On the eve of her 18th birthday, Clarke was:
1) single (having just dumped her boyfriend of two months for concealing a very important fact about him having another girlfriend from her);
2) fully sober (and currently regretting the decision to turn down drinks back at the party);
3) in major trouble with her mom once she got home (because she'd skipped out on one of her charity events to attend this stupid party of Finn's and it was way past curfew);
4) and trapped in this diner until the rain stopped (like an idiot, she'd only realized she was left without a ride after she'd ran outside and it not only would've killed her pride to go back and ask Finn to take her home, it also would've let him think she wanted to talk to him, which she absolutely didn't, because he had been cheating on his girlfriend with Clarke and only found out when Raven, said girlfriend, showed up to surprise him).
It wasn’t like she’d expected or wanted her 18th to be a spectacle or anything, but the fact that she was going to usher it in alone, not even slightly tipsy, facing the wrath of her mother, and eating soggy fries had to be one of the worst iterations of a birthday she’d ever had, which was saying a lot since during her ninth birthday party, she broke her leg and subsequently had to spend the weekend in the hospital.
She looked up. Only one person insisted on using that stupid nickname, but it was also the last person she expected to see, and yet, Bellamy Blake was there, smirking down at her as he leaned against the booth. Maybe she shouldn't have been so surprised — this diner was more his place than hers since, as she learned from a group project last year, he lived close to here — but still. From the moment he transferred to Ark High last year, Clarke and Bellamy didn't get along and they definitely didn't go out of their way to strike up conversations with each other. There was a girl next to him, looking annoyed at this impromptu stop.
“Fuck off, Bellamy,” she said, more tired than mean. “I’m not in the mood for what you call your wit right now.”
He chuckled. The girl beside him frowned. “Bellamy,” frowning girl prodded, latching onto his arm, “I have to leave now." She tugged on his arm and he nodded, once at Clarke and another at her. Without another word, they turned to leave, walking towards the door, his arm slung around her shoulders, her face pointed upwards for a kiss he returned. Clarke made a face, annoyed suddenly at the sight of it. They were in a restaurant. Couldn't they at least have the decency to wait until they weren't in public to do all of that? It was so like Bellamy Blake to have no regard for everyone else around him.
She watched him and his girlfriend make out by the door for a moment, until she realized what she was doing and snapped out of it. Heat crept up the back of her neck, settled in her ears, her cheeks, as she tried to laugh it away before gulping down a long sip of her Coke. It was too much because she choked slightly, feeling the carbonation hit her nose just in time for Bellamy to slide into the booth opposite her.
"Don't die," he said, reaching over to steal some of her fries.
"I thought—" she coughed once more, clearing her throat, "weren't you leaving?"
Bellamy didn't answer the question; he just stole another fry. "How's your night been?"
Her eyes narrowed. "Go away."
He didn't. "That bad, huh?"
"Are you pretending you can't hear me?"
"Worse than bad?" He snatched another fry and then pointed to the table. "Are you going to get that?"
"Get wh—" Clarke's gaze went to where he was pointing and her mouth tightened into a flat line. He was pointing at her phone, currently lit up with an incoming call. Finn, it flashed across the screen, the brightness of it screaming at her to pick up. He'd called earlier and she'd ignored it, of course, but he didn't seem to get the message. She could still hear him calling her name as she stormed out of his house, running through the crowd of people who had gathered to see what the shouting was about. Clarke, I can explain, it's not like that, Raven, I didn't know you were going to be here, I swear I—
"What?" But Bellamy had already reached over and grabbed her phone, answering the call before she could repeat herself. "Bellamy, give me that—"
"Collins, stop calling," he said, a hardness in his voice that she'd never heard before. "No, she's busy, and frankly, she should never have to see you again, but I don't think she'll be that lucky." He rolled his eyes and all Clarke could do was stare at him, gape at him in surprise and wonder and embarrassment and gratitude all in one. "Have a great night." And then he hung up and handed the phone back to her. Dumbly, she slipped it into her bag.
There were so many emotions swirling around in her that she didn’t know what to do, but the anger was the most accessible one so it was the easiest one give voice to. “What the hell was that?” She heard herself say, incredulous while Bellamy looked like nothing had even happened. “He’s going to think that we’re—you know—”
"Is that better or worse than having two girlfriends at the same time?"
"I was at the party." He arched an eyebrow. "Everyone knows."
Yes. That made sense. Not everyone had witnessed Raven arriving, but everyone definitely saw (and heard) the revelation and the arguments it spawned. "Great," she bit out, glaring at the condensation forming on the glass and pretending it was Finn. "That's just what I need."
“I doubt anyone blames you.” It didn’t even sound believable.
She scoffed. “Right. Raven does.”
“The girlfriend.” She’d been so furious at both her boyfriend and her boyfriend’s homewrecking girlfriend that she’d left first, but Clarke still recalled the shock and break in her voice. It played in her mind like it was on loop. “She hates me.”
There was a part of her that had expected a little sympathy from Bellamy, but she received none of it. “So?” He asked, complete with a slight shrug. “The person she should hate is Collins. He’s the one who lied to her. It's not like you did anything—" For a second, he hesitated. "Right?"
Horrified and a little offended, her voice squeaked when she protested, "No! I had no idea!"
"Then why should she blame you?"
"Well, I still dated her boyfriend, that's kind of a big deal."
"You didn't know he was already someone's boyfriend, as we just established."
"I don't think that matters right now."
"Of course it—" Bellamy shook his head at her, "Do you want her to be mad at you? Seriously? You're being ridiculous."
It was stupid how easily Bellamy saw through her. He always had the uncanny ability to do so. "You're being annoying," she shot back, well aware of how bad of a comeback that was. He laughed and stole another fry, but said nothing else. Maybe it was the silence that ensued that made her speak again, quieter this time. "I was so stupid. I didn't even suspect a thing."
"He's a dick, Clarke. You're not the stupid one."
"He tried to say he didn't know who she was at first." A scoff. "Can you believe that?"
"Yes. He's an asshole. What the hell did you see in him?"
It was a good question. Even a day ago, she would’ve been able to answer it. Now, he’s cute, he’s charming felt wrong. Clarke ignored it. “Did you see her face? Raven’s, I mean. I’m a bitch.”
Bellamy rolled his eyes. “Don’t go that far.”
That stopped her short. Suspicious, and slightly confused, she asked, “Why are you doing this?”
“You know…” She gestured between them. “Being nice. You hate me.”
"I don't hate you."
"You don't like me."
" You don't like me."
"I don't not like you," she said defensively, eliciting another eyeroll. She deserved that.
"What does that even mean?"
"You're always fighting with me."
"And what are you doing? Nothing?"
Fair point. "It's just suspicious, that's all." Clarke stared at him for a moment, taking him in, as if she could somehow unveil any ulterior motives by doing so. She found nothing but the reluctant acceptance of how nice his face was, with his jawline and mouth and freckles. No. She didn't want to go there. "Why are you being nice to me?"
Exasperated, Bellamy answered, "Because not even you deserve what he did to you. Happy?"
"I don't need you to feel sorry for—"
"Too bad. I do feel sorry for you," he interrupted, "you dated Collins. That's time you'll never get back."
Inexplicably, this made her laugh, and it was the laughter that she had needed all this time. It loosened her shoulders and made her forget about the shitshow she'd just experienced an hour ago. Bellamy was right. It wasn't her fault that Finn had hid his girlfriend from her. It wasn't her fault that he had another girlfriend. It was her fault that she had somehow thought Finn was a good guy, and that she could never erase that part, but the rest of it was out of her hands.
"You're not very good at sympathy," she told him. He grinned crookedly and shrugged.
"I'll work on that." Reaching over, Bellamy plucked a menu from its resting spot and flipped through it. There was no reason to believe he didn't already know what was in it already. "Are you hungry? I'm hungry." Clarke found that she was. The fries had done nothing for her appetite. She nodded. He looked around for a waitress. "Just because it's your birthday tomorrow doesn't mean I'm treating you, all right? I want to make that very clear before we order."
She blinked at him, all surprise in each movement. (She was getting surprised a lot today.) "You know when my birthday is?"
For the first time that night, she saw Bellamy get flustered. "School announcements. Coincidence."
She couldn't help but smile. "Makes sense," she said, stealing the menu from his hands. "What's good here?"
Clarke felt a strange, sick sense of deja vu as she left Lexa's apartment. The last time she'd broken up with someone, it had also happened on the heels of a personal betrayal (though this time, it was concerning Lexa admitting that she'd dated her to use her mother's connections in the city council). The last time, she'd also felt painfully, ridiculously stupid. The last time, it had also been raining.
She wasn’t sure where she was heading, but her feet kept her moving so she gave into that, let them guide her away from the apartment.
It took a few tries for her to register that someone was calling her name. Blinking through the rain, she saw Bellamy walking towards her. He was holding an umbrella over his head and immediately extended it over her as well. “Clarke,” he said, “what the hell are you doing?”
"Walking," she said blankly. The rain was really coming down now, almost washing away the sound of her answer.
