Chapter 4: Of Saints and Monsters
The wallpapers in hospitals are awful, Fionna thought, staring blankly into the distance.
She hadn't moved from her curled-up position in forty minutes. The ugly, uncomfortable hospital lobby chair made her back and neck ache, but she couldn't find the strength or resolve to move. Even though people wandered in and out of the area, no one said anything to her. They were obviously disturbed by the blood-covered clothes and scratches lining her body, but that was okay. Though typically a sociable person, Fionna preferred to be left alone at the moment.
She hadn't heard a word about Marshall's condition from any of the doctors and nurses. In fact, Dr. Ice Cream had pretty much vanished into the backrooms. Some paranoid part of her wondered if maybe they had simply thrown Marshall's unconscious body into a room and left him to die. Oh, Glob, what if she was just sitting there when Marshall was just tossed away like trash?
Okay, calm down, Fionna, she told herself. The Candy People wouldn't be that heartless. Alright, maybe some of them would, but those people didn't work in hospitals. She'd just have to trust them to do the right thing.
"Fionna, honey, I came as soon as I could!" Cake's voice shot throughout the silent lobby like an arrow, causing one nervous-looking marshmallow person to jump in fright. The cat carried with her an armful of green and white clothing.
With one long look over her adopted sister's raggedy condition, Cake's eyes grew wide, and her mouth fell open in shock. "Oh, baby, what happened?"
"Well, it was Marshall Lee…"
At the mention of their vampire friend and the sight of Fionna's blood-covered clothes, Cake's tail fluffed up and she exclaimed, "What did that vampire do? Oh, I'll kill him. I'll claw his eyes out and throw garlic at him till he won't show his face this side of the Nightosphere."
"Cake, chill, Marshall didn't do anything," Fionna explained. "I was in the Dark Forest, and some big freak of a monster attacked me. Marshall came in to help, and the monster injured him. Badly." She was silent for a moment, then she added softly, "Really badly. I'm worried about him, Cake."
The calico raised one eyebrow dubiously. "Hm. Must have been some monster to take down a Vampire King." Cake wasn't one hundred percent fond of her sister's undead friend, but she knew what he meant to Fionna, and well, if he was that important to her sister, then she could tolerate him too. She also knew what he was capable of when provoked. He was in no way, shape, or form an easy opponent to defeat.
"You should get changed, girl," Cake said, passing over the clean clothing. "You look like a scene from a slasher film."
Fionna took the outstretched clothes, already imagining how glorious it would be to feel clean again. Although she wasn't a very feminine girl, she had a few indulgences, and fresh clothes was one of them.
She changed in the bathroom and dropped her blood-stained blue shirt and skirt in a plastic bag. After hesitating for a moment, she tied the bag tightly and tossed it in the trash can. It wasn't worth even trying to save.
Her face was a red, blotchy mess in the bathroom mirror, and she winced at the sight. Dark marks circled her swollen eyes, a shallow scratch lined one side of her lip, and her hair was a tangled mess beneath her bunny hat. "Ughhh," she groaned. She tried to run her fingers through her tangled bangs, but they only caught in the strands, further tightening the knots. Cake had brought her a green and white striped sweater that was a size too large and a pair of loose blue jeans. Whatever shape she had developed in her teenage years was drowned in the oversized striped sweater. With a deadpan glare to her twin in the mirror, she stuffed the loose locks of hair back into her hat, splashed her face with water, and decided she'd just look like someone tore off her face and regurgitated it back on her head. If they didn't like it, they didn't have to look at her.
And with that mentality, she stormed back into the hospital waiting room to face the medical staff. Dr. Ice Cream was already in the lobby chatting quietly with Cake, much to her surprise. She darted over to the two, looking hopefully between them. "Well?" she asked. "Is he okay?"
The doctor held his clipboard close to his chest, frowning at the overactive teen's wide, hopeful stare. "He's showing no vital signs at all, so it's impossible to tell. His injuries are serious and fatal. If anyone else were in his condition, I'd say they were gone."
"But it's not just anyone," Fionna said. "It's Marshall Lee. He's the Vampire King, and he's been around for practically, like, forever."
