The murmurs of discontentment grow stronger when they lose thirty more, the rescue from Mount Weather proving bloodier than the encounter with the Grounders had.
It takes him a while to realize this; he's not the leader anymore, not exactly. He's the incumbent. He's the guy that lost forty eight people on his watch.
"There's a power vacuum," Raven shrugs. She doesn't look up from the syringe she's working on. Her hands are still quick, but her other movements are slower. The bullet had almost reached her spine, he'd heard.
She tries to hide it, he's noticed. He notices a lot. "It's inevitable."
He's not sure he remembers all their names. Not sure he even knew all their names. Which is just as well.
Octavia- maybe everyone off the goddamn ship- everyone left off the goddamn ship- thinks he's falling in love with Clarke.
"Tell her," she says, easily, "worst case, you get rejected. Best case, you get rejected, and that swollen head of yours will finally be proportionate to your body."
He mock-glares at her, "the unmatched comfort of familial love is exactly why I saved your ungrateful ass, of course."
Raven is just passing by, a tool-kit in her hand, a familiar sight. She glances over once, almost through him. He doesn't need to follow her gaze. He knows where Finn is, had himself just passed the other man a few hundred meters back.
He is falling, he realizes, maybe a few hours later, a bottle of Moonshine in hand. The evening is broken by the bonfires around camp, the low glow of light half shading Raven's face into darkness as she determinedly does not look to her right where Clarke is sitting, bathed in firelight, Finn next to her, just about catching the reflected shades. Not into anything in particular. Just falling.
Time, as a rule, passes.
Each night, the nightly fire burns down to embers, and everyone's possibly asleep, when he once follows her into her tent, after. Which, on second thought, would probably not be such a great idea, he'd imagine. That he doesn't give it a second thought should be an adequate enough defence, though.
There are fewer tents now. Mostly torn apart, or lost, and the ones left, just standing through sheer willpower and creative improvisation. Which means more sharing, higher tempers. But fewer numbers too, which, he's come to conclude, is a universal lesson in irony.
She has a tent alone. The official excuse is that she works most nights, and the drilling and hammering is far too much of a disturbance to be conducive to companionship. The unofficial reality is that they know she likes being alone, and she's saved them enough times by now, for her preferences to matter.
Which is why it's unexpected when he runs into Finn, inside.
"Bellamy," the other guy acknowledges, his eyes guarded. There's grudging- respect- friendship- neither of those, but a grudging something-other-than-animosity between them. Nearly being blown up together will do to that you, he'd imagine.
Raven is half-leaning towards Finn, maybe mid-sentence, body angled in familiarity, her eyes brighter than he's seen in a while. She mostly looks tired these days.
He can almost feel the derision marking his face, and maybe Raven can read it, because she's immediately on the defensive, "Finn was just asking about the mechanism of the injection. There isn't enough antidote for trials and errors. We don't know what kind of medical expertise the Mountain Men had or if we're even correct in our assessment of the virus."
"I didn't ask," he says, which makes him a jackass. But maybe he's just practiced.
She flushes; in anger, embarrassment, he can't tell; hand automatically rising to her throat like she expects to feel something there. He's sure neither he, nor Finn, miss the movement.
She does that sometimes. She hasn't been wearing her necklace since the first- the only- night she came to him. But still, she does that sometimes.
"What do you want," she asks, shortly.
In the split second when she's glaring at straight at him, he doesn't know what shifts in his gaze, but her eyes widen.
Maybe it should make him pause. He doesn't want to be readable. He definitely doesn't want to be knowable. Almost certainly not to Raven Reyes.
"It can wait," he turns back towards the open flap, "you look...busy."
Which, again, makes him a jackass. But, like he said-
Finn runs into him about two days later.
It isn't a surprise, the guy's a bonafide candidate for imminent sainthood, but he's not stupid. That it took him two whole days to do this, is a surprise, though.
"What's going on between you and Raven?" he asks, bluntly.
Bellamy shrugs, "nothing."
Finn looks just a little taken-aback, like he hadn't expected this to matter enough for him to lie about it. But fact is; he's not lying. There's nothing going on between him and Raven outside of his head. The whole truth, and nothing but.
"I can tell-" he begins, then stops, like doesn't know what exactly he can tell. Which, Bellamy is willing to bet, is the fitting reaction in this scenario, because he can't tell either.
"I slept with her," he says, casually. He doesn't know about the leader part, but he's getting the playing part down well.
The other guy's hand clenches into a fist, and it strikes him then, nobody else really knows. He forgets that sometimes. He seems obvious enough to himself.
"It didn't mean anything." he says, which is, again, the truth. It was mostly about you, he doesn't add, of course. It was only half mostly about Finn. Her half.
The other guy has him by his shirt-front in seconds, and he's almost impressed enough to let it slide for a few more, "you hurt her, Blake, and you're dead."
He shoves Finn away, "I haven't joined any classes you've been offering, so I think I'm good on that count."
Anyway, fact is; he can't hurt her. He doesn't have enough of her to.
"What did you-" the déjà vu strikes him as soon as he enters his tent; flashes of her skin against his, her head thrown back. Even in that one night, it wasn't just once. She hadn't been aiming for release, she'd been aiming for exhaustion. "What did you say to Finn."
Sobriety is the worst state of being, he decides. He hasn't drunk in ages when he decides it, but he's had far too many hits of her to not call it addiction by now.
He shrugs off his jacket, "he came to me."
She's standing still, awkward in a way that she wasn't before, which tells him she remembers it too. It's a different location. A different tent. A different enemy they're hiding from. But maybe the only two coordinates that matter are still the same.
"I don't know," she says, and she's already lying, he knows, "what your problem is, okay. But you need to get over it. We don't have time enough for it."
