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            The kids had been hard at work on costumes for nearly an hour when John Murphy voiced the question that had occurred to many of them. “I don’t get it. If Leonato’s so wealthy, why are their clothes ratty?”

            “Not everyone’s, John,” Lexa sighed. It sounded as though she had explained this one too many times to cast members already. “Just the servants. Their station’s pretty isolated, so they wouldn’t get that many shipments. What they do get goes to Leonato’s family first. That’s why Leonato, Hero, Beatrice’s costumes are nicer. And the soldiers’ first costumes are disheveled since they’re coming back from war, but they’ll get new clothes for their next appearance.”

            He rolled his eyes and looked to Emori, who sat beside him on the floor, sewing a patch onto a shirt. “You do know this is exactly why I became a booth guy, right? So I wouldn’t have to deal with this crap.”

            Rather than answer, she smirked and leaned over, kissing him on the cheek.

            Octavia was less eager to let this sort of grumbling slide. “Lexa and I need all the help we can get right now, Murphy. We’ve only done fittings with a third of the costumes, and Bell is starting to get antsy.”

            “Which explains why he’s also elbows-deep in fabric… Oh, hang on.” John glanced around Raven’s apartment, feigning surprise when he did not spot the elder Blake sibling. “He’s not, is he?”

            “Calm down, Murph. He’ll be here as soon as he’s done with Mr. Jaha.” Clarke said. Nearly ten minutes earlier, their dinner had been delivered, and Clarke and Wells had taken it to the kitchen, to get all the food out where there was no threat of staining costumes. Now, she stood in the doorway to tell them all, “In the meantime, the food’s ready.”

            Everyone discarded their respective tasks immediately, jumping to their feet and rushing to get into a line and squeeze into Raven’s miniscule kitchen.

            John Murphy was not the only one who was cognizant of the fact that they had little legitimate reason to be so hard at work on the costumes. But Clarke had tired of hearing Bellamy and Lexa complain about how slow-going the costume-making was, and the three of them combined had little trouble strong-arming their friends into helping to move the process along.

            “No food near the costumes,” Lexa instructed them all as they filtered through the kitchen. “I don’t want any stains that we could have avoided.”

            That said, costumes were spread throughout Raven’s living and dining rooms, which limited the area in which the kids could eat. So they huddled close in small areas, remaining on their feet as they chatted over their food. Clarke, Lexa, and Raven found themselves cramped in a corner of the kitchen.

            “Has all this helped you and Octavia to make enough of a dent?” Clarke asked.

            “It has, yes.” Lexa smiled gently. “Bellamy will be thrilled. I think we’ll be able to send everybody home by 9.”

            Raven looked between them. “Are you guys still planning to stay overnight?”

            “Oh, you couldn’t get rid of us if you tried,” Clarke grinned. “I think Bell and Octavia are still planning to stick around, too.”

            “Good, I’m glad. It’ll be fun.” Raven nodded toward Octavia, who was busy shooing Nathan and Eric away from Nathan’s wedding costume. “Maybe we can even get their minds off the play for a few hours.”

            Clarke sighed and shook her head. “Not likely. When my mom and I went into Indra’s last Saturday, Bellamy was in there to talk about some costume idea that Octavia apparently had while cleaning the espresso machine. They didn’t even want to wait until her break to discuss it.”

            “Was that when she figured out how we could reuse Hero’s wedding dress in Act 5?” Lexa asked. “Because that really was brilliant…” At the sight of Clarke’s raised eyebrows, she faltered, looking somewhat abashed as she concluded, “But obviously she shouldn’t be fretting so much.”

            “Right.” Clarke smirked. “You could probably sound a little less half-hearted, but I know it’s just because you want to be done too. Which, y’know… will be soon. We’ll be finished with the show before we know it.”

            “That’s probably a bit of a relief to you too, right?”

            Clarke’s brow furrowed just slightly. “What do you mean?”

            “Um, I just meant…” As soon as Raven began to stammer, Clarke knew she wasn’t going to like what her friend was trying to say. “Because it seems like your mom and Marcus are… fighting… again, so it’ll probably nice for you to… not have to be in the middle of that,” she ended lamely.

            “Oh.” Clarke did not frown—her expression remained vacant as she quite pointedly looked around the room. “I don’t know where you’d get that idea.”

            Raven bit her lip, glancing to Lexa for assistance, which she received. “It’s not so much the fact that they don’t seem to talk anywhere near as much as they were…”

            “Even though that’s true,” Raven muttered.

            Lexa continued, “But they don’t… they don’t talk about each other, Clarke. Even when Mr. Jaha and Bellamy give them comments on scenes together, it’s like they’re… like they’re even scared to say each other’s names.”

