Part two: Passing the crown
The funeral is held the next day. The entire candy kingdom is in attendance. Even dignitaries and nobles from other kingdoms have arrived to pay their respects to the greatest ruler Ooo has ever seen. Marceline looks through the crowd, trying to find familiar faces. Her hopes fall, something's not right.
There's a sea of people, but where is everyone? Where's Finn? She sees the puppicorns, but where are Jake and Lady Rainicorn? She sees Junior, but where's Peppermint Butler? Even Cinnamon Bun or Lemongrab? Where are the faces that made this her candy kingdom? Anyone? Where were her friends?
"Before the candy kingdom," she thinks to herself. "I could find someplace new, hang out for a bit, take off, visit again a century or two later and not even notice the faces had changed. It's different now."
She'd made the biggest mistake an immortal can make, she'd let herself care about mortals.
She wanted the old candy kingdom, the old familiar faces, everything time had stolen from her. But she knew, deep down, that era was gone. It had ended with Bonnie, who had outlived them all. Marceline wondered what it must have been like for her. She herself knew the feeling of losing people well enough, but she couldn't imagine how it felt to know that her time was going to be up someday too. She couldn't begin to understand how much it hurt Bonnie to know that one day; she would leave Marceline alone, forever.
"Bonnie…" Marceline whispers, as the coffin is lowered into the ground.
The next day.
Marceline lies in bed; silently crying into the pillow that lies in the space where Bonnie should be. In the weeks leading up to Bonnie's death, a thought had been forming in Marceline's mind. The thought had been lurking, growing into a plan, an idea. An idea that she had long put off. An idea that was far too painful to think about until now. Since the funeral, it's all she can think of other than Bonnie.
"Your majesty?" Junior calls out, knocking on the royal bedroom door.
Marceline wipes her eyes dry with the pillow, the idea retreats to the back of her mind.
"What?" she chokes out.
"May I come in?"
Marceline takes a deep breath to steady herself; the breath is unneeded, but slightly comforting.
"Yeah." she calls back, as she pulls herself up to a sitting position.
Junior opens the door and steps through, holding a small bowl of strawberries. He hurries over and places the bowl on the nightstand. He looks up at Marceline with a look she can't quite place.
"Would you like a few minutes to-" she cuts him off mid-sentence with a wave of her hand.
"No. Just let me change and we can go."
Junior's eyes drop to the floor. "Very well, your majesty." is all he replies. He knows arguing won't help.
Marceline walks to the closet and stops at her usual jeans and t-shirts.
"Yeah right. Bonnie'd kill me."
She walks to the back of the closet and finds a formal dress. As she reaches out to grab it, her hand stops, it moves the dress aside and runs along Bubblegum's favorite ball gown.
"You always liked it when we wore this stuff together."
She returns to the dress and grudgingly pulls it off the rack. Still unhappy about the outfit required, she wrestles the dress on and looks into the mirror, and for the first time since the funeral, she genuinely smiles. "Bonnie, this never was my style." That idea from before pushes it's way into her thoughts again. But before it can fully form, she shuts it out. For now, she has a kingdom to run.
As much as she wants the kingdom run right, she knows she run it herself for very long. It's not who she is, especially without Bonnie. Bubblegum understood, that's why they had decided that after Bubblegum had gone, Marceline would pass the crown to a new ruler, a mortal, candy ruler. Hand-picked by Bubblegum herself, Lady Caramel was young, but if Bonnie said she could do it, Marceline trusted her.
Marceline preferred it this way, even though the candy people had grown to love her almost as much as Bubblegum and she had become quite fond of them, it was a bad idea for her to rule them. Given her immortal status, among other things, the general agreement was that it was best for a new candy ruler to take the throne. Unfortunately, Lady Caramel was away at the moment, having been sent out by Bubblegum to be an official envoy of the candy kingdom, and until Marceline officially passes the crown, she's the only monarch the kingdom has.
"What's first, Junior?" she asks, adjusting the uncomfortable garment, desperately wishing she could run a kingdom in her jeans.
"A meeting with a representative of the cloud kingdom, your majesty." he answers almost cheerily, following her out of the bedroom.
It dawns on her, as she walks the halls, that for the first time, she rules the candy kingdom alone. The next few days pass in a blur.
She does it all, signs decrees, meets with nobility, listens to the citizens pleas for this or that, with some semblance of grace and poise, barring the occasional slip-up or outburst. Somewhere along the way, she's thankful she didn't ignore everything Bonnie taught her about royalty over the years. To her, this is still Bonnie's kingdom, and it will be run the way she would want it to be. She even finds herself enjoying some of it, remembering how Bonnie loved some parts of her royal obligations, but every time she goes back to that empty bed, she cries herself to sleep.
Throughout it all, that nagging idea remains, making itself known more and more. Eventually it starts consuming her thoughts. She pushes it aside time after time, she can't consider it, not yet. She has to stay focused on the kingdom. For Bonnie.
"Soon." she thinks to herself. "I can't let Bonnie down. I just have to pull through this until I pass the crown." the idea is finally starting to take shape. "Then I can go."