The following days were difficult for Finn, though he tried his best to keep that fact hidden from the people around him. Everything he did required the use of the arm he didn't have, and as the list of activities he had difficulty doing grew, so did his frustration with his situation. Cooking, exercising, adventuring, even just climbing the ladders in the tree fort, proved to be all but impossible for him in his current state. Jake tried to help out as best he could, but Finn was difficult enough to lend help to when he was in good shape. With his sudden handicap, the boy had taken it upon himself to try and carry on alone despite the difficulties involved. Jake knew that it was just Finn's way of showing the world he could handle it, but he could also see the strain it was placing on his brother. Tensions flared occasionally, when Jake would try a little too hard to help Finn, or Finn stubbornly refused Jake's help and made a mess because of it. Finn understood that Jake just wanted to make his life a little easier, but some part of his brain was convinced that leaning on the dog too hard would be admitting that he was somehow broken, and he desperately didn't want to believe that. His other injuries had healed at a good rate, which at the very least kept him from being bed-ridden as well as irritated. It was also allowing him to rapidly expose himself to more and more activities that were proving tough for him, and it was starting to wear him down. Finn missed being able to do something as simple as dress himself without having to grind his teeth, and he was silently hoping that Bubblegum would have a prototype arm ready for him soon. He also understood that she had a lot on her plate, between his arm, trying to smooth out relations between the Candy and Fire Kingdoms in light of last week's events, and finding Fionna a way home.
Finn had reflected a few times over the past few days that Fionna's presence in his life was likely the only thing keeping him sane, as anytime he felt despondent or annoyed he would feel her hand on his or her soothing words in his ear. They'd grown close over the week, having some low-key time to interact as regular people and not just as adventurers, and Finn was finding himself more and more captivated by her. She was at his side frequently, keeping him distracted from his arm, sharing stories of her adventures with him, and generally preserving what good mood he had. He was grateful for her being there with him, though he also felt guilt when he saw her at night staring wistfully out of the fort's windows. He knew she was having troubles of her own, and he was constantly trying to find a way to talk to her about it without upsetting her.
For her part, Fionna was mostly enjoying herself in Finn's world. She'd had some time to get to know Jake, and found him easy to get along with much like Cake was. On the few trips into Candy Kingdom they'd made, she'd interacted a little bit more with Princess Bubblegum as well, which had put her mind at ease about potential animosity between the pair. Bubblegum had genuinely thanked her for her words, sharing with the young girl that she'd ultimately chosen to go and help them fight Flame King because Fionna had a point; sometimes you just had to do what felt right, even when the data wasn't backing it up. Despite making new friends though, Fionna found that as she spent more time in Finn's Ooo, the realization that she might not be going home at all was creeping in on her. A day or two had turned to a week with little by way of results from Bubblegum, and though it was still a pretty short time frame, it had hinted that the solution to her getting home might not be as simple a thing as she'd hoped. Fionna missed home, though fortunately it really only hit her at night when she had some quiet time to think about Cake and her own home, and what her friends back home were doing without her. She tried to keep it to herself, but she could tell that Finn knew she was upset, which just made her feel worse. Finn had given up so much for her in such a short time, and while she was missing home and moping he was always trying his best to keep a smile on for her, more so even than for Jake. She'd really grown to like him over the week, and it was just adding another complication to her dilemma; if she could go home, she might not be able to see him again, and she didn't know if that was something she could tolerate. She'd found someone who understood her, he knew her love of adventure, her desire to explore and learn and fight, even her need to be in danger because that's when she felt alive. She couldn't bear the thought of losing her connection with Finn as much as she couldn't imagine never going home again.
The pair had developed a strange routine, spending the days talking and laughing while they distracted one another and their nights nestled with one another on Finn's bed in silence, both caught up with the thoughts they'd put off through the day. It was comfortable, though they both knew it probably wasn't the healthiest way to deal with what was bothering them.
Six nights after he'd lost his arm Finn laid quietly in his bed, listening to Fionna's soft breathing and trying to make himself sleep. He stared idly at the ceiling, following the same train of thought that he had every night since the incident, feeling the same melancholy rising in him that had plagued him every night as well. His everyday life was practically a chore, full of humiliating mistakes and pitying looks from the people around him. He knew they didn't mean him any disrespect, especially Jake who was doing everything he could to try and make Finn's past few days easier, but it wasn't helping. Finn longed to swing his sword, multitask, and hold Fionna tighter.
He really just missed his damned arm.
