Disclaimer: I don't own any character, name, place or anything related to the original show. Everything belongs to ©Cartoon Network, Frederator Studios and Pendleton Ward.
–Spreading the Cards of Destiny–
"The cards give you images and symbols to focus your vague intentions and transform them into action. Your will is the magic. In other words, you are the magic. If you can create something in your heart and then act on it to make it happen, that is magic. Very simple, very straightforward—no witches, no spells, and no broomsticks."
–Theresa Cheung, about Tarot
Act I: The Secret
There were too many voices speaking and murmuring at the same time, too many strange fiery faces and too many eyes locked on him. Finn couldn't feel any more uncomfortable than he already was. After eight years of haven't showing himself up in the Fire Kingdom, it wasn't mere casualty that every fire elemental in the hall seemed curious about the human with the tuxedo inside a fireproof suit.
Finn gulped. What was he even doing there?
Princess Bubblegum sent him a worried glance and he replied with a weary smile. Now he could remember, he was accompanying the candy princess to give her last good-bye to Cinnamon Bun. It was the least she could do for that poor guy. After all, he was one of her candy citizens, one of her beloved children.
To think that he was now dead felt extremely weird for both Bubblegum and the hero. One day he was the nerve-wrecking annoyance that everyone used to laugh at, and the next one, he had vanished from existence, sharing the thrills of danger and glory by his female King's side in battle. A battle for the forever craved throne of the Fire Kingdom.
The details of such deadly encounter still remained a mystery to Finn and Princess Bubblegum; all they were allowed to know was that Cinnamon Bun gave his life for Flame Princess. Finn felt his fists tightening. CB remained hers until the last consequences of his chivalry vow. "Hers" he thought. The truth was that the human didn't know how to feel about this. It had all been so sudden and brutal for both the Fire and the Candy Kingdoms. Yet for him, well, did Cinnamon Bun mean anything to him at all?
Princess Bubblegum came to the funeral because of Cinnamon Bun, not much to show her condolence to Flame Princess —although the royal protocol could also justify the meaning of her presence there. But Finn, what was he doing in the searing halls of the Fire Palace? For Glob, Flame Princess didn't even invite him! It made him nervous and sweaty. Flame Princess didn't want him by her side, not even during her time of sorrow and mourn. He was there as Princess Bubblegum's escort, and nothing else. Deep inside he didn't want to see her—the fiery king. What would she say? What would she think of him?
That he was a hypocrite? Perhaps. Finn and Cinnamon Bun hadn't been in very good terms after the Flame King escaped with the help of Don Jon. In fact, the last time Finn saw the Knight of the Fire Kingdom was during an intrusion, performed by Cinnamon Bun himself at the Tree Fort. It made Finn angry to remember such event. How come CB, of all people, dared to bash through his door and tell him what to do? How could he insist on telling the human hero to stay away from Flame Princess?
Finn snorted as he walked through the crowd of living flames, the nerve of that pastry! So, after he became FP's white knight he thought that he was in his right to boss everyone around, especially the Hero of Ooo? Who did he think he was anyway?
The envy Finn felt towards Cinnamon Bun —even in death— continued to grow as they approached the Royal Chamber where his body rested, waiting for the final ceremony before his journey to eternal slumber. There they would find Flame Princess, probably crying over him. It was then that it occurred to Finn that his sour thoughts towards Cinnamon Bun had no place in there.
Every person around him had arrived to the palace with the intention of honoring and bidding farewell to someone who had done nothing but good deeds for their kingdom. They were all suffering, and Flame Princess above all, had lost more than a knight or a friend. She lost the one person she truly loved, or so the human thought.
In any case, he would be failing to respect her if he walked in there, feeling envious of her cinnamon hero. Finn sighed. When Bubblegum asked him if he was sure about coming with her, he agreed because he wanted to be there for Flame Princess, not to make fun of Cinnamon Bun. This was all for her.
The great doors to the main chamber were just ahead. Finn breathed in deeply, it was time to stop being a kid and become a man. No matter what reaction Flame Princess showed upon his arrival, he would stay 'till the end.
More and more people came inside and for a moment, Finn felt relieved. He thought that maybe Flame Princess wouldn't be able to spot him right away within the crowd. With such bad luck that, as Princess Bubblegum's escort, he was requested to stand beside her, right in the front with the other high-class members of the Fire Court.