He came closer, shielding her from the steady downpour. "Why are you walking in the rain? Without an umbrella?"
"Because I want to."
"You're going to get a cold," he said, clearly annoyed now. "Where are you going?"
"I don't know," she answered. She had intended on going back to her dorm, but the thought of being there, either with her awful roommate or by herself, alone with her thoughts, made her panic. Some part of her knew she was being too dramatic, but she was allowed to be dramatic. She'd just broken up with her first girlfriend. It wasn't a great time. "I haven't figured that out yet."
"Okay. Well, you can't just stay out here." He made an executive decision. "Come on, we'll go to my dorm then." Once she nodded, they were off, turning left and walking until they approached his building. Bellamy was hurrying her to get them out of the rain and he was efficiently fast in scanning his ID card, getting into the elevator, and unlocking his door. His roommate wasn't home. He left the umbrella open to the side so it would dry and tossed, in succession, a towel, a sweater, and sweatpants, at her, which she just barely caught.
"Change." His voice was serious and his expression was too. "I'll be back in five minutes." Silently, Clarke nodded again and he took that as his cue to leave. As the door closed, she started toweling off, slowly at first, until she started shivering. She pushed her wet hair out of her face and turned her attention to the clothes Bellamy had thrown at her. Both the sweater and the pants were too big and long on her, but she made do with them. They were warm and comfortable and smelled like Bellamy. It was a little dizzying.
Only when she set her wet clothes aside did she finally, finally realize where she was. She’d remembered that he lived in this building, but she’d never visited. They weren’t close enough to do that — she wasn’t even sure if they were friends; ever since the Finn Thing, they more or less had a truce, which included one or more friendly conversations that made the people around them nervous, an awkward dance at prom, and a shared hug at graduation. They were accepted to the same university, but their paths didn't cross. Until today, that was.
He had a tidy room. She didn't know if that was because of Bellamy or because of his roommate, but it barely looked like anyone had been here for the past few days. Even the beds were made. Clarke had definitely tossed her blankets to the side that morning to get out of bed. He had an organized desk, folders stacked to the side, without pens strewn all over. There was a picture of him and his sister tacked up on the wall. Octavia was three years younger than Clarke and they’d only met twice, so she didn’t have much of an opinion on her. It didn’t take a genius to know, though, that Bellamy loved her more than anyone. There were whispers through high school that their mother was largely absent from their lives, that it was Bellamy who had really taken care of everything, of Octavia. She’d never gotten up the courage to ask.
There was a knock at the door. Bellamy, she thought, hurrying over to open the door. He carried two mugs, one of which he handed to her as he made his way inside. For a second, he stopped in the doorway, glancing at her, and though that second was short, she found herself blushing under his gaze.
"I didn’t realize they’d be that big on you. Is it okay?” She nodded and there was no more on that subject. Gesturing to the mugs, he explained, “My RA has this great tea. I had to listen to him tell me where he got it for the third time, but it's worth it. Seriously, try it."
She did. Clarke wasn't an expert in tea or anything, but she knew it was good. She took two gulps of it, letting it warm her up and, strangely enough, relax her as well. Bellamy observed her with an air of satisfaction.
"I told you it was good." The smile slipped off quickly. "Now. What happened?"
“You were walking in the rain, looking like someone had just given you the worst news ever.” He gestured for her to sit down in his chair, so she did, setting the mug on the desk. She folded her hands in her lap and stared at them for a brief moment.
Then she spoke. “Do you know who Lexa Woods is?” His face indicated that he didn’t. “She’s a junior, studies polisci. It’s not important, but we’re taking the same bio class this semester. We were lab partners. And then friends, I guess. I had a crush on her. She, um,” Clarke blushed, “kissed me one day after lab. And we kind of started dating. That was two months ago.”
“That doesn’t sound awful.”
“Don’t worry. I haven’t gotten there yet,” she said wryly. "It turns out, um, she was nice to me because she was hoping to get me to put in a good word for her with my mom on the city council. She really wants the summer internship." Saying the words was harder than she thought it'd be. They sounded bitter to the end. Fuck her, she thought. Fuck you. "The actually awful part is… I really like her." She swallowed. "Liked. Liked her. And I thought she did too. But she used me. For a stupid internship."
Quietly, Bellamy asked, “How did you find out? Did she just tell you?”
"No. Maybe it would've been better if she had."
She laughed, short and without any humor in it. It wouldn't have been better. "We got into a fight about my mom and it just slipped out."
He was silent for a long minute. Then: "Did she apologize?" It was a bad sign that Clarke had to think about it, wasn't it?
"It wasn't an apology. She didn't think—well, that it was a big deal." Her hand grabbed onto the hem of the sweatshirt. "She said she didn't get why I was so upset."
“She’s trying to make herself feel better.” There was a lot of anger in Bellamy’s voice, controlled but impossible to ignore. She was grateful for that. She would never be able to stop being grateful to Bellamy for that. A lump of emotion stuck in her throat and she looked back down at her lap, willing herself not to do something silly like cry for something that she had no business crying about. Fortunately, Bellamy spoke again, distracting her. "So what do you want to do?"
"What do you mean?"
"Do you want to go egg her car?"
"No," she laughed, "I think she might know it was me."
"Not if we wear masks."
“What kind of masks are we talking about?”
“I think in this situation, only gorilla masks would do the trick.”
“And you just have some gorilla masks with you.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s in storage.”
She snorted, but there was a smile on her face. “I think I’ll pass. But I’ll keep your idea and your masks in mind.”
“They’ll be happy to fulfill their purpose.”
“I bet.” She sighed. “I just don’t want to think about it anymore.”
“You don’t have to.” From Bellamy, it was reassuring, almost believable.
“I have to see her during class.” Until this moment, she’d forgotten this fact and it was not without a rising sense of dread with which she processed it. “I’ll have to talk to her.” Clarke drew her knees up and hid her face against them, already picturing Lexa either ignoring her or acting like nothing was wrong. Neither was preferable at the moment.
Bellamy’s voice came soft and soothing. “It’s a big class, isn’t it?” Her reply was a short nod. “And there’s two months before break. It’s going to suck—” Another nod, more emphatic. “But you can avoid her—”
“I don’t want to avoid her!”
“You… want to see her?”
“I shouldn’t have to be the one who’s running away!” Her head shot up and the quick movement must’ve alarmed Bellamy, who wore an expression of shock that was funnier than it should’ve been. He was also closer than she had imagined, having pulled the other chair over to sit by her. "She's the one who did something wrong. She's the one who should feel guilty! Right?" All of a sudden, she really wanted to know what he thought, wanted to know if she was being unreasonable. Bellamy would tell her the truth.
"Of course she should," he said, no hint of sarcasm or humor in the words. It was nice to hear. It was nicer to know. "She should have the decency to fuck off."
She agreed. She completely agreed. "Thank you," she said, genuinely, embarrassingly so.
He raised an eyebrow. "I didn't do anything."
"You did." She left it at that because there was no way to make you were nice to me again sound anything less than what it was, which was pathetic, and she already felt pathetic enough today. If someone had told 17-year old Clarke Griffin that Bellamy Blake would cheer her up without making fun of her or holding it over her head, she wouldn't have believed it. Honestly, in some small way, it was hard to believe now. Old habits die hard. "You've gotten better at this. Sympathy." Since the last time I broke up with a terrible person, she added to herself.
He laughed. He had a nice laugh. "Yeah, well, I worked on it. Just like I said I would."
Bellamy was so different now. He looked so relaxed, so assured, somehow, in a way that he definitely wasn't in high school. Or maybe he had been, and she had mistaken his confidence for cockiness, casting a judgement on him that she still held until this day, even in minor ways. No, she argued, there was something different about him. He seemed lighter. "You know," she remarked, picking the mug back up, soothed by the smell of the now-lukewarm tea, "I thought you had the biggest chip on your shoulder back in high school."
"Still do," he said, wry and self-deprecating in both statement and expression. "I thought you were an annoying know-it-all."
"Still am," she replied, grinning slightly. “I was so annoying.”
“And I was a dick.” He has regret in his voice. He sounded like this wasn’t the first time he’d talked about this.
“Not that much," she started, but he cut her off.
"Clarke, come on. We didn't like each other back then. You don't have to lie. I hate that guy I was." He laughed again, but it was without any humor in it. "I probably owe you a lot of apologies."
"No, you don't," she said, holding a hand up. "Not anymore than I owe you, at least. I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry too."
He clearly wanted to say more, but she didn't let him. It wasn't necessary. "That's in the past now. Maybe…" Clarke paused, unsure. "We could be friends?"
Bellamy smiled. It was really nice. “Do you think I would’ve done this if we weren’t friends already?”
Honestly? “Yes,” she said plainly. “You did it before."
"That wasn't the same," he said, making a face. "Did I ever tell you that I actually ran into Raven a week after that whole thing? We, ah—" He stopped. He flushed. It took a minute, but she got what he meant to say and it didn't sit well with her.
