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darling, just hold my hand

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The first time she notices it, they’re planning a foraging trip. People are bustling about outside of the bunker area, mostly going about their own business.

“I think I should go with you,” he says, hands resting on his hips. “For a little extra protection. Just in case.”

They made peace with the mining colony a week ago, but everyone is still a little wary, always watching the tree line. She knows he’s still especially on edge, so she reaches over and picks up his hand, holding it tightly. “I think that’s a good idea.”

He glances around for a moment before returning his attention to hers. Even though he smiles and gives her palm a squeeze, he lets go immediately after and then says that he’ll go get the group ready.

At first, she thinks it’s just that this is still new. He could still be getting used to this recently formed relationship that they stumbled ungracefully into only two weeks ago.

It had been messy, an argument about her going to visit the mining colony alone. He’d yelled and asked her what she had been thinking, and, feeling like a stubborn child, she’d crossed her arms over her chest and asked why it mattered so much.

His eyes had flashed with something that definitely wasn’t anger.

And he’d kissed her, pressed her back into the wall of the room they were in, mouth desperate and hands firm on her face. She’d grasped his shirt and held on, overwhelmed with the feeling of him being so close and understanding with an abrupt, aching clarity why it mattered.

(She felt stupid, because everything kind of clicked all at once—his grip when they’d been reunited a few weeks before, the way he’d since refused to leave her side—and it all suddenly made sense.)

“I spent six years thinking you were dead,” he’d whispered after pulling away, thumbs stroking her cheeks. His voice had been shaky, his forehead against hers as he caught his breath. She remembers it breaking something inside of her, the way his tone had faltered on his words. Her grip had tightened in his shirt. “I can’t lose you again.”

It had taken her a second, but she’d nodded, pulling him back down for a gentler press of their lips. She tried not to think about how easy it was, how seamlessly he melted against her kiss. “Okay. I’m sorry. I won’t do it again, not without telling you first.” 

Now, even as she watches him walk away, she knows that his discomfort isn’t for lack of affection. She assumes that he’s still getting used to it, still adjusting to his co-leader also being his girlfriend.

But then she comes up to him one morning and presses herself to his side, kissing his cheek, and he blushes. Raven is watching them, and Murphy is smirking, but otherwise, the action seems to have gone unnoticed. Still, Bellamy’s cheeks are pink and she would think it’s the cutest thing if he didn’t look so uncomfortable.

“Are you okay?” she asks, tilting her head up at him.

“Yeah, I just…” His eyes flick to the people around them, and it clicks.

“Public displays of affection not really your thing, huh?”

He seems to physically deflate when he realizes that she understands, the tension leaving his shoulders as he laughs a little breathily. Rubbing a hand over his face, he glances at her and gives her a small shrug. “Not really. I mean… I don’t know. I guess I don’t like the idea of people watching us… be like that.”

Smirking just a little, she loops an arm low on his hips, standing on her tip toes until her mouth is at his ear. “What if I just can’t help myself?”

He moans a little, low in his throat. “Clarke,” he warns, and she can hear him swallow. “Please don’t.”

She rolls her eyes just a little, but relents, taking a half step away from him, her arm coming back to her side. He smiles at her, eyes still dark from her teasing.

“Later,” he promises, and, to his credit, he wraps his fingers around her wrist and squeezes for just a second before walking away.

Testing her limits becomes her favorite pastime with nothing else going on. She likes pushing him, seeing how much she can touch him before he shoots her a look, before he gets uncomfortable enough for that adorable pink tint to rise on his cheeks. One day in particular, she wraps her arms around his hips and tilts her face up at him, her lips pressing to the underside of his jaw right after a meeting to decipher when a hunting group will go out.

Everyone is around, still lingering, and he huffs, one of his hands coming up to gently cup her elbow. He shifts his hips, putting a little bit of space back between them. “Clarke.” He sounds a little exasperated, and she can see him looking over her shoulder. “Why do you enjoy this so much?”

She grins, laughing a little even as she lets him go. His eyes are narrowed but there’s only a little heat behind it—a little annoyance but not anger. “One, I like touching you. Sorry, not sorry. And two…” She reaches up her hand to brush her fingers over his cheeks. They’re warm. “It wouldn’t so bad if you weren’t so cute when you’re embarrassed.”

