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In Sickness and... in Sickness

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1...

As far as Clarke was concerned, the first time it happened was all Nate Miller’s fault.

He rarely tended bar anymore, helping his dad out only on those occasional nights when his boyfriend had a shift at the hospital and Miller himself was off-duty. Leaving him at loose ends.

Like this particular Friday night.

When, presumably, it was the repetitious pouring of drinks that left him not only bored stiff but also brain dead. How else to explain why he’d decided it would be amusing to dick around with Clarke by putting double shots in all her drinks? What a great gag to play on someone who was always bragging about how well she could hold her liquor.

Right?

Or at least that was the rationale he’d used when he finally confessed to her.

“What the fuck, Miller?” Clarke complained hotly, trying to remain upright while Bellamy went to get his car. “How could you be such an asshole? If I ratted you out to the chief you’d probably lose your job.”

Miller looked both chagrined and alarmed. “Sorry, Clarke. It sounded like a good joke when Murphy suggested it.”

“Murphy! Who the hell ever listens to Murphy?”

He shrugged. “Besides, Bellamy was right here and I knew he’d never let anything happen to you.”

Clarke was as outraged as she could manage while listing slightly sideways. “You’re just lucky he’s on his own tonight!”

“Yeah,” Miller muttered, swiping a wet rag across the gleaming wood surface of the bar, “like that’d ever have made any difference.”

But then Bellamy was back, hauling Clarke up off the stool exactly one second before she fell off, and that’s when she realized she was too unsteady to walk at all.

“I don’t think I’m drunk,” she said very slowly as a new idea struck her.

“Trust me, Clarke,” Bellamy said, propping her against his side, “you are very, very drunk.”

“No, well, I mean I’m not just drunk. I think maybe I’m sick.”

He frowned down at her. “Yeah? What makes you think that?”

But his palm was already brushing lightly across her brow.

“Shit!” he said, worry lines creasing his forehead. “You’re burning up.”

In seconds, he’d hoisted her into his arms and they were out the door. Clarke didn’t really remember the ride home or Bellamy opening her apartment door with his emergency key. Instead, she remained in a kind of fog until she felt a cold cloth being drawn across her face. Then she shivered and opened her eyes to find herself in her small bathroom, a worried-looking Bellamy standing right next to her.

“Thank god,” he said with obvious relief. “Dammit, Clarke, you really scared the hell out of me. I was beginning to think maybe I should have just taken you straight to the hospital.”

“Fucking Miller...” she started to explain, but then her stomach heaved and her legs crumpled, and in an instant she was on her knees barfing into the toilet while Bellamy held onto her hair. In the outermost recesses of her brain she knew it wasn’t a scene she was ever going to want to replay in her head, but at just that moment she didn’t really give a shit.

When her stomach was empty, and her face clean, Bellamy handed her a capful of mouthwash.

“Swill.”

Clarke peered up at him, nodded vaguely, grabbed the cap. Swished. Spit.

“Where’s your, uh, nightie?”

Clarke wanted to laugh but she didn’t have the strength.

“Hanging right there, Grandma,” she muttered, cocking her head at the old-fashioned hook attached to the back of her bathroom door.

He nodded. “Good. I’ll, um, leave you to it. Unless... uh... you don’t need help, do you?”

He looked so embarrassed that this time she did manage a sick-sounding chuckle.

“In your dreams. Get the hell out of here.”

Besides, she really needed to pee.

Two minutes later, she stumbled out, dressed in her sleep shorts and top, and as comfortable as possible considering that she was alternately sweating and freezing, not to mention highly intoxicated. Bellamy was waiting by her bed with a thermometer and two Tylenol, although when he’d managed to grab them from her bathroom she had no idea.

“Open up,” he said, shoving the thermometer under Clarke’s tongue as soon as she’d settled onto the bed. “What the hell were you thinking anyway, going out to a bar when you were sick?”

Clarke was incensed. This was in no way her fault!

“Shupid iller dubbed ma rinks!” she managed around the stem of the digital thermometer.

“Don’t talk. I’m trying to get a reading here.”

Of all the high-handed...

But Bellamy had pulled out the thermometer, her temp already registering in red, which Clarke knew was not so hot. Or was, in fact, way too hot.

“Shit! A hundred and two point six!” And just like that, Bellamy’s frown was back.

“Please don’t worry,” she said. “I always get high temps. It’s probably just a 24-hour virus.”

But he was already grabbing her a bottle of water from the kitchen and handing her the Tylenol. As she popped them into her mouth Clarke pondered the irony that she was trying to reassure him about her illness and not the other way around.

“What were you trying to tell me when I had the thermometer in your mouth? Sounded like something about Miller?”

Bellamy was perched on the edge of her bed, his expression curious.

But by now Clarke had thought better of throwing Miller to the wolves, or in this case, into the jaws of Bellamy’s certain anger.

“Don’t remember,” she said, shrugging, and had no trouble at all sounding just as vague and out of it as she felt.

Clarke sank back against the pillows, while Bellamy took the stiff-backed chair by the bedroom window, crossing his legs and seeming to settle in.

“What the hell are you doing, Bellamy? Go home.”

“Right. Like I’m gonna leave you here alone with a high fever and wasted. Just go to sleep. I’ll be fine.”

Clarke supposed she wasn’t really so surprised. They’d never actually said the words but she knew she was his best friend, and he, hers. And that she’d probably do the same for him.

Still.

“You can’t sit in that chair all night. Plenty of room on the other side of this bed.”

An expression of near panic crossed his face. “No, I, uh, I can’t get into your bed, Clarke.”

“Nobody invited you into it, you idiot, but you can get on top of it.”

If she’d ever given it a thought, Clarke would have sworn this wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but for some reason Bellamy seemed a little... embarrassed.

“Are you sure?” He squinted at her like he thought that besides being drunk and sick it was possible she might also have lost her marbles.

“Don’t be stupid,” she said, trying to thump the empty spot next to her, but mostly just flapping her hand around aimlessly.

And then everything seemed to hit her all at once. One second she was watching Bellamy shrug and bend over to remove his shoes, and the next she was sound asleep.

When Clarke awoke some time later, the room was dark and her head was throbbing. She carefully pulled herself off the bed, hanging onto the wall and the doors as she made her way back to the bathroom to relieve herself again and grab more painkillers.

