Even if you were upside-down,
I would be beside you.
And your world were a strange thing found,
I would be beside you.
She became a criminal when she was nine years old, walking from the exchange on a Tuesday with crayons that didn’t belong to her.
Her father gave her a bright red crayon for her birthday, but the crayons that lined the table were in every single color, and they made her fingers itch as soon as she noticed them. The longing built up in her chest until she couldn’t stand it, and she begged for one. But her mother told her that she didn’t need a crayon, dragging Clarke from the exchange. Clarke thought about the crayons at dinner, and in bed, and when she went to the exchange on her own in the morning.
That was a crime, too: she wasn’t supposed to go to the exchange without a parent.
But she did, sneaking away from her mother after breakfast.
She waited until the lady at the table was distracted before she grabbed three stubby crayons.
Clarke wove quickly through the crowds with a shaky, sweaty hand in her pocket, clutching the crayons tightly while she made her escape. It wasn’t until she was in the quiet, empty corridor that she broke into a run, and her heart was in her stomach, and in her throat, and in her ears, too.
She ran blindly until there were stitches in her side, and she was breathless with her success.
She pulled the crayons from her pocket. She hadn’t tried to pick one particular color when she grabbed her loot, and she looked now at the colors that she managed to get: one dark green crayon, one brown crayon, and one light blue crayon with a label that hadn’t been peeled off entirely yet, revealing that it was called sky. She knew immediately what she was going to draw.
But she needed to find a place to draw; she couldn’t return to her apartment with the crayons.
She wandered from the corridor into a narrow passage that opened suddenly into a room where boxes lined the walls in stacks. There wasn’t a light in the ceiling, but there was better: white moonlight streamed in from a window. Her feet kicked up dust when she took a step, and she bit her lip when it curled into a smile. Nobody was going to find her in this room.
Plus, this gave her a way to see the picture that she was going to draw.
The shelves created a ladder to the window, and it would be easy to scale them; she could sit on the very top shelf, and see the earth out the window. That was what she was going to draw. She used a map to get to the exchange this morning, and the back was blank: a perfect, empty canvas.
One leg up on a shelf, and she reached an arm to the next.
She pushed up with a strain, standing on the shelf, and continued to climb. She made it to the top.
It was hard to draw without a table, but she managed, and she drew with care: every single line she drew was important; she wasn’t going to waste these crayons.
Time didn’t seem to pass. But it did.
Reality crashed into her when a red, flashing light went off in the corner. She blinked.
What time was it? Her parents must have noticed that she’s been gone for hours, and the light in the corner drew her gaze. It took a moment to shake off her stupor, and to remember what that light meant. It was drilled into her when she was little: that light was a warning. It meant get out.
Get out, or you’d be locked in a room where the oxygen was cut off.
They did that a lot, cutting off oxygen to rooms that were “non-essential” at random, odd hours.
There was supposed to be an alarm, too, but that hadn’t gone off, and that was why she hadn’t realized. The panic tackled her suddenly, and she tried to scramble from her perch.
It happened quickly: her foot missed the shelf where it was supposed to land, and there was time only for sudden, blinding panic to choke her before she began to fall, reaching for something to hold onto. It was useless; her scream caught in her throat, and her ankle twisted under her an instant before the contents of boxes that followed her off the shelves rained down, battering her.
She was left in a dusty, broken pile on the ground, coughing tearfully. She tried to stand, only to cry out at the pain that sang in her ankle. But red light splashed her cheek, warning her.
“Help!” she shouted. “Help, please! Help me!”
There was a creak in the vents, and metal scratched metal; she recognized the tinny, screeching squelch, and dreaded the whoosh that was going to follow, signaling the start. The room was going to be closed off, and the air cut off. She was going to be trapped in a room without oxygen.
“Is somebody in there?” called a voice.
“Where are you?” he shouted.
“Here!” she cried. “I’m here! Help me!”
The boy seemed to spring into existence, bursting suddenly into the room.
His eyes landed on her, and he was at her side instantly. She grabbed his hand, his shirt, his arm, clinging to him and trying to explain herself through her tears. “Hey, hey, it’s okay,” he murmured. “Come on, it’s okay.” He got her up, holding her steady with her hands on his shoulders. “Can you stand?”
She nodded, trying to. But when she put weight on her foot, the pain crippled her, and she cried out, collapsing into him.
He caught her easily. “It’s okay, I’ve got you,” he murmured, and like she was nothing, he scooped her up, starting from the room with her in his arms.
She hugged his neck, clinging to him, and—
They didn’t make it.
She heard the squelch a moment before the boy stopped, heard the soft, final whoosh, and turned her head to see what she knew she was going to see: the door was sealed. They were trapped.
“Shit. Shit!” He surged to the door, trying to yank it open. He banged on it. “Hey! Open up!”
There was a groan in the vents above them before the room seemed to go silent. That was it.
The oxygen was cut off.
She squeezed her eyes shut. “I’m sorry,” she cried. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to. I didn’t—”
“It’s okay,” he murmured. He set her slowly on the ground, giving her a brief, tight smile before starting to look around the room. He turned in a circle, pushed his hands into the hair.
She wiped at her eyes, trying not to cry. What were they going to do? Would her parents be able to find them? How much oxygen was left in the room? She pressed her lips together, and the tears built in her throat. This was her fault. If she hadn’t stolen those crayons, this wouldn’t have happened.
The boy squatted besides her, running his fingers over her ankle. It was swollen under her tights. He caught her eye. “What’s your name?”
He smiled. “Okay, Clarke. I’m Bellamy.” He talked slowly, staring at her. “It’s going to be okay,” he told her. “I’m going to pry open the door. But I need you not to panic. If you panic, you breathe in a lot, and that’ll use up our oxygen. I need you to trust me, and stay calm. Can you do that for me, Clarke?”
She nodded, wiping her nose. “It’s my fault.”
His lip twitched with a frown.
“I stole these crayons. I really wanted them, but my mother said I didn’t need them, and I—and I stole them, but I couldn’t take them back to my apartment, and I found this room, and I was drawing the earth, and I—I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t have stolen them, and this is my fault—”
He touched her shoulder for a moment, quieting her, and tugged gently on her braid in the next. “This isn’t your fault.” He paused. “Actually, you know, it’s good that you took those crayons. Do you have them with you?”
She blinked, nodding.
“Good. Do you have paper, too? I need you to draw something for me, and describe it to me while you draw it.” She frowned a little, but he didn’t give her a chance to ask. “I need to concentrate to get this door open, and it helps me to concentrate when I think about the earth. Do you think you could draw something on the earth for me? Could you draw me a forest, and tell me about it?”
“Okay? Good. Okay.”
“My paper—” She pointed, and he found the map for her, and she tugged the crayons from her pocket. The green was snapped in two from her fall, but that didn’t matter.
She started to draw, and Bellamy rummaged through the boxes, finding a long metal rod. “Are you drawing trees?” he asked.
She sniffed. “I’m going to draw a deer, too,” she told him.
“Yeah, and some birds?”
Her head grew light while she drew. But she frowned, and she continued, explaining the drawing to Bellamy. She heard him curse, but his voice was distant, and she blinked, staring at green, fluffy blurs on the paper. She closed her eyes, opened them. Hands grappled at her shoulders. She blinked. It was Bellamy, tugging her up. But he didn’t lift her into his arms. He dragged her.
The air washed over her, and she blinked, breathing in sharply; it made her lungs hurt.
She sank against the wall.
They were in the corridor. They were free. How long were they in that small, awful room? It didn’t matter. They got out.
She couldn’t believe it. Her ankle throbbed, and her head pounded, but she breathed in, breathed out. She looked at Bellamy. He was slumped against the wall, too. His head seemed to loll for a moment before he caught her eye. “Did you finish my drawing?” he asked. His voice was rough, but he smiled.
“Not yet,” she said. It was crumpled in her hand. “Thank you for saving me." She bit her lip, looking at him.
His smile hadn’t faded, and her neck felt warm under his bright, bright gaze. “Don’t worry about it,” he told her. It took a minute, but he stood finally, reaching for her. “Come on. Let’s find your parents. I bet they’re worried about you right now.”
“Will you—will you tell them what I did?” she asked, sniffing.
She wanted her parents desperately in that moment; she wanted to hug her father, and have her mother stroke her hair, hold her close, tuck her into bed. But if they knew what she did, they’d be ashamed, and they’d—
“Nope,” he said. “That’ll be our secret.” He smiled, but she couldn’t. “Hey, listen. Just because you did a bad thing, doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. I’m not going to tell anybody. I know you aren’t going to do it again ‘cause now you know better, right?”
She nodded. “Right,” she said. This time when he smiled, she did, too. But when she tried to stand, her smile dropped. “I can’t—” she started. Her ankle hurt; everything hurt.
“I got you,” he replied, pulling her up into his arms. She leaned her head on his shoulder. He smelled like soap. “Where do you live?” he asked.
“Sector A, apartment 30,” she told him.
He stiffened. “Sector A,” he repeated.
She hoped he knew where that was. She hadn’t thought about where she was going when she ran from the exchange, and she didn’t know where they were now. If he didn’t know where to go, they were lost. “Do you know how to get there?” she asked. “It’s—”
“I know where it is,” he said.
He was silent, and she closed her eyes. The longer they walked, the more her ankle throbbed, and she grew faint with the pain. She shifted, and Bellamy’s hair tickled her nose. She thought she recognized where they were for a moment, but minutes passed in a blink. It was easy to drift off.
She woke to her mother’s hand on her forehead, brushing the hair from her face. “Hey, sweetie.”
Clarke blinked, trying to understand why she was sore.
It took a moment for her memory to return, but it did. “Where’s Bellamy?”
“He’s fine,” her mother said. “He’s with his mother.” She smiled. “Clarke, you scared us. If that boy hadn’t found you, I don’t—” She sighed, shaking her head, and guilt was thick in Clarke’s throat. “I need you to promise me that you won’t run off like that. I need to know where you are always. I need to know that you’re safe. I worry.”
“I’m sorry,” Clarke whispered. Tears burned her eyes. “Mom, I stole the crayons.”
Her mother started to frown, and Clarke struggled to explain. Her mother sighed, saying how disappointed she was, and that Clarke needed to apologize to that vendor. But she stroked Clarke’s hair, kissing her forehead, and promised that everything was going to be okay, and Clarke promised, too: never to steal, never to run off, never to make her mother worry like that.
Her father popped his head into the room, grinning when he saw that Clarke was awake.
In the days that followed, her parents sat with her when she was awake, staying until she was asleep, and it seemed like everyone came to see her while her ankle healed. Her grandma, her teacher, and her father’s assistant came, Mr. Jaha brought Wells twice, and Mr. Kane visited, too, gifting Clarke with a pretty green ribbon.
She expected Bellamy to come, too.
She waited and waited, drawing the forest for him over and over until the picture was perfect, and her ankle was healed, and she knew he wasn’t going to come.
“I have to give him the drawing,” Clarke insisted, and her father smiled and agreed and learned where Bellamy lived with his mother. They went to the apartment on a Sunday.
Clarke knocked, and there was a thump from within. But nobody came to the door.
She glanced at her father, and he nodded. She raised a hand to knock, and the door slid open to reveal a thin, frowning woman. “Can I help you?” Her voice was short.
“Well, I hope." He smiled. "I’m sorry to show up at your door like this, but my name is Jake Griffin, and this is my daughter, Clarke.” He paused, but the woman didn’t say a word. “I believe your son, Bellamy, saved my daughter’s life a little while back, and, ah, well, she wanted to thank him.” He placed a hand on Clarke’s shoulder, smiling, and the woman’s gaze fell to Clarke for a moment.
“Sure.” She offered them a tight, tense smile, and glanced over her shoulder. “Bellamy!”
The woman stepped into her apartment, but it wasn’t an invitation, and Clarke backed up along with her father when Bellamy passed his mother, stepping into the corridor with a frown. But when his gaze landed on Clarke, his brow seemed to relax, and he started to smile. “Hey, Clarke.”
She was breathless. “Hey, Bellamy.”
There was a thin red crease in his lip when his mouth stretched into a wider, fuller smile, and a flush crept up her neck. “How’re you? How’s your ankle?” he asked.
“Good.” She flexed her ankle for him, and he nodded. His gaze darted to her father, but she drew it quickly back to her. “I finished your drawing!” She took it from her pocket, unfolding it while her father squeezed her shoulder in encouragement, and handed it to Bellamy. She hoped he liked it. She watched his eyes sweep over everything: the trees, the deer, the sky, the birds that she practiced on random scratch paper for days before she added them carefully to the drawing.
He glanced up at last. “This is good,” he told her. “This is really good. It looks real.” He smiled.
She beamed. “It’s for you.”
He raised his eyebrows in surprise, and there was a warm, pleased touch to his smile now; her heart jumped into her throat. He looked at the drawing, and there was a pause. “But now I have a question for you.” He moved to stand so that she was able to look at the drawing with him. “What do you think the forest smells like? I look at it, and—” He stared at her drawing thoughtfully, and shook his head. “I don’t know.” He looked at Clarke. “What do you think?”
“I don’t know,” she told him. “Trees.”
“Oh, ho, it smells like trees. Well, what do trees smell like, missy clever pants?” he asked, and she giggled. “Do you know what I think? But you have to promise not to laugh.” She nodded eagerly, and he leaned in. “I always thought it smelled like mint.” He scrunched up his nose, smiling mischievously, and his eyes were brown like her stubby, stolen crayon. “Is that weird?”
“No,” she said.
“No?” He nodded, and gave her a side-eye. “Not even a little bit?”
She bit her lip. “Okay, maybe a little bit.” He grinned, and she laughed.
He straightened, and her father held out a hand. “I wanted to thank you,” he said, and Bellamy nodded, shaking her father’s hand. “I owe you one.” It was quiet, and her father cleared his throat. “Well, kid, I guess we ought to get a move on. I bet your mom’s waiting on us for dinner.”
She didn’t want to go. But she looked at Bellamy, and he smiled. “Thank you for my drawing.”
