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the complete guide to insufficiency

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in the hours since we last made love thousands of years have gone by morning has swelled into afternoon afternoon has drifted into  evening thousands and thousands of times in the hours since we last made love empires grew out of failed republics empires collapsed   into ruins ruins collapsed even further into tourist attractions and the tourists came as they always do centuries of them in their poorly cut  clothes and poorly cut hair and governments worked hard to preserve the ruins to keep the tourists coming in the hours since we last made love.

 

 

 -

 

 

She’s lying on top of his sheets when he gets back.

He turns around again. Gives himself time to figure it out; whatever 'it' is. Tries to bridge the gap between the opening of the tent, so no one can see inside. No particular reason. His indiscretions are his own.

From the second’s glimpse he’d managed of her, her hands are clasped across her bare stomach. Her clothes still on; everything with a zip unzipped, everything with a button unbuttoned, everything with a hook unhooked, but on. Hanging off her, as if she'd just forgotten to take them off. Changed her mind mid-way. Like it would be too much effort to completely undress, and she got tired of it.

“I’m beginning to think,” he says slowly, deliberately, still with his back to her, assessing, “you’re using me.”

 

She makes a low sound at the back of her throat, strangled laughter, or something close to it, “don’t think, Blake. Princess is the brains; you’re just here to complete the brawn quota, because your minions all believe might is right.”

He turns around to face her, his gaze involuntarily slipping down her form before moving up to meet hers, he's not fucking blind, “I thought that didn’t help.”

She still has the expression he remembers from that night; part fake bravado, part real vulnerability, “didn’t hurt either.”

 

 

-

 

 

She dresses faster than she undresses, that much he’s noticed.

If he were somewhere different, someone different, there would be meaning in that somewhere.

 

 

-

 

 

“You going to make a habit of this?” the fourth time, he doesn’t bother closing the flap the entire way. He's pretty sure she doesn’t really care. Maybe she even wants Finn to know, to hear them. He can’t really tell. He can’t tell much with her.

“It’s already a habit,” she says, dully, “someone told me, when I’m pissed off, I always find a project to keep my hands busy, so I don’t punch someone in the face. How’s that for a defining character-trait.”

Finn, of course. Finn is the only one who really knows her.

His hand automatically comes up to pull the tie from her hair. He sometimes thinks she ties it up only for the image— I’m a bitch, ask me how— because, with her hair framing her face, she looks younger, defenseless. Exposed, “I’m the project?”

He'd imagine he knows her too now, just a little. In the biblical way, at least, if nothing more. Too bad religion doesn't count in his book. Hasn't counted since he let his mother get floated for his mistakes.

She reaches for his zip, “you keep my hands busy.”

“And that’s good enough,” he doesn’t know why he bothers with the conversation, the whys and the wherefores, when this always only ends one way.

He clenches his teeth, as she slips a hand inside his pants and palms him. I’m a mechanic, she’d said once, rolling her eyes, when he’d been impressed at her handiwork on the communication devices she’d been working on, always unwilling to accept his compliments, casual disdain in her every move, I’m good with my hands, “that’s good enough.”

 

 

-

 

 

Habits, he realizes, when she doesn't turn up on the eighth day, as she's been doing for the past week, are easy to form.

 

 

-

 

 

It’s almost two weeks later when she turns up again. But they’re both still alive, so there’s something to be said about that.

It isn't like he doesn't see her outside all the time, doesn't talk to her regularly, doesn't need her for a million different things on a regular basis, but there's no intimacy to her touch, no knowledge in her eyes, nothing different about her smile. She's efficient, as always, completely focused on her work.

It makes him want to stand closer than strictly necessary, make more physical contact than he absolutely needs to, invade her personal space more often than propriety requires. Test her love for physics in a gameplay of equal and opposite reactions, a body in stasis acted upon by an external force. She compartmentalizes well. It irritates him, almost irrationally so. 

But he knows why. Why now. He’d heard from Octavia.

