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Pray for the Preacher's Daughter

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Tuesday 21st April 2015

At precisely seven in the morning, Bonnie’s phone beeped more times than she truly wanted it to. Not only did it scare her, but it was really quite loud. So she groaned as the chime rang through the flat.

Peter: Have a happy birthday, dear. I’ll be in Blackwater until late tonight because of lectures. Sorry we can’t have dinner.

She replied to that one first. That’s alright. I’ll see you in the morning. Enjoy your day.

Norman: HAPPY BIRTHDAY BONNIBEL! His text was accompanied by a few emotes of confetti and a little smiley face blowing a party horn.

Cherry: Happy seventeenth, Bonnie B. Got plans?

In reply to Norman’s she sent a simple ‘thanks’ but at Cherry’s she frowned. No plans, she typed. School. Peter won’t be home for dinner. Might have pizza.

Marceline: I think Eleanor’s up to something.

Since she’d be seeing Marceline in less than ten minutes she didn’t really see the need for a reply. But her fingers moved of their own accord – naturally – and she found herself pressing ‘send’ on a message reading, Of course she is. What’s new?

Pippa: Happy birthday, Banner.

The last text she did ignore. Well. No. Ignore is a pretty harsh word. She just didn’t reply.

Instead, she hoisted her bag over her shoulder and sucked in a deep breath. Above her, the soft drumming of rain on the roof told her she’d be soaked when she got to school. She’d kind of been hoping that the precipitation would have passed by the time she was ready (and had replied to the texts that needed replying). It wasn’t to be. And she didn’t have an umbrella. Idiot.

She cast one last glare out the window above the sink before heading to the door. When she pulled it in, however, she was (pleasantly) surprised to find Marceline on the other side with an umbrella in one hand and her phone in the other. Upon the door swinging inwards, Marceline glanced up, beaming.

“That’s not new really, is it?” she chuckled. “Hey. Good morning. Happy birthday.”

Bonnie rolled her eyes. “So many greetings,” she laughed, tipping forward to kiss Marceline’s cheek. “Good morning to you too. And thank you. I hope it’ll be a good day, at least.”

“How about we start with this then?” Marceline asked, whipping up a manila folder she’d had under one arm. She offered it to Bonnie slowly.

With a gentle furrow to her brow, Bonnibel relieved her of the packet. “What is it?” Her thumb slid under the pre-opened lip so she could press the paper inside far enough out to read it. And her eyes widened. Then she practically squealed and threw herself at a now very surprised Marceline.

The umbrella clattered to the planking as she wrapped one arm around Bonnie’s middle lest they both go crashing to the deck. But they were both grinning. “Wow. Enthusiastic much?” Marceline joked.

“This is worth being excited about,” Bonnie told her flatly, pressing her lips to Marceline’s as if that would somehow prove it. “You got in.”

“Provisionally,” she amended. “But yes. If I keep my grades up, then it’s off to Driscoll next year.”

“I’m so proud of you,” she whispered, hugging her girlfriend just a little tighter before stepping away. “That’s awesome.” Bonnie bumped their shoulders together. “Didn’t I say you could do it?”

“You did. Where your faith comes from, I’ll never know.”

“But it’s well placed. Evidently.”

Marceline smiled fondly. “Evidently. Now let’s go. I brought my car so you wouldn’t have to walk through the wet.”

“You are by far the best girlfriend ever,” Bonnibel sighed.

With a smile, Marceline whipped the umbrella up over their heads and wound the fingers of her other hand between Bonnie’s. “What a relief to hear,” she exhaled. “Because I try so hard.”

“No need to try hard,” Bonnie told her, sinking into the passenger seat. “Pretty sure you’re prefect completely accidentally.”

Marceline rolled her eyes melodramatically. “I’m not sure if I should be offended by that,” she teased. “And perfect might be pushing it.”

“Nonsense,” Bonnie told her tartly, clicking her tongue. “Perfection – like so many things – is in the eye of the beholder.”

With an impeccably straight face, Marceline said, “You must be blind.”

“Take a compliment, Marceline,” she laughed, squeezing her friend’s knee. “I think you’re awesome.”

She sucked in an overly dramatic breath. “Okay,” she consented upon exhaling. “Fine. You think I’m awesome. Got it.”

“You’re insufferable.”