“You’re welcome.” She fidgeted. “I guess I’ll see you later.” It was a question.
“See you later, Clarke,” he replied, and she hoped it was a promise.
It was on the long, winding trek to their apartment, her hand in her father’s, swinging in between them, that she thought about how his name was Bellamy Blake, which meant that her name would be Clarke Blake, and that sounded funny. She thought it to herself over and over, smiling.
She worked for weeks on a drawing for him. It was the ocean, and she looked at photograph after photograph in book after book for ideas, practicing the waves for hours at a time.
She didn’t know when she was going to see him next, but she wanted to be prepared.
In the end, she didn’t finish the drawing. She grew up.
Time passed, and she forgot about Bellamy. The crayons lived in a red plastic cup on her desk, making her smile when she happened to notice them, and remembered that boy with freckles, warm hands, and a grin that seemed to be especially for her. But that was it. He was a memory.
She was sixteen when she thought she was in love for real, smiling herself to sleep at night.
His name was Tucker, and he was in her year at school. He was loud, and funny, and liked, had a dimple in his chin, green eyes, and dark yellow hair, and he startled her when he turned in his seat during class one random day to talk to her.
Nobody talked to Clarke in class like that. It wasn’t that she didn’t have friends. She did. There was Sarah, and Glass. There was Wells.
There were more when she was younger, though.
But the girls she played with when she was little didn’t want to be her friend now that they were older, and it didn’t take her long to realize that people were quieter around her.
That giggles were suppressed when she passed, and she learned about parties the day after they happened. That she was invisible to the girls at school, and to the boys. Her mother was a councilwoman, and that meant that, mostly, nobody was going to be mean to her. Nobody was going to bully her.
Instead, they were going to ignore her.
She was invisible, and she watched the girls in her class whisper, pretending that she didn’t want to whisper with them, didn’t care when they whispered about her.
It made sense that when Tucker turned to Clarke, pushed the hair from his face, and grinned at her with a gap between his teeth, she melted on the spot. He brought her a snack in the library only a week after that, and his fingers skimmed over her braid before he left, making her bite her lip to bite in her too big, too excited smile. He started to talk to her in class daily, walked her from classes to her apartment in the afternoons, asked her to go to the Unity Day dance with him.
He kissed her that night, backing her into a wall. He intertwined their fingers, held her gaze while he kissed her knuckles, and stopped her breath when he kissed her mouth.
She was in love.
“Is it necessary to spend every single evening with him?” Wells asked. He didn’t like Tucker, and he made his feelings clear. If you asked Wells, the guy was a jerk. He wasn’t funny, or clever, or anything that he seemed to think he was. “I don’t get why you like him,” he muttered.
Clarke sighed. “I know we haven’t really hung out in a while. But why don’t we hang out on Saturday? Tucker isn’t invited. Just us.” She smiled at him, and Wells made a short, grumpy hmph noise in response. Clarke laughed. “Don’t worry, you’ll always be my favorite,” she teased.
She knew why Wells didn’t like Tucker, but she didn’t feel that way about Wells.
It was a month before she realized that she didn’t feel that way about Tucker.
She liked that he liked her. Or she did at first. He was cute with his curly yellow hair, and he was nice, and she liked his confidence, how easily he smiled, the way that he liked to link their fingers when he took her hand. But her attention started to drift when he talked, and he laughed at stupid, potty jokes that made her cringe, and she was uncomfortable under his touch, trying not to tense when his kisses grew sloppy against her mouth, and his hands fumbled at her breasts.
She wasn’t in love with him.
For a while, she was in love with the fact that he seemed to be in love with her. But that was it.
She became a villain the day that she broke up with him. Her classmates loved Tucker. He was a clown, was fun, friendly, and sweet. Who was Clarke to break up with him? Who was she to break his heart? There was a reason that nobody liked Clarke. She was a stuck up, selfish bitch.
She cried herself to sleep the night after she heard a girl say that.
It wasn’t long before she craved the invisibility that she used to have, and she was desperate to hide from everyone. Girls came up to Clarke to talk, and it was always, always about Tucker. She didn’t want to deal with them. She didn’t want to deal with Tucker, and the way he stared at her constantly with sad, betrayed eyes. She didn’t want to deal with the pity from her mother, or with the growing, desperate concern from Wells.
School ended for the year, and she planned to sign up to work every single day that summer at the smaller, secondary clinic where her mother wasn’t needed.
But when she talked to the head of the clinic, he gave her a much, much better idea. “I don’t suppose I could tempt you to work a night every once in a while, could I?” he asked. Clarke didn’t have to think about her answer. She told her parents that night, and she didn’t care that her mother was concerned at her choice. It was her choice, and it was made.
She was going to sleep away the days, and work in the clinic at night, and only the sick were going to be around to bug her. The sick, and the guard on duty at the clinic.
It wasn’t hard to work at night. Nobody came to this clinic in an emergency, which meant her job was simply to tend to the patients in the beds, and they weren’t the worst off; most were able to sleep through the night, and they were grateful to Clarke when she was able to help them to sleep.
Really, the problem with her job was the guard on duty.
He was an old, miserly fart, and he was gross. He made nasty, wet hacking noises when he didn’t feel the need to pick at his teeth with a knife, and he loved to leer at Clarke, making her feel gross, and forcing her to shrink from his gaze. She didn’t know how she was supposed to survive a summer with him.
But it turned out she didn’t have to.
Only a week into the summer, she arrived for her shift to find a new, younger guard in his place.
She was about to ask him where the regular gross old guard was, hoping the answer was “gone for good,” but the words caught in her throat when he nodded curtly at her in greeting, and she was frozen in surprise. He was older, and his shoulders were broader, but she knew him.
“Bellamy.” She started to smile. She couldn’t believe it.
He frowned at her.
“It’s Clarke,” she told him. She bit her lip. “I guess you don’t remember me. I—”
But his lips twitched suddenly with a smile. “No. No, I—I remember you,” he said. “It took me a second, but, yeah.” His smile became a grin. “How’s your ankle?”
Clarke laughed, and she didn’t think before she moved in to hug him. It startled him, and he was stiff in her arms at first. But he returned the embrace after a beat, patting at her shoulder. She pulled away quickly, fighting off the blush that warmed her neck. “It’s good to see you,” she said.
He nodded, and it was quiet.
“Did—are you the guard on duty at the clinic tonight?” she asked.
“Tonight, and for a while,” he said.
She couldn’t help a smile at that, and he smiled, too. There was a pause. “Well, I should—” She jerked her to the side a little, gesturing. “—get back to work.”
Again, he nodded. “If you need anything, let me know,” he told her.
They didn’t talk for a while after that. She needed to check on her patients, recording vitals for a few, and there was paperwork to fill out, and a girl with a cough that persisted despite the medicine that Clarke gave her. But when things calmed a little after two, she looked at where he sat, staring unseeingly at the floor, and she figured he wouldn’t mind her company for a bit.
She grabbed her lunch from the office.
“Did you bring something to eat?” she asked, sitting on the bare, empty bed that was nearest his chair. He blinked at her, and she smiled. “It’s time for lunch,” she explained, holding up her dented tin lunchbox. “Or dinner, or something.”
He nodded, and he pulled a bag from under his chair.
She was excited about her meal at first, but her excitement turned to embarrassment when his gaze stuck on the food that she pulled out, and she noticed his meal. Clarke’s father had packed her lunch, and he’d given her thick, salted jerky, carrots, an apple, and granola with cinnamon. Bellamy’s lunch was in a small tin can, and she knew immediately from the smell what it was: red, gunky beans that were sold in bulk for cheap. She'd never had them before, but her mother told her they tasted as bad as they smelled.
He pulled a bottle from his pocket, sprinkling some red sauce on the beans, and she was curious what it was. But she looked away when he looked at her, and they ate in silence.
She was tempted to offer to share her granola with him, but she swallowed the impulse.
She used to share her food with her friends at school when she was little. She was happy to. But when she got older, those friends began to look away from Clarke when they shared her food, and there was something like resentment in their eyes before suddenly they weren’t her friends.
His leg jiggled restlessly, and it made her smile for no reason.
“How long have you been a guard?” she asked, trying for a conversation.
“I’m not, technically,” he replied. “I’m a cadet. That’s why I got stuck with this gig.” She nodded, and it was quiet for a beat while he drank the gunk that was left in his tin before, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he looked at her. “How long have you worked at the clinic?” he asked.
“Two months,” she said. “Since I turned sixteen, and I was allowed to.”
He opened his mouth to reply, but he wasn’t given the chance. From across the clinic, there was a burst of coughing, followed by retching, a groan, and another nasty coughing fit, and Clarke moved to her feet with a sigh, packing up her meal. She smiled at Bellamy when she passed him, and he gave her a small, tight smile in reply.
Time passed slowly after that, and it allowed exhaustion to get its hooks in her.
She decided to sketch around five in the morning when there was nothing to do, and she needed to fight off the urge to close her eyes for a moment. One more hour, and she was done.
She was tired, and her sketch wasn’t really a sketch; she drew shapes, shadowing them, practiced a tree because trees were easy. It didn’t take long for her to feel his eyes on her, and when Bellamy saw that she’d noticed his gaze, he nodded at the pencil in her grip. “Did you steal that?” he asked. She huffed at him, and he grinned. “I assume you did, considering your shady, thieving past.”
“I’m going to shady, thieving past your face,” she replied.
He snorted. “Nice,” he told her. “Solid.”
“Shut up. I’m tired. My brain isn’t on.” She glared at him, and decided that the best, most mature thing to do at that point was throw her pencil at him.
He ducked, starting to laugh.
But there wasn’t a chance for him to retaliate, or to tease her further.
There was a woman in the entrance to the clinic, swaying on her feet with a pale, sweaty face, and Clarke started for her quickly, knowing what it looked like when a person was about to vomit. She didn’t talk to him until her shift was over, and she told him that she’d see him later. “Tomorrow, or tonight. Or whatever.”
“Go to bed, Clarke,” he replied, and she nodded at him.
But when she got back to her apartment, kissed her father on the cheek in greeting, and crawled into bed with her scrubs on, she found that she couldn’t sleep. She rummaged through her drawers for clean scrap paper, and she grabbed the crayons off her desk.
It was strange to draw with them, and they felt clumsy in her hands, too bulky, meant for a child.
But before she nodded off finally around ten, a bird drawn in brown, green, and pretty light blue crayon started to take shape on the page. It wasn’t her best, but she liked it when she found it later that afternoon, and she pinned it to the wall beside her other random, half-finished drawings.
She hadn’t drawn in color in a long, long time.
She arrived early at the clinic that night, and she was busy with patients as soon as she arrived. She didn’t know when Bellamy showed up, but she finished with a patient, and there he was, sitting in the chair near the wall, staring at the ceiling, and jiggling his leg restlessly. She smiled.
There were nights when the clinic was busy, forcing Clarke to scarf down a snack in between patients. But those nights were rare. Usually, there was time to take a break for lunch, to sketch for an hour, to talk to Bellamy, or to try to.
It turned out that Bellamy wasn’t a talker. Or a friendly, pleasant person in general.
He was grumpy a lot, frowning at everything with a furrow in his brow that she itched to draw.
But she got used to it. To him. There was something about him that made it easy to talk to him, something about his company that she liked. He was funny, and smart, and, okay, he wasn’t a talker, and he teased her a lot, and grumbled a lot, and she knew he liked to antagonize her. But.
“What is that?” she asked.
“Sauce,” he said, tucking it back into his pocket.
“I was able to deduce that much, yes.”
He glanced at her. “Then what did you ask for?” He raised an eyebrow at her, and his lips were quirked up to the left, hinting at a stupid, shit-eating grin; she could see it in his eyes.
She huffed. “Can I have a taste?” she asked.
He started to fork his beans into his mouth, and he answered with his mouth full. “What do you want to trade for it?” Her surprise must’ve shown, and his amusement was clear. “I don’t give hand outs, Princess.”
“I thought we had a discussion about how you’re not going to call me that.”
“Did we? I guess I forgot."
She narrowed her eyes at him, and his cheeks were pudgy with food when he grinned stupidly at her. “Fine.” She sighed, rooted through her lunch, and pulled out her sugared lemon square, holding it up for him to see. “Half a square,” she offered.
He took a moment to assess before he nodded. “Deal.”
She peeled the foil back from her potato, and he sprinkled the sauce onto it, splattering it in red. She brought a forkful of potato up to her nose for a sniff, but there wasn’t really a smell, and Bellamy was staring at her in amusement. She took a bite.
It burned her mouth, making her eyes water, and Bellamy laughed at the look on her face.
But it was spicy, or salty, or something that made her like it. There might have been garlic in it, and she liked garlic. “What is it?” she asked, taking another bite with one hand while reaching for her water with the other.
“Hot sauce,” he told her. “My mom makes it herself. Sells it at the exchange, and everything.”
There was pride in his voice, and it made her smile.
“It’s good,” she said. She split her lemon square in two, giving him a half. “This is better, but.”
“Deal’s a deal,” he replied, but he didn’t eat it immediately. Instead, he split his half in half, and he nodded at the wax paper that she’d packed the square in. “Can I have that?” She gave it to him, watching in surprise when he carefully wrapped a half up in paper, and put it in his pocket.
It must be for his mother. That made her smile, too, but she hid it before he saw.
Bellamy made a point not to talk about his mother, and Clarke remembered the woman only vaguely: long brown hair, a narrow face, and a short, sharp voice that made little, nine-year-old Clarke feel as though she’d done something wrong. But it was clear that Bellamy loved the woman, and Clarke got the feeling that she needed to be taken care of, and it was Bellamy who took care of her.
He shoved the small, broken piece that remained into his mouth. “Good,” he declared.
“It’s my favorite,” she agreed. They finished their meal in silence after that. He sprinkled more sauce on her potato. The taste stayed on her tongue for hours after.
She knew there were classes on the ark, and the line between them was thick, dark, and mean. That she was in the powerful, privileged class, and her few real, good friends were, too.