You're such a downer, Bell,  and you're taking everyone with you. If you're high-school-crushing on Clarke, or whatever, then just tell her, okay. I can only handle one basketcase of unrequited love at a time, and I've got my hands full with Raven.

“You should really be over him by now,” he says, sensibly enough, he’d imagine, “if you’re still this affected by him just kissing our princess, you’re losing.”

“It’s not a competition,” she shoots back, mouth set in a straight line.

“Isn’t it.”

His head hurts; he can almost feel the shape of the bruise on his forehead. The Grounder had fucking taken the stick to his head like a sword. It was probably just self-defense, they were the intruders this time, they were the ones who’d crossed the line, but it still hurts like a bitch, and he’s not about to take the moral high ground of forgiveness with the enemy.

“You’re injured,” she answers, by way of reply. He hadn’t asked anyway.

“Don’t strain yourself with those deduction skills,” he mutters under his breath. His head throbs too much to care about her feelings. Not that he ever did. Now he doesn’t even more. She didn’t come for a week, it’s not like she has any rights here.

Before he knows it, she’s ripped a portion of his sheet, “hey.”

She reaches up, nearly on tip-toes, tying the piece like a bandage around his head, her knot firm, efficient, as everything about her is, which makes it even more unexpected how pliable her skin is to his touch, “worst case, it’ll help with the throbbing.”

“Best case, it’ll probably make the wound septic, and I won't feel the throbbing anymore because I'll be dead,” he manages.

She gives him a quick, real smile, her face opening up, “drama queen much?”

She reaches up again to straighten the bandage nearly slipping over one eye, and he tangles a hand in her hair, the other already reaching to shove her jacket off her shoulders.

He wants to tell her to wait for him before taking her clothes off, that he wants to be the one to do it, not just today, always. But there may be no next time and there’s definitely no always and he’s not fucking stupid enough to base demands on either.

She lays a stilted hand on his arm, and he stops pulling her closer in. He can see feel the hesitation, even if her eyes are inscrutable. He can’t read them, can’t read her, but he’s beginning to be able to read her body, “If you don’t want to, if your head— it’s fine okay, you don’t have—”

“If I don’t want to,” he says, roughly, “I won’t.”

She looks up. She’s already opened her hair, and like it usually is when she’s like this, her edges are softer.

And suddenly, he wants to touch her. He wants to touch her more than he cares about the hammering in his head.

“Please.”

He doesn’t know which of them said it, or for what, but he can’t imagine it matters much anyway.

 

 

-

 

 

There’s only one time he can remember, when it takes her longer than a minute to dress again. When her hand shakes very slightly while pulling her jeans back on.

He catalogues it. He does that on occasion, even if it never particularly adds up to anything.

“If you can’t leave,” he tears his eyes from her boy-shorts, looks up at the ceiling of the tent, imagines the sky outside, the Ark lost in space somewhere, “then don't."

She doesn’t reply immediately, and he grips the sheet in his fist. Still partly torn on one side from the time she’s used it for his make-shift bandage. It hadn’t helped. Hadn’t hurt either.

“If I couldn’t leave,” she says, finally, the language of distance imprinted in her every move, “I wouldn't have come."

 

 

-

 

 

Raven Reyes doesn’t fake orgasms.

He can hear movements outside his tent, occasional shouting, accompanied by laughter, which tells him the shouting isn’t something he needs to look into. Tries to forget the fact that he was the one who pulled her in, in his tent, this time. That anyone can hear. She isn't loud, though, and she didn't even fucking come, so there's that.

Under his hands, she's still thrumming with strained, pent-up release. He rolls her over, pinning her down with his body, caging her in with his arms. He can tell she dislikes it when he does that, the restlessness that’s a permanent part of her, almost threatening to spill over. He does it anyway, because he’s a dick like that. She's barely contained chaos, and sometimes, if only sometimes, he likes to pretend he could contain her if he wanted.