"She found me over the summer," she said instead, a little high-pitched, before she cleared her throat and resumed a normal tone. "We had a nice talk, actually. She apologized."
“You didn’t have anything to do with it, did you?”
“No,” he rolled his eyes. “We didn’t really—talk.”
Clarke felt her stomach twist. Right. That made sense. “Oh. Yeah.”
Thank God the door opened. Three boys came crashing in, all of them stopping when they saw that there were two people in the room already, one of whom did not belong there.
"Hey, Bellamy," one of them said, glancing between him and her.
"And Bellamy's blonde friend," another piped in. The guy who spoke first elbowed him.
“Shut up, Murphy.” That came from Bellamy, who nodded at the three of them.
"Well?" Murphy said, crossing his arms as he observed her, leaning up against Bellamy's desk as he eyed her up and down. She wondered if Bellamy would hate it if she threw one of his books at him. “No introductions?"
Bellamy glared. "This is my roommate, Monty." Monty waved, a friendly smile on his face. "That's Miller. And that's Murphy. We all ignore him." That didn't seem to phase him one bit. "This is Clarke. We're friends from high school." She had to hold back a laugh. That was an overstatement if any.
"It's nice to meet you," she said.
"Hold on," Murphy interjected, "you're Clarke? Clarke Griffin?"
“Shit, he talks about you all the time!”
Her face broke out into a grin. "You do?" She asked, turning towards Bellamy as he scowled and reached over to smack Murphy on the head. "Terrible things?"
"Of course not," he muttered, smacking Murphy once again for full measure. "What did you want?"
"Your Psych notes."
"Nope. Go to class."
"Nah. Too much work."
"Anyways," Monty interrupted, with the tone of a man that had interrupted many arguments like this, as he grabbed a hold of Murphy’s arm and followed Miller out. "We were gonna head down to the dining hall." He looked at Clarke. "The invite's open to you too, Clarke."
"Oh—" she said, put on the spot. It wasn't that she didn't want to go, because it would've been nice, and she was hungry, but—she hated meeting new people. She wasn't good at it. She didn't like having to be good at it. But she was saved again, though not by a door this time. "Hold on. What time is it? Shit." Clarke burst out of the chair and started gathering her still wet clothes up into her arms.
Bellamy followed her. "What's going on?"
"I have to, um, I have a nightmare roommate," she started to explain, maneuvering around to get to her bag. "Josephine, she's awful. I have a mediation with her and our RA tonight and if I don't make it in time, she'll find some way to get me kicked out."
"She's that bad?"
"Worse, actually." There were no words to really describe her roommate. "I'll tell you about her sometime. But I need to go—um, it was—really nice to meet your friends, and um," Clarke lingered by the door, "thanks again, Bellamy."
“Of course,” he said, a concerned frown on his face. “There’s nothing to thank. Text me when you get back, okay?”
“Same number?” She still had the number saved from that group project they’d done together. He nodded. She waved goodbye and carried her bag up higher on her shoulder, her clothes closer to her chest. If anything, they’d be good to use as a pseudo-shelter if it was still raining. Maybe she should’ve asked earlier, back when his friends were there. She really hoped it’d stopped raining—
“Wait,” she heard, just as she reached the elevator. Bellamy was running towards her, his umbrella in hand. Once he caught up, he handed it to her. “Take this.”
“No, I’ll be fine,” she said, bashful. “It’s probably not even raining.”
“Take it just in case then.”
She did, reluctant as she was. It wasn’t her favorite thing to keep owing someone like that. “Has anyone ever told you you’re too nice sometimes?”
His laugh was deep and rich, warming her from head to toe. “No. Definitely not. And definitely not from you.”
“Then there’s a first time for everything.”
“I guess there is.”
If the clock was correct, and it probably was, because the clocks in this building were always correct, no matter how many students wished they weren’t, then she was ten minutes late meeting Bellamy for dinner. She’d promised him, practically sworn a blood oath, really, that she’d go with him to play buffer between him and his unbearable sister, and while the prospect of sitting there while pretending she didn’t hate her very presence was unappealing, to say the least, sitting here while Echo acted like she’d stopped her from working on the project rather than the truth (that she’d just never worked on the project) was even worse. It was only outranked by their professor taking Echo's complaints seriously.
And now she was getting lectured while Echo looked on with a pleased smirk, the only expression she ever seemed to have. She knew she should’ve dropped the class the first day, no, the second she’d seen Echo walk into the room, but she’d reasoned with herself: it’d been two years, they were juniors now, had moved on from their freshman year squabbles (although she strongly resented this characterization), and were mature, sensible people now. But then they were put together for a project and all her generosity flew out the window. Not only had she not done anything for the project, she had also ignored all of her emails and texts, even after Clarke had cornered her one day to force her to contribute something to it. Then, after weeks of nothing, Echo had the gall to act like she had so many things to do, if only Clarke would let her. It was unbelievable. She thought back to the string of unanswered emails and made a note to compile them. If Professor Nia wouldn't believe her words, she'd just have to show her proof.
Planning an elaborate revenge speech proved to be a great distraction; by the time she tuned back in, the professor had left and Echo was on her way out as well. For the sake of her plan, Clarke remained silent, packing up her things with a quiet fury, stopping only once to send three apologetic texts to Bellamy. He was going to be so mad at her. He was going to be so mad and he wouldn't even be wrong for it.
By the time she made it out of the classroom, it was pouring outside, the rain coming down in sheets that sounded like thunder against the windows. She groaned at the thought of walking through the parking lot to her car. Was today intent on making it the worst day of her life?
She glanced at her phone in dismay. Almost half an hour late. I'm so sorry, she types again, adding a string of exclamation points, long story but I'm trying to get there as fast as I can.
The three dots pop up a moment later, followed by his reply: Still at Tinley Hall?
Stay there. I'll be there in five
There wasn't anything after that; her screen was just her bewildered question marks and no intervening replies until a car pulled up in front of the doors. The car, of course, belonged to Bellamy, and she laughed a little as she walked outside, thankful for the overhang for shielding her from the worst of the rain until she could get into his car.
"Wasn't I supposed to meet you?"
"You were taking too long," he said easily, taking her bag and placing it in the backseat. She clicked the seatbelt into place. "Octavia stormed out anyways. About ten minutes into our conversation. Good thing I only got water, huh?"
“What did she say?”
"That it wasn't any of my business, what the hell am I doing trying to control her, that it was her right to do what she wanted with the money—"
"It's your money! You gave her that money!"
"So she could pay for school," she went on. "Do you remember? Not so she could buy a plane ticket to Europe and spend it all there."
"She had fun."
"She shouldn't have done that," he said, and then he looked over at her, uncertain. "But if she had a good time—"
Clarke reached over and laid her hand over his to stop him. "You saved all that money for her because she said she wanted to go to school. She could've told you the truth, but she didn't. She took advantage of your kindness instead."
He scowled. "You don't have to say it like that."
"Sorry," she said, without any sincerity behind it. Retracting her hand, she crossed her arms over her chest as she met his scowl with onel of her own. "How do you want me to describe it?"
"Like you're not saying I told you so with it, maybe?"
"I'm not saying I told you so."
"Not in those words, maybe."
"Not in any words."
He looked like he was on the cusp of arguing again, but he stopped short, rubbing a hand over his face. He looked so tired, a desperation and a resignation interwoven into his skin. "I know you don't like her. You try not to show it, but I can always see through you. You're not good at hiding it." She had nothing to say to that. "She's still my sister."
She had to bite her lip and count to three before she trusted herself to say anything. This was why they didn't talk about his sister. "I'm sorry," she finally said, still lacking full feeling behind it, but softer this time, and meaning it a little more, if just for Bellamy's sake. "I know she is. And I know you love her. But… you're my best friend, Bellamy. I'm never not going to be on your side."
Despite his best efforts, a smile emerged. "You're right."
She smiled back. "What was that? You'll have to say it again."
"You're right," he said, turning his attention back to the steering wheel and putting the car into drive. The rain pattered against the windshield. "I know you're right. It's just—" He let out a harsh breath. "Hard."
"Did she apologize at least?"
His lack of answer was all the answer she needed. Silently, she thought a few uncharitable things towards Octavia Blake, but was smart enough not to voice them. "I'm so glad I'm an only child," she said instead. As she hoped, Bellamy laughed. That was a good sign. "I am really sorry, Bellamy."
"It's not your fault."
"But someone should say it."
"Not you, though." He slowed the car down as they approached a stop sign. "Never mind me. What made you so late?"
Her scoff was even audible over the low volume of the radio playing between them. “Who else? Echo.”
“Yep,” she said, giving the word an undue emphasis before launching into a long explanation of the day’s events. Bellamy had already heard about her ongoing problems with Echo and their project, so this wasn’t an unfamiliar topic. He’d been privy to her frustration for so long that it was commonplace now. “So, you know, can’t wait for that to keep happening for the rest of the semester.” Clarke slumped down in the seat, letting go of all her annoyance and anger all of a sudden.
