With a rather long checklist in hand, Prince Gumball paced before the massive double doors of the palace's grand dining room. Trying to calm her majesty's fraught nerves, Peppermint Maid followed closely behind him, trying to assure him that everything would be alright. Gumball had been worrying himself into a tizzy for the past week, planning and scratching and re-planning the impending evening, but each time he thought he'd gotten things settled, he'd second guess himself and start over; the whole process was very demanding on not only the young prince, but also his waiting staff.
His original idea had been to turn the affair into a grand gala; a regal affair with beautiful gowns and clean-cut suits. The food would be exquisite, the wine rich, and the company cut from the highest tier of society. But as he was in the midst of organizing an extravagant feast, he stopped and rethought the entire event. Completely disregarding his original idea, Gumball went back to the drawing board with his plans for the evening. It would be private, secluded, a quiet dinner in the gazebo at the heart of the palace gardens; the roses would be in full bloom, and the summer air would be sweet and mild. There they would be served a fine supper by candlelight to the song of a quiet string quartet. But no, this idea was no good either! The prince knew very well that Marshall Lee - though a romantic at heart - was high-octane and needed more than a night of regal isolation; he needed to be entertained. From there Gumball had fussed over every new plan he drew up, rewriting the evening tens of times.
And now there he was, pacing in front of the dining room, writing up a seating-chart for all of their closest friends; Fionna and Cake naturally Lumpy Space Prince, several of Marshall Lee's undead friends. He was halfway finished writing up the arrangements when he stopped suddenly, causing Peppermint Maid to bump into his legs as she shuffled anxiously behind him. This would never work! Marshall Lee's ghost friends had nearly killed Fionna and Cake on several occasions. He wasn't sure how much he trusted LSP to keep his gossip to a minimum after the fiasco had ensued when he found out about the secret relationship between the Candy Prince and the Vampire King. Furiously Gumball tore the page from his notebook, crumpled it, and tossed it over his shoulder. Dropping his notepad and pen the frustrated prince ran his fingers through his sugary locks, silently asking himself how he would ever be able to plan a perfect evening for his and Marshall's first anniversary when he kept throwing out all of his ideas.
Sighing and shoving his hands into his trouser pockets, he gave his advisor a sideways glance over his shoulder, taking comfort in the assuring look on Peppermint Maid's face. She collected his notebook and pen, attaching both neatly to her clipboard and tucking that under her arm as if she was confiscating the lot such that the prince wouldn't worry himself anymore.
"I think it's time you took a break your majesty" she suggested with a caring smile. "All this worrying isn't good for your mind, you'll run yourself ragged. Why don't you take the night off and relax? I'll help you think of another dinner plan in the morning."
This suggestion brought the slightest of smiles to Gumball's face, and he nodded with a quiet grunt of approval.
"That sounds like a fine idea, thank you Peppermint. I'll see you bright and early then?"
"Absolutely your majesty," she nodded politely and looked up at the prince with a caring smile. "Will you need any further assistance this evening?"
"I believe not," he replied with a curt shake of his head. "Feel free to retire for the evening. I think I might go into town this evening. I still have yet to pick out a gift for Marshall, and perhaps a more social scene might relieve my stress."
"Would you like an escort your majesty?" she enquired, looking as if she was about ready to call together an entire division of the royal guard to walk the prince to town.
"That won't be necessary, I won't be out late." With a slight nod, Gumball gave her a quick smile before turning and heading towards the door.
"Be careful, and avoid the south side of town your majesty," she called after him, "there have been more crime reports from there recently." She put on a brave face, but still the maid's brow betrayed her worry as she waved the young man off.
"Don't worry Peppermint," he replied, "I'll be safe as safe can be." Of course as soon as he was out of the door, Gumball smiled to himself and rolled his eyes; Peppermint Maid could be so overprotective sometimes. Of course he knew her intentions were good, and he was glad that she cared for him so much, but sometimes it could be a bit much. Sometimes he needed to get out from under his advisor's wing and do things on his own. Doing things for himself always gave him the most satisfaction in the long run anyway, but of course he was always grateful for the help when it came to the overall management of the Candy Kingdom. Being a prince was no easy task, of course.
The heat of the summer day was winding down into the thick warmth of the evening. On the horizon, the last slender fingers of sunlight were reaching out from between the peaks of the purple Rock Candy Mountains. The sky was painted in vibrant hues from royal blue to deep violate, vibrant magenta, and brilliant gold. As he made his way into the city, Prince Gumball took in a deep breath, inhaling the sweet, humid air of the fast approaching Candy Kingdom night. All across town, lanterns were being lit, casting their warm glow onto the candy-paved streets, making shadows dance and sugar glitter like diamond in the flickering firelight. Gumball grinned.
