So who wants to go to a Marshall Lee and the Horror Kings Concert?!
Chapter Six: A Kiss Goodbye
Marshall Lee was not one of the most loved citizens of Aaa.
Some of the more arrogant Candy People may even argue that he wasn't a citizen of Aaa at all. His real home was in the Nightosphere, and his house in Aaa was merely a temporary stay until some other area caught his attention. Given his traveling history and drifter personality, this theory was very likely.
If you were to ask Marshall Lee himself, he may say something different: He didn't want anything to do with the Nightosphere, but he didn't belong to Aaa either. The thought of being a citizen of a particular area made him uncomfortable. It sounded permanent and personal, and Marshall knew better than to assume others would want him as a neighbor.
Either way, there was one event where even the most vocal Marshall Lee- haters would ease up and concede that whatever Marshall may be -- Demon, Vampire King, or otherwise-- he was one hell of a musician. Tomorrow may be different, but for that event, he was a citizen, and they accepted him as such.
It was the night of the Marshall Lee and the Horror King's concert, and only those without tickets weren't excited. A certain bunny-eared hero was especially looking forward to it. She practically danced into the Candy Kingdom with Cake trailing behind, stopping only when she reached the castle.
"GUMBAALLL!" Fionna screamed from somewhere in front of the Castle Door. "We're going to be laaatttee!"
Cake flattened her ears against her skull, eyeing the last human like she had gone insane. "Ever heard of knocking, sweet thing?"
The large doors to the castle creaked open, and Peppermint Maid peered her red-striped head out. "I do apologize for the inconvenience," the maid said in her always-proper tone. "The Prince was not expecting you quite so early."
"It's cool. We can wait." But Fionna's impatient jittering said otherwise. She moved from foot to foot impatiently like an ADD kid in a Candy Kingdom going on a sugar high.
The maid stepped out and looped her hands behind her back to look prim and respectable. "I do ask that you keep an eye on the Prince. Marshall Lee's concerts can be rowdy at times. Gumball's smart, but he's not the strongest or most defensive."
"We'll keep an eye on him, Pepper," Cake replied. "We always do."
"And if I may offer a suggestion, I understand that Marshall Lee is your friend, but I must always advise others to keep an eye on any descendent of the Abadeer family line. Demonic creatures are never to be trusted no matter how they may act, and this is especially true of the Abadeers. They lack the same morality as creatures on this plane."
Cake narrowed her eyes in suspicion. "You're talking like you've spent some time with them."
Peppermint Maid gave her a blank, empty look, but said nothing to confirm nor deny. "If you do choose to spend your time with vampires or demons, I would also suggest, if I may, to always keep the upper hand. So when and if things do take a turn for the worse, you have a way out."
"Glob, you guys, Marshall Lee isn't like that," Fionna said. "How many times do I have to tell you?"
Cake flinched, knowing that no matter how many times they had this discussion, she'd never convince the stubborn human of anything. "I don't know, Fi. Sometimes when he's angry, he looks at others like he really could tear them apart for annoying him. It creeps me the math out."
With a petulant frown at the much shorter females, Fionna swiftly stormed passed the Peppermint Maid toward the staircase. "I'm going to get Prince Gumball."
"Fi, wait," Cake called.
"Ma'am, just be patient," the maid said. "He'll be down momentarily."
Fionna didn't even slow down. Her arms swung stiffly by her side as she made her way up the staircase. "If you're so afraid of Marshall, don't go to his concert!" she called back.
It was easy to tell which bedroom belonged to Prince Gumball. The doorway was oversized with ornate carvings around the frame. Fionna pounded on the door with more force than necessary and shouted, "What's taking so long, PG?"
The door opened, revealing a very calm and patient Prince Gumball. "The concert isn't for another two hours, Fionna. We have plenty of time."
Whatever Fionna was about to say died on her tongue as she took in the Prince's appearance. "What are you wearing?"
"Is this not casual enough? I wanted to look nice for the concert."
For a moment, Fionna didn't know what to say. She wasn't a very fashionable person, but even she couldn't let one of her friends go to a rock concert in a pink argyle sweater vest. "Do you have anything else you could wear?" Without waiting for an answer, she pushed past the prince and headed straight for his closet.
