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who wants to be president?

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[bellamy]

 

“Good morning, all! Let’s pull out our text and hop right into our discussion!”

Bellamy rubs his yawn away, and he hears Miller let out a groan next to him. It's pretty clear that every other student in this 8 A.M. lecture feels similarly. 

Professor Pike bounces down the stairs with his briefcase, the fabric of his usual tacky button down that he wears to ‘relate’ to the college students flopping out of his slacks. Today, it was a black one with tiny flames all over it. 

He feels a tug on his sweater. Miller leans over and whispers in his ear. “If only his shirt could actually burn this whole damn lecture hall down.”

Bellamy stifles his scoff by covering his mouth with his hand, but a muffled sound slips through his fingers.

A few rows in front of them, some girls turn around to glare at them. He winks, and they roll their eyes.

“As you all know, today we are discussing Niccolo Machiavelli’s most famous philosophical work, The Prince!” Professor Pike holds up the red book in reverence.

“As a political theorist, Machiavelli brought forward a new approach to governing. In the present day, as we refer to something colloquially as ‘Machiavellian’, we typically associate it with schemes, manipulation, and a hyper-obsession with politics,” he taps his fingers on the book cover, as if in suspense. “We’ll find out what our class thinks about Machiavellian politics, today! 

“We’ll start with Chapter 16,” Pike slips on his reading glasses, leaning against the desk on the floor of the lecture hall. “Let’s see… Ms. Blake. Let’s start with you.” 

He tenses. Octavia has a hard time with the material in this class. Not to mention that the material is practically irrelevant for a dance major.

When they registered for classes last week, he figured he’d help her.

Bell! What the hell am I going to do?” 

He ran a hand through his hair, hovering over her shoulder. “How is it possible that not a single other gen-ed is open?” 

“The registration time for freshmen is so late!” she whined, slamming her laptop shut. “I couldn’t even understand the books that we had to read in AP Lit! I can’t do political theory and philosophy! I’m not a history nerd like you!”

He rolled his eyes, moving around to sit on her bed. “O. It’ll be okay. I’ll just take the class with you.”

“But… didn’t you already take it?” 

“Yeah, but the University doesn’t have any restrictions on re-taking a class. I just won’t get credit.”

She started biting her fingernails. “But it would be a waste of a class if you don’t get any credit hours from it!" 

“O.” He placed a hand over hers. “I came in with plenty of AP’s. I’m only a junior. I’ll be fine.” 

“I just don’t want to look like a stupid freshman,” she uttered quietly. A frown tugged at his lips at the rarity of his determined, confident, sprightly sister feeling anxious or insecure.

“First of all, you are not stupid. And I’ll be there. I’ll help with all the readings and assignments, I promise. Plus, didn’t it say it's taught by Pike? He’s not too bad.”

He didn’t mention that Pike is a total idiot in lecture, but the hardest grader on papers.

“Okay,” she nodded hesitantly, before leaning forward to hug him. “I don’t know what I’d do without you, big brother.”

So, he stiffens a bit in his seat as he looks down a few rows to the left, where he sees the back of her head.

He shouldn’t have let her sit alone, but she insisted that it would look 'weird and stupid' if her older brother constantly went wherever she did. 

He can hear the apprehension in her voice as she clears her throat. “Just from the top?”

“Yes, indeed.” 

“'Nevertheless generosity exercised in a way that does not bring you the reputation for it, injures you. If one shows generosity honestly and as it should be shown, it may not become known, and you will not avoid the criticism of its opposite, meanness. Therefore, anyone wishing to maintain the reputation of being generous has to keep on being more and more generous.'” 

She stumbles a bit through the middle, but she reads it just fine. He’s worried about what’s next.

“So, Ms. Blake,” Professor Pike hops onto the table and angles his body towards hers, an open book in one hand. “What do you think of Machiavelli’s approach to generosity?” 

He wishes that sibling thought transference was a thing. His eyes burn into the back of her head, hoping that the read through they did together last night was good enough. 

She looks down, fiddling with her pen. “Well, I think generosity is important for a leader, you know? And… if you want your people to like you, and all, it's important to give back, right?” 

He exhales. It isn’t the most eloquent of answers, but it's an answer.

“Interesting take,” Professor Pike nods. “It seems like you mildly disagree with Machiavelli then.” For all of Pike’s idiocy, he’s still pretty understanding and receptive to students who aren’t the best public speakers. 

“Thoughts from the class?” he asks, sweeping his free hand over the hall. 

A pale hand shoots up in the air, a few rows down from him.

Oh, god. 

He doesn’t know the chick’s name, mostly because he doesn’t pay much attention in the class, but he does know that he hears her voice way too often at 8 A.M.

“Yes, Ms. Griffin.”

“I understand her point of view, but I think Machiavelli’s logic, when it comes to the limits of generosity, is more sound. If a leader is constantly generous, and suddenly some extenuating factor causes them to stop being generous– such as a drought, food scarcity, or poor economic circumstances– their people will feel betrayal, regardless. So, actually, he says that the public will like him better if he doesn’t do that at all.” The back of her blonde hair shifts as she speaks.

Maybe it's the fact he didn’t have coffee, or breakfast, or just his 'protective older brother thing' kicking in, but he’s pissed off. There’s always one student in each lecture that likes the sound of their own voice more than the actual material. 

He doesn’t even raise his hand or wait for Professor Pike to respond before he raises his voice, and leans forward in his seat. “Actually, her argument reflects what Machiavelli is arguing. That not being hated by the people is the most important thing when it comes to being a ruler.”

Professor Pike raises an eyebrow. “Interesting point, Mr. Blake. Ms. Griffin?”

He sees her blink, despite his limited profile view. “I mean… Yeah. Did you hear what I said? I conceded to the point of people needing to like their leader. I just disagreed with her stream of logic. It's the lack of generosity that protects the general sentiment, not the presence of it.”

His eyebrows crease, and the annoyance in his voice becomes a bit more evident. “So, you’re saying that a successful society is one where the leader is disliked?”

Octavia seems to pick up on what he’s doing, and he can see her violently shaking her head in his peripherals. 

Whatever. This chick needs to be put in her place. 

“What? No.” She finally turns around. Her alert, blue eyes peer into his. “I’m saying that it's better to be regarded as a saver, or a ‘miser’, as Machiavelli writes, than seeming like a betraying or overpromising ruler.”

“It’s all about money, isn’t it? Being heartless and indifferent to your people doesn't make a good leader.”

She narrows her eyes. “Sometimes rulers have to think with their heads. Not their hearts.”

“Some of the most successful leaders we know have made it a priority to be generous, rather than being a ‘saver’,” he scoffs, using air quotes.

She raises an eyebrow, challenging him for examples.

“Warren Buffett donated over $40 billion to various charities. Jeff Bezos donated $10 billion to combat climate change. Alice Walton and the Walton Family Foundation invested $325 million into education reform.”

She just stares at him, half incredulously, half in amusement. “Warren Buffett once compared unsuccessful business deals to ugly women. Jeff’s money seems pretty sketchy considering Amazon’s carbon footprint is larger than that of Switzerland’s.”

A few laughs disguised by coughs echo in the lecture hall. Professor Pike just looks on, contemplative, and Bellamy continues to stare at her, somehow seeing the conviction spark in her eyes.

“The Waltons? Where are they from, again?” She taps her chin. “Oh. Walmart. Overseas child labor, underpays women, discriminates against disabled employees, poor healthcare incentives,” she ticks each on her finger. “Oh, and let's not forget the race and sex discrimination.”

“Holy shit,” he hears Miller whisper next to him. “This chick is insane.”

“Seems like these generous leaders you reference have been pretty successful, indeed. But, somehow, both my heart and my head are telling me that their generosity shouldn’t be used as examples.”

He is speechless. Dry mouth, and all. She doesn’t wait for a response, though, and just spins around in her seat. Murmurs and hums of agreement come from the rows around him.

“Interesting discussion, Mr. Blake and Ms. Griffin. And it relates to our final question: when we talk about what it means to be ‘Machiavellian’ today, is it consistent with the original text?” 

He sinks into the hard back of his seat. The discussion continues, but she's quiet for the rest of class. And so is he. 

After class, he eagerly hops out of the lecture hall, and Octavia and Miller catch up to him on the quad. He sits under a tree and leans against the trunk.

“Dude! She fucking railed you!” Miller laughs, and sits down next to him. 

“She seems so cool,” Octavia says excitedly, plopping down on the grass.

He frowns. “What the hell, O? I was trying to defend you!” 

She bites down on a slice of dried mango, amused. “From what? I have no idea what I’m talking about in that class. And I usually don’t learn anything, but apparently all of these leaders that you look up to really hate women. I learned something, at least.” 

He groans. “I don’t look up to them! She was talking about money, so I brought up the richest leaders I could remember!” 

Miller steals a dried mango slice from Octavia, who turns to hide the bag away from him. “Yeah, but did you even know about the stuff she was talking about?”

He doesn’t say anything. He just reaches forward and snatches the bag out of Octavia’s hand, stuffing a few slices into his mouth.

“Hey!” she huffs. “I have dance practice in an hour! I need sustenance!” 

“Come on, O,” Miller stands up and brushes his hands on his pants. “I’ll swipe you into the dining hall. It seems like grumpy wants to be left alone.” She gathers her backpack before strutting across the grass with him.

He sighs, banging his head against the trunk. Would O hate him if he dropped this class? He doesn’t know if he’ll make it through this whole semester.


[clarke]

 

“You said all of that?” Raven laughs, almost choking on her granola bar. 

Clarke shrugs, holding her biology textbook to her chest as they walk out of their lab. “He just seemed so… agro. It annoyed me.”

“Well, now he knows. Don’t come for Clarke Griffin.”  

“Also–” Raven opens the door for her as they stroll into the library. “Why are you even taking a political philosophy class?”

She sighs as they walk through the lobby and climb the stairs to the third floor. “Marcus begged me.”

She pushes the door open with her shoulder, and their voices drop to a whisper.

“Really? This and debate club?" Raven lifts her head as they weave through the bookshelves. “Good lord. Pre-med biology and psychiatry concentrations with a political science minor. What a mouthful.”

They see familiar waves and beeline to the table in the backmost corner, near the large window. 'Their' table.

“You got it!” Raven whispers excitedly.

“Hell yeah, we did!” Jasper responds, a bit too loudly. Him and Monty look at each other and high five themselves.

Their entire group has laid claim to this single, specific table in the library.
And it's a nice one. It's secluded, in a tight corner, quite large. It's pushed up against a huge, circular window, overseeing the entire quad.

But, the memories are really what makes it theirs. Freshman year, this table held every tear, every all-nighter, and all bags of Doritos and energy drinks during finals week.

It was the place where Jasper got drunk for the first time, after Raven spiked his Red Bull with vodka. It was the first time Monty had invited Harper to sit with them, which eventually led to their first kiss in the astrophysics aisle.

And it was the first time most of them had seen her cry (excluding Raven) after her mother yelled at her, forcing her to declare a pre-med major. 'Or else.’

Raven slides into the seat next to Jasper. “You guys have to hear what Clarke said in class.”

She sets down her textbook and backpack before settling next to Monty. “It wasn’t that big of a deal. She’s making something out of nothing.”

But Raven recalls the experience anyway, and Monty and Jasper high five her afterwards.

“That’s our Clarke. Slaying fuckboys on the daily.” Jasper mimics wielding a sword.

“He wasn’t a fuckboy, Jas.”

"Was he wearing his Lightbournes varsity jacket?” 

She nods.

“Didn’t bother to pull anything out? No book, no pencils, nothing?” 

She nods.

“Sitting with a ‘bro’?” Monty adds.

She nods.

“He’s a fuckboy,” Jasper sighs, sitting back in his seat. 

“Okay, whatever. I don’t even know his name.” 

“We must find him!” Raven announces, holding up a finger in earnest before flipping open her laptop.

She reaches over and closes it. “How? Google ‘arrogant dude with curly hair in Professor Pike’s GOV-210 class?’”

Monty narrows his eyes. “Have you forgotten that I’m a computer science major?” 

“Can we please just discuss something else? I have all semester to mess with him.”

The other three sigh, disappointed by the lack of conflict. But they all duck their heads down and finish their classwork for the week. 


[clarke]

 

“Harper, I don’t know if I should do this.”

Earlier in the day, Harper and Maya met the group at the library and they all went to the dining hall for dinner.

The gang spent the entire dinner convincing her to run for student government. After an hour of uncertain ‘maybe not’s and ‘I don’t think so’s, everyone had given up and returned to their dorm together.

Or, so she thought. Harper and Maya ambushed her as they were about to walk off the quad.

The bright-eyed blonde pushes her forward towards the student government office. “Clarke. You’re a shoo-in for President! You have to!”

Maya nods. “Nobody else is more qualified. Super academic with a high GPA, tutor for pre-med students, Debate Club, President of the Art Club–”

“And an extremely sexy ballerina and singer,” Harper teases, poking her side.

She swats her hand away. “Don’t tell anybody about that! You guys and Wells are the only people who know.” 

She’d been put in ballet lessons for her entire life, and she’d always loved singing. Especially with her dad. And both activities were good to put on a show for donor events and stuffy balls; but her father died, and her desire to sing went with him. 

Sometimes, her ballet shoes gave her the best kind of distraction. It’s ironic, as she’s quite clumsy in every other aspect of college life– she trips down the stairs, fumbles with her textbooks, and constantly spills her drink on the condiment bar in the campus coffee shop.

But not in the studio. There, she can slow down. Not an exam, or frantic pre-med student, or Debate Club meeting in sight. Just her, and the shadows of her body.  

Well, sometimes Harper and Maya, too, who help her sneak into the studios at night, insisting that she does small performances for them.

But her mother told her that she could only choose one art form to pursue in college, and just as a hobby, so she chose art. Tempting herself with ballet might risk her commitment to the pre-med track. 

“Yeah, yeah." The girls wrap their arms around her and hug her tight. “Good luck!”

She takes a deep breath before turning to enter the office. I got thisI’m a shoo-in.


[bellamy]

 

Him and Murphy speedwalk across campus, heads ducked into their coats, arms tight across their chests.

“You swear? Hundred bucks?” Bellamy’s voice is muffled under his scarf.

Murphy smirks evilly. “Yeah. Write in his name and get the fuck outta there.”

Some of the brothers were playing truth or dare with tequila shots. And, naturally, Murphy dared him to write in Miller’s name for the student body president nomination. He isn’t sure how easy it'll be, because he’ll either have to sneak into the office to type in his name, or distract the secretary, or something. 

But a hundred bucks? Easy. Done.

They finally reach the large, stone steps of the student center, and Murphy pats his shoulder after they push the doors open.

“I’ll wait here in the lobby. Remember. Student gov office, second floor.”

He nods and jogs up the marble stairs. Slowly ambling down the hallway, he spots the glass doors and tries to peek in.

It seems like the office is empty, not including the student secretary with a blue cardigan. She seems meek and shy. It would be easy to convince her with a charming smile and a wink, or two.

He pushes open the glass doors and saunters in, hands in his pockets. 

“Hey.” He smiles charmingly at the girl. “I was wondering if I could see the nomination list for student body president.” 

The girl blinks, flustered. “Uh– uh, yeah, you can just sit right there, and I’ll help you.” Pink tinges her cheeks as she hurries away to some backroom. 

He smirks to himself. Too easy.

“Good tactic. But, you know, Machiavelli is against flattery. Too self-absorbed for him, you know?” 

He closes his eyes in dread. He remembers that voice. Turning around, he sees the blonde from class sitting in a chair hidden from the doors. 

Shit.

“Of course. You’re here. The Princess to Machavelli’s Prince.” 

She cocks an eyebrow, but a twinge of annoyance appears on her face. “Today’s class was informative, don’t you think?”

He rolls his eyes, leaning against the receptionist counter. “Sure.”

“So, you’re running, too?”

His head snaps up and he laughs loudly. “No. Fuck no.” 

She exhales in mock-relief. “Oh, good. It would be rough for Ark U to have a President with your belief set.”

His eyes narrow, and he straightens up. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“Oh, nothing.” She picks at a thread on her chair. “I just wouldn’t want to be led by someone who idolizes people like Jeff Bezos, you know?”

“For fucks sake,” he mutters, rubbing a hand over his now-red face. “I don’t idolize them. You brought up money. So, I brought up money. Makes sense that you did, too.” He looks down at her outfit. A dress and those boot heels that Octavia always wants. A spattering of rings on one hand. Nice watch on the other wrist. 

“You really are a Princess, huh?”

She shoots up and closes the distance between them. “You,” she looks him up and down. “Don’t know the first thing about me.” 

“Well, I know that you care fuckall for generosity, right? Seems like the student body might not like that.”

She throws her hands up. “It’s a fucking book! From the mid 1400’s! Who cares?”

“You brought it up!” 

“No, I brought up today’s leaders!”

“Um…”

Their heads snap over. The mousy secretary comes back with two folders. “I have the forms for you to fill out.”

Oh, shit. This would be even easier than he thought.

They both walk forward and snatch the folders. She returns to her seat and starts scribbling furiously. He opens the folder and stares at the empty lines.

Student name: 

The black ink of the two words burn into his mind. Nathan Miller. Nathan Miller.

His pen hovers over the page. But, then, his gaze turns to her. She looks up, meeting his eyes in fiery determination.

His head snaps back down. And he writes.

Bellamy Blake

Chapter Text

[bellamy] 

 

“I think you misinterpreted the dare, dude.” 

Bellamy sighs. He had since returned from the student center and trudged through the fucking freezing air to their frat house.

And now, after he updated everyone on what actually happened, Murphy is laying under the window, throwing another Sour Patch Kid into the air, mouth open wide. The yellow candy bounces off his nose and onto the carpet. He frowns. “Boo.” 

Bellamy sinks lower into the couch. He tosses a football up and down. “I didn’t mean for it to go down that way. She just...provokes me.” 

“Provokes?” Murphy perks up, a smirk on his face. 

Bellamy scrunches his face. “Ew. Not like that.” 

“But is she hot?” 

He tries to throw the football at Murphy, but it accidentally hits Emori, who’s splayed across Murphy's lap. “Shit. Sorry, Emori.”

She just rolls her eyes. “You owe me a new iPad and my graphic design project if you broke it.”

A Sour Patch Kid hits his face. “Dude. Don’t throw footballs at my girlfriend.” 

He glares at him. “It wasn’t exactly on purpose.” 

“So. What’s this chick's name?” 

“What chick?” Miller enters the living room in gray sweatpants, shirtless and slightly wet post-shower. “Oh, hey, Emori.”

She doesn’t even flinch, just waving up at him. The poor girl really needs some girlfriends.

“This chick that made Blake fuck up the dare.”

Miller rolls his eyes and sits on the other end of the couch, flinging his feet on the glass coffee table. He shakes his head, and water droplets drip onto Bellamy’s sweater. The annoyance in him intensifies.

“Dude. Can you at least dry yourself after taking a shower?” He kicks his thigh with his foot. 

Miller ignores him. “Fuck you for that, Murphy. How would I even get out of that if he’d written down my name?” 

“Well, we’ll never find out because this chick aroused a politician in our resident Grandpa.”

Miller frowns before realization dawns on his face. “The Princess!” 

“Princess?” Emori’s head snaps up, amused curiosity on her face. 

“Yes!” Miller flicks more water at Bellamy before getting up and opening the fridge. “This girl in our political science class obliterated him this morning. We were talking about The Prince, so we’ve affectionately titled her 'Princess.'” 

Murphy cackles. “I wish I was there to see that.” 

Emori smiles slyly. “Me too. What’s her name? I could use some friends that aren’t football players or stoner frat brothers.” She pauses. “No offense, boys.” She throws the football back to Bellamy. 

Murphy feigns hurt and Miller still grins from the story. 

“Trust me. You won’t want to be her friend,” Bellamy grips the football in his hands. “I also have no idea what her name is.”

“What the hell?”

“I don’t know, Emori might vibe with her,” Miller hops on the kitchen table with his drink. “She’s a lot like you. Fierce and slightly intimidating.” She smiles, clearly pleased by his characterization of her. 

“Whatever. Regardless, it's done. And I expect all of your votes so the Princess doesn’t become the President, too.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Murphy rolls his eyes and throws another Sour Patch Kid at him. Bellamy catches it, glares at him, and crumples it in his hand.

“Touchy.” 

“What are you going to base your platform on?”  

“I don’t fucking know. I just want to beat her.” 

“Hm.” Emori’s fingernails tap against her iPad. “I’ll help with your campaign.” 

His eyebrows raise and he sits up to face her. “Really?” 

She shrugs. “Why not? It’ll be good for my Communications degree.” 

“Great,” Murphy groans, standing up to get a beer from the kitchen. “Now Bill Clinton has recruited my girlfriend.” 

Miller snickers, and they all turn to look at him.

“Dude. Are you drinking chocolate milk?” Murphy asks. 

Miller holds the brown bottle against his chest. “It’s delicious. And calcium-rich.” 


[clarke]

 

She huffs against her peacoat, tugging her knit hat over her hair. Her fingers fumble in the pockets, pulling out her phone.

A handsome, clean face spreads across her screen. “Clarke? What’s up?” It seems like he’s laying on the flannel, plaid comforter of his dorm bed. The view of his kind eyes placates her, a bit.

“Wells! You will not believe what just happened!” 

Her hands flail around as she recounts the story of the past thirty minutes. She almost trips on a tree branch in front of the sciences building. A few lingering students give her odd looks as her shrill voice echoes in the chilly air. 

He runs a hand through his dark, trimmed hair. “Damn. That guy sounds like a dickhead.”

“He is!” She's so restless that she doesn’t realize she’s ended up in front of the performing arts building.

“Where are you?” He tries to survey her surroundings. The traffic light next to her blinks as she crosses the street to the sweeping, geometrical glass building. Dim light peeks through the floor-to-ceiling windows, and she sees a few students hunched over books in the rotunda.

She pauses. “At Wallace.” 

He frowns. “It’s a bit late to be walking around alone. Why are you going to Wallace?”

She doesn’t respond. Instead, she looks up and crosses the street.

Realization seems to dawn on him as he releases a sigh. “Do you even have your dance stuff with you?” 

“No.” She climbs the stairs and pulls open the towering glass doors. “I might just sit in a studio for awhile. It clears my head.”

“Alright.” He looks away, probably at the clock next to his bed. “Hey, it's late. I have an 8 A.M., but text me when you get home?”

She nods. “Okay. Love you.”

“Love you too.” 

The screen goes dark, and small tendrils of sadness swirl in her head. Wells graduated last year. Now, he's at Ark U’s graduate school, so it was getting increasingly harder to see her best friend.

In fact, he’s one of the main reasons she eventually caved to apply for student government earlier that day. Wells was President two years in a row. He was loved by everyone. But he also grew up in politics, his father now in his second term as D.C.’s senator. 

It's not that she doesn't want to be a leader. It might just be hard to balance the campaigning with junior year. She’s taking the MCAT in a few months, which means med school applications come shortly after.

And now, she’s worried that a large part of her desire to win the presidency just has to do with the defeat of a certain arrogant, curly-haired frat boy. 

She shakes the thought away and climbs the spiraling stairs. Making her way down the glass hall, she reaches Studio D.

Maya is a RA, so they could usually get away with getting a swipe card to unlock most of the studios, but she’s learned that the lock on Studio D is constantly broken, if you shake the handle just right.

Her hand grips the curved, metal door handle, and she shifts it just slightly to the right. She hears a click, and sighs in relief. 

The dance studios at Ark U are underrated. Not many people were dance majors, so it's assumed that the resources that are dedicated to Wallace are pretty low. Turns out, Cage Wallace is a pretty rich dude.

She breathes in the wood smell, mixed with the faint scent of the cleaning supplies that they use on the floor. The sensor lights flicker on as she walks in, but she retreats to turn them off.

The mirrors that span the two walls of the studio seem to sparkle, even in the dark. She dumps her bag and tugs off her shoes and tights next to the door. 

She sits down in the middle of the room, watching as the shadows dance across the mirrors and over the walls. As she lays down, her fingers stretch and splay as far as they can. Her knees stay bent, sliding down slightly. And then, without any music, she starts to move.

Her back arches as she slides her hands up, curling her hips in the air before her legs twirl over in her. She spins with willowy limbs, strands of gold whirling around her. Her body wraps around itself, and translucent shadows flicker on the walls around her.

It's safe, quiet. Like that split second where you’ve just been pulled into an embrace, like the soft crinkles of leaves when the wind sweeps them up. 

“You’re amazing.” A voice bounces around the studio and she falls out of her turn, breathless.

“Oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you!” Clarke turns around to see a shadow emerge from the doorway. 

The girl is completely beguiling in her beauty. Her features are sharp, defined. But the expression on her face is soft, with a youthful smile.

And she’s familiar. 

“That’s okay,” Clarke smiles, slowly walking over. “I know you, I think.” 

The girl looks fearless, excited, and shy, all at the same time. “I think we’re in GOV-210 together? With Pike?” 

Clarke’s eyes light up. “Yes! You started off the discussion today! I didn’t see you, but I know your voice sounded familiar.”  

She looks down and shifts her duffel bag on her shoulder uncomfortably. “Yeah, I sound like such an idiot in that class. I don’t know what’s going on, most of the time.” 

Clarke feels guilt ripple through her chest. “Hey, I’m sorry if I came off as rude, or over-aggressive. Sometimes, I just get carried away in class.” 

“Oh, no, that's okay! I learned so much from you, and all that stuff about those shitty men.” 

She laughs. “They are pretty shitty. And, honestly, I wasn’t trying to come for you, at all. It was mostly that self-important guy who sat behind me.” She rolls her eyes and scoops up her bag.

The girl still stands in the doorway, a small smile on her face. 

“Where are you going? Want to walk out with me?”

She smiles and nods. “I’d like that.” 

They walk down the hallway in silence for a few seconds.

“So, who’s your Ballet 1 Professor? I have Hudson. She’s cool as hell.” The girl exclaims quickly. It's like sparks exude from her when she speaks, moves. 

“Oh, I’m not– I’m not a dance major.” 

The girl stops in the rotunda, and gapes at her. “But, you’re amazing! Why were you in the studio? What’s your actual major?” 

Clarke hesitates as she tugs on her coat. “Pre-med.”

The girl makes a face, and Clarke laughs. 

“It’s okay. I make that face at my fellow pre-med majors, too.”

They both bundle up and step outside “Where’s your dorm?” 

“Sanctum Hall,” the girl responds, pulling on her knit gloves. 

“Oh! That’s where I live, too."

She spins to her, excitedly. “Oh, thank god. I’m a freshman, and my brother requested for me to live in an upperclassman dorm to be closer to his house. But no one wants to be friends with a freshman.”

Clarke wrinkles her nose. “That’s stupid. What floor are you on?” 

“Five. You?”

“Three. You should come down sometime, all my friends and I have a suite together.”

They reach their building and swipe inside. “That would literally be so amazing. Thank you!”

They linger in the lobby, and the girl moves forward, but hesitates. Clarke smiles and pulls her into a hug. 

“Wait,” she pulls back. “I just realized. I don’t know your name. I’m Clarke.”

“Octavia. Blake, as you know, from class.” A small smile tugs at her lips.

Clarke furrows her eyebrows, the name spinning around her head. She places a hand over her mouth. “Oh my god. Your brother is the–”

Octavia giggles. “Yeah, he’s the.”

“Holy, I am so sorry! I didn’t mean to call him self-important! Or go off on him today!”

Octavia laughs, her head thrown back. “It’s seriously okay. He deserved it, anyway.” 

Clarke presses the button for the elevator. “He kinda did.”

The elevator stops at floor three, and Clarke gathers herself to hop off. “Hey,” she quickly pulls out a pen and scribbles on Octavia's arm. “Here's my number. My friends and I have game nights every Saturday. Come tomorrow. Around seven?” 

She beams. “I’ll be there.”


[bellamy]

 

“You can’t be friends with her.” 

Octavia huffs, flopping on his couch. “She’s really nice once you meet her, Bell! She's intellectual and a pretty ballerina,” she says, sneakily.

“I have Gina, O.”

“Yeah, but no one likes Gina!” She throws The Prince across the room.

“Do you want help with this book or not?” 

She sits up. “Well, now that you ask. No. Taking a bite of her apple, she pulls her choreography notebook out. 

He frowns, swinging his feet off the couch. She looks at him, and shrugs.

“Clarke said she’ll help me.” 

He groans, aggressively setting the book down next to him. “Are you serious? How do you even know? Didn’t you meet her just last night?” 

“She gave me her number.”

“Of course she did.”

He angrily snatches her phone from the table.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m telling her to fuck off. And then I’m blocking her.” 

“Bell! What the hell?” She scrambles up to him and reaches for her phone. He tries to push her away with his elbow, but she pounces on him, and they grapple for it at the same time. 

“Jesus. What now?” Miller and Murphy slam the door shut. 

“Bellamy’s scaring away my friends again!” She pouts and points at him, accusatory.

“She’s making friends with the enemy!” 

“What are you? Twelve?” Miller walks over and grabs the phone from him. He hands it to Octavia and she smiles gratefully. “Thank you, Nate!”

“You guys are supposed to take my side, not my sister’s.”

Murphy shrugs. “We like her better.”

Before he can retort, Octavia starts laughing on the couch. Miller and Murphy look at her curiously.

“What?” 

She just keeps laughing, and turns her phone forward. Miller crosses the room and takes the phone, looking at it. He starts laughing loudly, too. 

“What the fuck is wrong with you two?” he growls, stomping over to seize Octavia’s phone. 

 

clarke:)

7:25 AM

Can’t wait to see you tomorrow! 

7:42 AM

me neither!! should i bring anything?

clarke:)

8:21 AM

Just you!

11:50 AM

Leave me alone. I’m blocking this number.

clarke:)

11:52 AM

Hey, fellow candidate. Ready for debate one?

 

He scowls and throws the phone back on the couch. 

“I don’t know, dude.” Murphy looks at the text exchange. “She seems pretty nice to your sister.”

“Yeah, well my sister doesn’t have great judgement calls,” he rolls his eyes and lays down on the couch.

“You’re a dick. I’m leaving.” Octavia gathers her things and throws her apple core at him.

“Why do people keep throwing things at me?” he yells. 

“‘Cause you’re a dick.” Murphy shrugs. 


[clarke]

 

“Promise to be nice, okay?” 

Clarke starts to stack the board games under the large glass table in the living room. Monty and Jasper lounge on the gray couch behind the table, and Harper and Maya sit on the one perpendicular, watching something on Maya’s phone and giggling.

“We will. Scouts honor,” Jasper salutes. 

“I don’t know. She’s the sister of the Fuckboy.” Raven walks from the kitchen with a stack of red cups and a bottle of rum. She sets them down and spreads herself on their fur chair.

“She’s cool. I promise. Nothing like him. Is Zeke coming?” Raven nods, so she goes back to their room to grab some floor pillows. 

She knows that Octavia might be intimidated by walking into a room of random people she hasn’t met yet, so she tries to make their suite homey. She flips on the string lights, diagonally hung across the ceiling, and plays soft music from Maya’s speaker.

“Jeez, you must want to make a good first expression.” Wells walks in, holding a bag of chocolate-covered pretzels.

She cheers, and tackles him in a hug. “My favorite!” She snatches the bag and runs to the kitchen to dump them in a bowl.

“Wells! My man!” Jasper exclaims. Everyone gets up to hug him. “It’s been too long.” 

It really had been. The grad school has a completely different campus, and he interned on the Hill during summer, so they hadn’t seen him in about a month.

Shaw walks in a few minutes after, with a bottle of lemonade, but everyone is too caught up with Wells. “Damn. Must feel nice to be loved,” he mutters playfully, and Raven flounces up to kiss him on the cheek.

Once they all settle in, Wells speaks up, taking a sip of his beer. “I thought this girl was the sister of that asshole from your political science class.”

“That’s what I said!” Raven points to Wells.

She sighs and puts her cup down. “She seems so nice. And she said nobody in this building would be friends with a freshman.”

“Woah!” Harper chokes on her drink. “She’s a freshman? What is she doing in upperclassmen dorms?”

“Take a guess.”

“Damn. So he’s a helicopter big brother,” Monty nods. 

“That’s also what I said!” Raven practically jumps out of her seat.

Shaw pulls her hips down. “Calm down. We all know that you’re always right,” he kisses the top of her head. Raven hums happily. 

A knock on their door silences them all. She looks at them. “Be nice.” 

She crosses the room, and opens the door.

“Clarke!” Octavia grins and hugs her.

She laughs and pulls back, grabbing her hands. “I’m so happy you came! Everyone is excited to meet you.” 

She rolls her eyes and pulls her shoes off. “Yeah, I’m sure they’re ready to meet the sister of the asshole from your GOV-210 class.” 

“I like her!” A yell drifts behind her. Raven. 

Clarke is ready to walk her to the living room, but she flounces forward eagerly.

“Hi! I’m Octavia Blake.” She sits down on one of the floor pillows. The group stares at her, shocked. Clarke follows, an amused look on her face.

“O.” 

An unfortunately familiar voice echoes behind them.

Octavia sighs and moves back to the door. “Bell, I’m fine. You said you’d walk me here. Go away.” 

She turns around to see the tall, curly-haired figure, leaning against their door. Sure enough, in his purple letterman and jeans. Her mouth instinctively pulls into a scowl. 

“Good to see you too, Princess,” he snaps, looking over her shoulder at the group surrounding the table

“Princess?” Another voice rings out from the living room. 

“O! They have alcohol!” He tries to move forward, but Octavia places a hand on his chest. 

“Shut up. I literally sit with you and your frat bros while you drink and smoke.” 

“But–”

“Bye, Bell!” She pushes him out and closes the door. Cheers sound behind them.

“I really like her!”


[clarke]

 

After short introductions, the usual fight breaks out.

“Monopoly!” Maya yells. 

“No! Risk!” Monty exclaims.

“Risk is for nerds!” Monty glares at Raven. 

“We never play Scrabble!” Clarke whines.

“Yeah, because Scrabble is also for nerds!” 

“Catan!”

“And Catan is for nerdy politicians!” Wells scowls.

“Uno!”

“Codenames!”

“Egyptian War!”

After thirty minutes of bickering, they finally let Octavia pull a paper from a hat with all the games in them.

She waves it in the air dramatically. “Jenga!” Cheers reverberate around the room. 

“Okay,” Jasper starts, pulling the box from under the table and slamming it down. “Our version of Jenga is…” he smiles evilly. “Special.”

“Don’t scare the poor girl.” 

“Sounds fun!” Octavia squeals, at the same time.

Jasper grins and dumps out the multicolored, Sharpie-covered blocks. “Okay, so, all of our Jenga blocks have various things written on them. For example,” he picks up a bright pink and yellow one and clears his throat dramatically. “Call Finn and curse him out!” He pauses. “Okay, wait. That one actually only works for Clarke and Raven.”

Confusion spreads across Octavia’s face. Clarke rolls her eyes and leans down to her on the pillow next to her. “Long story. Will tell you later.” 

“Another one!” He pulls out a piece that’s colored dark red with thick black lettering. “Tell someone in this room the worst thing about them!” 

Octavia snorts. “This sounds amazing.” She reaches for the rum, but Clarke swats her hand away. Octavia pouts.

“As much as I hate your brother, I don’t want him to murder me in my sleep for condoning underage drinking.”

Raven scoffs. “You could take him.”

“I agree,” Octavia nods eagerly.

Jenga, as always, is extremely entertaining. Jasper opens the window and belts the entirety of “Let it Go” from Frozen to the students walking under them. Raven and Harper share a short, chaste kiss, much to everyone’s disappointment. Maya has to show everyone what is in her purse, which turns out to be pretty entertaining, as she pulls out the second book in the Magic Treehouse series. 

“It’s extremely engaging!” 

Wells admits that the worst thing about Clarke is her Type-A personality, which she concedes to. Shaw has to describe the weirdest place he and Raven have hooked up, which leads them all to vow that they’re never going into Room 405 of the sciences building ever, ever again. Luckily, Clarke gets the ‘draw the person to your right’ block, which makes everyone groan. 

“That one was specifically designed to be anyone but Clarke!” 

But she takes a napkin from the table and hastily sketches Octavia in around five minutes. They all roll their eyes when she takes the napkin with wide eyes.

“You’re such a good artist, Clarke!” 

“Yeah, yeah,” Raven waves her away. “Your turn, new blood.”

Clarke scrunches her nose. “Can we please not call her that?” 

Octavia shrugs, reaching forward to slowly pull out a block. “Fine with me.”

“Take a selfie with someone in the group and post it to Instagram,” she reads aloud. She frowns. “This one seems pretty tame.” 

“Yeah,” Jasper sighs. “That’s when we let Harper write on the blocks.”

“Hey!” 

“Hm…” Octavia scans the room and points to Jasper. “You. Come here. You seem fun.” 

Everyone snickers.

They huddle together, and Jasper makes the ugliest face known to man. When Octavia looks at it, she pouts. “I don’t want to post this to Insta!” 

“Too bad. No take backs,” Harper quips. 

Octavia groans. “Fine!” 

Eventually, the game dwindles down and they order a pizza. It's usually the time of the night when Jasper and Monty get high and everyone else gets sleep delirious.

Octavia and Clarke have taken their spots on the couch, and the two were now on the floor, staring at the ceiling. 

Jasper gasps. “So… if two vegans are arguing… is it still called ‘beef’?” 

“What happens if we get scared half to death two times?” Monty mutters. 

Jasper turns on his side, his eyes watery. “It was good knowing you, man.” Monty just pats him on his shoulder.

Octavia, whose head is now in Clarke’s lap, can’t stop laughing at the exchange.

“So, do you like everyone?” 

“Are you kidding?” Octavia sits up straight. “This is the most fun I’ve had in ages!” 

Raven, whose head is dangled off Shaw’s legs, tries to nod. “I like her. I approve. I vote she stays.”

“Me too!” Harper adds. Maya nods with a muffled agreement through her slice of pizza. 

“You seem cool, Blake.” Wells nods next to them. 

“Well,” Clarke squeezes her hand. “Looks like you’re stuck with us.”

Octavia’s smile is blinding, and she pulls Clarke into a hug.

The pleasant moment is interrupted by violent knocking on the door. They all look at each other, perplexed.

She rises from the couch and moves to open it. As soon as the door swings open, a dark blur pushes past her, and she stumbles against the wall. Everyone snaps up at the noise. 

“O. Time to go.” 

“Bell! Let go of me!” 

She runs back to the living room and sees Octavia struggling out of Bellamy’s grip.

“Hey,” Clarke moves closer to them. “What’s the issue?” 

“Stay out of it, Princess,” he snaps.

An angry look spreads on Wells’ face, and he stands up. “I think it's time for you to leave, man.”

“Good idea.” Bellamy starts dragging Octavia out by the arm.

“Octavia!” Clarke follows and yells at her retreating figure.

The girl sends her an apologetic look before the door slams behind them.

Silence engulfs the room.

“Damn,” Shaw mutters. “That guy is even more a dick than I thought.”


[bellamy]

 

He pulls her up the two flights of stairs to the fifth floor. 

“Stop! What is wrong with you?” Octavia squirms against him.

He marches her down the hallway to her room, swiping it open using the spare keycard he got by threatening the kid at the front desk. He pushes her inside the room. 

“What is this?” he yells, flipping his phone around to show her the Instagram post she made an hour ago.

She laughs dryly. “Is that what this is about?”

“I’m not letting you hook up with this boy you’ve known for a day! And you’re eighteen, O! You could be suspended for underage drinking!” 

“That ‘boy’,”she points to the picture. “Has a girlfriend. The cup in my hand? Lemonade. Smell my breath. Get a fucking breathalyzer, for all I care.”

He narrows his eyes and leans forward. She huffs in his face. She’s right. Lemon. 

“Clarke wouldn’t let me drink,” she snaps, flopping down on her bed, staring at the ceiling. “Thanks a lot. You've managed to undo every friendship I've made so far in college."

He blinks, surprised. Then guilt fills his chest. “Shit. O, I’m so– I’m sorry. I just–”

She turns away from him. “I know. Got worried. Next time you get worried, can you be a normal person and text me instead of storming across campus and pulling me out of room kicking and screaming?” 

He sits on her bed. “That was really fucked up of me. I’m sorry. I promise I’ll try to be better in the future, I’m just not used to you being so…independent.” 

“Can you just go, please?” 

“O–”

“Just go, Bellamy.” 

He sighs and mutters a goodnight before turning off the lights and slipping out. 

As soon as he turns the corner to the staircase, he bumps into something. “Shit.” He hears a squeak. “My bad–”

He looks down and sees piercing, blue eyes, covered by a few strands of blonde hair.

She looks at him with an unreadable expression, before brushing past him. He turns, watching her stride to Octavia’s room, and slide something under the door– white, square. A piece of paper? A napkin?  

She walks back, head down, and pushes the door open before disappearing down the stairs.


[bellamy]

 

Next Monday morning, he’s antsy in his seat.

Professor Pike keeps talking about the due date of their first paper, what philosophers and themes he expects, whatever. But he can’t stop staring at the dark curtain of hair a few rows in front of him. Seated next to a blonde ponytail. 

“Dude, what’s wrong with you?” Miller whispers, poking his arm with a pen. He flips him off. 

Pike finally dismisses them and he hurries out of the lecture hall. Her and Octavia’s heads are retreating into the crowd.

He weaves through people to catch up to them, finding them standing on the marble steps in front of the building. Octavia is gesturing eagerly, and Clarke is laughing at what she's saying.

Another sting of guilt. He hasn’t seen Octavia smile like that in so long. He bounds down the steps, hearing Miller call his name in the distance.

Clarke catches his eye first, and she quietly says something to Octavia. Her head snaps to his and her eyes darken. She gives her a hug and jogs away.

Clarke looks at him for a moment, contemplative. Then, she turns away and skips down the rest of the stairs. 

“Wait!” he yells, but the blonde ponytail bounces across the quad. “Princess!”

Her shoulders tense, but she turns around. Her water bottle dangles from the fingers of her right hand, and a sketchbook is clutched in the other. Her eyebrows are raised.

He tramples the grass and stops in front of her, a bit breathless. She just stares at him. 

“Uh,” he ruffles his hair. “I wanted to say thanks.” Her expression is unmoving. “Thanks for making Octavia feel included on Saturday.”

“She's still included,” she shrugs.

“Right. Anyways, I was a total asshole. For storming in like that.”

“Yeah. You were.” 

Miller snickers behind him. Of course, this is the time when he catches up.

“Hey, Blake.” He claps him on the shoulder. “Hey,” he nods to Clarke. 

“Clarke,” she smiles, extending a hand.

What the hell?

“Nathan Miller. Just call me Miller.”

She nods. Turning back to him, she raises an eyebrow. “You were saying?”

“Sorry. You and your friends make her happy. She isn’t usually like that.” He worries that he’s overshared, but she just nods, listening. “And, yeah.” He shifts uncomfortably.

“No problem. We all really like her, and we’re going to keep inviting her to hang out with us. So, you’ll probably see me around. And, I’m sorry about antagonizing you, and being so rude.” He blinks, surprised at her directness.  “Can we just… be cool? Except for the Presidential race, of course.” 

He nods. “We’re cool.” He holds out a hand, and she shakes it. 

“I love a good truce,” Miller slings an arm around him. “So, Prin– Clarke. We’re having a party this Friday at the Alpha Rho Kappa house.” Bellamy shoots him a murderous look. “You should come.” 

“Miller…”  

“I’m usually not one for frat parties. But thanks for the invitation.” 

“No worries,” Miller nods. “Think about it.”

She hums and looks at her watch. “I have class. I’ll see you at the debate on Wednesday.”

She turns on her heel, and her ponytail flicks him in the face. Miller coughs a laugh.

“I like her.” 

“Of course you do.”


[clarke] 

 

Wednesday night, she shuffles through her notecards and adjusts her blazer, waiting in the wings of the auditorium stage.

“You look fine,” Raven quips, tucking the last strand of Clarke’s hair into a braid. “You’re going to do great.”

“What if they think I’m stupid?” she spins around to face her. “He’s more… I don’t know. Fun, likable frat guy. I’m just a stuffy pre-med major who wears blazers to an undergraduate presidential debate.” She looks down and tugs at the edge of the fabric.

“Stop that.” Raven swats her hand away. “I made sure it was sexy business chic. Don’t ruin it.” 

She had practiced with Raven all afternoon after their lab. They went back to the suite and she picked out the ‘perfect’ outfit. 

“Professional, but hot.” She insisted, and pulled out a flowy skirt and a pale pink blazer. “Perfect.”

“Okay. Just introduce myself, be cool.”

“Just let them get a small taste of who you are. Don’t be overbearing.”

“Don't be overbearing. I care about equal academic opportunities for everyone. Supporting our underserved and underfunded majors, especially cultural studies. Hiring more professors of colors. Reassigning funds across the university. Be practical.”

“Practical and personable.”

“Right.”

She hears the representatives from student government start to welcome the students to the first presidential debate of the fall semester. Peering out into the audience, she sees Octavia, Monty, Harper, Jasper, Maya, and Shaw sitting in the front row.

Oh god. She covers her stomach. 

“Clarke, what the hell?” Raven steadies her. “You do debate competitions all the time!”

“Yeah, but that… that’s formulaic. I know exactly what to say, how to say it. How am I supposed to appeal to a student body made of twenty thousand people, all with different demands and interests?”

Raven places her palms on her cheeks. “You are Clarke Griffin. Remember what Jasper said? You slay fuckboys for a living.” 

Clarke breathes out a laugh, and the announcers begin to introduce Bellamy.

“...first candidate is Bellamy Blake. Double majoring in Education and History, minoring in Philosophy, our favorite wide receiver for Ark U’s Lightbournes, and brother of Alpha Rho Kappa. Welcome him to the stage!” 

As applause fills the auditorium, Raven and Clarke look at each other incredulously. “Since when did he do so many things?” 

“Deep breaths,” Raven turns her and rubs her shoulders. “You got this.”

Our second candidate is Clarke Griffin, a pre-med major with concentrations in Biology and Psychiatry. She’s President of the Art Club, a tutor in our Math Lab, and she's responsible for the only two debate team awards Ark U has won at Nationals, two years in a row!” 


Well, at least the listing of her own accomplishments makes her feel better.

...let’s welcome Clarke to the stage! ” 

Raven squeezes her shoulders and she walks forward. A long table covered with a blue and gold tablecloth spans across the front of the stage. There are three chairs, each with a microphone propped on the table above them.

She recognizes the student in the middle chair– Myles, the media coordinator for student government. On his left, is Bellamy. Fuck.

He didn’t have to do much to look presentable. His hair is tousled neatly, and he wears a sweater over a white dress shirt. Meanwhile, it took two hours for her to get ready with Raven. Ugh. 

She waves, and sits down to his right. She can hear Jasper and Monty to her left. 

That’s our baby girl!” 

“Welcome, you two! You both know how things will go. We’re going to have three rounds of debate, followed by audience questions. Ready to get started?”

Her and Bellamy nod. 

“Then, without any more delay, let’s begin Ark U’s Fall 2020 first Presidential Debate!”

Cheers erupt from the crowd and she takes the opportunity to scan the crowd.

She swallows. It seems like the five hundred seat auditorium is completely full, and that doesn’t count those watching from the stream. Wells. Wells is watching.  

“You got this,” he reassured her this morning, on FaceTime. “I’ll be cheering from my laptop screen.”

“Let’s start with question one: what is your campaign focus, and what sets it apart? Bellamy, we’ll start with you.”

He clears his throat and smiles at the crowd. “Thanks for the introduction, Myles. I feel like hot shit, to be honest.”

She’s alarmed at his cursing, but the crowd eats it up, laughing loudly. Fuck. Fuck. 

“My main goal is to be the man of the people. Well, I already am, I like to think. I’m a proud Lightbourne, both on the field, in Alpha Rho Kappa, and in my classes. I know what it's like to work your ass off on your own.” He pauses, as if he’s considering whether or not to say the next thing.

“A few guys on the team and in ARK know that I’m at Ark U fully on financial aid. And I’m grateful that the University gave me this opportunity. I tutor and TA so I can support my family. Which is one person. My sister, Octavia.”

She narrows her eyes. Using Octavia as a pathos appeal is smart. But low.

“Our parents haven’t ever been in the picture. We didn’t grow up with much, and I could never have imagined that we would both be enrolled in a prestigious university at our ages. We both worked really hard to be where we are, and,” his eyes flicker to her.

“We didn’t have any help, or privilege on the side.”

Impressed hums and murmurs arise from the auditorium. 

She frowns. If he wants to play dirty, so will she. 

“For that reason, my campaign is rooted in promoting economic equality and social equity at Ark U, for all students.” She can hear a few ‘hell yeah’s from the crowd.

“Part of this would include lower priced textbooks for low income students, reduced price dining plans and a free food pantry, and more support for students of single parent households.” The cheers grow louder. 

Her eyes widen. When the hell did he come up with all of this?

“And, as I mentioned previously, I am constantly thankful that the University gave me the opportunity to be here on their dollar. But, I know that we have the freedom as students to challenge the University to do better by the student body. And our needs should be prioritized. Whatever the hell we want.” 

Raucous applause and cheers arise. Students begin to chant ‘Whatever the hell we want!’ in earnest.

Oh, shit. She’s so fucked.


[bellamy]

 

He grins at the crowd, relieved that they responded well. Him and Emori spent all of last night brainstorming the best way to gain the support of the student body.

She insisted that using the personal anecdote would be an appeal to empathy. He wasn’t sure how O would react, but it worked, and surely, she would support him.

Occasionally, he glanced over at Clarke to see her reactions, and he had to suppress the constant satisfaction that arose in him as he saw her startled and surprised expressions.

Plus, it's time for someone to call students like her out. It's unfair that her hundred-dollar watch costs the same as a textbook that a low income student can’t afford. 

“Wow,” Myles speaks into the mic. “Looks like the student body approves of your campaign so far, Bellamy.” 

He smiles and leans down into the mic. “Well, they’re who I’m advocating for.” He hears Murphy and Miller whistle and laughs. 

“Alright, Clarke. We’ll turn it over to you.” 

She smiles at him and turns towards the audience. “It’ll be hard to follow that, but I’ll do my best.” 

She crosses one leg over the other, and his eyes drop to her skirt, draped over her calf. He sees a swirl of dark ink behind one of her boots, and he tries to hide his shock. Princess has a tattoo. He mentally reminds himself to figure out what it is, later. 

“In my campaign, I hope to uplift the underserved and unheard populations at Ark U. If I have the opportunity to represent the student body, it's important to use my platform to elevate voices, instead of talking over them.”

He hears hums of approval from the crowd.

“Just like Bellamy, my family inspires a lot of who I am. We grew up in D.C., my mother, father and I. My father was my best friend, and my hero.”

Shit. He winces at her use of past tense. He looks over at her face, her soft features growing a bit pained.

“He always instilled a sense of urgency, or a need for justice in me. He always told me how important it is to help people. Lend them a hand when no one would. And he brought me to every single protest on the National Mall.”

She smiles fondly. “The protests against the war. The March for Women’s Lives. The People’s Climate March. He took me to them all,” she admits. Sadness begins to color her tone. “Unfortunately, he sacrificed himself at one of these marches.” She pauses, clearly choked up. 

His breath catches in his throat. He tries to relax his stare, but it's hard for him to tear his eyes away.

We love you, Clarke!” He eventually does when he hears a girl’s voice in the audience. Assent and agreements echo her cheers. 

We love you!

Stay strong!”

The personal anecdote appeal backfired. But he couldn't bring himself to care much about that. He stares intently at her, hoping it didn't come off as too intense to the audience.

“Ever since then, I try to honor his memory by doing the work he wanted to do. And I could continue this work as Student Body President. I do have many privileges,” she looks at him, and he holds a breath.  

Her usual composed, keen expression is replaced by a softer one, vulnerability and fear peeking through her features.

“Bellamy is correct about that. Which is why I feel I need to give voice to the unheard. This would start with equal academic opportunities for everyone– currently, underserved majors like cultural studies and non-Western languages have little to no funding. This makes it hard for the departments to provide adequate resources for students. Additionally, I would put pressure on the University to hire more professors of color, and to reassign funds across departments, as too much of it goes to the social sciences.

“I understand if you disagree with my politics or my desire to protest. But, just know– even if you disagree, I am in your corner, ready to promote your own voice, if you’ll let me.” She pulls back from the mic.

Damn. Even the idiot frat boys might resonate with that one. Still, he is impressed by the spark of strength in her words that reinvigorates her. 

Shouts and claps echo around the auditorium. He can’t tell if the applause is louder or softer than what he received. 

That’s my girl!” 

He winces. That was definitely Octavia’s voice, and he wonders if she cheered for him when he was speaking. 

“Thank you for that candid answer, Clarke. We’ll move on to questions two and three.”

The debate continues for another hour. But the intensity and vulnerability of their opening statements dissipates. And the tension and anger rises.

How will we get the funds for that?”

“I could ask the same.”

“Doesn’t the football team take millions of dollars in funding?” 

“Sometimes we’ll need the University’s support, and ‘whatever the hell we want’ won’t always work.”

“Coming from the candidate who prides her campaign on protest.”

“Doesn’t the University spend more money on hiring cleaners for frat row than low-income students?”


They both cut each other deep, the veiled insults and passive-aggressive answers flinging back and forth like metal shavings.

Finally, the timer rings, and he relaxes into his seat in relief. He swears she does the same. 


[clarke]

 

The past hour was worse than all of her debate team fumbles combined.

Bellamy poked holes in all of her arguments and revealed the hypocrisy in her logic. She wants to think that her retorts landed, exposing that the groups he’s apart of profit off of low-income students. 

This is all to say, she feels that they’re pretty even now. 

“That was an exciting hour of cross-questioning from both of our candidates. Now, we’ll move on to audience questions.” 

She takes a deep breath. It seems that there are some people who unabashedly support him, and she hopes that they won’t be among those who question her. 

“We’ll take the question in the fourth row, left middle.”

A girl stands up, the notecard in her hand shaking.

“This question is for Bellamy,” the meek girl says. “You say that you’re a man of the people. But will you support the women who are assaulted by your fellow brothers in ARK?”

Oh, shit

Bellamy looks taken aback. “Of– of course. Any brothers who engage in or support that kind of behavior has no place in ARK. That’s not what we stand for.”

“But,” the girl looks down at the notecard. “The President of your National chapter has three assault allegations against him.”

Holy shit.

He swallows. She can tell that he's nervous. “I can’t speak for him, but if I’m President, I promise to work to disaffiliate ourselves from the national chapter and it's representatives.” 

The girl nods and sits down. 

“A question in the back, looks like row twenty, middle seat.” A girl stands up with the mic.

“This question is for Clarke.” She nods, steeling herself. 

“How can you advocate for cultural studies and non-Western language students when you aren’t either of those things, and will never experience the things that students in those two disciplines go through?” 

She closes her eyes. She was expecting this question. “You’re right. I will never know or understand what it's like to be one of those students. And I will never claim to understand, or to speak for any of them. I just hope to widen my platform to create space for those students, so they can speak for themselves.” 

The girl nods, and clearly has something else to say, but Myles cuts her off. “We’re running low on time, so we’ll have to take the last question. Front row, middle.”

A boy wearing the letters of Bellamy’s fraternity strands up.

Oh, boy.

He takes the microphone, but doesn’t use it. It just hangs by his side.

“This question is for her,” he points at Clarke, and she bristles. “How can you even talk about your family? You clearly come from money! You’ll never know what it's like to be a low-income student. Shelling out 60k of tuition a year? Talking about funding– how about your family donates to the University themselves?” he yells up at her.

She sees Octavia sitting next to him, looking at her, afraid.

“Uh, I–”

But more frat brothers start to grumble loudly, echoing the first one's assertion. She thinks she sees Bellamy try to say something, but Myles beats him.

“Quiet, please. Let the candidate answer your question,” Myles snaps.

“I’m actually here on scholarship, too.” 

She sees his eyes widen in confusion in her peripherals.

“You’re not wrong. I’m very lucky to have grown up in an upper class household. But,” she looks away. “After my father died, things were a bit different. My mother and I didn't speak to each other for awhile, so I was on my own in high school. Hung around my friends’ places. I missed her, and I called her before I came to Ark U. The only way she'll talk to me is if I keep my major pre-med. Otherwise, she’ll, uh,” her voice falters.

“She said she’ll give away my dad’s stuff, and sell all of his things. Get a lawyer to change his will.” 

The audience is quiet. “I know I’m very lucky to have what I have. I just wanted to cl– clarify,” she stumbles over her words, her eyes growing a bit wet, knowing that she just aired her family’s dirty laundry to most of the student body.

“That’s all of our time for our first debate,” Myles cuts the silence. “The last debate will be in a few weeks, where our candidates will give their closing statements before voting happens. In the meantime, look forward to the two fundraisers the candidates will have to raise money for their campaign! Thank you all for coming.”

The lights come up, and students start to shuffle out, quiet whispers with opinions or gossip following them. She waits until it's appropriate to leave, and tries hard to not run off the stage.

By the time she gets to the wings, tears stinging her eyes, Raven is already there. And she collapses into her arms with thick sobs.


[clarke]

 

“Come with me.”

“No.”

“Come with me!”

“No.”

Please, Clarke!” Octavia whines.

She shakes a hand through her hair, sitting on her bed with her sketchbook. Octavia is in her closet, tugging out clothes and throwing them on the floor.

Harper lays upside down on her bed with a magazine, amused. “A party might cheer you up, Clarke! It’ll be fun!” she adds. 

Her head snaps over. “Don’t be a traitor, Harp.” 

The debate was two days ago, and she was pretty raw for the rest of Wednesday night. Raven, Harper, Maya, and Octavia held her on the floor of their suite as she sobbed. About her dad, about her mother, about the debate, about the mean frat boys.

She insisted that Octavia leave, because she didn’t want to make her feel awkward by putting her in the middle of Clarke and her brother.

“For now, you’re my friend,” Octavia brushed her hair back. “Who cares about the Presidential race?”

On Thursday, someone walked her to each of her classes. Thank god they only had GOV-210 on Mondays and Wednesday mornings. 

Monty took her to psych in the morning, making her smile as he spoke about surprising Harper for her birthday. 

Raven and her went to bio lab together, and she distracted Clarke by reminiscing about when Wells took them to their first party. And she laughed when Raven brought up how she threw up in the bushes outside of their building. And they almost got caught by campus police officers. 

Jasper and Maya took her to lunch and Jasper almost made her cry of laughter as he showed her how he answered every question on his latest physics exam with an awful pun.  

Harper took her to chemistry, french braided her hair, and kissed her cheek before leaving.

And, finally, after dinner, Octavia and her snuck into Studio D and made up stupid dances to early 2000’s songs until they passed out.

And, then there was today. Friday. She had felt much better in the morning, as her class load was light, so she hung out on the quad and sketched the smiles of her friends when they cheered her up yesterday. 

But she didn't think she could handle going out tonight. 

“Clarke, there's this really cute guy in Bell’s frat,” Octavia flops on her bed and moves her sketchbook out of the way. “I need you to be my wingwoman.”

“Octavia, have you seen yourself? You don’t need anybody. Hot guys flock to you like moths to a light.”

“Girls, too,” Harper adds, not looking up from her magazine.

She laughs and brings her sketchbook back on her lap. “It’s true. All I wanted to do when I saw you for the first time is draw you.” 

“Did you have a crush on me?” Octavia gasps, fluttering her eyelashes.

Clarke rolls her eyes. “No. It was more like an earnest appreciation of your beauty.” 

Octavia frowns. “Well, that’s no fun.” Harper and Clarke laugh. 

“But you know what is fun… this!” Octavia pulls out a black dress with a large flourish. Sweetheart neckline, ruffle edged trims, and straps that you can tie. And absolutely something Clarke did not buy for herself. 

Harper sits up and gasps. “Clarke, where were you hiding this thing?” She walks over to Octavia and picks up the dress by its hanger. 

“I wasn’t hiding it because I had no idea I had it!” She snags the dress and throws it back in the closet. 

“Well, now you have to go! In this!” Octavia pulls the dress back out.

“What if I come? I haven’t gone out in so long!” Harper whips open her own closet doors, rifling through the hangers. 

“Yes! That would be so fun!” Octavia nods vigorously. “Let’s call Raven and Maya!”

So they do. Unfortunately, Raven and Shaw are on date night, and Maya is hanging out with some girls from her music class. 

“It’ll be fun, Clarke!” Now, both Harper and Octavia tug on each of her arms.

“Fine!”

The two girls practically jump for joy, and force her into the black dress.

She rotates her body in the mirror. “Isn’t this too much for a frat party?” 

“Absolutely not." Octavia strolls out of the bathroom. 

“Your brother is going to kill you.” She’s wearing a tight, silver dress with a wild amount of sequins.

“How am I supposed to go out with two of my friends who look like Victoria's Secret models,” Clarke mumbles, tugging on the thick, platform pumps.

“Stop that. You look lovely.” Harper draws a thin swipe of eyeliner across her eyelids. “Everyone is gonna be all over you.” 

“Plus,” Octavia ties the strap on her heels. “I want to make sure that the first frat party I ever go to, I’ll be with my best friends, to keep me safe,” she bats her eyes.

“That’s a low blow." Clarke frowns, but gets up.

“But it worked!” 

And with that, they two girls drag her to the ARK house. 


[bellamy]

 

The smell of tequila and weed wafts around the dark house, and small flashes of light blink on the walls from the strobes in the living room. Too-loud music blasts from the speakers in their living room, and he rubs his temples.

80’s night. Who the hell thought 80’s night is a good theme for a goddamn frat party?

He takes small sips of his beer, constantly scanning the crowd. One of the brothers told him that Lincoln had invited Octavia to the party, and she still isn’t talking to him, so he couldn’t beg her to not come.

“Princess! That debate was... ”

He hears Miller’s voice across the crowd, and he freezes. He didn't think she’d show.

He pushes through the drunk, swaying crowd. And he stops when he sees them. 

Octavia, Clarke, and one of the girls he saw in the suite stand in front of Miller. He looks at Octavia and is instantly furious. 

“O,” he warns. “What are you doing here?” 

“Uh, I was invited. Duh.”

“I’m going to go get you a hoodie.”

“Okay, bye!” Octavia pulls Clarke and Harper by their hands and they disappear into the kitchen. 

He turns to Miller. “Look what you did.” 

“What?” Miller sips his beer. “Brought three hot girls to a party?”

“You don’t even like girls. And if you call my sister hot again, I’ll punch you.” 

“Yeah, exactly. That’s why I can say it. And okay, grumpy.” 

Bellamy huffs and pushes through the crowd to get to his room to get a hoodie. He’s stopped in the hallway. 

“Hey, you!” Gina grabs his arms. “I was trying to find you.” He smiles down at her, placing a kiss on her cheek. 

“Hey. I was just going to my room. Octavia and her friends decided to show up,” he says, irritable.

“Oh, fun!”

He shoots her a look. 

“Oh, not fun. Is she with that girl from the debate? Clarke?” 

He rolls his eyes and grabs her hand. “Come with me.” After they make out on his bed for twenty minutes, he grabs a hoodie from his closet. “Let’s go find them,” he mutters. 

They search the house for the next twenty minutes, but can’t find the three girls anywhere. 

“I’m gonna go dance with my friends.” She leans up to kiss him briefly. He nods and wanders to the kitchen, where he finds Murphy and Emori making out against the countertop. 

“Ew, my eyes.” He shields his face before dumping his empty beer bottle and pulling another out of the fridge. 

“You’re just jealous,” Murphy drawls, pulling her into his lap. 

“Whatever you say.”

“So,” he steals the beer from his hand. “Your sister is here.” 

The annoyance that he feels is quickly replaced by urgency. “You saw her? Where is she?” 

“Yeah, she’s on the patio,” he tips the beer bottle in that direction. “With two hot blondes next to her. One very sad blonde.” 

Bellamy shoots Emori a look, and she shrugs. “He's not wrong.” 

He sighs and pushes open the back door to the patio. Sure enough, Octavia, Harper, and Clarke sat on the edge of the deck, legs laying on the grass. And Octavia is already wearing a hoodie. 

He walks to the three girls and sees Lincoln and Sterling standing across from them. Octavia looks up as his footsteps echo on the wood. 

“Hey, big brother!” she giggles. 

His face reddens. “Who got her drunk?” he snaps, looking between Sterling and Lincoln.

They raise their hands up. “They were all like this when they came here.” 

“Sorry,” Clarke says, but doesn't look up. “I tried to pull the shot out of her hand.” She seems the most sober of the three. 

“Who’s hoodie–” He starts, and Clarke’s eyes trail to Lincoln.

He nods, jaw tight. Lincoln is one of the better brothers. Guess it could be worse. 

“Will you be okay taking her home?”

Turning to him, she nods. Her eyes don’t hold as much sadness as they did on Wednesday, and the alcohol gives her cheek a pink flush. But her elbows are on her knees as she turns, giving him a view of a lot of bare skin, which is definitely not safe around tipsy, handsy guys.

Looking around, he realizes his suspicion is pretty much on the dot, as almost every guy in their immediate vicinity rakes their eyes over her. 

“Maybe you need this, instead.” He tosses the hoodie to her, and she raises an eyebrow. 

She tilts her head to the side with an all-too challenging look. “Were you looking?”

Looks like she’s back to normal. His cheeks redden, and he looks away, smothering the intrusive thoughts.  

“Just get home safe.” 

His eyes linger on Lincoln and Octavia. He seems to be looking at her kindly, keeping his distance. Taking a breath, he heads back to the house. 


[bellamy]

 

After a few more hours, and way too many replays of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, the party is dwindling. People start to file out, and him, Miller, Murphy, and some other brothers walk around the house with trash bags, sweeping in red cups and discarded beer bottles.

“Who would’ve thought Sad Princess has tits for days?” Murphy smirks, dumping the last trash bag in the kitchen. 

“Murphy, your girlfriend is literally sitting right there.”

“Once again, I agree!” Emori adds from the couch, and Bellamy rolls his eyes.

“Why are we still talking about her?” He flops onto the beanbag. 

Murphy squints. “Damn, dude. That’s fucked up.”

“Your frat brothers were such dicks to her,” Emori mumbles into Murphy’s shoulder.

He sits up straight. “You’re the one calling her Sad Princess all night!” 

“Yeah, but affectionately. She seems cool. We talked about my major, and she offered to help me with Calculus 1," he shrugs.

Rolling his eyes, he walks outside and checks the patio. 

The girls are gone, but his hoodie is rumpled in their place. A tiny part of him, deep down, hidden from his pride, is a speck of disappointment.

Chapter Text

[clarke]

 

The weekend is rough.

Clarke tries her best to avoid main campus altogether by huddling in her dorm, but she eventually needs to go to a professor’s office hours and meet a pre-med student in the coffee shop for tutoring. 

To be fair, some students are really nice. As she walks to the sciences building, head down, a group of girls she recognizes from her psych class approach her. She looks up when she sees the handful of boots in front of her. 

“Hey Clarke.”

A pretty redhead with green eyes smiles at her. Fox, she thinks?

“We just wanted to tell you that you were really compelling and brave during the debate. You definitely have our vote.”

The rest of the girls echo her, and the thirty second exchange puts a brilliant smile on Clarke’s face for most of the day.

But, then, she’s walking back from tutoring, trying to huddle in the darkness that the D.C. evening spreads over campus. She almost makes it back to Sanctum Hall, but two flashes of purple and gold just in front of the dorm’s doors causes her to painfully close her eyes in anticipation. 

“Sad Princess!” She recognizes one of the bulky, blonde frat brothers from the party yesterday.

Apparently, the nickname has circulated.

The guy beside him smirks. “Are you sure you should still be in the running? It might be a lot for you to handle, when you keep crying about rich mommy,” he pouts and the other one fakes wiping away tears.

She pushes past them and swipes herself in. The student at the front desk seems to have witnessed it all, and she gives her a sympathetic look. She skips game night and hides in her room. 


Thankfully, on Sunday, no one really cares anymore, and the interactions mostly dwindle down to dirty glares and pitiful expressions. Which she’s fine with. 