Honestly, he'd have thought it wouldn't matter. This is war, not much matters. Definitely not whatever this is.
But maybe it matters because it's war. He can't tell anymore.
"Take off your clothes."
She doesn't take a step back, is the first things he notices. Doesn't even blink. "What?"
"I said," he says, deliberately, "take off your clothes."
I haven't been with anyone but you, since then, he doesn't add. That would make this something else.
"I didn't realize," she says slowly, unreadable to him as he isn't to her, "that was quid pro quo."
"It wasn't," he says, equally slowly, "you can leave right now."
Worst case- (here’s the only truth war’s ever taught him; nobody likes being alone.)
"You're crazy," she says, finally.
Pulls her shirt over her head.
(Maybe that's how it starts.
It takes her seconds longer to leave, he notices. Maybe it's her leg. Maybe it isn't.
He notices a lot.)
Maybe- and again, he's banking on the uncertainty principle- it is fitting that it's the sex that makes him realize it's not the sex. Not just the sex. Jamais vu, he'd heard somewhere, is the opposite of déjà vu. Unfamiliarity in repetition. The same thing over, and everything is strange.
She has new scars, a new stiffness to her body when he traces them with a finger. That he knows it's because of him, and not the scars, that's not only unfamiliar- that's new entirely.
"Does it hurt," he asks, once, lingering over an angry, crescent mark on her side, where the bullet had gone in. The bullet she'd taken for him. She could have been the forty-ninth. The thought makes him grip her harder.
She's uncomfortable when she says, "no."
Her movements are slower, or maybe his are, he can't make out anymore. Everything is slower. There's an odd sort of quiet here now. Too much time to fill in, a constant state of waiting. They don't know the enemy anymore. They're not preparing. He doesn't have anything to fight for.
When he swipes his tongue across her throat, she tastes metallic, the iron tang he's only ever tasted in blood. A fine layer of her workplace, of hope, of being young and stupid and headstrong.
They're not getting through this. And he wants to know every curve, every angle of her, when he can.
Maybe he's too slow, too detailed, too consumed, because she looks down at him, and, even in the middle of this, even when he's inside her, there's a sudden flash of understanding, realization in her eyes when she says, "you've given up."
Yeah, okay. He has.
"You're a liability," she says, casually. She's working on something again. By now he doesn't even know what. Doesn't particularly want to know. Doesn't care. He just wants to fuck her against the table, but she won't let him. "You're not saving us. You're not doing anything at all."
"I can't save anyone," he says, shoves his hands into his pockets, "It's not in my job description or skill-set. Janitor, remember. Forty eight would be a pretty good number to come to that conclusion on."
She pushes against him on her way to the other side of her work-table, and for a moment he contemplates not giving way. Just standing there. He doesn't, eventually. Lets her brush past him, instead.
"You don't have to save us," she says, her voice even, "It's not your fault. It's not your duty. We save each other. That's kind of what we all do here."
He scoffs at that, "didn't take you for a romantic, Reyes."
Her smile is tight when she says, "didn't take you for the peanut gallery either, Blake. Guess we all lose today."
"Leaders take responsibility," he says, and fuck, this is tiring; his hand itches to reach out and feel her beneath, "so this is me. Taking responsibility. It's time to pass on the hero mantle."
It's not like he doesn't get the disappointed look from Clarke often enough. When she suggests contingency plans and he doesn't care. That's just it, he doesn't care. He doesn't get which part of it is hard to understand- he was the self-proclaimed leader. And now he's self-proclaiming himself out. It works that way. It should work that way.
Clarke can do it alone. She's good at it. She cares about people. At one point, in the heat of the moment, he'd thought he did too. When he'd planned out the attack on Mount Weather. But obviously, he hadn't cared enough. If he'd cared just a little harder, planned a little better maybe-
Raven nicks her hand on the knife, and pulls it away before he can take it in his. Like she expects him to kiss it to try and make it better. For what it's worth; he would have. Mockingly. But he would have.
Every line of her body spells rejection, "Leaders lead, Bellamy. That's fucking it. You can't save anyone. But you can try. That's what we're doing here. Trying."
You told me to stay once.
Her eyes are half-closed, and he's fully concentrating on her body. Sometimes he feels the white noise at the back of head only calms down in these moments.
She opens them fully, and he can tell she's close. He can read her tells now, if nothing more, "So this is me, saying it. Stay."
"I'm not leaving," he begins, even though he knows what she means, but she covers his mouth with hers, and swallows his words.
He comes with the words still caught at the back of his throat.
'Stay," she says, as she's leaving, which, again, ironic. Times like this, he remembers she's just as young as everyone else here. Everyone stupid enough to believe in him. To trust him. "Please."
She's leaning over a map, her eyes rapidly moving over the drawn lines.
There are moments like this, when she's alone with him, and at the back of his head, he still remembers what she looks like under her clothes. The almost indistinguishable white scar at the base of her spine that made her arch when he put pressure there. It seems a strangely intimate thing to know about someone. To know about Raven.
She catches him looking sometimes, and the undefinable mixture of resignation and something else on her face tells him that she believes this is an unfortunate side-effect of their nights.
Maybe, but he's beginning to think it's more than the fine print, more like the long-term effect. He isn't sure. He wonders if she regrets it. He wonders if he regrets it.
She catches him now, when she looks up. Turns away almost immediately, "you wanna play leader, shooter? Prove to them you're somehow worth their damn lives."
"What if I'm not?" just for the sake of argument.
"You're not," she says, simply, "no one is. Nothing is."
The gun feels heavier in his hands than he can remember.
("Then what's the point," he'll ask her later, continuing a conversation from long ago.
"I'll tell you when I figure out," she'll reply.)
Heavier. But familiar, somehow.
(The curtain doesn't fall.
"This isn't the last act," his mother would have said.)