Gumball blinked in surprise as the adventuress dove into his clothes, tossing random pink items behind her. "H-hey! That's rather private, Fionna!"
"Is everything you have pink?" She held up a pair of white boxers covered with pink-wrapped lollipops and blushed.
"Fionna!" Gumball shouted indignantly, turning a deeper shade of pink himself. "That's really not proper!" He snatched the offending underwear from the adventuress and shoved the wadded up item into a dresser.
With a shrug, Fionna went back to searching, quickly scanning over each article. At last, she found an outfit she deemed suitable and shoved it into his arms, smiling hopefully at him all the while.
With a slight glare at her rude actions, Gumball stated, "I honestly don't see what's wrong with my outfit. I mean, you're wearing a long sleeve shirt with a bunny on it."
"This bunny's way hardcore, dude. It's got fangs, see?"
Not entirely convinced, he reluctantly went to his personal bathroom and changed. With a light pink undershirt and mauve cardigan, Gumball still looked like a dweeb, but at least he looked like a slightly ironic dweeb.
"Can we go now?" the prince said with a tiny note of complaint, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning on one foot.
"Almost!" Fionna grabbed the crown from his head and placed it on the dresser, then beamed up at him with a wide smile. "Okay. Now we can go."
With the Prince traveling with Lord Monochromicorn and Fionna traveling with Cake, the four made it to the concert with enough time to spare. The sun was still visible over the horizon, and Marshall wouldn't be seen until it had set entirely. Gumball carried their tickets, knowing that if any of the others held onto them, they were much more likely to be torn, ripped, lost, or otherwise destroyed. He passed the tickets to a muscular cupcake with sunglasses, who tore them in half and opened the gate for the four. Fionna rushed in excitedly, her hands wrapped around Gumball's to pull him along. "Oh, man, this is so math!" she exclaimed, her eyes darting around in glee. A few passing wood nymphs eyed her VIP lanyard with envy.
A stage had been set up in a large empty field, and even then, the audience was packed. Lord Monochromicorn took to the air rather than deal with the crowds, and, with Cake clutching onto his mane, flew over the heads of the concert goers, practically swirling in a dizzying dance with his girlfriend. The audience decided to view him as a giant black streamer and cheered, raising their bottles in appreciation.
Fionna, on the other hand, was determined to get as close to the stage as possible, and she did so by dodging and ducking through the crowd, dragging a very frazzled prince behind her. Once she was close enough to clearly see the stage, she turned to the candy royal.
"It's, uhm, a bit crowded, don't you think?" Gumball shouted above the harsh noise of the concert-goers.
"Marshall's shows are always crowded, PG. Where have you been?"
"Not to a Horror Kings concert, apparently."
"You'll love it!"
But Gumball did not love it. The first act that came on, some heavy rock trio called Electric Shock, played a loud cacophony of songs that had no real melody and dark, gore-filled lyrics. The area smelled of heavy smoke, alcohol, and sweat. Gumball, who had his arms crossed to take up as little space as possible, was shoved from body to body. With every impact, he apologized to concert-goers that had better things to do that worry about a certain pink-haired prince.
Fionna seemed to be on the opposite end of the spectrum. She moved with the motions of the crowd, yelling cheers of encouragement even if she didn't care for the music. It was a bit like sparring and fighting, but with a musical accompaniment and no real winner.
By the time Electric Shock finished their set, the sun had set far beneath the horizon. The only lights were pointed toward the stage, casting the audience into an ominous, anticipating shadow. Caught up in the suspense, Fionna looped her arm around Prince Gumball's to pull him closer. Gumball was merely happy the crowd had stopped moving for an instant.
The Horror Kings consisted of four members, and each member stepped onstage one at a time to the climbing shouts of the audience. There was Bona, the drummer that had been with the band since the very beginning and the ghost of a once-famous musician. Brita was a blonde haired water witch and the lead guitarist. The newest member of the band, Andrew, was a pale blue-skinned wizard who strode onstage coolly, his hands buried in his tight jean pocket. He tossed his dark hair out of his eyes as he picked up his keyboard, smirking at the high-pitched shrieks of the females in the audience. And then, of course, there was Marshall Lee.
