The first time he meets Clarke, it's three in the morning and all he's wearing are his boxer shorts and a bad case of bed head.
It's October, which means it's cold as fuck, and he's got goosebumps and half a mind to deck whoever's banging on the other side of his dorm room door by the time he undoes the latch. He's not expecting her, though - a five-foot nothing blonde girl in yoga pants and an Ark City U sweatshirt, holding a stack of five-pound textbooks and wearing a frown that belongs on the face of a ninety year old porch-sitter.
She looks him square in the eye, with a defiant look that he'll learn in time is her default setting. "You're Bellamy, right?" she asks. "Finn Collins' roommate?" He nods slowly. "I'm Clarke. Clarke Griffin." She sticks out her hand, and he shakes it. "Your roommate stole my bed, so I need to steal his."
He tries to blink the sleep fog out of his eyes, but really all he wants to do is crawl back under the covers and conk out until his eight a.m. class, so he shrugs and steps aside to let her in. He closes the door behind her, and falls back into his own bed, gesturing to Finn's as he goes, even though by the looks of her pre-med books, she can probably figure it out on her own.
Bellamy falls back asleep almost the instand his head hits the pillow, and in the pale moonlight oozing through the dorm's single window, he sees her settle into Finn's bed, her hair turned silver, her back to him.
He wakes up at seven with his alarm, somehow manages to resist the strong urge to hit snooze, and rolls up into a sitting position. Clarke's still bundled under Finn's covers, but she groans and surfaces at the sound of the alarm, her eyes squinted under long lashes in the white morning sunlight. Her hair's mussed up around her head, and she ditched the sweatshirt some time overnight, leaving her in a tight tank top, and Bellamy just met this girl but he thinks she looks comfortable.
"What time is it?" Clarke mumbles, a hand pressed to her forehead.
Bellamy kicks of his blankets and stands up, crosses to the desk to turn off the alarm. "Seven."
Clarke groans again and pulls the covers back up over her head, as Bellamy starts rummaging in his dresser for clothes. Bellamy feels a smile tug at the corner of his mouth, completely involuntarily, and he says, "What, too early for you, princess?"
The covers whip back off, and Clarke glares at him, and her eyes are really damn blue. "I was on shift at the infirmary until one a.m. last night," she says, voice like an accusatory knife. "I have a practice MCAT in three hours, and I cannot take it on four hours of sleep, Bellamy."
He raises an eyebrow. "Hey, you're the one who marched in here last night demanding asylum - "
Clarke turns her face into the pillow, huffing out a breath. "If you would just get your fucking roommate out of my room, that would be wonderful, but he's probably too busy screwing his on-again-off-again fiancée to be bothered to open the door - "
"Ah, so you're rooming with the astronaut," Bellamy grins. "That must be a nightmare."
Clarke's eyes are closed, like she's carrying on the conversation while asleep. "Raven's an aeronautical engineering major," she says, tiredly, "and she has a bum knee, so she's never getting into the astronaut program."
Bellamy pulls a henley over his head, and goes back rummaging for a pair of pants. "Has anyone ever told you you're a delight in the mornings?"
Clarke's talking into her pillow, but whatever she says sounds like, "Fucking unnatural to be a morning person - "
Bellamy steps into his jeans, doesn't bother with a belt, and grabs his backpack off the desk chair and stuffs a travel size mouthwash into it, steps into his sneakers. "Well, princess, once you're done with whatever possessive girl claiming ritual you've got going on with Finn's bed, just go ahead and lock up behind you, will you?"
He's pretty sure Clarke flips him off under the covers, and he chuckles on his way out the door.
"They pushed the beds together to make a queen size, so they can have sex diagonally," Clarke laments on his doorstep the next night. She is, apparently, much more charming between the hours of one p.m. and midnight, and has even come bearing muffins. She's better groomed than she was last time, too, her hair pulled up into a ponytail, wearing one of those long sweaters that girls are so into, a pair of leggings and leather boots. "My only other friends cultivate their dorm room to look like a disaster zone."
Bellamy takes a blueberry muffin and steps aside.
"Damn," Clarke says, "I was hoping you were a bran kind of guy. You know, with the abs and all." Bellamy smiles at her around his mouthful of muffin. "Don't tell me it's some sort of natural metabolism thing. I would have to hate you on principle."
