” marcy protests weakly, but she still shakes in anne’s arms, curling just the teensiest bit further. “but thanks. for everything. i don’t deserve you.” 

 

“if you don’t deserve me, i definitely don’t deserve you.” anne laughs. “that’s the point. we don’t have to be deserving of love, marbles. i can love you anyways.” 

 

“how did you get so smart?” marcy laughs too, something broken and hollow. 

 

“i have always been smart, excuse you!” anne scoffs mockingly. 

 

marcy’s laugh turns into a snort, and then a fond little giggle. she’s not shaking as bad, settling into anne’s arms like she belongs there. “you always know just what to say to cheer me up.” 

 

“that’s the anne specialty!” anne smiles, and she tucks her face into marcy’s hair, inhaling. “now if you don’t mind, i think i’m gonna nap right here.” 

 

anne. ” 

 

“your hair is soft! i can’t remember the last time it was this long, i like it.” 

 

“well, if you like it…” marcy trails off, and there’s something fond in her voice. she sounds so much lighter, now, much more like her old self. it sparks something in anne, something proud. i did this. i helped her. 

 

“oh, please keep it long.” anne finally releases marcy just enough so that they can shift backwards, laying down now instead of sitting up. like this, marcy can lay against anne’s chest, though her legs still dangle uselessly. anne tangles them with her own, relishing in the warmth. she’s never felt so warm before, not in her entire time in amphibia and certainly not since she’s been on earth. “i can style it! sasha would never let me near her hair.” 

 

marcy giggles again, and she curls her arms around anne still. “is this just you wanting revenge for all the times i’ve cut your hair?” 

 

“maaaaybe,” anne drawls, and they’re both laughing again. like this, things just feel okay again. like despite everything, this is still her marcy, and she is still marcy’s anne. maybe marcy doesn’t deserve it. maybe neither of them do. but what does that matter? 

 

anne has marcy now. and she’s never letting go.