Every Monday and Wednesday at 7:45, her and Octavia leave their dorm together to go to Pike’s class. On this particular morning, Octavia reassures her that no one remembers the debate, and they’re now latched onto the newest scandal. Apparently, a teacher in the economics department has a very intimate relationship with one of his students. Which does make her feel better.

Thankfully, her and Octavia are not called on that morning to speak. Neither of the two had read any more of The Prince, but instead, opted to watch Disney movies and finish off the chocolate pretzels Wells brought last game night. 

When class ends, Octavia excitedly recalls her weekend date with Lincoln. Clarke’s wary of the brothers in ARK, but she insists that he’s not like them.

“He took me on a real date, Clarke,” she whispers to her as they walk back through the doors of the lecture hall.

“Like, he didn’t even try to make me go back to the house with him at the end of the night. He just asked if I wanted to see him again next weekend.” 

“That’s amazing, Octavia! What did you do?” They cross the quad, and Clarke waves to a girl from her bio lab. 

“I’ll walk you to drawing. So, we just met up in front of Sanctum, and he took me to get froyo at The Lighthouse. And then he dropped me off and kissed my cheek, and asked me to see him again!” she squeals. 

“He sounds adorable, but– just be careful, okay? He still lives with those… men.” 

“Oh, no, I know. I told him that I would only see him if his friends stopped being assholes to my best friend.”

She smiles at the term. Her and Octavia have grown extremely close over the past two weeks. 

They stop in front of the art building, and Octavia gives her a tight hug. “You know I’m thankful to have you, right?” Clarke pulls away, bumping her hip. 

Octavia gasps and places a hand on her chest. “Are you flirting with me?” 

She laughs and shoves her. “See you at dinner?” Octavia nods and skips off to dance practice. 

She’s about to pull open the doors, before a voice makes her jump. “Princess.”

“Jesus!” She spins around, and sees Bellamy, hands shoved in his pockets, a few feet away.

She narrows her eyes. “What?” 

He scratches his neck and looks down.

“Wait– were you following us?” 

“Don’t flatter yourself,” he snaps.

But his awkward expression gives him away. It's silent for a few seconds.

“What do you want?” 

“I just wanted to say thanks for making sure Octavia got home safe on Friday.” 

She just nods slowly and turns around again, palm on the door handle. 

“And, uh, I wanted to talk to you about the debate.” 

She freezes and takes a deep breath, but doesn't turn around.“What? Come to ridicule ‘Sad Princess?’ Make fun of my mommy issues?” 

He doesn’t say anything for a while, but shifts uncomfortably. “No, not that.” 

Already annoyed by the exchange, she turns around and crosses the distance to him. “Look. I get it. I’m pathetic. Your frat brothers have already made sure I know that.”

He frowns, his eyebrows gathering. “Did they say something?”

She laughs dryly. “They said and did a lot of things.” The hand on the strap of her bag starts to shake from anger and embarrassment. 

“I swear, I didn’t tell them t–”

“Yeah, whatever. Just leave me alone, Bellamy.” His name is venom on her tongue.

He looks taken aback, but scowls. “Will do, Princess.”

And she spins around, opening the door to the art building without looking back. 


[clarke]

 

That night, during dinner, they all sit in the suite’s living room as Clarke discloses the interactions she’s had with the ARK brothers. 

“What the hell?” Raven yells, some lo mein falling from her mouth and onto the fur of the chair. “Do they want to get punched?” 

“I mean, I don’t think anybody wants to be punched,” Monty adds from the couch.

Raven shoots him a dirty look, and he holds his hands up. “What?” 

Clarke sighs and lays down on the fuzzy carpet, gesturing angrily. “I just don’t get it. It's not fair! Bellamy told his whole sob story, too!” She sits up. “No offense, Octavia.”

“None taken.” She shrugs, half an egg roll in her mouth. “Also, can we talk about how messed up that was? He didn’t even ask me if he could tell the entire student body about our entire life!” 

The chopsticks in Harper’s hands hover over the takeout box. “Wait, seriously? I figured he asked you.”

“Nope. So, I’ve been getting weird half-pitied and half-impressed glances from people on campus.”

“I wish I got some impressed ones,” Clarke turns over and mumbles into the carpet.

“Sorry!” Octavia moves from the couch and down to the floor next to her. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“No, I know.” She sits up and lays her head on Octavia’s shoulder. “Don’t they have anything better to do? Do they even care about student government?”

“No. And probably not,” Raven shrugs. “They’re ARK brothers. All they care about is fucking girls and drinking shitty tequila.”

Octavia gives her side-eye. “Except for Lincoln.” 

“I’m sorry, Clarke.” Harper moves behind her on the carpet and starts braiding her hair.

“Why can’t you comfort me like that?” Jasper nudges Monty with his foot, a hurt look on his face. 

“You don’t have enough hair, dude.” 

“Touche.”

Suddenly, Jasper sits up straight, which makes Maya’s head fall from his shoulder. She frowns. 

“I have the best idea!” He jumps up and faces the entire group, hands out. “What’s the best way to get back at frat brothers?”

“Take away their kegs,” Raven quips.

“Tell them they have small dicks.” Octavia giggles childishly. 

“Insist that the Patriots are better than the Giants?” Harper cocks her head. 

“No!”

He frantically runs to Clarke’s room and returns with a Sharpie and a piece of paper. 

“Two words, people: Operation. Paint cup.”

He tries to write the words on the paper, but with one hand, it kind of just looks like scribbles. 

“Technically, that’s three words.”

Jasper glares at Monty before clearing his throat. “So, the typical Frat Brother is a rare species."

He draws a… dog? Gorilla? Elephant? On the paper. 

“Is that supposed to be a giraffe?” Harper whispers in her and Octavia's ears.

“And, animals,” Jasper draws a large X. “Mark their territory.” He draws a straight line, two claw-looking things, and a nose. 

Everyone stares blankly at him. 

“They can pee on it, scratch it, or rub their scent on it.” He points to each drawing he just made. 

“Gross, Jas,” Maya scrunches her nose. 

“What does this have to do with getting back at ARK?” Clarke asks from the carpet. 

“Elementary, dear Watson.” 

She blinks. “That’s not what–“

“The territory of this species,” Jasper cuts her off. “Is…”

He draws a mediocre house with a flag on it. “The weed-soaked rugs. The discarded beer caps all over the floors. The dents in the walls from angry, drunk fights.”

He starts scribbling hastily over the house. “The curdled milk in the fridge. The beds, worn by–”

“O-kay,” Raven flicks a noodle at him. “We get it.”

“So, their revolting horror house is their territory,” Octavia makes a face. “What does that have to do with ‘Operation Paint Cup’?”

Jasper flips the paper over, some of the Sharpie bleeding through. He starts drawing rows of red solo cups, and a can of paint. 

Maya seems to understand before they do. “Oh, lord.”

“Behold, Operation Paint Cup!” He thrusts the paper forward. The group still blinks at him.

Maya sighs. “He wants to fill dozens of red cups with paint and cover the house with them.”

Everyone speaks at once.

“Absolutely not, Jasper!” Clarke exclaims. 

“Hell, yeah!” Raven and Monty raise their hands.

“That’s genius!” Octavia yells, and they all look at her. 

“You know that we’re talking about your own brother’s frat house, right?” Monty says slowly.

“He’ll get over it. And it’ll be an excuse to get Lincoln out of the house.” She smiles mischievously.

Jasper points at her. “Her true motive has been revealed!”

Clarke sighs in exasperation. “How would we even pull this off? We’d need to know an opening when all of them aren’t in the house for an extended period of time. Where will we get the cups? And the paint?” 

“Um, have you heard of this thing called ‘a store’?” Raven deadpans. “But, I agree with Griffin. How will we get them all to leave the house for at least an hour or two?”

Monty taps his chin. And sits up straight. “Clarke, give me your laptop.” 

“Uh, okay.” She retreats to her room and pulls it from the charger on her desk.

She opens it, about to type in the password, but he snatches it from her hands. 

“Wha–” Clarke looks down. “My password?”

Monty looks up with a disappointed look. “Seriously, Clarke? Comp sci major.” 

Her eyes widen as he’s already at her desktop screen. Octavia whispers in her ear. “That’s scary.” 

His fingers flit over his laptop for a few seconds. “Okay. So, according to their Google Calendar, their cleaners come on Wednesday mornings, which means that they have to be out of the house from 10 A.M. to noon.” 

“Isn’t their Gmail priva–”

“Yes.” 

Octavia, stupefied, sits back, running a hand through her hair. “Wait, I still have class after Pike’s.”

“That might be for the best, Baby Blake,” Raven muses. “You won’t be labeled an accomplice. No fights with the fuckboy.” 

Octavia huffs. “But it sounds fun!”

“I have class, too, but I’ll ditch.” Harper shrugs.

“So I’ll ditch too!” Octavia insists, but they all speak over her. 

“Absolutely not,” Clarke shakes her head. “I don’t want to create a rift between you and Bellamy. And I don’t want a freshman to face academic probation if we get caught.”

Octavia pouts. “Fine.” 

“Alright. Here’s the plan. Monty and I will go to the campus store and get some stacks of cups.” Jasper points to the girls.
“Harper, Maya, and Raven will go to the arts store and get paint cans. We will depart at sunrise.” 

“Absolutely not,” Raven snaps. “It’ll only take thirty minutes to get to the store and buy the paint. I refuse to wake up earlier than 8 A.M.” 

Jasper frowns. “Fine. We will depart at 9 A.M. While we’re gone, Clarke will scope out the house after class and make sure all the frat brothers actually leave.”

“Um, Jas,” Harper puts a hand on Jasper’s shoulder. “I hate to burst your bubble, but what will we do when the cleaners show up?”

“That won’t be an issue.”

Monty spins Clarke’s laptop around, and they all lean forward.

He’s emailed the cleaners from the ARK account, writing that the frat has an event on Wednesday morning and needs to reschedule.

"And I made sure the response would go to spam and automatically be deleted."

Harper sits back. “I don’t even know why I asked.” He kisses her cheek.

Clarke sighs. “Are we really doing this?”

Jasper smiles evilly. “Operation Paint Cup is a go.”


[bellamy]

 

He slams the door and flops onto the couch, covering his face with his arm.

“Good morning, sunshine,” Murphy calls from the kitchen, in a Kiss the Cook apron, spatula in hand. He grunts in response.

“What's wrong with him?” Miller walks into the living room, jerking his thumb at Bellamy. Murphy shrugs, and flips the omelet. 

“Didn’t you have your TA office hours this morning after class?”

He nods under his arm. “Why are education majors so stupid? I can’t handle their idiocy at eight in the morning.”

Miller plops down next to him. “Why did you decide to make them this early? The cleaners are coming in like, twenty minutes.” 

“Professor Diyoza wanted me to answer their questions before the exam on Friday.” 

“Ah.”

Two plates clash on the coffee table, making him sit upright. “For fucks sake, Murphy, can you not do that?” 

Murphy pretends to be offended. “Damn, dude. I was just trying to be domestic and make you breakfast.” 

Bellamy rolls his eyes and sticks his fork into his omelet.

Miller squints at him. “You’re cranky in the morning, but this is this like, next-level Donald Duck on acid type of shit.” 

Murphy lounges on the floor next to them. “Agreed. What’s wrong with you?” 

He ignores them, shoveling the omelet into his mouth.

“Is it Gina? Did you guys finally break up?” He shoots Miller a look, but shakes his head.

“Is it O?” Murphy asks, and he rolls his eyes.  

“Coach Cartwig change up the plays?”

“Financial aid office give you heat?”

“The Presidential race?”

His shoulders tense. 

A smirk spreads on Murphy’s face. “Ah. But it’s not just the Presidential race, is it?” 

Miller nods in understanding. “It’s the Princess.” 

Bellamy drops his fork and groans, leaning back into the couch. 

“Did she tell you that your biceps aren’t even that great?” Murphy teases. “‘Cause, I mean, they’re not,” he mutters. 

“No, it's just– Did you know that some of the frat brothers are harassing her about the race, or some shit?”

Murphy frowns. “Like, in person?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Well, that’s fucked up.” Miller shoves the last piece of omelet in his mouth. 

“Yeah, at least I just say stupid shit and leave it at that. And do they actually care about the president thing?” Murphy walks to the kitchen and dumps the plates in the sink. 

“I don't think so. They're idiots. And on top of that, she is so fucking annoying.”

Miller raises an eyebrow. “I thought we were just feeling bad for her.”

He huffs. “I tried to go talk to her and tell her that campaign goals were cool, or whatever, and she just fucking yelled at me, and walked away.” 

Amusement dances in Murphy’s eyes. “That’s new. Blake voluntarily talking to a hot chick without staring at her tits?” 

“To be fair, I did kinda stare at her tits on Friday,” he mumbles.

“Ha! I knew it!” Murphy stands and points at him. 

“It was pretty impossible not to,” Miller snorts.

“This is all besides the point! We should just tell the guys to back off, alright?” 

Murphy cocks an eyebrow. “Do we care about the Princess, now?”

Bellamy snorts. “No, we just care about not being assholes, now.”

“That sounds boring. But you're right. She seems cool,” Murphy sniffs. 

“Come on, morons.” Miller pulls his shoes on. “The cleaners are coming in ten.”

The three of them yell at the guys upstairs, and they all slowly file out. 


[clarke]

 

She crouches next to the bushes near the stone pillars at the front door.

“This is such a bad idea, Wells,” she hisses into her phone. 

“Yeah. It really is.” 

“Shut up! They’re coming!”

She watches as Bellamy walks out with Miller and the guy she met from the party. Murphy? The rest of the boys trickle out behind them, until it seems like no one else is left. 

“Okay. They’re gone. Have to tell Jasper, call you later.” 

“Don’t get caught.”

Rolling her eyes, she Facetimes Jasper. “Okay. They’re gone, I think.”

“Is the coast clear, Agent Black Swan? Over.” 

“Why does that have to be my name? And yes. They’re gone.”

“Roger. Agent Braid and Agent Magic Treehouse are on their way. Over.”

“Jasper, I can see you.” He ignores her. 

She starts to creep out of the brushes, sees Harper and Maya on the other side of the deck, and waves them over. 

“We’re all here, Jas. Where are you?”

“Agent Googles, Agent Codemaster, and Agent Ponytail are on the back porch, ready to reconvene. The door may be bolted, you might have to use a tool to free us. Over.”

She hears ruffling in the background, followed by a click. “Just kidding, frat brothers are idiots.”  

The front door opens and Jasper, Monty, and Raven hold trash bags. The three of them are in all black, with two eyeliner streaks across their face.

“Really?” 

Raven shrugs. “I feel badass. Get inside before someone sees.”

They hurry inside and lock the doors.

“Alright team.” Jasper sets the trash bags on the ground. “Commence Operation Paint Cup.” 

He pulls out three cans of paint and two large bags of red cups. Raven uses a fork from the kitchen to snap open the paint bucket. 

“Did you guys really have to get pink?” Maya rolls her eyes.

“Well,” Raven shrugs. “They fuck with the Princess, we fuck with them.” Clarke laughs and they start pulling out the cups, tipping the paint in each of them.

Jasper starts passing them out. “Clarke, you and Raven go upstairs and start scattering them. Maya and Harp, keep pouring paint into the cups. Monty and I will take downstairs and the basement.”

Everyone nods.

“And remember: Each. Square. Inch. Break!”

Her and Raven take a few cups and climb up the stairs. She sighs. “I don’t want to go into the private rooms of frat boys.”

“I know. That’s why I brought these!”

Raven takes out two pairs of gloves and two masks from her bra.

“Doesn’t putting them in your bra defeat the purpose of it?” 

“Would you rather wear gloves from my bra, or touch the secretions on their floor with your bare hands?” Raven looks at her, hand on her hip.

She snatches the gloves and mask from her. “You really didn’t have to say secretions,” she mumbles, snapping the latex on. 

They alternate between moving through rooms and running downstairs to fetch more cups. Jasper and Monty cover the basement, and her and Raven finish placing cups on the stairs.

Just the living room was left. The six of them are silent, slightly in awe of their efforts.

“Damn.” Raven spins in a circle. “This turned out even better than I expected.” 

“Alright, team. Final stretch.”

Harper and Maya groan, probably because their arms are aching from pouring paint for the last hour and a half. They cover the carpet with the red cups until they get to the front door.

They all stare at the spaces for the last two cups.

“Well,” Jasper sighs. “This is it.”

“Wait.” Raven smiles mischievously. She grabs one of the cups and pulls out her mail key, scraping the bottom of the cup.

She proudly shows everyone once she’s finished.

“Won’t they report us?” Harper frowns.

“Nah. They’re too proud for that.” 

“Do the honors, Agent Black Swan.” Jasper thrusts the two cups into her hands.

She takes a deep breath, and places them down, side by side. Quietly leaning forward, she closes the door. 

Silence.

“Let’s. Fucking. Go!” Jasper bellows, and they all sprint back to Sanctum, breathless from laughter. 


[bellamy]

 

The guys stroll to the quad, where they usually go with a football when the cleaners come. The ball swirls in the air towards him. He catches it and tosses it to Murphy.

“So, guys,” Murphy says loudly.  “Apparently, some guys are harassing the Princess about the Presidential race.” 

A few brothers snort, and Dax smirks. Yeah. Girl looks like she’ll cry every time we even look at her.”

“Yeah, well, cut that shit out,” Bellamy snaps at him, catching the ball.

Dax looks a bit surprised. “Dude. She’s your fucking opponent.”

Miller scoffs. “Yeah, in a meaningless undergraduate student government competition.”

“Geez.” Sterling passes the ball. “Chill. It's just a joke.” 

“Cool. Joke's over now.”

Dax catches the ball and drops it to the ground. “What’s the problem? Since when do we care about this shit?” 

“Since ‘this shit’ starts becoming harassment.” 

“Huh,” Sterling laughs. “Well, since when do we care about hurting the Princess? You three talk shit about the rich blonde bitch all the time.” 

“Don’t call her that.” His voice is dark as his head snaps to Sterling.

“Whoa.” He raises his hands up. “Didn’t know you were into her, man. My bad. I won’t tell Gina.”

“He’s not into her, idiot.” Murphy rolls his eyes and joins him at his side. “He’s just not an asshole like you two.” 

“Whatever,” Sterling mutters, and walks away.

Murphy, Miller and him plop under a tree. “Well, that could’ve gone better.”

“They’ll stop now. We yelled at them in front of too many of the brothers for them to keep doing it, anyway.” Miller lays down on the grass and folds his hands behind his head. 

“But, Blake, listen,” Murphy starts, but he shoots him a glare. “Just listen, man. For a second. I know we talk shit, but... Princess is cool. At the party, and stuff. She talked to us even though we were jerks to her. And she actually seemed to like this shit school during that debate. And we thought it might be cool to bring her around, sometimes. Plus, O seems to love her.” 

He sighs. “What are you guys saying?” 

Miller rolls his eyes. “He’s saying that we’re tired of you bitching about the girl all the time. And we’d rather be around the chill Blake instead of the Blake going Hulk.” 

He’s silent for a few seconds. “Fine. You guys can hang out with her.” 

They narrow their eyes. “You can bring her around, too.” 

The two high five. “Sick.” 


After another hour, the guys head back to the house. As they walk up the lawn, Miller frowns. 

“Don’t the cleaners usually pick shit like that up?” He juts his chin to a discarded beer bottle on the grass. 

“They probably just missed it.” Murphy shrugs, fiddling with the keys. 

As soon as the door swings open, he freezes. “Holy shit.” 

“What?”

Him and Miller move to peer over his shoulder. Miller lets out an incredulous laugh. 

In front of them are rows upon rows of red cups. All over the floor. On the coffee table, on the kitchen counters, on the stairs. Something pink in them. Probably paint.

Bellamy groans. “This had to be Alpha Chi.” 

“I don’t know, dude,” Murphy smirks, looking at the bottom of one of the cups. “Seems like someone else did it.” 

He hands the cup to Bellamy. Turning it over, he freezes. 

There, keyed deep in the plastic, is a crown. 

Oh, it's on, Princess.

Chapter Text

[clarke] 

 

They fall through the door and collapse in the living room, breathing heavy and laughing maniacally.

Octavia's already waiting for them on the couch after her class, (they figured she deserves a key), and seeing their reactions makes her grin.

“You pulled it off?” She jumps up excitedly. 

“Operation… Paint Cup… is victorious!” Jasper yells, chest heaving. 

“I… can’t… believe… that worked!” Clarke throws herself on the floor, laughing into the fuzzy rug.

After they catch their breaths, Raven grabs the champagne and dumps it in various wine glasses and mugs. 

“To Operation Paint Cup! And afternoon champagne!” They toast, and Octavia pouts, raising her glass of lemonade.

They recount the events of the last hour and Octavia collapses on the floor and nearly cries of laughter at Jasper's assigned agent names. 

“Dude,” Monty looks at his phone. “It’s 12:03. We barely escaped. They must’ve got there only a few minutes after we left.” 

“Well, they were too damn slow!” Raven snickers and throws her head over the couch. 

“What the hell are we going to do when we see your brother on Monday?” Clarke chokes out a laugh, giddy from the champagne and the adrenaline. 

After a few hours, she sighs and peels herself off of a napping Octavia. “I have class. Take care of her?” She gestures to Octavia, and the blonde nods. 

She practically glows as she struts across campus. A tiny bit of fear rests at the back of her head, thinking about the risk of them reporting her.

But they wouldn’t want to be called snitches. It would ruin their carefully built brand of the ‘strong, manly men.’ They wouldn’t.

 

After class, she heads to the coffee shop to pick up a muffin and iced latte for Octavia, who desperately texted her all throughout. 

octavia♡

3:02 PM

can u pls get me a hazelnut latte when ur done w class 

3:14 PM

O. I saw you use our Keurig earlier.

octavia

3:15 PM

plssssss my first choreo essay is due soon and i think i'll be pulling an all nighter

3:34 PM

Girl, it's 3 pm.

octavia

3:35 PM

i know but plsssssssssssss

 

3:40

clarrrkeeeeee

 

3:42 

i can’t tell if ur ignoring me or if its because ur paying attention in class 

 

3:43

but u never pay attention in psych anyway 

 

3:45 

also can u get me a chocolate chip muffin 

 

3:47

to be fair i asked bell but he said he was dealing with an ‘emergency’

 

3:48

hehehehehehehe

 

4:05

ok ur class is definitely over now 

 

Clarke just sends her a picture of her waiting in line in response, and Octavia sends her at least one hundred heart emojis back. 

She orders and waits near the counter for her and Octavia's drink. Clutching the brown paper bag with the muffin in one hand, she responds to unread texts and emails in the other. 

“Princess!”

The strong voice makes her jump, and she scans the students around her. Finally, she sees a familiar, lanky guy with dark hair, holding the hand of a girl she vaguely recognizes. 

She nods. “Murphy.” 

"I got a B on my calc exam 'cause of your nerdy ass!" He cheers, and the girl slaps his shoulder.

She rolls her eyes and turns to her. “I don’t think we’ve officially met. Were you at that party?” 

The girl nods. She’s gorgeous– soft cheekbones, kind, but fierce hazel eyes. Satiny, brown hair that tumbles over her shoulders.

How the hell did she end up with Murphy?

“Emori. I was kinda hiding the whole time, though. I procrastinated on a Comms project for too long.”

“Clarke. Or Princess, as I’ve been not-so-affectionately named.” A small smile twitches on Emori’s face.

“Speaking of that.” Murphy leans against the bar. “What were you up to this morning, Princess?”

“Oh, you know. Class.” She picks at her nails nonchalantly. 

“Really?” He slyly raises his eyebrows. “You didn’t happen to stop by the house at any time?”

“Nope,” Clarke shrugs innocently, batting her eyelashes. “Sorry. Wish I could help.” Emori doesn’t hide her tinkling laugh. 

“Well played,” he mutters, just softly enough for her to hear. 

“So, you’re a Communications major?” she asks Emori, tucking the bag with the muffin away. 

She nods wearily, raising her water bottle to her lips. “It’s exhausting sometimes. Some kids choose the major just because they don’t know what else to do, which means that I have stoners or those kids who never talk in my group projects, and I TA a class where some of the students think Communications is a language major.”

Clarke lets out an incredulous laugh. Emori sighs. “Communicating is way harder than it seems.”

“I can’t even imagine. I’m lucky that pre-med students don’t have any group projects. The last one I had was a presentation in a gen-ed freshman year, and one of the kids showed up on shrooms. It went poorly, to say the least.” 

Emori laughs, and drops her water bottle to her side. “Also, the way you handled yourself at the debate was really cool. And that’s coming from a Comms major. And, technically, the communications director for your opponent’s campaign.” 

“Thanks." She softens at her kindness. “It means a lot. And, oh. I was wondering if he just pulled all that out of his ass.”

Murphy barks a laugh. Clarke pulls out her phone and hands it to Emori. She looks awed. 

“Put in your number. My friend Harper is in a Comms class, and she’s failing miserably. Oh, we’re having a bonfire at the hot springs on Saturday night for her birthday. You should come. Plus, I need a spy for Bellamy’s campaign,” she teases.

Emori’s eyes sparkle as she creates a contact for herself. “That sounds fun.”

She hands her phone back, but sighs. “Shit. Of course. I have a meeting for my group project on Saturday.”

Clarke waves lightheartedly. “No worries. Rain check?” 

“Medium hazelnut lattes!” 

She turns to the bar and picks up the drinks, quickly thanking the bartender. 

“I’ll see you soon, Emori!” She turns around at the door, winking. “Hope the cleaners did a good job today, Murphy.” 

He just smirks, shaking his head. Emori lets out a surprised laughs and waves.


[bellamy]

 

It takes them the rest of the day to clean up the cups. Some of the brothers are heavy-footed, and others start swearing and kicking the cups everywhere. 

As they start on the living room, Murphy lets out a snort every few minutes, which leads him into another fit of cackles. Even Miller can’t help but smile.

“Can you shut the fuck up?” Bellamy snaps, dumping the cups in his trash bag. 

“Dude.” Murphy flicks some paint at him. “You have to admit, this is funny as hell. The last time something of this caliber happened during pledge year. Remember when the kids from Gamma Rho Nu covered all of our shit with seran wrap after we locked their entire frat in the locker room without AC overnight?”

“We were so freaked out. Our freshmen selves didn’t know what the hell to do. Well, until they made us clean the whole thing up.”

Miller tries to throw a cup into Bellamy’s garbage bag. “Kobe!” 

He misses, and the paint splatters all over his hoodie.

“Seriously?” 

“Also, you can’t say that shit anymore, dude. Rest in peace, my man.” Murphy kisses his fingers and raises them upwards. 

Bellamy rolls his eyes and tries to rub off the paint, which ends up smearing it more.

Most of the brothers just walk out, and Murphy ditches halfway through the day for his date with Emori.

“Whipped,” Miller whispers.

But by the time Murphy comes back, Bellamy, Miller, Lincoln, Sterling, and some other of the guys have cleared downstairs and upstairs. Pink paint splatters stain the carpet, and the massive bags of cups are dumped in the corner.

The remaining brothers lounge around in the living room with beers, exhausted and annoyed out of their minds.

“I’m back, dickheads!” Murphy slams the door, coffee cup in hand. He looks at the floor.

“Damn, you guys are shit at cleaning up paint cups.”

Bellamy glares at him. “Fuck off, Murphy. Hope your date was worth it.” 

Murphy leans back on a kitchen chair, hands behind his head. “Oh, it was.”

They glower at him, but sit up straighter at his next statement.

“Because I know how we can get back at the Princess.” 


[clarke]

 

“Surprise!” 

Monty pulls his hands off of Harper’s eyes as everyone throws their hands up.

“Aw,” Harper covers her mouth. “You guys didn’t have to do this!” 

Clarke and Raven spent the day decorating the gazebo in the forest next to the springs. They wrapped silver streamers around the wood panels and spread sparkly, pink glitter all over the flooring. They even set up a small table with Harper’s favorite snacks and a cake that Jasper made from scratch.


“Are you sure that she’ll like this?” Raven asked Jasper.

“I resent the fact that you asked that. Of course she will. Pink velvet cake is her favorite!” 

“Fine. It's not weed-infused, or some shit? And why the hell does this girl like garlic chocolate? What a fucking weirdo.”


Raven rolls her eyes. “Yes, we did.”

Octavia turns up the speaker and starts dancing over to Harper, pulling her into the gazebo. “I don’t know about youuuu!”

“But I’m feeling twenty-two!” Jasper finishes. 

Raven rubs her forehead and looks up. “Lord, please help me get through this without throwing Maya’s speaker into the hot springs.” 

“I’m pretending that I didn't hear that.” Maya and Octavia twirl Harper, and Clarke places a gold crown on her head. 

“You even got garlic chocolate?!” Harper squeals, looking at the food table. “I love you guys!” She crushes the girls into an awkward hug.

“Yes, yes. We love you too. Can we eat?” Raven deadpans.

Clarke reaches over to tug on her ponytail. “She’s just cranky because Zeke brought her a dragonfruit bowl instead of her usual acai one.”

“The taste is distinctly different!” she huffs, jabbing candles into the cake. 

Her and Octavia hold the cake in the air as Harper blows out each candle, and the group erupts in cheers. 

“What did you wish for?” Octavia bounces and shimmies. She definitely drank some of the spiked pink lemonade while none of them were looking.

“I mean,” Harper shyly tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. “I just wished that the future would be exactly how we are now. I have everything I need with you guys. I don’t need anything else.” 

Octavia sniffs. “We love you, Harp!” she wails, throwing her arms around her shoulders.

Harper giggles and mouths to Clarke over Octavia’s shoulder. ‘Who gave her alcohol?’

She sighs, shrugging. 

They drink and eat cake as they play Never Have I Ever, at Harper's insistence. She makes sure to snatch the glass of ‘regular lemonade’ Octavia has out of her hand, and gives her a new one. 

“Hmmm,” Monty taps his chin. “Never have I ever purposely injured myself while trying to impress a crush.”

“What the hell kind of question–” Raven starts, but hesitates. And drinks.

The group gasps. “Raven Reyes, the master manipulator!” 

“Hey!” She shoots Jasper an icy look. “To be fair, it was with Zeke. I just, you know, accidentally tripped in front of him on the stairs of the engineering building. And scraped my knees,” she shrugs. “It worked.”

“Never have I ever…” Maya hums. “Flirted my way out of a speeding ticket.”

Her and Octavia drink. Another round of gasps. 

“I didn’t expect any less from Clarke, but from Baby Blake?!” 

“Hey!” Clarke frowns. 

“It was absolutely necessary!” Octavia raises a finger, still tipsy. “I snuck out and illegally drove Bell’s car to smoke with my friends,” she brags evilly. 

“We knew it!” Jasper and Monty high five themselves. “We know a fellow stoner when we see one!”

“Never have I ever had a crush on a friend’s parent!” 

She drinks. The group looks at her in awe. 

“What? Sometimes, Stacy’s mom really does have it going on.”

Their laughter loudly echoes through the forest and off the steaming surface of the hot springs. 

They play until it's almost dark, and then, they scramble to the water.

“It’s time!” Harper squeals and slips off her shorts and tank top. 

“Hell yeah!” Jasper tugs off his shirt and cannonballs into the hot spring. 

They all follow, squealing as the steam burns their skin and frizzes their hair. The drunk splashes and games of chicken slow down as bright oranges and dull pinks float over the sky.

They relax against the stone ledge, leaning their heads back.

“This was the best birthday, ever. I love you guys so, so much.” Harper smiles into Monty’s shoulder. 

After a few minutes, Jasper removes his arm from Maya’s shoulder and stands up. “Unfortunately, my friends, I must depart. I have an 8 A.M.”

“But tomorrow is Sunday. We don’t have class.”

“Yeah, but the Super Smash Brothers Club meets then, Clarke.” He rolls his eyes. “Keep up.” 

“I’ll walk you back, Jas.” Monty kisses Harper’s cheek. “Is that okay?”

She nods and motions for him to go. “We’ll have girl time!”

“Not girl time,” Raven groans.

Octavia glares at her. “Birthday girl said so.” 

Raven raises her eyebrows. “Sass. You surprise me every day, Baby Blake.”

Monty and Jasper towel off and wave as they head back to campus.

The four girls huddle together and gossip. “Did I tell you guys that this girl in my lyrical class tried to copy my choreo?” 

They gasp.


[bellamy]

 

They scramble behind a tree trunk as they hear voices. 

“What the hell, Murphy?” he hisses. “You said that the Princess told Emori that they’ll be here at night.”

“It is night, dumbass.” Murphy presses his back against the wood. 

“The sun literally just set!” 

“Shut up, idiots!” Miller whispers. “They’re coming!”

“Yeah, Jas. But we can use idealization to determine experimental errors!” 

“You’re not even an engineering major, dude. Shut up.” 

 

The two walk past them, oblivious to their hiding spots in the trees. 

“What fucking nerds,” Murphy snickers and Miller punches his shoulder.

“Ow,” Murphy whines and rubs his arm. 

Once they can’t hear the voices anymore, they relax a bit. “It looks like the girls aren’t behind them.” Miller peeks his head forward. 

“Let’s move up.” Bellamy signals with his head, and they creep behind the gazebo.

They see a head of wet, blonde hair and four other girls at the far end of the springs. Their giggles bounce into the night, and Bellamy scowls, recognizing one. He figured Octavia would be there. 

“Dude,” Miller nudges him. “Princess has a shit ton of friends.”

“Shut up.” 

Murphy creeps forward and freezes. “Dude…” 

“What?” 

Murphy looks over his shoulder. “Their underwear is there, too.” 

The three boys fall silent. Sure enough, there are discarded bras and panties on top of the piles of shorts and shirts.

“They’re…” Miller starts.

“Skinny dipping.” Murphy smirks, cackling. 

They hesitate. The original plan was to steal their clothes and make them walk back to campus half-naked, cold, and wet. And maybe tell some people to walk past Sanctum Hall in an hour, or so.

“What do we do?” Miller whispers.

“What do you mean, ‘what do we do’? This is even better!” Murphy hisses. 

“Dude, my fucking sister is there!”

“We won’t take hers, idiot.” 

“How the hell will you know which one is hers?”

Murphy rolls his eyes, and jerks his head to the piles again. He takes a closer look. One of them has the sequined Ark U dance jacket on it. 

His jaw twitches, but he nods. “That other blonde, it's her birthday, right? Don’t take hers either.” 

“Blake, proving that chivalry will never die!” 

“Fuck off.”

“Yeah, sorry dude, but we have no clue which one is hers. So Blondie will have a birthday to remember.” 

“Who should go? It's dark enough for only one of us to go get them without getting caught.” Miller looks at them.

“I’ll go,” Bellamy insists. “I have something special for the Princess.” 

“Kinky.” 

He glares at Murphy. 

“Well, it's now or never, my man.” Miller pats his shoulder.

He nods, and takes a deep breath. “So much for the truce.”

Creeping forward, he hides in pockets of darkness as the sounds of their voices grow louder. Their backs are to him, and they’re on the far corner of the spring. This should be easy. 

He steps around branches and rocks until he’s at the piles of clothes. Making sure that the discarded jacket and dance shorts are really Octavia’s, he carefully pulls every other garment from the rocks.

Unfolding a piece of paper from his pocket and laying it on the rock, he takes a final look at the back of the Princess’ shoulders, paler under the moon, strands of hair draped down her spine. 

All of their clothes are tucked under his arms, and he starts to stand up. But he sees the light of Octavia’s phone screen flicker on top of her shorts, so he slides it into his pocket.

Turning around to the gazebo, he shoots Miller and Murphy a thumbs up.

He starts to creep back to them, but he feels a satiny thing slip from his arms. He looks back and sees the lace trim of one of their bras.

Miller and Murphy violently gesture at him, mouthing ‘leave it! leave it!’ 

But he still doubles back and leans down. Which was a stupid idea.

A branch snaps under his foot, and a girl he doesn't recognize spins her head around. He freezes. 

“Did you hear that?”

But the other girls are too wrapped up in their conversation to hear her.

He relaxes, and moves a bit faster back to the gazebo. When he gets there, the two guys pump their fists. Murphy tries to see the clothes, but Bellamy swats his hands away.

“You’re a sleaze.”

“Yep.”


[clarke]

 

They laze around the spring for another hour or two before deciding that it’ll be freezing when they walk back. 

“Octavia.” She pulls herself out of the water. “Did we really have to skinny dip?” 

“Yes! When it came up during Never Have I Ever, I was the only one who hasn’t before!” 

“Yeah, well, not all of us have model bodies like you,” she mumbles. 

“Stop body shaming yourself. I’ll hit you with this stick!” Maya warns, her tiny frame trying to aggressively brandish a branch next to the springs. 

The naked girls stumble onto the grass, arms across their chests. While Octavia starts pulling on her shorts and jacket, her, Maya, Raven, and Harper squint, scanning the rocks.

“Where did we put our clothes?”

A flash of white on the rock next to Octavia shines under the moonlight. Clarke crouches down and picks it up.

“Oh my god!” she yells, crumpling the piece of paper in her hand. “That asshole!” 

The girls snap their heads in her direction. “Clarke?”

Octavia walks over to her and pries the paper from her fist, unraveling it.

A hand flies to her mouth. “Oh my god.”

Raven, Harper, and Maya move over her shoulder to look at it. 

The Prince (ss).

With a crown sketched above the parentheses. 

“What is that?” Maya asks. 

Clarke clenches her fists. “It’s the title page of the book we’re reading in class.”

Harper’s mouth drops open in realization. “Is this why he calls you Princess?” 

“I’m going to kill him,” Raven hisses. 

“Why did he have to take our clothes, too?” Harper pouts. Clarke glares at her. 

“What the hell are we going to do?” She throws her hands up in exasperation. 

“Don’t worry!” Octavia reassures them. “I’ll just text Monty and Jasper and ask them to come back and bring us clothes.”

But she digs inside the pockets of her jacket and shorts. No phone.

“What the hell? Did that asshole really take his own sister’s phone?”  

“It doesn’t matter, anyway.” Harper walks back from the gazebo, her own phone in hand. “No service.” 

“Oh my god.” Maya buries her face in her hands. “Will we have to walk home naked?” 

“Of course not!” Octavia pats her shoulder. “I’ll go run back to the suite and bring clothes.” 

“It’s dark, O! And the walk back to campus is like, twenty minutes!” 

“Well, I don’t see any other options!” 

“Baby Blake is right,” Raven huffs and slips back into the water. “It’s the only solution right now. Let’s just sit in the springs until she comes back.” 

“Wait!” Harper rifles through her bag. “Take this.” She hands Octavia pepper spray. “Be safe.”

Octavia salutes. “Yes, ma’am.” And off she goes. 


Twenty minutes later, Octavia returns with a bag of clothes, a bit out of breath. “I’m back, bitches!”

“What the hell?” Raven quickly hops out of the water. “That was fast.”

She smiles smugly. “My mile time is seven minutes.”

Too impatient to dry off, they pull on the sweatpants and shirts that Octavia gets for them. 

“Really, O? Out of all the shirts I had, you had to get me a white t-shirt?"

“I was trying to get back fast! I wasn’t exactly putting together outfits of the day for everyone!” 

Clarke huffs. “Let’s just come get the decorations and stuff tomorrow.” 

They walk back to campus dripping wet. Excluding Octavia.

Once they get back to their room, Clarke forces her to give her Bellamy’s number. 

10:01 PM

Stealing our clothes? Clever.

Did you guys spend the weekend watching shitty teen movies from the early 2000s?

4081938183

10:03 PM

Sorry, I don’t recognize this number

 

10:04 

Who is this?

10:05 PM

Funny.

You’re playing a dangerous game.

4081938183

10:05 PM

You started it

10:06 PM

Your frat brothers started it.

4081938183

10:06 PM

Look, we told them to back off

10:07 PM

Sure you did. Where are our clothes?

4081938183

10:07 PM

we’ll return them 4 pics 

 

10:12

That was Murphy

 

10:11

I wouldn’t send that

 

10:11 

Please don’t send me a picture

 

10:12 

I just had dinner

 

10:12 

I have a girlfriend

10:13 PM

So does Murphy.

 

10:14

I’m blocking you. Watch your back at the fundraiser tomorrow.

4081938183

10:15 PM

Scary Princess

Clarke screams into her pillow and throws her phone across the room.

“Ow!” Harper rubs her head, turning over in her bed. “If you decide to catapult your phone, can you not do it in my general vicinity?”

“Sorry. He’s just so fucking infuriating!” 

“Can you both shut up?” Octavia mumbles next to her. 

“You’re literally in my bed. In my room. In my suite.”

“Yeah, but your bed is softer than mine. And you’re a good cuddler.” She snuggles closer to her.

“This building has the same beds.”

Octavia kicks her. “I’m tired of pretending to sleep while my roommate has sex with her girlfriend.” 

“Ew.” Harper voices, across the room.

She sighs. “Tomorrow, we plan our revenge.” She pulls the chain on her lamp. “Dream evil dreams, ladies.” 


[bellamy]

 

“What are we doing for the fundraiser later?” Bellamy yells from the kitchen. He hears Emori scoff.

“You know, this is your campaign. You have to do things, too.”

“I’m the pretty face.” He walks out and sits on the couch, half of his sandwich in his mouth.

She snorts. “Peanut butter banana?”

He nods, and she snatches it from his hands. 

“Hey!” 

“I’m not getting paid. I deserve this.” She taps on her tablet, pulling up her notes.

“So. First, we need to decide what to do with the fundraiser money. What charity will impress the student body?”

“Food.” Murphy walks through the door and plops down between them.

“What?” 

“Food. We need food. Nobody cares about the fundraising part. We need to attract kids to his campaign, right? College kids like shitty food.”

Emori looks pensive. “I guess. What food would we have?” 

“Tacos. Duh. And the frat brothers and football team can assemble them. And go shirtless.”

“What the hell?”

He shrugs. “It attracts all audiences.” 

Emori taps some more. “Doesn't buying a bunch of taco supplies and reselling them defeat the purpose of the charity part?”

“At the end of the day, they'll still get the money.”

Bellamy looks at Emori. “Will this shit actually work?”

She hesitates, then nods. “John has a point. It'll definitely get the attention we need for votes.”

He runs his hands over his thighs and stands up. “Looks like we’re going on a taco run, then.”

“Also,” Emori starts, looking at the bag in the corner. “What are you going to do with their clothes?”

“We could auction the underwear and bras.” 

She kicks Murphy. “I’m getting coffee with Clarke after the fundraiser. I’ll take them.”

Bellamy throws his hands in the hair. “Why is everyone making friends with the enemy?”

“The enemy is more likable than you.”

“And I need more girlfriends.” 

He rolls his eyes, grabbing his coat and keys. “Traitors,” he mumbles under his breath.


[clarke]

 

They took your clothes?” Wells yells, his face contorting to something disconcerting. 

“Yes!”

The laptop sits on the coffee table as everyone huddles on the couch. 

What are you going to do?

She sighs. “We don’t know yet. I didn’t even have time to plan for the fundraiser today with all that’s been happening.”

Shaw pats her on the shoulder. “We’ll help you, Clarke. Don’t worry.”

Monty and Jasper nod solemnly. “Then, we will commence the war,” Jasper mutters darkly. 

“What do I do, Wells?” she slumps onto Raven’s shoulder. “I’m screwed. Bellamy’s probably doing something super hip and fuckboy-y.” 

First of all, stop saying hip. Second, maybe just go with something lowkey?”

“Like what?” Raven asks. 

Do you have some extra drawings laying around? Maybe you could take commissions at the booth too?” 

“Actually, that’s a really good idea. The ones I have aren’t amazing, but I can sketch some quick ones before the afternoon.”

“Oh!” Harper sits up straight. “You could do caricatures!” 

That’s an amazing idea! Couples will eat that up.

Clarke smiles excitedly and takes a deep breath. “Okay. This actually sounds like it could work. Could you guys help me with the booth setup? And maybe I could sketch some of you as an example for the caricatures?” 

“Of course!” Maya squeals.

“Duh.” Raven rolls her eyes. 

“Thanks Wells! Love you!” 

She slams the laptop shut and they starts preparing.


Three P.M., rolls around. Two tables and booths have been set up in front of the student center on the quad. The fall afternoon is brisk, but warm, and many students are outside already.

She looks to her left. Bellamy’s table and booth are still completely bare. Did he forget?

They’d already transformed Clarke’s booth into a caricature stand. They stole some large pieces of gold fabric from the theatre department and draped them over the stall, Harper pinned up some fairy lights, and Maya turned on some mindless pop.

The table is filled with Clarke’s drawings and sketches. Some of her friends, some of the monuments in D.C., and some miscellaneous ones of inanimate objects.

Jasper insists that she draw an “chemistry major doodle”, complete some beakers and chemical compounds.  

Luckily, they start to attract students pretty quickly. Wells was right– over the next thirty minutes, quite a lot of couples approach the caricature stand.

A few students approach the table and ask for commissions, which she eagerly takes. 

“Someone wants to buy the chemistry doodle,” she whispers to Jasper behind the table. “Can I sell it?”

He takes a deep breath, and looks solemn. “I suppose. For the greater good.”

“Jas, I can just make you another one–"

But he takes the ten from the student and stuffs it into the cashbox. 

Bellamy’s side of the quad is still completely vacant.

“Did that idiot forget?” Raven asks, huffing a laugh. 

“I guess?”

But, ten minutes later– and forty minutes late– they hear deafening chanting behind them. As they all spin around, they are rendered speechless. 

A steady stream of shirtless men march across the quad, led by Bellamy, Murphy and Miller, holding up various plates of food. He sends her a smirk as he passes them. 

Maya sniffs dreamily. “That smells amazing.

“Maya!” Raven snaps.

As they reach the table, their chants become clear. “Bell for Pres! Bell for Pres!”

It gathers the attention of every single person on the quad, including the couple who’s about to sign up for a caricature.

A large crowd gathers around Bellamy’s table, and the group deflates.

“Food. Why didn’t we think of that?” she groans, slumping into the chair behind the table. Raven pats her shoulder sympathetically.

Jasper and Monty look at her pleadingly.

“Go.” She waves them off, and the two, followed by Maya and Harper, run to the other side of the quad. 

For the next twenty minutes, students breeze past her table without a second glance, beelining to his.

The four return with heaping plates of food.

“Tacos,” Jasper mumbles as he bites through a hard shell. “Genius.” 

“They have the whole thing! The proteins, and cheese, and lettuce, and tomato, and sour cream, and guacamole–” Harper stops as she sees Clarke’s disheartened face. 

“And the men are fine,” Maya adds, receiving a heartbroken look from Jasper. “But not as fine as you, my love.” She kisses his cheek and he smiles with full cheeks.

Raven fingers through the money in the cashbox. “Four hundred. Still not bad at all.”

“They’re easily over five hundred right now. And they’ve been there for twenty minutes.” 

Octavia crosses the quad with a sympathetic look. “Sorry, Clarke. I had to help Bell with–”

“It’s really okay. He’s your brother. I get it.” 

“Draw me?” She sits on the stool.

Clarke nods and picks up her charcoal piece, thankful for the distraction. 


[bellamy]

 

Seeing the look on the Princess’ face as the him and the guys march across the quad makes the four hour taco trip worth it.

It does look like she got some foot traffic before they got there, but as soon as they set foot on the grass, everyone within five hundred feet of them crowds their table.

“Told you.” Murphy nudges him as he scoops sour cream into a girl’s taco. 

“Yeah, yeah.”

Emori stands at the end of the table, handing out small ‘Vote for Blake’ cards before the students walk away. It's pretty genius. 

After about half an hour, their supplies run out. “Alright, y’all!” He cups his hands around his mouth. “Unfortunately, we’re all out.”

Groans rise from the crowd. “But a vote for Blake is a vote for more tacos!” Loud cheers overwhelm the quad.

“I will never understand how such shitty food makes college students so happy,” Miller remarks, scrunching his nose as Bellamy bites into a soft shell. 

“Hey, babe!” He hears Gina behind him.

Murphy and Miller groan quietly and pretend to go do something else. 

“Hey.” She kisses him, a bit too roughly. “Ew. You taste gross.”

“I mean, I am eating a taco.” He raises it up.

She scrunches her nose. “Too many carbs. Why are you shirtless?”

He pretends to laugh and avoids the glares from the guys around him. 

“It’s a part of the fundraiser thing.”

“I’m the only one who’s supposed to see you half-naked.” She pouts and places her hand on his abs.

He smiles painfully, covering her hand with his. “It’s all for you, anyways.”

“Good answer.” She dances her fingers down and circles his waistband. He swallows.

"Oh! That girl with mommy issues over there is doing drawings of couples! Let’s go!” She pulls him in the direction of the other side of the quad. 

Murphy snorts. “Don’t be a bitch, Gina. You know Clarke’s name.”

Bellamy sighs, closing his eyes. She spins on her heel and walks toward him.

“What’s your problem, John?”

“It's Murphy. No problem. Just stop being a bitch,” he shrugs.

“Sorry, Gina, we have to go now, but see you later!” Emori drags him away with a stern look on her face.

Miller tries to muffle his laughter with his hand. 

“What are you laughing at?” she snaps.

Miller raises his hands in surrender. "Nothing. Nothing.”

She just rolls her eyes and drags Bellamy back with a pout. “Why don’t you defend me when your friends are assholes?” 

“They’re just messing around. You know them. They’re idiots.” She seems pleased by his answer.

They reach the front of the Princess’ booth, where she’s smiling at a student that picks up one of the drawings on the table.

Damn. If those are all hers, she's pretty good. 

“Hey, Sad Princess!” Gina yells. He cringes.

Her friends turn towards them and he swears inwardly. Each girl from the hot springs is there.

The one with a dark ponytail sends a deadly glare at them. If looks could kill. 

One hand on her hip, Ponytail opens her mouth, but the Princess looks at her and shakes her head. She frowns, and the rest of her group has mixed expressions. 

After a few seconds, they go back to packing up the table. 

She has a pained smile on her face. “Come for a caricature?” 

“No, we came for a palm reading.” Gina rolls her eyes. “Yes, a caricature. Duh.” 

Ponytail's eyes shoot up again, but he sees the Princess grab her hand under the booth. 

“Sounds good. You can sit on that stool, and he can stand next to you. What do you want the theme to be?” 

“Hm,” Gina taps her chin. “A wedding.”

He chokes on the water he’s drinking, and the Princess’ eyebrows raise. He hears snickers from the table. 

“Uh, okay. Go ahead and sit still for a few minutes.” 

Gina nods eagerly and wraps an arm around his waist, picking up his arm and draping it over her own shoulder. 

She flips her sketchbook open and starts moving her hand over the page.

Every few minutes, she looks up at them. He can tell that she’s purposefully avoiding eye contact with him, and he doesn’t know whether to smirk or frown. 

It's pretty impressive, how fast her hand flies across the page. He doesn’t know how she manages to make such detailed drawings in such a short period of time.

Still, it's a bit hard for him to pay attention. Her legs are crossed on the stool, and strands of her hair fall over the page when she looks down, her eyelashes flittering with each glance. 

Objectively, it's an attractive sight.

“Here you go.” She rips off the paper and hands it to them.

“Wow!” Gina squeals, running her finger over the paper. “This is, like, amazing!” 

And it is. She sketched him in a suit, looking down at Gina. She’s mid-laugh, her hand tucking a curl behind his ear. Her shoulders are covered with sequins and jewels, and the tips of her hand with a bouquet of flowers peek out at the bottom. It still makes him uncomfortable as hell, but it's well-drawn.  

“Nice,” he mumbles after a few seconds of being tongue-tied.

“I have to go show the girls! Thanks, Sad Princess!" Gina flounces away.

He looks at the Princess awkwardly, taking a few steps forward.

“Ten, right?” 

She shakes her head, her face expressionless. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Here." He flips a twenty out of his wallet and hands it to her.

She stares at it for a few seconds before shooting her hand forward and forcing his palm shut, crumpling the bill in his hands. The roughness of her fingers makes his breath catch for a moment. 

“I don't need your money. Don’t forget what I said. And good thing I wore cute underwear, I guess.”

And with that, she gathers up the rest of her things and struts away with the rest of her friends. 

He clenches his fists as heat spreads through his body. He can’t tell if it's from annoyance, or something else.

Chapter Text

[clarke]

 

“That was epic.” 

After the disappointment that was the first fundraiser, they decide that ice cream is the move. 

“Thanks, Jas, but I definitely lost that one,” she sighs, licking the coconut sorbet off her spoon. 

“Yeah, but at least you dropped the mic before we left!” He mimics a mic drop, almost spilling his cookies and cream. 

“Don’t worry, Clarke,” Harper returns from the cash register and rubs her shoulder. “You still have one more fundraiser. And the last debate. There’s plenty of time to win everyone over.”

“No, fuck that!”

Raven slams her milkshake down on the patio table, some strawberry flecks hitting Monty’s face, making him cringe. “Revenge must be swift. We need to brainstorm immediately.”

“I don’t know, Raven. There’s no point.” 

“Hey!” Raven stands up and crosses the table, grabbing her chin in one hand. “Who are you, and what have you done with Clarke Griffin?”

“Clarke Griffin was just humiliated three times in a row.” 

“We can’t just sit down and take it!” Octavia stands up defiantly, head up high.

They probably look a bit absurd to passing students; a bunch of kids yelling on a patio table.

“Exactly!” Raven motions to Octavia. “Wait, also, Baby Blake. Your brother’s girlfriend sucks. Why does he like her? I mean, he sucks too, but like, she really sucks.” 

“I know, right?” Octavia throws her hands up to the sky, ignoring the other insult. “Gina sucks!” 

“Can you both calm down?” Maya whispers, pulling Octavia down by her shoulder.

Raven huffs, and Shaw pats her back. 

“I concur with the boss ladies!” Jasper slams his cup down, too. 

“Can we please stop doing that? I am definitely in the line of fire.” Monty wipes the flecks off his face. 

“Nobody steals the clothes of my best friends! Also, they have my girlfriend’s underwear, which actually really pisses me off.” Jasper’s eyes narrow, and they’re taken aback.

“I don’t want to see angry Jasper,” Shaw whispers in her ear. 

“Well, I’m seeing Emori later for coffee, and I’m hoping that she’ll take mercy on us and get our clothes from the house.” 

“Why are you hanging out with her? Isn’t she one of those neanderthal’s girlfriends?” Raven frowns. 

“Murphy’s. The one from the party, Harp.”

“I remember him.” She nods. “He kept staring at our boobs.”

“What the hell?” Monty exclaims, slamming his own cup down. “Why are you meeting her, Clarke?”

“She seems chill, I promise. Also, she’s a Comms major, and I figured she could help Harp with that class she’s failing.”

Harper grumbles under her breath. 

“She’s also Bellamy’s communications director for the campaign.”

The group straightens up. “What?” 

“This is amazing! We can gather intel. Make your enemy your friend!” Raven shrieks. 

“That's a shitty thing to do, Raven.”

“Well, she supports a fuckboy who stole my clothes. That’s a shitty thing to do, too,” she huffs.

“Look, you all said this about O.” She sends an apologetic look to Octavia, who shrugs. “And now, you love her. Give her a chance.”

They stare at her warily.

“Please?” she pleads with desperate eyes.

“The damn puppy dog eyes,” Jasper mutters.

“Fine.” Raven’s mouth is a straight line. “But if she tries anything, I’m punching her.”

“Can you please manage her punching addiction?” Monty looks at Shaw. 

Shaw shrugs. “Raven Reyes yields to no one.” 

“Damn right.” 


[clarke]

 

Her knee bounces under the table as she clutches the latte in her hand. They agreed to meet at seven. It's 7:15. She really hopes Emori didn’t ditch her.

Just as she starts to think about leaving, a dark blur breezes through the door and settles down across from her.

“Hey,” Emori pants, her arms full of textbooks. “Sorry for being late. I had a–”

“Group project?” She smiles, raising an eyebrow.

Emori sheepishly nods, tucking her textbooks into her bag. 

“Do you want to go order something? I got a bit impatient.” She apologetically holds up her plastic cup. 

“Oh, no, I shouldn’t. I downed an Americano earlier, and I’m still shaking a bit.”

Clarke laughs and watches her pull out a plastic box out of her bag. She gasps. “You eat plain coconut chunks, too?” 

“Hell yeah!” Emori grins, popping one in her mouth and shoving the box across the table.

She eagerly takes one, mumbling a 'thanks’ while chewing. “My friends think I’m so weird for eating them plain.”

“Well, I’m always down for coffee and coconut chunks,” Emori professes. They laugh together. 

“Oh, I almost forgot!” She pulls out a small duffel.

Clarke zips it open and sighs in relief. “Oh my god. Thank you so, so much.” Her, Raven, Harper, and Maya’s clothes are folded neatly inside.

“Don't worry, I made sure none of those idiots stole your bras or underwear.”

She grins. “You’re a lifesaver. We were afraid that we’d find them on eBay or something.”

A comfortable silence descends upon them. The sounds of the coffee shop dim, as students file out and the whirs of the espresso machines dial down.

“So, I just wanted to really tell you this,” Emori smiles, tucking a piece of silky hair behind her ear, only for it to fall out a few seconds later. “Seriously. You were really eloquent when you spoke about your dad. I told Bellamy to use his story as an empathy tactic.

”I shouldn’t have done that. I should’ve known that the student body would harass a genuine girl instead of a super manly frat guy,” she says the last part a bit mockingly.

“Oh, don’t worry. I definitely used mine as a political move, too. When I heard him do it, I mean. But I guess it just got too personal.” Her voice grows quiet. 

Emori reaches her hand across the table and pulls Clarke’s into hers. “Personal is authentic. And sincere. Both good qualities in a student representative.” 

“Hey,” she pretends to be fake-suspicious. “Are you trying to canoodle with the enemy?”

Emori lets out a tinkling laugh. “Maybe.” She wiggles her eyebrows. “Also, did you just use ‘canoodle’ in a real sentence?”

Their smiles turn into more laughter. And some more pleasant silence. But when they speak up, they do so at the same time.

“So, the guys–”

“So, the gang–”

They stare at each other, amused and wide-eyed. “You go.”

“The guys want to let you know that they’re having a party after the football game on Friday night. You should come.”

“Oh. Really?” she asks, taken aback. “Honestly, I don’t know. The last one was kinda lame,” she teases.

Emori laughs, playfully kicking her under the table.

“But, seriously. I barely got through the last one with Harper and Octavia.” 

“Hey,” Emori takes her other hand. “I promise I’ll be there and rescue you at any time. We can leave whenever you want.” 

Her chest warms at the girl’s kindness. “I’ll think about it?” Emori nods.

“Actually, speaking of Octavia and Harper, the girls wanted to invite you to our pregame.” She laughs. 

“For real?” Emori asks in awe. 

“Yeah?” 

“Sorry,” Emori smiles, shaking her head. “I don’t have many girlfriends. Been around frat guys and the football team for most of undergrad.”

“Oh, damn. That sounds like a shit ton of testosterone.”

“You have no idea.” She winces, a horrified look in her eyes. 

Clarke taps her arm with her fingers. “Well, come meet my girls. I think they’ll like you a lot."

“I know Octavia a bit, from Bellamy, but we’ve never been close. And his girlfriend is a fucking nightmare, so that kinda forces us apart.” Emori shudders

“Yeah, seems like it.” Clarke bites her lip, remembering the way Gina spoke to her.

“Should I be scared?” Emori asks, a bit of hesitance in her tone.

“Raven is a bit intimidating. Octavia, too, sometimes. But they’re balanced out by Harper and Maya. Come! It'll be fun. Maybe they can get an invite to the afterparty, too?”

“Oh, for sure. John always says, ‘gotta have three girls for every guy.’” She rolls her eyes. 

Clarke muffles a laugh. “I didn’t know his first name is John. How the hell do you put up with him?” 

“I can’t explain it.” She smiles, wistfully. “We laugh about the same things. He acts like a moron during the day, but when we’re alone, he looks at me like I’m only thing that matters in this world. He’s my best friend. The love of my life.” Her eyes swirl with pure fondness and devotion. 

Clarke smiles at her, who seems to burst with joy when she speaks about him. But, she does feel a bit of sadness in that same smile, wishing that she could say the same things about somebody in her life.


[bellamy]

 

Gina hops on his lap. His hands grip her waist as she drags her tongue against his lower lip. Sitting back, she pulls off her tank top, leaning back down to press herself against him. One of her hands reaches up to tug on his hair, and the other drifts down to the hem of his shirt, starting to pull it up.

But when the fabric reaches the top of his abdomen, he sits up, gently pushing her off.

She sits back on his bed, pouting. “What’s the deal?” 

He runs a hand through his disheveled hair. “I’m sorry. I guess I'm just not in the mood.”

She moves her hand up his jeans before stopping at his hips. “I don’t know.” She trails her palm to his zipper. “It seems like you’re in the mood.” 

He draws a sharp inhale, and moves to swing his legs over his bed. “I guess I’m just distracted.”

“By what?”

He doesn’t really know by what. The game on Friday? The fact that he hasn’t done any work for his classes tomorrow? The race?

Gina huffs and tugs her top back on. “Whatever. Let me know when you’re attracted to me again.” 

“Gina, I didn’t mean it li–”

“It’s fine. I get it.” She gathers her bags and coat. 

“Gina–” 

But she swings his door open and stomps out.

He groans and flops back on his bed, hands over his face. A knock sounds at his door.

“What?” he snaps through his fingers.

“Woah, chill.” Murphy and Miller stand at his doorframe. “We just want to make sure you’re good.”

“We saw a very angry girl march through the living room.” Murphy jumps on the bed, next to him.

Bellamy looks over, scowling. “Get off.” 

“No.” 

Miller walks over and sits in his desk chair. “You okay, man?”

“Yeah, it's just–” He slams a fist into his pillow before sitting up. “I can’t have sex with Gina.” 

Murphy moves up on his elbows, wide-eyed. “Shit, man. Why?”

“You can’t, or don’t want to?” Miller looks at him.

He glares at him, but huffs. 

“I don’t know.”

Miller and Murphy exchange a look, eyebrows raised. His eyes flick between them. “What?” 

“I mean,” Murphy sits up completely. “Do you know why?”

He stands up and starts pacing. “I told her that I wasn’t in the mood. And that I was distracted.”

“Holy shit, dude. No wonder she was so angry.”

“Well, what the hell was I supposed to say?” He throws his hands up.

“‘I don’t think I’m into you anymore, and I think we should end things’,” Miller deadpans. 

He hesitates. “It’s not like that.”

“Then what is it?” 

“I don’t know,” he snaps, flopping back down on his bed. “I just need to get through this week. I have a huge history exam that I haven’t studied for, haven’t done any of the readings for our political philosophy class, and I haven’t fully prepared for the game on Friday. I just need to focus. And think about this later.”

Miller snorts. “Dude, I never do the readings for that class.”

“Yeah, that’s also why you’re failing it.” 

“Fair.” 


[clarke]

 

When she returns from coffee with Emori, her good mood rockets to the sky.

“Wells!” She sees the handsome boy as soon as she swipes into the suite.

Dropping her bag on the ground, she runs across the living room and tackles him in a hug. 

“Hey!” He laughs and catches her. “It’s good to see you, too.” 

“It’s been too long!”

“It’s only been a few weeks into the semester.”

He hands her favorite salad from the place next to The Lighthouse. She almost cries as she takes the plastic bowl from him. 

“Yeah, but I’ve been a hot mess. My life has devolved into decay. When that happens, you wish that your best friend is there all the time,” she sighs, whipping the top off of the bowl. 

“I know. I’m sorry.” He wraps an arm around her shoulder. “Talk to me.”

So, she does. She tells him every detail of all the things that he missed. Life post-debate, Operation Paint Cup, Harper’s birthday, skinny dipping, their clothes being stolen after skinny dipping, the fundraiser, Gina’s wedding drawing.

“That girl sounds weird as hell,” Wells mumbles, plucking a cucumber from her bowl.

“Wait until you meet her.”

“I really hope I never have to.”

“Honey, we’re home!”

The door slams open and Raven and Shaw walk in. She frowns.

“What the hell, Griffin? It's potluck night!” She holds up a Tupperware full of lasagna. 

“Oh, shit.” She puts the salad down. “I’m sorry, I was just so hungry. I went straight from the fundraiser to froyo to Emori, and I’m so exhausted.”

Wells pulls her head onto his shoulder, and Raven sits on her other side.

“I know. I’m sorry. Also, Wells!” She fist bumps him. “Good to see you, but why are you here?”

“I figured that this girl was feeling pretty shitty after the skinny dipping incident. So, I wanted to surprise her. And I missed all of you idiots.” 

Shaw grins. “Missed you, brother.” He nudges his shoulder and squeezes next to Raven on the couch. 

About thirty minutes later, Monty, Harper, Maya, and Jasper return from their double date, and they text Octavia to come down. Soon, they’re all scattered in the living room, plates of lasagna and chicken nuggets and cupcakes covering the table and ground.

“This might’ve been our weirdest potluck yet.” Harper pats her stomach.

They talk about everything and nothing for the next hour. Monty talks about their double date at Becca’s Island (and how Jasper kept jumping into Maya’s arms in the haunted mansion).

Raven rants about a kid in her mechanical engineering class. Octavia tells them about how she yelled at Bellamy after he tried to keep Lincoln away from her.

Wells tells them all about his grad program, and Clarke’s heart warms as he speaks about a new girl he met.

And she talks about Emori, and how she spoke about Murphy. 

“Damn. That’s pretty fucking cute, though.” Raven admits, taking a sip of her wine. 

“Yeah. I invited her to our pregame on Friday. I think you’ll like her.” 

Raven nods, skeptical. “I trust your judgement, Griffin. But I’m keeping my guard up.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything else.”

Around eleven, they’re all considering going to bed, and Octavia is about to head back to her room. But, she freezes at the door and screams.

Everyone jumps, and Jasper instinctively screams back.

“What the hell, O?” 

She smiles evilly. “I just thought of the best idea.”


[clarke]

 

“Are you sure he didn’t notice?” 

Her and Octavia sit outside the lecture hall before Pike’s Wednesday class, Facetiming Monty.

He rolls his eyes. “Yes. I could’ve done it without you guys stealing his phone, too.” 

Yesterday night, they convinced Lincoln to steal Bellamy’s phone for them, just for an hour, while he was at the gym. They brought it to Monty, who easily set everything up.

“What if someone called him since last night and he changed it?” 

“Clarke. You’re annoying me. I made sure it can only happen from a specific number. All you have to do is dial the number I gave you, okay?”

She pulls up the text he sent her yesterday. “Okay. Thanks, Monty.”

“I wish I was there to see it all,” he sighs. 

“I can try to record it?” 

“Hell yeah! If you can without getting caught.” 

“Have you met me, Monty?” Octavia flips her hair over her shoulder. 

“You’re right. Text me after.”

“Okay. Talk to you soon.” She hangs up and rubs her palms on her pants. 

"Why the hell are you nervous?”

“Because I don't want you to suffer any consequences if something happens! I will never forgive myself if you get a strike on your academic record because of this.”

“It’ll be fine. Come on,” Octavia loops her arm through hers. “It’s almost eight.”

Bellamy and Miller are already in their seats when they walk past. She’s expecting a smirk, or glare, or something from him, but he just stares down at his desk, a weary look on his face.

Miller does smirk at them, though, and she flips him off while Octavia mouths ‘you’re dead’, drawing a line across her throat.

Class starts, and the girls can’t sit still. She scribbles on her notebook and slides it over for Octavia to see.

when should i dial?

Octavia’s eyes flicker up to make sure Pike isn’t looking before scribbling back.

arent we doing the last chapter today, the one abt pruddence? that would be funny as he

She pulls back as Pike scans over their side of the room. They tense, and he moves back. Clarke’s pen flies across the college-ruled paper.

that chapter isnt even about the prudence youre thinking of but okay sounds good, also i need to give you spelling lessons

Octavia stifles a laugh and they manage to half-pay attention throughout the rest of the class.

She checks her watch. Ten minutes left.

