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December 10, 2011
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Chapter 9:

That night was long and grueling. Outside the castle, icy winds howled and rattled windows, snow drifting in streets and settling on rooftops. Gumball would never have made the call to Doctor Prince this late and under this weather if it wasn't a life-threatening emergency. And it was. Within minutes the royal staff had gathered and the collapsed king was rushed to the palace ICU meant to be used only in cases of dire need such as this. No one dared question why it was the prince ran alongside the gurney as it was wheeled into the hospital wing. No one dared question why Gumball paced anxiously outside while Doctor Prince and his medical team assessed the damage to the unconscious young man and did all they could to save his life.

Truly the pink teen was shaken; never did he think that Marshall Lee the Vampire King could possibly be brought to his knees, and yet the deathless royal's life seemed very fragile all of a sudden. It made the candy prince nearly sick with worry and grief. He was distraught and angry to the point of nausea; his head swum with anguish and self-loathing as he silently blamed himself for his friend's condition. If only he'd held onto Marshall a little tighter, begged him not to go… if only he'd been a better lover… maybe Marshall wouldn't have left in the first place.

An agonizing two and a half hours passed before Doctor Prince exited the ER, his scrubs and gloves lightly splattered with blood. He pulled off one of his gloves and wiped his forehead before Prince Gumball practically tackled him.

"What is- is he alright? Is he stable-how is he doing?" The pink teen fumbled over his questions, asking the same thing over and over. His equal held up his soiled hand and placed the other on the worried man's shoulder.

"He's… stable…I think." With a shocked look from Gumball, the doctor sighed. "I'm not familiar with vampire anatomy, but I believe he's fine. You see… he's wasn't breathing." Again he had to calm down the flighty and panicking candy prince before continuing. "Now that's not to say he does normally. For now we have him hooked up to the ventilator."

"What about… his injuries. How many stitches did it take?"

Doctor Prince inhaled through his nose and adjusted his glasses thoughtfully.

"The fibers of his muscles and skin," he illustrated by holding out his extended fingers and laced them together, "have rapidly stitched back together. There should be minimal scarring if any. I've never seen anything like it, really."

Gumball took it as good news and crossed his arms. But a curious look from the other royal caught his attention, making his concern spike again.

"But the truly peculiar thing," the medical prince said, a hushed tone as he thought about it more, "…his heart. With all of the damage done to his chest, particularly in the direction of his heart… completely unharmed. Seriously, there was still a projectile, a stake I believe, still lodged in his ribs… but his heart was completely untouched. There is this cavity, surrounding his heart that was… protected, somehow." Doctor Prince chuckled somberly. "I don't know what spell he cast on himself, but whatever it was saved his life."

Gumball glanced briefly down at the ring on his finger, watching the gem strobe in time with his own heartbeat. He pondered for a moment what spell could be on the ring to make it do such a thing, and could it be that the magic was much deeper than the little light trick. He suddenly thought to test the little query and looked up at the medical royal, placing his hand at his side and covering the ring with his thumb as if to hide it, or keep it close.

"May I see him yet?" he asked, hoping not to sound too urgent. "You said he was supposedly stable. May I go in?"

The doctor sighed and glanced over his shoulder to the patient as if looking for permission from the unconscious vampire. Finally Doctor Prince nodded.

"I suppose it's fine, but I must insist that you scrub out before hand, that means clean hands, gloves, a cap, and a mask."

Gumball agreed a bit too eagerly and rushed through the procedure, all too ready to see the condition of his friend after he'd shown up nearly dead on the palace doorstep.

With fresh scrubs on he entered the sterile room, walking past a few more attendees that were looking at charts and preparing more bandages. None of them paid the prince any attention, having been instructed not to disturb him unless an emergency pressed for it. With the imminent danger taken care of, the only remaining tasks for the workers were cleaning up and dressing the vampire's wounds. Gumball reached the bedside and held back a sob, almost not able to take the sight of his lover beaten up and unconscious. Marshall Lee was being pumped with air, making his chest expand and contract. Along with the oxygen being forced into his lungs, a labored wheeze accompanied his exhales, adding to his defeated, pathetic look.

The prince pulled up a chair and sat beside the hospital bed for a long while, fighting back tears that threatened to spill down his cheeks. But no, this time he would be strong. Marshall needed him to be strong, and so did his people, even if this crisis was not theirs to face. As such, Gumball kept a stiff upper lip as his heart gathered courage enough to allow him to touch the cold hand of his friend. The candy teen swallowed a painful lump of sour emotions and let his fingers wrap around the motionless palm, his trembling hand squeezing Marshall's tenderly as if hoping the gentle touch would be enough to wake him. There was no change in the many blinking and beeping monitors that were attached to the King's body, making Gumball's heart drop a little, until he remembered the ring.

