Chapter 13:

There was a brisk chill in the air, and the king of monsters pulled his scarf tighter around his face. He was not so much bothered by the temperature, but the blast tended to dry out his skin more than usual.

"Could you hurry up lacing these things? They're cramping my feet."

"Do you need me to loosen them?" Prince Gumball asked, holding the stings in his gloved hands. For the last few minutes, he had managed to get his skates on while the vampire sipped on his hot cocoa, having brought a canister for them both. But the king was no master at lacing, thus Gumball decided to help out… and eventually take over.

"No, just get them on and I can break them in," Marshall Lee grunted, wiggling his toes inside the hard boots.

Cinching the laces up tight to make sure that his friend couldn't twist an ankle or something equally horrendous, the prince smiled up at the other male, patting his toe reassuringly before rising to his feet. The vampire still floated, awkward and unsure about skating, so before he invited the elder to join in, Gumball drifted out onto the frozen lake solo. He skated backwards nimbly, watching the king as he pushed smoothly out onto the ice. Giving his lover a wink, the candy royal turned on his toe and with a graceful lunge began to glide around the outer limit of the pond. Closing his eyes briefly and folding his hands neatly behind his back, the prince leaned back and forth, gaining speed as he silently cut across the surface of the lake, his boots slicing smooth, even scores in the ice.

Marshall watched, impressed at the elegance and precision of his friend on the unsteady blades, before lowering himself to try the same. He let his weight fall onto the thin blades and immediately tripped, waving his arms in the air wildly. Groaning, he had to lift himself slightly up, using the tiniest of his flying power to hold himself upright.

As Gumball came back around, having made a full lap around the lake, he slowed, reaching his hand out to the vampire to offer him support. Before Marshall Lee could protest, his arm received a gentle tug and he found himself gliding along beside the prince, the younger grinning up at him victoriously. The pink royal lead them carefully, beginning slowly and showing his lover how to move his feet to push himself forward on the ice. Still the king was wary, but above all else he tried and Gumball was remarkably patient, a born instructor as one might expect. Hand in hand they skated, slowly picking up speed as they drifted past snow banks and flocks of penguins which had gathered to look on as the pair circled the lake's perimeter.

The vampire eyed them skeptically, but with a chuckle from his companion he ignored them and concentrated on his feet. With a little more cheating from his floating, he was able to leave the prince's hands and wobbled along alone. The pink royal kept encouraging him as he slowly slid along, but Marshall got some sort of rhythm and was able to glide smoothly.

With a smile on his lips, the prince again folded his hands prestigiously behind his back, making graceful sweeping motions with his feet as he kept pace with his friend. He hummed a soft melody, some old tune that had come to mind suddenly; it seemed to lift the younger teen's spirits even higher. He glanced to his side to watch Marshall skate, observing his developing technique and looking for any kind of reaction.

"Are you enjoying yourself?" Prince Gumball asked, hoping that he'd chosen a good activity for their evening.

"Y-yea, just getting use t-to it," Marshall Lee said as he swayed violently to catch himself. He waved off an offered hand and instead focused on his balance, determined not to fall. But even with his improving stability, he lost all control as his foot broke through a thin sliver of the ice. Without his usual floating, his body weighted him to fall further and crash a hole in the ice, soaking his legs and torso in icy cold water. Frantically, he clung to the sides and tried to pull himself out, but a frightening feeling of something weighing down his feet made him panic and claw desperately at the chipping surface.

"Marshall!" the younger exclaimed, stopping dead and casting about in a panic, searching for something to help his friend with. He'd been taught long ago to never try and pull someone out of broken ice by hand because of the risk of being pulled in or falling though yourself. He hastily searched for a branch or something he could slide to Marshall, anything that would allow him to safely prevent the king from slipping farther. His search bore little result, and without another other option Gumball knelt on the ice and reached for the vampire's hand, trying to grasp it without getting too close to the cracking ice. "Marshall, hold on! Take my hand and try and pull yourself out!"

"NO," he shouted back, "get away! You'll fall in too!" The deathless teen growled and sunk his nails into the ice, pulling hard to drag himself out. As instructed, his friend moved away onto the thicker ice, watching carefully over Marshall. The vampire king struggled to haul himself out, but just as he got his waist above water he was forced back. He could feel the sting around his legs grow painful, like a great pressure was adding to the frostbite. Still trying to pull himself up, he looked down and gasped at his legs becoming incased in ice. The air wasn't cold enough for instant freezing, but he was far too scared to be angry with whatever was imprisoning him. With the weight dragging him under, he yelped and screamed at the doom of being forced to the bottom of the frozen lake.

Gumball obeyed with however much wide-eyed, fearful reluctance feeling painfully helpless as he shimmied back away from the breaking ice. Before the cracks could span out much farther, however, there was a low creaking in the ice, like the groaning of water expanding and freezing, the particles grinding against each other as the liquid solidifies. The cracks in the ice buckled and arched and crackling frost sneaked its way across the surface of the water in which Marshall was sunk up to his chest. The vampire gritted his teeth and moaned as the ice began to compress his body from all sides, squishing him like an ant in a vice. The prince looked on in speechless panic, not knowing what to do to reverse the freezing or to save his lover from the pond. His fumbling thoughts were interrupted by an all-too-familiar shrill cackle, the very sound sending ice through his veins and a chill down his spine.