It made her uncomfortable, thinking that she got more than him for no reason, and that he knew it, too, and probably resented her for it. That was what made her the most uncomfortable: the thought of what he must think of her. Clarke wanted to pretend that there weren’t classes, and that there wasn’t a divide between them. But there was, and she didn’t know what to do with it.
It made her self-conscious, but that wasn’t his fault.
If he wanted to call her princess, she’d suck it up. It wasn’t completely an insult, was it?
There was a problem with the central temperature regulator in the ark that summer, making it cold for a week. It was fun in a way, or at least it was at first. Four days in, and she couldn’t manage to stay warm no matter how many jackets she bundled on, or how much soup she ate.
She brought chocolate in a thermos to the clinic in hopes that it’d keep her warm for a night.
“Trade you for a sip,” she said, holding up her thermos for Bellamy to see. She nodded at his sauce.
He agreed. She was careful not to look at how his gloves were fingerless, and his fingertips were purple when he sprinkled some hot sauce on her soup, and she handed him the thermos. This wasn't pity; this was a trade. “Thanks, Princess,” he murmured.
It didn’t feel like an insult when he smiled softly at her, and there was chocolate on his lip.
She knew it wasn’t her business, but she couldn’t help that it bothered her how awful he was, and he was doing it right there, forcing her to watch.
He’d made it clear that he didn’t care for her opinion, though.
Her eyes flickered from the cards to his face, and he ignored her stare. She made a noise in her throat, and he didn’t bother to look at her, or to acknowledge that she, you know, existed. But when he ignored the Queen of Hearts that was in play to use the one that was in the pile, she blanched. She couldn’t bite her tongue. “Do you really think that’s the best move?” she asked.
“It’s the move I made,” he replied.
“That doesn’t make it the right move,” she told him. “Look, the way to—”
“Nope, don’t want to hear it,” he said, and she ground her teeth in silence. But when he flipped up a card, adding it to a stack, she knew what he was going to do next before he did it, and she wasn’t going to watch it happen. She couldn’t.
He was going to waste the opportunity to get an open space, and it would cost him the game.
“Okay, before you—“
He swatted at her hand when she reached for the cards, and pointed his finger at her, keeping his gaze on the cards. “Nope.”
“I am trying to help you,” she insisted, annoyed.
“I don’t want your help.”
“This isn’t about what you want. This is about what you need. I didn’t know it was possible to be this bad at—”
“Go away, Clarke. Heal the sick, or something.”
“The sick don’t need me as much as you do,” she replied, and she made a move before he could, crowing in triumph when she got the card she wanted.
He glared at her. “The game is called solitaire, Princess. It’s meant to be a solitary activity. As in, by myself.”
“Clearly, you can’t handle it by yourself. Wait, don’t—” She winced at his move, and it spurred her into action: she butted him aside a little, swatting at his hand this time. “Let me just—” She moved the stack that he should have moved, and he sighed dramatically, throwing up his hands when she flipped a card from the deck.
Six moves, and she had it in the bag.
She grinned at him, only to roll her eyes when she saw his expression. “Calm down, drama queen. It was one game, and it’s not like you were going to win on your own.”
He started to gather up the cards, shuffling them, and a patient called for Clarke. “Go on.” Bellamy gestured at the patient. “Don’t let me stop you.”
She moved to her feet. “It wouldn’t kill you to say you’re welcome,” she said.
“I think it might,” he replied.
She kicked his thigh lightly, and he jerked up his elbow at her, but she was on her way to the patient, calling to Bellamy over her shoulder. “Don’t start the next game without me!”
“Sure,” he said, and she rolled her eyes at the ceiling. Honestly, it was as though he liked to lose.
He walked into the clinic when her back was to the door. But she turned, drawing up short when she saw him. “What’s up, Griffin?” he greeted, and his smile wasn’t a smile.
She stared at him for a moment. “If you aren’t sick, you shouldn’t be here,” she told him.
But when she tried to pass him, Harlow stepped into her path. “I am sick. My throat.” He tapped a finger to his throat, smirking at her.
She didn’t know what he wanted, but it wasn’t going to be good, and she knew she was going to have to get it over with eventually. “Fine. Have a seat.” She gestured at a bed, and he sat while she got a tray. “How long has it hurt?” she asked, trying to keep her cool when she looked at him.
“Did you hear about Murphy?” he replied.
“I need to check your temperature.” She refused to look at him, but it was a mistake to let her eyes skate beyond him. They landed on Bellamy, and she looked away from him quickly.
“They locked him up,” Harlow said. “I don’t know why, though. It’s not like they aren’t going to float him when he reaches eighteen. It’s a waste to wait, right? I mean, he was drunk, and he swung a punch at that guard.” He stared at her, and his smile became a twisted, scornful grimace. “He isn’t worthy to breathe your air, right?”
“Does your back hurt?” Clarke asked.
He shook his head at her. “You’re such a bitch.”
She pursed her lips. “I’m sorry about John,” she told him. “But it’s not my fault, and I—”
“What? You’re sorry that if you got drunk, and messed up, it wouldn’t matter? You’re sorry that not everybody gets to have their mommy on the council, and gets to do whatever the hell they want? You’re sorry that Murphy’s as good as dead, and it was your mom that pulled the trigger?”
Hot, shaky anger flared to life in her gut, rising until it burned in her throat, and she swallowed it back. “I’m sorry that John was locked up,” she repeated, staring at the wall next to him. “But it’s not my fault, and it’s not my mother’s fault, and I think it’s time for you to go. Curfew starts in less than an hour.” She picked up her tray, turning away from him. “If your throat continues to—”
He grabbed her arm. “I’m not going anywhere until you look at me,” he snarled.
She tore her arm from his grasp, and she looked at him. “Cadet Blake,” she said, keeping her glare on Harlow. “I need you to escort Harlow from the clinic.”
Harlow sneered at her. “You—”
“Time to go,” Bellamy said. He was at Harlow’s shoulder, wearing a hard, grim face.
Harlow glanced at him, and back at Clarke. His opened his mouth, and Bellamy grabbed him by the shirt, hauling him off the bed. “The fuck!” He jerked from Bellamy’s grasp. “I don’t need an escort,” he spat. “I’m going.” He turned his glare on Clarke. “I know that peasants aren’t supposed to upset the princess,” he added. Bellamy stepped up, and Harlow backed away, raising his arms in surrender. “I’m going.”
He left at last, but a heavy, uncomfortable silence remained in his wake.
“Thank you,” Clarke whispered. She cleared her throat, and pulled on a smile when she looked at Bellamy. “Seriously, thank you,” she said.
That was it. He returned to his seat. He didn’t ask what that was about, or how she knew Harlow. Even if he hadn’t been able to hear the conversation, he wouldn’t ask. That was Bellamy; he didn’t like to be asked questions that bordered on personal, and he didn’t like to ask them either.
She was glad. She didn’t want to talk about Harlow. He was a prick, and he didn’t matter.
She took the vitals that she needed to, gave syrup to a woman whose fever was up, and wrapped a boy’s ankle after he stumbled tearfully into the clinic with his mother at his heels, looking ready to burst into tears. She kept busy until her stomach began to rumble, and she needed to eat.
Bellamy took out his dented tin as soon as Clarke sat on the bed. “It’s about time,” he told her.
“You didn’t have to wait for me,” she replied.
He grumbled under his breath, starting to shovel the beans into his mouth, and she smiled.
She figured this was going to be a meal that they ate in silence.
Her gaze flickered to Bellamy inadvertently, and she watched him, tracing her eyes over his arms, his shoulders, his face. In the months they’d worked together at the clinic, Clarke hadn’t really thought about the fact that Bellamy was older than she was. But he was, and he looked it.
It was obvious when he stood next to Harlow.
Harlow was a bully, and that wasn’t new. He loved to make crude, snide remarks to Clarke when people couldn’t hear, loved to hate her for things that weren’t her fault. But there was a soft, childish touch to his face. He was as skinny as a stick. He was a teenager, and Bellamy wasn’t.
Bellamy was older, didn’t need to grow into his shoulders, had edges, angles, and lines to his face that Harlow didn’t.
She wondered suddenly what Bellamy thought about when he looked at her. Did he see a kid? He must. She was a kid. If he didn’t see a scared, crying nine-year-old, he saw a pudgy, immature teenager, squabbling with a boy in the clinic. It made her neck warm to think about.
“Is there a reason that you’re staring a hole in my head?” Bellamy asked.
“Not really,” she said, dropping her gaze to stare at her carrots. “But I’m sorry about earlier. That you had to see that, and come to my rescue, and . . . everything.” Honestly, she didn’t really know what to say, and she smiled sheepishly at him rather than try to come up with something.
That seemed to be sufficient for Bellamy. “Guy seems like an asshole,” he said.
She nodded. “He’s the worst.” She smiled humorlessly. “Not everybody’s got the guts to be that mean to me.”
“It doesn’t take guts to be a little shit,” Bellamy said.
“It does when you’re talking about a girl whose mother is on the council,” she replied.
It was quiet.
She poked at her carrots with her fork. “I know that I’m lucky to have the mom I have, and my dad, and—and to have everything I have. But.” She paused. “I’ve always been my mother’s daughter, and I’m okay with that. For the most part, I really am okay with that. I love my mom, and I’m proud to be her daughter. But there are times when I wish I were allowed to be on my person.” She looked at him. “I wish that people didn’t only see my mom when they looked at me.”
He nodded. “I don’t really know your mom,” he started. “But she doesn’t seem like the fighting kind.” His lips quirked up slightly, teasing at a smirk. “Tear that asshole to shreds, and you’ll make a name for yourself.”
She snorted. “That’d be one way to do it,” she said, and he grinned at her.
She bit her lip, dropping her gaze to her carrots. Bellamy touched her wrist, startling her. “Here.” He sprinkled hot sauce on the carrots. “On me,” he said.
“Early in the morning we'll be startin' out, / Some honeys will be coming along, / We're loading up our Woody, / With our boards inside, / And headin' out singing our song.”
In her bed, Mrs. Lewinski swayed from side to side.
“I can’t take your blood pressure when you’re dancing, Mrs. Lewinski,” Clarke told her.
Bobbing her head, Mrs. Lewinski ignored Clarke, waved her arms in the air, and began to sing with the song that played on her purple cassette player. Clarke glanced over her shoulder in exasperation at Bellamy, who grinned in reply. Mrs. Lewinski took the opportunity to turn up the volume, blasting the tinny, metallic music as loud as possible.
“Let's go surfin' now, / Everybody's learning how, / Come on and safari with me.”
It figured that the patient who gave Clarke trouble was a little old lady; Mrs. Lewinski was close to seventy, weighed less than a feather, and was impossible to control. “Mrs. Lewinski,” Clarke started.
“I don’t need you to check my blood pressure,” Mrs. Lewinski said. “I need you to use those legs, and dance.”
Clarke laughed in surprise. “Mrs. Lewinski, please! People are trying to sleep, and I—”
But there was a new, peppy song on, and “I love this song!” Mrs. Lewinski was thrilled, clapping a hand to her heart. “Come on, dear. Give in!” she crowed. But when Clarke sighed, Mrs. Lewinski stilled for a moment, eyeing Clarke. “Dance, and I’ll let you take my blood pressure.”
“Go on, sweetheart!”
Clarke spun to see Mr. Barlow was up, grinning at her.
“I don’t—” Clarke flushed. She swayed her hips a little, and Mr. Barlow started to clap. Clarke looked at Mrs. Lewinski, who held up a hand. Clarke took it, laughing when she was forced to squat so that Mrs. Lewinski was able to twirl Clarke. But Clarke didn’t really know how to dance, and—
“Put your heart into it!” Mrs. Lewinski exclaimed, and Clarke tried to explain that she wasn’t a dancer, but Mrs. Lewinski didn’t want to hear it. “You!” cried, pointing at Bellamy. “Get off your butt, and help the doctor out!”
Mrs. Lewinski shushed Clarke. “I’m not talking to you. Guard boy!”
Bellamy sauntered over to them. “What is it, ma’am?” he asked, making Clarke want to smack that stupid, pleased look off his face, and Mrs. Lewinski told him that he needed to dance with this poor girl. Clarke huffed, trying to protest, but Bellamy grabbed her hand, and he spun her before she was able to stop him.
“Well, Rhonda you caught my eye (caught my eye), / And I can give you lotsa reasons why, / You gotta help me, Rhonda, / Help me get her out of my heart.”
It was easier to dance when there was somebody to dance with, and Bellamy made her laugh at his shameless, dorky moves, holding her hands, circling his hips like an idiot, and having her spin him. His hands found her hips, and she put her arms up, throwing her head back in laughter.
“Help me, Rhonda, Help, help me Rhonda, / Help me Rhonda, Help, help me Rhonda, / Help me Rhonda, yeah, Get her out of my heart!”
The song drew to a close, and Clarke stepped away from Bellamy. But Mrs. Lewinski fumbled with her cassette, cutting off the song that came on next to put on another, and she looked at Clarke expectantly. Clarke sighed, turning to Bellamy. His grin hadn’t tapered, and his chest rumbled slightly with laughter when he stepped into her space, and she put a hand on his shoulder.
“But she looks in my eyes, / And makes me realize, / When she says ‘Don't worry, baby.’/ Don't worry, baby, / Don't worry, baby, / Everything will turn out alright.”
His hand was on her hip, and he was close, making her cheeks warm when she caught his eye.
There was nothing to do but to step in closer to him.
His arm circled her back, and he smelled like boy when her nose brushed his chest. She glanced at Mrs. Lewinski, and it made her smile to see the way that Mrs. Lewinski sang dramatically along to the song. But then Mrs. Lewinski noticed Clarke’s gaze, and she winked. Clarke gaped at her.
“She told me ‘Baby, when you race today, / Just take along my love with you, / And if you knew how much I love you, / Baby, nothing could go wrong with you."
The song didn’t last for long, and Clarke didn’t give Mrs. Lewinski a chance to rope them into another. “Time for that blood pressure,” she said, and Mrs. Lewinski sighed dramatically, thrusting her arm at Clarke. Clarke shook her head in amusement, and Bellamy chuckled, touched a hand to Clarke’s hip, and returned to his chair.