She sets the muffins down on Finn's desk and shrugs her backpack off onto the floor, where it lands with a resounding thunk. She's got a pillow under her arm, and she throws it onto Finn's bed like she owns the place, which Bellamy has a strange feeling she will in a couple of days or so - it already feels like it's not just his territory anymore, like she's moved in on it.
She sits on the edge of Finn's bed and pulls one leg up to her chest, rests her chin on her knee, looks across at him with those big blue eyes and that golden halo about her head, and Bellamy doesn't think he minds the infringement all that much.
"So, you moving in or what, princess?" he asks, sitting back in his desk chair. The lamp on his desk is the only light on in the room, and it's casting a bright pool on his mess of papers, the makings of a marketing paper. "I don't know if that's legal."
She gives him a sideways, skeptical look. "Somehow you don't strike me as the kind of person who gives a flying fuck about legal, Bell. Plus, I don't really want to report them to the housing authority and then have to live with half of them for the next six months, if I don't have to."
Bellamy stuffs a good half of the muffin in his mouth. "Good point," he says around it. "Finn's already enough of a bitch to deal with as it is, I don't need the added bonus of actual rational anger."
Clarke raises her eyebrows. "So we have a deal?"
A month in, Bellamy has learned a number of important things about Clarke, like -
She's on a full ride for Ark City University pre-med, she works nights Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at the school infirmary, she has her eyes on a doctorate program at Santa Clara, her mom's a doctor but she doesn't talk about it, ever - She hates coffee but makes herself drink it to stay awake, her favorite Ben and Jerry's flavor was Vermonty Python until they discontinued it, and she's somehow still bitter about it, she prefers orange juice to apple, which is blasphemous - She owns more sweaters than any other article of clothing, owns more medical books and journals than she does sweaters, owns two pairs of shoes, neither of which are appropriate for any sort of formal situation -
She slept with Finn, a few times, didn't know he had a girlfriend, let alone a fiancée, until she showed up out of the blue from MIT at the end of the last year and just happened to be assigned to room with Clarke at the beginning of the term, which really, a more unlucky coincidence does not exist on this campus -
She bites her lip when she's trying to memorize something, she has a song of the 206 bones in the human body memorized, and she sings it under her breath all the time, she sometimes cries while she watches the news - She picks up shifts waitressing Jaha's Diner on fourth when she has a spare minute, because she actually pays for everything she has, doesn't have anyone helping her out, she does her laundry two blocks over at the Vietnamese laundramat, because they only charge one quarter and the machines in the dorms take two -
She's stubborn as fuck, once she sets her mind to something, won't go back to the dorm for a coat even if she steps outside and realizes she has sorely misjudged the temperature, she will eat even the shadiest of Chinese food as long as it doesn't smell weird - She is not afraid to yell at him, even though he's a good foot taller than her, and somehow she always seems to be looking straight at him, never up - She only has a few friends, but from what he can tell she would give her life for them, which is intense but it's just how Clarke is, she operates all-or-nothing, the intensity is intoxicating - She approaches problems like there's a right answer all the time, which sometimes there isn't sometimes you can't win at all -
She makes him smile, infuriates him, keeps him up until two going over medical terms that she know by heart anyways, there's no reason he has to sit there and quiz her, she brings him home burgers from Jaha's Diner and says she was just passing by, thought he might like something, which is nice even though he knows it's a lie.
She's actually pretty pissed at Finn, pretty torn up about the whole thing even though it happened for real five months ago, and Bellamy thinks he could beat his ex-roommate up for being such a dick and waving it around in Clarke's face, fucking his fiancée in his ex-girlfriend's dorm. She watches medical dramas, Bellamy thinks just to keep up a steady wave of discrediting commentary for a whole hour, actually pops a couple of the bones in his fingers squeezing his hand during the Grey's Anatomy season finale.
She performed emergency CPR on a student, once, and he died, and sometimes she wakes up gasping and crying and leaves the room because she thinks he's still asleep, thinks he wouldn't get up and hold her if she asked, but he would.
She laughs way too hard at dumb commercials and drags his ass out for froyo when it's late but it's not the morning yet, drags his ass out for Taco Bell when all the froyo places are closed, tells him he's a dumb ass for preferring pinto beans to black beans, for preferring more interesting flavors to your classic vanilla froyo - She barters like a menace at the farmers market, tries to barter with the cafeteria automated check out once when she's tired and maybe still a little bit high, and Bellamy laughs so hard his sides hurt and elbows her out of the way -
He hasn't had a friend like this. He has his sister, and he used to have his mother, and he had Murphy until that went to shit, but, like - she barged her way into his life and sat down like she'd always belonged there, and she can yell and gripe at him all she wants, and maybe he'll yell and gripe back, but he listens to Clarke breathe and night, and he falls asleep peaceful.