Even with the crushing ice squeezing his stinging muscles Marshall pushed back his fear instantly and erupted with a screech, his eyes lighting up with a blaze and he struggled in the vice.

"You frigid WITCH! I'll kill you if-aaahhh!" he howled at the approaching Ice Queen, his prison squeezing tighter to the point of possible fractures.

"Marshall, get out of here! Transform! Shrink! Do something!" Gumball cried as the sorceress landed with a wicked chuckle, gliding across the ice on a bank of fog like a specter. Scrambling, the prince tried to get to his feet and race away, but she tripped him up by manipulating the ice and catching the blade of his skate, sending the pink teen sprawling across the pond like a rag doll. The Ice Queen ignored the vampire's enraged curses as she closed in on her goal, seizing the candy royal by his wrist and pulling him up.

"It's been a while, Gummy…" she cooed, lowering her eyes and grinning to show her pointed fangs, "Are you ready to be my groom?" Giving the prince's arm a strong yank the enchantress pulled him in close, forcing the sugary teen to meet her cold eyes.

"Get your hands off me, you wicked harpy," Gumball hissed, raising his free hand to strike her, but before he could, both wrists were trapped in her frigid claws. Leaning in a little closer, the Ice Queen giggled victoriously, invading the young man's space until their noses nearly touched.

"You won't be so cold to the idea of marriage once I'm through with you."

Marshall snarled and kicked his legs, breaking away the frozen shackles violently. He morphed his flesh to grow fur and quickly a large wolf creature came churning out of the trap at the frosty witch. But with a flick of her wrist a wave cascaded over his body and incased his whole form in ice, making him a sculpture in mid leap, his teeth still bared.

With a yelp, Gumball thrashed against her, managing to free one hand which he used to fight with her grip on his other hand in a fruitless effort to break away. He turned to see his lover a frozen statue, and nearly wrenched his shoulder pulling against the Ice Queen's grasp, digging into the pond with the tips of his skates as he tried desperately to reach the trapped vampire. Everything he tried was in vein, and with another psychotic laugh, the sorceress twisted the candy royal's arm behind his back, making him cry out and bend to her abuse. With his last scrap of sway relinquished to the cold witch, Gumball could only look back with fear and anguish as she wrapped her arm around the prince's waist and lifted him into the air, carrying him off on a rolling bank of fog.

As the pair flew off into the grey clouds of the ice kingdom, the monster popsicle remained still, only a rumple beneath the thick layer as he growled hatefully. As the fire continued to burn in his eyes, the ice began to slowly melt, water dripping from the outside down the sculpture's cheeks.

Prince Gumball struggled, kicking and wrenching against his captor's hold until she calmly reminded him of how high they were off the ground and how unlikely he was to survive the fall with no vampire to catch him. As much as he hated to let her win, the candy teen gave in, surrendering to the Ice Queen - at least, he would until there was solid ground underfoot again. With a shrill chuckle, the sorceress adjusted and tightened her grip on her prisoner's waist, pulling him in close to her chest until he could practically feel her cool breath on his ear. The witch's victim was all to grateful when they reached her mountain palace and he was released, however brief his freedom was; it got him out of her arms at least. Of course, as he had expected, the instant the prince's shoes touched the floor, they stuck, frozen in a block of ice that would keep him from bolting.

"You're sick, Ice Queen" Gumball hissed as she circled around him, looking him up and down with a predatory glint in her ice-blue eyes.

"You'll change your tune soon enough, Gummy dear," the enchantress mused with a cunning smirk. "I've tried winning fairly, but your friends always seem to have the upper hand." She paused, letting her sneer draw up into a grin. "But this time will play out differently, because you see… I've stacked the deck…" She studied his face for some kind of reaction, but receiving a cold deadpan, she decided to instead reveal her hand, forcing her captive to grasp the gravity of his situation. She momentarily fished around in the front of her dress for something she'd stored in her bust; a silver chain. The candy teen's face went from icy apathy to morbid shock as the Ice Queen drew a small glass bottle from her cleavage, dangling the familiar vial before Gumball's face as if taunting him. "You see prince? I've got the ace of spades this time."

Back at the frozen lake, a lone chunk of ice hollowed out stood among a group of cowering penguins, frightened by the beast that had escaped from its trap. Thundering through the snow, a pair a large wolf paws beat against the ground, the animal growling and panting heavily as it darted through the spikes of ice on the ground. Marshall Lee pressed his limbs to their max, forcing his sore and cold muscles to move fast in order to stop any harm befalling his lover. Snorting he arched his back and let large, webbed wings rip through his fur, flapping loudly as they picked him up from the flurry. He flew straight for the opening of Ice Queen's cave, landing at the top of the peak. Quietly, he shrunk his size and crawled as a minuscule bat over the icy walls, digging his claws into the slick surface and scaling until he was on the ceiling. Looking about, he could see neither villain nor victim, so furtively he crept in and hid among the stalagmites.