Summer came to an end suddenly, surprising Clarke when she realized that school was in a week. There wasn’t a reason for seasons in space, but the ark kept the calendar that was kept on Earth, and that meant when summer was drawing to a close on Earth, it was drawing to a close in space.
She wasn’t going to be able to work at night when there was school in the day.
“Tonight’s my last night,” she told Bellamy.
He nodded. “I figured. School’s back, and everything.”
That was it. Morning came, and her shift was over. “I guess I’ll see you later,” she said.
“See you later,” he replied.
It was stupid to be sad. She knew that. This wasn’t like when she was a girl, and Bellamy told her see you later, and didn’t see her for over seven years. They were friends. She was going to see him before long. She didn’t know when, or why, and, okay, she knew that it was odd for her to be friends with Bellamy when he was older than her, and they didn’t have a thing in common.
But they were friends. She wasn’t going to forget about him the way she had when she was a girl.
It didn’t take her a week to find an excuse. Harlow started in on her in class, hissing in her ear, and she took Bellamy’s advice: she turned in her seat, and she tore Harlow to pieces. Well, in a way.
She told him to back off, that he was a bully, and he needed to shut up.
It wasn’t a lot, but her voice was loud, carrying through the classroom, and he backed off when everyone’s gaze was on them. That night, Clarke told her father that she needed to ask Glass about the homework, promising to return before curfew in an hour, and hurried off to the clinic.
Bellamy grinned when he saw Clarke.
She waved him to the door; she didn’t need the intern on duty to tattle on Clarke to her mother.
“I take this to mean you missed me,” he told her.
“Take it to mean that I have a victory to announce to you, and it’s stupid, but there’s nobody to brag to except you.” She grinned, and he laughed when she told him about Harlow, congratulating her. “I know, I’m amazing,” she agreed, and he smirked at her.
“Yeah, you’re a badass.”
She wanted to stay. She wanted to talk with him, and to have a lunch with him. To trade him granola for some hot sauce, and to roll her eyes at his antics.
But she couldn’t. “I should go,” she said. “I don’t have permission to be out after curfew now.”
He nodded, and that was when she should’ve smiled, turned on her heel, and left. She didn’t. She stepped in quickly, hugging him. It was like the hug three months ago; he was startled, and it took him a moment to wrap his arms around her. But he did, and she closed her eyes for a second.
“Okay. Have a good night.” She gave him a smile, scuttling from the clinic as quickly as possible.
She collapsed on her bed in her apartment as soon as she was back.
She knew what that tight, warm feeling in her chest was. She wanted to think that it was because she missed him, and it was natural to miss him. Clarke was in the clinic with him eight hours a day, five days a week for months, and she got used to him. But it wasn’t that she missed him. She missed him, yes, but. She knew that it was stupid, and unrealistic, and she was a kid to him.
She couldn’t help it, and she didn’t want to help it, rolling over to squash her face in a pillow.
It shouldn't have surprised her when she found a reason to go the clinic only a week after that, and Bellamy was gone. She knew that the guards worked on a rotation; it was why Bellamy replaced the guard on duty at the clinic when Clarke started. But she hadn’t really considered it, and now she didn’t know where Bellamy was assigned to work.
She wasn’t about to seek him out at his apartment. She went as far as to look up where it was, but she knew she couldn’t go there: she knew without a doubt he wouldn’t want her to.
That left her to hope that she ran into him.
She found ways to occupy her time. She focused on school, working occasionally at the clinic after school, and sketched a lot in the evenings. She began to repair the damage to her relationship with Wells. He forgave her easily for everything, reminding her why she loved him.
She knew that she didn’t really deserve his forgiveness, but he gave it.
They returned to their old, favorite hobbies: meeting up in the evenings to study in the library, playing chess when they didn’t have to study, and watching old, recorded games on the TV. Months passed, and the summer turned into something that wasn’t real. Wells forgot about it.
It lived in the drawings that she drew at night, sitting up in bed. She drew his face, and his hands, and she drew him into the forests on Earth. She found the faded, unfinished drawing that she’d started when she was nine years old among the drawings on her wall, and she finished it for him.
It wasn’t Clarke’s idea to go to the dance on Unity Day, but Wells swore that it was going to be fun, giving her a red, feathery mask to wear, and she couldn’t say no to him after everything. But the day before the dance, he caught a cold. “Go,” he insisted. “Meet up with Glass.” She was hesitant to go without him, but she liked Glass, and that was another friendship she needed to fix.
She was on her way to meet up with Glass when she saw him.
Even with his back to her, she recognized him.
“Bellamy!” she exclaimed. He spun to face her, surprising her with the blank, frozen look on his face. She laughed a little. “It’s Clarke. Is this mask really that good?” She grinned.
But he stared at her, and doubt took her smile. “Clarke. Hey.” He smiled tightly at her.
Something was off.
Her gaze passed him to look over his shoulder at the girl, and she understood.
He brought a date, and he didn’t want to introduce her to Clarke. Or he didn’t want to introduce Clarke to her. Humiliation built in Clarke’s throat, but she forced a smile for the girl.
“Hey, I’m Clarke.”
The girl blinked at Clarke for a moment before her gaze jumped to Bellamy, and her eyes were wide, panicked; Clarke didn’t know what to think. Bellamy glanced at the girl. His face was tense, and he swallowed visibly while several loud, laughing girls passed them on their way into the dance.
The girl looked at Clarke. “Oc-Octavia.” Her mouth fumbled with a smile. “I—”
“Octavia is my neighbor,” Bellamy said. “But she isn’t supposed to be at the dance. Her mother hates these dances, but we snuck Octavia out for this one. Since it’s a masquerade, nobody is going to be able to recognize her, which means nobody is going to be able to tattle to her mother.”
“Oh.” Clarke glanced at the girl. “Okay. Well, you don’t have to worry that I’m going to.” She smiled, and that did the trick.
Octavia relaxed, letting out a breath before giving Clarke a sudden big, bright smile. “Cool. Thank you.” She looked at Bellamy.
He returned her smile with a softer, fonder one. “Well, let’s go.” He nodded his head at the dance, and Octavia seemed to sway on her feet for a moment before she started for the dance. His gaze followed her for a moment before he looked at Clarke. “Sorry about that. I know that was weird. But I worry about her, and I—I don’t want her to get in trouble.”
There was more to the story. Clarke wasn’t an idiot, and she knew that.
But he smiled at her, and Clarke smiled, too. “I get it,” she assured. She followed him into the dance, watching him watch Octavia for a moment. Octavia looked around like she was in a dream before, slowly, she began to dance, and Clarke saw the smile grow on Bellamy’s face. “Well, I guess I should find my friend,” she said.
“Oh, right. Sure. It was good to see you.”
She nodded. “It was good to see you, too.” She paused. “Where are you these days? I mean, where have you been assigned to?” She couldn’t help it. She had to ask.
“The exchange at night. Basically, I guard several empty tables when there’s nobody there. It’s a blast.” He glanced at her, and the gleam in his eyes was familiar in the most warm, wonderful way. “It does have a plus, though. I’m free to play solitaire the way God intended it to be played.”
“Right, and I bet you haven’t won a single game yet.”
“I won a game last night.”
“That’s a lie. You are lying to my face. I—”
The music cut off suddenly, the lights came on, and a voice on the P.A. system announced that there was a solar flare alert. “Shit,” Bellamy’s gaze swept into the crowd. “Shit.”
“What is it?” she asked, tugging her mask up.
“I have to—I’m sorry, Clarke. I have to go.” He pushed his way into the crowd.
She blinked. Okay. For a moment, she thought to look for Glass. But a moment later, Bellamy was back, dragging Octavia, and the panic on their faces was more than a solar flare alert warranted. Bellamy pivoted on his heel suddenly, ushering Octavia to turn the way they came.
Clarke understood. Octavia was about to be caught out against her mother’s orders.
Or that was the story at least.
There was a call for masks off, and I.D. chips out.
Clarke found them easily, spotting Bellamy when he leaned in to whisper to Octavia. He yanked out his weapon, and Clarke reached them, hearing Octavia ask desperately, “Bell, how do I get home?”
Bellamy stared at her. Clarke didn’t know what the hell was going on, but she stepped up, and she grabbed Octavia’s arm. “Come on. I’ll get you out.” Bellamy looked at her for a moment, starting to nod before a commander was there suddenly, asking Bellamy why his weapon was out.
“Mask off,” he snapped, tearing it off Octavia’s face.
“Oh!” Clarke exclaimed, clutching at her stomach. She held her breath for a moment, willing tears to her eyes, and let out a gasp. She looked up at Octavia. “I need my mom.”
“What is it?” Octavia asked.
“What’s the matter?” the commander asked, frowning.
“I need my mom. Shit. She told me it wasn’t a bug, but it hadn’t hurt in a while.” She flinched, gritting her teeth. "Come on, Octavia.” She made to drag Octavia past the commander.
But he stopped her.
“Something’s wrong with my appendix!” Clarke snapped. “I need to see my mom; she’s a doctor. Look, fine. My name is Clarke Griffin, and this is my friend Octavia. I live in sector A, apartment 30. My mom is Dr. Abby Griffin, and I need to see her before my appendix explodes!”
He nodded. “Go. Go on.” He gestured them on. “Take her to her mother.”
Clarke pulled Octavia away from him.
It took a moment, but Octavia started to push aside people they passed, making it look like she was the one to drag Clarke into the corridor. “Where do we go?” Octavia asked, breathless.
“This way,” Clarke said. She kept her questions to herself until the noise from the dance faded completely. She knew they weren’t free yet; guards were going to be on patrol, looking for people to usher to shelter. But that was why she needed to know what was actually going on. “I have to know.” Clarke stopped, pulling Octavia to the side. “This can’t be about a strict, overbearing mother. What’s really going on? Can I take you to the apartment next to Bellamy’s, or is there more to the story than that?”
Octavia looked ready to burst into tears. “No,” she breathed. “I mean, no, you can’t take me to the apartment next to Bellamy’s.”
“Okay,” Clarke said. “It’s okay. Where do I take you?”
“To Bellamy’s apartment,” Octavia whispered. She grabbed Clarke’s wrist. “Clarke, you can’t tell anybody—”
“Tell them what?” Clarke asked.
Octavia stared at her, and she seemed to take a slow, shaky breath. “That Bellamy’s my brother.” Clarke was stunned. She didn’t know what she expected, but it wasn’t that. It couldn’t be. That wasn’t possible. “I’m not supposed to exist,” Octavia continued. “I hide under the floor during inspections. My mom and Bell—Clarke, they’ll got floated if—you can’t tell anybody about me!”
Clarke nodded. “I know, and I won’t. Let’s go. We have to hurry.” She touched Octavia’s elbow.
It took nearly ten minutes to reach Bellamy’s apartment, and it was a miracle that nobody saw them, or stopped them.
Clarke panicked for a moment when she realized the door was going to be locked, but it wasn’t. They burst into the dark, quiet apartment. “We have to get under the floor,” Octavia said, and Clarke didn’t try to argue with her. She didn’t have time to get to a shelter now. Her mother was likely to panic, yes, and she didn’t want her mother’s path to cross with that commander’s.
But that was a problem for later.
Octavia opened up the floor, dropping into the hole that was revealed. She looked up, held out a hand to Clarke, and, when Clarke was in the hole next to her, pulled the floor over them to seal them in darkness. It was quiet for a long, awful stretch. But there wasn’t a reason to be tense, to hold her breath. They made it. For now, they were safe. Nobody was going to barge in after them.
“I’ve never had anybody down here with me before,” Octavia said. She paused. “It’s nice.”
Clarke snorted, but the sound was cut off when Octavia grabbed her in a hug.
She clutched at Clarke desperately, seeming to burrow her bony little body into Clarke, and it was the hug that Clarke needed at that moment. She relaxed against Octavia, returning the embrace. “Thank you,” Octavia whispered. “For everything, thank you so, so much. I owe you.”
She pulled away at last, and Clarke smiled at her.
But, of course, she couldn’t see Clarke’s smile. It was pitch black in that sad little room.
“I’m glad I could help,” Clarke told her.
Octavia guided Clarke in the dark, helping her to sit. There was a blanket, a pillow, a flashlight, and several different books.
“Do you know you’re the first person I’m not related to I’ve talked to in my life?” Octavia asked.
It took Clarke a minute to process that. “Wow. I’m honored.”
Octavia laughed. “How old are you? I’m sixteen.”
“Me, too,” Clarke said.
She couldn’t really believe this. This was what made Bellamy clamp up when things seemed to get personal. This was why he used to pack up the treats that he traded Clarke for. His sister.
“How do you know my brother?” Octavia asked.
Her brother. It was unbelievable.
“I work at the clinic where he was on duty over the summer,” Clarke said. “We used to work the same night shift.”
She didn’t know how long they were under the floor. Octavia asked Clarke a lot about her life: her parents, her classes, her friends, her work. She explained that Bell taught her how to read, and to write, and math, and history, and about Earth. She talked about him with an affection that made Clarke smile. It was like seeing a brand new side to Bellamy, and she liked it.
Except it wasn’t really a brand new side to him, was it?
Clarke thought about when she was a girl, crying to Bellamy, and the way that he comforted her. She thought about the summer, and the chocolate on his mouth, when he listened to her talk about Harlow, what a dorky dancer he was. Bellamy wasn’t a prince, but his heart was soft under that scowl.
The floor moved above them, and Clarke blinked in surprise at the light that streamed in.
Bellamy was there, frowning at them. “Come on. We got to get you back to your apartment.” He reached a hand out for Clarke to take. He gave Octavia a hand up, too, telling her that their mother was going to be back soon, and he was going to have to tell her what he did. “But you’re safe. I’m an idiot, but you’re safe.” He sighed, starting for the door. “Come on, Clarke.”
“Hey, wait!” Octavia grabbed Clarke in another long, tight hug. “Now that we’re friends, you have to come visit me. I promise not to make you sit under the floor with me every time.”
