In all honesty, Jake was surprised he didn’t figure out his ex wife and his best friend were together sooner. He really should have seen it coming. It should have hit him when Marcus offered to host their Christmas get together this year, or when he pulled in to find Abby’s car already parked comfortably next to Marcus’ BMW, or when Abby opened the door still wearing an apron, but not her shoes.
Abby and Jake had been divorced for nearly three years. Their jobs had kept them apart more than they liked, and after Clarke had left for college, they’d just decided it wasn’t working anymore. Everything had gone amicably. They were still quite good friends, bonding easily over the daughter they shared. So, when she opened the door, he greeted her with a hug and a kiss to the cheek and didn’t think anything of the way she seemed perfectly at home at Marcus’.
The rest of their party arrived quickly after Jake: Thelonious came with a bottle of wine and an air of importance, home from the campaign trail just in time to visit with his friends. Callie rounded out their group; she swept in like a gust of warm air, passing around smiles and hugs in excess.
20 MINUTES EARLIER:
“Abby, would you just relax? Everything’s going to be fine,” Marcus said for what felt like the 100th time that day.
Abby paced back and forth in his kitchen, glancing nervously at the clock.
“What if they’re upset? What if Callie is mad I didn’t tell her already? What if Jake thinks we’re, we’re--” She floundered, trying to find a word to describe how her ex husband could react negatively to the fact that she had been dating his best friend for the last four months.
Marcus pushed off from where he was leaning against the kitchen counter to stand in front of Abby, putting an end to her anxious pacing. He ran his hands up and down her arms before resting them on her shoulders, squeezing gently as his thumbs brushed against her collarbone.
“Abby, everything’s going to be fine. We’re going to have a nice dinner, everyone’s going to have a nice time, and then we’re going to tell our friends we’re together. Callie is your best friend, Abby, she’ll forgive you for taking your time. And as for Jake, you’ve known him almost your whole life. I’m honestly surprised he hasn’t already figured it out, babe.”
Abby’s eyes narrowed at him.
“Did you tell him already? Because if you did and you didn’t let me tell Callie sooner, I swear to God, Marcus...”
“Of course not! I haven’t said a word. We agreed we’d do it tonight.” He quickly rebuffed the statement when the apprehension passed over her face again. “And we are doing it tonight. Baby, all I’m saying is that Jake can read you like an open book.”
“But he hasn’t said anything to you, has he?” Abby started to worry about a whole new set of problems.
Marcus stepped closer to her, moving his hands to rest on her hips and pull her into him.
“No Abby, he hasn’t said a word. And I’m sure he’s going to be fine with it, they’re all going to be fine with it.” He leaned down to kiss the worry lines from her face, kissing her forehead first, then capturing her lips, gently sucking at her bottom lip before leaning back to smile at her now-calm face.
“It’s a shame you can’t just kiss me every time I start to get nervous.”
They broke apart and Marcus moved to check that the pecan pie wasn’t bubbling over in the oven.
“Well, I could, but I’m pretty sure they’d catch on a lot quicker than we’d planned if I do.”
Abby groaned into her wine glass just as the doorbell rang.
Now that he knew, now that Jake was absolutely certain Abby and Marcus were a thing, it was completely obvious. All of the little things he didn't see before were so clear that he almost laughed. He'd figured it out over the course of the evening, pinning his discovery on three distinct instances.
Abby was nervous. The thing about Abby was this: she wore her emotions on her sleeve. It was always pretty easy to know how she was feeling just by looking at her. And after being married to her for twenty years--and friends with her for thirty--it’s almost second nature for Jake to pick up on her mental state: Abby was very nervous about something.
Which didn’t make much sense when Jake first noticed her fidgeting with the gold bangle around her wrist, her eyes flitting between himself, Marcus, and Callie. For the life of him, Jake couldn’t think of anything that Abby would have to be nervous about this Christmas: Clarke was home from school for the holidays (well, she was currently out with Raven, but that had never been a problem), things were going well for her at work last time he’d checked, and she wasn’t dating anyone, at least as far as he knew.
Which meant Abby was hiding something.
Jake couldn't pinpoint the exact moment Abby stopped being nervous. It had to be sometime over the course of dinner--sometime in the midst of wine and turkey and another crazy campaign stop story from Thelonius and Marcus’ hand casually slipping from the table every now and then--in the midst of all that, Abby’s nerves seemed to evaporate. Jake had let it slide and decided he’d figure it out later.