Such position granted him a perfect view of the coffin where Cinnamon Bun was laid to rest. There was a picture of the brave knight on top of the closed funerary urn, depicting him as the hero that he once was. There was no sign of Flame Princess anywhere yet, but Finn began to grow anxious with each second that passed.
A silent sob made him lose track of his thoughts and the young man made a quick turn to glance at Bubblegum. The expression of sadness in her face faded soon enough for the human to notice. Bonnibel remained firm to her sense of decorum. She could easily clone an exact copy of the deceased Cinnamon Bun, but even if she were to do so, it wouldn't be the same.
How could it ever be the same? Her half-baked fool, that childish thirty-year-old pastry was dead long before his tragic defeat in battle. And now, he was gone forever.
The ceremony began a few minutes later. And finally, after an eternity for Finn, Flame Princess appeared. Looking so much older than he remembered or expected, she stood before the crowd followed by a couple of Flame Guards. The appearance of innocence that used to make her so pretty left her features long ago, replaced by a look of severe adult beauty, up to the standards of the royal attire that she has worn ever since her ascension to the throne.
Dumbfounded as he was, Finn couldn't keep his eyes off of her. Yet, the sadness that seized her expression was enough to pass the heavy-hearted feeling on to the human, drowning him in compassion rather than in those annoying, obsessive emotions that used to take his brain away whenever he laid his eyes on her.
The King began her speech. Not a lengthy or boring one, but a clear, sincere and full of feeling discourse that jerked more than one tear among the audience, including Bonnibel Bubblegum herself. As for Finn, he was indeed moved by Flame Princess' words, feeling more and more miserable and ashamed of himself. "She loved him…" he uttered in remorse, "she really did."
He kept staring at Flame Princess, calling her with his eyes, until suddenly… hers finally met his. Startled by Finn's presence, she lost track of her speech and a curtain of silence fell to crush them both. Before someone could complain about her loss of words, Flame Princess resumed her speech. However, her look of surprise didn't change that fast.
She continued to exchange furtive glances with the human hero, like in a mute conversation. At first there was awkwardness in her eyes, then confusion. Sometimes glimpsing the young man with irritation as if she were blaming him for something. And then, she looked at him in reproach as if asking, "Where have you been?"
As her discourse progressed her glances softened, some of sadness, others of sympathy. There were just so many emotions in her eyes, giving away every word she wanted to cross with him. Finn returned all of them, even sending a pitiful look that begged for forgiveness. At this, Flame Princess' eyes grew stern and her face displayed plenty of worry.
Finn couldn't help to feel disappointed, and he looked away until the end of the ceremony.
Cinnamon Bun's body departed to the Death World, cremated by a powerful fireblast that Flame Princess unleashed at his coffin after finishing her speech. Every being in the room stared at the flames in silence for as much time as they wanted. Then, little by little, everyone left the room. It was the King's duty to pick up the ashes and keep them safe with her.
As in any social event, people gathered in a more comfortable area to chat and eat an appetizer, but mostly to give some solace to Flame Princess. In the end, Princess Bubblegum —who at first wanted to leave without meeting the Neo-Flame King— chose to express her condolences to her after listening to that moving speech. Nevertheless, they both cared for Cinnamon Bun, so she couldn't see why she shouldn't do that.
"Finn, I'll go see Flame Princess for a minute. Then we'll leave, okay?" Bubblegum explained, "Do you wanna join me or has this been a little too much for you?"
Finn thought for a moment and wondered, "Peebs… Do you know if…? Do you think FP's and Cinnamon Bun's relationship was like… the romantic type?"
"Gee, Finn… Is this really the proper time and place to ask such thing?" the human tensed his expression in concern and she sighed. "Alright, to tell the truth I'm not quite sure, and I never cared to ask either. But if you really need to know, I think it was pretty obvious that they shared strong feelings for each other, wasn't it?"
Frustration seized the young man's features. Was he expecting Bubblegum to tell him something different? Being realistic, he lost his chance with Flame Princess since he induced her to fight the Ice King, and it was time to accept it. It had been eight years since that terrible mistake and they weren't kids anymore. Finn was determined to dedicate his life to adventure and being the hero that he always wanted to be. As for Flame Princess, even if he still kept her memory close to his heart, had to move on from her loss and continue to rule the Fire Kingdom on her own.
