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i would give my life just to hold your hand (i'm your number one fan)

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“Did you hear?” 

 

“Did I hear what?” Clarke asks, distracted, from where she’s sitting perched on top of the window seat, knees drawn up to her chest, notebook balancing on top of them. She doesn’t even bother looking up at the sound of Emori’s somewhat hostile voice. Mostly because that’s her default tone.

 

“Bellamy Blake liked some pictures of your new photoshoot on Twitter.”

 

“Who?” She counters, distracted, picking up her pencil to cross away the last sentence she wrote. Her latest producer has been giving her hell for not digging deep enough, of only treading the surface, so she’s been digging, if only to prove him wrong. 

 

Social media mostly takes a backseat on the list of priorities for her anyway considering she pays other people including but not limited to Emori to take care of it for her so the mention of the app that regularly reminds her she’s fat and deserves to die in a horrible way that won’t allow her family an open casket at the funeral doesn’t exactly do anything to spike her interest.

 

Her manager scoffs, stops typing furiously on her laptop. Clarke can feel her narrowed glare on her frame. “Don’t pretend like you don’t know who Bellamy Blake is.”

 

Clarke finally looks up at her friend, arching her eyebrows skeptically. Vaguely, the name rings a bell. She’s heard of him. But Emori is annoying her in the middle of her writing process, so she likes to annoy her right back. 

 

Emori slams her laptop shut this time, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms over her chest judgmentally. If Clarke didn’t know Emori secretly cried over Nicholas Sparks movies in her free time, she’d sure be afraid of the girl with the skull throat tattoo, half-shaved head and hand scarred with burns, dainty little souvenirs from her troubled childhood. “Bellamy Blake? The Leonardo DiCaprio of our generation? The Bad Boys reboot? That one?”

 

Right. She thinks she can put a face to the name now. Curly hair, bright smile, brown skin. Always a girl on his arm. However she can’t think of a reason why she should care.

 

“So he liked a photoshoot I did,” Clarke shrugs, still unimpressed, eyes living up every bit to it’s cool shade of blue. The brunette starts to close the distance between them, biker boots slamming against her expensive, wooden floor loudly. 

 

“That’s what I thought. But today he did this ” Emori continues, tossing her phone into Clarke’s lap. It clatters loudly on top of her notebook, and she scrambles to pick it up without clicking away the image

 

Bellamy Blake. More starts to come back to her in flashes. He does a lot of romantic movies with puppy eyes and his shirt off, she thinks. Might play a popular superhero or something, she’s sure she’s seen him somewhere on a promotional poster in a popular subway station. Oh, and ages ago he was arrested for starting a bar fight, or possibly drag racing? At least he did something mugshot worthy, because it was plastered all over the morning news for weeks. Clarke worries her bottom lip, rereading the caption. She’d be flattered, if she knew the guy. “Isn’t he the actor who dates all the supermodels?”

 

Emori’s face creases up, like she’s trying to figure out if Clarke’s just playing dumb, but already accusing her of it any way. “We watched that Netflix Original with him in it last year on the plane to Japan. You liked him.”

 

The romcom where he played the awkward nerdy coworker fighting to be with the girl who was also being swooned by the CEO with an eightpack and boyband hair. Moral of the movie was unclear, the girl got fired in the end. Other than that, it was pretty standard ‘who will she choose ’ stuff. He did this thing where he kept tugging on his ear which fit the nervous nature of the character and was really adorable. Clarke always has the habit of rooting for the underdog. Over her dead body she’s ever admitting that to Emori of all people, especially not now.


“I liked the movie ,” Clarke presses, looking back at the picture before shaking her head to herself, holding the phone out for Emori to grab as she uses her other hand to tap her pencil against her notebook impatiently. 

 

She tears the device from her hand, stuffing it into her back pocket, arms resuming their position crossed over her chest. “The plot was shit.”

 

The blonde hides a smug smile, keeping her eyes firmly on the words written in front of her on the paper. “The soundtrack made up for it.” Her friend lets out an indignant huff of breath, and doesn’t look all too happy about it, but lets the subject drop.

 

Clarke mostly pushes it away to the back of her mind. She’s in the middle of writing and recording an album that’s going to kickstart a new era of Clarke Griffin and end the nepotistic bubblegum country pop reign she’s known for. 

 

Weeks pass. She dyes the ends of her hair pink for a while, then gets bored of it and cuts it off. Dates a regular girl who works at the corner store named Niylah whose last name she doesn’t bother getting to know and lets her bully her into getting a nose piercing. Clarke then chickens out of getting a matching tattoo. Throws out two entire albums worth of songs and starts over. Niylah dumps her. She moves from Nashville to New York. Develops an unhealthy habit for cronuts. Decides to get a personal trainer to counteract all the cronuts. Fires the personal trainer, burns the unflattering pap pictures and thinks ‘ fuck it ’. Gets a bullet journal instead. 

 

Clarke is trying to figure out who she is without her dad’s old label; without the songs about cheating beer-drinking truck-driving exes and boys in trucks drinking beer and cheating on her and more former lovers drinking beer and cheating on her while driving trucks; without the pink cowboy boots and frilly dresses with high necklines and the dead girlfriend she wasn’t allowed to talk about; without her mom and ghost-writers breathing down her neck; not the perfect cookie-cutter version of Clarke Griffin she always felt the pressure to be. 

 

Clarke finally releases a new album — eighteen songs about who she was, who she is and who she wants to be — and Emori films her crying when it goes number one on the Billboard Country Charts. Since Clarke is a good friend, she pretends not to notice the mascara stains on her t-shirt after Emori pulls back from a congratulatory hug. It even peaks at number eight on the Billboard Top 200 albums. Clarke might as well be on the top of the world. 


Bellamy Blake is barely a blip on her radar. Yet, it keeps happening. Just little random ambiguous moments over time that she could probably sweep under the rug no big deal if someone brings them up. Her publicist Monty tweets something on her account, he likes it. Bellamy recs a long list of wildly differing songs on his instagram stories, one of which is hers. One time, he’s even spotted out and about at the airport holding a magazine cover with her face on it. She doesn’t want it to, doesn’t want him — a complete stranger, by the way — to have that kind of power, but it gets her heated just a tiny bit. A smidge, of heated. 

 

See, years ago when she was young and inexperienced and longed to see the good in people no matter what she made the mistake of falling in love with a fellow country musician. They collaborated on a song that didn’t even break the top twenty and met for the first time in person on the set of the music video. He was charming, sweet, had a way with words and long floppy hair that would keep falling in front of his enticing brown eyes. If only he hadn’t had a girlfriend. 

 

When news broke, her career took a hit, and his just peaked — and kept peaking . The media first branding her as the other woman like it was a choice she made willingly, then the other woman who wouldn’t take the poor heartbroken guy back after he declared his love for her on national television in spite of her being the cause his relationship ended, and finally the attention whore who only dated him for the exposure before dropping him when she no longer needed him. Her career still takes hits over it, and it’s been over seven years. 

 

Which is why she can’t afford to let people think she’s using anyone anyone else to further her career. And it just so happens he’s an Oscar winning actor with a big following of fans who are commenting under her posts telling her to stay away from him and to stop using him to promote her new album. Clarke knows, or hopes, Bellamy’s not actually trying to sabotage her here — out of spite? boredom? just for shits and giggles? — but she figures it can’t hurt to check. She’s never been one to avoid confrontation anyway.

 

bellamyblake 

 

What’s your angle here, Blake?

 

Clarke Griffin in my dms, to what do I owe this honor?

 

If you tell me yours, I’ll tell you mine

 

My angle?

 

What are you trying to accomplish by pretending we’ve ever met?

 

He leaves her on read. Actually leaves her on read. What professional, fully-functioning adult does that? It angers her. Which causes her to down half a bottle of wine on her couch three days after the fact when she’s feeling extra lonely in her empty apartment in a huge city hours away from her hometown and maybe just a little, tiny bit vindictive and decides to fucking double text him. What professional, fully-functioning adult does that ? Half Drunk Clarke does that.

 

bellamyblake 

New movie coming out?

 

Misplaced god complex?

 

Small dick?

If you wanted to know the size of my dick you could’ve just asked

 

Clarke almost pops a vein trying to keep from letting out a guttural, frustrated scream, grip around her phone tightening so considerably she’s afraid the screen might crack. She’s cursing herself for even making it easy for him. He’s such a fucking asshole. Who does he think he is? She’ll fight fire with fire. In fact, she loves fire. Clarke would be fire, if she could be such a thing. And if he wants fire, he can get fucking fire.

 

Or I could’ve watched one of your stupid direct-to-video soft porn chickflicks

Seriously. What’s your damage?

 

Just trying to get your attention, princess.

 

Whatever the reason, please just stop. I’m not interested in your games.

 

Why? Seems to be working out just fine for me ;)

 

Embittered, Clarke throws her phone to the other side of the couch, groans into her faux fur purple pillow for ten long seconds. She should’ve known it’s no use arguing with terrorists. And she just let him win. If she had ignored him, it would’ve only been a matter of time before it stopped being fun. Now that he knows he’s getting under her skin, he probably only enjoys it more. 

 

Clarke knows he enjoys it more. First, there’s him subtly liking some — Monty explains to her with an awkward laugh, shifty eyes and flushed expression — thirst tweets every now and then

 

There’s also him mentioning her in passing on red carpet interviews. She rewatches one of the clips of him at the premiere of one of his movies obsessively. Him in a well-fitted Armani suit contrasting starkly with the mess of curls on top of his head that his hair dresser probably spend hours on trying to style into something presentable but he keeps tugging on every few minutes, charmingly beaming at some E! online reporter asking him what his favorite song is at the moment. 

 

“Oh, I don’t know,” he muses innocently, a mischievous glint in his eyes, and she fucking hates him a little bit more every time she rewatches she decides, his voice deep and gravelly and annoyingly casual, “I love a lot of different types of music, but I gotta say, Clarke Griffin’s Survival has been on repeat for weeks now.”

 

The smirk that he gives the reporter after praising her most personal album yet, right before he walks off towards his next interview, still catches her by surprise every time. Which brings her to the worst part of it all. He’s hot. Definitely hot. But also an asshole. And now it turns out hot assholes are just her type. Finn was one in disguise, Lexa was one proudly so. Niylah was too kind, which maybe was why it fizzled out so quickly.

 

Instead of fawning over him like an idiot, like he’s probably expecting her to, she decides she needs to find some ammunition of her own. Wikipedia tells her his basic life story. He was born in Arkadia, California. Twenty-eight years old, half-filipino through the father he never knew, his mother passed away when he was a teenager which makes a little sister his only known living relative, studied History at Polis U for a year before dropping out to move to LA. He did a bunch of low budget movies where he just mostly took off his shirt, then got cast in a Bad Boys reboot alongside Nathan Miller that flopped terribly at the Box Office, leading to him hanging around in the action movie circuit for a while. 

 

His big break came when he was cast as the cute, nerdy, dorky hacker love interest of a completely reset version of the Marvel superhero Moonstone. He was killed off in the sequel without warning, sending Moonstone off into a dark spiral causing the fandom to riot for months. There was even a White House petition. He did lots and lots of leading roles in romantic movies after that, dubbed the king of romcoms. Yet he’s always owned up to it, didn’t care most of his fanbase were teenage girls, said their attention and praise was worth as much as that of ‘ a 50 year old white male film critic ’ which Clarke begrudgingly has to give him props for. 

 

Last year, he starred in a quirky indie drama as a depressed suicidal man ending up being the only person able to save the earth after an apocalypse. It was a personal favor to his friend and director Jasper Jordan, a favor that in the end won him an Oscar for best leading actor. 

 

Social media is where she figures she can really find some juicy stuff. There’s lots of shirtless pictures. There’s shirtless gym selfies, shirtless movie promo and shirtless photoshoots. Her heart speeds up traitorously when she scrolls past the infamous #WCW picture, so instead she keeps thumbing down the screen until she finds something more personal looking and soon she’s lost in the rabbit hole. 

 

There’s pictures of his friends, mostly that guy Miller, who he still seems close with and seemed to have done another movie with last year. Lots of supermodels, too. Another frequent flyer is a brindle boxer weirdly named Snoopy, which is just unfair. She loves dogs. There’s a few pictures of a girl with sleek, brown hair if Clarke squints, she has familiar looking cheekbones, a resembling dimple in her chin and an all too recognizable cocky smirk at Bellamy’s side, or getting off a motorcycle but somehow not having helmet hair, or about to bungee jump off a cliff in Australia. He’s tagged ‘ oblake ’, but the account is private. His sister, she figures. 

 

There’s also the pictures of him volunteering at children’s hospitals in character as his Marvel alter ego, quotes from greek mythologies and of asian dishes he’s cooked and thrown on a plate all proudly. Which is all too fucking illegal, or at least should be, and the logical, rational part of her knows social media only shows the good, filtered, happy sides of his life. 

 

Clarke herself even enjoys uploading snaps of her and Wells all dressed up ready to go ditch a label party after a ten-minute appearance in favor of catching a movie; the twelfth try of her not-so-candid-candid aesthetic picture of her coffee, hand and notebook; or the occasional selfie after a photoshoot in which she’s spent at least three hours in hair- and make-up beforehand. She doesn’t share how she looks on the anniversary of her father’s death, the amounts of concealer she has to cake on her face when she’s hung-over or how she spends most of the days that cripple her with unbearable anxiety in bed feeling like it’ll never get better.

 

Still, somehow there’s this weird urge she has, to know him better. To find what makes him tick, since he figured out so fast and easily what did it for her. She wishes she was a better person, the better and bigger person, but she figures she still has time to grow after this all inevitably blows up in her face.

 

Since, for now, it’s already too late and she’s fucked anyway, she watches some of his interviews on YouTube. His appearance on Saturday Night Live. His five-episode stint on Celebrity Survivor. His Buzzfeed puppy interview. It’s a new low when she goes to IMDB and starts hatefully going through the list of movies he’s been in. Even illegally pirates one of his earliest ones when she can’t find it on Netflix, which is quite possibly the worst experience she’s ever sat through in her life. 

 

Eventually, Clarke snaps, because she doesn’t know him, not really, and she wants to know what the hell he’s doing and why. She can’t handle not knowing. It makes her feel useless and weak, powerless and she refuses to feel that way when she can do something about it.

 

bellamyblake

 

Did you really like my album or are you just dicking around?

 

Couldn’t stay away, princess?

 

Since you can’t seem to leave me alone either, no

And stop calling me that

 

Why? Aren’t you country music royalty?

 

If you think this is some sick way of flirting, your game’s off

Way off

 

Oh, so we’re flirting now, huh?



She ignores him, because it was stupid to think he was going to give her any answers. He’s obviously a dumb, arrogant dick who’s just trying to rile her up for the hell of it because his own life is devoid of any actual, real experiences and feelings. Clarke rolls onto her side, pulls her blanket up to her chest and bites her nails distractedly as she fixes her gaze onto her wall covered in self-painted constellations beside her bed while she ignores the insistent need to pick her phone back up from her nightstand and humour him with a snarky reply.

 

Yet, not even five minutes later, her phone pings. She should block him, see if that’ll teach him a lesson, but instead she finds herself pressing on the notification and saying a quick prayer that Monty or Emori isn’t reading along with her messages and mentally and deservedly-so making fun of her.

 

bellamyblake

 

And I don’t take country music seriously usually

But I guess you’re the exception

My favorite song is what if I never get over you

 

Clarke taps the side of her phone a few times, staring at the bright screen in the dark as she swallows hard to get the lump to go away. Of course he picked her most personal song about the crippling fear she has whenever she thinks of Lexa. How hard she tried to get over her, even if for the longest time she didn’t think it was possible. That she would never get to be happy like that again. That she had her shot, and she blew it. That it was a mistake to love someone, anyone, at all. Despite knowing better and her instincts telling her to run or at least wait fifteen minutes to not seem too eager, she finds herself replying.

 

 

I usually don’t take the opinion of stalkers much to heart, but thanks? I guess?

 

I also listen to Diane every day on the way to set

 

Really? It’s so different from the others

I wrote it when I was like 17

 

And to think 17 year old me struggled to fake my way through a three word doctor’s note for class

Who’s it about?

 

I wrote it about one of my friends back in the day, it’s her middle name

Her mom was really into Say Anything



Can you blame her? It’s a classic

Why did you keep it from us for so long

 

Label wouldn’t let me release it because my ex was also signed to them

And they didn’t wanna ‘tarnish his rep’ :)

 

With a face like Collins his rep was practically beyond saving anyway

 

Her heart warms despite her willing it not to, a small part of her apparently finding it flattering that he’s looked into her too. How else would he know about Finn? She’s practically erased him from her life. With good reason. The only souvenir she kept was Raven.

 

Really cool to split the album up in two parts

 

Clarke’s debating what to reply, if she should praise his work as well or just take the compliment and go. Just when she takes it in consideration that maybe she misjudged him and he isn’t a total jackass, another message pops up.

 

And I dig the new look ;)

 

You had me in the first half I’m not gonna lie

Ahh, I’m sorry

I like your sparkling personality as well

 

She smiles, despite herself, bites down on her lip as she debates on whether or not to get fake deep with a instagram rando at 3 am on a Tuesday. Except, he’s not a rando, and she doesn’t know if it was the cyberstalking, the weird connection they share because of the strange phenomenon that is fame, or just him being him with his stupid trustworthy face, but she feels like she can trust him. 

 

The two-part thing started as kind of a final dig at my old label

But then it was really cathartic as well

No matter how hard it was to make the music I actually wanted to make

 

When she made SURVIVAL. she split it up in two halves. One part of who she used to be, including songs she wrote during her time at the old label but they never wanted her to release, either because it wasn’t ‘her sound’, it wasn’t straight-passing enough or ‘too depressing’ and kind of honoring and embracing that part of herself and bringing it into the spotlight. The first half sonically sounded like a mess. The second part was where she was at now, what she wanted in the future for herself and sounded much more cohesive. Showed the style and direction she wanted to take her music and she didn’t care if it took her into a more indie-pop direction than people in her hometown would like to listen to.

 

Hard how?

 

Hard because I don’t look like the music I want to make 

I look like the kind of girl who’s in a duet with one of the bro country stars singing about whether or not this american flagged skirt makes my ass look fat

 

I’d love to hear that one

 

Clarke finds herself laughing out loud, stupidly so. He’s sort of funny, she’ll give him that, knows how to respond to her in a way that doesn’t make her feel like an idiot for sharing. Make her let her guard down.

 

Dick

 

I know what you mean though

It’s a lot like typecasting

First I was the token ambiguously brown guy with two lines

Then the guy who takes his shirt off in every movie

 

You really embraced that one, huh?

 

Ha-ha, life imitates art

After Marvel they figured I’d do good as a non-threatening love interest

 

Marvel did your character dirty

White House should’ve intervened :/

 

Oh, they would’ve but I called up the guy in charge and told him it wasn’t necessary

We golf every sunday

Have never gotten as many offers as I did when I got killed off

Bad exposure is also exposure 

 

Maybe the real romantic love story was you and President Wallace all along

 

Hey there’s nothing wrong with romance

At least now I get to pick which roles I want

No repeat of Raw Deal 2: Undercooked



Hey, I liked Raw Deal 2

Much more campy than the first

 

That movie is terrible

 

That’s exactly why I like it



Somehow, the conversation keeps flowing over the weeks. Not constantly or consistently, but there’s the occasional meme in which she lowkey gets to call him a self-obsessed jackass or that implies acting isn’t all that hard to do. They argue about the ending of Games of Thrones more than once (Bellamy is Team Dany, Clarke doesn’t actually care that much but she’ll be Team Sansa if only to see him shooting sixteen messages to her in under one minute because he’s so pissed off). There’s him sending her a teasing picture of himself, reading a magazine article that includes her in some way. One of those pictures that Clarke usually stares at for way too long before finally clicking away. 

