Wednesday 19th November 2014
“Do you know what the worst thing about having a birthday at the end of the year is?” Jake stage whispered across the table at her.
“No, Jake. What?”
“The fact that everyone ends up so caught up in revising for their finals that they forget it’s there!” This time, his whisper was less ‘drama’ and more ‘quiet screaming’.
Marceline sighed, tilting her head to look at him. “When was your birthday?”
“Happy birthday. I’ll buy you a cupcake.”
He squinted at her. “I have no idea what Bonnie sees in you,” he grumbled.
He snorted. “At least you’re honest about that. We will continue to be baffled.”
Marceline lifted an eyebrow at him. “You could always just ask her, you know,” she pointed out.
“So could you,” he countered.
“What makes you think I haven’t?”
“Did she give you an answer?”
She blew air out in a heavy stream and shook her head. “Only a vague little smile.”
Jake huffed. “Yeah, we got the same. Pippa got something very philosophical out of her once. Can’t remember, but it might’ve had something to do with diamonds. Who knows?”
“She is very odd.”
They fell into silence then, focusing on revising for their maths exam. One thing Marceline would admit she did like about the end of the year was the block leading up to and including exams. Having no classes to attend was awesome. Admittedly, sitting in the library was not something she enjoyed overly much, but Jake wasn’t so bad. And if she didn’t do any revision (which she normally wouldn’t), she’d probably fail her exams and the imagined look on Bonnie’s face wasn’t worth it.
Besides, Jake was worse at maths than anyone else she knew (bar Finn, who should be banned from using a calculator) and it was nice to feel smarter than someone. Especially when that someone kept asking her questions she actually knew the answers to. Sure, hanging out with Jake and his pals wasn’t what she saw herself doing this year when she rolled into school on the first day; but it could’ve been so much worse.
“Hey,” Marceline began softly. “Why do you guys even let me hang with you?”
Jake tilted his head, scribbling something out in his book before he looked up at her. “What do you mean?”
She shrugged. “Before this year, none of you had ever spoken to me. Not more than enough words to excuse you anyway. You seem pretty chill with it though. Like… why?”
He frowned. “I guess it’s Bonnie’s fault?” It sounded like a question and Marceline couldn’t help but smile. “She likes you… for whatever reason. And you haven’t killed her yet, so maybe her assumption back in April that you’re not as bad as you want people to think was right.”
“Hang on,” Marceline cut in, lifting a hand to wave him back. “She said that in April?”
“Yeah. We all told her to steer clear of you. She didn’t listen to us, but I mean, she didn’t go out of her way to spend time with you,” he rambled. “She wasn’t scared to talk to you. We all thought she was just ignorant and taking uninformed risks because of it. But, hey; she’s still alive.”
Marceline blinked. “April though?” she pressed, deadpan.
Jake hunched his shoulders. “More or less. She took an inexplicable shine to you. Weirder things have happened.”
“Oh yeah? Like what?”
His face broke into a massive grin. “Like Pippa agreed to go out with me. Ain’t nothing weirder than that.”
“That’s a double negative,” Marceline grumbled, unable to fight back her smile though.
“Whatever.” He raised a finger to point at her. “Bonnie’s rubbing off on you, don’t deny it. You and your death glares and your bad attitude. Look at you, correcting my grammar.”
Jake’s tone took on a sing-song quality. “You like her! Marceline Abadeer made a new friend. And she’s so opposite to the other grungy freaks you spend time with.”
Her smile died. “Do not,” she warned in a soft voice. “Ever bring up those people. That’s in the past.”
“Yeah,” he sang in spite of what would once have been a serious threat. “Because you’re a marshmallow on the inside and somehow Bonnie saw it. Now you’re a nice person.”
“If you don’t stop being ridiculous I’ll disembowel you with my pen,” Marceline vowed.
Jake’s eyes popped open very wide. “And she’s back.” Marceline bared her teeth at him. “So you don’t talk to those… folks you used to be real chummy with anymore, huh?”
“I talk to Keila.”
“She hardly counts. I’m talking about Dane and Ash and his louts.”
Marceline shook her head. “I talk to Keila and Todd at the music store. Everyone else… I’ve fallen out of touch with.”
“You’ve made worse decisions.”
“Thanks,” she said dryly. “You make me feel special.”
He rolled his eyes. “You don’t need me to feel special. You’ve got Bonnie.”
Marceline lifted her pen and clicked it open. “Second warning.”
To his credit, Jake tried really hard not to grin at her, but it just made his face look contorted. He went back to his maths after that, evidently deciding it might be best not to press her again.
“Sorry nobody did anything for your birthday, Jake,” Marceline whispered after a moment.
“Eh. Pippa got me a cake and Finn did all my chores,” he replied with a half-shrug. “It wasn’t so bad. The worst part was that it was a Wednesday.”
“Dude, my birthday was a Monday. You’ve got nothing to complain about.”
“And yet,” he sighed melodramatically, “I still manage to find things.”
“How do you have a girlfriend?” she chuckled.
“Just lucky, I guess.”
Marceline was not the best person in the world when it came to reading people, but even she could tell Jake wanted to add something. He wanted to, but obviously didn’t want to at the same time. She had this niggling feeling whatever it was would not be something she wanted to hear.
