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Pray for the Preacher's Daughter

Chapter Text

Saturday 9th May 2015

Hanging with Bonnie? Easy as pie.

Hanging with Eleanor? Ugh. She’d rather drive nails into her ears. Rusty ones.

And the godforsaken blonde was pretty much the master of being irritating. Why Marceline had decided to come with them remained a mystery. Actually no, scratch that. It wasn’t a mystery at all, because apparently she has this big weak spot for Bonnie that involved her doing just about anything the redhead asked her to.

So there’s that. Hopefully one day she’ll build up a kind of tolerance for that adorable face Bonnibel uses to get her way.

Nah, she probably won’t. That’s okay. She can live with it.

Living with Eleanor though is potentially problematic.

“I have good news and bad news,” Eleanor was saying in that overly excited way she has. Marceline could not care less about her gossip, but zoning out just would not do. There would be a pop quiz later, she was sure.

“Bad news first,” Hayden requested.

“Bad news it is.” And then Eleanor paused because she had this thing for adding artificial drama to a conversation. “Halte has decided that any school events henceforth will require chaperones and a buddy system.”

Another pause, much longer this time. Marceline filled it with an eye roll.

“Okay,” Pippa said slowly. “So?” Obviously she wanted to point out that there really aren’t any school functions to speak of so this is a moot point. She didn’t because… well maybe she wanted to mess with Eleanor as well.

But Eleanor has a very specific way to play this game.

“What’s the good news,” Marceline sighed, indulging her.

So glad you asked, Abadeer,” Eleanor chittered like she honestly hadn’t expected someone to do just that. “The good news is that Halte – begrudgingly it should be noted – has approved our petition for a senior dance. Cue applause.”

“Wait,” Bonnie put in before anyone else could agree about how amazing it was. “He’s letting us throw a party?”

Eleanor’s bright smile crumpled. “Well… not exactly.” Ah, good catch Bonnie. “It will be a social get together with music and probably dancing. Some staff will be there, no doubt to enforce the six inch rule. We’ll have nibblies and stuff like that. All very formal. But… not a party. Too much parental guidance really.”

“That sucks,” Penelope opined.

“It’s not that bad,” Hayden argued. “A senior formal isn’t meant to be a big free-for-all. It’s supposed to be dignified to an extent. That’s why you dress up. Bonnie?”

“She’s right,” Bonnibel concurred.

“But that just makes it the same as the senior dinner only with music,” Eleanor lamented theatrically. “It’s lame.”

Marceline had to bite back the ‘you’re lame’ retort on the tip of her tongue.

“Better than nothing?” Finn offered. He looked pretty disinterested in the conversation too. Boys.

“I guess.” Eleanor didn’t sound convinced. In fact the look on her face was downright dubious. “Feels like false hope to me.”

Thankfully, Marceline’s phone vibrated in her hip pocket which saved Eleanor from getting a snide remark in response to that one. Bonnie (who was probably sitting too close given where they were) glanced down and back up, clearly having felt the vibrations. Her eyebrow canted up a little.

“Hot date?” she asked cheekily. Marceline’s gaze darted over to the rest of the table but none of them were paying her or Bonnie any mind. Whew.

Still, she kept her voice to a murmur when she replied, “Why would you need to text me?”

“Perhaps so there aren’t any loose ears?”

She had a point. Damn it. Marceline used pulling her phone from her pocket as the excuse not to answer that.

“Who is it?”

“Keila,” she mumbled, reading the text. “She says she’s in Blackwater today and heard I’m here with you guys and wanted to know if I needed a rescue staged.” Marceline could only sigh and slide her phone back into her jeans.

Before her hand could pull away, Bonnie’s fingers were wrapped around it, green eyes suddenly very intense on Marceline’s face. “Go.”

She glanced over at the others. Only Pippa seemed to be vaguely aware that something was happening. Hayden and Eleanor were still… debating the pros and cons of the senior thingie they were now allowed to have and the boys looked to be people watching. And she’d tagged along to hang out, not bail. What kind of message would that send?

“Go,” Bonnibel reiterated, her eyes never wavering. “How often does Keila request girl time? Go on.”

Still Marceline hesitated. “Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. You and I can hang out any time you like. You know that.”

She rolled the idea over. Then exhaled. “Alright. Okay. I’ll see you later.” Marceline stood, waving to Pippa (who was the only one to see her move). And honestly it took a monumental amount of effort not to overtly display any kind of relationship-type thing with Bonnie. She settled for a smile before firing a text at Keila asking for a location.

