So as I'm starting to write this we haven't had the surgery yet and I'm using some of the spoilers to situate this fanfic. Please forgive anything I've missed or changed to what has since happened. Other than that everything up to this point in their storyline is taken from Canon including how Clara has been portrayed with Cadu – so she is affectionate and concerned for him. No sex, but just fyi, in case it makes you hurl to think of Clara loving Cadu...

The reason for this fic is I was rewatching the early episodes and when Marina said she would like to photograph Clara and Cadu naked and I was like, I would like to see that (minus Cadu) and it will never happen on the show, so I wanted to explore that idea (hehehehehehe) and the consequences of something like that happening... Also how there are no English fics for Clarina yet is beyond me, so I thought, why not give it a go?

I aim to post a chapter a week and I've planned the arc of the story but not sure how long it will run. A good dozen chapters at least.

Finally no beta, all mistakes are mine.

Enjoy and comments, likes and rebloggs most appreciated!

FINDING HER WAY

CHAPTER ONE

It had been a month and a half. It felt like a year.

Marina sat at the desk in her photography studio, her laptop glowing ghostly white against her pale skin. She unconsciously tucked a mesh of hair behind her ear and refreshed her inbox. Nothing. She sighed and sipped her wine, unfolding herself from her chair, arching back and feeling the tension ease in her spine. Normally she would ask Vanessa to massage her, but things have been strained between them ever since that day when they had faught because she hadn't wanted to finish the shoot with the pregnant women. Things had only worsened when she'd canceled her shoot to be with Clara in the hospital, when Cadu had received his new heart, and Vanessa had asked Flavina to take the photos instead of listening to her. The act had felt so deliberately calculated to hurt her, no matter that they came out well.

They'd submitted the final material for the campaign just today, just on time and Marina knew it was only thanks to Vanessa that they'd managed it but if she were honest, she didn't care. She didn't seem to care for much these days, except for those emails, texts and those precious few late night phone calls made in whispers. She lived for the sound of Clara's husky voice on the end of the line made soft with longing and all the things left unsaid. It was unlike her and she'd tried to fight it but she'd finally discovered something in her life that was bigger than her. At times she felt like a rag doll tossed on a stormy sea, unsure of when she'd find solid ground again, unsure of where she'd find the strength to stay afloat but a smile, a word, a touch from Clara and she knew she'd endure so much more to have her near. She wondered if this was pure folly or if it was the bravest thing she'd ever done. She didn't know. All she knew was that she would endure it all until she couldn't endure it any longer.

She hadn't seen Clara in a week, since she'd dropped by the bistro to have lunch with her. They'd both been so busy with work.

She clicked the refresh button one more time and her heart lept when she saw she had mail and as quickly sank when she saw it wasn't from her. She opened it anyway - it was from Edouard St Pierre the curator of the Centre National de la Photographie in Paris. She had done some work with them a few years back, a series of naked portraits she'd shot on culture and ethnicity as part of a larger exhibition for emerging female photographers. Her work had been well received and she and Edouard had remained on friendly terms. Sitting down she began to read. It seemed he needed her help with a project for the 'Mois de Photographie' festival happening next month. A photographer had pulled out last minute and left him in the lurch, could she step in?

"You still up?"

Clara looked up to see Vanessa standing in the half light of the door. Her untamed auburn hair glowed dully, framing her porcelain face. She wore a pinched look, her favoured expression of late, making her already sharp face look more angular.

"It's e-mail for Edouard St Pierre, if you must know."

"Really?"

Vanessa moved to read over her shoulder.

"You'll do it of course." she said when she had finished reading.

"I suppose you'll make me."

"We need the money and this is well paid."

"Yes, I know. Enough about money!"

"I'll stop going on about money when we don't have debtors banging on our door."

"Well, I don't know that I want go to Paris for a week."

"Marina! For the love of God, please stop acting like a petulant child, nothing will change while you are gone..."

"I'm going to bed." Marina said shutting the lid of her laptop. Their conversations seemed to have fallen into predictable patterns and she didn't want to go there yet again. They both knew why she didn't want to go anywhere and it would only lead to another fight. She finished the last of her wine and moved towards the door.

"Be sure to have your phone on you when he calls tomorrow." Vanessa called after her.

Marina waved over her shoulder and disappeared through the doorway to bed.