He shuffled his books, glancing up at her and then back at his work, leaning a little further over the table. “Do…” Jake scrunched his mouth into an acrid twist. “Never mind.” And he leaned back out again, pen blurring between his fingers.
“Wise move,” she mumbled.
“You don’t know what I was going to ask,” he argued.
“I know I wouldn’t like it. So just keep it to yourself.”
His head fell to one side, thinking. Obviously he realised that keeping quiet was best for his health so he just nodded. Although, he did still look as if he were about to blurt it out… whatever it was. Better judgement be damned.
Thankfully, Pippa and Bonnie whirled into the library then. Pippa dropped herself into Jake’s lap, disrupting all his loose paper and sending his text book crashing to the floor as he flailed. She didn’t follow the book down, throwing one arm around her boyfriend’s neck. Bonnie – meanwhile – rounded the table and Marceline rocked her chair back onto two legs, holding her pen out warningly.
“If you try and sit on my lap, Banner, I swear to god I’ll hurt you,” she rasped, trying not to let the idea of Bonnie in her lap affect her in any way. Well, in any obvious outward way, at any rate. The thudding in her ribcage was kind of hard to control.
“Psh, you wish,” Bonnibel laughed, pulling a chair over to collapse into.
“How was the history exam?” Jake choked out, prying Pippa’s arm free and settling her into a better spot. “Where’s Hayden?”
“Hayden went to the little girls’ room and will more than likely wait for Finn,” Bonnie told him. Naturally, the moment she’d sat down her eyes had snapped to Marceline’s revision, scanning the page for any mistakes. She smiled when there were none to find.
“She wants to know if we’re having lunch before or after we get called in for that stupid preparation meeting,” Penelope said to no one in particular. “And I would like to add a secondary question and ask if Marceline will be coming with to lunch?”
“Only if Ellen’s not present,” Marceline responded with just the correct amount of bite.
“Ellen will not be there,” Pippa confirmed. “She’s so thrilled to have finished her modern history exam that she’s decided to visit Brad.”
“Which we all know is just the polite way of saying she’s going to mess up her bed sheets,” Jake supplied.
“I did not need to know that,” Marceline complained, eyes opening wider than she would normally let them. “What she does is her business and I don’t care.”
“Aw,” Pippa teased. “Marceline doesn’t want to talk about it.”
“Marceline actually just does not need to know,” Marceline informed her, tone bordering on shrill. “And if you keep talking about it my over active imagination will kick in and I’ll be forced to kill you all.”
“With your pen?” Jake asked her drolly.
“Yes, Martins. With my pen.” For emphasis, she waved the implement around in what she sincerely hoped looked like a dangerous way.
“Leave her alone,” Bonnie chimed in (thank God). “I don’t want to know what Ellen gets up to either.”
Jake snickered and twisted to whisper something in Pippa’s ear. Whatever it was made her bark a laugh and clamp one hand over her mouth to stifle the sound. Marceline – figuring it wasn’t wise to ask – chose to ignore them.
“I am not going to the prep meeting,” she said instead, folding her arms. “Halte can screech at an empty room if he wants, I’m not gonna be there.”
“The rebel returns,” Pippa tormented.
“Do you seriously want to go?” Jake groaned.
“What I want has nothing to do with it,” Penelope reminded him. “It is important that we’re there. What if something useful happens?”
“Halte is going to hand out stupid sheets of paper we’re never going to use and that’s pretty much it,” Jake continued, pouting. “Can it be my birthday present?”
She smiled at him darkly. “You got your present from me, Martins. Don’t forget.”
“Bonnie’s not going.”
“Yes I am.”
“You suck.” He sighed, slumping over the back of his chair. “I really hate this time of year.”
“This time next year you’ll be singing a different tune,” Marceline muttered.
He huffed again, then put his hands to either side of Pippa’s hips and slid her off his lap. “Let’s go find food then. I’m starved and I need some kind of sustenance if I’m going to pretend to pay attention this afternoon.”
Pippa tugged him up by his hand. “Leave your books. No one will steal them.” With a big smile she dragged him from the library, leaving his things strewn across the table. “Hurry up you two,” she called behind her, ignoring the librarian’s pointed look.
“Are you really going to that meeting today?” Marceline grumbled once they were gone, stuffing her books in her bag. She said it so quietly almost she didn’t think Bonnie would’ve heard her.
“Of course. It might be boring, but I’m still going.” Bonnibel propped her chin in the hollow of her palm, elbow on the table. Her eyes followed Marceline’s fingers as she folded her books together. “You sure you don’t want to go? I’m positive I can keep you entertained.”
“For two hours?” Marceline snorted. “Fat chance.”
Then – duh – Bonnie did that stupidly unfair thing with her eyes where they go really big and her bottom lip sticks out in the saddest expression on the planet. “Not even for me?” she asked in what could quite very possibly be termed a whimper. She leaned right across the desk, scooting closer so the expression had more impact.
Marceline rolled her eyes skyward and exhaled. “Ugh, fine. You don’t play nice, Banner.”
“I’ll make you a smoothie this afternoon. Peter found a machine in the cupboard because he’s pedantic about ‘spring cleaning’,” Bonnie said brightly. And it sort of did manage to make the pending bore-fest kind of worth it.
“You’re the worst.”
“You love me.”
And the most terrible thing about that was that Marceline wasn’t sure she didn’t.