“That fucking sucks, Clarke. I don’t get why she has it out for you.”
"I did get the last bagel from Brant Hall that one day."
"That would drive anyone mad."
She snorted. If only it were that easy. Echo had had it out for her since the day they met. "She was yelling at me. Like it was my fault. Like I had actually stopped her from doing anything! If I hadn't finished the project myself, then there wouldn't even be a project in the first place!"
"And then both of you would fail."
"I might still fail," she said. "My professor is basically taking her side. Oh my god, what if I do fail?"
"Hey, hey, hey," Bellamy interrupted, stopping her before she fell into a needless spiral. His hand found hers and intertwined their fingers together. It had an immediate effect in calming her down. She squeezed his hand once and turned her head, catching his profile. Looking at him grounded her. She took a deep breath. "I'm on your side. If worse comes to worse, I'll be your witness and we can make it a whole thing."
Clarke laughed, though it sounded more hopeless than happy. "Thank you for the support."
"I mean it."
They were approaching a traffic light, which shone bright yellow, then red, in front of them. With the glow of the light illuminating Bellamy's face, with his eyes steady on hers, with his smile quirking up the corners of his mouth, with his curls framing his face, he looked more beautiful than he'd ever been, if that was even possible. It must be, because he looked it right now. She had to look away. "Thank you. I mean that."
He grinned and turned back to the road, just in time for the light to change. “Hey, are you hungry?”
“Yeah. Oh! Can we go to the Chinese place on Ninth?”
“The one where the owner’s daughter has a crush on you?”
“She does not.”
“Then how do you explain the extra egg rolls every time we go there?”
“I’m a great tipper.”
“So am I! You’re the only one she flirts with.”
“Someone’s jealous no one’s flirting with them,” she sang, in a better mood already. “You already steal my extra egg rolls anyways. Why are you complaining?”
He grumbled, “I’m not,” as he turned onto Ninth. “Shrimp lo mein, house special chicken, egg rolls?”
“And a thing of wonton soup!”
“And wonton soup.” He pulled into the parking lot and unlatched his seatbelt, stopping with a hand on the door. “You better come with me. I want those extra egg rolls.”
Clarke stifled a laugh. “What would you do without me?”
“I really,” he answered, “don’t want to know.”
For the record, she wasn’t hiding from Bellamy. She was just taking a break. It wasn’t like she could actually hide anyways. Her apartment had few hiding places and Bellamy knew all of them already.
As the host, Clarke should’ve stayed inside, but as the best friend, she decided she didn’t have to. Besides, everyone was drunk or on the way, so there was nothing to host. That was the benefit of bringing together a dozen or so college students at the end of a school year; you didn't have to do much to entertain them.
Now that everyone was out of the range where she had to watch over them, Clarke had to confront the truth she’d been denying for months: Bellamy was leaving. He would be back in a year, but it didn’t change the fact that he wouldn’t be here, he’d be in Seattle, in a museum internship program he was so excited about. It wasn't fair to him that she was sulking about it, but to her credit, this was the first time she'd allowed herself the time to mope about it. He'd applied for the opportunity last summer, agonized over the application and the statement, made Clarke read it over and over to make sure it was perfect, before finally sending it in. He'd found out over winter break and they'd celebrated then too, but she'd refused to dwell on it, pushed to the back of her mind—until now. She just wished she'd chosen a better time and location: at his farewell party, on the fire escape, as the rain slowly drizzled around her made for a melancholy setting, but rather an inconvenient one.
"There you are," she heard, right before Bellamy took a seat next to her, knocking his shoulder against hers and handing her her jacket. She held it in her lap. “Why are you out here?”
“Because I just love the rain, obviously.” She sniffed slightly. "Are you drunk?"
"No, but I may have had something to drink."
"At a party? How could you?"
Bellamy laughed and leaned back against the wall. She followed. "This was a nice party."
"Was? It's not over yet."
"Then why are you out here?"
"I wanted some fresh air."
"While it's raining?"
She shushed him. "It's barely raining. See?" Clarke held out her hand and came back with just a few small drops of water. The rain started and stopped, like it hadn't made up its mind about what it wanted to do tonight. She understood what that was like. "I wasn't going to stay out here that long anyways." He hummed in reply. "Are you all packed yet?”
“I’ve attempted some packing,” he answered sheepishly.
“Bellamy,” she said, voice reproachful, “you’re leaving in two days!”
"That's plenty of time!"
He sighed, shaking his head. "It's… weird… packing up my life. I mean, I know it's only a year, but it's a long time to me and—I mean, I've barely traveled out of this town. And now I have to start all over across the country? It's a lot to handle."
"It is," she said softly. She could understand that. “You can handle it, though. You can handle anything.”
"I really don't know about that."
"I do." She said it firmly, in a tone that allowed no protest, like it was a truth without question, because it was. Bellamy's life hadn't been easy; he had lost both of his parents to illness, he had taken care of his sister for his entire life; he had balanced numerous jobs with school and other priorities; he had a family's worth of expectations and duties placed upon him. And he had found a way to survive despite all of that. If there was one thing Clarke knew, it was that nothing could beat Bellamy Blake. He had to know that. He had to believe that. When she turned towards him, seized by a desperate need for him to believe her, he was already looking back, his eyes dark, cast down on her, the corner of his mouth creasing up in the kind of smile she loved on him, because it was the smile he only bestowed on her. She found herself breathless all of a sudden. She found herself possessed with a new knowledge, an old knowledge, a knowledge she had always known, but had denied, or refused to accept, or something, anything, because she hadn't suddenly fallen in love with Bellamy; she had been in love with Bellamy, for months, for years. She didn't know when it started, only that it had and that she had only realized it now, two days before he was set to leave her.
"Bellamy, I—" she started, throat dry, voice barely a whisper, nearly lost in the nighttime breeze. Why had she spoken? What was she supposed to say?
His brow furrowed. “What is it, Clarke?”
"I—" She was panicking. She couldn't tell him what she'd just realized because it would be disastrous if she did. She hadn't had any time to think about what this meant, not just for herself, but for him, for their friendship, for the future. She hadn't had time to wonder if he could ever feel the same. She had had no time to imagine that he did, that this could all work out. All she knew now, all she seemed to ever know, was that there was no doubt that she loved him in a way that was more than mere friendship, that was beyond what she was used to. But beyond that—there was so much to figure out. And he was leaving in two days.
Bellamy—beautiful, bright, caring—frowned at her, the confusion melting into a concern. She had to say something. So she said: "I'm going to miss you," and threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around him in a tight embrace that she melted into. Clarke buried her face into his shoulder and hoped he wouldn't notice the way her heart rate was speeding up, the loud, steady rush of her blood burning from the inside out.
His laugh mixed with a grunt of surprise, but he easily returned the hug, the action occurring as if on autopilot. He was warm and familiar but it only served to remind her that she wouldn't have this again for a while. "It's only a year," he said, smoothing down the back of her hair. "I'll be back before you know it."
"You just said it was really long."
"Yeah," he murmured, "but think about it like this. It's not like we won't see or talk to each other again." She just burrowed closer. "We'll still talk every day. And we can FaceTime. And I've already looked into getting back for Christmas, so…"
“You’re going to use FaceTime? You hate FaceTime.”
“I’ll conquer my hatred of FaceTime so we can talk.”
She snorted but felt her earlier panic and confusion subside. "I am really happy for you. Of course I am."
"You threw me a whole party, Clarke, I know you are," he said, pulling back from the hug, amused. "And you kept saying you were so proud—"
"Because I am! You're going to do such amazing things," she could hear her voice break a little, towards the end, and she smiled to cover it up. "Please don't think I'm not."
"I don't think that," he reassured her, brushing some hair out of her face. She felt the back of her neck warm up. Was this how it was going to be now? He would do something, something he did normally, even, and she would blush like a girl with a crush? "I'm going to miss you too. I wish you were coming along."
“Maybe if you were doing anything else.” And maybe if she didn’t have her own opportunity waiting for her here, a job with the public health council that she was really excited for. It scared her how much she would’ve gone if she didn’t have that. “A year isn’t so bad.”
“You’ll be wishing I had stayed away even longer by the time I get back,” he teased, but she scoffed.
“Or, more likely, you’ll have forgotten about all of us in two months.”
“Not you,” he said, meeting her eyes straight on, a serious look in them. They danced as he added, “Murphy, maybe.”
The drop of disappointment only lasted a mere half second and Clarke soldiered through it. “He’s going to be insufferable without you to rein him in.”
“He’s insufferable no matter what. Don’t put that on me.”
She laughed, low but sincere, as she settled back against the wall, fitting against him easily. He wrapped an arm around her to tuck her even closer. She didn’t complain. For the first time that night, though it would hardly be the only time, she wished she could tell him to stay. It would’ve been nice, she reasoned, to have him here when she had come to this life changing realization about him. It would also have been incredibly selfish. “When does your flight leave again?” She asked, instead, even though she knew already, had written it down on her calendar, had memorized it, to boot. 8 PM Sunday. She was going to take him to the airport and cry on the way home.
