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December 8, 2011
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Chapter 8

And so it came to pass, a month without Marshall Lee in the land of Aaa, and for the ruler of the Candy Kingdom it was a long, grueling month indeed. Legislation and administration went on as usual, but Prince Gumball found himself needing the boring tasks more and more. When he was immersed in the paperwork he found his mind far away from his stress and worry. At night, when all was silent around him, he would watch his window in hope of a scratch on the glass or a ghastly face to appear and demand its way in. He had never liked how the vampire found it hilarious to frighten him for mere giggles, but now the teen found himself craving a good fright, if it only meant he could punch his Marshall Lee and then be back in his arms.

In the early days of the deathless young man's absence, Gumball found himself being startled several times as the ring on his finger became synchronized with the beating of his heart increasingly frequently, giving his chest an uncomfortably tight feeling. As the days went on, the feeling came more often and lasted for longer periods until finally he and the ring seemed to lock in to one heartbeat. At first the candy heir was afraid of the tense feeling, but over the course of that week he grew accustomed to the heavy, tight sensation. At night he would fall asleep with his hands folded across his chest imagining that it was his heart and Marshall's that were so perfectly in tune, throbbing in unison in spite of their separation.

His right hand, Peppermint Maid, grew increasingly concerned as the days passed, and every so often she would ask how he was. He smiled the first few times and lied, but quickly his mind wandered until he ignored her completely. She became short with the other staff in turn, and as it worked down the chain the whole kingdom seemed a bit dreary, all of the kingdom's subjects being almost infected by the Prince's sadness.

It didn't help when one evening the staff had unknowingly prepared boysenberry cobbler for dessert, resulting in a pan of warm pastry being flung in the face of one of the waiters. For a moment, the prince stood, having knocked over his chair, his lungs heaving as adrenaline pulled through his system. He looked wide-eyed and fearful until the gravity of the stares his staff was giving him began to sink in. Realizing too late exactly what he'd done, Gumball beat a hasty retreat to his bedchamber, while rumor of the bizarre scene spread like wildfire throughout the palace.

With their prince refusing to come out of his room, the worried employees talked their head into giving their go-to protectors a call. Late at night, Peppermint Maid placed a call to the blonde adventuress and her cat, begging them to check in on the strangely acting royal, seeing as the staff wasn't being of any help. The girl agreed, saying she's come over the next day and try to occupy Gumball's time the best she could.

The next morning, sometime after the prince missed breakfast, a knock came at his chamber door. Laying quietly on top of his sheets, the young man ignored the request for entry, staring longingly at the scarlet gem on his finger, concentrating on the feeling of his own heartbeat.

"Your highness?" came Peppermint Maid's voice sternly, "you've got company. I know you're upset but the Countess and I didn't raise a rude prince, now open this door and greet your guests." Silently and reluctantly, Gumball finally hauled himself to his feet. Despite the fact that he'd been shut in his room for nearly fourteen hours, he hadn't gotten a wink of sleep, making him feel all the more miserable. Finally with a low click the bedroom door clicked and swung open slowly.

Baring a large grin, Fionna stood with her backpack and companion.

"Hey PG, what's up? We were gonna go exploring and junk, and Cake made a picnic. Wanna go out to the Marshmallow Meadows while it's still warm out?"

"No th-" the prince began to say, rubbing his eye, but he was interrupted as Peppermint Maid cleared her throat and gave him a sternly insistent look. Sighing Gumball looked back at Fionna and nodded "I'd love to."

"Algebraic! Let's get going then," Cake purred, bristling her fur up in excitement. "And maybe my sweet Lord Monochromicorn would like to join. Packed him an extra special something something." The feline smiled and rubbed her hands together, making her way outside to the stables. Fionna followed quickly after her, leaving Prince Gumball to stand dumbly at his doorway. He almost contemplated shutting the door and crawling back onto his bed, but his pushy maid strolled past him and grabbed a light jacket, helping his arms through the sleeves.

"Now Prince Gumball, this is good for you. You need a bit of fresh air, I think, and hopefully a little time with your friends will get you out of this funk. I called Lumpy Space Prince earlier, and he said he would give you a call after some meeting he had at the mall this afternoon. I think some time with him might brighten your mood as well."

"I think… I think you're right… as usual" the prince replied with a sigh, zipping up the light jacket and smoothing over his hair. "All of this… business has gotten me stressed out. Cancel all of my appointments for the day, -"

"I'm way ahead of you sire, your schedule is clear." With a sweet smile, the servant shrugged and winked at her charge, receiving a grateful hug in return.

"Don't expect me back too soon," Gumball called over his shoulder as he made his way down the stairs towards the front gate of the palace where Fionna, Cake, and Lord Monochromicorn were already waiting.