 

They don’t talk about much, nothing of importance or actual relevance really, but it’s nice. Companionable. Now she can call him out for his antics and hold him accountable. She hasn’t made an actual friend in a while — she’s all for quality over quantity — so it’s nice. He’s no longer just a face from tv, he’s a face from tv with an actual personality and dreams and jokes and wants and needs, just like her. (A frustratingly beautiful face, she lets herself admit, sometimes.) 

 

If only she still actually wanted him to stop his antics. Clarke doesn’t crave validation, not usually. She mostly just does what she thinks is right and if people like it, that’s great, and if they don’t, that’s their problem. But every time she upload a picture and he likes it, or a twitter account named Bellamy’s Spotify informs her he’s listening to her music, she finds herself feeling more cheerful than three seconds before. She likes it when he praises her, because despite only knowing him for a little while, his opinion already holds a terrible amount of weight to her. Her friends all think it’s all hilarious, either way. 

two daddies, one grown man baby

 

Wells:

Did you see your boyfriend’s new interview?

 

Clarke:

I’m single

 

Raven: 

don’t play dumb

 

Wells:

Did you tell HIM you’re not dating?

 

Raven:

[Image sent at 09:37 AM]

 

There’s an image attached of a GQ cover that he’s on, cute glasses and carefully styled curls juxtapositioned with a leather jacket and simple white v-neck. Even though Raven is currently in Dubai for her job, still has way too much free time on her hands. She’s edited the picture, circled his head with a heart, drawn an arrow through it, and captioned it with ‘ your future baby daddy’ . Clarke postpones going off on her friend patiently, waiting for the next image to load. 

 

There’s two pages full of text that she can skim over because the letters are purposely blurry, and on the bottom right is a section asking him about his ten favorite type of things that her friend outlined. Soon enough, she finds out why.


Wells:

an OSCAR winner is hyping you up, C, free of charge

 

Clarke:

He’s not just an Oscar winner. He’s also an asshole

 

Raven:

is that why you two have been DMing for months now?

 

Clarke:

Heads up, I’m deciding to ignore you two

 

Ever her knight in shining armor, her oldest best friend changes the subject. They protect each other, always have since birth, and he knows exactly when she doesn’t want him to push something. He’s a good friend like that.

 

Wells:

What’s your new single gonna be

Please tell me it’s not something depressing again

 

Clarke:

Ouch?

That’s my art you’re slandering here you douchebag

 

Wells:

I love depressed Clarke she’s my friend but it’s about to be summer. I can’t pop my booty to you grieving. I’m a better friend than that

We need something else

Anything else

 

Clarke:

Nobody wants you to pop your booty to anything this summer 

Literally nobody

 

Raven:

please tell me it’s bartender, bitch?

 

Clarke:

yes, it’s Bartender, bitch

 

Wells:

HALLELUJAH. That song is my jam.

 

Raven

hey pea-sized brains, galaxy brain speaking here

we should ask emori to get blake for the music video

 

Wells:

Seriously.

I’m the number one Bartender stan

 

Clarke:

wtf? No

 

Clarke is still typing out another string of curse words and ‘ absolutely not ’s and ‘ I will kill you if ” when Raven’s next message pops up, and she stops dead in her tracks. Raven loves pushing things. Lives for it; pushing boundaries, pushing the laws of science and physics, pushing her friends. Especially if they make Clarke uncomfortable.

 

Raven:

think about the exposure

 

Clarke: 

I don’t do shit for exposure, you know that

 

Wells:

She didn’t mean it like that, C

 

Raven:

i did mean it like that

did we forget you made out with that girl in front of the paps just because you wanted get over yourself to go viral so finn would hear it everywhere he went?

 

Clarke:

That’s different

 

Raven: 

it’s really not

people are already calling you an attention whore in your comment section you might as well embrace it

i’m texting emori

 

Wells:

Think of this way, Clarke. Now you can finally meet him?

 

Clarke:

Wait

He’ll think I requested him

 

Raven:

so?

 

Clarke:

So

I don’t want him to win

 

Wells :

You two DM constantly I think he already won

Considering he said his goal was to get your attention

 

Raven :

you’re pathetic. he won an oscar. you want that song of the summer hit. if he says yes, you’ll use him. period. it’s just business.

 

Emori calls her twenty minutes later, ignoring the fact Clarke’s been calling her for the past fifteen ready to beg her not to make contact with Bellamy’s team. She’ll even promise not to openly endorse anyone during the upcoming elections, if that’s what it takes.

 

“I already sent his publicist an email,” is her greeting. So she did get her calls after all.

 

“God, Emori,” Clarke grunts, squeezing her eyes shut as she feels a pressure headache starting to bloom at the back of her skull. “I don’t want this. I don’t want him in my music video. I don’t want ” She doesn’t want to meet him. It’s nice talking to him, just like this. She doesn’t want it to be ruined. For it to be real. What people can touch, they can break. And people love seeing celebrities as pets, as things they can control, play with, have a right to; celebrate their wins and celebrate their losses even harder.

 

Of course, Emori doesn’t give her so much as an inch, can practically imagine the stoic expression on her face as she presses, “And I want a big fat Christmas bonus.”

 

Panic starts to crawl up her throat, making it hard to breathe. Her chest feels tight, her palms sweaty. She needs a way out of this. Fast. “Emori

 

Her manager quits her off before she even has the chance to elaborate, harsh and final, “I’m doing this to help you.”

 

“Help me?” Clarke’s getting pissed now. She is still the artist here, the one in charge, and she doesn’t need some attractive A-list actor to swoop in and ‘save’ her career. Technically, Emori works for her . She should do whatever she says.  “You don’t think my music could do fine on it’s own?”


“No, Clarke,” she hisses, patience running out, which is never too difficult an achievement, considering it’s always as thin as paper. Her tone suggests she thinks the blonde is stupid, or at least acting that way. “You’ve been talking to him for months now. I know you like him. Enough to not block his sorry ass for retweeting vague memes about your cup size.” There’s a few seconds of silence as she lets the word settle into Clarke’s brain, Emori’s voice just a smidge softer as she continues, “I know Finn scarred you, and then Lexa fucked you up even beyond that, and now you’re scared and you don’t want to take the next step.”

 

Clarke deflates, just a little, swallows tight to get some of the dryness in her mouth to disperse. After a beat, she presses, “So what? You’re my therapist now, too?” It’s supposed to sound harsher, but it just comes out defeated.

 

“No, I’m your friend ,” Emori snaps, loud, and Clarke know she’s only admitting it in the heat of the moment, still running on anger and adrenaline. It’s a far cry from the girl she met trying to shamelessly scam her out of 200k with her fake charity for infantile orphaned burn victims. At the time, hiring a girl who would go to those lengths and could sniff out other frauds from a mile away seemed like a wise career choice. Better to have her working for her, then against. She hasn’t regretted it since. Not yet, at least. “And I know sometimes you need a little push.” There’s a pause, then a reluctant, “I think he’s worth it.”

 

Worth the risk. Of getting unbearable hurt. Again. Of losing another person she might actually care about. Again. Clarke worries her lip. “I don’t know if he is.” She barely knows him.

 

“Maybe he isn’t,” Emori relents, impossibly soft, then her tone gets more familiar, just as serious as it is teasing, “But at least you’ll know. You’ll have tried. And when you’re old and wrinkly and have made me sufficiently rich, about to die miserably and alone, you won’t think ‘ what if’ .”

 

A surprised sound closely resembling a laugh leaves the back of the blonde’s throat before she swallows tightly, trying to keep the tears at bay. She takes another second, just to make sure her voice doesn’t croak, because Emori will definitely try to hold it against her in the near future and enjoy it, too. “Okay.”

 

She almost swears there’s a sigh of relief on the other end of the line. “Okay?”

 

She’s never been scared of trying new things, just things that have failed for her in the past. It’s a one word reply, but it feels like a huge milestone to Clarke. “Okay.”

 

For whatever reason Clarke won’t be thinking too hard about, he says yes, too. And for some completely unrelated reason, they don’t even mention it to each other online. They dance around the subject in favor of arguing about the newest plot twist killer on How To Get Away With Murder or live-texting hilarious medical stretches and weird hook-ups on Grey’s, and much sooner than she’d like, the date Emori decided on creeps into view and she is about to film a music video with Bellamy Blake, her f riend? nemesis? penpal? — Bellamy .

 

The first two days, Clarke shoots her solo scenes, busy from at least five in the morning to eleven at night mouthing along to her lyrics in various outfits in abandoned bars and empty parking lots. Which is why she can hardly blame herself for what happens on day three. 

 

She’s tired, achy, dead on her feet from all the heels she’s been wearing non-stop, and can barely move her face because of all the make-up they caked onto it. At 8 in the morning, there’s a knock on the door of her trailer. Considering Clarke’s not only sleep deprived but also ten pages deep into the ninth volume of a sailor moon manga she tells them to come in without second guessing who it could be or why they would be knocking on her door.

 

“Hey,” a familiar but all the more unfamiliar deep voice says, and Clarke’s head snaps up from her manga to meet his eye in the mirror across from her. Her pulse seems to malfunction as the corner of his mouth turns up in a kind enough smile. Oh no.

 

Finally, her limbs start to feel like her own again, the invisible woozy layer seeming to cover everything around her disappearing, words and thoughts and manners flooding back into her brain again as well, and Clarke can turn around in her chair enough to rise to her feet, putting her book down beside the various items of make-up spread across the vanity beside her. 

 

“Hey,” Clarke says finally, crossing her arms over her chest, just because she can. Just because she doesn’t want to make it too easy. His smile widens, and she can’t keep from reprociating any longer.

 

“Nice outfit,” Bellamy says, taking in her fluffy striped socks and silk pink robe with her last name etched into the back in a fancy black script. The robe was a gag gift from Wells for her first ever music video, to lean into the whole ‘nepotistic diva’ thing. He doesn’t know that, though, and for the first time in a long while, Clarke worries about what someone else might think of her. She thought she left all of that behind.

 

She shakes it off, instead cocks an eyebrow and purses her lips skeptically. “It’s nice to meet you, too.” He’s not all that intimidating in real life; obviously he’s broad, but he is not that tall, nor that good at hiding his real emotions from bubbling to the surface in his cinnamon colored eyes. She likes it better, to be able to read his face. And right now, it has pomposity written all over it.

 

“Sure is,” he retorts, smirking languidly and she gets the sudden urge to slap him. Ass .

 

Her eyes narrow at the implication behind his words, and his eyebrows raise, mirroring her posture by crossing his arms across his chest too, not backing down from the challenge as they stare each other down. Silence stretches between them, but somehow it isn’t uneasy. It fizzles and crackles, even though neither of them makes a sound.

 

Finally, he breaks back into an impressed grin, continuing to chew his gum as he nods over to the manga long forgotten beside the half-empty bottles of foundation they smeared on her face the past few days. Clarke finally lets her shoulders relax and her eyes flicker over the way his biceps look crossed over his chest like that, but only for a second and certainly not long enough for him to notice following his gaze. 

 

“I mostly started reading them because of the pictures.” Clarke shrugs, arms still crossed, feeling lame, then deciding not to. She likes what she likes. And she likes the bright colors, over-exaggerated emotions the buckets of tears and steamy ears from anger how the art style is all but complicated. The story is consumed and portrayed the way it should be, no endless theorizing about underlying literary themes. “I like drawing. I like art. Especially art that tells a story.”

 

“My little sister was obsessed with the anime when she was little. She made me get a second job to pay for her addiction to all things Sailor Moon.” He chuckles a little, a deep and happy sound coated in nostalgia and fondness, as he leans back against the counter behind him. She must mean a lot to him, considering the way he lights up talking about her. “I’m talking blankets and halloween outfits to stationery and birthday cakes.” 

 

“And you let your life be dictated by a pre-teen?” 

 

“Of course. You should see her big, round, green eyes.”

 

Clarke snorts, shaking her head lightly. “What happened?”

 

He hisses, like the memory of it is actually painful, scratching the back of his head. “She turned ten and decided animes were for losers.”

 

She tries hard to keep her smug smile contained, keeping her face blank instead. “Well, isn’t that why you like them?”

 

He barks a laugh, loud and manly and kind of invasive in such a small space, pressing a hand to his chest like she stabbed him there, before shaking his head lightly with a smile on his face. Bellamy jutts his chin at her. “Who is your favorite?”

 

“Sailor Mars,” she says without thinking, then feels defensive. She doesn’t even really know why she likes her. She just does, and feels protective of her because of it. “‘Cause she’s pretty, and looks good in red, and is cool as hell. And well she’s into music, too.”

 

He rolls his lips together, amused. “I see.”

 

Clarke decide not to get into the underlying patronizing tone to his voice, instead she huffs, finally dropping her arms at her side. “And yours?”

 

“The title character, of course. She is the only one with a sibling and she takes orders from a cat. What’s not to love?” He grins again, that stupid, toothpaste commercial grin that’s even worse in person, maybe even makes an attempt at winking at her. She doesn’t know, because she doesn’t allow herself to look at him too long. “Besides, I have a thing for blondes.”

 

“That’s funny, me too,” she retorts without skipping a beat, like somehow this unmentioned thing between them is a fight of some sorts, one she can try and win. By now, she’s figured out he’s leaning into the whole flirting thing because he knows it makes her brain get all fuzzy and her skin get all flushed. He probably doesn’t even mean any of it, casual flirting close enough to his natural self to be easy enough to lean in to, just likes to tease her. Perhaps it’s even a coping mechanism for something she hasn’t figured out about him yet. Two can play that game however, and she can probably do it better, too. She knows stroking his ego won’t get her very far, but trying to stomp it down a notch will. “Maybe you can hook me up with one of your supermodel friends?”

 

His brown eyes glint in a mischievous, boy-ish way. “I knew there was a reason you contacted me after all.”

 

Clarke bursts out in a half-offended laugh, breaking some of the slightly hostile tension hanging between them since he entered her trailer, like they were both expecting the worst, for it finally to come to light now they finally met. She’s still always waiting for the other shoe to drop, being wary her second nature at this point, and maybe he was suspecting to be the victim of a catfish crime all along, waiting for the cameras of a way overdue Punk’d reboot to come out and tell him she was never real.

 

They’ve talked a lot over the passed few months, but that’s different. He doesn’t really have a face when they dm, just the vague awareness he has one. He does when they talk. But to her surprise, it’s still easy. To talk to him. 

 

They discuss the concept of the music video — even though his agent probably already went over this with him — and how she and her team came up with. They delve into her song-writing process and eventually get into this other ridiculous music video he did a few years ago — in which they gelled back his hair so enthusiastically it took three showers to get it all out — that she has to pretend she hasn’t seen. 

 

The music video is pretty standard stuff. She already shot her solo scenes in which she’s actually singing, which just leaves the awkward, forced flirtatious eye-contact and will-they-won’t-they spiel with her love interest — the bartender. Bellamy used to bartend in college so he’s a natural. Of course he is. She watches from behind the cameras as they shoot the scenes of him by himself first, which is mostly just him mixing drinks in fancy, bartending ways and serving people who aren’t her. 

 

All clips to set up the story that even though she’s singing about wanting a break from love, she might end up with this bartender. She won’t of course, which is the not-all-to surprising plot twist considering it’s right there in the lyrics. Clarke doesn’t really care. It’s not like she’s expecting to win a VMA with this video. She doesn’t even particularly care for the song that much, just knows it’s the best way to promote her album, which contains multiple songs she actually wants people to listen to.

 

Bellamy sometimes mouths along to the music playing on loop, in between shots, apparently knows all the lyrics by heart. Which shouldn’t be too shocking considering he’s talking about her album all the damn time, but is still a nice surprise.

 

Clarke has to go back to her trailer while they’re shooting the last of his scenes to get dressed into an actual outfit. Her team’s first suggestion was a revealing bodycon dress, but considering Clarke wouldn’t go to a bar like that in real life, she settles on skinny jeans and a slightly oversized striped football jersey that she ties just above her hip. It shows enough skin to satisfy Emori and her test panel of southern meninists voluntarily on Reddit — the main paying consumers of country music unfortunately — but it’s also casual and laid-back enough to make Clarke feel more like herself and not like a complete fraud that’s trying way too hard. On the back it says ‘ THE CURE ‘, a nice easter egg to another song on her album and hopefully her next single if she has anything to say about it.

 

There’s a halfway dramatic scene with rotating fans in which she walks inside the bar and her and Bellamy lock eyes from across the room. She sits down at the bar while her girlfriends go pick a song. He gives her a drink, unprompted. There’s more dark, flirty eye-contact while she plays a round of pool, dances with one of her friends, is crowded against a wall by a man who isn’t him. He pours her a complimentary shot, she downs it, sends him a wink and leaves the bar arm in arm with her girlfriends. None of it is too hard, especially considering she’s not actually looking at Bellamy when they shoot these scenes, but at a camera, so it’s mainly just work .

 

Everyone takes a thirty minute late lunch break so the crew can clean up the set and round up the extras for the final scenes with them together in Clarke’s supposed daydream. In between the actual storyline and frames of her singing, there’s going to be flashes of her and the bartender standing eye-to-eye, playing pool, dancing together, him crowding her against the wall, basically creating the illusion of her going home with him instead. That is, before she breaks that fantasy and spits in it’s face by going home with her friends instead. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s fun and fits with the song, so it’s good enough for her.

 

Bellamy finds her at the food table after she’s thrown on a different shirt to keep from staining it accidentally with food picking up a plate to start piling snacks onto it as well, his shoulder close enough to hers for her to feel the heat radiate off it, and suddenly it occurs to her they haven’t even touched yet. Not that she’s thinking about touching him, but it’s weird. She should’ve just shook his hand back in her trailer like a normal person, instead of passive-aggressively trying to win an imaginary power dynamic that might only exist in her head.

 

Rather than mentally obsessing over any of that, she side-eyes his plate judgmentally. It’s easier to try and make fun of him than to have an actual conversation with him like normal human beings. “I’d think you’d only be allowed to eat leaves of lettuce considering your bi-weekly shirtless selfie is coming up any day now.”

 

He lets out a sarcastic ha-sound, biting off half of a chocolate chip cookie as if making a point. It crumbles all over his dark t-shirt, survival. etched right over his left chest-peck, the fictive name of the bar as a nod to her album. It’s kind of unfair how he spent like fifteen minutes in hair and make-up, is covered in cookie crumbles and still looks this good — all cute freckles, dazzling smiles, beautiful dark eyes and golden brown skin as if he’s bathed in sunlight . Once he finishes chewing and swallowing, he raises his eyebrows, studying her side-profile as he says, “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you actually like those selfies considering the amount of times you’ve brought them up.”

 

Clarke ignores the way her cheeks heat. She doesn’t know why or how he gets her this flustered. She’s usually so cool and collected, not easily floored by compliments. Maybe she’s starstruck. Maybe that’s it. “I like how ridiculous you look in them.”

 

“Ridiculously handsome,” he retorts, semi-defensive, but doesn’t sound bothered at all. He breaks off another piece of his cookie then turns to look at her, just as one of the lighting guys shifts one of the reddish colored spotlights away from the set and into their direction. 

 

Bellamy makes a curious sound in the back of his throat, blinking at her for a second before he uses his free hand to start to fish something from the back of his pants. Clarke breaks off a piece of twizzler with her canine, chewing on it as she frowns at him, wondering what he’s up to.

 

Finally, he pulls out his phone, aiming it at her just as she runs a hand through her hair. Before she even has the chance to register his pretty obvious intentions, and because she’s about to ask him what exactly he is doing, her face molds into a semi polite smile just as he snaps a picture. He admires it shortly, then turns the screen to show her the result. It looks nice, mostly because the room is dark in the background, in stark contrast to the red-pinkish hue surrounding her and complimenting her paler skin nicely. It gives a sort of neon feel to the picture and looks more casual than her usual professional photoshoots.

 

Instead of admitting that, she tsks, tearing her eyes away from it. “Are you going to put an ugly filter over it and post it for the whole world to make fun of?”  

