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Sunlight Peering Through the Trees

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The field is burning.

She set fire to the field because the Hill Gnome children were rude, and how dare they insult her hair. It's supposed to be on fire, because it's cool. Also because she's always on fire. Finn is yelling at her. She hates when people yell at her, but especially Finn.

He's so confusing.

Sometimes the things she does are okay and sometimes they aren't and she doesn't know the difference.

"You can't light things on fire just because you're upset. Not when you're sad or frustrated or even angry. Good people don't burn things alive."

"You don't need to yell at me!"

She mostly doesn't do it on purpose even! Everyone in this kingdom is just so flammable. It's not like she's ever locked someone in a lamp or pushed them in a river of water or poured ice in their ears, but one little fireball and suddenly she's a monster. Fireballs are like, the least damaging thing she can do to express her upset!

If her father were that merciful he'd be as dead as his brother!

Jake stretches out huge and thin and slams himself down across the field like a blanket until the flames smother out and extinguish. It aches, deep in her limbs. It hurts the way Finn always looks like he hurts when he gets punched in the jaw. Jake is yelling at her too, "You can't just scorch people, man. It's not cool," and she hates all the yelling. Finn is stuttering something, swinging his arms around wildly, but all she can hear is deep, searing cold radiating up into her head: thump, thump, thump.

It feels better to reignite, angry that they're hurting her again. She explodes in a dazzling rage, and Finn rears back. Stumbles and falls on his butt. His eyes are wide and his mouth is slack with fear and awe and it quenches her fury instantly. She might hate when he yells but she hates even more when he looks afraid of her.

"Finn..."

"You can't set fire to us, Flame Princess," he says evenly. "None of us. They aren't even water elementals," he adds quietly, gesturing back from where he's propped up on his elbows to the gnome people cowering behind Jake, singed but no worse for the wear. There's ash smeared across his cheek and water leaking from under his hat and his arms.

"I didn't mean to hurt anyone," she wails. It's quieter than she expected, thin and high like all her fire is compressed tightly in her throat. She shrinks down in on herself.

"Hey. Hey, I know," he soothes. He reaches out to her, touches their fingertips together for just a moment and makes a show not to jerk his hand away when his fingers start to burn.

She'll learn. (She does eventually.)

Now though, there is smoke rising off of the field and the grass is the wrong color, grey and dull in the pink shadows of the Candy Kingdom. It feels wrong that the color is gone, that it's her fault, and she doesn't know why.

It must mean she isn't evil. Probably. At least she thinks she's not if she feels bad about what she did.

Sometimes, Finn looks at her a little funny, mouth flat and eyes dulled with something she doesn't understand. But he'll laugh this small hollow sound, eyes on the green green grass, and rub the back of his neck when he says, "Be chill, Flame Princess. Let me lay it on you." He told her good people feel bad about their mistakes once, so that must be what she is.

After the gnome incident it's Finn's idea to set her up down by the sea, on the back side of the river. No one can bother her there and if she gets upset no one will get hurt. It's...still greener than she's used to, but she is getting used to it. On all sides of her valley, tall mountains with tufts of plants reach up high on all sides into the pale blue of the sky, crash into the bright, violent blue of the sea just out of reach.

It's delightfully horrifying.

"Do you like it?

"Yes! I love it! But I need a house, Finn."

Finn's smile is toothy and wide when he says, "Me and Jake know just the thing!" And they're off striding up the winding hill and out of the valley before she even knows what to say. The Candy Kingdom disappears behind them as Jake lopes along with Finn on his back, Flame Princess rocketing along beside them. They leave behind Ice King's mountain and the once burning plain. Running, racing toward the forest of discarded things.

Jake tells her, "It's cool to burn junk if people don't want it anymore." And that's confusing until Finn says, "We don't have to ask first this time, because people only leave junk here."

Finn puts all the broken wood and pieces of furniture Flame Princess likes up onto Jake's back with a smile. He even makes her favorite chair fit even though there's barely room for it. They could always come back, Jake says, but she doesn't want to make them when they can get plenty right now. Jake has been really nice to her despite the whole burning-gnomes-alive thing, and she wants to keep them both happy. She's happier when they're happy.

They get her house built down by the sea, and she lets Finn set it on fire for her. It feels great to dive into the extra flames, to know this is her home now and Finn helped her build it. There's a place for them to hang out too. Maybe one day people other than Finn and Jake will come play. She and Finn have fun, and Jake too, but even when she was locked in a lantern there were still always more people around to entertain her back home.

She doesn't want to go home, but she wants to be friends with more people than just Finn and Jake. She thinks if she's Good-ish that this could happen.

She is trying, but she still doesn't feel especially good either.

Princess Bubblegum doesn't look at her so nervously anymore though, so maybe she's almost Good Enough. Princess Bubblegum is almost as good as Finn, so if she likes Flame Princess it must mean she's good too. Sometimes Flame Princess thinks she even wants to be Bubblegum's friend. As long as she isn't taking away her time with Finn, of course. She's not dumb, and she may not know everything, but she knows that Princess Bubblegum is important to Finn somehow. She'd rather she be the more important one.

That's probably an evil thing to think.

Flame Princess is evil after all. Her father said so, and since he's evil he would know. He even locked her in a lamp because of the truthiness of it. That never felt good but it made sense. She was dangerous! Is dangerous? She doesn't feel evil, but it must be true.

Finn doesn't think she's evil. Finn's the most good person she knows, so it must be true. There are too many truthy things, it seems, and she doesn't know which is the most true.

"There's no way to know, probably," she huffs a little flame.

Jake looks really unhappy but he doesn't even stop to think about it before he says, "There's no way you're evil, Flame Princess." He holds her hand then, hangs on tight enough for her to feel it. It doesn't last long at all, and he yanks it away with a yelp before diving down into the water below.

When Finn surfaces again he's laughing. "I'll show you, Princess. One day we'll show everyone just how not evil you are."