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the way you nod after everything I say (like it actually means something to you)

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If anyone had asked, Bellamy would have said he and Clarke talked a normal amount. Just because they live in different states now doesn't mean they suddenly lost contact with each other. It's like none of their friends understand how technology works. He doesn't need to be in the same physical location as Clarke to talk to her all the time. It's not weird; she's his best friend. Of course they talk.

"You know Clarke texts you, like, every twelve seconds, right?" Octavia asks, when his phone buzzes at lunch one Sunday.

He glances down, sees Clarke has said, yeah okay but is there actually more than one nicholas sparks movie or are they all THE SAME MOVIE??, and grins at his sister. "Did you actually time them to get twelve seconds as the average? Or are you just guessing?"

He texts back, I'm trying to figure out how to turn this into a Good Omens reference, but I can't get the phrasing right. Leave a romance novel out long enough and it just turns into something about cancer? Something like that.

"It's a lot."

"So?"

"Doesn't it interfere with your life?"

Don't you dare compare nicholas sparks to the BEST OF QUEEN, Bellamy. That's blasphemy, says Clarke, and then, Autocorrect keeps trying to capitalize nicholas and I have to go back and redo it, so you better appreciate the effort I'm putting into disrespecting him.

"It's a text, O. How long do you think it takes for me to text Clarke?"

I always appreciate your spite. Btw O thinks you text me every twelve seconds.

"What if you're on a date?" she asks. "Like, are you going to be like, whoops, gotta text another girl obsessively, one sec?"

Did she time me???? I want to time me.

"Clarke looks like a dude's name, so I usually just let heteronormativity do the work for me." He frowns at her. "Are you actually worried about this? Seriously?"

"I dunno. I thought her moving away would help."

"Help what?"

"Your ridiculous thing for her."

if you don't text me back I can't do this experiment, Bellamy, Clarke says, but he's too busy choking on his water to immediately reply.

"I don't have a thing for her!" he says, and does manage, One sec, dying. "She's my best friend."

"Uh huh." O regards him. "She was dating Finn when you met, right?"

"Asshole," he mutters. His sister raises her eyebrows at him, and he scowls. "You cannot possibly think that means I have a thing for her. He was an asshole. He cheated on her."

is it lukemia? did nicholas sparks come for you to punish me?

"And then she got over him and started dating Lexa, and left town within, like, two months of breaking up with her. And you had no chance to make a move on her because you're not that guy. And now you're--" She gestures.

Just Octavia. His fingers hover over the keypad, thinking about adding something along the lines of, she thinks I'm into you, but he can't do it.

"You're still texting her," O says, but she sounds amused.

"I text other people. Maybe I'm telling Miller you're ridiculous."

I guess it's better if a family member does it. I'll miss you. I'll give a really great eulogy.

"Let me see your phone," she says.

"No way. I've got nudes on here."

She doesn't look as disgusted as he hoped she would; apparently she's getting used to him. Or she knows it's bullshit. "Yours or Clarke's?"

"Come on, O. If I wanted you to know what nudes I've got on my phone, I'd just let you see it."

She snorts and lets it drop, and he texts Clarke, Okay, crisis averted.

But it doesn't really feel true.

*

He probably talks to Clarke more now that she's gone, in retrospect, which is maybe weird. Not that he didn't text her before. They'd text when something interesting happened, or someone pissed one of them off, or to make plans. They'd hang out at least twice a week, which Bellamy knew made Clarke's ex-girlfriend feel antsy, but that was on her, as far as he was concerned. If Lexa had ever showed any interest in Clarke's other friends, maybe they wouldn't have broken up. Maybe they'd be the ones doing long-distance texting now.

The thought is painful, but not surprisingly so.

He'd expected to be resentful when she moved, and he was, when she first told him, this sharp stab of it. But it's just for a year, and it's an amazing opportunity, and while it still hurt that she could just pick up and leave, she texted as soon as she got to the airport--I always want to put a pile of stuff on the seat next to me so no one will take it, but I never do, so now I'm sitting next to a seven-year-old who wants to tell me everything about something called Bakugan--and it wasn't like she never left, but it was hard to really feel abandoned.