Not telling the others she was going would just make them wonder. And Eleanor would probably call her some kind of name. The idea made her smile.

In a shocking twist, Keila’s text only took about a minute to come through. Corner of Peach and Gibbons.

So… the café then. Makes sense. And it wasn’t even far from where Bonnie’s pals were hanging out. Bonus points.

Danny’s place had arguably the best coffee short of Ivy’s. When she and Keila had boarded in Blackwater they’d often snuck out to grab a donut and coffee. That was probably the earliest recorded rebellion Marceline had participated in. Danny didn’t own the shop anymore – sadly – he’d passed away ages ago. But it was still a great place to chill when in Blackwater. One of those hidden gems as far as cafés go.

So it was with a pleasant feeling thrumming in her chest (probably optimism, damn it) that she pushed the door in. It tinkled, prompting the young man at the counter to glance up. He went back to his task though so Marceline ignored him, eyes doing a quick scan for Keila.

She was in a booth near the counter. And she was alone Marceline noted with a smile. As she sank into the cushion opposite Keila her phone beeped.

“Secret lover?” Keila teased.

Marceline grumbled something at her (choosing not to notice how similar her assumption was to Bonnie’s from earlier). She also had to fight down the red threatening in her cheeks when she realised how accurate the comment had been. Since the text was from Bonnibel and she’s definitely a secret something.

You wouldn’t have wanted to hang out with us much longer anyway, the message read. Ellen and Pippa have decided that a first round of dress shopping is in order. You dodged a bullet. One that I won’t be so lucky to avoid.

She sent back a short message, You’ll live.

But the damage was evidently done. When she looked up from her phone (a soft smile having snuck onto her face when she wasn’t paying attention) Keila’s expression was bordering on triumphant.

“So it was a secret lover, huh?” she laughed.

“No,” Marceline grunted. “It was Bonnie.”

Keila rolled her eyes. “Much of a muchness, really. What did she want?”

“To tell me that they’re going dress shopping and I bailed at a good time,” she explained.

“Dress shopping?” She blinked as if the concept was foreign to her. “Why? Is there a special occasion coming up that I missed?”

Marceline shrugged. “Apparently that petition Eleanor and Melissa drafted about getting a senior formal was accepted,” she told her friend. “I guess now they’ll need to find ball gowns or something.”

“Oh that’s so exciting,” Keila practically squealed. “Here I was thinking I’d miss out on that particular high school ritual. Now I won’t.”

“Lucky for you. You can die happy.”

“Aw,” Keila sang. “What’s got you in a foul mood?”

What was she supposed to say to that? ‘Sorry, Keila, just a little confused as to how this dance thing will work because maybe I’ll be expected to go with my secret girlfriend and I’m kinda worried about that’? Yeah… no. So she shrugged instead.

“Something’s up with you. Don’t try to lie to me, Abadeer. Spit it out.” She paused, leaning across the table to better fix Marceline with her piercing brown gaze. “Are you worried you won’t have a date?”

“Date for what?”

Marceline didn’t even have to look up from the laminated table top to know who that was. So she rolled her eyes before looking at Gary. Of course he was here. What had ever made her think he wouldn’t be?

“A funeral,” Marceline grumbled softly into the hand cupping her chin.

“The school is having a senior formal,” Keila practically cooed. “Some of the girls put in a petition and it was accepted. It’s so great.”

Gary smiled his much too charming smile (seriously, how was it legal for his teeth to be so white?). “Do I need a tux?”

“Only if you plan on taking me,” Keila told him drolly.

“Which means ‘duh’,” Marceline added flatly.

He spared her no more than a passing glance before sinking into the padded seat beside Keila. “Tux it is, then,” he laughed. “I guess that means you’ll be going dress shopping too, yeah?”

Keila bobbed her head. “Yep. Not today though. I still want to head down to the music shop. Maybe over the holidays. You up for that, Marceline?”

“Dress shopping?” She lifted an eyebrow. “Yeah, I think I’ll pass.”

With a shrug Keila stood, already waving Gary to get up again. “Suit yourself. Let’s go do music now. Then we can have lunch.” She shoved him out of the booth. “Come on, Marce.”

One heavy sigh later and Marceline was following her friend down the street towards the centre of town. She tried. Honestly she tried. But inserting comments to the conversation Keila was having with Gary made her feel so tired. Especially when he did his utmost to ignore her.

“Don’t look so glum!” Keila sang to Marceline as Gary pushed the door in for them. Well, for Keila, it was probably just happenstance that saw him holding it for Marceline as well. “We haven’t been here for ages, I’m sure there’s something that’ll cheer you up.”

