"Welcome!" Gumball's voice is louder and more confident than he feels. It's an art he has mastered over the years. The microphone in front of him booms his voice through the DJ's speakers and the courtyard is vacuumed sealed in silence. A pink shaft of light has fallen upon him, making him squint, but he can see well enough; every single pair of eyes is not set on him, but on the boy holding his hand. Knowing this well, Gumball squeezes Marshall Lee's hand and feels the vampire move closer to his side. Daring a quick glance, he sees that the King, though visibly nervous, is giving the crowd his best grin. This kind of crowd was not what Marshall was used to, and Gumball understood that. Taking a deep breath, he directs his attention back to his people. "I thank you all for attending our annual Sugar Ball. This event is the one I look forward to most every year. This year is extra special." Gumball takes a deep breath, cheeks hurting from the intensity of his smile. "I formally introduce all of you to my -" He wavers, though only for a moment, for the vampire has given him another reassuring squeeze of his hand. "My significant other," Gumball finishes, turning finally to meet Marshall's red eyes. They're soft. They're kind. They give him the strength to turn back to the crowd and gesture toward Marshall with his other hand. "Marshall Lee."
There is some murmuring. Gumball watches as his people give nervous glances toward one another. A pair of bunny-like ears captures his attention and his heart floods with relief. It's Fionna, a shock of blonde bangs falling over the side of her face. She's radiant in her dress, still coming off like someone who could open a serious can of 'whoop-ass', as Marshall would put it, and seeing his friend smile up at him with such confidence makes Gumball's spine straighten.
Fionna lifts her hands and begins to clap. At her side, Cake, her loyal cat, joins in immediately, and soon the courtyard is filled with applause. Marshall leans toward the microphone, raises a hand, and gives a slow wave.
There's a slight chuckle. Gumball feels his tension begin to uncoil.
"I anticipated a backlash at the announcement of my courtship. I know it is atypical." Gumball looks to Marshall again. The vampire's lopsided grin and sense of ease - he can tell by the fact that his feet are beginning to hover over the floor - makes Gumball's next words not as strained. "However, I felt that, as the Candy Kingdom's prince - as your prince ..." He blinks slowly, looking out at his people, at the ones who trust him to rule them wisely. He looks to Marshall and the vampire's eyes are warm and kind, and he wonders how anyone could disapprove of something like this. Heart thrumming, Gumball continues. "I felt that hiding anything from you would be a disservice. I don't plan to start keeping secrets from my people, even personal ones. As your prince, my life is up for the public to scrutinize. I have always understood and accepted this. It is, after all, your choice who lives in this castle." Gumball's arm beckons toward the castle behind him. "And if my relationship with Marshall warrants ejection from the throne, I will step down, if that is your wish."
The courtyard has fallen silent again. No one dares to move, Gumball's eyes shifting from one still person to another.
"But tonight, let's not worry about politics. It's the Sugar Ball, and I am determined to make sure everyone here has a wonderful time. So, Candy Kingdom, I urge you to eat, drink, dance, and be merry, for tonight is about fun!" He sweeps an arm forward and the crowd gives a great cheer. The pink beam of light leaves Gumball and Marshall, music replacing the prince's voice over the speakers, and the crowd disperses toward the tables of food.
"That was wonderful, Barnaby," Marshall says, his hand untangling from Gumball's to instead wrap around his waist.
Gumball's laugh is nervous. He feels lightheaded but fully supported by Marshall's arm. Smiling the best he can, he says, "How do you think they took it?"
Marshall's shoulders shrugged. "No one stormed out or demanded a riot. You really don't think highly enough of yourself, Bubba. They like you. You've been nothing but great to these people and they'd be a bunch of crazies to try and impeach you." Marshall's arm squeezes around Gumball's hips, pulling him yet closer, their foreheads nearly coming together. "Have faith, dude."
Gumball sighs, his own arms snaking their way around Marshall's torso. He can feel eyes darting their way, never not being watched, but at least there aren't any snorts of disgusts or people marching out of the Ball. Yet, anyway.
"I'm trying," he replies, unable to stop himself from smiling. Over his shoulder bobs a familiar pair of rabbit ears. "Fionna!"
"Hey!" She collides into the pair, arms swinging around their necks. Marshall returns the gesture while Gumball rests a hand atop Cake's furred head.
"Congrats on the announcement!" The elastic Cat exclaims, stretching her legs in order to plant a kiss on Gumball's cheek. "No one threw any tomatoes, so I'd say it went down pretty well!"
"Thanks." Gumball laughs as Fionna embraces the prince in a full hug. He closes his arms around her and closes his eyes - Fionna is his hero unofficially just as much as she is officially. He had managed to get a hold of her long enough to tell her about his relationship with Marshall Lee a few days after the council meeting. She had already heard rumors but was comforted hearing it straight from Gumball. She had responded much the same way she is now - by hugging him, her arms more steel than muscle as they clamp around his neck.
"I'm so proud of you, prince," she says, pulling back just far enough to meet his eyes. "You're so brave."
Gumball can't help but snort at the very idea; smart, yes, determined, sure, but brave? This wasn't bravery. This was necessity. "Compared to the Fionna? Hardly."
"Nah, Bubba," Marshall joins, his arm once more making a permanent residence on the other boy's waist. "I agree with Fionna here. You're very brave."
"I got on a stage and talked into a microphone." Gumball's eyebrow launches upward. "You sing in front of crowds, and Fionna and Cake risk their lives every day for the safety of this Kingdom. I'm not brave, I'm ..." He meets Marshall's eyes meaningfully. "Reckless."