It was only when she slipped back under the covers and saw Bellamy’s heavy form next to her that she remembered she was not alone in that bed. And was touched all over again by his care and concern. On the other hand, his bulk seemed to be making the bed unbearably hot and she flung off the covers, trying hard to find a comfortable position as her eyes drifted shut.

When she woke again, it was to the sound of her teeth chattering and the feel of her body shuddering.

“Cold,” she muttered under her breath.

“Clarke, what’s wrong?”

Bellamy was awake and had rolled close enough to whisper his question in her ear.

“Cold,” she said again.

“Yeah, well, no wonder. All your covers are gone. Let me tuck you in a little.”

She felt the sheet slide over her body, followed by her duvet. But it still wasn’t enough. She continued to shiver as her fever-wracked body reacted to the ambient temperature.

“Here, I’ve got you,” Bellamy said, climbing under the covers, aligning his body with hers and pulling her into him, stroking his hands along her arms until the heat from his body literally seeped into hers. “This should help.”

Within seconds, peace and warmth settled over her and she slept.

Clarke didn’t wake again until late morning, feeling a vague sense of disappointment when she saw that the other side of the bed was empty. Until she heard the unmistakable sounds of rattling silverware.

Grabbing her robe, she made her way into the kitchen on unsteady legs to find Bellamy making coffee.

“You’re still here!” she said, unable to mask either her surprise or her pleasure at seeing him there.

“Yep! Or more accurately, I’m back. I ran home to shower and pick up some things while you were still sleeping. Grabbed some of those apple muffins you like from Dunky’s, too,” he added, holding up a wax-coated bag with the familiar orange and pink logo. “Unless... maybe you don’t feel like eating?”

Clarke tried to shake her head, but that turned out to be a bad idea.

“Nope, I am a little hungry,” she told him, sitting at the tiny bistro table that was all she’d been able to fit into her kitchen.

“Good,” Bellamy nodded, “but first things first.”

The paper bag was pulled away and the familiar thermometer shoved into her mouth again. Bellamy clicked his tongue when he pulled it out a minute later.

“It’s down to a hundred and one but you’re still pretty sick, Clarke,” he said, handing her a couple of more pills.

She hadn’t needed him to tell her that because she was still light-headed and vaguely achy.

But Clarke was also starting to feel guilty. Bellamy had a girlfriend, after all, so he must have other, better, things to do on a Saturday afternoon.

“But I am better. Thanks for the muffin... and... and everything you’ve done, Bellamy. You’ve been really great. But I think you can take yourself off-duty now,” she said with what she hoped was a confident smile.

Bellamy frowned down at her. “I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. Fevers always go up in the afternoon. What if yours gets really high?”

“I’m sure it won’t.” She wasn’t actually sure at all, of course, and understood she was trying to convince them both.

Bellamy hesitated, his expression suddenly doubtful. “Unless... tell me the truth, are you trying to get rid of me? Shit, I’ve been intruding on your privacy, haven’t I?”

“Of course not! That’s not it at all!” The very last thing Clarke wanted was for Bellamy to feel bad when he’d been so good to her. “You know I love hanging out with you, Bellamy. But it can’t be much fun with me sick! And... anyway... you must have had other plans for today.”

He stared at her for a moment and then shrugged.

“Nothing that’s more important than making sure you’re okay.”

Clarke studied his face, trying to figure out if that was the truth. Telling herself not to be selfish. Reminding herself that Bellamy was her friend, not her personal care attendant. That he had his own life. A girlfriend he’d most likely had plans with.

But she was sick, and weak, and just having him there was somehow so comforting.

“If you’re sure?”

“I am,” he said, looking relieved.

“Then... I’d be really grateful if you stayed.”

Bellamy smiled and picked up the paper bag again. “Eat your muffin.”

Over the next twenty-four hours, Bellamy read, watched movies, played a ton of video games, and even tried his hand at making cookies. Clarke slept through most of it, but by late Sunday afternoon, her fever had broken and she headed for the shower, relieved to finally feel clean again.

So her hair was still wet when she shoved Bellamy out the door a half hour later, insisting that he should have at least a few hours to himself.

When his only comment was, “Don’t sit around with wet hair,” Clarke groaned and told him he was worse than her mother.

“Go home,” she said, winding her arms around his neck to pull him close and leave a kiss on his cheek. “And, uh, please tell Echo I said thanks for lending me your nursing services this weekend.”

Bellamy pulled away quickly and stooped to grab his duffle.

“Yeah, sure,” he said shortly, and then he was out the door so fast she blinked in surprise.

Clarke shrugged. She supposed she couldn’t really blame him for being eager to get a little time to himself. Or with someone other than Clarke.

After Bellamy left, Clarke turned on the TV, determined to watch the Game of Thrones recap before the new season started. But when her eyelids drooped and her yawns began to drown out the dialogue, she understood that while the fever was gone, she still wasn’t exactly 100%.

Thanks to Bellamy, her whole place was neat instead of the garbage pit it usually descended into when she got sick, so she happily threw on her night clothes and hopped into bed, looking forward to an early night.

She was just dropping off when the telltale beep of an incoming text startled her fully awake, and she reached over sleepily to grab her phone from the nightstand.

Clarke smiled when she checked out the sender name. Bellamy. What a mother hen he was sometimes.

But Bellamy wasn’t checking up on her health. He had an entirely different message.

hey clarke i guess i should probably tell you that echo and i broke up

What? Clarke gasped in surprise... and then the guilt began to crawl up her spine.

bellamy if it was about this weekend i can talk to her and explain you were just doing me a big favor

His reply came quickly.

no it happened a couple weeks ago

Clarke’s surprise turned to shock. A couple of weeks and he was just now letting her know? She felt a little put out until she reminded herself that it was Bellamy who was going through a breakup and that her hurt feelings didn’t come into it.

God, what an asshole she was sometimes.

shit bellamy im so sorry

yeah me too

When the three dots appeared again she wondered what else he might have to say about it, then gave a bark of laughter when his message finally appeared.

dont forget to take a couple more tylenol before you go to bed

yeah yeah see you tomorrow

When she got up to grab the painkillers, Clarke couldn’t help smiling at how well he knew her.

A moment later she’d slid back under the covers, but the comfortable drowsiness was gone. Instead, she was wide awake and strangely unsettled.

 

XXXXXXXXXX

2...