Octavia nudges her, thinking the same thing. She swallows and taps at the phone on her thigh, typing in the number that Monty texted her. She presses call.

“Oh my god! Yes daddy!”  

The sounds of a porn video echo around the lecture hall, and everyone turns around to look at the source.

All eyes fall on Miller and Bellamy, the latter scrambling to end the call and silence his phone. Clarke decides to take mercy on him and stops the call after ten seconds.

A few seconds of silence descends.

And then, strident, thundering laughter fills the lecture hall. Every student around them is practically falling out of their seats, and Octavia and Clarke have to clamp their mouths shut to not laugh.

Professor Pike’s booming voice shuts everyone up, menacing and cold. 

“Get the fuck out of my lecture hall, Mr. Blake. Man of the people, indeed.” 

Octavia and her share a shocked look. They didn't think that the mostly chill professor would react like this.

Everyone turns back to Bellamy, and even Miller’s smirk fades into scrunched eyebrows.

Bellamy forcefully grabs his book and slings his bag over his shoulder, marching down the rows of students. Before he’s about to exit, he turns around to look at her.

And he looks murderous. Which she expected. But not the kind that he has right now. 

It's not the fuming ‘game on’ face, or the sulky, fiery ‘you messed with the wrong person’ face. 

It's one of anger, that’s for sure. But behind it is exasperation, exhaustion, disappointment. Disgust. 

And he walks out.

“Holy fuck,” Octavia exclaims, walking out of the hall with the rest of the still laughing students. “That was not what I thought was going to happen.”

“Me neither. Thank God we didn’t record it. If Miller thought it was bad, it must’ve been bad." He avoided eye contact, and sped after Bellamy as soon as class was over. 

“Yeah. Pike looked like he would rip his copy of The Prince to shreds, then and there.”

Octavia stops on the quad, eyes wide.

“Will– will he give Bell a strike?”

She stops too, her stomach dropping.

They’re silent as they walk the rest of the way to her art class. Per usual, Octavia hugs her. But during the embrace, she whispers into Clarke’s shoulder.

“I don't think I’ve ever seen him look like that.”

Clarke cringes. “I think we fucked up, O.”

“Me, too.”

 

That night, her and Octavia relay the events of the morning to everyone else.

“Holy shit,” Raven says through laughs. “That sounds rough.” 

“Raven.” She shoots her a stern look. “Stop it. He looked really pissed.”

“Good. Not our fault if he can’t take what he deals out.”

“Okay, I’m not right there with Rae, but I kind of agree, Clarke,” Harper says tentatively. “His brothers harassed you for days. They all make up this cruel nickname and say awful things. And they kind of ruined my birthday. Not to be selfish, or make it about me. I just– you know? It broke my heart seeing you so sad for the last few weeks.”

Monty squeezes her shoulder. “I agree with Harper. I know it's childish to say, but they did start it. Made it personal.” 

“We just want you to be happy, Clarke,” Maya says quietly. Jasper nods.

“I know. It's just not about him, this time, though. Our professor was practically breathing fire, and–”

“He already has a strike.”

They barely hear Octavia’s whisper, as she hugs her knees on the couch. 

Shaw’s eyes widen. “What?”

Her face looks pained. “He has a strike already. He told me when I was a senior in high school.” 

Everyone is shocked into silence. Sure, he’s an asshole. But they figured that he has way too much to lose. Too much to risk. 

“W–what did he–”

“He punched a guy in his history class who called a girl a slut. They were talking about the history of prostitution. She was saying that a lot of sex workers today have poor socioeconomic statuses. And that’s how they take care of their families. And a guy called her a slut for having those opinions. So Bell punched him.”

“What the hell?” Raven sits up. “That other guy is a fucking moron! Why didn’t he get the strike?”

“He was suspended,” Octavia says quietly. 

Raven sits back, awed. “That’s some bullshit.” 

“That’s awful. He shouldn’t have been punished.” Monty shakes his head. Harper and Maya voice their agreements. 

“He only has one strike left before he gets expelled,” Octavia speaks into her knees.

Shaw frowns. “No, it’s five–”

“Not for scholarship kids.”

Clarke’s voice stuns the room.

She hears a sniff, and sees Octavia’s eyes fill with tears. “Oh, Octavia.” She rushes to her side, pulling her into her lap and holding her. 

“It’s all my fault! This whole fucking this was my idea!” she sobs into Clarke’s sweatshirt. 

“You couldn’t have known it would go down like this.”

“I should’ve known better to not fuck with his classes. And professors.” 

“Well, Baby Blake,” Raven scoots to Octavia’s other side. “It’s done. It happened. Now, all we can do is try to fix things.” 

She nods into Clarke’s shoulder. “What should we do?”

Clarke pulls back. “First of all, no we. I’m doing it. I’m telling him it was my idea.”

Everyone speaks at once.

“No!” 

“Clarke!”

“You can’t do that!” 

She raises a hand. “I have to. Hopefully, I can tell Pike that I set it up. And I’d get the strike instead of him.”

Raven bites her lips, hesitant to say what’s next. “Griffin, med schools won't–”

“I know. But as much as I hate him, I refuse to let him get expelled for something I did. He works his ass off to stay at the university."

Octavia goes to say something, but Clarke shakes her head. “And I won’t let you destroy your relationship with your brother. He's all you have.”

“I have you, too.” Her tiny voice breaks. Tears prick the corners of her eyes.

“You're right. You have me, too.”

“And us!” Jasper leans down from behind the couch and hugs Octavia from behind. She chokes a laugh.

“I love you guys.”

“And we love you!” 

They all insist that Octavia stay the night in the suite. She cuddles into her chest, and Clarke feels two things: one, a severe pang in her chest at Octavia’s sadness. And, two– guilt. Guilt because she's afraid for herself, too. 


She wakes up to a series of shrill dings of her ringtone and alarm.

“What the hell–”

Half asleep, she reaches over to pull her phone off of her bedside table. Rubbing her eyes, she unlocks it.

1446 notifications.

Now completely disoriented, she opens the first text message. Monty. She reads it.

“Oh, fuck.”

Chapter Text

[bellamy]

 

It's Thursday morning, and he hasn’t moved from his bed since Wednesday after class. He’s pretty sure his absence in 12th Century history means he failed the exam. 

He watches the video again. And again. And again.

He alternates between watching it and checking his email, waiting for the inevitable. The second and last email he’ll receive from the Dean at Ark U.

Dear Mr. Blake, the first one read. Dean Kane requests a meeting with you in his office.  

He woke up this morning to hundreds of notifications. Most of them are tags under a video posted on Instagram or Twitter. He watches. Again. Again. 

His phone goes off. Laughter overwhelms the audio. He scrambles to silence the phone. Pike screams at him. He storms out. He turns around. He looks at the two of them. 

After watching it a few times, he quickly realizes that they’re not the ones taking the video. It's from a completely different angle; he can see their profiles in the video, their laughter turning into terrified, solemn expressions. Was probably taken by one of Princess’ friends.

The Princess. Every time the name manifests in his head, red overwhelms his vision. Anger isn’t good enough of a word. Neither is loathing. Neither is hatred.

Disappointment could be one. Disappointment that he knows how low she can sink, now.

And his sister? Pretty much the same. Maybe not as vicious as loathing or hatred. But still there. 

He’s awake for about ten minutes before his door bursts open. Miller and Murphy breathe hard, phones in hand. 

But he’s staring at the ceiling, his phone’s ringer still going off next to him. Murphy walks forward and silences it.

They both know better than to start a conversation, so Murphy just leans against the wall and Miller sits in his desk chair. They throw their phones in the corner and do homework, instead. While he lays there. For hours. 

Years of education for nothing. Working three jobs in high school to pay for AP test fees, SAT prep for Octavia. Getting a full ride so he could pay for Octavia’s education. 

All for expulsion. He sits up suddenly, garnering the attention of Murphy and Miller. 

What is he going to do?

PhD programs won’t take expelled kids. Neither would jobs. Maybe he should drop out, instead? Claim health issues.
Medical leave. Or maybe he should just go get on his knees for the Dean, right now. 

He looks at his phone. 10 A.M.

“I’m going to go to Pike’s office hours. I think they’re still happening.” 

The other two boys nod, picking up their stuff and walking with him to the social sciences building.


They stand in front of the building on the stairs while he walks inside, climbing the stairs to the second floor to Pike’s office. 

He walks down five doors before he sees the plaque. The top of Pike’s head peeks out from the slightly opened office door.

Taking a deep breath, he knocks. “Professor Pike?”

“Come in.”

He straightens his back, trying to appear apologetic and composed at the same time.

“Ah, Mr. Blake.” Pike motions to the chair in front of his desk. “I’ve been expecting you.”

He seems much more solemn and serious than the Pike he’s spoken to previously. Probably because of, you know, the porn video.

Pike rests his chin on his clasped hands and he clears his throat.

“I’ve come here to apologize, sir. What happened in class on Wednesday was completely inappropriate, and–”

“I’m not filing an infraction, Mr. Blake. I apologize for screaming at you like that in front of the class. That was unprofessional of me.”

“Oh, no, no, I understand, I dese–”

Pike holds up a hand. “Mr. Blake, you’re a hard worker, I know this. I’m sure what happened was a fluke. A one time thing.”

“Y–yes! Absolutely, sir.”

“If you don’t mind, I have essays to grade.” He looks down to the stack of papers on his desk.

“Yes, sir. Thank you, again.” He stands up and tries to be dignified, but it ends up as more of a scurry. A bit dazed, he sprints down the stairs and out of the building.

Chest heaving, he sees Murphy and Miller leaning on the stair railing. They stand up when they see him.

He simply jumps down the stairs and grabs the two into a hug. They stumble back, almost tripping on the steps. But they clap his back and chuckle.

“Okay, dude. Get the fuck off me. You smell like shit,” Murphy mumbles into his shoulder.

“No strikes?” Miller asks cautiously.

“No fucking strikes.” He grins. They cheer and head back to the house. 


[clarke]

two and a half hours ago

 

Miraculously, her phone didn’t wake Harper or Octavia. She looks at her watch. 7:38.

She carefully slips out of her bed and makes sure their phones are silenced, as well. Not bothering to change out of her pajamas, she just slips on a hoodie. She looks down at her pajama pants.

Monkeys. It could be worse.

She tiptoes past Raven and Maya’s room. Quickly grabbing her wallet and pulling on shoes, she slips through the door without a sound.

She hates running. But, at this very moment, it feels like her only option is to run. She sprints across campus to the social sciences building. Pike’s office hours start at 8:30, but she'll just have to wait.

Bursting into the building, she takes the stairs two at a time and makes it to his office in record time. She slides down the wall, and waits.

Around forty minutes later, Pike is right on time. As he turns the corner in the hallway, he looks perplexed at the sight of her in her pajamas, sitting on the floor outside of his office.

“Ms. Griffin? It's quite early. Students rarely make it at this hour.” He inserts the keys into the lock and pushes the door open. “After you.”

She nods and sits in the chair. He shrugs off his trench coat and sets his briefcase down. “What can I do for you, Ms. Griffin? Your recent essay was quite brilliant.”

“Thank you, Professor Pike. But, uh–”

She tries to look professional, and crosses one leg over the other. And then realizes how ridiculous that looks, with her pink hoodie over Monkey patterned pajamas and fuzzy socks under her shoes. “I’ve come for a separate matter.”

“Oh?” He raises an eyebrow and pulls out papers and folders from his briefcase.

“Yes. It concerns my classmate, Bellamy Blake.”

“Ah, yes.” He takes off his glasses. “It’s a shame. Such a bright student. I assume this strike will cause his suspension or expulsion.” 

What the hell? Why does he act so differently in class?

She nods stiffly. “Yes, an academic strike would risk his enrollment at Ark U. Which is why you should not file a strike.”

Pike smiles sadly. “I appreciate your chivalry, Ms. Griffin. But what happened in class was unacceptable, and disruptive. It is my duty as a professor to report such things.” 

“And, it is my duty as to tell the truth.” She clears her throat. “What happened was my doing. It was a practical joke that I intentionally carried out to publicly embarrass him.” 

He narrows his eyes. “And is there any proof of this?” 

She swallows. “No, but–”

“Then I, unfortunately, cannot compromise on this situation.” 

Clenching her jaw, she resorts to the last plan she thought of. “Professor Pike, do you remember what you said to Bellamy when his phone rang?”

He freezes, and clears his throat. “I reprimanded him–”

“It was a bit more than that, wasn’t it?”

She pulls her phone out of her pocket and taps on the video. “I believe it went like this.”

“Get the fuck out of my lecture hall, Blake. Man of the people, indeed.”

“Wow.” She places the phone down on the desk. “That’s an inappropriate way to speak to your students.” 

His face grows dark.

“You know, my mother, Abigail Griffin,” she leans forward. “She’s romantically involved with Dean Kane. Naturally, I’m quite close to him.” 

“What are you suggesting, Ms. Griffin?” 

“I will make sure Dean Kane doesn’t see this video,” she taps on the screen. “If you promise to not file the strike.”

He’s silent, his jaw twitching. “I have already filed the infraction.” 

She freezes. Fuck. Fuck. What now?

A few minutes of silence pass.

“I will change the name on the infraction, if the video remains hidden.” 

Her head snaps up. “Deal. Do it.” 

“It will have to be your name.”

“I’m aware. Do it.”

She puts her hand forward. He shakes it.

And with that, she spins on her heels, walks out of the office, and heads towards the student center. 


Twenty minutes later, she knocks on the frosted glass, seeing the faint outline of his body sitting at his desk, feet up. “Enter.” 

She tentatively opens the door, peeking her head in. “Marcu–uh, Dean Kane?” 

He pulls off his reading glasses. “Clarke?” He waves his hand. “Please, come in.”

She nods thankfully and quietly closes the door. She sits on an armchair in front of his desk, thankful for his approachable demeanor, despite his crisp suit, dark Ivy League haircut, and hardened eyes. 

He looks concerned. “Are you okay?”

She half-smiles at her familial irony. 

When her mother told her that she was seeing the literal Dean of her college, she bristled, and a wave of discomfort spread over her body. And now– now, somehow, she's closer to her step-father (Kinda. Not married, yet), and mostly lost touch with her mother.

Sometimes, he’s the only link between them at all. At the rare family dinner on Christmas or Easter, both of them look to him to guide the conversation. Her mind often wanders to the nature of their relationship, wondering if this man she’d known for three years was more of a parent to her than her biological one.

She thinks that it all trickles down to the core, that foundation of trust, in their relationship. The mutual understanding that, one: he will never replace her dad. And two– that he’ll never try to. 

“I’m okay,” she smiles weakly. “I messed up, though.”

His eyebrows gather. “I’m sure it can be remedied. What is it?”

“I extorted one of my professors. Kinda.” 

His mouth tips open, stricken.

And, for the next few minutes, she explains it all to him. Her and Bellamy’s childish war. The harassment. The paint cups. The skinny dipping (that one was a bit awkward). The fundraiser.  

He listens intently, looking at her with stony eyes. His jaw clenches when she speaks about the harassment, the way they call her ‘Sad Princess’, and the way Gina spoke to her. 

And, finally, she tells him about the class. The phone. 

“Oh my god. Yes, daddy!”  

He exhales, cringing, and places the phone back on the desk, moving his glasses back onto his face. 

“You did this?”

She nods.

“How?”

She falters. “What do you mean?”

“How did you get his ringtone to play those things? And how did you make it play in class?"

“I, uh, googled how to hack into a phone.” 

He looks at her pointedly. “Clarke. I’ve known you for three years. And your poker face is not very convincing.”

She sighs. “I might’ve had some friends who helped.”

“This wasn’t just your idea, was it?”

She hesitates, looking down at her fingers. Then, she shakes her head, the movement tiny, almost imperceptible. 

“I have a hard time believing you were the one who invented this idea, as well.” He crosses his arms and leans back in his chair. “And, what exactly did you threaten Professor Pike with?”

“Play the rest of the video.” He frowns, moving to tap it again. 

“Get the fuck out of my lecture hall, Blake. Man of the people, indeed.”

His jaw locks. “This is a completely unacceptable way to speak to a student. Has Professor Pike verbally abused you like this?”

“No, not at all! Me and Octavia were completely shocked when he yelled at him!”

“Octavia, huh?”

Shit. 

“One of your friends.” 

“His sister, too,” she whispers.

He looks taken aback, once again. “How many twists does this story have?” 

She takes a deep breath. “After we saw how angry Pike was… we knew he’d file a strike. That night, she told me that Bellamy already has a strike on his academic record.”

Marcus isn’t stupid. Understanding dawns on his face. “To my knowledge, Mr. Blake is one of our fully funded students.”

She nods, sadly.

“Marcus, he…” She looks up, shaking her head. “Out of every single one of us at Ark U, he’s probably the student that works hardest to stay here.” 

He frowns, looking pensive. “Yes, I remember that he’s quite involved in many things.” He nods, but his eyes darken. “Including the social fraternity, ARK. Who harassed you for speaking candidly at the debate.” 

“I know, but–” she speaks frantically, before deflating. “He wasn’t really one of the ones that harassed me, but he didn’t really stop it. He told me that he tried to.”

“Not good enough.” His tone is uncompromising. “You’re telling me that you would like to defend a man who is in a social group that has publicly humiliated you because of a debate where you spoke your truths, has referred to you in vulgar names, and stole your undergarments?”

A lump emerges in her throat. “Please, Marcus. Don’t take his education away from him. Not expulsion. My best friend… she whispers. “Octavia only has him. And he only has her. No other family. He put them through high school, and now, college. Any punishment would extend to her. And–

She chokes a sob. “I can’t imagine her not being able to have an education anymore because of me.”

Marcus’ eyes soften and he moves around to sit in the armchair next to her. She tries to sniff away the tears, but they well heavily in her eyes.

“I know it's upsetting, Clarke, but I have no choice to discipline both Professor Pike and those men.” He spits the last word.

“You do have a choice.”

Her voice is tiny, and it barely leaves her mouth.

“What?” His expression is one of confusion. “Clarke– you know I can’t offer special treatment to anybody. Not at my job.”

“I know, but you– you have a choice,” she says through sniffs.

“What do you mean?”

But understanding sweeps over his face, once again. 

She looks up at him. “You can claim that you never saw the video.”

“You know I can’t do that, Clarke. I can’t risk having a Professor like that at my university.” 

“He wouldn’t dare to do a thing anymore. He won't want to get caught again. I was pretty scary.” 

A half-smile plays at his lips, but he runs a hand over his face. “I’ll still have to go through with the strike if I pretend I didn’t see the video. If you told him about me and your mother, he could come forward with allegations of nepotism if he sees that his strike wasn’t processed. He'd be angry that you didn’t hold up your side of the deal.”

She nods vigorously. “I know. But I had to tell him. Please. Go forward with the strike against me, Marcus. Not him.” 

He sighs deeply, pinching his nose. “Always sacrificing yourself, seeing the good in the bad. Putting others before you. Helping anyone and everyone. You take after him, you know?”

Her smile is watery, and she looks at him expectantly. He sighs.

“Come here.” She stands up and hugs him.

“Now, get out before people think I’m changing the grades of the daughter of my girlfriend to all A’s.” 

She huffs a laugh. “Thank you, Marcus. So much.” 

Her body shakes with relief as she walks back to the suite. And from the cold. Her tears made her monkey pajamas pretty wet.

“You did what?” Octavia shrieks. 

When she returns to the suite at around 9:30 with red eyes, all the girls are sitting in the living room, coffee cups clutched in their hands. Their worried faces turn to relief quickly.

She reassures them, sits them down on the couch, and tells them what she did.

“She blackmailed a professor and then begged her mother’s boyfriend, who is also the Dean, to change the strike.” 

“Okay, I wouldn’t call it blackmail–”

“It was blackmail.”

“Yeah.” 

After a few seconds of silence, Raven huffs a laugh. “That’s fucking badass, Griffin!” She fist bumps her, and Clarke laughs, her cheeks still wet. 

“You’re such an idiot!” Harper shoves her playfully, but wraps an arm around her shoulder.

“Seconded.” Maya kicks her from the other side of the couch.

The five girls laugh and snuggle on the couch. Octavia pulls away. “But, seriously, Clarke. Thank you so, so much. I don’t know what I would do without you… you sacrificed so much for me and Bell.” Her eyes shine with tears. 

“Please don’t cry.” Clarke pokes her nose. “If you start crying, then I’ll start crying again, then Harper will start crying, and then Maya will, and Raven will get annoyed and won’t make me coffee."

She looks at Raven. “Please? The Dunkin’ Donuts K-Cup?” 

She sighs. “Fine. I guess the martyr deserves coffee.” 


[bellamy]

 

“So,” Murphy starts, pushing the door open. “How do we celebrate? Tequila? Weed? A threesome?” 

Bellamy punches his shoulder.

“Ow! Can everyone stop doing that? I don’t do that CrossFit bullshit like you and Miller do everyday!”

He collapses on the couch, hands folded behind his head. “I feel like a fucking semi-truck has been lifted off of my chest.” 

“So, again.” Murphy hops on the daybed. “How should we celebrate?”

“How about retribution?” 

“What does that mean?” Murphy asks with furrowed eyebrows. 

Bellamy and Miller stare at him. “You’re a moron.”

“Revenge. It means revenge.”

Murphy smirks. “Well, why didn’t you just say that?"

Twenty minutes later, they’re in his room with beers in their hands. 

“So, how hard are we going?” Murphy throws the bottle cap up and down in his hands. 

“The Princess almost got me expelled. Pretty fucking hard, I think,” he snaps. 

“Why don’t we just go for the obvious?” Murphy shrugs.

“And what’s that?” 

“She invaded our property and humiliated you, right? Let’s just return the favor. And lucky for us– tonight is perfect.” 


[clarke]

 

That night, she comes back from class to an empty suite.

Late afternoons on Thursdays are the only, rare time they’re all out. Her and Raven both have evening labs, Harper and Emori scheduled a tutoring session for her Comms class, and Maya has a meeting for Music Club. 

Mercifully, her lab ended early. Confronting Pike and crying her eyes out to Marcus at the break of dawn had emotionally exhausted her, and she didn’t think she could handle the day anymore.

She hangs up her fleece on their coat rack and moves to the kitchen to get a snack. She’s pulling out a bag of caramel corn when she hears it.

Rustling in the back of the suite, followed by muffled voices. 

She freezes. No one is supposed to be home.

She can’t tell whose room it's coming from. Moving through the living room to their hallway, she checks each door. Raven and Maya’s is half-open. But no noise. Which means that whoever it is, is in her and Harper’s room.

Maybe Octavia came over? One time she caught her and Lincoln in her bed and didn’t talk to her for a day. 

Slowly, she reaches forward with her swipe card and the door beeps. She pushes it open with one hand, and three faces turn back to her.

The air leaves her chest.

The room is completely demolished. Her white bedding now has three letters spray-painted on it: ARK. They had pulled out her storage boxes and covered most of them with their frat’s colors. Her notebooks, textbooks, and art supplies had been pulled from her dresser and thrown on the ground. String lights torn down. Pictures and bulletin boards on the walls ripped down. Their flag is draped over her desk chair, and all of her clothes are on the floor. It looks like they hung up ARK merch in their place.

Luckily, most of Harper’s side is untouched.

“Hey, Princess! Smile for the Instagram followers! We’re live, baby!”

Murphy’s ragged voice snaps her out of her scan of the room. His phone is pointed towards her, and Bellamy is smirking, holding a not-so-cute bra in his hand. 

“Love this one, Princess. It might look even better with a pop of color.” He sprays purple all over it.

Murphy swivels his phone to him. “Love that look!” 

Miller looks a bit hesitant, still holding handfuls of her bras in his hands. Upon seeing her, he drops them on the desk. Her attention snaps to some scraps of paper on the ground in front of her bed. 

And, suddenly, she is breathless. No longer in her own body. Empty.

She stumbles forward and collapses to the ground. 

“Uh oh, Princess? Did we accidentally get a scratch on one of your Gucci handbags?”

“No,” she whispers. “Dad.”

She picks up the torn pieces of paper with trembling hands. The charcoal is smudged. The edges of each scrap are already frayed, but she tries to put it back together. Sliding the pieces over the carpet. Tears start to drop onto the floor, blotting the lead swirls. 

“No, no,” she frantically wipes her tears away and gathers each scrap in her hand. She hears Murphy’s leering in the background, but sees the smirks fade in her peripherals. 

“Dude.” She hears Miller whisper to Murphy. “I think that’s enough.” 

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” 

She hears screaming and the roars of voices behind her. 

“Turn that shit off you fucking idiot!” She watches a flash of dark hair grab Murphy’s phone and throw it across the room.

“You really crossed a line, Bell.” 

Eventually, her ears stop ringing and her eyes are no longer blurred by tears. She watches Octavia and Raven shove the three men out of the room. Arms envelope her.

“Clarke? It’s okay,” Harper whispers, rubbing her back. 

“We’ve got you,” Maya pulls her head into her lap.

The pieces of paper are crumpled in her hands. “He’s gone. That was all I had of him,” she says through sniffles.

Maya softly touches her watch. “You still have this, right?” 

She nods, moving her hands to it. “But...it's his drawings. They’re his! And they took him,” she chokes back a sob. “Why did they do that?”

“Because they’re the scum of the earth,” Raven answers, joining their huddle. 

“I can’t believe he did that, Clarke,” Octavia shakes her head. “I’m so sorry.” 

Raven stands up defiantly, eyes dark with rage.

“Call Monty and Jas. Time for us to go live.”


[clarke]

 

Monty and Jasper are already on their way before they call. Wells texts that he'll be there in an hour. 

“This is disgusting,” she hisses. Shaw rubs Raven’s shoulders as she speaks. “Clarke just received an academic strike for that idiot. This is what he does?” 

“Maybe he didn’t–”

“What?” she snaps at Shaw. “They didn’t know what they were doing when they ripped up drawings of Clarke and her father?” 

“Maybe they didn’t know that he drew them?”

“Why are you defending them?” she seethes. Shaw holds his hands up, mouthing a 'sorry'.

Raven looks at Monty and Jasper, who are huddled on the couch with their computers. “Is it ready yet?”

“Five minutes, tops,” Monty says, not looking up.

“Raven, are you sure this is a good–” 

“Shut up,” she snaps at Octavia. “You prioritized him over Clarke this morning. And look what happened.”

Octavia shrinks.

Raven sighs. “I’m sorry. I’m just… riled up. By this whole situation. You didn’t know the whole porn video thing would end up the way it did. But, Clarke immediately remedied it! And what did they do?” Her laugh is humorless. “Impulsively break into a dorm room and spray paint someone’s personal belongings. Fondle her fucking underwear. And rips up the only things left of her dead dad. Her family. Her best friend.”

She shakes her head. “And I get it. He’s your family. But, I didn’t grow up with any. Only Finn. And then he cheated. Then, Clarke became mine. Don't get me wrong, you guys are, too. But she’s been my family since day one.” 

Wells decides to enter the suite exactly then. He doesn’t say anything, just moves to Clarke on the couch and wraps himself around her.

Monty raises his head, a few tense minutes later. ”It’s ready.”

Raven picks up her coat and Monty angles the computer toward Clarke. “Here’s where you’ll see the stream. You can speak into this mic.” He taps the top right of the screen. “We’ll hear you.” 

“Let’s go,” Jasper mutters darkly.

She grabs his hand as she walks past. “Jas. You don’t have to do anything for me.”

He looks back at her, sincerity written on his face. “You do everything, for everyone, everyday. This is the least we can do.”

Tears gather in her eyes, and she squeezes his hand.

Raven, Jasper, and Monty bundle up in coats, sweaters, and scarves, and breeze out the door.

Everyone else huddles around the computer as they watch Raven’s phone screen bounce as they walk. 

“Are you all okay?” Clarke speaks into the mic. Raven turns the camera towards herself and rolls her eyes.

“We just left the building, Griffin.”

“I know, but it's freezing outside.”

“We’re okay, Clarke.”

Raven tilts the screen to Monty and Jasper, proudly marching next to her, heads tucked in their scarves. 

“How far are you?” Wells asks. The screen flips around, and they watch the three of them jaywalk the street near the ARK house. 

“Such rebels,” Harper teases. 

Jasper flips his non-existent long hair. “Just a day in the life.”

The laughter is much needed. She snuggles into Wells’ shoulder, and he rubs her arm. 

“Do you think this is a good idea? You’re the rational one.” 

“Usually, I wouldn’t think so. But seeing you on that live–” He clenches his jaw. “They need to understand what they’ve done.” 

“See? If Wells approves, that’s how we know it'll work,” Monty adds, peeking into the camera.

The ivory pillars of the house shine a bit brighter under the moon. They watch as the three creep behind the hedges just outside of the backyard.

“This is the farthest we can go without them hearing us.

“Oh my god,” Harper whispers. “They’re actually doing this.”

Clarke nods, anxiety twisting in her stomach. “There’s still time to back out.”

Raven looks down at her, rolling her eyes. “Shut up.

“Okay.”

“We’ll only have about a minute before the feed will show up on each of frat brother's phones too. Ready to go live?” 

They watch as Raven passes the phone to Monty, flipping the screen around.

They see her standing there with a microphone in hand. Jasper is barely in the frame, one finger hovering over the keyboard of his laptop. 

“Hell yeah.

“Live in 3...2...1.” Jasper brings his finger down.

Their phones beep, as the Instagram livefeed automatically shows up on everyone’s screens, without the app even being open. 

“Jesus,” Shaw breathes. “They’re goddamn masterminds.”

“Hello, Ark U student body. This is Raven Reyes reporting from the back patio of the ARK fraternity house, which holds the most pathetic, sad, disgusting group of men on campus.

They snicker. “You’re a lucky one,” Wells juts his head towards Shaw. 

“Today, they did something especially shitty, you know? Let’s show them, Jas.”

Suddenly, pictures of Clarke’s room flash on the screen. She freezes, and Wells tightens her hold around her.

“When the hell did they even take pictures?” she mumbles. 

“This is Clarke Griffin’s room. You all remember Clarke Griffin, right? You know her, the one running for President. Remember how she said her dad sacrificed himself at a protest?

A close up picture of the torn pieces of her dad’s drawings flashes next, and her chin quivers.

He drew these for her. And the ARK brothers ripped them to shreds. Some of the last things she has of him. They also spray painted her bras and underwear. Classy men, am I right?”

The screen snaps back to Raven.

“They went live during all of this, too. You all probably saw that a few hours ago, right? We thought it would only be fair if we returned the favor.”

A few beeps sound behind them in the house. “Uh oh! That’s our cue. Come on, friends!”

They watch as Raven, Monty, and Jasper nimbly hop the hedges and dodge the red cups on the patio to slip into the frat house.

“Dang. If all else fails, they should go into track and field,” Harper quips. 

The camera follows Raven as she sprints up the stairs. She speaks into the headpiece.

“Which room is his again, Octavia?” she whispers into their personal feed. 

“Second on the left.”

“Alright, Ark U students. Should we interview some of the guys? Knock, knock!” She knocks on the door, but pushes it open anyway.

The room has dark green walls, clothes all over the floor, with a discarded football in the corner. There’s not much furniture other than the bed.

Octavia frowns. “That doesn’t look like Bell’s room.” 

As the camera steadies, their jaws drop.

She darts her eyes from the computer screen to Wells’ phone. Harper and Maya bring their phones to their faces. Shaw stares at Raven on the screen, laughing incredulously. No one has the guts to look at Octavia.

Gina is straddling a guy. A half naked guy. Who is definitely not Bellamy. 

A hand covers Octavia’s mouth. “Dax…” 

A moan floats through the air before the two hear the commotion. Gina spins around with a face of fury. “Get out, bitch!

Raven blinks, and Jasper snickers in the background. “Yikes. Gotta go!”

The camera shakes, black spots flickering everywhere, as they hear footsteps pounding against the floor. 

“What the fuck is this?”

Octavia snaps her head up. Bellamy’s voice booms in the background.

“Our bad! Think we opened the wrong room!” 

They watch as Raven sprints out of the back door, assuming Monty does as well. They hear Jasper’s maniacal laughter and huffs for breath. The screen shakes as they sprint through the crosswalk and the rest of campus until they reach Sanctum. The feed goes dark.

A few minutes later, the door bangs so loud that they worry some of the hinges broke. 

Jasper, Monty, and Raven run in, hands on their knees. They look at each other for a few seconds, before bursting into laughter.

Their laughter is contagious, and after a few seconds, most of them are rolling on the ground, or doubled over on the couch. The three’s clothes are scattered around the room as they toss them off, sweating and panting. 

After awhile, the laughter quiets down. A heavy silence envelopes the room.

“Holy shit.” Jasper runs a hand through his hair. “That was seriously fucked up.” 

“That was so fucking funny,” Raven laughs on the floor next to the coffee table. “I almost feel bad for the guy.”

Octavia sighs. “I should probably go find him.”

Raven snorts. “Yeah, go comfort the guy who ripped the remains of Clarke’s dad to shreds three hours ago.”

Octavia winces, guilt in her eyes. She leans over to Clarke, whispering in her ears. “I feel a bit guilty. I hate Gina. But Bell doesn’t deserve to be cheated on.”

She pats her back. “It’s fine. Go.”

Octavia looks at her, sadly. “I’m so sorry about what he did today. That was unforgivable.”

She just nods in response, not really willing to have the conversation. 

And Octavia wraps herself in her coat and leaves. 

The rest of them come back to huddle around her. They stay like that for another hour, or so, before she finally lets go of Wells. 

“Can’t you just sleep here?” she begs him. “You take my bed. I’ll sleep on the couch.”

“Absolutely not.” He leans against the doorframe. “I’ll be back tomorrow. For the game.” 

She sighs. “I don’t think I'm going to that anymore.”

“Okay. No worries. I want you to meet my girl, though. Could I bring her to the pregame?” 

She sighs fake-dramatically. “I guess.” He grins and leans forward to kiss her forehead. 

“I love you.” He squeezes her hand. “He would be so proud of you.” 

The statement brings tears to her eyes in seconds. She crushes him in a hug before he leaves. 

Jasper, Monty, and Shaw give Clarke long, tight hugs before they leave. 

“Thanks for doing that for me,” she says earnestly, looking between Jasper and Monty. “You guys always show up for me.”

“Hell yeah. Jonty for life!” They high five each other. She rolls her eyes, but an unparalleled amount of love and appreciation swells in her chest. 

The girls tuck her in (Raven gives her new blankets) and the overwhelming loyalty and care that’s around her makes her fall asleep easily, a smile on her face.

Chapter Text

[bellamy]

a few hours ago

 

“Are you sure they’ll be gone?” 

“Yeah,” Murphy insists, strolling down the hallway to their door. “Emori told me that Harper told her that they’ll have the rest of the tutoring sessions for the semester on Thursday afternoons, ‘cause no one will be there.”

“Well, why aren’t they there today?” 

“Apparently, Harper’s group for her class is meeting in the Comms building, so they’re just gonna do tutoring there too.” 

“Alright.” He fumbles with the key card that he, once again, threatened the kid at the front desk to give him.

The door panel turns green, and they hesitantly walk inside, ready to make some excuse for why they’re there. But there’s only silence.

They grin at each other. “Let’s go, boys.”


“Don’t touch Blondie’s side of the room. She was already collateral on her birthday.” 

Fifteen minutes later, they’ve successfully ransacked the Princess’ side. He shakes the bottle of spray paint. “Where should I start?”

“Hm,” Murphy taps his chin, and smirks. “Let’s find a fun drawer.”

They pull out all the dressers and dump the contents on the floor before they find it. "Get some of the ugly ones."

“I don’t like touching her personal and… intimate undergarments. I feel like a predator. And ‘get some of the ugly ones’,” Miller scoffs. “How the hell am I supposed to know what that means?” 

Murphy waves at him. “Like, ones with no lace or frills or anything. Plus, you don’t like girls, so it's fine.”

“She has a lot of nice ones,” Miller digs through the drawer. “This still feels disgusting, by the way.” 

“Again– not into girls.” Bellamy looks up after spraying her bed. “You’re allowed to.”

He rolls his eyes and Murphy pulls out his phone. “When should we go live?” 

“One sec.” He lugs over the plastic box they brought.

Pulling out all of her clothes from the closet, he replaces each with ARK letters and hoodies. He smirks and steps back. “Perfect.”

Murphy goes to her desk and topples over the random textbooks and art supplies. Bellamy climbs on her bed and rips down the lights and the photos and drawings attached to them, tears them, and throws them on the ground. 

The two look at him. Miller raises his eyebrows. "We didn't plan on that."

“Photos can be replaced. She can redraw it all.” He shrugs. “Let's do this.”

Murphy pulls up the ARK account and taps the live button. Viewers flood in.

“Hey, Lightbournes and the ARK community!” he shouts. “We have a fun show for you today!” He moves the phone sideways so Bellamy and Miller can crowd in.

“Recently, a certain campus Princess tried to get an ARK brother expelled. All for a prank,” Murphy pouts. “And we can’t have that. So, we’re teaching her a lesson.” 

He flips the camera and pans the room. “Behold! The Princess’ chambers!”

The comments flood with thumbs up's and ‘hell yeah’s and ‘don't mess with the brotherhood’s. 

“Let’s take you on a tour,” Murphy drawls.
He walks around the room, alternating the front and back camera.

“We had to mark our territory, of course.” He pans over the purple spray-painted bed.

“Some other useless items…” He moves the camera over the haphazard piles of clothes, textbooks, and colored pencils. 

“Here’s the fun part!” He leans down and picks up the piles of bras. “Look at the lace, friends! Cute as hell, right?” 

The noise around them doesn’t allow them to hear the Princess come back to the suite until she opens the door. Oops.

He sees her face fall, and he grins. 

Murphy throws his free hand up. “Oh, hey, Princess! Wasn’t expecting you. But smile for the Instagram followers! We’re live, baby!” 

“Love this one, Princess. It might look even better with a pop of color,” he sprays purple all over it.

Murphy swivels his phone to him. “Love that look!” 

Miller drops the bras and underwear on the desk. Bellamy rolls his eyes. 

They watch her, but she says nothing. Her eyes examine the room before she focuses on something near her bed. She weaves through them and collapses on the ground. 

He freezes in surprise. They expected fury, some stomps of a foot. Some screaming.

Not… that. Resign. Like something broke inside of her. Real, genuine, raw pain, heartache.

He’s seen that before. And images of his childhood start blinking in his brain. He saw it when Octavia huddled underneath him in his bed to block out the sounds of their father screaming at their mother in the kitchen. When she watched as their mother walked out of their front door. 

“Uh oh, Princess? Did we accidentally get a scratch on one of your Gucci handbags?”

He shoots Murphy a look, but couldn’t say anything. 

And the next few words make his blood run cold. Her voice is tiny, yielding.

“Dad.” 

He watches her small body hunch over a pile of shredded papers, trying to piece them together, like a puzzle. Her skin starts to alternate between whitening and flushing pinks and scarlets. The curtain of hair around her doesn’t hide the black that starts to swirl on the pages. She’s crying. Hard.

He realizes that he’s the one who ripped up those things. Those drawings. 

“Dude, I think that’s enough.” He hears Miller hissing at Murphy. 

But he’s still frozen, looking at the girl in front of him. She flits over the shredded papers, desperation in her fingers. In his profile view, he sees the water drip off her chin. 

He’s snapped out of his gaze when he hears crashing and ear-splitting screams behind them.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?”

It’s Ponytail. She lunges forward and grabs Murphy’s phone out of his hand before throwing it across the room. It hits the wall with a sharp crack.

A familiar voice echoes in his ear, and places a hand on his shoulder. He winces. “You really crossed a line, Bell.”

And then, she’s painfully grabbing his arm, dragging him out of the room. He complies, his eyes attached to the crumpled body in front of him, until he can’t see her anymore.

Ponytail pushes Murphy onto the carpeted floor outside the door. Octavia shoves him outside, as well, and Miller is already there. 

Raven leans down. “You fucked with the wrong girls,” she hisses, slamming the door in their faces. It clips his arm, and he watches as a tiny trickle of blood traces the veins of his forearm. 

The trip back to the house is swift and silent. None of them say anything as they walk through the door. Miller and Murphy linger in the living room, but he takes the stairs two at a time and slams the door behind him. 

He falls onto his bed, hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling. And it’s tries to collect himself.

What the hell were they thinking? This is what happens when they actually listen to Murphy. 

They broke into a girl’s dorm room. Sure, she broke into their house. But with paint cups. They destroyed a girl’s dorm room and tore her life apart. And went through her things. Ripped down the walls. Spray painted random shit. Rifled through her underwear.

He winces at the last one, nausea swirling in his stomach. Who even was he, right now?

But she almost got him expelled. Maybe she deserves it. 

When he closes his eyes, all he can see is her own. Piercing, broken pupils, a small body collapsed on the floor.

And that turns into flashes of a five year old Octavia on the floor behind the table, his mother’s body shaking on the couch. He squeezes his eyes hard, willing them to get rid of these fucking flashbacks.

What made him do it? More specifically, what made him do this to a girl who he knew also understands broken families? And loss, and pain. A few hours ago, he thought she was the horrible, shameless. And before that, he wasn’t the biggest fan of her, either. But, what he just did? That was just… cruel. 

She threatened his family. Did he unconsciously try to get rid of what family she had left?

He groans, shoving his pillow over his face. That's enough armchair psychology. He ignores the knocks at his door, and closes his eyes.

 

He wakes up a few hours later to some shouts and the pounding of feet in the hallway. Some livefeed is playing on his phone. He frowns, not remembering when he opened one. 

“Get out, slut!”

Oh, lord. That sounds like Gina’s voice.

Furrowing his eyebrows, a bit disoriented, he walks up and sees a flurry of people in the hallway. He recognizes Ponytail, but the other two people are shadowy in the dark. She’s holding a mic, and one of the other guys holds a phone up, filming her. He can also see the dim light of a laptop screen. 

“What the fuck is this?” 

The three turn to look at him. “Our bad! Think we opened the wrong room!”

And they sprint down the stairs and out of view.

Wrong room? He pads down the hallway until he reaches the door they opened. Ducking his head past the doorframe, he instantly feels anger swarm in him.

Gina and Dax are disentangling from one another on his bed. They’re a bit confused by the whirlwind of people entering and leaving their room, but she’s still half on his lap, him on his elbows. Even in the dark, he sees the disheveled hair and swollen lips.

When they see Bellamy’s face in the door, they freeze. She detaches herself from Dax even faster and tumbles across the room. “Bell, we were ju–” 

“What?” he snaps. “What were you doing?” 

“I–” 

Ignoring her, he breezes across the room and reaches Dax, who’s pulling his shirt on. Without hesitation, his fist reels back and spirals across his face. He falls back on the bed, blood trickling from one corner of his mouth.

“Bellamy!” He hears Gina scream, but he looms over him. “I knew you were a dickhead, Dax. I just didn’t think a guy who harasses women and sleeps with those who have boyfriends actually existed at this university. Boyfriends who live ten feet away from you, too. Some brotherhood,” he spits. He shakes his head and walks back across the room.

When he makes it halfway, he hears Dax scoff. “That’s funny, coming from the guy who broke into a girl’s room and played with her panties,” he drawls. “Did you take some for the road? Put some in your pocket?” 

He turns around and punches him again.

Dax clutches his face with a smile. “You’re no better than me, Blake.”

His jaw clenches and he strides out of the room. Before he enters the hallway, he turns around, facing Gina. “We’re done.” Her face looks pained, but he just walks back to his room. 

Shoving his arms through a coat, he slams his door behind him, storms down the stairs, and out of the house. 

As soon as he walks about three feet onto the stone path, he bumps into a head of dark hair.

“Ow." She rubs her head. “You feel like a rock.”

He looks down, and his face relaxes. “O.”

She looks up. “Hey, big brother. That looked rough.” 

He freezes. “You saw it."

She shifts uncomfortably. “Everyone kinda saw it. Did you see Raven, Monty, and Jasper in the hallway? With the phone?”

“Those assholes!” He breezes past her, but she grabs his arm. 

“Did you forget what you did a few hours ago?”

His shoulders tense, and he shudders a breath as the image of her hunched body flashes in his mind. She's right. But he starts walking again. 

“Woah! Where are you going?” Octavia tries to step in front of him.

“Sanctum." He tries to dodge her, but she sidesteps him. 

She places her hands against his chest. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

He winces at her words.

“She’s… really sad, right now.” Octavia pulls her hands away.

He scoffs. “I’m aware. I livestreamed her crying on the floor. I’m the entire reason she’s sad right now. So, move.” 

“Bell, I’m serious.” Her voice is darker, serious. “Honestly, you’re probably the last person she wants to see right now.” 

Her words cut deeper than they should, but he swallows and nods. “I can’t go back to that house.”

“Wanna hang out in my dorm?” 

He nods steely. But the thought that she’ll only be two floors under him makes his chest tighten. Octavia takes his hand, walking him back to her dorm.

“You guys have such an… erratic relationship.”

He looks at her. “What do you mean? We don’t have a relationship.”

She just shakes her head, and swipes them in.


[clarke]

 

Yesterday had probably been the most eventful day in her twenty one years of life. Which is why she’s extremely hesitant about tonight’s plans. Which also lands her in a familiar position.

“Please go.”

“No.”

“Please go!”

“No.”

“Clarke!”

“Octavia!”

Most of the boys have class, but the girls spend the day (and skip class) cleaning up her disaster of a room. Sometimes, it's actually really fun. They go get new pictures developed, so Octavia is in all of the photos now scattered on wall. They stopped at the mall after dumping all the bras and underwear the three boys had touched, and bought new, cute ones. When they rehang the fairy lights and bulletin boards, they leave some spots for Clarke’s new drawings of her father and her. 

There’s about an hour left before the pregame, and her and Octavia are replacing the ARK merch in her closet with her actual clothes. This gives Octavia the excuse to pull out every dress in her wardrobe, insisting that she should wear ‘this one’ to the afterparty. 

“You guys barely convinced me to come to the pregame and go to the football game." She smiles weakly. “I can’t do much more. My body and mind are both exhausted.” 

Octavia pouts and Maya and Harper make sounds of disappointment. “Fine. Can I at least pick out your pregame and game outfits?”

“At long as the game outfit is warm, I’m down.”

 

Turns out, that’s an awful idea. Octavia chooses the most awful, tightest black jeans. Combined with a crop top. Which makes her extremely frustrated.

“Seriously?” 

“To be fair, you look hot as hell,” Raven says over her shoulder, pulling the blonde hair into a high ponytail. 

You all look hot as hell.” Harper and Octavia are wearing similar crop tops and skirts. Maya twirls in a sweet, floral romper, and Raven, of course, is in a tight red dress. 

“This is dumb. And I resent it.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Octavia waves the eyeliner pen, drawing a small line across her lids. “We need to look half as good as you, or not a single boy will look at us.”

“You are all, literally, taken.” 

“It doesn’t mean we can make our men jealous!”

“When are you going to tell your brother about Lincoln, O?” Harper tilts her head.

“I’m hoping he’ll just find out from the brothers," she shrugs. “He seems to be cool with Lincoln, so I think we’re in the clear.”

Clarke sighs, flopping on her bed. Well, as much as she can, with her lungs in a crop-top chokehold. “What if Wells’ girlfriend doesn’t like me?”

They all turn to stare at her. “You make friends with everyone. Like moths to light.”

“Exhibit A," Octavia waves her hand.

“Exhibit B.”

“Exhibit C,” Maya adds.

Octavia’s eyebrows raise. “She brought both of you into the group?”

Harper nods. “She set me up with Monty, and Maya with Jasper.”

“Before, it was me, Wells, Raven, Monty, and Jasper. And Finn. But we don’t talk about him. Since freshman year. Raven started dating Zeke, and Harper and Maya lived on the floor above me. They came to our floor’s kitchen one time, because the one on their floor was occupied by a couple having sex on the counter,” she wrinkles her nose. “And we became fast friends. They were making brownies. My weakness.” She sticks her tongue out at the two girls. 

Raven sighs. “Why can’t I be as extroverted as you?”

“Well, I get burned too easily. So it's not always fun." She frowns. 

“Boss ladies! People are here!” They hear Jasper yell from the living room. Octavia grabs her hand.

“Ready?”

“No.” 

“You’re no fun.”

But, the pregame is, actually, tolerable. She takes small sips of her gin and feels a refreshing buzz. The kind that makes her smile no matter what.

Soon, she sees Wells and a stunning, lean girl next to him.

“Hi!” She flounces forward and hugs him.

“Hey." He chuckles, and speaks into her shoulder. “It’s good to see you happy.”

Pulling away, he motions to the girl next to him. “This is Delilah. She’s in my political science program.”  

“It’s great to meet you!” she squeals, folding her into a hug, before pulling away with concerned eyes. “I’m sorry. I hope you’re a hugger.”

“I definitely am!” Delilah smiles warmly and Clarke exhales in relief.

“I was so worried that you wouldn’t like me. Do you want a drink? Or a snack?” 

Delilah laughs. “I was worried that you wouldn’t like me! I wanted to make a good impression on Wells’ best friend, you know. And yeah, sure!"

“Aw. Don’t be worried. I pretty much make friends with everyone. Let me show you the drinks table?”

“Sounds good.”

Twenty minutes later, her buzz has dwindled. She doesn’t mind. It's almost time for the game, anyway.

She can’t really say the same for everyone else. The girls are drunk out of their minds, and the guys are equally as high. Which makes her sober sister for the night, and that might be for the best. 

Knocks sound at the door. They had to close it so they didn’t get a noise complaint from the rest of the floor. She pulls open the door and her face fills with shock.

Emori, Murphy, Bellamy, and Miller stand in front of her. 

Chapter Text

[clarke]

 

The sight of the four of them spreads anxiety throughout her limbs. Emori looks sheepish. “Hey, I know they weren’t invited, but I just fig–”

“That’s okay,” she steps aside. “Everyone is welcome.”

Well, maybe not the three guys who ripped apart one of the last things she had of her father. And searched through her underwear drawer. But too late, now.

Monty, Jasper, and Shaw are too high on the couch to recognize them, but the girls see them and stiffen. 

“This is Emori, the one I was talking about last weekend. Harper’s tutor, too.” She attempts a smile, trying to avoid eye contact with the other three men. The girls wave politely. 

“Bell?” Octavia looks half-perplexed, half-annoyed. “What the hell are you doing here?” 

“Emori asked me to come," he starts, looking uncomfortable. “And alcohol.” 

“You weren’t invited,” Octavia snaps. But Clarke looks at her. It's fine, she communicates silently.

She hesitates, but nods. “Aren’t you playing in the game, anyways?”

“Yeah.”

“Fine. The drinks and stuff are over there.” She jerks her finger behind her.

“O, you don’t even live here.”

She shrugs. “This is home.” 

A small smile appears on Clarke's face. He looks a bit taken aback, and a bit hurt. He motions for Murphy and Miller to follow them, and they slink away.

Emori turns to her. “I’m so sorry, I was just so scared to come after yesterday, but I really wanted to meet everyone, and I just felt like bringing them might give me a lifeline.” A bit of embarrassment and self-consciousness seeps into her words.

“That’s okay."

But her face definitely communicates that she’s lying through her teeth. It’s not really okay. It actually hurts to see them. A lot. “As long as you feel safe and have a good time, that’s all that matters.”

Emori smiles gratefully, reaching forward to squeeze her arm. “I knew that you’d be chill with it. Honestly, it’s hard for me to believe that you tried to get Bellamy expelled, or something.” 

She winces, and a hollow feeling settles in her stomach. “Thanks,” she says blandly. But Emori doesn't seem to notice, and she beams tipsily.

She clearly she pregamed their pregame. "I’m going to go find John.” And she prances away. 

No matter how drunk or sober Raven or her are, they always recognize that specific look. It's their unspoken S.O.S. Sometimes, it's to help push away the drunk guy on them, or to help when they’re about to throw up in the bathroom. When they’re sober, sometimes it's to dip out of awkward situations, or how they should figure out a way to exit the interaction together. 

This time, that look is across the room, from the vicinity of the door to the chip bowl. 

I need a break. Cover for me. Raven understands, and sobers a bit, playing hostess and managing the doorbell and drinks. 

Meanwhile, she pushes through people to get to the bathroom. She places both hands on the sink, leaning down. It's not Emori’s fault that she brought them. They make her feel safe. Even if they make her feel unsafe.

And she doesn’t understand what it feels like, to have people chip away at the last remains she has of a parent. No one understands, it seems.

Eyes closed, she tries to process the events of the last week. It all seems so childish, all of this over an undergraduate presidential race. Somehow, it became so volatile. Overpersonal. How?

A voice interrupts her thoughts. “Hey, Princess.”

Bile rises in her throat. She looks up a bit too quickly and sways.

Bellamy leans against the doorframe, a beer bottle in hand. He shifts against the wood, and moves his beer to the other hand. “You look nice.” 

Expecting literally anything but that, she raises her eyebrows and turns to him. “Thanks.” Her voice is small.

But as she focuses on his dark eyes– the same eyes that twinkled with cruelty, a lack of remorse, venom– her own eyes swirl into a deep indigo. “A whole lot better than how I looked sobbing on my dorm room floor, right?”

She refuses to ease her fierce gaze, and watches as his face crumples in emotion; she recognizes the guilt, hatred. Not for her. For himself. 

He swallows, and his shoulder tenses against the doorframe. She snaps her head back, closing her eyes. After a few minutes of silence, she expects that he’d leave. But when she opens them, she still sees his jeans in her peripherals. 

“I wanted to–

But the vomit threatens to spill into her mouth, so she brushes past him, her body harshly slamming against his shoulder. She searches for Raven’s eyes, but she’s already next to her, wrapping their fingers together. Raven looks at her with concern, and she forces a smile. 

“Alright, y’all! The game is soon. Get out!” Raven herds everyone out of the suite. Luckily, she’s distracted by Harper and Maya hugging her, and doesn’t see him emerge from the hallway and exit the suite. For a few minutes, they sweep up the cups and empty bottles and throw the trash bags down the garbage chute. The girls hurry to change. 

They meet the guys in the living room and trot down the hallway. She feels a bit left out as each couple pairs off every few minutes. They try not to cling to their partners and spend time with her, but a drunk Maya is a very clingy Maya, and a high Monty is similar. She has Octavia for a while until Lincoln joins them at the entrance of the stadium. She tries to busy herself with opening the bag of the chocolate pretzels she snuck in, but Wells sees right through her.

“Hey, I’m here.” He leans over, bumping her shoulder. The metal of the bleachers is still cold under her, despite the hoodie and the leggings. 

“So, are games usually this big of a thing here? I’m a transfer student,” Delilah tries to make conversation, too. It brings a smile to Clarke’s face, actually. 

They all take up a row, and she sits at the very end, stairs to her left, Wells on her right, feeling a bit isolated. She pops a few chocolate pretzels in her mouth, and tries to ignore the sick feeling that the encounter with Bellamy creates in her stomach.


[bellamy]

 

After the pregame, him and Miller join the rest of the team in the locker room. Talking to the Princess in the bathroom sobered him completely.

Coach Cartwig stands above them as they gather in a huddle. “Remember. The Grounders have weak offense. Their QB wasn’t the strongest last season, so they recently swapped him out for the first game. Which means they haven’t had much time at all to practice with him.”

Last season, they beat the University at Mount Weather almost every game. The only game they lost was when Miller was injured.

“So, we’ll start with an off tackle, move into a sweep, and finish with a counter. Good?”

The team nods and places their fists in. “One, two– Lightbournes!” 

When they jog onto the field to loud cheers, a streak of pride and adrenaline sweeps over his body. He takes some time to wave at the familiar group of swooning girls in the front row.  

Miller nudges him as they jog together. “Looking for a rebound already?” 

He shrugs with a smirk. “Maybe.”

Part of him wants to search the bleachers for Gina’s light brown hair, and the other wants to search for a head of frizzy curls. He scans the stands quickly, but sees neither, so he just moves into position. 

He watches as Lincoln’s determined eyes scan over the team. ‘We got this', they seem to say. Some of the guys nod. He does, fiercely.

He meets his eyes again. His gaze is passionate, and he knows what he means. ‘I’m passing to you and also, I’m dating your sister, sorry.’

He responds with a hesitant, but understanding expression. 

“Hike, two, three, four!” He backs up and throws the ball.

It sails through the air and Bellamy easily catches it to his chest, running a few yards before a tackle. He can see Miller’s grin beneath his mouthguard as he slaps the top of his helmet in mirth.

By the end of the second quarter, they’re rolling the Grounders, 20-7. The team reconvenes next to Coach Cartwig at the edge of the field.

But he keeps thinking about the interaction in the bathroom. So, he glances up every few minutes to scan the crowd.


[clarke]

 

As soon as the first play happens, she realizes that football is… okay. 

To be honest, she thinks that school sports are just a performance. Not really anything but an excuse to get drunk before, during, and after; with some added animosity between two sides, some delicious conflict. 

Unease still sits at the bottom of her stomach. But, somehow, watching the bodies flick up and down the field, or ripple in different directions as a play starts– it relaxes her. The sparks of gold flitting through the air is pleasant, and it distracts her from the raw pain that consumed her for the last few days. It’s actually entertaining. And a bit remarkable.

So many of the Lightbournes are swift, agile. Frictionless. Ironically, it reminds her of ballet. 

Maybe it's the physical, the concrete feel of the whole thing. It's real, and in front of her. Not the abstract, confusing, dizzying amalgam of emotions that arise when she sees Miller, Murphy, Emori, Gina. Bellamy. 

He stands out, she can tell. She watches him nimbly dodge other players, his feet kicking up small flicks of turf as he dashes down the rows of white stripes. He’s strong, but controlled. Not exactly gentle, but steady. Rhythmic. 

God. Things must be really rough if she’s overanalyzing the beauty of an college football game.

 

At halftime, they stretch their legs and Octavia scoots down the row to smirk at her. “It’s impressive, isn’t it?”

“What?”

She slaps her shoulder. “Stop that. I saw you making eyes at him. And cheering for him.”

“I was making eyes at all of them. Cheering is kind of what you do, here. And I've never paid attention to football before this.” 

“And you didn't pay attention ‘cause you’d never seen Bell. For reals. Don't they all look fine as hell?” She sighs wistfully.

She rolls her eyes. “Alright, Octavia. Calm down and keep staring at Lincoln. He looks ‘fine’, too.”

Octavia narrows her eyes. “He’s mine.”

Clarke throws her head back in laughter, holding her hands up in defense.

“Also– did you just say ‘too’? Lincoln looks fine, ‘too’?”

She falters. “Okay. You know I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Yes, you did! Otherwise you wouldn’t have said ‘too’!”

“Why would I call your brother fine to your own face?”

“I don’t know,” she shrugs. “He calls you hot to my face.”

Clarke wavers, but only for a second. “Shut up.” She rolls her eyes. "I just can’t think of that right now. Every time I see him, I still see the look in his eyes when they filmed me. How satisfied he looked when I was on the floor. You know?” 

Guilt now swirls on Octavia’s face. “Shit. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring that all up. I was just teasing. But I’ll stop, I promise.”

She smiles weakly. “Thanks.”

“Though, for the record.” Raven clears her throat. “That kid looked like he was just hit by 100,000 volts of a stun gun when he saw you on the floor. The smirk fell off his damn face.”

She frowns. “Are you sure? It looked like–”

“Trust me, Griffin. A whole Molotov cocktail of emotions was on that kid’s face. Murphy was still being a dickhead, for sure. Not him, though.” She throws a handful of popcorn in her mouth. 

Clarke looks to Octavia, who nods. “It's true. I mean, I practically threw him around and dragged him on his face, but he looked… I don’t know, really. Grief-stricken, heartbroken.”

Clarke glares at her. 

“Not like that!” Octavia raises her hands up. 

“Why didn’t you guys tell me earlier? I didn’t think he felt any kind of remorse.” 

Raven pauses. “I didn’t think he did at first either. But Baby Blake convinced me.”

They nod together. It seems like she’d cooled down, and they were both okay after their mini-tiff yesterday.

“When I went to go see him yesterday night, after that Gina thing, the first thing he wanted to do was talk to you. I had to physically step in front of him to make sure he didn't come to your dorm.”

”Oh.” Clarke chews on a popcorn kernel. “When we were in the bathroom today, he tried to talk to me then, too.”

“You were in the bathroom with the Fuckboy?” Raven raises an eyebrow. 

“Can you stop, please? I’m gonna get more soda.”

Still, her voice is a bit disquieting, a bit shy. A bit of pink on her cheeks.

As she hops down the bleachers, she hears Raven softly mutter to Octavia.  “Really?”


[bellamy]

 

He sits on a bench in the locker room, chugging a Gatorade. Miller sits next to him, breathing hard, head between his knees.

He raises an eyebrow. “You’ve never tired at halftime.” He hesitates before nodding his head in understanding. “Wait. Is the notoriously nonchalant Nathan Miller trying to impress someone?”

“Shut up,” he mumbles. “You can’t talk.” He frowns, but Miller keeps going. 

“There’s this medical student in our grad school. He helps the team out sometimes on the field. The medic trainee at the sidelines?”

Bellamy nods. “Yeah. Jackson, right?”

“Jackson.” He nods. “I’m kinda into him. He keeps staring at me. Help me figure it out.”

“What is this, high school?” He claps his shoulder. “You’re Nathan fucking Miller. You could get any guy you want. Any girl, too, probably. Until you tell them you don’t really reciprocate.” 

Miller snorts, sitting up. 

“Come on, boys!” Cartwig yells from the entrance to the field, waving her hands. “Halftime is over!”

“You don’t need to show off, dude. You already look badass on the field.” 

They run onto the field for the second time that night.


[clarke]

 

Her eyes follow one person while the team runs back into the stadium. Blake 6. She watches as he crouches into position, a patch of sweaty curls stuck to his forehead.

“You can’t stop staring at him, you know.” Wells nudges her, stealing a pretzel.

She sighs. “We almost had this conversation earlier, and I just feel… uncomfy. I think he was going to apologize. And I thought I’d tell him about the Pike thing.”

A piece of popcorn hits her nose. “Maybe if you want to hear what he has to say, you should come to the afterparty!” Octavia yells.

Clarke rolls her eyes. “Not happening.” 

During the third quarter, the autumn evening starts to become bitingly cold. She moves over to cuddle the girls with the blanket they brought.

“Do you guys know what I should do about Emori and Murphy?” she asks, watching as Miller catches the ball from Lincoln. 

“Honestly,” Raven throws a Whopper into her mouth. “I know Emori seems cool, but she really spent you into a spiral when she invited Fuckboy and Miller and Murphy.”

“Do we really have to keep calling him that?” Octavia whines.

“Yep.”

“I know, but I like her. And she’s helping Harp.” She points at the blonde, who frowns.

“Don’t bring me into this. Tutors are different from friends.”

“See?”

Seeing her discouraged face, Raven sighs. “I know you like her, Griffin. But they all really hurt you. I just don’t want you to be around that, you know?”

She nods, biting the chocolate off of a pretzel. “I know. You’re right. Maybe I can talk to her about hanging out without them?”

The girls make a sound of half-agreement. After a few minutes, Harper speaks up again.

“Um, guys, why is Bellamy pink?”

“Probably ‘cause he keeps seeing Clarke stare at him,” Octavia snorts, and Clarke glares at her.

“No, like, pink pink.”

They all look at him. Sure enough, his gold jersey is slowly swirling into neon pink.

“What the hell?” Maya squints. “I didn’t smoke, right?”

Raven and Jasper gasp, and Clarke sighs in exasperation. “What the hell did you guys do?”

“Oh, shit. I forgot about this,” Raven raises a hand to her mouth. “Last night, after Jasper and Monty and I went to the house, we kept texting each other, and Jasper and I just couldn’t fall asleep. And we thought it’d be funny to… sneak into the locker room and dye his jersey pink.”
Shaw groans. 

“Seriously?” Monty throws his hands up. “Are you guys, like, twelve?”

“Okay, listen! They stole our clothes while we skinny dipped! And you’re calling us childish?”

“Yes! That’s exactly what I’m calling you!” 

Clarke is a bit speechless, staring at his back as he runs across the field. Pink splotches spread over his jersey quickly. He doesn’t seem to notice, but his teammates and the other team do, sending him odd looks when they reset the plays.

“How did it just happen? Why didn’t it happen before?”

Raven shifts. “Uh– Jasper made a dye that only reacts under extremely cold temperatures. So it could distract the Fuckboy at the end of the game.”

“Oh my god,” Octavia looks down, shaking her head.

“Well, it worked. Look!”

Now, his jersey is bright pink. To her horror, a shape starts to form. 

“Jasper…” she warns. “Tell me you didn't.”

“Uh, I definitely did.”

Over the pink, is a bright gold crown. 

“Jasper!” she hisses. “Everyone will think I did that!”

“I’m sorry!” He shrinks, his face guilty. “I was just so angry that night. And– I wanted to get back at him however I could. And so did Raven.”

“I’m sorry, Griffin. I’ll tell him I did it.”

“No, I’ll tell him!” Jasper pipes up. 

She swallows, tuning them out. He’s fully noticed by now, and she sees Miller whisper in his ear and trace the back of his jersey. His chest starts to heave with embarrassment and anger. 

He continues the plays, but the constant teasing from his teammates and his opponents makes him fumble and miss the ball.

She buries her head in her hands. “This is all my fault.”

Octavia pats her shoulder sympathetically. “He is so gonna kill you.”

Her eyes snap to hers. “Thanks for the pep talk, Octavia.” 

Harper winces. “This is a bit painful to watch.” 

Finally, after a few more plays, their coach seems to motion him over to the sidelines and gives him a new jersey. She relaxes a bit. 

 

Ever since the pink incident, the Grounders had scored more than usual, so it's 26-28, in their favor. About a minute is left on the clock, and, of course, Bellamy is selected to punt.

A few of the Grounders’ supporters on the other side of the stadium tease and goad Bellamy, calling him “Princess of the Punt,” or “Pretty Pink Princess.”

Not very imaginative, but good enough for screaming, hulking men. 

He walks into position and the ball is set down in front of him. She can see him take a deep breath.

Suddenly, her own breath leaves her chest. His face snaps to hers, as if he knew where she was sitting the entire time. He looks provoked. Heated.

His gaze lasts for half a second before he swings his head back, kicking the ball through the goal. He sends her another look after he scores, even more incensed this time. 

All around them, students jump up. Standing ovations. They roar, and shout, and cry affirmations. But she remains seated, affixed by his gaze. His teammates run onto the field, cheering and crowding him, lifting him on their shoulders. 

As all of her friends sit back down, and other students start filing out, Octavia snorts. “Yeah, you’re so fucked.”


[bellamy]

one hour ago

 

After talking to Miller at halftime, he starts to wonder if he’s trying to impress someone, too.

In the third quarter, he notices that some of the Grounders are looking at him weirdly. Which isn’t new, but his teammates start to, as well.

It distracts him quite a bit, and he fumbles a few times. The Grounders start scoring more because of it, and before he knows, it's 21-18. 

Finally, when they get a few seconds during the next play, Miller whispers in his ear.

“Dude, your jersey.” And he traces something on his back.

Looking down, he sees why everyone is looking at him. His jersey is bright, neon pink. The gold is completely covered.

And he knew what Miller traces on his back, almost immediately– a fucking crown. A crown. And just when he thought she's getting less annoying. Less infuriating.

It seems like such a stupid thing to get angry about. But on top of the almost-expulsion thing, her room thing, and the Gina thing– it's pretty fucking annoying.

Finally, a few minutes later, Coach calls a whistle and passes him a new jersey. He takes the opportunity to scan the bleachers above him for a head of irritatingly golden, curly hair.

And he can’t find it. Which makes him more annoyed. Which leads him to be the worst running back in Ark U’s history. 

In the last minute of the game, it’s 26-28. And he’s punting. It's all down to three.

So he better not fucking miss. 

The ball is placed down in front of him. Annoyance still pulses in his veins. As soon as the clock starts, an almost instinctive reflex occurs– his eyes flick upwards and he slightly jerks his head to his right.

And sure enough, right there in his vision, is the Princess herself. She looks guilty, anticipatory, and heated, all at the same time. 