"You can't major in 'whatever the hell I want,' Bell," Clarke's saying over her laptop, the remnants of a Starbucks lemon pound cake sitting in front of her. "You have to pick something. For fuck's sake, you're a junior, how'd you even get this far without declaring anything?"
Octavia throws her hands into the air beside him, exclaims, "Thank you very much, Clarke, I've been saying this for months, but does he listen to me? No, God forbid I be right for once - "
"Come on, O," Bellamy tries, but she just raises a well-sculpted, skeptical eyebrow at him, and he doesn't bother, not now that Clarke's on her side, too, because he can't stand up against the sheer disapproving power of all of their eyebrows.
Jasper sets the second round of coffee down in the center of the table and reclaims his spot next to Clarke in the booth. Monty drags over a chair and spins it around to straddle it like a total dork, kicks Jasper's foot deliberately under the table.
"If you could major in 'whatever the hell I want,'" Jasper says, "that would be awesome and I would totally go for it. Imagine bringing that degree home to mom and dad, all 'hey, look what you just spent two hundred thousand on.' But no, what am I stuck with? Bio fucking chemical engineering, that's what."
Monty kicks him again, hard in the shin, "Hey, biochemistry's pretty cool, Jasper. We get to blow shit up sometimes, and we're really good at cooking drugs now."
Octavia takes the tallest coffee from the carrier in front of her and takes a tiny sip from it. "If you two are done playing footsie over there, can I get back to what I was saying?" she pauses like she actually expects someone to interject, which no one does. "I think Bellamy should be a business major. He's taken enough generic business 101 classes by now, at least."
Clarke shakes her head, and draws her eyes away from the paper she's typing. "No, Bellamy was meant to help people," she remarks, casually, like she hasn't just rocked the entire Starbucks. "He ought to major in criminal justice, or maybe polisci, but probably criminal justice, because he'd deck a politician bitch in the face."
Bellamy looks at her for a long minute, not saying anything, and he vaguely registers Octavia saying, "You're right. I feel so dumb I didn't think of that, I've known him my whole life - "
But Clarke's already back to her paper, has forgone the coffee in favor of slumping sideways ever so slightly into Jasper's shoulder. Jasper just holds her weight, doesn't so much as comment, just carries on his side conversation with Monty, and Clarke has that kind of effect on people, just inspires loyalty in anyone with half a brain to recognize that she's the sun.
"That's a good idea," Bellamy says. Octavia seems somewhat surprised, wide-eyed. "I think I'll do that."
Clarke looks up at him and smiles gently.
He and Octavia always get an expensive hotel room for two days over Christmas break - Christmas eve and Christmas day - because their dorms are small and the kitchens don't really work for cooking chicken, but they don't have a house to go back to since their mom died, so. For two days every year, ever since Octavia finished high school and they both enrolled as freshmen, it's just the two of them, and too much chocolate and eggnog and dumplings and A Christmas Story, Home Alone, Die Hard playing on repeat.
Bellamy goes back to his dorm on Christmas eve to get Octavia's gifts, which he has to leave hidden, because she can and will shake them to see what's inside, and the year he got her a lava lamp that practice ended very messily -
Only, what he's not expecting to find is Clarke, tucked into the bed that has become hers with a thick paperback book and a scented candle burning at her bedside, the Christmas music station on the radio turned on quietly on the shelf behind her. She's bundled in a huge sweater that looks like it crawled out of the year 1983, and her eyes and nose are red as if she's been crying, and she looks so small curled up in her nest of pillows and blankets that Bellamy's heart twists tangibly.
She looks up sharply when he enters, and her face screws up in confusion, lips parting and brow furrowed, and her voice is thick and groggy, "Bell? What?"
He closes the door behind him and starts to shrug out of his winter outerwear, because this isn't going to be as quick a visit as he was planning on. "What are you still doing here, princess? I thought you'd have gone home by now."
The scarf comes off from around his neck, and he sits down on the edge of the bed. She closes the book and sets it beside her, her fingers curled up on the edge of the too-long sleeves of the sweater. "I haven't been home in a couple years."
He looks up at her eyes, and they're hooded, but he can usually tell instinctively when she'll fight him, and this isn't one of those times. "How come?" he asks.
