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still a bloodstain from the spill of the war

Chapter Text

Bellamy is drowning in sweat. It's only partially because of the heat – of course the last and longest stop on his journey is a desert planet, of course – and almost entirely because of the way the guards keep glancing at him as they patrol the mile-long line for Security and Control.

It's probably- it's probably nothing. Paranoia, or his brain slowly boiling in his skull. But Bellamy didn't get this far by not trusting his instincts, and every part of his body is screaming at him to get out, get away, get free.

Except he has nowhere to go but forward. His last hope is at the end of this line, on the other side of the door, and he can't screw it up. He paid good money for this trip, put everything else in making sure his ID was good; he's got nothing left.

He gets within sight of the door to the docking station when one of the guards finally stops in front of him. “Bellamy Blake?” the guard says. He doesn't wait for confirmation. He's holding a tablet in his hand, and Bellamy doesn't need to see it to know that his face is on it. “You need to come with me.”

Bellamy considers, briefly, throwing a punch. He'd probably be able to make it to the end of the line, back out to the main area of the station, but then where would he go? The ship he got here in is long gone by now, and he won't be able to get on another one if he runs. Not that that's guaranteed if he doesn't.

Swallowing hard, Bellamy nods. The guard doesn't lay hands on him, but he doesn't need to; he motions for Bellamy to follow him, and Bellamy does.

The guard leads him through a door on the far side of the room, down a winding corridor that leads to another door, which leads to another corridor, which stops at a door that the guard has to flash his ID badge at to get it to open. He smiles when he gestures Bellamy inside; it looks impressively real. Bellamy wonders if that's part of their training.

“Someone should be along in just a few minutes,” the guard tells him once he's inside the room. “Feel free to take a seat.”

Bellamy should just nod, sit down, play obedient and docile, but he's never been very good at shoulds. “What is this about?”

“They just have a few questions for you,” the guard says. He has an honest face, open and genuine, and Bellamy wonders if that was why they picked him for this. Actually, he kind of looks like Jaha's kid, and the thought of the grand chancellor's son growing up to wear a guard's uniform in an end-of-the-line star system almost makes Bellamy smile. “Nothing serious.”

Bellamy makes himself nod, and the guard shuts him in the room. Bellamy doesn't freeze up in panic, but that's only because panic made its home in his chest the day Octavia was taken from him. All he can feel is numb.

He made sure his ID was good. He made sure.

He should've known it wouldn't matter, not in this galaxy.

He doesn't know how long he waits, but it's not a few minutes. The watch on his wrist is shitty and old and falling apart, and it has to be reset manually. He wasn't supposed to be on this planet long enough for it to be worth it. He has nothing to do but count the seconds, but it's even hotter in this room than it was in the heaving queue for the ship, and he keeps losing track of his thoughts.

He must restart the count a thousand times before the door finally opens again, but it's not the honest-looking guard, this time. There are two of them, hard-faced and broad-shouldered, and they don't even pretend at friendly before they shove him to the ground.

It's not a surprise. It's not even the first time it's happened like this, and far from the first time it's happened at all. Bellamy's smart enough to take it, to curl in on himself and not fight back; he hit the first guard to lay a hand on him, planets and planets and planets ago, and they nearly killed him. He's still not sure why they didn't.

It's not the worst beating of his life, in the end, and when they throw him out on the streets, they leave him his rucksack. It's a meagre kindness. He spent all his money on the off-worlder that he watches take off from the dumpsters behind the spaceport, and all he brought with him was his emergency supply kit and an ancient hardback book he used to read to Octavia when they were kids that he couldn't sell, didn't have the heart to throw out. He doesn't even have enough for food, water.

He's still fucking numb.

He makes himself move when the trails from the ship he should've been on finally fade, holding himself carefully so his battered body doesn't fall apart. He has to make a new plan. He has to- fuck, he has to find somewhere to sleep, somewhere safe and sheltered where he can recover. He needs money, which means he needs a job. There must be things he can do here. There are always things he can do. He can make another plan. He can find another way. He won't think about how much longer it's going to take him, how every day that passes puts yet more distance between him and Octavia, or he won't be able to keep going at all.

He starts off in a random direction, keeps an eye out for signs so he can find his way to the city. It's a slow, laborious walk, and his breath comes in less and less steady. It's only getting hotter the further into the city he gets, but he knows it's his best bet for finding shelter. He looked at enough maps before he came here to know that it's basically your typical terran export, so he should probably be able to find his way around.