A half second later, he snaps his head back and kicks the ball in a smooth curve, sending it sailing through the goalpost.

He hears roars, cheers, and his name being chanted around him. But he takes another second to look at her, again. Everyone around her is standing and cheering– O, Wells, even Raven– but she sits, stalled. Looking at him with intensity.

His head turns back, and the team lifts him into the air. A wide smile spreads on his face, and he pumps his fist into the air. He scans the stadium, breathing in the cheers. Threads of self-righteousness and satisfaction sweep him up, the brisk fall air raising goosebumps on his face.

Thank god he didn't miss.

Chapter Text

[clarke]

“I know it's been a day,” Maya starts, as they wander the streets outside of the stadium. “But I just think back to your room all shredded, and then, it feels like if I ever see them, I’ll strangle them with my headphones.”

Harper raises her eyebrows. “Jesus, Maya. But I get what she’s saying. So are we going to the afterparty?” 

“You guys should. I’m going to pass,” she half-smiles, kicking a rock on the sidewalk. 

Monty frowns. “It won’t be any fun without you, Clarke.”

“It’ll be fun. They have a bunch of weed. The good kind, that they grow on their own. I saw it in their backyard.” 

Jasper and Monty look at each other, in excited awe. “Go,” she waves at the couples.

But Raven shakes her head and kisses Shaw’s cheek. “You can go, babe. I don’t think I should. I’ll probably smash a beer bottle over their heads.”

Clarke laughs loudly. “Maybe I’ll go, just so I can see that.” 

“Oh, Griffin. I’ll do that in broad daylight. Just give me the go.”

When they get back to the suite, they both collapse on the couch, and look at each other.

“Gossip Girl?”

“Gossip Girl.”

They huddle together in front of the laptop until their eyes drift shut. And, for another twenty minutes, all is peaceful. 

And then, they are wet.

“What the hell?” Raven shoots up, her hair sticking to her face. 

She sits up, her bra showing through her now drenched shirt. Pools of water circle around their feet and dampen the cushions of the couch.

They look up, and see Octavia with a bowl. 

“Did you…” Clarke sputters through the water dripping down her face. “Really just throw water on us?” 

“Yep.” Octavia drops the bowl down and reaches down to grab both of their hands. “Time to go!”

Half-asleep, Raven stumbles as she’s pulled. “Where are we going?”

“To the afterparty, of course!” 

"I said no, O.”

But she throws her on the bed. “Why do you hate me?” Clarke whines, falling back on the comforter. 

“I don’t! I just want all of my girls to be at my first afterparty together!”

“Not working this time,” Raven mumbles, curling into a ball. 

“I’ll pour this facewash on you instead,” Octavia warns, gripping a bottle from Clarke’s desk. 

Raven lets out a loud, dramatic groan. “You won’t let this go, will you?”

“Nope.”

Raven sits up. “If I go, she goes.” Clarke glares at her. 

“Come on, Clarke!” Octavia walks around her bedpost and sits down next to her. “It might be good for you to hear what he had to say. And maybe you could explain the whole… pink jersey thing.”

“It might be a good time to talk to Emori, too.”

Clarke frowns at Raven. “Traitor.” But after a few seconds, she sighs. “Fine.”

“Yay!” Octavia squeals, thrusting a pile of folded clothes into Clarke’s hands. Her eyes narrow.

“I thought we decided that you only made outfits for the pregame and the actual game.”

“Well,” she fluffs her hair. “I figured that I’m very persuasive.”

“Baby Blake never disappoints, I guess.” Raven walks back in with her own stack of clothes.

Clarke’s eyes widen as she sees her top. “O, my boobs will literally fall out of this one.” 

“No, no,” She tugs off Clarke’s shirt and bra.

“Um, a little warning?”

“We’ll use pasties.” 

“Is this my punishment for putting up a fight?”

She pulls on a lace top and tucks it into a sequined pale pink skirt. 

“Holy moly, Griffin.” Raven raises her eyebrows. “If we weren’t such good friends, I would drag you to my bed immediately.”

That brings a small smile to her face. She twirls, and Octavia grins. “You really think it looks nice?”

Octavia grabs her face in her hands. “You look stunning. Seriously. I wish you could see what we see.” She sighs wistfully, then cringes. “Ew, you’re still wet. Let me fix that.” She blow-drys and straightens her hair in record time. 

And, then, they’re ready.

Great. 


[bellamy]

 

He figured that she wouldn’t show up. Too much guilt, confusion, and resentment sunk in her eyes when he caught her gaze at the game. 

His own anger had dissipated into a simmering kind of annoyance. The win kind of outshined the pink jersey thing. Hopefully, it’ll be forgotten soon. Also, he stopped caring a while ago. So what? It's a jersey. 

Deep in thought, he leans against the wall next to the couch, cider in hand. 

“Dude, that was fucking baller,” Murphy approaches him and claps him on the shoulder. Emori follows. “Especially when you looked at the Princess with that deadly glare. And you were like, try me, Princess and then scored anyway. Baller.”

He rolls his eyes. “I didn’t mean to look at her. It just happened.”

“Yeah, just like you looking for her in the stands ‘just happened’?” 

Bellamy frowns. “Was it that obvious?”

“Pretty much. What’s the deal?” 

“She seemed okay at the pregame thing at her apartment,” Emori adds. 

“I think seeing us really messed with her.” 

Murphy smirks.

“Not like that, dickhead. Did you see how she looked when she saw those paper things on the floor?” 

“Yeah, I saw that on the live, too,” Emori looks at him in disappointment. “It was brutal. And sad. You guys are assholes.”

“Exactly. I know. We fucked up. I ripped a thing her dad made.”

“It sounds like you fucked up,” Murphy shrugs, poking his chest. 

He sighs. “I was getting to that. I felt bad about the whole thing. So, I tried to talk to her in the bathroom but it was just… silent. And then I tried to talk, but she just pushed past me. Then, Raven told us all to leave, so I didn’t see where she went.”

“Yikes, Bellamy.” He looks at Emori wearily.

“You’re so gutless,” Murphy snorts, taking a long swig of his beer.

Bellamy glares at him. “Fuck off. The whole thing was your idea. And it practically broke her.”

He winces, guilt peeking out of his typically sarcastic demeanor. “Yeah. I know, okay? I was hoping she’d show up tonight, so I could talk to her, and shit. Because I’m not a wimp, like you.”

“John!” She frowns at him. “It’s hard for Bellamy to open up sometimes.” 

“You’re making him sound like he’s an angsty fifteen year old. At least I didn’t almost cry like a baby just because someone dyed my jersey pink.” 

“Agreed. He can be a baby.” Miller nods, walking from the kitchen to join them.

“On top of all the shit that happened this week, asshole,” he snaps. “It was pretty fucking annoying. And no one invited you, Miller.”

“I mean, I live here.” 

He breathes deeply through his nose. “I’ll just have to figure out another way to talk to her.”

Miller nods. “Do it. I apologized earlier, it went well. Even Ponytail accepted my apology. Raven, I mean.”

He straightens. “What the hell? When did you talk to her?” 

“When O came to see you and Lincoln after the game, I caught her and Raven walking to Sanctum together. So I stopped them. I told her what we did was super fucked up, and apologized for it all. Us being cruel, not thinking about how it’d affect her. Told her that touching her bras and shit was disgusting and predatory. And fucking with her personal space was invasive. How we crossed so many lines.

"I don’t know, I tried to be sincere, honest. She told me that she doesn’t think we can be friends anymore, and I told her that I understand that. She thanked me for apologizing. Then, Raven punched me. And then they walked away. But she shot me a smile over her shoulder, so I think it went well.”

“See?” Murphy gestures to Miller. “Not gutless.” 

Emori sighs, and pats his shoulder. “Let’s go to the patio and make out before you put your foot in your mouth even further.” The two stroll away.

“But, remember dude. She has stuff to apologize for too. Not really to me and Murphy. I mean, except for that paint cup thing, but she did do that porn ringtone thing. And the Instagram live thing. And the pink jersey.” 

“May I remind you that she walked in on you holding a handful of her bras on an Instagram live, as well?”

He’s quiet. “Okay, fair. You should go talk to her friends. They showed up earlier. They’re actually pretty chill.”

He’s about to respond, but the door opens. His mouth goes dry.

“Holy shit.” Miller raises his eyebrows. “Again, I don’t even like girls, but…” 

She walks in, and she twinkles. Literally, twinkles. The sequins of her skirt create dizzying, translucent light spots on the wall. He’s never seen her hair like that, how it runs down her back, straight and satiny. And her top– it’s low cut. So low cut, past the curve of her breastbone. It takes a considerable amount of effort to tear his eyes away after he realizes that he just checked out a girl for at least a minute straight.

Miller notices, and smirks when he turns his head back. 

“The Princess cleans up nice.”

“That’s one way to put it, yeah.” 

“Just talk to her, dude. Since when have you been scared to talk to a girl?” 

“It’s not the same.”

“Sure it is.” Miller pushes him forward, and he turns around to glare at him. But when he turns back, she’s gone. 

Miller laughs. “Time for hide and go seek, I guess.” 

He scowls and leans back against the wall, wondering what exactly to do. 


[clarke]

 

Immediately, as she enters the door, she sees him in the corner of her eye. Thank god a girl from her psych class is right next to the door, because she wouldn’t know what to do if anyone from the frat opened it. It might’ve been okay with Miller after his apology, but it's still a bit uncomfortable. 

Earlier that night, everyone had just parted ways, the rest of them going to the house while Raven and her walked to Sanctum. They didn’t expect him to be strolling back from the game, too. 

When he caught her eye, he started approaching them pretty quickly. Raven tensed at her side.

“Permission to punch?”

“Not yet. Let’s see what he has to say.”

And it was pretty acceptable. 

“Hey. Clarke. I know that you both probably want to punch me right now. Which I deserve. Breaking into your dorm and fucking it up– that was shitty all on its own. And live streaming it was even worse. Sometimes we just don’t think with our heads. We’re fucking idiots, not smart like you, you know. I hope you know that when you walked in–

He swallowed.

“When you walked in on me holding your bras, I just realized how fucked it all was. And invasive and predatory."

That’s when he started shifting back and forth awkwardly. And that’s how she knew it was real. 

“We just got way too carried away with the president thing. And you were always super chill with us, even when we said such stupid and dickish things. We actually asked Blake if we could hang out with you more that day you guys did the cup thing. 

But he said it good-naturedly, and she laughed.

“And we just thought that skinny dipping was funny. Being childish. The usual. Saying you started it. Even though it all started with the brothers harassing you and being assholes. We told them to cut it out, but that wasn’t enough. Those guys aren’t in the frat anymore. And in the future, we’ll actually protect you and other women from their harassment. We won’t just talk to them. We’ll take it way more seriously.

Raven’s fists clenched then. 

“Go ahead.”

“She doesn’t need protecting.” And then she punched him. Hard. And then she smiled.

But for now, she’s grateful that Harper and Maya found her and Raven and dragged them downstairs. 

And it's fun. A lot of fun, actually. She forgets about him and the stupid presidency. The girls sway and raise their arms, pressing their bodies against each other. The music is trash, but her friends are smiling, and she’s smiling, and it's all real, raw. 

After an hour, they're breathless and sweaty. They move through the throngs of people to head back upstairs.

“Where’s Octavia?” Harper slurs over the music.

“I think with Lincoln.”

Harper nods and tugs on her hand. They search the upstairs for drinks. When they find the table, a very drunk Harper scoops up a random cup and raises it to her lips.

“I don’t think so.” A hand lowers the cup. Monty and Jasper meet them at the table.

“Babe!” Harper flings herself around Monty’s shoulders.

“I think it's time to take you home, my love.” She pouts, but nods. 

Maya laughs, reaching down to take Jasper’s hand. “Do you want to head back?” she asks shyly. Jasper’s eyes widen, and he nods vigorously. 

And, with that, the two couples drift off. She clings to Raven’s arm, who promises she won’t ditch her. But she sees Shaw on one of the couches, and tells Clarke to follow her. 

And when Raven climbs on his lap, she feels that shuffling away is the best move. They don’t really notice. 

Overwhelmed, she sits outside, where her, Harper, and Octavia sat at the last party. It's familiar and safe, and that’s good enough for her. 

Her outfit is popular, and gets many comments from men. But they're all sleazy, and she’s really not interested in ‘going somewhere more private’ to have a one night stand in a room with mold growing in the corners and with a frat boy who probably doesn’t last long, anyways. 

She gets especially annoyed when one of them tries to touch her ass, so she stands up and wanders across the backyard, eventually finding a small stone bench in the corner of some hedges. It has a direct view of the moon and a hefty spattering of stars, and it calms her down. 

Her hands grip the edge of the bench as her head tips up at the sky, trying to find something meaningful to pull out of this night.

“What’s a girl like you doing in a place like this?” 

The familiar voice inspires a bit of hesitance and disarray in her, but she still smiles at the ridiculous opener he chooses.

She turns around, amused. “Did you just quote Timbaland and Katy Perry?

He stands a few feet away in the grass, holding a hand to his chest, fake-offended. “Absolutely not.” He walks over to her and she scoots on the bench to let him sit.

“I’m quoting the classic black-and-white film by the legend himself, Martin Scorsese.” 

“I hate to break it to you, but,” she looks back at the stars. “The title of that one is ‘What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?’”

“Semantics.” He waves his hand in the air. It grazes her pale thigh, and she recoils. She swears he looks at her with guilt, but she’s unsure.

“Also, if we’re playing that game, the Timbaland and Katy Perry lyric is actually, ‘Say, what’s somebody like you, doing in a place like this?’”

Rolling her eyes, she takes a deep breath and finally looks down at him. He’s pretty cute up close. His hair is a bit too long, and it flops over his forehead. His almost-black eyes aren't quite piercing, but they're searching.

Her slightly tipsy mind can’t think straight.

She then realizes that he’s already looking at her, and that they're only a few inches apart. Her heart beats frantically.

They’re in the same exact position. Hands gripping the edge of the stone, heads turned to each other. Their fingers would graze if one of them moved a single inch. 

She thinks he starts to lean in, and she panics, clearing her throat. A flash of emotion flickers on his face, but she doesn’t know what. “When you spoke in the bathroom, today, it see–”

“Yeah.” He nods, standing up and extending a hand. “Do you mind if we go somewhere else? I just… I want to make sure it's private.”

She narrows her eyes. “I’m not going to your bedroom, Blake.”

“Of course not, Princess.” He wears a lopsided smile. “I had somewhere else in mind.” 

“You know, we’re supposed to hate each other. You definitely sent me ‘I hate you’ eyes at the game today. And I was pretty pissed at you exactly twenty-four hours ago.”

“Humor me.” 

She stares at him, but eventually takes his hand.


[bellamy]

one hour ago

 

He kinda feels like a stalker. As he leans against the wall, Miller ditches him to talk to Jackson. Some girl starts talking to him, but he sees a flash of pink sequins descending the stairs. So, she's in the basement.

He turns his attention back to the redhead in front of him. He doesn’t remember her name. “I’m sorry, what?”

The girl is obviously annoyed, and turns away. “Never mind.”

He shrugs, letting out a sigh. 

He tries to talk to people, thank them for their congratulations on the win, joking about how the pink jersey might’ve been good luck. But those conversations keep reminding him of her, and his gaze falls to the stairs.

Every five minutes, the same thought pops into his head: why does he care so much? 

Well, he knows half of the reason. What he did was, objectively, fucked up. Like, really bad. And if Miller and Murphy apologized, then he really should. 

But there’s something else. He cares in a different way. Yeah, he wouldn’t mind sleeping with her. But it's just different. He’s been analyzing, inspecting it all for awhile.

Before, when he had Gina– he still analyzed the conviction in her eyes when she spoke in class. He still squinted at her honesty and pain during the debate.

But he also stared at the fabric of her skirt, draped over her legs in that same debate. He was skeptical of her ability to make friends so easily. But he studied the way she makes Octavia smile the way she does, how she takes care of her.

He began to appreciate the beautiful intensity of her hunched over a sketchbook. And, somehow, he surveyed her sobbing on the floor, and found a kind of beauty that he wanted to scoop up and hold to his chest. 

And after Gina, just last night– it's more intense. It's not analysis. Or studying.

His eyes softened in guilt when he saw the way she looked dizzy when she greeted them at the door, but still let them in. And he couldn’t stop staring at her delicate, thin fingers as she gripped the sink in the bathroom. Couldn’t stop the thought of wrapping his hands around them. But he fumed at the way she held his gaze at the football game; defiant, but maybe, not at all. Maybe guilty. Sad.

He’s lost in his own thoughts for so long, and he starts to grow bored of the meaningless small talk and gossip. He doesn’t care what frat brother is fucking who, or what girls they need to scope out at the party. 

Actually, he pays attention to the last one, quickly spitting a lie: ‘she has a boyfriend’ when they bring up the “girl in lace and pink.” The brothers have already harassed her once. He was sure he would do it again if they had the chance.

His head snaps up as he sees the light spots shine all over the walls around him. Her and her friends step up the staircase, making their way to the drink table.

She hangs around them, obviously bored. The rest of them pair off, and he watches her stand alone, picking her nails with a cup in one hand. He wonders if she’ll go find a guy. She could do that pretty easily.

But she looks to the back door, and weaves through the crowd to push it open to the patio. He gets up and slowly follows, hanging around the kitchen to see what she’s doing. She’s sitting in the same spot that she sat with Octavia and Harper, as he’s now learned, last time. He keeps trying to sneak outside to speak to her, but a steady stream of brothers approaches her.

She flirts with them for no more than five minutes before dismissing them completely. It brings an amused smile to his face.

Finally, the last guy dips, and he starts towards the patio. Then, she stands, and walks further into the backyard.

Well, shit. She could be wrapping around the house or going through the side gate to leave. She didn’t look like she was having a good time, anyway.

But he angles his head to see where she’s going. To his surprise, she sits on one of their stone benches next to the corner hedges.

The moon washes over her, and the sparkles dull under the natural light, but in a good way. Replacing the artificial shine with a real one. If he has an opening tonight, it's right now.

He slides open the door and makes his way across the soft grass. When he’s only a few feet away from her, he blurts out the first thing he can think of.

“What’s a girl like you, doing in a place like this?” 

What the hell? What kind of line is that? 

But as she turns around with sparkling, amused eyes, it's clear that he’s grabbed her attention.

“Did you just quote Timbaland and Katy Perry?”

They have a brief exchange about the origin of that statement; he manages to quip back at her answers, but it's hard for him to focus on anything but her face. And chest, if he’s being honest with himself. 

And finally, she looks at him. His heart sinks as he sees a bit of fear in her eyes.

They’re side by side, gripping the edge of the bench, pinkies an inch away from touching. He exhales slowly, watching the air fan across her eyelashes. His eyes dart all over her face, marking each soft line, dipping curve, the flush from rising blood cells.

He feels his head tip towards her, but the clearing of her throat causes him to jerk back. 

“When you spoke in the bathroom, today, it see–” 

The mention of the conversation causes him to interrupt, over eager. “Yeah.”

Guess it's time to be bold. He stands, reaching his hand out. “Do you mind if we go somewhere else? I just… I want to make sure it's private.”

“I’m not going to your bedroom, Blake.”

Not yet. The thought instinctively runs through his head. He shakes it away, ashamed.

This might be a great idea, or an awful one. “Of course not, Princess. I had somewhere else in mind.” 

His hand is lingering in the air for too long, and rejection starts to seep into his chest. 

“You know, we’re supposed to hate each other. You sent me ‘I hate you’ eyes at the game today. And I was pretty pissed at you exactly twenty-four hours ago.”

She has a point. And that’s what’s been frustrating him for the last few days. But, this seems right in the moment.

So, fuck it. “Humor me.” 

She stares at him blankly, and he wonders if he should drop his hand. But her arm raises, and a tiny bit of hope twinges in him as her tiny hand is encased in his. 

He leads them around the side of the house to sneak through the gate, preventing any odd gazes from her friends or smirks from Miller and Murphy.

He isn’t sure when to let go of her hand, so he just holds it lightly. She can drop it whenever she wants. Her fingers are cold, and he’s close to winding their fingers together to wrap them in warmth. 

Shit. He didn’t think this through. She must be freezing in that outfit.

They’re walking down the path back to campus when he notices goosebumps on her arms and chest. 

“Here.” He starts to unzip his jacket with one hand. 

“No, that’s okay.” She pulls her hand away and backs off slightly.

Shit. That backfired completely. A small pain nestles in between his lungs as he sees something akin to panic in her eyes.

“My dorm is right there.” She nods to Sanctum, rubbing her arms up and down. “I’ll just go get a hoodie quickly.” 

He waits in the lobby of the building for five minutes. The student at the front desk glares at him. Oops. Probably one of the kids he threatened to sneak in this damn building.

The door to the stairwell opens, and she trods out. For the second time that night, his breath catches. This time, it's at the sight of the oversized Lightbournes hoodie over her bare legs. She changed into sneakers this time, so she’s tinier than usual. A whole head beneath him, he realizes, as they push the door open and walk back out into the night.

“Should I be scared? It's dark and I’m going somewhere with a guy I hardly know.” 

Ouch. But he looks over at her, and she has a half-smile on her face.

“No.” He smiles back. “It would pretty dumb if I kidnapped you just to make sure I could apologize to you.”

Her eyebrows raise. “Apologize, huh?” 

“Yeah.” 

He leads her across the quad and through the traffic circle on the other side of campus. They walk in silence, her fists tucked into the front pocket of her hoodie, his own in his jeans. Just the sounds of crunching leaves and the occasional whir of a car passing them. 

He forgot how long the walk actually was. He looks at her cautiously in his peripherals. But she seems fine. Not expressionless, not really excited, or anything. Just pleasantly nonchalant. 

After about thirty minutes, they reach the edge of the forest. They’re two miles from campus now. He's pretty sure most students don’t know about this place; he used to come to it freshman year when Octavia got in trouble in high school, or when another job application was rejected. He hasn’t been back since the end of that year. 

She breaks the thirty minute silence. “You’re taking me to a forest, half an hour from campus, near midnight? Have you heard of the Slenderman?”

He can’t stop the small laugh that leaves his mouth. “Yeah, I’ve heard. Sometime in middle school.”

"You know, the story inspired two girls to stab their friend. And almost kill her."

But he's unaffected. She looks at him, eyes narrowed. “It's scary, and you know it.”

He turns to meet her gaze. Her eyes are teasing, twinkling in amusement. 

“Don’t worry. You can take him.”

He walks forward into the trees and holds branches aside for her to walk under.

“Hm.”

He hears her hum a foot behind him. He looks back. “What?”

“You didn’t say it.”

“Say what?”

‘I’ll protect you.’ When I said it's scary. What most guys say.”

He shrugs. “I might be scared, too.” A tinkling sound fills the forest. A laugh. A real, soft laugh. The sound makes him smile, on his own. 

“Here.” He crouches down at the gate and pulls out his lanyard, using the edge of his house key to shift open the lock. 

“Jeez. Breaking and entering is really in your wheelhouse.” He winces, but she’s still smiling at him.

The gate opens up to a series of twine and hedge archways, and opens up at the end of the fourth. She stops.

“A rose garden?” she murmurs. She walks forward and runs her hand over the stone ledging. “In D.C.? In the fall?”

He watches as her eyes rake across the spattering of bushes around them, before settling on the large, stone gazebo hugging the back of the circle.

A light mist of water hits him as he follows her. She seems to notice too, and turns to see the jagged foundation, broken parts of Greek statues holding the water together.

“What in the world?” She reaches forward to press her fingers against the stone, before skimming them across the water.

The grass glistens with dew, and he sees tiny droplets of water on the petals of the pink roses next to him. Probably watered today.

“This is beautiful.” She turns to him. “How?”

“What do you mean, ‘how’?” He slowly walks towards her. 

“How’d you find it?” 

He shrugs. “Freshman year, I had a rough fight with Octavia on the phone. About college. I decided to run it off, not really deciding what direction to go in. I saw the stone peeking through the trees in the forest, and I wanted to check it out.

She nods and moves closer to the fountain. He stands next to her. 

“It has pieces of the ‘Winged Victory of Samothrace’ and ‘Laocoon and His Sons.’” He points to each while he speaks.

“‘Peplos Kore’, too. From 1886. I think I know a few more, but I can’t tell if that one is Delphi or the Riace Warriors.”

When he looks back up from the fountain, she stares up at him in incredulous amusement.

“What?” 

“Didn't know you were a history nerd,” She laughs, resting a surprised hand on her face. 

“Hey!” Scarlet peeks through his cheeks. “You’re more of a nerd than I am.”

She frowns, turning to him with her hands on her hips. She tries to straighten herself to her full height, which makes him hide a laugh. “I am not a nerd.”

“Pre-med, biology and psychiatry, and somehow in a political philosophy class? Debate team? Math tutor? Sounds like a textbook nerd to me.”

She pushes his chest, but he doesn’t stumble. “What the…” she mutters. But she rolls her eyes and walks down the path to the large stone pillars of the gazebo. 

“Anything to say about this large gazebo thing, history freak?” she yells over her shoulder. 

“Yeah,” he quips, following her. “At first glance, this looks like a typical Roman gazebo, but the marble and natural stone suggests that it's modeled after a Greek temple.”

Her laugh is louder now, and she shakes her head as she steps up to the gazebo’s circular platform. “I shouldn't have asked.”

“I could ask you the area of this circle, if you want.” He steps up behind her, and sits down on a bench under one of the towering pillars. 

“Well, are we going for a simplified Pi? 3.14? We could measure with–”

“I was really hoping you wouldn’t answer.” He tugs her arm.

A shocked look flashes over her face. She doesn't recoil at his touch, which is improvement. She sits down next to him. 

Silence.

The cicadas chirp meekly, and the soft ruffling of the roses moving in the wind creates a pleasant cacophony around them. 

He’s not sure how many minutes pass before he speaks. “I’m sorry, Clarke.”

Her head leans back against the pillar, but she doesn’t respond.

The silence becomes suffocating, the apology floating into the air without any acknowledgement.

“You called me Clarke.” She stares straight ahead. “Not Princess.”

“I figured that a good way to start an apology is to get rid of a demeaning nickname.” He sees her lips tug up, despite her attempt to hide her smile. 

More silence.

She exhales. “This is weird.”

He tenses against the pillar. “What do you mean?”

“We don’t like each other.” 

“Okay.”

“Are you recording me again? Is this in response to Raven’s thing?”

“Wha–”

“Why are you talking to me? Doing this whole thing?”

He frowns. “What thing?”  

“Three hours ago, I felt like I would be set ablaze by your eyes. Twenty-four hours ago, you tore up one of the last things I have of my dad. You broke my life down to pieces without hesitation. Why are you taking me to a rose garden? Pretending like it's all okay?”

“I’m not pretending anything,” he says stiffly, annoyance seeping into his voice. “I wanted to apologize. A real apology. After all that shit I did.” 

“So, you had this grand revelation in twenty four hours? That was literally yesterday. I cannot even fathom what happened in the meantime.” 

“I–”

He can hear indignation threading through her words.

“It’s just… When did you start caring about apologies? You didn’t seem sorry when your brothers called me a ‘bitch with mommy issues’. When they screamed at me at the debate. Or when you spit ‘Princess’ at me, like it's straight venom. Or when you stole our clothes? Or when your girlfriend talked down to me, like my existence was completely infinitesimal. 

“Or, the thing that really made the grade– spray painting my bras? Dumping all my clothes everywhere?  Ruining the remnants I have of my father?”

The smile that was on her face a minute ago is replaced by a deadly expression.

“What’s even better, by the way– you knew. You knew about my father since the debate. But you didn’t care. That?” She shakes her head. “That’s not just cruelty, or masochism. It's fucking cowardly.”

“I didn’t know those drawings were by him. I just–”

“Just decided that everything in my room is useless? Deserved to be ripped up? A day ago, you were ready to unapologetically stream my entire mental breakdown to the student body.”

She shrugs. “So, I don’t understand why you care.”

The images of her crying on the floor, a five-year-old Octavia huddled under his arm, his mother crumpled on the couch, manifest in the darkness in front of him. He refocuses on her face. 

“Yeah, that was all fucked up, okay? For the record, I told the guys to back off when they harassed you. And I was trying to tell you that in front of the art building that one day, but you didn’t even let me speak! And I can’t control what Gina says or does!”

She stares at him incredulously. “If my partner treated any human like that, I wouldn’t waste a single moment of my time on them,” she snaps. He swallows hard. “And forgive me for assuming that you’d come around to do the same thing your brothers did to me earlier that day.” 

“And the skinny dipping thing only happened after you broke into our house!” 

“Yeah, with fucking paint cups!” She shoots up. “Have you ever thought about how uneven that was? What did we do?” She taps her chin. “We inconvenienced you for a day, at most. Cleaning up the cups.” 

She turns to him, one hand angrily fisting the end of her hair. “And what did you do? You stole our clothes. Our underwear, bras. And you took them to a house where almost every brother either stares at my boobs, tries to slap my ass, or yells at me when I’m walking on campus.”

He winces. No, he hadn’t thought about that. 

“It was my friend Harper’s birthday, too, by the way. The shit you and Miller and Murphy do affects other people.”

“We know that now!” he snaps, standing up. “That’s why Miller apologized for it today! I wanted to apologize for it right now!”

“Yeah, but I don’t get it.” She paces, moving back and forth across the stone flooring. “Fine. You think what happened yesterday was fucked up. Yeah, it was. But why am I here? Why did you show up to the pregame? Told me I looked ‘nice’? Talking to me earlier at the house like nothing happened?”

“I don’t know!” he yells. "I don’t know! I’m tired of this! I’m an adult, and this whole thing has been so fucking childish– are you thirteen years old? Dying my jersey pink?”

He stalks towards her. “God, Miller was right. The Princess always plays the victim.” 

She laughs humorlessly, strolling to the other side of the gazebo and turning away from him. There it is again. I didn’t dye your fucking jersey. Raven and Jasper dyed it after you went all ‘Hulk attack!’ in my room.”

He ignores the last part. “Have you forgotten that you tried to get me fucking expelled?” 

He sees her tense in her hoodie. 

“Oh, right– you threatened mine and Octavia’s future. All for some fucking prank?” 

Her shoulders start to lift up and down, chest heaving. 

“That must be real nice, Princess,” he spits. “Being able to play with other people’s lives when things don’t go your way.”

He hears her scoff, shaking her head. He lazily strolls in her direction. 

“You know, I wasn’t fully convinced by your story at the debate,” he drawls sardonically. “Maybe rich mommy can actually help you out sometimes? Are you even a full ride student? Or did she just buy some of the school buildings?”

As soon as he spits those words out, it's like her muscles and bones snap, as her body twists around and sprints across the floor in two strides.

Her two palms roughly push his chest. He feels a fierce electricity shock him. This time, he stumbles.

“I blackmailed Pike for you, you know that?” she yells. 

He falters, stepping back a bit. 

“I hate to break it to you, but Octavia and I didn’t mean for it to go down like that. No, she told me about your previous strike. And the next morning, I told Pike that the video of him swearing at you would be released unless he let the strike against you go.

“You think he just forgave you, just like that?” She snaps her fingers. “No. I fucking blackmailed one of my professors to save the ass of a guy who I despise! Who despises me!” 

She pushes him again, hard. “And then, I cried in Dean Kane’s armchair, who, by the way, is my mother's boyfriend, begging him to not give you any academic consequences! Or your friends! Or your whole fucking fraternity! I did that for a guy who practically wishes I was dead!

“The same guy who caused me to sob in my friends’ arms for the entire night! Who took most of my father from me!

“The fucking guy I took an academic strike for!” Her screams bounce off the stone walls around them. 

He freezes. Suspended on the stone. Heart beating out of his chest.

“Oh, right!” she gasps sarcastically. “The same academic strike that basically cuts the med schools I’m eligible for in half. Oh, but–”

She steps back. “The Princess would never do that for anyone. Too busy caring about herself, right? Playing the victim, right?” 

“Right?” she screams, her voice acidic. 

He stares at her. Her chest heaving so violently that he still sees it under the thick fabric of her hoodie. Hair tumbling out over her shoulders after she ripped out some strands. The fierce, dilated pupils. Blush the color of cherry wine on her cheeks. Fists clenched at her sides, shaking as she leans forward, as if her body is a threat. 

Keeping his eyes on her the entire time, he stalks over to her in less than a second. Roughly grabbing her waist, he slams her against the pillar as his lips forcibly claim hers. 

Then, in that moment, the last few weeks reach a fever pitch. It's carnal, cruel. 

Their mouths open for each other immediately, rage in the swirls of her tongue, and wild, impatient flames on the surface of his lips. A fever threads between their bodies, pressed so tightly together, tempted to unravel with every tiny movement, every touch. His grip bruises her hips while her hand finds the base of his head, harshly pulling the handful of curls. 

They fight for control, the unrelenting press of noses, cheeks, mouths, still not enough. Her tongue swipes over his lower lip and tugs it in between her teeth, and a deadly noise rises from his throat. His left palm braces itself beside her head on the stone, and his other slides from her hip to the back of her thigh, pulling her leg up and securing it around him. 

Her hands move from around his neck to his chest and she shoves him away powerfully.

Her palm flies across his cheek, his head snapping to the right. 

She pushes past him and rushes out of the gazebo, jumping straight from the platform to the grass.

He hears a series of muted thuds as her sneakers hop over the stones and under the archways. Sprinting after her, he sees the small flecks of gold shine under the moon as she runs. 

But he’s faster. When he reaches her, he grabs her wrist and tugs her back into his chest, lips crashing against hers, once again.

This one is agonizing, reverential, possessive. His arms curl around her waist and she relaxes into him. Their lips are warm, ardent, but slower. Tongues languidly tangling together, her hands threading through his hair, pulling through the tangles. It’s overwhelmingly affectionate. 

He feels the heat against him disappear as she pulls away, unraveling her arms from his shoulders. She steps back, flustered, and says nothing for a minute.

“I’m sorry,” she stutters. “I don’t think I can.”

He walks forward and lifts her chin, softly pressing a palm against her cheek. “That’s okay.”  

Her eyes swirl with too many things for him to decipher. But she just stares at him, and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear.

Another minute of silence.

“Let’s go back?” he asks, trying to calm his breathing. 

She nods.

They double back through the forest and the gate. As they move back to the sidewalk, he looks over at her as a small yawn leaves her lips. 

“Come on.” He leans down and angles his back towards her.

She looks at him skeptically, and reluctantly crawls onto his back, wrapping her arms around his neck. 

He carries her the thirty minutes back to campus. When she starts to nod off about ten minutes in, he pulls her off his back and into his arms. He gets back to Sanctum and lightly knocks on their door, hoping to god that anyone but Raven will answer. 

Raven answers. When she surveys the sight in front of her, she narrows her eyes, but lets him in. He winces a bit as he enters her bedroom, expecting the remnants of his mistakes to peek through.

But a relieved look spreads across his face when he sees the redecorated wall, the fairy lights clipped on with all of her friends, pictures of her and O, some new drawings. Some of the light they took away from her space yesterday starts to seep through again. 

When he walks in, Harper sits up straight on her bed, despite her being wildly drunk a few hours ago. But she clasps her hands on her lap, watching him intently as he tucks her into bed with the unfamiliar comforter. He decides that he’ll buy her a new one. 

Her eyes follow him until he leaves the room, and he sees her other roommate–Maya– stare at him as he passes her open door.

Raven still holds the front door open. He tries to smile as he passes, which is a mistake, because she sends a deadly scowl back. And the door slams behind him.

Well, at least she has friends that are ready to murder any guy that crosses her. 

Chapter Text

[clarke]

 

She wakes up to her bed bouncing up and down. She coughs as a dark blur shifts in front of her. Blinking the sleep from her eyes, she props herself up on her elbows.

“Did you sleep with my brother?”

The question rouses her immediately, and her eyes focus– Octavia’s knees are hopping on her bed. Confusion dawns on her face as she sees the amused, fairly animated look in her eyes. 

“What? No!” She sits up completely, and Octavia stops.

“Oh. The girls told me that he brought you back last night.”

“Yeah, sleeping,” she chokes. She vaguely remembers the dark shadows of his face hovering over her as cold sheets were pulled over her chest. 

“You left us at the party,” Harper pouts from her bed. She realizes Maya and Octavia are sitting next to her.

“Um, let me remind you that you all left me,” she huffs. “Your drunk ass was carried home by Monty, and you made sex eyes at Jasper!” She points a finger at each girl. 

Pink spreads on Maya’s cheek. “Did not!”

“Yeah, you did.” Raven rolls her eyes. “But you left me and O!” 

“Raven, you were practically grinding on Shaw’s lap, and I’m pretty sure that you and Lincoln were having sex in his room.” She narrows her eyes at the girl sitting on her legs. 

“Was not!” 

“Jesus,” Raven mutters, leaning her head against one of her shelves. “Maybe we really are children.” 

“I don’t want to talk about it, okay?” she says softly. The rest of the girls seem to understand, and nod. 

“Do you still want to do Saturday brunch?” Octavia pokes her leg, playfully.

A half-smile appears on her face. “Yes, please.” 

After an extremely delayed hour because of Octavia’s search for the perfect brunch outfit, they sit down at a long table at the Verge.

The cafe is their favorite brunch spot, mostly because Victor, the owner, always sends them into fits of giggles as he personally hands them their plates, complete with a pun. 

Well, Octavia likes it because he’ll always slip her a mimosa with a wink. He doesn’t give her any more than that, though, especially when Clarke sends him a half-stern look.

“My favorite patrons!” He claps when the bell above the door rings. “The usuals?”

“Yes, please,” she smiles at him. “Thanks Victor.” He waves away her thanks and pushes open the swinging door to the kitchen.

The fresh-faced girls settle onto the wooden table, mason jars of honey and tiny teacups holding sunflowers scattered every few feet on the surface. Quiet laughter of college students and chatter from middle-aged women fill the space around them.

After a few minutes, Raven stops swirling the liquid of her mimosa, setting it down on the chipped wood. “I have to tell you guys something.”

Harper raises an eyebrow. “Shoot.” 

“Should we be scared?” Maya teases, smiling against the rim of her water glass. 

“Prepare yourselves, ladies,” Octavia grips the edges of the table. “A Raven-lation is happening.” 

“A what?” She looks at Octavia.

“A Raven revelation. A Raven-lation.”

“No wonder you and Jasper get along so well.”

“Hello? Do you even want me to tell you?” Raven waves her hand in the air.

“Sorry.”

“Zeke said I love you last night,” she blurts out, gripping the stem of her glass.

A pause. “Uh, Raven, he’s said I love you before. For the last three years,” she says slowly. 

“Have you been hallucinating it all?” Maya frowns.

“No, he–” Raven huffs, looking down. “He told me he loved me on one knee.”  

The table falls silent, the clinking of glasses stilled.

“Holy shit,” Octavia whispers. “Holy shit!” she squeaks, standing up, bouncing up and down. “I’m going to be a bridesmaid!” 

People around them look at the commotion, and start smiling and voicing their congratulations. Maya and Harper look shocked, but amused. 

“Octavia,” she hisses, pulling her arm. “Sit down.”

“I can’t help it!” She claps her and wiggles in her seat. “Congratulations, Raven! When are we–”

“I ran away.” 

They all falter. “What?”

“I… ran away from him. He took me to the steps in front of the engineering building, where we first met. And when he asked, I ran away.”

Guilt immediately fills Octavia’s face. “Shit. I’m so sorry.”

“No, that’s okay.” Raven sighs, placing her chin on her palm. “I just needed to say it out loud.”

Harper reaches over and places her hand on Raven’s. “We will support you no matter what. Any decision you make.”

Maya nods animatedly. “Plus, if Jasper did that yesterday night, I probably would’ve ran too.” A half-smile materializes on Raven’s face.

“It just sucks, you know?” Raven looks up at all of them. “Because, I want to marry him.”

Clarke nods her head. “I remember you talking to me about it sophomore year.” 

“Yeah.” She fiddles with the clasp of the honey jar. “I just didn’t expect it to be so soon. I mean, I’m twenty-one.”

“You’re young. Even if you’ve been together for three years, it still must’ve been startling.” 

“I always figured we’d graduate, I’d enroll in an engineering graduate program, he’d go to flight school. Eventually, we’d get an apartment and he’d propose to me on the shitty balcony that smells like cigarettes.” 

Laughs bounce around the table.

“Raven, I’m still so sorry–” 

“Baby Blake, stop that. It’s fine,” she shoots her a look. “It actually made me smile a bit when you started yelling about being a bridesmaid.” 

“Wait–” she deflates. “I would be, right?”

“Of course, idiot.” 

Octavia’s grin is blinding. “Well, whenever you need me by your side with a bouquet of flowers, I’ll be right there.”

“Me too!” Each girl pipes up in agreement.

Raven sniffs. 

“What?” Maya’s eyes widen. “Is Raven Reyes crying?” 

“Shut up,” she snaps, but smiles. “I’m just thankful to have you all.” 

“A Belgian Waffle for a lady who’s waffle-y smart!” Victor sweeps around her with the plate, complete with strawberry halves and honey drizzle.

“Thank you, Vic!” She smiles eagerly as he slides the plate in front of her. 

“A granola parfait for the par-fect dancer!” Octavia giggles. 

“Avocado toast for the engineer who guacs the world!” Raven rolls her eyes, but smiles at him.

He moves around the table, setting down each plate. 

As usual, the brunch is lively and pleasant, and the rough week is put on hold. Raven looks relaxed and reassured, and Clarke hasn’t laughed so much in a single sitting for a long, long time.

 

When they get back, they hug and go their separate ways. Maya to office hours, Harper to a date with Monty, and Octavia back to her room. It leaves her and Raven watching Gossip Girl on the couch.

Raven leans forward to pause the show. “You kissed, didn’t you?” 

She sighs. After three years of friendship, Raven can decipher her emotions like no other. Nodding, her head falls onto Raven's shoulder. She feels her muscles tense under her ear. 

“I don’t like him, Griffin. He hurt you. Bad.” 

“I know,” she pauses. “I don’t know how I feel about it."

“Talk to me.” 

So she describes how he found her on the bench, took her to the rose garden with the Greek statues, pressed her against the pillar. And then the running away part, the slapping part, the him grabbing her again part, and the clinging onto his back on the way home part.  

“I had never screamed like that, you know.” She draws circles in the suede of the couch. “So much rage. It’s like I couldn’t stop. String after string of words.” 

“Did you like it?”

“What?”

She rolls her eyes, folding her feet under her. “Did you like the kiss?” 

She pauses, considering. Did she? 

Thinking back, she reassesses the individual moments of those thirty minutes: the spiraling of her body against his, the instinctive way her fingertips trailed up his neck to the back of his head, the sheer frenzy and fury intertwined between each press of his lips against hers. His reverent touch still easy on the skin of her thigh, despite the bruising, pulsating animosity between them. 

The way he pulled her back to him, refusing to let her leave. Constantly challenging her, pulling her in, embracing her tighter, and tighter.

And then, crawling onto his back, placing her cheek onto the incandescence of his spine, despite the freezing temperatures. The anger being replaced by something tender, as he wrapped her forward into his arms. Despite the anxiety and fear felt in his presence, feeling steady and sheltered when he laid her down. 

“Yeah. A lot.” 

And a knowing look flashes on Raven’s face.


[bellamy]

 

“What in the world is wrong with you?” 

He turns around to see Murphy staring at him from the hallway.

“What do you mean?” He picks at the piece of toast in his hand.

“Why do you look like that?” He hops over the arm of the couch and onto the cushion next to him. 

“Tired?” He opens up the camera on his phone to look at himself. “I didn’t sleep until late last night.”

“Did you finally get laid?” Miller walks in from the kitchen with a bowl of oatmeal and sits on the armchair next to them.

He rolls his eyes. “No.” 

“Yikes,” Murphy mutters. “It’s been like a week since, hasn’t it?” 

He doesn’t say anything, just scrolls through his phone. 

“Oh.” Miller drops his spoon in the bowl. “Did you find the Princess? And apologize?”

“Clarke,” he sighs, biting into his toast. “And, yes, I apologized.”

Kind of. An apology that ended up in him furiously kissing her–twice– and getting slapped. Then carrying her home.

His stomach tightens just thinking about it. The feeling of his head snapping back as she pulled his hair, frustratingly pulling his lip into her teeth, seeing the flush of her face when her hand whipped across his. 

It was all-consuming and dizzying, and his brain hurt in the morning trying to figure out if he should text her. His thumb hovered over their text conversation for at least five minutes, before he realized that she’d blocked him. 

Miller sits back, eyes narrowed. “Ah. How did it go?” 

“Good.” He shrugs, chewing. 

“Where did you do it?” 

“What the hell?” 

“You disappeared. From the party.” 

“I met her outside.”

Which, technically, he did. 

“Liar!” Murphy points at him. “We checked the entire back and front yard for you afterwards.” 

“I met her and then I walked her to her dorm.” 

Miller laughs, choking on his oatmeal a little. “You’re full of shit.” 

“I knew we should’ve put our ears to your door! Miller didn’t let me!” Murphy smiles smugly.

He throws his phone down. “What is wrong with you guys?”

“How did you sneak her out in the morning?”

“Did she tell you that pink jerseys are one of her kinks?” Murphy cackles. 

He throws the rest of his toast at Murphy. “Jesus! We didn’t fucking sleep together!”

Miller walks over and squints at him for ten, long seconds. “Hm. He’s not lying.”

“What are you, a human lie detector?” 

Murphy sighs, walking to the kitchen. “You’re no fun. But the apology worked?” he yells over his shoulder.

“Turns out she blackmailed Pike with the video. Then went to Dean Kane and begged him to change the academic strike. He's dating her mom.” 

Miller sets down his bowl, eyes wide. “No shit. Did he change it?”

“Yeah.” He clears his throat. “Changed it to hers.”

He hears Murphy choke on something from the kitchen. “What?” 

Miller raises his eyebrows. “So… she has an academic strike on her record, now.”

“Yeah,” he swallows. “She said most med schools wouldn’t accept a student with one.”

“Oh, shit.” Murphy walks back in with a spatula, astonished. “So… what we did was doubly fucked up.”

“That means she had to go see Pike before you went to him later.”

Recalling the situation makes another thread of guilt weave through him. He looks down at his lap, ashamed. “Yeah. And then we went and trashed her room.” 

“What about the pink jersey?” Murphy yells from the kitchen. 

“It was Raven and Jasper.”

“Who?”

He rolls his eyes. “Ponytail and Goggles.”

“Oh, right! I met them last night. She’s hot.”

“She’s also taken. Did you not see her making out with that dude on the couch?” 

“Damn.”

“Fuck.” Miller stands up, rubbing a hand over his face. “So, the brothers harassed her, we stole her clothes and ripped up the pictures of her dad… and she did nothing wrong.”

“Well, she broke into our house!” 

“With paint cups, idiot! And you better not talk about the Instagram live. Not after what we did a few hours before.”

“Dude, that live made you realize that Gina was cheating on you.”

“Yeah, well, our relationship wasn’t exactly perfect, anyways.” He stands up, brushing the crumbs off his lap. “I’m going out for a run.” 

“In jeans?” Miller raises an eyebrow. 

He looks down. Shit.

He clears his throat. “I was going to change."

“Alright,” Miller says slowly, looking at him suspiciously. 

He goes to change into some clothes that’ll convince them, and jogs downstairs. “Later.”

They salute him, and he dashes out of the door. He crosses the street and sees the familiar dorm hall. Waiting for the crosswalk, he checks his phone. Octavia posted something. He opens it, squinting in the sun.

yogurt parfait & sat brunch with the ladies!! The caption read, the video panning across the table. It scans over Clarke, who’s in mid-laugh and bringing her mimosa glass to her mouth. He smiles a bit at how happy she looks.

But then he frowns, realizing that none of them are at Sanctum.

Shit. Now what?

He can’t go back to the house unless he supposedly had a ten minute run when he usually goes for an hour. Sighing, he starts jogging aimlessly over campus, waiting until it's been enough time for him to go back.


[clarke]

 

Her and Raven sit on the couch for hours, talking about… boys. A displeasure for both of them. 

“I think Zeke hates me now.” Raven sighs, laying upside down on the couch.

“You’re stupid.” Clarke lies sideways on the armchair, head hanging back.

“Says you!” 

“Raven. That guy looks like he’ll wait until the end of the world for you.” 

“Really?” She places her hands next to her head.

“Really.”

Raven uses her hands to lift her up and over, landing on her feet easily. 

She glares at her. “Did you do all of this to show off your gymnastic abilities?”

“No.” She flips her hair over her shoulder. “But it's an added bonus.” She lays back on the couch normally, staring at the ceiling. 

“Griffin?” 

“Hm?” She plays with the ends of her hair that almost touch the carpet.

“Can I be honest?” 

“Always.” 

“I think you’re fucked.” 

She sits up straight, the chair almost toppling over. “Rude.”

“I’m just saying.” She fingers at her necklace. “You just sounded so… sure of something. When you spoke about last night. As if that screaming match then kiss then slap then kiss again–“

She glares at her. 

“It did something to you. I mean, it sounds like the guy has known your body for your whole life,” she snorts. “From the way you made it sound, it's like every one of his touches, or ways he held you, or grabbed you, carried you– that’s some serious shit. Especially if this idiot that gave you migraines now carried your sleeping ass back from a rose garden. I mean, you definitely want to fuck him, but the fact that you felt safe,” she points and curves her hand. “That’s a sign.” 

“Of what?”

“That you’re fucked.”

She rolls her eyes and stands up, walking to the kitchen. “What do you want for dinner?”

“No game night?” 

“Oh, right. I forgot.” She checks her watch. “It's not for another few hours. Should we text everyone?”

“I’ll ask what they’re in the mood for.” 

She nods. “I’m gonna go take a nap.”

“Night, Princess.” 

She sends her a dirty look.

 

An hour later, she’s up from her nap and sits on the kitchen table with her sketchbook. Harper and Maya walk through the door and collapse on the couch. 

“Long day?” Raven asks, sympathetically patting Harper’s head on her lap.

“You have no idea. Monty…” 

She takes advantage of the girls’ catch up to check her phone. 50 new notifications. Jesus. 

 

Raven

3:16 PM

what do you assholes want for game night food 

 

Monty 

3:17 PM

Don’t care, as long as weed is there 

 

Jasper <3<3<3 :) 

3:18 PM

agreed but also I’m feeling smoothie bowls. 

 

Raven

3:20 PM

how the hell are we going to make smoothie bowls Jasper

 

octavia 

3:21 PM

i lov smoothie bowls!

 

Jasper <3<3<3 :) 

3:21 PM

don’t play dumb. i saw the nutribullet in your cabinet. 

 

Maya

3:23 PM

Some other time, love

 

Monty

3:24 PM

Thai?

 

Harper

3:25 PM

We literally just had Thai two hours ago for lunch!

 

Monty

3:28 PM

Thai food is timeless.

 

octavia 

3:30 PM

i don’t care all i know is that if i do not have  food in my body i will def collapse after this 8 hour practice

 

Raven

3:32 PM

all of you are weird as hell. ok I propose a vote:

tacos. pizza. burgers and fries. and then some other  healthy option so Clarke doesn’t lose her mind  when she reads this

 

Monty

3:34 PM

What is she doing right now? 

 

Raven 

3:35 PM

napping and probably dreaming about a boy 

 

Jasper <3<3<3 :) 

3:35 PM

WOT

 

Harper 

3:35 PM

????? 

 

octavia ♡

3:35 PM

AHHHHHH

 

Maya

3:35 PM

Omg! Who 

 

Monty

3:35 PM

Oh damn. 

 

Raven

3:36 PM

ill let her tell y’all tonight

 

Jasper 

3:36 PM

TELL US NOW OR ELSE

 

Raven

3:37 PM

ffs just everyone vote 

 

Monty

3:37 PM

Tacos. 

 

Maya

3:37 PM

Taco

 

Jasper <3<3<3 :) 

3:37 PM

telling us about Clarke’s new boo 

 

Harper

3:37 PM

Tacos!

 

Raven

3:38 PM

good. i agree see u all soon 

 

Jasper <3<3<3 :) 

3:39 PM

you’re evil. simply evil 

 

 

She sighs, regretting that she let Jasper name his own contact on her phone. 
“Really, Raven?” She looks up from her phone in exasperation. 

“What?” She turns around and sees her waving her phone in the air.

“Oh. Yeah. My bad.”

“Oh, right!” Harper squeals, clapping her hands. “Who’s this new boy?”

She bites her lip. “If I tell you now, will you promise not to tell the boys or Octavia just yet?” 

“I can. Harp can’t keep a secret to save her life.”

Harper pouts. “I can!”

“When I told you that Jasper asked me out, not even two minutes later, you told Monty.”

“He was going to find out anyways!”

“Seriously.” Clarke walks to the couch and sits on its arm. “I’ll probably tell them tonight. Just hold off for a few hours. Please.”

They nod, now a bit concerned, and Raven snorts. She glares at her.

“Sorry. Go.”

“I kissed a boy last night.” Harper squeals, and Maya beams. 

“More like he kissed you.”

She ignores Ravens snark. “It was after the party.”

They look at her, expectant.

“It was Bellamy.”

The two sit back, stunned. “Fuckboy Bellamy? Bellamy that trashed your room? Two two days ago?” Harper asks incredulously.

“The very one,” Raven quips.

Maya’s eyes darken. “Did he do it without your permission? I’ll go rip off–”

“No!” Clarke gestures wildly. “Well, I mean, he did surprise me. But I kissed back,” she reassures.

Raven scoffs. “Yeah, she sure did.”

Harper frowns. “What does she mean?”

Once again, she recalls the story. The screaming, the kiss, the slap, the second kiss, and dropping her home.

“That’s why he brought you back sleeping,” Harper muses.

“Real perceptive, Harp.” She glares at Raven.

“It was so unexpected. One second I’m screaming at him, and next, he’s pushing me against a pillar,” she swallows. “And it was just… instinctual. I was initially startled when he pushed me against it, but I didn’t even hesitate when he brought his lips down. It just happened.”

Maya’s eyes widen. “It was an angry kiss.”

“It was the angry kiss to end all angry kisses.” Raven gets up to get another drink.

“And it was good?” Harper tilts her head.

“It was good,” she nods. “God. It was really good.”

“Like, perfect technique and excellent tongue good kiss, or I-want-you-to-take-me-right-here good kiss?

She doesn’t respond, just chews on her lip.

“Oh my god!” Harper covers her mouth with her hand. “You want to sleep with him!”

“I’d want to have sex with any hot guy!”

“That’s a lie and you know it.” Raven plops back on the couch, Mike’s Lemonade in one hand. “If it was true, you’d have banged one of the many hot guys who made sex eyes at you during the party.”

“You think he’s hot?” Harper looks perplexed.

She sighs. “I guess. To both of you.” 

Her phone chirps and she unlocks it, squinting at the unknown number. She taps on it and her eyes widen at the conversation history.

 

10:14 PM

I’m blocking you. Watch your back at the fundraiser tomorrow.

4081938183

10:15 PM

Scary Princess

 

September 9th

4081938183

5:54 PM

Hey

 

“Oh my god,” she shrieks, dropping her phone like it's on fire.

“What?” Harper frowns, looking from her to the phone. Raven plucks it from the couch cushions. 

“Damn, Griffin. I thought you blocked his number.”

“I did! Or I thought I did.” She thinks back to the night of the skinny dipping, but she can’t remember what she did with her phone. “What do I say?”

Harper takes it and starts to type a response, but she snags the phone from her hands. “Absolutely not.”

“You’re no fun.” 

“Just say hey back, idiot.”

“Fine.”

5:56 PM

Hey.

4081938183

5:57 PM

I thought you’d block my number

5:58 PM

Why’d you try texting, then?

4081938183

5:58 PM

Thought I’d give it a shot

 

Maya squeals, looking over her shoulder. “He wanted to talk to you!”

“You hated him ten minutes ago.” 

“Texting boys is fun!” 

“What do I say back?” She panics, shaking her phone. It dings again.

 

4081938183

6:03 PM

How are you?

 

Raven snorts. “What an idiot.”

6:04 PM

Good. You?

4081938183

6:04 PM

Good

6:05 PM

That’s good.

4081938183

6:06 PM

How was your day?

6:06 PM

Good.

 

She’s about to send another asking how his was, but the three bubbles typing his response shows up. So she stops typing. Then the bubbles stop. So she starts again. But they stop again.

“This is ridiculous.” Raven snatches it and her fingers hover quickly. She hears the swoosh of the send button and panics, taking her phone back.

 

6:10 PM

Do you want to come to game night?

4081938183

6:10 PM

Sure

 

6:11

Can I bring Miller, Murphy and Emori?

 

“Look what you did,” she snaps at Raven.

“Just say yes. I’ll punch any of them if they try anything. Plus, you said you wanted to see Emori again.”

“Yeah, not with them!”

“You said they both apologized to you.”

It’s true. When the other girls left after brunch, her and Raven went to buy some new sketchbooks for her from the school store. They saw Murphy on the steps on their way back. She was shocked. She’d never seen guilt or remorse on Murphy’s face.

It was a good apology. Like Miller’s, but even more profuse, because it was his idea. Talked about how it was unfair because she’s being nice to Emori, and she’s always been cool to him, but he was an impulsive idiot. It was a bit like groveling at the end, which made her feel satisfied. Raven punched him, and they were on their way. 

Her phone dings again. 

 

4081938183

6:15 PM

It’s okay if you say no 

 

“So, say no,” Maya urges. 

“But I don’t want him to be here alone! The gang will eat him alive! Jasper holds grudges like no one else!”

“So you’d rather have Miller and Murphy there, too?” 

“Okay! Fine!”

6:20 PM

We would prefer if you only brought Emori.

Raven laughs.

“What?” She frowns. 

“‘We ‘would prefer’? You sound like a professor.”

“I have sophisticated diction, and I won’t apologize for it.”



4081938183

6:21 PM

Okay

 

“Why does he even want to come? He sounds so apathetic!”

“It’s just a text message, Clarke.” Harper pats her shoulder. “You’re supposed to be the one who’s rational and tells the rest of us that.”

“You literally did that with me when Jasper texted me for the first time,” Maya perks up. 

She hesitates. “Should I respond? Confirm it?”

“I mean, he doesn’t really know what time we’ll start it.”

“Oh. Right.”

6:25 PM

It’ll be around 8.

“You liar!” Raven throws a pillow at her.

She locks and flings her phone across the room. “I need an hour to tell everyone! And mentally prepare myself!” 

“Maybe wearing a cute outfit would –“ 

“Absolutely not,” Clarke cuts her off. “Who are you, Octavia?” Harper pouts. 

Her phone dings from the kitchen. They all stare at each other for ten seconds before it’s a mad dash across the suite. 

She beats the girls and holds her phone to her chest. “Vultures! All of you!”

 

4081938183

6:28 PM

Sounds good.  

 

She dramatically flops in a chair. “Should I text Octavia now? I don’t want to tell her in front of the boys.”

“Yeah,” Maya nods. “That might be better.”

She takes a deep breath. “Can you guys leave the room when I do it? I don’t want her to be upset that I didn’t tell her first.” They all nod. 

 

6:30 PM  

Come over early? Have to tell you something.

octavia ♡

6:30 PM

omg are u pregnant?! 

6:31 PM  

No. 

octavia ♡

6:31 PM

ok coming 

 

6:31 

can I invite Lincoln to come at 7

 

6:32

plssss i really want my bestesr friends to meet them 

 

6:32

*bestesr

 

6:32

*bESTEST fuck!!! 

 

She looks up from her phone. “Octavia wants to invite Lincoln.”

Raven groans. “It’s going to be a testosterone air chamber.”

Maya hums. “We’ve always outnumbered the boys. I don’t like it.”

“We’d still outnumber them, idiot.”

Maya throws a scrunchie at her. But she counts on her fingers. “Hmph. Fine.” 

“Are you sure Lincoln won’t encourage Fuckboy’s behavior and stuff?”

“I don’t think so. Maybe? He seems way better than any brother in ARK.” She pauses. “Also, don't call him Fuckboy to his face.” Raven snickers. 

“It might be good for her to have a buffer after you tell her,” Maya shrugs.

“I don’t know.” Harper bites her lip. "She looked pretty okay with it when she was jumping on Clarke’s bed.”

Raven snorts. “Yeah, I’m sure she’ll be totally fine with it. ‘Hey, O! You can bring Lincoln, yeah. Also, I kissed your brother.’”

“You what!?” They hear a shriek from the front door. Octavia stands with her extra key in hand.

Chapter Text

[bellamy]

 

“You what?” 

He stares at the ceiling in his bed, Murphy on his desk and Miller in his chair.

“Exactly what I just said.” 

“You kissed the Princess?” Murphy cackles.

“Clarke,” he groans. “Is it really that surprising? Both of you have been looking at me fucking weird for the last few weeks.”

“Hm, true,” Miller muses.

“But, fucking her is different than taking her to a rose garden and carrying her back home.” 

“There were two kisses in between. And, you literally told her today that you wouldn’t be an asshole. Watch it."

Murphy sighs. “You’re right. It's just doesn’t sound like you.”

He frowns, sitting up on his elbow. “What do you mean?”

“He means that you didn’t even do that kind of romantic shit with Gina.” Miller leans back in the chair, arms crossed.

“It wasn’t ‘romantic shit’,” he mocks, sitting up fully.

“Again: you took her to a rose garden, at midnight, told her about Greek statues, kissed her twice, once even after she slapped you, and held her for a thirty minute walk.”

“I tell everyone about Greek statues.”

Murphy snorts, and Miller leans his chair back to the ground, and rests his elbows on his knees.

“Who are you kidding, man?” He shakes his head. “I saw the way you looked at her last night when she walked in.”

“Yeah, because she looked hot. Even you said that!” he says exasperatedly. 

“You just looked at her differently. That’s all I have to say.” He shrugs, twirling a pencil in the air. 

He slumps back on his bed, pressing a pillow over his face. “Should I text her?” His voice is muffled. 

“What?” Murphy asks. 

“Should I text her?” he half-yells, removing the pillow.

“I mean, probably.”

“When I tried to see her today, she was at brunch with Octavia. Maybe she’s avoiding me.”

“Wait.” Miller’s eyes narrow. “When did you do that?” 

He’s quiet.

“Ha! I knew it! Hand it over, Miller.” He groans and reaches in his pocket, slapping a twenty in his hand. 

“What the fuck?” He sits up, sitting up again. “You bet on me?”

“You were about to go running in jeans, my man.” 

He pauses. “Okay. Fine. I went to go see her.”

“Just because she wasn’t home doesn’t mean she’s avoiding you, dude,” Miller adds. “I don’t think she cares enough about you to purposefully schedule her life around you.”

He glowers at him. “Gee, thanks.”

He holds his hands up. “Just saying.”

“Just text her.” 

He nods. “What should I say?”

Murphy snorts. “Oh god, it's like we're in middle school, all over again.” 

“Just say ‘hey’, idiot.” Miller rolls his eyes. 

He nods and pulls out his phone. “Wait, fuck. She blocked me after the skinny dipping thing.”

Murphy snickers. “You deserve that.”

“Just try, anyways. Maybe she unblocked you after last night?” Miller suggests.

Nodding, he sends her a 'hey’.

A minute passes. 

“Well, so much for that.” He tosses his phone on the comforter.

“Dude, are you serious? It’s been a minute.” 

“She responds fast. I’ve seen it on O’s phone.” His phone chirps, and Miller raises his eyebrows. 

“She said hi back.” 

“Oh, thank god!” Murphy clutches his chest dramatically. 

After a brief exchange of ‘how are you’s and ‘how was your day?’s, he doesn't know what to say next. 

“Should I double text? She’s using periods.”

“I’m leaving.” Miller gets up. 

“Dude, you’re hopeless.” Murphy’s eyes widen, and he follows Miller. “I’ve never seen you act like such a middle schooler.”

He ignores him and puts his phone down again, rubbing his eyes with the heel of his palms. A few minutes later, his phone dings. 

 

Princess

6:10 PM

Do you want to come to game night?

 

Overexcited, he types his response in a second. 

Wait, shit. There’s no way he’ll survive hours in that suite, even with Octavia. He quickly types another message, asking if the guys and Emori can come.

Wait, shit, again. Most likely, she won’t want to see them. After she leaves him hanging for five minutes, he figures that that’s the truth, so he writes that she doesn’t have to.

He exhales and frowns at the same time when she says Emori can come. But, who the hell uses ‘prefer’ in a text message?

After she tells him the time, he taps out a quick confirmation before heading to the living room.

The two guys wait on the couch expectantly. “Well?”

“She invited Emori and I to game night.” He shifts uncomfortably and moves to the daybed. “But she invited me late. The first time I took Octavia to game night, it was at seven.”

“You need to chill out. People can move the times of events, you know.” Miller rolls his eyes.

Murphy pouts. “Why weren’t we invited?”

“Why do you think?” He narrows his eyes.

Murphy sighs. “Whatever.”

“Are you gonna ask us to help you find the perfect outfit?” Miller teases. 

He flips him off.


[clarke]

 

Octavia stands at the door, and Raven’s eyes grow wide. “Oops.” 

“Oh my god.” She buries her head in her hands. “Why did we give her an extra key?” 

A dark blur dashes across the room and tackles her. “I knew it!” Octavia bounces up and down, once again.

“What the–” Raven, Harper, and Maya exchange stunned glances. 

“You did not know it.” She moves Octavia off of her. “We just kissed.” 

“How was it?” 

Raven chokes a laugh. 

“What?” Clarke looks at her, dumbfounded. “You want to hear about me kissing your brother?”

“I mean,” she plops down next to her. “Not the gory details. But like, how are you feeling after?”

“I’m okay, I guess.” 

This time, Raven, Maya, and Harper scoff.

Octavia frowns. “How come you didn’t tell me?” 

“I’m sorry, Octavia.” She leans forward and takes her hands. “I was just scared. I didn’t want to risk our friendship over a boy, and I mean, the boy is your brother. What if you got angry, or if I made things weird, or something? I just told Harp and Maya like, half an hour ago, and Raven only found out because I’m as transparent as a plastic water bottle. Or, as Raven put it, ‘optical materials’.” 

“I’m an engineering major. That’s how I understand things.”

Octavia nods. “Okay, fine. But I want you to know that I would never be angry at you for something like that, or be all weird about it,” she scrunches her nose. “I think that’s dumb. And you’re my best friend, too. I’ll support you and your decisions and I’ll support him, too. You’re both my family.”

Maya and Harper ‘awwww’.

“So, even though I’ll tell you not to hurt him with a pretend-angry face, I’ll tell him not to hurt you with a pretend-angry face, too.” She makes a pretend-angry face. “Don't hurt him.” 

Clarke laughs. “Okay. Thank you. I love you.” She reaches forward and pulls her into a tight hug. 

“So,” she smiles slyly. “You didn’t answer my question.” 

She sighs. “I feel okay. I told the girls earlier that it kinda just… felt right. It started with us screaming at each other.”

“Oh.” Octavia sits back, eyes wide. “It was an angry kiss.”

“Yep.” The three other girls affirm in unison. For the third time that day, she retells the story of last night. Though a lot less detailed, this time.

“And that all leads to Raven inviting him to game night.” 

Octavia gasps.

“Okay, technically, I invited him under the guise of it being you.”

“This’ll be great!” Octavia grabs her hands again. “I’ve been wanting the both of you to get along for a while now,” she looks down. “It hurts me to see you both be so angry, or sad.”

“Well,” she sighs, squeezing her hands. “I’ll try to be good, then.”

“Oh, you’ll be really good.” Raven winks.

“Okay, ew.” Octavia pokes her cheek. “So… can I bring Lincoln?” She smiles sheepishly. 

“Fine with me.” She smiles and nudges her. “Girls?” Harper and Maya shrug, and nod.

“Alright,” Raven purses her lips. “But I’ll punch him if he hurts my girl.”

“Hmph. Fine,” Octavia squints. “But I can punch him instead.” Raven grins and the two of them bump fists. 

“So,” she stands up, taking a deep breath. “Should I order the taco stuff?’