As he made his way into town, the prince window-shopped for a good half hour before really getting serious about his search. With all the hustle and bustle of trying to plan the perfect anniversary dinner, he hadn't put much thought into what he might get Marshall Lee as a gift. He'd briefly considered purchasing the vampire a new bass guitar, but his axe-bass held so much sentimental value, he didn't want to appear as if he was trying to replace such a treasured possession. As the evening wore on, he found his hunt for the perfect gift going much as his planning had, each new idea was worse than the last, and absolutely nothing would do. By the time night had fallen completely, he was more wound-up than ever.
"What do you even get a guy who's been around for a thousand years?" He muttered to himself while looking halfheartedly through a vendor's stall full of fragrant soaps. "Surely he's had his fill of material things
The world must seem so dull once you've seen it all a hundred times over." Gumball sighed, looking up to check the time on the tall clock tower in the town square; nearly eleven o'clock he still had plenty of time, but he was short on ideas. "Whatever it is, it's got to be good," he mused, "knowing Marshall it'll mean more if it's genuinely from the heart, and it has to be unique, like nothing else in Ooo
" For a moment the prince butted heads with the kiosk, earning a few awkward glances before he regained his composure. "Why does he have to be so difficult to shop for?" Gumball asked himself in a low growl. "Why can't he just be like Fionna? She's easy to please; I've been getting her a new sword for her birthday for the past four years!"
With a groan, Gumball slouched and stuffed his hands into his back pockets, abandoning the soap vendor's stand and moving on down the street. The worst part was that he knew Marshall Lee would have no trouble at all shopping for him; he probably wouldn't even need to shop. The Vampire King was good with all that heart-warming sentimental stuff seeing as that's all that mattered to him anymore. He could pour his heart out in a song, or wrap up one of his old trinkets: the sheer mass of the memories therein easily outweighing any monetary value.
As the evening progressed, Prince Gumball became more and more discouraged, his self-criticizing thoughts only bogging him down and making his search seem all the more hopeless. With his gaze turned dejectedly downward, he almost didn't notice a familiar tall, dark figure silhouetted against the streetlights ahead. When the shape did manage to catch his eye, Gumball's heart nearly skipped a beat.
"Marshall?" At first he was worried that the vampire would discover what he'd gotten him for their anniversary, but then he remembered he still hadn't gotten anything. But wait! Maybe he could use this golden opportunity to ask what Marshall Lee actually wanted. It wasn't the most original idea in Ooo, but it beat leaving empty-handed. "What are you doing here?" The night-walker looked up, startled by the sound of Gumball's voice, so much so that he nearly knocked over a display of brooms as he whirled around to face the prince.
"Oh! PG! Uh, I just got up and I was just out enjoying the night
" the Vampire King narrowed his eyes skeptically, "but I think the bigger question is 'what are you doing here?' Isn't it a bit past your bedtime, prince?" Letting his levitating feet touch the ground, Marshall Lee smirked and leaned against the closest storefront, looking a bit more casual than usual.
"I've been worrying myself sick over plans for
" Gumball paused and thought quickly before he gave up his secret plans so easily, "this up-and-coming shindig
" He could only hope that sounded viable.
"A shindig?" Marshall Lee inquired, quirking an eyebrow quizzically.
"Well, it's more of a gala
" Gumball trailed off, averting his gaze. By now he was quite sure his friend could tell he was fudging the truth. Still, Marshall Lee played along, if for no other reason than because he liked to see the candy prince get flustered.
"A gala you say? Seems a far cry from a shindig, don'cha think?"
"Well it's less of a gala and more of a fete."
"Sounds fancy, Bubba."
"It's really more of a carousal than a fete."
"Is that so?"
"Yes," Gumball finally retorted, having gained no ground at all in terms of finding out what kind of celebration Marshall Lee would prefer. "A soiree is exactly what I'll be hosting. Do you think that sounds like something you'd like to attend?" A wily smile spread across the vampire's thin lips as he smirked knowingly at the prince.
"If it's a Bubba Gumball party, it's gotta be good. Consider me there." Marshall Lee lowered his eyes, trying his very best not to chuckle as his ruffled prince recovered. "When will it be?"
"Oh," he hesitated, trying to think of a quick answer, "well I'm not quite sure yet. Like I said; the planning of it all has been running me ragged." The prince also tried to act casual, but ended up looking rather silly as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other.
"Well let me know as soon as you get the date decided," the vampire purred, pushing off of the wall such that he was standing again rather than leaning.
"Of course! You'll be the first to know." Gumball's nervousness was beginning to fade and the smile began to creep back onto his face.
"Cool," the night-walker murmured, glancing over his shoulder at the quiet nightlife in the street behind him. "Hey Bubba," he trailed off for a moment, as if second guessing his words before thinking better of it. "You wanna walk with me? I understand if you're really stressed out and you need some space-"
"I'd love to walk with you" the prince cut in, taking Marshall Lee's hand in his with poorly-hidden enthusiasm. The elder smiled warmly and squeezed Gumball's hand affectionately. Before he could further interject, the candy teen too was cut off as quick peck from the Vampire King muddled the beginning of his next word. With that Marshall Lee beamed, and the prince chuckled bashfully as they started to make their way down the road