Carefully glancing around to make sure that none of the attendants noticed, the young man removed the rubber glove from his right hand and watched the scarlet gem pulse for a moment. He watched knowingly as the stone blinked in time with the sounding of the machine made to monitor Marshall's heartbeat. With a rush of courage, he reached out his right palm and laid it carefully over the nightwalker's chest, feeling the rise and fall of the artificial breathing and the faint, rhythmic beating of the vampire's heart.

He smiled thankfully, placing another hand onto the injured chest of the deathless teen, but suddenly the flesh beneath his hands began to morph sporadically and the heart monitor suddenly screeched with a flat line. Before the attendants could reach the supposed dying creature, Marshall Lee reared up as his skin spiked all over and turned a frightening black, his eyes blazing with fire and his teeth grew into sabers. The ferocious vampire turned his terrifying gaze to Gumball, howling angrily at him out of blind fury.

The prince almost retracted his touch, but taking his only shot in the dark his hands stayed, leaning into the dangerous beast rather than flee.

"Marshall!" he cried out over the screams of the others and the king's own growl. "It's me! Marshall, it's me, Gumball!"

The creature blinked its eyes suddenly, extinguishing its fire and groaning, the monstrous sound dying in its throat to leave the tired voice of Marshall Lee. Slowly the thorns form his body shrank back into his tattered skin and he became mostly blue again, aside from his sickening bruises. The outburst had depleted whatever strength he had stored for defense so he fell helplessly back onto the bed. But before his eyes closed, they met Gumball's frightened ones. A grin crawled into the vampire's mouth and quiet, strenuous words floated out.

"Gum… it is you…" But having lost his might, he fell back into the embrace of sleep, his heartbeat falling back to a healthy rhythm.

The prince trembled for a moment, his hands still on Marshall's chest while the stunned attendants gawked, not daring to ask how or why it was Gumball had tamed the beast. More cautiously than before, the nurses and physicians went about their chores while quietly the candy teen shuddered and finally began to cry. For that split instant he had felt his own heart freeze in his chest and ice run in his veins. He had felt the anger and the fear and the hurt that had surged through his friend as he awoke with a start. That moment had been like agony and it made the young prince feel miserable knowing there was nothing he could do to reverse those feeling in the exhausted vampire. The staff left him be, only turning the overhead lights in the room out once someone noticed that the prince had fallen asleep with his head resting on the edge of the bed.

Days passed without event, the only change being that the candy prince demanded his business be conducted in the recovery wing of their ER. With so much tension in the air, no one questioned the verdict and adjusted their work to cater. After the first night Fionna and Cake came to visit, only popping by to check in with Marshall, who was still unconscious. Others came, but Gumball only greeted them at the door, not wanting anyone else to see his friend in the damaged condition. But on the third day of the nightwalker's slumber, a noise piped from his lips.

Gumball had been reading through a new stack of documents to be revised, but he quickly threw them down on his temporary desk and wheeled his chair to the bedside.

Marshall Lee's eyes opened very carefully, his lids barely apart but his irises searching wildly below them.

"… Gum? You… t-there?"

"Yeah," the prince whispered, placing his hand carefully over the vampire's allowing the other to feel his presence, "I'm here." There was silence for a long while as Gumball reveled in his friend's awoken state, but with a start, he checked himself, casting a look about the room for anything he could offer Marshall to make him more comfortable. "Can I get you anything? Something to drink? An extra pillow? Anything you want, it's yours."

"Stay here," he rasped, gripping his hand desperately as if he'd lose him. "Just stay… right here, ok?"

"Ok, Marshall," Gumball sighed, leaning over to kiss his forehead. The injured man grunted slightly with the weight of his friend being pushed onto his body, and the bubblegum royal gasped and sat back. But before he could apologize an arm came and pulled him back over. Marshall Lee fought through the pain so that he could have his lover pressed against him, feel his warmth after such a long month apart.

The prince was stiff at first, but with a bit of readjusting he finally climbed onto the hospital bed beside Marshall, laying his head against the elder's chest and curling into his side. Gumball let himself be lulled by the steady drumming of his lover's heart, matching in perfect rhythm with his own. The question lingered in his mind as to what magic spell Marshall had put on the ring he'd been given, but that question was too complicated for the time being. Instead the candy teen looked up at the other young man earnestly, begging a slightly different question.

"So… the doctors wanted to know… do you need to breathe? I… I can't seem to remember..."

Marshall huffed and pushed gently on his friend's head, moving it off of his ribs to his shoulder. As much as he wanted to have his love close to him, he had to have some comfort to properly enjoy it.