Ten minutes later, everyone is scattered around the kitchen, including Lincoln, and she tells the story of last night for the fourth time. As she anticipated, Jasper narrows his eyes.

“Damn.” Lincoln raises his eyebrows, hugging Octavia from behind, chin on her shoulder. “I knew it.” 

“See? Told you.” Octavia looks pointedly at Clarke.

“I hate him.” 

Everyone snaps their head to Jasper. Octavia sighs, sending him a look.

“Jas. Just try to get along. For me.” He nods, but begrudgingly. Shaw seems skeptical as well. 

“I don’t know, Clarke,” he voices, rubbing Raven’s shoulder as they cuddle on the couch. “I don’t trust him.”

“And you don’t have to. Just be civil. And maybe try to be nice.”

“Please!” Octavia pleads. “It’ll make me so happy if my brother and my friends can finally get along.”

“I’ll try to keep him in line. I swear.” Lincoln nods, and Octavia turns her head to kiss him on the cheek.

Monty frowns. “Fine. But only because you and Clarke asked.” 

“Yay! Thank you!” She moves over and hugs him from above. Jasper reaches forward to grab a handful of cheese, but Octavia swats his hand away.

“We’re waiting for them! And did you just try to eat a handful of cheese?”

He gasps. “Don’t tell me you’ve never eaten shredded cheese and two in the morning?”

“What?” She looks around the kitchen, and they all nod with a shrug.

“Finals week,” Maya sighs. 

And they hear a knock on the door. 

Chapter Text

[bellamy]

 

Emori knocks on the door. He takes a deep breath. 

“I’ll get it!” He hears Octavia’s muffled voice and the loud thuds of her running across the suite. The door flings open.

“Bell!” she flings her arms around him.

Oh, great. She’s already drunk.

But that thought is quickly proven wrong as she whispers in his ear. “ If you try anything, I will make sure you never have children.” 

He shudders, but she pulls back with a grin, turning to Emori. “It’s nice to see you in a non-Murphy and non-frat setting,” she smiles, and Emori adjusts the wine in her hand to shake it.

“We brought wine!” She holds up the Cabernet. Well, she brought the Cabernet. He was hoping that they’d have vodka. 

“Amazing! Clarke loves red!” She pulls the bottle from Emori’s hand and dashes to the living room. 

Emori looks a bit stunned. “Sorry,” he shoves his hands in his pockets. “She comes off a bit… strong.”

“I can see why she makes easy friends with everyone.”

“Yep.” They awkwardly follow her into the living room, where everyone sits on the various couches and chairs, a variety of looks on their faces. 

Ah, shit.  

Jasper looks like he’ll choke him right on the spot. Monty, he thinks, has his legs crossed with a challenging expression. Raven looks similar, but less than yesterday. Her boyfriend– he doesn’t know his name yet–just tries to calm her down by rubbing her thigh. Harper and Maya have sly looks on their faces.

Oh, great. She told them. 

Clarke, in between Raven and Harper on the couch, rests her chin on her knees as she scrolls on her phone, wine glass in hand. Well, that’s not exactly how we wanted to be greeted. 

“Everyone,” Octavia motions to them. “This is my brother, Bellamy, and his friend Emori!” 

“We know him,” Jasper mutters. Maya nudges him in the ribs. “It’s nice to meet you, Emori,” she smiles, ignoring him. She pats the spot next to her on the other couch. He shifts uncomfortably in the middle of the room.

Monty rolls his eyes and moves to make space on the cushion next to him. He tries to smile gratefully, but he doesn’t even look at him. As he sits, he looks at Clarke on the other couch, only to see her talking to Raven. What if she invited him by accident? Or what if someone took her phone?

“Hey, man,” Lincoln walks in, presumably from the bathroom, as he wipes his hands on his legs. He exhales. Thank god. “Hey.” 

“Beer?” Lincoln holds up and he nods. He tosses it to him. 

A few seconds of awkward silence pass. Well, not actual silence, just everyone talking to each other and ignoring him. He can see Octavia stroll around the room not-so-subtly, whispering something in everyone’s ears. They all roll their eyes, but nod. 

“So,” Raven claps her hands. “It’s taco night!” Everyone cheers, and a hint of a smile appears on his face. He can see why Octavia likes hanging out with them. 

Soon, they all crowd in the kitchen, lounging on barstools and sitting on the counter. “Okay. For the newbies,” Harper looks at Emori and him. “The hybrid of taco-game night begins with a crucial tradition.”

He raises his eyebrows, and Emori laughs. “Should we be scared?”

“Yes,” Jasper shoots her a look without any humor. 

“Jas,” Maya hisses. “Be nice.” 

He grumbles, but sighs. “The tradition goes as follows: first– we shake,” he proudly flourishes the Lightbournes baseball cap and starts shaking it. He sees some small strips of papers about to topple out. 

“Oh, wait!” The first words that he’s heard come out of Clarke’s mouth trail off into the bedroom. She comes back with a piece of paper and a sharpie. She rips off two new pieces, hastily writing ‘bellamy’ and ‘emori’. For whatever reason, a flush runs up his neck. Raven snatches his paper, about to cross it out, but Clarke takes it back with a glare, throwing them in the hat. “Stop it!” he hears the faint whisper. 

“Allllright…” Jasper trails off, looking oddly at the two girls. “We shake, once again. And then, we all delicately pull one out,” his fingers flitter in the cap before he dramatically plucks one. 

He clears his throat. “Now, the time has come to select one courageous person in this room for the honor of representing Sanctum 512’s taco-game night!”

Raven rolls her eyes and looks at him and Emori. “Sorry. We watched The Hunger Games at one of our movie nights and now he never stops doing that.”

He passes the hat to Shaw, before dramatically unfolding the paper. His regal voice stops. “Ha! We’re totally going to win!” He flips the paper around and everyone groans.

“Maya? That’s not fair! Your partner can’t be your own girlfriend!” Octavia huffs. 

“Well, the draw is final!” 

“Ugh.” Raven swirls her hand in the hat and pulls a paper out. She grins.

“We got this, Harp.” They high-five. 

Lincoln draws after and gets Emori. Which leaves him, Clarke, Shaw, and Octavia. 

“After you, my dear,” Jasper bows to Clarke, hat in hand. She smiles, and pulls out a piece of paper. Raven scoffs behind her, and for the first time that night, she looks at him shyly. “Guess we’re partners.” 

For some reason, that makes him extremely happy, and his heart rate increases unreasonably quickly.

“Which means that Octavia and Shaw are the final pairing for taco-game night,” Jasper announces. The two bump fists.

“So, um,” Emori pipes up. “What exactly are we in pairs for?”

The girls glare at Jasper. “Jas, your one job is to explain the entire thing!” Harper frowns. 

“I’m sorry! I was too busy sending death glares to…” he trails off, looking at him. He squints again, but continues. “Basically, the person who was chosen in the hat must successfully prepare the perfect taco for their partner.”

“Lincoln doesn’t know me that well!” Emori protests.

“Sometimes, you don’t need to know a person to know their taco,” Jasper muses. 

Emori shares a strange look with Bellamy. He stifles a laugh. 

“Okay, chosen ones! Here is your arsenal,” he waves a hand over the kitchen table with all the taco ingredients. “You must craft the perfect taco in two minutes. Your partners will wait in the living room, eagerly expecting your creation!”

“These people are fucking weird,” he mutters in Emori’s ear. She laughs, looking up at him. “I like them. A lot.”

He searches for his own partner, but he just sees the back of her head walking to the living room. 

“Okay, folks,” Jasper puts his phone on the table. He hands him, Raven, Lincoln, and Octavia a plate. 

“Don’t mess this up. This might be the only way to earn Jasper’s respect,” Raven mutters to him, and Octavia muffles a laugh. He glares at her. “You’re supposed to be on my side!” 

“Sometimes, I like her side better.” Octavia points to Raven.

He grumbles. Lincoln pats his shoulder. “Don’t worry, dude. I’m sure you can figure out something she likes.” He hopes so.

Jesus. His Saturday night now involves making tacos and potentially playing Monopoly. Last semester, he’d probably be hooking up with some random chick and blacking out. But then he hears a familiar, tinkling laugh from the living room, and he doesn’t mind that much.

“Let’s go, bitches!” Octavia yells as Jasper lets the timer go off.

Okay. He looks at the table. 

There’s proteins, some vegetables and shit, and then the topping stuff. He blindly chooses the hard shell over soft shell, which he rationalizes by claiming that she’s stubborn as hell. He thinks back to class, or whenever he sees her walk around with Octavia– she’s always eating some healthy shit. One time he saw just… bite into a cucumber. What a fucking weirdo. 

He’s also never seen her eat meat. So he skips the protein and scoops in the fajita vegetables. Healthy people like brown rice, right? He adds a spoonful of that. And everyone likes cheese. He skips beans, for no reason, really. Then, he adds the salsa with tomatoes and corn, because health. And a bit of guacamole.

“Time!” Well, he did the best he could. 

“Everyone, follow me to the living room so we can present our creations!” Jasper holds his plate like a waiter. They all sit down next to their partner, and he settles onto the couch next to Clarke.

She sits cross-legged on the cushion, and her knee kinda bumps into his thigh, which he doesn’t mind much. Neither does she, it seems. The wine gives her a light, ruby flush, and she’s mid-laugh as Octavia accidentally spills tomatoes on Shaw’s lap. As he sits, she smiles up at him and warmth spreads through his limbs. He hands her the plate.

“Okay, folks,” Jasper clinks a spoon against his red cup, which kind of just makes a dull thudding sound. “It’s time for our partners to see how well they did. Munch!”

So, they all do. He watches her intently as she bites into the taco, laughing a bit when guacamole gets on her nose. He leans over and wipes it off with his finger, and she looks up at him, amusement twinkling in her eyes. As she chews, he waits in anticipation. She hates it. It's clear. 

“Okay. The evaluations shall begin. Honor code!” Jasper salutes. 

“You almost got it, Rae!" Harper pats her shoulder. “But I like white rice, not brown.”

Raven huffs. “What the hell is the difference?”

“Not bad, Lincoln,” Emori nods. “No guacamole, no corn, missing the chicken and tomatoes.”

“So…  I got everything wrong?”

“Pretty much. But it's still yummy!” she takes another bite. 

“Close, Baby Blake,” Shaw nods. His eyebrows raise at the nickname, and Clarke looks at him with a playful shrug. “No sour cream.”

Fuck!” Octavia whines, falling onto her floor pillow. “So close!”

“Good job, Jas,” Maya smiles up at him. “But you forgot that I like the spicy salsa, not this one.”

“What?” he yells. “Wow,” he shakes his head solemnly. “Today is the day Jasper Jordan admits painful defeat.” Raven rolls her eyes. 

“Clarke?” Oh, fuck. He looks at her nervously, biting his lip. She just stares down at the plate, before looking up in amusement.

“He got it all right.” Surprise descends on his face, but she smiles up at him. 

What?” Raven and Octavia shriek.

“Liar!” Jasper points at her.

“There’s no way,” Monty shakes his head. Harper and Maya voice their agreements.

“Jeez, guys,” Clarke puts her plate down. “Have some faith in the guy.”

“No.”

She rolls her eyes. “Raven, check.” She scrambles over and kneels in front of the table, inspecting the taco from all angles. Her head shakes.

“Goddammit. He got it all.” Laughter echoes around the room. She leans into his shoulder.

“Well done, partner.” 

Deciding to be bold, he reaches over to grab her hand in her lap. She looks down at it and squeezes it.

“Okay,” Octavia drops her plate. “Can the rest of us eat now?”

Thirty minutes later, when they’ve all eaten and cleared the table, they all look to him and Clarke.

“Why are they staring at us?” he leans down, whispering into his ear. After dinner, she's pulled his hand into her lap again, playing with his fingers. And this distracts him from paying attention to anything else.

She laughs. “It’s time for us to choose the game, since we won.”

“Oh,” he frowns. “I don’t care. I’m down for anything.”

“You must care!” Jasper yells from the floor. Him and Monty smoked a few minutes before, so he receives much less heat from him. 

“What do you want to play?” He looks down at her, noses almost touching.

“Hm…” she squints at the pile of boxes under the table. “I can be persuaded.”

This is definitely the wrong thing to say.

Everyone yells at once. She listens for a few seconds, but holds a hand up. 

“Who's the father of geometry?” Everyone pauses to think, but he just laughs.

“Euclid,” he whispers in her ear. She looks up at him in surprise. 

“What? Is math your kind of dirty talk?” She slaps his chest. 

“Oh! I know! Eunice!” Harper says, a bit tipsy.

“No! No! It’s…” Raven gestures wildly. “Euclid! His name was Euclid!”

“Correct! Raven chooses.” 

Monty and Jasper groan from the floor. “Jas and I would’ve definitely gotten that if we weren’t discussing if there’s another word for synonym!”

“Pictionary!” Raven claps, and everyone groans.

“What’s wrong with Pictionary?” he laughs. Sighing, her head falls on his shoulder, and a wave of affection runs through him, wanting to pull her into his lap, or hold her, or something. “Well, half of us are drunk, two of us are high, and Octavia is the worst artist in the world.”

“Hey!” she pouts from the floor.

“And I always win, for obvious reasons,” she flips her hair over her shoulder smugly. He laughs. 

“Then, can I be your partner again?” he mutters in her ear, and she shivers. Pleased with his effect on her, he grins.

“Every man for himself in Pictionary, I’m afraid.” But she scoots over, raising her legs over his lap and placing them on the other side of the couch. She settles into his shoulder with a contented sigh. Yeah. He definitely won't be able to draw anything. 

Raven pulls out Clarke’s easel with the large notepad on it. “Ready?” She nods and presses the timer on her phone.

Raven starts frantically sketching a cylindrical object. She draws a bunch of curly things at the top of it and a few small circles in the bush-looking thing.

“Tree!” Octavia quips. Raven nods vigorously. She draws a lopsided moon and some stars around it before drawing a large circle with a slash through it. 

“Not nighttime!” Harper quips, getting a glare from Raven.

“Daytime?” Shaw asks, drunk laughter raising from everyone else. 

Raven starts drawing the sun peeking up over a line, and a stick figure with a large circle for a mouth.

“Romantically running into a sunrise?” Emori cocks her head. 

“A person throwing up into a sunrise?” Jasper asks.

“The sun being cut in half by the guy from Edvard Munch’s painting!” Monty sits up.

Bellamy muffles a laugh. “I see why everyone isn’t too pleased with her game choice.” 

Clarke rolls her eyes. “Morning wood. It's morning wood.”

He tenses. She notices and laughs into his chest. “I forgot to tell you that our version of Pictionary is… different.”

“Jeez,” he shifts uncomfortably. “Warn a guy.”

“Why?” she looks up, a teasing sparkle in her eyes. “Will you get distracted?” she runs one hand down his chest. He sharply inhales, grabbing her wrist. 

“Unless you want me to push you up against another pillar, you gotta stop,” he murmurs in her ear.

“What if I want you to?” Her gaze flickers from his dark eyes to his mouth.

“Clarke!” Raven’s voice makes her snap away, and she lifts herself off of him. He frowns at the sudden lack of contact. 

“Quite the cockblock, huh?” Lincoln says quietly, nudging him from his place on the floor.

“You have no idea.” Running a hand through his hair, he tries to refocus by looking at her drawing. Which ends up making it even worse, because the back of her dress drifts up as she lifts on her feet just a bit to reach the top of the easel.

She starts drawing, and he wishes she could turn around so he could see the focused look in her eyes as she holds the pencil. Like the one he saw at the first fundraiser. 

God. He hasn’t even thought about the presidency. The second fundraiser is on Monday and the last debate is next Wednesday. What will happen when one of them wins? Will they stop talking to each other?

“Aphrodisiac!” He’s snapped out of his thoughts by Raven’s excited voice.

He looks at the notepad and sees that she’s drawn a thin wine glass. It's brimming with thick roses, bars of chocolate, pomegranate seeds, and strawberries. How the hell she's managed to accurately draw pomegranate seeds, he doesn't know.

But that wasn’t even the part that made him wide-eyed. The profile of a woman with dark eyelashes and slightly parted lips raises the wine glass to her mouth. Clarke nods at Raven, but looks at him with an eyebrow raised.

“Holy moly,” Lincoln leans over. “Doesn’t anyone else see those sex-eyes?"

He bristles. “I think they’re all too drunk and/or high to notice.”

Lincoln chuckles, shaking his head. Alarmed, he looks at Octavia, but she’s passed out on Lincoln’s lap. He looks for Emori, who is laughing hysterically at something Maya says. 

“I hate playing Pictionary with Clarke!” Harper pouts.

She shrugs. “Who wants it?” 

“Me! Me!” Maya frantically waves her hand and she rips off the paper, handing it to Maya. “It’s so beautiful,” she sighs. “I’m going to hang it up on my wall.”

“You have, like, ten of Clarke’s drawings on your wall, already.” Raven rolls her eyes. 

“And?” she challenges. 

 

They play for another few minutes until it's confirmed that Clarke has, indeed, won. Jasper decides that they should watch a horror movie with ice cream, because ‘watching shitty jumpscares is even better when you’re high on Rocky Road. They settle on Insidious, his favorite.

Monty connects a projector to Clarke’s laptop, and Raven hooks up a large white sheet to the ceiling. The movie starts flickering on the sheet. 

“Wow,” he looks down at Clarke, impressed. “That’s pretty neat.” She stifles a loud laugh by shoveling a spoonful of coconut sorbet in her mouth. 

“Don’t you remember that they hacked the phones of the entire study body to humiliate you?” she winces. “Sorry about that.” 

He just shakes his head with a smile. “I deserved it.”

“Yeah, you did.” 

“Plus,” she lays her head in his lap. “You wouldn’t have broken up with Gina if it wasn’t for them.” She reaches the spoon up to feed him some sorbet. 

“I don’t know,” he eats the sorbet and pushes a curl out of her eyes. “I was a bit distracted by someone else.”

The whole thing feels so couple-y. And it makes him grin down at her. Pink tinges her cheeks and she turns her head to watch the movie. After he jumps for the third time, making her head shake in his lap and jostling the bowl of sorbet, she looks at him with amusement in her eyes. “Really?” 

“The paranormal freaks me out,” he frowns, and she laughs at him. She brings a hand up to touch his cheek, and he stills. Their eyes lock for a few seconds, but she curls her body back to watch.

For the rest of the movie, she feeds him the last of the sorbet and his fingers delicately detangle the knots in her hair. By the time it's over, he has to will himself to not jerk at any more jumpscares. She’s fallen asleep on him and he doesn’t really know what to do. 

Emori, Lincoln and Octavia leave, and he makes Octavia promise that she's not going back to Lincoln’s room. She rolls her eyes and promises, but he knows she’s lying. Her eyes twinkle knowingly when she sees Clarke curled up in his lap. Shaw and Raven retreat to her room, and Harper and Maya leave with Jasper and Monty to wherever the other two live. 

The credits have finished by now and the Netflix screen has returned. He leans forward and closes Clarke’s laptop, hoping that will turn the projector off, too. Luckily, he’s right. 

Slowly sliding one arm under her neck and the other under her knees, he lifts her to her room and softly places her on her bed, tugging the comforter over her. He’s about to leave, but he feels her grip around his arm.

“Stay,” she says softly.

“I shouldn–” he starts.

“Please?” she turns around and looks at him. The hopeful look in her eyes makes it impossible for him to say anything but yes. He shrugs off his hoodie and climbs under the covers with her. She pulls him close to her chest, and he’s unsure if any air is leaving his body. She places a hand on his heart. 

“Calm down,” she laughs against his neck.

“That’s a bit difficult for me, at the moment.” 

She slides her hand down his arm and pulls it over her waist. Her hands brush the fabric of his jeans and frowns. “You can take this off. It's not comfortable.” 

His breath hitches. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he murmurs into her hair.

“I promise I won’t try anything,” she teases, looking up at him. He looks down, and a mere inch separates their faces. She breathes out, and in the dim light, he can see her eyes fiercely fix on him. When their noses graze, he feels her tilt closer to him. It's silent for a minute, just them staring at each other. Now a centimeter away.

“Can I?” he whispers. She nods. He leans forward and presses his mouth against hers. It's a brief, chaste peck. She brings her palm to his cheek and kisses him again, slowly, surely. She doesn’t let him pull away this time, and she parts her mouth against his. It's soft, breathless; the anger and heat of yesterday now dissolves into something languid, patient. They draw out each moment, each movement. Not really a fight anymore, more like a mutual surrender, their lips almost hesitant. 

She drapes her leg over his hips, and he sharply inhales, pulling away. “Clarke,” he says unsurely. 

“Hm?” She swings her body up and over, now straddling him. She drops her lips down his jaw and to his neck. A dark sound rumbles in his throat when her teeth bite down on his skin.

He shudders a deep breath, but he gently grabs her wrists and pushes her up. “Stop,” he murmurs. 

The sadness and vulnerability in her eyes as he says that makes his heart hurt. He sits up and pulls her off his lap. “You don’t want to?” she asks sadly, looking at him with her knees folded under her.

He chokes a laugh. “Clarke,” his voice is dark. “I want to. More than anything. I want you so, so badly.” He reaches forward and pulls her into his chest. “But you drank tonight, and I don’t want you to wake up and regret anything.”

“But I’m sober no–”

“Do you feel ready?"

Her head snaps up. “Do you feel ready?” She pauses. 

“That’s what I figured,” he says, softly. “I don’t want to do anything you’re not comfortable with.” He lays her down and starts to get up.

“Wait,” she sits up, again. “Please, stay, Bellamy.” Her saying his name destroys all of his willpower.

“Okay.” Settling back down, she snuggles into his chest. He wraps an arm around her shoulder and plays with her hair. 

“Can I ask you something?” she asks. She splays out her fingers against his chest, and then closes them. Out, together. Over and over.

“Of course." He presses his nose into his hair. 

“What was your first impression of me?” 

He laughs. “Do you want me to be honest?” She nods.

“I thought that I’d heard too much of your voice in the morning,” he pauses. “And probably that you’re hot.”

“Hey!” she playfully pinches his abdomen, which shakes as he laughs. 

“You said you wanted me to be honest!” She hmphs. “What was your first impression of me?

“Do you want me to be honest?” she mocks. He laughs, nodding his head into her hair. 

“I thought that you were such an asshole. Like, I-want-to-punch-you kind of asshole.”

He frowns. “I take it back. I don’t want to hear it.” 

She smiles against his chest. “But then, I thought it was admirable how quickly you helped Octavia. I could tell that you were a caretaker by nature.”

“Hm,” he shifts, nodding. “I like that one better.” She laughs, and stops moving her fingers. Her palm drifts to his ribs. 

They’re quiet for a few minutes, breaths evening out.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Mhm,” she hums. 

“Can I see your tattoo?” 

She presses herself up off of his chest. “Yeah, sure,” she furrows her eyebrows. “When did you notice it first?”

“Uh,” he pauses. “At the first debate, I think.” 

“Oh?” she gasps dramatically, hand to her chest. “Were you checking out my legs, Bellamy?”

“Pretty much.” He shrugs. She laughs and pokes his stomach. Pushing off the covers, she hesitates. “There’s not really a good position to show it to you.”

“Don’t worry,” he winks. “I know lots of good positions.” 

“You’re stupid,” she rolls her eyes and shoves him. He almost falls off the bed, but she makes no move to help him. 

“Damn. You wouldn’t save me?” he sighs sadly. “That hurts.” 

“Just come here,” she yanks his arm. “Sit up.” Turning around and lifting to her knees, she grabs his hand from behind and leads it to her right ankle. His eyes trail down her back. 

He groans. “Did you really have to wear sleep shorts?” 

“You’re the one who doesn't want to!” She looks over her shoulder with a frown. He squeezes her calf and she shrieks. “Let me see.” She shifts her ankle back so he can get a better look.

Four circles are side by side, each hung by its own string. A fifth circle looks like it's in mid-air. He traces each circle with his finger.

“Is that–”

“Newton’s Cradle. Yeah.” She turns around and sits against the headboard. He watches as she looks up at the empty spaces on her wall, and guilt suffocates him.

“My dad used to always say, ‘See that? Here comes the momentum change.’” she smiles. “Every time we chanted at a protest, or new legislation was proposed– that’s what he would say. ‘Here comes the momentum change.’” She looks down at her hands. “And who knows momentum better than anyone else?” 

“Newton.”

She nods. “I got it right after he died.”

He frowns. “But weren’t you–”

“Fifteen. You can’t even imagine the looks I got when I went to the first tattoo shop. I walked in, head high, and they were like, kid. You need parental consent to be here. So, I came back the next day with my mother’s forged signature. They saw right through it,” she laughs at the memory.

“How did you get it?”

“One day, my mother walked on me in the bathroom, needles scattered on the floor, and saw me trying to do a stick-and-poke on myself. I told her I’d attempt it every day until she took me to the tattoo shop.” 

He shakes his head with a smile. “That’s the most Clarke Griffin thing I’ve ever heard.” She hums in response. 

He tugs the comforter back over her and lays her down on top of the pillow. As he reaches over to turn the lamp light off, she puts a hand on his arm. “For my own sake, please take them off. The denim scratches my legs.” She has a pleading look in her eyes.

He sighs and stands up. “I won’t look, I promise,” she averts her eyes.

“Clarke,” he rolls his eyes and slides off his jeans. “You’re a big girl. You’ve seen boys with their pants off.” He slips back under the comforter. They both lay on their sides, facing each other. 

“Can I ask you something?” He nods. 

“Why are you in that fraternity?”

He sighs. “Because I needed to make fast friends in my first year at college.”

“You couldn’t have joined History club or something? Mock trial?” she frowns.

“I guess,” he runs a hand through his hair. “Miller and Murphy, we all lived in a triple. And they were rushing, so I just did, too.”

“I wish you didn’t,” she whispers, the sound barely making it through the air.

“Why?” he furrows his eyebrows.

“You’re a good guy. And sometimes I see those brothers and I wonder if there’s any good in them, at all.”

“Am I a good guy, though?” he looks down, staring at the sunflowers on the bedsheet. “Twenty-four hours ago, you thought I was worse than all of them combined.”

“That’s true.” Her eyes flicker in sadness. She turns over, and a sharp pain strikes his chest. He wants to reach forward and bring her to his chest, but he’s not sure if she’ll feel comfortable with that right now. 

Silence clouds the dark room. He figures she’s asleep, but he tries, anyway.

“Can I ask you something?” 

He vaguely sees a nod.

“I-I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable around me. And yesterday was really intense. I just wanted to know what–” 

“He cheated on Raven.” Her back is still to him.

“What?” he asks, a bit bewildered by her answer.

“Raven’s first boyfriend. Finn. He cheated on her. With me.” His breath hitches. 

“When?”

“Freshman year. We became friends because of it,” she rolls over. “It was Welcome Week. We hooked up, and I just fell… hard. Really, really hard.” Her voice becomes strained. “Raven wasn’t supposed to go to Ark U. At the end of the summer, they offered her a better financial aid package, and she wanted to surprise him. 

“Well, he was really surprised when we were going to dinner, and the elevator doors opened. There she was. And she surged forward, threw her hands around him, and kissed him. I was so heartbroken. Turns out, she didn’t have much family growing up. Just Finn. They were together for most of their lives. And I ruined that for her.” He hears her sniff in the darkness.

“Hey,” he reaches down under the blanket to grab her hand. “You ruined nothing. It’s all on that asshole. He should’ve treated both of you better,” he squeezes her hand lightly, trying to control his anger built up as she spoke. “And it all backfired for him, anyway. Now you’ve met your damn soul sister.” 

“That’s true,” she laughs. “But– I guess I’m just afraid. To be so naked again. Figuratively, too, I mean. Literally and figuratively. Sometimes, he’d,” she pauses. “He’d poke my stomach, or something. Make a joke about me needing to go to the gym with him sometimes.”

“What the fuck?” he seethes. “Are you kidding me?”

“No.” She releases a deep breath. “I’ve been a bit hesitant about…  showing my body, ever since, I guess. Sometimes that’s why I fight Octavia so much when she puts me in those outfits. Like, what if I actually hooked up with a guy from the frat party, but then, as soon as I took off my clothes– what if he wanted to stop, you know?” 

“Clarke,” he whispers, wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her flush to his chest. “Your body is fucking beautiful. It is taking everything in me to not touch you, right now. You are beautiful,” he brings up his hand to cup her cheek. “I’m so frustrated and truly shocked that a man could ever speak to you like that,” he hisses angrily. 

Seeing her hesitant expression, he softens. “I wish you could see yourself how I see you.”

He feels her smile against his chest. “You promise?” He pulls back, looking into her pupils that peek through the darkness.

“Promise. I’ve never been more sure of anything else.”

“What about knowing that I’m going to win the presidency?” she teases. 

“I’m pretty sure I’m okay with that.” He shrugs. 

She gasps. “Why? Twenty four hours ago…” 

“Okay, I get it! Enough with the ‘twenty four hours’ ago stuff!”

“But it's important!”

“But it's in the past!” 

“Fine!”

They stare at each other for a few seconds before dissolving into quiet laughter. A few minutes pass.

“Can I ask you something?” 

He groans. “Yes. What?”

“Don’t you think people will judge us from hating each other to falling asleep together in twent–”

“Stop that!” he tugs on the ends of her hair playfully. He sighs. “I don’t know. Do you really care about people’s judgements?

“I mean, we kinda set ourselves up for judgement when we both announced that we’re running for student body president,” she taps her fingers on his chest.

“I guess,” he pauses. “I’ll drop out if you want me too.”

“What? No!” she shakes her head against his chest. “I know you didn’t just run to spite me.”

“I definitely did, at first. But then I thought it might look good on PhD applications.”

“It would,” she sighs. “It would look good at med school apps, too.”

He strokes her hair. “I can’t believe you took that strike for me.”

“You deserve to be here.”

“You deserve to get into a good med school.”

“I’ll find one,” she reassures, playing with the hem of his shirt. 

“I’ll help,” he puts his hand over hers. She turns her head up to look at him with a raised eyebrow.

“Are you saying you’ll stick around for another whole year?”

His arms tighten around her. “If you’ll have me.”

“I’ll think about it,” she murmurs, nestling her head into his neck. A few minutes later, he starts to feel presses of heat move across his jawline. Her lips graze his skin, running her mouth to where his jaw meets his ear.

“Clarke,” he warns, squirming. She ignores him, leaning down to bring her teeth down to his neck. He’s tempted to let her, but he thinks about Finn, and gently nudges her off his shoulder.

“Why don’t you want me?” she snaps, hurt and annoyance in her voice. Huffing, she turns over, facing away from him.

“Clarke,” he pleads, putting a hand on her lower back. She shrugs him off, scooting further away. He tries to move closer, but he stops when he sees her tense. “Please don’t go to bed angry,” he whispers. 

She lets out an exasperated sigh, before pulling him against her back. He drapes an arm over her waist and smiles into her hair. 

“Goodnight,” he whispers, kissing her hair. She doesn’t respond, but she relaxes in his arms. 

 

Chapter Text

[clarke]

 

A strand of her hair floats up and falls down onto her forehead, and she feels his breaths shudder the hair covering her eyes. Not wanting to get up quite yet, she stares at him for a few minutes, before unraveling herself from his arms.

Only a few rays of the sun peek through her blinds, and it shines small, beautiful sunspots on his freckles. Sitting up and slowly creeping out of the room, she’s thankful that the fuzz of their rug against her toes muffles the sound. After the door clicks behind her, she makes her way down the hallway to the living room and kitchen. 

It seems like no one is awake yet. She knows Harper slept with Monty last night, but she doesn’t know about Maya and Raven.

To be safe, she opts for tea to prevent the mildly loud noises of the Keurig. She curls up with a blanket on the couch with her laptop, pulling open the psych study she has to read for class.

Thirty or so minutes pass before she hears sounds coming from the hallway.

“And I thought I got up early.” Bellamy ambles out. Her heart flutters at the sight of his tangled hair. 

“Sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do everything I need to get done.”

“Clearly,” he laughs softly. He walks over and looks over her shoulder. He makes a face. “What the hell is that?” 

“Psychology.” She sighs, tempted to lean back into him. 

“Gross.” She nods and he stands up, clearing his throat. “I– I’ll head out now,” he stutters a bit awkwardly.

“Enjoy your walk of shame!” she sings. 

“It’s not a walk of shame if there’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

She bites her lip to prevent a stupid grin from spreading on her face.

He shrugs on his coat. “See you later?” 

She looks over her shoulder and nods. “See you later.” 

He hesitates. But he walks across the room and drops a kiss on her forehead. She ducks her head with a smile.

The door clicks shut and she suddenly wants to get up and dance to some invisible music, or run up and down the hallway. She opens up Facetime and calls Wells.

“Clarke? It's so early,” he whines, his sideways face definitely still in bed.

“I just slept with a boy.”

His eyes widen and he sits up. “Um– isn’t this the kind of thing you talk to Raven or Harper or Maya about?”

“No, not like sleeping with him. We just slept at the same time.”

“That sounds awfully domestic. A new boy?”

“Kind of.”

“Who?” 

She smiles timidly. “Bellamy.” 

“What?! Fuckboy?”

She rolls her eyes. “Yes. The fuckboy.” 

“...it was an angry kiss, wasn’t it?”

“Yep. Extremely.” 

“Do I even want to know?”

“Probably not. How’s Delilah?” 

“Do not change the subject. She’s okay, though. We’re excited to come down for the President’s Ball to see our girl! Ark U’s newest student body President!”

She sighs, sinking back into the cushions.

The President’s Ball. She’d completely forgotten about the remaining events of the presidency. The fundraiser tomorrow, the final debate on Wednesday, voting on Thursday, and the Ball in a few weeks.

Deep down, is still her competitive, high-achieving, determined nature. She still… wants to win. 

“I don’t know, Wells. I think the last polling happened right after the taco fundraiser, and it was overwhelmingly in his favor.”

“Yeah, that was before Raven showed the entire study body that Bellamy and the rest of the ARK fraternity are assholes. Like, the worst kind of assholes.” The screen shakes as he stands up. “I’m pretty sure that if you kill the fundraiser tomorrow, it’ll be a clean sweep.”

“What do you think I should do?” 

She watches him run a hand over his face. “Honestly? If he plays dirty, you might have to do the same.” 

“What does that mean?”

“Oh, I know exactly what he means.”

Raven struts out of the hallway, waving at Shaw as he leaves. 


[clarke]

 

“Good morning!” Octavia stands at her door, two hazelnut lattes in hand. 

She groans. “How are you this chipper so early in the morning?” 

“Well, I had a delightful weekend,” she chirps as they walk down the hallway. “My best friend and my brother finally get along! Bell seems to tolerate Lincoln now. And my choreo was chosen for the midterm showcase!”

Clarke smiles, as brightly as she can at eight in the morning. “That’s amazing, O. I already knew it would be. You’re clearly the most talented in the dance department.” She sucks on her straw. 

“I wish you were in the major,” she sighs wistfully as they climb up the stairs of the social sciences building. She shares a smile with Bellamy as they walk into class. 

“Welcome, students.” Pike scrolls down the aisle, decidedly less light-hearted than his usual self. “Pull out your copies of Leviathan."

“Our assigned reading for today is Part I of his text. In his writing, Hobbes discusses the potency of human nature, human desire, and human psychology. We’ll begin with our discussion with such topics.”

He doesn’t even try to scan the room. “Ms. Griffin.” His tone is icy, his gaze piercing. “What do you think of Hobbes’ assertion of goods and evils?” 

She’s unfazed. She figured that he would try this. “It depends. His assertion of the lack thereof?” 

“Indeed. What do you think? He argues that there is no certain good or evil in society. Complicates the intentions of some of us ‘do-gooders’, no?”

“I wouldn’t think so,” she frowns.

“Interesting. What do you think of his notion that goods and evils are just reflections of our own selfish desires and appetites?” 

She shrugs. “Good can accompany selfishness as well.”

“And how do you suppose that?”

“Selfishness can inspire good.”

He laughs condescendingly. “But the whole premise of Hobbes’ writing is that good and evil are subjective, impossible things.”

“Not true,” she insists, a bit sharply. “He simply claims that it can be explained in the material.”

“False. He–”

“Page nine, second paragraph.” 

Stifled laughter sounds around them. His jaw clenches, but he flips to the page. 

She clears her throat, reading. “‘Human can be explained materialistically that is, without recourse–’

“Yes, I see it.” His jaw clenches. “Then, how can the good be made material, Miss Griffin? Is good inherently human?” He leans against the table, a challenging, patronizing look on his face.

“By remedying the bad. For instance– one of my classmates catches me cheating. To remedy it would be to be honest with my professor. My grade suffers. As a result, I don’t profit off of my friend’s academic prowess. They get a good grade. I don’t. That’s the material consequence.”

“Let me remind you, Miss. Griffin, that on the same page, he describes that these terms must be held without sentimentalities. What if that hypothetical subject isn’t as noble as you? For instance, what if they decide to threaten their classmate, telling them that if they go to the professor with said allegations, that they’ll release potentially damaging information about the student?”

She feels Octavia tense beside her. Putting a hand on her arm to reassure her, Clarke smiles. “I believe that your very statement comes from a position of sentimentality, does it not?” 

He narrows his eyes.

“You talk about being noble, right? How do you concretize that? Materialize that?” She sits forward in her seat. “I hope that you’re not speaking from experience, Professor Pike. Being sentimental really does complicate things, doesn’t it?”

“It does, yes. But, especially so in those situations. Interactions as transactions, aren’t they? The very premise of your material exchange is based on sentimentality. Perhaps you’re right. Nobility doesn’t exist. So, the only motivation for such exchange is selfishness.”

“Sure.” 

His nostrils flare, and it looks like smoke might blow from his ears. “So, you admit that the entirety of the exchange is inherently selfish.”

“Sure. But, as I argued before,” she smiles. “Selfishness can inspire good. And, as Hobbes says: ‘Man is constantly in movement.’ I wonder how your dichotomous approach to his writing would allow for any humanistic movement at all. So fixated on the selfish and unselfish that we can’t ever pull out the good, right? Sentimentality may complicate the existence of good or evil, fine. But at least I refuse to desperately harp on the arguments of a political theory from the mid-1600s to dictate the formation of my morals.” 

She sits back, and ‘ooooh’s and half-snorts bounce off the walls of the lecture hall. Hearing Octavia’s giggle from beside her ensures that the self-satisfied look on her face is steadfast. 

Pike doesn’t call on her, or even look at her for the remainder of class. His vexation drips from every word, and she sees his teeth clench as he tries to moderate the discussion with a straight face. 

He deliberately avoids her eyes as she walks out of class with Octavia. As soon as they step out into the warm, fall air, Octavia shakes her arm. 

“That was amazing ! You annihilated him! Killed him dea–”

“Okay, Octavia,” she laughs, prying her hand off of her arm. “Please stop talking about death and our Professor in the same sentence before the Dean hears.”

“Griffin!”

They turn around to see Miller and Bellamy jogging towards them.

“That was hot.” Miller raises a hand and she laughs, high-fiving him. 

“All in a day’s work.”

“Now you’ve destroyed two men in that class.” Bellamy looks at her with a lopsided grin. “Who’s next?”

“That is yet to be determined,” she winks.

“Ew.” Octavia wrinkles her nose, pulling her arm again. “Your flirting is making me nauseous. Let’s go.” 

She tugs her in the direction of the art building, but she glances at Bellamy over her shoulder with a sly smile. “See you at the fundraiser later.”


[bellamy]

one hour ago

 

When she walks past him with that stupidly beautiful smile, he starts scratching his neck as heat creeps up his skin.

“Jesus,” Miller mutters, poking his thigh with a pen. “You’re like a blushing schoolgirl.”

“Fuck off.” He shoves his hand away. 

“I have never seen you like this, my man.”

Pike entering the lecture hall shuts him up. He’s been worried about how he'll act in class after the whole blackmailing thing.

That fear is intensified as he doesn’t even subtly attack her. As they watch their exchange, her retorts just as fierce as his questions, Miller tries to hold back snickers.

“Dude,” he whispers through his covered mouth. “He’s being eaten alive right now.”

“Yeah.” He nods, muffling a laugh. “I’m getting a strange sense of deja vu.”

That makes Miller’s smirk more intense. “Honestly–” They watch as she confidently leans forward. “Is it weird that this is turning me on?”

He glares at him. “Yes. Stop.”

Later, after O drags her away, Miller and him sit under a tree on the quad.

He claps him on the shoulder. “It’s over for you, man.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Leave it to you to fall for a girl you pretended to hate for a whole month, furiously kiss her, and then act like you’ve never even seen a girl before in the aftermath.”

“I did hate her,” he snaps, tearing a leaf. 

“I thought you did, too. Now, I’m not so sure.” He stands up and holds a hand out. “Come on. We have to go get your fucking tacos.” He groans. 

“Maybe Gina will show up again and regret it all after seeing you shirtless?”

“Do we seriously have to do the whole shirtless thing again?”

“I mean, yeah.”


[clarke]

 

“Raven, I can’t.” 

“Yes, you can.” She stands, hands on her hips. 

After a full day of classes, she heads back to the suite to prepare for the fundraiser. “It’s too much.”

“No, it’s not! It's perfect!”

“I–I haven’t worked out in awhile, and–”

“Your body is stunning, Clarke.” Her eyes soften and she sits next to her. “Please trust me.”


So she does. And an hour later, her and the girls finish preparing their booth and side of the quad.

“Ready?” Harper smiles.

She takes a deep breath. “Ready.”


[bellamy]

 

They make their way back to campus earlier than last time, so they’re only a few minutes late to this fundraiser. They’re about to walk onto the quad, shirts off and chants ready, but him, Miller, and Murphy stop the procession. 

“What’s up?” Lincoln asks, a few guys behind them.

"That’s what’s up.”

Murphy points to Clarke’s side of the quad, and all of the brothers almost drop their cartons of food. 

Students huddle all over the grass, pointing water guns at each other and sending water balloons twirling into the air. Loud, peppy music blasts from a speaker, and he sees people walking around with plastic margarita glasses. Then, through the throngs of people, he sees her and her roommates: each wearing bikini tops and denim shorts.

“Dude,” Murphy shakes his head. “We might as well go home. This one is completely over.”

“No, we should definitely go.” He watches Sterling trail his eyes over all of them.

He punches his shoulder. “You’re disgusting.”

“Damn. They got so lucky with the hot weather.” Miller nods, impressed. 

Emori sighs next to him. “Well, we’re here. And we have the food,” she shrugs. “Maybe they’ll get tired from running around and will come get a taco.”

“Really motivating, Emori.”

They walk across the quad, but hardly any person looks over, even when they set up their table and start yelling at students. They’re all completely enraptured by the other side of the quad.

“Do they even have food?” Miller squints his eyes.

“I don’t think so. But it doesn’t matter,” Murphy shrugs. “They have water guns and topless women.” 

A few students linger around their side, but no one else seems interested. He sighs and leans back against the table, closing his eyes. He opens them and glances to the side, hearing a familiar, admittingly unpleasant voice.

He looks over and sees Gina talking to Clarke. And not yelling. Smiling and laughing, actually.

What the hell? Can this girl make friends with the devil himself?

He carefully strolls over to their side of the quad. They transformed their table into some tropical set-up, a grass tablecloth with Hawaiian flowers scattered on top. He hears the whir of a blender and watches as Raven hands another margarita glass to a student. As he walks over, he hears Harper and Maya squeal when Jasper and Monty send streams of water from their guns towards them. 

“Really?” He raises an eyebrow when he reaches Raven.

She pretends to not recognize him for a second. “Oh, hey Blake!” She wiggles a glass in front of him. “Want a mocktail? We have coconut, pineapple, straw–”

“No, I’m good.” He rolls his eyes. “This was your idea, wasn’t it?”

“But, of course!” she chirps gleefully and flips her hair over her shoulder.

“How di–” He starts, but she throws frozen pineapple chunks into the blender and presses down.

“What?” she yells sarcastically. “Were you saying something?”

He glares in exasperation but walks past her. They turned their booth into an actual photo booth, complete with props like oversized sunglasses and flower leis. Octavia points a Polaroid towards her, Harper, and Maya, and snaps a picture.

“Cute!” she squeals, waiting for it to develop.

“You’re supposed to be on my side.” He frowns, approaching them. 

“But look how fun this is, Bell!” She motions across the quad.

It did look like fun, honestly. D.C. weather had decided to be extremely humid, sticky, and sweltering today, so getting a water balloon thrown at him sounded pretty nice. He sighs, searching the crowd.

“She’s over there.” Harper rolls her eyes and points behind the booth. “Don’t ask us why.”

A few feet away from them, Clarke and Gina talk to each other, glasses in hand. Her back is to him, and he lets his eyes flutter down, tracing the thin, crossed strings of her bikini top, down to the pockets of her denim shorts. Her body looks pale and smooth, against the gold of the straps running over her shoulder blades. He swallows, shifting his jeans to avoid something that will surely give him away. 

Gina catches his eye over Clarke’s shoulder, and scowls. How can she dislike him after she’s the one that cheated? 

She mentions something to Clarke and she nods, turning around. A soft smile appears on her face when she sees him, and it's hard for him to not grin. He walks towards her and starts shaking his head.

“You play dirty.”

“It seems pretty clean, actually.” She gestures towards herself. Small water droplets fall on the skin of her abdomen, the ends of her hair crinkled. Her golden top is distractingly cut, tightly wrapped around where her ribs begin, a small knot at the bottom of her breastbone.

“Stop staring. It’s obvious.” 

“Yeah, well, most everyone around you is doing the same, so I think I can get away with it.” He raises his eyebrows and she looks away with pink cheeks.

“So.” He leans against the tree next to him. “I know you’re great at making friends, but I’m not sure Gina is–”

“Shut up.” She moves closer to him, and he has to force his eyes to stay on her face. “She came over to apologize to me about everything. That’s all.” 

“Huh.” He frowns. “I haven’t received any apologies.

“Well, you’re a bit less approachable than I am.”

“I don’t know.” He steps closer to her. “You seem to have approached me pretty well.”

Her head falls back in laughter, and he watches as the wet strands tip back. “You’re dumb.” But she walks forward and wraps her arms around his shoulders, their chests almost touching.

The press of her body forces him against the tree. "You’re trouble, you know that?” he murmurs, his curls gracing her forehead. 

“You had a pillar last time. It’s only fair that I have a tree.” The ends of her eyelashes flutter against his cheek.

He groans, letting his head tilt back. Despite him gathering all the willpower that’s humanly possible, the thought of that night practically makes him dizzy with heat.

She notices. “Oh?” She trails her fingers up his thighs to the hem of his shirt, twirling them slightly. “Do I bother you?” He clenches his fists as she curls her fingers around his belt loops. 

“Do I distract you?” She stands on her toes, her breath fanning his jaw. The tops of her fingers tuck just below his waistband, sweeping across his skin lightly. Her lips barely touch his skin as they trail down his neck. 

But the press of her body against his completely disappears, and she steps back, eyes bright with amusement. “That must suck.” 

She turns around and makes it a feet few before he lunges forward and pulls her back into his chest. Looking over her shoulder at him, she holds in a laugh. “You really like doing that, huh?”

“You’re not playing nice,” he mutters, burying his head in her neck. 

“When do I? But you really didn’t think this one through.” Before he can respond, her hips are pressed tight against his jeans, her head on his shoulder. 

Swearing, his grip on her hips tightens. “Not. Fair.” His dark voice rumbles deep in his chest and she tears her body from his, turning around.

“See you later!” She waves innocently. And she skips back to the photo booth to take pictures with Maya.

He shifts himself, and he hears a snort next to him. “You should probably fix that.” Murphy walks over with a margarita, nodding at his jeans.

“What do you think I’m trying to do?” he hisses, squirming. “Also, what the hell? Did you seriously get one of those?”

He sips at the straw and shrugs. “What? They had coconut.”


[clarke]

 

“Oh my gosh,” Octavia laughs in awe, flipping through the bills. “That was genius, Raven.” 

The girls roam over the grass after the fundraiser, cleaning up. 

“Well, I am a genius.”

“I think like, only four people got tacos from them.” Maya grins, speaker in hand. 

“I take it back,” Harper throws discarded water balloon scraps into the trash bag. “Topless was the move.” 

“Yeah, even though we had to objectify ourselves.” Clarke rolls her eyes.

“Well, now all that money is going to the Freedom Fund, so I think it was pretty successful,” Octavia chirps. 

She sighs. “You’re right.” 

“Plus, it seemed like my brother was enjoying himself.”

She stiffens. “I’m sure he was. We should’ve known that being half-naked in front of a bunch of frat guys wasn’t the best idea.”

Raven snorts. “I don’t think that’s what Baby Blake is talking about.”

“Do you think that’ll get enough votes for Clarke, though?” Harper dumps the remaining scraps into the trash can.

“Let’s hope so!” Maya smiles, patting her back.


[bellamy]

 

“I think that solidified our loss to the Princess.” Murphy sets the last plates of taco shells on the tables of the student center. They figure that someone would eventually take them.

“First of all, my loss.” He drops the vegetables down. “And I’m telling you dude, I don’t really care anymore.” 

“The only reason you don’t care is because you’d rather sleep with the Princess.”

“We’re not sleeping together,” he snaps, rolling his eyes. 

“You will be.” Murphy smirks. 

Well, hopefully he’s right about that. 

“Do you think the last debate will go okay?” Miller nudges his shoulder as they walk back. 

“Probably. For whatever reason, the student body seems to like me.”

“Well, most of the guys like you because you’re a frat brother who gets hella tail, and most of the girls like you ‘cause you’re muscular and traditionally attractive.”

“Did you seriously just say ‘hella tail’?” He muffles a laugh. “Are you flirting with me, Murphy?” 

“I would be,” Murphy grins. “But I think the Princess would verbally rail my ass so hard that I’d have to get lower intestine surgery.”

Miller frowns. “Definitely did not need that image in my head.” 

“Yeah,” he smiles. “She definitely would.”


[clarke]

 

Raven’s loosely ties the bow on her back. Walking around her, she nods. “Perfect.” 

“It’s not too… casual?” Clarke looks down at the cream, flowery wrap dress. She stands behind the stage curtain, peering into the crowd. People are still filing in, but they’re coming in fast. 

“Well, after that fundraiser,” Harper fluffs her dress. “I think people are expecting you to be casual.”

“But no matter what happens, we’ll support you.” Maya grabs her hand.

Biting her lip, she swats the girls’ hands away and tucks a curl behind her ear. “Is it bad that I still kind of want to win?” 

Raven stares at her. “No. Just because you’re into the dude doesn’t mean you can’t be Clarke Griffin anymore.” 

“It’s true.”

They hear a voice behind them. Turning, they see Octavia flouncing over to them. 

“Good luck, Clarke.” She squeezes her hands. “Both you and Bell would be amazing presidents.”

They hear Myles’ voice ring in the air again, and she turns towards the stage. Some people are setting up the tables with the mics on it, and the boy stands in front of it. 

Welcome Lightbournes to Ark U’s second and final presidential debate!

The girls squeeze her shoulders. “You got this. You’re Clarke Griffin. Slayer of fuckboys!” Harper giggles. 

“Especially now,” Raven mutters, and she turns back to tug on her ponytail. The girls sneak out the stage door to their seats.

“After one debate and two fundraisers, you’ve gotten to know them pretty well–”

“Yeah, and two fucking crazy Instagram lives!” She hears an audience member yell.

Directly across from her in the wings of the opposite side of the stage, Bellamy leans against a curtain nonchalantly. He catches her eye and winks. She sticks her tongue out at him. 

“If our audience members can’t control themselves, they will be escorted out by student government representatives. Now,” Myles clears his throat. 

“In his fundraisers, our first candidate found that food is the way to any college student’s heart.” Some audience members chuckle quietly. “In total, he raised one-thousand and fifty-four dollars for DC’s non-profit ‘BEST Kids, Inc'– an organization that offers mentorship for youth in the foster system.”

Applause erupts in the auditorium. 

She looks at him, and mouths ‘nice’ and he smirks, shrugging. 

“Let’s welcome back Bellamy Blake!”

He confidently strolls onto the stage, waving at the audience before sitting down next to Myles.

“Now, for our second candidate. She showed how artistic her campaign was in the first fundraiser, and, er–  brought the beach to the quad in the second. In total, she raised one-thousand and nine-hundred dollars for the ‘Freedom Fund’, an international non-profit that works to end modern day slavery, and supports vulnerable populations all over the world.”

Wild, raucous applause fills her ears, and she smiles, feeling more hopeful. 

“Let’s welcome Clarke Griffin to the stage!”

Deep breath. She walks out with a bright smile, settling down next to Myles. She feels Bellamy’s eyes gazing at the side of her head, and she suppresses a blush. 

“Welcome, candidates! It's been quite an election season!” 

“I mean, it's kinda just been almost a month,” Bellamy leans into his mic. The audience laughs softly.

“And what a riveting month it's been.  This debate will follow the structure of the first one. Some questions before the audience discussion. But, first, we lead with the crucial question, one that everyone is dying to know the answer to: why should we vote for you, instead of your opponent? We will begin with you, Bellamy.”

“Thanks, Myles.” He clears his throat and sits forward in his seat. “My opponent, Clarke Griffin, has run a commendable campaign. But, at the end of the day, I’ll still deliver on my promises of economic equality and social equity. As Myles mentioned, our fundraisers allowed economically disadvantaged foster children to have the opportunity for education and mentorship. We accomplished this in two days. Imagine all the funds we could gather for the student body if we do something similar every week. And that is what you can expect from my presidency.” 

Wild applause. She picks out the deep voices of the frat brothers. 

“Thank you, Bellamy. We’ll turn to Clarke.”

She can feel the audience shift their gazes on her, and she breathes deeply.

“Thanks. Bellamy has shown how dedicated he is to the student body. And I have no question that cares deeply about the well-being of each student. However, I will always use my platform to elevate the unheard and underprivileged voices on campus. I will incorporate Bellamy’s commitment to economic and social equity, and build on it, extending such a commitment to the rest of the university as a whole. I am still unafraid to call out whoever needs to be held accountable. Each penny of the fundraising money we raised extends even further than D.C., supporting a non-profit that makes an impact nationally and globally. You can expect a wide-reaching, determined commitment to change in my presidency.”

The applause is deafening. Once again, she hears the excited screams of Jasper and Raven, which slows the rapid beating of her heart.

“Thank you, Clarke. We’ll move to cross-questioning.”

And the cross-questioning could not have been more different this time. They’re both asked about the efficacy of their fundraisers, the practicality of them, and how easily they can be repeated. Why they chose the charity they did, what they’ve spent the time between this debate and the last doing for the student body. 

But, this time, they danced around each question, avoiding any and all discord or friction.

“Well, actually, Clarke’s first fundraiser is quite effective for…” 

“Yes, but the local nature of Bellamy’s charity shows that he cares…” 

“Clarke has a lot of experience with conducting business at the university level.”

“Bellamy truly understands the student body, having his foot in so many campus groups.”

She thinks the audience, and even Myles, grows bored at their constant defense of one another. All the while, they share not-so-secret smiles, and their eyes smile when they speak to one another. 


[bellamy]

 

The debate couldn’t be going better. Him and Clarke manage to skirt around any squabbles or hostility.

In fact, rather than focusing on his responses, when Myles asks the questions, he finds himself gazing at her legs (again), and how her dress drapes over her thighs.

She notices, he thinks, and crosses her legs at one point, exposing a bit too much of her upper thigh. She sends him a sly smile as he makes a frustrated face. 

“That brings us to the end of our cross questioning. We’ll move into our audience discussion now.”

The table is carried away, and they exchange a nervous look. They could control their own debate, but not the audience’s questions. 

“Let’s take the question from our student in the fifth row, to the left.” A student representative shuffles through the seats to hand her the mic. 

“This question is for Bellamy.” She stands up, holding the mic close to her face. “After the last debate, we learned that both your fraternity and the football team have assault allegations against them. You insisted that you’d remedy these in your presidency, but recently, it has surfaced that more ARK brothers have verbally and physically harassed your opponent. What are you doing to address the rampant assault in your fraternity?”

Murmurs of assent scatter around the crowd, and the brothers glare at the girl.

He clears his throat. “Yes, I will admit that Clarke has been on the receiving end of a lot of verbal and physical harassment from the brothers.”

Gasps echo in the auditorium. He sees Clarke’s surprised look in his peripherals, and he feels a bit guilty that she expected him to lie or brush this question off. 

He sends the brother’s disappointed looks. “And that is unacceptable behavior. We learned that warnings were not enough. These brothers were suspended from the fraternity, and are barred from joining any other Greek life orgs with the suspension on their record. The harassment is permanently listed on their academic record, as well. And we will continue this method if this happens again.” The gasps turn into approving hums.

The girl nods, satisfied with his answer. “Thank you.”

“Great. Next question, third row, aisle seat.”

The boy stands up. “This question is for Clarke. Why should the student body believe the allegations against these men? And that you’re not fabricating them to sabotage your opponent?”

Rage pulses in his veins at his question. He doesn’t recognize the kid; he isn’t a brother, but he also isn’t anyone he wants to know. He swivels his head, about to send her an apologetic glance, but she already sits up tall. 

“I have a question for you, Connor.”

He, and everyone else, looks perplexed at the fact that she knows his name. He hears a very audible ‘huh?’ in the audience. Connor looks taken aback. 

“Why would I lie about these things, Connor? Oh, and I hope you’re doing well.” She smiles sweetly. “Your ex-girlfriend Roma was in my painting class, last semester, do you know that?”

He looks from her to Connor, watching as he tenses, and his face descends into dread.

“I remember one day, she came to class with a pretty nasty bruise on her cheek. Good thing I’m a pre-med student. I helped her clean up the bruise before I took her to the student health center. Imagine my surprise when she told me that her own boyfriend hit her,” she cocks her head, and Connor freezes. 

“Yikes. And, she wasn’t cheating on you, for the record. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was, though.” She winces, whispering into the mic in her hand. “I’ve heard that you’re a bit… fun-sized.”

Bellamy’s eyes widen and he muffles a laugh while loud sniggers and laughs come from the students around him. 

“So, I hate to break it to you, Connor, but I don’t lie about these things like you do.” And with that, loud laughter reverberates around the auditorium.

He splutters angrily into the mic. “How– how can you– she’s lying! How can you all believe her?”

“She’s not lying, idiot.”

A voice comes from the second row. A brunette rolls her eyes. “And she’s right about the fun-sized thing.”

Roma. 

He doesn’t even hide his own amusement anymore, pulling back from the mic so his own laughter isn’t projected.

“Alright, then,” Myles speaks over the crowd. “That’s enough. Thank you. Let’s take the question in the front row, to the left.”

The girl stands up without hesitation. “For Bellamy. How deranged do you have to be to destroy your opponent’s dorm room, tear up pictures of her dead dad, touch all of her bras, and livestream it all?” Her head tilts to one side, and he sees Clarke tense in her seat.

“Okay, let’s–” Myles starts, but he cuts him off.

“No, that’s fine. I’ll answer it.” He swallows. “Really deranged. Really, really deranged. My friends and I… we did something unspeakable. It was a deplorable thing to do. I won't make any excuses. I took out my aggression and insecurities onto her and the things she holds dear. I am a coward, and I take full responsibility for it all. It was truly unforgivable.”

He turns his head to hers, and her eyes are misty. “But, luckily, Clarke is the most forgiving student on this campus, and she’s decided to give us second chances. And I will work for the rest of my time at Ark U to earn her forgiveness and gain her trust.” 

His eyes don’t leave hers as he speaks, and a blithe smile– the most enrapturing thing he’s ever seen– peeks out from the single tear running down her cheek. She nods.

An ‘awww’ sounds from the front row, and they both recognize it as Octavia as they laugh, still staring at each other.

The girl from the audience’s eyes are wide, and she nods, sitting down.

“That was very candid, Bellamy. We’ll take a few more questions.”

The next few students ask her pleasant questions. The things that the Freedom Fund does, how her dad inspired what she does, how she learns to build confidence in the face of adversity. 

He’s unable to look away from her, and doesn’t try to. She sits up tall, not a single wrinkle in her dress. He focuses on the way she rests her hand on her knee, how her eyes twinkle with sad joy when she speaks of her father. How her cheeks flush pink when she’s complimented, and how her soft lips form each word. Maybe Miller is right. Maybe he really is hopeless. 

It all seems to be going well until the very last question. He’s still enchanted by her until it's too late. The familiar, acidic voice snaps his head away.

“For Clarke. Ark U’s Princess.” 

He clenches his jaw as he sees Dax in the front row.

“Your second fundraiser was really interesting. For all your preaching about strong women or whatever– you were still ready to show some skin, huh? If only they knew. The Freedom Fund, I mean. That all that money came from a bunch of sluts,” he spits. 

In the matter of seconds, fury fills his body, and he looks to Myles. But he does nothing. Clarke looks terrified and despaired, her body hunching into itself. He sees Octavia and Raven a few seats away from him, ready to stand up.

Dax dangles the mic in his fingers. “Hm… I don’t think Daddy would be too proud of that.”

She chokes out a sob that echoes around the auditorium, dropping her mic to the ground.

Then, in the next few seconds, all hell breaks loose. 

A mix of dry laughter and outraged screeches rise from the crowd. ‘What the fuck?’s and ‘What a slut!’s follow.

Raven hops up from her seat, followed by the rest of her friends, and sprints towards him. She forcefully tugs the mic away, and her voice is projected into it.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” she screams. Student representatives acting as ushers approach them, but Monty and Jasper push them back. 

“Who do you think you are, asshole?” He hears Octavia screech. 

Meanwhile, Clarke remains frozen in her seat, and he jumps out of his own to run over and kneel in front of her. 

“Clarke?” He softly puts a hand on her arm. “Are you okay?” 

She nods through tears. He feels his body heat up, seeing the same broken, dejected face that he saw when she sobbed on the floor. Rage pulses through his veins, and he picks up the mic she dropped. 

He looks back to the crowd and sees Raven punching Dax, and Harper and Maya shielding her. Behind them, Octavia, Jasper, and Monty push away the student representatives. The rest of the students start standing up and arguing, defending Dax or Clarke. 

“Shut up!” He screams into the mic. Everyone in the auditorium freezes, looking at him.

“Dax– truthfully, I feel bad for you. I feel bad that you’re so miserable and so cowardly that you have to resort to verbally assaulting women to occupy your time. I feel bad that you’re friendless and spineless.”

He jumps off the edge of the stage, still speaking into the mic. “You’re pathetic. Time to learn from your mistakes.”

He slides through Monty, Octavia, and Jasper, and pushes past Harper, Maya, and Raven. They’re all too shocked to do anything else. 

His black pupils bore into Dax’s. He laughs at the fear swirling in his eyes. “I’ll help you start.” He hands the mic to Raven.

“Another one for hooking up with my ex-girlfriend.” His fist slams into his jaw.

“And this one is for her.” His other fist spirals across his face. 

After that, his eyes see too much red for him to decipher what's going on. Blood pounds in his ears, and rage blurs his vision. He feels two arms pulling him away and he hears loud yells behind him. But his eyes are locked on the bleeding face of the boy in front of him. 


[clarke]

 

Stilled. That’s what she is, right now.

Stilled in her seat, feet fixed onto the floor of the stage. She watches him swing over the stage edge and approach Dax.

First punch. Second punch. She doesn’t have much time to watch him get pulled away before concerned, dark eyes are in front of her.

“Clarke?” Raven holds her face in her hands, searching her eyes, snapping her into the present.

“What the hell is wrong with you, dude?” Octavia screams at Myles, gesturing wildly. “Isn’t it your job to make sure this shit doesn’t happen?”

The boy stutters, petrified. “Get out of here!” Raven snaps, and he obliges, scurrying off the stage. 

“I’m good.” Her arms reach up to pull Raven’s hands down. “That whole… frenzy temporarily freaked me out.”

The rest of her friends climb up the stage and join them.

“Are you okay, Clarke?” Harper looks concerned. 

Jasper pushes through them and throws his arms around her. She stumbles back, smiling into his shoulder. 

“I was going to punch him but Raven beat me to it. Then Octavia. Then Bellamy.” She laughs, pulling away.

“I believe it.” She turns to them all. “I’m good. I just didn’t expect that guy to be here. Wasn’t he the one that Gina was sleeping with?”

Octavia nods, frowning. “Dax.”

She scrunches her nose. “An ugly name for an ugly person.” 

“There’s my Griffin.” Raven slings an arm around her shoulders, and they start walking down the stage.

“Where’s Bellamy?”

They all look at each other.

“Well, considering he punched another student, twice,” Monty scratches the back of his head. “I’m assuming the Dean’s office.”

“What?” She stops. “I have to go explain to Marc– Kane!” 

Raven rolls her eyes. “First, how about we fix your blood sugar? You look like you’re about to pass out, and you haven’t eaten anything since that granola bar at bio lab.”

“Fine.”

They head back to the suite and order Indian food. And, with a curry-filled stomach, she passes out on the couch.


[bellamy]

 

His finger taps against the arm of the chair outside of Dean Kane’s office. For a few minutes, he hears yelling and sees frantic shadows through the frosted glass. 

Eventually, Dax slumps out with a bandage on his face, sending him a deadly glare. He smiles wickedly, and waves him goodbye.

“Mr. Blake.”

Oh, fuck.

He hears Kane’s voice through the parted door, and gets up. He ignores his sweaty palms and walks inside, shutting the door behind him. 

“Sir.” He nods his head respectfully and sits in an armchair.

Dean Kane’s poker face is impenetrable. His face, perched on his clasped hands, gives away nothing. Cold and unfeeling. 

“You caused quite a stir at the debate today.” His irises are fierce, boring into his own. 

“Yes, sir. I did,” he starts, rubbing his palms on his jeans. “However, I belie–”

“Enough.” Kane drops his clasped hands to his desk. “I’ve heard the testimonies of multiple audience members. And I caught the end of the ruckus on the livestream of the debate.”

He gestures towards the flat screen in the corner of the room.

Bellamy winces. The TV is frozen at a frame of him jumping off the stage. Kane picks up the remote and presses play.

He watches as he pushes through throngs of people and reaches Dax, punching him twice. Raven and Octavia pull him off the boy, and he’s walked out of view. 

He clears his throat. “Sir, I–”

“Do not interrupt me,” Kane snaps, his expression icy.

“Sorry,” he mutters quietly.

Kane replays the video twice. He shrinks further into his chair each time. But, on the third watch, he rewinds the clip, as soon as Dax stands up to speak. 

He sees Kane’s bulletproof facade falter just a bit when he mentions Clarke’s father. Chaos ensues in the video, Octavia and Raven hopping up, screaming flooding the audio, and students arguing loudly.

He watches as he crosses to the stage to her, kneeling in front of her chair. He pauses it at that frame.

He turns back to him, gaze steely. “You care about her.”

“I do, sir.”

“I saw the stream, Mr. Blake.” He sits back in his chair, arms crossed. “You, Nathan Miller, and John Murphy in Ms. Griffin’s room.” 

His chest constricts, too speechless to say anything.

“I am disappointed that three of my students participated in such behavior. It's, not only, a poor representation of your ARK brotherhood, but also, a poor representation of the students at Ark U in general.

“Do you understand why I believe that you three men should no longer attend this University?”

He nods. And he really does– that could be considered a light punishment for what they did. 

Kane holds his eyes for a painful minute. “That,” he gestures to the TV. “Is the only reason I am not pursuing disciplinary action.”

The breath that he exhales is definitely audible. 

Kane leans forward. “Your response to the question regarding that incident was adequate. I believe you were telling the truth, and that you truly are making active reparations to Ms. Griffin.”

He nods violently.

Kane’s gaze could shatter glass. Or bend metal. “As for your friends, I will be suspending the rest of your fraternity’s events for the remainder of the semester. And you will no longer play this football season.”

A bit of disappointment descends on him, but his eyes flicker to the TV, and it's quickly squandered. “I understand, sir.”

“Good.” He narrows his eyes. “You care about her more than most.”

“I do, sir. Tremendously.” 

“One more infraction, and you’re done.”

The speed of his nods makes him dizzy.