The lights dimmed further, and a strike of lightning cut through the air even though there wasn't a cloud in sight. Gumball squinted up to see if Lord Monochromicorn was the cause of it, but the black horse was camouflaged by the night skies.
Fog flooded the stage, thick and grey, casting the band members into silhouettes. Another strike of lightning cut through the air like an oncoming storm, followed by bats, hundreds of them, swarming the stage in waves.
"Oh, wow," the Prince said as he tilted his head back to take in the spectacle.
Fionna rolled her eyes. "Show off."
The bats flew upwards to hover center stage. In the midst of them, a figure took shape with a red axe strapped to his back. With a shock of electricity, a microphone appeared in his outstretched hand, its cord wrapping around his arm. Lifting his head slowly, Marshall narrowed his eyes and smiled into his audience.
The crowd screamed to harold his arrival. All hail Marshall Lee. The Rock God. The Vampire King.
His feet hit the stage as the fog thinned, signaling the beginning of the first song. His voice traveled through the field, heavenly almost and a direct contrast to the deep rhythms of his bass.
And the crowd loved him.
Marshall spotted Fionna and Gumball near the front and pointed at them with a wink. Two girls in front of the two shrieked and clutched onto each other, thinking he was referencing them.
Being distracted by the band's music and theatrics, Fionna hardly noticed the swift nymph of a girl that darted through the thin gaps between audience members and wisped through their breaths. The girl's slender hand clutched onto the lanyard hanging around Fionna's neck and effortlessly looped it over her head, giggling a high pitched laugh. "Hey, that's mine!" the adventuress screamed as she attempted to chase after the blue-haired thief. But she was neither as thin as the nymph nor as fast, and by the time someone moved out of her way, the culprit had all but vanished into the dense audience.
"That's pooped up, you lumping donkus!" she shouted in the off chance her voice would be heard.
While being shoved into a rather overweight neighbor, Gumball's eyes narrowed in a proud 'I told you so' fashion. "Are we having fun yet?"
No. She would not let this concert be a flop; Gumball was going to appreciate Marshall's music by the end of the night, so help her Glob. Raising her hand into the air, she shouted Cake's name at the top of her lungs, causing a few nearby people to wince. From somewhere in the dark skies, two tan and white hands stretched down and pulled up both the prince and the last human of Aaa. The two were placed on the back of Lord Monochromicorn, who was resting in an arch over the crowd.
"Welcome to the best seat in the house," Cake said smugly.
It was in fact a much better place than the crowds, and Fionna settled into her spot to watch the show.
Song after song, the band never lost their rhythm. With his eyes closed and the song flowing through him, Marshall hit every note effortlessly:
The bats have left the bell tower.
The victims have been bled.
Red velvet lines the black box
Bela Lugosi's dead.
Undead! Undead! Undead!
"It's starting to make sense to me," Gumball said as he watched the Horror Kings command that audience's attention. "The appeal, I mean."
"Told you, dude," Fionna answered.
"It's a glimpse into anarchy without a commitment; A balance between being civilized and being savage in a way." He paused to listen to the opening lines of the bridge. "The music trips the epinephrine centers to create a fight-or-flight response in the sympathetic nervous system. This compliments the whole idea of flirting with the evils of the Nightosphere from the safety of Aaa. It really is Marshall's specialty."
Fionna curled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs. She smiled fondly. "I just think it's talent."
"For this next song, I'm going to switch things up a bit." Marshall announced. He pulled back his hair from his face to look out over the audience. "This is a bit different, but I hope you'll like it. It'll be our last song for the evening." A nod to his bandmates signaled the beginning of the next song.
The tune was different; a bit softer and a bit more longing.
The world has ended,
And you're what's left.
You'll meet the day
Till the sun has set.
I could drink your blush
And live in that rush
Till the bombs
Take away all our bets.
The blue stage light caught against the Prince's face to tint his skin a light violet. "Fionna, there's something I've been meaning to tell you." He kept his gaze steadily away from her. "As you know, every prince must sometime become a king. To do so, he must marry a queen. It's both logical and traditional."
Fionna's breath caught in her chest. She'd imagined this moment a hundred times in a hundred different ways, with a crown atop her head or his hand curled against hers. Or maybe they had kissed a kiss that was nothing like the chaste pecks on the cheek she was used to. But never here. Never at a Horror King show.