"Mmm... not really. I do some… sometimes to smell and st-stuff, but I don't… have toooo…" He sighed and took in a breath, showing that he could. "But... it helps to heal…"

There was another quiet pause as the prince contemplated what he could say next; a whole month away from his friend and now he had no words. For that moment it was nice to simply feel Marshall next to him for the first time in so painfully long.

"I really missed you Marshall…" Gumball finally sighed, "I was a sleepless wreck without you. You had me worried half to death, and for good reason. Just look at you. I wish I'd have never let you go that night. I should have locked you up and thrown away the key."

"Mmm good thing you... d-didn't," he tried to chuckle. "I would have b-burst into... flames, until I died… But I don't think... I would, so I'd just burn… forever." He could smile even with his bruises and he tilted his head to kiss the other. "But.. th-thanks for sayin' that. I love you too, man."

All at once a million questions leaped into Gumball's head, and he had to force himself not to blurt them all out. He'd get his answers later, when Marshall was feeling better; right now he was tired and needed to rest and regain his strength, even if it was a good sign that he was awake.

"You'll have to tell me all about it later. Right now you need to rest and recover, we'll worry about explanations later."

"I… was afraid of that. But yea… I'll t-tell you everything. Plus… we don't have t-to… worry about it… until n-next year. Promise." Marshall lifted his right hand to hold onto Gumball, but a thick weight caught his attention. He looked over and saw it wrapped in a large cast from his palm up to his elbow. The vampire sighed heavily and dropped his head back.

The only things visible through the cast were Marshall's fingers, giving him just enough mobility to grasp the prince's shoulder loosely. Gumball sighed and let himself be pulled snuggly against his lover's side.

"Get some sleep Marshall" the younger urged quietly, draping his arm carefully over the vampire's waste. "I'll fix you something delicious to get your strength back up tomorrow, but for now rest yourself."

To his surprise the vampire had already obliged, his eyes closed and lips slightly parted in sleep. Gumball giggled at the sight, hoping he was comfortable enough with so many pains. With subtle movements, he detangled himself and slipped out, only so that he could return to his chair and watch the vampire sleep peacefully.

Dawn didn't so much break on the hospital wing with the rising of the sun as with the returning of the day-shift staff. Late in the night, Gumball had passed out with his arms folded across a stack of papers piled on his desk, the lamp by his side having remained on throughout the night. The nurse who had been assigned to care for Marshall checked in, deciding against disturbing the vampire or the prince, only switching off the bulb that illuminated the candy royal's study. She looked up as for a moment she though a sound had come from the injured night walker, but that wasn't possible, he hadn't yet regained consciousness after all.

As she exited the room however, his eyes opened again. He scanned the room and found his companion asleep himself and smiled. He wished he could cross the room to tuck him in, a tradition he had made and loved keeping, but with his injuries it was too much. So instead he let himself drift in and out, letting his mind reorganize and calm with the first stretch of peaceful time since he had first left Aaa. Over the course of the month away, he had been forced to his homeland, the Nightoplane, and the nightmare was finally over for the year. For an entire month he had struggled to survive, having to endure many pains in the hopes of living through it so that he could return to his lover. It was the only drive that kept him going and kept him from quitting. Now that they were together, it wasn't an option. But the danger was past and he could heal and get back to normal life. The hours passed like minutes, and it would have continued if not for the faint glow of the coming sun though the open blinds.

Instantly his adrenaline kicked in again and he levitated off of the bed. Struggling to mask his pain, he floated over to the window and frantically searched for the rod to close them, but with his cast and aching body he stumbled. Minutes passed and he tried to find a place to hide, but with no closets and thin curtains the surrounded his bed, he began lightly screeching, tiny and pleading like a baby bat caught in a trap.

The sound was just enough to rouse Gumball from his exhausted sleep, his hands pounding against the desk with shock as he was startled out of a particularly engaging dream. At first the sunlight spilling into the room didn't strike him as the least bit odd, but when he sat up and looked over towards where he expected Marshall to still be lying, it hit him like a ton of bricks. The vampire was pressed into the corner where there was still an umbra, and he looked at a loss for what to do. Knocking a flurry of papers off of his desk, Gumball was on his feet in a flash, stumbling only once as he scrambled to Marshall's aid. Without thinking, the younger teen tore the sheets from the hospital bed and flung them over his friend, covering his vulnerable skin from the harmful solar rays. The immediate disaster narrowly averted the candy royal cast about for a more permanent solution, finding the blinds having been left open by some careless attendant. With a groggy yet furious growl, Gumball reached up and snapped the blinds shut, banishing the morning sunlight from the room.

"Marshall…" he grunted, shaking his head to clear it, "are you okay?"