So with a quick trek over to their favorite fields and a large spread laid out, the quartet ate together and recapped on their adventures since after their last meeting. The two girls recounted plenty of fierce battles and plenty of fun people they met, but all along the prince was only half listening; he nodded politely but his thoughts were miles away.

When it came the candy heir's turn to share his stories of the past many weeks, he fumbled for a moment before passing his time off as uneventful. He mentioned the piles of paperwork he sifted through day after day and the new volumes that had been added to his library, all of which was true, but he left out the vast majority of what had really been occurring. Never once did he drop the vampire's name, and Lord Monochromicorn knew this act was purposeful; Gumball was clearly trying to hide the affair away, no other explanation would suffice. As such, the loyal mount never mentioned all the trips to Marshall's home he'd taken the prince on.

After a while the two animals migrated further in the meadow, wanting their alone time, leaving the two teens to sort things out. Fionna knew loud and clear that there was something wrong with her bud, but she was never really good at advice. So swallowing another swig of her drink, she scratched the back of her neck.

"So… um I heard you've been kinda bummed lately, and you threw some tart thing at someone… what's up with that, yo?"

"Oh… uh… well" the Gumball looked away, watching for a moment as Cake and Lord Monochromicorn dove and breached through the heaps of marshmallow blooms. "I've just been under a lot of prince-type stress lately… the Goblin kingdom's trying to expand their trade routes to reach as far as the Sea of Something, which means they would have to cut across Candy land… And about the cobbler… I… just recently…" he looked down at the ring on his finger and for a split instant thought to tell her his whole, true story but stopped himself. "I recently found out I have a… uh… severe boysenberry allergy… I was afraid it would make me ill…" Gumball trailed off awkwardly, looking down at his feet and occupied the quiet moment by taking another sip of soda from his can.

"But I've seen you gobble down some boysenberry, dude."

"Yes well people can develop an allergy even if they didn't have it at birth."

"Oh… well ok then," she muttered, fishing out another sandwich out for herself. "So… Why don't the goblins just walk around? If it's that big of a deal, I bet Quiet Queen will have no problem making a trail."

"Well the issue is that the Candy Kingdom could benefit from the trade route coming through our land, but the goblins are demanding we pay for any infrastructure they construct through our land." The prince seemed to loosen up a little as he spoke of diplomatic policy, thankful that the subject had veered away from the boysenberry incident.

"Well… that sounds like it sucks, man. Maybe ya'll can build the stuff so they don't have to." The adventurer wasn't well acquainted with how government stuff worked, but her friend knew that and was happy to dumb it down so she could still have an opinion. She hated being left out of big stuff like this.

"That is a possibility," the prince mused, "but the cost of construction labor in the Candy Kingdom is far greater than in the Goblin Kingdom because of the skewed proportion of laborious versus scholarly occupations in the Candy Kingdom…" Gumball paused a moment, realizing he'd lost Fionna in the jargon again. "Because more goblins work in construction, it's cheaper for them to build a road than it is for candy people to."

"Oh ok… plus they are bigger and tougher, so it'll get done faster." She gulped back another sip and blinked. "No offence, Gumball." He laughed it off to her relief and the conversation continued. An hour passed before the talking grew thin, so the pair retreated to their usual game of picture clouds. With the swirly, fluffy clouds constantly shifting, different images could be interpreted, and the tow had a few laughs. But Fionna knew that there was still something wrong with her friend, so rolling to her side, she cupped her face in her hand.

"So what's really up? I heard you were having lots of fun lately, but now you're a sad sack."

"Oh, it… it's really nothing. I've been under a lot of stress lately, but it's no big deal. I just needed some time away from the castle." Gumball smiled sheepishly, hoping that he was somehow getting better at lying. No such luck however, Fionna was experienced enough to know what deception looked like.

"Come on dude, I can tell you're lying. Whatever it is that's bugging you, you can tell me about it. That's what friends are for."

"Yeah, well I'm not so sure," the pink teen mumbled, averting his eyes, "it's kind of a… personal matter really."

"Well it wasn't exactly business when I had to tell you about the Ice Queen dressing up like you thing…" she grimaced at the memory but focused on the matter at hand. "Now… is it like you're going out with someone?"

"Well… y-yes and no… it's complicated, and I don't want to bore you with the details…" The prince nervously rubbed the back of his neck. "The point is that I might have been seeing someone, and now that someone may be away for an extended period of time."

"Oh man," she whispered, leaning back with her soda clenched in hand. The blonde looked down to the cool beverage and turned it in her hand, wondering what to say. "That… that sucks plums dude. You know why they left?"