“Ah,” she began, lifting a finger. “But apparently awesome too.”

Bonnie simply rolled her eyes. “One day you’ll see.”

Marceline just kept smiling softly, fingers drumming on the wheel. For a good long minute Bonnibel frowned, thinking something was different. She couldn’t quite pin down what it was though, so she figured maybe she was just going crazy. At least, that’s what she thought until Marceline used her right hand to push hair out of her face as she backed into a space in the school parking lot.

“You got your cast off!” she exclaimed, delighted (and not a little bit embarrassed that she only just noticed). “When?”

Laughing, Marceline said, “Took you long enough. This morning. Dad got me up at like five to go down to the clinic before he had to drive to Blackwater for whatever. No more cast. Yay.” She flexed her fingers, rolled her wrist. “Feels much better now.”

“I’ll bet.” Bonnie was quiet briefly before, “What was it like?”

Marceline blinked at her. “Have you never broken a bone before?”

She shook her head.

“Whoa, Bon. That’s impressive.”

“You have? Broken something before, I mean?”

“Yeah, heaps of times.” She paused only long enough to get out of the car and duck beneath Bonnie’s umbrella. Then she rolled her eyes. “You want the run down don’t you?”

“Sure.”

“Well… when I was a kid I fell out of a tree at Ivy’s place and broke my leg,” she mused. “I broke the same leg in a different place a few years later when my motorbike fell on me. The doctor told me I was really irresponsible and should be more careful because I could do irreparable damage.”

“You should definitely be more careful,” Bonnie agreed. “I’d hate for you to be an invalid.”

Marceline grinned at her. “Noted. I also broke my left arm once when I got in a fist fight.”

“Is that the scar on your shoulder?”

She bobbed her head. “You noticed that, huh?”

Bonnie just gave her a pointed look and concentrated on finding her books for the morning. She decided it probably wasn’t worth the look on Marceline’s face to say that she’d run her fingers over that spot enough to know something had happened.

“It was kinda fun, actually,” Marceline muttered, leaning against the locker beside Bonnie. “I’m left handed so I got out of a whole lot of stuff because of it. I mean it totally sucked not to be able to play music. But no chores? No homework? That was awesome.”

“Only you.”

Marceline flashed her teeth again. “I’m not the only one. Finn broke his right arm once and got out of school for ages. He loved it. In fact, you’re probably the only person in the world who’d hate to break something because school would suffer.”

She rolled her eyes again (must be one of those days), but couldn’t help smiling at Marceline anyway. Bonnie rested a shoulder against her locker door and allowed herself a moment to stare at Marceline. Then she prodded, “Anything else been broken?”

“Oh, yeah.” She lifted her right hand and wiggled her fingers. “I slammed my hand in a car door once. Lost the nails on two fingers and broke the bone in the second joint of my pointer. That was pain.”

“Oh my god,” Bonnie gasped, brow creasing. “That sounds awful.”

Marceline shrugged. “Took a long time to get over that one. But it was entirely my own stupid fault. So.”

“Well,” Bonnie began, pushing away from the locker to head towards her physics class. “Please – for me – be a little more careful. I don’t like seeing you broken.”

Marceline bumped their shoulders together. “You got it, Bon,” she murmured before disappearing down a crossing corridor heading for her first class. Bonnie watched her go, forgetting for a moment that staring at her would give the game away. But in that moment, Bonnie didn’t mind so much.

She was greeted by Finn and Jake’s raucous well-wishes the moment she set foot inside the room. Finn even had a little paper party horn. It unrolled as he blew it out shamelessly. Good thing the teacher wasn’t there yet or she’d feel really stupid. As it was, quite a few of the other students turned to see what the go was and that was plenty bad enough.

“Happy birthday,” Finn enthused once she was seated. “I don’t have a hat for you, I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. I told you guys I don’t need anything fancy.”

Jake waved away her complaints, grinning.

Her shoulders slumped. “I’m getting presents aren’t I?”

They both just kept beaming at her.

 

-*…*…*-

 

Marceline said she didn’t have a clue what her friends were up to, so it was with much trepidation that Bonnie left the safety of her spare and headed for lunch. So much trepidation. Surprisingly, however, lunch went off without any fireworks (or other more dangerous pyrotechnic displays).

With the exception of a cake Pippa had brought in, of course.