"Look, Fionna, he may be okay, and he may not be. I've never encountered a situation with a vampire before. We've cleaned his wounds and bandaged him, but that's as far as we can go at this point. He's lost most of his blood, and he's completely unresponsive to any external stimuli. Now we just have to wait to see if he wakes up."
Not exactly the most patient person in Aaa, she frowned at that solution. "Can I at least see him?"
He straightened the glasses over his eyes. "I would have to discourage that. Even if he does wake up, we don't know the condition he'll be in, both physically and mentally. He could be a danger to anyone near him, and some of our patients and staff have already voiced concerns about his stay in our hospital."
"I'm going to see him," Fionna said, full of determination.
Cake looked up at her human sister. "I don't think that's a good idea, Fi. Marshall could be all blood-thirsty and bat crazy when he wakes up."
"And I trust him, so I'm going to stay with him."
The Doctor sniffed, eyebrows raised arrogantly, and scribbled something on his clipboard. "That's up to you, but I'm required to give you that warning. In the meantime, are there any family members we should alert to his condition?"
"None you'd want to meet," Cake muttered.
"Yeah," Fionna said. "Let's not call family."
"Very well," he answered. "I'll take you back to see Mr. Marshall Lee then."
Cake followed along, which Fionna guessed was partially for her rather than Marshall's sake. The long hallways were silent save for the faint hum of the overhead lights, making the trek to his room awkward. They past by elderly candy people with walking canes and children in waiting rooms with runny noses. She would have never thought that Marshall would ever end up in a place like this.
His room was in a back corner of the hospital a bit away from everyone else, and she wondered if that was on purpose. Dr. Ice Cream opened the door and stepped back to let the two in. "A nurse is scheduled to drop by his room every so often for a check up. If you need anything or have questions, there's a button on the wall that will contact the office." And with that, the doctor closed the door.
Fionna and Cake glanced at each other nervously because nothing good ever came of hospitals, then turned to look at the unconscious Vampire King in the nearby bed. The blood had been cleaned off of his body, much to Fionna's relief. His shirt had been removed, and white bandages were wrapped tightly over his chest and neck.
Fionna was the first to approach him, stepping hesitantly beside his bed. Without the blood and gore covering his neck and clothes, he could have been sleeping. Cautiously, her hand reached out to brush against his cheek. Even if he did go crazy like the last time she touched his cheek while he slept, it would be okay, because that just meant he was alive and okay, and she wanted that more than anything.
But that never happened. There was no reaction from her touch.
"He doesn't look good, Fi," Cake stated, and it surprised the young human to hear the worry in the cat's voice.
Fionna's fingers drifted down to graze against his bare forearm. "Marshall," she whispered. "I'm so sorry." His skin was colder than usual from the blood loss, and she wanted to wrap her arms around him and hold him till warmth returned. Her gaze drifted over his unclothed torso, lingering on the muscles in his chest and arms, and suddenly, all she could think about was how her body would feel pressed against his. The heat of a blush rushed over her face at the thought. She had never seen him without a shirt before. Marshall didn't have the incredibly defined muscles of a body builder, but he was skinny without being scrawny and lean with subtle hints of an incredible strength.
Cake raised one eyebrow at her sister, a knowing smirk curving the corners of her lips. "What're YOU lookin' at?"
Fionna's blush deepened until she could have sworn her face was burning, and she quickly changed the subject. "Should we do something for him?"
"Like what? Buy him flowers and 'Get Well Soon' cards?" Cake rested her arms on the bars of his hospital bed. "I don't think he'd appreciate those, sis."
"Yeah…. Probably not."
Spotting the medical clipboard at the end of his bed, Cake quickly snatched it up and looked over the front page.
"Dude, put that back," Fionna said. "We can't snatch up medical records and stuff."
"It was out in plain view. They won't mind."
Fionna shot her a doubtful expression, but peered over to read the information as well.
ABADEER, MARSHALL LEE
VAMPIRE W/ POSSIBLE DEMON BLOOD
--Deep wounds on chest and neck area. Clean and change bandages every 5 hours as needed.
--Approach with caution until patient is able to communicate fully and efficiently.
--Diet consists of red liquids and solid objects in shades of red.