The boy was roused from his thoughts when he heard a faint tap at his window. He craned his head to look out of it and saw a face he wasn't expecting: Marceline's. She waved at him and offered a small smile, gesturing for him to come out. He spared a quick glance at Fionna who was fast asleep, and realized he wasn't going to fall asleep anytime soon anyways. He rose gently, huffing out a quiet, bitter laugh that since Fionna was on his right side, he didn't have to jostle her to free his arm as he did so. He made his way up to the roof, gritting his teeth as he awkwardly made his way up the ladders in the fort to get there. He emerged with a small scowl that he didn't even realize he had until he saw Marceline raise an eyebrow at him. Finn took a breath to calm himself down and felt a more natural smile spread on his face.
"Evening Marceline, long time. What's up?"
"Not much with me, how about you?"
Finn stared at her for the briefest moment before gesturing at his missing arm, unsure what her game was. She nodded solemnly and gave him a simple pat on the shoulder.
"Looks pretty rough, did you at least smash up the guy that did it?" she asked.
"Yeah," he replied, feeling a mote of satisfaction at saying it, "Yeah I did."
"Well good." She drifted past him to peer back in his bedroom window, looking back and giving him a wink. "She's cute, where'd you find her?"
Finn felt his cheeks burn red at her question, not expecting the subject change. "Oh, uhm, that's Fionna. It's kind of a long story, but she's not from our world."
Marceline's eyes widened for a moment, but she recovered her composure quickly. "Cool stuff." She floated back up to him, taking an easy seat on the side of the fort, dangling her legs down.
Finn dropped down beside her, feeling the cool breeze kiss his face and relishing it. He looked over at his friend, who stared out into the horizon with a simple smile on. "Alright Marceline, who told you to come visit me?"
"Nobody, but I talked to Bonnibel and she told me that a LOT had gone down since I checked in last with you all, so I figured I'd come see how you're doing."
"Well, I'm still alive I guess. I've got that going for me." Finn said, noticing how bitter the words sounded in his mouth.
"Fionna not making things any better?" Marceline asked suggestively, waggling her eyebrows at him.
"Well she is..." Finn stammered, feeling flushed again, "but it's different. It's just... tough you know?"
"What do you think is tough?" he asked her angrily, "Do you have any idea how much stuff takes two arms to do?"
"A lot of it I'd imagine." she remarked cooly.
"Then why would you ask?" Finn demanded, feeling anger and confusion swelling up inside him, "Did you just come here to make me feel bad about it?"
"No you dummy," she snapped back, rising up in front of him, "I came here because this isn't you." Marceline gave Finn a moment to let her words sink in before continuing. "I've seen you get beaten, bruised, broken, and burned, and you didn't so much as hesitate to jump up and keep fighting. So what gives? Was your arm the hero?"
"Huh?" Finn asked, genuinely perplexed.
"Are you the hero or was your arm? If it was your arm then I get why you're so messed up. But if YOU'RE the hero, than what are you moping around for?"
Finn felt a small dam crack inside of him, and he just slumped over. "I'm sick of feeling useless." he said quietly, "And I'm worried I won't be able to be a hero anymore. How am I supposed to fight evil if I can't use a sword?"
He felt Marceline's cold hand on his shoulder, but instead of the pitying pat he expected she lifted him back up onto his feet.
"Find something else that you can use then." she said, "Finn you can't help but and be a hero, regardless of how crazy, stupid, or impossible it might be to succeed. So stop thinking that your life is somehow over now, because we both know that's not true. It'll be tough for a while, but Bonnibel's going to do everything she can to make you a replacement arm," Marceline leaned in closer to Finn, "and you didn't hear this from me but she really is a genius at that kind of thing. Once you try it out you'll probably wish you lost both arms!"
"Too soon Marceline." Finn said somewhat dryly.
"Yeah, fair enough."
Finn looked up at Marceline's smile and nodded, not feeling totally convinced of her reassurances but feeling a glimmer of hope pierce through his dark mood. The pair sat down once more, staring at the moon in easy silence. Finn pondered the vampire's words, imagining what ways he'd find to fight evil in the future and how he was going to make everything work. It brought him some comfort, finally imagining himself as something other than a useless boy.
"Hey Marceline?" he asked.
"Who did ask you to come talk to me?"
Marceline sat in silence for a moment, and then turned a grin towards him. "It was Jake." Seeing Finn's look of surprise, the vampire queen barked out a laugh. "I know, I was surprised too. But you had him scared Finn, it's rough when the people closest to you change and cut you out."
Finn nodded somberly, making a mental note to make it up to Jake in the morning. He also didn't miss the twinge in Marceline's voice as she spoke, but before he could ask her about it she spoke up again.
"Well now that that's all taken care of... tell me about your new girlfriend."
Finn guessed that about an hour had passed before Marceline rose and dusted her pants off, saying she should leave before the sun started creeping up. They said their goodbyes, and Finn thanked her for the visit and the help. She ruffled his hair under his hat and told him that Ooo was pretty much toast without him before taking to the sky and making her way home. Finn watched her fly off, feeling lucky that he had such good friends for when he was feeling down. He looked at his right shoulder and the empty space there, but for the first time he did so without feeling incomplete or broken. He made his way back into the fort and set about making breakfast for Jake and Fionna, hoping it would help show them he was thankful as much as he wanted to show himself that he could do it.