They didn’t even insist on singing happy birthday. Bonnie was stunned. Pleasantly so, to be sure. But stunned nonetheless.

And not a little bit anxious for after school at this point.

Obviously it was well founded anxiety. It had to be because nothing made Ellen smile like that. Nothing.

She turned to look at Marceline but her girlfriend seemed just as baffled as she was. “I don’t like it when Eleanor smiles that way,” Marceline muttered. “At all. It means something bad’s about to happen.”

“That’s what I figured,” she whispered back. Yet she stepped across the parking lot to drop her bag by the passenger wheel of Marceline’s car and folded her arms. “What’s going on?”

Jake just about banged his head when she spoke, backing out from rummaging around in the rear of his car. Pippa whirled too and Finn popped out from the other side. Clearly she and Marceline had snuck up on them. Ellen’s smile even wobbled slightly.

“Nothing,” Finn and Jake chorused. Their expressions were guilty just the same; evidently having been caught in whatever this particular act might be. She narrowed her eyes at them.

“Really, Bonnibel,” Ellen told her (a much better liar than the boys). “It’s nothing.”

Marceline snorted. “I agree with that,” Bonnie said flatly, pointing at Marceline. “What’s happening?”

Ellen rolled her eyes. “We’re going out to dinner tonight,” she explained. “Not for your birthday,” she went on. “Just coincidentally on your birthday. So go home and get ready.”

“We’ll meet you at your place,” Pippa muttered. “Because Ellen wants to surprise you with the place we’re eating.”

Oh goodie. She sighed. The day had been going so well and everything. The others were piling into Jake’s car before Penelope had finished speaking so Bonnie collapsed into Marceline’s car, bracing herself for whatever they had planned.

“Hey,” Marceline muttered. “Can I ask why you don’t celebrate your birthday?”

She glanced over, wondering at the tone in Marceline’s voice. “It’s not that I don’t celebrate it. I guess… I dunno. It just feels weird. Plus I hate surprises. I prefer simple things. I don’t like when people make a big deal out of it, I suppose.”

“That’s so weird,” Marceline laughed. “You do know that every other person on the planet loves their birthday because it’s an excuse to throw a party?”

“I know. I’m not big on the attention.” She exhaled. “I’m sorry, it’s strange, I know. My parents raised me to keep a low profile, and I guess this always seemed like it should be part of that.”

“So no crazy parties, huh. That’s fine. But I got you a present anyway.”

“Marceline,” she groaned.

“It’s not a big deal. But it is your birthday, and you got me one last year, so think of it as me at least evening the playing field, okay?”

She stuck her bottom lip out. “Fine,” she breathed. “Alright.”

“You’re so touchy about your birthday,” Marceline chortled. “That’s okay. We’ll be really subtle about it. No birthday shenanigans.”

“You’re so weird.”

“Apparently we both are.”

 

-*…*…*-

 

The location of their ‘out’ remained a secret until Marceline followed Jake’s car into a parking lot somewhere near the middle of Blackwater. In the more respectable part of town apparently. And it did look like quite a nice establishment. The exterior presented a cleanliness not seen in other areas of Blackwater, the sign looked brand new and the lighting fixtures didn’t cast a dingy yellow everywhere.

In fact, the restaurant looked almost too nice. “We could’ve just gone to Ivy’s,” Bonnie muttered to Marceline as they got out. She got an affirmative hum in response and nothing more as they headed for the entrance.

A pretty woman with lots of curly dark hair looked up and hustled over to them. “Hello,” she chirped. “Reservation?”

They exchanged a confused look. “Probably under Ellen,” Marceline supplied. “Eleanor Scott-Parker?”

Again, the lady beamed at them. “Just over there. Are there more people coming?”

Marceline bobbed her head while Bonnie followed the finger indicating a table by a window on the far side of the restaurant. The table wasn’t unoccupied. Bonnibel’s brow pinched slightly. Still, she wandered off in that direction, Marceline close behind her, fingers brushing the hem of Bonnie’s shirt.

“Do you know that guy?” Bonnibel felt the words whispered into her ear, warmth radiating off Marceline she was so close. Suddenly the room seemed too hot.

She shook her head, not brave enough to speak. So they stopped at the edge of the table staring down at the unfamiliar young man seated at what was apparently their table. He blinked up at them, lips pursed around a straw in a glass of iced water.

