Note: Hello. So... I know it's literally been, like, years. I have no excuses other than... life. I only came back to this story because, every so often, someone would leave a random comment that they hoped it would continue. So to those people, I want to say thank you and that this is for you.

I really want to say something like... "I'm back! I'm gonna finish! Never fear!" But I can't. The only thing I can promise is that I will do my best.

Thank you for your love and support. And an infinite thank you again to the few who left comments every now and again despite the extremely long absence. You give me hope and inspiration. Love yall, and hope you enjoy this little bit of story. Bye for now.

Chapter 12

Bubblegum strut past the guards who had tried to keep her out with her head held high, marching back towards Huge and the others. While Huge had to stay on guard duty and crowd control during the battle, the other three royals offered to sit with Bubblegum in her designated area. Matilda called it "moral support", but Bubblegum wondered if it wasn't also a tactic to make their own families look good by indirectly supporting the king's champion.

"What happened up there?" Prism asked. "Why does Marceline only have one weapon?"

"The King made her take some sort of crystal instead," Bubblegum answered as they sat.


"A 'Chaos Crystal' he said," Bubblegum remarked, trying to squint her eyes to see the arena better.

"That old thing?!" Prism sounded shocked.

"What? Is there something special about it?" Bubblegum asked, remembering how the Wizard had reacted as well.

"It's an old magic relic," Prism began in what Bubblegum was starting to know as his lecture voice. "It's supposed to 'channel the true terror of Nightos' or something. No one quite knows what it does… It's always belonged to the ruler, but when Hunson took power he moved the country away from old magic."

"So last century," Matilda tacked on with a roll of her eyes.

"And totally untrustworthy," Gene piped up behind them. "My father tried to get an old Witch to do something about the drought in our farmlands, and they just ended up flooding the whole area!"

Bubblegum grimaced at the thought. She knew that Gene's family was one of the biggest providers of produce in the kingdom. Before she could inquire as to why Hunson would make Marceline take such a thing, a sound of disgust in front of them distracted her. She turned to find Marshall Lee floating at the opening of the Vampire sitting area, arms crossed in front of him.

"Get your riff-raff followers out of here," he snapped. "This is the Vampire family area."

"As wife to the actual leader of the Vampire family, Bubbles has every right to allow whomever she wants into her area," Matilda shot back without missing a beat, hooking her arm into Bubblegum's protectively. "Go sit in a corner and mope like usual, Marshall."

Bubblegum simply cocked an eyebrow at her brother-in-law, waiting for a response. While the look he gave them could peel paint, he silently moved to the farthest possible corner of the area from them.

"Wow," Bubblegum said in surprise.

"Oh, don't worry about him," Matilda said with a grin. "He's all bark and no bite."

Bubblegum hoped that was true. Further discussion was cut off as the standard bearer announced the start of the battle, but Bubblegum was left speechless as Ash seemed to disappear into thin air. In a mere few seconds, he appeared behind Marceline while sending a bolt of lightning straight at her. Bubblegum gasped, covering her mouth with a hand in shock.

"It's ok," Matilda rubbed Bubblegum's arm soothingly. "Look, Marceline doesn't look bothered at all."

Bubblegum couldn't quite argue as Ash seemed too distracted with his own voice to realize Marceline was marching toward him determinedly. Relieved for the moment, Bubblegum risked a glance in Marshall's direction. The Vampire King's attention was focused solely towards Hunson's box, where one of the Peppermint Advisory people had managed to shimmy up to next to the king.

Before she had time to wonder how he'd managed to get close to the king again or even worry about it, a crowd-wide gasp brought her attention back to the fight. A pile of Ash clones was in the process of weighing Marceline down, dragging her towards sunlight beating through the holes in the ceiling the crazy wizard had made.

Bubblegum bit her lower lip in worry, knowing that sunlight caused Marceline immense pain. She gasped together with the other hundreds of people when Marceline suddenly used one of the clones as cover to force her way through and overpower the original Ash.

"What'd we tell ya, huh?" Prism teased, pushing Bubblegum's shoulder playfully. "Best fighter in Nightos."

"Yeah…" Bubblegum breathed shakily. She was surprised at the feeling of pride that rose in her for Marceline. Her relief was cut short as Ash suddenly dashed forward, stabbing Marceline with a hidden knife.

