Bellamy really does try to wield his abilities well.
“With great power comes great opportunity,” Octavia says when he tells her about his discovery, after making him guess what number she’s thinking of approximately seven hundred times.
“That’s not how the quote goes. And I’m not a superhero.”
“Yeah, but you’re already plenty responsible. I’m not suggesting you rob a bank or anything, I’m just asking if you could take a peek in Atom’s mind and tell me–”
“I’m not doing it, O. It’s an invasion of privacy.”
And he stands by that policy as much as he can.
He doesn’t use his telepathy to cheat on math tests, even when he knows he’ll fail them. He doesn’t use it to find out his friends’ secrets before they’re ready to tell him. He does use it from time to time to make sure Octavia is going to be where she says she’s going to be, but he always warns her before he just goes ahead and sifts through her mind.
Because that’s what it really is: intentionally picking through half-baked ideas and unfiltered thoughts. Every now and then, he’ll touch on something so potent, it’s nothing more than wordless emotion, and that shakes him enough the first few times he finds ways to carefully avoid them.
It’s not a cacophony of voices, shouting across a void between their minds and his; it’s an open door he can step through anytime he wants. But it feels the same to him as if they’d left open the front doors to their homes: sure, he could go inside and take a look around, even take something with him, but he hasn’t been invited, isn’t welcome, wouldn’t feel right about it.
So he stays out of other people’s heads.
Then he meets Clarke Griffin.
From the moment he meets her, she both infuriates and intrigues him. She’s a walking juxtaposition: a shiny princess with tarnished edges, a cool fury, a brilliant disaster. For the first time since he discovered his abilities, he wants to wade into her mind and untangle every unpredictable impulse, every unexpected insight, until he understands her.
But he doesn’t. No matter how tempted he is, he refuses to cross that line.
For a long while, he’s successful. He tries to figure her out like any normal person might: by befriending her, by carefully cataloguing the bits and pieces of herself she offers to him, by learning her slowly. The hard way.
It’s almost second nature, holding himself back, until one fateful night when she’s at the bar, grabbing another round, and gets cornered by a douchey-looking guy. He’s talking a lot and she’s giving him what Bellamy has come to know as her ‘shut the hell up’ face, a signal the guy is clearly not picking up on.
So he reaches out tentatively from across the room, just to make sure she doesn’t need any backup.
“Dickwad,” she’s thinking, resounding clear and bright, and it makes him smile to himself. “If he doesn’t shut up about Adam Sandler in the next thirty seconds, I’m gonna punch him in the nuts.”
He snorts, then looks around at his friends to make sure it went unnoticed. Because, of course, no one else heard that. Raven and Harper are swindling people at the pool table, and he’s lucky that Wells and Lincoln are busy on Wikipedia, trying to understand the rules of cricket, or else he might have to explain what was so funny.
He’s reaching out again when she turns, speaking firmly to the douchey guy and pointing in the direction of her friends. Bellamy makes eye contact with her and raises his glass in acknowledgement. She fights a smile and thinks, “How does he do that? Damn mind reader with his stupid cute face,” which is enough to slacken Bellamy’s jaw until she lifts the drinks and starts navigating the crowd to return to their table.
“That looked like a fun conversation,” he says when she gets back. He’s honestly impressed he could come up with something to say, having only her short trip across the room to work around his shock.
“Oh, yeah. I love it when strangers take it upon themselves to soliloquize about something I’m expressing zero interest in.”
“Monologue,” Bellamy corrects reflexively. “It’s a monologue when it’s a speech given to an audience; soliloquy is when it’s a character talking to his or herself.”
“Two things, real quick. First, and I mean this with my whole heart–” She dips her fingers into her glass of water and flicks droplets in his face. “You are such a nerd.” He scrunches his nose in response, but he’s smiling, so he thinks the effect is mostly lost. “Second, it might as well have been a soliloquy for all I was paying attention.”
“Fair enough. On both counts.”
As much as he’d like to take the moral high ground, Bellamy can’t deny that the small taste he’s gotten of Clarke’s mind has done nothing more than whet his appetite. He finds it harder to talk himself out of listening in, finds himself eavesdropping on her thoughts more and more.
But what really surprises him is how unsurprising her thoughts are. He’s so used to trying to guess what she’s thinking, so used to evaluating her body language and facial expressions, so used to deciphering what she’s saying to figure out what she really means, that he often already knows where her mind is. Sure, her phrasing is a little different than what he might guess, but he hadn’t realized how deep his understanding of her really runs.
Before Clarke, seeking any singular thought had proved difficult, often fruitless, like searching for hidden treasure at the bottom of a swamp. Minds, Bellamy had found, are rarely honed in on one thing in particular. The brain constantly regulates the functions of the rest of the body, constantly interacts with stimuli and figures out how to respond. Yet with Clarke’s mind, he somehow knows exactly where to look, and hears them clear as a bell.