Mister Mystery looked about six foot, at least; easily as tall as Jake. He had shoulders like an ox and short brown hair, all styled in a spikey way that Bonnie thought was kind of silly. His shirt was much too calculated for Bonnie’s liking too, the kind of shirt a guy would wear because he had impressive musculature and wanted to flaunt it. He even had one of those closely shaven beard things (are they five o’clock shadows?) that Eleanor likes so much. Bonnibel could only imagine they’d be scratchy and irritating. Almost instantly she knew she wouldn’t like him.

So she rolled her eyes.

“Hello?” he said uncertainly, placing his glass back on the table. “Who are you?”

Marceline went stiff beside her, fingers now lacing into her shirt. “Who are you?” she fired back. Even though Bonnie couldn’t see her face, she knew it would be filled with intense dislike. Or maybe just confusion. Either was fine.

His mouth canted up in an arrogant smirk. “I asked you first.” But Marceline maintained stubborn silence; probably glaring at him for good measure. He huffed. “Name’s Cameron,” he said wryly. “Cameron Blake. Ellen invited me.”

“Why?” Bonnie asked him curiously. It was probably a dumb question. More than likely this guy was Ellen’s replacement boyfriend. Maybe she was concocting some plan to make Brad jealous even though it wouldn’t work–

“To meet some girl called Bonnie,” he told them with a shrug. Cue explosion sound effect. “Ellen thinks she’s needs a guy and since I’m new to town I ‘don’t break Rule 43’.” The last bit was said with air quotes and everything. “I don’t know what that means though.”

“No girl is allowed to date someone a friend has previously been involved with,” Marceline grumbled beside her. “Goddamn she was listening.”

Bonnie picked up on another part of that. “New to town?”

“Yep. Moved with my dad.” Cameron swirled the straw in his drink. “It means I have to postpone my first year of university, but that’s okay, I guess.” He arched a brow at them then. “So who are you?”

“Oh, right. I’m Bonnie,” she told him. “This is Marceline.” Weirdly, not adding ‘my girlfriend’ seemed totally wrong. She refrained anyway. Marceline must have heard it in her tone though because she relaxed slightly, letting go of Bonnibel’s shirt.

Cameron’s eyes flashed down and back up, smirk widening. And Marceline went rigid again; she was practically radiating fury now. Bonnie’s fingers found her wrist and wrapped around it carefully.

“Right,” he drawled slowly. “Suddenly I’m glad I met Ellen.”

“Don’t be,” Bonnie said tartly. “It won’t get you anywhere.”

He flashed a wall of perfect white teeth. “Sure?”

“Positive. What Ellen thinks is irrelevant. I don’t need or want a guy. Promise.”

Cameron was at the very least wise enough not to argue the point further. That was probably best given how Marceline was pretty much vibrating with ire. Plus Eleanor and the others picked that moment to roll in.

“Oh good,” Ellen chittered. “You guys have met. Did you do introductions already?”

“Yeah,” Marceline huffed. “We did.”

“Excellent.” Eleanor of course went on to introduce the rest of their friends to Cameron then.

Bonnie used her distraction as an excuse to slink into a seat that wasn’t at all close to Cameron and pull Marceline down beside her. Wall on one side, girlfriend on the other. Perfect.

“I did not expect that,” she whispered to Marceline then, taking full advantage of the moment of comparative privacy. “I swear.”

Marceline’s hand found hers beneath the table, twining them together. “I know,” she grumbled. “Blindsided by Eleanor. That sucks. I don’t like him.”

Bonnibel laughed. “I don’t much like him either,” she agreed, squeezing the hand in her grasp. “Please at least try and be civil with him. At the end of the night I’m getting in your car, remember that.”

The words made Marceline smile, so that was a win. “Yeah.” It was almost sighed, one word, one syllable – ringing with happiness.

“Objectively,” Bonnie muttered. “He is attractive though.”

Marceline frowned at her. “Aren’t you gay?”

She scoffed. “Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I don’t know when someone is attractive. But I also know when light fittings are aesthetically pleasing. Doesn’t mean I want to date them.” To emphasise her point she nodded her head at the chandelier hanging from the centre of the room.

It earned a soft chuckle. “Point. I guess you’re right. He’s Eleanor’s type; I can see why she picked him.”