"Marceline!" Bubblegum yelled, standing to grip the railing in front of her. She couldn't hear anything over the screams and boos of the crowd, nor could she tear her eyes away from the battlefield. Marceline, to her credit, was handling the situation masterfully despite her bleeding wound.

Bubblegum barely even breathed until Marceline faced Hunson again, announcing Ash to be defeated while he struggled under her boot heel. Bubblegum risked a glance at Hunson, although afraid to let her eyes leave Marceline for even a second. There, behind him, stood the creepy Peppermint Advisor, whispering from behind his hands.

"The victory is decided," Hunson announced. "Finish the traitor."

"What?" Bubblegum heard Marshall growl from nearby, but her attention was already being brought back to Marceline, arguing with her adoptive father. Bubblegum was relieved; she knew Marceline wasn't the type to follow such orders blindly. She watched her wife's face freeze in confusion as Hunson strangled out his next orders.

"As the victor and ruler of Nightos, I declare the Wizard family traitors to our homeland! Nightos does not tolerate traitors! Kill them!"

A red mist began to seep from the chain around Marceline's neck, creating a strange cloud that enveloped her entire head.

Bubblegum lost her balance as Marshall pushed past her to exit the family seating area, grumbling under his breath. "This wasn't supposed to happen!"

"What?" Bubblegum questioned as Prism helped her stand again. "What did he-"

A cross between a terrified and a pained scream from Marceline interrupted her thought, bringing her full attention back to the battlefield. Marceline stood bent over, her hands fisted into her hair as the red mist disappeared under her skin.

"Marceline!" Bubblegum yelled again. "What's happening to her?" she panicked, grabbing Prism's arm in inquiry.

"I don't… I don't know…" he looked as terrified and confused as the others.

"She's really gonna kill him!" Matilda whispered, pointing back to the field.

Marceline, or whatever had possessed her, took slow, purposeful strides towards the cowering form of Ash. He scrambled in the dirt to get his knife, the point of it shaking in the air between them as he held it. The remaining members of the Wizard family were yelling at him from their nearby family booth, urging him to take the opportunity to strike a killing blow and finish the match.

"No!" Bubblegum panicked, pulling away from Prism and the others. "No, no, no!"

Bubblegum pushed through the gateway of the Vampire seating area, headed for the inner railing closer to the battleground. The guards were too busy attempting to control the resulting panic in the audience to pay her any attention, allowing her to slip past them easily. She made it to the locked gate that served as entryway to the arena.

"Marceline!" she yelled again, shaking the gate in vain. She watched, helpless, as Ash readjusted his grip on the knife, seemingly bolstered by his family's encouragement to 'finish the job'. The frail wizard sprung forward, his shaking hand attempting to stab the oncoming woman. Marceline's body moved robotically, lifting an arm to block the man's attempt, but not taking care to avoid the blade as it sliced through the skin of her right forearm. Bubblegum watched in horror as Marceline wrapped her left hand around the man's throat in an iron grip, lifting him with ease off the ground.

Ash, choking from lack of oxygen, used his knife to slash at Marceline's grip. Bubblegum looked around desperately for something to use to climb over the fence, only to hear screams and a crashing noise. Marceline had thrown the man into the audience, where he crashed into the covered pavilion of the Wizard family.

People scattered, attempting to get as far from that part of the arena as possible while Marceline's rigid form began to float up towards the man and the few family members who were stuck under debris. Bubblegum took off as fast as her legs could carry her, dashing up the opposite stairs in the same direction as Marceline. As she approached the Wizard family area, she saw the older man who had acted as the family head struggling to get out from beneath Ash's unconscious body.

"Marceline!" Bubblegum yelled, running in front of her wife's slowly approaching form. "Marce-" she stuttered to a stop as she came face to face with the woman, shocked at the black pools of nothing where her eyes should have been. Marceline's head moved as if she were looking at the shocked Bubblegum.

"Hey, Marceline," Bubblegum spoke nervously. "It's me-"

She was cut off as blinding pain seared across her cheek, the force of Marceline's hand against her face thrusting her backwards off her feet. Bubblegum cupped a hand to her throbbing cheek in shock. She'd never actually been struck so hard before, leaving her body and mind frozen. She stared up at Marceline from the floor, but the other woman had already reverted her attention to her true targets.

Bubblegum's breath came in short, shallow gasps as she pushed herself up onto her elbows and sat up. The few instincts working in the back of her brain were telling her to run or hide, something that would take her out of danger… but she couldn't let Marceline do what that amulet was trying to make her do. Shakily, she forced herself back to her feet.