Since she was neither outdoorsy nor athletic, Clarke knew very well that the only reason she’d agreed to be a substitute on the Ark City High “faculty and friends” softball team was Bellamy’s mournful plea that if she didn’t play they’d have to forfeit the game.

The very athletic Echo had dropped off the team weeks ago in the wake of their breakup, and ever since then he’d been scrounging up subs for every game.

“Believe me, Clarke, I wouldn’t ask you if...”

“You had a single other choice!” she declared mockingly.

Bellamy shrugged and smiled. “Well, I guess, uh, you teach art, and I never thought you were much into sports, so...”

“But maybe I love softball,” she challenged, her eyes narrowing. “Maybe I’m really good at it.”

“Yeah?” he said, brow crinkling, face wreathed in surprise.

“No,” she laughed, “not in a million years. But I’ll do it. Just tell me where and when.”

“Thanks, Clarke,” he said, squeezing her shoulder affectionately. “We’ll put you in the outfield. Most of the teams have such crap hitters you probably won’t have to do a thing except stand around in the sunshine.”

Her smile was bright. “Sounds like a blast.”

After he’d left her classroom for his own, Clarke tried to tell herself the ballgame would be fun and good exercise, and that anyway she was just doing her best friend a big favor. But she knew that was a load of crap. The truth was that ever since the weekend she’d been sick, the weekend Bellamy had taken such good care of her, she’d developed this weird desire to be around him all the time.

She told herself it was pathetic, and that she really needed to get over herself. That she and Bellamy were best friends, not at all romantic, never had been, never would be.

But in the very back of her mind was that small niggling reminder that in the four years they’d been teaching together at Ark City High, years over which their unbreakable friendship had been forged, they had never both been single at the same time. Never ever. Not once.

Until now.

But, hey! That’s probably all it was. Propinquity. Convenience. An instinctive desire to couple up.

Clarke sighed, hoping she’d be able to figure it out soon. Before she made a complete fool of herself and lost Bellamy’s friendship in the process.

When Clarke showed up at the park the following Friday afternoon, she found that most of the game went exactly as Bellamy had predicted. He was the pitcher, and apparently a pretty good one, since every inning he managed to retire the side on the Polis High faculty team with barely a hit. With the game nearly over, Ark City was ahead two-to-nothing and Clarke was more than ready to remove her sunburnt self to Miller’s Pub for a burger and a beer.

But then came the seventh and final inning.

Maybe Bellamy had grown tired, or maybe it was this new guy, Roan Something, who’d arrived to play for Polis halfway through the game and was finally having his first at-bat. On Bellamy’s very first pitch, he knocked the ball out of the infield, and for the first time Clarke understood she was going to have to do something.

Like move. Like try to catch the ball. Like... play the game.

She took off at a run, heading for the spot where she was sure the arc of the ball was sending it. It was only much, much later that she learned what the others had all apparently forgotten to mention: that when another fielder yells I got it, you get the hell out of the way.

Unfortunately Clarke failed to get out of the way, instead crashing headlong into a startled Jasper Jordan, both of them tumbling to the ground in a tangle of arms and legs. By the time Bellamy reached the pair a few seconds later, Jasper had pulled himself to a sitting position and seemed little the worse for wear.

Not so Clarke, who was still lying spread-eagled on the carefully-mown turf, winded and moaning.

“Shit! What the hell was I thinking asking you to play?” Bellamy muttered as he dropped down beside her.

“That’s an easy one,” Monty Green offered in response, but Bellamy ignored him.

“Clarke! Jesus! Are you okay?”

“I think so. My ears are ringing a little, and... oh!” Pain shot through her leg when she twisted her foot around. “I think maybe I sprained my ankle.”

She’d done it before and remembered how it felt.

“Damn!” Bellamy helped her to a sitting position, then gently pulled off her shoe and sock.

“Yep, it looks like it’s starting to swell up. Do you think you can stand?”

She shrugged. “I can try.”

Clarke pulled herself up gingerly, using Bellamy’s arm for balance, but as soon as she tried to put weight on her foot the pain was intense.

“That isn’t going to work,” Bellamy said immediately.

And before she could even react, he was bending, bracing, lifting her into his arms. Clarke swallowed her surprise and wrapped her arms around his neck as he hurried across the field.

“What are you doing, Bellamy? I could have walked.”

“Yeah, I don’t think so. I need to get you to Urgent Care for an x-ray and I’d like to get there sometime today.”

“But...” Clarke glanced around the field at the remnants of two softball teams, “what about the game?”

“The game?”

“Yeah... won’t you have to forfeit?”

He looked down at her in exasperation.

“The game isn’t important, Clarke,” he said, shaking his head. “They’ll figure it out somehow. Right now, I’m worried about you.”

As he buckled her into the front passenger seat, Bellamy was so close that Clarke could see the sheen of sweat along his jaw. When he paused, his eyes seeming to lock onto her face for an instant, she was sure she must still be a little light-headed from the fall. Why else the sudden strong urge to stick out her tongue and lick those drops of sweat right off him?

And then see what happened next.

With a slight shake of his head he moved away abruptly, and Clarke blushed furiously, certain that Bellamy had somehow been able to see right inside her muddled brain.

He reached into the back seat then, pulling out a small first aid kit and extracting a cold pack.

“This should help keep the swelling down until you can see the doctor. Prop your foot on the dash,” he instructed, snapping the pack a few times to activate the chemicals. When she’d moved her foot, he wrapped the pack around her ankle. “And try to keep this in place."

As Bellamy slid behind the wheel, Clarke bent over her injured foot and thought about how lucky she was to have him. However it was she did.

Three hours later she stumbled into her apartment, ankle swathed in a compression bandage, hanging onto Bellamy for balance because she hated using a crutch. Clarke’s foot hurt like hell, and she was exhausted.

Even worse, she’d missed her burger and beer.

He helped her into the bedroom, then hurried to the bath, returning seconds later to toss her her night clothes. Just like he’d known exactly where to find them.

When she hobbled out to the kitchen five minutes later after a frustrating wrestle with her clothing, Bellamy was pulling his head out of her fridge.

“I figured you wouldn’t have much food around. Good thing I stopped at the 7-11 on the way here. I can make us some cheese omelettes. That work for you?”

Clarke nodded, hating that she was sometimes so disorganized that she simply forgot to buy food. Hating even more that Bellamy knew her that well.

And hating most of all how very much she was loving the feeling of being cared for, of having someone to lean on when she felt like such absolute crap. Especially when that someone was Bellamy.

