A/N: Oh hey... So it's this story again! I guess I owe a serious explanation. When I started this tale, I wanted to keep it as close to the show as possible. Then of course, we started having eps that contradicted what I had planned and well.. I sort of got disenchanted with resolving the conflicts. BUT! I've decided to call it AU and keep pressing onward. Hopefully even if the chapters get a little short here and there, we'll get through this thing! So, back to it!
Jake moaned unhappily to himself as the small form of Peppermint Butler led him out of the back alleys of the Candy Kingdom and into the bustling streets of the main city. This was no good, he reflected as he tried once more to transform back to his rightful shape. The magical restraints emitted a soft glow as they denied his attempts at shape-shifting.
"Look, butler guy," he adopted a more placating tone than he'd previously tried on the candy man. "We obviously got off on the wrong foot. This is all a big misunderstanding! I'm not Don Juan Cherry Tempo, I'm Jake the dog! I'm magic and can stretch into stuff! I was just playing a prank on those other bums who work for the guy. Let me outta these things, and I'll show you." Jake let his voice slide over into a plaintive whine, a trick that had always worked well in the past when he'd gotten into trouble with authority figures.
Peppermint Butler scoffed slightly under his breath, unimpressed with the whimper. "I'm afraid you'll need to take that up with her Highness. For all I know, you could be a magic dog. And for that matter, Don Juan Cherry Tempo could be an alias name and form used by a shapeshifter to direct the Marichino crime ring. It would certainly make sense as to why we've had so much trouble capturing him."
Jake gaped, seeing the logic in the statement. "Oh man.. Look, I don't want any trouble, man. I admit that I did do some work for the guy.. I'll tell you everything! Just... C'mon, I'm too handsome to go to jail! My good looks will fade like a flower cruelly taken out of the sun! I'll wither away to dust! I'll-"
The diminuitive candy person stopped walking, turning to peer intently up at the enlarged Jake. For a bright, shining moment, Jake allowed himself to believe that his heartfelt pleas had gotten through to his captor.
The next moment, he whined in resignation as an enormous jawbreaker was shoved in his mouth as a makeshift gag. Now free of auditory complaints, Peppermint Butler pulled his captive onwards towards the palace.
The palace banana guard ooohed and ahhhed over the apparent capture of the Candy Kingdom's most wanted criminal, and eagerly ushered the duo into the castle throne room. To Jake's surprise, there was no one on the sugar-coated seat of power, however.
"Oh my, her Highness must be working on one of her little projects again," Peppermint Butler sighed softly. "Well, come along, Jake Juan Cherry-dog, or whoever you are. We shall have to go to her, no force on Ooo is sufficient to distract the princess when she is on the track of some discovery."
Jake tried to memorize the turns that he was guided through as he was led deeper into the castle. There was a chance that this candy princess might believe him, but there was also the very real possibility that he would be forced to try and fight his way free. At last, the butler stopped before a heavy door with a sign on it reading "Caution: Science at Work".
The door was pushed open for them by a pair of the banana guards who had escorted them through the castle, and for a moment Jake was blinded by the glare from intense lighting bouncing off of the many instruments and test tubes within.
"Very good!" a female voice cheered, "That reaction was perfectly in line with our expectations! Oh, I must make a note of this in my journal!"
A willowy girl in a lab coat and crown grabbed up a clipboard and began taking notes, pausing every so often to coo appreciatively at the small candycorn rat that preened its' whiskers on the countertop. "Oh this is truly excellent! I can't imagine how I'd ever get so much done without you, Science the fourth!"
"Your Highness," Peppermint Butler called hesitantly. "If I might have but a moment of your time?"
The girl shook her head, sweeping some of her long, suspiciously gooey-looking hair away from her face. "Not now, please! Science and I are quite busy at the moment."
"B-But Princess!" the small candy man looked positively annoyed at the dismissal. "I have captured Don Juan Cherry Tempo!" He cast an evaluating look at Jake. "Or someone like him, at least."