            Clarke swallowed hard. It had been about a week since Abby came to Clarke and revealed the grittier details of her history with Marcus. Although Clarke agreed that all of Lexa and Raven’s observations were true – and although she was quietly thinking herself that it would be a relief not to watch Abby and Marcus dancing around each other anymore – she wasn’t sure whether she should really acknowledge Marcus and Abby’s discord to anyone.

            But she had tired of this secret and tired of not being able to talk about it with anyone aside from her mother.

            “I suppose they have been a bit distant. I’ve just been trying not to think about it much.” Which was true.

            “You? Stifle your feelings about a personal conflict?”

            “Never would’ve seen that coming,” Raven chimed in.

            Clarke scoffed and rolled her eyes, taking a large bite of her sandwich that rendered her mute. She was saved from further discussion of the topic when they heard Raven’s front door open and peered into the living room to see that Bellamy had arrived.

            He responded to the chorus of greetings with a lighthearted, “Hey you guys. Did I miss anything important?”

            Octavia laughed. “Nope, we’ve been saving the most boring job just for you.” She and Bellamy shared a quick fist bump as he strode into the kitchen. “You get to fold everything. And mind the creases on those military costumes, the asshole director would kill me if anyone messes them up.”

            “I bet he would,” Bellamy agreed. Shaking his head sadly, he mused, “That guy really sounds like a dick, O.”

            “Aren’t you tired of making fun of yourself yet?” Raven asked.

             “Never.” He nodded toward the platters that still sat on the kitchen counter. “Can I partake, or will Murph bite my head off for eating when I haven’t done anything yet?”

            From the other room, they heard a shout of, “What do you think?”

            Bellamy rolled his eyes, but he smiled fondly. “Right. Okay, I’ll hold off on dinner for a bit.” He was about to head back into the living room, but he stopped almost immediately and looked over at Clarke. “Oh, could you let your mom know that Thelonious wants to stage the Act 4, scene 1 kiss later this week? I honestly think we could put it off until tech week, but he really thinks it’s important to make sure that it’s well-executed.”

            Clarke stammered for a moment before saying, “Yeah, of course.”

            “Great. Maybe she can let Marcus know too?”

            This time, Clarke couldn’t even bring herself to speak, so she just smiled and nodded, trying her best to ignore the pointed glance that Raven and Lexa were exchanging from either side of her.

            As soon as Bellamy left the kitchen, Clarke cleared her throat and said, “Well, I think I’m going to get back to work,” before devouring the rest of her sandwich in one large bite.

 

**

 

            Clarke, Raven, and the Blakes had their fair share of sleepovers growing up, and when Lexa moved to Arkadia as a freshman in high school, she gradually became a part of this tradition as well. It used to be customary for them to stay at the Griffins’ house. They would all fall asleep on the floor in the basement in the middle of watching some movie, and they wouldn’t emerge until the smell of Jake’s cooking wafted down to them (helped along by Abby, who, Clarke later learned, would open the door to the basement just a crack and talk somewhat loudly in the hopes that the kids would stir).

            It didn’t feel quite right to have them stay at her house again once Jake was gone, and, although she never discussed it with them, she got the sense that her friends felt the same, because Raven’s apartment became an inevitable replacement when everyone else came home for Christmas and summer vacations.

            Sometimes they woke up and prepared their own breakfast together, but after so much time spent on costumes – and a spontaneous Lord of the Rings marathon that died off when Bellamy realized at the end of Fellowship that he was the only one still awake – none of them were up to cooking.

            Which was what prompted them all to filter into Indra’s at 9am, sleepy but cheerful as they ordered coffee and food.

            It wasn’t until they were all seated that Clarke looked around the café and spotted Marcus, sitting alone and reading in a secluded corner that was partially concealed by the counter.

            He was too consumed by his coffee and book to see her, and for nearly half an hour, she didn’t want him to. She didn’t want him to feel obligated to greet her.

            But Clarke found it increasingly difficult to ignore the thought of Abby’s tears as she described the tumultuous moments of her history with Marcus, as she thought of the anxiety and uncertainty that she knew her mother was feeling at the thought of him.

            Moreover, she thought of Raven and Lexa’s teasing about her inclination to ignore conflicts, which had nagged at her all night. Because her first instinct had been to point out that she simply did not feel it fair to discuss the particulars of her mother’s romantic life without permission, but as she’d drifted off to sleep, she found herself acknowledging the aspect of this entire conflict that she had been ignoring.

            Looking down at her mug, she saw that she’d finished off her coffee, and with a glance toward Marcus’s corner, she made a split-second decision. “I’ll be back,” she said to the table.