Still, that didn't mean they had to live their lives apart from the other like in the last years. Finn knew well that Flame Princess didn't have many friends. The best he could do for her was to be there and let her know that she wasn't alone, leaving all prejudice aside and assuming his role as Hero of Ooo. Flame Princess might have lost her most loyal friend or lover, but it didn't matter to him now.
"I understand." He declared, "Anyway, I wanna see her too."
Princess Bubblegum gave Finn a nod and dragged him with her. Flame Princess was sitting on her throne, surrounded by subjects with flaming flowers and all sorts of presents that might help their king feel better. She received them and thanked her people politely, regardless of how empty she felt in reality. Cinnamon Bun's fire wolf was resting at her feet, its head hung down in sadness.
Just by standing a few inches away from her, Finn's cold resolve melted instantly as his feelings for her rekindled. This time, however, he had someone to make him aware of that before he could start acting like a moron again.
"Umm, Finn… Your cheeks are redder than the carpet we're standing on." Bubblegum warned.
"What?" he whelped, covering his face, "No way!"
"Dude, it so obvious even I feel pity for you! What the junk, Finn? I thought you had given up on dating stuff a long time go!"
"I know! I know! And I'm trying, believe me!" the human protested, exasperated.
"Then try harder, otherwise you'll end up making a fool of yourself!"
"Next!" a Flame Guard yelled, causing the fire people behind them to push Finn and Bubblegum forward.
There was nowhere to run now. Flame Princess was focusing her full attention on the two. Her features remained inexpressive, waiting for someone to speak up.
Feeling intimidated, Finn leaned close to Bonnibel's ear, whispering.
"Better go back, now that we have the chance!"
"Are you kidding?! It's too late for that now!" she muttered impatiently.
"What's wrong?" Flame Princess inquired, arching an eyebrow. "Eight years have passed and all you are gonna do is to stand there like statues?" she shifted in her place a little and said, "Welcome back to my kingdom, Princess Bubblegum and Finn the Human. Nothing like the joyful visit of two old friends to help someone feel better, huh?"
The two aforesaid turned pale as ghosts, paralyzed by the severity in Flame Princess' words and her sarcasm. Unexpectedly though, she let go of her stern frown and in a more relaxed manner admitted, "I'm just pulling your leg, c'mon. It's funny."
"Heh, funny? Yeah…" Finn giggled nervously as his face regained some color.
"My, my, Finn! Look at you, I bet no one dares to mess with you these days. You've grown to become quite the hero, nice arm by the way."
"Y-you really think so?" he blushed, curling up his new mechanical extremity.
A small accident with his cursed Grass Sword had forced the hero to find himself a new right arm. Over the years though, he grew used to that distinct limb, even enough to feel proud about it.
"And Princess Bubblegum, I see you keep modifying your biomass to appear younger than you truly are."
"Hey! How did you—?!" Bonnibel exclaimed in anger.
"Nothing in Ooo remains a secret to me." Flame Princess declared, "Thank you for coming. I knew CB —may he rest in peace— was sort of like a son to you."
"Yes." Princess Bubblegum let her eyes drift on the ground, "Yes he was…"
"And Finn, what a surprise. I wasn't expecting you at all here, yet I'm glad you came. It's been a while since the last time we met." A concerned look took over her face, "I hope you forgive me for not inviting you… It's just that, well, since you've been avoiding me all this time—I was afraid you wouldn't show up, even if I sent you an invitation. In any case, your presence here means a lot to me. I'm sure CB thinks the same."
The soft smile that Flame Princess gave him sidetracked Finn, but he immediately shook in confusion. "W-wait! What? I-I wasn't avoiding you! I never wanted to stay away from you, I thought CB told you—!"
"It's fine, Finn. It's in the past." She rose from her seat, apologizing. "Now, if you excuse me… It's been a long day… and there's something I must take care of. It was nice to see you two again, I hope we can meet again someday, in more cheerful circumstances perhaps."
"No! Hold up, Flame Princess!"
Finn pulled her arm, forcing her to stop. Said action caused the multitude around them to gasp and alert the Flame Guards.
"Finn, I really need you to let go of me." Flame Princess warned with a hiss.
"But I need to explain this! I-I never wanted things to end up like this! My feelings for you have never changed! What I mean is that, I wasn't avoiding you! Cinnamon Bun told me—!"