 

He keeps his eyes cast on his phone as he clicks away, presumably answering the messages he got while filming, but she doesn’t miss the distracted boyish smirk covering his features. “No, this one is just for me.”

 

Clarke rolls her eyes, shaking her head slightly as she stuffs her mouth with a handful of skittles to keep from having to reply. It’s a cop-out, especially considering her heart swells in an all-too-familiar way, something she doesn’t really want to think about, not yet, not this soon, not when she’s not ready. It’s too much, too intimidating, too suffocating to feel this all at once. So Clarke does what she does best, pushes it down and away until her eyes refocus on the food on her plate and she feels like she can breathe again. 

 

Soon enough they’re called back to shoot the final scenes, and it’s work, but it’s not work either. Clarke teaches him to play pool, and he tries too hard to be funny, which naturally has her laughing way too hard in return, which she is sure will look nice and candid on camera. She almost forgot this is his job, to act, pretend, play a role. 

 

Next they’re dancing together, and for a second Clarke regrets the way she chose to dance with Mel the extra who’s playing one of her friends because now she has to mimic it with him, her back pressed against his front. It’s awkward, considering there’s not actually music playing, and Clarke feels herself stiffen when she’s this close to him. It’s like a part of her brain shuts off, the rational part, and all she can do is overthink every little thing she’s doing, every little thing she’s said to him, what it all means, what he must think of her.

 

After the director restarts the scene for the fourth time, she feels his hands slide on top of her hips, warmth seeping into her skin. “Relax, princess,” his soothing voice startles her, barely a whisper, not loud enough for anyone else to hear, but close to her ear, close enough for her to feel his hot breath fan against her neck. 

 

Despite her reluctance, she leans into him a little, covering his much bigger hands with her own as she takes a deep breath. She’s a professional. She can get through a thirty-second scene without making it personal, and weird, and uncomfortable. She did it with Mel, she can do it with him. She’s been touched before, for fuck’s sake.

 

If Clarke thought her back pressed into his firm chest was bad, it’s even worse when it’s pressed against a wall while his forearm is resting against it above her head, their faces impossibly close as he towers over her. Everything about him is overwhelming. The specks of gold in his eyes she can just make out this near. His scent, he smells ways and ways too nice. His shoulders are broader than the stand-in guy who did this with her earlier, too. It makes her feel even more caged in. Somehow, it’s not scary, or oppressive, not at all. It’s kind of nice, safe.

 

Diyoza, the director, wants to shoot it from a few angles so they’re off staring into each other’s eyes for a while. It’s not uncomfortable per se, just a little intimate. Intense, too, considering they both took the acting directions to look ‘ in lust ’ as a challenge, like a metaphorical game of chicken. They both see how far they can push the boundaries and each other. She doesn’t give up her ground, takes up her own space, stands as tall as she can. Clarke schools her expression into something she hopes resembles neutrality as he tries just as hard to get her to be the one that cracks first and backs down; curls almost brushing against her forehead, hand splayed across the sliver of bare skin on her back, just underneath the knot on her jersey.

 

“Final shot, lean in a little,” the director tells them, no room for argument, as someone adjusts a lamp. The bright light makes her squint for a second before it moves again, Bellamy coming back into view. And what a fucking view. 

 

She takes in a steady breath, pulling deep before slowly exhaling. He leans closer to her, his pace torturously slow until his lips hover above hers, almost but not quite touching. Her breath hitches in the back of her throat as she ignores the pounding of her heart, the currents of electricity flickering between them. Instead of giving in to whatever it is he seems to want her to give in to, she arches her body forward and he makes a quiet, almost eager noise before she shifts back away from him, distancing her face from his by leaning her head back onto the wall with a playful smirk.

 

As if on instinct, he chased her lips for a few inches, but knows better than to lean too close now, giving her space this time. Bellamy raises his eyebrows, his eyes dark and insistent, but a question hidden within the countless shades of brown. It’s nice, to see him flustered for once. Her smirk just widens in response, hands pressed between herself and the wall. 

 

“That’s a wrap!” Diyoza claims, startling her just a little. For a second there, she forgot they were surrounded by thirty other people. She ducks under his arm, but before she gets a chance to escape like she so desperately longs to do, he’s turned around and said her name.

 

Clarke doesn’t know how to be around him now there’s no reason to be. She sends Emori a look from across the room to come help her out, but she pointedly looks the other way, so Clarke turns on her heels, facing him again. His face is unreadable, and his mouth opens and closes soundlessly. His eyes shift around the room, before they land back on hers. Maybe he doesn’t know how to act either.

 

“I’ll walk you to your car after you’re done changing, okay?” It’s a question, but somehow she feels she doesn’t have much of a choice either way. She nods, ignoring the smile he sends her before he walks off towards his team, talking to the director and her manager. Bellamy’s pretty blonde publicist has been talking to hers all day now, and Monty has been blushing for at least 75 percent of it. 

 

Instead of bothering them, she decides she’s going to do a round of thank you’s to the crew and then get rid of her fake eyelashes in her trailer as soon as possible, maybe ritually burn them. 

 

Bellamy sticks to his promises, however, because once she emerges from her trailer in sweatpants and an old oversized Dolly Parton merch t-shirt that has seen better days, her only accessory a half-eaten roll of oreos, his face lights up and he kicks off the side of it, falling in step with her immediately.

 

He’s better at small-talk than she is. He goes off to shoot a movie in Budapest next week, Bellamy tells her while he walks her to her car, hands stuffed into his pockets. “It’s for the next Moonstone movie.”

 

Clarke’s eyebrows jump up. She might’ve cried actual tears over his character dying in the sequel. All the articles online said a resurrection was impossible, but he just single handedly restored her will to live. “Is he alive?”

 

“I’m not allowed to tell you that,” he smirks, sounding all too delighted to her inform her of such, absently kicking a rusty old beercan away.

 

She adjusts her tote bag on her shoulder with her free hand, coming to a stop in front of her light blue Honda Civic. “I’m invested now.”

 

He tries hard to hide a grin, brows raising as he leans his shoulder against her car, staring her down. She feels exactly as she did earlier, shooting that scene of her pressed against the wall. Caged but in a good way, atmosphere thickening impossibly between them, an excited thrill running through her body as that dark, gruff tone of his voice seeps right into her skin. “Well, what are you willing to do in order to find out?”

 

If he was implying what she thinks he’s implying, it’s a bad idea. But she’s tired of playing dumb. She mimics his position, leaning her shoulder against her car as well. “You’re about to go off to Budapest for two months.”

 

“Hmm,” he hums, not a doubt in her mind that he agrees with her statement, yet the hint of a challenge doesn’t leave his face. Like he’s waiting to see what she’ll do anyway.

 

Clarke takes a deep breath, shuffles a step closer to him, brushes back a strand that fell from her haphazardly thrown together ponytail. He doesn’t even blink, so she rolls her eyes, presses a kiss to his cheek quickly. 

 

It’s just a kiss, not even on his mouth, it’s whatever. Still, for the first time maybe ever, she sees his cheeks flush, too, even if he’s trying to cover it up with a smirk. He nods down at the half-forgotten pack of oreos stashes in the crook of her elbow. “Sharing those with me would’ve done the job too, but I’ll take it.”

 

She hits him in the chest with her fist in retaliation and his smirk widens. She stares up at him expectantly, refusing to take any distance. “ Well? Is he a ghost? Hallucination? A projection of her worst fears? Brainwashed clone?” She lets out a small gasp, narrowing her eyes at him. “The next Moonstone?”

 

“Lloyd Bloch is in the movie. That's all I know.” He holds up his hands in preemptive defense as her gaze turns darker with every word he says, looking a second away from laughing the whole time. “They’re super secretive about it. I haven’t even received the script yet.”

 

Clarke’s nostrils flare. “I might actually kill you.” She can’t believe she has actual connections to a Marvel employee and still can’t get any of the inside info.

 

“Can you at least wait until after the music video drops?” He teases, eyes shining with amusement. “I want to see all the racists get heated about me playing the love interest.”

 

“Oh yes,” Clarke agrees, dryly, taking the oreos from her arm and stuffing them into her bag instead as she fishes out her keys. “I can see the comment section already. Trolls saying they can excuse my bisexuality, but they draw the line at me dating a person of color.”

 

He pushes himself off her car, sending her another blinding smile, which, can he stop doing that? She’s pretty sure he could get anyone to do anything with that smile. “Can’t wait to do a dramatic reading with you.”

 

She huffs, humoured, fidgeting with her keys in her hand. She doesn’t really want him to leave yet. Two months is a long time. But she doesn’t know what she could possibly say. He can’t stay. “Looking forward to it.”

 

Bellamy ducks his head, probably as a parting gesture, but she reaches for his arm before he can start to walk away despite herself. He looks at her, expectant, and his brown eyes on hers are kind of much.  

 

Clarke swallows, pulling her hand back from his arm. “Thanks, you know. For doing this. I imagine it isn’t exactly challenging material for you.” He won an Oscar for fuck’s sake, and she probably criminally underpaid him to make heart eyes at her from across the room.

 

Bellamy shrugs, then seems to consider something for a second as he searches her face. His tongue darts out to wet his lips, and then his fingers are reaching for her face, brushing a piece of blonde hair away from her face. An absent smile plays on his lips before he shakes his head lightly, dropping his hand. “Maybe we can meet up again, you know, when I get back.”

 

“In two months,” she says dumbly, afraid to even breathe. Afraid to make assumptions and set herself up for more pain. There’s no pressure in his words, yet she feels all of it weighing her down. 

 

“In two months,” he agrees, echoing her, fingers engulfing the ones holding her car keys for a brief moment. She manages to smile, and he lets go, instead raking his knuckles against the top of her car for a second.

 

“A Honda Civic huh?”

 

She opens the door, thinning her lips into a firm line as she leans against it, not willing to let her make fun of her responsible nature. “It’s a reliable car.”

 

Bellamy snorts, shaking his head to himself before he glances at her face once more, amusement making his eyes gleam. “Of course it is.” Then finally and at the same time regretfully he turns back around, half-waving at her over his shoulder as he stalks off to his own car and Clarke can let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding.

 

After the music video drops three weeks later, the hate ironically does spike. People are pretty predictable. Apparently he’s been spotted on set for Moonstone and people do something they call ‘ship him’ with the leading actress Luna. So they obviously don’t like her throwing a wrench into their romantic plans for the co-stars. There’s a lot of slutshaming involved. Some death threats. Nothing she’s not used to. 

 

They talk almost daily calling or texting or dming or sometimes all of the above discussing their days, sending each other cringey TikToks or cute kitten videos, having him help her decide on which lyrics to keep and which to throw out whenever she works on a new song, or him telling her about his favorite mythologies that he somehow all knows by heart. 

 

One horrible night, she even delves into her father’s death, into Lexa’s death. The guilt. The resentment towards her mother. He tells her about his own mom, the way her illness deteriorated over the years. About having to raise Octavia mostly by himself, the fear of losing her to foster care for all those years until she turned eighteen. 

 

One month into his movie, and she goes live on instagram, answering a few questions before finally covering Landslide, per request. Bellamy comments, for everyone to see, ‘ wish I could hear it in person ’. She wishes her cheeks didn’t heat when she found out afterwards, staring at screenshots of her fans, at least thankful she didn’t read it mid-song so she could’ve been embarrassed for all of the world to see forever. 

 

They don’t stay it, not explicitly, but she’s never done this with any of her other friends, never felt this consumed by a single person, a single thought of a person, never felt this way receiving a message from them or watching his name light up her phone with an incoming call. She feels there’s something there, something she wants to explore, give a chance, take a risk on. Finally feels like she might be ready to.

 

Which is why when she goes to the CMAs in a tight, black playsuit she knows makes her breasts look great and Roan Borealis tall, buff and long shampoo commercial hair falling down his shoulders from underneath his favorite cowboy hat asks her to go get a drink together afterwards, she says no. They haven’t talked about it and she doesn’t even know if Bellamy feels the same way, but still somehow it doesn’t feel right to say yes. It’s hard for her to open up to other people, if not in song, especially in a romantic way, and maybe she doesn’t know how to do it any other way but completely. The logical part of Clarke thinks it’s stupid, idiotically so, but in a way, she feels taken.

 

So when her phone buzzes in the middle of the show and she sees he’s replied to the red carpet pictures Monty uploaded in her story, she doesn’t try to squash the fluttering of her heart in her chest, but instead lets it happen.

 

bellamyblake

replied to your story

fuck

 

Shut up

How’s Hungary?

 

Lloyd is doing some pretty cool stuff

 

So he IS alive

 

Or isn’t he?

 

Pffffffff

 

Three dots emerge for a long time. Disappear, appear again. At one point she has to put her phone down to clap for the song of the year and pretend she’s actually interested in any of these speeches. Clarke hates this part. She hates being around this many people, most of them as disingenuous as they come, the fake smiles and the awkward smalltalk. She waits until the commercial break starts to pull her phone from her purse again.

 

Who was the guy with you in that other picture

 

Roan?

 

I guess

 

He’s a director, mostly got here because of nepotism

Which I can say 100% considering who my dad was 

I don’t throw around the term easily

But he looks like he edits his videos on windows movie maker

He’s friends with my old manager Kane

Or well, my step dad now I guess :/

 

Oof that’s awkward

What did he want

 

Nothing special

Asked to go get drinks after the show

 

Those three threatening dots again, this time shorter, but making her just as curious about what’s going on in his head. For someone so easy to read in person, he’s always careful with his words online.

 

But you said no?

He looks like a douchebag

 

I’m here talking to you, aren’t I?

 

For that, since you’re such a big fan of them, I could send you another one of those shirtless selfies

 

I don’t know

I hear Roan has an eight pack

I could still reconsider his offer

 

It’s not about the number of abs, Clarke

 

That’s what all the people who don’t have eight packs say

 

Enjoy your drinks then

 

I most definitely will

 

There’s a two minute radio silence before he finally breaks. 

 

Are you really going to have drinks with him?

Don’t have drinks with him

We can FaceTime and drink together instead

 

Isn’t it like 6 am in Budapest

 

It’s five o’clock somewhere

 

I’m stuck here for another hour

Try the selfie approach again

Maybe if you pose well enough you can convince me not to

 

I definitely know my angles ;)

 

So, there’s something. She’s not sure what exactly, but it’s not nothing. He even sounded jealous for a second there. He didn’t want her to see anyone else. Which is why it stings so fucking badly when she finds out he’s dating someone. Not even from him. Fucking page six. 

 

[Bellamy’s Romance with Country Princess Clarke Over? Marvel Actor Spotted Out and About with Leggy Instagram Model.]

 

As soon as she reads the line ‘Griffin has a taste for men who are taken’ her vision turns black and she has to go take a walk outside. The walk does nothing to clear her head. 

 

Was it a game for him? It couldn’t have been, not all of it. He opened up to her too, was vulnerable with her in a way she had to try hard to reciprocate in a similar manner. Did she really misinterpret everything so badly? Was this just friendship all along, and was she only one trying to turn it into something more? Maybe she wasn’t as special to him as he was to her. God, was he this way with everyone? Did she make it all up in her head? She must have. It wasn’t even jealousy, he really did think Roan looked like a douche and was trying to look out for her. Her head spins trying to make sense of it, her chest aches trying to do the same. Neither succeeds.

 

Rather than talk to him about it, she runs. As soon as she comes back to her apartment she proceeds to download tinder. People in New York are too fucking cool to care about celebrities, so she easily fucks her way through at least four to five people in the span of a week. She even considers calling Roan, giving him a taste of his own medicine, but then figures he probably wouldn’t even care. Not in the way she wants him to. 

 

Instead, she adopts a cat from the shelter. The cat already has a name, which is Peanut, and she only belatedly realizes the implication of having a cat named Peanut when Bellamy has a dog named Snoopy. It’s pathetic, even if it’s not on purpose, which probably just makes it even more pathetic. She’s not even a cat person. 

 

The dumbest thing of it all is that he never agreed. She has no one to be mad at. They’re friends. He never said anything to indicate otherwise. Two months apart was a long time. Especially considering they usually only spoke over DMs, only met once and lived on opposite ends of the country. He didn't owe her anything. She doesn’t even get to be mad. They’ve only ever been friends. 

 

Bellamy shoots out a tweet in defense of her a few days after the news first drops, turning it into a joke. It’s so casually cruel, so brutally honest and he probably doesn’t even realize it, probably isn’t even aware she’s slowly dying on the inside. She responds to it, because she feels she has to or people will read into it. Clarke limits all other communication with him for that entire week, and it aches like something fierce, but she has to think of herself. She really can’t afford to get hurt. Can’t afford him. 

 

A week after the first news article, a week until he comes back to the States, grainy pictures of him at some nightclub, with Bree clinging to his arm, surface and she realizes this is really happening. It hits her all at once, and it’s the first time she lets herself cry. That night, she paints, and writes about six songs, and drunkenly convinces herself Peanuts hates her. She allows herself to hide, to run away from her feelings, because it’s what she needs.

 

The morning after, however, she has to face reality. In the bright daylight, her breakdown feels dramatic. Stupid. Clarke is good at compartmentalizing, always has been, which is why she knows she has to make a choice. If she wants to keep him as a friend, she can’t ignore him forever. So she doesn’t. She can get over him. They never really had anything, after all. She can push through it, bear it, make it go away. She can overcome it.

 

bellamyblake

 

Clarke, did I do something?

 

No, just busy preparing for tour

 

Okay

How are you?



Fine

You?

 

Could be better

I miss talking to you

 

Her heart pangs painfully in her chest, like someone’s crushing it in their fist, which she tries to breathe through. He always has a way of being so honest and vulnerable, especially when she least expects it. It helps tear down her walls, even if she doesn’t want them to be torn down. Always finds herself blurting out something that resembles the truth close enough. 

 

I’m sorry

It’s just a lot of pressure

This is my first tour with the new label

People expect a lot

It has to be perfect

 

It will be 

Even if it’s just you and your guitar

 

She hates him, she decides. Replies with a lame, passive-aggressive emoji and mutes the conversation. It takes her all of five minutes to unmute it. She’s an adult. She can rip off the bandaid, get it over with.

 

So you’re dating someone

 

You keeping tabs on me, Griffin? ;)

 

She doesn’t know what to say, not really, doesn’t know what he expects from her here. He’s typing for a while, then the three dots disappear. Before he can say anything else she considers what she would do if he was Wells. She would be happy for Wells. And even if she can’t be happy for Bellamy right now, even if she feels like that might never be a possibility for her, she can pretend to be, for his sake, because that’s what friends do. 

 

I’m happy for you

She seems great

 

The three dots disappear again. Clarke feels sick. 

 

Thanks.

 

Three days later, her phone rings. Emori informs her Warner Bros wants her to record a promotional single for the soundtrack of a book-based romantic drama Bellamy did last year and is coming out in a few months.

 

Clarke’s first reaction is, “Why?” Why her? It’s a pretty big movie, and she’s well enough known, but it’s still a risky choice. 

 

“Because you’re doing well on the charts,” Emori cuts in matter-of-factly, then tempers down a little. “And I assume it had something to do with Bellamy, but they didn’t say.”

 

She rolls her eyes. “Tell them no.”

 

“I’m not telling them no, Clarke. It’s a huge opportunity.”

 

“it’s always about opportunity with you. I don't want to do it.”

 

“I’ll send you the demo. And then you can decide, okay?”

 

She’s already made up her mind. Emori can send the demo, and then she can tell her no, and this time it’ll be a substantiated no so her manager has no choice but to accept her refusal. “Fine.” 

 

The song is good. Really good. It’s no banger like Love Me Like You Do, or a classic like Kiss Me, but it’s definitely good. It doesn’t have much of a country feel to it, but it still sounds enough like something she’d sing for her to get away with it. Still. She’s not interested. 

 

Then her phone rings again while she’s in the shower. Groaning, thinking it must be her mom for their monthly phone call which she’d rather get over with anyway, she turns off the stream of water and reaches for a towel. Clarke fumbles for her phone on the counter, holding it a few inches from her ear to keep it dry enough. 