For instance, when they’re watching Grey’s Anatomy, he knows just where to go in her head to hear her running critique of their understanding of hospitals. He doesn’t even need to listen in, really, except that he’s only watching with her because he enjoys listening to her rant about it. Just like he knows that she watches procedurals with him for the same reason.
She doesn’t explicitly say or think as much, but at this point he pretty much keeps one foot in the door of her mind. When he really gets going he can sense a rosy fondness coloring her thoughts.
She doesn’t give it words, but it’s there just the same. He can feel it hovering at the edges of her mind when she’s listening to Monty and Jasper trash-talk each other during Uno, when she catches Lincoln watching Octavia with what Bellamy considers a nauseating look on his face, when she and Raven are firing comebacks at each other, when Wells’s name and photo pop up on the screen of her phone.
But he feels it strongest when it’s just the two of them, or maybe that’s because he feels it within himself at those same moments. When they share a knowing look across their circle of friends, when she shows up at his door the first really warm day of the year to drag him out for ice cream, when she’s drunk and leaning on him for stability.
Every time, he feels like every nerve in his body has lit up, because his telepathy isn’t the only thing he’s grown accustomed to holding back over the years.
And then one night, he’s the one who gets drunk. He doesn't mean to tell Clarke about his abilities. He really blames Miller, since he was the one who insisted that Bellamy can’t hold his liquor as well now as he could when he was in college. Just because it's true doesn't make that Bellamy's fault.
“Come on, grandpa,” Clarke teases, slipping one of his arms over her shoulders, waving Octavia off as she goes.
“This would be so much easier if I was a couple inches taller. Or if he was a couple drinks more sober,” she thinks, and he tries to clear his head and focus on the steps he’s taking.
“Sorry,” he mumbles as she guides him gently into her passenger seat.
“For getting drunk?” She asks, but she doesn’t sound annoyed. Mostly just amused.
“For being too heavy.”
“You should be. You’ve really let yourself go in your old age.”
He turns his head to smile at her blearily, and hears her think, “You gotta quit lying, Griffin. Even plastered, he’s hotter now than he was in college.”
His grin overtakes his face.
“I didn’t let myself go. You think I’m hot.”
“Oh, do I?” He can’t really see straight, but as the car passes under a streetlamp he thinks he sees a flush in her cheeks.
“You sound pretty sure of yourself.”
“I just heard you think it,” he says, his eyes drooping as he turns to rest his forehead against the cold window.
He feels her mind processing, and then she thinks, “He’s messing with me.”
“Not messing with you. And yeah, that one was a gimme,” he adds, as she thinks the same thing, “But I’m really for real. The realest.”
“Alright, Iggy. You’re really drunk is what you are,” she says, while the gears in her head turn, trying to figure out what joke he’s playing.
“Try me.” He forces his eyes open and turns to look at her. She’s frowning at the road ahead.
She pauses, thinking through different questions she could ask him to test him, and he sighs.
“Your favorite food is waffles, your dad’s name was Jake, and you used to want to be a professional figure skater, but you have to ask me something I don’t already know about you, Princess.” He can tell he’s stumbling over his words, but they seem to be affecting Clarke anyway. He tilts his head, listening. “Okay, now you’re just reciting the lyrics to Bust a Move.”
“Shit. He can literally read my mind.”
“Yeah, I literally can.”
She puts the car in park and he realizes they’re at her house. She unbuckles them both and comes around the car to give him a hand.
“What if he– shit. No.”
She’s silent both in thought and speech as she helps him into the house, depositing him on her couch and leaving to go find a blanket. Instead of the familiar warmth of her mind, he feels a frosty distance, and he’s suddenly hit with a pang of regret. His drunken haze had already begun to dissipate, but this breaks through completely and he steps out of her mind for good.
“I’m sorry,” he says when she comes back.
“Intruding,” he says, pushing himself into an upright, sitting position. “I’m out of your head, and I’ll stay out from now on. I know it’s an asshole move. I try so hard not to use my abilities.”
“Why?” He frowns, trying to figure out what she means, and she bites her lip, sitting next to him on the couch. “I mean, life hasn’t exactly been fair to you. I know if I was in your shoes, I probably would have used any natural gifts I had to get a leg up in the world. Or is it natural? Did you get bitten by any radioactive animals? Are you an alien? Did you fall into a vat of Chemical X?”