Marshall's eyes aren't glinting with the teasing nature Gumball was expecting, however. The red orbs are sharpened to a point, his voice steady and serious when he speaks. "You are brave, Bubba." His expression softens then, his arm squeezing around Gumball. "What did I say about having faith, man?"
Gumball leans closer. "I know." Looking to Fionna and Cake, he claps his hands together. "Go on and eat before it's all gone!"
"If anyone touches my chicken legs, I will not hesitate to slingshot them over the mountains," Cake declares as she twists away from them, Fionna giving a wave before she joins her companion.
"I do hope she wasn't being serious," Gumball mutters, and Marshall throws back his head and laughs. The prince smiles, touching his chest with one hand as he steps away from the vampire. This earns him a curious look, to which he smiles and squeezes Marshall's hand. "I need to mingle. I'm afraid they're hesitant to approach me when we're sewn to the hip."
Marshall's gray cheeks start to adopt a rather pinkish hue. "Sorry."
"No, no." Gumball shakes his head, words tumbling over themselves in his haste to reassure the vampire. "That's not - that isn't what I meant, Marshall. I quite enjoy your hip." He laughs, fingers tightening once again around the King's hand. "Just for a few minutes, okay? I'll make some rounds, make sure everyone's happy, and while I'm doing that, you can drink and make new friends."
Marshall's expression tightens. "All right," he mumbles, his feet lifting from the floor. "But I call the first dance." With a roguish wink, the vampire takes off toward the table (where strawberries that Gumball had specifically ordered to be there are awaiting him) and the prince directs himself toward the mass of people. At first, they're slow to approach, as if he wasn't the exact same person he had been several weeks ago, before the announcement was made. Eventually, though, a princess from a neighboring nation sweeps to his side and engages in very animated conversation, and Gumball is grateful. After that, the people trickle through. They exchange names and handshakes and talk about the weather and the distinct lack of crime recently and oh what a nice suit and that dress looks marvelous on you and mundane, boring things. Gumball is more than used to this type of conversing and it's easy for him to fall into. Of course, everyone skitters around the topic of Marshall Lee for some time, that is until an elderly marshmallow points out that Gumball had quite a handsome boy on his hands. Gumball feels like crying in relief, touching the woman's shoulder and giving her an appreciative smile.
Every now and then, he'll turn his head to find Marshall. To his surprise, the vampire is talking among the guests as well. Gumball had no doubt that the vampire would be able to handle this - he's very charismatic. Some citizens avoided him, out of fear, likely, since vampires were so scarce in the Candy Kingdom, but those who did decide to talk to him seemed at ease. Most of them were laughing, and Gumball relaxes further. Had he stressed himself out for no reason? Was there really no threat at all?
After an hour of mingling, Gumball finds himself back at the table he began at, throwing back a glass of punch and sighing, rolling his shoulders to get rid of the tension. Peppermint Maid appears so suddenly he nearly drops the glass, flattening a hand against his chest. "My glob, Peppermint, announce yourself."
"My apologies." She's smiling, though, her eyes turning back to the crowd. "It's going marvelously, isn't it? Everyone is having fun. There aren't any riots."
"Were you expecting riots?"
Gumball tightens his lips before sighing, nodding slowly. "I kind of was, actually." He frowns as he faces his people again. "They seem afraid, though, and I didn't want that, either."
"It'll pass, your majesty. They have to adjust to the idea, is all."
The music, which had been upbeat until now, changes to something slow and sweet. Out of the crowd floats the figure of Marshall Lee, and Gumball's anxiety vanishes almost immediately. He smiles up at the other boy as he plants his feet on the ground. He extends a gray hand while bowing low at the waist, cocking his head up just far enough to be heard, "May I have this dance, your Majesty?"
People are staring. Gumball, for once, doesn't care. "Absolutely." He takes the vampire's hand, watching as fingers curl delicately around his own, and then he's being escorted to the dance floor. The crowd parts until Marshall and Gumball are in the center, whereupon the vampire places his hand in the dip of Gumball's back and presses him close, guiding him in a slow circle.
"When did you learn to dance?" Gumball asks into Marshall's ear, feeling the other boy's lips shift into a smile against his cheek.
"I'm old. Ancient, even. You think I've gone through my many, many years without taking a single dance lesson?"
Gumball laughs. "Clearly not," he replies, as the two spin and sway and never once separating more than an inch. "Are you having fun?"
"Loads. I mean, I prefer the underground gig to this any day, but you're here, so I guess I can deal."
"I owe you one, then."
"Are you going to sneak out again?"
Gumball nuzzles his cheek against Marshall's. "I'm the prince of the Candy Kingdom," he says, mocking Marshall's tone. "I can do anything."
And it was true. He could do anything. His people were confused and maybe even a little scared, but he knew it would pass. He could already see the change in their faces as they watched their prince and his chosen suitor dance together. He might not get everyone's support, but that was okay. In the end, he had his friends, Peppermint, smiling faces of his citizens and a wink from an old marshmallow woman, and most of all, he had Marshall Lee, the vampire King, dancing with him.
When the song ends, there's applause, and Gumball swells with it, with the melody of their support, and before he can think to stop himself, he takes Marshall's cheek and kisses him on the mouth. There is a collective gasp, and then, from somewhere (he strongly suspects Fionna) there is a whistle, and then a loud, ground-rumbling cheer.
"Anything, Bubba," Marshall whispers, giving a wide grin before kissing his prince again and again.
A/N: And scene!
This is more than likely not my last Marshall Lee/Prince Gumball story, but this is the last chapter for this particular one. I really hope you liked it, and thank you so much for the reviews. You are all lovely.