"No," the prince sighed, leaning forward, resting his elbows on his knees and holding his head in his hands, "they wouldn't say, just that they'd be back in a month and that I should wait for them…" Gumball looked suddenly quite glum, sighing dejectedly and looking off towards the horizon as if hoping his lover would come over the crest of the next hill. "I just don't think I realized… how long a month could possibly feel."

"Yea, that's like… 60 days or something, right?"

Gumball managed a smile.

"About half that. Most likely 30 or so."

"Well see? At least you don't have to wait for twice that long." Fionna grinned and took a victory sip, thinking that she had saved the mood. Her companion thought about it and tried to let that fact better his mood, but with such a large number of days keeping them apart, it still seemed like an eternity.

The thought of how long he still had before Marshall would return only served to further dampen the royal teen's mood, making his frown deepen.

"I'm trying to find comfort in your words and company Fionna," he mumbled, "but I really came out here to try and avoid thinking about him-"

Before he could retracted his words, the pronoun slipped and Fionna was already gasping at the thought.

"Him? Like… like a dude? What the flub, man? I thought you were like, into ladies and junk? Wait, so you're with a guy that's gone and-"

"Fionna!" he interrupted urgently, giving the adventuress a look that urged her to keep her voice down. "It's not what you're thinking it is… like I said… it's complicated." He looked warily over his shoulder to be sure that Fionna's outburst hadn't alerted Cake or Lord Monochromicorn who were busy still chasing each other around the meadow. "I mean… yes, I still like women… with one exception… and… oh I don't know."

"Alright, just chill man," she assured, sitting back after having raised herself up to her knees. "It's… it's cool Gumball. I mean I'm just surprised a little. But um… I have to ask now-"

"Fionna, please," he begged, but she raised and hand before he could continue.

"Wait. Now I'm not saying anything, but… I know a guy who's supposed to be gone for the month, but I'm almost positive that you wouldn't be dating him… so just to clarify… who are you going out with?"

"I'd rather not disclose that information," the prince replied stiffly, averting his gaze and attempting to appear as prestigious as possible. He only stole a glance at her out of the corner of his eye, and as he expected, Fionna was watching him intently with a growing smile crossing her lips. "Don't you give me that smile like you know," he grunted, hoping for his life that she wouldn't say aloud the name he knew they were both thinking.

"Come on, PG… I know only one guy who's gone for a month. He does it every year, the same time and I know he just left. Just tell me!" She leaned up again, scooting herself really close as to seal the space between them, blocking out all possible listeners. "Tell me."

"Plenty of people take vacations on an annual basis," the prince retorted quietly, his voice almost a hiss as he could feel annoyance building up in him. Why was it Fionna insisted on hearing it from the horse's mouth? It was so aggravating, especially when Prince Gumball absolutely did not want to tell her. "Besides, it's a secret. One I don't intend to share."

"Aw man, that's not fair. I told you that super-secret a while ago about how I don't like Cake's dulcimer," she leaned closer and whispered the secret, hoping the cat wouldn't overhear, "and you super-swore you wouldn't tell. See if you told me-"

"No Fionna, this is bigger than a secret musical preference," he murmured back, his brow furrowing to show his displeasure with her persistence. "No matter how many times you ask, I'm not going to tell you so you might as well give up." Gumball folded his arms across his chest, taking a firm stance on the subject.

"Well if you're not gonna tell me, then I have to guess. And if you're so wound up about it, then it must be someone real important that you wanna keep a secret." She tapped her fingers together playfully, only irritating the prince more. "So it's a dude that's away for a whole month and probably a dude I know, since you're being all secretive…" With the largest grin she could muster, she leaned close to his ear. "It's Marshall Lee."

Before she could revel in the shocked expression on her friend's face, the royal had clapped his hand quickly over her mouth, preventing her from saying anything more.

"Pourquoi vous ne pouvez pas être stupide quand il a d'importance?" he hissed out of frustration. It seemed impossible to keep his secret a secret; at this rate the entire Candy Kingdom would know of his private romance by the time winter hit. "You can never tell a soul."

She narrowed her eyes slightly at the growl.

"… Did you just call me stupid?"

"No," he grumbled, "it's a different language. You don't know what I said. Now I'm serious Fionna!"

With a tiny peep of success, the adventuress motioning with her fingers across her lips that the secret was safe with her.

"Gumball, are you embarrassed of something? It's ok…" she reached out a hand to place on his, but he retracted it. "I mean, he's my friend too, so it's cool, just surprising. It's nothing to be all scared about."

"I'm not scared of anything" the prince snapped, huffing and averting his gaze irately, "I'm just not comfortable with more people knowing, and I say this knowing full well you are incapable of keeping someone else's secret from Cake." He pursed his lips knowing things like this were of little consequence if only Fionna knew, but the second she told her cat, things would only become infinitely more complex. The calico was vastly more mature than her human counterpart and would understand all the little implications of his and Marshall's relationship the second she caught wind of it.