“Omelettes would be great,” she said, sitting carefully at her small table. Wondering how to deal with all the new - and inappropriate - feelings coursing through her as she watched her best friend move around her kitchen like he fucking belonged there.

Thirty minutes later, they’d eaten, the kitchen was clean, and they were settling in front of the TV.

“Since you’re not feverish or anything I can just sleep out here tonight,” Bellamy said suddenly, like they’d already had the discussion.

“You’re staying?” Clarke couldn’t keep the surprise out of her voice.

“Clarke, you took a bad fall and you can barely move.”

“I’m fine, Bellamy, really. You don’t have to, uh, put yourself out.”

“Yeah?” he said, his expression determined. “Well, I’d rather not spend all night worrying about you. I just want to be able to... keep an eye on you. Make sure you’re okay. Just for tonight.”

For a moment she just stared at him, and then the words seemed to spill out all on their own, like they’d traveled directly to her lips without ever passing through her brain.

“If you’re gonna insist on staying you might just as well sleep on the bed.”

Bellamy’s eyes widened and he drew in a surprised breath.

“Uh, I don’t know, Clarke. I don’t want to, um, invade your space.”

She shrugged as casually as she could. “Plenty of room. And anyway, it worked out fine the last time.”

The last time, Clarke? Oh, yeah, you mean that time back before you knew he was single, before you started wanting to be around him every second? Before you wanted to lick the sweat off his damn face!

Fuck! What the hell was wrong with her?

She opened her mouth again but whatever she might have been going to say became moot the second Bellamy opened his.

“Okay,” he said, as though she’d thrown out some kind of challenge. “That’ll sure as hell be more comfortable.”

“Good,” she nodded.

“Good.”

They’d only made it through two episodes of Friends when Clarke began to yawn.

“I guess maybe I’m tireder than I thought,” she said, grabbing onto the arm of the couch to pull herself up.

“Not surprised. You had kind of a tough day. Need some help?”

She shook her head. “I’m good.”

Clarke limped her way toward the bedroom, turning her head when she got to the door. “Feel free to come in whenever you get tired.”

He nodded, his face impassive. “Yeah, sure. Think maybe I’ll just wait until you drop off.”

As tired as Clarke was, once she got into bed she felt too restless and edgy to sleep. So she still hadn’t dropped off an hour later when she heard Bellamy slip quietly into the room, kick off his shoes, and carefully climb onto the bed.

He’d spent a couple of nights in that same spot less than two months before, but she’d been so sick, so feverish, that she’d barely been aware of his presence.

Not so tonight.

She couldn’t have been more aware of Bellamy’s lean muscled form lying not two feet away. Her body was so rigid that her ankle throbbed painfully, but even so she couldn’t bring herself to so much as twitch an eyebrow, lest Bellamy realize she was still awake.

It felt like forever before she heard the soft even breaths that told her that he’d finally fallen asleep.

Carefully, moving her body as slowly and as silently as possible, she rolled towards the center of the bed. Bellamy was lying on his back, his head canted slightly in her direction, and there was just enough moonlight streaming into the room for her to see the rise and fall of his t-shirt-covered chest.

As she watched him sleep, Clarke felt a little like a voyeur. But she couldn’t seem to tear her eyes away from the sweep of lashes along his cheek or the soft breaths ruffling across his pillow.

Without conscious intent, her arm snaked out from under the covers and moved slowly across the sheet toward Bellamy. Awareness coursed through her just in time, and she pulled back quickly before she could give in to the very unwise impulse to run her fingers through his disordered hair.

Appalled at herself, she rolled away abruptly, wincing when a sudden throb in her ankle reminded her of why Bellamy was there in the first place.

Clarke tried to focus on breathing deeply, on clearing her mind, on anything but her immediate surroundings. But nothing served to obscure the knowledge that Bellamy Blake was on the other side of her bed. In desperation, she told herself it must be time for another pain pill, and minutes after taking it Clarke finally fell into a restless sleep.

Bellamy left around noon the following day, but not before making sure that Clarke had food and drink and anything else she might need.

“Call me if you want anything,” he said from the doorway, and her heart lurched when she saw his soft affectionate smile.

“Will do,” she promised from her spot on the sofa.

So... what if I just want you?

But it was when he’d shut the door behind him with a last small wave, and she felt the immediate keen sense of loss, that Clarke really understood how well and truly fucked she was.

 

XXXXXXXXXXX

3...

Through a haze of acute pain, Clarke heard the sharp rapping on her apartment door, followed almost immediately by a key turning in the lock.

“Clarke? Are you here?”

Shit! Only the severity of her mega-cramps could have made her forget that she was at that moment supposed to be meeting Bellamy at the movies for their annual end-of-school-year celebration. But there was no way in hell she was up to seeing the latest Avengers film, not even to spend a few hours with Bellamy.

Why hadn’t she called him? Given him some excuse that didn’t involve the word “menstrual”?

Too late now.

“Hey,” he said, appearing suddenly in her bedroom doorway, a frown creasing his forehead when he saw her lying on the bed wrapped in her fluffiest robe. “Are you okay? I was a little worried when you didn’t show.”

“I’m so sorry, Bellamy. I should have called you earlier. I’m just... not going to be able to make it to the movie.”

“Yeah, I can see that,” he said, crossing the room and perching lightly on the edge of her bed. “What’s wrong? Is there anything I can do?”

Clarke’s response was half-laugh, half-groan. “I only wish you could. I’ve just got... really bad cramps.”

She saw the split second of confusion before his face cleared and then he nodded sympathetically.

“Shit, Clarke. I know from Octavia that those can be really bad.”

“Yeah,” she said, gasping as a new spasm hit suddenly. “Thank god I only get them this bad maybe once a year.”

“And there’s nothing you can take for it? I hate seeing you in so much pain.”

She shrugged lightly, turning onto her side and drawing up her knees as the pain subsided somewhat.

“I did have a prescription but it’s been so long since I needed it that I forgot to get it refilled.”

“Well, that’s an easy fix. You still got the empty bottle?”

She nodded. “In the bathroom cabinet.”

He was gone in a flash, and she heard him rummaging around her bathroom, then talking softly on his phone.

“I’m off to CVS,” he said, coming back into her room a moment later. “You got a heating pad? I remember O using those sometimes.”

“Broken.”

He nodded. “I’ll put it on my list. Anything else?”