“8 PM on Sunday. I’ll get there by 11.”
“Okay,” she said, like she hadn’t known. “Do you want me to come over tomorrow and help you pack?”
“I’ll have the pizza waiting for you.”
Bellamy's near permanent scowl was starting to annoy her.
It was annoying her, but there wasn't anything she could do about it, since she was trapped in this conversation with her mom, an important donor, and the donor's son who had somehow found his way into the group in the last twenty minutes. If Bellamy thought that she enjoyed being at her mother's New Year's party, spending her time being nice to high-level hospital execs who simpered at her when she told them that yes, she did like working for the public health council, instead of going to Monty's party, then his time away had clearly warped his mind. It was the last thing she wanted to do, but she'd struck the deal with her mom long before Bellamy finally decided to come back for a Christmas/New Year's visit, so she had no way out. Besides, she'd told him for weeks now that she had this on her calendar, so he knew already. Moreover, he was the one who offered to go with her, said that he didn't mind since there was a free bar, so she'd reluctantly agreed, touched and a little swoony that he would give up going to something he would've had much more fun at just to accompany her (even if it was for the free bar).
None of that was reflected in his face right now; every time she glanced over at the table, he looked surlier than ever. Eventually, it got to be too much for her. Excusing herself with a quick reassurance that she'd be back, she made her way towards Bellamy, closing the distance between them within a few seconds. He looked over at her and raised an eyebrow.
"Your face is going to stick like that," she informed him.
His expression didn't change. "It doesn't work like that."
"I don't know. You've been glaring for a long time."
An eyeroll. "Having fun?"
"What do you think?"
“You’re having a great time.”
“Really?” She glared at him. “What makes you think that?”
“You laughed quite a bit.”
Her glare faded slightly, turning into confusion. “I didn’t laugh.”
“You absolutely did.”
“I did not.”
“You did,” he argued, defiant, with his arms crossed. “You’re having a great time with them.”
"Well, I'm having more fun than you, that's for sure," she shot back, adding, under her breath, "not like that's hard to do."
"Nothing," she said, forcing a smile onto her face. "Get up."
"What?" He repeated, blinking at her. She stood up and waited for him to follow suit. He didn't, just kept blinking up at her, so she grabbed his hand and tugged him out of his seat, leading him down to the bar at the other end of the room. "Are you done manhandling me yet?"
"Are you done being a baby yet?" She got the bartender's attention and asked for a rum and coke.
"I'm not being a baby," he said, avoiding her eyes, glaring at the bartop. The drink arrived and Bellamy grabbed it, finishing it off within seconds.
She scowled. "You don't have to stay here, you know. I know you're regretting not being at Monty's thing—" (Monty's party, where all of his friends were, where there was a girl named Bree she knew he'd been flirting with lately, where there were a lot of people he would've enjoyed being around a lot more.)
"I'm not," he denied. "He texted and said it was over anyways."
"Already?" It was barely ten. "So you're mad that you've got nowhere else to go."
"I'm not mad."
"Then your constant glaring and scowling is just a trick of the light."
"Sucks about your eyesight, Clarke."
Frustrated, she grabbed a cold crab puff off a tray passing by and threw it at him. Bellamy gaped at her, covering the spot on his chest that the crab puff had hit. "I told you not to come!"
"You can't just throw food at people. That's a waste of food."
"Five second rule. You can still eat it."
"It's been more than five seconds!"
"Were you counting?"
"Did you throw food at me?"
"Yeah. And I'd do it again!" She looked around and then grabbed another crab puff and aimed it threateningly at him before breaking out into giggles. What were they doing? "What are we doing?"
Finally, he cracked a smile. It blossomed on his face shyly, maybe even a little bashfully, and it changed her mood entirely. She remembered the bad day she’d had before she went to the airport to pick up Bellamy and none of that mattering once she spotted him coming towards her, a warm smile on his face, the sight of it confirming what she already knew but tried to pretend she didn’t: that she was still in love with him, no matter how much time had passed, no matter how much distance there was between them. He’d swept her up in a hug and she’d let out a surprised squeak of laughter before returning it, so, so happy that he was here, after all these months. Seeing him smile right now brought that back full force. Her shoulders relaxed from their offensive stance and she dropped the crab puff onto the counter, wiping her hand on the little napkin under the glass. She had a strong urge to reach out and fix the curls that had fallen across his forehead, but she restrained herself.
“I really don’t mind if you go,” she said softly. “I know this isn’t fair to you.”
Bellamy sighed. "No, I'm sorry. I forgot how much I don't like these people."
"Yeah, they're not my first choice for company." They shared a grin. "Are you really going to stay?"
"I said I would," he answered, shrugging. "I'll stop glaring. Not that I was glaring."
"You were kind of glaring."
"I was possibly glaring."
She laughed at him, laughing harder when he joined in with her. "As soon as I'm done here, we're leaving."
He tilted his head at her. “Yeah? And when’s that going to be?”
"Your guess is as good as mine." She looked over at the small group who were still talking to each other, seemingly having forgotten about her. That was probably a bad sign. "Why did I think I could do this again?"
"Because you can." She looked skeptically at him. "C'mon, Clarke, you're not giving yourself enough credit."
"Credit for what?"
"For your ability to get people to agree to whatever you need them to do," he said, his tone practically adding a knowing emphasis at the end of it. "Honestly, it’s a little scary sometimes."
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about all those times you’ve been able to work the impossible. When you got Miller to help out with your project? When you got Harper the redo on the test she missed?” He was getting more animated by the second. “Oh, and remember when you convinced Murphy to apologize?”
She was certain she was blushing now, because her neck felt too warm. “I didn’t really do anything then.”
“You’re wrong,” he said, simple, truthful. His eyes did not leave hers. “You know how to get people to listen to you. You know how to win them over. I’ve always admired that about you.”
“I,” she started, then stopped, voice caught in her throat. Something felt different, like the air had changed entirely, like the floor had knocked them all around. There was so much more in those words than she knew how to handle.
He was still holding her gaze, and it was then that she remembered he had a way of commanding attention just with his eyes, that there was always so much to be said in them. She didn't even know where to start. "It's just the truth," he said, trailing off a second later, his gaze shifting to a spot behind her.
Then he scowled. “What,” she began, only to be startled nearly out of her seat by a voice by her ear.
"Sorry for scaring you." Clarke whirled around, one hand to her chest. It was the donor's son, standing too close to her, an easy, confident smile on his face. He had had that smile on the entire time they were talking earlier, but it was different close up. It seemed less impersonal, more specific for her. She didn't like that smile much, but she smiled back anyways, or tried to, because he was still the donor's son and she still needed their money.
"Oh, you didn't scare me," she denied, weakly. "I was just… surprised."
“Sorry for surprising you, then,” he said, before his attention passed across Bellamy. “Am I interrupting something?”
“No!” She said quickly, embarrassed, in case Bellamy got the wrong idea from her. Ever since she’d realized the whole in love thing, she’d been hypersensitive about the whole thing. It was fine when he was in Seattle (fine in the not having to overthink things that much area, not in the whole being okay with him being gone thing) but this entire visit, she’d wondered about every action and brush of the hand and glance — wondering if he could tell, if he knew, if he cared. “This is just Bellamy.”
"Brent Peterson," he said, walking around to extend a hand to Bellamy. "Nice to meet you."
With a labored reluctance, Bellamy stuck his hand out to shake his, a short, brisk up and down movement that, coupled with his barely veiled disdain, caused her to shoot him a warning look. He ignored it. "Likewise," he said.
She jumped in before he could say anything else, pulling Brent's attention to her. "Have you given my idea more thought?"
“We have plenty of time to discuss that later,” Brent said, with a laugh.
"But if we discussed it now, then you wouldn't have to worry about it later."
"I don't worry about these things," he said, glancing over at her. "If it happens, it happens. Your proposal is a good idea, but I have no control over any of it." Her heart sank. Thenshe has wasted her night. “What are you drinking? Can I get you something?"
"Oh, no, you don't have to—"
"How about a vodka something? Lemonade?" He suggested, breezing past her objection.
"That's my favorite," she said, taken aback. It was a lucky guess. There was a rustle of movement beside her and she really hoped Bellamy was behaving. "Really, it's all right—" But Brent had already signalled for the bartender and received a vodka lemonade a moment later. He passed it to her.
"How's this? You let me buy you a drink and I'll listen to your proposal again."
She eyed the drink. "You just said you had no control over it."
He didn't even look ashamed when he said, "I was just trying to get out of talking shop, but I can see you're really determined."
"I don't accept bribery even in the form of drinks."
"Don't be so cynical. It's a gift."
To her surprise, she laughed, although she would characterize it as a short chuckle. "It's very flattering to be gifted a drink."
"I know I’d be flattered," he shrugged. "Come on, this is a genuine offer here."
"You know, you've already lied to me once."
"That was a mistake. I'm fixing it!"
Clarke snorted. "I think you've already decided to help us out." Pause. "I think we're the perfect group for your grant. And I think you've known it from the start."