"Aw come on, I can-"

"Royal Promise." Gumball crossed his arms and closed his eyes, not afraid of pulling out that card again. It had proved to be effective, and why fix something that wasn't broken.

"What? Do I have to?"

"Fionna." There was no waver in his voice, and she sighed, holding up a hand.

"I royal promise I won't tell."

"Thanks Fionna," Gumball replied with a sigh, letting his shoulders relax finally. "I'm sorry to make you promise, but I can't let it get out into the Kingdom that Marshall and I are… well… you know…" his cheeks flushing, the pink young man looked down embarrassedly.

"Oh right, I get you." The blonde girl rubbed her shoulder and looked away, not knowing what to say. Even though she couldn't tell anyone else, was it ok to talk about? All these questions were rushing into her head, and she couldn't help but poke the already growling bear. "So… when do you guys… go out?"

"Is this really the only thing you want to talk about?" Gumball asked, hoping a little prompting might be able to get the blonde off the subject of his affair with the vampire king, but he would have no such luck. The girl sat up a little straighter, looking attentive and nodded her head, the ears in her hat flopping as if they were beckoning the prince to dish. "Alright, fine, but this stays entirely between you and me, understand?" Again she nodded, though for whatever reason, it didn't comfort the young man much. "Since he doesn't do too well in the sunlight, we've been hanging out at night until recently. To tell you the truth, it's got my circadian rhythm completely out of whack…"

"Oh ok, that makes sense. I kept seeing him only in the daytime for a while, but he didn't tell me he was dating someone at night." She smiled warmly, getting the meaning to the vampire's explanation. "He told me he had very important business to take care of."

"If by 'important business' he meant 'keeping Prince Gumball up all hours of the night' then yes, I'd say he had very important business to take care of." The royal muttered indignantly and folded his arms across his chest, sulking a little before he remembered how many more days it would be before he could stay up late with the vampire again.

"Aw don't be a butt, Prince Gumball. He was acting happier than his old self, so he must be having a ton of fun with you. He was singing more than usual and would have to leave a lot earlier every time I tried to hang out with him. But it's all good; I just hope you two are happy."

"I'd be happier if he didn't up and leave out of the blue," the prince muttered, holding his chin in the palms of his hands, a glum look returning to his face, "a little warning might have been nice." Closing his eyes and sighing, the prince tried to force his mind away from Marshall, but it was as if the vampire king was plaguing his mind for the time being. "I don't know… am I expecting too much of him Fionna? You've known him longer."

"Well not by much… but he's kind of a 'do what I want when I want' dude. He's always doing cool, random stuff, and I can't really pin him down. He just comes to me when he's bored." The girl dusted the space behind her and laid back. "I mean, if you're going out with him, he should tell you this kinda stuff, but he's also kinda a loner, cause' he's so old. I don't think he's used to people worrying about him and junk."

"I guess you're right there, but he's dated plenty of times before, and you said he goes away for a month the same time every year, so he should have known it was coming up… so why didn't he-" Gumball paused, taking a moment to realize exactly what he was saying. It made him feel ashamed to think that he was getting so upset over his lover's sudden absence; sure it was awful being without Marshall, but at the same time he was jumping to conclusions. The pink teen reminded himself that assuming the worst never made any situation better and with a reluctant hum, did his best to let his stress go. Suddenly he rose to his feet, stretching his long legs and straightening his back. "You know what FIonna? I don't even know why I'm worrying so much about this. Some things can't be helped, and if I'm not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, then what am I even doing dating him, right? I need to have more confidence in him. Marshall's a grown man… well… in a way. He can take care of himself."

"Right!" Pumping a fist to the air, she followed his lead and stood up, slightly adjusting her skirt to cover more leg. She grinned and gently tapped his arm as she tended to do, showing her support if he needed it. "But I know he doesn't like to go, so he kinda tried to forget it. He probably was having so much fun with you that he didn't think about it at all."

To this Gumball could only smile, questioning how much truth was really in the adventuress's words, but taking them to heart all the same. Surely things would all come to light and be much less ambiguous once his lover came back and explained everything. Until then, the prince decided he would just have to wait and hope for the best, with any luck things would all work out for the better and the vampire would be back before he realized it.

"Right, in the meantime, let's do something and get my mind off it."

"Well what did you want to do?" she asked, stretching out her arms while trying to catch sight of their other friends. She could see patches of tan and black coats as Cake and Lord jumped and ran together over the hill. She whistled and two animal head popped up, whining at the summoning.