"Hehehe. Abadeer," Cake said, chuckling to herself. "Forgot he had that name."
Fionna pulled a chair from the corner of the room to his bedside and sat down, folding her arms to rest on the bed railing.
"Are you staying the rest of the night?" Cake asked.
The calico cat hesitated as she thought it over. "Oh. Well… So am I." And with that, she grabbed her own chair and sat at the end of his bed.
It wasn't long before Cake was sound asleep, and the only interruptions were from the nurses that occasionally checked in. At first, the staff had suggested that Fionna retire home for the night. When that didn't work, they advised that Marshall may be unstable when he awoke. And when that didn't make her budge, they stopped speaking to her altogether.
Fionna traced her fingers along his arm, humming one of his band's more popular songs. Marshall loved music. Maybe hearing it would wake him…
In the dark hospital room when everyone else was asleep, Fionna sang softly and off-key, "My cursed blood is your cursed blood. Come on back and be my bud. I can count your visits on my fingertips." She carefully brushed a lock of hair out of his face, tucking it neatly behind his pointed ear. "Come back and give me presents from your business trips."
The sound of an opening door interrupted her song, and she jerked her hand away from his face. Expecting hospital staff, Fionna sighed, closing her eyes in frustration. It surprised her when a warm hand was placed on her shoulder. She lifted her head to see Prince Gumball looking down at her gently.
"You look tired, Fi," the prince said. His crown caught the faint light of the dresser lamp.
"I'm fine. Someone's gotta be here if he decides to wake up, you know?"
"We have hospital staff for that." Gumball crossed his arms over his chest, pausing as he considered his next words. "He's not going to die, you know."
"How do you know?"
"Because it's not that easy to kill a vampire, and Marshall Lee's not weak."
Fionna exhaled, feeling her heart sink further. "I don't know anything about vampires."
He sat in the last open chair in the room, crossing his legs and leaning back to look both casual and regal. With one hand lightly touching his cheek, he stared blankly at the unconscious Marshall. "Perhaps that's a good thing," he said, sounding thoughtful. "They're not very good creatures."
"Marshall Lee's good."
"Marshall Lee's a bit of an anomaly."
Big words. Depressed, she slouched forward and leaned her elbows on her knees. Her position was a direct pointed contrast to Gumball's always-perfect posture. Why did he always use those complicated phrases that she didn't understand?
"So what are you doing here so late?" Fionna asked.
"I got a call from a few concerned citizens about a vampire staying in the hospital. They thought it wasn't proper or safe and wanted him gone." Sardonically, he waved one hand in a circular motion. "They wanted me to 'do something about it'."
"Are you going to?"
"What type of ruler would I be if I didn't listen to my people?" He shot her a sly grin. "So I'm going to make sure Marshall Lee gets well enough to leave as soon as possible."
Fionna snorted a short laugh. "You're a really cool dude sometimes, PG."
"I do my best."
For the next two days, Fionna spent her free time in the hospital. Some of the staff-- and Cake too-- thought she was crazy. Why waste her time at the bedside of a vampire? Especially knowing that he may never wake up?
The answer was obvious, of course. Fionna was sincere and human, and she cared about others more than anyone else in the land of Aaa. Even in her teenage years, she'd never lost that child-like hope that things would turn out for the best if she fought hard enough. And if there was one thing Fionna could be called, it was a fighter. When given a goal, she would battle until her hands bled raw and her skin was bruised and maybe one or two of her bones were cracked; the one and only Heroine of Aaa.
It was on the third day since Marshall's injury that Fionna was called on an adventure with Cake. Some grass giant had been terrorizing the flower village, but it turned out to be more of an annoyance than a battle. The two easily chased the giant off with a few light punches. The biggest obstacle was dealing with the giant's complaints about the heroes "ruining his fun."
Tired from lack of sleep, Fionna returned to the hospital, lazily greeting the front desk secretary. She passed two middle-aged candy people that whispered conspiratorially, and she knew they were talking about her… or, more specifically, about Marshall Lee. With a roll of the eyes and an annoyed sigh, she continued down the hallway into Marshall's room.