Her eyes flicker back up to his for a moment, and they're watery in the candlelight. He catches her hand off the top of the book, curls her fingers with his, but makes no move to pull her in any further, because Clarke stands on her own two feet until she decides of her own free will that she doesn't want to anymore.
She takes a thin breath, lets it out shaky. "This is my dad's sweater," she says. Her fingers tighten in his a little, then relax as he soothes his thumb over the side of her palm. "He's in prison. My mom turned him in."
Clarke doesn't offer up any more information, and he knows better than to ask for it. Instead, he catches her against his chest when she sways foward, and it's the slightest movement but it's enough, she's off balance, and it's not like he's about to let her fall back into an empty bed. She's still holding one of his hands, but he wraps his other arm around her waist and does his damnedest to anchor her, feels her free hand feather light over his shoulder, then digging into his shirt, feels her eyelashes flutter closed against the skin of his neck.
"You're having Christmas with me and O," he says, after a few minutes, "and that is non-negotiable."
She puts on her winter jacket over her dad's sweater, puts on Bellamy's scarf without even registering that it's not hers, and Bellamy grabs the small wrapped gift he'd had stashed for Clarke along with the rest of Octavia's presents, puts them all in a large duffel. Clarke grabs his hand on the way out the door, and doesn't let go of it all the way to the hotel.
She tries to offer to sleep on the couch. He doesn't let her.
Finn and Raven go through one of their off-again periods in mid-February, right after Valentine's day, which leaves a great number of people very confused about their sleeping arrangements. Clarke ends up going back to her assigned dorm to live with the astronaut, the silver locket in the shape of an anatomically correct diagram of the human heart that he got her for Christmas around her neck, leaving Bellamy with an empty spot in his peace of mind.
He gets stuck - again - with Finn, who seems like even more of an idiot now that Bellamy is majoring in criminal justice and can point out every one of the miniscule laws Finn breaks on a daily basis before adopting a self-righteous attitude in defense of his wrongdoing, now that Bellamy knows Finn was dumb enough to let Clarke go, to hurt her. He wants to break Finn's fucking self-righteous nose.
Instead, he spends most of his time in their booth at the Starbucks, with Jasper or Monty or whoever happens to wander in at any given time of the day. He goes to classes, and then he goes to Starbucks - except the one time he goes to Waffle House, at Clarke's behest - and then he goes back to the dorm and sleeps, rinse, repeat. Clarke thinks the whole situation is a lot funnier than he does, but even as she laughs about his ridiculous avoidance tactics, he can tell she's frustrated.
"It's fine," she says, over a stack of 'sub-par' blueberry banana waffles. "These breakups between them usually only last a couple of weeks at most. Usually as long as they can avoid making sexually-charged eye contact, which is only as long as they can avoid making any eye contact, which is only as long as they can avoid being in the same room."
"If Raven's smart," Bellamy says, and takes a swig of truly awful coffee, "she marries him, and takes him for everything he has every time they get divorced, which should be two to three times a year."
"Knowing Finn," Clarke says, and Bellamy's stomach twists into a knot, because Clarke really does know Finn, "he'd just keep coming back for more, too. Plus, all the mistresses he'd probably keep, Raven would have grounds."
They move to the library, running through the pouring rain, Clarke with her books under her coat and Bellamy holding his above his head, bleeding highlighter be damned. Clarke steps in a puddle that's a little too deep and splashes it all the way up her pant leg, freezing water and she makes such a shocked-frozen face that Bellamy can't help but laugh at her, which just leads to her shoving him sideways into a storm drain, which means that they go through the doors to the library fighting like kids.
"So, the MCATs are in a week," Clarke is saying, leading him deep into the science stacks, towards medical, as if he can't get there with his eyes closed by now, by sheer muscle memory, "and I really need to review the processes of the endocrine system, there's a stack of flashcards that some benevolent ancestor pre-med student left back here - "
She stops in her tracks, and Bellamy almost crashes into her back, trying to shake water out of his hair as he walks. He looks down at Clarke's expression - open-mouthed, and a little thrilled, like she can't believe her eyes. "What?" he asks.
Clarke just inclines her head towards the open study area in front of them. Bellamy follows her gaze, and -
Holy fucking fuck, that is his sister - that is his sister on that couch currently making out with the astronaut, and there are tongues and there are hands under shirts and he has to look away but he can't, so he just screws his eyes shut.