“With a little bit of luck and some cunning conversation,” Bonnibel murmured. “I’m sure we could get Ellen to date him.”

When Marceline laughed at that it was much louder and suddenly their little bubble of solitude was shattered.

“Something funny, Abadeer?” Ellen asked with an eyebrow quirked haughtily.

“Yes, actually. Hilarious.”

Eleanor glared at her, but Marceline evidently didn’t plan on enlightening her, merely smiled some more. Bonnie hid her mouth with one hand so they didn’t see her grin. Scowl still being directed at Marceline, Ellen shoved (a now standing) Cameron into the chair directly opposite Bonnie. She offered a not-quite-genuine smile and turned to collapse into the seat beside Hayden.

Cameron smiled at her again. He clearly only had half an ear on whatever Finn was saying to him because his eyes remained fixed on Bonnie. Once more, Marceline’s expression settled on something hard and angry.

“Relax, please,” Bonnie whispered to her.

Marceline huffed. “He’s looking at you like… like… like he’s entitled to you or something,” she ground out through gritted teeth.

“And he can labour under that misbelief if he likes,” she reminded her girlfriend. “But he’s very wrong. So just chill.”

She felt Marceline suck in a long breath and let it out gently. “I’m calm.”

“Good.” She turned her attention to Cameron. “So where are you from?”

“Gatton,” he told her brightly.

“That’s not far from here,” Marceline blurted, startled from her haze of distaste to participate in the conversation.

But Cameron’s eyes flicked to her only briefly before settling once more on Bonnie. “Right. Three hours’ drive south. Not far in the scheme of things.”

“Why move to Blackwater?” Marceline asked him. And Bonnie knew the question was genuine. Why anyone would want to live in Blackwater was always an utter mystery to Marceline.

He hunched a shoulder, finally sparing her more than a passing glance. “No choice. Mum and dad got divorced and she got everything down in Gatton so dad had to move here to find work. We got a farm just to the south-east a bit. Near Reich. That’s how Eleanor met me.”

“Was she trespassing?” Marceline enquired dryly.

At that he chuckled – a soft rumbling sound. “No. But close. There’s an empty field next to our place and she was out there with some friends making a hell of a ruckus. I went to investigate, thinking they were probably drunk delinquents. So imagine my surprise when I got Ellen.”

“Yeah…” Marceline mused. “I don’t see much distinction there.”

“Was that over the holiday?” Bonnie put in before anything else vaguely insulting could come out of Marceline’s mouth.

“Yep.”

“And how long was it before she decided to rope you into her ‘get Bonnie a guy’ plan?”

Cameron laughed again. Even Marceline cracked a smile, although hers was more smug and wry, tinged ever so slightly with a touch of pride. “Not long actually,” he confessed. “I think she looked me up and down, asked me to hang out with them and then pounced the next time we crossed paths. She didn’t put much thought into it honestly.”

“Obviously,” Marceline muttered into her glass of complimentary water.

“That sounds like Ellen,” Bonnie concurred.

Marceline leaned across the table. “What was her pitch?” she demanded. “How do you convince someone you want to date a girl you’ve never met?” And Bonnie thought maybe there was an ulterior motive behind the question but she couldn’t place it.

He just shrugged again, expression mildly sheepish. “She asked me if I wanted to date the greatest person on the planet.” One shoulder remained arched. “Said she’s a saint. I figured there are worse people to date than saints, you know?”

“She is,” Marceline mumbled. Cameron probably didn’t hear it, but Bonnie did. “And there are.”

Bonnibel didn’t argue with the term, she knew Marceline would never let her, so she just smiled. “That’s not much to go on,” she said instead.

Cameron opened his mouth, but Finn frisbee’d a menu in front of him, eliciting a shocked face and a sound to go with it. Marceline and Bonnie were much better prepared when Finn flicked theirs at them with a grin.

“In a hurry are you, Finn?” Marceline teased.

“I have to be home by seven,” Hayden told them. “Dad’s orders.”

“That’s really lame,” Bonnie opined.

“Pretty much.”

At least it gave her a good excuse to concentrate on something that wasn’t the way Cameron was looking at her. That was unnerving, but pouring over the menu she shared with Marceline was much easier, much nicer. And by the time meals had been selected and received he was engrossed in conversation with Finn again.