“Nothing like that,” Bellamy laughs. “I just wondered one day what my mom was thinking when she– when she made bad decisions. And the next second I just kind of knew.” She slides a hand in his and he looks down at them in surprised. Another juxtaposition: pale skin against brown, large and small intertwined. “Octavia always thought I should use my abilities more than I do, but it felt like cheating. I wanted to earn what I have.”
“Yeah, that sounds like you,” she says, leaning her head against his shoulder. He can barely see her face, but he thinks her eyes are closed.
“You don’t really believe me yet, do you?”
“I thought you said you were out of my head.”
“I didn’t have to read your mind to know that,” he scoffs. “You’re a skeptic and a scientist. And I’ve been drinking. I know you, and I know it’s gonna take some time before you’re convinced.”
“Don’t be.” His own eyes drift shut. “For you, I’ve got all the time in the world.”
The next morning, he wakes up with a crick in his neck, numb fingers where Clarke’s grip is too tight, and his mouth full of blonde hair. He also has a pounding head and a lot of regrets about how much he had to drink the night before, but what he remembers of his revelation to Clarke isn’t one of them.
He disentangles himself and rearranges her so she’s more comfortably situated, excusing himself to the bathroom and then to the kitchen to see if he can come up with some kind of apology breakfast. Clarke sleeps like the dead, but if there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to wake her, it’s the smell of chocolate chip waffles.
Sure enough, the first batch in the iron rouses her and she stumbles into the kitchen.
“Aren’t you hungover?”
“Very much so,” he mumbles. She buries her head in the back of his shirt, her arms coming to wrap around his waist. “Uh, are you hungover? I didn’t think you drank that much last night.”
“Like you were able to keep track. I’m just– there’s a lot happening in my brain right now. Too much for it to be before noon on a Saturday.”
“You need to talk about it some more?” He offers, feeling guilty. He can pretty much guess what’s running through her mind; it’s the same thing that’s been running through his all morning. “Or give me some real tests? Not like– studying my DNA or anything, unless you think that would help. I meant like–”
“I know what you meant,” she laughs. “I don’t want to test it. Not yet, anyways.”
She doesn’t respond immediately, and for a moment he’s worried she won’t give an answer at all. Strangely, he’s not tempted to step through that open door and find out for himself. He meant what he said the night before.
“I’m scared it might be true.”
He frowns and unplugs the waffle iron, turning in her grasp to wrap his arms around her. They don’t really do this much, this casual physicality, and if it becomes the new norm for their friendship he might really struggle to keep his emotions in check.
“Clarke Griffin, scared? Doesn’t sound like you.”
She laughs weakly into his chest.
“If it’s true… Who knows what you might have heard?”
He’s not so presumptuous to think he knows all of her secrets, but he’d gotten so wrapped up in how much was familiar in her mind that he forgot there might be things she doesn’t want him to touch.
“I don’t think I ever heard anything you haven’t already told me,” he says slowly. “And if it helps, I think you pretty much know everything about me after last night.”
“Bellamy.” She pulls back to look at his face. “What am I thinking right now?”
“You sure you want me to–”
“Just do it,” she says, her voice strained.
He steps into her thoughts and there’s nothing distinct. Nothing articulated, nothing specific, but the rosy feeling is there and it’s overwhelming, more present than ever. He’s shied away from it in the past, but this time it calls to him.
What it contains nearly knocks him over.
“Oh,” he breathes, breaking the connection.
“Yeah.” She bites the inside of her cheek nervously. “If I really know everything about you, then maybe– Then that’s the reason I–”
He kisses her then, because he can’t give voice to his own thoughts, because she can’t read his mind, because he can’t think of any other way to tell her he feels the same way. She makes a startled noise at first, exhales in relief, and pulls him closer.
“Okay,” she breathes, laughing as his lips find her pulse point. “I think I believe you now.”
They’re eating the waffles on her couch with her feet in his lap, his hand resting lightly on her leg as she suggests ways he could profit off his abilities, when his words finally find him.
“I love you.”
She smiles at him and scoots forward to press her lips to his. She tastes like chocolate and whipped cream and she doesn’t think he’s crazy, doesn’t hate him for overstepping his bounds. All in all, telling Clarke his secret went much better than he anticipated.
“Does that mean you’re cool with letting Raven build you a pretend telepathy helmet and taking this show on the road?”
“Can I use a crystal ball instead?”
“We're living in the future, Bellamy. A crystal ball might be too obviously fake.” She kisses him again. “I love you too.”
“I know,” he grins. It’s basically the best thing ever, and he’s glad he heard the words come out of her mouth instead of her thoughts.
“Mind readers. You think you know everything.”
“Not everything. Telepathy or no telepathy, I just know you.”
She smiles and readjusts so she’s snuggled into his side.
“You know me,” she confirms. “And that’s way better.”
Bellamy couldn’t agree more.