Clarke smiled. “Deal.”
Octavia beamed at her. “O, I’ve got to get her back,” Bellamy growled, and Octavia nodded.
Clarke followed Bellamy from the apartment. He didn’t say a word, leading her through the quiet, empty corridors, and there was a lot that she wanted to say, but she wanted him to go first. The longer they walked, the harder it become to bite her tongue, and she gave up eventually. “What happened after we left?” she asked. “Did that commander buy it?” She willed him to look at her.
“He bought it. Now let’s hope he doesn’t find a reason to bring it up to your mom.”
She nodded. “It might not have been the best idea to drag her into it, but it was the first thing I thought of. I figured that he’d back off the easiest if I dropped her name.”
“It was smart,” Bellamy said. His voice was hard, edged; it was the voice he used when he decided he wanted a conversation to be over now. She bit her lip, trying to decide how to continue with her questions when he stopped abruptly, turning to face her. “Octavia told you.”
“There wasn’t a way for her not to.”
He stared at her.
“I’m not going to tell anyone. I promised her that, and I’ll promise you that. I’m not.”
“What about your mother?” he asked.
Clarke frowned. “It isn’t her business. I’m not going to tell anyone, Bellamy. I mean it. I’m not stupid. I know they’d float your mom, and they’d probably float you, and I don’t know what they’d do to Octavia, but I know it’d be bad. I’m not going to do that. I swear.” She stared at him.
“If it hadn’t been for you, they’d have caught us tonight.”
“But they didn’t, and I’ll keep your secret.”
He nodded. “I put your I.D. number into the shelter in sector D,” he told her. “They weren’t near the flare, and I thought that’d reassure your mom when she learned that’s where you were. But you’ll have to come up with an excuse for being in that sector to start with. Can you handle that?”
“I’ll figure it out,” she said, annoyed at his doubt.
He noticed, and there was the ghost of a smirk on his face for a moment. They continued on their way, and it wasn’t until they were nearly at her apartment that he said it. “Thank you.”
She glanced at him. “You’re welcome.” She hoped he knew that she meant it. That she would do it again, that she was going to keep his secret. “That’s what friends are for, right?”
It took her a second to realize when he stopped.
She turned back to him, starting to ask what it was, and he caught her completely by surprise with the look on his face. He took her hand, taking her breath, and his thumb brushed her knuckles for a moment. His hand seemed to ghost up her arm, and his fingers grazed her cheek.
“Not everybody is like you, Clarke,” he murmured.
“What am I like?” she asked, and it came out at a whisper.
He smiled. It was impossibly soft, making her forget to breathe. But a moment later, his gaze fell away from her, and he dropped his hand with it. “Come on. Let’s get you to back to your apartment. It’s going to be hard enough as it is to explain everything to your mom. Do you have a story ready yet?”
Her story was easy to sell. There was a little girl at the dance who wasn’t supposed to be, having snuck off without her mother’s knowledge, and the girl began to cry at the flare. Clarke offered to take her to her parents in sector D, knowing that she’d easily be able to stay in the shelter there.
Her parents bought it, and that was that.
She didn’t see Bellamy that week, or the week after; she didn’t have the time.
It was only days after the dance when she heard the conversation between her parents, learning the truth. She couldn’t believe it. What was going to happen? How were they supposed to survive? She wanted to talk to Bellamy about it, but she knew there wasn’t a point, and it wasn’t worth the risk to seek him out.
But she needed to talk about it with somebody, and she chose Wells.
It was a mistake.
Clarke watched them float her father, and they dragged her off to lock up with her sobs lodged in her throat, seeing her father sucked into space like a nightmare on repeat in her mind. It wasn’t real. It couldn’t be real. How could it be real? They killed him. The ark was dying, and they killed her father to keep it a secret.
It was why they locked her up, putting her in solitary.
They knew she knew their secret, and they needed to keep it a secret.
It wasn’t easy for Clarke to track the days that passed in her cell, but she tried to; she marked a day on the wall as soon as her food slid into the room through a slat in the door. Nine days, and she realized. Her mother. She knew their secret, too, which meant they must have killed her, too.
They killed her father, and they killed her mother.
Those early, awful days passed in a blur.
Clarke sobbed until she was a dizzy, dehydrated mess, and anger made her sick to her stomach, thinking about how she trusted Wells, how she used to think he was a better friend than she deserved. Was this supposed to be her punishment for how she’d treated him? Was that it?
She hated him.
She’d trusted him, and it’d cost her parents their life. It was her fault. She’d gotten them killed.
Seventeen days, and a doctor came to see Clarke. She didn’t know him, and she realized he was the doctor for the box. He checked her vitals in silence, ignoring her pointedly when she asked about her mother, and the guard that stood at the door was as silent as the doctor. Clarke was tempted to scream at them what she knew, to share the secret that her parents were murdered for.
She didn’t. There wasn’t a point.
She thought about Bellamy, and his sister. What was going to happen to her? Clarke was never going to know, and they were never going to know what happened to Clarke. What was it the council told people about Clarke? That she’d committed treason alongside her parents? Yes. That.
But it wouldn’t mean anything to anyone. They’d never really know the truth.
She began to draw. Forty days, and it was her birthday. She was seventeen.
She had a year left to live. There wasn’t a doubt in her mind that when it was up, they’d float her.
For a moment, she thought it was a hallucination. She thought that she was delusional. That she was starved for him, and she’d brought him to life.
She hadn’t seen, heard, or spoke to a soul in a month, and there he was.
The doctor was there, too, muttering under his breath, but Clarke ignored the doctor with his fat, cold fingers, and drank him in desperately: his dark, slicked back hair, the brown of his eyes, the freckles that flooded his cheeks, the line of his jaw.
She was about to croak his name, but her sense returned to her in time.
He was a guard.
The doctor was in her cell to check her vitals, and Bellamy was there to escort the doctor.
“Get up.” It was the doctor, glaring at Clarke. “Up, up.” She pursed her lips, despising the man, and started to rise to her feet. But she hadn’t moved an inch when Bellamy shook his head slightly, and Clarke froze. There was a long, silent moment before the doctor pinched the bridge of his nose, glancing at Bellamy. “I hate the ones in solitary; they lose it, and it’s impossible to put up with them. Get her off the ground.”
Bellamy started for Clarke. She stayed as still as possible until there he was, touching her.
His arms were solid when he hugged her waist, and she leaned into his warmth, allowing him to pick her up like a doll, and the world seemed to narrow to the points where they touched. He smelled like soap, and boy. Like Bellamy. He placed her on her bed, and she grabbed his arm when he started to pull away. Not yet. But he didn’t leave her; after he tugged her hand gently off his arm, he stayed at side with his hand on her shoulder.
The doctor began to check her vitals, and Bellamy rubbed his thumb against her back.
Slowly, his hand crawled up to touch the back of her neck, and his palm was on her skin.
She needed to use her voice. She needed to hear his voice, but she knew that he wasn’t going to be allowed to talk, that clearly there were rules in place. “They floated my mother, right?” she asked. She glared at the doctor. “They killed her because she knew what my father knew, right?”
The doctor ignored her, and Bellamy did, too.
But his finger started to draw on her neck.
It took Clarke a moment to realize it was letters, repeating over and over and over, and it was a word: no. She gasped in a breath. No. They didn’t float her mother. No. She wasn’t dead. No.
Tears beaded in Clarke’s eyes, and the doctor began to list off questions for her: did she have nightmares? was she feeling suicidal? had she menstruated since last month? She answered, trying not to cry while he checked off her answers on a chart. It didn’t take him long to finish.
But when he was finished, it was time for him to go, and to take Bellamy with him.
“Wait,” Clarke said.
The doctor refused to hear, and there was nothing for Bellamy to do. He stared at her, and he left.
She thought about ways to force a visit from the doctor. There were more than enough: punch the wall until her knuckles bled, throw up everything that she ate, refuse to eat, pretend to try to strange herself with her sheets, swallow the chalk that she drew with until she started to throw up.
But she didn’t know the consequences, and she didn’t know when Bellamy was on duty.
She cried for her father, and she wished for her mother. She thought about Bellamy, wondering where he was at that moment, what he was thinking, whether he was worried about her. She hated Wells. She played that one, fateful conversation with him on a reel in her head, trying to imagine what he was thinking that day, why he ran to his father, how he was able to betray her.
She waited, and waited.
Until it happened. One month later, and her heart was in her throat as soon as the door started to open.
The doctor bustled in, and there he was, following the doctor in. Clarke wasn’t on the ground this time, but it didn’t matter. She had a plan. The doctor tried to begin his examination, and Clarke jerked angrily from his grasp. “Get off me,” she snarled, nearly spitting at him.
The doctor shot her a nasty glare. “I don’t have time for this. Restrain her.”
She put up a fight when Bellamy started to wrap her in his arms, giving him an excuse to hold her tightly against his chest, and to keep holding her. She sank into him only when it was safe, and she knew not to smile when he squeezed her gently, signaling that he understood her perfectly. She got the hug she wanted, and she behaved after that, cuddling into Bellamy as subtly as possible.
She turned her cheek slightly to feel his heart drum steadily under her ear.
She wanted desperately to talk to him. He needed to know that the ark was dying. But she was positive that if she told him, they’d float him.
That night, she cocooned herself in her sheets in an effort to pretend that Bellamy hadn’t left, and that she was allowed to keep his touch, his warmth, the smile that he gave her before he disappeared after the doctor. It didn’t work, but she hadn’t really expected it to.
There were days that she slept through, and times when she went without sleep for days.
Occasionally, she screamed until her throat hurt simply to hear a noise.
If it hadn’t been for the visits from the doctor, she knew she would’ve lost her mind.
She lived for those visits. The doctor seemed oblivious to the way that she leaned into Bellamy, clutching his arm, pressing her cheek into his chest, trying to memorize how it felt to have him with her: his arms, his hands, his chest, his smell, his warmth. She was starved for attention, and Bellamy gave it to her in every possible way he could.
She loved him.
She thought about that a lot. She didn’t know how, exactly, it was that she felt. Was she in love with him? Did she love him the way that her mother loved her father? Or did she love him the way that Octavia loved him, knowing he was always going to look after her? Did she love him because he became her everything in those months, or did she love him because it was Bellamy?
Her thoughts circled for hours, for days, for weeks. She was close to crazy, and she knew it.
In the end, she decided it didn’t matter.
She loved him, and she was glad that she had him for those few brief, glorious minutes a month.
Bellamy stood with his chest to her back, holding her arms in place against her sides, when the doctor took out his chart to quiz Clarke on her health, and frowned. He started to pat at his pockets. Clarke didn’t know what the problem was, but she hoped it meant that it was going to delay him, giving her longer with Bellamy.
Suddenly, the doctor started to curse. “Have you seen my pen?” he asked.
“No, sir,” Bellamy replied. She relished his voice.
The doctor started to search through his cart, continuing to curse. “I must’ve lost it. I bet that moron stole it. He’s a thief, you know. Damn it! I told them I needed a tablet!” He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I’ll need you to—well, no, I don’t want to be left with her,” he said. “Damn it. Stay with her.” It took a moment for Clarke to register his words; the shock hadn’t left her system when the doctor stalked from her cell, muttering under his breath before he yanked the door closed after him.
Clarke looked up, and Bellamy grinned.
He pulled a pen from his pocket. “This isn’t what he needs, is it?” he asked.
She gasped, tearing up, and Bellamy turned in her arms, allowing her to hug him properly: she threw her arms around his neck, and clutched him with everything in her.
He ran a hand up her back, pressing a kiss to her ear.
“I’m sorry it took me this long,” he told her, and his breath was hot on her skin. “I’ve been trying to steal something for, well, months. I’ve timed how long it takes him to get to his office, and back. We’ve got close to five minutes.” She felt his hands fumble against her back, and heard a beep; it must’ve been the timer on his watch. Bellamy was clever like that. Her clever, clever boy.
She curled a fist in his hair. “How’s Octavia?” she asked.
“I don’t know. She’s alive, and I know they haven’t taken her off the council, but that’s it.”
It was enough. “She’s a good doctor,” Clarke told him. “She’s valuable.” That was why they hadn’t killed her; it made sense.
“You’re valuable, too.”
She didn’t want to pull away, but she wanted to look at him, and she drew away enough for that, cupping his face in her hands. “The ark is dying, Bellamy.”
The crease in his brow at the words made her want to cry for how much she’d missed him.
But she needed to get this out. He needed to know. “My father was an engineer, and he figured it out. We don’t have the oxygen we need; we’re going to run out soon. He wanted to tell everybody, and they killed him to keep it a secret. That’s why they locked me up; I found out.” She paused. “It’s why they’re going to float me as soon as they can.”
She felt his jaw clench against her wrist, and she brushed her thumbs against his cheeks.
“Something’s going on,” he said. “Something big. It might have to do with that. I don’t know; I’m trying to figure it out. I’m going to figure it out. If there’s a way to use it to get you out, we’ll get you out.” He tightened his hold on her. “They aren’t going to float you, Clarke. If I have to fucking kidnap you and put you under the floor with O, that’s what I’ll do.”
She let out a wet, breathless laugh, tearing up. “You’ve already done enough. I’d have lost it by now without you.” She couldn’t take her eyes off him, trying to memorize every single thing about this moment. “How’d you manage to get assigned to the box?” she asked.
There was so much to ask, and she doubted she’d get another chance.
“I’m a guard now,” he said, reaching up a hand to brush the tears off her cheek. “Newly minted, but it counts, and guards get asked what they want. They don’t usually get their first pick, but they don’t usually ask for the box.”
“But you did,” she whispered.
He nodded. “Did you think I was going to let some other idiot guard my princess?”
She started to cry in earnest at that, collapsing into him.
“I’ll get you out,” he told her. “I promise, I’ll get you out.”
She knew better, but in that moment she was tempted to believe him. If anybody could do it, it’d be him. She turned her face into his neck, kissing wildly at his ear, his jaw, his cheek until her nose brushed his, and his breath fanned against her mouth, making her dizzy with the heat, with how impossibly, wonderfully close his gaze was. She kissed him.