They talk on hangouts when they're at work or at home, and text when they're away from computers. Her new job really is great, but she doesn't like DC much. She's making friends in a kind of limited way, going out for drinks with coworkers, but he knows she's looking for jobs here, once she's done with her fellowship. It's hard to be resentful of that. She's coming back home.

But he doesn't have a thing for her.

"Clarke texted you three times while you were in the bathroom," Miller observes. It's been a month since his conversation with Octavia, and he's not thinking about it in the way that involves thinking about it all the time and pretending he's not.

As methods for dealing with feelings go, it's not really good, but it's the best plan he's got.

"You know, I don't look at your phone when you leave it lying around," he says, mild.

this guy is telling me about the book he's writing, he sees, when he checks the phone. I already know everything about it. I knew everything about the book he was writing before he started talking. He's a white dude in his late twenties, we all know everything about his book.

Miller snorts into his beer. "You totally do."

I can call if you need an out, he texts Clarke. Just say the word. Then, to Miller, he adds, "Okay, yeah, but I don't tell you about it. That's just polite."

"Uh huh. What's going on with you two?"

"What about us?" he asks, taking a deliberate drag from his beer. "She's my best friend. Which breaks your heart, I know."

"Every day." He scowls, like he's upset that his life has brought him to this point, talking to Bellamy about feelings. He probably is. Miller is not the friend who enjoys talking about feelings; it must be worse than Bellamy thought, if he's actually starting the conversation. "Is she coming back?" he finally asks.

The question isn't what he was expecting. "Huh?"

"Once she's done with this thing, is she coming back? We all kind of figured this was it, she was gone."

"Based on what?"

He shrugs. "I dunno. It's a good job, she's probably making a lot of connections. They'll probably ask her to stay. But you're more into her than ever, so--"

Of course he'd thought the same thing, when she told them she was moving. She had a fellowship at one of the most famous museums in the county. It's the kind of thing anyone would want to turn into a long-term job, if they could.

"She's applying for stuff here," he says. "For when she's done."

"Cool," says Miller. "Want another?"

"Sure," he says, and texts Clarke, If you don't reply in the next thirty seconds, I'm assuming he killed you and I need to come down there and avenge your death.

now I kind of want to do that just to get your down here, she replies, almost instantly. I miss you.

Too late, he says. Now I know you're alive. Rookie mistake. But he can't help himself. I miss you too.

*

Clarke: what do you do when someone thinks you had belligerent sexual tension but you're actually just belligerent?

me: I already have follow-up questions.

Clarke: remember my coworker, roan?

me: The one who told you to call him Iceman?
I can't believe that went wrong.

Clarke: we were all surprised.
anyway, yeah
apparently he thought we were doing the whole "I show my affection for you with sniping" thing

me: In his defense, that's how you show affection.
What exactly happened?
Are you okay?

Clarke: nothing bad, don't worry
we were alone doing some restoration stuff after hours and he thought we were gonna resolve our sexual tension
and I thought I was gonna stab him to death with a shiv made from a paint brush
we agreed to disagree

me: So you don't need an alibi?

Clarke: I still sent you all those random texts, so I've already got one.
we're good
it's fine
anyway, I need to go to bed
I just needed a virtual hug
it's not going to be a problem in the long term, it was kind of funny, we had a laugh about it
I just wish I had someone here to talk to

me: Yeah, I get that.
Consider yourself virtually hugged. Get some sleep.

Clarke: Will do.
Night, Bell.

*

There's no text from Clarke that makes Bellamy realize Octavia was right. There's no sudden moment of revelation when he smiles at one of her irate messages or saves one of her weird, poorly composed selfies.

(Seriously, she's an art person; he does not understand how she's so bad at taking selfies. It makes no fucking sense.)

Instead, he runs into Lexa.