“Get out.” 

He practically scrambles out and sprints home. Once he’s in his room, he exhales and sinks down his door. He pulls his phone out of his pocket.

 

6:48 PM

Made it out. Barely

O

6:49 PM

ur so lucky he’s like a stepfather to her

6:50 PM

I think that makes me less lucky

 

6:51

How is she?

O

6:51 PM

good. tummys full and shes napping

6:52 PM

Good

 

6:52

Keep me updated, ok?

O

6:52 PM

goddddd u two are soooo far gone

 

6:53

when she heard that u went to the dean’s 

office she wanted to see u immediately

6:54 PM

She’s a good person

O

6:54 PM

ya, something like that

 

6:54

going on a date w lincoln now

byeeeeeee

A few hours later, he lays in his bed post-shower, tossing a football up and down.

Truthfully, he’s a bit disappointed about not being able to play for the rest of the season. But he’ll take that over expulsion, and there’s always next year.

He honestly doesn’t even care about the frat’s events. He could survive without another tailgate or “philanthropy” event, which just ends up in day drinking, anyway.

He flips the switch on his lamp when he hears a knock at his door. 

“Go away, Murphy. I don’t want to play Mario Kart.” 

“Bellamy?” 

The soft, sweet voice makes him sit up in the dark. A bit of the light spills onto his carpet.

“Are you sleeping?”

“No!” he shouts. He startles her a bit, seeing her shadow jump. “No, I mean. Come here.”

She slips in and quietly shuts the door behind her. In the dark, he can make out her hair in a ponytail and a hoodie grazing her thighs. Keys and water bottle dangling from each hand. She drops them on his dresser before padding across the room. 

Her irises still shine in the darkness as she sits on the edge of his bed. He lightly tugs on her arm. “Come here.”

She scoots forward and sits cross-legged on his comforter. “Hi.”

“Hey.” He places a hand on her knee. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Are you?”

“Thankfully,” he sighs, rubbing a hand over his face. “Kane let me off with a slap on the wrist. Suspension from football for the season and cancellation of ARK events for the semester.”

“What? No!” She reaches forward to grab his wrist. The sudden coldness of her grip makes him flinch instinctively. 

“Jesus, Clarke.” He wraps her wrist in his hand. “You’re cold.” 

“Sorry! It’s freezing outside. And I forgot to wear pants.”

He laughs, the sound disappearing into the dark. “You forgot to wear pants?”

“Well,” her voice grows quiet. “I was in a rush to see you.”

He gasps. “The fierce Clarke Griffin, nervous around me?”

She slaps his chest, and he laughs. “I wanted to see you, too.”

“Really?”

“Of course.” He reaches forward to warm her cold hands in his. “All that shit was so fucked up.”

“Yeah, it was. Thanks for punching him. Twice.” He hears the amusement in her voice.

“It was my pleasure,” he teases, earning a laugh from her. “No, seriously. Fuck that dude.”

“I’m sorry that you had to talk to him again. After you saw him with Gina, I mean.”

Actually, he didn’t really think about that all day.

“That’s okay,” he shrugs. “At least I got to punch him again. God, are you made of ice?” He rubs her still-cold hands between his. “Here. Get in.” He pulls the comforter up, and she crawls in and snuggles into the blankets. 

They lay on their sides, staring at each other. His hand still holds hers under the blanket. The sounds of their breaths tangle in the air, before quiet envelopes the room. 

“Can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“You don’t have to answer it, if you don’t want to.”

“Ask.”

He pauses. “How did he die?”

The silence lingers in the air. “It’s okay if y–”

“No, that’s okay.” She shuffles closer to him. “In 2013, we were at a protest for the homeless population of D.C. Demanding that they deserve attention, more care. More money diverted from the District’s funds for them.” He nods.

“When we got to the Lincoln Memorial, we were met by another crowd. Smaller, tighter, but just as loud. They started yelling about my dad’s beliefs and politics. Screaming about how diverting the money would increase their tax-payer dollars, and stuff,” she hesitates. “One of the men in the crowd brought a handgun. He started waving it around, and a lot of our protestors got scared. Started to back off.

“The guy saw this and started laughing maniacally. Like a villain in a movie,” she shakes her head, burrowing it deeper into his bedsheets. “When he saw two pregnant women backing off, he started pointing it at them. Saying that they shouldn’t be raising their children in a world with my dad in it. He looked so angry, and his finger tightened on the trigger. I felt him drop my hand, and... you can guess what happened after.

“The rest of the angry crowd dispersed quickly. Capitol Police weren’t too far away. I ran over to him frantically.”

Wetness glistens on her cheeks. “They hit his abdomen. He wouldn’t last long. I knelt over him and he smiled up at me. He said some things about how he loves me, and to always do the right thing, but my eyes were so blurry with tears.

“I couldn’t hear him over the yelling or see the words his lips were mouthing. But I heard the very last thing,” her voice cracks. “‘You’re the momentum change.’” And she breaks. 

He pulls her into his chest, and she cries for another few minutes, her wet cheeks dampening his shirt. He strokes her hair, but doesn’t say anything. ‘It’s okay’ seems a bit stupid.

“Thank you for telling me.”

Her arms tighten around him as she lifts up to bury her head in his neck. Sadness and affection for her turns over in his head, and he presses a kiss into her hair. Her breathing evens out after a few minutes.

“Ugh. Your hair is wet.” She frowns, moving her hands away from it.” He laughs, grabbing her hands and wrapping them in his. 

“Can I ask you something?” she mumbles against his neck. The vibrations make him shiver, a bit.

“Yeah”

“When you saw me on the floor,” her nose rubs against his skin. “The girls said that you looked like you’d been hit by a train. And when I asked you why you cared at the rose garden, you got this look in your eyes. Like you started seeing something else.”

He sighs. “When I saw you on the floor, it made me think of Octavia.” He feels her frown against his skin.

“We don’t have the same dad, you know. My birth father was never around. Just me and my mom for the first few years. When Octavia was born, that’s when it all changed. Her birth father was… different. He yelled a lot. It scared us. It scared her most. She learned to hide in small crevices and places around the house to avoid him. Our mother stopped talking to us altogether. I started walking Octavia to and from school, I stole some money from his wallet to buy bread to make us peanut butter sandwiches for dinner.

“And I guess my mother got fed up one day. She walked out. Octavia and I had no idea what to do. He stopped showing up, too. It took a few days before the neighbors realized they’d just abandoned us. CPS came and threw us into the foster system. We got lucky and stayed together until I was eighteen. I got custody and bought us a shitty apartment in Maryland ten minutes away to stay in while I was on campus.

“I’d go right from class to her. Financial aid gave me free housing with Miller and Murphy, but I was hardly ever there. Made them wonder, you know? One day, they saw me with her when we were walking to get groceries. We’ve been close ever since. And then I rushed ARK with them.

“Octavia was a junior, and she had her own life. Whenever I came back to the apartment, she had friends over, and got annoyed with me for constantly checking up on her. The three of us were accepted into the frat, and we moved into the house. I worked my ass off, got her to apply to Ark U, and here we are.”

He feels her eyelashes flutter against his skin. “Do you still have the apartment?”

He nods. “I figure we’ll need it after we graduate. We’re subleasing it right now.” 

“So what you said at the first debate–” 

“Kind of a lie. Parents were in the picture. But not really in the picture.”

“And the charity–”

“Yep. Pretty deliberate pick.” 

She wriggles out of his grip to look up at him. “How do you do it?”

“Do what?” 

“Put everyone before yourself.” 

He laughs. “Said the pot to the kettle.”

“But you were right. I had– have privileges. At least I had one parent.”

“A parent who isn't very supportive.”

“Yeah, but I still had one.” She casts her eyes down in the dark. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” He untangles their hands and tips her chin up to him.

The longing in their eyes only allows for a few still seconds before she tilts her head up and kisses him long, deep. Their lips move against each other for a few more minutes before she pulls away, and settles back into his shoulder. 

“Are you… tapping Morse code on my abs?” He laughs, using his other hand to place his fingers over hers. 

“What abs?” He feels her smile against his chest and squeals when he pinches her side. “How’d you know?” 

“Miller, Murphy, and I signed up for a two weekend Morse class sophomore year. We got drunk as fuck and bet on who couldn’t get recognized by the professor.”

“God, you guys are assholes.” 

“Yeah. Funny story though.” His thumb runs the length of her shoulder. 

“So, who won?”

“Me, obviously. Miller had no idea what the fuck a dit or dah was after two shots. And we had to do this exercise where we wrote down our favorite foods, right? The professor really caught on when Murphy wrote ‘hijack cat litter.’”

She laughs loudly, her tiny frame shaking against his chest. “What in the world?”  

“What about you?” 

“My dad and I learned it together after I came home from school completely inspired by my history class when we learned about Samuel Morse. I told my dad that I wanted to create my own language, too. 

“He insisted that to create my own, I needed to understand as many other ones as I could. We started with Morse. We used to piss off my mother so much, yelling ‘dit dit dah’ and ‘dah dit dah’ at the dinner table.”

“Every time I hear something that is quintessentially Clarke Griffin, you bring up a new thing that is even more so,” he shakes his head into her hair. 

“Wait,” he pauses. “How many languages do you know, then?” 

“Including English? Seven. Spanish, French, Latin, Russian, German, and Arabic.”

“What the hell? You’re full of shit.”

“No soy. Je ne suis pas. Non sum. Ya ne. Ich bin nicht. ‘analisat.”

He blinks. “What did you say?”

“‘I’m not.

He stares at her before grabbing her by the waist and flipping her over. Pinning her down with one hand, his other tickles and squeezes her sides and stomach. 

“Bellamy!” she shrieks through laughs. “I surrender! Je me rends!”

He laughs, relaxing his hands. Hovering over her, he grins at the real, pure smile in her eyes. When she’s happy, he notices that her cheekbones raise a bit, and her eyes open wider. 

He feels her arms around his neck before she yanks him down. Her lips fall onto his, and he runs a hand up her side to the curve of her neck. Her fingers squeeze his shoulders. 

The kiss is warm, passionate, and a bit desperate. The thought of them pressed against the tree on Monday, her topless body against his chest, makes his mind run a bit haywire. He makes a tortured noise against her lips as his hands grace her thigh, where her hoodie ends. 

Ducking his hands under, his palm runs up her ribs before feeling lace. He swears into her mouth as she arches her back into his touch, pulling him closer. 

He lets his fingers dance over the gossamer material, tracing the swirls in the soft fabric. She whimpers as he grazes her, and the sound itself makes him hard. 

Her warm hands duck under his shirt before they trail up his bare abdomen. Her hands tangle with the fabric at his shoulder, so he sits up and yanks it off, bringing her with him. 

He pulls back and searches her eyes. “Can I?” 

She nods and he pulls the hoodie over her head and arms. His heart practically palpitates when he sees her tangled hair, dilated pupils, and flushed cheeks. He looks down. 

“Forgot to wear pants my ass.” He rolls his eyes as he crinkles up the fabric of her sleep shorts in his fist. 

Her eyes light up in amusement. “Okay, maybe it wasn’t fully unconscious...” 

But he captures her lips with his, and she  sighs in contentment. They wrap around each other, tongues rolling and bodies twining together. This time, when she arches her back, he slides his palm underneath it and pulls her up to sit in his lap. 

Her legs wrap around his waist and tug him closer. He groans as she rolls her hips against his. His fingers walk up her arm before he reaches the hem of the lace. 

He runs a finger under the material, kissing and biting the skin of her neck. His palm slips under the fabric and he sharply inhales at the touch of her, brushing his thumb over her. She whispers his name as her fingers grip the side of his head. He lifts her up, but as soon as he tries to lift the bra above her head, he sees a look of panic in the dark. 

“I’m sorry,” she scrambles away from him searching the bed for her hoodie. She pulls it on and starts to move off the bed. “I-I can’t.”

“Hey.” He reaches out to touch her hand. “Don’t apologize. We don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with.”

He sees a weak smile. “Okay. Thank you.” 

“Don’t thank me. I just want to make you happy.”

He starts tapping on the back of her hand. She laughs lightly. 

“For someone who was drunk in that Morse class, you really have remembered quite a bit.” 

“Will you?”

“Of course. What’s more romantic than a hot guy telling you to ‘stay’ in his bed in Morse code?”

Her voice is soft, amused. He sees her bristle a bit when she lets the ‘romantic’ slip, but he stays unfazed. 

“Hot guy, huh?” 

She rolls her eyes and crawls back next to him. “You know that you’re attractive. Too many people tell you that for you not to know.”

“Is that how it works?”

“Yep.” 

“Then I guess I’ll just have to keep telling you that you’re beautiful until you start to know.” 

She tucks her head into his neck, and he feels the shy smile against his skin. Her arm rests on her chest, and he laughs when he makes out her fingers tapping out the rest of the names of the Greek statues from the rose garden. 

“Can I ask you something?” he murmurs into her hair. She hums.

“Do you know yet?” 

“Know what?” she sleepily breathes into his neck.  

“That you’re beautiful.” She doesn’t say anything. 

“Well, then.” He clears his throat. “You’re crazy beautiful, Clarke. Like, campus-shattering, distracting-me-at-the-debate, being-annoyed-at-the-way-that-guys-look-at-you kind of beautiful.”

She huffs a laugh. “Jealous already?”

“I always have been.”

“Of me, or the people staring at me?”

“Both. But especially the latter.”

Chapter Text

[clarke]

 

Disorient saturates her senses as her eyes flutter open. Mid-morning rays shine through Bellamy’s window.

Fuck. She has psych at 11:00. 

She barely has time to check her phone when it sounds like his door is being knocked down– heavy bangs followed by the wood all but cracking at the hinges. 

“Dude! The results are out! An–”

Miller and Murphy storm into the room and see her, doe-eyed and on the edge of his bed, pulling shoes on. 

Miller’s eyes widen and Murphy muffles a laugh. 

“Our bad–”

“Hey, Prin–”

“What the fuck?” Bellamy’s voice rings out next to her, the volume making her flinch a bit. “What are you guys doing in here? Get out!” He throws a pillow at them.

Murphy continues to laugh hysterically, and Miller sheepishly holds up a phone. “The votes are in. We thought you’d want–” he looks between the two of them.

“Well,” Murphy chokes out. “This is awkward.” 

Her and Bellamy share an apprehensive look. “Do you want to know right now?” 

She shakes her head. “I have to go to class, anyway.”

Hurriedly tying her shoelaces and grabbing her phone, she reflexively kisses his cheek before she sweeps out of the room. 

As she brushes past the two men, Murphy gives her a thumbs up. 

She sighs. “Well. It could’ve been worse. At least I was semi-clothed.” She hops down the stairs, their loud laughter fading behind her. 

But, she checks her phone’s home screen as she runs back to Sanctum, and winces at the dozens of texts, emails, and DMs. She knows. 

Luckily, no one is at the suite when she comes back. She doesn’t have much more time than to pull on some sweatpants before running to class. Hardly talking to anyone, she sprints during passing periods and ducks her head down. 

 

Later, a relieved breath leaves her mouth as she’s in the elevator up to her suite, leaning her head back against the wall. She holds a pile of textbooks in one hand as she fumbles with the key.

“Congratulations!” 

The screams are so loud that her psychology textbook almost drops on her feet. Confetti fills her vision and small snaps ring in the air as party poppers are released.

The multicolored scraps slowly float to the floor, and she sees the ecstatic faces of her friends. Silvery blowout whistles dangle from their mouths, and Jasper wears a headband with sparkly pink letters, reading ‘#BrideTRIBE!’

Chunky gold balloons spell out “Congratulations!” across the living room, and silver streamers hang across the walls. On the wall next to the kitchen, a pink banner reads, ‘It’s a girl!’

Her hand covers her mouth, as she laughs through her fingers. “Oh my god.”

Harper leaps forward and dumps the textbooks to the ground before she flings her arms around her.

“Congrats, Clarke!” she squeals, placing a kiss on her cheek. Maya and Octavia follow, giving her tight hugs. Raven brings forward a baseball cap where ‘GRIFFIN 2020’ has been scribbled on with Sharpie, a hasty sketch of Ark U’s logo next to it, and fastens it on her head. 

Wells and Delilah push through them. “There’s my successor!” He grins, adjusting the hat. Delilah wraps her into a hug.

They pull her further into the suite, where Monty, Jasper, Shaw, and Lincoln wait. Many hugs later, she looks at Jasper’s headband, amused. 

“It was the only thing that Party City had left. It’s a look, though.” 

She laughs and raises an eyebrow at the ‘It’s a girl!’ sign. Monty smiles sheepishly. “Also the last banner that Party City had left.”

“Congrats, Princess.“

To her surprise, behind her, Murphy claps a hand on her shoulder with a grin. Emori, Miller, and Bellamy stand by him  

“Congrats, girl!” She rushes forward and pulls her into a hug.

Clarke pulls away, confused. “Weren’t you the communications director for my opponent's campaign?”

“You’re my friend. Plus, it's just some random student government race.”

“Emori!” Raven hisses.

But Clarke laughs. “You’re right, it is.”

“Well done, Griffin.” Miller nudges her. “If anyone has to be president instead of Blake, it should be you.”

“The only other option was me.”

“Exactly.”

Finally, Bellamy walks forward and kisses the top of her head. Awww’s, Raven’s gag, and Miller and Murphy’s verbal smirks echo around the room. 

She smiles up at him. “Shouldn’t you be more upset?” 

“You’ll be a great president,” he squeezes her hand. “Plus, its just a stupid–”

She slaps his chest. He picks up a bouquet of flowers from the coffee table and hands them to her.

“What the hell?” She looks at them with a laugh. “This isn’t a beauty pageant!” 

“Flowers for the Princess of Ark U,” Murphy bows, and Bellamy glares at him.  But she curtsies back. “Thank you.”

Bellamy’s lips quirk up into a smile. “Of course.” 

“Okay, yeah yeah, cute stuff.” Raven rolls her eyes and tugs her to the kitchen.

“Drunken noodles? Coconut cupcakes? And bubble tea?” She looks at the kitchen table in awe. “When the hell did you all have time to do this?”

“We asked Wells about all your weird-ass tastes in food,” Octavia pats his shoulder. 

“And we got the decorations this morning after they announced the results, and ordered the food while you were in class,” Monty shrugs. “It really wasn’t as complicated as it looks.” Harper elbows him with a glare. 

For the next few hours, they eat and recall the various events of the race.

“Remember when Blake kept staring at the Princess’ legs during the first debate?” Murphy snorts, and Wells chokes. “Gina was so pissed afterwards.” 

He scratches the back of his head. “It was a nice skirt.”

“Thank you!” Raven raises her chopsticks. “Octavia isn’t the only stylish person in our friend group.” 

“And remember when he stared at her when she was drawing him and Gina at the first fundraiser?” Octavia snickers, getting cupcake frosting on her nose. Clarke raises an eyebrow.

“And,” Miller sputters a laugh. “Remember when Gina requested to draw them married?” Wild laughter fills the room.

Wells chokes again. “What the hell?” 

Bellamy groans, putting his head in his hands. “Can we please stop talking about each time I checked her out when I definitely shouldn’t have? Also, just about my ex-girlfriend in general.” Giggles and snickers flare up again. 

But she leans her head on his shoulder, patting his back. “It’s okay. It's hard to look away from me,” she teases.

“Oh, you have no idea,” Miller snorts. “You should’ve seen him when he first saw you at the afterpart–”

“Stop it, asshole!” Emori shoves a cupcake in Miller’s mouth to shut him up. 

“Be my VP.”

Everyone turns to her with odd expressions.

“What?”

She turns to Bellamy, grabbing his hands. “Be my vice president. Please? It’ll be fun!” 

“Oh, it’ll definitely be fun,” Murphy mutters to Miller with a snicker.

The girls’ hum in approval. Octavia grins. “Yes! Absolutely!”

“It’s my decision, O.” 

Wells nods, considering. “It would be a good show of support.”

Raven rolls her eyes. “Ugh. Politicians.”

“Please?” she begs, shaking his hands. 

He smiles down at her. “Okay. Fine.”

They all cheer (except for Raven).

 

After dinner, they lounge around, watching Criminal Minds. Lincoln winces when a man is stabbed.

“Why did we choose to watch this, again?”

Octavia giggles. “It’s Clarke’s favorite.”

He looks at her incredulously. “How can someone so peppy enjoy murder and death?” 

“She has a dark side,” Jasper says solemnly. 

“I’d like to see that,” Bellamy murmurs quietly into her ear, and she shoves him. 

“So.” Harper leans forward. “Are you guys dating now?”

Her and Bellamy look at each other, a bit panicked, a bit unsure, a bit amused. “Um–” 

“We’re just keeping it casual for now.”

She nods vigorously. “Casual. I mean, just last week, we–”

Loud groans permeate the room. “I hate you both,” Octavia whines. 

“Gutless.” Murphy shakes his head. 

Later, after everyone else leaves, they lay on the couch together, her head in his lap. She stares up at him while he absentmindedly taps on her arm. 

“Tell me how you actually feel about this.” Her eyes are hardened. 

He sighs. “Can you relax? I feel fine.” 

Her gaze doesn’t let up.

“Listen. I cared too much at first. Dangerously. And it led me to do some really shitty things. But you always did better. And will do better. You deserve it more than I do.” He brushes a strand of hair out of her eyes. 

“Thank you. Softie.” She pokes his stomach with a smile “Are you excited to be my VP?” 

He shrugs. “Sure. What would I do?”

“Take orders from me!"

“Him,” he pretends to contemplate. “I could get behind being submissive.”

Laughing loudly, she reaches up to shove his face to one side. He sighs.

“I should go. I have an 8 A.M tomorrow.” He gently puts her head down.

“Wait.” She gets on her knees on the couch and draws him in a long, tender kiss. When she’s pulling away, he’s grinning.

“I like that kind.” He squeezes her side.

“Me too.” 

After he leaves, she realizes that she hasn’t checked her phone all day, despite the hundreds of notifications. She pulls up her emails to glance at the one she probably should have read a while ago. 

 

From: Dean Marcus Kane <deanmarcuskane@ark.edu> 

Subject: Fall Student Government Elections

Good morning, Lightbournes–

Today marks the end of our eventful Fall Presidential Race. After weeks of campaigning, fundraising, and debating, the student body has decided who is best to lead them in the upcoming academic year. 

Both candidates ran admirable campaigns, and ended up making significant donations to immensely impactful nonprofits, both in the D.C. area, and at large.

The statistics are as follows:

Eighty-four percent (25,264 individuals) of the student body participated in the online voting system. And, of that 84%:

12,866 students voted for our first candidate, Clarke Griffin.

12,398 students voted for our second candidate, Bellamy Blake. 

Clearly, it was a narrow outcome. My commendations go out to both Ms. Griffin and Mr. Blake.

However, with that– I would like to congratulate Clarke Griffin on her win, and I have no doubt that she will proudly lead Ark U for the rest of the academic year. 

Be well.

Dean Kane


[bellamy]

 

“You sure you’re good?”

The next day after class, Miller, Murphy, and him throw around a football on the quad. 

“Dude, I’m really fine.” He rolls his eyes, passing the ball to Miller. “Honestly, she’d be a better president than me. She’s just a better person in general.”

“Yeah, we knew that already,” Murphy snorts. 

“Doesn’t it sting a bit?”

He shrugs. “I mean, yeah. But being a VP would probably look impressive on PhD applications, too. Especially if I’m thinking of applying to Ark U’s PhD program.”

“Are you?” Miller overshoots, and he jogs to retrieve the ball.

“I’m not sure. Whatever school gives me the most financial aid, I guess.” 

He nods. It's quiet for a while, except for the crunching of the leaves under their shoes. 

“So.” Murphy clears his throat. “Sterling told me that he saw Dax and Gina all over each other at a party a few days ago.”

“Okay?” he says slowly. 

He furrows his eyebrows. “You don’t… care?”

“I mean, it's an ego hit. But I was just thinking that the feelings faded even weeks before we broke up.”

Murphy scoffs. “Yeah, we remember. The rare moment of Blake not wanting to have sex with a hot girl will never be forgotten.” 

He rolls his eyes. “Chill out.”

“Speaking of, have you banged the Princess yet?” 

“Can we not have the conversation in the middle of the fucking quad?” 

“Is that a yes?”

“No. It's a no. Leave it alone.”

Murphy sighs dramatically. “Fine.” 

“Are you guys even hanging out? Outside of game nights and presidential debates?”

He pauses. “Not really.”

“Why don’t you just ask her out?” Miller shrugs, missing his catch.

“On a date?”

“Yeah, I mean, why not?” 

“I don’t date.”

Murphy spins the ball at Miller. “You didn’t do a lot of things before the Princess came along."

“Do it, Blake. Get to know her better.”

He pauses. “I’ll think about it.” 


[clarke]

 

“That does not sound like a good idea.” 

“But it is!” 

She should’ve known something was up when Octavia insisted that she meets her at the studio after class on Friday. 

In her leotard, Octavia stretches against the ballet barre. She’s leaning her head back and looking at Clarke with a pout.

“My professor said I could! As long as it's someone with training!”

Half an hour ago, Octavia dropped the biggest, most obnoxious bomb on her: the midterm showcase for the dance majors is coming up in a few weeks, and she begged her professor to add a duet with a non-dance major. Apparently, someone with training. 

“I haven’t danced professionally in years, Octavia!”

“It doesn’t matter.” She stretches over her leg and turns her head. “When we first met, I saw what you could do. It's still there.” 

“How cliche.”

“Also,” Octavia drops her leg and looks at her sheepishly. “Since she already approved and submitted the duet, it's on the performance list. So, if we don’t do it, technically, I’ll fail.” 

She narrows her eyes. “Seriously?” 

“Again,” she shrugs. “I’m persuasive. They start gathering their things.

“That’s not persuasion. That’s coercion. And then deliberate force.”

“Yeah, yeah,” she waves her off as they skip down the marble stairs. “It’s going to be amazing! Our choreo is going to freaking dominate.” 

She sighs as they wait at the crosswalk. “Octavia. I need your help. But if it makes you uncomfortable, you can totally not answer.”

She raises an eyebrow.

They walk across the street. “I think your brother asked me on a date.”

Octavia blinks. “And?”

They settle onto one of the picnic tables on the quad. “I mean. I think.”

“You don’t know whether my brother asked you on a date?” she speaks slowly, biting into her peach. 

“I can’t tell if it's a date!”

“I don’t understand you,” Octavia shakes her head. “You can verbally blitz attack professors with your intellect, but you turn into an idiot when it comes to my brother.”

“Thanks. Love you too.” 

Octavia shrugs, and sighs. “Fine. What did he say?”

She passes her phone across the table. 

Today, 11:26 AM

Bellamy

11:26 AM

Are you and your friends doing 

anything tonight?

11:30 AM

I don’t think so. Why?

Bellamy

11:32 AM

Just wondering

 

11:33

How are you?

11:36 AM

          I’m okay. In the library

        finishing a hard psych

       study.

Bellamy

11:39 AM

What’s the study about?

11:52 AM

How easily students retain

vocabulary in a short amount of time.

 

11:53

How are you?

Bellamy

11:55 AM

I’m okay 

 

11:56

I had my TA office hours this morning 

and a student came to literally ask what 

the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is

11:57 PM

Am I supposed to know what

that means?

Bellamy

11:58 PM

No. But a fourth year European 

history major should

11:59 PM

The horror!

Bellamy

12:11 PM

So are you and Octavia doing 

anything?

 

12:12

Together I mean

 

12:13

Tonight

12:15 PM

No. I don’t think so.

Bellamy

12:17 PM

Oh okay

 

12:26

Do you wanna do something together?

12:28 PM

Tonight? 

Bellamy

12:30 PM

Yeah 

 

12:31

If you want

 

12:31

We don’t have to

12:36 PM

    No, I’m down. What do you

                                                                                   want to do?

Bellamy

12:38 PM

Uh

 

12:39

Let me get back to you

12:40 PM

Alright.

 

Octavia looks up, nonplussed. “Do you want me to be honest?”

“Yes!”

“You’re being an idiot.” Octavia throws her phone and she barely catches it. 

“Hey!” She grapples with it before setting it down. “That is completely unhelpful.”

“It sounds like a date, Clarke.” She rolls her eyes and throws the peach pit into the trash. “You two are in a situationship and you’re hanging out together. Basically like a date.”

“Situationship?” 

She shrugs. “Well yeah. Since you’re both clearly confused about what is going on between each other, it's not a relationship, I guess. But friends don’t angry-kiss and cuddle. So it's a situationship.”

“This conversation literally didn’t help me in the slightest.” She pulls out her sketchbook. 

“Well,” a mischievous look sparkles in Octavia’s eyes. “In the meantime…”

“Ugh.” Her voice is wary.

“We can start planning our choreo!” She claps her hands, whipping out her notebook. “Ooh, maybe you could start sketching costume designs!”

She sighs. “Costumes?” 

“Of course!” Octavia taps her chin with her pen. “The theme is fairy tales. But not the basic ones. My professor said Hans Christian Andersen vibes. The guy who–”

“I know who Hans Christian Anderson is, Octavia.” She flips to an open page. 

“I was thinking The Little Mermaid or The Snow Queen.” Octavia furiously scribbles.

She scrunches her nose. “Wouldn’t Thumbelina or The Little Match Girl be the obvious choices?”

“Since when have either of us done the obvious?” 

“Fair,” she concedes, pulling out a pencil, biting back her tiny, excited smile. 

“So what are we feeling in terms of color?”

Octavia beams.


[bellamy]

 

“I need assistance.”

Later in the day, he stomps into the backyard and slumps onto the patio chair. 

Miller and Murphy raise their eyebrows, amused. 

“What’s up?” Murphy takes an inhale of the joint before he passes it to Miller. 

His nose wrinkles at the pungent smell. “I ended up asking Clarke if she wants to hang out tonight. But now I can’t think of what to do.” 

“So,” Miller inhales. “You want us, two dudes– one who’s in a long term relationship, and the other who doesn’t go on dates with girls– to give you advice on what to do for a first date.”

“While high?” Murphy adds.

“Is it even a date?” 

“Oh, for fucks sakes.” Murphy stands up. “I’m not having this conversation. We’re not prepubescent high schoolers anymore.” 

“Just listen, asshole!”

Murphy rolls his eyes and sits back down.

“Date or not– what should we do? There’s not much to do around campus.”

Miller blinks. “So do something off-campus.”

“Like what?”

Murphy flicks the lighter. “We live in D.C., dude. The Vice President’s house is down the street. Georgetown is ten minutes away. The White House is thirty minutes away. I’m sure your tiny brain can figure something out.”

Miller sighs. “Think about what she likes, man.”

He’s quiet.

“Jesus, Blake,” Murphy laughs. “Do you even know anything about the chick?”

“I mean, I know she has a dead dad and a shitty ex-boyfriend.”

“No, like, really know,” Murphy says sagely. “The way she traverses our world.” 

“What the fuck are you talking about?” 

He sighs, turning to Miller. “Hit me, Miller.”

Miller puts his legs up on the table. “Emori’s favorite food?”

“Turkish.”

“Favorite book?” 

“Bastard Out of Carolina.”

“Favorite color?”

“Dark blue.”

“Pet peeve?

“Stupid people.” 

Miller rolls his eyes. “Favorite memories?”

“Going to Ocean City with her brother growing up.”

“Dream job?”

“Content Marketing Manager for a female-owned D.C. magazine.” 

“What the hell…” Bellamy mutters.

“Craziest thing she’s ever done?”

He smirks. “Went on a date with me.”

“And what’s the most cherished thing in her life?”

“Her relationship with her brother.” 

Miller high fives Murphy. “Well done, dude.”

“Okay,” Bellamy says exasperatedly. “Aren’t those just superficial things, anyway? And you’ve been in a relationship for almost three years!”

“Yeah, but I knew a lot of those things before we started dating. That’s why I took her to a Turkish restaurant for our first date. Duh.”

He sighs, rubbing a hand over his face. “I mean, she likes drawing and stuff. Art shit.”

“Ah, ‘art shit’,” Miller pretends to be amazed. “What a splendid observation!

“Shut up.” He leans his head back, running through the possibilities in his mind.

“Wait!” He sits up straight. “I thought of something.”

Chapter Text

[clarke]

 

She consults Raven, Harper, and Maya about the possible date, and they all react similarly.

“Am I the only one who doesn’t know what a ‘situationship’ is?” She frowns, pulling on a sweater. 

Raven rolls her eyes. “Pretty much”

“Speaking of ‘ships,” Maya starts, munching on a veggie chip. “It seems like everything is okay now between you and Zeke, Raven.”

Clarke looks at her pointedly. “Yeah. Turns out communicating does great things for a relationship.”

“Shut up,” Raven glares at her. “You can’t talk.”

“Is this good?” She turns around in rolled-up jeans and a sweater.

Raven nods. “Not bad.”

“Great,” she sighs. “Wish me luck.”

“Wait.” Harper stops her. “Where are you going?”

“Walking to the ARK house…?” 

“He’s not picking you up at the door?” Maya shakes her head. “Unacceptable.”

She rolls her eyes. “More like outdated. I’ll see you guys in a bit.”

“Text us if you need saving!” Harper yells as she strolls out the door.

 

Stepping up on their porch, she knocks twice before gently pushing the door open.

“Hello?”

“Princess!” 

Emori and Murphy are on the couch, watching something on Netflix. Emori waves with a smile. “You look cute.” 

Murphy frowns. “Why don’t you tell me I look cute?” 

“Because you don’t.” 

Clarke hides a smile as Murphy pretends to look devastated. Miller walks from the kitchen with a plate.

“Oh, hey Clarke.” He greets her with half of a sandwich in his mouth. She smiles and waves. 

“Blake!” Murphy yells. “Your hot date is here!” 

So it is a date. She straightens in self-satisfaction. 

“Shut up, Murphy,” Bellamy snaps, hopping down the stairs. He softens when he sees her. “Hey.”

“Hi.”

She sees Emori roll her eyes over his shoulder. 

“Have fun!” Emori yells.

“Use protection!” 

Bellamy chokes on a cough and glares at Murphy before closing the door behind them. She raises an eyebrow.

“You good?” she asks, amused.

“Murphy is such an idiot.”

They walk in silence for a while. He looks at her, hands in his pockets. 

“You look nice.”

“Oh god.” She rolls her eyes. “Not this again.”

“What do you me–” He pauses. “Oh, right. The bathroom.”

She nods, holding in a laugh. He leads her onto the bus and gets off when they’re downtown. Looking around, she furrows her eyebrows. “Also, where are we going?” 

“Oh, right. I probably should’ve told you that.” He scratches the back of his head. “Sorry.”

“For what?” 

“I’ve never really done the date thing.”

Quiet shock spreads on her features. “Not even with Gina?”

“I mean, not like this.” He gestures between them. “We usually just–”

“Okay. I actually really don’t want to know.”

She can’t tell if the flush on his face is from the cold or from mild embarrassment. “It’s here.” He gestures upwards, shifting awkwardly. 

She looks up, eyes widening with excitement. “You brought me to Color Me Mine?! I haven’t been here in forever!”

Practically skipping, she opens the door and quietly calls out. “Hope!”

A girl turns around and smiles widely. “Clarke? Oh my gosh!”

They hug each other tightly. “You haven’t come around in so long!” 

“I know!” She sighs apologetically. “Junior year has been kicking my ass.” 

“I can’t even imagine.” Hope pats her arm, and looks over her shoulder, with a coy smile. “And who’s this?” 

“Oh! This is Bellamy. My date.” She pulls him forward and tries not to laugh at his awkwardness. 

“Hey, nice to meet you.” 

Hope waves and leans closer to her. “He’s cute!”

Clarke playfully slaps her shoulder but nods. “He is.”

And he definitely hears, because the flush on his cheeks is absolutely not from the cold, this time. 

“Go! Sit.” Hope waves them away. “I’ll bring over your usuals.”

She grabs his hand and pulls him to one of the tables in the corner of the room. “Of course you know people here.” 

“Well, come on.” She pokes his arm. “It’s a pottery painting place that’s a ten minute drive from campus. How could I not?”

“I’m just glad that you like what I picked.” He hesitates. “Wait, you like it, right?”

“Yes.” She squeezes his hand, beaming. “It’s perfect.” 


[bellamy]

 

The amount of relief that he feels is probably bordering on pathetic.

He's inwardly smug. Fuck you, Murphy. I do know her. 

Her friend Hope had brought over Clarke’s ‘usuals’, which is a shit ton of pastel watercolors and earthy acrylics. And two large cups of brushes.

Now, she holds his hand as they scan the racks of pottery. “What should we paint?” She bounces up and down excitedly, eyes darting back and forth. 

“What do you want to paint?” He hesitates, but wraps his arms around her waist. That’s a date thing to do, right? 

She leans back into his arms, much to his relief. “Hm… what’s something we can both have? Or something matching?”

“How about that?” He points to some salt and pepper shakers, and laughs at the way she immediately scrunches her nose.

“That’s no fun. How about mugs? Oh my god, that would be the most obnoxious date-y thing ever.”

He reaches forward and grabs them. “Let’s do it.”  

 

“Okay. Now what?” 

A few minutes later, he sits at their table, scanning the piles of paints and cups of brushes. Clearly, his face is extremely disconcerted, because she laughs and puts her hand on his.

“It’s not as complicated as you think. So, usually, first, I’ll think of a theme I want to replicate. Once I have that, I’ll pick out the types of paints.” She gestures at them.

“One time, we all came here on Earth Day. All of the proceeds were going to environmental protection non-profits, you know? So I got a bowl and sketched it as Earth. I got a bunch of blues and greens, and just painted it.”

“Uh, Clarke, not everyone can just ‘paint it’.”  

She sighs. “Okay, let’s think of a theme. What about making a mug for the house? Using the frat colors?”

He shakes his head. “Gross. Miller and Murphy will never let me hear the end of it.”

“Hm.” She rests her chin on her knuckles. “How about something history themed? Like a map? Or… ooh! Arthurian stuff! What about a castle? Or the Knights of the Round?”

“Is that the first thing you think of when you talk about history?”

“I mean, yeah.” She swirls a brush into the water cup. “King Arthur was sexy as hell. So was Queen Guinevere.”

He raises his eyebrows. “Guinevere cheated on him with Lancelot, though.”

She frowns. “I take it back.”

He laughs brightly. “It’s fine. I’ll think of something.”

“Okay. Break!”

 

They paint for another hour. Well, she paints, mostly. He gets distracted– every few minutes, he watches how her fingers brush the grays and blues on the ceramic mug. 

“Bellamy,” she sings softly, not looking up. “Stop getting distracted.”

“But you’re pretty.”

She looks up, amused. “You’re pretty too. But I’m not getting distracted.”

He frowns. “I don’t want to be pretty.” 

“Why not?” 

“I need something more manly.”

“Oh, geez.” She rolls her eyes. “You know exactly how I feel about what you just said.”

It's true. He did. But he grins.

“Fine.” She sighs, dragging her brush across the mug’s handle. “You are very attractive, Bellamy.”

“Murphy calls me attractive, too,” he mutters gloomily. 

She laughs quietly. “You are very handsome, Bellamy.”

He straightens on his stool. “I’ll take it.”

A pleasant smile rests on her face for another twenty minutes, until they both decide that they’re done.

“Okay!” Her tiny brush flicks a small stroke of black. “Ready.” 

His breath hitches as she turns the mug around. “Holy shit, Clarke.” 

She painted him and Octavia on the bottom of the mug– her head on his shoulder and his arm draped around her. The rest is the background behind them, burnt oranges and wine reds as they stand in front of the trees on the quad, leaves falling in mid-air. 

She beams, holding it up proudly. “Do you like it?”

“It’s…” he breathes. “So good. Ugh. This is unfair. I shouldn’t have brought you to a fucking pottery painting place.” 

Her laugh is light, satisfied. “Where would you have taken me? A… football… throwing thing?” 

“‘A football throwing thing’? That’s what you think is the equivalent to you and a painting place?”

She shrugs. “I’ll plan the next date.” 

His body buzzes in excitement. “Deal.” 

She leans forward with a sly smile. “Show me yours.”

“Kinky.”

She kicks his ankle under the table and he grins. “Okay. Don’t make fun of me.”

“I won’t!”

He anxiously pushes the mug towards her. 

She raises a hand to her mouth, eyes wide. He had tried his best to draw a Newton’s cradle, but his hands were a bit shaky, and constantly looking up made him paint outside of the lines a bit. But, she recognizes it, so it worked. 

She smiles sadly. “Bellamy. This is,” she sniffs. “perfect.” 

She hops off her stool and pulls him into a tight embrace. And everything feels right, just for that moment. She pulls away with the most resplendent, sparkling smile. And breathing is foreign.

“Even your shampoo is coconut? Is there anything in your life that’s not coconut scented or flavored?”

She raises an eyebrow, amused. “You were smelling me?”

He squeezes her side. “Well, it's hard not to when your hair was all up in my mouth. Now what?”

“We give them to the front desk and they’ll glaze them.” She unravels her arms from his shoulders. “And we can come get them in a few days.” She pauses, with a small smile. “Another excuse to spend time with you.” 

His heart skips. “You don’t need any excuses.” He kisses her nose, and she leans back in surprise. 

“Did you just kiss my nose?”

A bit of red spreads on his cheeks. “I did.” 

“The tough, manly man of the people, ‘I-don’t-date’ Bellamy Blake just kissed my nose!” she chirps. 

“Hey!” he hushes her. “Not so loud. I have a reputation to uphold.” 

Laughing softly, she leans forward and presses a small kiss on his lips. “Thank you for bringing me here. I haven’t smiled this much in so long.”

“Not even on game nights?”

She shakes her head. “Not even then.”

When they give Hope their mugs, she smiles knowingly at the two. “Come back in a few days.” She winks at Bellamy. “You, too.” 

The buses don’t run late, so they end up walking home. Their hands twine together from the moment they leave. 

He sighs at her icy fingers, starting to pull his hoodie over his head. “Can I do it this time?” 

“Hm. You may.” She nods curtly, taking it from him and slipping it on. 

He looks at her in amusement, the fabric sagging from her arms. “That looks ridiculous on you.”  

She frowns. “Aren’t you supposed to say something like, ‘I love you in my clothes’,” she says huskily, lowering her pitch.

“Was that your attempt at imitating my voice?” 

“It was.” 

He laughs and tugs her hand, pulling her tighter into his side. She looks up at him. 

“You know, you don’t suck.”

“What?” 

“You don’t suck at the date thing.” 

He tries to conceal his goofy grin all the way home.

 

“Here we are.” He clears his throat in front of the door to her suite. “So–”

But he’s unable to say anything else before she’s wrapped him into a deep kiss, her lips cold against his. Before long, their tongues twist together; it's all clumsy, velvety, a quiet intimacy. 

“Ahem.”

They break apart as Raven swings open the door. He scrambles to compose himself.

“Uh, hey, Raven.” His voice is gruff, and he tries to cough it away. Raven looks on, apathetic, and Clarke grins.

“Goodnight.” She kisses his cheek and flounces inside.

Raven closes the door behind her. Not exactly a slam, but it's not anything delicate, either.

He blinks. Embarrassment turns into surprise, and surprise turns into a huff of laughter. A perfect way to end the night.


[clarke]

 

“Who are you, my mother?” She rolls her eyes and puts her bag down. 

“No,” Raven huffs. “But it's still gross to watch my best friend make out with the Fuckboy on our very doorstep!”

“It’s our dorm hallway.”

“Also, his clothes look ridiculous on you.”

“My date was good, thanks, Raven.” She walks to her room and Harper sits up on the bed.

“How was it?” she squeals, bouncing on her comforter.

“See?” She looks at Raven. “Good friend.” 

Raven rolls her eyes but clears her throat, climbing onto her bed with her. “I need to tell you something.” 

Clarke halts a bit, worried at her shifty demeanor and reflective expression. She hadn’t seen this Raven in a long time. Harper quiets down, too.

“Is everything okay? Are you and Zeke okay? Is it–”

“Finn. It's Finn.”

All of the sudden, it seems like the air is stripped from the room. Even the sound of his name produces a compound of sadness, incense, and embarrassment within her. She sees Harper tense in her peripherals. 

“What did he do?” 

Their Finn interactions are few and far apart, mostly because he’s in the grad program like Wells, and therefore, on an entirely different campus. And, as he’s blocked on every form of their social medias, there’s very few ways that they can run into him. 

In the two years since, it's only happened twice: once, they were out at a bar downtown, and saw him out of the corner of their eyes. Obviously, they fled immediately. And, the second was only with Raven: she was out running on the dock at the Wharf, and a brief glance behind her confirmed her feeling that she was being followed.

This one, pretty recently– only a few months ago– was particularly infuriating and frightening. Because they both knew that he knows her route, the same one she ran every Wednesday morning. 

They immediately filed a report with Marcus, and he banned Finn from stepping onto the undergrad campus. Raven changed her jogging route, and all was well. Until now, apparently. 

“Griffin, chill.” Raven puts a hand on hers, and she realizes she’s shaking. “I’m okay. I swear.” 

She takes a deep breath, and Harper crosses the room to climb up on her bed with them. 

“So, Dean Kane sent me an email earlier tonight, while you were gone. It gave me pause, because of how late it was. But the subject line said it was urgent, so I rushed over to the student center,” Raven coughs lightly, and Harper rubs her back. 

“He told me that he just saw Finn register for the Ball in a few weeks. He’d forgotten that he’s also a part of the grad program’s student government. Meaning that he’d be in attendance.” Clarke stills, remembering that Wells once warned her and mentioned this in passing.

“He asked me if he wanted to bar him admission, but he warned that preventing one of the student government representative’s from attending would reflect poorly on you. Obviously, people know about us.”

She nods. That was the worst part of the situation. The entire exchange happened in front of the windows of the common lounge, and the gossip spread to the entire floor. Which spread to the entire building. Which spread to a lot of places on campus that they weren’t aware existed.

Obviously, after two years, it died down. People stopped caring after about a month. But they still recognize their names and the incident.

“And if the grad students catch wind of you banning him, they might complain about nepotism and file complaints against the undergrad student government. And in result, against you. God, it's so unfair.” She clenches her fists. He seems to never get out of their lives. 

“So, I told him not to.”

“What?” Clarke says sharply, her head snapping to Raven’s. “Raven, if we see him–”

“Kane promised that he’d seat us as far away as possible, and that we can leave as soon as the grad students do their speeches or whatever. And that he’ll tell museum security to watch out for him.”

“Raven, when you see him, you ge–”

We get,” she corrects, and sighs. “I know. But I figured that if we’re together, and if the security is on high alert, we’ll be okay. It's just such a better option than another scandal in your presidency. Especially in the night where you should be celebrating it.”

Clarke’s face crumples. “I am so sorry that you have to go through this because of me.” She looks down at her hands, and Harper moves forward to hold them in hers.

“It’s not your fault, Clarke,” she says softly. Raven nods and scoots closer, rubbing her arm.

“We can do this together.” Raven nods resolutely. “We’ll have everyone with us too.”  

Harper nods with her. “Plus, Lincoln is like a cuter version of the Hulk.” 

“And,” Raven sighs. “As much as I despise the Fuckboy, he does have quite the muscle mass.”

A laugh involuntarily leaves Clarke’s mouth. 

“Okay. Together?” She clutches Raven and Harper’s hands.

“Together.”


[clarke]

 

Her and Octavia decide to dedicate all of Sunday to run errands for the dance showcase– beginning with the fabric store for their costumes. 

“This?” She rolls out what looks like ivory tulle. 

“Ew.” Octavia scrunches her nose. “Absolutely not. Way too Cinderella.”

Clarke looks at her warily.

“What? What if someone is already doing Cinderella?”

“Cinderella isn’t by Hans.”

Octavia huffs. “Yeah, well some people in the dance major are stupid.” 

“O, we’ve been here for–” She checks her watch. “Three hours. If we stay any longer, we won’t be able to get everything done today. Plus,” she holds up the armful of fabrics. “We have a lot to work with already."

She sighs. “Fine. Ten more minutes, and if we don’t find anything, we’ll come back in a few days.

 

Twenty minutes later, they sit at a cafe for lunch. 

“What else do we have to do?” Clarke picks at her spinach panini.

“Get you pointe shoes, of course.” Octavia takes a big sip of her iced coffee. 

She frowns. “I thought this was a contemporary-lyrical piece. We won't be barefoot?”

“No, we will be.” 

“Then, why–” 

“Clarke.” She puts her cup down, as if she's conducting an intervention. “You can’t stop depriving yourself of your passions. And your talent.”

“I’m not!” she protests. “And what does getting new pointe shoes have to do with anything?” 

“Well,” she says impishly. “I was thinking that you could add a dance minor.”

She chokes on the bread. “Excuse me?”

“What? Is it that crazy of an idea?”  

“I mean, kinda!” She takes a napkin to her fingers. “You want me to double major and double minor?”

“That’s only if you add poli sci too.”

“I promised Marcus I would. Besides, my mother would never speak to me again, Octavia.”

She huffs. “Well, that’s stupid! She can’t just prevent you from being happy! And it’s not like you guys talk now!"

Clarke winces, and Octavia immediately looks at her with guilt.

"I'm sorry. I just," Octavia pauses, and puts her hands on the table. “Tell me, then. If your mother’s opinion didn’t matter– which it still doesn’t– would you have added at least a dance minor? Or major?”

She’s silent.

“That’s what I thought.” Octavia sits back in her chair. “It’ll be fun, Clarke. I haven’t been in a dancewear shop in forever. We can try on the cute leos and wrap skirts!”

She sighs. “Fine. Only for you.”

Octavia claps gleefully.

 

Many hours later, arms full of bags (Octavia insisted on stopping at the mall on the way back), they collapse on the couch. 

“Do we have to do the choreo tonight?” Clarke whines, flopping her head back.

“Yes!” Octavia sits up straight, unfazed by their entire day of walking. “We’re on a roll! The inspiration is flowing through our veins! And you could break in your pointe shoes.”

“Okay,” she draws out. “Just let me nap and watch a bit of Criminal Minds.”

“Weirdo,” Octavia mumbles.  

 

And, a few hours after that, they’re stretching on the floor of a dance studio in the performing arts building.

Octavia taps a pen on her notebook. “So, when I outlined the routine, I thought that the pas de deux should have a light, flowy feel. But controlled, too.”                  

“That makes sense. Emulating the push and pull of the waves or the ocean.”

She beams. “This is why you need to add a dance minor!”   

Rolling her eyes, she gestures to the notebook. “Keep going.”

“Okay,” she claps her hands. “My professor gave me a list of contemporary slash ballet techniques that we have to incorporate in the routine. At least ten of them.”       

Clarke looks at the list. “This looks good. Piques, attitudes, developpes, sissones. We can make that happen.”

Octavia pulls Clarke up. “We’ll start on opposite sides of the stage. I wanted our music to be elegant, but lively, too. So, I mixed the instrumental version of ‘Part of Your World’ with The Little Mermaid orchestral medley.” She presses play on her phone. 

Clarke’s eyes widen as the quiet, playful tinkling noises at the beginning of the song transition into languid, sweeping orchestral chimes. The music weaves in between bright melodies and slow, sweeping intonations.

“What in the world? Are you a music producer, too?” 

She beams. “My friend from sound production helped. Isn’t it perfect?” Clarke nods, biting back the growing excitement. 

“So. I’ll enter first. Maybe a rond de jambe into a jete? A tour jete?”

Over the next few hours, Octavia teaches her the intricate choreography, adjusts her stances, and helps her with her musicality. 

“God.” She picks up her bag and water bottle. “I forgot how hard that is.”

Bounding down the stairs, Octavia laughs. “I made it hard choreography. I really want to impress my professor. She has a lot of ins at The Washington Ballet.”

She stops still as they reach the bottom. “No way!” 

“Way.”

“That would be an amazing opportunity! Okay.” She puts a determined face on. “I promise to work extra hard now.”

Octavia laughs and bumps her hip. “Clarke Griffin always gives one-hundred and ten percent.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll give you two-hundred now.” 

Chapter Text

[clarke]

 

The days of a brutal midterm season pass in blurs of stressful encounters with Pike, weekend rehearsals with Octavia, napping during game nights, more fundraisers, and the occasional date with Bellamy. (Apparently ‘football throwing places’ don’t exist, so she managed to sneak them into the stadium at night so he could teach her how to throw a football. She failed miserably, so they just ended up making out in the middle of the field. Which she was pretty sure he liked, anyway.)

They also picked up their mugs from their first date, all shiny and glossy. And received mixed reactions.

“That is the ugliest thing I have ever seen,” Raven snorted as she saw her drinking coffee out of the mug. “How could he do Newton so dirty?”

“Damn.” Miller picked up the mug and nodded. “This is sick.” 

“Oh shit,” Murphy cackled from the couch. “Yours was probably so fucking ugly.”

Still a close-to-perfect first date, though. 

Finally, after a fleeting handful of weeks, it's the night of Octavia’s showcase. And she is terrified.

She bounces nervously backstage. Octavia, I can’t do this.”

“Clarke.” She grabs her arms. “You got this. We’ve been practicing for weeks. You know this routine by heart. In your sleep. Whatever.”

“But, what if I mess up? And screw up your chance at the Washington Ballet?”

Octavia rolls her eyes. “This one routine isn’t exactly going to make or break my chances. I still have finals. And the rest of the whole year.”

“Please don’t sign me up for your final showcase.”

She sighs. “Fine. Plus, look–”

She peers behind the curtain where their whole friend group sits in the very first row. Including Bellamy, Miller, Murphy, Emori, and Lincoln.

She groans. “Why did they have to sit in the very front? And why did you invite your brother?” 

Octavia stares at her. “Uh, he’s my brother. And you don’t want your own boyfriend to see how amazingly amazing you are?”

“He’s not my boyfriend.” Her heart starts skipping beats.

“Whatever. But, seriously." She squeezes her hand. “We got this.” 

They’re not until later in the show, so they wait backstage and watch the recording of it in the green room.

“They’re all so good,” Clarke says in awe, as they watch the other routines.

Her head snaps to Octavia, pointing at the TV. “And you want me to be a dance major? Like them?” 

“You’re just as good.” Octavia shrugs, taking a sip of her water bottle.


An hour and a half later, a stagehand peeks their head in. “Little Mermaid? You’re on deck.”

Octavia jumps up excitedly, reaching out a hand. “Time to sink or swim!”

“Well, let’s hope we swim. For the sake of our own oceanic routine.” 

Octavia squeezes her hand before she crosses backstage. She gives her a thumbs up from the wings opposite her. 

“Octavia Blake, with a focus in jazz and hip-hop, performing a lyrical-contemporary pas de deux of ‘The Little Mermaid’, joined by her partner, Clarke Griffin.” 

The voice of the overhead speaker fades into silence.

Then, the familiar, effervescent melody rings through the theatre. Octavia floats onto the stage, her translucent skirt skimming her ankles over the seashell-stitched leotard. 

They killed the costumes. Clearly better than any other in the showcase. 

After a series of leaps, Octavia’s arm stretches out to Clarke. 

Here we go.

She drifts into Octavia’s pull, her own cobalt skirt sliding down as she extends her leg up into the air. They meet fluidly, arms slender and toes airy on the stage floor. Their legs snap up into lofty leaps, in accordance with the melody.

Finally, as the music turns orchestral, they fall out of their turns into unison, their bodies tracing each others’ in every curve and twirl of their legs, the draping of their backs, and the flow of their hands. 

She hears audible gasps from the audience as they cross each other in a leap, using one hand to unravel their skirts. The fabric drifts to the ground as their limbs slow.

Thank god they pulled that off.

The melody dwindles down into soft strings, and she twirls into Octavia as her hand pulls her to the floor. As the music stops, their backs lean against each other, and their legs drift up to their chests. She feels the collective beat of their hearts as silence descends in the theatre for a few seconds. 

And then, resounding applause bounces off the walls. Her and Octavia lift off each other's backs, and turn to one another. Octavia holds her hand, and they both cross their legs behind them in a small bow, before flitting off the stage. 

As soon as they’re out of sight and sound, they start screaming in the green room. 

“Oh my god!” Octavia squeals, out of breath.

“I can’t believe we actually did that!” They bounce up and down, hands twined together.

“The audience went nuts!” Octavia tries to catch her breath. “I think we have a really good chance of getting an award.”

“You really think so?”

“I do!”  

“Holy shit. I’m exhausted.” They flop into the chairs and watch the last two performances.


[bellamy]

two hours ago 


“Why are we even here?” Murphy whines, leaning his head into his seat. 

“You literally were the one who told me about the showcase. Before my own sister, who is in the show.”

He raises his head. “Oh right. Emori said we should go.”

“Of course I wanted to go!” She smiles excitedly. “I’ve watched a few of Octavia’s performances, but I’ve never seen Clarke dance before!”

“I didn’t even know she danced,” he mumbles.

“Don’t worry, my good fuckboy.” Raven pats his shoulder next to him. “She likes to keep it under wraps. Only tells the people that matter.” Shaw looks at him apologetically. 

He glares at her. “Who bought the tickets, and why did they seat me next to her?” 

“I did!” Jasper sings, raising the tickets in the air. “Monty and I hacked into the theatre’s website to make sure we could reserve the entire middle of the front row.”

“We got the camera!” Monty holds up some convoluted device. A huge lens, surrounded by some black rods and weird-looking buttons. 

"What the hell is that?" 

"It's the most effective camera system known to man. A sensor type of 35.4 megapixels, a diagonal sensor size of 46.31 millimeters, and a 17+ stop dynamic range. Curated and carefully crafted by Team Jonty."

They high five each other. 

He blinks. 

Raven sighs and turns to him. "It's just a really fucking good camera."

“Jesus,” Miller laughs. “They’re like those crazy dance moms."

“Heard that,” Jasper pipes up, despite being a few chairs down. “And I wear the title with pride.”

“I’m so excited!” Maya bounces in her seat. “The program says they're doing ‘The Little Mermaid’! What if they have fish?”

“How would they have fish?” Harper cocks her head to one side.

“I don’t know. But I hope they do.”

“I saw their costumes,” Raven nods. “They’re sick.”

“Why did you get to see them first?” Wells frowns. Delilah sympathetically pats his shoulder.

“They wanted it to be a surprise for everyone. It’s one hell of a surprise, too.”

The lights dim and they all settle into their seats.

“Are you excited?” Miller whispers into his ear.

He shrugs. “I guess. The only dance shows I’ve been to were Octavia’s recitals growing up. And those were boring as hell. Why do parents put little kids in dance if they don’t even know how to walk?”

“Who knows,” Miller whispers seductively. “Maybe Clarke can give you a personal show later.” 

He knocks his knee with his. Murphy leans over. “Seriously, though. Are you two ever going to bang? It's been a goddamn month.”

“Again,” he hisses. “This is literally the worst place to have this conversation. Fuck off.”

Murphy mumbles a ‘touchy’ before leaning back into his seat. 

“Welcome to the dance department’s midterm showcase. Our dance majors have been working hard to choreograph and prepare these routines. If you look at your program, you can see more information about each performance. Enjoy the show.” The overhead voice crackles off. 


And an hour later, he’s starting to nod off.

“This is boring as fuck.” Miller stifles a yawn. “If I have to watch another princess spin across the stage for five minutes, I might get motion sickness.”

“Look alive, idiot,” Raven elbows him. “They’re next.”

He hears the whir of the camera in Monty’s hand. Everyone starts to buzz with excitement. 

“Octavia Blake, with a concentration in jazz and hip-hop, performing a lyrical-contemporary pas de deux of ‘The Little Mermaid’, joined by her partner, Clarke Griffin.”

Just her name gives him pause.

It's been weeks since they started… seeing each other? Being friends? Since the kiss? He doesn’t really know. Neither of them have talked about what they are, and it seems like they’re both scared to.

Despite Murphy’s idiocy, he does admit that the amount of times he’s wanted to shove her against a pillar again– or on a bed, or against the walls of a lecture hall, really anywhere– is getting increasingly unbearable. But ever since she stopped them a few weeks ago, he doesn’t want to push her again. So he just follows her lead.

Which is a very, very, very slow lead. 

The music starts up and a blue-green light washes over the stage. Octavia enters on the right side, and unexpectedly, his chest blossoms with pride.

She looks beautiful. They somehow stitched seashell patterns on the top… thing, and a skirt below it. He doesn’t have much time to think about what Clarke would be wearing before she enters on the opposite side. He hears Harper’s soft gasp a few seats down. 

He stills in his seat, hands frozen on the laminated program on his lap. She looks… ethereal. Like, devastatingly captivating. She wears the same thing as Octavia, but her skirt is a darker blue. He’s shocked that this girl who dropped her coffee on his lap just yesterday, somehow moves across this stage, as if on air.

“Woah,” Murphy mutters. “That’s pretty sick.” Raven leans forward and glares at him. 

“Are you getting both of them?” Jasper whispers. Monty rolls his eyes. “Yes, Jas.” 

His eyes flicker back and forth dizzyingly, as he tries to watch both of their expressions. The music slows and they start to do the same stuff. They demand so much power, like they're drawing out the breaths of the audience, in awe of their sheer strength, the height of their jumps, the gentle turns, the soft smiles.

His eyes widen and gasps echo around them as they, in mid jump, unravel their skirts and let them slip to the ground. As soon as they float down to the stage, projections of waves swirl on the floor. 

“Damn.” Raven sits back. “Didn’t know about that one, though.”

They end with their backs leaning against each other, legs slowly dragging up the floor. Not a single breath leaves anyone’s mouth for a few seconds.

And, then, everyone around him is jumping from their seats, cheering and clapping wildly. He looks around quizzically, but joins them.

“Those are my babies!” Jasper yells, and Harper and Maya squeal their names. Even Murphy stands up, clapping slowly. 

When they all sit down, they’re shell-shocked, trying hard to quiet down for the last performances.

“Dude.” Monty puts the camera in his lap. “That. Was. Awesome.”

“Harp, Rae, and I have snuck her into studios and seen her dance before, but,” Maya shakes her head. “We had no idea she could do any of that.” 

They receive glares from the middle-aged parents around them, but they don’t pay them attention. 

“What?” Miller nudges his shoulder. “Speechless?”

“Yeah,” he says slowly, finally. “Pretty much.”


[clarke]

 

After the last performance and a few minutes of judge deliberation, all the dancers are called back on stage for the awards presentation. 

Their attention is forced down to the front row because Jasper is waving frantically and mouthing, ‘down here! down here!’ as if they’re no more than fifty feet away from them. Octavia blows them a kiss and Clarke laughs, waving discreetly. 

As they stand, waiting for the announcer to get to the duets category, she scans the front row. It's difficult for her to stifle a laugh as she sees Monty, him and Jasper's intricate camera in hand. Wells’ proud smile makes her want to cry, just a little bit. Delilah, Harper, Maya, Raven, and Emori’s beautiful grins and thumbs ups make her and Octavia beam gratefully. She purposefully skips over Miller and Murphy, already predicting their knowing smirks or raised eyebrows. 

But she does stop on Bellamy, which is a poor choice. Their eyes meet, and his flicker with too many things, and she’s too overwhelmed to parse them out. But he winks, and her lips twitch into a smile. Her eyes linger until Octavia squeezes her hand, demanding her attention.

“Clarke, it’s time!” She leans over and whispers, trying to contain her excitement.

“The next section of the awards presentation is for group performances. Congratulations to our solo winners. The judges evaluated group performances for the difficulty and technique of their moves, their musicality, and their originality. We’ll begin with duets.”

He looks down to the evaluation paper in his hands. “Due to the amount of duets in this midterm showcase, this was a difficult decision on the judges’ behalf. But, the runner’s up for our duet section is–” 

Her and Octavia hold their breaths, their fingers white from squeezing so hard.

“... ‘The Nightingale." Two girls hop forward and take the small certificate with a thankful nod. 

They exhale powerfully, looking at each other in hope. 

“The highest rated performance in our duet’s category is,” the professor flips the second paper. “‘The Little Mermaid’, as performed by Octavia Blake and her guest partner, Clarke Griffin.” 

They hear distinctive screams from the front row. Octavia jumps in glee, tugging her along. They skip forward to take the certificate, and Octavia waves it smugly in the air, before Clarke tugs her arm down. 

“What did I say about being humble?”  

“Fuck that. We won!” She squeals a bit too loudly and bumps her hip. 

“Hell yeah!” 

“My girls!”

They look down to see Harper waving wildly, and the rest of their friends excitedly jumping and yelling. She shoots them an embarrassed glare as the rest of the audience looks at them with mixed expressions of annoyance, distaste, and amusement. 

Thankfully, the professor seems to be one of the latter. “We’ll now move onto groups of three or more…” 

They twitch with adrenaline through the rest of the awards, and can barely stand still. Finally, as they wish the crowd a good night, all of the dancers sprint backstage and spill into the lobby of the theatre.

Still holding hands, Octavia and her look over the crowd for familiar faces. They don’t have to search for long until they’re both swept up from behind. 

“Congratulations, love!” Lincoln twirls Octavia in the air as she squeals. 

“That was amazing!” Wells spins her around and laughs. “I can’t believe you’ve never told me how good you are.” 

“Seriously, Clarke,” Delilah grabs her hands. “That was so lovely. You’re so captivating.” She blushes lightly at their words and sees two girls hop up behind them. 

“That was beautiful, Clarke!” Harper hugs her tightly. Maya pushes her aside and pulls her into one of her own. 

“I'm angry at you.” Maya pulls back with a stern look. “How come you never did any of that during our late-night dance rendezvous' in Studio D?” 

She laughs and nods her head to Octavia. “She’s the genius choreographer. I had no idea I could do any of that, either.” 

“Griffin!” Raven calls, shoving the girls aside. “That was hot.” She laughs into her tight embrace. 

“Thanks?” 

Emori pops up behind him. “That was amazing, Clarke!" 

“Thank you, guys,” she replies gratefully, her throat tightening a bit from emotion. 

“Oh, geez,” Raven sighs. “Not the time to cry, Griffin.” 

“I just can’t believe that actually happened.” She shakes her head in awe, and Wells pulls her into his side. “I haven’t danced in front of that many people… ever. The ballet performances I had growing up were in those stuffy, rich people galas. Nothing like that.”

“No shit.” Miller’s voice sounds from her right. “Looked like you’d been doing that stuff your whole life.” 

“Who would’ve thought?” Murphy stands beside him. “The Princess is a mermaid, too.” She rolls her eyes good-naturedly.

“Thanks for coming. Do you know where–” 

“Hey.”

She spins around, unbalanced by the amount of people around her. Bellamy stands there with a bouquet of pink tulips. 

“More flowers?” she gasps playfully. “I’m spoiled!” He rolls his eyes but hands her the bouquet.

“Thank you.” She looks up at him with a large smile. “It means a lot to me that you came.” She holds the flowers behind his back as she reaches up to hug him, her feet lifting off the floor. 

“No problem.” He pulls his head back, pausing for a few seconds, before pressing a soft kiss against her lips. After a few seconds, it starts to turn into something more feverish, when–

“Get out of my way!”

He’s suddenly no longer in her view. Jasper is barreling at her, Monty in tow. 

“That was amazing!” He throws his arms around her, and Monty follows with an unnecessarily large bouquet of light pink roses. 

“Sorry,” Monty whispers into her ear as he hugs her. “Jas really wanted to one-up Bellamy.”

“Of course he did,” she laughs, shaking her head. 

“Thanks, you two.”

Looking down at the roses is what ultimately makes her lose her resolve. She starts sniffing and Jasper’s eyes widen.

“Raven! We brought on the Griffin tide again!”

“What the hell,” Raven mutters, pushing through the throngs of people. “How did you–” She looks at the roses, and an amused smile spreads on her face. “You idiots.”

“I just don’t know what I did to deserve all of you!” 

Octavia hugs her from behind. “You deserve it all, Clarke.” They all nod, and she turns around to bury her face in her neck.

“Thank you for doing this,” she mumbles into her shoulder. “I didn’t know I needed this.”

Octavia beams. “I like to think I know you better than most people.” 

Monty, Harper, Maya, and Jasper give her some final hugs before having to leave. After a few more minutes, Octavia claps loudly. “Let’s go, people!”