The old Wizard man was throwing whatever debris he could get his hands on at Marceline, whose body didn't bother deflecting anything. Sharp edges left cuts where larger objects left promising bruises.

"Sto-Stop," Bubblegum gestured at him, moving in between Marceline and her targets.

"She's going to kill us all!" the man screamed, throwing something that hit Bubblegum instead.

"STOP!" she yelled at him, before turning to face Marceline.

"Marceline," she lowered her voice to as a calm a sound as she could muster, her heart beating faster with every step the woman took closer. "Marceline, are you listening? It's me. Bubble-… Bonnibel. It's Bonnibel. Can you hear me?"

Marceline had stopped only a breath away from Bubblegum, her blank eyes unfocused. The Vampiress's head lifted in the direction of the wizards. "… Finish the traitors,' she hollowly repeated Hunson's words.

"They're not traitors, Marceline," Bubblegum said while her knees shook. "You won. You won the duel, and you showed them mercy. That was all. It's already finished. It's just… It's just me now. Just you and me."

"In…consequential," her wife's voice was still hollow, but the slight pauses beget confusion. "Going… to leave. Traitor," Marceline's eyebrows furrowed, although whether in anger or pain Bubblegum couldn't tell.

"I'm not going anywhere," she tried to assure the other woman, wondering where that idea had come from. Did it have something to do with what had made Marceline so distant recently? "I'm right here. With you."

Marceline's hand began to move, and Bubblegum forced herself to stay still despite her desire to flee. She tried to think of all the self-defense that Marceline had taught her over the past few months. If Marceline moved to grab her neck, she should push at the elbow from the outside to force her hand away… but what if she tried to hit her again? Then she would need to block, but it was a totally different movement… What if she couldn't predict what Marceline would do and couldn't react in time? Should she run while she had the chance? What if…

Marceline's hand gently cupped Bubblegum's face, making the Candy Princess blink in astonishment.


"Yes!" Bubblegum whispered, tears of relief poking at her eyes. "It's me, Bonnibel. I'm right here." She gently lifted a hand to cup Marceline's cheek in return.

Marceline's eyebrows furrowed again. "Hurts…" she whispered.

"Oh…" Bubblegum's face contorted into worry, unable to do anything to help. "I'm right here, Marcy," she said again, helpless.

All at once, the black emptiness covering Marceline's eyes began to swirl and pool into a liquid, spilling over onto her cheeks like tears. A choking sound came from her throat as the black substance seeped out from the corners of her mouth, whatever it was being physically pulled out of Marceline's body. Bubblegum watched, somewhat horrified, as the liquid dripped down her wife's skin to be absorbed back into the crystal on the necklace. As soon as the last drop disappeared into the crystal, there was a soft 'pop!', and Marceline's body collapsed forward against Bubblegum.

"Marceline!" Bubblegum shrieked, buckling under the weight of her wife and kneeling while holding her. "I've got you… I'm right here, I've got you," she repeated herself over and over again.

"Off…" Marceline croaked, her voice barely a whisper. "Get it… off…"

Trying to be as careful as possible, Bubblegum turned Marceline's body over to hold her in her lap. Once they were marginally comfortable, Bubblegum grabbed the necklace and yelled in surprise. The metal was burning hot, leaving singe marks on Marceline's clothes and the bits of skin it touched.

"Damn it!" Bubblegum grunted, wrapping her hand in a fold of her long skirt and grabbing the metal. She did her best to pull the necklace off over Marceline's head and long hair, but her skirt couldn't reach the last length. Holding her breath, she grabbed the necklace with her other hand, ripping off the last section and tossing it away.

The skin of her left palm burned where it had touched the metal, but she ignored it. "Marceline," she used her good hand to brush the hair out of her wife's face. "It's off. It's gone now, Marcy."

Her wife offered no response, her eyes closed as a pained whimper passed through her lips. Bubblegum looked down at her lap in horror. The various cuts and wounds on Marceline's body had reopened and begun to bleed, staining Bubblegum's previously red dress into a dark mess of burgundy and black.

"Help!" Bubblegum screamed, looking around desperately. "Please! She's bleeding out! Someone!"

Almost instantly Fiona appeared, kneeling to check Marceline's pulse. Everything happened so quickly: Huge appeared with a handful of soldiers carrying a stretcher between them, Fiona barked orders at people to get Marceline out of Bubblegum's lap and onto the stretcher, and multiple hands helped Bubblegum return to her feet.