His radar-dish hypersensitive ears could pick up voices down one of the northern corridors, and the vampire slipped like liquid shadow spilling down the hallway. Peering around the only doorway with a light cast across the floor, Marshall nearly squeaked at what he saw. Before a grand mirror, the Ice Queen was murmuring pleasantly to the prince, pawing over some new get up she'd clearly forced him into; a regal uniform in shades of blue. She adjusted the garment's fit on his hips, pulling it snug and taking the opportunity to feel the supple curve of Gumball's body. For a moment, it seemed as if he was paralyzed, forced to stare thoughtlessly into his own reflection, but the prince turned to face his captor, giving the sorceress a surprisingly warm smile. She returned the look, ghosting her hands down his arms and batting her eyes flirtatiously. To the onlooker's horror, the candy teen seemed to pick up on her subtle come-on and reciprocate the feeling, leaning in and pressing his lips against the Ice Queen's.

A screech came echoing through the rooms as Marshall's nails scrapped against the ice, carving into it with a scowl plastered across his lips. The noise thankfully caught the frozen queen's attention, and she excused herself to investigate. Seeing his chance, he crawled over the doorframe and dropped onto Gumball's back, clutching his new royal blue cape.

"Dude, let's get the flub out of here," the bat hissed into the prince's ear while they were still alone.

"And abandon my fiancé on the eve of our wedding?" Gumball asked, looking sternly at the creature on his shoulder, a deep frown creasing his lips and furrowing his brow. "I think you'd better leave, Marshall Lee."

"Come on, this isn't funny- what th-" the small animal started, but as he searched his friend's eyes for an explanation, an image of Prince Gumball behind bars reflected in his now black irises. He reached out to touch the other's face, but suddenly the younger teen grabbed him by his scruff and hurled him onto the open floor. Marshall Lee growled as he tumbled and landing on his head, rubbing it gingerly before whirling back at him. "Dude, what the hey! She's gonna catch-"

"-I'm going to catch you trying to steal my man!" The blue witch shrieked at the intruder before magically seizing him by the wings, two ice hands rising from the floor to grip him tightly and hold him up for her to see.

The bat struggled and squirmed, pausing only to glare hatefully at the victoriously cackling enchantress. She grinned down at him, internally debating whether to reveal her plan to him or not; ultimately, she decided against it, thinking it more entertaining to leave her foe in the dark. Marshall's ears folded back and he looked over his shoulder to see if the candy royal would make even the slightest motion towards helping him. The prince was utterly apathetic.

"You shouldn't have come, Marshall." The pink teen murmured, "It isn't your place to interfere."

"If you're not going to help, then shut it!" the vampire howled, balling his fists and growling more ferociously before growing to his normal state. Stamping her foot angrily, Ice Queen threw a handful of frozen stars at him, making him duck and weave through them as he charged. Crossing the room past the attack, he got a kick into the witch's knee, ceasing her attack for a moment while she clutched it. Gumball came at him with a punch, but Marshall easily deflected and pushed him back into the wall before delivering a swift kick to the woman's rump. She screamed before tumbling forward, hands and knees on the floor.

Before the king could strike again, there was a strong arm around his throat as the candy royal put him in a headlock, throwing the vampire across the room and into a dresser made of ice. The prince straightened his sleeve and squared himself off against the elder, coming between Marshall Lee and the downed enchantress.

"Stand down, night-walker," the pink teen growled, pinning the deathless young man in his cold glare. "Don't you dare touch her."

"Gumball, don't get in the way. Queen Frostbite is going down, and I don't wanna hurt you. Now, move before I plow right through you." Marshall gripped the lip of the table and pulled himself up, rubbing his shoulder.

"I won't let your hurt her, Marshall." the prince replied coldly, not budging, "Now, I'll tell you again - Stand down; I won't step aside. If you want to get to her, you'll have to go through me." Gritting his teeth and narrowing his eyes, the prince raised his fists, putting his dukes up in preparation for fighting the vampire.

Seeing the old fighting stance, the vampire king snorted and cracked his knuckles before kneeling to the ground. Before the prince could understand what was happening, the older teen pounced and bounded over his head, crashing into the woman sneering behind him. They crashed to the floor, her crown falling off and sliding out of reach. She and Marshall rolled about the floor, growling and clawing at each other as both tried to reach for the magical tiara.

With a victorious hiss, the deathless teen pinned his foe by the shoulders reaching out and getting just the tips of his nails on the crown. Before he could grasp it, however, there was a heel digging into his flank as the prince kicked him off of the Ice Queen with a furious growl. The crown went tumbling and Marshall clutched his side as he scrambled after it. In an instant, the sorceress was in hot pursuit and the two dove after the golden diadem as it rolled. Bearing his fangs and screeching victoriously, the vampire clutched the tiara and gave the enchantress a wild look of vehemence and hurt before squeezing it in his palms until it crumpled like tin.

At first, his heart leaped with success, but, looking at the ball in his hand, it fell fast. Such a powerful crown couldn't possibly be that soft.

"What the flub is this?" he barked as he threw the metal orb, perfectly beaning Ice Queen.

Sitting up with a wily grin, the queen laughed and smoothed over her wispy white locks. She gave the vampire a wicked smirk before looking up and allowing Gumball to help her up like a true gentleman.