Bonnie felt relief wash over her, content to spend the entire evening muttering quietly with Marceline. Occasionally she knew Cameron’s gaze drifted over her, but she did her best to ignore it. Focusing on Marceline helped immensely. On the way her chair shuffled closer, the way their hands brushed, the smile Marceline directed her way – the one she reserved solely for looking at Bonnie. The way she smiled back because she just couldn’t help it.

“He keeps looking at you,” Marceline whispered.

“That’s why Ellen invited him,” Bonnie pointed out dryly.

“I don’t like it.”

Bonnibel had to roll her lips under to prevent from smiling (and possibly cooing a little bit). “Aw, you’re jealous.”

Marceline snorted. “I’m not jealous. Why would I be jealous? He’s a guy. That’s a distinct disadvantage with you.”

“Point,” she conceded, but couldn’t quite banish the grin threatening to burst to life. “But you’ve got your ‘defensive girlfriend’ face on. It’s cute.”

“I’m not cute,” she huffed.

“You’re adorable.”

Marceline lifted a finger. “I’m warning you, Banner.”

“Or what?” she challenged, lifting an eyebrow. “What will you do?”

Those blue eyes rolled skyward, obviously searching for something. Eventually she sighed. “Yeah, got nothing.”

“I promise not to call you those things when other people can hear,” she compromised. “How’s that?”

“I can live with it,” Marceline grumbled. “I guess.”

“Hey, guys.”

They both looked up to find Finn and Hayden standing. Cameron had skipped down a few seats and now had his hip pressed up against Ellen’s. Looks like ignoring him worked just fine in Bonnie’s secret counter-plan.

“We’re going now,” Hayden told them all, shrugging back into her coat. “Happy birthday, Bonnie. We’ll see you tomorrow.” Then she waved and followed Finn from the restaurant, smiling at something he’d said.

“When are those two going to bite the bullet and go out?” Ellen lamented softly.

Oh, all the answers that popped into Bonnie’s head she could use to reply to that. Wow. So many things. She wasn’t the only one to come up with smartarse replies either, if the expressions around the table were anything to go by.

“Is it really that late?” Marceline mumbled instead of whatever witty remark flitted around her face. She shook her wrist so she could see the hands on her watch. “Oh, yeah. Okay.”

“Are we all going?” Jake asked as Bonnie pushed her chair back to stand.

“I think so,” she said. “It’s been a long day.” Bonnie moved to step past the chairs, fingers trailing gently across Marceline’s shoulder as she went. But Jake leapt up, blocking her path.

“Where’re you going?’ he asked, brow furrowed suspiciously.

She gestured at the desk. “To pay…?”

“Nope,” Pippa sang, also bouncing to her feet, forcing Bonnibel back a pace. “Not today. Jake’s got it.”

“I’ll split with you,” Ellen added, jumping out of her seat to follow Jake as he headed for the reception.

“What?” Bonnie asked, incredulous. “Why?”

Marceline tilted her head back to smile up at her. “I guess because it’s your birthday,” she offered.

Pippa grinned but didn’t refute the suggestion. She cut a glance over at Cameron and then looked back at Bonnie. “I’m sorry about him, by the way,” she sighed. Honestly, Cameron looked so affronted by that it probably made the entire thing worth it. “Ellen didn’t share her plan. She just said that she had the best birthday present ever and it involved dinner.”

“It’s okay, Pip,” Bonnibel consoled. “Not the first time someone has tried to set me up with a guy.” Her eyes flicked Cameron’s way. “Not the first time they’ve failed either. Obviously.”

“Do I really not stand a chance here?” he asked, hands flat on the table. To be fair, he was nice enough now that he’d stopped trying to be super smooth. Yet nothing but apology filled their gazes as they stared at him.

“No, not at all,” Bonnie told him.

Marceline shifted awkwardly, clearly trying hard not to smile. For her part, Bonnie was having a tough time not squeezing her shoulder. Or touching her in any way actually. Quite the challenge, yes.

His eyes drifted between them both, something cranking behind his grey gaze. But he didn’t find the answer because his brows pinched together. “You just don’t date?”

“Sure,” Marceline said sardonically. “Run with that.”

Pippa eyed her then and Bonnie knew too much had been said. “Yeah,” she blurted. “I don’t date.”

Cameron grinned. “No exceptions?” he asked cheekily.

