Tony nearly jumped out of his skin. Tati merely looked back over her shoulder at the princess, fixing her with a withering look. “Hell’s teat!” she hissed. “What is your issue, woman?!”
Bubblegum was pale. Actually, more than that, she was visibly shaking. She was pointing right at the lollipop in Tony’s hand. The princess could barely contain herself.
“That… that…” She was struggling to get the words out. “That is… That’s the Sloppy Toppy Gobstoppy Lolly! Where in the Land of Ooo did you find that?!”
“Obviously sex with hamsters ruins the brain,” smirked Tati, “and now you’re babbling like one! It’s a cheap lollipop with a fresh, minty taste that I bought in duty-free. Its one redeeming feature is that it slices through air like an anvil through butter and hits its targets well. The taste is shit though.”
Bubblegum looked at Tati. “I have a feeling you don’t understand how lollipops work. Are they all just cannonballs to you?”
Now Tati looked preoccupied. “Hmmm. Maybe I have got it slightly wrong. What do you propose I do with them instead?”
Bubblegum pointed at Tony’s lollipop again. “Well, if you’d just give me that then maybe I won’t have to kill you.”
Tony’s bottom lip wobbled. “But I’m hungry!” he whined.
“Oh, shut up!” snapped Tati, snatching the lollipop out of his hand. “I’d rather get this silly business over and done with so that I can get home and have a nice, hot bath!”
Bubblegum had her hand outstretched to receive the coveted candy when Tati suddenly yoinked it back again. “Wait,” she said to the princess, looking down and studying it with a suspicious eye. “I have a question. What exactly does this Sloppy Toppy Whatchamacallit do anyway? And why do you need it?”
Bubblegum sighed. She took the crown from her head and pointed to a big, blue pearl that adorned it. Tati hadn’t noticed this before, and was slightly annoyed at herself for not having done so. Moreover, the pearl seemed to have lost its shine, which is a detail you’d think would normally stick out like legs on a slug.
“Its protective properties weaken over time,” Bubblegum was saying. “Do you see? It loses its power, and becomes very dull. So, I need to replace it, otherwise the Lich will hold me and the Candy Kingdom in its thrall!”
Tati had no idea if Bubblegum was just speaking bullshit or if she was for real. And where was her nose anyway? She’d suddenly noticed that the princess had no nose. That was… disturbing. Tony didn’t seem to care in the slightest. He was eyeing the lollipop like it was a condemned man’s last meal.
It wasn’t an easy decision. For some weird reason, Tati knew that Bubblegum was speaking the truth, even if it sounded like the ravings of a hamster on crack. But she needed to ask another question. “Okay, so let’s suppose that any of this is true. But what the fuck with Tony’s suitcases? How do they have any connection to your idiotic Championship thing?”
“Yeah!” nodded Tony a little too sycophantically. “Explain that one, O High and Mighty Hamster Humping Princess!”
“I told you it was a rule of The Whistling Choir Death Match Championship!” shrieked Bubblegum in exasperation. “Every participant must have a crystal clear reputation, otherwise they will be banned! I don’t know why they insist on such prudish silliness but it’s not a chance I can take!”
“So…” Tati narrowed her eyes uncharitably. “So… you got the whole universe into a tizzy, and you kicked Tony and I headlong into a crazy mindfuck of a journey… and for what?! Because of some stupid, silly rules of a stupid, silly pennywhistle contest I’ve never heard of before?”
Bubblegum gave a tiny, almost embarrassed nod, as if to concede Tati’s point.
Tati stood there, arms folded across her chest, and still holding the lollipop in one hand. She studied the princess’s face closely. “Do you have something to eat at least?” She unfolded her arms and hiked her free thumb at Tony. “It looks like my friend is ravenous. I could probably do with a bite too.”
“And maybe some clothes,” chimed Tony.
“Oh, yes. Clothes!” Rueful, Tati shook her head. “And that aforementioned hot bath.”
Bubblegum finally relented, the hard line of her mouth finally melting into a teeny tiny smile. “Come with me. I’ll make sure you’re well and truly looked after. Pampered even.” She pointed at the lollipop in Tati’s hand. “As long as I can have that.”
It was at this point that Tati finally allowed herself a smile too, and it wasn’t much bigger than Bubblegum’s. Tony’s smile, however, was much bigger, shameless, and incredibly gormless—as was his wont.
“It just so happens that my new ‘Adventure Time’ movie is opening in theatres today. How about I treat the both of you to a slap-up meal at Shirley’s Rack & Grill, and a rub down at Poontang Po’s Shady Massage Spa before we check it out?”
Princess Bubblegum’s offer was a generous one, so Tati decided then and there to take her up on it. “Yes. That is acceptable. What do you think, Tony?”
Tony merely nodded like an overexcited labradoodle.
“First, let’s get you some clothes.” Bubblegum walked over to her wardrobe and flung open the doors. “I hope you like pink!”