"You're a hapless fool, Marshall," she sneered, clinging to her stolen bridegroom, placing one hand on his bicep and the other on his chest. "You really think I'd actually let you get the best of me? Not this time, my dear. This time the prince will be my king, and neither anything nor anyone will stop our marriage." To really drive the point home, the Ice Queen traced a clawed finger down the prince's cheek and under his chin, turning Gumball's face to hers and kissing him.

Suppressing his urge to gag, Marshall Lee huffed and unclenched his fists.

"Alright, Snowy, if you don't have any magic left then…" he looked from the witch to her captive and realized the scam. The jewels of Gumball's crown were not their usual sapphire, but now were the ruby fittings of the Ice Queens's tiara. It was a switch-up he hadn't been looking for. "No way… Gumball?"

"That's right," the candy royal replied coldly, letting a terrifying smirk ghost across his lips for a moment before retreating back into deadpan. The prince lifted his hand, sending a wave of sharp icicles towards Marshall with a flick of his wrist. Leaping into the air and growing a set of wings from his shoulder blades, the vampire just narrowly dodged the attack, hissing in a vain attempt to intimidate his new assailant. "And don't call me Gumball. You will refer to me as the Frost Prince, and soon enough the Frost King."

"Not even on a cold day in the Nightoplane, Gumball. I'm gonna snap you out of this even if it kills me!" The vampire extended his claws and leaped at the couple, the woman stepping back for safety, seeing as she had relinquished her power to her new fiancé. The frosty prince strengthened his stance as his opponent fell into him, the pair intertwining fingers as Marshall pressed him to the ground. Pinning him, the monster king closed his hands around Gumball's, feeling the hard metal of his ring. But along with his ring that bound their hearts, he felt a cold ring incasing his left ring finger. In the struggle the vampire got a look at the second ring. It was not a pretty band as he expected laid with jewels, but a painful looking ring of ice that was creeping up his finger, turning his once healthy pink finger deadly blue.

Grunting, the pink teen tore his right hand from Marshall's using it to blind-side the vampire with a wall of snow, pushing him off and sending him rolling across the ground. The Ice Queen gave a giddy laugh, clapping in approval as Gumball stood, taking a powerful enchanting stance, drawing up massive blades of ice, taking one in each hand and charging at the elder male. The night-walker ducked and barely dodged in time as one of the frozen swords lashed out above his head, taking a clip from his coal-black tresses. With surprising agility, the candy royal sunk his blade into the wall through a thin portion of the king's flank, tearing through his shirt and slicing the skin just below Marshall's ribcage.

The nightly king held his side tenderly and smirked, hoping to laugh off the tough fight and end it quickly. If he could rid the prince of his crown - but there was still the ring! If he could get close enough, he could probably melt it off. Marshall figured with such an engrossment on Gumball's finger that it had be bewitched, forced on and grown to detain his finger. He didn't know, but with the terrifying look of his lover imprisoned reflecting in the other's eyes earlier hinted on foul play, so he set his sights on melting the ice ring.

Again the blades slashed at the elder, narrowly missing separating the vampire's head from his shoulders, instead shattering against the nearby wall only to reform in the prince's hand. It was chilling and enchanting the way Gumball wielded the swords in his hands, like the hypnotic, deadly dance of a striking basilisk. Trying to get his timing right, Marshall Lee continued to dodge, hoping not to get clipped again by the sharp, frozen edges as he waited for an opening. There wasn't much time for the elder to make his move as the candy teen continued his assault vehemently and without hesitation.

"Why don't you just hold still and let me put a stake in your heart?" Gumball growled, lunging again and getting intimidatingly close to the blue-skinned male, "It would allow things to proceed much more quickly and smoothly."

"Why don't you defrost and quit being such a butt? I'm trying to save your buns here and you can't stop throwing things at me!" He waved and bobbed past the attacking ice, looking around for Ice Queen. He found her seated neatly in her armchair, watching the spectacle from afar. "Alright, Icy, what did you do to him? Why's he acting like a popsicle?"

"You know, we really bonded over our engagement," she cooed with sickening glee, "it turns out the Frost Prince and I have great… chemistry." The enchantress's malicious smirk grew a little and she lowered her eyes at the vampire as if she could already envision his downfall. "Of course you'd be surprised how well science and magic mix… like… like marshmallows and chocolate… except only when you roast the marshmallows and melt the chocolate and squish them together between gram crackers…" she clapped her hands together like she was smooshing together a gooey smore, "then it's just amazing…" the Ice Queen mused quietly, letting her mind wander to the idea of sugary treats before she shook her head to clear her thoughts. "Wait… what were we talking about?"

"Science and magic…" Marshall whispered, looking her over as she continued her thought, practically drooling over the thought of the treat. He struggled to think of what the witch could mean, but his eyes caught the gleam of a silver chain around her neck and it snapped into place. He ran his fingers down the front of his shirt and found his chest bare. "Son of a-" he cursed, avoiding another spear of ice thrown at him. "You are sick, Ice Queen! You took my vial and drugged him, didn't you!"