 

“Hey.”

 

“Hi,” she says dumbfounded. That’s definitely not her mother. Quickly looking at the caller ID she realizes it Bellamy. She knew it was Bellamy. She recognizes his voice. She’s being stupid.

 

“Hey,” Bellamy repeats, sounding amused. There’s the distant sound of cars passing by, but the background is mostly quiet, which much mean he’s alone. “Everything all right?”

 

“Yeah, just got out of the shower,” Clarke says with a sigh, trying to keep it as vague as possible. No longer hiding half behind the glass door of her shower, she instead steps out to grab a towel and wrap herself in it, wet hair causing water droplets to drip down her shoulders.

 

He makes a weird sound, then quickly recovers, a little too upbeat for it to sound completely natural, “So are you excited for tour?”

 

“Mostly stressed,” she corrects him, a little cold, a little clipped. She can feel it happening like an out of body experience the way she’s distancing herself from him. And she hates it, wishes she could stop it. But it’s like a part of her shuts down in self-preservation. She let him in, and she got hurt. She can’t do it again. Clarke tries harder, though, harder to not hurt him, too. Softens her voice. “How about you? How’s the movie coming along?”

 

“Good,” Bellamy agrees, and she can hear the smile in his voice, even if he sounds kind of tired. She hears him shift, his body moving against crisp material. He’s probably in bed, considering it’s early morning where he is. “It’s fun to see everyone again and they gave me some acting challenges that I’ve really enjoyed so far, so that’s cool.”

 

Clarke gathers her hair on one shoulder, uses her free hand to squeeze out the remnants of water above the showerdrain before stepping back out. “Let’s see,” she taunts, drawing it out, not being able to help it, “you’ve played alive Lloyd so that can’t be much of a challenge. Does this mean he’s dead in some capacity?”

 

He chuckles, and she’s missed him. Missed talking to him. Teasing him. Arguing with him. Hearing his voice. “Going to ignore that one,” Bellamy answers pointedly, swiftly changing the subject. “I can’t wait to go back home though. I miss a certain someone.” 

 

His tone is playful, and she rolls her eyes, hopes she doesn’t sound too bitter when she says, “I thought your supermodel girlfriend frequently worked in Budapest.”

 

Bellamy groans, and she can just imagine him tugging on his hair in frustration. “She’s not my girlfriend.” There’s a loud thud, and a small curse, like he just threw his head back and forgot there was a wall behind hm. “We hooked up once. After she kept messaging me wanting to meet up. And then she was everywhere I went until some sleazy pap caught us in that club. I guess she got what she actually wanted then.” 

 

“Poor baby,” Clarke deadpans, settling down on top of the closed lid of her toilet because she’s feeling off balance all of a sudden. Nothing makes sense anymore. “I can’t believe you had to sleep with a hot girl just to get her to stop showing interest in you. Weird how that didn’t work out for you.”

 

Bellamy makes an amused, kind of tired sound, like he doesn’t want to argue, then presses, “Can we circle back to the special someone I was missing? Because I was actually talking about Snoopy.”

 

“I still can’t believe you have a dog called Snoopy,” Clarke laughs, quietly, more to herself than anything else as she drags her spare towel off the counter beside her and brings a foot up on top of the lid to start drying her dark purple-painted toes. 

 

“Which is why you should never let Octavia name anything and just let me handle it,” he retorts easily, obviously confident in his own abilities. “The only reason she got privileges to begin with was because I lost a bet.”

 

“You would’ve just named the dog after a Roman god.”

 

He sounds halfway offended. “What’s wrong with that? Snoop would’ve rocked an ancient Roman name.”

 

Clarke grins to herself. He’s so predictable. “What? Like Hercules? Or whatever’s the female variation of that?”

 

Gritting, after a beat passes, “Maybe so.”

 

“Whatever you say.” 

 

A silence falls between them. Clarke leans back against the toilet, drawing her knee up against her chest as she listens to his steady breathing for a few moments. Finally, her need to know for certain wins out, and she asks, “Are you planning on making Bree your girlfriend in the near future?” 

 

Clarke kind of feels embarrassed now. She spent countless of pointless hours stalking the instagram model her insane workout routines, her flat tummy tea promos, her OOTDs posing on top of expensive cars and now it turns out she was just a hook-up. 

 

It’s not what she’s most embarrassed about though. While Clarke was back here, feeling like she was spoken for, feeling like she was waiting for him, respecting their unspoken agreement enough not to do anything, Bellamy was out there, hooking up with someone just to get them to stop messaging him. 

 

“No, I’m not ” He starts, then cuts himself off with a sigh, seems to decide against whatever he was going to say originally, and instead claims, “I’m not really looking for anything serious right now.”

 

Clarke doesn’t feel like she can trust her instincts anymore. She trusts him, she does, but every cell in her body is telling her flight, instead of fight. Her brain tries to rationalize it, tells her he probably figured out she was more than a little envious of Bree, and that he is trying to let her down easy like this.

 

Either way, she doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. Clarke huffs, humoured, making a dig at his womanizer reputation. “So, back to your regularly scheduled french whore programming?”

 

“Hey,” Bellamy exclaims, insulted but without much heat. “Don’t slutshame me.”

 

She doesn’t have it in her to laugh so instead she smiles, absent, and an uncomfortable silence washes over them for just a second. Then, Clarke leans her head back against the cold tile, worries her bottom lip, “Can I ask you something?”

 

He makes an amused sound. She wonders what he’s doing, if he’s leaning against the headboard, or if he’s snuggled into his blankets. If he’s wearing pyjamas or just his boxers. If his hair is as much of a mess as she imagines it to be. He sounds surprisingly genuine, voice soft and gentle, “Yeah, always.”

 

Clarke swallows, leaning her forehead on top of her knee and closing her eyes, as if it could help her brace herself for the answer, soften the blow. “Why did you reach out to me? In the beginning, I mean. We didn’t even know each other.”

 

You’re the one who dmed me , princess.”

 

She clenches her jaw, curls the fingers of her free hand resting on her lap into a fist. She doesn’t understand why he has to be this difficult right now. Isn’t it obvious this is hard enough for her? “Bell.”

 

He sighs, loudly, a little grudgingly, too. “Honest answer?”

 

For a second, she hesitates. It’s better to know the truth then to keep playing hide and seek with it. Then, gives in, “Yeah.”

 

She hears him scratch his hair close to the phone, and he even sounds a little awkward when he confesses, “I liked your music and I thought you were hot.” He’s never gets like that, almost shy. He’s always so confident, so sure of himself. Perhaps it’s even shame, that he only saw her as another manufactured object, nice to look at, ready to consume in any way the public so pleases to do. Shame he treated her the way he hates to be treated.

 

Clarke considers it, butting her head against her knee a few times like it’ll help clear her head. “Mhmf.” 

 

Technically, Clarke knows she’s hot, or, at least, conventionally attractive. It’s no surprise that’s what attracted him to her. Is she a little disappointed? Maybe. She didn’t know what she expected him to say. Like he felt this invisible need to know her like she did at first, that he felt connected to her in a way he hadn’t experienced with anyone else before? This wasn’t one of his stupid romcoms. This was real life. At least at least he was being honest with her.

 

Because she doesn’t speak, he continues, “Then we started talking and I realized you weren’t at all like I expected you to be.”

 

She hikes an eyebrow, raising her head to lean her chin on top of her knee instead, hugging it closer to her body. Clarke used to consume negative commentary like it was her lifeline, like she deserved all of it. Better to feel pain than nothing at all. Nowadays she barely even looks at comment sections. His opinion — like that of all her friends — still matters, though, and she’s curious. “What did you expect?”

 

His voice is even, like he’s eager to get it all out now he’s started, now he knows for certain this is what she wants to hear, the truth. “I know your father used to be big. I thought your talent was over exaggerated. I figured you had a ghostwriter and half the shit you went through was made up to make you seem more sympathetic to the public.”

 

“So it took for us to talk for you to realize I wasn’t just a pretty industry robot?” That he didn’t just want to fuck her, she means. That he actually wanted to be her friend. It’s great and horrible at the same time. Her personality got her friendzoned. 

 

“Pretty much,” Bellamy agrees, but it’s soft, impossibly so, quiet, too. Definitely shame, she realizes.

 

Despite shivering slightly from the cold seeping into her skin by now, she starts to feel warm all over. He was different than she expected too, kind of crept up on her without realizing before it was too late. 

 

The sound of his rough voice brings her back to the phone call and out of the daydream she was having about how cute he looks when he smiles — even though t he way he looks never crept up on her, that hit her all at once. She was working on that, on not letting him invade her thoughts without permission like that. “Are you going to do the song?”

 

“I knew you had an ulterior motive for calling.” She exhales loudly, pinching the bridge of nose before running her palm over her forehead, threading it through her hair until it catches on a knot and causes her to give up, resting it back in her lap as she picks at her dark nail polish instead. “I listened to the demo. It was alright.”

 

“It was more than alright,” he corrects her. “I had to fight multiple executives and tear down their list of lined-up popstars to get this for you.”

 

Bellamy knows how she feels about people doing her favors, and why, so she can’t help but snap just a little, “You shouldn’t have.”

 

“A simple ‘Thank You’ will suffice.”

 

She groans, considers it again. She really does believe he did it with her best interests in mind. “I do like the song.”

 

“Mhmm.” 

 

Clarke narrows her eyes. Smug son of a bitch. Still the song is great. It’s a beautiful ballad, one that she’s sure is more than complimentary to the story of lingering unrequited love after a divorce experienced in the movie it’s supposed to promote. She doesn’t want to be ungrateful or make him feel like she doesn’t appreciate the fact he tried to do this for her, but she didn’t ask him to do this. She doesn’t want to reject him either, though, not when she’s the one who’s been ignoring him for weeks now, making him feel like he did something wrong. It was nice of him, to think of her. And she’s been a shitty friend. “Maybe I’ll reconsider doing it.”

 

“Great,” he quips, actually excited. “As soon as it’s somewhat of a reasonable hour to be emailing people I’ll tell them you agreed.”

 

Clarke scoffs, stubborn if anything. It kind of feels like he won something here, and she hates it. “Don’t think I’m going to thank you for shit though.”

 

She’s not even mad he’s probably sporting a shit-eating grin when he replies, “That’s my girl.”

 

Once he comes back home, it’s not like she actually sees him. They still live on opposite sides of the country and even though he gets a small break before the promotion for his romantic drama starts, she’s busy preparing and rehearsing for her tour that’s creeping closer and closer every day.

 

Clarke got to record ‘ Once’ with Wells since he’s one of the best producers on the East Coast and she figured the star of the movie requesting her to sing the song gave her enough leverage to make some requests herself so once it’s time for the movie to premiere, it’s not weird for her to ask him to be her plus one to the event. 

 

She always gets antsy at big events, especially in LA, and it’s not helping it’s going to be the first time she’s seeing Bellamy after months, after she went through this weird one-sided break-up he wasn’t even aware of. Besides, Wells is her oldest friend. He never fails to make her feel at ease, and she loves hanging out with him. Plus, he looks fucking fantastic in a suit.

 

The photographers ask them to pose together, so they do, and Emori slides one of them her number to get first access to pictures for her social media. As always they ignore wildly outrageous question about whether or not they’re together, even if now paps are screaming at her asking if she’s cheating on Bellamy with Wells. 

 

Wells squeezes her hand as she pulls him along, forgoing the long line of interviewers yelling her name, or something that resembles it. She can’t be bothered to talk to anyone right now. Especially not when all they’re going to be interested in is her personal life.

 

Once inside the venue, Clarke slides down in her seat on the second row, glittery disco-ball resembling dress she’s wearing so tight she has to adjust how she sits several times to feel comfortable enough, ignoring Wells impetrenable gaze insistent on the side of her face. She’s still seeing stars from the flashing lights outside.

 

Clarke crosses her arms over her chest, petulantly, but since that only makes it harder to breathe, she uncrosses them again, finally meeting her friend’s eyes. It feels like defeat. She snaps, aggravated, “What?”

 

“Nothing,” Wells holds up a hand in defense, handing over her purse he was still holding after she gave it to him on the red carpet for safekeeping when she did solo pictures earlier. He gives her a kind smile, with even kinder eyes, and suddenly she feels like a dick. “Are you okay? It was kind of a circus out there.”

 

She runs a hand through her hair, hates how sticky her fingers feel from all the hair products as her shoulders deflate. Her purse vibrates wildly in her lap. “Sorry. I guess I don’t know. I don’t mind what other people think. They don’t know me. Or I usually don’t, I just

 

“Am nervous about seeing Bellamy again?” Wells fills in, one eyebrow raised and she lets out a deep breath she didn’t know she was holding. Not shouldering her problems alone actually makes them feel a little less heavy. 

 

“I guess more than I realized,” Clarke admits, quiet. “We talk all the time, but we’ve only met once. It could be awkward.” Besides all of that, she’s scared. She’s scared she’ll look at him and be back to square one. She’s been working hard to stop thinking of him in any other way but as a friend, and she doesn’t want to start all over again. 

 

Confusion flashes across his dark eyes. “It wasn’t awkward the first time, was it?”

 

“No, but it’s been months. A lot can change in a few months,” she argues, easily, feels like it makes enough sense. Wells doesn’t push, remains silent amongst the hubbub of people talking and trying to find their seats, patiently waits for her to continue. Clarke swallows, tightens her grip on her purse as she fixates her gaze on the big screen in front of them showing behind the scenes pictures. “And I realized I had feelings for him.”

 

Concern coats his voice as he shifts more towards her, knee knocking into hers. He knows this is big for her to admit, too. “What happened?”

 

Guilt washes over her, for some reason, like she might be disappointing him with her answer, and she meets his gaze again, briefly. “I tried Wells. I did. I opened up to him and I let myself fall for him and he doesn’t he doesn’t think of me that way.”

 

Clarke expects him to look sympathetic, at least. Wells is always so understanding, gentle. Instead, he looks unimpressed. “Well, how hard did you fight?”

 

Her breath hitches in the back of her throat as she searches his face, brow furrowed together. “What do you mean?”

 

Wells purses his lips. “Did you tell him how you feel?”

 

The room feels impossibly small all of a sudden, her hands starting to get clammy. She hardly feels like it’s the time and place to discuss this. It would be humiliating, to have anyone else find about this. They would just use it again her, as ammunition. Unloveable naive Clarke. Her voice seems to come from far away. “How I feel?”

 

“That you like him.” The corners of Wells’ mouth turn up slightly, like he’s amused with her inability to cope with emotions. He elbows her in the arm, almost teasingly. “As not just a friend.”

 

Clarke wets her lips, reluctantly confessing, “No. But

 

His eyebrows jump up as he cuts her off, “ But he had a girlfriend that turned out not to be his girlfriend.”

 

Clarke sends him a questioning look, startled. Wells rolls his eyes. “I have internet, C.” He tilts his head slightly, more diligent of her facial expressions as he adds, “Besides, the girl looked like a copycat version of you.”

 

She knows what he’s trying to imply. That he tried to find a cheap replacement in her absence. It’s not true. Even if it was, Bellamy could have told her. 

 

“That’s not fair,” she protests, even though she’s lying. He’s always fair, Wells. Always trying to make her see both sides of the story, and sometimes even a third side she didn’t know existed. 

 

“If you never told him, how was he supposed to know?” Wells contends smoothly but never smug, and Clarke finds herself struggling to come up with a counter-argument in the heat of the moment. Her back feels sticky from sweat. It feels like Wells is digging at something and getting too close. “Do you want to know what I think?”

 

A half-offended noise leaves her lips. “Do I have a choice?”

 

He inhales deeply, exhales loudly through his nose, like he hates to be the one telling her this. It’s why it’s better that’s it him, not Raven or Emori, they would most likely enjoy telling her harsh truths. She needs something a bit more gentle, right now, because his words hit her with the force of a thousand little cuts. “I think you were scared and took the earliest opportunity to shut him out and run.”

 

Clarke opens her mouth, ready to debunk him, but then he’s tapped on the shoulder by some score composer who recognized him and Wells turns towards her to engage in a polite work conversation. Instead of being social, Clarke zones out while a Meghan Trainor song blasts over the speakers and tries to think of what she even could’ve told Wells. 

 

She’d like to think he is wrong. That she really did try, that she put up a good fight. She thought she did, but hearing him say it like that that she didn’t even tell Bellamy perhaps she did take the easy way out. A small, broken part of herself is scared to be happy again, because once she is, it can be taken away. It’s not something that she can control, something she can have power over, and that terrifies her. 

 

Her phone is still blowing up in her purse, and when she checks why, it’s because Bellamy reposted her story thanks, Emori in his own. It’s just promo, she reminds herself. It’s her face, but the song is mentioned and the song is promotional material for his movie. The movie they’re about to watch. She’s really supposed to sit here looking at his face for two and a half hours, knowing he’s somewhere in the room close, but far. 

 

Speaking of the devil, he walks up to his seat right in front of Wells’, face lighting up as he recognizes her. He half-waves at them as his co-star and on-screen love interest Gabriel sits down in the seat beside him, a blonde girl in a short red dress settling in beside him, death grip on his arm the whole time. 

 

“What, no half-naked influencer for you tonight?” Clarke says in lieu of a greeting, heart pounding harshly in her chest, tearing her eyes off the empty seat on his other side. She was trying to go with a playful, unbothered bros being bros tone, but somehow it comes out harsher than intended. The pretty girl beside Gabriel sends her a nasty look over her shoulder, and she wasn’t trying to make a dig at her, but the girl looks like she used one too many #ad hairsprays trying to keep her high poofy pony that poofed up. 

 

Bellamy’s half leaning over his seat and it takes her a few seconds to realize his open arms are an invitation for her to hug him. She’s not really a hugger, but she guesses if anything was going to warrant an embrace, it was going to be a reunion after spending almost three months apart.

 

As his arms lock around her sides, he dryly tells her with a squeeze of her waist, “No, all the half-naked ones were busy.”

 

“Shame,” she clicks her tongue as if disappointed, catching a whiff of his stupid cologne mixed with fresh mint. It feels nice like this, in his arms. Warm and familiar and quiet in the chaos surrounding them. “I have few anecdotes I would’ve loved to share.”


She feels him grin against her hair, and somehow way too soon and way too late at the same time, he starts pulling back from her. “You look beautiful,” Bellamy says as he squeezes her upper arms before letting go of her completely.

 

Clarke resents the fact she feels empty the second he does, her chest constricting with an all-consuming coldness, although she doesn’t have to try too hard to form a smile on her face. “You don’t clean up so bad yourself.” The well-fitted maroon suit complimenting his broad frame and bright smile, his hair more carefully styled now that it’s a little shorter, his skin looking even more impossibly golden now he’s been on break it’s a look. The blonde doesn’t even hesitate, reaches out to straighten the collar of his black shirt, then hikes an eyebrow, skeptic, meeting his gaze as she pats his chest. “Did you know the next picture in my story also promoted the song, except, you know, without my face being the centre of attention?”

 

He straightens, chewing his gum leisurely, mouth curling into a lazy grin. “I like your face.” Of course he did it on purpose. He probably has her notifications on.

 

Unfortunately for her the composer went back to her seat and Wells seems to be observing the two of them quietly. Bellamy finally turns to him, offering him a hand and complimenting his music production of ‘ Once ’.

 

Soon the lights dim, and somebody walks up to the stage in front of the screen and they all settle in to watch the movie. Of course she’s seen the trailer and Bellamy’s told her most of the plot, but seeing and experiencing it for the first time is something else entirely. 

 

The story is heart wrenching, shows the honest reality of falling out of love with each other and how resentment can turn you into the most horrible version of yourself, someone who takes pleasure in hurting the person you once loved, someone who willingly destroys what once was good. Bellamy’s character takes a while to warm up to but he translates his emotions to the screen so well, and his chemistry with Gabriel is so amazing she almost ends up rooting for them to get back together even though she knows it’s better if they don’t. One of the last scenes is the two of them embracing in a final hug goodbye, both of them crying silently and unwilling to be the first one to walk away, and the emotion she feels watching them almost has her tear up herself. 