Clarke considered. Figured maybe she’d deserve a treat once the Cramps from Hell subsided.

“Ice cream?”

He laughed. “What flavor?”

“Surprise me.”

Bellamy dramatically slapped his hand to his chest.

“You trust me to choose your ice cream flavor? Clarke, I am honored.”

She was giggling as the door closed behind him, right up until the moment she was hit with a fresh spasm, and then she resumed focusing on her breathing, trying to keep it shallow and even. She knew it was the same pain management technique that many women used during labor, and fleetingly wondered how much more painful labor might be than the agony she was currently enduring.

While Bellamy was at the drugstore, Clarke managed to find a 5-minute stretch where the cramps abated long enough for her to shower. She didn’t exactly feel better but at least she was miserable and clean instead of miserable and disgusting. She threw on her loosest sweats but knew that today the constriction of a bra was simply beyond her capacity for suffering.

She was soon back to writhing on the bed, and when she heard the door open, it felt like deliverance was at hand.

“How you doing in there?” Bellamy called out from the kitchen, where she heard him opening the fridge, probably putting away the ice cream and getting her a bottle of water.

“Just dandy,” she called back, groaning.

“Well, maybe these will help,” he said, entering her room seconds later with a water bottle in one hand and a pill bottle in the other.

Clarke managed to swallow down two tablets before the pain hit again, and she groaned in frustration. This was the worst episode she’d had in years and she would have to have it with Bellamy right there for a front-row seat.

Not that there was anything but sympathy in his eyes when he returned from the kitchen with a large CVS bag.

“Let’s try this,” he said, removing the packaging from a brand-new heating pad and plugging it into the outlet next to her bed. “How high for the heat?”

“High! High!”

The warmth was immediately soothing, but soon enough she had to turn it down before it became too hot and burnt her skin. When another cramp hit suddenly, Clarke nearly cried in frustration. She had painkillers, she had heat... was she never going to catch a fucking break?

Bellamy sat gingerly on the edge of the bed and reached down to brush a few stray hairs from her forehead.

“I don’t know how you’re able to deal with this shit,” he said, his soft smile filled with both compassion and admiration. “I salute the fortitude of womankind.”

Clarke tried to smile in return but she wasn’t sure she succeeded. “Thanks for the global commendation, Bellamy, but right now I’d much rather have a solution than a salute.”

His hand stilled in her hair, and he suddenly looked hesitant. Unsure.

“So, uh, the pharmacist...” he began, and then paused.

“The pharmacist... what?” Was there some other treatment for this misery that she’d never heard about?

“Yeah, so I asked him if he had any other suggestions for dealing with, um, your cramps, and he said that sometimes it helps to... massage the lower back. Loosens the muscles or something. I mean, I don’t know if he’s right, but...”

“Do it,” she said, latching onto a sudden memory of her mother working her back muscles years ago when she first got her period. “If there’s even a chance it might help. Please, Bellamy.”

“Okay,” he said lightly, not quite looking at her, and she assumed he was maybe trying to figure out the logistics.

Finally he removed his shoes and hoisted himself until he was kneeling on the bed.

“Uh, do you think you can slide over so you’re in the middle? Give me a little more room to work with?”

Clarke immediately shimmied her way toward the center of the bed.

“This okay?”

“Uh, yeah.” He hesitated. “And maybe open your legs a little so I can, um, get my knees between them. For leverage.”

Clarke complied instantly, eager for any relief that Bellamy’s strong hands might be able to provide.

“That’s good, that’s fine,” he said quickly, as she opened her legs wide. And if she thought she might have heard him choke a bit she was in way too much pain to process it.

Seconds later, she felt Bellamy’s hands tentatively touching her back through her sweatshirt, but between the hesitance of his touch and the thick material of her shirt she could hardly feel them.

“I think it would better if you pressed a little harder and massaged directly on my bare skin,” she told him, reaching down to pull her top up from around her waist. Too late, Clarke remembered that she wasn’t wearing a bra, and that that would be all too obvious once he started moving his hands across her back, but she couldn’t work up the energy to care.

“Right. Of course it would,” he said, and she thought he might have sucked in his breath a bit, but all she really cared about was getting rid of the fucking cramps.

Seconds later, she felt Bellamy’s large strong hands pressing into the muscles along her lower back, and the relief was immediate.

She groaned. “Oh, god, that feels so good, Bellamy. It’s like your hands are fighting back against my stupid cramped muscles. Keep going.”

“Okay, good,” he said. He sounded a little out of breath but she knew that was probably from all the effort he was putting into her massage.

As Bellamy continued rhythmically moving his hands across her body, Clarke began to feel better and better. He was doing a great job getting rid of her cramps. If only...

“Do you think you could go a little lower?” she asked without thinking, so totally was she focused on the relief she was getting.

“Uh... lower?”

Clarke couldn’t figure out why Bellamy sounded hesitant. Maybe even a little... apprehensive. The massage was working so well, and after all it had been his own idea.

Hadn’t it?

“Yeah, you know, just... right below my waist. That’s where a lot of the pain seems to live.”

“Um, your sweats...”

“You can just move them down a bit.” Her shoulders shrugged against the bed. “I’m sure you’ve seen more of me in a bikini.”

“Trying not to think about that,” she thought she heard him mutter.

What?

“Huh?”

Bellamy sighed and huffed a little laugh. “Never mind, I think I can, uh, get that spot for you.”

He pulled the waist of her sweats down no more than a couple of inches, and soon his supple hands were sweeping back and forth in a strong continuous arc from just below her waist nearly to her shoulders.

Clarke made a sound that was halfway between a sigh and a moan. It was the best she’d felt all day, ever since she’d woken that morning doubled up in pain. In fact, within a very few moments she was nearly pain-free.

She knew that massaging was hard work, and that Bellamy’s arm muscles must be burning from his efforts. That she really ought to tell him he could stop now. But somehow... she just couldn’t bring herself to do it. The feeling of his hands moving up and down and across her back was so soothing, so pleasurable, that she simply didn’t want it to stop.

“You feeling any better,” he asked suddenly, and the sound of his voice, which seemed to her to be deeper and raspier than normal, skittered up her spine.

“Mmhm,” she said, moaning again, but this moan wasn’t at all a reaction to the relief from pain, because by now that pain had more or less gone. This moan had been provoked by the pleasant tingle that had begun between her legs, a tingle that was even now intensifying to a throb as the pleasure coursed through her body.