"What do you suggest Fionna?" the prince inquired, placing his fists confidently on his hips, the prospect of getting out and doing something already lifting his spirits. "You got any good adventures you've been saving for a special occasion? Any angry dragons that need pacifying or orphans that need rescuing?"

"Um… not really." She shrugged as Gumball's adventurous demeanor deflated slightly. "Usually we don't, like, schedule adventures. They just kinda happen, unless we find a cool place to explore, but we were thinking of seeing LSP later. We heard that he was planning on moving out, so his parents asked us to hang out with him and try to make him stay home. He kinda fails at living on his own."

"Yeah," the prince said with a bit of a chuckle, "I remember that time you said you found him stuck on top of a scarecrow pole out in the middle of a corn field." Gumball couldn't help but smile at the funny memory, even as his more heroic posture eased into comfortable slouch. "So to Lumpy Space then?"

"Sure, we gotta go find the frog to get sucked in its mouth and-"

"Or," the candy kingdom ruler interjected, already disliking the idea, "we could just take my entryway."

Curious, the two females followed the males back to the Candy Kingdom, and once inside the castle Prince Gumball escorted them to a tiny broom closet near the servant's quarters. Calling upon Peppermint Maid for her keys, he unlocked the door and swung it wide open.

"This broom closet holds our brooms… and Lumpy Space." Looking past the cleaning implements the vastness of the clouded kingdom stretched far past the expected limits of the room.

"Whoa dude," Fionna whispered, "how'd you-"

"Ahem," the pink teen smiled, "BFF's get portals to each other's kingdoms." The door creaked a bit as Prince Gumball pushed it open all the way, revealing globby lumps of pastel landscape as far as the eye could see. "Come on, it's quite safe. The prince's place isn't far from here; LSP wanted his end of the portal to be away from his parents' house in case he ever wanted to move out… go figure." Gumball chuckled as he led the way into the squishy alternate dimension, hopping onto Lord Monochromicorn's back. "Everybody climb on. You can't get anywhere in Lumpy Space if you can't fly."

As instructed all climbed aboard the black stallion and held on. Lord leaped out into the open air, letting the hard candy servant close the door behind them. Twisting and turning through the cool atmosphere, Fionna held onto Gumball while cake was fine holding onto her man. Even with their past, the two teens closeness wasn't strange. The bubblegum youth felt fine with his bud holding onto him for support, the girl looking out happily to the wonderful landscapes that passed by. Their trip was short as the monochromicorn landed safely on the lumpy terrain, his passengers unloading in front of the Royal Lumpy Space household.

Prince Gumball rapped politely at the front door and stood back, waiting patiently for a response from the residents. Inside there was grumbling followed by indignant shouting and more grumbles. The king and queen answered to the knock, looking nervously over their shoulder as another shout from the other end of the house. Finally when their unruly son had calmed down, the duo turned to their guests with relieved looks on their faces.

"Gumball, FIonna, thank goodness you're here. He's threatening to move out again… and we all know that never ends well," Lumpy Space King murmured in a hushed tone to the guests on their doorstep. "It puts such a strain on his mother and me."

"No problem, your majesty," Fionna said, "we're here to help. See, we even brought Prince Gumball to calm him down." Quickly the two teens were invited in, Cake wanting to wait with her boyfriend outside instead of having to deal with the unruly prince. Making their way through the plush abode, the two found the clearly marked door, labeled "LSP's Crib". Cautiously the girl knocked on the door.

"LSP, it's Fionna. I brought Gumball so we could all hang out. That cool?"

The door opened a crack and the lumpy purple teen peeked out skeptically, checking to make sure that his parents weren't around before opening the door wider and ushering his friends in.

"Oh my glob, thank glob you guys came over when you did, my parents have been on my case about staying home for at least twenty-four minutes now." He sighed and flopped dramatically back onto his bed, not so much laying on the mattress as levitating above it. "They're always trying to lumpin' control me and junk. It's just too much for me to bear."

Fionna sighed too, sitting next to her friend and putting a hand on LSP's shoulder to console him while Gumball stood back, being more used to the lumpy teen's dramatic outbursts.

"Hey man, it's cool. Your parents are just wanting to keep you safe and stuff."

"Whatever, Fionna! It's my life and I'll do what I want. They can't make me stay if I don't want to." The lumpy prince pumped his fists in the air, already riled up from his fight with no signs of calming down.

"Ok, relax. How bout we go to the mall or something?" The blonde swept her hair form her face, only for it to fall right back. "Doesn't that sound fun?"

"Mmm, I guess," the periwinkle teen grumbled, "just as long as I don't run into Brittney there. I can't deal with her right now."

"I thought you two were back together," Prince Gumball interjected. He was constantly trying to keep up with his close friend's ever-changing social life, but sure enough as little as a few hours would pass and a new development would happen to throw Gumball off.