Xxx

Clarina had been up since 5 am. She'd laid out breakfast, cleaned the kitchen, prepared Ivan's school lunch and, while waiting for him to get ready for school, had begun the tedious task of sorting through the bistro's supplier bills. She tapped the end of her pencil against the stack as she read through the cost breakdown and circled an amount from a crate of tomatoes. Their fresh produce provider had given them an over ripe crate a couple of weeks before and then avoided replacing it. Clara had hesitated to chase it up but Helena had been adamant that she needed to or else he'd just start sending more spoiled goods. So she'd steeled herself and called him again. He'd agreed to send out a replacement but here he was trying to charge for it. She wished Cadu was well enough to do this, he was so good at charming people and he would have had the grocer eating out of his hand. And though she could approach the work at the bistro with a friendly, positive demeanour, she'd never had to think about these sorts of details before. She'd always been the one who kept things at home in order so that Cadu could see to business – or rather various businesses he'd started up in their ten years together.

She stamped the invoice with the date and placed it to the side to follow it up and moved onto the next one with a sigh. As she inputted the invoice amount into the computer software she hesitated a moment and, looking to the bedroom door, clicked open her email tab and began to write:

Dearest Marina,

I am sitting at the dining room table looking at bistro invoices and wishing I was getting ready to come to the studio like I used to. I hope it's not too long before I can return again, I feel the walls of the apartment and the bistro closing in on me with every day and your photography studio has always been like a breath of fresh air to me. I can't wait to start breathing again.

Cadu is improving but progress is slow. He slept fitfully last night and I have to remind him to take his medication most of the time. I guess he just needs rest, he's still sleeping 15 hours a day but his body seems to have accepted the heart and I'm beginning to feel confident there is an end in sight. Thank God.

Did you get the photos in yesterday? Were you happy with them? I loved the ones of the pregnant women you sent me, especially that one where the taller woman was looking down, her hands resting on her swollen belly... I don't know how you did it but you captured such strength and such vulnerability in the same moment. Maybe it was how the light played off on her skin or the curve of her eyelashes but it seemed to me she embodied the essence of woman – so powerful and yet capable of such softness.

I hope this project has helped pay off the creditors you told me about and that there will be more projects like this to help keep things afloat. I'm proud of how you've stepped up this challenge, I guess we are both being forced by circumstance to find strength we didn't know we possessed.

Kisses

Clara.

As she tapped the final words, Ivan, rubbing his eyes, ambled to the table and sat down at his customary spot next to her. Clara closed the lid of her laptop.

"Morning, mum" Ivan said.

"Morning, my darling" she said and kissed his soft cheek. She loved the way he smelled in the morning, warm sleepy skin and something that was all his own. "Eggs?" she asked.

"No, cereal, mum." he said and proceeded to pour himself a bowl. "Can I watch TV?"

"You know the answer to that."

"Awww, mum"

"It's a bad habit that your father has allowed but don't get used to it."

"Fine." he said a little huffy.

"Besides, you have fifteen minutes before I drop you off at grand-ma's"

She had an agreement with her mum who was taking him to school because she had to be at the bistro at 7.30am most days. They had hired a cook temporarily who arrived at 5.30am to do prep but she needed to ensure everything was going smoothly, write up the specials, deal to the produce deliveries and ensure they were ready for their 9am opening time. She would often stay until she had to pick Ivan up from school and then it was getting him to his after school classes, running errands and tending to Cadu.

She went to check on him and was relieved to see that he had fallen asleep properly. He would probably wake late morning and then she would call him to make sure he was okay. Seeing him in his hospital bed only six short weeks ago had frightened her more than she cared to admit. She kissed his forehead and went to collect her gear for the long day ahead.

Xxxx

Marina had spoken with Edourad for over an hour. The project had her feeling inspired, excited even and had finally given him a conditional yes to doing the project. Vanessa had hovered within ear shot the entire time under the pretense of tidying away the lights from their last photoshoot and had shot her a sharp look when she finally hung up.

"A conditional yes?"

"Vanessa, please, don't start."

She picked up her bag and slipped on her shoes.

"Where are you going?"

"I'm going out. I'll come back and then I'll let him know if I'll do the project."

She walked out, glad to be away from Vanessa's disapproving eyes.

Xxxx

The lunchtime rush had died down. Clara was taking opportunity of the lull to polish the cutlery while she mentally went through a list of things she needed to do. Glasses, she needed to get a few boxes, they'd already had a few breakages and they'd run low on them today. The food order needed to be finished in the next hour and sent off and she needed to finish processing those invoices for payment - she hadn't had a moment to see to them all morning. She also needed to talk to the chef before she left about the holondaise sauce.

It was as she was putting putting the cutlery away below the bar that she heard her voice.

"Hello, Clara."

She paused a moment, surprised by the way her heart leapt and her breath caught. She rose and she beheld that precious face, that smile, those eyes.

"Marina."

She circled the bar and pulled her into her arms, feeling Marina melt into her, relishing the sensation. She felt tension she hadn't even know she had washing away in waves and a sense of stillness suffused her as though this was ground zero and she'd been floating out somewhere far away. She buried her head in her hair, breathed in the familiar scent. It felt so good she wanted to cry.