In her head, Clarke knew that this wasn’t right. Not right, and not fair to Bellamy, to be getting aroused by his touch when he’d only been trying to help her. That it was, in fact, very much out of bounds.

And that she absolutely needed to do something about it right fucking now...

But then Bellamy was suddenly bending closer, and his voice, soft and low, was whispering into her ear, “Does that feel good?”

And all she could do was nod and moan again, perhaps even a little louder this time. Because it did feel good. So very, very good. And Clarke’s brain forgot all about stopping Bellamy.

Then his touch seemed to change, to become softer and more intimate. Bellamy was so close to her by now that she could feel the hard muscles of his thighs as he moved them against her ass.

Clarke’s brain shut down altogether then, ceding total control to her body. A body which had no interest whatsoever in having Bellamy remove his hands from her. In fact, her shoulders had already begun to shift ever so slightly on the bed as her body prepared to turn itself over, to seek out more and greater pleasure, and to get that pleasure from exactly the same source.

It was at that precise moment that a series of confounding events occurred, one on top of the other.

First, Bellamy groaned loudly. And as though he’d been in some kind of trance and the sound of his own groan was a wake-up call, he gasped audibly and abruptly pulled both his hands and his body away from Clarke.

“Fuck!” he said, suddenly hurling himself off the bed.

Disoriented, Clarke continued her momentum, completing the rotation of her body, totally unaware that her top had ridden most of the way up, and that as soon as she was face up her tits were on full display.

When she saw Bellamy’s eyes flash to her breasts in startled disbelief, she looked down, discovered her disarray, and - too late - dragged down her top to cover herself.

Their eyes sought each other for a moment before each looked hurriedly away, and then the blood rushed to their faces in splotches of mottled pink as they both blushed furiously.

And then Bellamy was on the move, quickly shoving his feet into his shoes, not even bothering to lace them up.

“Shit, Clarke, I’m so sorry,” he said, not quite looking at her. “I hope you’re feeling better but... I gotta go.”

And before she could say a single word, or ask a single question, he’d raced out of her bedroom, and the apartment door closed behind him not five seconds later.

Clarke was so stunned by this sudden turn of events that for a full minute she lay on her bed unmoving, barely breathing. But soon the breath began to escape from her lungs, and the blood to flow through her veins. And when her brain finally caught up with her body, she was utterly and completely awash in humiliation.

Because she had no doubts about exactly what had happened.

Bellamy had somehow realized that she was getting turned on by his touch, even though it hadn’t been offered to her in that way at all. He’d touched her in friendship, to ease her pain, and she had abused that friendship by turning it into something... sexual.

And as if that weren’t bad enough, after he’d finally figured it out, and pulled away, she’d fucking flashed him!

Clarke buried her face in her hands, by now so thoroughly mortified that she had no idea how she was ever going to look Bellamy in the eye again.

She made an instant decision to save that problem for another day, because right now all she wanted to do was retreat to a safe place to lick her wounds.

She picked up her phone from the nightstand and hurriedly sent a text.

Mom decided to come for a visit be there sometime tomorrow

At the moment, it was the best plan she could think of.

 

XXXXXXXXXX

+1...

Clarke had forgotten how very perceptive her mother was. She should have known that Abby would figure out that her daughter’s visit was mostly about getting out of Ark City. And that if Clarke didn’t say something herself, eventually Abby would bring it up.

On the fifth day of her visit, over lunch at Clarke’s favorite restaurant, that’s exactly what happened.

“It’s always lovely to have you here, Clarke, but I know there’s another reason you decided to visit this week.”

“Mom...”

“Come on, Clarke. You think I can’t tell when something’s bothering you?”

Clarke sighed. What was the point?

“It’s just that... I kinda made a fool of myself with one of my friends.”

“And you haven’t been able to straighten it out with them?”

“I’m not... I can’t...” She paused, not quite sure how to explain herself.

Abby shrugged. “It’s your life, Clarke, and you’re welcome to stay as long as you like. But I think you’ve already figured out that hiding out here with me isn’t going to solve anything. Better to face your problems head on.”

Clarke sighed. Why the hell did her mother have to be so logical?

Two days later, scarcely a week after she’d left, Clarke was on the road again, headed back to Ark City.

When she’d left town, Clarke had sent out a text to her friend group saying she was visiting her mother and would be unavailable, after which she’d turned off her phone. Home again, she reluctantly turned the phone back on, and was unsurprised to see that there were dozens of texts and even a few voicemails.

Right at that moment she didn’t feel capable of dealing with any of them.

So she was curled up on the couch, trying to work up some enthusiasm for an old episode of Chopped, when her phone rang a few minutes later. Clarke was sure it must be her mother checking in with her, but when she grabbed for the phone, she was surprised to see the caller ID said ‘Nate Miller’.

Why the hell would Miller be calling her?

“Hello?”

“Clarke! Thank god! I’ve been calling you for hours, and I left messages every time...”

“Sorry, I had my phone turned off until a couple minutes ago, and I haven’t checked my messages...”

“Shit! Are you still at your mom’s?”

“No, I just got home. Miller, what’s going on?”

“Good! Because you need to get over to Bellamy’s right now.”

What! Why? What’s happened?” A shiver of apprehension ran through her.

“Bellamy’s had a little accident...”

“Oh, god!” Her heart began to pound.

“No, no, Clarke, he’s okay. You just... you need to come right away.”

“But why...”

“I’ll explain when you get here.” Miller hung up before she could say another word.

Clarke sat there stunned for a moment, and then the adrenaline kicked in. Soon she was rushing around, searching for her sandals and her keys and her purse, and all the time her anxiety level was rising exponentially. Because Bellamy had had an accident, and no matter what Miller said she wasn’t going to believe he was okay until she saw him with her own eyes.

Since Bellamy was a little further along the teacher salary scale than Clarke, a couple of years ago he’d been able to afford the payments on a one-bedroom condo in a fairly nice part of the city. Like Bellamy, she had an emergency key to his place, but she’d rarely had occasion to use it.

Today - incapable of waiting for Miller or whoever else might be there to answer the door - she made an exception.

“Bellamy? Miller?” she called out quietly, pulling the key out of the lock and closing the door. Where the hell was everyone?

Miller rushed in from Bellamy’s bedroom.

“Clarke! Finally!”