He didn't give a clear answer, but the vampire trembled underneath the cover of his sheets. Gumball sighed and ventured beneath. Under the safety of the green blanket, he found Marshall shaking, a few plumes of steam rolling off his skin. Before the younger could reach out, his friend's eyes shot open and he dove at the prince, hiding his head in the teen's chest. Sadly he whimpered, his body rattling with ache.

"It's okay Marshall," Gumball whispered, pressing a gentle kiss onto the vampire's scorching forehead, "the light is gone." The young prince stayed there a moment, stroking his friend's hair until the trembling stopped, giving the king's cheek a chaste peck before drawing back, nodding to show he'd return in a moment. It took a great deal of strength to keep his composure as the prince straightened his back and turned towards the door and stepped out into the hall. His shoulders were tense to begin with, and his teeth gritted as he tried to catch the attention of one of the many bustling attendants, but all seemed too busy, and so the anger and frustration boiled under his skin. All at once the neat and proper royal heir to the Candy Kingdom did something no one ever imagined he could. He shouted.

"Who did this?" he bellowed, freezing and silencing the entire hospital wing, his shoulders beginning to quake as his freshly livid eyes seethed with anger. "Who left these blinds open? You could have killed someone!" His chest heaving as he tried in vain to calm himself, the prince made a furious sweeping motion with his hand to show he directed the entire staff with his words. "Don't you all know how to run a hospital? I ought to revoke every license in this building and send you all back to medical school!"

From the frozen scene of the workers, only one sketchy looking gummy bear was able to slip away. The rest clenched their clipboards and whispered amongst each other. At once Doctor Prince came through the group, having been summoned by the terrified interns.

"Gumball, may I have a word? Prince to prince?"

"Only if it is to tell me in private who is responsible for this!" the candy teen replied in a furiously urgent whisper, barely able to contain his anger. He threw his arm in the direction of the window in a wild gesture. "If I hadn't woken up in time, Marshall could have been killed by the negligence of one of these physicians and I will not let that go unpunished."

"I see, but I will see to the repercussions of my staff. Your place is with him, right? Now why don't you go back in? You're presence with him seems to be aiding in his recuperation, so just… breathe, Gumball." The doctor smiled thoughtfully, holding his shoulder. "I'll be the bad guy."

"Very… ehem… very well," the pink prince replied looking down for a moment and clearing his throat, putting himself in check. In the wake of his waning anger, Gumball found himself horribly ashamed of his outburst; it had been entirely unprincely. "Forgive me, Doctor Prince," he apologized quietly, "I've found myself a bit… possessive of my friends of late. A rather disturbing b-brush with the I-Ice Queen has made me a bit… p-protective of them." He stammered through his fib as usual, though mentally he congratulated himself on the slight improvement in his lying technique.

"No need… I've had a discussion with Peppermint Maid. I have no questions about your actions because it is none of our business and has nothing to do with our care of mister Marshall Lee." He nodded respectfully and left, only to turn on his staff and pick up the verbal thrashing were Gumball had left off.

Sighing with relief, the prince nearly collapsed as his legs suddenly felt like gelatin, forcing him to lean against the doorway for a moment before the rapid pace of his heart calmed. Finally he re-entered the recovery room, shutting the door quietly behind himself, noticing Marshall finally having gathered the courage to peek out from underneath the protective sheets.

"I'm sorry Marshall," the prince murmured, slowly crossing the room towards his lover and crouching before him. "I didn't mean to be so angry with them… I just… the thought of you being hurt by one of those dolts just makes me furious, absolutely outraged!" The prince caught himself getting riled up again and forced himself to take a deep breath and relax.

"Well, look at that," Marshall Lee whispered, his voice stronger than the night before. "Little Gumball still has his spark." Drawing himself off the floor, the vampire kept the sheet draped over his shoulders but allowed his toes to leave the ground. He floated over to his prince and leaned against him, waiting for arms to enfold around him again. "Man I missed you."

Delicately the prince embraced Marshall, his arms looping carefully around the injured waste as he pulled the elder carefully back over to the bed. Being as gentle as he could be, Gumball forced the vampire to sit on the mattress as he leaned in and pressed a reassuring peck to Marshall's forehead.

"I missed you too… Glob it was like torture not knowing where you were or what trouble you were getting into…" The prince suddenly paused as an idea sparked in his mind and he lifted his hands as if instructing a child or a dog to remain in position. "Stay right there and rest, I'll be back in an instant." Before Marshall had a chance to object, the prince had disappeared through the door again.

The vampire king grumbled and floated over to the bed, carefully laying himself out before lowering himself. As his back touched the soft padding, he hissed and bit his lip. He recalled the several hits he had taken to his back rather than let his enemies have at his chest. He looked down to his wrappings and picked at them, peering under them to evaluate the damage. He growled at the sight of tender flesh and the twinge of pain.