"I need to go with her," Bubblegum insisted, trying to follow although her legs resisted. A gentle hand held her back.

"Please wait, Princess," Fiona murmured. "I need to talk to you. It's important."

As the soldiers began to carry Marceline away, Bubblegum's attention was brought back to the large auditorium and the incessant snapping sounds of cameras. The echoing noise was almost mind numbing. The media goons couldn't get close, as everything had happened in the designated area for the nobility, but they were all fighting to get as close to the borderline as possible for better pictures. Bubblegum's gaze dropped to her hands that shook in front of her, her vision taking in how tattered, bloody, and torn her dress was.

Another dirty dress… she thought somewhat hysterically as the shock finally caught up to her. They'll never let me live this down either.

"-gum. Princess Bubblegum," Fiona said for the third time. She didn't want to lay hands on the woman, but if she had to shake the Princess to get her to snap out of this stupor, she would.

"Yes! What!" Bubblegum finally seemed to come back to reality. She blinked and looked around, observing the shadowed hall that she had no recollection of entering. "Where are we?"

"The connecting hall between the palace and the royal medical wing," Fiona answered, although her tone suggested this was not the first time she had said this information.

"I'm sorry," Bubblegum sighed. "My mind is just… reeling…"

"I understand, Princess," Fiona did her best to sound consoling. "But I need to tell you something extremely important. I need your full attention. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if it meant the difference between life and death for Lady Marceline."

That got Bubblegum's attention. She took one final deep breath and squared her shoulders. "Tell me."

Fiona pulled an envelope out of her inner jacket pocket, removing the papers inside and handing them to Bubblegum. "Early this morning, before the challenge, Lady Marceline made you her official Advocate and Beneficiary."

Bubblegum's eyes roved over the paper, trying to grasp the gravity of this news. "And this means… exactly…?"

"It means," Fiona explained seriously, "that you have total control over anything and everything that happens to her and her estate from this point forward. Up to this point, it's always been Hunson or Marshall, but… she made the change without telling anyone this morning. She was afraid she couldn't trust them anymore. I thought… I thought she was being overly cautious…" Fiona trailed off, staring at the wall in frustration. "But I was obviously wrong."

"Control?" Bubblegum repeated. The weight of the responsibility this brought settled on her shoulders, making her body feel heavy and immobile. Could she really handle this? Having the decisions that influenced someone else's life all in her hands alone? Arguably, that was what any ruler was supposed to do… but… this was different. This was personal.

"Can't King Hunson just… ignore it, if he wants to?" she wondered aloud. She had trouble believing things would go smoothly.

Fiona shook her head. "Any person's legally-binding will is final. Just because he's the king doesn't mean he can just infringe on the nobility's, or anyone's, personal decrees over their person. It doesn't work like that."

"Princess," Fiona continued after a moment of contemplative silence. "King Hunson and Marshall… they are not going to like this," she dropped her voice, as if worried she would be overheard. "And frankly speaking, they don't like you. I doubt they'll take this change of advocacy easily."

"I knew that," Bubblegum grimaced.

"That's why you're going to have to go in there and fight for her," Fiona stared into Bubblegum's eyes, trying to stress the severity of the situation. "Glob forbid anything be left to them at this point. The King is clearly not in his right mind, and we have no idea about Marshall. If one of them was… 'influenced' to make a particularly bad decision for Lady Marceline… or worse, let those Peppermint things near her…" Fiona trailed off.

That cinched the situation for Bubblegum as she gripped the papers decreeing her authority over Marceline's well-being and estate. She wouldn't let those Peppermint things near Marceline. She had no time to be overwhelmed by the situation. She had to act. Now.

"Which way?" she looked at Fiona with new determination.

Without another question, Fiona turned and began to march down the hall, obviously assured Bubblegum would be following. Bubblegum forced her legs to move, although from her knees down felt like jelly. It wasn't long before she heard voices nearby.

As they turned a final corner, a group of nobility and men dressed as doctors came into view. Bubblegum recognized the particularly loud old man as Carrow. What she wouldn't give to not have to deal with him on top of everything else.

"-paparazzi are going to have a field day with this! Why would you send Marceline into a challenge with a magical item when YOU were the one who moved the country away from magical dependence in the first place?" Carrow was yelling.