"You really gotta get better soon, man," she muttered to Marshall's unconscious form. "I can't deal with all these sick turbo-jerks anymore." She bent over his face, carefully examining it for any signs of life. With one finger, she poked at the tip of his nose. "Get. Better. Now." When there was no response, she shrugged and plopped down into her chair.
A tap at the door startled her from her rest. Two teenage girls peered in the room cautiously. The first one, a blonde cookie person with a sideways ponytail, asked quietly, "Is this where Marshall Lee the Vampire King is staying?"
"Yeah," Fionna answered.
The second girl, a soft-spoken strawberry that sported a Marshall Lee and the Horror Kings t-shirt, stood on her tippy toes to see over the bed railing. "Do you think he would mind if we said hi?"
Dryly, Fionna glanced over at his motionless body. "I don't see any reason why he would."
The Horror Kings fan grinned from ear to ear and did a tiny hop in excitement. The blonde gave her a small push to go first, and the two stepped in beside his bed. "Oh, my glob, it's really him," the strawberry girl said. "I've been wanting to meet him since his first cd."
"She was always too afraid to say hi at his concerts," the blonde stated.
"Was not! Security always told me we weren't allowed backstage."
"Right, and that's why you hid when he glanced your way."
The strawberry pouted and glared at her friend.
"So, does he really drink red?" the blonde asked. "Like blood and stuff?"
Fionna, not really in the mood to deal with fan girls, quoted, "Only from lost little girls that ask too many questions."
The strawberry girl's eyes grew wide. "And does he eat strawberries?"
Fionna's lips twisted into a sly smile, and she suddenly knew why Marshall got a kick out of terrifying people. "Oh, yeah. Strawberries are his favorite."
The girl glanced nervously at her friend, who looked less than impressed. "I don't know what you're afraid of. He's not even conscious." To prove her point, she smacked his arm with the back of her hand.
The reaction happened immediately. With a sudden intake of breath, Marshall sat straight up in his bed, his solid black eyes wide open. He let out a chilling scream that made goosebumps travel along Fionna's arms. The two girls, suddenly under his hollow gaze, both stumbled back, and the blonde tripped over a nearby chair. His face was twisted into a more demonic shape than usual, his sharp teeth long and dangerous in the room. The blonde girl couldn't look away from his eyes, and she scooted back on the floor to get away.
"Marshall!" Fionna shouted, leaping onto the bed with him. Her hands wrapped around his upper arms to get his attention. His muscles were tense and shifted beneath her grip as though they wanted to morph into one of his other forms but had not decided which one yet. Fionna couldn't let that happen. These patients and nurses were already terrified of him. Who knew what they'd do if they saw one of his more extreme demon forms.
His attention was still focused on the teenage girls, and Fionna shouted, "Marshall! Look at me!" Those reflective demon eyes turned to her, and she could see her own pleading gaze within them. His fingers had grown into sharp claws that wrapped tightly around her own upper arms. A deep, low growl emitted from his chest, and it took everything Fionna had to not back away from him. "Marsh, it's me. It's Fionna." She trailed her fingers along his cheek.
It took three rapid heartbeats (she counted) for recognition to flicker in his expression. His panicked, rapid breaths slowed, and she watched as the black in his eyes shrank to its normal size. "Fionna?" he asked in a raspy voice.
She laughed in relief, feeling tears threaten to sting her eyes. "Yeah." And because he was alive and none of her nightmares had come true, she threw her arms around his neck and pulled him into a hug. "You're okay," she said, smiling as a few tears trailed down her cheeks and onto his shoulder.
Now, Marshall Lee did not hug. He was a night creature, and that meant that signs of affection like hugging or tender caresses were generally looked down upon. Because of this, it surprised her when his arms encased her in a close embrace. She melted into his arms, amazed at how comfortable it felt to be there. His bare skin was cold against hers, and she wondered if her human body heat was comfortable to him. Did he crave it, or was it irritating?
All too soon, the hug was over, and Marshall clutched onto her arms once again. He stopped her before she could back entirely away, resting his forehead against her shoulder.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
It was a long time before he answered with a soft, shaky, "Yes."
"Should I call the doctor?"
"Just… give me a moment, okay?"