He could tell you in vivid detail the moment he realized Abby was aroused. Being married to someone for 20 years gives a person a particular insight into their body language, and having spectacularly great sex with Abby for at least 18 of those years made it pretty easy for Jake to know when she was turned on--and Abby was definitely turned on. He saw it the moment she returned from the kitchen: the red flush of her skin creeping up her neck and coloring her cheeks, the smile she thought she was hiding by looking down, the wicked glint to her dark eyes. To anyone else, she may have just looked like she was enjoying the party, warmed by the glass of wine she’d had with her dinner. But to Jake, it was obvious: No one's that excited about pecan pie, Abby.
An alarm went off in his head when Marcus emerged from the kitchen behind her with some kind of cherry concoction in his hands, his grin mirroring Abby’s as he looked down towards the dessert to carefully avoid the eyes if his friends. It wasn’t a glaring red alarm--no, that one didn’t go off for another 20 minutes at least, but more like a softly flashing yellow one.
What the hell happened in that kitchen?
The last piece of empirical evidence that Jake used to prove his theory about Abby and Marcus was less theoretical than the first two. The last piece was more like getting hit over the head with a two by four labeled: YOUR BEST FRIENDS ARE IN LOVE WITH EACH OTHER.
Marcus had moved to collect everyone’s plates after dessert like the good host he was, and the ever-helpful Abby picked up what he couldn’t and followed him into the kitchen.
Honestly, something about Marcus’ kitchen was trouble.
Callie idly commented on the weather, and the likelihood of a white Christmas while Jaha checked his watch again. Jake replied thoughtfully to Callie, encouraged her wishes for snow--even enjoyed the way her eyes lit up at the idea.
He got up a moment later to see if he could give Marcus and Abby a hand with the post dinner cocktails. He walked into the kitchen with an to offer of assistance on his lips when the sight of Marcus wrapped around Abby from behind stopped him in his tracks. They hadn’t noticed him, but he noticed the way Marcus brushed his lips against Abby’s neck, the way his arms pulled her close, pressed against him. He noticed the way one of Abby’s hands abandoned the dishes in front of her to thread her fingers through the soft hair at the nape of Marcus’ neck.
He left the room as Abby leaned up to capture Marcus’ lips with her own. Something about her contented sigh made him decide to let them have this moment.
That wasn’t to say he wasn’t going to have his fun with them now.
Jake waited until they were all settled in Marcus’ comfortable living room. The space was open and the bar was set up in the corner to allow them access to various holiday cocktails. With two large white couches facing each other, a pair of leather armchairs at one end and the fireplace at the other, they didn’t lack for a place to sit. Thelonious situated himself in one of the armchairs with a glass of bourbon; Jake took the end of one couch, his back to the bar, and smiled when Callie sat down next to him with her glass of eggnog, slipping her shoes off and curling her legs up beneath her.
“You’re up to something.”
Callie offered him a glass of eggnog of his own and he took it, warmed by her sly grin.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about Cartwig.” He said, smugly taking a sip of the drink she’d brought him to hide his own amusement.
“You’re up to something, and I want in.”
Jake shot her a sideways glance.
“I saw you coming out of the kitchen. You looked like you’d seen a very amusing ghost. Come on Griffin, fess up, what’d you see?”
He narrowed his eyes at her. She definitely knew, she just wanted him to confirm it.
“I’m pretty sure you already know.”
She smirked into her eggnog, looking pointedly over to the bar where Marcus and Abby still stood fixing their drinks. Marcus’ hand brushed against the small of her back as he whispered something to which she nodded before he left her to take his seat on the couch opposite Jake and Callie.
Jesus, they weren't even trying to be subtle anymore, were they?
“So maybe I do, humor me.”
“Okay, I’ve got a plan. Just, follow my lead,”
He waited for Marcus to settle on the couch, hearing Abby still behind stirring her traditional mulled wine with a cinnamon stick before executing said plan.
“So, Marcus, how long have you been sleeping with my ex-wife?”
The crash of glass on hardwood broke the silence: Abby had dropped her wine glass.
Jake looked smug, Callie looked amused, and Thelonious moved to help Abby with the spilled wine and her broken glass. Marcus looked remarkably calm--if he reacted at all, Jake didn’t catch it.
“Well, about four months now, actually.”
Jake choked on his eggnog.