"No way. She's lumpin' nuts. She wanted to get all serious, and I was like 'what the glob, Brittney? You were making out with Chaz yesterday, and now you're in my face about getting serious?' And then she went all crazy on me and junk."

"Wait," the candy prince jumped in, suddenly taking LSP's attention away from the adventuress, "Brittney was cheating on you with Chaz?" All at once Gumball was sitting on his friend's bed, focused on the other prince as if intently waiting for the whole story.

"Well I don't know all of the details because it was Malcolm who told me who said he heard it from Jessica who said Brittney and Chaz went to go see the latest Ring Master movie together and kissed in the movie theater."

"But I thought you weren't interested in Brittney like that," Gumball replied, "I thought you said you weren't ready for that kind of relationship anyway."

"Oh my glob!" LSP exclaimed, grabbing a hold of the gummy prince's shoulders urgently and shaking him excitedly. "Gumball, you're so totally right! What if Brittney's just using me because she wants my smokin' hot bod?"

"Oh my goodness what if you're right?"

As the two prattled on about the social circle of the lumpy royal, the female sat back and tried to drown it out. Gabbing was never one of her strong suits, even though her gender said she should be a natural. As the conversation grew intense, she pulled hopelessly on her bunny ears, not able to stand the chattering.

"Dudes," Fionna finally shouted. The boys stopped for a moment to stare at the interruption. "Do I have to be here, or can we go to the mall to get a slice of pizza? I'm totally bored over here."

"Sure, whatever. My high caliber complex drama isn't for everyone." LSP grunted, hopping off his bed, "let's get the lump outa here, I'm sick of hanging out in my parents' house anyway." With that the lumpy royal lead the way out of the house, calling to his folks that he was taking the royal car to the mall, even though he could have just as easily ridden on Lord Monochromicorn. The trio took their leave, puttering across gaps between the cloud-like globs of pastel matter that seemed suspended in space in the alternate dimension. After a long, aimless-chatter-filled drive across Lumpy Space, the group finally made it to the mall settling in to the food court over a large sausage and mushroom pizza.

"So, why do you keep saying you want to move out, LSP?" Gumball started in politely, trying to steer the conversation away from the younger prince's social circle for Fionna's sake.

"Cause', mah parents are telling me what to do, and I'm like 'I already had my Bar Mitzvah, so I'm like an adult now. I can do what I lumpin' want!' But they're like 'you can't go and live out on your own.' But I know I totally can. They just won't let me cause they think I'm gonna mess up like I usually do." The younger prince huffed and crossed his arms, but Fionna passed her soda to him, an offering to console him. LSP took it and sucked the straw noisily, thanking her curtly.

"You know… not that I'm taking their side or anything; you know I'm with you all the way," Gumball started, knowing how touchy the subject was for his friend, "but maybe your parents are right. You are only fifteen. Maybe they're just looking out for your best interest. I mean, I wish I'd had parents to care about my wellbeing when I was your age."

Suddenly the mood dropped, the younger prince having remembered their long ago talk of his parents and Fionna's memories of a parentless childhood. The adventuress quietly played with her straw while Lumpy Space Prince placed his hands on the table.

"Oh my glob, PG… I'm… I'm sorry man. Like, I know you're right and junk… it's just hard, you know? I know they love me and whatever, but I just want to be cool and take care of myself like you guys do. You run your kingdom by yourself Gumball, and Fionna, you live by yourself and go on awesome adventures and junk."

"Are you kidding LSP?" Gumball asked, looking up to show that the memory of his parents didn't hurt near as much as it used to. "I wouldn't last a single day running the candy kingdom without Peppermint Maid and all the others I have to help me, and Fionna has Cake to watch out for her." The younger prince looked down at his pizza as if by concentrating on the food in front of him, he could understand just what his friend was getting at. With a gentle smile, Gumball placed his hand reassuringly on the lavender teen's shoulder. "You don't have to go it alone. Take your time growing up and appreciate how good you've got it."

"Yeah man, that's what I do," Fionna added, taking another sip from the dwindling remains of her beverage. "I know you guys are older and stuff, but I don't wanna be all grown up yet. But I can still kick butts and defeat monsters with some help. Me and Cake make a good team." She took a bite of pizza, but before the conversation could be dropped or forgotten, she perked up with an idea.

"Dude," she said through bits of cheese, "if you really wanna hear how it's like living on your own, just ask Marsh…" And as the words left her lips, she regretted them and wished they would slip back into the safety of her mouth.

Glancing nervously to check for the older prince's reaction Fionna breathed a sigh of relief when it appeared for a moment as if Gumball had missed the comment completely. All too soon, however, the candy teen's smile slipped away and he looked down, trying to hide the hurt that he knew his eyes would betray. Folding his hands on the tabletop, the elder took a moment to collect himself until he knew he could fake a smile convincingly.