Bubblegum surveyed the area as Carrow continued to yell. A handful of noble heads-of-household stood around, some she recognized and some she didn't. Huge stood near a set of double doors with a handful of guards, staring across the room at Wyneva who stood silently in a corner.

Just as Bubblegum was trying to decide what to do, a petite woman emerged from the double doors wrapped head to toe in medical attire. She removed the mask from her face and bowed at Hunson quickly. "Sire, we have Lady Marceline stable for the moment. The royal doctor says he needs orders of how to proceed before she experiences another seizure. We don't know what's causing the reaction… we're not particularly well versed on magically induced injuries, especially internal ones."

Bubblegum stepped forward, questions already on her lips. "Excuse me, if you could explain-"

"Silence, you Candy brat!" Carrow practically snarled at her, making her jump. "None of this concerns you."

The absolute vitriol dripping from his stare glued Bubblegum in place from shock. Another head appeared from between the double doors, looking around in question.

"Nurse, I thought I asked you to retrieve orders from His Majesty?"

"I-" the woman looked at a loss for words.

"Useless," the man shoved his way out of the room and Bubblegum just caught a glimpse of Marceline laid out on a medical table, surrounded by machines and tubes. Her heartbeat sped up with worry.

"Your Majesty," the doctor bobbed his head at the King, although it hardly seemed properly respectful. "We have the Lady stable for the moment, but she continues to experience irregular seizures amongst other worrying side effects. We can't pinpoint a cause. The physical wounds have been cleaned and treated as well as possible, but as for the magical side effects… we are at a loss. What should we do?"

A strange silence hung over the room for a few seconds before being cut short by a soft "ahem". Everyone's attention was brought to a short Peppermint Advisory member, the one who had been on the dais with Hunson at the challenge.

"If I may," the Advisor's voice was whispery, as if he had purposefully chosen only this moment to speak. "In our homeland, we often have to deal with a number of older, rampant magics running amok. Therefore, we do have some experience in the matter. Perhaps… we could be of service?"

"No!" Bubblegum yelled before anyone else could answer.

The Advisor grimaced slightly while Hunson turned to Bubblegum with a full-on face of disgust. "Enough! This has nothing to do with you. Why are you even here? Guards- remove her at once!"

Bubblegum glanced at Huge, leader of the guards, who clearly hesitated. The smug grin that crossed the Advisor's face bolstered Bubblegum to act.

Raising the paper Fiona had given her, Bubblegum squared her shoulders and spoke with the most confident voice she could muster. "It has everything to do with me. You brought me here as Marceline's wife, and she has named me her official Advocate and Beneficiary in states of emergency. That means that all decisions fall on me, and YOU," she pointed at the Peppermint Advisor who stared at her, mouth agape, "will NOT touch her!"

"What!?" multiple voices yelled in outrage, including the newly arrived Marshall nearby.

Before anyone could do anything, Huge walked over and gingerly took the paperwork from Bubblegum's hands, his eyes roving over it quickly. "It's official, Sire," he informed Hunson. "Signed and sealed by the Nobility Registrar."

"If you think," Hunson's voice somehow managed to come out as both a whisper and scornful statement, "that I am just going to let some Candy nobody run amok with my daughter's life at stake…"

"From what I understand," Bubblegum interrupted him, causing a few people to actually gasp. "Attempting to break Marceline's legally binding will would only show an intentional abuse of power as the King, a position that you might remember you still have because she bore all the potential risk today!"

Bubblegum briefly wondered if Hunson's eyes would pop out of his head they were bulging so far out in anger. Before she lost her cool and accidentally laughed at the strange image that had crept into her mind, she took a deep breath and looked him straight in the face. He wasn't the only Royalty in the room, and she wasn't afraid to make that clear. They might not be in the Candy Kingdom, but that didn't make her not a Princess.

"I know that you, a respectable King in your own right, would never infringe upon the personal, legally bound wishes of one of your Nobility," she acknowledged, turning it into a comment rather than an insult. "We are all aware of your reputation for upholding the law."

"You…" Hunson breath was ragged, "…insolent…"

I don't have time for this, Bubblegum thought. She curtsied as politely as possible, not bending a fraction more than was absolutely necessary, and turned back to the doctor, completely ignoring everyone else in the room.

"Tell me everything you know," she ordered the man. "What are the treatment options?"