“Marcus!” Abby hissed at him as she and Thelonious finished with the mess she’d made moments ago.
“Four months!?” Callie exclaimed next to a sputtering Jake, her hand patting his back to help with the eggnog he took down the wrong way.
“We were going to tell you all tonight! Callie I'm--”
The rest of Abby's sentence died in her throat as they all turned at the sound of the front door opening.
“Knock, knock! Ho, ho, ho, we've come to crash your party!”
“That'll be Clarke,” Marcus smiled. “Come on in we’re in the den, you're just in time.”
Abby looked almost panic stricken as Clarke walked in hand in hand with her girlfriend, Raven. She played it off well and most of them had regained their composure.
Marcus stood to greet the two and offered them a seat on the couch and a drink. Abby poured them each a glass of eggnog, as well as a new glass of wine for herself. Marcus gave the girls the couch and took the empty armchair next to Thelonious. Abby came to stand beside him, leaning her hip against the armrest.
“Clarke, everyone, we have something to tell you. Abby and I--” Marcus didn’t get to finish his sentence as Clarke cut him off.
Abby took a big gulp of her wine.
“Is this about you two hooking up? Because I--”
“I love him.”
Abby’s declaration brought a blanket of silence over the room. All eyes unerringly turned to her. Marcus looked at her like she was the most beautiful thing in the world; if anyone didn’t know how he felt about her in return, they would now.
“I love him,” Abby said again, slower. Looking down at Marcus, she slid her open hand into his and held it tight. “I’m in love with him.”
She looked around the room for reactions. Thelonious had an almost unreadable expression of pride, Jake looked pleasantly surprised and Callie was beaming at them. Yet it’s Clarke’s reaction that was both her biggest concern, and the biggest surprise.
“About time you admitted it. I've known for months. Dad you owe me 20 bucks!”
Jake reluctantly pulled out his wallet. Abby and Marcus watched the exchange between Clarke and Jake with wide eyes.
“You know I should get points back for actually figuring it out before they told us all. Just, for the record."
“Yeah yeah, a bet’s a bet, old man. You didn’t believe me!” Clarke stood, leaning over the coffee table to retrieve the twenty from Jake.
“Wait, wait Clarke you knew about us? And you didn’t say anything?” Abby tentatively questioned looking for more information.
“I was a little surprised at first, but I knew you’d tell me when you were ready.” Clarke smiled at her, a smile meant only for her mother. “I’m happy for you.”
Clarke plopped back down on the couch and Raven tossed her arm around her.
“How did you know?” Marcus asked, looking impressed.
“Remember Mom’s birthday a couple months ago? We all went out to that swanky Italian place she loves?”
Thelonious had been on the campaign trail, but the rest of the room nodded in affirmation. Clarke turned and looks directly at Marcus, his hand still wrapped around Abby’s his thumb brushing back and forth against the back of her hand.
“You looked at her like she was the only person in the world. Which is not really the discovery part, you’ve looked at her like that for ages, but I caught her looking back at you the same way.”
Abby looked at her daughter in awe.
“Plus mom keeps forgetting to hide your toothbrush when I come home from school.”
The rest of the room broke into a fit of laughter. Abby was both relieved and shocked by this revelation. Clarke knew, they all know, and everything was okay. Marcus had been right all along.
“We knew it was only a matter of time before you two told everyone. Especially now that he’s gone all scruffy lookin’. I told Clarke you wouldn’t be able to keep your hands off him.” Clarke elbowed Raven in the ribs.
Callie piped up from across the room, “Yeah Abby never could resist that unshaven bad boy look.”
“I happen to like nice men.” Abby said indignantly, now perched on the armrest of Marcus’ chair.
“I'm a nice man.” Marcus, Jake, and Thelonious all spoke in unison and Callie rolled her eyes so hard Abby could almost hear it.
Marcus let go of her hand, wrapped his arm around her hips and pulled her over the armrest and into his lap. She gasped as she landed and her laughter and warmth radiated throughout the room.
“You called Clarke didn’t you?” She asked, brushing her hands along the scratchy softness of Marcus’ beard.
He nodded, “I knew you’d want her to know. I just didn’t know she’d beat me to the punch, I guess she gets that one from Jake.”
Abby laughed and kissed him then, his lips tasted sweet and she couldn’t help but smile into his mouth.
When they pulled apart, Marcus whispered into her ear, his lips brushing against her neck.
“Merry Christmas, Abby.”