 

(Besides, Clarke has to admit it’s kind of cool that as soon as the credits start rolling, her voice fills the room. She’s proud of the song, of how good of a job her and Wells did. The message commemorates the story beautifully.)

 

Once Gabriel and Bellamy and the director have taken a bow on stage, the applause fades, and the crowd starts to thin, making their way to one of several after-parties, someone catches her by the elbow before she’s even able to follow Wells into the aisle leading out of the theatre. They’re planning on pigging out at the nearest fast food joint. They don’t have In-n-Out in NYC, and she’s missed their burgers.

 

“Hey,” Bellamy says, fingers trailing down her arm to her wrist, giving it a squeeze before letting go. He gives her a confident smile, but there’s a vulnerable kind of nervosity in his eyes, “What did you think?”

 

A beat passes silently. She can see Wells turn in the corner of her eye, probably wondering what’s taking her so long, but gives them their distance. She sees he’s trying to hard to appear casual, leaning back against one of the rows of seats and nodding in greeting at anyone who walks by, so she knows he’s eavesdropping.

 

Clarke tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, crossing her arm over her waist and resting her hand in the crook of her elbow. “It was good,” she starts off, biting down on her lip, not wanting to seem overeager, but then his face falls just slightly, and she can’t help but insist, “Good is an understatement. You two almost made me cry in public. The story the story was beautiful, but you and Gabriel, you two took it home. I almost felt like I was intruding, it it was magic.”

 

Bellamy’s answering smile is almost blinding, so she doesn’t even really care she gave so much of herself away. “I take it you don’t regret joining the soundtrack after all?” 

 

He sounds way too smug for her liking, so she takes pleasure knocking him down a peg or two. “How could I ever regret having my name on a Gabriel Santiago project?” She beams up at him coyly as she nods her head over at Wells. Se needs a buffer before she says something stupid, or puts her lips on his. 

 

“Ouch,” he says dryly, face pinched together in mock-hurt, putting his hand over his heart as they start closing the distance between them and her friend. “My co - star said I was getting a reality check today. Just hurts it had to come from you.”

 

Clarke tears her eyes off his as she hears Wells voice. “Are you ready to go?”

 

Bellamy turns away from them slightly as Harper his publicist puts her hand on his shoulder and informs him of something quietly. He nods along silently.

 

“Yeah,” the blonde groans at her other friend, throwing her head back slightly, gripping Wells’ forearm. “I’m starving.”

 

Bellamy, no longer temporarily distracted as Harper is manoeuvring her way through the mass of people, glances between the two of them, small dent in between his brows. “You’re not coming to the Ark?” 

 

Right. An after-party. In the exclusive, popular nightclub with the huge aquariums for walls, the DJ who plays the same three songs all night and interior to mimic the inside of what she thinks is a submarine. She’s been to it before when she’d just turned 21, for like an hour, before she got overwhelmed, ditched her friends in return for an Uber and went home to her LA apartment to order take-out.

 

One look at Wells, and she knows that if she does go, she’ll be on her own. He hates celebrities, he hates crowded places and he’d rather die than voluntarily listen to dance music because, and she quotes, “Music made with only a microwave as an instrument doesn’t count.” A nightclub in LA is quite literally his worst nightmare. If she begged him he would probably come, but she doesn’t want to do that to him when he already flew across the country for her.

 

And a club isn’t really her scene either, anyway. “Me and Wells we’re actually going to get something to eat.”

 

“They have really good nachos there.” His smirk widens, tilting his head slightly. “My treat.”

 

“I don’t know,” she maintains, unsure, not so subtly glancing over at Wells again. He pretends to be oblivious to her obvious pleading eyes because he’s the worst.

 

“Come on,” Bellamy urges good-naturedly, nudging her. “You should celebrate. It’s your first soundtrack.”

 

All things considered, it’s an okay argument. It’s not like she couldn’t come up with anything to debunk it. His way of celebrating doesn’t have to be hers. Instead, her resolve starts to falter and she can’t do a single thing but stand idly by. It’s like his words are putting a fucking spell on her. Clarke crosses her arms over her chest, but resignation coats her voice as she states, “Fake fan. I made a song for a My Little Pony movie when I was sixteen.” One of her many regrettable stints for Disney. 

 

Bellamy’s dark eyes twinkle mischievous but before he can say anything, she pinches his shoulder between her thumb and forefinger, hard. Long enough to make it sting. “Don’t even think about it. I paid good money to have all the footage burned.” 

 

(As in, she hooked Raven up with lots and lots of male underwear models to have her hack YouTube to rid it of all audio and video content of Clarke’s rendition of Smile Song.)

 

He tries to stifle a chuckle, sending her a pointed look, a challenge not at all hidden within his eyes, and Clarke bites down on her lip to keep from smiling, glancing over at Wells. He doesn’t look too upset at breaking their age-old-pact to always leave who they came with. “Okay.”

 

Bellamy nods at her other friend, raising his eyebrows, sounding strangely polite all of a sudden. “What about you, Jaha? 

 

“I think I’m going to head back to the hotel. I skipped last night’s sleep because of our early flight.”

 

Clarke scoffs, righteously. “And you hate clubs.”

 

“And I hate clubs,” he echoes, trying hard to keep the corners of his mouth turned down.

 

“That’s too bad,” Bellamy answers, but doesn’t sound all that sorry. Which is weird. Everybody likes Wells. He’s the best. Then he looks back at her. “Do you wanna share a Lyft?”

 

This is so out of her comfort-zone she’s starting to question if she’s even doing this for the right reasons. She offers Bellamy a quick smile. “Sure, I have to get my coat, but I’ll meet you outside.” 

 

He nods, agreeing, and him and Wells exchange goodbyes. Her oldest friend compliments him on the film, calls it his best work, and in return Bellamy gets a little cocky in an endearing sort of way. Or at least to her. She can tell Wells is somewhat bothered by it, but Clarke knows Bellamy well enough to know it’s just defense mechanism. Because he actually, despite popular belief, does not have a great self-esteem when it comes to things like this.

 

“You’re a bad friend,” she tells Wells as soon as Bellamy has disappeared out of ear shot, offering him a quick hug. Selfishly, also because she needs the courage.

 

His facial expression remains stoic as he pulls back from her, tone coated with skepticism as he squeezes her biceps. “You’re Clarke Griffin. ISTP, Lawful Evil, Slytherin. Could’ve gone to an Ivy League. If you needed an excuse, you would’ve come up with it yourself.” He’s always so aggravatingly correct, knows her better than herself. Wells grins widely as he pulls his phone out of his pocket, probably going to order a transport vehicle of his own, “Have fun.”

 

Because there’s an underlying taunt to his phrase, Clarke flips him off, shielding her hand from most other people with her purse. (A picture like that? Emori would have all her important organs for breakfast.) Wells laughs all the way towards the door to the hallway leading outside.

 

They share the ride with Harper, and Bellamy squeezes himself into the middle. So he spends the entire way to the club sitting way too close to her, their thighs pressed together and his arms slung over the back of the seats to make more room. His publicist is unbothered by the close proximity and casual tactility going through all of Bellamy’s social media accounts and discussing incoming first reviews with him quietly so Clarke forces herself to be as well. It’s probably just been a while for her, since anyone touched her with such a nonchalant, unconscious affection. She’s good at isolating herself. In fact, she makes a habit out of it.

 

Bellamy does make good on his promise as soon as they’re in the VIP section and gets her the extra big serving of nachos. She’s not really wearing a dress designed to eat in, but she doesn’t care. All rationality disappears into thin smoke whenever she’s hungry. Gabriel is there too, and his fiancée Josephine, she’s learnt but not from the girl herself sips on her vodka-diet coke and gives her a nasty look for, eating? Clarke assumes. 

 

They do shots, and drinking games, and more shots. Josephine mostly ignores her, and Gabriel is kind of quiet and reserved although surprisingly laid-back, and Harper is a light-weight so after two shots she’s draped around Clarke’s shoulder. She isn’t much better herself, so she’s sufficiently tipsy when Gimme More comes on and Harper insists they go dance. 

 

Clarke asks Bellamy to come because apparently even drunk Clarke feels better around people she’s known longer than five minutes but he says he doesn’t dance, so Harper pulls Gabriel along instead. He protests at first, but then Harper has him twirl around like it’s not a remix of Britney Spears blasting through the speakers but instead a ballad, and he probably figures they’re all drunk enough to play this off as temporary lapse of judgement in the morning.

 

Clarke doesn’t know what comes over her, but they’re all laughing and drinking and having fun, and Josephine’s looking murderous, and Bellamy’s sitting right there not looking particularly happy either so she figures it’s a good idea to severely grind up against both of her dance partners. Grinding is really the only non-choreographed dance move she has down, so it’s not even that deliberate, more just second nature. The other blonde whoops, pressing harder up against Clarke so she stumbles further back into Gabriel. He steadies her with his hands on her hips, but his eyes are mostly closed as he sways to the music. He’s a little far gone.

 

When Clarke looks back at the VIP section, Bellamy’s not there. Josephine glares at her as soon as they make eye-contact, her jaw clenched in a way that makes her afraid the girl’s jaw might snap in half any moment. She wonders where Bellamy is briefly, but then he’s suddenly at her side.

 

“Heeeey,” Clarke drawls, face lighting up, immediately throwing her arms around him and resting her cheek against his sternum. He feels nice. Warm. She’s fucking missed him. He doesn’t say anything in return, just keeps his arms around her waist even as she props her chin onto his chest to look at him better. He offers her a fond, albeit distracted smile, before angling them closer to Harper. 

 

He leans close her ear to tell her something over the music, and Harper loudly says, “Awww, Mr. Threesome getting shy now? Are you afraid he’s packing more than you?” She’s saying words that don’t make sense in the way she’s saying them.

 

Clarke pulls back from him, slightly alarmed, and he lets go of her easily enough, still preoccupied with his friend. “Look, it’s not Gabriel, it’s Josephine.” He shudders. “She freaks me out.”

 

Clarke is still blinking stupidly his way, everything taking a little longer to process. So Josephine prepositioned him to come home with her and Gabriel. Bellamy just gets asked to participate in threesomes. The opportunity falls into his lap, just like that. And it’s not the first time this has happened to him. It’s a lot to take in. “You’ve had a threesome?”

 

“Yeah, he’s had a threesome, sure, Clarke” Harper snorts, patting her shoulder patronizingly. Then her face screws up, and she looks like she’s going to throw up. She’s clinging onto Gabriel so she doesn’t fall over, and he opens his eyes, shaking his head as if he just re-entered his body, and then decides to lead her off the dancefloor.

 

“Seriously, I’m pretty sure she was about to come dump her drink down your dress,” Bellamy turns back to her, loud, like he’s been talking to her this whole time. The club lights covering him in a blue hue. He grins, fingering the sequins covering her collarbone. “And I like your dress.”

 

She doesn’t say anything, just looks down at his fingers stupidly, before looking back up at him. He’s now green. Thanks to the lights. An Usher song booms through the speakers. Clarke isn’t sure what he wants to hear from her here. 

 

He drops his hand, smile faltering slightly. He scratches the back of his head, bending closer to be heard over the music without being heard by everyone else. “I’m also fairly certain she accidentally drugged Gabriel. He seems way too out of it.”

 

There was lots of sharing of drinks tonight, she’ll give him that. Clarke realizes they’re standing still on the middle of the dancefloor, and she wants nothing more than to get away from this place. Preferably with him, even if that’s not an option, not really. “You want to get out of here?”

 

Half his mouth turns up slightly, and he shakes his head slightly, squeezing his eyes shut for a second as he tugs on the front of his hair. “Yeah, sure, let's go find Harper before she takes Josephine up on my offer.”

 

Clarke smiles lazily at his joke, but it fades as he takes her hand to lead her off the dancefloor. Tears prick in the corners of her eyes and she doesn’t know why. Maybe it’s the sudden realization confirmation he really does see her as a friend. Unconsciously, she was still doing things trying to prove to herself it wasn’t true, trying to find that little spark of hope in a waterfall of disappointment. 

 

Only he didn’t get jealous of her dancing with two very hot people. In fact, he only came to them because he wanted to get away from Josephine. He likes her in this dress, sure, but he doesn’t want to tear it off her. And she basically prepositioned him to come home with her, and his suggestion was to find his friend first. His other friend.

 

Clarke swallows tightly, keeping the tears at bay as Bellamy makes a quick pit-stop at the bar to get her a glass of water. His hand is still wrapped around hers, and she wants to let go, but she can’t bear to do it. She only really gets to have him like this, today, and then it could be months until she can find an excuse to do anything like this again. It’s pathetic, but she lets herself wallow in it. 

 

Clarke takes a grateful sip, looking at his side profile over the rim of her glass as he exchanges a few short, polite words with the bartender, finishing up the transaction. She only has to raise her voice slightly, it’s more quiet here. “How are you this sober?”

 

He smiles at her as he takes his card back from the bartender, slipping it back into his back pocket. He’s lost his tie, Clarke realizes. “By not completely sucking at Never Have I Ever, princess.”

 

“How have I done more stuff than you ?” Clarke opposes accusatory. She doesn’t remember him drinking at all. Not even when Josephine threw in have gotten arrested before she threw back half her glass. And she’s seen his mugshots too, she remembers, because his hair was way too short, not a curl in sight. He doesn’t argue, just observes her carefully as she downs the rest of the glass, discarding it on the bar and wiping her hand damp from condensation on her dress. They start making their way back to Harper again. “Aren’t you like the Rebel King of Hollywood?”

 

“It’s called lying, Clarke,” he muses loudly, glancing back at her over his shoulder briefly. “One of us had to keep a straight head.”

 

She gasps, pulling on his hand to make him stop walking back to the booth so she can chastise him properly, but he doesn’t budge, so they keep moving through the crowd. “There are rules, Bellamy!”

 

He barks out a laugh, like she caught him off guard and was completely in character all the same. He quirks an eyebrow, challenges, “Aren’t they meant to be broken?”

 

“Rules meant to be broken are broken in a proper way by being replaced by better ones, and only at the right time,” she rattles on, words flowing out of her like he pressed a button and got an automated response. “The right time was before we started the game, and you were mute!”

 

His fingers press harder into the back of her hand as his other comes up to tug on a piece of hair playfully. “You spent too much time watching Judge Judy reruns.”

 

She just squints at him, wondering how in earth he remembered an off-handed comment she made about her guilty pleasure tv show binges six months ago, brain too clouded to come up with a good response.

 

They find his friend Josephine’s hand draped across her knee and twirling a piece of Harper’s hair around her finger, her fiancé looking half asleep again say their goodbyes to them and some of their entourage only Bellamy knows probably from having been here before. 

 

She gives Harper her coat because she lost the top part of her pantsuit somewhere inside the club when they first got there, so Bellamy drapes his suit jacket around Clarke’s shoulders once they step outside. She wasn’t that cold, but she figures that must be the effect of the alcohol, so either way it’s founded she’s wearing his jacket. It smells like his cologne, something earthy and distinctly him, and she snuggles into the warmth maybe a little too happily.  

 

They leave through the back alley, even if somewhere in her mind once she starts seeing spots out of nowhere she registers at least two people taking pictures. His publicist is stumbling on her stilettos on the sidewalk, so Bellamy offers her a piggyback ride to the nearest parking lot or decides on it really, mumbling something about a broken ankle from snowboarding, which means he’s concerned, which is cute and Clarke ends up having to help hoist her on top of his back because she’s too uncoordinated to do it herself. 

 

Not that Clarke is much help, because she’s mostly just patting Bellamy’s back encouraging while loudly wondering if all all the other girl’s ridiculous muscles are just for show and laughing at their failed attempts. She feels weirdly light, careless, like she’s floating through air. She knows the crash down is going to be the worst. Her hangover is going to kill her.

 

He gets the Lyft to drop off Harper first, and her roommate Monroe is waiting for her outside of their apartment complex. She thanks Bellamy for the warning text, and he offers to help bringing Harper upstairs but she reminds him they have an elevator and she can bench press her own weight and probably his easily so.   

 

Once the car pulls up to the front of her hotel, that she doesn’t recognize until he nudges her with her elbow reminding her of it, she presses a sloppy kiss to his cheek she’s done it before, so she thinks it’s fair game now anyway and starts pulling on the door. 

 

“I think it’s better if I walk you up,” he muses, biting back a laugh as he watches her struggle with the door. Clarke frowns at it, before giving up and slouching in her seat, leaning her head back. He leans over her, and instead of pulling on the door, he pushes it, causing it to open. Oh . That makes sense. 

 

“After you,” he snickers, motioning at the exit. Knowing she’s close to her bed makes her suddenly very tired, and she leans her head on his shoulder during the elevator ride, closing her eyes. His fingers trail up and down her arm, soothing her. 

 

“I would’ve been fine,” Clarke mumbles, rubbing the inside of her eye without opening them. When she pulls back her hand, and she squints at it for a second, her fingers are covered in mascara. Whatever.

 

“Huh?” She feels him shift, probably to look at her.

 

Right. He can’t hear her thoughts. She’s worried he thinks of her as a responsibility, that she possibly ruined his night. “If you wanted to go home with Josephine and Gabriel, I mean. I would’ve been fine.”

 

He scoffs and it’s hard to tell the tone behind it with her eyes still closed. “Believe me, I’m right where I want to be.”

 

The elevator dings, signaling they made it to her floor. She makes eye-contact with an older lady who eyes her outfit judgmentally. To be fair, she does look like a disco ball and by now her lipstick’s probably smudged, and hair a mess. Still, anxiety floods through her veins like ice as she suddenly remembers people might actually recognize her in his state. Definitely not this lady, but someone with more than 100 mb of data.

 

So Clarke staggers out of the elevator and tries to start running for some reason, which doesn’t really work, because she’s still wearing heels and she’s never been that great of a runner to start with. His laugh echoes through the entire hallway as he has to catch her right before she faceplants into a maid cart. 

 

They fall against the wall sideways, his hands steady on her waist. Clarke blinks up at him for a few seconds too long, then a door across the hallway opens and she’s turning her head to the side, combing her hair in front of her face. Bellamy greets the maid with an obviously amused ‘hello’, trying to keep from laughing out loud.

 

“Shhh,” Clarke murmurs, allowing her head to loll back against the wall as they’re alone again. Her limbs feel like they’re not her own. “We have to be incog incog ” Her face scrunches up, and she swallows tightly, as if able to soothe the burn in the back of her throat from downing one too many shots. As if that’s the reason her tongue is unable to properly form words with more than two syllables at the moment.

 

“Incognito?” He offers, almost smug, but it’s not fair play considering he might as well be completely sober, so she kicks him in the shin, sticking out her tongue. The sudden blow causes him to stumble a little closer, his hands folding around her elbows as her rest on his forearms. 

 

He studies her features carefully, unfamiliar look on his face, then juts his chin at the number over the door beside them. She assumes, because she’s too busy unashamedly looking at his dumb face this up close. She convinces herself she can’t look away because moving too much makes everything go in slow motion and her head feel woozy. “We’ve made it. This is your room.”

 

Bellamy makes no real move to get inside, so neither does she. Instead, he’s looking at her all funny again, reaching up to move a strand of hair from one side of her head to the other, then tugging most of her locks behind her ear. He leaves his hand on the side of her neck, thumb resting on her newly exposed jaw. 

 

She sucks in a shaky breath, her chest stuttering, and since his gaze is a little too intense for her not to start acting on it soon, she blurts out, “You should come see me out on tour.” It’s an obvious diversion tactic, but she needs it to come back to her senses.

 

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he grins, taking a step back no, no and taking out his purse from underneath his arm when did he start carrying that to collect her keycard. He pushes open the door, holds it open so she can get inside, “Already have my merch picked out.”