"Fionna…" His eyes steadily met her cautious stare. "I'm marrying the Sugar Princess, and I'd be honored if you could come to our wedding."
There comes a moment in everyone's life when the universe tilts, shifting a worldview just before the first words make an impact. The heart is as delicate as a wish on a falling star, and both can go up in smoke like a mushroom cloud following a detonation.
"Oh," Fionna said.
From somewhere in the distance, Marshall Lee's voice settled in the air:
I stole your light
And you stole my heart.
We're pretty and soiled
And damned from the start.
So Rupunzel, let's see your hair.
Cause this ill-fated villain
Can do nothing but stare.
She couldn't look at the Prince. His words repeated in her head, taunting her. Why did this even matter? She had been over Gumball for years now.
But her chest was tightening in a steel grip, and it was getting harder to breathe.
She smiled, and it was ugly and more akin to a grimace. "I'd be happy to go."
"Excellent! I can't wait for you to formally meet her."
Fionna had met the Sugar Princess once before. She was slim with elegant curves. Her long white hair fell straight to frame her tear-drop white face. Her big black eyes were doe-shaped and soft, and she moved with a slow and careful grace.
The Sugar Princess was everything Fionna was not.
The song ended with a wild applause.
Depressed, Fionna hid most of her face behind her knees, watching the band members vanish from the stage in a puff of smoke. She had to get away from Prince Gumball, but one look at Cake cuddling with Monochromicorn told her she didn't want to be anywhere near them. So she excused herself and slid down to the ground.
The audience was in a traffic jam on their way to the exit, and Fionna had to battle her way through the seas. Somehow, the effort was more annoying than it was before. At last, she reached the end of the crowds and ran toward the backstage entrance.
"Whoa, whoa!" A bear security guard said as he blocked her path with his paw. "Where do you think you're going, little missy?"
"I need to talk to Marshall Lee."
"Yeah?" He raised his eyebrows. "You and every other female out there."
Somehow, that made her feel even worse. "He gave me a pass, but someone stole it. Just ask him."
"Yeah, right. Take a hike, girly."
It was sheer luck that Bona happened to be floating through the area at that very moment. Seeing the dilemma, the drummer placed a hand on the bear's fuzzy shoulder and said, "Relax, Jerry. Marshall knows her. She's cool."
Not liking the idea of being wrong, Jerry the Bear glared, but opened the gate with a slight grumble anyway.
"I owe you like crazy whoa!" Fionna said to the chill ghost.
Bona put her arm around the much shorter girl's shoulder. "No worries. Any friend of Marshall's is a friend of mine."
The backstage area was much smaller than she expected. Ratty couches filled up most of the space, and there was hardly enough room to move past the stained coffee table. Brita sat in some guy's lap, laughing at something Andrew said. Andrew had an alcohol bottle in his hand and an arm wrapped around a pretty young girl who looked way too excited to be there. Marshall Lee was on a long couch, his head lowered as he idly strummed some notes on his bass guitar. He had put on a long sleeved dark grey hoodie at some point after the show ended. A mostly-empty glass of red wine sat on the table in front of him. And to Fionna's surprise, the thief of a nymph that stole her VIP pass was sitting beside him, her arms wrapped around his back and her chin resting on his shoulder.
All at once, Fionna was filled with a mixture of sorrow and rejection. The emotions pounded through her veins till she didn't know how to feel.
Marshall lifted his head and smiled. "Hey, Fi. Enjoy the show?"
"You know her?" the nymph said with a disgusted scowl.
Ignoring her, he said to the adventuress, "You should chill for a while. I think someone from the venue's bringing some snacks or something."
Fionna wrapped her arms tightly around herself as though to shield out her emotions. "Wanna walk outside with me? I think I need some fresh air."
With his eyebrows lowering in concern, Marshall said, "Uhh, yeah, sure." He placed his axe bass next to the couch.
"Marshall!" the nymph whined. She stood when he stood, wrapping her arms around his elbow. "Don't you want to stay? Maybe spend some time with me?" Her fingers trailed along his chest. "We can find some way to keep ourselves distracted."
Either his wound was still sensitive or he was sincerely annoyed by the girl because Marshall whipped around to face her with a slight hiss. "Does it look like I want to do that?!"