Brent's smile was slow and pleased. "Do I make it that obvious?"
"Completely. I'm right."
"You do strike a hard bargain, Ms. Griffin."
She made a face. "Clarke. I'm Clarke."
"Clarke," he said.
"I'm heading back," Bellamy muttered, brushing against her as he turned to walk away, his steps brisk and pointed. Her smile dropped off.
"Hold on—" She said, an apology half on her tongue already, but Brent spoke again.
"I've got some time on Friday if you want to discuss this further," he said. "I know a great place on Jordan."
She nodded, but she was distracted, torn between wanting to search for Bellamy and not wanting to ignore Brent. He'd just agreed to her grant proposal, something she and the rest of the staff had been working on for the past few months. She needed to secure a meeting. "That sounds great," she said, a little distantly. "Can I give you a call sometime?" Before she realized what was happening, he had whipped out a pen, writing something on his business card, and pressed it into her hand.
"Just call my office. We'll set something up." His eyes flickered over to the drink he'd ordered. "Are you sure you don't want to take me up on this?"
This time, she shook her head, clutching the business card, and eyes wandering — just once, because she had to, because she could've sworn she'd seen Bellamy leave — over to the exit. "I’m sure—but I, I—I'll call your office tomorrow!" With that, Clarke waved a goodbye, dashing away from the bar and through the throngs of people mingling around the room. Her mother waylaid her with a question she ignored and it took an inordinately long time for them to retrieve her coat, but she dashed outside into the light rain that was coming down — only to find that Bellamy was standing by the exit, a little ways to the side, waiting impatiently under the overhang. When they had arrived earlier that evening, they'd been late. Instead of wasting even more time trying to find parking, she'd convinced a disagreeable Bellamy to go through valet — it was paying off right now, she thought, as she stormed up to him.
"What are you doing?"
He didn't even spare a glance, but she was looking at him, and she noticed that he was clenching his jaw in a way that must've hurt. It was no wonder that his answer came tight-lipped. "Waiting for the car. Someone said it'd be fine if we just did valet."
She ignored the dig. “You said you were staying.”
Bellamy shrugged, this flippant little thing that was more aggravating than anything else. “Changed my mind." He glanced over, briefly, before returning his gaze ahead. "So. How'd it go?"
"Fine," she said. If he was going to be snippy at her, she could be snippy back.
"Great," he said, flatly. "You guys really hit it off."
"I don't think I'd really say that."
"He was definitely into you."
"No, he wasn't," she said. "He was being friendly."
"He didn't want to be just friends with you." She scoffed. "I saw the way he was looking at you."
"I clearly didn't care," she retorted. "Don't tell me this is why you stormed out like some kid throwing a tantrum. Because Brent was being nice to me?"
He crossed his arms, defiant, still looking forward, not even breaking away when a car approached them — his car, driven by the valet — and pulled up right in front. "It isn't about him being nice—I don't care what the hell he does with his time. I just think it's highly unprofessional." Intending that to be his final word on the topic, Bellamy stepped forward to take the keys, but she was faster, snatching them out of the valet's hands. Something fell as she dug into her bag to grab some money for the tip and she didn't notice Bellamy bend down to pick it up, not until the valet was gone and she was face to face with a raised eyebrow on an otherwise expressionless face.
"Oh, look," he said, words pronounced, holding out a tiny slip of paper — the business card Brent had scribbled on before giving it to her, she realized — between two fingers, "he gave you his personal number."
Flushing, she plucked the card from his hand, crumpling it into a ball. Who cared? “Why does this matter? I don’t want it.”
“Because it—” he started, cutting himself off abruptly. His tone shifted. “It just proves my point, that’s all.”
“I told you he was into you. This proves it,” he said, gesturing to the crumpled card.
She only barely just stopped herself from sighing, but her words were labored through gritted teeth, "And? That doesn't answer my question. I don't want his number. I'm not into him. So why does this matter?" Because it didn't make sense, not the way he was throwing a fit about it, not how big of a deal he was making it out to be, not why he was picking a fight with her over this, because that was what he was doing, she knew it — none of it made sense — it was almost like—
It was almost like he was jealous.
But that made no sense. Bellamy had shown no indication of interest in her beyond their existing friendship — maybe if it had been a year ago, she could’ve picked some things and twisted it into a different conclusion (sometimes he looked at her in this way—), but for the last few months, he’d been away, and he’d been dating, or flirting, or whatever, and she knew because she’d had to find out about it, either from him or from their friends. Yet if she didn’t know that, if she just analyzed his behavior from tonight — he’d been surly, he’d said she was laughing when she wasn’t, he’d stormed off, he was arguing with her about whether or not some guy she didn’t care about was into her — without that knowledge, if she just approached it objectively, then… then maybe there was a case for it. Maybe he was jealous. Maybe he was jealous for reasons she'd never thought would be possible.
"Because…" he sputtered, looking lost, "you shouldn't trust him."
"That's not it," she challenged, dared. "Why does it matter? Why do you care so much?"
He clenched his jaw again, refusing to answer. “Give me the keys, Clarke.”
"No," she said, pulling the keys further away. "Not until you answer my question."
"Which I did."
"No, you didn't." She dropped the keys into her coat pocket. "Tell me why you're so upset about this."
“Drop it, Clarke.” His voice was low, irritated, tense, a warning. "And I want the keys."
“No,” once again. She was suddenly tired of this back and forth, knowing, of course she knew, that he wasn't going to answer her, not properly, and if he was, it was going to be evasive. Whether by folly or by accuracy, she was almost certain of his end of things at this point; all she wanted was to hear it from him. Maybe she was making a big mistake, but it didn't feel like it in the moment, when she stepped forward and asked, "Are you jealous of him? Is that why you're mad?"
Bellamy's eyes gave it away — they always did, no matter what it was — and Clarke should've been content with that confirmation, but she wasn't. They were at the precipice of something here. She wasn't going to be content with just that. This time, it wasn't a question. "You're jealous."
"No," he denied, looking away, "don't be ridiculous."
"It's not—it's not true." He took a step back, and then another step. "I'm not doing this," Bellamy muttered, turning on his heel, walking away, into the rain, which had picked up in the past ten minutes, now a steady downpour. Of course she was going to follow him. The rain plastered her hair and her clothes to her within seconds, but she didn't care, not now.
"Bellamy!" He stopped, whirled around.
"What are you doing?" He shouted at her, volume mostly necessary to bridge the slight distance and the sound of the rain. "Get back inside!"
“So you’re allowed to be out here but I’m not?”
“Yes! I’m trying to leave! You have the keys!”
“I’ll give them to you,” she promised, getting closer to him, “but admit it first. Tell me the truth!”
Bellamy’s nostrils flared in annoyance and his mouth kept opening and closing, lost for words. She thought that was silly; there was only one thing he could say. Finally, after running his hand through his hair, he yelled, “Fine! Fine!” His voice wavered for a second. “Yes, I’m jealous! Yes, you were right, is that what you wanted to hear? I hated seeing him with you! I hated having to be here tonight while the two of you flirted and I know that I have no right to be a dick about this, so don’t start, but I am, and I’m sorry, okay—why the hell are you smiling?”
So she was. She felt the pull of her lips into a smile after it had happened and it pulled wider when she took in his half furious, half confused face, his wet hair sticking to his forehead, the utterly stupid fact that they were shouting at each other over something like this in the parking lot in the rain and it was too much. Clarke came closer, until she was toe to toe with him, looking up, “Why are you jealous?”
He swept her wet hair away from her eyes, his touch unsure and tentative. "Because," he said, nearly a whisper amidst the rain, almost lost in the loud thudding of her heartbeat, "it shouldn't be him. It should be me. I want it to be me."
She choked out a small laugh, happy and astonished, like she had not realized this moments before, because hearing it was different—hearing it made it real and sure and true. "It is you," she said, blinking through the rain, laughing again, even when he pulled her close and swept her up and closed his mouth over hers, so she was smiling into the kiss, gasping out the words in between, "of course it's you. I only want you."
Bellamy stole another kiss from her before he pulled away, cradling her face with both hands. His smile was brilliant and delighted and all hers. "You mean it?”
“ Yes. Why didn’t you just tell me?”
“I didn’t think you felt the same. I didn’t want to ruin things between us. I was a coward. And I didn’t want to tell you like this," he confessed with a rueful laugh.
"How were you going to tell me?"
“Better. Not during a fight.” He looked up, squinting, then back at her. “Not in the rain.”
She didn’t care about the rain. She had forgotten about the rain. “How… how long?”
“How long have I been planning to tell you? Or how long have I been in love with you?”
In love with you. Bellamy was in love with her. She smiled again, grinned, lifted herself up onto her tiptoes, and kissed him hard, long, wanting. It left him with a daze in his eyes. “Both,” she said, breathless.
His thumb tickled along her cheek. "A while."
"Me too," she said, before he dipped his head down again, and talking was the last thing she wanted to do.