He took a few deep, steady breaths, his grip on her arms rigid. Then, tense as though making a great effort, he sat straight up and glanced around the room. "I must have been really out of it cause there's no way I'd willingly come to the Candy Kingdom Hospital." Despite his hoarse voice, it sounded like the Marshall Lee she knew. "How long have I been out?"
"Three days. I carried you here cause I didn't know where else to go. There aren't exactly any vampire hospitals around." She tilted her head as she thought that over. "Well, none that I know of at least."
He blinked in surprise. "You carried me here?"
"Well, I couldn't just leave you alone in the forest. You'd do the same for me."
He stared at her for a moment before grinning. "You think I'd waste that much energy for a little mortal hero like you?"
"I do." She smiled back at him proudly. "You act all mean and junk, but I know inside, you're just a big soft marshmallow."
"A marshmallow," he repeated.
"Yep. Marshall the Marshmallow."
"You were more fun when you thought I was evil."
The door burst open, interrupting their conversation to reveal a very frazzled-looking Nurse Poundcake. Her wide, panicked eyes darted around the room in alarm before landing on the Vampire King.
Marshall raised one hand with a casual, "Yo."
Confused by the scene, she pointed to Marshall Lee, then to the hallway and back again. "Two teenage girls just ran out of the hospital screaming that you were awake and wreaking havoc."
With a shrug, he slid back in the bed to recline. "Nah, I'm cool."
"Oh." she scratched her head awkwardly, looking to Fionna for confirmation that everything was okay. When Fionna nodded, the nurse walked to Marshall's bedside. "How are you feeling? Dizzy, woozy, anything out of the ordinary?" From her pocket, she pulled out a medical light and shined it into his right eye.
With a hiss, Marshall jerked away from her and rubbed his eyeball. Alarmed by his reaction, she took a quick step back.
"That hurts, woman. Ask before you do that," he said, his lips curled over his fangs.
Her mouth tightened into a thin line. "It's simply procedure, Mr. Abadeer."
"I'm fine. If I feel weird, I'll call you." He dismissed her with a wave of his hand.
With her responsibilities as a nurse warring in her head, she hesitated, gnawing on the inside of her cheek in nervousness. Then self preservation won out, and the nurse stepped daintily out of the room.
Marshall closed his eyes and slid further down into his bed, draping his arm over his eyes to block out the light as he did so.
"Do you want me to go too?" Fionna asked.
"You can stay if you want. You're not bothering me."
She curled her legs onto the bed beside him. "How do you feel?"
"Hungry," he answered immediately. "Something to eat would be nice."
"Anything you want, Marshall. Strawberries or cherries? Apples?"
He grinned as though laughing at his own private joke. "Yeah, sure. Sounds great," he answered in a tone that sounded like the idea was anything but great.
Always the naïve hero, Fionna leapt up from the bed and made her way toward the door, excited over the opportunity to help him. "You got it. I'll be back with food before you know it, Marsh."
With Fionna gone, Marshall sat up in bed. The effort caused an empty, burning sensation to spread like hot coals in his chest. He folded forward, wrenching his eyes shut in agony. He felt… drained. Like he imagined creatures would feel when his mother took their souls. With trembling hands, he unwrapped the bandages from his upper torso. The sight of his mangled, mutilated chest was worse than he imagined. His normally gray skin was inflamed with nasty shades of blues and sore reds. He winced, his fingers tentatively touching the wound. His teeth gritted together to deal with the pain that immediately pulsed through his body.
That creature really had got the best of him. He'd lost a lot of blood, and because of that, his body craved the taste of it to heal itself. Marshall didn't like violence and instead preferred to live off of red even if it was a bit bland and not nearly as fulfilling. After living so long, he'd become a master at controlling whatever bloodlust vampirism included, but at that moment, he could hear every heartbeat and movement in the nearby rooms. Blood was life; it kept creatures on the living plane. Missing so much of it, Marshall's instincts were demanding that he go take it.
"Damn it," he muttered to himself, pinching the bridge of his nose and breathing steadily. He did not need to deal with this right now.
To further complicate matters, Fionna stepped into the room, carrying with her a silver bowl full of strawberries and cherries. Not wanting her to see his chest, Marshall turned over in his bed, throwing the blankets over his upper body.
"Hey, did you take off your bandages?" she asked. "I wanna see."