Marshall's investigation was interrupted as suddenly the door swung open and Prince Gumball entered the room carrying a crystal parfait bowl full to the brim with layers of different shades and consistencies of pink and red. Eagerly the prince gave the dish to his friend and passed him a spoon.

"I told you I'd make you something tasty! It's strawberry truffle. There's strawberries, strawberry pudding, whipped cream, and red velvet cake… since the last red velvet cake sort of… got ruined…" Gumball shook his head to clear away the ill memory and grinned. "Go on, try it!"

He looked at the confection hungrily, wanting to scarf the whole thing down. But the look on his lover's face told him to appreciate the hard work and forced him to pick up the spoon. He dipped it into the creation, making sure to get each flavor onto his utensil before cramming it into his mouth. All at once the sweet flavors made his taste buds sing, but the sugar alone left him unsatisfied.

"It's… it's good, Gumball," he said before leaning over carefully to snatch up his lips.

The prince grunted in surprise; a month apart from his lover had made him unfamiliar with the feeling of their lips touching, just as it had taken him a moment to remember the vampire's embrace. All at once Gumball's heart was aflutter as the intimate sensation came rushing back and he returned the vampire's kiss. For that one moment the well-prepared treat was forgotten for an instant of passion. Before they could be interrupted by prying eyes, the action was broken and the prince smiled affably, smoothing a few of Marshall's stray bangs away from his face and tucking them behind his ear.

"I'm glad you like it" he whispered.

"If I could, I'd like some more," the elder whispered leaning in to Gumball's ear. Instantly the request spiked the prince's heartbeat and Marshall Lee chuckled with a grunt. "Glad to feel you still get excited by stuff like that."

The candy royal sat back and looked him over, trying to figure out if he knew what the king was saying. Marshall could see his confusion and beckoned him to bed. After a few more pleas the patient got his wish and had his friend lay beside him once more. He took the bubblegum hand with his ring still wrapped around it and watched it, holding it up for them both to view. The stone strobed to a steady beat, and slowly the elder lowered the hand until it rested on Marshall's bandaged chest. Even through the bond, both could feel the rhythm match the ring's glow, and they both knew the beat also was in sync with Gumball's heart. It was magical, the pink teen marveling over the magic of their heartbeats in time, whether it was a spell or by some beautiful chance.

The prince closed his eyes and smiled, enjoying the feeling of his own heart pumping in time with Marshall's for a few comfortably silent minutes. Finally, Gumball looked up with curiosity in his violet eyes, turning his hand in his friends until he could grip the other's palm and lace their fingers together.

"So… are you feeling well enough to explain all this to me? I can wait if it's too much, but I'd like to know…"

"Well how about you start firing questions, that way I'll cover everything. Sound fair?" The undead king grinned and squeezed his hand. "We can even make it a game. You ask one, and then I'll ask one."

"Okay," Gumball replied a little skeptically, "I guess I'd better make mine a good one then." He leaned back a moment to ponder before he actually decided on his first question. "Why did you have to leave?" He thought himself clever; this question would produce many more answers than simply asking about the ring.

"Mmm, good question. Well alright… I had to leave because of the 'Call to the Crown'. Next question." Marshall smiled even with the two bruises that lined his jaw, wanting to drag out the questions so he could focus less on his month away. "My turn. What's your favorite color?"

"Do you really need to ask?" Gumball sighed exasperatedly, only making the vampire's smile widen. With a raspy chuckle, the elder waggled his index finger as if to scold the other.

"Tisk Tisk Gumgum, you still haven't answered my question."

"Pink you dolt, for the love of Glob my favorite color is pink. Now my turn again." This reaction made Marshall's smile widen still until he was grinning slyly from ear to ear. Again the king waved his finger at his friend, this time tapping at Gumball's nose playfully.

"Not so fast, you already asked your next question. And yes, it was completely necessary. Now another question for me." The undead teen nearly giggled to see the frustrated look on his love's face, the prince puffing out his cheeks the way he tended to when he didn't get his way.

"You can't be serious." The candy royal protested with a pout. "You're not playing fair Marshall."

"Oh alright… but just because you're cute when you're mad. Ask away."

"That's more like it," the prince replied in an indignant tone, "so what were you doing while at this 'Call to the Crown'?"

"Well I was mostly fighting for my life and trying not to die, and I had about three hours of sleep overall." He tried to keep his spirits up, speaking about the horror as lightly as he could, almost as if it was a huge prank and not a terrifying ceremony that he was forced into. "Now did you really like that shirt I gave you, or were you just being nice?"

"The print is creepier than a catacomb, but the fabric is very soft and still smells like you a little, so of course I like it" Gumball replied with a smile. "Explain to me then, what exactly is the Call to the Crown?"