“You didn’t come,” he says.

She shrugs, shoulder blades shifting under bare skin, he could probably cut himself on her angles. He can’t remember if he’s ever told her she’s fucking beautiful. Probably not, “it’s okay.”

His breathing’s still heavy from his own orgasm. He wills himself to calm down, “Isn’t the whole point of this—”

She cuts him off, rolling her eyes, she does both those things with monotonous regularity, “there is no 'whole point of this.'”

He can feel his jaw clench, “that’s good to know. Because I’m in demand Reyes, and you’re kinda cramping my style with this exclusivity.”

I haven't been with anyone but Finn. That, at the very least, isn't the whole truth anymore.

She gets up immediately, swinging her legs off the bed, he hadn’t even noticed she’d stayed longer than a minute, but he notices now, “you can sleep with whomever you want. You can throw me out whenever you want. It’s your tent, you know. I’m a temporary tenant.”

She shrugs her jacket on, and he shouldn’t ask this, but he’s not good with the shouldn’t of things, poor impulse control, his mother used to call it, “how temporary.”

She never wants to let go, he’s starting to understand. She’d rather be left dissatisfied than lose control. He can understand power, he's the leader after all.

“Till you throw me out,” she says, voice distant, “Till we’re either of us killed. Till you decide, or I decide it’s getting boring. Till you want to sleep with someone else. Till it doesn’t hurt. There are a lot of contingency factors. Choose a number.”

Maybe there’s something in his expression that warns her, maybe he’s just easier to read, because she stops at the opening of the tent.

"Don't read between the lines, shooter," she says, matter-of-fact, hand on the flap, "just read the lines."

 

 

-

 

 

Fact is, being good with numbers has never been his selling proposition anyway.




-




“For a long time, I thought--” her breathing is shallow, skin damp with sweat. She tastes of salt water, something closest to thirst. There’s dirt under her fingernails, “I honestly thought he just lost to his loneliness while I was away.”

She throws her head back, as he moves down her body, spreading her legs with his hands, gripping her thighs hard enough to bruise. Doesn’t tell her to stop talking. She seldom does it. Honesty, even less.

“But maybe,” she continues, low, like it's a secret, her mouth framing fragmented, disjointed words, he can barely catch, “maybe he just fell in love.”

He doesn’t answer. It’s not a question anyway. Her breathing is punctuated by gasps, half-caught in her throat, as she grips his hair, and he wants to tell her to scream, fucking let go, that he doesn't care who's listening, but he has no right. He's not her lover.

When he moves up again, she’s staring at a point far away, exhausted in a way he’s rarely seen her, and when she looks at him, it's with an expression he's never seen before. She looks painfully young in the moment.

“I’m beginning to think--" her voice has gone cold, raw, and he can feel her nails digging into his back, probably leaving track-marks of dirt on his skin, he's left plenty on hers, "Bellamy, I think I'm losing to mine.”

 

 

-

 

 

She doesn’t come back.

He'd known she wouldn’t. For what it's worth; she doesn’t know it, but she’s becoming easier to read too.

 

 

-

 

 

But then again, there’s nowhere to go, really. Not here.

Her tent is smaller. She doesn’t particularly look surprised to see him there, “you’re treading on dangerous waters.”

He shrugs, “whose fault is it.”

“Not mine,” she says, “your sister’s taught me to know when things are not my fault and to stop torturing myself about them. Exhibit A.”

He can feel the corner of his mouth turn up in a half-smile, “shrugging off responsibility; that’s Octavia’s specialty.”

She’s stepping carefully, like he’s taking up too much space, which he probably is. A shaft of sunlight falls on the floor through an opening in the tent, lighting parts of her skin at odd intervals as she moves, “what do you want?”

He shrugs, shifts back to sit on her bed. It feels smaller too, like it could break under him. Definitely break under her under him, “nothing.”

She looks at him then. Smiles, almost, if not quite. 

Nods, once.

And says, "okay."