The sorceress blinked at him, looking confused for a moment before realizing exactly what he was getting at. She laughed as if the vampire had just told a particularly funny joke, clutching her chest and putting a hand to her paled blue cheek. When she finally was over her ridiculous giggle fit, the queen waved her hand to brush the notion off.

"Oh, you silly dear," she mused with a grin, reaching down the front of her dress and pulling out the glass bottle, the entire container having been emptied. "What good would that do me? Sure I could make him hot under the collar for a couple hours, but as soon as it wore off, he'd be back to resisting…" She lowered her eyes, tucking the vial back into her cleavage, a wicked sneer drawing across her lips. "No, I found a much more effective use of this little love potion."

"So you… waaaiiiiit-" As he stopped to rethink, a lump of solid snow came crashing into his cheek, knocking him into the wall. He grumbled and rubbed his face, shrinking out of sight. He could hear the two attackers looking for him as he scurried up the wall, now in a small bug form. Thinking harder, he tried to think like his entrapped lover, critically and logically. He knew the aphrodisiac was involved, and the frozen ring that was stuck to Gumball's finger had to be something, so to his nature he trusted his gut. Having crawled up the wall until he was above the icy queen's head, he dropped and changed, landing behind her and wrapped a hand around her and pointed his extended claws to her throat. "Wanna tell me what that pretty engagement ring freezing PG's is made out of? It wouldn't be a certain stolen goody, would it?"

"Science and magic, Marshall Lee," she chuckled, catching his gaze out of the corner of her eye, "science and magic." The sorceress bared her pointed teeth through a wicked grin at the king behind her. Marshall looked furiously into her cold, cruel eyes, gritting his teeth, but suddenly he caught a flash of pink reflected in her icy irises. Shoving the evil witch, the king whipped around just in time to take a sharp icicle in his shoulder, the prince still clutching his nearly lethal weapon in his trembling fist.

"I told you not to touch her!"

The vampire king had to clutch his shoulder and lean into the wall, using what focus he had to melting the spear. He snapped his fingers and lit up his fingertips, gripping the skewer until it was melting into a puddle on the floor. His arm dripped with water and blood, and Marshall Lee had to leave the arm limp, having injured too much muscle to endure flexing it. Suddenly, a band of slush rung around his neck and forced him up the wall, dangling by his choker. He used his good hand to scratch at the ice, but it had solidified too much to scrape away. Even as he grew and shrunk, Gumball was prepared and held him in his many forms, not letting the intruder escape. Finally tired, Marshall returned to his normal form and held onto his leash, keeping from choking.

"Man, Gumball- rrrr… yer not makin' this easy-" he gasped, staring down at his captor, "-you've got to snap outta it- I'm dying here… not really- but ya get it. Come'on Bubba…"

"You're the one who's not making this easy," the younger growled back, arching his wrists and jerking the chain around the vampire's throat a little more roughly. "If you want things to be easier then don't move next time I come at you with a stake." Gumball's beady black eyes quivered a moment as he locked gazes with the deathless teen, something flashing behind those dark pupils for a moment before again the prince's pupils glazed over. Marshall Lee swallowed hard against the ice crushing his neck, that look the candy monarch gave him was terrifying; it held all the tender love and kindness one could see reflected in the eyes of a dead rattlesnake.

The words that bit formed their own layer of ice around Marshall Lee's heart, and his last warm wisps of hope were snuffed out by his coldness. His heart had been fluttering with the excitement of a chase, the hopes of a rescue, but now he was calm and cold like his opponent…

Abruptly in his captivity, an idea hit the still vampire. With a glimmer of faith in his narrowed eyes, Marshall grinned.

"Alright, Frost King. Do yer worst."

Hope beat in the elder's cold chest as for a moment the prince's brow furrowed and he hesitated, but that hope too froze over when Gumball wiggled his fingers and another icicle formed in his palm. As the prince made a fist with his free hand, the ice noose that was wrapped around the vampire's throat turned to snow, letting him slip and fall a few feet to the ground. Slowly, the elder rose to his feet, staring his beloved in the eye and somehow keeping his cool, even as he saw the tormented reflection of the sugar royal behind the pitiless stare. It almost felt as if time stood slowed down as the pink teen began to step forward towards his willing victim, raising the frozen stake in his fist, the weapon seeming to glint with a thirst for blood. Still, Marshall stood fast as his friend took a fist full of his shirt collar and pushed him back against the wall, the icicle in his fist rearing back and plunging forward.

In the few milliseconds, before ice met flesh, the King of the Monsters stared into his foe's dilated eyes and saw again the image of Gumball behind bars, now reaching out for him from his iris prison. Marshall Lee's smile grew and his rose his hand to grip the prince's wrist, controlling the depth of his attack. It was not his day to die, not in the home of the Ice Queen at the bewitched hands of his lover. But if he knew right, his near death would spell their freedom.

Pushing against the other didn't stop the icicle from piercing his scarred chest, plunging into him past his ribs towards its target. But just as the frozen spike found its way through him, the glacial tip touched the outside flesh of his heart before the assault was halted. Suddenly, the Frost Prince sucked in a breath and clutched his own chest, withdrawing to stagger back and collapse on the floor. With the stake still inside him, Marshall sunk down until he sat up, smirking at his victory.