It's fine. He'll be fine.

And then, in the middle of a busy street, someone touches his arm. Bellamy whirls around, burning all over with how not fine he is, ready to swing.

“Whoa,” the someone who touched him says. He's just a kid, really, probably not much older than Octavia. Bellamy doesn't back down. “Sorry, but you seriously need to stop wandering around like a clueless tourist or you're gonna get jumped.”

Bellamy still doesn't relax. “Right,” he says.

Right,” the kid says, and he has the audacity to roll his eyes at Bellamy. “I was gonna pick your pocket, actually, but you clearly have negative money on you.”

Bellamy smiles, sharp. He appreciates the kid's honesty, and anyway, even if he is trying to scam Bellamy, he's only gonna disappoint himself.

“Pretty much,” he says. “Thanks for the heads up.”

The kid nods. “Good deed for the day,” he says, and Bellamy has to laugh. It makes something in his chest feel like it slips out of place, and he can't stop himself from wincing at the pain. The kid frowns. “Looks like I was too late to stop you getting jumped, though. Can I?”

He's reached out towards Bellamy's chest, but his hands have stopped just short of touching Bellamy.

“I just want to see if anything's broken,” the kid says, and Bellamy realises that he froze, has to tell every muscle in his body to relax.

“It's fine,” he says briskly, and the kid rolls his eyes again.

“It's obviously fucking not,” he says, “but fine, okay. The hospital's that way-” He gives Bellamy a quick once-over. “Or there's a free clinic just around the corner that won't ask too many questions.”

Bellamy feels winded all over again. “Thanks,” he says again.

The kid shrugs. “Good deed for the day,” he repeats. “You cheated me out of the other one.”

Bellamy nods. “I'm Bellamy,” he offers, before he can second-guess the wisdom of giving his name to a complete stranger. To a street kid, at that. His mother would be ashamed of him, but that's nothing new.

The kid smiles. It splits his face, wipes it clean of sand and dirt, lights up his eyes. “Miller,” he says, then, after a pause, “Come on, clinic's this way.”

He starts forward like he's just expecting Bellamy to follow him, or like he doesn't care if Bellamy doesn't. Bellamy smiles despite himself, but he stays put.

“I'd rather not,” he says, and doesn't elaborate. Miller still stops. He looks Bellamy over again, and whatever he sees this time makes him nod.

“Okay,” he says, “but you've got to get checked out by somebody. If you've broken something, there could be internal bleeding.”

“I haven't,” Bellamy says, but it unsettles him that he can't be entirely sure. He takes a deep breath, then another, then says, “You were going to check, before.”

Miller nods, and Bellamy's next breath is relieved. He steers Bellamy out of the crowd with a gentle hand on his wrist, and lets go as soon as they're out of the way. His touch on Bellamy's chest is light, only vaguely pressing in, and it doesn't hurt as much as it could, all things considered.

“Not broken,” Miller says, eventually, “but it's gonna hurt for a while.” He steps back, frowning over Bellamy. “You're not a tourist, are you?”

“You get much of that here?” Bellamy says dryly, and Miller shrugs.

“You'd be surprised,” he says. “The heat draws a lot of people in. We don't get much anyone else, though, 'cause there's not much anything else.”

Bellamy shrugs, and hopes Miller assumes his wince is because of the movement. “I wasn't supposed to be staying.”

“The guards at the spaceport did this to you,” Miller guesses. Bellamy doesn't see a point in lying, so he nods. Miller's face turns stormy. “Come on.”

“What?” Bellamy says, wary, and Miller shakes his head.

“Don't say you can find your own way,” he says. “I get it, but seriously. Fuck the guards, and fuck being stranded on this shithole. You need somewhere to stay.” It's not a question, but Bellamy nods anyway. “Come on.”

He starts forward, and Bellamy thinks about staying where is, but Bellamy is tired and sore and the part of him that doesn't know how to accept help from other people feels awfully quiet in the face of this shitty, shitty day.

A breath later, Bellamy follows him.

*

The place Miller takes him to is a small settlement just on the outskirts of the main town. 'Settlement' is probably a generous term; it's a few hand-built shacks and a dozen more tents around a glorified camp fire, but Bellamy has slept in worse places. There are two girls sitting around the fire, one with her head on the other's shoulder. The one being leaned on has long braids down her back, and her hair is lighter than Octavia’s, but Bellamy still flashes on braiding his sister's hair, gets sort of stuck in the memory.