With that, Keila slipped her arm through Marceline’s and dragged her down to the latest releases. She ran the fingers of her free hand along the spines of the little plastic cases all lined up in their racks. Nothing in particular caught her eye though and Keila sidled away faster than she would have liked. It had almost felt normal, standing there with her eyes glued to an album case. Then she looked up – wanting her best friend’s opinion – only to find she wasn’t there. All that was left was emptiness and suddenly it hurt.

When her eyes scoured the room, she found Keila over by the mainstream stands trying to slap away Gary’s hands as he reached for something. Obviously whatever limited taste in music he had left a lot to be desired. But Keila laughed at him anyway, offering to fill in the spaces of his palate. Marceline had a feeling no amount of dedication from Keila – no well-intentioned exposure – could cure Gary of his limited appreciation for good quality music.

“Jealous?”

The album clattered back to the rack as Marceline spun, eyes ripped away from Keila, fear flaring (incidentally completely erasing any self-pitying emotions she might currently have been entertaining). When she realised who it was though, the fear vaporised. There was no room in her heart to be dealing with surprise mingled tightly with anxiety when she was suddenly so overwhelmed with distaste.

“Ash,” she huffed, reclaiming the case she’d dropped in her shock. “No. Why would I be jealous?”

His lips curled up in a way that superfluously seemed charming but upon closer inspection was actually just cocky and awful. “Because she’s got a guy and you’re wallowing over here in single town,” he said as if it should be obvious. To be fair, he didn’t know she wasn’t single.

“She’s happy.”

“You’re not.”

And there was the crux of the matter. She could hate him all she liked, but Ash had always been good at seeing past what she projected. She glared at him instead of giving him the satisfaction of looking surprised by his observation.

“You think?” she asked dryly. “I decide to hang out with my best friend and get ditched for…” she waved a hand at Gary. “One of the guys in an Apple commercial. I’m entitled to be a little bit irritated.”

Ash tilted his head, leaning up against the rack. And she didn’t fail to notice the way he blocked any retreat she might have. Standing between her and the exit had always been his method. Just another subtle reminder that she’s worth less than he; that he has power in the situation.

“That all it is?” he taunted. “You sure? It’s not because your best friend has a lovely relationship with that guy and you’re all alone? You’re losing your best friend and you don’t have a fall back. Seems worrying to me.”

For that comment she almost offered him her middle finger. “Keila’s not my only friend.” Even in her ears that sounded too defensive. And maybe a bit mopey.

He actually laughed at that. “Sure, babe. Whatever you think. Either way, once she’s gone you can still call me. I’ll always be around.” He winked, once again failing at being charming. “Just for you.”

“You wish.” The rest of that she’d never be brave enough to say aloud. You want a play thing, go buy one of those blow up dolls from down the street.

“I’m just saying,” he tutted, shrugging his shoulders. “Keila’s moving on. You won’t necessarily have her if your dad decides you need a boot out the door to get your life in check. And if he does kick you out, where do you have to go?” He placed a hand over his head. For her part, Marceline had to resist the temptation to inform him of the pair of pyjamas she now had permanently residing in Bonnibel’s top drawer. “My door is always open. You might need it one day.” He rolled his eyes when she opened her mouth. “Argue if you like, I’m only giving you another option.”

“Hey.”

They both turned to see Keila. Gary was conspicuously absent.

Ash just grinned at her. “Hello, Keila.”

“What do you want?”

He sighed. “Just trying to convince Marceline I’m not as bad as she thinks,” he lamented. “It doesn’t seem to have quite made it through yet. You know that Fran Pike doesn’t hate me, right? She’s always been a very good judge of character.”

“If she dated you, I’d say she kind of stinks at it,” Marceline retorted. It lacked the spark she was going for. Somehow, no matter how fiercely she reminded herself she’s a better person than he thinks, Ash had this way of addling her brain. And it always reduced her to her insecurities.

His smile ticked upwards at the corners. “I don’t think she’d appreciate that. But you’ll come around. Preacher’s daughters shouldn’t be harder to convince than the only child of the police captain.”

“Maybe Marceline has more sense,” Keila put in. Only it didn’t help because…

“Sense of self-righteousness maybe, sure. Don’t you know how hard it is to try to assure her that I’m not the fount of all evil?”

“It’s only hard because you’re a tool,” Marceline grouched at him.

Keila remained quiet. While Marceline couldn’t really blame her, it was still disheartening. The look of resigned acceptance colouring Keila’s features didn’t help that at all. It was like… It was like…

When the realisation hit her it hurt more than all of Ash’s words could ever manage.