 

She’s still thinking it over as she drops down on her bed, imaging him in a shirt with her face on it more funny to her in the moment then it’ll be in the morning. Because he disappeared into the bathroom and she sees no reason that should keep her from sharing her thoughts, she yells, “You should totally come to my first show.”

 

Clarke shrugs off his suit jacket, feeling almost giddy as she thinks about opening night of her tour always nerve wracking and looking out backstage to see him standing there. She could write three songs right now about that exact feeling, even if she doubts they’ll be any good.

 

“I can’t,” Bellamy counters, looking apologetic as he emerges from the bathroom with a glass of water. “I have to stay in LA for an audition.”

 

The crushing weight she feels in her chest is not disappointment, she decides, it’s heartburn from the grease and alcohol she’s consumed tonight. 

 

Bellamy Blake has to audition,” she teases, skeptical, as she leans down to pull of her heels. Following his frame with her eyes as he moves to put the glass down on her nightstand, even if it makes her dizzy. “I thought Oscar winners got a free pass for those.”

 

“Yeah.” He scratches his head, resting his hands on his hips as he watches her struggle with unbuckling her second heel. “Yeah. Well. It’s a different kind of movie. Small production.”

 

Ah. So not a guns-blazing, half-a-billion special effects, Nicholas Sparks forbidden love between two aliens trying to rob the Louvre blockbuster movie. Has he made one of those? He should. 

 

Clarke pushes herself off the bed, albeit wobbly on her feet, turns for him to unzip her. She’s embarrassed herself more than enough tonight, she’s sure this won’t make any of it substantially worse, and she’s tired of not being able to breathe. Besides, it’s just skin. “What’s it about?”

 

“I’m not sure you’ll remember in the morning,” he chuckles, as he starts to unzip her, and he’s just so endeared by her, it’s making her feel sick. He thinks she’s funny like this, adorable, like a little sister. Bellamy averts his eyes as she lets the dress drop, but then she gets her foot caught in the bottom when she tries to step out of it and kick it away, so he has to reach out and steady her. He politely keeps his hands on her forearms. 

 

“I’m not that drunk,” she argues, climbing onto the bed on her hands and feet to get away from him and towards sleep.

 

He hums in skeptical agreement, murmuring something under his breath. “Are you under the covers?” He asks eventually, gaze still fixated on the bathroom door instead of her, jaw clenched. 

 

“Yep,” she answers, patting the pillow beside her because it looks too fluffy, but when he turns, she’s sitting back against the headboard, on top of the sheets. She’s too tired to move. Maybe she could fall asleep like this.

 

His eyes widen just slightly at the sight of her, his voice rougher than normal as he calls out, “Clarke.” He doesn’t exactly tear his eyes away, but any surprise disappears off his face and molds into what she thinks is determination as he decides to pull the covers off the bed instead, motioning for her to get underneath them. He’s now rolling his eyes at her, like it’s annoying she’s drunk and half-naked in front of him. 

 

Maybe she was subconsciously trying to push him just a little. Is it disappointment she feels, or dread for the raging hangover she’s going to have in the morning? He makes her drink the water he put down on the nightstand, then actually tucks her in. Clarke closes her eyes, and for a minute, she thinks he’s stood up and left without her noticing, that maybe she fell asleep and it’s morning already. Then he runs a delicate finger down the slope of her nose, touches the small diamond piercing in her right nostril. She scrunches it up, slapping him away. 

 

“Okay, I get the hint,” he chuckles, moving to get up off the bed. She grasps his fingers with hers, allows herself to be weak and masochist for just a moment. Clarke blinks heavily, trying to keep the sleepiness at bay. “Can’t you stay?”

 

“Don’t think that’s such a good idea, princess,” Bellamy mutters after a beat, uneasy. Then he gets more confident, teasing, swaying her hand from side to side playfully like she’s a child he has to convince to eat her vegetables, “Think about what all the paps will think if we show up in the breakfast hall together.” 

 

“I don’t give a fuck ,” she wants to say, desperately so, but instead lets go of his fingers and snuggles further into her sheets. He apparently does care what people think. And he doesn't want them to think they’re actually together.

 

“Goodnight,” he says, softly but coated with doubt, like he needs her to reassure him, and instead she ignores him, keeps her eyes firmly shut. It’s not even his fucking fault. She doesn’t know why she’s so angry. Probably more at herself, but he’s an easy target.

 

As soon as the door clicks closed, Clarke is wide awake. She rolls over into her back, staring at the ceiling. His face keeps flashing back into her mind, his phantom touch lighting up her nerves wherever he touched her. In the dark, she’ll let herself admit she wanted him to stay. It wasn’t just an accidental drunken half-true blurt she always wants him to stay. On purpose. The thought of falling asleep in his arms is the closest feeling she’s felt that resembles happiness. She scrambles for her phone — that Bellamy apparently attached to her charger on her nightstand. 

 

Clarke [03:23 AM]

Wells are you still awake

Wells im so fucked

Wells

Have you seen his face

I might actually? love him 

So fuckin.g much

 

Wells [03:26 AM]

I saw your Snapchats

How are you the only drunk in the world composed enough not to accidentally confess their secret love to their crush

 

Snapchat? Clarke didn’t even realize she still had that. She curses out loud as she plucks her phone off her face after she’s dropped it on top of it rather harshly, rolling over her stomach to prevent a recurrence. Her head swirls because of the sudden movement and she has to will herself to not throw up for a good minute before she can start typing out a response. 

 

Clarke [03:32 AM]

Muscle emmroy after Years and yearsof serious media training

 

Wells [03:32 AM]

Cut it out next time and be yourself

I’m 100 percent sure the feelings are mutual

 

Clarke [03:33 AM]

Its not like that

Like yeah…

He would probably fuck me?
Becaue i’m hot

If i aksed him tonigth, he eprobably woudl have/

If iwas sober a tleast

But it’s not what i want

Its not enough

I’m dooooooomed

Wells will yiu marry mee

?

 

Wells [03:36 AM]

Clarke

We were in a room full of film critics and work peers

And all he cared about was what you thought

 

Groaning, she locks her phone, pushing it under her pillow. She doesn’t want to deal with coming up with a reply to that. Not when her head is pounding and her vision is blurry and she can’t stop thinking about holding Bellamy’s hand. Running her hands through his hair. Kissing that stupid mouth.

 

(The hangover almost kills her. But the thanks for coming, hope you had fun and the hangover’s not too bad with a black heart emoji waiting for her in her dms is even worse. Wells shows no sympathy even though they’re about to suffer through a five hour flight together, just hands her a box of advil and a stack of gossip magazines. Magazines she dumps in the nearest trash can with a pointed look. She figures he’s silent because he’s taking the whole ‘ if you don’t have anything nice to say ’ to heart.)

 

Clarke loses herself in tour for the next two weeks, running through final rehearsals,  tweaking the last of the set and perfecting minor details of stage and light production. Perhaps striving for perfection is an unattainable goal for most, but not her. If it’s anything less than, she’ll lose her mind. This is her most personal album yet. This is her art her own art and it means so much to her, so much to her memory of Lexa, her dad’s legacy, the things that have happened to her that the thought of it being received in any other way than she means it to, could quite possibly kill her.

 

Thirty minutes before her first show, she locks Emori out of her room backstage and gets her dad’s watch out from her bag, staring at the spiderweb cracked crystal, forcing herself to breathe through the myriad of emotions she’s feeling inside. 

 

She is excited, she is. She loves creating art and performing art and sharing it with people who enjoy it as much as her, the energy it gives back to her indescribable. She hasn’t found anything quite like it. But she’s also scared, and nervous, and second-doubting every word she’s ever written. 

 

She’s not sure how she’s going to get through the next half-an-hour when every second feels like an eternity, an eternity to pick apart every little thing about herself, her songs, the way she looks, the way she treats people. Why did she lock Emori out? She was only trying to be there for her.

 

Her phone rings after a few moments, and Clarke quickly wipes away the few silent stray tears that have run down her cheeks without her noticing, thanking every god out there for fixing spray, carefully putting her father’s watch down on the vanity in front of her.

 

“Just wanted to wish you good luck on your big opening night,” Bellamy says, after they exchange hellos. 

 

“I wish I could say I didn’t need it,” she quips, shaking just slightly, wiping her nose with the back of her hand. “How did your audition go?”

 

Worry coats his voice. “You okay?”

 

“Can you just tell me what the movie is about?” Clarke practically pleads. She’s crying again, every time she wipes the tears away, new ones appear. She just wants a distraction, something else to focus on beside this emptiness and overwhelming sense of inadequacy. “I don’t please?

 

There’s static on the other end, then, “It’s about this man, mid-thirties, who had to raise his sister after his dad passed away. He made some mistakes because he didn’t want the responsibility of having to raise a kid when he was supposed to be in college. All he ever learned from his dad was how to act tough, how to hold his liquor, how to love with his fists.” She focuses on his baritone, lets it calm the rate in which her heart is beating against her ribcage, lets it wash over in waves. “He stopped speaking to his sister when she turned twenty-one, which was over five years ago. He’s turned his life around, got himself a wife and an AA badge. One day, two kids show up to his doorstep and it turns out their mother left them at the mall. The social security worker tells him they’re looking for the mom, his sister, who they suspect had a mental breakdown, but he’s the closest living relative. The only one really.”

 

Clarke cocks an eyebrow to herself. “So he has to take the kids in?”

 

“Yeah. He struggles with having the responsibility thrust upon him again and he is afraid he’s going to make the same mistakes he did with his sister. His wife doesn’t want children, so in the end he has to choose between raising his nephews or living the life he’s tried so hard to build for himself.”

 

“What does he pick?”

 

“It’s an open ending. He picks the children, but then in the last scene his sister shows back up. She’s obviously not well, mentally unstable, off on drugs, which reflects what could happen to the children if he leaves them with her. And you’re kind of left wondering if now that he picked them, is he going to continue to fight for them or is he going to take the easy way out? Has he actually changed, or was he left with no other choice?”

 

She likes it. A lot. She could imagine him taking home his second Oscar with this one, even if that’s not what seems to matter to him. It doesn’t matter to her either, she thinks he’s great either way. Even objectively. Lightly, trying to lift some of the heavy tension, she teases, “What? No car chases and big explosions trying to save your girl this time?”

 

“No,” he counters, easily, and she imagines he’s grinning, “but I could always suggest they write in a drive-by at some point.”

 

“I know you don’t like talking about your sister, but I know enough,” Clarke acknowledges, sniffing once, but no longer crying. Enough to know that this is very personal to him. He’s so talented, so good, she has no doubt in her mind he’s the best person for the job. “And I think you could really take this to the next level. Make it special.”

 

“I hope so,” he confesses, and it lingers, like there’s more he wants to say. 

 

Clarke smiles, faint, and wishes he was here with her, so he could see how serious she is. “I know you’ll get it.”

 

Sofly, he prompts, never having sounded so sure as he does now, “Like I know you’ll do great.”

 

“How would you?” The blonde huffs, she’s not really offended, how could she be when he’s just trying to do what everyone else always tries to do? Make her feel better. It’s sweet, but useless. At least she can be honest with him. “You’ve never seen me perform.”

 

“Not in live-action, no, but you’re Clarke Griffin,” he insists, emphasizing her name like he wants to physically shake her with every word. Says it in a way she almost starts believing it, too. “You don’t quit, you’re a fighter. Everything you do is amazing.”

 

“Bell ” she croaks out, close to tears again, not really sure what to say. He knows her too well. Knows that she was trying to deflect, focus on him. And even let her for a while, because she practically begged him to. But he won’t let her get away with it, never will, something she should’ve known from the beginning.

 

Bellamy doesn’t let get much in, doesn’t let her voice her negative thoughts or oppose his stance on her. Instead, he lightly presses, “Besides, if you don’t trust yourself, trust that I wouldn’t be friends with a loser.”

 

She laughs, her shoulders shaking along with it, and she does feel lighter already. Maybe it’s weird, but his unrelenting faith that she can pull this off does make her feel better. Or maybe it’s the fact she knows he won’t care any less about her if she doesn’t, that really solidifies it. “That’s more like it.”

 

They make it a sort of habit after that, to call before her shows. Sometimes it’s thirty seconds, other times it’s forty-five minutes because Bellamy has a lot of thoughts on the documentary he saw on the History Channel the night before. 

 

It’s a nice distraction from her nerves, even though it starts to get better the more shows she does. She’s not going to tell him that though. She knows he likes feeling needed, and he probably wouldn’t stop calling her if she told him, but still. She can’t take the risk when it’s almost always the best part of her day.

 

That’s why, when one day, she doesn’t pick up — it’s a red flag.

 

Clarke knows it’s a mistake as she’s doing it. It feels wrong as she’s doing it. It’s a few minutes until her meet-and-greet. While her hairstylist Jade finishes up curling her hair and she’s scrolling through her DeviantArt feed to pass the time, a Facebook notification pops up. Normally, it’s her mom tagging her in a baby photo trying to make contact in her own weird way, or a reminder for a friend’s birthday party she’s forgotten to buy a gift for but something feels off this time as her finger hovers above the app. She can’t really explain it, but her stomach is in knots, like something is telling her not to do it. Clarke clicks it anyway, putting down her ice coffee on the table with a trembling hand.

 

It’s a Five Years Ago Today post. Of her, and Lexa. Her whole body freezes up, limbs feeling like lead, chest feeling like it’s weighed down by a brick. She sits there, in silence, waiting for Jade to finish and leave. She says something, but all Clarke can do is lift the corners of her mouth slightly at her reflection in the mirror and hope she gets away with it. She does.

 

As soon as the door clicks shut, her heart starts to race, her head feels light, her fingers begin to tingle. All her head can zero in on is one singular thought, over and over. This is it. She feels like she might die. 

 

Clarke rises to her feet, locks the door. Sits back down on her chair as image after image of Lexa flashes through her brain. Harvard sweatshirt. Her lean hand on the buckle of her seatbelt, the click of metal on metal as she unfastens it. Wavy brown hair, grown longer since the last time she saw her. The whiff of lavender and cinnamon as she leans in between their seats to try and get her bag from the backseat. Static on the radio as they entered an underpass. Clarke, watch out! Squealing tires. Smoke filling her lungs. Blood, so much blood. Not hers. 

 

Clarke tries to breathe through it, gripping the vanity in front of her and leaning her head in between her arms, staring at the floor, trying to see something, anything through the tears. The only sound the rushing of her blood to her ears, the rapid beat of her pulse, until finally something starts to break through in the distance. A loud clatter beside her. 

 

She turns her head slightly, enough to see her phone face down on the floor. With a shaking hand she reaches for it, turning it around to see the screen cracked. Ten missed calls. The vibrations of the calls must’ve made it tumble off the table. Her vision blurs, a pounding headache starting to form behind her eyes.

 

Another call makes the device buzz in her hand, startling her, and after three more rings, she puts it to her ear. The sound of someone pounding down her door doesn’t even register until she hears his voice first, “Hello? Clarke? Are you okay?”

 

“I can’t ” She finally says, when she can find her voice, find out it still works, and he immediately stops talking to listen to her. “I can’t breathe.”

 

“That’s okay, that’s okay,” Bellamy tells her, even if she can make out the panic coating his voice, the sharp intake of breath. “ Shit . Let me just give me a second, okay?” She hears him scramble for something, the clattering of a keyboard, the slight distance between his voice and the phone. “Just breathe with me, yeah?”

 

Clarke closes her eyes, tries to focus on taking deep breaths in the same manner as he’s doing. She’s seen it on a YouTube video before, right after her mom informed her her father had died early that morning in her presence. It was a Tuesday. She hadn’t let Clarke say goodbye, felt like it would be too traumatizing for her. She didn’t even give her a choice. Clarke’s never forgiven her, never quite gotten over it, but she learned to take care of herself, to never ask her mother for anything ever again. She recognizes the same feeling deep in her chest right now as she did then. Impending doom.

 

Inhale deeply, hold it, let it go.  

 

Finally, he curses lowly, “Fuck,” before inquiring quickly, “Okay. Clarke? Clarke, are you still there?” All she does is make a small noise in the back of her throat, dress sticking to her back from sweat by now. She’s holding on for dear life on anything she can — all there is, is his voice. “Okay, can you describe something for me?”

 

“Describe something?” She snaps, not sure how that will help her. 

 

“Do it for me,” he counters easily, sounding equally as irritated, but still knowing just how to push her buttons. “Anything in the room. A plant, or a

 

Her eyes shift around the room, dent in between her brows. She’ll try it. Because he asked. “There’s a makeup bag in front of me?”

 

He sounds relieved. “Yeah, okay, that’s good.”

 

“It’s black and it has a zipper,” she starts, feeling stupid. He doesn’t make her feel stupid, though, listens attentively, making little noises to let her know he’s still there. “It’s soft, some sort of cotton material. It says MAC cosmetics on the front. That’s a make-up brand. Inside there’s...”

 

The pounding on the door eventually stops. He must’ve texted Emori. Clarke finishes describing the bag, and as she takes in another shaky breath, she realizes she no longer feels this imminent sense of darkness. She’s calmer, more rational thoughts returning to her now she can think clearly again.

 

Clarke runs her wrists under the cold tap of water in the corner of the room, before cupping her hands together so she can her face with water too, cooling her skin. She feels she should explain. Explain she’s not some sort of lunatic. She picks the phone back up as she returns to her chair, worrying her lip as she listens to him breathing. He’s still there. He didn’t leave. He’s not going to leave, even if she is honest with him. “There was a… Lexa, I

 

“It’s okay, you don’t have to tell me,” he dismisses her immediately, kind but firm. “Not right now.”

 

He’s right. Better not to dredge it all back up right now. She closes her eyes, letting the words wash out of her without thinking about it. It’d just be so easy, to tell him. “I can’t do it.”

 

Patiently, after another moment of silence, he urges, “Can’t do what?”

 

“Everybody wants something from me. Emori tries to protect me from my label, but I know they’re not happy with how my album is performing. It’s country, but not quite. I can’t talk to my mom for longer than five minutes. There’s people out there waiting for me, counting on me, but I can’t I can’t smile. I can’t stand there at a meet and greet and pretend everything’s fine.” Clarke presses her palm against her forehead, massaging it a little in hope of her headache disappearing. It’s just impossible decision after impossible decision. “But I can’t disappoint them either. So I have to do it anyway.”

 

“You don’t,” he sounds pissed, resolute. “You don’t have to do this. You don’t have to bear it all on your own, Clarke.”

 

She frowns slowly, digs her thumbnail into the palm of her free hand until it starts to hurt. “You said I’m a fighter.”

 

“You are,” Bellamy snarls back immediately, then softens, probably realizing this isn’t the way to get his point across, almost exasperated. “You are . But you treat life like it’s a survival. Your life is not your job is not supposed to be a fight. It’s so much more than that. It’s okay if you can’t go out there right now. It’s okay if you have to take today off. We all have bad days. That doesn’t make you a quitter, it makes you strong enough to recognize when enough is enough.”

 

Survival. So much more than that. Has she been living? Has she just been surviving? Trying to make it from one day to the next, afraid to do anything that might actually make her happy in case it gets taken away? Filling her life with work and more work, just to feel like she’s accomplishing something, to feel like there’s things more important than the void she feels inside, to always feel like there’s more she could be doing? First this, and then she’ll work on being happy. But there’s always another ‘this’. It never stops.

 

“Thank you,” Clarke presses, genuine, emotional exhaustion catching up with her finally and settling into her bones. “You know, for being there.”

 

He huffs, but it’s good-natured. “You don’t make it easy.”

 

“Never have,” she agrees, finds herself smiling along.

 

“You’re lucky I like a challenge.”

 

Clarke sits down with Emori after another few minutes, mostly because she promises Bellamy she will, tell her about everything that’s been going on. She has Monty call off the meet and greet and the show too, citing ‘ food poisoning ’. 

 

After she breaks off her phone call with Monty, Emori shifts her head back to her, locking eyes with Clarke. She sees the concern lining them, but there’s none of the pity Clarke was so scared of. The brunette purses her lips, then suggests but not really suggests, “I think we should find you a therapist, Clarke.”