The afternoon rain hadn't abated, but at least it was only a light sprinkle, one that left the porch swing untouched. Clarke sat down with a sigh and folded her legs under her, staring out into the street, which was lit up by the sunset. A moment later, she was startled out of her thoughts by a nudge to her shoulder and a weight next to her. She looked over and smiled. Bellamy, freshly showered, was holding out a blanket for her.
"It's like twenty degrees out here," he said, clearly trying not to scold, but unable to help himself. "Come back inside. There's heat and everything."
"I have a coat on," she protested, shaking out her arms in the puffy blue coat she wore before setting the blanket over both of their laps. "And now you're here and you're like a furnace, so it's almost like having actual heat outside."
"I am not a furnace." Bellamy tilted her chin up and kissed her lightly. "I'm making singang tonight."
She flicked his chin. "You're trying to bribe me."
“I’m not ashamed.”
“You should be. It’s not working.”
"Are you trying to freeze to death?"
She shook her puffy arms again. "No. I'm just trying to think."
"You do have a habit of doing that."
“I know, I’ve got to stop it.”
He snorted. “What are you thinking so hard about?”
“Stuff,” she answered evasively. Truthfully, she had been thinking about Bellamy and the week they just had, the week of doing nothing and staying home and just being around each other, of waking up to his face next to her and his arms encircled around her, of the time they spent catching up, and settling in, and figuring out how this whole dating thing worked. And most of all, she had been thinking about what would happen next, when Bellamy was back in Seattle until his program finished, and she was still here, counting down the days.
“I don’t know.” She tilted her head at him. “What time’s your flight tomorrow?” She already knew.
He sighed. “Eight. Let’s not talk about that.”
“We have to. We haven’t all week.”
“Because I don’t want to think about it.”
“Me either.” She tapped his arm. “But we should. Remember that night before you left? We were sitting out at the fire escape of my old place.”
"It was raining."
"Still counts," she mocked, laughing when he faked offense. She pulled her knees up and hugged them to her chest, quiet. Then, "You're leaving tomorrow and it's raining again."
"I'll be back in September."
"That's months away." Eight long months. It had been hard enough to get past the first six.
"I know," he said, "I don't like it either."
She said nothing for a bit. She wanted to say too many things at once.
His brows knitted together. "Of what?"
She could hear the embarrassment in her voice. "Of you… realizing you made a mistake. With me. Us." She had expected him to either deny it or to tell her she was right—but all he did was laugh. “I don’t think it’s funny,” she said stiffly, pulling away a little. His hand shot out to stop her.
“No, sorry, I know. I didn't mean to laugh,” Bellamy said, offering her an apologetic smile. “It’s just—I’ve been scared of the same thing. This whole time.”
"Wait," she said, looking at him in disbelief, "are you serious?" When he nodded, she covered her face with her hands, muffling the sound of her giggling. After all this time and he was on the same page as her.
"I didn't want to bring it up because—well, we had, I mean, it's been a really great week and I didn't want to ruin that feeling with this stuff." He gave her a lopsided grin, which reached the corners of his eyes. She couldn't help but kiss him.
"Me too," she said, after, leaning her forehead against his.
"Yeah. It's been… really nice." She smiled at him, shy at first, and wondered when the hell she was going to stop feeling so shy with him. When they were just friends, she'd never had this kind of hesitancy. But back then, she hadn't known what it was like to kiss Bellamy, and she certainly hadn't known what it was like to feel the full force of Bellamy's love, and now that she was fully aware of both of those things, all she could feel was this shyness that made her feel, and act, like she'd never even had a crush before. "It's so weird. Everything is so different now."
"I know what you mean." He paused, thinking. "But a good different." It sounded more like a question than a statement. She smiled even more.
"Yeah. A good different. And just so you know. You don't have to worry about that. I'm so sure about you."
The exhale was quiet, but she still caught it. "Same goes for me, Clarke." He brushed her cheek with his thumb. "I don't want to leave," Bellamy sighed, meeting her eyes with a wry chuckle. "I mean, I didn't want to go then either, but I really don't want to go now."
"As much as I would love to condone that idea," she said, curling closer to him, slipping against him as he put his arm around her shoulders. He smelled a little like cinnamon, from the cookies they'd attempted to make earlier. "It would be the worst idea you've ever had."
“Feels like you’re understating some of my really bad ideas.”
“Okay, third worst idea you’ve ever had.” He laughed into her hair and she curled closer. It was easier to talk about this when she didn't have to look at him. “What do we do now? You’re leaving tomorrow.”
“Well,” he said, contemplative. “We’ve two options. We could… put this on hiatus.”
She made a noise of objection. “And forget this happened?”
“No! I hope not. But we could wait until… I don’t know, it sounds selfish when I say it.”
“What’s the other?”
She’d never done that before. “Everyone says long distance is hard. And we've only just started this whole—thing."
"You know what I mean."
"Yeah," she blushed. Stupid. "A relationship."
He pressed a kiss on the top of her head and breathed out a laugh. "I know it'll suck. The long distance thing. I don't like not getting to see you see you every day as it is."
"It really sucks," she said.
"And our timing is terrible."
An understatement. "It really is."
"But," she pressed even closer, if possible, "I want to be with you. I don’t want to wait any longer."
Clarke closed her eyes, letting his words sink in. It still didn’t feel real, but it was, and he was here and he meant it. “Me too,” she said, finally pulling away and looking at him properly now, slightly thrown by the earnestness in his face, the honesty in his eyes. “I want to be with you too.”
He kissed her then, slow and sweet and grateful. She smiled into it, like she always did. “Between the two of us,” he whispered against her mouth, “we can handle anything."
She couldn't deny that.
By the time she got out of the conference call, she had three missed calls. She ignored the first one, because it was from her mom, made a note to get back to the second one, Harper, who was probably calling about lunch this weekend, and skipped right to the third, clicking on Bellamy's name and letting it ring over speaker, thankful that she was the only one in the room, as she slumped down in her chair and closed her eyes.
"Hey," she finally heard. The sound of his voice relaxed her immediately, taking away the tension from her body and the stress of the day in just one word. One day, she would have to ask him how he did that, when nothing else could. “Are you still at work?”
“Ten hours and counting.” Vaguely, she wondered if she had any food at home she could heat up or if she’d been too busy this week to get anything. More likely it was the latter.
“Go home, Clarke,” he commanded.
“I can’t,” she complained. “I still have another thing to do. Do you think Diyoza will mind if I just camp out in the office all night? I'm so tired I don't know if I can make it home."
"What she doesn't know won't hurt her."
"I think she'd know. She probably has cameras everywhere."
"So she can hear our conversation right now."
"Exactly. I suggest that you say something nice about her right now so she doesn’t get upset."
"Diyoza, I find your filing system very neat."
"Liar. You've never appreciated filing systems a day in your life."
"Way to blow my cover, Princess. Whose side are you on?" he laughed, shifting gears a second later. "I told you to get some sleep last night."
She tutted, sitting up in her chair. "Do I have to remind you who kept me up last night?"
He was absolutely thinking about last night. She knew because he stumbled over his first words. “After which I told you to get some sleep.”
"It's not sleep that's the problem," she grumbled, glaring at the problem in front of her.
"What is it?"
"Maybe that I have three huge projects all with deadlines in the coming week and I'm nowhere near being done."
"The same projects you're halfway through, right?"
"And you still have time."
"And you can't do anything about it right now, since you're waiting on approvals anyways."
She bristled at this. He was right, but he didn't have to sound so smug about it. "There's a lot of things I can check up on."
"Do that tomorrow."
"Why not?" She could picture his expression at that moment, something knowing in a background of calm.
"Because I could do it right now."
He sighed, disapproving. "Have you even had dinner yet?"
"I'll get something on the way home."
"And when will that be?"
"Did you call me to interrogate me about dinner?"
"Maybe." She let out a laugh. "No, I just got done with work. Thought maybe you were too."
"No such luck."
“But.” She stared at the files on her desk, then the empty office around her, and finally, the time on her computer screen. Maybe he had a point. “If I don’t get this done, I hope you know I’m blaming you.”
“I will happily take the blame.”
"You won't like it when DIyoza makes you take on five projects at once to make up for it."
"Will she buy my out of the state excuse?"
"Probably not. Unless you're very good at Photoshop."
"Then you're out of luck." She glanced at the clock again and sighed inwardly. If she left now, she could stop by the Thai place before it closed. Having made up her mind, Clarke got up and winced at the ache in her back. She was not old enough to have back pain like this. Over the phone, she heard a long beep. "What are you doing?"
"Heating up some leftovers," he replied, letting out a hiss of pain a second later. "And burning my fingers."
"You do suffer," she giggled, shutting her computer down and picking up her bag. "Hey, you never told me how your presentation went. I was waiting all day."
He made a deflating noise. "You just opened Pandora's box."
"No, not entirely. But it's a long story."
"Well, now you have to tell it."