The princess nodded, continuing to take notes on the concoction bubbling over the bunson burner in front of her. "Very good, I'll have my lunch just a little later though."
The small candy man emitted a long-suffering sigh. "Very well, Princess Bubblegum. I will bring down a light lunch in half an hour. If I could just have your attention for one-"
Jake, who had previously been staring in boredom at the nonsensical interactions of the princess and her faithful servant, suddenly felt his nose twitch. 'Oh no', he thought, 'Can't scratch it..."
"..And I'm sure that your Highness would find it worthwhile," Peppermint Butler continued, ignorant of Jake's predicament.
The dog's nose twitched again, and Jake focused all his willpower on ignoring the persistant itch. 'Can't... fight it!' he thought plaintively, 'I'm gonna...!"
"...Would certainly appreciate your insights on his claim." the small round candy man concluded, gesturing up at Jake just in time for the magically-altered dog to let loose the mother of all explosive sneezes.
Princess Bubblegum yelped and dove beneath her lab table as the monstrous flying jawbreaker and a sudden gust of wind blew over her beakers and test tubes. Science the rat number four squeaked in terror as she leaped for the safety of the lead-lined observation nook. Peppermint Butler stared in shock as a massive fireball burst into brief existance as the mysterious chemicals spilled over the burner.
"Oh dear," he murmured.
There was a muted "bang", then all was silent.
"Good... gracious me..." Peppermint Butler, now covered in an unhealthy coating of soot, muttered as he passed out. As his hand slipped away from the chain holding Jake's restraints, the blackened magical chains collapsed into nothingness, allowing Jake to snap back into his proper form. The dog gave a miserable sniffle as he wiped at his nose.
"Uuhhhghhhh... 'Scuse me," he murmured.
The startling pink face of Princess Bubblegum reappeared after a moment, blinking at him in surprise from behind her singed makeshift shelter. "What...? Who...? Do you have any idea what you just did!?" she cried, wringing her small hands.
"Cleared the ol' sinuses?" Jake ventured, hoping he could defuse the situation with humor.
"You just destroyed all my zanoits! I had two weeks of research on that table! And now it's gone!" The girl waved her arms frantically at the crisped table, earning a chagrined look from the dog.
"Oh... Well..." Jake toed the ground for a moment, hoping that the Candy Kingdom didn't have a death penalty for interrupting scientific progress. Considering how his day had been going, it really wouldn't be surprising. "Would... Would it help if I said I was really sorry? 'Cause I am really sorry if I broke your.."
"And I simply cannot thank you enough!" Princess Bubblegum cried, grabbing the dog up and whirling around with him. "Science and I have been working on a formula to break down a new form of zanoits for over a month! We tried everything we could think of, but they continued to adapt as fast as we introduced new toxins to them. And now, thanks to your help, we finally have the answer! They've adapted themselves right out of their previously inherent heat resistance! Oh this is fantastic! Thank you so much, puppy!" The princess began to scratch his ears, cooing "Who's a good boy?" softly.
Jake felt the grin pulling at his face before he was even aware that he just might be off the hook for the Cherry Tempo incident. "Well gosh, it was nothing, your Princess-ness!"
"Oh it was far from nothing, now we can keep the plantoids from over-adapting!"
Jake frowned. "I thought you were killing zanoits?"
"Yes, but plantoids emit deadly mallotoxins that kill zanoits. Some zanoits have been adapting stronger defenses, and in turn have been killing off hundreds of thousands of plantoids."
The dog felt his frown grow as the weak mental grasp he'd had on his situation fumbled and slipped away. "Are... are we killing things or saving things?"
"Yes! Exactly!" Princess Bubblegum beamed. "I'm so glad that you understand how important this research is now! Truly, it will be a tremendous boon to the Candy Kingdom! Is there anything I can do for you, puppy?"
Jake's grin returned, dialing itself up to eleven. "You could tell your butler I'm not Don Juan Cherry Tempo! I'm just a magic dog! The name's Jake!"
