Clarke had spent hours, spent days, making her Secret Santa present perfect. It was meticulous. It was impeccable. It was beautiful. It was exquisite.
(She’d found the perfect picture of Bellamy and Octavia and painted and framed it. That was after she had already done a black and white sketch, a color sketch before she finally decided to paint it. And then she had spent nearly a week making sure that the final painting was perfect.)
So as much as she hated to be that guy, she couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed as she stared down at what her Secret Santa had gotten her.
Not that it wasn’t nice, because it was. But that’s really all it was. Just nice. Not personal, not meaningful, not even really catered to her. But it was nice.
A nice pair of knit socks. And matching gloves.
“Wow, these are…really soft!” She said, trying (and failing, she knew) to mask her disappointment. “Thank you, Santa, whoever you are.”
She didn’t want to be that guy. It wasn’t a bad present. It wasn’t as if she wouldn’t use them or anything. But she had just been hoping for something a bit more personal.
Maybe she talked too much about the practical uses of things she bought. Did her friends think she only wanted practical gifts? She always appreciated them when they came from her parents, but she always thought her friends got her a bit more than that. Understood that she was frugal because she had to be, so when she found something she liked that she would use a lot she was excited that she could treat herself without feeling like she was spending money frivolously. Art majors didn’t exactly have a lot of money.
But it was fine. The socks and gloves were cute and they looked warm, and they really were soft, so she tucked them into her lap and smiled at the group.
She looked up at the rest of her friends. Monty and Jasper were both looking at her incredulously, eyebrows raised. Octavia inexplicably looked furious—which Clarke wasn’t even going to hazard a guess as to why. Raven looked like she was waiting for Clarke to burst out with how she really felt about the present, (sorry Raven), and Bellamy had almost no expression on his face, but a slight blush creeping up his neck. Probably from Monty’s famous eggnog.
“Alright then,” Octavia said. “Who’s next?”
There was only one present left under their little tree. Bellamy’s. Clarke suddenly felt very stupid. Very, very stupid.
She was about to make everything so obvious.
What had seemed like the perfect present only moments before now seemed woefully overdone and far too personal for a friendly Secret Santa present. And she wouldn’t even be able to hide behind the anonymity Secret Santa usually offered, because she was the only one of her friends who could paint.
Her face was growing very, very red and very, very warm and antsy did not even begin to cover the level of unease she felt at staying in the living room with everyone. Her ribs felt like they were folding in on her because she knew that she only had about a minute left until every person in the world she knew and cared about found out her big stupid secret.
How dense was she? What was she thinking making this present? This was not something you gave a friend if you wanted him to maintain the idea that you wanted to be just friends.
Oh, god. She was so stupid, she needed to leave. She needed to leave right away. She couldn’t wait another second.
“I, uh, I think I’m going to grab another cookie,” she said as she moved to get up.
Bellamy’s head snapped up and his gaze met hers, confused.
Octavia, however, had other thoughts. She grabbed Clarke’s arm and yanked her back down. “Relax, Clarkey, your munchies can wait for one more gift.”
“It’s not—ugh, nevermind,” Clarke said, sitting back down. She glanced back over at Bellamy who had turned his head away from her, looking down at his hands, blush fully creeping into his cheeks now.
“So, uh,” he mumbled. “I guess it’s my turn.”
Monty smiled widely and scooped up his present from under the tree and moved across the room to hand it to him. He took it gingerly, eyes widening at its weight (it was the frame) and started peeling away the wrapping.
He pulled the framed painting from the remaining paper, and sat in complete silence. His eyes were wide and his jaw had dipped down, only slightly, but enough for it to be abundantly clear when he sucked in a surprised breath.
“You gonna share with the class there, Bellamy?” Raven teased from her seat on the chair across from him.
“Yeah, Bell, come on,” Octavia urged. “Let us see.”
Bellamy shook himself, blinking and flipped the painting around.
Clarke wants to burrow herself into the couch cushions and die.
“Holy shit,” Raven say. “Well my gift sucks compared to that.”
Everyone nodded in agreement, but Clarke wasn’t looking at any of them. She was looking at Bellamy who was staring back at her, eyes blown wide, with an expression she couldn’t even begin to identify but was horrified would turn out to be pity.
Now. Now she had to leave.
“Well, if you’ll excuse me, now I think I will go get that cookie.” Without waiting for an answer she pushed herself up off the couch and went into the kitchen. She walked right past the tray of cookies and moved in front of the sink. She braced her hands on the sink and tried to steady her breathing and will the blush that was heating her cheeks away. When that didn’t work she turned on the cold water and splashed it on her face. She didn’t feel better, but she certainly didn’t feel worse.
That is until she turned around and saw Bellamy standing in front of her, hands stuffed in his pockets, looking at her in a way that made her want to melt right into the floor.
“Clarke,” he said. “God, I’m…I’m so sorry.”
She nearly whimpered. This, this pity, was something she couldn’t not handle. He knew and he was trying to be nice about it and let her down gently, and it was so humiliating and she needed to evaporate. Pronto.
“No, Bellamy, you really don’t need to—”
“No,” he interrupted. “No I really do. I’m sorry, my gift was such shit compared to what you got me. I mean,” he gestured incoherently around the air in front of him. “It’s beautiful, Clarke. It’s perfect. No one has ever given me something like this before.”
“It was nothing,” she said, still trying to brush it off as no big deal.
“It’s not nothing. It’s amazing.” He scrunched his eyebrows looking down at his feet, only for a moment before he seemed to shake himself out of it and forced himself to look back up at Clarke. “And the thing is, I got you that stupid present because I was so afraid that I would give myself away if I got you a present that you really deserve, and I didn’t want to weird you out by giving you something way too personal, but now I’m kicking myself because while you’re over there with a pair of socks, I got something you poured your heart into and it really just doesn’t seem fair.”
He waited for her to say something. But she was honestly having trouble catching up with everything he was saying.
“Give yourself away?” was all she could manage.
Bellamy took a step closer. His hand moved to reach out to her, but he pulled it back before he did. His face was much closer than it had been, and if he would just have dipped it down a bit, their lips would have been touching. But he stayed where he was.
“Clarke, come on,” he whispered. “Put me out of my misery here.”
She reached her hand out and ran her fingers along his jaw. He squeezed his eyes shut, leaning his head into her touch so she just kept running her hands up and down his face, down to his neck and back up again. He seemed breathless and she didn’t quite understand what was happening but she wasn’t going to question it because her heart was beating as fast and erratically as he seemed to be breathing, and when he leaned his forehead down onto hers, she couldn’t take it anymore.
She tilted her head forward, pushing aside any space between them, and pressed her lips to his. His hands finally left his sides, and he slid them under the hem of her sweater, pressing his palms into her lower back, and just kept them there, anchoring her to him.
She only pulled away long enough to mumble “I guess this makes up for the total shit present,” against his lips before he was laughing and pulling her back into him.