He responded immediately, and it was a sloppy, open-mouthed kiss.
She gasped for breath, but he refused to break the kiss, and she loved him for it, digging her fingers into his shoulders when his tongue swept across her lips.
His hand slid into her hair, and his watch started to beep.
Her mouth followed his blindly for a moment when he pulled away from her. But it was over, and she opened her eyes slowly, dazed, and stared at Bellamy, taking in his red, swollen lips, the spit on his chin, how dark his eyes were, staring desperately right back at her.
He wiped at his mouth. “We’ve got less than a minute.”
She nodded, and he pulled away from her completely. She licked her lips, trying to hide the evidence. But it was hopeless, and she rolled over, pressed her face into the pillow.
She breathed in, breathed out, and she heard the door bang open.
“Damn it.” There was a huff. “What’s the matter with her?”
“I don’t know, sir,” Bellamy said. “She pushed me away, shouting about her mother.”
“Right, right. Well, get her up. We’re behind as it is.”
There were footsteps, and Bellamy touched her shoulder, starting to roll her over. She jerked away from him, but he hauled her over, and up. He stood at her side, holding her wrists.
The doctor started to ask his questions, and Clarke gave him grudging, one-word answers.
Bellamy squeezed her wrists. She wanted him to squeeze tighter, to hold her wrists so tightly that it hurt, leaving bruises to remember him by. She wanted him never, ever to let go. But he had to.
She knew the chances that she was going to get to talk to Bellamy this time were slim, but she was hopeful. He’d figured something out, and she’d simply have to follow along with it.
She was only going to get to see him four more times before they floated her.
The door opened. “This one likes attention,” the doctor said. “She’ll put up a fight at first. But if you hold her, she’ll calm down. She’s not the worst by any means.”
There was the doctor, talking to the woman that followed him in.
She was a guard.
Bellamy wasn’t there.
Clarke started to ask where he was, but she swallowed the question. There wasn’t a reason for her to know his name, yet alone to care that he wasn’t there. But where he was? She began to panic, realizing the possibilities. They'd learned about Octavia, and they'd floated him. They'd learned that he knew what Clarke knew, and they'd floated him. They'd floated him. He was sucked into space like her father. Gone.
She tried to pull away from the guard, but it was pointless.
Her fingers were cold, holding Clarke in place while they doctor started his examination.
Ten minutes later, the doctor left with the guard, and Clarke was alone. She took a breath in, let a breath out. He was okay. There was a reason that he didn’t come, and it wasn’t that he was floated. He was okay. She needed to believe that.
But she covered her mouth, doubling over at the sob that wracked her. She couldn’t breathe through her tears, and it got worse when she realized that she would never know.
She’d be floated, and she’d never know what happened to him.
It couldn’t be like this. It couldn’t, it couldn’t, it couldn’t. But it was, and Clarke cried until she didn’t have tears left to cry. She didn’t even get to say goodbye.
She looked up with a frown when the door opened. It hadn’t been a month. The doctor wasn’t supposed to come for a week.
But it wasn’t the doctor, and the guards told her to face the wall.
She realized what it meant, but she wasn’t eighteen yet. She panicked, and she managed to get away from them, bursting from her cell. She hadn’t left it in a year, and she didn’t know what was going on, didn’t know what to do, tried to run, and her mother shouted for her. Her mother.
She was going to the ground.
But it wasn’t safe, and she couldn’t, and “what about Bellamy?” she asked, only for her mother to blink at her without recognition, shaking her head at Clarke and starting in on about how Clarke needed to worry about herself. “Mom—”
The tranquilizer sank into her back.
“Earth, Clarke,” her mother whispered. “You get to go to Earth.”
Clarke woke up on a ship, hurtling to the ground. She couldn’t believe it. This was real. She was going to the ground, and Wells was there, trying to apologize for what he did. She snapped at him, and the lights went off, and this was going to be her death.
But the ship didn’t crash.
It landed. They made it, and people scrambled from their seats in excitement. Clarke followed, pushing her way to the ladder, and shouted at them not to open the door without a thought.
But when her eyes landed on the boy at the door, she stumbled off the ladder in shock. How was it possible? It was a dream, or a nightmare that hadn’t become a nightmare yet. Octavia was there, too, standing next to her brother, and “Clarke!” she exclaimed, making Bellamy’s gaze turn sharply to the crowd.
“Here.” It came out at a whisper. Clarke cleared her throat, starting for him. “I’m here!” she said, and he saw her at last, saw her only a moment before she was there, was in his arms, hugging his neck and gasping for breath, clutching him tearfully. “I thought they'd floated you,” she whispered.
“No,” he said. “No. To be able to get onto the ship, I had to get myself reassigned—”
He turned his face into her cheek, breathing in, and Clarke sobbed with relief.
He was alive, and she was free.
She opened her eyes to see that Octavia looked ready to burst with excitement. She grinned, and it was a grin that Clarke knew, that she loved, that belonged to Bellamy, and fit his sister perfectly. Laughter burst from Clarke, and Bellamy set her on her feet, but she refused to let him go, keeping her arms knotted around his neck.
“Come on, Princess.” She felt his lips curve into a smile against her cheek. “Time to see the world.”
For one brief, shining moment, everything was perfect. They were on Earth, breathing in sharp, sweet, real air, and it was beautiful in a way that made Clarke dizzy to see.
But the moment passed, and reality set in.
They needed to get to Mt. Weather.
But when she tried to explain that to everyone, Bellamy cut her off, grabbing her arm to drag her away from the crowd with Octavia at their heels. “Bellamy, we need to go now,” she told him. “We have to leave as soon possible.” But he stared at her with tense, tight shoulders, radiating anxiety, and doubt crept into her mind. “What is it?”
“Forget about Mt. Weather,” he said. “We need to go. You, me, and O.”
She frowned. “What? Where? What are you talking about?”
“We need to leave, Clarke. I don’t mean to try to find food, or anything like that. I mean, pack our bags, and leave. We can make it our own. We can—” He paused. “We’ve got to.”
She gaped at him. “Why?” She glanced at Octavia, and Octavia dropped her gaze. Her face was closed off in a way that Clarke recognized immediately. “Bellamy—”
“I did something, okay?” he said, and his frustration seemed to melt into desperation. “To get on the drop ship with O. Something that they will kill me for when they come down. I can’t say what it is just yet, but you have to trust me.” He stared at her. “You do still trust me, don’t you?”
“Of course,” she said.
He nodded, seeming to relax.
“But we can’t just leave.” His mouth thinned at the words, and Clarke went on quickly. “Not yet at least,” she said. “Listen, we’ll go to Mt. Weather, and see what supplies there are. It’ll give us a chance to get a read on the terrain, and to figure out what we’re dealing with. Once we know that, then we’ll decide what to do next.” She touched his arm. “If we have to leave, we’ll leave.”
It was clear that it wasn’t what he wanted to hear, but he didn’t try to argue with her.
She wanted him to come with her to Mt. Weather, but she realized quickly that it was better for him to stay with the others. Finn was the first to do something that was unbelievably, unforgivably reckless, trying to take off his wristband without a thought, but she knew he wasn’t going to be last. Bellamy needed to keep the kids in line, and she told him that.
“You aren’t going by yourself,” Bellamy insisted.
“I’ll go with her,” Finn said.
“Me, too,” Octavia added, beaming cheerfully despite the glare that Bellamy shot her.
In the end, Bellamy gave in. But that was after he kissed Clarke roughly on the mouth, and warned Finn that the girls better not have a scratch on them when they returned.
It wasn’t long before she regretted her insistence that he stay. She wanted him to see the woods with her, to feel that breeze that made the goosebumps rise on her arms, to be with her, crouching in the bushes, when they spotted the deer. But he wasn’t, and she was stuck with Finn, although it turned out that Finn wasn’t as bad as she’d thought initially.
That didn’t mean she wouldn’t have preferred to share everything with Bellamy, though.
Monty chatted amicably with Octavia while they walked, and Jasper peppered her with questions: “—is your brother, like, his mother is your mother, too?” and “wait, seriously, you lived under the floor?” His questions made Clarke smile. “But, I mean, how did you learn to read, and stuff?”
“How do you think?” Octavia gave him a look.
“Bellamy taught her,” Clarke told him. “Why don’t you ask him your questions? He’ll love it.”
Octavia snorted, but Jasper nodded, saying, “I knew he wasn’t as scary as he looked,” and Clarke grinned at Octavia. Now that was a conversation that she wanted to witness.
It was only an hour after that when everything started to spiral from her control.
There was a monster in the water, trying to drag Octavia under, and Jasper rescued her, only to take a spear to the gut when his face was bright with triumph. The shock in Clarke turned quickly to fear. They weren’t alone on Earth. There were monsters in the water, and people on the ground.
It got worse.
They returned to the drop ship to find Wells with a knife to a boy’s throat.
Clarke looked at Bellamy in shock, but he met her stare with a grim, unflinching face, and she didn’t know what to think, what to do. There were people on Earth with spears, and they took Jasper. But she didn’t have time to do more than begin to explain what that meant for them before she saw that Wells was without his wristband, and Wells told her that Bellamy was to blame.
“What?” She looked at Bellamy. It wasn’t possible; he wouldn’t do that.
But when he met her gaze, she knew. “Clarke—”
She lost it. “How could you do that?” she cried. She asked him to keep order, and he destroyed it. “How could—Bellamy, you know the ark is dying! What about your mother?”
He didn’t bat an eye. “This isn’t about my mother. This is about us, and what we need to do.”
She opened her mouth, but she didn’t know what to say. He stared at her, and she wanted to grab his shoulders, to shake him and scream at him until his sense returned. Until she recognized him. “If we want to survive, what we need is everyone on the ark.” She looked at the crowd. “Even if we didn’t, the ark is dying.” She tried to explain it to them, and she glanced at Bellamy for help, needing him to understand, and to be on her side.
But at the cold, hard look on his face, she knew he wasn’t.
“What is the matter with you?” she demanded.
She hated that her voice broke with the words, but she was desperate, and confused, and—
He ignored her, turning away from her to tell the crowd that they didn’t need the people from the ark. His voice was strong, steady, and convincing, and it made her sick to her stomach. She didn’t know what was the matter with him, but she couldn’t deal with it right now. Her disbelief at him gave way to anger, and she stalked off without a word.
They needed to get Jasper back.
Wells followed her onto the drop ship. She tried to ignore him, but she saw that he was cut, and she hated that she cared.
"Murphy tried to kill me," he said. He paused. "Bellamy wanted him to."
She wasn't going to have this conversation with him.
"Do you want to know what happened?" Wells refused to relent, boring a hole into her head with his stare. "Murphy pulled a knife on me, and you know what Bellamy did? He stopped Murphy, then gave me a knife, and said fair fight. This was after he pulled a gun on me, and had his goons jump me to get my wristband off."
She continued to pack her bag.
"I saw him kiss you," Wells said. His voice was low, hurt. "I don't know what your relationship with him is, but—"
"My relationship with him isn't your business," Clarke snapped.
He stared at her. "I know you hate me, okay? I know you're never going to forgive me for what I did. But this isn't about that. That guy is dangerous, Clarke." His voice grew desperate, but she wasn't going to listen to this. Her bag was packed, and she started for the door. Naturally, he followed. "He's got a gun, Clarke. You can't trust him. You don't know—"
She rounded on him. "I know that he didn't get my father killed,” she snarled. “I know that if I'd trusted him a year ago, my father would be alive right now." She swallowed thickly, forcing away the tears that burned her eyes. "I know that he's stressed, and he's scared, and—and that I'm going to figure out the rest after we get Jasper back. Now if you don't mind, I have to go."
She turned away from him, but he wasn't done yet. "I'm coming with you."
"No, you’re not."
It took only a moment to find Bellamy in the clearing; he was bent over his sister, trying to wrap her leg. She made a beeline for them, and Octavia saw her first. "When are we leaving?" she asked.
"Now," Clarke said.
Octavia nodded, trying to stand, but Bellamy cut in. "You aren't going," he told her.
"He's right," Clarke said. "I'm sorry, but you can’t. But your brother can." She turned to Bellamy, leveling him with a glare when she added, "and he's going to bring his gun."
She expected an argument, but it didn't come. "Let's go," he said, grim.
Monty wanted to go, and Finn refused. In the end, Monty didn't, Finn did, and Murphy came, too, at a nod from Bellamy. Clarke didn't like him, trust him, or want anything to do with him, but she knew Bellamy was smart to bring him. The more violent criminals on their side, the better.
But she wasn't about to talk to him, or to Bellamy.
She pretended not to feel his gaze on her while they walked. They needed to talk, but now wasn't the time. This was about Jasper.
Except that her mind was stuck on Bellamy. Something was going on, and she didn't know what. He'd asked her yesterday whether she still trusted him, and she hadn't hesitated for a second when she'd assured him that she did. Did she?
Was there an explanation for the way he was acting right now?
They stumbled onto water, and Finn splashed his way in, grinning at Clarke. But a moment later, Bellamy saw the blood on the rocks.
They followed it to Jasper.
If there had been anything in her stomach, she would've lost it when she saw how they'd strung him up.
The ground disappeared under her feet without warning, only she didn't fall: Bellamy caught her. His grip was going to bruise her wrist, but it didn't matter; she didn't care. He yanked her up, and she collapsed into his chest. The terror that rammed into her chest at the fall took a moment to fade, and she clung to Bellamy while her heart thumped wildly.
The others were there in an instant, hovering around them. "Are you okay?" Wells asked. His voice was choked with panic.
She ignored him.
"Come on," Bellamy said, sitting up, and she untangled herself from him to move to her feet. Bellamy wouldn't look at her, but she'd felt his heart racing under her cheek only a moment ago. He'd been terrified, too. "Let's get the kid, and get out of here."
It wasn't as easy as that, of course.
But they got him down eventually, and now there was something for them to eat, too.