With wide eyes the prince's breath froze in his chest and he groped at his torso where he could feel his own heart twisting in pain. Silently, the younger stumbled back and fell to his knees, looking down at himself in wide-eyed confusion. He patted his chest, and no blood soaked through, but still he felt the pain surging through him as if his own heart had been staked. The agonized muscle pounded away in his ribcage and spread its suffering through Gumball's every nerve from the inside out. He hunched over and trembled gasping in an attempt to draw air into his aching lungs, but even that caused him more pain.

Ice Queen shouted from across the room and continued to call out to the groaning prince, and, in the meantime, the true victim hunched over his massive wound. Slowly, the hand of his good arm griped the instrument of his near death, letting it steam in his palm as he melted it. The water ran through his numb fingers and he flicked it away as he rolled onto his hands and knees. With the only uninjured opponent standing on the sidelines, he had one shot before his consciousness gave out. Marshall Lee sucked in a breath as he put weight on his bad arm, pressing his toes into the ground in a position to pounce. Just as the screeching woman spotted this, he took off, jumping onto the bubblegum youth and pinned his arms above him as he gasped for air. As before, the vampire twisted his fingers into his enemy's, holding tight to the frozen ring in particular. Looking down at Gumball's eyes, he saw a sad version of the teen begging for his help before they shut fast, the Frost prince still struggling with his pains. Marshall leaned in quickly and gripped his hand tighter, leveling off at Gumball's ear.

"I'm only hurting you because I love you…"

Suddenly the left hand of the prince, along with the right of the king's, was set ablaze, scalding the tender pink flesh as it dissolved the solid aphrodisiac ring from his finger.

With an agonized scream, the prince under him arched and kicked beneath the vampire's weight, twisting and trying to wiggle free, trying to escape by any means from the flames that licked at his skin. There was a low hiss as the magic engagement ring began to melt and vaporize erupting into a cloud of steam. Thrashing against the hands that held him fast, Gumball howled, his sugary skin caramelizing where the fires touched his flesh. His screams turned to pleas for mercy and tears began to roll down the young teen's face.

He had to be careful as he burned off the enchanted ring, seeing the liquefied potion dripping along his lover's finger and past his burn flesh. If it were to mix with him or enter his skin… Just as the thinnest wall of the ring broke through and fell off, the vampire king relinquished his grip and rolled off, throwing his arms above his head as he lay out, listening to Gumball's whimpers and his own raged breathing.

"Alright… witch," he rasped, looking behind him to the fuming queen, "it's…. over. Stop…. Predatoring…. You snow…. Leopard."

The Ice Queen frowned and looked as if she was about to interject something, but she hesitated, taking a good, long look at Marshall before she said anything. The night-walker's eyes burned blood-red with anger and hurt, and she knew this time that a line had been crossed and there wasn't much stopping the king from exerting the full extent of his power on her. Instead of commenting, the enchantress decided to remain silent, accepting the loss; for as it was with most sociopaths, there was only so far she could go. The sorceress's eyebrows drooped and she stood back, looking on for a moment until a furious hiss from the vampire drove her quickly from the room.

With the only threat gone from his sight, Marshall Lee sighed, only to hiss quickly and clench all over. With his adrenaline dissipating, the steady throb of pain radiated and took his breath. But as he lie there, listening to the echoes of their pains, the dominant ache from his chest died down, only now to a slight soreness. He counted his heartbeats, and with every passing second they grew healthier and stronger. He flexed his abs to test if he could sit up, but promptly decided against it. Instead, he looked to the side, watching carefully over his recovering friend.

"Hey… put you… hand on… the floor. It'll… feel better."

The prince sniffed and wiped his eyes, not wanting to be seen in such a weak state, but at the same time not being able to help it as he wasn't sure his body had the strength yet to move. Shivering, he managed to roll onto his side, looking down so as not to meet his lover's eyes, resting his burned palm against the icy floor as instructed. Gumball's soft sounds of hurting died away as the cold numbed the warped flesh of his hand, and soon enough he was merely curled beside the vampire, trying to steady his trembling breaths.

Taking in short breaths through his nose, Marshall watched over the other and ran his claws through the prince's still quaffed hair, hoping a touch was enough for now.

"Mm glad… that ring trick... worked. We'd be… in trouble… if it… didn't." He managed a smile and caught Gumball's gaze, a confused look in his hurt amethyst eyes. "My ring… I knew if it… touched my heart… you'd feel it… lucky you… put it on."

With a heavy sigh, the prince's eyes fell and he turned his head away from Marshall, breaking off their met gazes shamefully. For a moment the younger male clutched at his own heart with his right hand, watching as the light of the ring glowed in time with the beating of his heart. That sight made him suddenly feel very sad, as a qualm twisted in his gut he shuddered and water began welling up in his eyes again. Gritting his teeth, the prince tried to hold it back but he couldn't help himself and started again to cry.

"Marshall… I'm so sorry… I'm sorry… oh Glob I'm sorry…"

Even with a hole in his shoulder, Marshall rolled to his side and stretched out his arm, curving it over Gumball's waist to attempt to pull him in.