Fionna awake to the smell of bacon wafting through the fort, and she guessed Jake was making breakfast as he usually did. She rose and stretched, noting that Finn was nowhere to be seen, and that Jake was still asleep in his drawer. She scratched her head idly while she fished out and put on her cap, heading downstairs to investigate.
To call the kitchen a disaster wouldn't have done it justice, and Fionna had to fight the instinct to look for robbers when she first saw its condition. Various bits of food were strewn about, as well as a bunch of pots and pans, and in the middle of the chaos was Finn, who was busy whisking eggs in a bowl that was clenched between his legs. Fionna pressed a hand to her mouth to suppress a giggle, and leaned against the wall to watch him work. Finn finished beating the eggs and poured them into a pan, switching between keeping them moving and tending to another pan of bacon that sizzled away next to it. Fionna felt a smile grow across her face as he muttered here and there about the eggs and jumped a little whenever the bacon spat hot grease on him. It was certainly not an easy ride for him, but he seemed to be enjoying himself instead of filling with the discouragement she had become used to seeing on his face. She waited until he flipped some slices of bacon from the pan onto a plate before slipping up behind him, wrapping her arms around his stomach from behind.
"Hey you." she said, smiling as he jumped in surprise.
"Oh, morning Fionna." he replied with a smile. He turned to her in her embrace and returned it, placing a kiss on her cheek.
Fionna felt a brief touch of colour fill her cheeks and her smile got a little wider. "You're in a good mood today."
"I'm making breakfast." he replied resolutely, raising his chin a little.
"I can see that, looks pretty good. Except you just forgot about your eggs."
Finn's eyes widened and he whirled around, seeing the eggs in his pan looking just fine. He gave Fionna an unimpressed look, but couldn't fully hide his smile. "You're not nice."
"Gotta keep you on your toes." Fionna punctuated her statement with a peck on his nose before releasing him to let him return to his work.
He went back to his cooking with a smile, undeterred by the annoyance involved with doing so with only one hand. Fionna quietly cleaned off the table, scrounging around for some dishes and cutlery while trying her best to stay out of Finn's way. She briefly considered helping him, but she recognized his determination and opted to let him do it himself. She noticed Jake descending the ladder into the room and caught his eye with a wave. She placed a finger over her lips and gestured to the chairs, prompting the dog to sit and stay out of Finn's way. Jake raised an eyebrow but obeyed, sitting down and looking expectantly at Fionna. She leaned over to him and whispered in his ear.
"I think he's back, just let him figure this out." she quickly whispered.
Jake nodded, but Fionna saw his tail start to wag and could sense his excitement at the news. The pair sat quietly as Finn finished preparing breakfast for them. He placed everything on a tray but stopped, staring at it for a moment.
"Ok, I give." he called over his shoulder, "If I drop this I'm going to be super unhappy." He heard Fionna's laugh, and was surprised to hear Jake's as well.
"Yeah I got you buddy." the dog said, slinking over beside Finn and scooping the tray up. He eyeballed the eggs and bacon laid out on it and nodded, knowing that it would have been tough for Finn to manage it all. "Lookin' good!"
"Thanks Jake." Finn replied happily, before leaning somewhat closer and whispering. "And thanks for getting Marceline to come by, I know that wasn't easy for you, and I'm sorry."
Jake stretched his tail into a third hand, which waved Finn off nonchalantly. "No worries dude, I'm just glad to see you're being you again."
The trio ate breakfast amidst laughter and smiles, and they all felt the tense atmosphere that had built up over the previous days dissipate. Finn finally told them a more complete version of what happened with the Flame King after Jake had taken Fionna from the room, and Jake filled in the gaps between when Finn fell unconscious and when he awoke in Bubblegum's infirmary. They all pitched in to clean up, which Finn particularly appreciated as the task of cooking one-handed had left him a little mentally wearier than he cared to admit.
"So what's next Hero?" Fionna asked Finn once the cleaning up was done.
"Not sure, though I did want to talk to you if that's ok."
Fionna raised an eyebrow, but nodded. "Of course, what's up?"
Jake overheard their few words and wisely slipped out of the room, giving them some space to talk.
Finn took a breath and arranged his thoughts, before reaching out and taking one of Fionna's hands. "I want to apologize for how I've been acting all week." Fionna opened her mouth to interrupt him but he shook his head and she fell silent. "I know, I know, but seriously, I do. I've been moping about my own problems and been completely shut off from even talking much to you when we both got down. And that's not cool."