 

“A therapist?” This is not why she told Emori. She just wanted to share what was going on. She doesn’t need professional help. She’s fine. She can handle it. She will handle it. 

 

Emori tilts her head back slightly, as if taken aback. “It’s nothing to be ashamed off. I’ve been to therapy.”

 

“You’ve been to therapy?” She feels like her head is spinning. Maybe it was too much, too soon. Maybe she should’ve waited until tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep. Maybe she could’ve worded it differently then, to make Emori see it’s not as bad as she thinks.

 

Emori raises her eyebrows. “Yes. Why does that surprise you?”

 

“Because you’re always so ” Clarke tries to find a word fitting enough not to offend her, half-shrugs. “Strong.”

 

“How do you think I got that way? Strength isn’t the same as not having feelings, as not showing weakness.” Emori gets a determined look on her face, then startles her by picking up Clarke’s hand, putting it on top of her scarred skin. “My mom never wanted me. So she did this to me.”

 

“Em ” she starts, wanting to reassure her she doesn’t have to tell her any of this. They’re not really these kind of friends and she doesn’t want her to feel obligated.

 

“I got put in a group home, and then another one, and another one.” She quirks an eyebrow, but her voice is calm, like she’s telling someone else's story. “They separated me from my brother. I didn’t belong anywhere. And the memories, they stayed with me. It’s ironic, but the only thing that made me feel good was starting fires. I didn’t care that I went to juvy over it.” The corners of her mouth turn up in a smile, more for Clarke’s benefit than her own, then it falters slightly as she continues, “Until someone got hurt, and the court put me in mandated therapy.”

 

“You don’t have to tell me all of this.” Panic crawls up her throat at the thought of laying herself out in the open like this. She doesn’t want to force Emori to do the same. If she wants her to go see a therapist, she will. She’ll try it. 

 

“I don’t mind sharing, Clarke,” Emori says, turning her palm so Clarke can grip it. “My story is what made me who I am. And I refuse to feel ashamed of it. Like the way I refuse to feel ashamed of my scars.”

 

Clarke uses her hand in hers to propel her forward enough for her to hugs her tightly, squeezing her tiny frame between her arms. Emori pulls away after a few moments, patting her back. “Okay, okay.” She smiles, and this time it’s real, rolling her eyes. “I thought it was stupid at first, too. They made me do group therapy, which was a joke, but that’s actually where I met John.”

 

Her stay-at-home boyfriend who takes care of all their snakes they keep in various glass terrariums around their house and name after 18th century pirates. Captain Benjamin Hornigold has his own instagram page. She thinks it’s officially registered as a farm and suspects it’s some weird scam to whitewash the money he gets from his side hustles. She tries not to ask. Or go over to their house. Ever. Clarke squints her eyes at her. “You said you met in juvy.”

 

“It’s basically the same thing,” Emori counters, serious. “Look, it’s a process. Eventually I got a therapist who would meet me in a boxing ring every week, and would make me talk as I took out my anger on a punching bag. You just gotta find something that works for you, you know?”

 

Clarke takes in a deep breath through her nose, exhaling as she wipes her clammy palms on her legs. “Okay.”

 

“Good.” Emori grins and squeezes her knee, encouragingly. “You’ve been through a lot, Clarke, at a very young age. I’ve seen you struggle. Every time I tried to bring it up, you cut me off. You’ve never wanted to get better before. You were never really there, not all of you. You just wanted to go through the motions.”

 

It’s harsh, but probably true. Clarke recognizes herself in Emori’s words, no matter how much she hates it. She pulls on a loose thread at the bottom of her dress, rips it off to wrap around her finger, winding and unwinding as she thinks it over. “Well, I think I’ve finally realized life should be about more than surviving.” She turns her head and looks back up at her friend. It’s scary, but she says it anyway, “I want to feel happy again.”

 

“And you will.”

 

Halfway through tour, Bellamy finally comes see her. Or, she brings the tour to him. He asks her if it’s okay if he brings someone, and Clarke tells him of course, anyone you want while her chest aches something fierce. Instead of pushing it away and letting in slumber in her mind, she now acknowledges why she feels that way and realizes the feeling is allowed to be there. She can’t really do anything about it, but in time it’ll probably get easier.

 

Only, it isn’t a girlfriend her brings, it’s his sister. She feels pathetic for how happy she feels about that, and even worse of a friend. She doesn’t have much time to wallow in it however, because after a quick introduction, she’s whisked off towards the stage by her tour manager Indra. 

 

Octavia is gorgeous all dark clothes, long brown hair, that familiar and unfair looking jawline albeit a little cold towards her. Closed off. Arms crossed over her chest. Shoulders straightened as if ready for battle. Clarke gets it, she’s probably used to people using her brother for their own gain, and with that must come some initial distrust. 

 

The show goes amazing, her voice sounds more than okay, the crowd full of energy. Clarke is sure now that taking those few shows off paid off in the end. She’s not holding her breath for two hours, waiting for it to be over she’s breathing it all in. 

 

As soon as Clarke sees him backstage, still high on post-show adrenaline, she rushes over to him to throw her arms around him. For the first time, she thinks this might actually be enough. To have him here, be her friend all of that is much more important to her than a silly crush. 

 

Bellamy stumbles back a bit with a surprised laugh, arms banding around her waist as he sways them from side to side slightly. He squeezes her, just the way she likes it, and she buries her head in his shoulder, taking him in for a second. She never realizes how much she misses him until she’s back in his arms. She didn’t even know you could miss someone you talk to everyday.

 

“What did you think?” She inquires cooly as she pulls back, unable to keep hope from lining her voice as she tugs on her fake eyelashes, stuck to her eyelid from a magic combination of glitter, mascara and sweat.

 

“It was great,” Octavia offers, with a reluctant smile, before Bellamy can say anything. He keeps his eyes on his sister as she talks, almost like he’s afraid that if he looks away she’s going to stop talking. “Your songs are beautiful.” She glances over at Bellamy for a brief moment, lips pursed. “Relatable.” She shifts back to Clarke, cocking a perfect sculpted eyebrow. “I especially enjoyed your cover of I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

 

“Thanks, Bonnie Raitt is one of the country music greats. I’m a big fan.” Clarke offers her a similar smile, deciding not to delve into the obvious undertone to her comment and keeping her face neutral. “I’m really glad you guys could come.”

 

“Our pleasure,” Bellamy cuts in before Octavia can say anything else, sliding his hand up to his sister’s shoulder and squeezing it, hard, until she tries to duck away from his grip with a grin on her face. The brunette elbows him in the ribs, taking no mercy, and he relents, releasing her as he rubs his side.

 

Clarke eyes the two of them for a moment, curiously, then suggests, “Give me a second to shower, and then we can get something to eat?” 

 

“Sounds good,” Bellamy grins, and it’s the same grin as always, and Clarke can’t actually explain it, but something’s different. With a reluctant nod and one more lingering look between the two of them, Clarke heads towards her dressing room. 

 

The second she turns and takes a step away from them, she can hear them talk in low, hushed conspiratorial voices like only siblings can. Something she’s only ever managed to adopt with Wells. She decides not to overanalyze it and take it in a bad way. They’re probably not even talking about her. And if they are it’s all just natural concern.

 

When Clarke returns now in yoga pants, an old grey sweater and her hair hanging damply on her shoulder now it’s long enough again Bellamy is leaning against the wall beside the backstage refreshment table with a red solo cup in his hand. He downs the last of it’s content as he sees her, pushing himself off the concrete. 

 

“Octavia left,” he tells her, apologetically, when he notices her looking around for his sister. “She promised to meet her boyfriend after this.”

 

“That’s fine,” she returns, tucking some hair behind her ear as they start to walk down the long venue hallway leading to the exit, not really all that bothered by getting him to herself. (It’s enough, she reminds herself, when their hands brush. Baby steps .)

 

Instead of risking being caught out together, and figuring it’s not really worth the hassle if it’s just the two of them, they go through the McDonalds drive thru. She parks her car on a nearly abandoned parking lot in front of a nearby mall. It’s raining, drops of water pounding down on the roof and sliding down her window. He steals half of her chicken nuggets even though he said he didn’t want any, they argue over what radio station to listen for way too long, and she draws him a quick sketch of his dog on a napkin with a pen she found in her side compartment. 

 

“I’m keeping this,” he informs her matter-of-factly, lifting his hips off the passenger seat to stash the napkin in his back pocket, almost knocking over his coke in the process. Luckily Clarke catches it in time, putting it more safely in the cupholder on his side. “It’s a Clarke Griffin original. Imagine how much I could cop for this on eBay.”

 

She huffs, indignant, dipping her last half-cold chicken nugget in a cup of BBQ sauce. “Like you won’t hang it above your bed and say goodnight to it everyday from now on.”

 

“You have serious ego issues,” Bellamy counters easily, self-satisfied look covering his features, and Clarke scrunches up her face in response, obviously disagreeing, but since she is still chewing on her food it keeps her from ripping him a new one. 

 

After a moment, she licks her fingers clean of the dark sauce staining them, knocking her free hand into his knee. “ Oh . I told you I’ve been working on some new songs for my next album, right?”

 

“Hmmm,” he agrees, swallowing the last of his fries, wiping the excess salt on his fingers on his jeans. He runs a hand through his dark curls, looking over at her with interest.

 

A small piece of food on his black henley catches her attention, and she brushes it off without thinking. He doesn’t say anything, so she figures she got away with it. Then she readjusts her crossed ankles, reaching for her phone on the dashboard, nails painted a glossy black. She leans her temple on the headrest as she scrolls through her playlist. “I recorded some demos the other day. You wanna hear?”

 

“Of course I do,” he replies, lips tilting up smugly as he turns the radio down. “It’s only fair your muse gets to hear them first.”

 

Talk about ego issues. “I’m not sure I wanna know what you’re overcompensating for so loudly,” Clarke muses, dryly, keeping her eyes on her phone as she inserts a password to get to her unreleased songs. “Besides, nothing catchy rhymes with dickwad.”

 

“You’re too kind,” Bellamy deadpans, as she turns up the volume and the first soft notes of a song start to fill the small car. It’s always nerve-wracking to share her art with anyone, especially so early in the process, especially in such an intimate setting, especially with him. He wasn’t wrong. Most of these songs are absolutely inspired by him.

 

He listens attentively, which she loves him for, but isn’t afraid to give her honest feedback, which she loves him even more for. Both is good, he says, genuine, catchy. He doesn’t like the second song, Girlfriend , because he thinks it’s too much like her old music, repetitive. Thinks she can do better. Which is fair, because she wrote it months ago when she was in a weird headspace and the lyrics are simplific at best. 

 

They get to the last song. The other two had been more generic, could have been about anyone. This one is more personal, and she’s been dreading it since she picked up her phone. But he’s gonna hear it anyway, so he might as well hear it now. 

 

Clarke stares at the steering wheel, holding her breath. Friends don't call you in the middle of the night, couldn't even tell you why, they just felt like saying ‘hi’. She can’t bear herself to look at him, too afraid she might give away too much, or that she might find something looking back at her that she’s not going to like. 

 

Neither of the move as the song drags on and on, the only sound that of her voice and the rainfall still outside. Drive a little too slow, take the long way home. Get a little too close. We do, but friends don't. Clarke rolls her lips together, letting her eyes flutter shut for the bridge and final chorus of the song. Maybe she can brush it off, she decides, make up some new friend, or say it’s based on a tv show. Maybe he won’t even realize. She’s been obvious for months now, and he hasn’t noticed that either.

 

Clarke can handle it either way. She might be embarrassed for a while, but if he doesn’t want to continue being her friend because she got confused about her feelings, if he can’t move passed it, he’s not the person she thought he was. I keep telling myself this might be nothing, but one look in your eyes and God, there’s something. The song comes to a close and a heavy silence wraps around them like a vice. When she opens her eyes, Bellamy’s already looking at her. His face is unreadable, and the realisation of that makes her want to open the car door and run. 

 

She stays. “I like this one the most,” Bellamy grants, gentle, voice soft, scraping his throat. He’s letting her down easy. Thank God.

 

He restarts the song, leaning his head back on the headrest as he taps his fingers along on his thigh. They listen silently until the second verse, then she sees his adam’s apple move up and down visibly out of the corner of her eye. He keeps his gaze fixed on the darkness in front of them, and if she didn’t know his voice so well she probably wouldn’t be able to sense the nervosity coating it, “My sister has borderline.”

 

“Okay,” she says, delicately, studying his profile as she unhooks her ankles, pulls her knees up to her chest instead. He visibly deflates, letting out a deep sigh. “Do you want to tell me about it or do you think you have to?”

 

“She’s not crazy, or anything,” he starts, kind of defensive, brows furrowed together, and Clarke lets it linger for a second, wetting her lips as she plays with the bottom hem of her pants. Then she says, careful, “I know that.”

 

“She’s doing good. You know, taking her meds, following therapy.” He’s wringing his hands together uncomfortably, but his face lights up with pride when he talks about what she’s doing next. “She works at a nearby tattoo shop, as an administrator. It’s where she met her boyfriend. He’s good for her. Reliable.”

 

“That’s amazing, Bell,” Clarke gushes, and she means it. She swallows tightly, searching the side of his face. As much as he’ll show her. She feels he wants to tell her more, but he’s not going to do it on his own, so she asks, “Has she been diagnosed for long?”

 

There’s a beat. 

 

“Around when she was nineteen,” he starts, uneasy, but then their eyes meet, and everything just comes tumbling out. “I always thought I knew her best, you know, that I knew how to handle her, how to fix her, that I was the one fucking her up. I know I’m not her father, but she always felt like she was mine, you know? If she messed up, it was because of me. And a doctor really wasn’t going to change any of that.”

 

It’s hard to understand exactly how he felt, because Clarke hasn’t lived through it, but she can imagine. “And then?”

 

“And then one day, I find her passed out in the bathroom, on the verge of an overdose. Borderline can make you more perceptive to substance abuse,” he explains, swallowing tightly, tears forming in his eyes. The last bit almost a bit too eager, like he’s afraid she’ll misunderstand and think Octavia did drugs on her own, fully competent volition. 

 

Clarke reaches out, gripping his hand with hers encouragingly. He turns his palm up, connecting their fingers, giving her a squeeze. Their fingers is where he fixates his gaze on. “It got worse before it got better. At one point it was bad. I suggested therapy, and because it was me who suggested it, she didn’t want to do it. I had to come pick her up from a bar in the dead of night one day, some guy spilled his drink on her and she’d beaten him half to death.” He inhales sharply through his nose, shaking his head lightly at the memory. “The cops showed up and I took the blame because I was afraid they’d lock her up.” She remembers, the articles she found, about him getting arrested, early on in his career. “I ended up paying the guy enough money for him to not press charges.”

 

His life could’ve been so different. Hers, too. Clarke can’t imagine living with that kind of fear, afraid of judgement, afraid of someone taking her away, his only family. He’s so strong, so great. She wishes he could see it that way, too.

 

He reaches up with his free hand to use his thumb and pointer finger to quickly wipe at the few tears that collected below his eyes. Gaze still fixated ahead, like he can’t bear to look at her. “She got committed for a few months after that, and there have been ups and downs, but since then it’s been pretty stable.” 

 

“I’m glad she’s doing better now,” Clarke admits, gentle, catching a tear of his chin with her thumb. She wipes it on her pants, then lays her hand on top of theirs, affirming, “She seems great, Bell. You can tell you two are really close and that she cares about you a lot.”

 

“Yeah,” he breathes, squeezing her hand once more before he shifts his head to look at her, corner of his mouth turning up weakly. His eyes are a dark chocolate shade of brown in the faint glow of her car’s dome light, still slightly wet from tears.

 

It’s give and take. When he’s vulnerable, she’s vulnerable in return. Because this is what they do, she drops one of her hands on top of her sneaker, toying with the laces and mumbles, “I’m not sure I want to do this anymore.”

 

His thumb runs over the back of her hand, a comforting gesture. “Do what?”

 

Clarke takes in a deep breath, leaning her chin on top of her knee. Her tongue darts out to wet her lips, buy herself some time before she says it out loud. “Make music.”

 

A frown overtakes his face, and he actually shifts in his seat to take a better look at her. Almost indignant, he urges, “You love music.”

 

“I do,” she agrees, her free hand gripping tighter into the side of her calf. She doesn’t know how to explain it to herself, let alone someone else, but she can try. “I love getting to express myself through art. But I have been doing this since I was twelve years old. I’m tired. I just don’t like the award shows and the attention and the insincerity and the forced smiles. It’s not me.”

 

“There’s more than one way to do this,” he argues, thoughtful. “You might not win any Grammys or get any number one’s, but you could still do what you want to be doing. Without all of that unimportant shit weighing you down.” He lifts a shoulder half-heartedly, one corner of his mouth turning up in a small breathtaking grin. “If anyone’s going to break the mold, it’s going to be you. If you just wanted to play in dive bars and sell your own CDs from the merch stand from now on, I’m sure you’d be more than great.”

 

A smile overtakes her face without her permission. He’s smarter than everyone gives him credit for. She already knew, of course, but it’s nice to witness it in full action. “I don’t know how you do it. How you deal with all of it.” The fame. The deceit. The business. And, God, the people. The people are the worst.

 

“Well,” he teases, bitingly, eyes crinkled with amusement. “It’s quite literally my job to pretend.”

 

Clarke picks up their hands to nudge him with them, playful. “And you need applause to live.”

 

He lets out a boisterous laugh, and it feels like a victory. “And I need applause to live.”

 

It’s five am before she makes it to her hotel bed, her heart fluttering as she checks her instagram feed one last time. He’s an idiot, and she loves him, and it’s going to be okay. Even the shitty wake-up call two hours later isn’t all that bad. She feels like she’s in a good place finally. She feels freer than she has in years.  It’s not until she sinks down on a couch in the tour bus and checks her phone, that her heart drops to her stomach.

 

[BELLAMY BLAKE’S DARK FAMILY SECRETS: his sister’s dark past full of drugs, sex and straight jackets]

 

The article is everywhere, hard to miss because people seem to enjoy other people’s more than they care about their privacy. Immediately she’s dialing his number, and then again, and again when he doesn’t pick up. She’s close to tears, mostly out of anger, for Bellamy, for Octavia. It’s so cruel.

 

Eventually, Clarke resorts to texting him. It’s not until they’re halfway to Vegas that her phone finally buzzes in her lap. She jumps to pick it up, unlocking her phone.

 

bellamy blake

 

Bellamy, I’m so sorry

I swear this wasn’t me

You have to believe me

I would never do that to you

Or to her

I’m sorry, please call me back

 

Sorry, had to turn my phone off

I know you didn’t, Clarke

I’d never think that of you

 

What do you need?

Can I do something?

 

If you could get some so-called reporters fired, that’d be nice

 

I could definitely try and use my powers for good

 

Thanks, babe

But for now there’s not much we can do

I’ll talk to you later, okay?

 

Yeah

If you need me 

For anything at all 

I’m here

 

The ‘ babe’ doesn’t even fully register until half an hour later, when they stop for gas. Clarke worries her lip, staring at her phone in front of the snack aisle. She doesn’t know why, but this moment suddenly feels like a make or break it. She can run from this, or she can chose to be there for him. She should be there for him. He would be there for her.

 

I have a few days off before we start the UK leg of my tour

Do you wanna get drinks tomorrow?

Plot to ruin some careers?

 

I thought you were flying in from Vegas?

 

I am

But Emori can rebook my flight

Unless you don’t want to

 

No, of course

If you sure it’s not too much trouble

 

8 o’clock at the Golden Gopher?

 

It’s a date

 

The entire four hour drive in a shitty rental car back to LA, she’s busy thinking all of it over. Not that thinking is a particularly weird pastime for her, in fact, it’s one of her favorite pastimes, but she can’t help but wonder what is even holding her back at this point. She’s been busy thinking he doesn’t feel the same way, when every small moment over the past few weeks has told her differently. How vulnerable he is with her. He let her meet his sister. The casual touches. The longing looks. Fuck, he just called her babe like it was no big deal. It can’t all be in her head.