"Ah. Now there's a question with some meat to it. If you have to know…

"The story of the Call to the Crown started about 500 years ago, but I'm not for sure. All I know is that around that time there was a great demon ruler named Ofarian the Despised. He was a huge, grotesque monster that was so feared, he named himself the King of Monsters. Now when he called himself that, the way it works to this day, whoever is called 'King of Monsters' they rule over every monster in the Nightoplan. The underworld works a lot differently than Aaa, Gumball. Instead of having different kingdoms, a group called the 'Ancients' mostly oversees everything, but you rarely hear from them. Instead, what all creatures and demons are worried about is, 'Who's king?' Well, for 349 years, it's been me. I'm Marshall Lee, King of Monsters." The vampire took a deep breath, but was quick to continue, not letting Gumball interrupt. The faster he explained, the faster he could put it out of mind.

"So the way the crown works is whoever is King is unchallenged for an entire year, but to keep it 'fair' somehow, there is one month called 'the Call to the Crown'. During this time, the King has to be in the Nightoplan for the whole time, and at any time a monster can challenge him for the crown. The king is not allowed to refuse any challenge, no matter how tedious or dangerous. That is one of the perils of being king. So basically for a whole month, I had to win fights and games or I'd lose the crown, or more likely my life. So that's why I'm so beaten up."

The prince took this all in, hating to think about the barbaric ritual that his lover was a part of.

"That's… awful. Why… why is being king so important?"

"Well, that's the best part," Marshall Lee chuckled wearily. "Monsters and demons from the Nightoplan can roam around Aaa as long as they're not sealed there. That's why it's dangerous to go out at night without someone like me. But, come daylight, they're sucked back to the underworld until nightfall. The only creature that can reside in Aaa at all hours, even though their birth land is the Nightoplan-"

"-is the King of Monsters."

"You got it." Marshall sighed and nestled his head into his pillow. "Biggest fear?"

"Losing you," the prince replied quickly, earning a laugh from his friend.

"Besides that, dummy," the vampire retorted, though Gumball's answer had brought a smile to his face. The younger pursed his lips as if reluctant to give up his secret fear. He looked over his shoulder to make sure that their conversation was still private before leaning in towards Marshall's pointed ear and whispering.

"Deer."

"Dude… those things are creepy. Almost as much as horses." A shiver ran through the vampire's spine, making him groan with ache. But he covered it with a smile as he usually did. "Alright, I guess it's your turn."

"So… when you gave me this ring and made me wear it, it started to synchronize with my heart, but now I can tell it's matched up with yours too…" Gumball paused, trying to come up with some way to make that statement into a question. "So… what's up with that?"

"Ah, the ring. Well that's the funny thing… I don't know why it's done the sync thing. But I know it's a ring of protection. It was made for me a couple of decades ago, and the maker told me that as long as someone that cared about me wore it, then they would be the only thing to touch my heart. Otherwise, I'm indestructible. So I didn't want to chance it and take it with me, so… I left it were I hoped it would be safe." A cold hand snaked its way to grasp a bubblegum one, squeezing lovingly. "That's why I told you to be careful and told you those crazy things. I didn't want a couple of really bad monsters coming and hurting you. I'll give that to you free."

Gumball hummed happily and removed his hand to interlace them instead.

"I see… I believe it's your question now."

"Oh, right… did I explain everything?"

"Not quite," the prince mused quietly. "I think I still have a few more things to ask… just to clarify." He looked up at Marshall with questions swimming in his indigo eyes. "Doctor Prince said your heart was completely untouched… So you must have given me the ring because you know I love you and so the magic from the ring would protect your heart, is that right?"

"That's what I was hoping. Normally, if I'm going up against something that requires me to have extra armor, I wear it (got rid of the extra normally here). But last year someone knocked it off for like three seconds, and I didn't want that to happen again."

"You care about yourself enough to protect your own heart?" the prince snorted, trying to hold a laugh in. "I should have expected the same." Carefully Gumball brushed the messy bangs out of his lover's face, smiling softly at the vampire as his finger deviated and traced playfully down Marshall's jawline. "Marshall… you have literally no idea how much I missed you… did I mention that this past month has been miserable?"

"Well it's been no cake-walk for me either. When I wasn't playing extreme hopscotch with goblins or going toe to toe with giants, and when I didn't have too much head trauma… I was thinking about you." The king huffed and adjusted his arm, extending the casted limb for some sort of comfort. "I felt more terrible than I've ever felt. It's like... I was feeling bad, but I felt you're sadness at the same time. That on top of me getting beaten up... Oh Gum." Marshall sighed pathetically and curled slightly, nuzzling into the candy prince.

The younger sighed and cupped the back of his friend's head, stroking the vampire's sleek, obsidian locks comfortingly.