"T-Treatment?" the doctor repeated, glancing around the room as if begging someone to help him. "W-Well, yes, we… we have very little… experience…" he began to repeat his earlier commentary on their lack of knowledge regarding magically induced injuries. "I… I would suggest accepting the Peppermint Advisory's offer," he finished, sweat pouring down his face. "They seem to have much more experience in this area."

Bubblegum stared at the doctor incredulously. His eyes seemed unfocused and confused, as if his brain couldn't keep up with the situation. Bubblegum couldn't prove with so little information that the Peppermint Advisory had gotten to him, or that this was all just a ploy to get their hands on Marceline… but she couldn't rule it out either.

"If you feel so inexperienced, then I relieve you of your duty here. Where are the other doctors?" she said, keeping her voice as polite as possible and turning to face the group of people who were, at the least, dressed like doctors.

A flurry of whispers erupted behind her, hinting to Bubblegum that she had just made some sort of grave error.

"I am THE royal doctor!" the man sputtered, clearly offended. "How dare you question my credentials?! I've served the royal family for three generations now!"

Bubblegum looked at the man over her shoulder, ignored him, and turned back to the others. "Are you not doctors?" she asked plaintively.

"We… wouldn't deign to impose on the practice of the royal practitioner," one of them murmured nervously.

"Even when one of your nobility's lives is at stake?" Bubblegum insisted.

No one answered her. Bubblegum looked at Huge, who seemed to be the only person willing to answer her questions without insulting her. "There have to be more doctors available."

"There are others…" he answered hesitantly. "But he is considered the best."

"You can't just come in here firing people!" Carrow yelled, pointing a finger at her.

"I'm not firing him," Bubblegum replied coolly. "He can continue to serve His Majesty to his heart's content. But I don't want someone who has no options other than 'leave it to someone else' treating my wife. Where are the other doctors?"

People began talking over each other; once again, no one actually answering her question. Bubblegum watched as the Advisor shuffled his way over to Hunson, whispering into his ear. That couldn't be a good sign. She looked around the room, desperate for ideas before the Advisory managed to pull something to take back what little leverage Bubblegum had at the moment. She would treat Marceline herself if she could, but she was a scientist- not a doctor. Even if she were a doctor, her personal interest in the situation was too high to be held accountable for rational decision making.

Her eyes landed on the only person not trying to speak over everyone else in the room, and she decided on her plan of action. Unsure of whether what she was about to do was a mistake or not, Bubblegum followed her gut instincts and walked across the room.

Stopping in front of the Whywolf Countess, she exchanged calm stares with the brunette woman. "Wyneva… You're a doctor, yes?"

Wyneva cleared her throat and stood straighter. "Yes, I am."

"What?!" Marshall shrieked from the other side of the room.

Bubblegum ignored him and the ominous silence that followed. "You mentioned the work you do at the clinics. And you worked in your homelands while you were there, correct? Would you say you're confident in your skills and the amount of experience you have?"

"I did, and I would agree," Wyneva nodded seriously.

"I want you to head Marceline's treatment," Bubblegum stated. "And you will not allow anyone that you do not personally approve of anywhere near her," she added quietly, hoping Wyneva understood that she specifically meant the Peppermint Advisory.

Wyneva met Bubblegum's gaze coolly, a look of serious contemplation. "I understand."

"I won't allow it!" Marshall stomped over, pushing past Bubblegum. "I won't let some traitor mutt touch my sister!"

"That was hardly called for," Bubblegum spat back, losing patience with everyone's outlandish responses to everything. "Wyneva is more than suited-"

"You understand nothing, you Glob-damned Candy bitch!" Marshall snarled at her.

That's it, Bubblegum decided.

"How dare you," Bubblegum's tone dropped, brushing the finger Marshall had pointed at her away from her face. "That is the third time one of you, members of the Noble Court of Nightos, have insulted me to my face in the last twenty minutes. Do I need to remind you that I, the sole Princess and currently second in line for the throne of the Candy Kingdom, am here because of your country's invitation and marriage proposal?"

All chatter ceased. Most of the nobility in the room shuffled awkwardly.

"I understand that you care for Marceline, as do I," Bubblegum acknowledged. "However, she made a decision of who to leave her interests to. If she had named you her Advocate, then you would have a say. She didn't, so you don't. I have nothing but Marceline's survival and best interests at heart. And I would suggest, Marshall," she purposefully slurred his name and not his title, "that some of you remember your common decency when dealing with the only representative dignitary of the ally country Nightos is currently enjoying so much trade with."