“Not for you,” she laughed. “You’re not my type.”

“Ouch. But fair enough.”

“Ask Eleanor out,” Marceline advised. “You’re her type.”

“There,” Jake exhaled, sidling back up to Pippa, throwing an arm around her waist. “No paying for Bonnie now. Let’s bounce.”

Cameron glanced up at Ellen. “Would you like me to drive you home?” he offered.

“You’re not driving Bonnie?” Oh Ellen was going to have a heart attack when she realised her plan had been sabotaged.

Now Bonnibel allowed a hand to rest against Marceline’s shoulder. “I’ve got a ride. Thanks though.”

Eleanor opened her mouth – probably to argue – but Bonnie was already pulling Marceline to her feet and dragging her outside. Jake and Pippa weren’t far behind them, but Ellen would probably be gobsmacked for a little while longer yet. Which could only be good for a clean getaway.

“That was the most interesting dinner I’ve ever been present for,” Jake huffed. “Wow. How’re you doing, Bonnibel?”

“I’ll survive, Jake. Thank you.”

“You didn’t talk much,” Pippa observed.

“Excuse you, Phillips,” Marceline interrupted. “When you go somewhere to eat, you eat. You don’t talk. Sheesh.”

“Plus there wasn’t much new to tell you guys since… you know, school let out,” Bonnibel added. “And I didn’t really want to encourage Ellen’s dumb idea with Cameron.”

Jake waved a hand at them. “All are excellent points,” he murmured.

“Yeah, okay,” she consented. “Fair enough. Did you at least have a good day, Bonnie?”

“Yes. Thank you, Pip. It was great.”

“Well good then.” Penelope began backpedalling towards Jake’s ute. “See you tomorrow.”

“Bye.”

The wind left Marceline’s lungs in an audible whoosh as she collapsed into the drivers’ seat. “Something about that was draining,” she grouched.

“Preaching to the converted,” Bonnie agreed, slumping back into the chair. “I’ve never experienced one of Ellen’s plans firsthand you know. That was… It was really something.”

“She’s devious, I’ll give her that,” she growled at the steering wheel as she pulled out onto the highway. “This one was just mean.”

Bonnie tilted her head. “To be fair,” she began – earning a strange look from Marceline. “They don’t know we’re dating. Ellen doesn’t even know I swing that way. If I was single, straight and looking for a guy, he probably wouldn’t have been a bad pick.” Searching Marceline’s profile for a reaction to that turned up empty. “Alas, my tastes run in a different direction.”

That got a smile. “Not ‘alas’ for me,” she sang. “They really don’t know? About you and me, I mean.”

“I’d say after nearly three months of dating we probably classify as an ‘us’ now,” Bonnibel mused. “Rather than a ‘you and me’. But no. I haven’t told them.”

“Why?”

“Because news travels fast in a small town. The fewer people who know something, the less likely it is to be spilled. I learned that lesson firsthand.”

“Ah yes. From when your beans were spilled in Ormeau.”

Bonnie’s lips pursed at the thought. “Mmm,” she agreed. “Once I’m sure nothing bad can come of them knowing we’re dating then I’ll tell them. Until then, I’m going to assume they’ll blurt it to your dad and get you relocated to somewhere I can’t reach you.”

“Which would suck,” Marceline guessed.

“Oh, it’d be the worst.”

There was quiet then – a comfortable one, sure, but silence just the same. They were almost back to Reich when Marceline muttered, “She was your friend, wasn’t she? The one who outed you.”

“Yeah,” Bonnie sighed. “They both were. One more so than the other. But yes. I thought I could trust them. I was wrong. I learned my lesson.”

“That sucks.”

“Yep. We don’t talk anymore so it’s okay.”

As they got out of the car at Bonnie’s place and headed inside Marceline’s smile flickered, changing in some subtle ways she couldn’t place. Whatever it was made Bonnibel’s skin tingle pleasantly. Almost she considered the possibility that the tingles were a warning of some kind.

And when the door clicked shut behind her the mental sensor went ding and her back hit the wall. She made a startled sound – first off – and then her arms were around Marceline’s shoulders and she realised what was happening. Bonnibel honestly had a whole zero complaints that Marceline chose that moment to kiss her. Especially when she had a moment of bravery and her tongue did that thing… yeah. That one.