The girl gasped in shock, falling back onto the couch. Taking the opportunity, Andrew the Keyboardist sat beside her and whispered comforting words in her ears.
With a self-satisfied smirk, Marshall placed an arm around Fionna and escorted her out the door.
It was quieter outside than it had been before. Nearly everyone had already left the venue, making the night's darkness seem absolute.
Hovering next to her, Marshall shoved his hands in the pockets of his hoodie. "So what has the heroine of Aaa all troubled?"
"I don't want to talk about it," Fionna answered truthfully. "Just…. Will you walk with me for a while?"
Obligingly, his feet touched the ground.
"I didn't mean literally," she added, shooting him a sly look, which he returned with a subdued sense of entertainment.
A staff member walked by, carrying a tray full of snacks backstage. As he passed, Marshall plucked a strawberry for himself and a cookie for Fionna. He bit into the fruit rather than drained the color and chewed it slowly. "I'm glad strawberries still exist," he said suddenly, eyeing the remaining half of his snack.
She stared at him in curiosity. Up until that point, she didn't even think it was possible for him to eat solid foods. The whole thing was just another point to add to the growing list of mysteries surrounding Marshall Lee. "Why wouldn't they?" she asked.
He grinned at her cryptically, shrugged, then drained the color from the rest of the strawberry and tossed the grey husk into a nearby bush. "So be honest with me. What did you think of the concert?"
"Your shows are always mathematical, Marsh." Up until the end, that is, but the band could hardly be blamed for that. Feeling uneasiness start to return, Fionna bit into her cookie. It was warm, and the melted chocolate was like some sort of therapy. She finished it off and licked a drop of chocolate from her finger.
"You think the reviewers will like it?"
For someone as confident as the Vampire King, he was certainly self conscious about his music. "They'd be idiots if they didn't," Fionna replied truthfully.
Marshall was quiet for a long while as the two wandered up the stairs and onto the empty stage. Without the hundreds of bodies crowding the floor, the deserted venue looked massive. He took the microphone and hesitated, looking out over the empty field.
"What is it?" she asked.
With shadows of his past filling his mind, he swallowed. "The world looked a little bit like this," he said. "After the war."
She looked out over the vast emptiness and tried to see what he saw. The ground was littered with crushed cups, crumbled up papers, and forgotten shoes; a subtle reminder of the chaos that had happened mere moments ago.
Marshall closed his eyes and hummed a sorrowful melody into the microphone. His gentle voice echoed through the barren wasteland of a field like a eulogy and fell over a deaf audience of debris. The song ended softly, and he slowly opened his eyes. He always had turned to music when he couldn't find the right things to say. It was the exact opposite of Fionna, who always held her emotion on a clearly-read flag.
The hummed song meant something completely different to her. "Marshall," she said on barely a breath. It was surprising that he heard and turned to look at her, but then again, he always did have superhuman hearing. She suddenly didn't know what to say. A quicksand had formed somewhere in her heart guts, stealing her words from her abruptly dry mouth.
He tilted his head as he tried to read her emotions. "Seriously, Fi. Something's up with you."
"I'm fine. Really." She shifted her feet under his critical stare, blinking back the threat of tears. No. There was no way she could cry in front of Marshall Lee Abadeer. He'd never stop teasing her for it. "Look, I think I'm going to head home," she said. "But thanks for hanging out with me. Your concert rocked." As soon as she turned around, he was hovering upside down in front of her.
"I don't think so. Something's bothering you, and I'm not letting you leave until you tell me."
Her tough glare was ruined when a tear trailed down her cheek. "You'll laugh at me."
"Only if it's funny." At her irritated glower, he added, "Okay, bad joke." He flipped upright in the air to make it easier to talk. "I won't laugh. Promise.
She let out a deep breath, her gaze absently focusing on the strings of his grey hoodie. "Gumball's getting married," she said softly.
"To the Sugar Princess."
For some reason, an angry spark was forming somewhere in his chest. "I thought you were over him."
"So what's the problem?!" His words were practically a shout. Since when did her crush on Prince Gumball affect him so?
"I don't like him like that, but it still hurts, you know?"
"Not really. If you're over him, why does it matter who the hell he marries? It's not like he was sworn to you."
