Author's Note: Whew! Hello, everyone! Anyone miss me? Yes? No? Anyone? No?
Sorry for making you wait this long. I've been working on a ton of stuff for college as well as on some original fiction, so I didn't think I'd have the time to keep writing this fic. But recently I got a ton of feedback and alerts (thanks for that!), so I figured it'd be unfair to leave you guys hanging.
Man, a ton of stuff happened on Adventure Time since last we met, eh? 'Go With Me' pretty much sank the Finn / Marceline ship, for one thing, Jake and Marceline are chummy, and apparently PB is thirteen now? Yikes. Well, we'll pretend this fic takes place sometime between 'It Came from the Night-O-Sphere' and 'Video Makers'. That should take care of the holes, I think.
Anyway, in this chapter I'm going to try something a little different. I still don't think I've written anything as good as chapter one, which had this really cool (unintentional) Douglas Adams vibe to it that I really liked. Hopefully this one will be up to form. And don't worry; Princess Bubblegum is definitely here this time.
Two weeks later…
7. My New Favorite People
"…and that's what happened," Jake said with a sigh.
He was sitting on a bar stool at the Booz n' Broozes, the premiere watering hole in the Marauders' Village. There was a banner up front reading:
~ BOOZ N' BROOZES ~
Come for the prospect of inebriation, stay for the promise of cranial fracture! TM
To his left sat Lumpy Space Princess, crinkling her nose and ugh-ing at the many sweaty men wrestling and breaking chairs over each other's backs behind her between sips of her diet cola, and to his right, dressed in an ill-fitting white button-up shirt and tie and generally looking like a clueless part-timer, sat the Guardian of the Well, nursing a beer.
The Guardian had a swig, slammed his glass down on the countertop and rubbed his chin broodingly. "Sounds rough," he said. "And you say you've been camping out with your, ah, lovely lady friend here ever since?"
"Pretty much," said Jake, staring into his cappuccino. "Can't really go back to the tree house, can I, now that Finn hates me and all. And with Lady out seeing her folks, well, there's not really much of a place for me anywhere. LSP's great, don't get me wrong; she knows where to find all the best cans of beans, but…" He glanced furtively to the left, then leaned right and whispered into the Guardian's ear. "…she never wants to go with me on any adventures!"
LSP harrumphed and sipped her drink.
"Well, you can't fault her for that, can you, Jake?" said the Guardian of the Well. "Clearly what we have here is a lady of distinguished taste; can't really expect her to go around digging for old trinkets in smelly old caves, no sir, not a classy lady like her." He leaned back, looked past Jake and smiled at the princess.
Her cheeks became a rosier shade of pink, but it was kind of hard to tell. "You see, Jake?" she said. "This guy, like, lumping gets it."
Jake fidgeted uncomfortably, drumming his fingers on the countertop. "Uh-huh," he said. "So, anyway, Guardian, I don't know what to do. Got any advice for an old yellow dog?"
The Guardian shrugged. "Tried eating him yet?" he asked. Lumpy Space Princess, unaccustomed to the ways of the Well People, gave an exaggerated giggle.
"What? No! I can't eat my best friend! Or, like, my former best friend… I think that's a little out of the question, dude."
"By the way, just eff-why-aye, I don't go by 'the Guardian of the Well' anymore," he said in a grand, self-important tone. "I… excuse me a minute."
Jake's friend raised his enormous head from the countertop, where it had made a rather gruesome dent.
"Ha-ha-ha! I got you good, eh, Nancy-boy?" laughed a nearby Marauder, cracking his knuckles loudly. "Whazza matta, you gonna cry? You gonna show me what you got, or should I kick those fancy pants of yours straight to your momma's house? What is that, anyway? …business casual!"
His drunken friends, sitting in a circle at the table behind him, roared with laughter and raised their flagons to the ceiling.
The Guardian stood up, grabbed his axe, and swung it full force at the combative Marauder. The flat side of it hit him square in the chest and sent him flying backwards into his friends' table, breaking it cleanly in half and dousing him in five flagons' worth of half-finished beer. A new wave of laughter spread through the Booz n' Broozes, followed by one of applause, and by the end of it the Guardian and his friends had been offered more than one extra round, on the house.
"Oh. My. Lump," said Lumpy Space Princess, floating over to the unoccupied stool on the Guardian's left. "You are, like, so… totally… cut! Aren't you? Grawr!"
The Guardian chuckled immodestly. "Oh, well, y'know, you live in a well for a few thousand years, fighting dragons and wolverines for your breakfast and lunching only on your own homicidal rage and before you know it, yeah, you're so totally cut. So glad you noticed."
"Grrnnff," said Jake, sliding into an even deeper slouch.