Finn paused for a moment and Fionna took the opportunity to speak up. "It's alright Finn, really. I'm not going to break, please don't worry." She placed her other hand on his cheek and gave him a smile.
"I know you aren't, I just want you to know that I'm here for you as well. You've been so supportive these past few days and I've just been a selfish dope. I may not be able to get you home again myself, but I promise you I'll be there to talk to if you ever need to. I'm sorry I've been distant and difficult, but I think I'm past it now."
Fionna swallowed and nodded her head. "Thanks Finn, and it's alright. It's been a tough time for both of us and I'm super glad that you're feeling better. I'll be fine, I just get homesick at night. Everything here is so close to home, but it just doesn't feel... right, you know? Kinda just makes me think of Cake and my friends sometimes."
"I totally get that." Finn said, pulling Fionna into a hug, "Just say the word if there is ever anything I can do ok?"
Fionna gripped Finn tightly, relieved to have him back to his more compassionate self. "Thank you, I promise I will." she said in his ear.
The pair separated, both feeling a little lighter with their burdens lessened.
"That still doesn't answer my question you know," Fionna followed up, still smiling, "What are we up to today?"
Finn gave her question a moment's thought but decided to leave it up to her. "Whatever you want to do today Fionna, it's your call."
"Oh, alright." she said happily, "Anything off limits, you know, cause of..."
Finn shook his head firmly. "Nope, whatever you like. I don't need two arms anyways."
Fionna gave him a nod, but before either of them could continue they were interrupted by a knocking from the front door. The pair exchanged quick looks before Finn walked over and opened the door, curious to see who was outside. Jake peeked his head around the corner as well, equally curious, and entered the room when he saw it was safe to do so. Finn was surprised to see Peppermint butler standing on his doorstep, and he quickly stepped aside and waved the smaller candy inside.
"Hey Pep-But, what brings you around?" Finn asked.
Peppermint Butler winced slightly at Finn's address, but regained his composure quickly. "Errands for Princess Bubblegum. She thought you should know that she finished your prototype robot arm and you can come pick it up at your earliest convenience."
Finn blinked a few times but kept his voice even. "Thanks for the news, we'll be around sometime soon." he said woodenly.
Peppermint butler bowed slightly and turned to leave, heading back over the hills and out of sight. Finn quietly closed the door and turned back to Fionna, who looked at him bemusedly.
"So anyways," Finn picked up, "did you have anything you wanted to do today?"
Fionna bit her tongue to keep from laughing at Finn, who was trying extremely hard to remain nonchalant despite his eyebrows being raised so high she thought they must be hurting him.
"I thought maybe we could spend the day reading through some more of these history books," Fionna started over-enthusiastically, fishing a few hefty tomes from her pack, "Bubblegum leant these to me before we left, she seems to think that the key to those portals is in here somewhere."
She knew full well she was being unnecessarily mean, but watching Finn try to keep his composure was just too much fun. His eye twitched slightly but he kept a smile plastered on his face as he heard her words.
"Really?" he said, his voice higher than usual.
"Of course not silly!" Fionna said, her laughter breaking free as Finn deflated a little in front of her, "Yes we can go get your robo arm."
Finn couldn't keep himself from laughing, feeling foolish at how easily she could play him. "Thanks Fionna, you're the best."
"Oh please, you really think I'd keep us both stuck here reading stuffy books all day?" she asked with a laugh, "You coming too Jake?"
"Yeah man, I wanna see Finn's cyborg debut!" the dog piped up excitedly, before making mechanical noises and karate chopping the air with his arm.
The trio departed in a hurry, Jake making double time towards Bubblegum's castle. Finn sat with a smile on his brother's back, reflecting a little at how crazy the past two weeks had been for him. He looked to his missing arm but didn't feel the usual sting, and a quick look to his left to the smiling girl sitting next to him vindicated it all the more. He reached his hand out and took hers in it, giving her a smile when she looked to him. Almost automatically she sidled over next to him and put her head on his shoulder, which still gave him a little jolt through his body. He cast his eyes forwards to the castle on the horizon, excited to see what new craziness his life was about to reach.
Alright, and hearing Jake refer to it as his "cyborg debut" had gotten him a little more pumped for the new arm too. He was only human after all.
A/N: Man oh man this was tough to do. I covered a lot more narrative ground passively rather than actively, partially because I didn't want this story to dwell for too long but also because I still felt like it needed to be addressed. I feel like this is the most appropriate place to wrap this particular story up, because if I let this go on for another chapter it'll never actually end :P That said, I'm not done with these two or this concept by a longshot! I learned a lot about how to write in my own voice and I've still got a long way to go, so as long as you all want to keep reading I'll keep writing :) Life has settled down again for a little while for me, so keep your eyes peeled for a sequel/continuation coming soon!