He protested — for show, more than anything — but delved into the story, telling her about how the location for the presentation changed no more than three times in two hours, how one of the attendees had a coughing fit that forced them to pause their proposal, how their visual aid actually glitched during the only time they really needed the visual aid, and how one of his group partners nearly ruined it all when he went on the defensive after being asked a question. Clarke loved it. Not because it had gone so awfully, obviously, but because she liked listening to Bellamy tell the story. He had a way about him, that made anything he talked about sound compelling. And yes, she was slightly biased, but it was still true. People liked listening to him talk. Clarke loved listening to him talk. It made her feel like she had been there, like if she closed her eyes, he was telling her about his day while sitting next to her, while she stole whatever he was eating and he jokingly reprimanded her for it, instead of having to hear about it on the phone, nearly 3000 miles away.
"Shit," she muttered, hit with a wave of missing Bellamy and hating this and wishing it was September already, instead of May.
Bellamy stopped in the middle of a tangent. "What?"
"Nothing," she said quickly. "Um, it's raining." Heavily too and acting as a barrier between her and her car. Despairingly, she cursed the fact that she had forgotten to bring an umbrella to work.
"Are you…" He paused, but even in two words, she heard the panic in his voice, "crying?"
Oh. She was. It occurred to her too late to hide it—and to stop it, because once she started hiccuping, she couldn't do anything about the tears rolling down. " Clarke?"
"Nothing, I'm—okay," she hiccuped, sucking in a harsh breath to stabilize herself. That did the trick, or maybe she had just run out of tears. The rain, seemingly mirroring her, started slowing down too. "Sorry."
"What happened? What's wrong? Are you okay?" His questions came in rapid succession, demanding in its worry. Bellamy's voice had taken on the edge that indicated he was probably pacing right now, helpless and hating every second of it. "Clarke, are you alone? Are you safe? Are you—"
"I'm fine, really," she said, before his mind whipped up increasingly bad scenarios. "Really, honestly. I'm just—" She sniffled and wiped at her face. "I just miss you a lot."
When they started, long distance wasn't so bad. It was hard, of course, like they knew it would be. The timezone difference made it harder, but after a few false starts, they got into a good rhythm, found time to make time for each other. It was a little easier when she could see him, but hearing his voice could lift her spirits on any day. But it wasn't always like that. Sometimes, it was like waiting for him and missing him and not being able to do anything about it. It was like aching for the simple, little things, like falling asleep with him or playing with his hair, or holding hands or even just having lunch together. It was crying out of nowhere because it had been a long, bad day, and all she wanted was to be with him.
"Clarke," his voice changed, softer in a way, rougher in another, wanting altogether, "I miss you all the time. I wish I was there with you."
“Yeah?” She smiled, a little watery still. “I wish you were too. You’d have an umbrella, at least.”
He laughed softly. “I can’t believe you didn’t bring an umbrella.”
“When in your life have you ever known me to bring an umbrella anywhere?”
"You sound way too proud of that fact." She grinned, even though he couldn't see it. "Has the rain stopped yet?"
"No. I’m going to make a run for it." Paying only half-attention to Bellamy (he was telling her to be careful, like there was ice out there or something), she dashed through the rain, covering her head with her free arm, the other clutching onto her phone and her bag all at once. The distance was short, thankfully, and she fumbled with her keys, but she got the door open and herself into the seat in the middle of a Bellamy sentence. "I made it," she proclaimed, wiping at her phone screen and slumping back against the seat.
"I swear," he said, probably shaking his head, "I'm going to send you an umbrella."
"If you do, I promise I'll use it."
She was laughing when she started the car and laughing still when she told him she'd talk to him later. He sent her a text later that night, complete with a screenshot of an umbrella in his cart.
It arrived a week later, with a note:
Just in case.
After all of the effort she had put into this entire plan, of course the thing that threatened to derail it was the rain.
Harper kept reassuring her that it really wasn't a problem, that she was making a big deal out of nothing, but she didn't understand. Clarke hadn’t gone to all the trouble of feigning illness, convincing Monty to pretend he would be picking Bellamy up when he arrived (including having him send texts confirming it), and undergoing three outfit changes just to be stuck in traffic on the way to the airport. It was just her luck that the rain was enough to cause a traffic jam, but not enough that it caused a delay in his flight.
“Come on,” she exclaimed at the cars in front of her, as if they were the ones responsible for all of this. She was so close to the exit for the airport she could see the sign ahead, but she'd also been in the same spot for the past twelve minutes (yes, she was keeping track), so it could very well be another hour before she got there.
Her phone lit up. It was Monty.
Warily, she picked up the call. "What's up?"
"Bellamy's asking me where I am."
She groaned, dropping her head against the steering wheel. "Tell him… oh, tell him that I'm—no, you, that you're stuck in traffic but you're almost there. Ten minutes, maybe twenty. In the pick up area."
"I don't see why you couldn't just tell him you're picking him up," Monty said.
"It's a gesture!"
"I'm pretty sure that Bellamy would still love it and see it as a gesture if you had just told him you were going to pick him up."
"Yeah, he would," she agreed, glaring at her phone, "but it has to be a gesture gesture."
"How is you going to pick him up without all of this not a gesture in itself?"
"It just isn't!"
"Let the record show that we all think this is ridiculous."
"Not true!" Harper interjected, her voice faint, but still audible through the phone. It became clearer as she undoubtedly came closer to the phone. "I think it's really sweet, Clarke. Don't listen to Monty."
"I'm definitely not. Except for when it'll make him help me."
"Don't worry," he said, amused but pretending otherwise, "I've already texted him."
"Thank you. Also please tell him the traffic is really—oh, we're moving."
"I'm hanging up now."
"Thanks, Monty—" The line disconnected and she shook her head at her phone before tossing it aside, following the traffic as it finally picked up, the previous jam quickly forgotten. After the unbearable half an hour she'd spent on the highway, the rest of the journey passed by quickly, almost as if nothing had disrupted it in the first place. Clarke pulled into the pickup lane fifteen minutes later and spotted him two minutes after that, standing to the side, looking at his phone.
A wide grin broke out on her face. He was really here. All the concerns about what it would be like when she saw him again, about whether it’d be weird being around each other after so long vanished. All that mattered was that he was here. Quickly, before he looked in her direction and spotted her, she got out of the car, umbrella (his umbrella, the one he'd bought for her, the one she still didn't use, except now) as a cover—
"Excuse me," she said, trying to keep the excitement out of her voice, tapping him on the shoulder, "I'm looking for Bellamy Blake—"
He whirled around at the sound of her voice. Although some part of her had expected him to look different (a silly part, given that she had just Facetimed him a few days ago), he looked much the same. His hair was a little longer, easier to tell when not on a phone screen, and there was some days-old stubble he had just forgotten to—or been too lazy to—shave, but aside from that, and the hint of tiredness on his face, he had hardly changed in the past eight months. Except that he was right in front of her. "Clarke, what the—"
It was really hard biting back her smile. "Surprise?"
“What are you doing here?”
Her smile dropped off a bit. “You’re not happy to see me?”
Without warning, he pulled her into his arms, hugging her hard. Surprised, she gave a startled peak of laughter. “Of course I’m fucking happy,” he reassured her, the words followed up by a kiss on her shoulder. “It's just that I was under the impression that Monty was picking me up.”
“I was making a gesture,” she explained, sheepish. “Are you saying that you wouldn’t be happy seeing Monty here instead?”
"I didn't say that. But I'm definitely happier that you're here." He hugged her again. "You really roped him into this?"
"Yes, and no matter what he says, he agreed very easily."
"So what did you agree to in return?
She hesitated. "We may have to do a double date with some friends of his."
He made a face, but laughed it off. "You know what, I don't mind. I'm really glad it's you."
"Me too," she said, smiling up at him and adjusting the umbrella so that it covered both of them, her heart swelling with a kind of happiness she only felt with Bellamy. "Are you ready to go?"
He pulled on his suitcase. "Yep."
They started making their way towards the car, walking in silence as she guided the way. The silence rang very loud to her. She had to fill it with something. "How was your flight?" She asked, keeping her pace with him, though still leading the way. "Did you get any sleep? Did you get anything to eat? Are you hungry? Because we can—"
"Clarke," he interrupted, a hand over her wrist, stopping the both of them in their tracks. She was about to adjust the grip on the umbrella when Bellamy closed in, cradling her face in his hands and kissing her, softly at first, before she melted into it, realizing, stupidly, that she could finally kiss him again, and she kissed him back, weaving her fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck, dropping the umbrella to the ground as she clutched onto his shoulder. She had imagined this exact moment so many times over the last eight months, but of course this was better. Embarrassingly, she let out a little whine when he pulled away. Annoyingly, he smirked at her. "Sorry about the umbrella."
"Well," she said, trying to sound like she hadn't just been thoroughly kissed—and failing miserably. "If it's broken… you owe me another one."
Bellamy bent down and picked up the fallen umbrella, testing it with a little shake. "It survived."
She grabbed the umbrella from him and started walking away. "You got lucky."
"Yeah," he said, reaching for her free hand and tangling their fingers together, "I kinda did."