He and Lexa met maybe three times, during the course of her and Clarke's five-month relationship. Which was one of the many reasons he thought she was bad for Clarke. Bellamy hasn't had a lot of girlfriends, but he's always made sure they like Clarke and get along with her, the same as all his other friends. He doesn't see the point in dating someone who's not in his social circle; his social circle is awesome.

This might be part of why he hasn't had a lot of girlfriends, honestly; getting approval from his gorgeous best friend is something a lot of women aren't interested in doing. But he did manage to keep Gina, and even hooked her up with Raven. So he's doing something right.

"Bellamy, isn't it?" Lexa says, delicate, with a look that says I don't know what you're doing here.

To be fair, Bellamy doesn't know what he's doing here either. He's trying to be friendlier with his sister's boyfriend, who is an artist, which means he's going to art things, and he hates it, because everything he knows about art, he learned from Clarke, and art things suck without her around.

"Yeah. Hey, Lexa. Long time no see."

She nods. It's awkward on a level Bellamy doesn't quite even totally understand; they should probably just abandon the conversation before it gets worse. But apparently Lexa doesn't agree, because she asks, "Is your sister still dating Lincoln?" Like she actually cares about his life, which he knows she does not.

"Yeah. They're around here somewhere." He takes a sip of his wine and wishes it was both more alcoholic and less expensive. He feels guilty just pounding it, but he's going to end up doing it anyway. "You know Lincoln?"

"A friend of a friend." There's another long pause, and then she says, reluctant, "Have you heard from Clarke?"

His phone buzzes in his pocket, right on cue. "Yeah, we talk pretty regularly. She's doing well," he adds.

"I'm glad. She's an extraordinary person, I'm glad that she didn't let sentiment keep her from doing what was right for her." She considers him for a long moment and then says, like an attack, "I suggested she apply the fellowship."

He doesn't flinch. "Good for you. It's been really great."

The phone buzzes again, and he checks it quickly; Clarke, of course, saying, hug Lincoln for me! And then take a selfie so I can see how awkward you look hugging Lincoln :D

He bites back on his smile and sees Lexa frown, and that's what gets him. Not the text itself, because he feels the same stupid happiness every time she texts him, but the way Lexa looks so annoyed about it, and the vivid memory of how pissed he was, the last time he saw her nine months ago, when they were celebrating Miller's promotion, and Lexa just looked irritable the whole time, like being happy for Clarke's friends was a huge burden. Bellamy hadn't run interference, but he and Clarke had spent most of the evening matchmaking Monty and Miller while Lexa scowled into her various beverages, and later Clarke told him that was the beginning of the end for that relationship.

He has no idea why that specific memory makes him realize he loves Clarke, but it does, and it's incredibly annoying. Now really wasn't when he wanted this to happen. He was hoping it would wait until she got back. She's got another six months.

"Anway, yeah, she's good," he says, pulling himself back to the issue at hand. "She's already got a job lined up back here when she finishes. I can tell her you said hi."

Lexa's jaw twitches, which is at least rewarding. He's pretty sure his dislike for her is about sixty percent personal and forty percent based in his feelings for Clarke, which means that now that he's aware of said feelings, he has more appreciation for the vindictive pleasure he gets out of pissing her off.

He's a bad person, maybe.

"She's coming back?"

"Yup," he says, and discreetly texts Clarke, I'm talking to your ex. It's awkward. If she murders me, delete my internet history.

"Good for her," says Lexa. She has that talent some people do for making perfectly nice, normal things sound like insults.

"You know you live here too, right?" he asks. "Not sure why it's good enough for you and not for her, but, whatever. Have fun with the show, good to see you, let's not do this again."

He's getting another drink when Clarke responds, wait, what's in your internet history??? this is going to bug me. is it worse than I think? I assume it's just porn. we all know you look at porn, Bellamy. you don't have to hide that.

He glances around, finds Lexa in the crowd. She's talking to someone easily; she fits in here. She belongs.

But he's the one Clarke is texting. He's the one who knows where she is and what she's doing, basically all the time. He might not fit into every part of her world, but he fits in with her, better than anyone else. He's so sure, for one shining minute.