"SoasIwassaying," the Guardian went on, "they don't call me the 'Guardian of the Well' anymore. I'm the Clerk of the Mailroom now. Bossman says I have potential, so I'm kind of hoping to make it into outright delivery. I hear they've got this thing called 'going postal' I think I'd be very good at."
Lumpy laughed her lumpy laugh, drifting ever so slightly closer to the Clerk's left bicep. "Oh my lump! Totally cut and, like, a professional? You have got to teach me how to like, sort letters and junk sometime. You've got to!"
"Well, I don't mean to brag or anything," the Clerk lied like a pig, making a big show of stretching his deltoids, "but around the office I'm kind of a legend for my twenty-five letter sort. It's a record, you see, kind of a big deal." He glanced at his watch a little too casually. "I've got time. If you want, maybe we could…"
"I do want," Lumpy said, clutching the Clerk of the Mailroom's arm outright. "Lead the way, hotcake."
"Um, Guardian…" said Jake, beginning to fret a bit as his friend prepared to leave.
The Guardian, or the Clerk, paid him no mind at all. "I told the boys I'd be shooting for thirty this afternoon, so we might have a bit of a crowd… you'll hang around to inspire me, won't you, love?"
"Guardian!" Jake said again, and again to no avail. The Guardian, LSP in tow, had already walked out the door.
Meanwhile, the Marauder from earlier got on his feet and teetered unsteadily toward Jake, his vision swimming. "Aw, whazza matta, little doggie? Did that gay cloud steal your boyfriend?" he managed to say. The other Marauders, who'd started petting each other again, exploded with laughter.
The bartender slid a small slip of white paper over to Jake.
"What's this?" Jake asked.
"The tab," the bartender said quite without emotion.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa! I thought those last two rounds were complimentary!" Jake protested.
"Turns out they ain't," said the bartender with a devilish grin, polishing a weighty-looking steel bat. "Pay up."
So Jake groaned and reached for his wallet. The steel bat, meanwhile, fluttered upwards and hung upside-down from one of the rafters, squeaking periodically.
The Peppermint Butler bowed politely. "A guest for you, milady."
"Shh!" said Princess Bubblegum.
She stood cross-armed before an enormous computer monitor built into the wall of her lab. The screen was split vertically in half, and two leering faces stared down at the princess. One was hard and brown, the other soft and green, and neither of them looked pleased.
"But, um, you see, your majesty," the Duke of Nuts burbled out, nervously wiping his brow with a white handkerchief, "Muscle Princess's Muscle Minions have actually made a bit of headway into the Duchy. This is, um, completely unannounced, you understand; I'd say they've made it about thirty miles in, taking in Hazel National Park and some of the Macadamia Viaduct… not all of it, mind, but, um, well, you do understand why we think there's some cause for concern, don't you?"
"Hmm," said Princess Bubblegum, biting idly on her fingernail.
"I don't see what the hubbub's all about!" Muscle Princess grunted. "I'm sure you'll agree, Princess, that if the Duke were merely to move his national boundaries a wee bit to the west, he'd find the lands my Minions have appropriated would no longer be his."
"Hmm," said Princess Bubblegum.
"Yes, but see," the Duke went on, "sometimes I like to take the kids out on a field day at Hazel, you know? It's kind of a family tradition, and they really do like that swing set… would it really be that much of a bother to step back a little bit? Just a bit, really, and then maybe we can share the park every other Sunday…"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" said Muscle Princess. "I don't want my Muscle Minions sharing the National Park with you. On the grounds that your face looks like an old turd."
The Duke inhaled roughly and put a hand to his chest. "Well!" he said. "I certainly don't see what that has to do with anything! Apologize! Apologize posthaste, you… awful… awful woman!"
Muscle Princess grinned self-assuredly "You got the muscles to make me, beanpole?"
"Beans aren't nuts!" the Duke was quick to point out. "They're technically legumes. So there."
"Enough, you two!" said Princess Bubblegum, and they both stood at attention.
Having regained the floor, Bubblegum nodded contentedly and said: "As proven by the Big Nose Kingdom's famous siege of the Four-Eyes Principality, name-calling will solve nothing. Now let's all take a chill pill and talk this over like grown-ups. Muscle Princess… why do you think you need to expand, again?"
Muscle Princess blushed and scratched at the back of her head, hardly an easy feat for someone with biceps the size of her head. "Um, well, we're kind of running out of room in the Muscle Kingdom. We're all too bulked up! We're down to a handful of tenants per square acre, and there's no more room for the chickens."
Princess Bubblegum raised an eyebrow. "Chickens?"
"Oh, yeah," said Muscle Princess. "You need BIG protein to build BIG muscles, you know! We Muscle People drink eighteen raw eggs every morning… and then eighteen more every hour after that! But we can't stand to keep the little guys cooped up in cages. We need a big field for them to roam around in, dangnabbit!"