That makes him blush harder, eyes flicking to the ground before meeting her eyes again. She shrugs, but he’s losing his battle—she can see the corners of his mouth twitching until he finally smiles, shaking his head.

“You’re the worst, princess.”

“Love you, too,” she murmurs just loud enough for him, winking when he huffs and then walking away before he can say anything else. Even so, she doesn’t miss the way his eyes had sparkled just a little at her words.

(Their firsts had been a week ago, with her tucked into his side and his fingers tracing patterns on her bare waist. He’d kissed her nose and murmured “I love you”, and she’d smiled, pressing her reciprocation above his heart.)

After some time, he starts being better about little things. He gets to the point that quick kisses on the cheek seem fine, and she takes full advantage of that new discovery. She finds that her favorite spot is just under the apple of them, where his dimples show up when he smiles.

He’ll hold her hand for longer, only pulling away if someone comes up to talk to them directly, even though a look from her mom or Octavia still puts a little bit of a tint on his face.

Anything more and he clams up, steps away from her or finds an excuse to go somewhere else. Every time, though, he tugs her into his embrace that night when they go to sleep, lips pressing to her forehead in a way that’s so affectionate she always snuggles closer.

He always tells her he loves her in the morning, and she returns the sentiment. He’ll kiss her just before they leave their room, and then she just takes her moments where she can find them. She gets tiny pecks here and there if they’re the last to leave an area, her cheek kisses are given whenever she gets a chance, and she tries to hold his hand as often as he’ll let her.

She doesn’t care that he isn’t into public affection. It doesn’t affect that they have settled back into a pattern of co-leadership, leaning on each other for decision making more than ever. Everyone still looks to them for help, still recognizes them as being in charge. It doesn’t take away from the fact that he loves her, and that she loves him.

Even so, he’s leaving with a few of the other guys and Indra one day and they haven’t said goodbye yet, so she follows him toward the outskirts of camp, hands tucked into her back pockets.

“It shouldn’t take more than a few days, we’re just going to the river and back. Hopefully we’ll find resources that make it worth the time.”

Clarke nods, already feeling sad that he’s leaving at all, that she isn’t going with him. They had decided that she was needed here more, that the group they were going with was solid. There is no reason to worry, no reason for her to go with them.

He glances around, and she knows he’s seeing how many people are around. It’s something she’s gotten used to. All that she sees is the group leaving with him and a small handful of other people scattered about. None of them are looking in their direction.

When he looks back at her, he smiles and says, “I’ll miss you” in a way that makes her heart tug in her chest.

But he just reaches up and wraps a quick arm around her shoulder, pulling her into his body for a moment before turning to walk away. She’d barely gotten the chance to tuck her head under his chin and hug him back, and then he’d been gone.

Hurt and irritation flare up in her chest, and she speaks before he’s even fully turned around.

“Bellamy.” 

He turns, raising a brow. She vaguely acknowledges that the rest of the hunting group has paused and are watching from a few yards behind him, waiting. “Yeah?”

She shakes her head, shrugging as she tries to fight the stinging sensation in her eyes. She will not cry about this. “I know you don’t like public displays of affection, but… you’re really not going to kiss me goodbye?”

Her attempts to keep the sadness out of her voice fail, and she knows he hears it. She can tell in the way that his eyes flash, the way his brows furrow in concern. Still, he glances around, and she sighs, looking away from him as tears burn her vision despite her best efforts.

She tries to tell herself it doesn’t matter, but her chest is aching anyway, the pain sharp and focused. But he needs to go, has a job to do, so she takes a deep breath and does her best to keep her voice level when she speaks.

This is just something she’ll have to learn to be okay with.

“Nevermind, it’s fine. I’ll see you in a few days. Love you.”

She finds his eyes again, but even though he seems distressed, he doesn’t seem to be making any moves back toward her. So, she gives him a wave and her best attempt at a smile before turning to walk back toward the rest of camp. She thinks she’ll find her mom, or maybe Raven, someone who will tell her that she isn’t crazy but also help her just accept this as part of being with Bellamy.