Because this was Keila giving up.

She shoved past her (best?) friend and circled the stand so she didn’t have to walk past Ash. Then she pushed the door open and sucked in a deep breath while trying (and failing) to ignore the way his smile chased her. Somehow it felt like fleeing. And Marceline didn’t like it.

It left her hollow.

Her hands moved on their own; following the only logical course of action, and pulled her phone from her pocket. She gave no thought to punching in the words, it just happened.

Where are you?

Defying belief, she got a reply not ten seconds later. The mall. Second floor. Dillory’s. Just facts, but that’s how Bonnie’s brain works. The point was that she got a reply from Bonnibel faster than she had from Keila in a long time.

She retraced her steps from earlier until she found herself at the Blackwater Mall. Most of what she passed seemed blurry, but her mind was still foggy with all of Ash’s comments. He was right. About all of it. She was useless. Once she failed out of high school her dad wouldn’t let her stay. She’d have nowhere to go. But Ash would always be there. Waiting for her.

Pitiful. Pathetic. A waste of oxygen.

She should be thankful anyone would take in someone amounting to nothing more than trash.

The front of Dillory’s appeared almost out of nothingness in front of her and then she was shuffling through the store until she found them. Bonnie was sitting on a little stool outside the change rooms with Hayden. Marceline supposed the other two were trying out potential formal dresses.

Utilising her psychic abilities, Bonnibel looked up and beamed at her. So Marceline took the last few steps and hugged her. Because honestly? It was just super nice to remind herself that Bonnie was a real, tangible human being. A tangible human being who wrapped her up and hugged her back.

“Are you alright?” she whispered into Marceline’s collar.

All she could do was shake her head.

“Come on.” She didn’t quite let Marceline go, just pulled away slightly. “Hayden, let them know we’ll meet them at the food court?”

“Yep. We’ll be there in a bit. Finn said he and Jake will be waiting.”

Then Bonnie’s fingers were tangled with Marceline’s and she was being dragged from the store. Once outside those fingers vanished until they were sweeping hair from Marceline’s face and carefully brushing over her cheek.

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” Bonnibel asked her in that voice made entirely of concern.

She shrugged one shoulder.

“Please? I need to know if the problem needs an ice cream solution or if more drastic measures are necessary.” She smiled, threading the fingers of one hand through the hair on the back of Marceline’s neck. A tingle ran across her shoulders in response.

“Just…” she exhaled. “Ash was at the music store and Gary was with Keila. I feel… so… He’s right. About everything.”

“Who? Gary?”

“Ash.”

“No. Shush.” And when Marceline tried to open her mouth to argue Bonnie’s lips were there to silence her. “He’s a tool and I hate him and I swear to God I will break his nose. Whatever he said was just him being a prick, okay?”

No response. What could she say to that?

“Marceline? Look at me, honey, please?”

So she did. And instantly regretted it because those green eyes were just… mesmerising. “He said one day I’d have nowhere to go but back to him and then he’d get what he wants. He said that Fran… dated him. Past tense. He only ever leaves a girl for one reason.”

“Who’s Fran?”

“Blackwater Chief of Police’s daughter.”

Bonnie’s nose wrinkled. “What? Does Ash… collect girls with important fathers or something?”

The question was rhetorical but the way Marceline bobbed her head from side to side was obviously all the answer Bonnie needed.

“Ugh. I hate him even more now. I didn’t think that was possible. Listen to me, okay? You are amazing. Do you believe me?”

It took a moment, but searching Bonnie’s face for deceit turned up empty. “Yes,” she admitted.

“Good. He’s a dick and nothing he says is worth the brainpower it takes to understand.”

A watery smile flickered onto Marceline’s face at that. The vehemence in Bonnibel’s tone was impressive.

“Good thing Keila was there,” Bonnie sighed, hands fisting in the back of Marceline’s shirt. “I’m sure even Ash backs down with witnesses.”

“She wasn’t much use though,” she muttered. “Just sort of stood there.”

“Seriously? That’s pathetic. Some best friend.”

Yeah… some best friend. Good thing she had Bonnie then. She tucked her face a little further into Bonnie’s neck, wondering at the way the redhead always made her feel better. Just like magic.

She exhaled and with the breath, all the negativity Ash had somehow injected flowed out with it. The doubt lingering in her veins was banished by the overwhelming sense of happiness suddenly tumbling through her chest. Because Bonnie thought she was worth something. Something more than this.

Somehow, this moment was what she’d always needed.