The words hit her hard, and Fionna found her voice raising to match his. "I guess I can't expect you to understand. You've never been the last of anything."
As one of the few survivors of the Mushroom War, Marshall felt the small spark within him blaze to life. "What is there to understand?! You fell in love with a defenseless pink prince who used you as a bodyguard and then you got upset when he didn't return your affections. Did you expect him to change his mind?!" Some nagging part in the back of his head told him he was being harsh, but it was drowned out by his demon-inherited temper. His teeth were a bit sharper than they had been before, and a red burning flame alit in the black of his eyes. "Or even better, what about the time you thought dating the Flame Prince was a good idea? He could have killed you! Just being near him was dangerous!"
With hands curled into fists, she glared down the Vampire King. "What, more dangerous than being near YOU? The King of Darkness, Ruler of the Vampires?! You act like a citizen, but you're still just an unpredictable monster."
The anger all at once drained from his face, his features subtly shifting back to normal. "What?"
"At least Gumball and the Flame Prince didn't have the urge to eat me or drink my blood or whatever. You can't even taste anything unless it's the color of blood. Do you have any idea how messed up that is?!"
It was like another sharp object had been driven through his heart. Marshall hovered closer to the ground, staring at the furious human girl in shock. He knew that was the opinion of a lot of people. But Fionna? "Look, you're right," he said abruptly, closing his eyes and dragging his fingers through his hair. "I shouldn't have pried into your personal business. You probably have places to be anyway."
As he turned to leave, the impact of her words hit her. "Wait, Marshall," she said, grabbing onto his hand before he floated away. "I didn't mean that."
His expression was entirely neutral as he looked at her.
"Sometimes words just vomit from my mouth when I'm frustrated, and they're dumb and silly and untrue." In her desperation for his trust, she entwined her fingers through his. "You're not a monster. Not even close. I've fought enough monsters to know, and you're not one."
His eyes lowered to the ground. "It's none of my business if you like Prince Gumball anyway."
"But I don't like him. He's a cool guy, but I don't want to date him."
"Then why are you so upset that he's marrying some Sugar Princess?"
Fionna wasn't even sure she understood it until the answer tumbled from her mouth. "Because I'll never be like her. I'll never be this elegant, loved Princess."
"And why would you ever want to be?"
She roughly wiped away a stray tear with the palm of her hand. "I have big fat thighs and bunny teeth, and the one time I went to a tea party, I broke all the fine china. I'm not pretty or charming or ladylike. No prince would ever want me."
"Then how about a king?"
"What?" The word had barely left her mouth when his lips were pressed tightly against hers. Her thoughts evaporated like smoke, her eyes widening in shock.
It wasn't what she expected from a kiss from Marshall Lee. She imagined him to be vicious or harsh, but after the initial awkwardness, when she melted against him and closed her eyes in acceptance, the kiss was actually quite gentle and sweet. His lips were soft, not cold nor possessive like expected. He placed his cool hand on the back of her neck, causing a chill to travel down her spine. It was contrasted by the deep blush that heated up her cheeks.
And all too soon, it was over.
Marshall backed away from her, looking just as shocked as she was. His hand was still on the back of her neck, and for a while, neither of them knew what to do. Fionna was suddenly very aware of her rapid breathing and his complete lack of breath, a reminder of who exactly just kissed her.
'Oh my glob,' she thought. 'Cake is going to kill me.'
"… Uhmm?" It was the only thing she could say.
He blinked and backed away from her like she had abruptly developed some contagious disease. "Sorry, I didn't mean..." He hesitated, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. "I should probably go. We can talk about things later."
"I don't know when I'll be back," he interrupted.
"Wait, where are you going?"
His shoulders raised in a shrug. "I have kingly stuff to do. Responsibilities and junk. Nothing you should worry about. I'll see you sometime, Fi." The next thing she knew, he was flying upward, leaving her there alone.
With all the events of the night compiling into one giant emotional ball of bewilderment, she shouted into the sky, "What the flip, Marshall Lee! You can't just leave me like this!" In her frustration, she grabbed an empty soda can and tossed it at his feet, but he was far too high for her to reach at that point.
So Fionna was left alone on an empty stage, more confused than ever before.
NEXT CHAPTER: THE VANISHING ACT