Most of the time, Clarke knows that conferences aren’t the hardest part of grad school, grad school is the hardest part of grad school.
But she’s standing in a room full of people by far her senior, about to present research she’s only just finished that isn’t even peer-reviewed yet, and it definitely feels like conferences are the hardest part of grad school. Especially when her adviser catches her eye from the third row and levels her with a look that’s probably intended to be supporting but comes off more don’t you dare disappoint me.
The session chair dims the lights, and the handful of heartbeats between Clarke’s name being announced and the polite applause dying down seem interminable. Taking a deep breath, she launches into the presentation she practiced in front of her hotel room mirror.
Clarke finishes her presentation, and the applause isn’t as raucous as it was for the big-name keynote speakers, but no one looks bored or asleep or otherwise disappointed. People start to get up, milling around the room and heading to different sessions, and the tension slowly starts to drain from her body. She’s just started to pack up her things when a voice interrupts her.
“Excuse me, I had a question.”
Heat floods Clarke’s face. She’d know that voice anywhere.
“Bellamy.” Clarke turns to face Bellamy Blake, and her blush deepens as she remembers the last time they were in a lecture theatre together at a conference, three years ago. It was their senior year, they had just heard the last presentation of a student conference they’d spent months organising, and they were taking full advantage of being alone together for the first time in three days.
Bellamy closes the door after the last of the conference attendees, turning the lock and winking at Clarke when it clicked. She hops up onto the lectern next to her, raising her eyebrows in an unspoken challenge. He’s next to her in a flash, planting his hands on either side of her hips, kissing her like he’s drowning and she’s his oxygen.
“I’ve been thinking about this since you gave the opening remarks here,” Clarke says, her voice breathy between kisses.
Bellamy’s answering voice is so low, it’s practically a growl. “Oh yeah? Which part?”
“Me on the lectern,” she says, tugging the buttons of his shirt open so she can kiss his neck. “Your hands—”
“Here?” he asks, sliding a hand up her thigh under the pleated skirt that nearly killed him when he saw it that morning. He swears softly under his breath when he realises she’s wearing stockings, not tights.
“Yeah,” Clarke breathes. “And—”
“Here?” he asks again, reaching around to cup her ass, pulling her closer.
Clarke sighs. “Yeah, and—”
“Here?” he asks a third time, pushing her underwear aside.
Clarke whines. “Yeah, and your—” Her words are cut off by a moan when Bellamy unzips and slides into her.
After that conference, she had wanted to upgrade their relationship from friends with benefits to something more, but they’d been accepted to grad schools on opposite ends of the country and it just didn’t seem like the right time.
She hasn’t seen him in almost three years, but she still knows him well enough to know he’s also thinking about their last shared conference. After what seems like an eternity but is probably only a few moments, she clears her throat. “Uh, you had a question?”
Bellamy smiles, and it looks dangerous, like it’ll get her into trouble somehow. “Are you coming to the wine reception at the conference hotel tonight?”
Sounds like I’ll be coming at the wine reception tonight, she thinks, but stops herself before saying it out loud. “I was planning to, yeah.” This is a blatant lie; because she usually hates all conference social events, especially at conferences where she doesn’t know anybody her own age. But she knows Bellamy, he’s roughly her age, and she doesn’t think they’ll be doing much networking or general hobnobbing. “Are you staying at the hotel?” she adds.
“No, everyone from my department is booked at a place a few blocks away.”
Clarke smirks. “I’ve got a room at the conference hotel, so I guess I’ll see you there then.” She pushes past him, heading for the door. “Looking forward to it,” she tosses over her shoulder when she’s halfway out the door, and spends the brief walk from the university campus to the hotel thinking about what to wear to the reception and what to leave in her hotel room.
She makes her way down to the reception a little after it officially starts. Tonight is not a night she wants to be the first person in the room and get caught talking to an old-timer who can’t tell when people are genuinely interested in what he’s saying and when their pleasantly amused expressions are masks only pretending to be awake.
Bellamy’s there already, standing by a pillar and checking his phone. She sidles up to him, leaning up to whisper in his ear. “Boo.”
He doesn’t jump, but his eyes darken when he turns to look at her. “Hi.”
Clarke grins. She hadn’t packed for a reunion with her former, very attractive friend with benefits, but she’d made it work. Either he’d come a lot more prepared than she had, or she was still as attracted to him as ever, because the sight of him in his suit mostly made her want to remove it with her teeth.