The Duke of Nuts shrugged weakly. "I'd just rather keep that swing set, if that's all right with everyone," he said.
"Then I think we can come to a fair compromise," Bubblegum said, smiling happily. She turned to the Duke. "Wasn't there a broad, unoccupied stretch of land somewhere along the border? You know, the one where you tested out all those plutonium bombs?"
"That place is hardly habitable!" said a shocked Duke of Nuts. "Lingering radiation has caused the local earthworms to grow a thousand times their natural size."
Muscle Princess's face brightened up. "BIG earthworms, you say? BIG earthworms sound exactly like what we'll need to keep our BIG chickens happy!" she said. "Oh please, Mr. Duke, may we please, please, please, please let some of our chickens loose on your field? Then we can use the extra room to build some more gymnasiums, maybe a vitamin shop or two…"
"Hey, it's all yours!" said the Duke. "Giant earthworms give me the willies, anyway."
Bubblegum spread her arms wide. "Then it's settled!" she said. "Muscle Princess, you'll pull out of Hazel National Park, and Duke of Nuts, you'll hand over your radioactive wasteland to the chickens of the Muscle Kingdom. Now, was that so hard?"
Both the Duke and Muscle Princess stared ashamedly at their feet. "No, Princess Bubblegum…"
"Well, I hope you both learned something then," said Princess Bubblegum. "Let's keep this kind of silliness to a minimum from now on, okay?"
Her correspondents muttered something in reply.
"Good. Bubblegum out." She turned a dial on her computer monitor and the screen fizzled off.
Jake and the Peppermint Butler stood quietly as Princess Bubblegum poured herself a cup of water and drank it down heartily. "Whew! Sorry about that, boys; I had some last-minute politics to take care of. A princess's job is never done. Anyway…" She snapped her goggles back on. "What can I do you for?"
Princess Bubblegum's laboratory was a wonderland of candy-colored science. Her workbench seemed alive with half-completed biomechanical doodads, colorful concoctions bubbling in Erlenmeyer flasks and your standard assortment of scientific junk like litmus paper, Bunsen burners, strobe lights and those loop-de-loop plastic tubes. Bubblegum's eyes occasionally shifted to a series of test tubes arranged in an orderly row by a large chalkboard, on which a complex-seeming equation was scribbled.
Jake stepped forward sadly. "Finn and me had a fight, PB," he said. "I'm kind of in the market for a new best friend… um, do you mind if I crash with you for a while?"
Princess Bubblegum bit her lip. "Oh. Wow. Um. You know you're always welcome here in the Candy Kingdom, Jake," she said at last, "but I kinda have a lot on my plate at the moment." She waved a hand toward her workbench, specifically the neat row of test tubes. "See? I'm working on a top-secret formula that should make any food's flavor match its nutritional value with only a sprinkle, two tops!"
Jake turned his head to the side, a sure sign of doggie confusion.
Princess Bubblegum, deep in her element, smiled slyly. "It's a well-known scientific fact that all the healthiest foods in the world are also the worst-tasting," she explained. "With my new dietary supplement, the better something is for you, the better it'll actually taste. Think about it, Jake; one drop and, boom, we got asparagus flavored like chocolate pudding. Steamed spinach like mac and cheese. Artichokes like sugary gumdrops. Throw some kale into a blender and drink it like strawberry soda! The possibilities… are… endless, Jake! Endless…!"
She let go of Jake's shoulders and took a moment to catch her breath and dab her forehead with a napkin.
"Not to mention," she went on, "we could slip a gallon or two of the stuff into the water main and that's our entire cannibalism endemic taken care of in one afternoon."
Jake grinned. "Ooh, I getcha! Hey, that's pretty great! Can I help?" He scampered over to Bubblegum's workbench and tinkered carelessly with her equipment. "I got the magic touch when it comes to this kinda thing, PB. One time Finn and I built a volcano with ketchup and dirt so I'm pretty much qualified to do chemistry now. Ahh, see, there's your problem right here. There's not enough brown stuff in your orange stuff! We add a little drop here and…"
"Jake, NO!" shouted Bubblegum, lunging, not quickly enough, to slap Jake's hand away from the test tubes. "You can't mix the caramel fudge glycerin with the essence of pure carrot! If you do, they'll—"
The Peppermint Butler shut his eyes tight, then flew backwards clean across the room.
"…and don't you even think about coming back! Do you hear me, Jake! You can't come back to the Candy Kingdom… EVER!"
Princess Bubblegum stood on the drawbridge, gnashing her teeth like flint stones. She would later rescind her decree, of course, but given that she still hadn't managed to snuff out all the fires on her garment, she sure as hell wouldn't do it soon.
The Peppermint Butler, a little charred and a little woozy but unhurt in the broad sense, waddled to her side. "Milady?" he asked.