"It gets cold at night," Miller tells him, mistaking the reason for his gaze. The girls turn their heads at the sound of Miller's voice, and the one with braids gets to her feet.

"Everything all right?" she asks. Her voice is even, but her eyes are sharp on Bellamy's face.

"It's okay, Monroe," Miller says. "This is Bellamy. Bellamy, this is Harper, Monroe. He needs somewhere to stay."

"Why does somewhere have to be here?" Harper says. She's come to stand next to Monroe, her arms folded across her chest. She's not scowling at Bellamy, exactly, but she definitely doesn't look like she trusts him.

"It doesn't," Bellamy says. "Miller was kind enough to offer, but if it's going to cause problems, I can find somewhere else."

"Where," she asks. It's so blunt it doesn't sound like a question, but it isn't sharp, or cruel. Bellamy likes her instantly.

He shrugs. "I'll find somewhere," he says honestly. "I don't want to cause any trouble."

She flicks a look at Monroe, whose face is still stony. Miller coughs. Monroe sighs.

"You know we'll have to ask Lincoln," she says.

"Like Lincoln would say no," Miller says, rolling his eyes, but he doesn't explain who Lincoln is. "He'll take one look at Bellamy's injuries and bundle him into his own shack."

"Injuries?"

"The guards at the spaceport," Miller says, and that seems to mean something to the two girls, because their stances immediately open up. Bellamy raises an eyebrow, and Harper catches it, makes a hard half-smile with her mouth.

"We don't like the guards," she says. "As long as Miller vouches for you, you can stay."

"And you'll have to help out around here somehow," Monroe says. She gives him a very obvious once-over, like she thinks that'll fool Bellamy into thinking she hadn't got the full measure of him the moment she saw him. "You look pretty strong."

Bellamy shrugs. "I can do all kinds of manual labour. My last gig was in construction."

Last official gig, anyway. Bellamy skirts past the half-lie and does his best to smile.

"Excellent," Miller says. "We don't have all that much room, so you'll have to bunk up with me for now. We'll see about getting you your own space when we talk to Lincoln."

Bellamy's tired. He was just violently beaten. That's why his knees threaten to buckle, and not because of how unfamiliar the warmth in his chest feels.

He nods, and lets Miller steer him towards one of the huts. It's a simple set up inside, just a bed and some kind of storage structure that Miller opens to reveal a bundle of worn-looking fabric that he reaches into, pulling out a long brown tunic.

“You can sleep in this,” he offers, holding it out to Bellamy. “You look like you could pass out just as you are, but it'll be more comfortable than sleeping in your clothes. It used to be Lincoln's; I figure it should just about fit.”

Bellamy takes it. It's not just worn, it's falling to pieces, and Bellamy wonders how many people owned it before Lincoln passed it down to Miller. It makes the tentative warmth in his chest even warmer, and he nods.

“Who's Lincoln?” he asks. “Landlord?”

Miller laughs, and it's just as nice as his smile, the soft noise of it, the way his face lights up. “I guess you could call him that,” he says. “He takes care of us. None of us would be here without him.”

Bellamy had someone like that, once. He was kind to Bellamy and his mother, always saved them extra rations, and when he turned them into the police, he said it was for their own good.

Bellamy says nothing. Something must show on his face, because Miller takes a deep breath, holds it in his lungs for a few seconds before he exhales.

“You still look like you think I'm going to rob you,” he says.

“Negative money,” Bellamy says, trying for lighthearted, but it falls sort of flat.

“I know you're not going to believe me when I tell you you're safe here,” Miller says. “Took me a full week before I stopped sleeping with one eye open. You do what you've got to do to feel safe. As long as that's not stabbing us all in our sleep. That'd be pretty shitty of you.”

“I'm probably not going to sleep,” Bellamy tells him, because anything else feels too big, and Miller shrugs.

“Do whatever you need to do,” he says. “The bed's yours for the next couple of hours. I've got stuff I need to do. Door locks from the inside, and it's pretty flimsy, but people know what a locked door means. We do food at sunset; not sure how much we've got today, but we'll make it work.”

Bellamy grimaces. “I don't need food.”

“That is categorically false,” Miller tells him, unimpressed, and Bellamy can't help it, he puts his head down and laughs. It starts off small, a few helpless bubbles that rise up in his throat, but before long his shoulders are shaking with it, and he can't breathe, and there are tears pricking the corners of his eyes. He swallows it down, swallows, swallows, and when he looks up, Miller is watching him.