 

And even if it is, she owes it to herself and to him to be honest. If there’s one thing her past has taught her is that every day can be the last. That she has to make the most of each moment. And she’s been too afraid too petrified to do it before, to take the risk. She has been working on it, going to therapy, sharing her experiences she has trust now, that even if it doesn’t end well, she won’t end up back where she did before. Her happiness isn’t a factor depended on her love life. She can be happy without him, but she could be happier with him.

 

It’s a bitch to park on a Saturday night in LA, so she gets to the bar at 8:35.

 

“I thought you were standing me up,” he says, cooly, as she slides into the booth across from him. He looks good a white shirt, a dark jean shirt hanging over it loosely, curls still slightly damp from what she suspects is a recent shower more relaxed than she expected him to be.

 

 “And pass on the mozzarella sticks you’re going to buy me? I would never,” she beams, knocking her foot into his under the table playfully before starting to shrug out of her jacket. “Did you find out anything yet?”

 

“Yeah,” Bellamy sighs deeply, all amusement wiped off his face immediately as he runs a hand through his hair. He sits back against the booth, meeting her gaze, “One of the co-workers she trusted spilled the story for a few thousand bucks.”

 

“Shit,” Clarke curses, nostrils flaring, leaning her elbows on top of the table. It’s sticky, but she doesn’t care. “What a fucking idiot. How is she doing?”

 

“Octavia is —” He breaks himself off, shaking his head slightly. It looks like it costs him something, but he fights through it. “Well, she is kind of angry with me right now. It’ll pass.”

 

Her brows furrow together. “It’s not your fault.”

 

“I know.” He looks sad. She wants nothing more than to make him feel better. It hurts her to see him this way. “It’s not hers either.”

 

“It’s her co-workers fault.” Her face lights up as she starts pulling out her phone, scrolling through her apps. “And that reporter. What’s his name? I can stalk his twitter until we find something we can sabotage him with.” She already has countless ideas on just how to make him suffer. One of which is an extensive directory of mailing lists he’ll spend hours trying to unsubscribe from.

 

Bellamy puts her actions to a stop by covering it with his hand, grinning at her from the other side of the table. A chill runs up her spine. “It’s okay. Really . Karma will take care of him.”

 

“This isn’t the Bellamy I know,” Clarke remarks, slightly scared. “Isn’t holding grudges what you do best?” He’s so dramatic usually. 

 

He pulls his hand back, shrugs as he wraps it back around his beer. “I’ve taken up meditation.”

 

“Sure, you have,” she counters, narrowing her eyes. Something’s off.

 

He seems to take mercy on her, thumb running up and down the side of his condensated glass, collecting the tiny droplets of water as his eyes flick up to meet hers. “I have to trust this is something Octavia can take care of herself. It’s not my story to tell. And it’s no longer my job to protect her from everything.”

 

She knows he feels a lot of responsibility for her, finds it hard to let go of her, would drop anything if she just said the word — sometimes to the point where it’s unhealthy. So this is a huge step in the right direction.

 

“That’s very adult of you,” she admits, pride running through her and making it hard not to smile at him like an idiot.

 

He returns it with reverence, cheeks slightly flushed. “Yeah, well. Enough about me. Are you excited for your UK shows?”

 

As the evening progresses, they sit closer and closer, sharing her previously mentioned mozzarella sticks, dirty jokes and a pitcher of beer. There’s always Lyft , is Clarke’s motto tonight. One particular stupid joke and she’s laughing into his shoulder, hand sliding on top of his thigh. 

 

When she lifts her head from his shoulder, a strand of hair is stuck to her lip gloss. She should take her hand of his leg, but she can’t. Bellamy reaches up to tuck the strand back behind her ear, holding her gaze as he does so. His lips are slightly parted, his pupils fat, his hand trailing a path down her neck and shoulder as it drops back down leaving it burning. 

 

She is going to kiss him. 

 

His eyes are still locked on hers, a stupid, secretive grin playing on his lips, like he’s fighting hard to keep something back. “I got the part,” he confesses suddenly, almost shyly. “We start filming tomorrow.”

 

“Oh,” she replies, then it starts to register, hitting her like a ton of bricks. “Oh. Congrats!” Then she’s throwing her arms around him, squeezing him tightly. He buries his face in her hair, nuzzling her neck, and they revel in it just a little too long for it to be completely platonic. 

 

“Clarke ” he starts, suddenly serious. She doesn’t want to hear it. Clarke cuts him off, putting her hands on top of his shoulders, shaking him slightly. “You’re going to nail this part. Win your second Oscar.”

 

To her surprise, she’s not even close to tears. He wanted this so badly. And now he got it. How can she be anything but happy for him? She wanted this for him, too. Yeah, it sucks. Their timing is always off. But she can’t be selfish, not with him.

 

Bellamy looks at her for a moment longer, searching her face with sad, regretful eyes. As if he is gauging whether or not she actually means it. Another moment, and he lets it go, changing the subject to who else got signed into the project.

 

Clarke does a few shows in Ireland and Scotland before moving on to Manchester. While in London, BBC Radio 1 hosts her in their live lounge. She performs a few songs, and for the cover they have artists perform she picks Liability by Lorde. She records a few songs for her next album here and there, still struggling with whether or not she even wants to release another album. Her label wants her to give them songs from other artists for a promotional playlist on Spotify, and perhaps it’s not her brightest idea to send them a screenshot of her iPhone notes app during a depressive, existential crisis at 3am

 

Because Bellamy’s movie has a smaller production, filming is only a month and half. Most of it passed by now. There’s going to be about a month of editing and it’s out at some French or Italian festival, then selected theatres in their home country. He’s worked so hard on this, pushed himself so far, she can’t wait to see the result. She’s happy for Bellamy, but she can still miss him. She can still be sad, too. 

Then he retweets her cover, and it blows up. Literally, her phone does not stop buzzing. Not that she needed an excuse to call him, but these days it helps to calm her own nerves. Hoping she isn’t too overeager, too pushy, too demanding. 

 

Clarke groans into the device as soon as he picks up. “Do you want to murder me?”

 

“I just wanted your attention.”

 

She scoffs. “You could’ve texted.”

 

“What would be the fun in that?” She can hear the smirk in his voice.

 

Unimpressed, she counters, “You really need to be validated this badly?”

 

“Only by you.” There’s a sudden change in tone. He goes from confident to unsure, which makes her nervous, considering he never anything but self-assured. “The date is set for the US premiere. Would you uhm. Do you maybe wanna come?”

 

Oh. She rolls her eyes. “Of course I’ll be there.”

 

“I mean —” He scrapes his throat, cursing under his breath lowly before he grits, “Do you want to come with me?”

 

Her eyes widen, pulse rattling on quickly. “Oh.”

 

He sounds impossibly calm, which is unfair, considering the bomb he just dropped on her. “It’s okay if you don’t, but I figured   I’m probably a narcissist, but I think I got your message.”

 

“My message?” She questions, amused, not really caring for semantics but asking for the hell of it anyway. She’s impossibly happy he even asked, the reason why is as irrelevant as it ever was.

 

“Your playlist.”

 

She grins. “My playlist.”

 

“Unless —” He groans, a frustrated, muffled sound. “ Unless the songs were unrelated to me in any way and I should really seek professional help.”

 

“I’m not denying nor confirming anything.” It’s fun to hear him struggle for once. He probably knows the truth anyway. It’s not even something she did consciously, putting herself out there like that, without even knowing if he’d get her messages. It was a way to cope with how she felt, a way to keep herself sane through their separation, through not knowing if they would ever really work out, if they’d ever get the time. But he heard her, loud and clear, and now they’re on the precipice of something. Really something. Something new and exciting and great. Theirs.

 

Bellamy scoffs slightly. “Diplomatic, as always.”

 

This feels like a conversation they should have in person. She’s waited this long, she might as well wait another three weeks. 

 

“I’ll tell you this,” she promises, and it’s hard to keep the elation from lining her voice. Almost giddy with it. With how close they are, finally, to taking this further than they ever have. “I’ll agree to be your plus one. We can discuss hypothetical lyrics relating to you in person. Take it or leave it.”

 

“Deal.”

 

In the end, Clarke’s plane is delayed by six hours, causing her to miss the premiere by a a mile. A few very long miles. She feels like an idiot, even if it’s not her fault. Timing always seems off with them. And she’s tired of it.

 

But she’s Clarke Griffin, and today she says fuck timing and shows up at his apartment in sweatpants with an apologetic bottle of airport wine at 2 am in the morning, hoping to whoever is up there he isn’t out at some after party and she’s about to make a fool of herself. Even if her pride has taken a long forgotten backburner by now anyway. 

 

Snoopy barks as she rings the doorbell, and there’s the dark rumble of his voice, some shuffling behind the door as he probably puts the dog away in another room.

 

“I’m so sorry,” is the first thing out of her mouth when he does open the door, clad in black pyjamas. He doesn’t look like he was sleeping, but he didn’t go out to some club either, so she’s not sure what all of it means either way. Her head is spinning too much with what could possibly happen in a minute for her to really make sense of anything else beside this, right here, in front of her, right now.

 

“It’s okay,” Bellamy declares, leaning against his door to take her in, arms crossed over his firm chest. The corner of his mouth turns up, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “It was no big deal.”

 

“It definitely was,” she dismisses him, regret written all over her face. “This movie was important to you.”

 

“Yeah,” he admits then, with a little discomfort, figuring it’s no use to argue with her over this when they both know she’s right. He was disappointed she wasn’t there. It wouldn’t be a good sign if he wasn’t. “I guess it was.”

 

This is it. She swallows. No turning back now. Clarke musters together as much of a smirk as she can, she manages a weak, nervous smile at most. Her voice trembles slightly. “It’s also a shame because I didn’t get to wear the dress I picked out. I was planning on hitting on you very hard. And maybe going home with you tonight.”

 

If he’s surprised, he does a really good job of hiding it. His eyebrows jump up. “Really?”

 

Clarke straightens her shoulders, owning up to it as their gazes lock. “Really.”

 

He’s unable to keep a grin from overtaking his stupidly gorgeous features then, and in that moment she knows she did the right thing, coming here. She’s so impossibly gone on him. “What did the dress look like?”

 

“Oh, it was gorgeous.” She’s already taking a step closer to him, discarding the bottle of wine on a console table beside the door. “Floor length, blue gown. Full of sequins. Showed some cleavage.”

 

His adam apple bobs up and down visibly, hard as he pushes himself of the door, lining up their chests. “Well. You’re here now.” There’s a look on his face Clarke doesn’t know yet, isn’t familiar with. Yet, it’s easily one of her favorites on him the flush high on his freckled cheekbones, the sudden sharpness of his dark gaze, the slight parting of his full lips has her pulse jump, has her aching to touch him.  

 

“I’m here now,” she echoes, painfully aware of the husk coating her voice thickly. 

 

Clarke is not entirely sure who moves first; both of them simultaneously lean in together, tips of their noses just brushing against each other. She’s waiting, like she’s been waiting, waiting for over eight months now, and suddenly the thought of not kissing him becomes unbearable. She lifts her face, pressing her lips against his, and God, how has she not done this before? How has she not been doing this for so long?

 

He kisses back more insistently, slipping his tongue into her mouth, and she realizes he’s been waiting, too. Been holding back. He’s steady, calming, in a world that is anything but, and she lets her eyes slide shut, realizing he is the only one who can make it all slow down. Not only the world, but her thoughts, too. 

 

She roughly kicks the door shut behind them, shoving her hands up his dark long sleeve t-shirt and starting to slide it up as she explores his much warmer skin. It causes him to let out a little oh of surprise before he helps her pull his shirt over her head, and she’s not kissing him now; she’s busy taking him in. She runs a fingernail over the Roman numerals right above his heart, the freckles patterning his collarbones, the faint scars whose stories she wants to know; from childhood accidents to failed movie stunts. 

 

“It’s even better in person,” Clarke tells him, only partly joking, feeling his muscles contract under her hands as he laughs, pressing his mouth against her forehead, fingers splayed across her lower back underneath her hoodie, heat seeping into her bones at his touch. 

 

His hand presses against her spine, bringing her back closer to his body. Bellamy kisses her with a desperation that she really, truly appreciates. They have no more time to waste. Clarke only pulls back to take off her hoodie, fling it off somewhere to the side. She tugs on him in a similar fashion, until they’re flush against each other, her head tilted back sharply to meet his kisses. 

 

Kissing him is overwhelming at the least his familiar scent engulfing her, his tongue in her mouth, one big hand dropping to the back of her thigh, squeezing it just below her ass. “So fucking gorgeous,” Bellamy mumbles against the sensitive skin of her neck, nipping on her pulse point before soothing it with a soft press of his mouth, his fingers trailing up her side and below the wire of her bra.

 

Desire pools low in belly, and all she wants it to be closer, closer to him. She’s almost desperate with it, this sense of urgency, of wanting more. One hand slides up to the base of his neck, shifting his lips backs onto hers, probably as pink as her cheeks from the effort of it all.

 

“We could take things slow,” he murmurs, rough, leaning his forehead against hers. It’s the stupidest thing he’s ever said, she decides. His eyes stay shut, his breaths coming out in similar pants as her own. “You know, if that’s what you need.”

 

The thought of slowing down alone almost has her break down in laughter, only prevented by the lust-filled haze she’s currently in. There’s no way. It’s sweet, considerate, but there’s no fucking way.

 

“Screw taking things slow,” Clarke returns, fervently, sliding her hands up his shoulder to bracket his face, already leaning back in. “I need you.

 

The almost inhuman noise that drags out of him does quite a lot for her. And then he’s hoisting her up easily, banding an arm around the back of her thighs, and she wraps her legs around his waist as carries her into his bedroom, mouths never breaking apart.

 

“Can I make a confession?” Bellamy asks, later; when the sweat has long cooled on their skin, their heartbeats no longer wildly slamming in their chest but beating in a slow tandem, and she’s pressed into his side, cheek resting on the junction in between his shoulder and neck. Their skin is warm and sticky, but she hardly cares. His hand trails down her back delicately, circling each vertebra with his finger. 

 

“Sure,” she agrees sleepily, opening her eyes to blink away the drowsiness. It’s dark in the room, their bodies only highlighted by the streetlight slipping through his blinds.

 

“I never lied,” he starts, letting it linger between them, causing her to shift her head a little to look at him. Giving him an anticipatory look, his grin widens, obviously amused with himself. “I actually did listen to your earlier music all the time by proxy. My sister would blast it all the time. And I didn’t hate it.”

 

“You didn’t hate it?” She repeats, unimpressed, then lays her head back down. He immediately smooths her hair away from her shoulder and down her back, as if on impulse. “Wow. Thanks.”

 

“I also thought you were hot, obviously,” Bellamy adds, matter-of-factly, taking any semblance of brownie points earned with his previous statement right away. He expertly catches her hand before it’s able to pinch his ribs, trying to suppress a chuckle, intertwining their fingers instead. “I think I single-handedly helped break the vevo-record for Yeah Boy.”

 

Right. The music video with the tiny jeans shorts, flimsy white tank top and ridiculous pigtails. That was the last time she let anyone but herself dictate what she was wearing. 

 

“So what?” Clarke musters together enough indignation for her to sound somewhat offended. “You decided to start cyberbullying me into dating you?”

 

Boastful, he insists, “It worked, didn’t it?” Eventually.

 

The blonde props herself up on an elbow, drawing the sheets along with her, tilting her head further back to look at him with a surprisingly blank face. “Has it?”

 

He flicks his eyes up to the ceiling, his voice laced with sarcasm. “I’m beyond screwing around. I’ve changed my ways. Either you tie me down, or I have to go look elsewhere for something that better fits my new and improved lifestyle.”

 

“Oh right, I almost forgot,” she rolls her eyes half-heartedly, lowering herself off her elbow and dropping down onto her back. “Bellamy Blake. Recovering serial dater.” Her boyfriend. That wouldn’t be so bad at all.

 

Silence covers them for a moment, nothing uncomfortable, just the two of them coming to terms with what just transpired and what it all means. Their new reality. It’s pretty great.

 

He turns his head on the pillow, studying the profile of her face. His voice is gentle, spiked with hurt on her behalf, as he pries, “Do you really think you’re hard to love?” 

 

Clarke closes her eyes, squeezing them shut tightly. The BBC 1 cover . The easiest way to explain it is that it probably would be easier to love a normal girl, who isn’t a celebrity and dragging along years and years of trauma. Who doesn’t run at the first sight of trouble. Who doesn’t get so in her own head about every little thing. She doesn’t feel like that all the time, but yeah — s ometimes, on her darker days, she feels like a burden. She exhales loudly through her nose, then shifts her head to meet his gaze. “I know I’m not exactly easy to be around. I have my issues. I certainly don’t make it easy.”

 

“Clarke you’re —” Bellamy cuts himself off, a dent in between his brows as he searches for the right words. “ You’re great. You have to know that. I can’t believe you don’t know that.” He reaches out, cups her jaw as he takes in her face, thumb running over her cheek. There’s a certain longing in his dark eyes she hasn’t fully understood until now. “Loving you that’s the easiest thing I’ve ever done.”

 

Her fingers wrap around his wrist, her face softening impossibly as her heart swells. “You should’ve said something sooner.”

 

The corners of his lips turn up, just slightly tainted with remorse. “You should’ve, too.”

 

No more of that, she decides, leaning closer to press her lips against his, thumb moving over his jaw as she kisses him, soft, tender, full of apologies, full of forgiveness. All that matters is they’re here now.


 

Congrats on your new single To Hell & Back. Rumour has it this is Clarke Griffin’s last public interview.

Thanks. Not per se, but I kind of want to step back from this side of the industry. I love making music and I love my fans and connecting with them, but this the interviews, the award shows, the business side of it all it’s never why I started this. And in order for me to keep enjoying making music, I have to step back from the stuff I don’t like while I still have that luxury. At least for a while. 

And if that means you’re not as successful…

Then it means I won’t have as many radio plays, or number one hits. That’s okay. To be me being successful has never really been about how many awards I win or how many albums I sell. I thought it was for the longest time, because people told me that was what being successful was defined as. Then I realized I’ve never really done what other people told me to do and I made my own definition.

Which is?

That I’m happy with the person I am today. That I have friends and family surrounding me who I love and who love me back unconditionally. That my songs make people feel something, have them yell the lyrics back at me during a show. That my cat Peanut finally learns how to use a litter box.

How did that all translate into ‘More Than This’, your highly anticipated third record?

Someone who’s very special to me, he once told me that life should be about more than just survival. That sometimes who you are, and who you need to be to survive are two very different things. So I kind of started playing around with that, you know? I named my second album survival. because that’s what my life felt like. Who I was back when my dad just passed away, when this guy I dated turned out to have a girlfriend, when my girlfriend Lexa [Alexandra Dufort, red.] died, I was in such a dark place. I felt like I couldn’t breathe all the time. I did things, said things, trying to get through the day. If I had tried, given myself the chance I probably could have been a lot happier. Instead I kind of gave up. I don’t ever want to feel like that again. But for a while, I had to be her. I had to protect myself. And that’s okay. I don’t want to keep holding it against myself. So this album is looking to the future, forgiving myself and finding happiness again. Finding more than just survival. 

And does this someone special have something to do with the lighter turn near the end of the album?

For sure. He’s had a huge influence on who I want to be. I overthink. It’s what I do. I have to be in control of everything. It doesn’t always work that way though, not in real life. And and he doesn’t always show it, but he’s got such a big heart. God, this is going to make that ego of his explode but I want to be a little more like him .

A little less head and some more heart?

Yeah, something like that.

Any comment on the identity of this mystery man? 

No. I think I’m good.


 

Clarke Griffin posted a photo.

 


 

Bellamy Blake posted a photo.

 


 

 

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