Thanks for your support, he replies. I really hate your ex-girlfriend.

There's a longer pause than usual, but when he finally gets the response, he has to smile. yeah, I don't blame you.

*

Knowing he's in love with Clarke isn't really that different from not knowing, probably because, as most of his friends have pointed out, he's definitely been in love with her for a while. His heartbeat picks up every time she texts him, but that's nothing new. Messages from her have been the highlight of his day since she left, and seeing her was the highlight before that, and he absolutely should have figured this out sooner.

It still doesn't feel like anything special with Clarke, though. Or, well, nothing out of the ordinary. He can't convince himself that it means something. He assumes that she texts other people. Probably not as much as she texts him, but that's probably because they don't text back as often. She probably talks to Raven a lot, and Monty. She has plenty of friends. It's not just him.

And he continues thinking that right up until he locks himself out of his apartment getting takeout.

It's a pretty stupid situation, overall. He and Clarke are chatting while they both watch Brooklyn 99 on Hulu, and he's waiting for his Thai food to show up. When it does, he doesn't bother mentioning it to Clarke, just grabs his wallet, goes downstairs to pay for his meal, and goes back up to his apartment to discover that he neglected to unlock his door before he left.

He bangs his head on the door once, for good measure, but it's not actually much of a disaster. He's not wearing shoes, but it's late March, and there's no snow on the ground. He's got his Charlie Card, so he can just jump on the train, go three stops to Octavia's place, and get her key. If he's lucky, Lincoln will be there, and fully clothed, and will give him a ride home.

He's not exactly thrilled about riding the train with no shoes on, but it beats lying on the hallway floor eating pad thai directly from the carton and feeling sorry for himself. He can do that on his way to Octavia's, and that's at least getting him closer to being back in his apartment.

Of course, he gets some weird looks on the train, being barefoot and wearing pajamas and a threadbare t-shirt, still eating pad thai directly from the carton, still in the paper bag, because he's still fucking hungry. He's seen weirder than this on the T. If he's the worst thing these people have ever seen riding the Red Line, he's frankly jealous of them.

And, of course, he's feeling bad about Clarke. Not that bad, because it's not like he can do anything. He could try to borrow a stranger's phone, but he doesn't actually know her number off the top of his head, and trying to send her an email from an unknown person's phone seems like a total overreaction to the situation. He'll be home in under an hour, assuming Octavia is home. And if Octavia is home, he can just text Clarke from her phone and let her know what happened.

It's fine.

He runs into Octavia on her way out of her apartment and grabs her arm. "Shit, O, please don't leave, I--"

She whirls on him. "Bell! What the fuck! I thought you were dead!" He doesn't get a chance to respond before she's pulling out her phone and scrolling through her contacts. "Clarke called, she said you disappeared and you weren't answering your phone or IMs or anything. She was panicking!"

"She's drunk," Bellamy says blankly, and takes his sister's phone when she shoves it at him.

"Octavia? Did he call you?" Clarke asks, frantic, and he swallows.

"I locked myself out of my apartment getting my takeout," he says. "I came to get her spare key."

There's a kind of terrifyingly long pause, and then she barks out a harsh laugh. "Seriously?"

He rubs his face, gives Octavia a sheepish smile. She at least looks amused, rather than murderous. "Seriously. I was gonna text you as soon as I got here, but I had to take the train." He figures there's no harm in adding, "I nearly asked to borrow someone's phone, but I'm barefoot in my pajamas and I was eating Thai food from a paper bag, so everyone was pretty scared of me. And I didn't think you'd be, uh--" He doesn't know how to finish without sounding like he's making fun of her, which--he isn't, really. He's just baffled. It's been maybe half an hour.

"I was worried!" Clarke protests, but she's laughing. "You were eating Thai food in your pajamas on the train?"

"I would have taken a selfie, but, you know. No phone."

"I can imagine it."

He glances at Octavia. "Okay, I'm, uh, freezing my ass off on Octavia's sidewalk, so I'm gonna see about getting home? I'll be back in like half an hour, unless O's got car access."