"Finn, that's enough!" she ordered, her fire blazing up in anger.
"Forget it, Finn!" Bubblegum tried to meddle in, "I thought you said you would let go of Flame Princess for real this time!" then in a whispering voice, "C'mon, th-there's a new dungeon waiting for you back in the Candy Kingdom! Rattleballs built it just for you! Remember? Secret training? C'mon now, don't make a fool of yourself!"
Finn turned back to the pink princess, quite altered by her constant reminder. "I am not making a fool of myself, PB! Not this time!"
He then returned to Flame Princess, begging her to listen. "It was Cinnamon Bun. He told me that you wanted me to stay away forever, and I believed him because you acted like you meant that back then!"
"Why would Cinnamon Bun say something like that?!" she demanded, losing her patience. "If you're making up that lie to win me back, I swear I—!"
"I'm not lying, I swear! CB, on the other hand—he!"
"He's dead, Finn!" Flame Princess cried out as her guards came up to arrest him, "Please just… take him away…"
Two Flame Guards seized him, pulling him back with all of their strength as the human struggled to free his body from their mighty embrace.
"Please, FP! Listen to me! I swear I don't understand why Cinnamon Bun did that either, but—I wish I knew why! Whatever the reason, I bet he did it for your good! After all, he loved you more than I do, didn't he? I understand if CB thought I was a nuisance for the two of you!"
"So… Cinnamon Bun was hiding secrets from me as well…?" the young king asked herself, afflicted by this new doubt that no one could answer. "No… I can't believe it… He wouldn't do that… H-he couldn't be trying to—!"
A sharp baby's crying broke through the racked of the confused fire citizens and the arguing between their king and the human. A young fire elemental maiden came running down the stairs, carrying said baby with her. Both Finn and Bubblegum let out a gasp when she offered the small girl to Flame Princess with the following words:
"My king, I'm sorry to interrupt, but since you never came to feed the young Princess and she began to cry, all I could think of was to bring her to you. Please, give your daughter some of your time!"
The fire ruler received the baby in her arms, letting her distress fade away. "It's okay, I'll take care of her now. You can leave."
As the maiden left, Finn locked his astonished eyes on Flame Princess. Were his senses working well? Did he just hear that FP was the mother of that baby girl? And if she was, did that mean there was also a father? Who?
"Where did that baby come from?" Bubblegum's voice echoed, full of concern and curiosity. "Flame Princess, did you? H-how did you? What's the meaning of this? Who is that baby?"
Flame Princess sighed as she turned to meet Bonnibel's eyes.
"This is Flanella, and she is my daughter."
"What?" the candy ruler exclaimed, "Impossible!"
Finn felt his entire body tremble, his world crumbling. Flame Princess would never lie. That was her baby for sure, and it could only mean that some other guy was the true owner of her heart. But who? Unless—no… It couldn't be possible, could it?
"How can that be true? Your body hasn't been stabilized, you couldn't have—!"
"Princess Bubblegum, you're not allowed to make so many questions regarding to my body or whatever I do with it." Flame Princess denounced sternly, "Leave now or I'll be forced to apprehend you as well!"
"FP…" she heard Finn whisper as her guards dragged him away.
"Hold on, guards!" their king ordered, "Let the human go…"
The hero denoted how her anger melted into sadness and concern. He couldn't tell however, if Flame Princess' regained serenity was caused due to the presence of the little girl in her embrace. Perhaps she was trying to avoid upsetting her baby, perhaps she still felt some compassion towards him after all. How could he know? Flame Princess fixed her amber eyes on his blue ones, both silently screaming at each other for a moment of peace, a moment of clarity.
"Finn deserves an explanation." She uttered softly, and then disappeared behind the main staircase.
Free from the brute soldiers' grasp, Finn stood back on his feet ready to follow Flame Princess deeper within her castle. However, he was afraid to ask. Was it even possible? Could the child on Flame Princess' arms be Cinnamon Bun's daughter as he suspected?
Does Finn even want to know the truth?
Alright, I know it's weird but trust me. It's not what you think! Or is it? Please give the story a chance, you might even enjoy what I have planned for this unusual fanfic.
I feel like I need some constructive criticism on this AU. Was someone acting out of character? Review, express your opinion, suggest stuff, whatever you feel like. Thanks!