He feels Clarke turn into him, hears her trying to repress her laughter, and she pushes him back into the cover of the stacks, her hands tight on his sides. He stumbles back, feels her weight off balance against him, and when they're back a few steps and he finally can open his eyes, she's laughing, helpless and honest and bubbling, and he doesn't want to but he can't really help but to join her. He grabs her by the waist and drops his head on her shoulder, which is a feat given the height difference, and just lets himself laugh, and Octavia and Raven can probably hear them, but who cares.
"Well," Clarke manages to say, "this break up may be slightly longer than anticipated. Also, Raven may also be taking mistresses, so there go her grounds for divorce."
Bellamy tries to give her a hopeful look. "Maybe she's going through an experimental period. I've been told that all girls go through them."
"Is Octavia going through one of these so-called 'experimental phases,' then?" Clarke asks, a single eyebrow inclined.
Bellamy hopes to God that's a rhetorical question, because he hasn't got an answer. Not that it matters either way, because it doesn't - actually, he'd probably prefer it if Octavia were into girls, less idiots for him to beat up, fewer pregnancy scares.
Clarke snorts a laugh, tugs at his sleeve to get him moving again. "Anyway, that was exhibit A, the endocrine system hard at work, you know, teenage hormones and all that - " Bellamy shoves her sideways into a shelf.
A week later, and neither of them are particularly eager to go back to their dorms, so three a.m. finds them on the top floor of the library, in a back corner by a stack of crap teen sci fi novels, spread out over two couches pushed together to make a sort of nest. Clarke's swimming in flash cards, two textbooks open in her lap, a highlighter behind her ear, one skewered through her bun, one in her hand; Bellamy's laying on his side with his laptop in front of him, scrolling through and trying to read her encouraging statistics -
"No one gets a perfect score, princess," he says. "No one last year got below a 5 out of 45, so that's good, probably. Also, the verbal reasoning section looks like a bitch, not a single person got a perfect score - "
She reaches over and pushes his head back into the couch cushions. "Not helping, Bell. Actually the opposite of helping."
She's highlighting what looks like an entire page of text, alternating between colors, which can't be conducive to anything with the test in seven hours and counting down. Bellamy takes the highlighter from her slowly, like he's trying not to spook an animal, watches her fingers loosen in defeat and let the highlighter go. She drops the stack of flashcards she's holding, and they join the rest of the scattered ones across the couch between them.
Clarke sighs, and unfolds herself out across the couch, laying next to him. She stares at the ceiling, unblinking, which must mean she's reached a new level of exhaustion and stress never before achieved, or at least not observed by Bellamy. He closes his laptop and looks up at the ceiling, too, tries to resist the urge to shift closer to her heat, bridge the small gap left between them.
He feels Clarke's hand brush his, and he lets himself latch on, just their thumbs hooking.
"What if I don't pass?" Clarke asks, for the billionth time in the last week. "What if I don't get in to med school?" He opens his mouth to respond with dutiful reassurances, but she cuts him off before he can, "I don't really have a plan B. I've never had a plan B. That was dumb of me, right? I should have a plan B."
Bellamy turns his head to look at her. Her lip's swollen from so many hours of sheer memorization, and she has bags under her eyes, and her hair is coming out of its braid and spread out on the couch around her head, and she's just about the most fucking beautiful thing he's ever seen in his life.
"I'll be your plan B," he says. She turns to look at him, her gaze open and hopeful and bright. "Whatever you need," he says, quieter. "Whatever you need, Clarke."
He's lost in her eyes, doesn't realize she's moved until she's right in his space, her face mere inches from his, so they're breathing the same air so the ends of her hair feather against his neck. He doesn't look away from her eyes, just tilts his head forward a fraction, and she surges forward to meet him, lips sealed over his, and her eyelids flutter closed and he follows her down, closes his eyes and pulls her in close against him, as close as he can.
She twists her fingers in his hair, tilts for a better angle, and Bellamy's head is a wash of colors and light and Clarke, all he can hear is her heartbeat and his own blood rushing in his ears, all he can feel is points of contact, their mouths and her hands on him and his hands on her, everywhere at once because if he had a hundred lifetimes it wouldn't be enough to map all of her, her knees bumping his thighs and her hip pressed flush against his stomach.
She feels like home, and home is something Bellamy's been meaning to find for himself.
For now, though -
He pulls away, just a fraction, enough so that their lips still brush with every breath. "If only we had a room," he murmurs, and feels Clarke's smile against his own.