            “Hi Indra,” she said as she reached the counter. “Could I do a refill, please?”

            Indra nodded and gave Clarke a small smile. “Of course. I can bring it back to your table if you like.”

            “No, I’m actually going to… bother him for a little bit,” she said carefully, nodding in the direction of Marcus’s corner.

            “You don’t say.” Indra looked toward Marcus, her jaw set, and Clarke found herself wondering whether he had confided anything in her. Then: “Good, I think he could use a bit of company. Why don’t you wait for your drink here, then? And I’ll give you some coffee for him, he’s probably ready for some decaf by now.”

            When Clarke slid Marcus’s coffee onto his table, he didn’t even raise his eyes from his book at first. “Is it 10 o’clock already?”

            Then Clarke put her drink down and sat across from him. “Not quite, but nearly.”

            He snapped his book shut and looked up quick after that. “Clarke. Hi.”

            She gave him the gentlest smile she could muster. “Hi.”

            Neither of them said anything for a few moments, but it didn’t feel quite as awkward as Clarke expected. Finally, Marcus nodded toward her friends. “Did you guys get some work done on the costumes like you were hoping?”

            “We did, yeah.” Clarke’s smile grew wider. “We made a lot of progress. Eric was so excited by how useful it was that I think he’s going to drag us all into finishing the set, too.”

            “I’m glad it went well.”

            Marcus did not look back at his book. He was not glancing around the café. Clarke got the overall impression that he wanted her there, but as he fidgeted with his mug and spent too long stirring in his sugar, she could tell that he didn’t know what to say to her, either.

            So Clarke decided to put him out of his misery. “She told me.”

            His mouth fell open just slightly. “Wh– Abby?” When Clarke nodded, he asked, “What did she tell you?”

            “She told me about Chicago. And about what happened on the camping trip that made her leave.”

            “Does it…” Marcus frowned down at the table. “Is it rude of me to say that I’m surprised?”

            “So am I.” When he glanced up at her with raised eyebrows, she rushed to add, “Not about you, I mean. That didn’t… that didn’t surprise me at all. I’m surprised that she talked to me about it.”

            Marcus leaned back in his seat and crossed his arms, exhaling slowly. “Are you here to try and talk to me for her?”

            “God no,” Clarke exclaimed. The immediacy of her response drew a sincere chuckle from Marcus, which made her smile just a bit. “She told me what happened between you two, but I don’t know what she wants. I don’t think she knows. And I hope that she figures it out, because she’s… she’s not happy right now, and I hate to see her like that. But I… I wanted to talk to you about something else.”

            He gestured her on, although he eyed her cautiously. “Go ahead.”

            “Last time you and Mom stopped talking, I was totally in the dark about why. I imagined so many reasons for what could have happened so abruptly, these ridiculous things that I kind of laugh at now that I know better.” Clarke cocked her head at Marcus and squinted as she said, “But I didn’t care nearly as much about that as I did about why you stopped talking to me.”

            Marcus’s features immediately softened, and such distress shone in his eyes as he said, “Shit, Clarke… I just wasn’t sure… I didn’t know what you’d want or if you’d… feel weird…” He ran a hand through his hair. “It feels so lame saying it out loud.”

            “I’m not upset about that anymore, though,” she rushed to reassure him. “I kind of figured it was a concern about, like, picking sides. It probably felt easier to just do it for me.”

            “Yes,” he murmured. “Something like that.”

            “But imagine what it was like for me to grow up with you around all the time, and then to just… not hear from you anymore. Hell, you were practically my dad. Which… feels a bit strange to say now, given the circumstances,” she said slowly, frowning down at the table and chuckling slightly as Marcus laughed into his mug. “But it’s true. It… it sucks that my dad is gone, but that first year, all I could think about was how much harder it would have been without Mom and you. It was nice to know that we could all kind of take care of each other.”

             Marcus smiled to himself. “It was, yeah. But what…” He hesitated. “What are you getting at, exactly?”

            “Just…” Clarke sighed. “You and my mom might not talk for the next week, or for the next 25 years, but I’d really appreciate it if you don’t convince yourself that I’m on anyone’s side this time. Do you think you can do that?”

            “I think so.”

            “Good. Because you’re important to me.”

            He swallowed hard before giving her an earnest – albeit shaky – smile. “You’re important to me, too.” Glancing over Clarke’s shoulder, Marcus said, “If you want to go back to your friends, now, though, I won’t be offended.”

            Clarke didn’t even give this suggestion consideration. “Don’t worry about it. They’re not going anywhere. We can chat for a little bit longer.”

            She didn’t miss the fact that he became even more relaxed after that.