A/N: Here we go.
Written for Bekuh! =)
Read the previous part of this story here.
TOWER, TOWER - [Part XX]
For all that she’s read every romance novel in her castle’s library at least twice, Bubblegum is certain she’s never perused any tome that has explained thoroughly enough the process of kissing. Racy books have extolled in tireless tirades the meeting of lips, of teeth, of tongues—but never have they mentioned hands like Marceline’s, rough palms and rougher fingertips trickling down Bubblegum’s cheek and ribs apiece. Never have they mentioned the slow scrub of hips—the brush of bellies, the rasp of knees, the buzzing laughter at the back of the taller woman’s throat as Bubblegum plunges her hands into her knight’s riotous dark hair and clings to it, clings to her, clings to Marceline.
The vampire’s fingers twist possessively through the laces of Bubblegum’s bodice, her thumb nevertheless tender in its trace down the satin lattice. Against the monarch’s mouth she whispers softly, almost shyly, something that sounds like, “My princess—”
There is a knock on the bedchamber door.
They jerk away from one another immediately, Bubblegum with her chest heaving, Marceline’s hair fixed in a massive, thorny rictus. Their hands grope at empty air—Bubblegum’s knuckles brush her knight’s wrist and then Marceline is back at the window, sprawled lazily across its ledge like she never left it in the first place. As another knock sounds, this one more frenzied than its predecessor, she rolls a shoulder toward the door and asks, “You gonna get that or what, Bonnibel?” She seizes her axe and its whetstone too. Her cheeks are dark still, their color reminiscent of plums.
Bubblegum gapes at the knight. “I,” she attempts. Brushing her fingers to her lips, she shivers and tries again, “Marceline, I—”
“Princess!” Peppermint Butler’s voice issues from beyond the door, cracking high about its usual tenor. “Princess, are you all right?”
“Get it before he breaks it down,” Marceline hisses, and adds with a grin she doesn’t bother trying to hide, “hurry up, geez!”
Bubblegum smiles back and turns to half-stumble to the door. She fumbles the clasp aside, pulls it open—looks down into the nearly panicked face of her servant. “Peppermint,” she greets him, “I’m sorry for the delay. I was—”
“Refugees,” he interrupts. With a look of chagrined apology he goes on, “Majesty, your presence is needed downstairs. There are refugees in the atrium.” Wringing his hands, the butler provides, “They are requesting an audience.”
“Refugees from where?” asks Marceline before Bubblegum can formulate a response. The monarch glances over her shoulder at the vampire and finds her sitting up, the hilt of her weapon braced against her knee’s inside. “How many?”
“A small contingent—ten or twelve, no more,” Peppermint Butler answers. He leans around his princess to gesture fretfully to Marceline. “Most have come from the Duchy of Nuts. They’ve heard of you, Marceline, and your promise to protect this kingdom. Presumably they seek sanctuary here following the death of their overseer.” Flicking his gaze back to Bubblegum, the advisor offers, “Majesty, they’ve brought the Marquis of Nuts with them.”
“What?” cries Bubblegum. “You said the Duke’s children were cracked, Peppermint—”
“He is,” the small spherical man agrees weakly. Only now does Bubblegum notice how pale he is beneath his array of stripes. “The Marquis is cracked,” the butler revisits, “and his state is terrible, Princess—he may yet succumb to his wounds. But he is here now, and conscious for the moment, and I thought you would surely agree to see him.”
“At once,” Bubblegum affirms. She bites her lip. “If the Marquis survived, perhaps his younger brother…?”
“Dead,” Peppermint Butler reports heavily. “Regrettably, of that fact the runner was not mistaken.”
For a moment the princess closes her eyes and allows herself to fume, lifting her hands to massage her temples. She understands that assassinations of royalty are often driven—inexcusably—by political zeal. But what manner of cruelty must exist in a person to move them to massacre harmless children too?
“Marceline,” she murmurs. “Attend me?”
There is a ripple of presence at her elbow—the scent of jasmine. “Always, Princess,” the knight acquiesces.
Opening her eyes once more, Bubblegum tells her butler, “Call for the physicians. If there is anything to be done for the Marquis, they will know.”
“Thank you, Peppermint.” To the servant Bubblegum offers what she hopes is a grateful smile before stepping around him and out of the bedchamber. Marceline trails her a pace, not walking but drifting, the shadow of her axe stretching sharp alongside them.
Halfway down the hall, Bubblegum stops at Peppermint Butler’s ginger call of, “Princess?”
She turns to blink at him. His mouth ajar, Peppermint Butler looks slowly between his monarch and Marceline. Mostly his expression is inscrutable, but the princess has known her servant since childhood. She thinks maybe there’s a sketch of disapproval somewhere in the faint lines of his face.
“Perhaps you’ll be wanting your crown, Majesty,” he suggests.
A few minutes later, after Bubblegum has indeed fetched her tiara and composed herself, the monarch crosses the atrium, weaves through the huddled crowd of Nut People, and kneels at the side of their wounded nobleman. Supported by his peers in the remnant shell of his crushed armor, he is scarcely recognizable; his tiny rounded chest, fragmented down one side, shudders with every breath.
“Marquis,” Bubblegum whispers to the boy. His eyes jitter to her; his mouth twitches. “Marquis,” she repeats gently, ghosting her hand over his brow, “you and your people are safe now. We will protect you here.”
Maybe the Marquis smiles. Bubblegum isn’t sure whether it’s that or a grimace of pain. “Protect?” he echoes hopefully.
Bubblegum nods. Easing aside, she beckons to her knight and maintains, “Marquis, this is Marceline. She will help—”
But the child convulses at the sight of Marceline. His eyes bulge; bloody froth flecks his lips as he cowers in the knight’s looming shadow and screams, “She killed my family! She killed my family!”
Read the next part here.