"No." His voice was muffled by the bed sheets.
She sat the bowl on his bedside table and shook his arm lightly. "Are you pouting? Come on, please." She pulled on his arm to turn him over
He hissed at her with pointed fangs and large, demonically white eyes. Not phased by his theatrics, she whined, "Marshall Leeeee."
If there was one thing Fionna was, it was persistent, and if there was one thing Marshall had a weakness for, it was requests from his closest friends. Especially bunny-eared friends. Reluctantly, he rolled over, revealing his deep injury.
Fionna's face dropped, her eyes widening. "Ow," she said with a wince. Then, crinkling her nose, added, "Ew."
"I regret it."
He glanced around the room and, not finding what he was searching for, asked, "Where's my shirt?"
"Sacrificed to the Battle of the Dark Forest." She retrieved a white v-neck from a nearby dresser and handed it to him. "One of the nurses left this for you though." Once he put it on, the white color made his skin look not quite as pale.
Fionna then presented him with a bowl of fruit, smiling proudly. "I got everything red I could find in the kitchen."
How about everything red in the hospital?
"Thanks, Fi," he said, eyeing the red fruits. He selected a strawberry and brought it to his lips. If he closed his eyes, he could imagine it was something else. His teeth cut through the skin of the fruit like flesh, and the color filled his mouth like liquid, but at the end of the day, it was just a shade, and he was left with a hollow craving in his chest.
He opened his eyes to see Fionna sitting in the bed with him, her arms wrapped around her bent knees. Suddenly self conscious, Marshall dragged his tongue along his red-tinted fangs and asked, "What?"
She smiled honestly with a shrug. "I'm just glad you're okay is all." Her grin faltered for a small moment. "I thought that creature had killed you."
His arm leaned against hers in an effort to cheer her up. "Hey, I haven't fought like that in ages. It was fun."
"You're rusty, man."
"I didn't see you doing any better."
He was right, Fionna thought. In the end, she was lucky she had a weapon…
The color drained from her face as a realization hit her. His axe bass. She'd left it in the woods after the fight.
Marshall Lee was going to kill her. His axe had been a family heirloom for who knew how many centuries. He valued that thing more than most peoples' lives. How could she have just abandoned it when he'd trusted her with such a valuable item?
Seeing her change in attitude, Marshall said, "You fought fine, hero. I'm just teasing."
Her mouth suddenly dry, Fionna forced a grin on her face. "Just wait till the next fight, Lee. I'm going to destroy you in terms of skill."
As she spoke, she resolved to retrieve his axe bass from the Dark Forest…
Even if it was the last thing she did…
Fionna went home soon after that to get some sleep. And she did need it. Her voice was cracking due to exhaustion and dark circles highlighted the skin around her eyes.
Left alone and not having the energy to walk or float out of the hospital quite yet, Marshall was bedridden and bored out of his wits. It was a little past midnight when all good little citizens were in bed, and he didn't even have his guitar to keep him amused.
When there was a knock at the door and Prince Gumball peeked his head into the room with a polite, "Can I come in?", Marshall can honestly say he'd never been happier to see the Candy Ruler.
At Marshall's nod, Gumball backed into the door and stepped in carrying a fancy embellished silver tray with two lidded mugs. "How are you feeling?" he asked.
"Like I was stabbed two times in the chest and had my throat ripped out." He shot the prince a vicious smile. "Want to see?"
"Not particularly." Gumball daintily sat the tray on the bedside table and picked up the pink mug with a tiny gold crown on it. The mug was a joke gift from Lord Monochromicorn. Though he would never admit it, he treasured it as a symbol of their friendship. "I brought tea," he stated.
Marshall scowled in disgust. "I don't drink tea, Bubba. You know that."
The prince sipped at his own tea, eyeing the vampire as he did so. "Fionna was very worried about you."
"Fionna worries too much about people. She needs to watch out for herself."
"That's not who see is though," Gumball said, his voice gentle. "She had every right to be worried. I was concerned as well. You didn't look good, Marshall."
"Tch. It takes more than that to kill me."
"Yes, well, typically, two stabs into the chest of a vampire is enough to kill them."
With no retort to that statement, the Vampire King looked away.