Princess Bubblegum's friendly demeanor melted away. "Don Juan... Wait a minute. If Peppermint Butler believes you are the head of the Marichino crime family, he must have a good reason. Why was he so convinced that he insisted on interrupting my work?"
The candy person in question blearily raised himself to his feet, dusting himself off even as he fought to retain his balance. "He took on the appearance of Cherry Tempo, Princess. And he claimed twice to be the Don. I was forced to take him into custody. He was quite rude about it, I must say."
The princess, now carrying Jake like a sack of potatoes, marched from the lab with a determined look in her eye. "There's one way I know for certain to tell if this is Cherry Tempo or not." Peppermint Butler trailed behind the princess, faithfully awaiting her commands.
"We have found a witness who has spent time in close quarters with the Don," the princess announced. "Guards, bring the witness to my throne room tomorrow. Jake the dog, you will be our closely supervised guest for this evening. We shall have this all sorted out tomorrow morning."
Sensing his precious freedom being whisked away, Jake began to squirm. "Come on, man! I mean Princess! I'm just your regular, run of the mill magic dog! I swipe the occasional bike or old lady's purse! I'm not a criminal!"
Princess Bubblegum dropped the pleading Jake into a large, empty pickle jar that her servant placed beside the candy throne. "Sounds like a criminal to me," she sighed to Peppermint Butler, who nodded as he straightened his jacket collar. "Indeed your highness."
The small candy figure of Peppermint Butler stepped forward to place a lid on the jar, leaving a few small holes poked in the lid to let in air. The candy man bowed to the princess as she departed, then traced a square around the prison. He then drew more sides, as if creating an invisible cube around the jar, all the while muttering to himself in a soft voice. At last, he seemed satisfied with his work and stepped back.
"You must remain here until her highness is prepared for your judgement in the morning," he announced.
Jake smirked. "You did catch that I'm a MAGIC dog, right? I can just squeeze right outta here!" So saying, Jake shrank and stretched his body, flowing out of the largest hole in the jar lid. A triumphant grin blazed across his face. "No prison can hold Jake the d-d-DANG IT!" he yelped, pulling back the foot that had only just attempted to touch the ground. The limb buzzed with numbness that seemed to travel sluggishly up his body. Frantic, he tried pushing his body in every direction he could think of. At every turn, he found himself zapped with the crackling detached feeling. It was as though his entire body was being jabbed with a nerve-tingling sleepy feeling.
Somewhat belatedly, he recalled the box that his observer had traced around his small prison. With an annoyed grunt, Jake poured his stinging form back into the pickle jar. "You win this round, Peppermint Butler," he grumbled. "But we'll see what's what in the morning!"
The small candy man smiled politely. "I look forward to it."
The duo sat and stared at each other for a long moment, before Jake finally spoke. "Hey... So... You're telling me filching bikes and purses is wrong?"
Somewhere back in a small house, nestled in the protective embrace of the forest, Joshua looked up from his dungeon-planning journal. He felt a cold chill shudder through his body, leaving him shaken and a little frightened by the sensation. "Dearest," he called hesitantly, "I just felt a disturbance... like one of your sons just admitted to an incredible lapse in judgement."
From beyond the swinging kitchen doors, Margaret's nonplussed voice called back. "That's quite alright dear, I'm sure that it must be your fault. Perhaps they'll forgive you some day."
Finn looked up from the floor, where Margaret had him tracing his letters in dry erase marker on the tile. "Grown ups are weird," he muttered to himself. With a shrug, he returned his attention to the picture postcard from Jake that laid on the floor beside him. Learning to read was going to be SO cool. Then he could find out all the super-secret stuff that the adults knew. The picture of the pink candy princess smiled up at him from behind the scribbled mustache that Jake or some other goof had drawn on her. Mustaches were cool, he decided, and haphazardly smeared one on his own lip with the marker.
There. He felt more grown up already!