Author's Note: So, the idea of Jake/Marley is really interesting to me for some reason. This should just be a two-shot, a little thing to write about possibly my new favorite ship on Glee. Enjoy. :) Mentions stuff from 4.01, but no spoilers for anything after that. Vague spoilers for Thornton Wilder's play Our Town.
Title taken from Snow Patrol's "You're All I Have."
The first time they talk, Marley's walking to English class one day; her head is bowed to the floor, and she's quickly making her way through the halls. It's a reflex, one of the last remnants from her prior school experiences. The less she can see people, the less she thinks they can see her, and then she can fade into the backdrop. Or so the logic goes. Her non-descript clothing seems to fit into the fading mindset: old blue jeans and a plain red t-shirt. Nothing special. A voice comes from behind her, almost as though they are speaking directly into her ear, saying, "You're that chick from that club." The sound of the unfamiliar voice so close to her is startling, and she nearly drops her books onto the ground with an undignified squeak of surprise. "That one with the singing and shit," it continues.
She turns around and sizes up the source of the voice. It's that guy - the one that she has seen flitting around the periphery of her vision since the day after school started. She's exchanged looks with him every now and then - he's good-looking, and she's got hormones, what can she say? And she thinks his name is Jack, or something like that, but she's not sure if they've ever said even two words to each other. Before now. Jack-or-something-like-that's tone is accusatory, and it makes her want to leap immediately to the defensive.
She's never been good at playing at passivity for very long. Her tongue is barbed wire when she least expects it to be. If she could will it into existence, she would do so: it's a good coping mechanism to hold the bullying at bay.
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. That could be her life motto.
"Yeah, and, so? You have a problem with my singing?" She stands there, arms folded over her chest, holding her books precariously just so.
"No." He moves in closer to her. Not enough as to where she feels as though her personal space is being violated, but close enough where she can feel his breath tickling her hair. "I wanted to say that you were really good."
She feels a smile tug at the corner of her lips and she lets the books in her arms go slack. And yet, she wasn't even sure that he had ever heard her sing. Had that been him in the auditorium? Had he seen her, much as she thought she had seen someone standing in the balcony? "Thanks, I guess?" It had been a nice thing for him to say, but she's confused - is this some sort of weird McKinley courting tradition? Complimenting strange girls in the hallway?
"Don't mention it. Seriously, don't. I have a reputation to uphold at this school, apparently."
The bell clangs somewhere above her, and she turns to go. "I'm Marley," she says over her shoulder. "And you are -?"
"Jake." And like that, he's gone in a flash, folded into the rush of people that are rushing through to their next class.
She touches her fingers to the tips of her hair and allows the smile that had been forming to blossom into a wide-spread grin as she continues her walk to English. Jake. Not Jack. She has more questions than answers, but if she knows Jake at all - which, okay, she really doesn't, not yet anyway - she'll be seeing him again sooner rather than later.
The second time they talk, she's sitting on the benches outside the school, waiting for her mother to finish for the day so they can leave. Normally, she would be sitting inside the cafeteria, chatting away about the nuances of her day with her mother. Today, however, she had told her to "go outside, it's such a nice day, and it'll be one of the last before spring." So here she sits, reading along as Emily returns to relive her birthday, humming a few bars of an Ellie Goulding song under her breath. She's reading ahead of where the rest of the class is; she always does, there's not much else to do sometimes. And she actually likes to read, so there's that too.
"Whatcha reading?" he asks, sitting down next to her and folding his legs up and under him.
She tilts the cover toward him, so that he can read the title: Our Town. "It's for class," she says with a shrug. "Kinda sad though." She's not sure why she has to feel so defensive about reading, of all things. She never has before.
"Shit," he exclaims, "most of the stuff they make us read here is depressing as hell. Don't famous people ever write about fun things, like parties and getting laid and shit like that? It's all death and dying and - fuck."
As an idle thought, she wonders if he's ever read a book that he wasn't required to read for class, and even then - she sets the thought aside. It's best to think the best of others, at least for now. That's what her mother has always said, anyway. He takes the book from her hands abruptly and flips through it. "Hey! I was reading that!"
"Too bad." He begins to read aloud from the page he has stopped on. "I think that once you've found a person that you're very fond of...I mean a person who's fond of you, too, and likes you enough to be interested in your character...Who the fuck talks like this?"
"The people of Grover's Corners, I guess?"
He hands her back the book, and she frantically flips through the pages to find her place again. "Knock yourself out with it," he says, standing up from his sitting position. "Oh, and, Marley?"
"Yeah?" She tilts her head up to look at him.
Jake makes his invitation from Schuester official, and now, she's forced into close proximity with him on a constant basis. Now they have something in common besides a shared hallway routine and a disdain for depressing required literature.
She finds herself looking over at him more and more often. She finds herself feeling strange flashes of envy whenever he looks at Tina, or any of the other girls, the way he occasionally looks at her.
"Marley, girl," she admonishes herself, "you know what happens with guys. You know what happened with Austin. Do you really want to repeat that?"
To her, Austin had been her first love; to him, Marley had been a puppet, a means to an end, that led to her heart being publicly shattered in the cruelest of ways. She hadn't been able to cut herself free from the strings that bound her to him; he had sliced them clean through, leading her to have to pull herself up from the ground by herself. It had taken her falling to the lowest depths she could plumb before she could rise up.
She tugs self-consciously at her Goodwill castoff blouse with the forged J. Crew label and wishes that she could be more like the girls she's in glee club with. More confident, more self-assured, less anxious that everything is going to blow up in her face one of these days.
One of these days, she's going to wake up from the dream she's been living and realize that she made the whole thing up as a coping mechanism of sorts. That she'll still be living in their old apartment, and nothing will have changed from last year. At all.
She just hopes that before she does, she can find the confidence within herself to talk to Jake without him having to talk to her first.
The third time they talk individually, and not as part of one of Schuester's group exercise routines, is when she walks into the glee room early before practice one day and sees him sitting there, cradling his guitar on his lap. "Hey," she says, sitting in the seat next to him. "Brought your guitar today, I see?" Almost instantly, she wants to slam her palm against her face over and over. Talk about stating the obvious. She'd have to be blind - or perhaps distracted - not to see his guitar. Right there in plain sight.
He doesn't seem to notice - or care, maybe. "Yeah, thought I'd show off my guitar skills. I know that Evans kid can play, but damn it, so can I."
She nods and purses her lips together. They've seen Sam play - he's good, but if Jake is too, then so much the better for all of them, she supposes. "You any good?"
"What do you think?" His voice flares in anger, and she scoots away from him a bit on her chair. He visibly softens at the sight of her movement, and lowers his voice accordingly. "Want a private demo before the rest of them get here?"
"Come closer." As she does, his fingers glide effortlessly over the strings of his guitar, producing beautiful notes that send a chill down her spine. She strains to pick up on the melody; it seems vaguely familiar to her ear, but she cannot figure out, for the life of her, what it is. Whatever it is, it is entrancing, and she doesn't mind sitting back and enjoying the acoustic ride.
After a minute or two of his strumming, he abruptly stops and rests his guitar on the chair on the other side of him. "I probably sucked. You can say it, I don't mind. I'm used to it by now."
She looks at him, the faint glimpse of unshed tears brimming in her eyes. "But you didn't. You were amazing." And she clasps her hand onto his shoulder and gives him a genuine, heartfelt smile - the sort that she is sort of infamous for with her mother - and she knows that she believes what she was saying.
She can only hope that he does too.
-to be continued-