"Yeah." There's a pause, and it occurs to him this is his first time actually hearing Clarke's voice since he left. She doesn't call. It's been nine months since he last spoke with her, and he can still tell from the weight of her silence that she wants to say something else. And he doesn't mind, really; he's cold and Octavia might kill him, but he doesn't actually want to hang up. "I was really worried," she finally says, soft.

"I'm sorry," he says. "I'll text you my ETA once I get my keys, okay?"

"Okay."

"Drink some water, you're fucking wasted."

He hears her soft laugh, closes his eyes. Fuck, he misses her. "Shut up. Get excited for a lot of frantic messages when you get home."

"Can't wait. Talk to you soon."

Octavia is watching him, and he hangs up and returns the phone without meeting her eyes. "You still think you don't have a thing for her?" she asks.

"No," he says. "I figured out I had a thing for her a couple months ago. Your boyfriend isn't here with his car?"

She holds up a set of keys. "He's upstairs, he had a ton of grading to do. I was going to just go alone."

"What if I was getting robbed and beaten to death?" he asks, following her to the car. "You were just gonna come in without backup?"

She rolls her eyes. "That's what it would take to stop you from texting Clarke back?"

"I wouldn't just drop out of a conversation with you either," he says. "I'm a pretty reliable texter."

Octavia's quiet as she starts up the car, and they're on their way to his place when she finally says, "That wasn't a proportionate response, you know."

"Huh?"

"Clarke's."

"Oh, shit, give me your phone, okay?"

She returns the phone and pulls up Clarke's number; Octavia hasn't texted her for a month and a half. He writes, Hey, O has Lincoln's car, I'll be home in twenty minutes.

"Seriously, Bell."

"Seriously what?"

"It's not normal to freak out that much when someone doesn't text you back for half an hour."

"We were literally in the middle of a conversation when I left," he says. "I would have been worried if it was her."

"That's what I'm trying to say!" O says, like he's driving her to an early grave. "I thought you were gonna get your stupid heart broken, Bell. And now I don't."

Her phone buzzes in his hand, just Clarke, saying, thanks, Bellamy, and he swallows, hard.

She was worried. She called his sister to go and check on him.

It hadn't occurred to him before then that he might not get his heart broken either.

*

me: Hey, I'm back.

Clarke: hey!
I have sobered up and now feel kind of stupid

me: Seriously, don't.
I would have completely freaked out.
Sober.
I would have stolen someone's car to drive down there, honestly.
At least you just called my sister, that would have done some good if I'd had a heart attack or whatever.

Clarke: I did wonder if you choked to death.
I guess I'm just not used to you not being there when I talk to you.

me: You shouldn't be.
Seriously, I'm sorry.
Not that I had any control of the situation, but I was going to text you as soon as I got to O's.

Clarke: the mental image of you eating thai food barefoot on the train really made me feel a lot better
send a selfie
I need the outfit for reference

me: It's pretty hot. Try not to get overwhelmed.
[IMG_047.jpg]

Clarke: you should send more selfies
I never get to see you anymore

me: Just three more months, right?

Clarke: three more months.

*

Bellamy has never been good at just visiting people. He's never been particularly good at traveling, even. They didn't go anywhere they couldn't drive when he was a kid; vacations were on Cape Cod or the Jersey Shore, at best, and he's still vaguely wary of the beaches he sees on TV, the ones with bright white sand and sparkling blue water. Beaches, for him, involve a lot of rocks and broken glass.

But it's Clarke's birthday in May, and he wants to see her.

He wants to surprise her, to be precise, which he knows is stupid. It's inconsiderate and reckless and doesn't make any sense, honestly, but he knows exactly what she's planning to do for her birthday (nothing) and where she's planning to be (her apartment). He knows that she misses him, and she'll be happy to see him.

He books a hotel, in case she doesn't want him to stay, and comes up with a complete itinerary for two days, in case she doesn't want to hang out.