“How long do you think we need to stick around before we’ve acceptably showed our faces?” she asks.
Bellamy laughs, delighted. “Well, I’ve been here for almost half an hour, so I think I’m good. You, on the other hand…” His voice sends shivers down her spine.
“Luckily I don’t really care all that much,” she replies, taking his hand and pulling him out of the room.
They’re barely out the door when he stops her, tugging on their joined hands. He pushes her against the wall and she reaches up to kiss him, familiar as breathing even after three years apart.
“Hi,” he whispers again when he pulls back. Her hands are in his hair, and his have found their way under her shirt, playing at the waistband of her skirt.
She’s about to pull him back down again when a professor she vaguely recognises walks past, frowning at them.
“Maybe we should—” Bellamy starts to say, stopping when Clarke holds something up in front of his face.
“I did tell you I have a room here,” she says.
Clarke’s room is on the 18th floor, and as soon as they’re in the empty elevator, she tugs him back against him. He follows willingly, crowding her into the corner and slipping a knee between hers. She lets out a small whimper, pushing herself down on his thigh. Bellamy is just about to follow his knee with a hand when, on the eighth floor, the elevator slows to a stop and the doors open with a ping.
He whirls around, standing next to Clarke and trying to look respectable and not at all like he was about to finger her in the elevator as other people file in. Something catches his eye and he looks down, swearing when he sees the damp spot above his knee. Clarke, following his gaze and catching his eye, winks.
When the elevator gets to Clarke’s floor, it’s all they can do to make it into the hallway and then into Clarke’s room without drawing undue attention to themselves. By the time the door slams itself shut, Bellamy is sitting on the bed with Clarke on his lap trying to kiss him and unbutton his shirt at the same time.
Bellamy runs his hands up her legs, groaning as he confirms what he already knew: under her skirt, Clarke is wearing stockings and nothing else. He lies back on the bed, taking Clarke with him, and grabs her legs, pulling her along his body. In a flash, Clarke remembers what he likes, settling on her knees with her thighs around his face, skirt bunched up around her waist.
His tongue reaches out, searching, and Clarke cries out at the first real contact. She’s been daydreaming about him since her presentation, but no amount of imagination and memory comes close to the real thing, him licking at her clit, his arms holding her in place. It hasn’t been that long since the last time she got off, but it’s been a while since she was with someone, and it’s hardly any time at all before Bellamy has her coming apart on his face.
He emerges flushed and grinning, looking stupidly proud of himself. She wants to kiss the smirk off his mouth, but busies herself instead with removing the considerable amount of clothing they’re both still wearing. His dick emerges, curving slightly to the left exactly like she’d remembered it. She wraps her hand around him, leaning down to take him in her mouth, but he puts a hand on her shoulder to stop her.
“It’s, uh, been a while,” he says, looking sheepish. “I don’t think—” Clarke cuts him off with a kiss, overcome with a wave of affection.
“It’s okay.” She fishes a condom out of the nightstand drawer and hands it to him, lying back on the bed and admiring the view as he slides it on. She spreads her legs, raises her eyebrows invitingly, and adds, “what are we waiting for?”
Bellamy doesn’t need to be asked twice, easing into her with the familiarity of someone who’s done it dozens of times before. She hooks her ankles around his legs, pulling him closer, and he complies as much as he can. He runs a hand over her breast; the palm is rough from summers spent working construction, and she shivers.
She feels his urgency as he gets closer to the edge, increasing his pace, rubbing a thumb over her clit. Later, neither of them can say if his orgasm triggers hers, or vice versa.
He disposes of the condom, and makes to get dressed and leave like he always used to do, but Clarke blurts out “stay” before she can think about it. He glances at her, and the look is more vulnerable than anything she’s seen tonight.
“Stay,” she says again, curling up under the duvet and holding up a corner to welcome him in.
He only hesitates a second longer before climbing in behind her. She rests her head on his shoulder and his arm goes around her, automatic even though they never usually cuddle.
Clarke starts to drift off, but before she closes her eyes, she says, “I’ve been thinking about moving to Seattle when I graduate.”
She feels Bellamy’s heart rate pick up, almost imperceptibly, as he asks, “yeah?”
“I’ll be waiting,” he says, and keeps smiling down at her long after Clarke’s breathing evens out into sleep.