They made it back to the drop site without a problem. Jasper was alive, and she did everything for him that she could, but he wasn't going to survive without medicine. They needed to get to Mt. Weather, and she needed Bellamy's help to get there. They were going to talk, and they were going to figure this out.
If there was a doubt in her mind about how to approach him, it disappeared when she emerged from the drop ship to see that he'd decided to force desperate, hungry kids to trade their wristbands for food.
She stormed towards the group, but Murphy stepped into her path. "Whoa,” he said, holding up a hand. “If you want food, I'm going to need that wristband."
"Move," she hissed.
His lips curled up in a slow, nasty smile. "What are you going to do if I don't?"
"Back off, Murphy," Bellamy said.
Murphy glanced over his shoulder at Bellamy, and it took a moment, but he stepped away slowly. Clarke glared at him, and she reached for her dinner. "Bellamy—" Murphy started, angry.
"I said back off,” Bellamy repeated coldly. "Let her have it."
She glared at Murphy while she grabbed a stick with meat in one hand, and the front of Bellamy's shirt in the other. “Time to talk.”
He didn’t try to fight her, letting her drag him to where it was darker, colder. Quieter.
“Do you want to tell me what’s going on?” she asked.
His gaze was on the ground.
“Bellamy,” she said softly, trying to catch his eyes. “Why are you doing this? What aren’t you telling me?”
He sighed, and it took a moment, but— “I found a way onto the drop ship on my own,” he said, and he looked at her. “I got Octavia on, and I thought it was over. That all I had to do was wait for them to load the kids on. But they sent a commander in to do one last sweep through the ship, and he found me.” He smiled grimly at her. “He gave me a choice. Do something for him, and he’d see that I made it back onto the ship with O before it left, and we’d be free. Refuse, and he’d have me floated.”
“What did—what did he want you to do?” she asked.
“He wanted me to shoot the chancellor.”
She gaped at him.
“I did, Clarke,” he said, and his face grew hard. “I shot him in the chest. Now you see why the ark can’t come down? The moment they do, I’m dead.”
“What about the people on the ark? If they don’t come down, they’re dead. How can you be okay with that?” She tried to see doubt in his face, or regret, or something, but he wouldn’t let her in, and she couldn’t take it. “Even if you are, what about your mother?” she asked. “What about my mother? Do you want them to think we’re dead, and to die thinking that?”
“My mother knew there was a chance she’d get floated as soon as the council realized I’d snuck onto the drop ship, and I’d taken my sister with me. But she wanted us to go. She knew that Octavia didn’t have a life on the ark, but she had a chance on Earth.” He paused. “The chances that they haven’t already killed her are slim.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I am. But just because your mother is the one person left you care about on the ark, that doesn’t mean—” She shook her head at him. “What about my mother?”
He stared at her, but she wasn’t going to give in. She waited, and— “I’m sorry,” he said.
“That’s it?” she said. “I’m sorry? You think my mother deserves to die because you shot the chancellor, and that’s what you’ve got to say?”
“Your mother—” He stopped.
“What?” she demanded. “Say it.”
His jaw twitched, and his nostrils flared, and his words were mean when he spit them out at last. “If you haven’t figured it out yourself yet, I’m not going to be the one to tell you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means this conversation’s over,” he growled.
She grabbed his arm. “It’s not!” She breathed in deeply, trying to reign in her anger, and her confusion, and make him listen. “Bellamy, it can’t go on like this. You can’t get everyone to take off their wristbands, and doom thousands to death.” She stepped in closer to him, waiting for him to look at her. “I know that’s not what you want,” she said, pleading. “I know that’s not you!”
“It’s who I have to be,” he said.
She couldn’t look at him. His face was mean, and it wasn’t his face, wasn’t her Bellamy, made her want to cry, and to scream, and to push him until he stumbled, and that stupid, hard face cracked. “Right,” she said, releasing his arm. “Okay. I guess Wells was right, and I don’t know you. Or I didn’t. Now I do. Now I know you’re just a killer, looking out for himself.”
He stared at her.
“That’s it, right? It makes sense. It explains why you came to Earth. I told you the ark was dying, and you got yourself a ticket off.”
“I didn’t decide to plummet to the ground in an old metal can for myself,” he snarled.
“Then why’d you bother?” she demanded.
It was quiet for a long, awful minute.
But he leaned in finally, breathing the words in a low, dark voice that fanned hotly against her skin. “I take care of my own, Princess. That’s why.” He stepped away from her. “If you’re desperate to keep your wristband, fine. I’m not about to put a gun to your head. But don’t get in my way. I mean it.”
He walked away, and she knew she couldn’t stop him.
Two days ago, she was on Earth and free and with Bellamy, and everything was perfect. Now everything was in pieces, and she didn’t know how to begin to put it back together.
Monty glared at Bellamy with a venom that Clarke didn’t know the boy had. “He liked you,” he spat. “He swore that you’d smirk at his jokes when the doctor wasn’t looking, and that you weren’t as bad as the others. He defended you, and now you’re ready to kill him.” Monty’s eyes swam with tears, and Bellamy was silent.
“What’s he talking about?” Clarke asked.
“Bellamy was the guard that escorted the doctor in the box,” Finn said.
Clarke blinked. Oh. Right. She hadn’t thought about the fact that Bellamy wouldn’t have simply escorted the doctor to see her; he would’ve gone with the doctor to see everyone in lock up.
“Murphy tried to get into it with Bellamy after we landed,” Finn continued, “but Bellamy tore into him, told him that he became a guard to protect his sister, and everybody came to his defense, saying he was nice to them in the box. Monroe, Harper. Jasper. They defended him.”
She didn’t know where she was for that. It didn’t matter.
“You might not want to hear it, but you know I’m right,” Bellamy started. “If there’s something you can do for him, do it. I’ll make sure nobody touches him in the meantime. But if there’s nothing you can really do, you aren’t doing him a favor by keeping him alive just to die slowly.”
“Do you really care about that?” Monty asked, glaring at him.
Bellamy stared at him for a moment. “Do something,” he said at last, and he glanced at Clarke before he left. She knew those words were meant for her, and she knew he was right. They needed to do something, and they needed to do it now, or Jasper wasn’t going to make it through the night.
The truth overwhelmed her when it found her at last, swallowing her up until she was shaky on her feet, couldn’t breathe, didn’t know what to do with the horror that settled on her shoulders.
It wasn’t Wells. She’d hated him for a year, and he hadn’t done it.
But when he’d realized that was what she believed, he’d allowed her to believe it. He’d protected her from the truth, and she’d hated him for it. He didn’t hate her, though. She tried to apologize to him, and he pulled her into his arms, telling her that she was forgiven, and it didn’t seem fair, she didn’t deserve it, didn’t deserve him, and she never had.
Jasper woke up that night, too, and Clarke could’ve kissed him for how happy she was at that moment.
But when it grew darker, and everything grew quieter, it sunk in what the truth really, truly meant: her mother killed her father.
Bellamy knew. That was what he meant, wasn’t it, when he told her that if she hadn’t figured it out yet, he wasn’t going to be the one to tell her? She didn’t know how he knew, but it didn’t matter. He might’ve simply put together the pieces, realizing that her mother would’ve been at the very, very least kicked off the council when she failed to turn in Clarke’s father.
Clarke hadn’t realized that, though.
She hadn’t imagined that it was possible for her mother to turn her father in, knowing it would cost him his life.
How could she do that? Anger burned in Clarke, and she knew what it was that she needed to do. The certainty gripped her suddenly, completely, leading her to stalk from the drop ship, across the clearing, and into his tent without a warning. Bellamy was on his back, staring at the ceiling, but he sat up when he saw her, and she didn’t give him a chance to do more than frown.
“Take it off,” she demanded, thrusting her arm at him.
His stare was wary. “Why?”
“Do you care?” she asked. “It’s what you wanted, right? Take it off.”
He stood, but he didn’t make a move to remove her wristband. “Not until you tell me why.”
“Fine.” Her gaze flew around the tent until she saw the knife. She snatched it up, starting to hack at her wristband, but Bellamy grabbed her wrists, and she was forced to look at him. “I want my mother to think I’m dead,” she said. “I want her to feel for one second what I’m feeling.”
It took him a moment to understand. “Did Wells tell you?”
“I figured it out, and he admitted it when I confronted him. Now can you take it off, or not?”
He nodded, and his fingers tugged the knife from her hand, dipping it under the wristband to pry it off her wrist. She flinched, but it worked. The wristband broke off, and she rubbed the now bare skin where it’d stuck to her skin, leaving small red spots. “They’ll fade,” Bellamy told her.
“How did you know?” she asked. It didn’t matter, but she wanted to know.
He sighed. “I heard a conversation between commanders.” He paused. “I didn’t want to tell you.”
She stared at him, and her met her gaze tiredly. The hardness was gone from his face now, and she recognized the anxiety that lined his brow. He wasn’t closed off, or cold. He was who she knew him to be, and it came together in that moment. She stared at him, and she understood it all.
“My mother chose the ark,” she whispered, “and the council, and the rules over her family. Over her own her husband, over—over her own.”
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“Me, too. But—” She shook her head. “But you didn’t.” He never would. If there was anything she knew for certain about Bellamy, it was that one fact. “You said you came to the ground because you take care of your own,” she said, swallowing thickly. “That includes me, doesn’t it?”
He smiled sadly at her, and there was a fondness in his eyes that trapped her gaze. “Yes, Clarke. If that wasn’t obvious, yes. That includes you. You might not like it, but you’re mine. You can hate me, and ignore me, and buddy up with the spacewalker, and it doesn’t matter.” He stared at her. “I take care of my own.”
She kissed him.
She placed her hands on his chest, rising on her tiptoes to press her lips to his, and it wasn’t like their first desperate, frenzied kiss on the ark: it was soft, and uncertain, lasting only a moment before she drew away to look at him.
His hands came up to hold her face, and he leaned in slowly, carefully, until his breath was warm on her lips, making her pulse race, and his nose grazed her cheek. He paused, smiling slowly before he rubbed his nose lightly against her face, nuzzling. She laughed a little, and he kissed her mouth at last, stealing the smile off her lips.
He slid a hand into her hair, and she wrapped her arms around his neck.
He broke the kiss only to trail his mouth along her jaw, sucking at where her pulse raced under her skin, and her hands scrambled for purchase on his shoulders, his back; he began to press kisses to her throat, and she yanked at his t-shirt, untangling from him to get him to pull it off.
He did, and she started to pull off her shirt, too; his hands brushed at her elbows, trying to help, and she tossed the shirt aside as soon as they got it off. She kissed him, and his arms wrapped around her, pulling her back into his chest before he started to walk her backwards the short distance of his cramped tent to where the blankets that served for his bed were.
He paused. “Clarke—”
She peppered wet, sucking kisses across his cheek. “Shut up,” she told him, and kissed his mouth.
She reached a hand behind her when he started to guide her down to the blankets, and she was on her back under him a moment later, sinking her fingers greedily into his hair when he kissed the hollow of her throat, her collarbone, the top of her breast. Her toes curled at the kisses, but that was when he stopped, panting hotly against her breast. He rose to his knees, and Clarke followed.
She pulled him into a kiss with a hand on his neck, and his hands slid around her back to hold her to his chest before his head dipped, and he kissed the side of her neck, the top of her shoulder.
His mouth grazed the strap of her bra, and she reached behind her back to unclasp it.
She tugged it off her arms, and tossed it to the side, and—
His eyes dropped to her breasts immediately, staring without shame, and she flushed under his gaze. But when he looked up to meet her gaze a moment later, his pupils were blown, and warmth flooded her at the sight. She reached for him, and he came willingly, snaking a hand between their bodies to squeeze her breast. She breathed in sharply, and he lowered her onto her back with a kiss.
His hands slid to her thighs, and his chest brushed the tips of her breasts.
She drew her hands down his back, and he hiked her legs up to hug his hips, making her gasp into his mouth when he rocked into her, and his erection pressed hotly between her legs.
He broke the kiss. “Clarke.”
“What?” she panted, exasperated.
He chuckled against her mouth, kissing her lip quickly before lifting his head to look her in the eyes. “Have you done this before?” he asked.
She gripped her shoulders. “Does that matter?”
“Yes,” he said, and his lips were quirked in a smile, “yes, it matters, ‘cause if you have, I’m getting your pants off in the next ten seconds, and fucking you until you can’t walk.”
She nodded. “That sounds good to me,” she breathed. “Get to it.”
“But if you haven’t,” he carried on, kissing her quickly, “I’m going to do it right. Go slow, and get you ready for it.” He gave her another soft, quick kiss. “Don’t worry, Princess.” He smirked into her mouth. “Either way, I am fucking you tonight. But I need to know how. So. Which is it?”
She stared at him for a moment, shy, before she reached up, carding her fingers through his hair. “I haven’t.”
“I figured,” he said.
He smiled, and there was a sweetness to it that made it impossible for her not to smile, too, until he kissed her, melting her smile. His kiss started slow, sweet, and coaxing, but, suddenly, her breath was gone, and his lip bruised hers; she was breathless when he dragged his mouth down her throat. Heat pooled in her belly when he palmed one breast, and she shuddered when he kissed the other, swirling his tongue against her nipple.
He bit the swell of her breast, sucking at the skin a moment later.
She fisted her hands in his hair, and he mouthed at her breasts until she was mindless with need, aching in the worst, most wonderful way; she couldn’t stand it. “Bellamy,” she whined, and he rose up to kiss her wetly on the mouth, grinning before he pulled away abruptly, stood, and started to take off his pants. She fumbled hastily with the button on her pants, pushing them down her legs, and Bellamy dragged them off the rest of the way, drawing her back into a kiss.
But a moment later, he started to kiss his way down her body once more.
He pressed a kiss to her nipple, to her stomach, to her hip,and his breath was hot between her legs, making her ache with need before he kissed her thigh.
“You’re a tease,” she grumbled.
He chuckled, pulling off her underwear.