"Shhhhh…" he breathed, knitting his eyebrows with the strain, "c'mere… it's ok… it wasn't you… shhhhh…"

"No… it's not okay…" the candy royal murmured, sniffling and wiping at his eyes, glancing up at Marshall and unfortunately laying eyes on the numerous wounds that now littered the vampire's body. He had to look away; the prince couldn't bear to see how he'd hurt Marshall, even if his mind had been under the Ice Queen's influence. It was too much for him to shoulder. "This… this is not okay in any sense of the word…"

"Sshhhh quit… you're bumming me… out. We're… ok now… she's gone." Sucking in another breath before pulling harder, forcing his lover against him. Even with his body pressed against his still tender wound, it was more comfort than he could ever ask for. "Come on…. Gum… please hold… hold me. We… we won, dude."

Shivering, the young prince let his fingers fist in the vampire's shirt, careful not to touch any of the fresh wounds. Gumball glanced up at his lover, grimacing at the sight of the night-walker so riddled with injuries inflicted by the candy teen's own bewitched hand.

"We haven't won yet," the younger male whispered, reaching out towards the wound on Marshall's shoulder, but he hesitated, withdrawing his fingers before they made contact. "We won't have won until you're back in the infirmary… Has… has the Ice Queen got a phone? I'll… I'll make a call to the palace… I'll send for Lord Monochromicorn."

"Dunno… but I think… she does. Tell her" he paused to take a labored breath "no funny… stuff. I'll… come after her." His eyes, now opened to slits, glanced over Gumball's worried face and made him smile weakly. "Hey…" the vampire whispered, tilting his head in to gently nudge his friend's. "Kiss me… before I... pass out."

Shifting his weight a little, the night-walker's lover moved until he stared into Marshall's tired eyes, reaching a trembling hand to wipe the blood and water that had gathered on the elder's cheek. His brow furrowed, but he tried his best to smile all the same, blinking slowly and trying to look at the elder's injuries. As he was asked, Gumball pressed his lips against his friends, his jaw trembling as the vampire's hand held the back of his head gently. The fingers loosened their grip and the prince pulled back, cupping his pale face as Marshall sighed and closed his eyes. The king went slack and fainted from there only waking momentarily as he was lifted onto the back of the candy royal's great black unicorn.

In the darkened infirmary of the Candy Kingdom's hospital wing, two males slept soundly to the steady 'beep' of the recovering Monster King's heart monitor. It was steady and healthy, and with the magic of Marshall's ring, it rang for the both of them. Prince Gumball was slumped in his chair, closely placed next to the medical bed where the patient did not even lay. Instead, the deathless bassist floated with his arms crossed, the sheets draped over his body. Since their return, Marshall Lee had remained in a trance, and try as staff might, they could not lower him.

Quietly, the door to the room cracked open, and the round body of the striped assistant poked in. Seeing her charge asleep, Peppermint Maid entered the room with another candle, knowing better than to turn on the lights or draw open the shades on the sleeping pair. She crossed the room and looked over the younger, stroking his hair without waking him. She smiled and turned to the bandaged creature, poking him gently.

"You alive, vampire?"

"…yes, sweetie. I lived," Marshall hissed playfully.

"Nearly dying, yet again, hasn't seemed to have dulled your tongue any," she snorted, turning her nose up with an indignant huff, the royal servant set her candle down on the bedside table, careful to mind the dripping wax. Reaching underneath the hospital bed and pulled out a folded blanket, fluffing it and draping it over the prince's sleeping figure, tucking it snugly around him to keep the young royal warm. "And I suppose you have an excuse cooked up for Gumball's burns," she narrowed her eyes accusingly at the vampire, "or was it the Ice Queen who suddenly learned to play with fire?"

"You caught me…" he whispered, turning over from his spot in the air, "but to be fair… he's the one who… nnn ran me through." He motioned to his largest wound, having lightly bled through his bandages. "That witch… she fights dirty… One cold lady…"

"Well then paint me curious, creature of the night, what exactly happened on that mountain?" She sat on the corner of the bed and smoothed out her skirt, thinking how little she already believed before Marshall Lee even opened his mouth. "The Countess of Lemongrab could hardly teach the prince fencing as a lad, so forgive me if I'm of the opinion that you make a rather ludicrous claim."

"He's… much stronger than you know," he grumbled, "almost... killed me. But I'll tell you…you won't listen but… I'm not a liar…" He looked down to her, catching her cynical eyes until they softened. "I would never hurt him… unless he needed it to survive. And he did."

The made twisted her lips to the side and narrowed her eyes, glancing over to the slumbering gummy teen, remembering how badly the gummy royal's hand had been burned. She was silent for a moment before hopping down from her perch on the bed corner with a little squeak.

"Pardon my saying so, but I'd like to wait for a second opinion when he wakes," she replied curtly, fluffing Gumball's pillow carefully so as not to wake him. "I suppose in the meantime the prince would wish for me to offer you something from the kitchen - that is, to say, if you are hungry."

"I'm not hungry, thanks… but I couldn't trouble you… for your company, could I?" He glanced over to the sleeping prince as she fussed over him. "I don't want to wake him just yet."

"And why, might I ask, would you like my company?" she questioned him, taking her seat again.