“You should get some rest,” he says, and before Bellamy can say anything in reply, ducks out of the hut.

Chapter Text

Despite what he said to Miller, Bellamy does sleep. He doesn't mean to; he changes into the tunic, mindful of his aching ribs, then climbs into Miller's bed, bringing his bag with him beneath the blanket.

He means to just close his eyes, but the last time he slept was nearly four standard days ago. Exhaustion beats fear, this time.

He wakes slowly, dream stuff lingering around the edges of his consciousness, and for a second he doesn't register where he is, what's happened. When he does, he sits up quickly, then immediately winces, remembering his battered body too late.

He must have been tossing and turning; his bag is still with him, but it's slipped down, straps hanging off the bed. Miller's hut is still empty. Bellamy casts a glance out the window; it's still light outside, and he doesn't know if he feels comfortable venturing outside just yet.

Instead, he plucks the tunic off over his head and gets out his sewing kit. He doesn't have enough of the right colour for darning, so he selects a dark brown and threads the needle. He half thinks he won't be able to do it, that his hands won't remember how to do something so precise, how to make instead of break.

He does it. The stitches start off loose and clumsy, undoing themselves even as he's trying to string them together, but he keeps going, doesn't let himself give up, and eventually, muscle memory kicks in. He supposes it was bound to; he used to be able to do this in his sleep, after all. He has one hole fully darned and has started on the next when the door opens.

“Hey,” Miller says. He's got a sack slung over his shoulder; it almost touches the ground, and it looks pretty full from where Bellamy's sitting. “You didn't lock the door.”

Bellamy shrugs. Miller shakes his head, and Bellamy thinks he's going to be gently chastised again, but instead Miller says, “You're not wearing a shirt.”

“Oh,” Bellamy says. He doesn't know what kind of social norms this planet has, didn't bother researching, should've bothered, should've, should've. “Is that a problem?”

“No, I- of course not,” Miller says, no trace of the quiet confidence he's displayed so far. Bellamy frowns, and Miller looks determinedly over Bellamy's shoulder. “I just- my tunic.”

“I was fixing it,” Bellamy says, holding it up in one hand, his still-threaded needle in the other. “Trying to, anyway. The damn thing's more hole than fabric.”

Miller laughs, and whatever tension he carried in with him rolls out of his shoulders. “Fuck you too, see if I give you any more of my prized possessions.”

Bellamy smiles. Miller drops the sack in a tiny space by the cupboard, and it makes a clinking sound, like metal on metal. He comes over to the bed, perches next to where Bellamy's sitting.

“You should've said you could sew when Monroe was saying about working,” he says, admiration in his voice. “Can you, like, sew your own clothes too?”

Bellamy shrugs. “Sure,” he says, even though it's been years, and there's a world of difference between fixing up a tattered tunic and making another one from nothing. Miller's looking at him with something soft in his eyes, and Bellamy wants to keep it there. “What's in the sack?”

“Just stuff I couldn't sell,” Miller says. “You find a lot of useless shit when you're scavenging, and sometimes it's useless shit people want, but usually it's just useless shit. We aren't the dumping ground of the galaxy for nothing.”

"That what you do? Scavenge?"

Miller grins. "Sometimes," he says. "Mostly it's the much more illegal version. Lincoln doesn't exactly approve, but it's not like we've got a lot of other options."

"You do what you have to do to survive," Bellamy agrees, and the soft look on Miller's face turns even softer.

"Yeah," he says, then coughs. "The food bell is gonna go in about two minutes, by the way. It's three short rings, not to be confused with the mayday bell, which is three long rings."

"I-"

"If you say you don't need food again, I'm dragging you out of here myself."

Bellamy grins. "I was gonna say I'll just put on a shirt," he says, and Miller's eyes flicker downward for a brief moment before he drags them back up to Bellamy's face.

"Right," Miller says, and turns his back until Bellamy's finished changing.

Chapter Text

There's quite a crowd gathered around the fire when they leave Miller's hut. Bellamy recognises Harper and Monroe from before, talking to someone on the edge of the circle. Miller seems to notice them at the same time that Bellamy does and veers sharply towards them. Bellamy follows.

For all Miller's apparent friendliness and Harper and Monroe’s... whatever their thing is, Bellamy expects to be frozen out. Which is fine by him – he's not staying here. He doesn't need them to like him.

Instead, Miller says, “Bellamy can make us new clothes,” and Harper immediately lights up.