"You know, it would be a whole lot easier and cheaper to just tell her you're coming," Miller observes, as Bellamy makes a list of Smithsonians he wants to see most, in order of preference.

"I'm taking a calculated risk," he says. "I think she'll like the surprise."

"Just don't show up with a boom box at her window, okay? That's a really out-dated reference. I don't even know where you'd get a boom box."

"I'm just gonna call her from the airport," he says. "But thanks for your support."

"You know there are easier ways to confess your undying love, right?"

"That's not what I'm doing," he says, but it doesn't sound particularly convincing, even to his own ears. "I just miss her."

"Uh huh. Don't forget to text her that you'll be out of touch on the plane, or she'll freak out and call your sister."

"Fuck you," he says, but he's already got an excuse thought up, of course. He tells her he has a terrible meeting on Friday afternoon and won't be out until around four or so, and smiles at the string of encouraging emoji she sends.

"The meeting was that bad?" she asks, amused, when she picks up the phone after he lands.

"It was a lie," he admits. "I'm at Reagan National Airport. Uh, happy birthday."

There's a long pause, but he's weirdly not worried. He's her best friend too.

"Right now?"

"Right now. On my way to the train. I've got a hotel, if you don't want--"

"Come to L'Enfant Plaza," she says. "Just get the yellow line toward Greenbelt, it's like four stops. I'll meet you."

He distracts himself figuring out the metro and getting on the right train, and just when he's about to have time to be nervous she texts, I can't believe you're HERE and then roughly twenty grinning emoji.

Me neither, he says, with one emoji of his own. On the train now.

He's got his phone out to text her when he gets out at the station, but he hears her shout, "Bellamy!" before he can, and his arms are abruptly full of her. He clings back just as tightly; it's far from the first time he's hugged her, but it's the first time he's done it since he noticed how he felt about her, and it's a lot to process.

"Hi," he says, just staring at her dumbly as she slides out of his arms.

"I can't believe you didn't tell me."

"It seems stupid in retrospect. And everyone even told me it was stupid. So I should have known." He rubs the back of his neck. "Like I said, I got a hotel, so if you don't want me crashing--"

"Bellamy," she says, laughing.

"And I can just go to the museums if you made plans after all, so--"

"Bell," she says, and kisses him.

He hasn't actually let himself think about kissing her, because if he did, he'd just be pissed he couldn't actually do it. But that means he was totally unprepared, and he just sort of stands there, stunned, until Clarke's courage starts to fail her and he feels her pulling away.

At which point he gets his act together, slides his hand into her hair, and kisses her back.

Her feels her relieved grin against his mouth, but it fades as he deepens the kiss, as he needs more, closer, Clarke.

Then he remembers they're at a train station and reigns himself in, laughing.

"That's, uh--" he starts, grinning helplessly. "Not here," he says, and she laughs too. He's never seen her look so delighted.

"I guess not." She slides her hand into his. "I told my boss my boyfriend came down to surprise me for my birthday, she said I could leave early. Do you want to go back to my place, or see one of the museums before they close?"

He squeezes her fingers. "Are you gonna be offended if I say museum?"

"Nope, I figured. Come on."

It's both familiar and unfamiliar, going through the Air and Space Museum with her. It's been almost a year, but she's Clarke, and he's been friends with her for years. They talk every day. He knows exactly how it is.

"I can't believe you lied to your boss," he admits, and she grins.

"I like to think of it as being optimistic to my boss," she says.

And that's the unfamiliar part. But it's pretty amazing too.

*

Clarke: reminder: don't freak out if I don't reply to texts tomorrow morning
because I will be on a plane

me: Reminder: only one of us has ever freaked out about a lack of texts and it was not me

Clarke: reminder: shut up

me: You're getting in at 9, right?

Clarke: yeah
you seriously don't have to come
it's stupidly early for a Saturday

me: I'm gonna be there with a really embarrassing sign.
You can't stop me, Clarke.

Clarke: I tried.
okay, since I'm also getting up stupidly early and still have to finish packing, I'm going to bed
love you

me: Love you too.
See you tomorrow.