“What’s wrong? What happened?” Clarke could feel her anxiety rising once again.

“Bellamy is okay, Clarke, I promise.”

“Well, then... why did I have to rush over here?” Anxiety gave way to befuddlement.

“It’s not his accident, it’s what happened afterwards.”

“Afterwards?”

Miller sighed. “Look, we had our regular pickup bball game at the Y this afternoon, and Bellamy was in the same stupid funk he’s been in all week ever since you left...”

He paused, eyeing her, but if he thought she was going to offer some enlightenment, he was sadly mistaken.

“And?”

“And after the game he was so distracted that when he got out of the shower he stepped right on a big piece of glass that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. And got the mother of all cuts on the bottom of his foot.”

Clarke gasped and tried to move around him. “Oh, no! Did he get it looked at?”

Miller frowned, holding her back gently. “Clarke, you remember that I’m trained to deal with emergencies, right? So, yeah, of course we took him to the hospital. They cleaned it out and put in a bunch of stitches. Gave him a tetanus shot. But the thing is,” he paused and eyed her again, “it hurts like hell so they also gave him a prescription for pain pills.”

Clarke nodded, following along but still bewildered. “Okay, good. That’s a relief. But... where do I come in?”

At that moment, the bedroom door opened and Monty stuck his head out.

“You done out there? He heard her voice and now he keeps trying to get up.”

Clarke frowned in confusion as Miller shrugged and nodded.

“That’s the reason, Clarke. That’s why you’re here. We brought Bellamy home and about two minutes after he took a couple of those pills he started getting a little loopy. Started talking about you and wouldn’t stop. Kept asking where you were. Then he starts yelling that he needs you to take care of him. Demands we get you and bring you here right away. And he’s pretty much been going on like that ever since.”

The longer Miller talked, the wider Clarke’s mouth opened in disbelief.

“Yeah, so if you’re done with the explanations now,” Monty added impatiently, tilting his head toward the bedroom.

And then she heard him. Bellamy.

“Is that Clarke?” His voice began to rise, and it was very, very insistent. “I can hear her voice. Where are you, Clarke?”

“I’m right here, Bellamy,” she called, rushing to the bedroom doorway.

“You really are here,” he said, and her heart leaped when she saw the way he smiled at her. Like a six-year-old on Christmas morning.

“Yeah, I’m here. Hang on,” she told him, returning his smile.

Clarke turned back to the others.

“You guys can go now. I got this.”

“You sure you don’t need us to stick around? We can sit out here for a while.”

Miller sounded reluctant to leave but she put that down to “cop syndrome.” Always thinking every situation would fall apart as soon as he was gone.

Clarke shook her head. “It’s all good.”

“Okay,” he nodded. “Just change his dressing a little later. And call if you need us.”

As soon as they left, Clarke returned to the bedroom.

“So I heard you hurt yourself pretty bad, Bellamy. I’m sorry...”

“I don’t want to talk about that,” he interrupted with a flap of his hand. “Can you come a little closer?”

“Sure,” she said, perching on the edge of the bed, unnerved by how close she suddenly was to Bellamy after thinking about little else for a solid week.

“So... what do you want to talk about?”

“I want to know why you’ve been gone all this time, Clarke,” he said, looking exactly like a petulant child.

“What do you mean? I sent everyone a text I was visiting my mom...”

“Yeah, but... you never visit her in June. You don’t have to pretend,” he said, his mouth turning down in what looked very much like a pout. “You really left because you’re mad at me, right? I’m so sorry, Clarke.”

“Mad at you? Why should I be mad at you?

She knew the pills were making Bellamy act a little crazy, but still...

“Well, then, if you’re not mad can you come and give me a hug?” he said in a tone that couldn’t possibly be called anything but a whine. “You haven’t hugged me in a really long time.”

Clarke sucked in a breath, knowing exactly how long it had been since she’d hugged her best friend. Since the day he’d left her place after she’d been sick. Since her head had gotten all twisted around. Since she’d realized that hugging Bellamy wasn’t safe for her heart.

She smiled at him, reached forward and patted his shoulder gently.

“No, I want a real hug,” he insisted, waving at the empty expanse on the other side of his king-sized bed. “I can’t stand up, but if you get up on the bed with me you can give me a real hug.”

She felt heat crawl up her face, but Bellamy seemed blissfully unconcerned.

“Please,” he added pitifully, when she continued to stare at him.

Clarke knew damn well that Bellamy would never beg her for a hug if he was himself instead of in this weird childish fugue state. Still, she’d missed him terribly and the prospect of hugging him was too inviting to resist. She told herself he was hurt and needed comfort. If it was a lie, at least it was a reasonable one.

“All right,” she agreed in a small voice, kicking off her sandals and crawling onto the other side of the bed.

Bellamy reached out immediately and drew her close, and she curled into him happily. And then her hand wrapped around his neck to hug him while he folded her into his arms. When she lay her head on his chest she could hear the rapid beating of his heart.

“God, I missed you,” Bellamy mumbled, squeezing her tight and kissing the top of her head.

“I missed you, too,” she murmured into his t-shirted chest.

“Then why’d you go?” he muttered in her ear, but when she looked up, trying to decide how to answer, she found his eyes closed. And as if her mere presence was all the soporific he’d needed, he was quite suddenly sound asleep.

Clarke lay there in his arms, transfixed by his nearness, unable to move, unable to think. Eventually her eyes drifted shut, too.

The next thing she knew she was waking up to Bellamy’s startled exclamation.

Clarke? What the hell are you doing here?”

He pulled away from her in confusion.

Her eyes blinked open and she turned to look at him.

“You don’t remember cutting your foot, Bellamy?”

“Yeah, of course I remember that, but... you weren’t there. You haven’t even been around for a week,” he added, and although he said it casually enough, Clarke could almost swear she heard the faint echoes of his earlier petulance.

“So you don’t remember asking for me? Insisting to Miller that I had to come and take care of you?”

Even in the dim light Clarke could see the flush rising on Bellamy’s cheeks.

“I... did that? Sorry, Clarke. I remember feeling a little, uh, spacey, and then everything’s kind of a blur.”

“Then... you don’t want me here.”

Bellamy’s eyes shifted away from her, and he shrugged lightly.

“It’s not that. I guess I’m just surprised that you came. Considering...”

“Considering what?”

Bellamy sighed, and even in his state of semi-recline, she could see him squaring his shoulders.