“We haven't had new clothes in ages,” Harper says.

“Since before I ended up in this shit hole,” Monroe agrees.

“So we're agreed, right,” Miller says, and the two girls nod.

“Agreed on what?” Bellamy asks, looking between the three of them.

“That's how you'll chip in around here,” Miller says. “You're too beat up to do much manual work, and we've got other people who can do that.”

“I'm not that bad,” Bellamy says, and Miller scoffs.

“You can't lie to me, I've seen you with your shirt off,” he says. Harper laughs, and Bellamy thinks he sees Miller's cheeks turn pink before he scowls at her. “Get your mind out of the gutter, McIntyre, I lent him my tunic and he was fixing it up.”

“Everyone round here has stuff they need fixed up,” Monroe says. “Fuck, I think Charlotte's still wearing the same clothes she had when we found her.”

“Hey Charlotte,” Harper calls, and Bellamy's not sure what he's expecting, but it isn't a literal child wandering over to them, dirty pigtails and dirtier shirt that's clearly several sizes too small.

“Hi,” Charlotte says. She sticks close to Harper, wary gaze on Bellamy. “Who's this?”

“Some guy Miller adopted,” Harper says, and Miller snorts. “Say hi, Bellamy.”

“Hi,” Bellamy says, as gentle as he remembers how. “They said you need new clothes.”

Charlotte nods, plucks at the shirt she's wearing, but doesn't say anything else.

“I'm gonna be fixing people's clothes,” Bellamy says. “I could make you something, if you want.”

Charlotte nods again. “Do we have any fabric?” she asks, glancing round at them all.

“Uh,” Miller says. “We can find some?”

Bellamy can't hold in his amusement. “Wouldn't it be easier to, uh, find some ready-made clothes?”

Harper laughs, and Miller rolls his eyes. “Finding ready-made clothes is a lot harder than finding scrap.”

“We do actually have a bunch of shit that was found,” Harper says, “I think it's sitting in someone's hut because none of it fit anyone.”

“I can work with that,” Bellamy says, and just like that, it seems, he's part of the gang. Charlotte sits down with them between Harper and Bellamy, and when food gets handed out, she passes a bowl to him and smiles shyly.

Her approval, it seems, melts the last of the ice. More people come over to their part of the circle, and Bellamy gets a whole stream of names he has no hope of remembering and a separate stream of clothing orders, varying in terms of realism, that Monroe promises she'll record somehow.

The mysterious Lincoln never appears, and Bellamy doesn't ask, doesn't want to disturb this quiet peace he's arrived at, but it niggles at him, enough that he can't focus on the story Harper is telling about escaping a pack of sand shrews. He looks down, and realises Charlotte has fallen asleep on him - he stopped noticing her weight against his side hours ago, the slight pain in his chest from the pressure.

He looks up. “Where does Charlotte sleep?” he asks Miller, who glances at him, face softening when his eyes light on Charlotte.

“You can wake her up. Her tent's just over there.”

Bellamy shakes his head. “I can carry her. It's okay.”

Miller's face is still so soft. “Sure,” he says.

Charlotte stirs when Bellamy picks her up into his arms, but she relaxes almost instantly, doesn't move again until he's tucking her into her bedroll. She turns onto her side, hand balling into a fist, her eyes closed, her breathing even.

Bellamy backs out of the tent, lacing it closed. Miller's standing next to it, watching him.

“Guess I'll just,” Bellamy says, and gestures in the vague direction of the unoccupied ground next to Charlotte's tent. He doesn't have anything to sleep on, and he doesn't presume the camp has anything to offer him in the way of bedding, even if he could bring himself to ask for it.

“We're not gonna make you sleep on the fucking ground,” Miller says, “fuck, there'll be a spare tent somewhere, or-” He breaks off, looks away, licks his lips. When he looks back at Bellamy, his eyes are dark. Bellamy's heart starts to pound.

“Or?”

Miller steps forward, into Bellamy's space. He touches Bellamy's elbow, breathes Bellamy's air, then kisses him. It's a slow, needy thing, something desperate about the way Miller's hands grip Bellamy's arms, pull their bodies flush together, and Bellamy leans into it. There's nothing like being wanted.

“That wasn't,” Miller says, catching his breath. They're still standing so close together, Bellamy steadying him with an arm around his waist. “You don't have to-”

“I know,” Bellamy says.

“You're not sleeping outside,” Miller says, and Bellamy shakes his head, says, “I'm not.”