But she doesn’t make it three steps before a hand has grabbed her elbow and turned her back around, before a body is pressed flush against hers, before Bellamy is kissing her. One of his hands threads into her hair and the other winds around her waist, holding her so that there is no space between their bodies.

All of conscious thought slips away as she melts against him, the reaction to his touch automatic—her arms wrap around his torso and she tilts her head to give him better access to her mouth. It lets him flick his tongue out against her bottom lip, deepening the kiss. Then, he doesn’t stop, not for a moment so long that she starts to wonder if other people are staring, if they should stop before someone says something.

When they separate, his heavy breathing matches hers. She expects him to pull away as soon as the adrenaline has faded, as soon as he realizes exactly what he’s done, but instead, he rests his forehead against hers, eyes still closed. Then, he brings his other hand up to mirror the one already at her neck, cupping her face.

And he kisses her again, this one just a soft press of his lips, full of affection so strong that she trembles a little in his grip. “I’ll see you soon,” he whispers, thumbs brushing over her jaw before he finally pulls away.

She’s still shocked, breath coming in short gasps, hands hanging in the air in front of her where he just was. When their eyes meet, he smirks. Backing away, he winks at her. “I love you, princess.”

He doesn’t scream it, doesn’t yell it so loud that the whole camp can hear, but with the attention that their kiss attracted, she knows that people heard him. And she knows he knows it.

She opens her mouth to return the sentiment, but he’s already turned on his heel and headed away, catching up with the rest of the group, one of which wiggles their eyebrows at him. She expects it to make him uncomfortable, but he shoves their shoulder and shakes his head, laughing.  

Two and a half days later, the group comes back with a few fish and some edible plants. She figures that things will go back to the way that they were, that his kiss from before was a one-time occurrence. So, he surprises her again when he wraps her in an embrace as soon as he sees her, both arms tightening around her waist. His face buries in her neck and she just clings to his shoulders, trying to figure out what changed or, more accurately, who this new person is and what he did with her boyfriend.  

When he pulls away, his smile is sweet, only turning into a smirk when she raises a curious eyebrow. “What?”

“Where is this coming from?” she asks, glancing around at the people walking by, even though most aren’t paying them much attention.

He shrugs a little, and there’s a little bit of his embarrassment. His eyes flick to the side and behind her head before settling back on her. “Before, I guess I just wanted things between us to just be between us. The idea of other people watching or anything…”

At his hesitation, she smiles. “Made you adorably uncomfortable.”

“A little.” His chuckle is breathy. He reaches up, slowly, tangling his fingers into the hair at her neck. “It had nothing to do with how I felt about you. I love you.”

She knows that, of course, but she still feels a rush of joy at the words, so easily slipping off of his tongue. “I know.”

“But I guess seeing how much it upset you the other day…” And his eyes dim just a little, and she recognizes the emotion clouding his features as guilt. She rubs her thumb up and down on his back, soothing. He smiles. “It gave me a different perspective, I guess. If you like it, if it makes you happy… then it’s something I can get used to. For you.”

His eyes flick down for a moment on a shrug, his lips tilting up in a lopsided smile. “I’d pretty much do anything for you,” he adds, meeting her eyes again almost shyly.  

Her heart is swelling with love and warmth that makes it hard to breathe, so she reaches up on her tip toes, carefully pressing her lips to his. She doesn’t linger too long, pulling away after just a moment. He doesn’t seem to care, his eyes crinkling around the edges as he smiles.

“Maybe we can find a happy place somewhere in between,” she suggests, twisting her fingers into the hair at his neck.

He nods, tugging on one of her curls and grinning. “Sounds good to me.”

When they step away from each other, she reaches out to pick up his hand, feeling incredibly giddy at the way his fingers curl around hers easily.

(She’s not sure how she ever convinced herself that the alternative was better.)

“Oh, and I love you, too, by the way.” She grins up at him, leaning into his side as they walk.

The smirk he shoots her is affectionate, his eyes sparkling just a little as he squeezes her palm. He presses his response against her temple with a kiss, a whisper against her skin that makes goosebumps rise on her flesh. “Yeah, Princess. I know.”