“Look, Clarke, there’s something I need to say to you.”

But Clarke rushed into speech quickly, before he could say another word. Before he could tell her how repulsed he’d been by her actions the previous week. How over the line they’d been.

“Wait, Bellamy, let me say something first. I just... really need to get this off my chest, okay?”

Bellamy looked at her warily as Clarke cleared her throat nervously.

“That day at my house when I had the cramps...”

“I knew it!” he erupted suddenly. “Shit, Clarke, I’m so sorry.”

Clarke frowned, stopped in her tracks. “Why are you apologizing?”

Bellamy looked puzzled. “Isn’t that why you’re upset with me? Because of what happened that day? Isn’t that why you took off and then wouldn’t answer my texts all week?”

She could see the distress in his face, hear it in his voice. And had no idea how to respond.

No matter, because Bellamy wasn’t done.

“I know I acted like a creep, Clarke, and that we should have talked about it right away. I’ve been trying to apologize to you all week.”

But by now, Clarke was completely mystified.

“How did you act like a creep, Bellamy?” Her own incipient apology was by now largely forgotten.

He turned away, the red tide of a furious blush turning the tan hue of his skin to a dusky rose.

Bellamy briefly closed his eyes, and the face he turned back to her was heavy with embarrassment.

“You were sick and I... took advantage. Although I hope you’ll believe that I didn't mean to. I really just wanted to help you. Take away your pain. But then... you were lying there, and... I had my hands all over your back... and...”

Bellamy paused, as though he couldn’t quite get the words out, but Clarke wasn’t letting him stop there.

“And what, Bellamy?” Clarke felt like she was holding her breath.

“And I just got so fucking turned on, Clarke. That I forgot why I was there, forgot you were my best friend.” He sighed. “It was a wonder I could remember my own name.”

Clarke took a shallow breath. “I’m sure you’ve seen lots of women’s bare backs...”

“For fuck’s sake, Clarke! This wasn’t just anyone, this was you! You... you must have felt me. I was practically lying on top of you by then, and I was so damn hard. And then when I finally... noticed, I felt so stupid that I ran off instead of talking to you about it right then.”

Clarke took another quick breath. She had to know for sure.

“It’s... okay, Bellamy. It was probably just a... a physiological reaction...”

Bellamy huffed out a quiet little laugh. “If only that were it.”

“Then what, Bellamy? What was it?”

She could feel her heart beating erratically, but she didn’t know whether it was from fear or anticipation.

He sighed. “I’m not sure you really want to hear this,” he said, not quite looking at her.

She reached up and turned his face towards her, gently stroking his cheek.

“I’m your best friend. You can tell me anything.”

“Can I? Should I admit that I was afraid to even give you that massage. Scared that if I touched you that... intimately, I wouldn’t be able to hide how I felt about you? That you might figure it out?”

Clarke’s throat was so dry that the words cracked as she forced them out.

“Figure what out?”

Bellamy’s lopsided smile appeared.

“That I’m in love with you,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper as his eyes locked onto hers. “That I have been for a while now. And that I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to deal much longer with being just your best friend.”

When Clarke drew in a quick ragged breath, the oxygen that filled her lungs was somehow making her buoyant and light-headed.

She shook her head at him.

“I didn’t even notice your physical reaction, Bellamy. You want to know why that was?”

He nodded, searching her face. “I do.”

She paused for a little courage.

“It’s because I was so totally focused on how turned on I was. On how I never wanted you to stop touching me. On how I couldn’t make myself tell you it was okay to stop because it felt so damn good. On how I really wanted to just turn around...”

“If I remember, you did turn around,” he said, a hesitant, hopeful smile on his lips.

“Yeah,” she said softly, flushing as she recalled that moment, “but I never did get to do this.”

And then she was tugging his head down, reaching up with her own, kissing him softly.

“Clarke,” he moaned in surprise, before throwing himself into the kiss, deepening it, using his strong arms to pull her on top of him. But a few moments later, Bellamy dragged his lips away and rested his forehead against hers.

“I just... I need to make sure I understand what you’re telling me, Clarke. I don’t want to screw up again. You’re way too important to me.”

Clarke smiled and brushed her mouth lightly across his.

“I’m telling you I love you, too. I finally figured it out after that weekend I was so sick. And ever since then I’ve been feeling kind of like a pathetic fool, worried I was going to totally screw up our friendship and push you away.”

Bellamy laughed softly, wrapping her up in a fierce hug.

“That’s never gonna happen.”

And as though a dam had burst inside them both, they were soon kissing again with an intensity Clarke wasn’t sure she’d ever felt before.

But when his hand moved to caress her breast, she had a sudden thought.

“Wait,” she said.

“Shit, I’m sorry. I should have asked before I touched you like that.”

She smiled and kissed him softly. “No, it’s not that, you idiot. I want you to touch me. I’ve been dying for you to touch me for weeks.”

Bellamy frowned. “Then what?”

“You’re injured. You’ve been medicated. Just a little while ago you didn’t even know what you were doing. I shouldn’t... take advantage of you.”

Bellamy’s laugh was bright. “I’m not injured anywhere that’s gonna matter, Clarke, believe me. And please, please take advantage of me.”

“If you’re sure...”

But then his lips were on hers again, and there was no need for further conversation.

Clarke found that Bellamy was right. While they may have had to be careful about how they moved around on that bed, Bellamy’s injured foot didn’t interfere with their activities in the slightest. Not even a little bit.

Later...

Much, much later...

Clarke stirred in her sleep and then woke with a start.

“Shit!”

“What’s wrong?” Bellamy asked, startled awake himself.

“The last thing Miller said to me was that I needed to change your dressing and I never did it.”

She quickly jumped off the bed, throwing on Bellamy’s t-shirt to cover herself, and ran into his bathroom to gather supplies.

A few minutes later, his bandage had finally been changed and Clarke was crawling back into the bed.

“I’m a terrible nurse,” she told Bellamy, cuddling against his side. “You took much better care of me all those times when I was sick.”

Bellamy chuckled. “I’m not sure that’s true. Besides, my dirty little secret is that I was kinda glad you kept getting a little sick. It gave me a good excuse to hang around you day and night.”

Clarke laughed softly. “You don’t need an excuse, Bellamy. You can take care of me all the time.”

“That’s my plan,” he said, drawing her near once again.

“Good,” she mumbled. “In sickness and in health works for me.”