Princess Bubblegum set her steely gaze on Jake, who was, at the moment, chasing the horizon as quickly as he could. She stroked her chin pensively.
"Release the hounds," she said.
A little yellow avatar flew up, up, up a pixilated green wonderland, swaying left and right to the tune of a dope techno beat. Up on top, advancing downward, came a squadron of ambiguously bat-shaped polygons, grimacing eight-bit grimaces and raining down lasers upon our fearless hero. But our hero's an old pro; he swooshes and swoops all through the passageway, and they all miss him by a nautical mile. He fires off a stream of bombs and boom! Down they go.
"Smooth as butter," chuckles Jake.
An alarm goes off; the remaining bats flank to the sides of the screen and fly off; a huge, possibly crab-shaped battleship lunges into sight, taking up most of the top of the screen. Two thick green rectangles protrude from its side and proceed to fire off dozens of thinner green lines, which fan out and ricochet off the passageway's walls. Our fearless yellow hero drags his feet a bit; he takes a direct hit and blinks intermittently for a while. On the bottom right corner of the screen, one of his icons blinks out of sight.
"Hmm," says Jake.
He'll have to be more careful now. He turns his swooshing up to eleven; dual laser beams pass him by on either side, and he fires off another stream of bomb. The crab ship flashes red and ups the ante. Two more gun turrets, the thick green rectangles, protrude from its mass. The barrage begins anew, doubly dangerous, deadlier than ever.
Jake shoots and shoots and shoots, and flies to and fro to avoid the laser blasts. Gradually, the long yellow bar at the top of the screen shortens, and in a minute it's only a stub on the left side of the screen, and then Jake shoots one more bomb and it disappears altogether. Eight-bit explosions rock the ship and, defeated, it vanishes off the top of the screen. Our fearless yellow hero spins around joyously and follows suit.
Blocky white letters appear on the center of the screen:
NAME ENTRY? _ _ _
Jake's name isn't in the number-one spot. It's one notch above FIN, but one beneath MVQ and, a bit unfairly, two beneath BMO. 999,999 points beneath, to be specific. He selects the desired initials (ASS) and calls it a day.
"I've had enough," he said, a bit lacking in spirit.
The black screen became teal, and a simple pixilated face appears thereon, smiling amicably.
"All right, Jake," said Beemo. "Did you have fun?"
"Yes. Sort of. No," Jake replied, crossing his arms and generally looking frumpy.
Beemo's smile pulled a one-eighty. "Ohh. I'm sorry, Jake. Stop that." He smacked Jake square on the nose with a rolled-up magazine.
The little dog growled a little, but he did stop licking his wound. One of his wounds, anyway. He sighed. "Thanks, Beemo," he said. "I needed that."
The hounds had really done a number on him; his fur was coming off in clumps and the patches of bare pink skin were covered in crisscrossing scratches. He had a hangnail, too, but that was more or less unrelated. The fact of the matter was, he wouldn't be going on any adventures for a while, and all he could do until he'd properly healed was sit in the shade and play video games. Luckily, he was personally acquainted with one.
"No problem," chirped Beemo. "Do you want to try something different now? I'm sure I can think of something. An adventure game this time, maybe, or maybe some nice platforming?"
Jake shook his head. "Nahh, I think I'm all partied out, little dude. Let's… oh, let's just sit back and watch the sunset or something."
"Okay." Beemo moved to Jake's side and plopped himself on the grass.
The sun had begun to graze the horizon. The sky was a lovely hot pink. Beemo let out a contented sigh, but Jake had a storm cloud in the brain.
"Can you believe that dumb ol' Finn is hanging out with Marceline again?" he said offhandedly, pronouncing Marceline's name as though he had poison on the tongue.
"I know," said Beemo. "He is so lucky."
Gradually, gradually, Jake turned to face him, and squinted. "Excuse me!"
"Finn is hanging out with Marceline," Beemo clarified, innocently. "Marceline is very super great. She knows just the right way to press my buttons."
"Actually…" Two little red splotch marks appeared at the sides of Beemo's mouth. "She said I was very cute, you know. In fact… she said she was invested in me."
"All right, that's enough!" said a very angry Jake. "Time out, Beemo! Go over there and think about what you've said."
"Over there," said Jake, waving a hand in some sort of general direction. "There!"
"…okay." Beemo waddled off. He sat on the grass, away from Jake, and thought of Marceline.
Jake, meanwhile, lay down on his back and stared at the sky, his entire body aching something fierce. A few minutes later, his eyelids grew heavy, and sleep overtook him.
To be continued…
Author's Note: Okay, how was that? Good enough to make up for my long absence? ;)
BIG THANKS to everyone who's reviewed! You guys are totally math, please keep it up! I'll keep writing the fic, but don't expect me to update too often. I'm working on a ton of stuff and this, unfortunately, can't be top priority.
See ya next time!