"Marshall I'm…" the pink teen's voice trembled slightly as he pulled his injured companion a little closer. "I'm so sorry… I didn't mean for you to feel so bad… I didn't know…" Gumball tried to be strong, he really did, but all at once it was as if the stress all came bearing down on his shoulders. "I didn't want any of this to happen… for you to get hurt and almost killed… Glob… Marshall, say there's something more I can do to make this right. I feel so useless."

"You… you've done so much already, Gummie," Marshall Lee whispered adoringly, pulling up his good arm to stroke Gumball's back. "You've kept me alive. If you hadn't thought about me at all, I wouldn't be here. Just the thought of coming back to you kept me up and fighting. It's tough, but I can make it. You wanna help?" the younger royal nodded and looked to him eagerly. "Then stay with me, at least for now. I want you to lean on, just until I get better."

"Marshall, I'll be here as long as you want me. You can lean on me whether you need to or not." Gumball placed a soft kiss on the king's clammy forehead, still stroking the back of the elder's head reassuringly. "I want to do everything for you. I want to make things easy and simple, so that life can be nothing but birdsong and rose petals." The candy teen pressed his lips to Marshall's pointed ear tenderly, holding his lover close in a sweet embrace. "I love you."

"Yeah… you too. But," he began, trailing off in thought, "…you're just on loan, remember? I love that you're being all nice and all, but you don't have to go overboard. I can take care of myself, you know. I just don't wanna overdo it before my wounds are gone and my arm heals up. Maybe one more day."

"Well, get better as fast as you can," the prince replied with a smile, "so we can go back to going on dates and stuff." The pink teen chuckled softly and pressed his forehead against Marshall's, looking him dead in the ruby-red eyes. "We've been too long apart and we've got lots of catching up to do. I expect you to make up for the time we lost, starting as soon as the doctor gives you the all clear."

A familiar prickle in the nape of the vampire made him moan gently, and Marshall pressed his fingers into Gumball's back, stroking along his spine.

"Well… I am feeling better. I don't think I could do a marathon, but I'm not that sore anymore. So if you want, I can start making it up to you right now…" Bravely he stuck out his tongue and slid it against the prince's lips.

Gumball pursed his lips and crinkled his nose with a smile and a snort. He playfully shoved the vampire's face with his hand with a bit of a laugh.

"Marshall you cheeky thing," he scolded softly, "you know very well this isn't the place and you're not well enough." The younger royal pressed a light kiss against his lover's nose and tousled his black locks.

"I'm just fine, Gum. There aren't enough bruises on me to keep me down for long." The left arm of the vampire king wrapped around the younger's waist, pulling him in. "But I do have a question, if we're still playing."

"Okay, shoot," the prince prompted, propping his head up with one arm, seemingly pleased with the change in subject.

But to his dismay the sparkle in Marshall's eye wasn't leaving.

"Was I your first?"

The vampire smirked as Prince Gumball instantly averted his gaze, his cheeks flushing a deep shade of pink.

"Marshall, I find that question to be highly inappropriate-"

"Don't gimme any of that," the elder interrupted, playing his fingers through the candy teen's sugary hair and running one sharp nail over his friend's ticklish ear. "Come on. We're alone, and I'm not telling anyone."

The prince again pursed his lips and puffed out his cheeks, trying to out-pout Marshall Lee and doing a very poor job at it.

"I think you already know the answer to that question" the younger muttered, still avoiding his friend's gaze.

"Alright, then I get a new question." The pink teen huffed but his lover only laughed. "If I know the answer then it's fair I get a new question. Let's see… oh yeah. What was your favorite part?"

"Marshall!" Gumball yelped quickly slapping his hand over the vampire's mouth so as to prevent more lascivious things from being said. "Don't say things like that you butt." The coloration on the prince's cheeks was straying away from deep pink and heading in the more scarlet direction as embarrassment pulled warm blood to his face.

Gripping the other's wrist and prying his palms from his lips, the undead king grinned.

"Oh come on… please? I at least wanna talk about it if we're not gonna do anything. I… I missed you."

His brow furrowing, the prince tried his best to avoid the topic while not sounding entirely uptight; he knew it aggravated the vampire when he got preachy about morals.

"I missed you too, but can you really not think of anything else to talk about? I mean… it's not… tasteful conversation…"

"I'm not really a tasteful creature." His smiled faded a bit until he exhaled loudly through his nose. "If you don't want to… whatever. I just… I really like you, and I've been thinking a lot about it since I left. Like, we didn't get to hang out really afterwards, so it's still… fresh in my head."