"Well…when you're not yelling at me… you actually not bad to talk to. Plus… he likes you, and I like him… so there must be something worth liking about you. I'd like to know."

"I suppose one could argue that you and I have an indirect relationship, but try as I might I can't seem to understand what that boy sees in you… no offense." She studied the younger teen's face and thought for a moment how innocent he appeared, like he was still a child. "I raised Bubba Gumball since his parents passed, Glob rest their souls, so don't take it too personally if I don't exactly like the influence you've had on him."

"Mmm, as I see it… you're mamma bird and no… crow is good enough for your songbird. But… that's love, and that's beautiful." He grunted as his body touched down, letting his back rest in the mattress along with her. "But my ways, all dark and spooky, only show that the world isn't all… sunshine. It's scary out there, and… he's seen that." The hard candy looked away, watching over her charge as he blissfully slumbered. She only looked back when force touched her, and she saw the vampire's hand engulfing hers. "I just hope that I can be there… holding his hand in the dark."

"As touching as that is, I still don't approve of the relationship the two of you have," she snorted indignantly, shooting Marshall Lee a quick scowl before looking down at her feet and suddenly appearing rather glum. "But still I can't come between you two, because I know it would break his heart." Taking her hand back from the king's grip, the server folded her hands neatly in her lap and sighed. "And so I must try and swallow my censure and somehow learn to cope with my prince… growing up…"

"Don't worry," the elder snickered, earning him another glare, "I haven't corrupted him. He still thinks of his kingdom firstly, and it's a struggle to get him to relax. You've raised a fine ruler, missy." There was a sarcastic tone to his compliment, seeing as his regal ways were the main source of his roadblocks along their relationship. "… you should be proud. Any… mother would be of such a fine young man."

"Of course I'm proud of him," Peppermint Maid protested with a huff, "there's no wrong that boy could do that would ever tarnish my pride in him, but that's not true for all of this kingdom's citizens." Fluffing out her dress the servant sighed, giving the sleeping royal a worried look as if she had looked into his future and seen storm clouds. "Everything I do is to protect him, and sometimes that means shielding him from his own people."

"He is perfect, and I can't think of anything that could turn them away from him… even his choices in… loved ones." Even with his gashes healing, his breathing was still labored. "Now if it's me that endangers your precious kingdom… that's fine. I'll just keep hiding in the shadows." He turned serious for a moment, letting the room be dimly lit by the glow of his eyes. "But you shouldn't deter him from… things that bring him happiness… You may not think so… but somehow… I make him happy. And I'll keep working… as my goal in life, until he's gone… to keeping him happy. And if I someday… make him unhappy… I'll leave, without a trace."

"That's very noble and selfless of you, Mister Lee," she replied quickly, "but you underestimate the prejudice of a sheltered community such as this. The candy citizens are fragile and have been kept safe from the outside world for so long… they've… forgotten how to react to things they don't understand." She took in a long breath, her forehead wrinkling as she tried to calm her thoughts before letting her air go. "It's you, Mister Lee… they're apprehensive enough with you in the hospital wing, but if the citizens knew of your private affair with the prince… the repercussions could be ghastly…"

"Like I said, I live in shadow with the rest of the… horrible side of life. You're happy-go-lucky gang… will not know of me and my… evils. But you might want to see… the dark corners that reside… in your own home… before casting a finger to the world."

"My, you've become a poet, have you?"

"Eh… a long life breeds long winded words… But you should see… the bars and clubs… inside the kingdom. Pretty… vicious, even for me."

"Then it will be brought to the prince's attention as soon as he's back on his feet," the servant came back sharply. "He's been drafting and making alterations to a public safety ordinance for months now, but can't seem to get it past the Board of Commissioners. Perhaps these bars will be the missing piece to his puzzle." Peppermint gave the vampire a victorious looking scowl and silently wished that their conversation would be over soon.

"Maybe… but darkness finds its ways in. Besides… I'm not that bad of a guy. You've seen me at the hootenanny… I'm not pure evil, you know. Just… different." He smirked and rolled over, stifling a whimper at a strong twinge in his chest. "Forget it… you've made up your mind… I'm just an evil imp… come to ruin and devour you little boy…" his hand rose over his body and shooed her, "I'll ring for you… when he's up… but thanks… for the talk."

"You keep yourself well, Mister Lee…" she remarked quietly as she dropped to the ground and began to find her way out of the dim room, "Bubba would be heartbroken if anything more happened to you while he was asleep." On her way, Peppermint Maid grabbed her candle from the bedside table and blew it out, taking it with her as she slipped quietly towards the door. Her heels clicked against the hard flooring as she left, and as she opened the door, she could hear the vampire tussle in his bed.

"By the way…" she heard him rasp, trying to call out across the room, "… thanks… for letting me stay… in his life." She said nothing and closed the door behind her, placing him in near darkness again. Marshall was once again on his back with his injured arm nestled neatly in a sling, leaving his free hand to dangle over the bedside. He looked over to his sleeping partner and smiled, stretching his hand out until he found Gumball's. He clutched his fingers tightly in his own hand, whispering softly, "… I'll hold your hand in the dark, Gumball. I promise."