"Fionna brought you red fruit, I see," Gumball said. There was a slyness to his expression as he added, "Perfect for a fruit bat, I suppose."
Marshall glared at his friend. "I'm not a bat."
"No. You're not." He steadied the bottom of his mug in the palm of his hand, looking regal as he did so. "You should really try your tea. I think you'd like it."
To satisfy the prince, Marshall attained the cup and opened the lid. The smell hit him like a right hook, and his eyes widened at Gumball in disbelief. "This is blood."
The Candy Prince didn't say anything, studying the vampire with his light purple eyes.
Marshall Lee blinked, staring at the cup as he got used to the idea. "Where did this come from?"
"Would it make you feel better if you didn't know?" Prince Gumball responded. "No one's dead or injured from it, if that's what you're asking."
Marshall's voice was toneless as he said, "You're not the saint you pretend to be."
"And you're not the monster you want others to think you are." His gaze landed blankly on the dresser. His next words were mechanical. "To be a good ruler, you must sometimes make sacrifices for the greater good for your subjects."
Marshall scowled, one lip curling over a very sharp tooth. "I'm not one of your candy subjects."
"No. But you're my friend."
"Blood's addictive, Bubba."
"I think I've known you long enough to trust you." Still sensing his hesitation, Gumball rolled his eyes and added, "Really, it's the same as a blood transfusion. Vampires operate differently than most creatures, and you lost a lot of blood that needs to be replaced." He waved one hand to the red fruit. "Colors aren't going to cut it if you're wanting to heal to full strength quickly. You know that." His eyes steadily met the vampire's black ones. "And you do need to be fully healed as soon as possible, don't you?"
The full gravity of those words caused Marshall Lee to grit his teeth together, and he swiftly looked away from the prince. A heavy silence weighed down on the room. Gumball stared at the wall in thought. He took another sip of his tea, and then, never facing the vampire, said, "It's why you're having your concert next week, isn't it? It's a farewell show. You're leaving for your world."
"Temporarily," Marshall responded immediately. "I have to if I want to keep my crown."
"I've read how Vampire Monarchy works. To become the ruler, someone must kill the ruling king or queen." He finally turned his gaze to Marshall Lee. "You killed the previous Vampire Queen."
"That was a long time ago," Marshall stated. "And it's a long story."
"The vampires will be looking to assassinate you."
"It happens every eight years, and they haven't succeeded yet." His eyes were striving for the light-hearted, teasing expression he typically wore, but failing to some extent. "I'm coming back." Even to his ears, it sounded doubtful.
Gumball took a deep breath, his gaze locked on an ugly wall painting. His next words came out of nowhere and were exhaled on a sigh. "I'm getting married."
And with those words, Marshall was yet again hit with a surprise. His eyebrows raised high to vanish under his black bangs. "You're what?"
"It's an arranged marriage to unite two kingdoms."
For a moment, the vampire didn't know what to say. And then, "Do you want to get married, Bubba?"
"I've never met her," he answered, shrugging. "Either way, it's not really about what I want. It's about what's best for the Candy Kingdom."
Looking doubtful, Marshall said, "I once got dragged into an arranged marriage. I can tell you how to get out of it if you want."
"That's quite all right. My responsibilities come first."
"Does Fionna know?"
"Not yet," he responded.
With a voice that was steady and a little sad, Marshall said, "You're going to break her heart."
Gumball shook his head slightly. "She's been over me for a while now. I don't think it'll matter to her that much."
There was a long moment of silence. In an attempt to lighten the mood, the vampire said, "So the Candy Prince is becoming the Candy King. About time."
Gumball smirked gently. "You better come back, Marshall Lee. I want you to be a guest at my wedding."
"Tch, don't invite me. I only crash weddings for the red velvet cake."
"I'll make sure we have some then." Gumball patted the vampire's arm and stood from his chair. "I need to get some rest, Marshall. Get well soon, my friend." After collecting his silver tray and pink coffee mug, Gumball left the Vampire King alone in the hospital room once again.
Marshall sat in silence for a long time after that, their conversation playing on repeat in his head as he stared blankly at his coffee mug full of blood.
NEXT CHAPTER: THE AXE BASS