Clarke looks up in confusion. “Where are we going?”

“It’s tradition to go to Eden after showcases!” 

“You go to a bar after a showcase?”

“Yeah.” Octavia shrugs, as if it's self-explanatory. 

She frowns, looking down. “But we’re in our costumes.”

“That’s the fun of it!” 

 

And she has to admit, she’s right. It is really fun. And blissfully absurd. The medium sized bar is filled with the performers– wearing graceful tutus, wrap skirts, sparkling leotards– who are dancing sensually and freely on a less-than elegant dance floor. To less-than dignified music. 

“Come on!” Octavia drags the girls to the floor, while the guys plop down in a few tables on one side of the bar. 

They thread themselves through the crowd and stop in the middle, their bodies swaying and moving against the throngs of dancers around them. Raven, Delilah and Emori grab her hands and pull her arms up, twirling her in a circle. Her head is thrown back with laughter as they all spin and twist around each other, pressing up against some of the other performers, who greet them with smiling congratulations. 

It's then, ironically, in this sweaty, spirited, buoyant, overstimulating crowd, that she finally, truly thinks about what Octavia suggested. Should she add a dance minor?

It took her one night to feel accepted and loved by this community. She has some close friends from pre-med, but nothing like this. Nothing like these tangible, cathartic, unconfined relationships she’s forming as she’s embraced by each person on this dance floor. She can imagine herself doing this again, being here again. No, she wants to do this again. 

Octavia definitely notices the wave of palpable acceptance that rolls off her body, and she makes it a point to introduce her to every single person they run into. All of them see her costume and gasp in shock.

“You’re the ‘guest’?” A girl in a silky white Cinderella-esque skirt squeals. “Why the hell aren’t you in this major?”

She’s quickly friends with most of the people there– even faster than she usually makes friends– and truly, genuinely enjoys their company. No fake, restrained smiles at another guy in her psychiatry class who feigns impression, as he’s never seen ‘a girl in pre-med.’

They’re brought shots every once in a while, but even before the pleasant buzz sets in, even before she’s cheerfully tipsy– she knows that this is where she’s felt more welcomed than she has in a long, long time. 


[bellamy]

one hour ago

He shifts awkwardly in the lobby with everyone else, waiting for two flashes of seashells or blue skirts to exit the backstage doors. 

“You okay, man?” Murphy raises an eyebrow next to him.

“Yeah. All good.” He moves the bouquets from one hand to another. In his peripherals, he watches him and Miller roll their eyes. 

Suddenly, all of the performers spill out, and he can’t distinguish anybody in the lobby. Bodies buzz around him and squeals and shouts fill the air as the dancers meet their friends and families. It's hard to see or hear over the commotion and the dizzying flashes of tutus around him. 

“Jesus.” Miller presses his palm to his forehead. “I feel like I’m going to pass out.”

But he hears a familiar squeal, and shifts his head up to see Lincoln’s large frame swinging Octavia around. 

“O!” he yells, weaving through the crowd. “Congratulations.” He wraps her in a proud hug, pulling back and giving her the bouquet.

“Thanks, big brother.” She beams and eyes the other bouquet. “Cute!”

Jasper and Monty sprint over, handing her another (and bigger) bouquet. Miller and Murphy ruffle her hair and Emori hugs her fiercely. 

“Well done, Black Swan.” Murphy salutes.

“Baby Blake!” Raven and Shaw push over, followed by the rest of the girls. “You did amazing!” 

Among all the hugs and loud congratulations, he sighs as he tries to stretch his neck above the crowd. Finally, he sees a flash of sequins and dark blue swing behind him.

Her back is to him, Miller and Murphy on her other side. He scowls at them, and Miller smirks over her shoulder. Traitors. 

“Hey.”

She spins around and a grin inadvertently spreads on his face, seeing her frenzied eyes sparkle with adrenaline. They flicker down to the flowers in his hands. 

She tugs him into an eager hug. He wants to say something, but he’s overwhelmed by the sensation of her tiny arms wrapped around his shoulders and the press of her sheer costume on his own body.

“Thank you. It means a lot to me that you came.”

She’s flushed with exertion and excitement, and her irises gleam with a joy that he’s never seen. He finally manages to blurt out some words. 

“No problem.” He can’t help but lean down to kiss her. He tries to be gentle, but the way her entire body buzzes at this moment– it's intoxicating. It stirs something within him, and he starts to kiss her fiercely, raising his hands to bring her face closer to his. 

But, suddenly, he’s violently pushed aside, and he glowers at his interrupters. Monty shoots him a sheepish, apologetic smile as Jasper bounds forward to give Clarke her flowers and a hug.

Guessing that was the last moment he'd get with her in awhile, he retreats to Miller and Murphy, who just smirk at him. 

“Yikes.” Miller laughs. 

“Yep,” he sighs, leaning against the wall with them. 

After a few more chaotic minutes, Octavia leads them to Eden. The girls titter a few feet in front of them, chattering excitedly.

Clarke yelps when her skirt gets caught in a hole on the sidewalk, and he wants nothing more than to tear it off and haul her over his shoulder back to the house. But him and the rest of the guys leisurely stroll behind them.

“Don’t worry, man.” He hears Wells next to him. “She really doesn’t like telling people about her dancing. I don’t think she told anyone for a long time.”

“Okay,” he mumbles, kicking a rock.

He thinks back to their first date a few weeks ago, when Murphy insisted that he doesn’t know her at all. Which made– makes him frustrated. Looking a few feet in front of him, he hopes he truly does know the girl who trips on cracks in the sidewalks and gracefully spins on the stage. 

“Don’t mind him,” Murphy quips. “He’s just annoyed because I told him that he doesn’t know the Princess at all.”

Wells looks confused. “The way she talks about you, it seems like you know her almost as well as I do.”

He lifts his head up. “She talks about me?” 

“Yeah,” Wells rolls his eyes. “She talks about you. A lot.” 

“Don’t mind him, again,” Miller adds. “He’s also a moron.” 

Lincoln nods. “Agreed.”

“Pretty much.” Shaw shrugs.

“Fuck off.” He frowns, eyes still fixed on her. It’s unfair– how her pale legs look luminous in the moon, how the curls in her hair grow more loose every few minutes, how she waves her hands when she gets excited.

“Okay, geez,” Wells pushes him. “That’s like my sister. Stop staring at her like that.”

Miller and Murphy snicker. 

“I’m not even staring at Octavia like that,” Lincoln pipes up. 

“Not with Raven either."

“Okay, fuck!” Bellamy holds his hands up. “I’ll stop.”

He really tries for the rest of the walk there, but he just can’t.

 

Splitting off from the girls, they slump into a few tables in one of the corners of the bar. 

“Stout?” Shaw scans the table and receives a few nods. Miller and Wells accompany him to the bar.

He sighs, leaning his head back on the cushion of the booth. 

“You good?” Lincoln looks at him strangely. 

“Yeah. I just don’t feel well, I think.” He taps his fingers on the table.

Murphy scoffs. “Bullshit.”

He shoots him a glare. “Fuck off, Murphy.”

They return with the drinks, and they somehow settle into a conversation about their own relationships. Which makes him realize that he’s the only single one at the table. Kinda. 

“I asked Raven to marry me.” Shaw takes a long sip of his beer, and Murphy chokes on his.

“Hot damn! What did she say?” 

He huffs a laugh. “Well, initially, she just ran away.”

“What?” Wells raises an eyebrow, amused.

“I think it spooked her. But she talked to me the next day and said her answer is ‘yes, just not yet.’”

“Wow.” Miller sits back, impressed. “And Blake over there can’t even get laid.” 

Lincoln frowns. “You and Clarke haven’t–”

“No! And I don’t know why it matters!” He slams his glass down, a bit of beer splattering on the table.

“Told you.” He hears Murphy whisper to Shaw. “Touchy.”

“I agree,” Wells nods. “Also, I just don’t want to hear about Clarke’s sex life.” 

“It matters because you look like you’re going to jump her every time you see her.” Murphy rolls his eyes, and Bellamy winces. 

“See?” Murphy tips his glass towards him. 

“She was with a really awful guy before, okay?” he snaps. “He did some shitty things.”

Lincoln’s eyes widen. “Did he–”

“No. But he was still a piece of shit.”

Miller blinks. “Damn. Why didn’t you tell us that earlier?”

“Because it was none of your goddamn business!” He hears Wells sigh, probably disappointed that he let it slip.

“I remember.” Shaw nods reluctantly. “Finn. What a jackass.”

Lincoln frowns. “What happened?” 

He looks at Wells, who wearily nods back. “I need more alcohol before this,” he mutters. Some of them shout their orders and he returns with the drinks.

“It’s how her and Raven became close.” Wells swirls the whiskey in his hand. “He cheated on Raven with Clarke. But Clarke didn’t know that Raven existed.”

“What the hell?” Murphy sputters, looking at Shaw.

“Yeah,” Shaw huffs angrily. “Fuck him. He didn’t know Raven was coming to Ark U. She got into another engineering program.”

“But she got better financial aid here,” Bellamy finishes. “She surprised him.”

Wells takes a long sip of his beer. “And, he was definitely surprised when she showed up one day, as him and Clarke were about to go out together.”

Miller shakes his head with a frown. “What a jackass.”

“It messed them up,” Wells adds. “He also made Clarke feel horrible about herself.”

“What do you mean?” Lincoln raises his eyebrows. 

A deep scowl spreads on Wells’ face. “Used to tell her that she needs to lose weight. Watch what she eats.”

“What the hell?” Murphy kicks his feet up on the table. “But her body is–”

Bellamy snaps his head over. “You better not finish that sentence.”

Murphy rolls his eyes. “Her body is beautiful, Blake. Do you guys really think I’m incapable of empathy or kindness?”

“Sometimes, yeah.” Miller shrugs.

“That’s awful,” Lincoln shakes his head. “Octavia never mentioned that that’s how they met.”

Wells sighs. “Probably because it really fucked her up. She’s had trouble being... intimate with people, since then.”

They all sit back, in awe and in frustration.

“That’s so fucked up. Sorry for being a dick about it, Blake,” Murphy looks at him.

“Same,” Miller adds.

“Just don’t spread this shit. I can tell it makes her upset.”

“Yeah, if she can resist the sex god himself,” Murphy shakes his head solemnly. “That’s how you know it's serious.” 

He wants to snap at him, but he can tell he's trying to support him in his weird, Murphy way. His lips quirk up in a smile.

Shaw looks at all of them. “Are the rest of you pretty serious with your partners?”

“Honestly.” Miller sets his glass down, contemplative. “I’m really into Jackson. It seems serious to me.” 

Him and Murphy raise their eyebrows. “Damn,” Bellamy says, surprised. “Didn’t know that.” 

“I’m serious about Delilah, for sure.” Wells leans back. “She’s actually the first girl I’ve brought home to my parents. Not counting Clarke.”

They raise their eyebrows.

“Listen. It’s not exactly easy when your dad is a senator.”

“Emori and I have talked about what we’re doing next. It’s always been serious.”

Lincoln gasps. “Murphy? Serious?”

“When it comes to my girl, I am."

“Look at us,” Shaw chuckles. “Having sleepover talk.”

Wells toasts. “We’re a lucky few.”

His eyes instinctively flicker to the dance floor, searching for the flash of blonde hair. He catches it as she dances with a girl he recognizes from the show. Her eyes twinkle as they twirl together; he’s never seen her like that– completely unbarred, refusing to navigate any social niceties. He watches her arms dangle over her, head thrown back in laughter. Her skirt picks up with every turn, every spin, every step. She looks free. Free from holding her hurt close to her heart, free from carrying everyone else’s pain. And just beautiful doesn’t do it justice.

Flashes from the last month tangle in his head– her on the floor, at the rose garden, in her bed, in his bed, in Color Me Mine, on the football field. Right now. 

And it all stirs something so deep inside of him, something confusing, hard to reach, something that constricts his chest. Makes him grip the edge of the table and press his legs deeper into the ground. He slumps back against the booth, clearing his throat.

“I think I’m in–”

“We know, dude.” Miller sighs. “We know.”

Chapter Text

[clarke]

 

Even though she’s in the middle of this chaotic, mosh pit of ballerinas, she can feel his eyes on her every once in a while. Which just makes her want to dance more, flipping her hair and twirling her hips alluringly. 

“Stop showing off,” Octavia’s laugh rings in her ear. “You don’t need to, I promise.”

She rolls her eyes and turns around so Octavia can drag her to another cluster of dancers. 

“This is Niylah,” Octavia practically screams over the pulsating beat. “She’s the best lyrical dancer in the major.” 

“Nice to meet you, ‘guest partner’,” Niylah laughs. “I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times tonight, but–”

“Why isn’t she a dance major?” Raven walks over with four shots in hand. “It’s the longest, most boring story, ever.”

“Oh?” Niylah raises her eyebrows. “Maybe you can tell me over coffee sometime?” 

“Sure!” She smiles and nods, a bit breathless from the hybrid of dancing and constant conversation. The three of them clink their shot glasses and throw them back. After a few minutes, Raven pulls her back.

“I thought you liked Bellamy, Clarke?” Delilah cocks her head, arms on her shoulders. 

She frowns. “I mean, yeah, of course I like him. I’ve been going on dates with him for a month now.”

“Then why were you flirting with blonde fairy over there?” Raven breaks into their grip on each other. 

“Niylah?” She raises an eyebrow. “I wasn’t. I was wondering if she could help me refine my lyrical skills.”

Octavia hops in. “Well, she was definitely flirting with you.”

“Flirty eyes.” Emori nods. 

“More like sex eyes,” Raven snorts.

“Plus, you two were like, grinding on each other!”

“Um, everyone in this bar is grinding on each other!”  

“Fine. Fair,” Emori nods. “I just think you should make it clear that you’re taken.”

“But, I’m not in a relationship!”

“A situationship is still a ‘ship’!” Octavia chimes in. 

She sighs. “Okay, I’ll make it clear! I didn’t know!”

“I only say this because a jealous brother,” Octavia slings an arm over her shoulder. “is a pathetic brother.”


[bellamy]

 

Breathing hard, he’s been watching Clarke and the blonde girl talk to each other for ten minutes now. An amalgamation of envy, dejection, and frustration swirl in his slightly-buzzed brain.

“Damn,” Murphy whistles. “Her and the Princess look good together.” 

“Murphy!” Wells frowns, shoving his feet off of the table.

“What? It's true!” 

“Dude,” Shaw kicks his leg under the table. “Don’t be intimidated. The way she talks about you– shit, the way she looks at you doesn’t even come close to how she’s looking at that chick."

“Whatever,” he grumbles, standing up. “I need more alcohol.” 

Miller shoots Lincoln a knowing look and he stands up, going to the bar with him. 

Lincoln walks next to him, purposefully blocking his view of her. “Don’t freak out. I think half of those girls are flirting with Octavia, too.”

“Yeah, but Octavia isn’t into girls,” he sighs, waving at the bartender. He hesitates and turns to Lincoln.

“Wait, is she? It's totally fine if she is, I’d support her no matter what, but–”

“Chill, man.” He claps a hand on his shoulder, amused. “Not that I’m aware of. But if I know anything, it's that she’s a free spirit.”

He nods and the bartender comes back with a shot of tequila. He throws it back. 

“Another.”

Lincoln looks a bit concerned, and puts a hand on his arm. “Don’t do this, man.”

“Fuck off, Lincoln. I’m an adult.”

Lincoln sighs and raises his hands. “Alright. Let’s just go back.” 

Wells rubs his forehead when he sees them return, and Lincoln shoots the group a helpless glance. 

“Alright, then,” Murphy clears his throat, raising his glass. “To dancing, and shit!”


[clarke]

 

After another hour, everyone is thoroughly exhausted, and starts to file out of the bar. They head back to the guys, most of whom are drunk out of their minds.

She looks at Miller in amusement. “Sober sister?”

He sighs. “Unfortunately. Each of you is responsible for your own idiot.”

Wells grins widely when he sees Delilah, placing a wet kiss on her cheek, and Murphy practically stumbles onto Emori. Lincoln is just tipsy, and he twines his fingers with Octavia, with a soft smile. 

“Come on, moron.” Raven grabs Shaw by the waist. 

She shuffles over to Bellamy, with a smile, and holds a hand out. “Ready to go?” 

He looks up, clearly annoyed, and ignores her hand, pushing himself out of the booth. Which doesn’t go too well, as Miller has to catch him as he almost tumbles to the ground. 

He looks at her apologetically. “Maybe I’ll take care of this one.”

“Okay. I’ll stay with you, though.” He looks at her warily, but nods.

After they all make the walk back to campus, and reach the front door of the house, Miller sends her a cautious look. “I promised Jackson I’d head over after the showcase, could you help–”

Bellamy mumbles a ‘I don’t need help’, and Miller rolls his eyes.  

She nods, wrapping an arm around his waist as they walk inside. “I got him.”

As Emori walks Murphy up the stairs to his own room, she looks back at her. “Godspeed, my girl.” She muffles a laugh as she leads Bellamy into his own room, laying him down on his bed. 

“Be right back."

When she returns with a glass of water, he’s dead asleep on his stomach. Sighing, she sits down on the bed to turn him onto his side.

“No,” he whines, trying to turn back over. She can’t help but smile. It's kinda adorable.

“I can’t have you laying on your stomach." She presses her hands onto his shoulders to keep him upright. He reaches forward to grab her shirt, but he ends up frowning at the feel of the sequins.

“Can you sit up for a second?” she says softly, pushing the hair out of his face. He huffs, but leans up on his arm. She puts a hand on his chin and brings the glass of water to his mouth, but he gets annoyed after a bit, and flops back down.

“Good enough, I guess.” She pats his shoulder and lifts off his bed, but his arm flings out and pulls on her skirt, making it unravel next to him.

“Can you stay?” he mumbles into his pillow. 

The question tugs at her heart, mostly because he never asks her for anything. Or asks anyone for anything, really.

After finding some sweatpants and a shirt from his dresser, she crawls back into bed, and sighs at the sight of him on his stomach, again. 

“I got sad.”

She frowns, disheartened that he felt sad on a night where she experienced nothing but happiness. “Why were you sad?”

“That’s why I asked for all the tequila in the whole world," he mumbles.

She laughs quietly and touches his cheek. “Why did you?” 

“I wanted to dance with you."

Even the darkness can’t shroud the sheer size of her smile. “I wanted to dance with you, too.” 

“Not with the other girl?” he murmurs. 

She pauses, eyebrows gathered in confusion. Other girl? Niylah? Maybe the girls were right.

“Only you. I promise.” She flicks a curl out of his eyes. 

He doesn’t say anything, and the slow rise and fall of his chest makes her breathe a long sigh of relief. Eventually, her own adrenaline fades, and exhaustion replaces it.


[bellamy]

 

The sound of his own blood pumping in his ears is what wakes him up. Not the light that painfully hits the back of his own eyelids, not the overwhelming nausea, not the heat that spreads over his body as he lays in last night’s clothes. 

Eventually, he succumbs to the nausea and sprints to the bathroom. He hears the door click open and Murphy stills in shock.

“Blake? Hungover?” He walks away and comes back with a glass of water. “Haven’t seen that in years.”

The throbbing in his head doesn’t allow for a snarky comeback, so he just flushes the toilet and sits back against the bathtub. 

“What the hell even happened?” 

“Well,” Miller leans against the door, bottle of aspirin in hand. “You got jealous-drunk.”

He takes the aspirin and water. “Fuck.”

“Do you at least remember the showcase?” Miller raises his eyebrows.

“Of course I remember,” he snaps, closing his eyes. He couldn’t forgive himself if he didn’t remember Octavia or Clarke’s routine.

Murphy crosses his arms. “The bar?” 

“Nope.” 

“Well,” Miller offers him a hand, and helps him stand up. “You saw Clarke dancing with another chick and you went nuts.”

“To be fair, it really did look like they were flirting and going to fuck later. It wasn’t that irrational.”

“John,” Emori snaps, pushing him out of the way. “Come on. Let’s get you back to bed.”

She leads him to his room and throws pajamas at him. As he settles back into the sheets, he looks to his nightstand and sees a pile of clothes with a post-it on top. He reaches over and grabs it, glancing at the neat handwriting. 

sorry for borrowing without asking. water, aspirin, and rest today, ok? doctor’s orders. 

Hands scrambling in the comforter to find his phone, he curses himself for missing the chance to see her in his sweatpants.

 

Today, 12:45 PM

 

12:45 PM

You’re one of the four people in this

world that’s seen me sloppy 

 

12:45

So you’re bound to secrecy forever

 

12:46

But seriously, thanks for putting up w

me last night

Clarke

12:50 PM

He wakes!

 

12:51 

My lips are sealed. And no problem. :) 

 

12:53

I was surprised.

12:54 PM

Oh god

 

12:55

At what?

Clarke

12:57 PM

At the kind of drunk you are.

12:59 PM

I’ve been told I’m pretty 

normal, occasionally aggressive

 

Clarke

1:01 PM

Hm. Maybe you’re different 

with me. 

 

He smothers his face with his pillow. What the hell did he say to her?

 

1:04 PM

What??

Clarke

1:05 PM

As you said

 

1:06

Taking it to the grave.

1:07 PM

I hate you

Clarke

1:08 PM

No, you don’t.

1:08 PM

No, I don’t

Clarke

1:13 PM

How’s the PhD stuff? Did

you talk to your prof about

program recs?

 

He rests his phone on his chest, thinking back to last Friday.

“Mr. Blake,” Professor Diyoza called him in after class. “I’m assuming that you’re still looking to apply for PhD programs next year.”

He nodded, readjusting the strap of his bag on his shoulder. “I am, yes.”

She gathered her papers on the lectern. “I know you’ll talk with your advisor next semester, but if you applied at the end of this academic year, I’d imagine you could graduate as a junior and head straight into Ark U’s program.” 

His eyes widened a bit. “I would be interested in that, definitely.”

“You’d have to check that you meet the graduation requirements, of course.” She cleared her throat, facing him. “But our PhD programs in history are among the best in the country. We would be lucky to have a mind like yours.”

“Thank you,” he shook her hand, trying to hide his excitement. “I’ll look into it.”

 

He hasn’t told anybody about Diyoza’s advice, not even Octavia. He wants to keep his options open; he didn’t even know what schools he wanted to apply to, yet. But if he could start on a PhD a year early– that means one year closer to being a professor, and frankly, one year closer to a lofty income for him to support him and Octavia. 

He calls Clarke instead.

“Hey!” He hears quiet shuffling and the slam of a door. “How are you feeling?”

“Better. Where are you?”

“Library. Psych exam tomorrow.”

“Texting while studying. Not typical nerd behavior.” 

“Shut up. You're the nerd. Go teach students about the Byzantine Empire and do your research on Roman monarchs. Weirdo. And don’t forget about the Presidential Ball this Friday.”

He frowns. “I thought the VP wasn't required to go to that?”

She’s silent for a few seconds. “Oh. Okay. No worries. Gotta go back to studying. Bye!” she chirps, and the line goes dead. 

He pushes himself out of his bed, hopping down the stairs. “Did you guys know about this Ball thing on Friday?”

They both look at him quizzically. “I mean… yeah,” Murphy says slowly. “We figured we’d all go get our tuxes together.”

“Tuxes? What the hell are you guys talking about? Since when do any of us go to these things?”

“Since Clarke became president and we became her friends." Emori's voice sounds from the couch.

“Oh. It’s open to the student body?” 

Emori rolls her eyes. “Yeah. The girls and I are going dress shopping on Wednesday after class. Haven’t you been listening to Clarke gush about it for weeks?”

“Yes!” He flops down on the couch. “But I thought it was just for the student government kids.”

Miller sits down next to him. “Well, clearly you haven’t been listening well. We just assumed all of us were going together.”

“Oh. Shit. That’s why she sounded weird on the phone.”

“Oh, for fucks sake," Murphy yells from the kitchen. “Did you tell her you weren’t going?”

“I didn’t know anyone was going!”

“She’s the goddamn President! Of course she wants her date to be next to her!”

They all groan when they see his puzzled face. “Technically, we’re not together.” 

Emori sighs. “Well, you should tell her that you didn’t know. Or she’ll probably take someone else.”

He has to admit, the thought of anyone else being her date makes him panic a bit.

“Shit. Okay." He fumbles with his phone and sends her a quick apology, and sees that he has a missed call and text from Octavia.

O

1:23 PM

are u a dumbass?????????

1:36 PM

I don’t know how to 

respond to that 

O

1:37 PM

c just texted me for niylah’s

NUMBER cuz APAPRENTLY 

 

1:37

APPARENTLY *

 

1:37

ur not GOING TO 

THE BALL?????????

1:38 PM

I didn’t realize it was 

for the entire study body!

O

1:38 PM

well then you're a dumbass!!

now shes going w niylah so

good job idiot

1:38 PM

Who? 

O

1:39 PM

omg. you got sooooo

jealous of her at the bar......

she was all up on her 

 

He freezes, the memory coming back to him. “Fuck.” 

Emori rolls her eyes. “There it is.”

1:39 PM

Where is she rn? 

O

1:40 PM

the lib.

1:41 PM

I know, but which one? 

 

1:41

Don’t you all have that 

creepy tracker things on 

your phones? 

O

1:41 PM

its not creepy its for safety

 

1:41

and shes at bowie

 

He changes, grabs his bag and textbooks from his room, and speeds past the living room. “Be back later.”

“Run, Forrest, run!” Murphy calls as he pushes through the door.

A few minutes later, he’s in the staircase of the Bowie Library, scanning the floor outline. She doesn’t like studying in complete silence, so she’s probably on the quiet floor.

He climbs to the third floor and scans the bookshelves. Sure enough, in the third aisle next to the large windows, he sees her and Raven, laptops out. 

He walks over and sits down in the chair next to her, startling both of them.

“Jesus, Blake! You can’t just apparate from the middle of nowhere.” 

“Bellamy?” Clarke whispers. “What are you doing here?”  

Pulling out his own laptop, he leans closer to her. “Don’t ask Niylah.”

“What?” 

“Don’t ask Niylah. Go to the ball with me.”

“Wow,” Raven gasps sarcastically, placing a hand over her heart. “So romantic!” 

She looks at her phone, and he worries that she had already texted her. “I thought you didn’t want to?”

“I swear, I didn’t know it was open to the student body,” he whispers. “I thought it was just you and the rest of the student government. I figured as much from the name.”

“Do you listen, ever?” Raven hisses and kicks him under the table.

“I’m sorry! I swear I didn’t know.”

She stares at him for a few seconds before a small smile spreads on her face. “Okay. Do you know–”

“Yes. I’ll go with the guys to get the tuxes and whatever.”

“‘Tuxes and whatever’,” Raven mocks, glaring at him. “You’ve got a keeper, Griffin.”

“You didn’t have to run all the way over here all dramatically. You could’ve just texted.”

He shrugs. “I have to do work anyways.”

“Well, no one invited you,” Raven snaps, aggressively flipping a page of her textbook.

“Raven!” s

Raven purses her lips. “Fine. If you shut up and don’t distract me, you can stay.”

They study together for the rest of the day. But he doesn’t pay much attention to the religions in the Ottoman Empire, especially when she leans over to hold his hand under the table. 

Chapter Text

[clarke]

 

“Ew. That’s hideous.”

Octavia wrinkles her nose as she walks out and inspects her third dress in the mirror.

Clarke sighs, working on her drawing assignment on a bench next to the dressing room. “Octavia, all of them look beautiful.”

“Plus,” Harper chirps, walking out of her own room. “We need to tell the guys soon so they can get the right colors for their tuxes.”

“But none of them are the one,” Octavia says wistfully. “This is the closest thing I have to prom. And Bell 'forbade' me from going to mine in high school. Let me have this.”

Raven rolls her eyes as she walks out in a scarlet gown with a slit up the thigh. “This one seems good. Thoughts?” 

“Beautiful!” Maya squeals, hopping up from the bench to help her with the zipper. 

Harper nods thoughtfully. “Sexy, but subtle. Emulates Raven. Approved. Next!”

Emori hobbles out in a dark blue dress, a silver band cinching the waist. “I like it. But how the hell are we supposed to walk in these all night?”

She trips on the fabric, and Delilah reaches forward to catch her. “The heels will help."

“Cheerfully approved. Next!”

“Okay. I think this is it!” Octavia walks out in a lace, corseted black dress.

They all gasp. “Holy shit, Octavia.” She puts her pencil down. “You look beautiful.”

“The sexiest black swan I've ever seen!” Harper claps. “Approved.”

“Who made you head of the dress committee, Harp?”

“Me. Next!” 

Maya walks out in an airy, cotton candy colored dress, flowers sweeping up the side.

“What the hell?” Harper’s eyes widen. “All of my friends are so hot!”

Maya giggles and twirls. “Approved. Next!”

After she signs off on both her and Delilah’s gowns, Harper’s eyes snap to Clarke.

“Okay. You’ve delayed us long enough. Time for you.”

She sighs. “I don’t know how to choose a dress.”

"Don’t worry!” Octavia pushes the curtain of a dressing room open, revealing multiple dresses hung on the wall. “Already done.”

The girls can tell she’s still a bit hesitant, so Raven nudges her. “You’re President Griffin, now. You have to look hot.”

A bit deflated, she walks slowly into the dressing room. “Yeah, but half of the student body still doesn’t think I should be.”

“Well, fuck them!” Delilah yells, and the girls cheer in agreement. 

After walking out in multiple dresses and receiving rejections each time, she sighs. “Can’t I just wear something from my own closet?”  

“No!” Maya insists. “Just three more! Almost there.”

She tugs the latest one on and pauses as she looks in the dressing room mirror. This one isn’t so bad; it’s light gold, with a strapless bodice. Pretty embroidery. Layers on layers of tulle. When she walks out, they all look at her with wide eyes.

“Well?” 

“You look stunning, Clarke!” Harper says in awe. 

“Holy hell,” Raven muffles a laugh. “Blake’s going to have a heart attack.”

“Or a stroke,” Octavia muses. 

Maya blinks. “The whole student body is going to have a heart attack.”

“Approved! Approved!” 

Relieved that the dress part is over, she starts to brainstorm ideas for her speech.


[bellamy]

 

“Why did she have to pick black?” Lincoln sighs. “I look like the Phantom of the Opera, or some shit.”

Shaw tugs at his collar. “I kind of feel like one of those old movie theatre attendants." 

“I think it looks nice,” Monty shrugs. “At least you don’t have pale pink.” 

“I knew she’d choose dark blue,” Murphy tightens his jacket smugly. “I look sexy in dark blue.” 

“I don’t even know what color this is." Jasper frowns, picking at his pink-blue vest. 

“The purple looks okay, right?” Wells looks down. They all nod. 

“Classy,” Jasper muses.

Miller and Jackson sit to the side, amused looks on their faces. 

Murphy frowns. “Why do you assholes just get to wear regular ones?” 

They shrug. “Traditional black and white works fine for us." Miller nods, smiling and holding Jackson's hand. 

“Ugh,” Murphy wrinkles his nose. “Nauseating.” 

Lincoln raises his eyebrows. “That’s bold, Blake.”  

He winces, looking down at the gold vest. “There’s no way she picked out a gold dress on her own.”

They all snicker. “It was probably Octavia." 

Wells rolls his eyes and puts a hand on his shoulder. “Ignore them. It looks good, man. And it only matters what she thinks.”

“Yeah, well, she’ll think that he looks like King Midas himself,” Murphy cackles. 

“She looks good in gold, too,” Wells smiles, nudging him. “When we went to freshman year homecoming together in high school, she wore a gold thing. It was nice.” Bellamy arches an eyebrow, and he laughs.

“Always as friends, dude. Nothing there.”

“Honestly, I feel kinda shitty for not remembering all of this shit about the Ball. So, I just want to make sure she has a good time.”

Murphy snorts. “Whipped." 

Lincoln hesitates for a moment. “You should tell her tomorrow, man.” 

“Agreed,” Miller pipes up, and Jackson nods. 

“You told him?” he snaps at Miller. “No offense, Jackson.”

“He’s my boyfriend!”

“Not a problem.” Miller and Jackson speak at the same time.

Monty raises an eyebrow. “Tell her what?”

Murphy whistles. “What would be more romantic than telling a girl that you love her at a fancy ball?”

“You love her?” Monty chokes out, a skeptical look written on his face. 

Jasper narrows his eyes. “If you’re just fucking around right now…” 

“Jesus.” He hears Murphy mutter to Shaw. “I never knew Goggles could be so agro.”

“You haven’t seen the half of it.”

He exhales, exasperatedly. “I’m not. I swear."

Jasper walks up to him, scrutinizing him for an uncomfortable few moments. He steps back and nods. “I like you better and better every day, Fuckboy."

Miller huffs a laugh. “They call you ‘Fuckboy’?” And they all dissolve into laughter. 

“Jasper!” Monty hisses. “Clarke is going to kill you!”

He shrugs with a lopsided grin. “Oops.”


[clarke]

 

Friday night, they’re all getting ready in Clarke and Harper’s room. Excluding Delilah, who would be arriving with Wells later. 

Octavia releases a curl from the iron while Maya swipes gold eyeshadow on her lids. “Isn’t this a bit much?”

“It’s a ball, Clarke,” Harper rolls her eyes from her bed, where she’s doing Raven’s hair. “Everything will be ‘a bit much.’”

Emori stumbles around the room, trying to get used to the heels. “Don't worry. You won’t be nearly as embarrassing as I’m going to be."

“You got it,” Octavia yells over her shoulder. “Small steps!” 

“He’s going to think you look beautiful,” Maya smiles at her, brush in hand. “Don’t worry.”

Pink tinges her cheeks. “I’m not just nervous about that. I have my speech, too, you know.”

“You give speeches every week in Debate Club." 

“But this is in front of a lot of people!”

Raven rolls her eyes. “At Nationals, you spoke in front of ten colleges.”

Octavia finishes the last curl, running her fingers through her hair. “Seriously. My brother is head over heels for you. Literally. Like, I’ve seen him trip when he walks, because he’s staring at you.”

Emori frowns. “I don’t understand. He keeps saying you two aren’t together. But you're so couple-y.” 

“I don’t know. He hasn’t spoken about it, and neither have I. Ever since he said stuff was casual at game night.”

“Yeah, but that was weeks ago!”

She stands up after Octavia and Maya finish. “Maybe I’m just wary because he just got out of a relationship, too." 

Octavia scoffs. “Oh please. Him and Gina stopped being together as soon as he met you.”

She bristles. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing," she mutters.

“She means that you're in love with him, idiot."

All the girls turn to look at Raven, frowning. 

She shrugs. “Sorry. I couldn’t take the stupidity anymore.”

Clarke frowns, her heart beating a bit faster. “I’m not in love with him. I hardly know him. And I wanted to choke him not that long ago.”

“I loved Jasper before we started officially dating,” Maya chirps, smiling fondly. “I don’t think it was love at first sight. But the first time he made me laugh– that’s when I knew.” 

Raven starts helping Harper with her hair. Yeah, I mean, love at first sight is a bunch of bullshit, but, I told you guys, I literally fell for Zeke. I tripped myself so he’d talk to me.”

Clarke braids two pieces of her hair back. “How did you know that was love?” 

Raven shrugs. “Just knew.”

She swallows, reevaluating the last few months. The ways they’ve looked at each other in class, during the debates, in the football stadium, in the rose garden. Last weekend, when her eyes met his in the front row. She shuffles through this chronicle of all of their gazes, pulling each emotion and moment together like string.

Her mind can map how each instance was reflected in the flecks of black, how his pupils dilated every time their bodies were pressed against one another. And, finally, she can collect each breath, each sigh, each laugh, each whisper like a pleasant cacophony, a soundtrack in her mind that she can play over, and over again.

Fuck.

Emori clears her throat. “Clarke?”

She snaps her head over. “Yeah?”

“I asked if you could help me with my dress.”

“Oh. Of course.” 

As the girls all shimmy in their dresses, she hears someone change the music into a familiar Disney song. 

If there’s a prize for rotten judgement,” Octavia sings, reaching out to Harper. 

I guess I’ve already won that….” Harper sighs wistfully. 

She rolls her eyes. “Hilarious.”

But they keep singing, until the music swells.

No chance, no way!” All the girls (except Raven) shriek. “I won’t say I’m in love!”

They sing into their brushes, flitting around Clarke. “You swoon, you sigh, why deny it uh-oh!

“Raven,” her eyes are pleading. “Make it stop.”

“Okay, Muses. We have to catch the bus to the museum. Shut up and come on.”

Maya sighs, carrying her speaker with them as they grab their jackets, until the end of the song.

At least, out loud…” she draws out. “I won’t say I’m in….

Loooooooooove...” Octavia, Harper and Emori finish with a dreamy sigh. 

“Okay. Now we’re done." Octavia nods, and they flounce out the door. 


A large banner spelling ‘Ark U Presidential Ball’ hangs across the large pillars of the towering building, each one lit up by purple and gold. 

Wells grins brightly as they meet, pulling her into a hug. “You look beautiful.” 

Delilah hugs her next. “I can’t believe they just throw events like this at the National Gallery of Art!” 

Raven slowly nods her head. “Ark U has ridiculously rich trustees. The alma mater of way too many congresspeople and lawyers."

“Shall we?” Octavia loops her arm around hers.

They’re all a bit startled when they enter the museum. They've hung a large chandelier holding the banners of various campus organizations from the ceiling. The ARK brotherhood’s banner is noticeably not present among the rest of the Greek orgs.

Waiters with champagne flutes (probably with apple cider) flit around them. Circular tables with white tablecloths and fancy flower centerpieces are spattered across the room. And regal, orchestral music swells around them. 

Harper blinks. “I can’t tell if I’m impressed or overwhelmed.”

“Do we just take a table?” Maya frowns.

“Uh,” she picks at her nails in embarrassment. “Marcus told me that there’s one reserved for me and my guests.” 

Raven raises an eyebrow. “I’m really hoping we’re the guests.”

She rolls her eyes. “Come on.” They travel to a table that’s situated right in front of the sprawling, raised stage. 

Emori whistles. “I’m assuming that’s where the speeches are happening."

“This isn’t fair.” Wells frowns as they all settle into their chairs. “My two Presidential balls weren’t nearly as nice as this.”

“Yeah, well our Dean is also practically our President’s adoring step parent." Raven hangs her jacket over the back of her chair. Delilah and Emori look surprised.

She glares at Raven and sighs. "My mother is dating Marcus. Dean Kane. We’re quite close. Pretty much the only reason we got out of that messy academic strike situation.” Octavia looks a bit guilty, but she gives her a reassuring smile.

Across the table, she sees Harper beam over her shoulder. Turning around, she perks up a bit, seeing Jasper and Monty approaching them with the rest of the guys.

As she watches each of them sweep up their respective date, all of the ‘you look stunning’s and ‘you look so handsome!’s and Raven’s ‘you look sexy as hell’ cloud her hearing, but she still can't see Bellamy.

“Wow, Princess," Murphy raises his eyebrows as they all settle into their own seats. “You clean up well. And we get the VIP treatment.”

“What he means to say is ‘thank you’, and that you look beautiful,” Miller rolls his eyes. “This is Jackson, by the way.” They all greet him with smiles. 

Trying to sort through the clamor around her, she looks between Murphy and Miller. “Where’s Bellamy?”

“Oh, right.” Shaw takes off his suit jacket. “He went to coat check with all of our shit.”

Her frown intensifies. “But we just brought our coats in.”

“Oh. We didn’t know that."

Octavia pats her arm. “Don’t worry. He’ll be here soon.”

Staring at the empty seat next to her, she really hopes Octavia is right.


[bellamy]

(a few minutes ago) 


“Damn.” 

They all stare up at the museum pillars in awe. “They really go all out for these things, huh?”

In his peripherals, he sees Monty and Jasper share a look, but he doesn’t press further.

Murphy adjusts his collar. “Well, friends. Now or never.” 

When they walk in, they halt in shock, once again. “Is someone going to pop out and tell us we’ve all won cars, or something?”

Lincoln plucks a champagne flute from a walking server and drinks it. He makes a face and sets it back down. 

“What should we do with all of our shit?” Murphy says loudly. 

“Can you at least try to not be a vulgar idiot tonight?”

“The Princess isn’t even around, Blake. Calm down.”

They hear someone clear their throat behind them. “Coat check is downstairs, if you so desire.” One of the waiters nods to the elevator to their right.

All of the men turn to him. 

He backs away. “No. Clarke will kill me if I’m late.”

“It’ll just take a minute, man." Miller throws him his jacket. Murphy and Lincoln follow, and even Jasper and Monty walk forward and place their own on top of the pile. 

Monty pats his shoulder. “Sorry, man.”

They wave back at him and walk further into the ballroom. He sighs and trods to the elevator, adjusting the jackets in his hands.

“You the coat mule, too?”

He looks over at a guy next to him. “Guess so."

The elevator door dings open and the two men press the button to go to the basement. Leaning his head back against the wall, he tries his best to manage the uncomfortable silence. The dot above the door slowly ticks down one floor, another, and–

A piercing screech echoes around them as the elevator shakes violently. The coats from both of their hands fling across the small space, and the two men reflexively place their palms against the elevator walls to steady themselves. 

“Holy fuck." He breathes, when it stops quivering. The realization hits him forcefully, and dread settles over him. 

The other guy frowns and presses the ‘open door’ button over and over. Nothing.

“Oh, fuck. Please tell me that we’re not really stuck in a fucking elevator.”

He seems equally as spooked. “I wish I could.” 


[clarke]

 

A few minutes later, when mostly everyone is in their seats, her leg bounces vigorously under the table, and her anxiety grows.

“Clarke,” Octavia reaches over to put a hand on her thigh. “If you keep that up, you’ll rip the seams.”

She looks down at her hands. “I just... Would he bail on me?”

A half-disappointed and half-angry look descends on Octavia's face, and she turns to the men. “Why did you idiots make him take the coats?” 

The men wince, guilt on their faces, and Lincoln tries to place his hand on hers, which she brushes off. 

“We swear we didn’t know he’d dip–” Murphy starts, but Miller elbows him roughly.

Jackson nods. “I’m sure he’s just held up in line, Clarke. Don’t worry.”

“But everyone is here now.”

They all hesitate.

“Text him,” Jasper whispers sharply to Miller, who nods. 

She tries to calm down, assuring himself that it's only been a few minutes, anyway. Maybe he went to the bathroom.

But, despite all the excuses she’s telling herself, a deep feeling of unease starts to spread in her chest.


[bellamy]

 

The two stand in shock for a bit. But the other guy breathes out deeply. 

“Okay, it's fine. We’ll press the alarm, use the call button, and just notify the museum managers. All good.”

Bellamy nods and pulls out his phone as he forcefully presses on the red alarm button, the shrill sound piercing his ears. He texts her, Murphy, and Miller. 

 

6:51 PM

The fucking elevator is broken

 

6:51

Stuck w another guy

 

6:51 

Tell one of the museum managers,

be out soon 


A few seconds later, his chest constricts. Not delivered

He texts furiously, moving to Octavia, Emori, Lincoln. Not delivered.

"Fuck!" he yells and throws his phone after seeing zero bars at the top of his screen.

The guy winces as it hits the wall opposite him. “No service?”

His jaw twitches as he shakes his head.

They don’t speak for another ten minutes, the ear splitting alarm adding to his rage, as the other guy continues to spam the ‘call’ button.  

“Well. I pressed the elevator call button, and this thing–”

“Obviously no one fucking hears,” Bellamy snaps. “Stop that shit.”

The guy swallows, taking his finger off of the red button. 

He sinks to the ground, head in his hands. She’s going to kill him. 

Actually, no. That’s not true. Octavia might kill him, but she’ll just look at him with that heartbreakingly sad, disappointed face. So, he wallows in his guilt for the next few minutes.

“Fuck." 

He’s not sure how much time has passed. A significant amount, at least. His body burns with frustration, and he stands up hastily, forcing his fingers into the crack of the door and tugging it back with everything he has. His fingers dent small holes into the metal, but the door doesn’t move.

“Hey, man.” The other guy clears his throat, gesturing to the dents. “Obviously you’re, uh, strong, but I don’t think that’s going to work.”

“Well, do you have any better fucking ideas?" He shrinks a bit, and Bellamy deflates. 

“Sorry.” He sinks down to the floor again. “I don’t mean to be an asshole. I just… it’s so fucking important for me to be out there, right now. I'll get my ass kicked by at least half a dozen people if I’m not there soon.”

The guy sighs, sinking down opposite of him. “I know. Me too.”


[clarke]

 

She's pretty much hopeless, now.

It's 7:15, and introductions are now underway. The Provost starts welcoming everyone, and will soon introduce Marcus. And then, she’d be giving her own remarks at 7:30. 

Octavia tries to leave the table to call him, but she furiously returns, stomping as she weaves around the tables. “They won’t let us fucking leave the room. What if they’re barring him from entering?”

So, instead, everyone has taken turns simply calling him at the table, which annoys the hell out of the Provost, and the people at the tables around them. And each time, as they put the phone down with a dejected face, her heart sinks lower, and lower.

Octavia grips her phone so hard she thinks it’ll break, and Raven is ripping into Shaw, insisting that she ‘knows that the rest of them are idiots, but what the fuck is wrong with you’? Harper and Maya are in similar conversations with Monty and Jasper. 

Despite their quiet tones, the collective whispering creates quite a stir at the front of the ballroom, and the Provost has to move closer to the mic to talk over them. Delilah sits next to her, rubbing her hand, while Wells texts all of his contacts in the grad program, asking if any of them are late, and can visit the coat check. 

“It’s not worth it, Wells. He probably just bailed. He didn’t even want to come to this.”

“With our coats, though?” Emori jabs Murphy with her elbow. 

“Guys, stop,” she hisses at everyone at the table, and they all turn to her. “Marcus is about to speak and my speech is after. Let’s deal with this later, okay?”

The men exhale in relief, and the women nod begrudgingly. Quiet settles over their table.


[bellamy]

 

Bellamy scoffs. “I definitely think the ass kicking I get will be significantly worse than your ass kicking.” 

“Try me.” He closes his eyes, leaning his head back. “I’m a representative of student government. Which gives me a stipend. Which pays for my rent. So my ass kicking includes me getting fired and being evicted.”

“Oh, shit.” Bellamy’s eyes widen. “Okay. That’s pretty bad.” 

He sighs heavily, and nods. “And your ass-kicking?”

Maybe God will take mercy on him if he pathetically bonds with this random kid in an elevator. “I was going to tell this girl that I loved her tonight.” 

He raises his eyebrows. “Yikes.”

“Yeah. Big yikes.” 


[clarke]

 

Marcus is in the middle of his remarks, and she feels the entire table’s gazes on her, just waiting for her to break down.

But she pushes the feelings of rejection aside, and focuses on her speech. She was pretty enthusiastic about being able to speak at all. And, part of her still is, despite the stress of the last forty-five minutes. Plus, listening to Marcus speak always calms her down.

Although, on top of all this, she’s had to consciously avoid her mother’s gaze, who sits at a corner table next to the stage. Marcus had begged her to let her come, and it was hard for her to say no after everything he’s done for her.  

Luckily, she’s pretty sure her mother is avoiding her, too. Half of her wants to impress her and ask her to be her mom again, and half of her wants to impress her and make her regret all of her decisions. 

“The President’s Ball has a long legacy in Ark U’s history.” His voice is clipped, but even. Not exactly soothing, but pacifying. As always, his eyes are sharp, but they start to soften when he speaks about her. 

“Obviously, Ark U functions in the most lively, provocative political scene, situated in the nation’s capital. In result, our own campus elections hold larger, more robust stakes than other university governments. Ark U Presidents have gone on to serve in the Senate, have developed their own non-profits, and have become prominent lawyers or policy advocates.

“Our current President dutifully carries on this legacy. Her campaign began with a near two-thousand dollar donation to the ‘Freedom Fund’, a globally impactful non-profit.”

He stops as polite applause rings in the ballroom. Octavia squeezes her hand, and she sees the smiles of her friends in her peripherals. 

“In just the last month, she has conducted three more fundraisers, which is unprecedented for any Ark U President.”

More applause. 

And she carried out those fundraisers by the skin of her teeth. She had a free Saturday for the first one, and decided to do another art fair. Which did significantly better than the last one. She took a page from Bellamy’s book for the second, and brought an ice cream truck to campus. 

The third was the most deliberate one: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so they pinned purple ribbons all over campus, with a flyer for ‘purple night’ on the quad, accompanied by the donation links of several D.C. organizations that support survivors.

A few days later, her and Bellamy spent the entire afternoon hanging up purple lights all over the quad– in the trees, spattered on the ground, on the picnic tables, on the sidewalks. 

And, as hundreds of them gathered on the quad that night, huddled with blankets under the purple lights, students and survivors told their stories on the steps of the student center. Bellamy held her so tightly.

“She's accompanied by her Vice President, Bellamy Blake." His voice falters a bit as he looks down to the empty seat next to her, which Raven and Octavia tried to conceal by piling their jackets on it. 

“I am confident that the both of them will lead Ark University marvelously as we progress into the academic year. Without further ado– Student Body President, Clarke Griffin.”

Mustering up her strength, she stands up. 

“This is all you," Raven whispers. “It’s your moment.” 


[bellamy]

 

After a few minutes of silence, the other guy laughs humorlessly.

“Actually, I was kinda going to do the same. Tell a girl I love her, I mean. And hopefully apologize to another one.”

Bellamy raises his eyebrows. “No shit. I take it back. Maybe your ass-kicking is much worse.”

“You don’t even know the half of it. I’m hoping she’ll accept it.”

“I’m sure she will, man.” Bellamy extends his leg forward to nudge his feet. “I mean, I have no idea who the fuck you are, but you seem like a pretty stand-up guy from the almost forty minutes we’ve been stuck in an elevator for.”

He laughs. And then, by the grace of God, they hear a voice over the intercom.

“Hold on, guys. Lifting you up in a few.”

They both look at each other, and it seems like the air had returned to the room. 

“Thank god,” Bellamy huffs a relieved laugh, standing up. “Maybe bonding over our potential ass-kickings was our saving grace.”

“Yeah. Now let’s just make sure they take it well. They’re both stubborn as hell.”

The elevator begins to lift, and something itches at the back of Bellamy’s head. Something prickly, discomforting. They start to pick up the jackets off the floor. 

Bellamy looks up. “Hey, man. We never got each other’s names.”

The elevator door slides open on the first floor, and two of the museum managers stand there with apologetic looks on their faces. They take the piles of jackets and they shuffle out of the way. 

“Oh, shit. You’re right.” He extends a hand. “Finn. Finn Collins.”

Chapter Text

[bellamy]

He extends a hand. “Finn. Finn Collins.” 

--

[clarke]

Raven’s encouragement pushes her towards the stage, and she holds her skirt as she travels up the stairs. Marcus smiles softly when he sees her. As he shakes her hand, he leans forward just slightly.

“You look beautiful. Congratulations,” he whispers. “You deserve this.”

His kind eyes relax her lingering anxieties. “Thank you.” 

He steps off the stage and she takes a deep breath, shuffling up to the microphone.

“Good evening, Ark U community!”

--

[bellamy]

Any air in his lungs is replaced by rage, and he feels his veins begun to burn. With clenched fists, he clears his throat. 

“Clarke Griffin and Raven Reyes. Those are the two girls?” he mutters darkly, advancing on him. 

Finn turns around, looking a bit startled. “Yeah, you know them?” 

He inhales deeply, trying to calm himself.

Calm down. This isn’t the time or place.

But then he hears Clarke’s sweet, soft voice just a few hundred feet away– and he remembers how that same voice cracked in heartbreak when she told him about the things Finn did. The things he said. 

And he closes the distance between them with his fist. 

--

[clarke]

“Thank you for your kind words, Dean Kane. I’d like to begin with–”

A loud crash from the back of the ballroom cuts her off, and she squints back, frowning at the commotion.

--

[bellamy]

“What the fuck, man?” Finn yells, pushing him off.

“What the fuck? What the fuck is wrong with you?”

He steps forward, fist pulled back again, but Finn beats him to it, hauling a fierce blow under his chin. 

Bellamy stumbles back, dazed, and sees red. He stalks forward and lays a blow on the side of Finn’s face.

He pulls him down, and they spill into a bright, white light. 

--

[clarke]

She watches as the blur of gold and black moves across the room. A moment later, her breath is drawn from her chest. 

“Bellamy!”

--

[bellamy]

He hears Clarke yell his name and his head snaps up, briefly seeing her gold dress in the midst of the disorienting white light.

The momentary diversion distracts him until he’s flung against a chair. His vision adjusts, and he sees dozens of eyes staring at him in horror.

Reaching up, he feels something trickling from his mouth.

Finn kneels in front of him again, fist pulled back, but he kicks his chest and flips them over. His fist slams against his jaw.

“How could you do that to her? To both of them?” 

Finn grabs his arm and twists it, forcing him against a table. The silverware goes flying, a bit of water splashing on his face.

“Do what?” Finn hisses. “I love her! I love both of them!”

--

[clarke]

She freezes at Finn’s words, searching desperately for Raven in the crowd. But her eyes are misty with tears, and all she can see are the black blurs of the security guards trying to weave through the crowd to the two men. 

--

[bellamy]

“You love her? You think you love her?”

He straightens up and lands another fist on his cheek.

“Who tells the person that they love that they need to ‘lose a few’?” he mocks.

The crowd gasps around them.

The blur of bodies and the dull, cacophonous roar makes him dizzy, but all he can focus on is the face in front of him.

“Or cheats on them after an eight year relationship!” 

Finn forcefully pushes his chest, and they collide, collapsing on the table. Holding him off, he winces as a shard of glass pinches his side. 

“I made mistakes! We all make mistakes. That’s what love is. That’s what our relationship was. And that’s how our love is!”

He shoves Finn off of him and ends up rolling off the table to the floor. Kneeling on the ground, he spits blood at Finn’s feet. 

“You will never love her the way I do.”  

--

[clarke]

She freezes. In the edges of her vision, she sees her mother and Marcus approaching her. But her knees buckle a bit, and then, she jumps off the stage, and runs. 

--

[bellamy]

Recognition and understanding flickers in Finn’s eyes. “You motherfucker.” 

As they harden with rage, Finn surges forward, but two security guards pull him back. The lights in the ballroom flicker on and off, completely disorienting everyone, and his vision oscillates from flashes of color to complete darkness.

“Bell!”

He hears Octavia and a myriad of familiar voices behind him. 

All while, another security guard pushes through the crowd to him, but he feels two hands roughly pull him up. 

“Come on, asshole!” Miller yells in his ear, and he complies, letting them drag him away. 

--

[clarke]

She has no idea where she’s running. But her heels are dangling from her fingers, and people strolling downtown look at her with strange, outrageous glances.

Just like those girls from shitty teen movies. She laughs to herself.

Rocks and gravel cut the bottom of her feet, but she keeps flying forward, her hands clutching her skirt so hard that the small beads are frantically spilling onto the ground.

As she starts to pass large bulbs of light and smells salt, she knows where she is. 

--

[bellamy]

The arms drag him across the ballroom and out of the museum. The chilly, fresh air hits him all at once, intensifying the smell of copper. He hears Lincoln and Miller next to him, cursing and looking around desperately. 

“Up there!” 

And, after another few blocks, he’s dumped on a patch of wet grass, smoke and trees around him. The steady pounding of feet occurs for another few minutes. 

“What the hell were you thinking, man?” 

Two hands on his shoulders shake him from his daze. His eyes refocus to see Miller’s face in front of him, the rest of the guys breathing hard behind him. 

“He wasn’t fucking thinking, obviously!” Murphy snaps, pacing back and forth in front of him.

“What the hell do we do?” Lincoln pants, hands on his knees.

“Well, we can’t just leave him here,” Shaw sighs, rubbing a hand over his face. “We should all take an Uber back.” 

“Uber?” Wells shouts incredulously. “The fucking police are probably looking for him right now!”

Jackson shakes his head, kneeling next to him. “No, that wouldn’t make sense. When they hire private security at events like these, the police aren’t typically involved.” He pulls out a napkin and starts to wipe the blood off of his face. “Plus, that would be too much bad press for the University.”

Murphy snorts. “Well, they got a hell of a lot of bad press tonight. We might as well call the fucking school newspaper.” 

“Where is she?” he stutters out, looking up at all of them.

Lincoln winces. “Shit.”

Shaw shrugs sadly. “We don’t know, dude. She ran away after your uh… declaration.” 

Everyone falls silent.

Murphy clears his throat. “Yeah. Not what I meant when I talked about telling her at a fancy ball.”

The comment elicits a few laughs, dissolving the vicious tension.

“God, man,” Wells crouches down in front of him. “Seriously, what were you thinking?” 

Shaw sighs and looks pointedly at Wells, who nods and closes his eyes. “It was Finn. That guy was Finn.” 

Miller, Murphy, and Lincoln freeze. Even Jackson’s hand falters on Bellamy’s cheek. 

“Of course you know,” Bellamy mumbles, earning a small smile from Jackson. 

“Miraculously, nothing's broken,” Jackson leans back. “The cuts will be a bitch to heal. But it's just a dislocated jaw and a mildly broken nose. Which I can fix right now.”

“Wha–” A shooting pain runs over his jaw. 

“Fuck! Ow! A little warni–” Another hot burn threads up his face, and he lets out an anguished groan. 

Jackson brushes his hands on his suit pants and stands up. “Your nose and jaw are a bit more set now. When you get home, you’re going to need a ton of ice, gauze, and Ibuprofen.”

Murphy scoffs. “You deserved that.”

He glares at him. “How? That guy is a fucking asshole!”

“You ruined it for her!” Wells shouts loudly from next to him, silencing them all.

He clears his throat, disappointment clear on his face. “Sorry. You ruined it for her, man. She had been looking forward to this for weeks.”

Miller grimaces. “You should’ve seen how she was when you didn’t show up.”

Bellamy looks down, trying to conceal the overwhelming shame. “Where’s Jasper and Monty?” 

A small smile plays on Lincoln’s lips. “They were the ones who distracted the guards by flicking the lights on and off.” 

“Of course they were.” He turns to Wells pleadingly. “Wells. Where is she?” 

He sighs and stands up. “We really don’t know. The girls went after her.” 

Murphy snickers. “It’s actually kind of funny when you picture it. A group of girls in long ass ball gowns running down downtown while a group of guys in suits runs up downtown.”

Shaw huffs a laugh. “Raven probably ripped her dress so she could run faster.”

Some of the guys laugh quietly. 

“Fuck,” Murphy winces. “Emori can’t even walk in heels. What the hell is she doing now?”

Bellamy sighs. “Should I be offended that my own sister didn’t come after me?”

Lincoln rolls his eyes. “If she was here, I think you’d have much worse than a dislocated jaw and nose.”

Miller extends a hand. “Alright. Let’s get this white knight home.” 

--

[clarke]

Sitting against the metal railing, she swings her legs, her toes grazing the surface of the water.

The salty air of the Waterfront stings, but sobers her, at the same time. Her hair flicks militantly against her face as the wind rips the braids apart. And the wood scratches her legs through the fabric of her dress. 

The entire sensation of sitting there is pretty unpleasant. But she doesn’t want to get up.

“Christ, Griffin.”

The breathless voice startles her, a few minutes later.

“I need to start jogging again.” Raven braces a hand on the railing. 

She watches the red tatters float in the wind. “Did you… rip your dress?”

“Of course.” She sits next to her, swinging her legs under the railing. “I had to stop my runaway train car.”

“Really? That’s the simile I get?”

“Fugitive in a ballgown?” Octavia pants behind her. She plops down next to them. 

“Why did we decide to run after her?” Harper whines as her, Maya, Emori, and Delilah follow closely behind. 

“You shouldn’t have.” She closes her eyes and places her palms back against the wood. 

Harper shrugs “Well, the boys went to rescue Bellamy, so we figured we had to do the same.

She stills. “Where is he?”

Delilah hugs her from behind. “Don’t worry. Wells says he’ll text me when they get home. Apparently, Miller and Lincoln got him out of there before the security guards could get him. The rest of the guys will catch up.”

She exhales. “Okay.”

The girls fall silent, the only sound the lapping of the waves beneath their feet. 

“Jasper and Monty?” 

Maya rolls her eyes. “Co-conspired with the escape plan. The usual.”

“But on their way home,” Harper adds, showing her the text conversation.

She nods slowly.

“God,” Octavia laughs. “I wish I could’ve seen what went down in that elevator.”

Light laughter and giggles bounce off the water. 

Raven picks at a splinter of wood. “But it happened when they walked out. How the hell did they just not recognize each other?”

“Hm,” Octavia taps her chin. “Bell hates making friends, so I'm unsurprised. But I’m not sure about Finn.”

Delilah nods slowly. “He’s in the grad school’s student government, you know. I figured he’d recognize Bellamy from the election.”

“I guess he only pays attention to himself, most of the time.”

Quiet, approving noises scatter amongst them. 

“Did you all hear–”

“His twisted declaration of love for you?” Raven finishes. 

“Yep,” Emori nods. The rest of the girls voice their agreements once again, but none of them say anything.

A bit more silence.

“Raven,” she eventually reaches down to squeeze her hand. “I’m sorry I left you back there. I just panicked.”

She leans against her shoulder. “It’s okay. It was nice to watch Finn get beat up, anyways.” Emori’s eyes widen.

“Oh, right,” Raven sighs. “We didn’t tell you. Finn–”

“No, John did.” 

Raven rolls her eyes. “Amazing.”

“I didn’t know what he looked like, though. That was him?” 

They nod.

Emori frowns in disgust. “He is so out of both of your leagues.”

The girls laugh, and look at Delilah. “Wells?”

She nods. “I couldn’t believe it when he told me. What a waste of space.” 

“It wasn’t as bad this time.” Raven plays with the ripped fabric of her dress. 

Her head snaps up to meet her gaze. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. The anxiety was much more mild.”

“Me too.”

Raven smiles and nudges her. “We’ll keep working at it together.” The rest of the girls hum happily. 

Silence.

“He said he loves me.”

Octavia and Raven look at each other and roll their eyes. 

“He said nobody would love you the way he does,” Maya adds. 

“Technically, it was just Finn.”

Harper waves her hand. “Semantics.”  

Her breath catches. Semantics


“I hate to break it to you, but,” she looks back at the stars. “The title of that one is ‘What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?’”

“Semantics. Also, if we’re playing that game, the Timbaland and Katy Perry lyric is actually ‘Say, what’s somebody like you, doing in a place like this?’”

She kicks her feet, trying to bite back the smile that instinctively spreads on her face at the memory of that night. The night that changed everything. 

Octavia grabs her hand. “Let's go home.”

She nods. “Let’s go.”

They all fail to hide their laughter as the Uber driver gives them the strangest looks when the lacy fabric of their ball gowns covers the inside of his car. 

Delilah and Emori hop out at their respective stops and wave, giving Clarke an extra long and apologetic glance.

The girls ignore the way the guy at the front desk looks at them, and trudge up to their room. 

They strip right there in the living room. Rocks, wet gravel, and dirt shake from their dresses, along with the occasional red scrap of Raven’s dress, and a jewel from Clarke’s. 

They stare at the sweeping pile of the dirty and destroyed multicolored fabric for a few seconds, before bursting into incredulous laughter.

“God,” Raven gasps among laughs. “What a fucking night.” 

The girls go to shower, and she pulls out her phone, wincing at the dozens of missed calls. It rings again  

Clarke? Are you okay?” Marcus’ frantic voice fills her ear. 

“I’m okay. Back home.” She hears him exhale in relief.

“Marcus, I’m–” Her voice cracks. “I’m so sorry for ruining the Ball.”

She hears him laugh and sigh. “Of course that is what's on your mind.”

She pauses. “Is my mother okay?”

A few seconds of quiet hang over the call. 

“She’s okay. She’s really worried about you. We’re home, do  you want to talk–”

“No, that’s okay. Maybe later.”

“Are you okay, Clarke?”

“Not in the slightest.”

“I figured as much.” 

They stay quiet for a few seconds. 

“Forget about the Ball. All that matters is that you’re safe.” 

"Okay.” She sinks into the cushions of the couch. “Marcus, could you–”

“I’ll deal with him later. Don’t worry.”

She bites her lip. “Okay. Thank you.” 

“I’m so relieved that you’re okay. I really thought–” His voice falters.

“I thought something really bad happened. As soon as I recognized that it was Mr. Collins.”

“Yeah.” She hesitates, anticipating his next words. “Don’t feel guilty about that, okay? You couldn’t have known anything like that would happen.”

“I do feel guilt. And I think it's deserved.” 

“Marcus, please–”

“We’ll talk more tomorrow. Get some rest. Real rest.” 

She sighs. “Okay. You, too.” 

He hangs up, and a wave of endearment and gratitude rolls over her. At this very moment, it's clear how she holds him so close to her heart. And a frightening, breathtaking thought runs through her mind: Dad really would like him.

A few hours later in her bed, she stares at the ceiling, sketching pictures with her eyes. Flashes from the ball, the fight, the Waterfront. 

The masochistic side of her wants to see the way his fists landed on Finn’s face, how his arms pushed him away. She wishes that she could’ve pushed through the shocked crowd, swam through the white noise, to him. To be there when he laughed at Finn.

His voice bounces loudly in her mind. 

“You love her? You think you love her?” 

And she wishes she was there to hear the emphatic words travel in the air and cut into Finn. And then swirl into her own head. Right there. Not across the ballroom. 

“You will never love her the way I do.”  

His charged remark plays over and over, a fierce, ardent soundtrack that makes her heart flutter, makes her dizzy. You will never love her the way I do.

She blinks furiously before unraveling herself from her comforter and moving across the room, softly closing the door behind her. After sneaking past Raven and Maya’s room, she just presses her fuzzy socks into some shoes. And slips out the door. 

What she doesn’t know is that only a few feet behind her, a text message is being sent to a girl who isn't too far from her, either. 

Raven

1:14 AM

she’s gone. come down

 

Octavia

1:14 AM

finally 

 

Chapter Text

[bellamy]

 

After the guys head back to their respective homes, Miller and Murphy force him to shower. 

“You still look like hell. Here.” Miller puts the ice, gauze, and bottle of Ibuprofen on his bedside table. 

He rolls his eyes, holding up the roll of gauze. “Thanks. What the hell am I supposed to do with this?” 

Miller shrugs. “Jackson said to wrap it around your nose if it keeps hurting. And keep that ice thing against your jaw.”

He collapses on his bed. “Thanks, doc.”

“We’ll uh,” Murphy smirks. “Unpack what happened tonight in the morning.” 

“Get out, assholes.”

After they leave, he sits against his headboard unsure of what to do, a simmer of adrenaline still buzzing around his head.

Eventually, the quiet patter of rain on his window reposes him, and he rummages through his bag until he finds his history textbook.

Ten minutes later, he slams it shut. Fuck.

That warranted an academic strike. Without question. Should he prepare the groveling email? Or just search for jobs right now?

A selfish thought flickers past– maybe Kane will let him off easy because of Clarke. But he shakes it away. 

So he flicks off the lights and pulls out The Odyssey, hoping that Homer’s ceaseless intonations and the soft cadence of the rain might lull him to sleep. 

 

His hope is misplaced. A few hours later, he’s reached Return to Ithaca, and the rain is apathetically persistent, now intensely lashing against his window. Sighing, he throws the book to the ground and pulls out his phone. 

A few minutes later, his door opens and closes without a single knock. Slightly annoyed in the dim light, he swings his legs over the side of his bed, about to yell at Murphy– but a dim silhouette steps into his space before he can. His eyes widen.

It's Clarke. A very, very, wet Clarke. Translucent droplets on her face, blonde curls collapsed and darkened, tiny strings of water running down her legs. 

"Okay. I’m ready.” 

Dropping her keys to the ground, she climbs onto him and forces him back onto the bed. Hovering over him, she leans down and captures his lips with his, one hand snaking up his side. Water droplets fall onto his face as he pulls her hips down onto him. 

“Wait.” He sits up on his elbows.

Her bottom lip quivers. Guilt spikes in him at the sight of her dejected face. 