"She has a point… Mar… Marshall Lee knows all about the school of hard knocks… but he's also been alive for over a thousand years…"

"Yea, but that guy spooks the flub out of me." LSP folded his arms and huffed. "Being all creepy and scary for no reason. I'm not gonna ask that weirdo for help."

"You know…" Gumball started before he caught himself; if Lumpy Space Prince had so much as an inkling that he and Marshall so much as looked at each other, word would be all over Aaa before he could say 'Cameladapuamawamapp.' "You're absolutely right. M-Marshall is a spook if I've ever seen one, not that I've seen many spooks or anything." The elder prince tried to chuckle, hoping he'd dodged a bullet.

Fionna was quick for the save, knowing she could speak for her and Gumball alike without forcing the secretive prince to reveal his secret.

"Aw, he's not that bad. You just don't know him like we- I mean, Cake and I. We know him pretty well and he's not that scary when you talk to him like a friend. When you think he's scary, that's when he's the worst. He can't help but terrify everyone for fun."

"You can be friends with like, whoever you want Fionna." LSP replied with half a mouth full of pizza. "All I'm saying is that guy scares the lump outa me. I just get the creepy predator vibe from him, you know? Like all he sees when he looks at anything with a pulse is food… it freaks the math out of me."

"Actually vampires only eat shades of red," Gumball interjected as formally as he could, unable to sit idly by as the man he loved was spoken so poorly of. When the other two at the table looked up at him with expressions of shock and curiosity, the candy teen realized just what he'd said. "Well, what I mean is that blood isn't the primary food source for vampires… strictly speaking…" The eldest quickly occupied his mouth by slurping hastily at his soda.

"Like, since when did you know that, Gumball?" The purple prince leaned towards him, but having a stroke of genius, the adventuress leaned back coolly.

"Everyone knows that, LSP. Didn't you know?" She smiled cockily, earning a dramatic harrumph from the other.

"Well duh, I knew that. I'm not like, stupid, ok? I just didn't think he'd know. Glob, get off mah back."

"You know me dude, I love reading about science and stuff. I st-stumbled across it in a book about ah… complex macro-e-ecosystems." To keep himself from stumbling any more over his fibs, Gumball returned to sipping at his soda wishing that by some stroke of luck the conversation would diverge from the current discussion of his private romantic attachment.

"Gumball, you're weird dude," LSP scoffed, "reading all that boring gripagrap for fun? You're one messed up son of a lump."

"Whoa," Fionna said, her eyes narrowing. "Language."

"Whatevs, I'll say what I want," the prince waved off the remark before taking the last drink of her soda. He sucked the last precious drop out and sat the empty cup on her tray, making her stare at it sadly. Gumball smiled at the poor girl and gave her a few coins for a refill, which she took thankfully and dashed off to the fountain.

"So PG," LSP whispered. The older prince turned back worriedly, thinking he was about to be interrogated for the second time that day. It was mortifying having to lie and dodge his friends' concerns and curiosity, but the matter of his love life simply couldn't get out. "Did you hear about Kimberly and Dustin at make-out point last week? She's totally cheating on Nick and he still doesn't know, man."

Gumball felt a wave of relief wash over him and he almost heaved a thankful sigh before he remembered to react to what his friend had said.

"Oh man dude, what are you gonna do? Aren't you going to tell Nick before he finds out for himself? I mean, isn't it only fair that he knows?" Internally, the elder prince was comforted knowing that for now his nosy best friend still didn't suspect his romance with Marshall.

The afternoon passed with more gossip between the princes and more boredom for the girl. Finally with a call for dinner from the Candy Kingdom, Prince Gumball and Fionna left their friend at his parents' house, having calmed him enough to stay home for at least the night. Not favoring a meal alone, the candy royal invited the adventuring duo to stay for supper, the four of them sitting around the large dinner table for another meal together that day. Gumball enjoyed the company more than he expected, not much liking the idea of being alone with his thoughts. Even with only two nights of sleeping together in bed, he found his bed much emptier without Marshall with him between the sheets.

As time passed, Gumball tried his best to get out more often and spend time with his friends if only to occupy his mind. When his work was finished, and there was no company to be had, the prince would lock himself in the library, taking solace amongst the boundless volumes of facts and fiction. He must have poured himself through ten new books in a week, and though as filling as literature was, text could not quiet the miserable longing that whispered constantly in his heart. Still Peppermint Maid would occasionally pick the lock in the royal study and find the prince asleep in his chair, one or two books piled in his lap. Of course guards were always summoned to carry the exhausted royal to bed. The days that followed made the prince's closest advisor fraught with worry, but knowing the subject to be tender, she respected Gumball's wishes not to speak of it.