Her breath caught suddenly despite herself. She was naked under him, and a shy, nervous feeling bloomed to life in her chest. But he kissed her belly, and the skin above her heart, and that spot on her throat that made her stomach coil in pleasure when his teeth nipped the skin; he kissed her cheek, and her nerves melted completely when he kissed her mouth.
She ran her hands up his chest, over his shoulders, and along his arms, feeling the muscles flex under her touch.
Having him under her hands like that excited her in a way she'd never felt before; she was flooded with warm, delicious anticipation.
His hand skimmed down her belly to slip between her legs. When his finger brushed her folds, sharp, tantalizing pleasure swept through her. She arched into his hand, and Bellamy grinned smugly against her cheek. But it wasn’t enough, and it was too much, and she caught his mouth in a kiss, digging her fingers into his arms.
He thumbed at her clit until she was desperate with need, and he sank a finger into her at last.
“Open your eyes,” he breathed.
She dragged her eyes open to meet his stare.
But he curled his finger, and it was impossible to keep her eyes open. He started to tease at her nipple with one hand, and his thumb worked at her clit, making pleasure crash into her in waves. The relief overwhelmed her suddenly, and he carried her through it, kissing her.
It took a moment for sense to return to her, and a warm, tingling throb remained between her legs.
“Took you long enough,” she breathed.
His laugh was a deep, rough sound that made her stomach flutter in pleasure. She opened her eyes lazily in time to see him sit up. He kissed her roughly before he rose off her completely, and she watched him tug off his boxers. His erection brushed the inside of her thigh when he settled back over her, and she drew her legs up, bringing him closer.
“Your turn,” she told him.
“Do you know how long I’ve waited for this?” he asked. His hand was between them, and her neck arched when she felt his erection nudge her folds. “I had you in my head a hundred different ways that summer. It got to the point that I smelled antiseptic, and I got hard, thinking about you.”
She laughed. “My friends used to complain about how I always smelled like antiseptic,” she told him. His lips curved into a smile against her cheek, and she was flooded suddenly with warm, overwhelming affection for this boy. Her boy. Bellamy. She kissed him, only for need to coil between her legs when his erection brushed her clit. “What do—what do I smell like now?” she asked, breathless. She meant it to be a joke.
He stared at her with heavy, hooded eyes. “Mine,” he said, and pushed into her.
She gasped, but it wasn’t painful exactly: he sank into her slowly, giving her time to adjust to the way that he stretched her out, and it was the pressure that brought tears to her eyes. She dug her fingers into his arms, and breathed out slowly before he grunted against her cheek, stilling, and she realized that he was buried in her completely.
“Kiss me,” she demanded, and he kissed her.
He reached for her breast, sending a shock of need through her when he pinched her nipple. “I’m going to—to—” He started. His voice was strained.
She nodded. “Okay. Yes.”
He started to move, grinding against her for a moment before he pulled out slightly, and thrust in. Out, and in. It didn't hurt as much. His nose brushed her cheek, and Clarke slid her hands up from his arms to hold his face. She found his gaze, and he stared at her with that crease in his brow that she adored; she tilted her face up, pressing her lips to the line.
He shifted his weight, and his hands were under her back suddenly, lifting her ass off the blankets, and she whimpered at the change in angle. She liked it. “I—”
“I know,” he grunted. “I know. I—” He was thrusting into her quickly now, and it hurt, but it felt good, too; she clung to his neck when he kissed her, riding it out. He started to spill into her with several hard, wild thrusts, groaning against her mouth before his arms gave out, and he collapsed on her.
She ran a hand over his shaky, sweat-slick back.
He was heavy, making her breath short, but she liked his weight on her, liked how close he was.
But he knew he was heavy, too. She hissed at the sensitivity when he pulled out to roll off her. He flopped onto his back, breathing at the ceiling of the tent for a moment. But he turned his head, and his eyes seemed to search her face. She smiled, and that was what he wanted: he saw, and he smiled, too. He leaned in to kiss her sweetly, sitting up to grab a blanket that was crumpled at their feet.
She protested when he tried to pull it over her, though. “I’m sticky,” she told him, scrunching up her nose.
He snorted, but he grabbed his t-shirt off the floor, using it to wipe gently at her thighs.
This time when he pulled the blanket up, she turned on her side, taking his arm to wrap it around her waist. His chest pressed into her back, and she closed her eyes, knowing she was going to sink into sleep quickly. She meant to snort at him when his hand cupped her breast, but it came out as a smile. He kissed her shoulder, and she drifted off.
She didn't want to wake up yet, but the tent grew hot under the sun, and sweat prickled along her back. She kicked at the blanket, rolling onto her back, and Bellamy grunted beside her.
She turned her head to look at him.
His hair was tousled with sleep, and his face was smashed into the blankets. There was a dull, pleasant soreness between her legs that warmed when she traced her eyes over him, dipping her gaze to the freckles on his shoulder, the smear of dirt on the back of his neck, the soft, broad expanse of his back. She blushed to herself, and tucked a hand under her cheek, reaching out with the other to ghost the tips of her fingers along his skin.
Bellamy made a noise in his throat. "I'm sleeping," he grumbled.
She grinned. "Now you're not."
He popped an eye open, and the look on his face made her laugh. He tried to maintain his irritation, but his gaze was soft, and his lips started to turn up.
She stared at him, drawing circles on his back. “You love me,” she said.
He raised an eyebrow at her. “I think you said that backwards, Princess.”
"Nope. I said it right." She ran her hand over his shoulder and up to place her palm on his cheek, rubbing her finger against a freckle on the bridge of his nose. "You love me, and I love you."
He kissed the inside of her wrist, and she smiled.
But she felt his smile fade under her hand, and she reached up to tuck his hair behind his ear, frowning at him. "What?" she asked.
"You were right," he said. "You were right about the people on the ark, and what I was doing. Everything with the wristbands--" He dropped her gaze, clearing his throat. "I'm sorry.” He looked at her. “We can't let them die. I told myself that I didn't care, but you were right. I do."
She nodded. "We'll leave," she said softly. "We'll stay with everybody as long as we can, but once we get word that the people from the ark are on their way, we'll leave."
He stared at her. “I think this is the part where I tell you that I can’t ask you to come with me. That I can make it on my own, and you’d be better off with Wells, and everyone from the ark.”
She frowned slowly at him. Did he really think that she wasn’t going to go with him? “No,” she started. He was serious. "No way. If you can't stay, I can't stay." She pushed up on her elbow, glaring. "Don't you dare try to sneak away at night without me, Bellamy. I will hunt you down."
The smile stretched across his face slowly. “Calm down, Princess.” His arm snaked under her suddenly, pulling her into his side for a quick, possessive kiss. “I might not want to doom everyone on the ark to save my own skin,” he said, “but I'm not that good a guy. Not enough to give you up.”
She relaxed. "Good." She kissed him, running her hand down his chest, and looked up at him from under her lashes. "Do you want to--?"
"Yes," he said, and she took his cock into her hand. "The answer to that question is always, always yes."
He swallowed thickly when she squeezed him, and she grinned. But she'd never done this before; she bit her lip, glancing down between them, and Bellamy covered her hand with his, showed her what to do, panting instructions into her ear.
He grew hard in her hand quickly, and it wasn't long before he tugged on her arm. She reached up to grip his arms, and he kissed her before his hands slid to squeeze her ass; she squealed when he rolled over onto his back abruptly, taking her with him.
She was on top this time, holding his shoulders while she sank down on him.
It took a minute to find a way she liked it, but she leaned forward slightly, wanting to kiss him, and the feeling wrenched a gasp from her. "There," she breathed. "There, Bell.” He squeezed her hips and stretched up kiss her sloppily, brushing his thumb against her clit. She came when he was inside her this time.
She slumped onto him, and he rolled them over, following her release with his own.
She knew there were things to do, and they couldn’t simply drift off after. But she lay with her head on his chest, listening to his heart thump calmly under her cheek, and it wouldn’t hurt to close her eyes for a moment. His fingers toyed sleepily with the ends of her hair. “You love me,” he said. She smiled.
The camp was busy when Clarke emerged from Bellamy’s tent at last, and she felt guilty for how she’d slept away the morning. Then her gaze landed on where Murphy stood next to the water, harassing kids to give up their wristbands for water, and her guilt melted into hot, choking anger.
He caught her gaze, starting to smirk. “Morning, Princess. Have a good night?”
She glared at him. “Listen up,” she shouted, and it grew quiet quickly. She let her eyes linger on person after person, making sure everyone was going to hear this. “Things are going to change,” she announced. “It’s time for a little order around here. If we’re going to survive, we need rules.”
Monroe nodded a little, and Clarke smiled at her.
“That’s a nice thought,” Murphy said. “But we don’t answer to you.”
“Actually, you do,” Bellamy said, coming up to stand beside Clarke. He crossed his arms over his chest, and Murphy was silent. “That goes for everyone,” Bellamy continued, raising his voice. “You might not like it, but Clarke’s right. Things are going to change.”
For a moment, no one spoke.
But the moment passed, and Murphy started to shake his head. “That’s it?” He scoffed. “She fucks you, and, just like that, you roll over and play dead?”
Bellamy looked at the ground, chucking a little. He walked towards Murphy calmly. “Do you really want to do this?” he asked, smiling grimly at him.
“Yeah, I want to do this,” Murphy said. “I hate to break it to you, Blake, but now that you’re on a leash, you aren’t as scary as you think.”
Bellamy nodded. “Sure, sure,” he said, and he punched Murphy in the face. Clarke heard the bone snap, and Murphy hit the ground a moment later. “Anybody else?” Bellamy shouted, looking around the crowd. It was silent. “Look, I was stupid to say that there didn’t have to be rules.” He paused. “It was selfish, and stupid. But we’re going to start over. We’re going to do this right, and we’re going to do it together.”
Clarke waited a moment before she began to suggest a way to divide the work. People nodded, and when Bellamy started to bark orders at people, they listened. He put Miller on duty at the three water basins, telling him to give water when it was needed, and not to pry the wristband off anybody who didn’t want it off.
Confidence swelled in Clarke’s chest.
They were going to do this.
Make it work, do it right. Keep everyone alive, and have a life for themselves on the ground. Bellamy glanced at her, and she nodded. They were in this together.
The days that followed were the worst in her life. They found Wells in the woods that afternoon, staring into the sky with flies at his mouth, and the world shifted under Clarke.
She got him back, only to lose him the very same night.
It turned out a little girl was to blame, and they couldn’t save her either.
Those days were awful, but they were nothing to the months that came after. There were moments when things were good: when they found a bunker with supplies, when Raven came with the means to contact the ark, when the chancellor agreed to pardon Bellamy for the attempt on his life, and Bellamy learned that his mother was alive, crying when she saw Bellamy on the camera. But the longer they were on Earth, the worse things seemed to get.
The war with the grounders was terrible.
She turned Bellamy to ashes when his back was turned, and his ghost was at her side for weeks after, reminding her that she’d murdered the person she loved most until, suddenly, he wasn’t dead, and she was in his arms, and he peppered kisses to her mouth while she sobbed. It wasn’t the first time she’d thought she’d lost him, and it wouldn’t be the last.
That war ended to give way to a war with the monsters in the mountain, and it was worse.
Three years later, and the nightmares hadn’t stopped for Harper, for Monty. For Clarke.
No matter how long she lived, Clarke was never going to forget the way that Bellamy’s pale, wasted body felt in her arms after they saved him from Mt. Weather, and he sobbed into her shoulder that he was sorry for everything, “I’m sorry, Clarke, I’m sorry, I swear I tried not to, I’m sorry, please, I’m sorry . . .”
They set off for the coast as soon as the snow began to melt under their feet that year.
The grounders forced them to jump through hoop after hoop on the way, but that wasn’t new, and they managed. One way or another, they always did. They managed, and they were granted a spot for themselves on Earth at long, long last: a place to build homes, to have families, to start their lives.
It was going to be okay now.
They reached the ocean in the afternoon, and Clarke laughed at how their friends shouted in glee, stripped off their clothes, and ran for the water like the kids they should’ve been allowed to be.
“It’s cold!” Jasper shouted. “Fuck, that’s cold!” He screamed when a wave swallowed him up, and panic choked at Clarke. But his head bobbed into view a moment later. “It’s salty!” he yelled. “I mean, I knew it was supposed to be salty, but it’s, like, really, for real, actually salty!”
Octavia dunked his head, shutting him up.
Bellamy wrapped his arms around Clarke from behind, and she leaned into his chest.
“This is it,” he said.
She nodded. This needed to be it. For at least a little while, they needed to have it good.
Harper was pregnant. They didn’t know how, but Abby’s theory was that her implant failed from the environment on Earth, which meant that others might start to fail, too. It scared Clarke to think about. But when she told Bellamy, he shrugged. “Saves us the trouble of having to remove them,” he replied.
There were a thousand different complications that came with a baby, but.
Her heart picked up stupidly at the idea of Bellamy’s baby in her belly, and in her arms.
Spray from the ocean grazed Clarke’s face on a breeze, and she breathed in deeply, savoring it. The ocean spread to where it met the sky. It didn’t seem real.
“I drew you a picture of the ocean once,” she told him. “I always meant to give it to you.”
“Did it look like this?” he asked.
She tilted her head, considering the view. “Yes.”
“But it didn’t smell like this,” she said. He squeezed her waist, kissing her temple when she leaned her head against his shoulder to look up at him. “It didn’t feel like this.”
His eyes were soft, and the smile he gave her was her favorite. He kissed her, starting to turn her in his arms when Monty hollered at them. “Hey! Mom, Dad! Quit making out, and come play with us!” Another wave knocked him off his feet, and Raven cackled at the way his arms flailed.
“If it helps, you can pretend you’re supervising us!” Jasper added.
Bellamy grinned at her. “Think you can stop thinking your deep thoughts to frolic in the sea for a minute?”
She bit her lip. “I suppose,” she started, and she shoved his chest, making him stumble. “Race you!” She pulled off her shirt while she ran, and Bellamy scrambled after her.
When there’s nothing but roaring sound,
I will be beside you.
When there’s nothing but the long drop down,
I will be beside you.