"I can understand that I suppose," Gumball muttered, still refusing to look the vampire in the eyes. "But that doesn't mean it had to be the only thing on your mind." Trailing off, the younger looked over his shoulder cautiously, feeling more and more nervous about being interrupted the longer this conversation went on. "I hardly thought about it while you were away, and not because I didn't want to think about it, but because I believe our relationship is so much more than physical."

"Oh I know… but this is still new and exciting, GumGum. It's one of the best kinds of fun, and that's why I think about it when I'm alone. It makes me feel all warm inside instead of cold. Wasn't trying to be 'lewd' or whatever…"

"I just don't know how comfortable I feel talking about it… I always try to hide these sorts of things you know… even if it is just you and me; it feels too embarrassing to say things like that…" Gumball tried to smile but didn't do a very good job of it; instead he looked more like he was grimacing. "Perhaps we can continue this conversation later in a more private setting…"

"…whatever, Gummie," the vampire sighed, letting his head rest back into the pillow. "I'm not keeping you form work, am I? Wouldn't want to get you into trouble."

"I do have a couple more hearings and a letter of recommendation to write up, but I don't mind pushing them back a little if you want to talk about something else." Gumball sat up and smiled softly, trying his best not to let Marshall's sulking make him feel bad.

"Nah… We'll talk later. Go be princely and all that." Marshall waved him off with his casted hand, having suddenly become fatigued. "Just… go do your thing. I'll still be here, for whenever…"

The candy royal silently turned until his feet fell off the edge of the bed and stood, feeling his heart sink in his chest. Perhaps he'd been too harsh; after all he hadn't meant to hurt Marshall's feelings. He had been frank and didn't feel like he was in the wrong, but the vampire's sudden coldness made Gumball second guess his judgment. He had never been in this kind of relationship before, how was the prince supposed to know what his lover was entitled to hearing and what he wasn't? All the pink young man knew was when he sat down and Marshall rolled to face away from him, the younger felt his heart sink.

Another day rolled around and Doctor Prince finally gave the green flag for the removal of Marshall Lee's cast and stitches, not that the sutures were needed with his fast healing. But with a clean bill of health and an advisory not to overdo anything he was sent on his way home. Prince Gumball had asked if he wanted an escort home, but at sunset he waved it off, saying he was old enough to go home at dark alone. With a night apart, the growing fear in the Candy Kingdom's prince tormented his sleep, and the long day stretched on for what seemed like forever. Marshall did little, finding his nest of blankets to be a better choice than any to occupy his time alone. Even the return of his companion dog brought him little joy. But at the second nightfall since his release, Gumball waited patiently in his room for a familiar tap at his window, or even a surprising boldness of coming to the main hall to call for him. But his reading candles burned down to puddles before he realized there would be no late night call that evening. He snubbed the remains of the dying wick before settling into his now frigid bed, making plans in his mind about visiting the vampire himself.
This preview image was loads of fun to draw! Sketched in Photoshop (somehow) prettied up (and cell-shaded) in Flash and then some additional shading and effects added in Photoshop.

I had to upload this chapter ASAP for some reason... because Chapter 8 left so many people feeling hurt on the inside... I just hope this chapter doesn't replace that hurt feeling with an empty one like it did for me...

Special thanks to *Jotaku for editing this chap! Many loves!

Co-written by ~pirate-o-night-mif

Chapter 8: [link]

Chapter 10: [link]

Woah this chapter got some amazing fanart!!! Thanks a ton ~neonetgirl!!!

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:iconkookkusang:
KookkuSang Featured By Owner May 19, 2013  Student Artist
i love this man :D
Reply
:iconcrazydumdum:
crazydumdum Featured By Owner May 8, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
OH MY GLOB!!!!! BEST THING I HAVE EVER READ IN MY LIIIIFE!!!
Reply
:iconhawksis:
hawksis Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Mar huddling against Gum was so touching, and A-Dor-A-BLE
Reply
:iconevalynepeirs:
EvalynePeirs Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I hate to be a nit-picker but Doctor Princess in the show is not a royal it's just her last name. Otherwise I absolutely adore this.
Reply
:icongrell13:
Grell13 Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
OH MY GAWD I READ THIS FAN-FIC BEFORE<ITS LUMPING AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU TOTALLY ROCK!
Reply
:iconstelera:
Stelera Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you so much, dear!
Reply
:iconpyrianassassin:
PyrianAssassin Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
i think it should be marshall and marciline.
Reply
:icongrell13:
Grell13 Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Dude,no
Reply
:iconstelera:
Stelera Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm sorry to disappoint you? I don't even know how to respond to this. I write a 183 long fan fiction for the Marshall Lee/Prince Gumball shipping and your only comment is that you'd rather the pairing was different?
Reply
:iconpyrianassassin:
PyrianAssassin Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh,no,I don't mean to offend you,I meant that I'd prefer that but your story is really good.
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