With the cool autumn season drawing to a close, the young ruler of the sweetest kingdom in Aaa was running down his list of royal tasks and library books like his life depended on it. Just their brief encounter together left him needy for his companion, and with items to occupy his time running thin, Gumball's demeanor became bleaker. He just didn't have the same pep in his step as before, and it now took several cups of hot coca from his dear servant to earn even the tiniest hint of a smile. Even his health was taking a dive, a slight cough finding its way into his chest. He waved it off as the coming of winter's doing, which was true. The air was chilled and several times Fionna was sent over to complain to Ice Queen. The bitter woman would only cackle and claim innocence, blaming the drastic change in climate to weather alone.

Finally the last day of the month arrived, and to celebrate Gumball began his day with an intense grooming. He understood that a month was probably an estimated time of arrival, but with 30 days of sulking and misery he couldn't help but be optimistic. He wore his nicest, but still casual wear, having bathed in his finest oils for an extra treat for his lover. He had a meal arranged for that evening of exquisite food, a majority of it being red themed. He hounded his staff to tidy the castle, even though the vampire would never care for such details, but to the eager prince it was necessary.

In a few short hours the castle was made ready for an unheralded arrival, and the staff busied themselves willingly, glad beyond words for the return of their prince's vitality. When thing were all set, Gumball paced nervously, trying to find anything for his hands to better while he waited for Marshall's long awaited return.

The anxious minutes turned into hours and soon evening fell like a grand curtain. Gumball postponed supper as long as he could, even dismissing his staff and waiting up for Marshall, but eventually he gave in and solemnly ate alone in the vast dining hall, the food having gone cold. With a long, dejected sigh, the young candy man stirred a strawberry truffle disconsolately, looking out the large bank of tall, regal windows at the grey sky, the gloom of the outside weather mocking his unhappiness. Gumball watched as the dismal grey clouds began to shed the first snowflakes of the season as if nature only wished to rub salt in the young prince's fresh wound.

The wind howled lightly and blew around the fresh powder, twisting it about in the night as Gumball stared longingly out into the dark. As the night wore into its early morning phase Peppermint Maid had had enough and came calling to her charge. Of course the prince resisted being forced off to bed, but with the promise to put together another show for the arriving vampire king tomorrow he unhappily agreed. She almost had him out of the main hall when there was a knock at the main door. Grumbling to herself, she excused herself to attend to the disturbance, sending his majesty off before he collapsed. Gumball reluctantly drug himself to the foot of the stairs, but looked after her hopefully. The short, hard candy cracked the entrance only just enough, trying to keep the cold out. But before she could ask for a name she screamed, nearly fainting at the door. The prince was swift to her side, but the sight he saw almost took his breath along with his servant's.

Before them, kneeling in the new snow was a bruised and battered Marshall Lee, the teen clutching his right side painfully and his right arm hanging limply at his side. The nigh walker tried to hold a grin, but through the pain and immense fatigue that radiated from his eyes the smile dropped, along with his body. He collapsed there, in the flurry without a single word.
We've had a pretty good turn around rate on these chapters this week... it's been a productive week... sorry I didn't upload this four hours ago like I said I would...

Super love to :iconpirate-o-night-mif: for coming up with the vast majority of the plot behind this chapter... I just went along for the ride. Also special thanks to :iconjotaku: for editing.

Chapter 7: [link]

Chapter 9: [link]
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:iconsadiescooby11:
sadiescooby11 Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
0_0 dang that last part got me its 3 am and I wanna find out what happens but I'm so tired!
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:iconponyiscool:
Ponyiscool Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012  Student Interface Designer
Aww not we
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:iconponyiscool:
Ponyiscool Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012  Student Interface Designer
We poor marshal
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:iconqwertyjr02:
Qwertyjr02 Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Lol nvm I got it now he says why can't She be stupid when it matters or something like thatXD still though lol
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:iconqwertyjr02:
Qwertyjr02 Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I have but one question... WHAT THE HECK DID GUMBALL YELL AT FIONNA!?!?
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:iconstelera:
Stelera Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
it's French, I'm sure you can find an online translator... (I honestly can't remember off the top of my head... I speak Spanish...)
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:iconqwertyjr02:
Qwertyjr02 Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Ok thanks to le GOOGLE TRANSLATE>:D!!!!
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:iconannabell22:
annabell22 Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2012
HOLLY CRAP THESE ARE LONG
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:iconstelera:
Stelera Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
the whole fan fic is exactly 183 pages in my Word document of it :)
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:iconannabell22:
annabell22 Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2012
damn.
I wrote 1 and it like 209?
how long yours take?
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