She felt, more than consciously acknowledged, as she sighed into Marceline’s mouth. “That was abrupt,” she murmured when Marceline pulled back slightly.

“Yeah, but I’ve been holding that in for at least three hours,” Marceline breathed.

Bonnie hummed. “Do it again.”

Marceline chuckled but otherwise ignored her. “After I’ve given you your present,” she whispered, lips ghosting over Bonnie’s tauntingly.

“You didn’t have to get me anything,” she said. But it was a lot less convincing than when she’d said it to her other friends earlier. And Marceline heard it too.

“I did. Because you’re my girlfriend and I’d be an awful person if I didn’t.” Then she pulled away and Bonnie had to fight to contain the unhappy sound bubbling in the back of her throat. “Besides, it’s nothing extravagant. I promise.”

Her hand went to her back pocket and Bonnibel lifted an eyebrow. The other brow joined the first when Marceline produced a pair of what looked like tickets. Bonnie’s eyes roved over the print, but Marceline’s fingers obscured whatever they were tickets for.

“What’s this?” she asked, extending a hand warily to run a finger over the edge of the paper.

“There’s a band playing in Blackwater on the first week of the second semester break,” Marceline told her slowly. “And since you’ve never been to a concert before, I thought I’d rectify that. The fine print is that I don’t know whether you’ll like them or not. To that end,” and her hand went to her pocket again, coming back up with a flash drive. “I compiled a few of their songs for you to listen to. If you don’t like them we don’t have to go.”

Bonnie let Marceline keep the tickets, instead taking the flash drive. “Do you like them?”

“They’re one of my favourite small time bands.”

“Then I’m positive I’ll love it. You’re wonderful.” She pressed a kiss to Marceline’s cheek. “Thank you.”

Marceline turned her face at the last minute, leaning in to kiss Bonnie again. A lot like the last one. Having her toes curl into the ends of her shoes and a strange desperate warmth flood through her chest had never felt that good. Ever. It made her hands fist in the front of Marceline’s shirt in the hopes of keeping her close.

“You’re pretty wonderful yourself,” Marceline muttered, fingers twisting through the hair at the nape of Bonnie’s neck. “I should go. I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”

Reluctantly, Bonnibel let her go but Marceline didn’t even make it out the door. She paused to scoop a thick envelop off the floor from near the entrance. How they’d missed it before momentarily confused Bonnie. But then she remembered how focused she’d been on Marceline’s mouth and it made more sense.

“Mail?” Marceline asked cheekily.

“Peter must have slid it under the door when he got home,” Bonnie told her, taking the parcel. She didn’t wait for her girlfriend to leave before ripping it open to see what it contained. Once she’d read the first few lines and gotten the gist of it, she wordlessly handed it to Marceline, fighting down a grin.

In the space of a millisecond, Marceline’s bright blue eyes had widened impossibly and then her arms were around Bonnie, hugging her fiercely. “You got in too,” she breathed. “That’s awesome.”

Once more, Bonnie’s fingers burrowed into Marceline’s shirt. “I guess that means we really could move in together next year,” she teased.

The feeling of Marceline’s chin on her shoulder vanished only for her face to appear dangerously close to Bonnie’s. “You were serious about that?”

“Serious as cancer.”

“Don’t joke here, Bon,” she warned; expression unusually solemn.

Bonnibel pressed a slow, gentle kiss to Marceline’s lips. “Of course I meant it. Even if we were just friends, I meant it. No rush for concrete commitments though. There’s a lot of the year still to go.”

But Marceline smiled. “I’d kinda thought you were just kidding. You have no idea how awesome the idea of getting out of this town is though. Leaving with you is just about as perfect as something gets, Bon.”

“Nice to know,” she laughed. “Let’s see how the rest of the year pans out first, yeah?”

“Deal. I’ll see you in the morning.” With one last massive smile and a lingering kiss on the corner of Bonnie’s mouth, Marceline hurried out to her car. Hansen enforced a curfew after all, same as Hayden’s dad. Must be a father thing.

Despite Ellen’s little surprise, this had been a better birthday than she’d expected. Last year she’d been a little waspish about it because it was the first birthday without her parents. But this one… Yeah, this one was pretty good.

And it only got better when she got out of the shower to find a message on her phone from Cherry and Norman. Smiling, she settled into bed with a book and chatted with them until she fell asleep.