When no one responded, Bubblegum brushed past the Vampire King to address Wyneva. "If you would please…"

Wyneva nodded, a smug grin on her face in lieu of Bubblegum's dramatic speech. "I need to scrub in," she addressed the nurse, and not the doctor, who lead her away immediately.

"Hunson, do something!" Marshall had turned back to the King of Nightos.

The look Hunson gave Marshall suggested that he didn't particularly care for the boy any more than he did for Bubblegum. "I still control this hospital," Hunson stated darkly. "I'm placing a ban on this entire building, no one other than medical staff is allowed to come or go in interest of my daughter's safety. Guards! Escort everyone," he emphasized the word while staring straight at Bubblegum, "off the premises."

The majority of the nobles who had stuck around began to walk down the hall, clearly wanting nothing more than to get out before anything else happened. Bubblegum turned, finding Wyneva about to enter the scrub room nearby. "Wyneva," she murmured, catching the woman's attention. "Take care of her… please."

The Whywolf Countess nodded. "I promise. I won't let you down, Princess," and she disappeared past the doors.

"I'll get the carriage; go with Sir Hughes for now," Fiona muttered into her ear before disappearing down a nearby staircase.

Bubblegum followed Huge and a couple of guards down the halls and out of the hospital, away from the stares of Hunson and the others. They were silent on the way, leaving Bubblegum to her thoughts. Had she done the right thing? At the very least, she knew Wyneva wasn't under the control of the Peppermint Advisory and had proven to be wary of them in the past. She was also an accomplished medical professional. How many new enemies had she made with her little speech? How many enemies hated her even more now? At least three, that she could count.

Huge nodded at his fellow guards, allowing them to fall back to hospital doors as they approached the carriage that had pulled up. Before opening the door for her, he looked down at Bubblegum. "Bubbles," he asked softly, "is there… a reason you were so adamant against the Pepp's help?"

Bubblegum stared at him lightly. She knew that Huge and the others were partial to the Peppermint Advisory's wine rooms at the parties. While she didn't believe him or their other friends to be particularly under the strange men's influence, she wasn't sure how much she could say.

"Do you really think you can trust them?" she asked finally, answering with a question. "Would you trust them… with your life? With the life of someone you…" she trailed off.

After a few moments of silence, Huge provided a word for her. "…love?"

Bubblegum said nothing, her face blank. This was not something she could or would think about right now. Emotion did nothing to help decision making. "Thank you for all your help today and last night," she said.

"I'll be in charge of the guard of the hospital," he replied with a soft smile. "You can trust me. I won't let anything happen."

Bubblegum nodded and offered her hand in thanks, intending to exchange a professional handshake.

"Ah, Bubbles," Huge laughed and pulled her into a hug. "Don't be so serious. You'll get early wrinkles."

Leaving Bubblegum in slight confusion, he waved merrily over his shoulder as he returned to the hospital.

Bubblegum entered the carriage to find Fiona waiting. The driver took off immediately, their ride home encompassing nothing but silence. Bubblegum ignored the scenery, the carriage, everything. She stared at her hands that were smeared with dried blood and dirt. Marceline's blood. A burn in the shape of chains crossed her left palm from the magical amulet, and she only then realized that it still stung.

The weight of everything that had happened that day, the physical shock of being hit, the emotional terror of having Marceline bleeding in her arms, the draining responsibility of standing up to literally the most powerful people in Nightos to make sure their enemy didn't get ahold of Marceline… all of it fell on her at once. Her hands began to shake.

"Are you ok?" Fiona asked softly, seeing the tremble that coursed through the Princess.

"No," Bubblegum tried to answer, but it came out as more of a sob. Making decisions in a split-second moment where you had no time to think was one thing. Dealing with the aftermath where you had all the time in the world to worry was another.

"You did what you had to," Fiona attempted to console her. "For Lady Marceline's sake. She would be proud of how you held yourself."

If nothing else, she took solace in Fiona's words. She had stood her ground and fought as best she could. She wasn't a skilled warrior like Marceline, but she hadn't given in. Her mind drifted to the men's reactions to her presence, to her words every time she spoke. Everyone clearly held so much enmity and disgust towards her. To a degree that she doubted it could simply be the Peppermint's influence alone. Despite that, she'd stood against them. She had to accept that she had done her best, and that all she could do now was wait.