"Let me look at you." Clara said and pulled back. With a hand on each cheek, she took a moment to study Marina's face. "Hi."

"Hi."

They smiled and then laughed. Clara felt a little giddy.

"It feels like years since I saw you, not a week." Marina said.

"It does. I'm so glad you're here. I've missed you terribly."

"Me too."

"Have you suffered as I've suffered?" Clara whispered leaning in.

"Yes."

"I believe you."

They stood still a moment and then stepped apart, aware, suddenly, that they were in the middle of a busy bistro.

"A drink?"

"Just a water, thank you."

Clara moved to the bar.

"Did you get my email this morning?"

"I did. I haven't had a chance to reply, you see I was on the phone to a contact of mine in Paris and he's asked me to step in last minute for a fantastic photographic exhibition."

"That's fabulous!"

"It is! The project is exactly the sort of thing I love to do. They want me to create a series on women and the five elements of fire, earth, water, air and ether."

"Sounds fascinating."

"Oh Clarinha," Marina said, a light sparkling in her large brown eyes, "when he was telling me about it, I just knew exactly how I would do it. I want to do it on location and use each element to blend it with the female body. I can feel it in my bones, this could be something really special."

"And how long do you have?"

"I would have two weeks before the exhibition opens. But I haven't said yes yet."

"Why on earth not?"

"I need your help. With the deadline so close, I need everyone I can get on board." Marina said leaning forward on the counter and placing her hand on Clara's. "I know you have all these responsibilities...but is there any chance you could spare a couple of days to come and shoot on location with me?"

Clara's instinct was to say yes but she hesitated, her mind calculating all the things she had to do but mostly wondering if she could leave Cadu. She rubbed her thumb over Marina's hand sighed.

"Please, Clarinha. Vanessa has been difficult, I need someone on my side there."

Clara looked at Marina's sweet face and she felt, as she gazed at her, how much she wanted to be there for her. How much she wanted to be there for herself. She had never known this about herself, but she enjoyed working. She enjoyed the challenge. Even though the bistro wasn't her dream and there were things she found onerous about managing it in Cadu's absence, she also found that she had a head for organisational management. She was good with patrons. She could keep her head when the rush hour arrived and she had to juggle ten things at the same time. She was also so grateful that in spite of her frequent absences, late starts and early finishes due to Cadu's illness, Marina had kept her job open for her.

"You know what? Yes. I will come. Just let me talk to Veronica and see if she can oversee the bistro while I'm away."

"Yay!" Marina said and clapped her hands, "I'll let Edourad know that I'll do it. It'll be so much fun. And don't worry about being part of the prep, I'll get the girls to sort it all out. You just show up for the shoot."

She pulled out her yellow phone from her bag and dialed the parisienne number. By the time she had finished her conversation, Clara was back from chatting with Veronica and her beaming face was confirmation enough.

XXX

Marina returned home with a smile on her face. An exciting project was just what she needed right now to take her mind off all the things she couldn't change in her life and she's secured Clara's participation. That was something to be happy about. Already textures, colours and light were suffusing the creative landscape of her mind.

"Vanessa!" she called out as she entered the studio to find her friend bent over a pile of paperwork.

"Ah, finally, Marina." she turned and scrutinised Marina a moment. "You were at the bistro, weren't you?"

"Maybe."

"I can tell. You have that look about you."

"Your right. I was. And Clara said she'd come for the shoot."

"You asked Clara to come on the shoot with you? That's the reason for your conditional yes?" Vanessa asked incredulously

"Van, I need all my assistants."

"We can do without her, Marina."

"Well I don't want to, okay? At least I said yes to the project, that should keep you happy."

Vanessa bit back a retort and sighed. "Fine. Yes, I'm glad. It'll pay off some bills. But we need to plan a budget for this and stick to it, okay?"

"Okay." Marina said coyly.

"Oh no, don't give me that tone missy, we will stick to a budget!"

"So I want to shoot as soon as possible," Marina said ignoring Vanessa's pointed gaze, "so we need to get straight onto selecting our models. Where's the number for Ford?"

Marina called Patricia, their go to lady who had supplied models for all of their latest shoots. She placed the emphasis on getting real women, imperfections desired.

"I want to celebrate women of all ages. Not just 20 year olds who have no life experience. I want to feel their lives in their eyes. I want to show the sensuality and mystery of women, their strength and their vulnerability." Marina said. "Yes, I'll send you over a brief as soon as I have it finalised. Ciao."

She turned to Vanessa.

"Let's plan this" she said and her enthusiasm was too palatable for Vanessa to stay upset at her.