“No! No, listen.” He places his hand on her wet cheek, his thumb brushing her skin. Water droplets nestle in her eyelashes. “It’s just– today was… intense.”

“Oh, Bellamy,” her eyes pool with sadness as her fingers lightly trace the fresh cuts on his face and jaw. “You idiot!"

“I know. I was such an idiot. Am. I ruined the whole night for you.” His gaze flickers down. “I’m so sorry. I was just… furious. He was going to try to talk to you and Raven, you know?”

She sighs and scoots onto his lap. “That’s what we figured. Marcus warned us.” 

He frowns, his hands tightening on her waist. “Then why didn’t he just bar Finn from attending the event? What the hell is wr–”

“He tried. He did, Bellamy. But,” she shakes her head. “Too much bureaucracy got in the way.”

“Yeah, well, fuck bureaucracy!” She flinches a bit at the volume of his voice  

He leans his forehead against hers. “I’m sorry. I overreacted today. I always overreact.”  

She nods and puts a hand on his cheek. “Don’t worry. I’m going to talk to him and make sure that nothing happens to your-”

“I don’t care. I just care about how you are.” He tries to decipher the assorted emotions that blink over her face.

“I’ll be okay.” A half lie. “I really thought you bailed.”

Something painful slashes at his chest. “I’m so, so sorry. I’m sorry that I even made you think that.”

She shakes her head resolutely. “Deep down, I know you’re not that kind of guy. I was just so anxious and–”

“Do you want to know one of my biggest regrets tonight?” he asks, softly.

“Punching Finn?

He scoffs. “Never.”

“Kicking Finn?” 

“Absolutely not.”

“What, then?”

His fists gather some of the fabric of her shirt, wringing out the water. “Not being able to tell you that you looked beautiful in your dress.”

Her smile grows, just slightly. “What if it looked ugly?”

“Impossible.”

“So you were excited to wear your sparkling gold vest?”

He hesitates, and she starts laughing. 

“Okay, listen.” He pulls back defensively. “It was just a lot for a vest. But I’m positive that gold looks good on you.”

She blows a strand of hair out of her eyes. “Want to see pictures?

He grins and nods. “Yes, please.” 

She pulls her phone out from her shorts and wipes away the water droplets on the screen. “Here.”

He starts scrolling through the pictures in their dorm, in the museum, in the ballroom, and–

“Is that the Waterfront?” He squints in confusion.

She huffs a laugh. “I'll explain later.” 

He stops on a photo of her standing in front of a table in the museum, laughing at something behind the camera.

She rolls her eyes. “Murphy was trying to tell me how to pose in the background.”

But he’s focused on her. The glow of her hair, her dress, her smile. He can’t even imagine how he’d react in person. In person.

She seems to notice him deflate, and pokes his stomach. “That bad?” 

He winces, trying to smile. “You look like a–“

“Princess?” 

“I think I would’ve gone into cardiac arrest if I saw it.” 

She laughs brightly. “That’s what Raven and Octavia said.”

He puts the phone down and leans forward to kiss her. “They were right. You looked beautiful. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there.”

“It’s okay. They’ll be more dresses in the future.” She pauses. “If you want the future, of course.”

“Of course I want the future. Plus, apparently, you can make anything look sexy. A fucking seashell leotard thing? What the hell?”

She laughs and weaves her arms around his neck. “I’m glad you liked it. We worked hard on those costumes.” 

“Oh, I definitely liked it.” He shakes his head, a stupid smile on his face. “Wells got so annoyed with me at the bar.” 

“He’s protective.”

“Are you ever going to tell me what kind of drunk I am with you?”

“You really want to know?” 

“Yes. Tell me.” He shakes his hands on her hips.

“Well," she draws out. "An adorable one.” 

He frowns. “That’s all? Adorable?”

“Yep!” she chirps. “Really adorable. Like, even though you’re being cranky, I just want to snuggle you all night.”

He sighs. “I thought it would be much more interesting than that.”

She unravels herself from his arms and flops down onto a pillow. “Well, I loved it. Easy for me to take care of.” 

He rolls his eyes, but reaches down to squeeze her side. He starts to rise, but she grabs his shirt, disconcerted.  

“Where are you going?”

“Well, Hurricane Clarke swept into my room, and now my entire bed is soaked through. I would prefer not to sleep cold and wet.”

She pulls him back down, swinging a leg over his hips. “Who said anything about sleeping?”

“Clarke,” he sighs as she uses her leg to press him closer. “You had to see... him today. Hear his voice, hear him speak about you and Raven. That must uncover so many difficult memories for you. I don't want you to be in pain.”

“But you would never treat me like Finn.”

The conviction in her voice draws the air out of his chest, and he places a hand on her cheek. “Never.” 

“Show me, then.” 

A sharp breath catches in his throat, desire spiraling in his eyes. She looks at him all too intently.

“Bellamy. I’m asking you.” 

He searches her eyes. “Are you sure?” 

“Yes.”

And he pauses, but nods. 

She beams and shifts on top of him, lips trailing across his jaw. He tenses, and she abruptly pulls away. 

“Oh, shit! I forgot.”

“It’s okay.” He squeezes her hips. “Just be gentle. Or Jackson will kill me.” 

With a laugh and nod, her lips duck back down to find his. And it's sweet, tame. The temperance, the rage that they’re built upon softens, wanes down into the slow rise of pink on skin, a press like feather. It's sweet, tame. And, clearly, boring.

Because all those feathers, the cotton quickly catches fire, and the embers start to fly across lips, as mouths move to necks, to hands, to chests. The downpour starts to shake the windows, and they begin to tangle together. Her mouth draws an anxious path across his neck, the rain on her lips dripping down his skin, catching between her fingers. His own breath seems foreign in his throat as her clothes slink off, his own following. 

And the drizzle that beats against the windows is too loud, too vitalizing, for him to simply lay on his back. His arms find hers, and he flips them over, whispering against her neck, promising her things that make her shudder beneath him.

The sudden sharpness of it all– fingernails carving lines into his spine, his teeth biting into soft, vulnerable skin– intensifies as their chests press together, ribs burning from the constant, languid breaths drawn from their lungs. 

When their hips press together, all the softness is gone, the blaze burns every lingering thread. Now, it's just a constant fever threading through their limbs, a delicious fury that only they share, in their fights, the screaming, the shouting. And when it becomes all too overwhelming, when the heat becomes staggering, he huffs a laugh against her flushed skin as his fingers dip into her.

“I promise that’s not from the rain.” But the smile quickly turns into a gasp, as his fingers push in, stoking the flames, making her mouth fall open in desperation. His name rips across her lips, her moans die on his mouth, and a shudder breezes over her body as she falls apart on him, with him, against him.

But, in another second, her cries are barely drowned out by the thrashing of rain against the window, as his head nestles between her legs, his teeth against the inside of her thigh.

And he feels it all– her whimpers, her whines, the flutters, the fervor of her, the silk of her touch, grappling against him as she surrenders, relents.

When he pulls back, his eyes twinkle, dark, dilated, and smug. "Was that g–” 

She shoves him with a huff, and flings him down, bracing herself with two hands on his chest. And slowly, carefully, she falls, and they move together, the embers flaring up once again. Her head tips back, her voice strangled in her own throat. “Ha–” 

The rain whips faster, the sparks grow brighter, and with a whimper of his name, he throws her back down.

Their eyes meet, dark with lust, with want, and she nods. His fingers leave tomorrow’s bruises as he pushes himself inside of her, pulling one of her legs over his shoulder.

And that’s when it all ignites, the kindling shocks brightest, as they burn together, twist together, without space between. And he feels like he could collapse from the saturated pleasure of it all. 

A scream tumbles from her lips, and they fall apart together, combusting, shuddering, throbbing. The rain thrums softer, their breaths die on each other’s mouths, and they surrender to the sound. He falls down next to her, and they both stare at the ceiling, trying to catch their breaths. 

After their breath evens, she scoots closer to him and places her head on his chest. “Thank you.”

He laughs, voice still husky. “Don’t thank me. I don’t know what I did in my life to deserve that last half an hour, but I’m glad I did.” 

She smiles, moving her palm to his heart. “Really, though. I knew you’d take care of me.”

“Always.” He wraps an arm around her. “I promise.” 

They cuddle for a few more minutes before she sits up. “Okay. Now we can change the sheets.” 

His laughter is real, full. Her grin is similar.

After they change all of his bedding, they lay in the dim light, face to face. 

“Wait a minute. How the hell did you get in?”

She rolls her eyes. “You morons leave the back door open. You have even before we snuck in. And still when Raven did.”

“Oh. Shit.” He shrugs, pulling her into his chest. “Fine with me.”  

“Can I ask you something?” 

She taps on his chest and hums.

“Is there a story with you and Kane?” 

She pauses. “Not really anything more than you know and have seen. He supported me ever since he first started dating my mother. More than her. We just understand each other.” 

“And no one will ever replace your father. But if someone came close…” 

Her voice is quiet. “It would be Marcus. He’s been there for me for years. I don’t know what I would have done without him.”

He strokes her hair. “I’m thankful that you have him.” 

“Me too.”

“Can I show you something?” 

She quirks an eyebrow. “As you say– ‘kinky.’” 

He pokes her ribs. “I’m a bad influence on you.” 

“A bit. Show me.” 

He holds his phone above his face before pulling up an email receipt. She stares at it, confused. 

“I forgot to show this to you awhile ago. It just arrived today. Remember when we, uh–” He clears his throat, sadness thick in his voice. “Invaded your personal space?”

She frowns, but nods. “Seems like forever ago. Why?”

“I noticed that you haven’t had the same comforter ever since I ruined it. So I bought it for you.” He shows her the receipt again. “It’s in the living room.” 

“Bellamy,” she looks up at him. “This is way too expensive. Too much.” 

He shakes his head resolutely. “You deserve it. It was the least I could do.”

After putting his phone down, he looks back at her. Her eyes are misty. 

“Oh, fuck.” He tucks her head further into his chest and strokes her almost-dry hair. “We just changed the sheets.”

“It’s just so thoughtful of you,” she sniffs, tapping on his abdomen. “Thank you.”

He presses a kiss to the top of her head, and reaches over to pull down the string of his lamp. 

“Goodnight,” he whispers into her hair. 

“Night.” 

He settles back into his pillow. And then, he feels the taps on his chest. 

Dit. Dit dah dit dit. Dit dit dah. 

He huffs a laugh. “Have you been doing that this whole time?”

He feels her smile against his chest. “Pretty much.” She rests her chin on his abdomen. "I love you." 

And everything feels just right. Like a tilted frame is straightened. Tendrils of fog unravel. The white noise dissipates. 

His laugh is almost delirious. “I love you. So much. Sometimes it hurts.”

She traces the cuts on his cheek again. “Clearly. God,” she mutters, pulling the covers tighter over her. “Goodnight, idiot.”

Chapter Text

[clarke]

 

Even after five hours of sleep, the bliss of last night has not dulled a bit. When her eyes blink open, seeing an arm thrown over her waist, she has to bite back the incredulous laughter that threatens to crawl up her throat.

Impulsivity is not a trait she’d assign to herself. She dangles somewhere between enthusiastic and determined. Never hasty, rash. 

But, after last night, she wonders if her best self is her impulsive self. Because it got her to where she is right now, staring at the passed out idiot in front of her. A very hot idiot. 

Now, she has to literally clamp a hand over her mouth to prevent the giggle–a giggle– from spilling from her lips.

She really ran in the pouring rain and marched into a boy’s room. Insisting on sex. After a night where she should objectively have been sobbing in her bed from embarrassment and shame. Instead, she laid there replaying his angry declaration in her head, and sprinted across campus when she couldn’t take it anymore. And then told him she loves him in Morse code.  

The elation in her is overwhelming, and unless she wants to wake him up with loud bursts of giggles–which she considers for a moment– she needs to make an escape. She starts to pick up her pajamas, but slows when she feels the soreness between her thighs. For whatever reason, this makes her smile larger, so she hurries to slip her clothes on and softly closes the door behind her. 

As she predicts, the frat house is completely silent at 8 A.M. on a Saturday. When she walks into the kitchen, she breathes a deep sigh of relief after she sees the Keurig on the counter. 

Not knowing what to do with herself, she walks in circles around the living room, coffee in hand. Trying to expend her pent-up energy– which she probably just made worse with coffee– she starts to clean and tidy whatever she sees.

Which ends up with her doing all the dishes, readjusting the couches and tables back into position, and reorganizing the books on their bookshelf by author name. 

As she slides another book in, shaking her shoulders to some random Disney music she started playing on her phone, she rolls her eyes. No one reads in this house. These are all definitely Bellamy’s. 

“Clarke?”

She hears the front door open. Turning around, she sees Lincoln walk in with headphones dangling from his hands, clearly sweaty from a run.

He takes her in, dancing and nonchalantly cleaning a frat house in her fuzzy rainbow pajamas. Moby Dick in one hand, Lysol wipes in the other. A Disney song playing in the background.

And he raises a hand to his mouth, trying to stifle his laughter. The amusement in his eyes forces out the giggles that had been sitting in her throat, and suddenly, they both break down into laughter. 

He walks over to her, his low chuckles accompanying him. Her giggles intensify as they meet in the middle of the living room. He stares at her, shaking his head in disbelief.

“What the hell are you doing?”

The fact that his deep voice is tinged with so much incredulity makes her laugh even harder. He has to place his hands on her shoulders to calm her down. 

“Last night,” she takes a deep breath, but a few giggles still bubble up as she speaks. “I fucking sprinted here in the rain. And broke in through your back door.” 

He looks at the back door and shakes his head in amusement. “Of course you did.” 

“And then, I walked into Bellamy’s room soaking wet, in my pajamas, and told him to have sex with me.”

Lincoln stares at her. A few seconds later, their laughter loudly bounces around the living room, his low voice and her bright giggles mixing in the air, a discordant symphony. 

“That is not the reaction I thought you’d have after the shit that happened last night.” He coughs a laugh away. “Are you okay, by the way?”

“Clarke? Lincoln?” 

They turn to see Miller at the bottom of the stairs, rubbing his face. 

“Why the hell are you holding Lysol and Moby Dick? And what is that awful music?”  

She holds Miller’s gaze and her bottom lip quivers. His face twists at the ridiculousness of the situation, and finally, he starts laughing. Lincoln and Clarke join him, and now, the sounds are definitely loud enough to wake anyone else in the house. 

“I feel like this is a fever dream.”

“You have to hear this story, dude.” Lincoln claps a hand on his shoulder. 

She tells Miller the story and another round of loud laughter fills the air. “And–” she giggles. "When I sprinted the fuck out of the Ball, I went to the Waterfront. And I wish you guys could’ve seen the way people were looking at me.”

“You went to the fucking Waterfront?” Miller asks, choking on his laugh. She nods, placing a hand on her forehead.

Lincoln raises his eyebrows. “And I thought our escape was dramatic.”

“And now, I’m here in your frat house at eight in the morning, rearranging your books alphabetically.”

“What the hell?” 

Their heads swivel to see Bellamy at the bottom of the staircase, and she practically stumbles against Miller and Lincoln, the symphony of laughter swelling, once again. 

“Holy hell, Blake,” Miller pants in between laughs. “What a fucking night.”

Bellamy’s eyes flick between the three of them and he sighs in realization. “Clarke.” 

The Lysol fumbles in her hands. “Yes?”

He shakes his head, amusement filling his eyes. “You’re impossible.”

Walking over to them, he pushes Lincoln and Miller off of her. “Go away.”

Their laughs trail behind them as the two men walk back upstairs. He looks at her.

“Are you drunk? Or high? At eight in the morning?” He rubs his face with one hand. “Oh shit. Did you eat one of Murphy's lollipops? And is that my copy of Moby Dick?”

“No, no, no, and yes, it is!” she chirps and waves her hand in a large flourish. “I organized your bookshelf alphabetically. And by height.” 

He blinks. “Okay,” he draws out, reaching forward to pluck the Lysol container out of her hands and place it on the table. “Let’s get you upstairs and in the shower.”

She rolls her eyes as he pulls her up the stairs. “I’m seriously not drunk, Bellamy. And are you telling me that I smell gross?”

“You smell like cleaning chemicals. And I just don’t want you walking around a frat house in tiny pajamas.” 

“Excuse me,” she pulls away from him when they walk into his room. “They’re fuzzy. And rainbow.”

Laughing, he shakes his head and gives her a change of clothes. “What’s up with you?”

“What do you mean?” she sways slightly to the Disney music still playing on her phone. 

“You’re not drunk. You’re not high. You giggled. A giggle left your mouth,” he raises an eyebrow. “And you’re stress-cleaning.” 

“I’m not stressed.” She wraps her arms around his waist, face against his chest. “I’m just happy. Love drunk?” 

He pauses, and she feels his heartbeat quicken. “I’m happy, too.”

They stay like that for a few seconds.   “Okay. Be right back.” 

She almost slips in the shower as she sings with the Disney music that she never turned off.

She frowns in the mirror, at the saggy shirt that falls to her knees. Wearing your boyfriend’s clothes is way less enchanting than it seems. 

Wait.  

He’s staring at a book when she walks back in. He looks up and smiles. “Hey–”

She jumps onto his bed. “Are we together now?” 

He seems startled, and closes the book. “Do you want to be?” 

“Do you want me to want to be?” 

He laughs and pulls her down to him. “I mean, I declared my love for you in front of upwards of a hundred people.”

“Is that a no?”

“No! I mean, yes. I’ll be whatever you want me to be.” 

Narrowing her eyes, she leans back. “Are you saying that thing that men say when they ‘don’t care about labels’?” 

“Well, I don’t need one to–”

She sits back on her knees. “But you called Gina your girlfriend.”

He sits up with her, putting his hand over hers. “You have nothing to be jealous of.”

“I’m not jealous,” she rolls her eyes, slipping her hand out from under him. “I’m just asking why you called her your girlfriend, but not me.”

He sighs. “I didn’t love Gina. Maybe the label was just to convince everyone around us that I did.”

“That doesn’t make sense.” Her rational tone slips out, the one she uses when she speaks in class.

He rubs his hand over her arm. “I feel like we’re arguing about nothing.”

She looks down, staring at her hands. And blurts out the thought that’s been spinning around her mind.

“Are you ashamed?” 

He reels back. “What? Ashamed of what?”

“I don’t know. Your frat brothers wouldn’t take it too well if you were dating ‘the Princess.’” 

“I don’t care about their opinions. Since when did I ever give a shit about what they think?”

“A month and a half ago.”

As soon as the biting words leave her mouth and she sees him wince, she regrets it. 

“Sorry,” she shakes away the thoughts of rejection. “I guess I’m just jaded. From everything else.” From Finn, from the beginning of the Ball. 

“I figured. Okay.” He reaches forward to take her hands again, and dramatically clears his throat. “Will you please be my girlfriend?”

She rolls her eyes. “Yes. I will.”

He gasps in fake-relief, flopping back down. “Thank god!”

She laughs and moves to get up, but he grabs her waist and pulls her back down against his chest, nuzzling his head in her hair. 

“Bellamy.” He mumbles a noncommittal hum.

“We can’t go back to bed.” She tries to pry his arms off of her, but he just holds her tighter. 

“Yes, we can,” he grumbles. “It’s a free country.”

She twists in his arms to face him. “Yeah, well, you won’t be able to get an education in this free country unless we go see Marcus.”

His face falls, and she puts a hand on his cheek. “Nothing is going to happen to you. Or Octavia. I promise.” 

“Last time I saw him,” he deflates a bit, his head sinking into the pillow. “He said that it was my final warning.”

“Well, this situation is different.”

“Is it?” His voice grows louder, and she flinches. “I ruined your day, Clarke. The most important day of your entire presidency.”

She pats his cheek. “Okay. You’re being dramatic. Let’s not forget how yesterday ended. The day was most definitely not ruined.”

His lips form a small smile, and she watches fondness fill his eyes for a moment. But they quickly fade into dull anger. 

“I’m not being ‘dramatic’, Clarke. This decision dictates everything I've worked towards! And it will devastate Octavia!” he snaps. 

She stills, realizing her own insensitivity.  “I’m sorry. That was a dismissive thing to say.” 

The slow-burn flame in his eyes holds for a second before he sighs. “Sorry for getting so heated. You’ve seen what this discussion has made me do in the past.” 

The ripped up pieces of her father flash in her mind. “Yeah.” Her voice is quiet. 

A few minutes of silence pass, an amalgam of emotions bouncing between them– lingering resentment, fresh annoyance, guilt, spiraling sadness. Love. 

“We’ll figure a way out of this?” He smiles weakly, a thread of hope in his eyes. 

Her eyes harden in conviction, and a determined nod follows. “Yes. We will.”

They stare at each other with the subdued, but stirring link between them. And she’s unsure if she moves first, or if he does. But their bodies collide, and their lips meet in anticipatory, unbearable impatience. His palm shoots up her thigh and to her hair, pulling her neck to his teeth, tracing threads of pleasure, pain, against her skin.

Her hand flies back to his chin, jerking his face up to her mouth; she bends over him, her hands gripping the sides of his face. And, all at once, her hand is shoved past his waistband, and his body jerks at the touch, fingers digging into her hips.

“Shit.” His head falls back on the pillow, eyes forced shut. “Give a guy some warning.” 

“Where’s the fun in that?” After tugging down the denim, she pulls his bottom lip between her teeth, and slowly moves her hand against him. Her teeth drift down his chest, bite his hip bones, before she yanks the fabric down. His palm finds the back of her head as her tongue traces small circles against him, and her lips brush against his skin, her mouth barely dropping. He groans, and she pulls off briskly. 

“What–” His voice is strangled, looking down at her. She shrugs with a small smile, laying her chin on his skin, tracing the lines on his abdomen.

His lips twitch up in a smile. “Oh, you are mean.” 

With a dramatic sigh, she slinks back, and her mouth drops on him, again. Frustrated by her initial inability, she roughly pulls off and forces her mouth lower. 

Holy–” He clenches his fists. “Stop that.” 

“Oh?” She sits back. “Stop. Got it.” 

He groans in frustration. “Not what I meant.”

“So, shut up.” 

She blinks, taken aback by her sharp tongue. Clearly, he is too, because his eyebrows raise, before a tiny smirk flicks on his face. And he nods.

Moving faster, she smiles against him as a vicious sound spills from his lips. Her chest starts to heave from the steady stream of breathlessness.

“Clarke,” he chokes. “I’m–”

But she sits up, and watches the agonized expression flash over his face. And he shoots up, with a growl.

“That’s enough.” 

And she’s thrown back on the bed. But when he leans down to kiss her, she thrashes against him and pushes his chest, and he tumbles down beside her. Swinging her legs over him, she presses his shoulders down and falls on him, completely.

He lurches up with wide eyes, and her head tips back with a gasp.

“You weren’t wearing anything underneath the shirt?” he rasps, as she sways against him.

“The sweatpants were too fucking big.”

“Once again,” he sits up, pulling her against him. “A warning?” he whispers, dropping his forehead against hers. 

“No fun,” she whimpers, locking her legs around his lower back. “This is fun.” 

Breathless moans tumble from her mouth as his hands slide under her shirt, grasping the skin around her hips. And a familiar fever unfurls over her skin, small stings railing her veins, shifting her nerve endings. Her breaths come fast, hard, as pleasure becomes the only thing her body knows; his rough, careful fingers forced against her hips, the way he looks at her like she’s some divine, otherworldly thing, how they weave perfectly into one another. 

She feels his teeth sink down on her neck, and the pain forces a scream out of her, shudders breezing across her skin, on repeat. A growl vibrates against her skin as he pushes inside of her one, two more times. And his fingertips become so hot, that she's speechless from the pain, lingering convulsions flaring up, all over again.

After a few more searing, euphoric moments, she feels him finish, and they ride it out together, until the fluttering, the shaking, ebbs away. She stays like that for a while, regaining her ability to breathe. And move. He cradles her and gently lays her down. And lowers himself next to her. They stare at each other on their sides, a bit amused, a bit awed.

“That was the best sex I’ve ever had,” he blurts out. 

She raises her eyebrows with a large gasp, feigning shock. “Being the best sex partner Bellamy Blake’s ever had!” She swoons dramatically. “It’s better than winning a Pulitzer! I would like to thank my adoring fans–”

He covers her mouth with his hand and rolls his eyes. “My body count isn’t that high.”

Clarke pats his cheek. “Whatever you say.” 

He frowns, softly biting her jaw. His mouth starts drawing its familiar path across her neck. “Round two?” 

She laughs. “Will you ever be satisfied?”

“With you? Never.” 

She playfully pushes his chest. “I guess I’ll be sore for the rest of my life.”

“Oh, shit. Did I hurt you before?”

And his eyes grow large, looking down at the blossoming bruises on her hips. “Fuck. I’m so sorry, I guess I got too carried away–”

She kisses him hard. “I liked it.” 

A bit of lust and amusement flickers in his irises. He raises an eyebrow. “Duly noted.” She smiles coyly and tries to sit up. 

He grabs her arm. “Seriously though. It’s better with you.”

She softens. “It’s better with you, too. Not much competition, though.” She pokes his chest. His frown turns into a scowl.

She squeezes his hand. “Come on. You can be mad at me later. It's time to go save your academic career.” He sighs, begrudgingly rising from his bed.

“Can I ask you something?” 

She nods, fixing her hair. “Of course.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you could sing?”

She freezes. 

“I heard you in the shower.”  

Shit. She didn’t think anyone could hear.

“I don’t really tell people,” she starts hesitantly, tying a knot in the band of the sweatpants to keep them up. “I don’t do it around anyone else.”

“So nobody else knows?” 

She’s quiet. 

“Why didn’t you tell me?” He looks hurt as he stares at her from the edge of the bed. Her eyes soften in remorse and she walks in between his knees. 

“Honestly?” she sighs, hanging her forearms off his shoulders. “It’s kinda a thing for me and my dad.”

He immediately sits up straight, reaching out to lightly hold her hips. “Shit. I’m sorry, I just thought after the dance thing–”

“No, it's okay.” She presses a kiss on his cheek. “I want to share these things with you.” He nods and wraps his arms around her waist. 

“I don’t remember a lot of my childhood,” she admits, pensively. “A lot of it I’ve gathered from pictures and videos. Specifically the videos– my parents filmed everything. They were the kinds of parents that wanted to preserve every single moment of their child’s upbringing.

“My mom is the one recording most of them. So it's mostly me and my dad. And there are dozens of videos of us dancing and singing all over the city. Like, all over it– there’s one of him scrambling to get me down after I crawled on top of a parapet at the Lincoln Memorial and started dancing.” He laughs, softly.

“I guess the constant singing and dancing turned into me being professionally trained so I could impress donors and trustees at fancy events. But my dad insisted that my mother stopped with the singing lessons. And I didn’t know why until after I forced my mother to let me have his things after he died. I found my old music box. You know, the ones that open with the ballerina twirling around? But when I opened it, I saw a tiny flash drive huddled in the corner, along with a folded up piece of paper. ‘Clarke’s 18th birthday.’

“I was confused. I wasn’t 18, obviously. When I plugged it in to my laptop, I broke down, right there. It was a video of him from a few months before, sitting in his study.”

Hey honey. I was sorting through the attic, looking for some old policy folders, and I found this beautiful thing.” He twirls the music box around in his hands, with a radiant smile. “It was in a box with a bunch of the tapes we had from when you were little. It inspired the most brilliant of ideas. And, you know me,” he beams at the camera. “I’m full of brilliant ideas.”

“Happy 18th birthday, sweetheart. You’re making change at a bigger level, now. I can’t wait to hear your voice travel around the nation, inspiring, helping, protesting. Remember– your voice matters. Raise it. Make it heard. Use it to elevate others. Make it your song. And I have no doubt that it will reverberate in the vastest of spaces, reaching every corner of the world. My–” 

He looks away, and clears his throat. “My own song began the day you were born. And if you’re ever feeling like you’re being silenced, or stifled: watch this video again. Hear our songs. Because our voices are louder than any of those that try to silence us.

“I love you. Happy birthday.” 

He moves towards the camera, shifting it in his hands and looking at it. “I can’t wait for you to watch these– we were such horrible singers at first.” 

And the video fades.

“After that was an hour worth of videos I had never seen, and a few I had seen. Videos of my dad singing me to sleep, videos of me excitedly belting a solo at my middle school concert. A shaky recording of him and I sitting on the swing in our backyard, him teaching me how to play guitar. Then the first time I played the guitar in front of him. I surprised him on his birthday with a hasty rendition of his favorite Rolling Stones song.

“Videos on videos of me singing, and us singing together.” She smiles sadly. “After I watched that flashdrive, I was a mess, in a puddle of my own tears, all of his stuff packed into boxes around me. That’s when I made the deal with my mother, actually. Pre-med, and I’d get to keep it all.” Bellamy’s eyes flash with anger. 

“And since then, I decided that singing is for me and my dad. Only us. Our voices, our songs. There’s only a few places where I’m positive that people won't hear, I guess. Loud showers are one of them,” she finishes, exhaling with a weak smile. “That’s why I don’t tell many people. The sob story is pretty lengthy.” 

He blinks at her, in awe. “And just when I thought you couldn’t get any stronger.” He stands up and folds her into a tight hug. “I’m sorry for being stupid.”

She shakes her head against his shoulder. “I wanted to tell you anyway. Thank you for listening to me. It actually made me happy. To talk about him, I mean.”

“I’ll always be here to listen.” 

She gathers her things, and he tangles their fingers together as they walk down the stairs. As they open the door, they hear a voice shout from upstairs.

“You guys are loud as fuck!” 

She looks at him with a mildly embarrassed, amused look.

He shrugs. “Thin walls.” 

She sighs. “Let’s go.”

“But, seriously,” he insists, as they stroll past the crosswalk. “I’d listen even if you decided to talk about those orbital hybrid-whatevers that you always try to explain.”

She brightens. “Orbital hybridization!”  

He stops. “Wait, wait. I take it back. I’ll listen to it anytime except right now, as we’re walking into uncertain death.”

She laughs, but squeezes his hand. “We’ll get through this. I promise.”

After a quick stop at Sanctum for a change of clothes, they make their way to the student center. They falter a bit as they see Marcus’ door, slightly ajar. 

“Maybe I should go in alone. Just at first.”

He nods slowly. “Okay. That’s probably for the better.” 

She takes a deep breath and steels herself, pushing the door open. “Hey, Marcus–”

She stops short when she sees the person in the armchair in front of her. 

“Mom?” 

Chapter Text

[bellamy]

 

He sits down at a table on the first floor, too afraid that he’d hear some of their conversation. So instead, pretending to read the textbook in front of him, he prepares his own speech. 

“Hello, Dean Kane. First and foremost, I would like to thank you for hearing me out. I want to apologize for the commotion I made–”

Commotion is too light of a word. And he isn’t really hearing him out. They're just showing up, really.

“Hello, Dean Kane. I want to be upfront and apologize for my actions at the President’s Ball. A few minutes prior to the altercation, I was stuck in a–”

He stops, putting his heads in his hands. Kane doesn’t care what happened before the fight with Finn. There was nothing to justify it. 

Exhaling deeply, he continues to search his brain for the right words to say.


[clarke]

 

“Clarke?” Marcus and her mother say, in concert.

She looks at Marcus beseechingly, and he seems to understand the silent exchange.

“Sit, please.” 

After she settles into the other armchair, a few seconds of silence hover over the small office. Surprisingly, it’s her mother that disrupts it.

“Clarke,” she shifts toward her. Looking... guilty?

“I am so sorry about what happened last night.”

She bristles. That’s the last thing she expected her mother to say. 

A bit flustered by her remark, her voice is unsteady. “That’s okay. I mean, it's not. But I appreciate you saying that.” 

Her mother nods. They both settle in discomfort. It’s the longest actual conversation they’ve had in years.

Marcus senses the awkwardness, and mercifully clears his throat. “We were actually talking about you before you entered, Clarke.”

She straightens. “Oh. Do you mind if I ask what?” 

Marcus looks at her mother, who tips her head slightly. “Your mother and I were quite concerned when you exited the museum yesterday.”

A bit of annoyance rises in her. It's not like she wanted to run away. Her mouth drops open, but his stern look makes the words die in her throat. 

“However, we understand why you did so. That situation was overwhelming, distressing, and entirely unfair to you. And,” his eyes dart to her mother. “We were discussing the ways in which we would proceed.” 

She takes a deep breath, ready to make a case for Bellamy. But, before she can speak–

“I’m sorry, Clarke.” 

She stills. What?

She doesn’t think she’s ever heard an apology from her mother. At least, not since she was fifteen. 

“Marcus and I spoke last night, and I was planning to see if you would be willing to meet me somewhere on campus. Which is why I’m here.” 

Too many things are catching fire in her mind right now, but anger is the first to materialize. “Now you want to apologize? Now?”

“Clarke,” Marcus placates, voice even. “I won’t force you to hear her out, but I do highly encourage it.”

Still hesitant, she nods curtly.

Her mother sits up straight, turning fully to her. “Thank you for listening. I know you don’t have to.” 

“This is well overdue. And I understand if it's too little, too late. After Marcus told me about your bid for President, I started to follow the debates. The events. And, frankly, while watching your campaign, I’ve been constantly impressed by your sheer… resilience. I have no idea how I would–”

She looks away. “How I would react if someone spoke about your father like that to my face. And you were so courageous. Tenacious. Simply humiliated that Connor fellow in that last debate.” Clarke can’t help the small smile that forms on her face. 

“I followed it all. Which also means that I saw that livestream where–” Her face darkens. “Where those deplorable men ransacked your room. I saw you on the floor, with your father’s drawings,” her voice falters. “I was absolutely livid.

“Marcus furiously stormed into the house that night. We ranted and screamed late into the night.”

They share an amused, dedicated gaze. Her chest loosens a bit at the clear affection written on their faces. 

“And then he told me about everything else. How you came here defending that boy, defending them all. Arguing that they deserve forgiveness despite it all.”

She wants to glare at Marcus. I told him to not tell anyone. 

But, as she sits there, looking between her mother and him, she understands why he did. Clearly, she’s not just ‘anyone.’ He loves her, profoundly. More than she realized.

“And I found myself going through your father’s old things.”

Clarke flinches.

“I’ve always seen him in you, but this whole experience,” she shakes her head. “Made me realize that he’s a part of you. Firmly rooted in you, your being, your conviction. And that realization splintered me. I was ashamed of my treatment of you, of our relationship since he passed.

“I think that when I saw you back then, I saw him. And that ruined me. They were the most selfish, intolerable thoughts. I was so disappointed in myself.”

Clarke blinks rapidly, in confusion. That had never even crossed her mind.

“So, I begged Marcus to let me come see you at the Ball. Which led him to begging you.” She smiles, fondly. “And I’m grateful that your father raised such a selfless daughter. I was elated to be there.

“When I saw you and your friends, I was astounded. Floored with pride and guilt. You looked so beautiful. I found myself wishing that I could’ve helped you get ready, just like that middle school dance."

She smiles at the memory. In eighth grade, her mother had curled her hair into tight ringlets and spent nearly an hour snapping pictures of her and Wells. Dad had to eventually rip the phone away from her. 

“Then Marcus spoke about you, and I couldn’t believe I missed all of your achievements. Your accomplishments. And, then, I saw you rise from your seat. Determination and perseverance on your face. The way you held your head high, threw your shoulders back, and climbed that stage.” Her voice breaks with pride. 

“And then, I saw the very image of your father walking up each stage when he gave policy presentations, or walking onto platforms during his protests. And that’s when I realized how shameful of a mother I have been. How I wasn’t a mother, at all.”

She's wordless. Lingering resentment boils inside of her. Shamefulness at the fact that she saw those videos settles in, as well. Heartbreak spirals in her chest as the memories of her father overwhelm her mind. A wistfulness for that life to return is there, too. But, there’s something else. Something that she thinks has been nestled in her mind for a while, something she couldn’t reconcile.

And, at that moment, it's realized. A thread of relief. A hope that one day, her mother would try to be so again. And relief that it's happening. 

On hesitant legs, she stands up. Her mother follows. And she falls forward, throwing her arms around her shoulders, silent tears running down her face. Their chests heave against one another, every emotion from the last six years in their throats. 

After a while, they pull apart. In her peripherals, she sees Marcus hide a smile.

Clarke sniffs. “I can’t promise full forgiveness right now.”

Her mother nods, but a tiny fleck of hurt flashes on her face.

“You hurt me, mom. I made it through the rest of high school on my own. Without anyone on my side. Except Wells. And still, you threatened me with dad's things unless I chose pre-med. At a college I was accepted to, on my own."

Her mother winces. “I will never forgive myself for doing that. And I will work every day to remedy that.” 

She nods hesitantly. “I ended up loving it. The classes, helping people. I’ve even started to like the boring political science classes that Marcus wanted me to take.” She rolls her eyes.

It's how she met Bellamy. 

Her mother raises an eyebrow, and he lifts his hands defensively. “She’d make an amazing lawyer, too. Have you seen the video of her at Nationals with her debate team?” 

But he realizes his mistake when the sentence leaves his mouth. Because she didn’t. Of course she didn’t.

Her mother tries a smile. No. But I can’t wait to see it. You would make a terrific prosecutor. Again, the way that you drove into that idiot boy at the debate–” She shakes her head in amusement. 

Clarke huffs a laugh. “That was pretty good, wasn’t it?”

They all share a few seconds of laughter before things quiet down, once again.

Her mother clears her throat. "That’s another thing I wanted to talk about, actually.”  

“Me destroying men at debates?”

“No.” Her mother laughs brightly, shaking her head. “About… what you want to do after college.”

“Oh. Well, I’m registered in an MCAT class next semester, so I’ll hopefully take that in summer, and apply to med scho–”

“No, Clarke,” her mother cuts her off, reaching forward to hold her hands. “I have to confess something.”

Marcus shifts as well. She looks between them suspiciously. “What?” 

“We…” she starts. “We saw your performance with Octavia Blake. That showcase.” 

She reels, unsure how to respond. “That was–"

“Clarke,” her mother places a hand on her knee. “We were blown away.”

She blinks. “You were?”

Her mother beams. “Of course. I’m so sorry that I took that away from you. Ballet. Or dance, I suppose. Made it sort of militant at those insufferable galas.” 

Joy blossoms in her chest. It's almost pathetic, how long she’s waited for her mother’s praise. 

“Thank you. Octavia and I worked for weeks!” she starts to ramble excitedly. Both her mother and Marcus’ lips twitch into a smile, and her eyes fill with fondness. 

“The way you speak about it,” she squeezes her knee. “I’ve never seen you so passionate. Well, outside of speaking about your father. Or, I suppose, when you’re debating. Projecting what you believe in...That’s besides the point. What I mean to say– you deserve happiness in whatever path you choose. And I will support you endlessly along the way. I just wish I could’ve done that for the last six years, too.”

“Thank you,” she whispers, a tear running down her cheek. 

“I love you, Clarke.” Her mother cups her face. “I promise that you’ll never question, or forget that. For the rest of my life.”

“I love you, too," she says breathlessly. “Second chances?” 

Her mother nods. “Second chances.” 

Marcus rubs his brow. “Thank god. I don’t know how many more Easter dinners I could take.” 

“I'm sorry that we put you in that position."

Her mother nods. “Yes. It was completely childish of me, Marcus. I apologize.”

“Just as long as easter eggs aren’t thrown again, all apologies are accepted.”

For the next few minutes, she avidly catches her mother up. About her friends, more about the showcase, about the fundraisers. Bellamy flashes across her mind, but she stops short.

Marcus sets his hands on his desk.“Clarke, we never asked. Why did you come this morning?” 

“Oh." Her phone suddenly burns in her pocket. Bellamy must be terrified, wondering why it's taking so long. 

He sighs. “It’s regarding Mr. Blake, I presume?”

She smiles weakly, and turns to her mother. “I know what last night looked like. I just need to explain.”

“Of course. I won’t lie. My initial reaction is not… promising. But you listened to me.” A small smile appears on her face. “And I will always listen to you.”

The supportive words give her an unexpected kind of confidence, so she clears her throat. “Has Marcus told you about Finn, mom?”

“The other boy from the Ball, correct?” 

She nods. Her mother purses her lips. “I don’t know much more than the brief shouts that I heard.”

“We heard yelling for a moment, but when we saw you falter, we immediately directed our attention to the stage. I tried to follow you, but,” Marcus looks at her mother. “Abby told me that you wouldn’t want to see me.” 

Clarke looks at her, a bit shocked.

“I could tell that you needed your friends in that situation. So, when I saw the flurry of multicolored gowns following you, I didn’t think his services were needed. Mother's intuition."

She definitely would have been more upset if Marcus followed her. So, he knows about Finn, but neither of them heard what Bellamy said at the Ball. 

“Right. Anyway…”

She tells her mother about Finn. From Welcome Week, to the day it happened, the two interactions in the aftermath. Her face rotates between disgust, pain, and sympathy. 

“I’m so sorry that you and your friend had to experience that." Her mother squints at her, pensive. “I’m assuming that inspired the altercation between him and Mr. Blake?”

Clarke nods hesitantly. “I don’t know much of the story, either. All I know is that they were stuck in an elevator going to coat check, and came out with testosterone-tinged fists.”

Marcus eyes spark in amusement. “Told you that she still had your wit.”

She has to hide a smile at her mother’s surprised, proud eyes. “You should see me in class.”

Her mother’s laugh is gentle. “I wish I could.” 

Marcus clears his throat. “Go, then, Clarke. Plead your case.” She frowns.

“Clarke,” he leans forward, hands clasped. “In this office, I’m the Dean of Ark University. I need–”

“To be wary of nepotism. I know.” She closes her eyes for a moment. 

He clenches his jaw. “I can't promise I’ll be lenient. Tell him to come up.” 

When she opens them, Marcus is nodding at her mother. She sends Bellamy a quick text, saying that they’re ready.

She folds Clarke into a tight hug. “Thank you for giving me a chance.”

They pull back, and her mother squeezes her arm. Waving a quick goodbye to Marcus, she slides through the door. 

Marcus breathes deeply, leaning back in his chair. “After that exchange, I feel profound relief. And I fear it will not last long.”


[bellamy]

 

After about thirty minutes, he’s completely restless. And unless he wants his leg to fall off from prolonged twitching, he has to go back up.

When he reaches the closed door, the sound is completely muffled. So he sits on the chair outside of it, and tries to do those weird yoga meditative practices that Octavia taught him.

“Breathe in through your nostrils, out through the mouth. Now, hold one nostril with a finger, and breathe. Reach your chakra.”

He scowls at her on the floor of their apartment living room. “What the fuck is a chakra?”

The memory makes him smile, at least, but the anxiety remains all the same. 

It’s a while before the door opens. He jumps up, but falters when a different woman steps into the hallway. He squints at the overwhelmingly familiar face. And freezes in realization. 

That’s…. Clarke’s mom. Clarke’s mom.

She seems to be facing the same dilemma, only taking a few seconds to recognize his face.

In two steps, her hand cracks against his face. His head harshly snaps to the right, and his cheek burns. 

“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Blake.” She nods once and pushes past him.

Hand instinctively touching his cheek, he almost laughs. Good to know where she got it from.

He doesn’t bother to gather himself before he slips into Kane's office. Two sets of eyes look up at him: one petrifying, one bloodshot. 

He prays that the crying wasn’t actual crying, and was one of happy tears. Thankfully, it seems like the latter, when she sends him the most beautiful, watery smile. He wishes that it relaxed him, but the other pair of eyes bore into him so intensely, that he feels as though his limbs might disintegrate onto the nylon carpet. 

“Mr. Blake.” His voice is glacial. “Sit down.”

Kane exhales, tapping his pen against the desk. “The last time I saw you, I told you that another infraction– be it paltry, substantial, or otherwise– would result in your immediate expulsion. Do you remember this?” 

Bellamy tries to hide the massive lump of fear in his throat. He nods.

“Use your words, Mr. Blake.”

He sees Clarke about to say something, but Kane silences her with a look, as well. Not as sharp, but still strict.

Well. That’s a bad sign. 

“I do. Remember that.” 

“Then I find it strange that you’re sitting across from me right now, rather than packing up your belongings at your fraternity’s house.” 

“Marc–” 

He spins on her. “Clarke. I am unafraid to ask you to leave if you continue to interrupt.” 

Kane doesn’t seem to realize his slip. Or her own slip. Maybe she can still inspire some mercy in him. 

“Mr. Blake,” he folds his arms together. “Tell me why I shouldn’t throw you out of my office, right now.”

All the brainstorming that he’d devised in the last hour completely leaves his mind. He feels Clarke’s eyes on him, encouraging but urgent. This is it. Make it happen.

Should he go for an ethos appeal? Pathos? 

Fuck it. Kane will see through him no matter what. 

“I don’t regret what I did,” he blurts out. “Finn mistreated multiple women, and he deserved it. And–”

He sees Clarke wince and lean back in his peripherals. Wrong answer. Shit. Not the right start.

Kane stands up and adjusts his lapels. “In that case, I’ll go notify the front desk of your expulsion.”

“Wait!” Clarke hops up. “M– Dean Kane, I implore you. Perhaps, I can start the discussion.”

He looks at her with hardened eyes, jaw clenched. “Very well. Don’t waste my time.” 

They both settle down. 

Clarke clears her throat. “I’ll begin with the pragmatic. All of this was initiated by a circumstance that was not predictable on any account. One that could not have been realized by Finn, nor Bellamy. Frankly, not by anyone. Well, perhaps by the museum’s executives, administrators or technicians.”

Kane looks unimpressed. “I’m uninterested in assessing the liability of elevator failures. In fact, I believe that if Mr. Blake saw Finn in any capacity, he would still react similarly.” 

Bellamy winces. Because part of him knows that he’s right. 

“What I do care for,” he leans forward. “Are the events following the elevator failure. What happened in the very ballroom of a distinguished museum, during one of the University’s most prominent, influential events.”

He sits up straighter, even more incensed. “I care for the property damage, for the notable attendees who have now disaffiliated from Ark U completely, and for the safety of my student body.” 

She raises an eyebrow. “The property damage being two tables and a couple dozen pieces of silverware? As far as I know, after scanning the guest list, I noticed that not one of the ‘notable attendees’ are or are related to any of our trustees,” she says evenly, crossing a leg over the other.

“Ark University has an impressive reputation. Riddled with accolades, a whopping endowment, and a rich alumnus community. This minor scandal will be forgotten, I imagine, in a few months. Besides, I don’t believe any of the trustees would surrender their governance for a meager fight between two hot-headed undergraduates.” 

Bellamy frowns. Meager?

For a fleeting moment, Kane’s lips twitch with amusement. But he clears his throat. 

“Regardless of the future implications, I’m concerned about the immediate, Ms. Griffin. I will be dealing with the ramifications of last night’s event. Think about how much it weighs on my shoulders. For instance: should another Presidential Ball take its place? If so, how will we allocate the funding for a new one? Wouldn’t donors be wary after such a stunt?”

The intensity and heat of his voice increases with each question. “Should the University release a public statement? What will the graduate student government think of this spectacle? If I end up discipling too lightly, how will other students react? What kind of precedent would this set?” 

She’s silent.

This isn’t working. Fuck. He swallows, his mind desperately grasping at ideas.

The silence grows oppressive. Clarke’s gaze burns on him again. Last chance. Now or never.

So, he takes a deep breath, and steels himself. 

“Dean Kane, I can’t even imagine the difficulties you’ll have to face after what I did,” he manages, not used to the language that Clarke and him use. “I wasn’t thinking rationally. I acted on pure, irrational impulse. If I’m being honest, sir–”

He looks at Clarke. She seems to know what he’s about to do, and he sees the slight shake of her head. No!

But he continues. 

“I care about Clarke, very much. I’m overprotective of those that I care about. So, when I saw someone who had formerly hurt a person that I care about, I felt an irrational amount of anger. And I usually harness my anger through, uh–” He stares down at the bruises on his knuckles. “Physical means.”

He can’t read the expression in Kane’s eyes, at all. But it's definitely not one of endorsement. So he keeps going. 

“I don’t want to assume that I know and completely understand what Clarke and Raven experienced. But, after seeing and hearing about the impact that Mr. Collins had on their lives– when I saw him, I was frustrated. At how poorly he treated my friends. And that frustration grew into anger in an ill-advised manner. 

“I want to be honest. I fiercely dislike Mr. Collins. I resent him, even. But, it was irresponsible for me to act on these intense emotions in such a situation. And for that, I apologize.”

Kane narrows his eyes. 

“I can only hope that you will let me stay at Ark U. I like to think that I’ve proven that I am more than this isolated incident–”

He winces. “Incidents of this semester. And if you allow me, I will continue to prove this in my final two years here. I don’t expect light discipline, at all. I just ask you to allow me to carry out reparations while still being a student of Ark U.” 

Well. That’s all he's got. 

He slows his breathing, so that it's not too loud in the overwhelming silence of the room, and tries to hold Kane’s gaze, but it feels like forcing his hand on an open stove for too long.

Too many minutes of silence pass. His fingers itch to reach out and hold Clarke’s hand. 

“You and Finn will draft a public statement– after attending a full day discipline course– and this public statement will be held on your student records. And you will resign from being Ms. Griffin’s Vice President.”

“What? No!” Clarke straightens up. “Please, De–”

“Shall I recommend expulsion, instead?” His gaze is unyielding, his eyes searing. 

Bellamy looks at her pleadingly. Her lips twist, but she says nothing.

“You’re both dismissed.” 

They don’t move for a few seconds. But he sees Clarke stand up confidently, and nod to Kane. She taps on the back of his chair, and he shakily stands up. And they leave his office.

They’re about halfway across the quad when he stops. She looks at him. And he sweeps her into a tight hug and spins her, kicking up the red and orange leaves scattered on the grass. 

Beaming, he sets her down. She laughs for a second, but a frown quickly replaces the smile.

“I can’t believe he’s making you resign! He can’t just let it sit on your academic record! You have PhD apps to complete! And he’s never spoken to me like that, and–”

He puts his hands on her shoulders. “Clarke. I still attend this University. And he let me keep my scholarship. That’s all that matters. I would resign from every organization if it meant that I wouldn't be expelled.”

She sighs. “It’s just not fair. Finn sucks. He should be the one who’s punished. Even if you were just doing your alpha male thing.” 

“Alpha male thing?”  

“Yep,” she nods, looking at him sneakily. “Also. You called Raven your friend.”

He rolls his eyes. “I also called you my friend. Which you are definitely not.”

She slaps his hand away as he slides it down her back and hips. “You’d be a hot lawyer.”

“Thanks?” She laughs, but places a hand over his heart, with a dramatic sigh. “I think it was your concluding impassioned, heartwarming sermon that eventually swayed him, though. Just tugged at my thin heartstrings.”

He frowns. “Well, my ‘heartwarming’ approach worked, and your ‘pragmatic’ one didn’t."

“Thinking with your head usually gets things done.” She wrinkles her eyebrows, as if she’s wondering why it didn’t work this time.

“Thinking with your heart doesn’t get you expelled.” 

A conceding twinkle dances in her eyes. “Fair." She grabs his hand and squeezes it. “I love you.” 

He looks at her, a grin spreading on his face. “You said it in public.”

She lets out an incredulous laugh. “Do you think it only applies when it's just the two of us?”

“Just wanted to make sure it was real.” 

“It’s very, very real."

“Can you say it again? Just so I know it wasn’t the wind.” 

She rolls her eyes. “I love you, Bellamy.”

He squints. “One more time? I think that was–”

“Stop that!” She bumps his hip, annoyed. “Well, aren’t you gonna say it back?” 

He raises an eyebrow. “Testy.”

She huffs, trying to pull her hand away, but he tugs her back and kisses her on the forehead. “I love you.”

“I love you,” he kisses her on the cheek. He kisses her nose. “I love you.” She starts squirming.  

“Bellamy, stop!” she hisses and pushes him away. People are staring!” 

He looks up, and sure enough, four people spattered across the sidewalk near Sanctum look at them with annoyance and distaste.

“So what?” He shrugs as they cross the street. “Besides, she seems okay.”

They look over at a girl on a bench outside of the building, who looks at them with an endearing smile. 

“God,” she mutters, shaking her head. “I can’t believe you turned me into someone who giggles.” 

He raises his eyebrows. “Oh, you should’ve seen what I was like before you. If I saw a guy doing what I just did to his own girlfriend in the middle of campus, Murphy, Miller, and I would fucking humiliate him for being someone’s bitch. And whipped.”

“I did see you before me. You were such an asshole. Like, the biggest.

They step into the elevator. “Also, it's okay that you're whipped.”

He frowns. “I feel like anyone except my own girlfriend can call me whipped.”

“Why?” 

“Because you’re the one who knows that I’m not.”

“But you are?” 

“I’m not!”

She swipes them in. Octavia, Raven, Harper, Maya, Jasper, and Monty sprawl on the couches.

“Good afternoon!" She hangs her coat up. “Would you consider Bellamy to be whipped?” 

“Oh, absolutely." Monty doesn’t even look up from his laptop.

“Does a chain of monossacharides make a polysaccharide?” Jasper rolls his eyes. 

Raven snorts. “I’m not going to dignify that with a response.”

“He took you to that adorable pottery place for your first date,” Harper chirps. “And then painted that ugly, yet admittedly sentimental mug.” 

Maya nods in agreement, flipping a page of her textbook. “And do you remember how he straight up punched two separate men for her? And therefore almost got expelled, twice?” 

They all hum in agreement. 

“What the hell?” He glares at all of them, who remain completely unaffected.  

Octavia smiles softly, looking up from her magazine. “Of course! I’ve never seen him like this with anybody else.” 

“How can I be whipped for a girlfriend I’ve had for approximately," he looks at his phone. “Seven hours?”

“You made it official?” Octavia straightens up and beams. “Amazing!” she sings.

Raven rolls her eyes. “Finally.” 

She tugs him to her room and plops down on her bed. “It’s not a bad thing. I’m whipped, too.”

He sits down, moving her legs into his lap. “I don’t think it works that way."

“Sure it does. I blackmailed a professor for you, I used my emotional connection with someone close to me to make sure you don’t get an academic strike, then did that again so you wouldn’t get expelled. Even after you ruined my Presidential Ball.” 

He pauses. "Well, when you put it that way." 

“Exactly.” She pulls out her biology textbook, and he sighs, tapping his fingers on her skin. 

“Why do you have to do work?” 

“Because we’re in college, and we have classes. Do your work too.”

After a few minutes, she peers at him over her textbook, raising an eyebrow. “You’re being a bad nerd today.” 

“Can’t we stop being nerds for one day?” He runs his hand up her calves to her thighs. Her breath catches in her throat. 

“Bellamy,” she warns. “There’s no way you could still be in the mood after our… active morning.”

“I didn’t say anything about myself.” His palm reaches her upper thighs under her skirt, skimming the lace of her underwear. She shivers, but swats him away. 

“Finals are happening soon. I need to make sure my GPA is high." She flips a page.

“It’s not even close to Thanksgiving break!”

She closes the book and setting it down. “If you're going to keep distracting me, you need to leave.”

“Are you kicking me out?” 

“Kinda."

“You’re kicking your boyfriend out? The one who filled your entire morning with orga–”

She sits up and grabs his face, pressing a hard kiss on his lips. 

“I love you.” She pats his cheek. “Go away.”

He gathers his things with a sigh. “Fine.”

“Damn,” Raven whistles as he walks out. “Exiled already?”

He rolls his eyes. “Bye.”

“Bye big brother!” Octavia waves. “Wait. Did you get expelled?”

“Nope.”

She looks puzzled. “Oh. Good, I guess.”

Chapter Text

[clarke]

 

For whatever reason, people talk. 

Actually, maybe they should’ve seen it coming. Both of them were fairly well-known to begin with: her from the Finn debacle and involvement on campus, and Bellamy, as the intellectual/frat boy/football player hybrid. The college version of the All-American boy. Kinda.

But becoming President and Vice President (for a hot second), obviously, intensifies things. The Ball surely garnered some gossip, as well.

It doesn’t warrant any concern, really, until a disorienting series of confrontations happen on a frigid November after-evening, two weeks before Thanksgiving break.  

The first is after biology class, when two men in obnoxious, matching cut blazers and overcoats stroll across the quad. 

“Clarke Griffin.” 

Raven and her had just hopped off of the stairs of the science building. 

“Oh geez,” Raven tightens her ponytail. “Here come the boy scouts.” 

“Clarke Griffin and Raven Reyes.” They repeat as they stand in front of them.

A dry laugh nearly leaves her mouth as she scans their country club demeanor. 'My father is a Senator' kind of vibe. 

She blinks at them, tipping her head to the right. “Are you selling cookies?” Raven muffles a snort. 

“Not quite,” one of the men utters curtly. The other reaches into the pocket of his coat. 

“Then what?” Raven snaps. “You’re wasting our time.”

“I doubt you have anything else to attend to at the moment,” the first one says, all too coolly. 

A scowl rises on Raven’s face, and Clarke puts her arm out to stop her from advancing on him. It's too cold and too early for punches.

A folded piece of paper is thrust in front of her. She hesitantly tucks it under her arm.

“Tell me why I shouldn’t throw this in that trash can behind you.”

The second one rolls his eyes. “We’re senior representatives for the graduate student government. I’m sure you both know that Finn has to compose a public statement with Bellamy Blake regarding his assault at the Presidential Ball.” 

He gestures towards the paper. “That’s the draft of the statement. Bellamy just needs to sign. I’m sure Finn would prefer to deliver it, but seeing as you both banned him from campus, that seems a bit improbable.” 

Raven twitches, and she brushes her fingers against her wrist to placate her. 

“His assault," she nods slowly. "Speaking of, what were Finn's injuries?"

The two still in their places, impassive looks on their faces. “We’re not here to argue.”

“Clearly." 

“Sounds good, then.” She extends the paper back to them. “But last time I remembered, they were ordered to compose the statement together. You can hand this back to Finn.”

One of the men narrows his eyes at her before plucking the paper from her hands. 

“Also, frankly, I don’t know why you didn’t just go directly to Bellamy about this. You’re big boys.” 

“We were planning to,” the other huffs, slipping his hands into the pockets of his coat. “We just caught you first.” 

“Go catch him, instead. I’m sure he’ll be more receptive than us. Have a good day.” Her voice is more chilled than the slates of ice covering the sidewalk. And they brush past the two of them.

“God,” Raven sighs as they walk to the library. “I never get tired of seeing bad bitch Clarke.”

“Maybe I should just make it my default setting." 

Their laughter carries in the crisp air as they quickly forget the painfully awkward conversation with the two trust-fund babies.

Unfortunately, another unpleasant confrontation happens within the few minutes after they all leave the library, later that night.

She trails behind the group slightly, tucking the last of her notebooks into her bag.

“Clarke.” 

For the second time today, she hears her name uttered by an unrecognizable voice. She turns around to see three girls looking at her expectantly. 

She looks in front of her to Raven, waving her away. “Yes?” 

Taking a closer look at them, she realizes that she doesn’t have a single clue who any of them are.

Two of them are wearing purple hoodies with letters on them, so they’re all in Greek life. They look a bit older than her, as well. Maybe seniors?

“Are you with Bellamy?”

She’s taken aback by the directness of the question. “I mean," she adjusts her earmuffs. "We’re together. Yes.”

“That’s incredibly unfair to him." The redhead blurts out.

“I’m sorry?”

The girl with a dangerously high, dirty blonde ponytail raises her eyebrows.

“You need to be more careful if you’re participating in Greek life without any affiliation. Some of our sisters are talking about you trying to hook up with the brothers in other social fraternities.”

She falters. “I don’t even know the names of other fraternities, nevertheless the names of any of the brothers.”

A third girl in a bright blue sweater dress crosses her arms. “Are you saying that our sisters are lying?” 

“No– no, of course not. Maybe it was just someone who looked like me?”

“Do you have a tattoo on your right ankle with a bunch of circles on it?” 

The fabric of her jeans that cover her tattoo tingles. “I do.”

Blonde ponytail sighs, softly placing her hand on her arm. “I know it’s hard, but Bellamy’s one of the better ARK brothers. It's only fair if you come clean, before word gets to him.”

Wordless, she just stares at each girl in disbelief.

Who the hell are these people? And who is talking about her tattoo?

“The only reason we’re approaching you directly is because Alpha Lambda Iota,” the redhead gestures down to her hoodie. “is, historically, the sister org of ARK.” 

Sweater dress clears her throat.“I’m sure you remember Gina?”

She nods.

“Well, she’s in ALI as well. It's just the way things work between us and ARK. We throw fundraisers together, do philanthropy events together, have mixers together.”

The blonde clears her throat, smiling at her. “So, it might be best if you–”

“Stop wasting his time,” the redhead snaps.

The blonde glares at her. “We just especially care about the ARK brothers. And they deserve to be with sisters who fully commit to them. Please do the right thing.” She reaches down to squeeze her hand before the three of them flounce away.

She blinks a few times, trying to register what just happened. “What a sisterhood," she mutters to herself. 

Eventually, she manages the walk back to Sanctum, dazed by the strangeness of the day. 

 

“Did you know that you have lots of extremely dedicated groupies?” 

After a chaotic dinner where Murphy tried to make Baked Alaska (and failed), the two of them lay on Bellamy's bed. 

He looks down at her, amused. “Groupies?”

“Yeah. It was so weird.”

She thinks he can sense her unease, because he starts playing with her hair, a bit of hesitation in his voice. “What happened?”

“Nothing, really."

She thinks back to the conversation. “But this group of girls from a sorority–ALI, I think– approached me and just… asked me if I was dating you.” 

“Oh?” 

“And then they told me that some of the sorority sisters have seen me hooking up with other guys. And that I should ‘do the right thing.’”

“Have you?”

She pulls back in angry shock. “How can you even–”

“I’m kidding! Kidding! I know that my extremely hardworking pre-med art nerd doesn’t have the time.” 

“Not funny,” she mutters, twisting out of his grip and turning over. He pauses.

“Clarke.” His voice suddenly fills with concern, and he hovers over her shoulder. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to piss you off. What’s wrong?”

She sighs and rolls onto her back. 

“Two kids from the grad school's student government found Raven and I after class today. They handed over this piece of paper and said that Finn had written your public statement already, and that you just needed to sign it.”

“Marcus said that Finn and I are meeting tomorrow after our classes to write it together.” 

“That’s what I told them!” She places a hand over her eyes. “Oh my god. You should’ve seen what they were wearing. Like Harvard Law rejects.”

He pulls her hand away from her face, his fist clenching at her side. “How does that asshole live with himself?”

She reaches down to unwind his fingers. "None of that. If you punch another person, Marcus will personally dropkick you from this campus.”

“What if he tries to hurt you or Raven again?” 

“He won’t. He’s not allowed on campus. Marcus banned him.” 

“Oh. I didn’t know that."

“Yeah. So we just have to deal with his sycophants, I guess.” 

His eyes flick across her face knowingly, piecing together her shifts of discomfort, her tense muscles.

“Tell me.”

“Am I seriously that transparent?”

He sits up, pulling her with him. “Tell me what’s on your mind.”

She brings her knees to her chest. “Promise me you won’t overthink it?” He nods.

“I was just thinking,” she places her cheek against one of her knees, facing him. “Will this stuff keep happening to me just because we’re dating?” 

Silence overwhelms the room for a few seconds, until he flips his legs off the edge of the bed and hunches over.

“Aaaand you overthought it.” She shuffles over and wraps her arms around his back, cheek against his shoulder blades. 

“But you’re right." He drops his head in his hands. “So many horrible things have happened to you because of the people I surround myself with.”

“It’s not your fault.”   

“Isn’t it? I’m the one who encouraged it all.”

“That was a long time ago, Bellamy.”

“Not that long.” His face hardens, in deep thought.

“You're not encouraging it now.”

“Well, clearly, the fallout is still very much there.”

“It’s just a few odd interactions.” 

“Yeah, interactions with people who harass you because of me." 

“It’s not because of you!” 

“It is.” His voice is steady. 

“Bellamy!” She grabs his shoulders and shakes them. “Stop blaming yourself. I didn’t mean it like that, and you know it.” 

“Alright.”

But his face is still rearing with overwhelming contemplation. 

“Can you stop that? You’re going to splinter that brilliant brain of yours.” She kisses his cheek and flops back down onto the bed.

“Oh, and make sure your idiots don’t go bothering those girls. They’re just committed to their… sisterhood.” She shakes her head, shuffling up to pull her sweater on.

“You’re leaving?” 

His crestfallen face tugs at her heart. “I think I should sleep in my own bed at least once a week. Harper, Raven and Maya would probably think I’ve gone missing if they don’t see me in class."

But he doesn’t meet her eyes. Sighing, she pulls on her jacket before lifting his chin with her fingers.

“Please stop gathering the entire weight of this situation on your back. Don’t overthink it, really. I’m just cranky, because on top of Finn’s minions and those sorority girls, I had the longest day and–”

His head jerks up from her fingers, as if an insightful thought suddenly manifested in his mind.

”Maybe we should break.” 

She, literally, stumbles a few feet back. “What? Why?’

“Wait, I mean,” he stands up and grabs her hand. “We should make it seem like we’re broken up. So people stop talking. And ambushing you on campus.”

She blinks at him, stunned  

“Are you serious?” 

He’s quiet. 

Her mouth hangs open, in pure, undiluted shock. “What would we do? Have clandestine meetings in secret corners on campus? Should I make running here in the middle of the night a regular thing?” 

“Just for now. And our friends can know–”

“Are you hearing yourself right now, Bellamy?” She jerks her hands away, hurt bleeding into her own voice. “You said you weren’t ashamed of me.” 

“I’m not! I just don’t want these people harassing you all the time! If they think we’re not together, then they’ll back off! At least, until this blows over!”

“Have you even thought–"

She takes a deep breath, raising a hand to her forehead. “How people will react when they find out we’re no longer dating? I can hear it all already: ‘Wow, the Princess is a cheater, too.'"

He pauses. “No, I didn’t think about that. Shit.” He sits on his bed. “What should we do?”

“What should we– what should we do? I don’t know, maybe stay together?” 

He looks up, guilt written on his face. “I didn’t mean it like that."

He reaches out to hold her hand, but she takes a few steps back. 

Her eyes are blank. “What did you mean, then? I’m heading out. I’ll see you later.” 

“Clarke–” 

But she ducks out the door and skips down the steps, still stunned by the brief interaction. Just when she thought the day couldn’t get any more unpredictable. 

When she reaches the living room, Miller, Murphy, and Emori turn to her, eyebrows raised. Probably because of her wildly irritated demeanor. 

“Yikes,” Murphy mutters. “What the hell did he do?”

“First fight?” Emori glances at her with sympathy.

“Well,” she says sarcastically, throwing her hands up. “I guess it's the last one, too, because he told me that we should break up.”

Miller chokes on his drink. “What? Are you sure?” 

“I didn’t hallucinate, Miller.” Squinting, she steps a bit closer. “Also, is that chocolate milk?” 

Murphy snorts, clearing his throat. “‘It’s delicious, and calcium-rich.’” 

She almost laughs, despite it all. “Have a good night.” And stops halfway through the door.

“Also, don’t play with the blowtorch anymore, Murphy.”

“Making Baked Alaska is harder than it looks!” he yells behind her. She just shakes her head and pulls the door shut.

 

Still talking to Wells, she enters their dorm after walking around campus aimlessly for an hour.

A loud gasp comes from the couch. 

“Is that… Clarke Griffin?” Harper holds one hand to her chest.  

Another gasp. “We thought you were dead!” Raven sarcastically exclaims, walking out of the kitchen. 

Me too. And I don’t even see her on a regular basis to begin with.” Wells' voice sounds from her phone.

Rolling her eyes, she throws herself onto the couch. “You both saw me a few hours ago.” 

What about our weekly Facetimes?

She sighs and sits up, scooting forward to grab her phone after she flung it. “I know. I’m sorry. Things have been so weird lately.”

“Sounded like it. You gonna tell them now?

“Tell us what?” Harper chirps.

“Good luck. Stop missing our calls. You’re lucky I’m seeing you at Thanksgiving, or else I’d drive to campus and force you to hang out with me.

Wells’ words elicit a small smile on her face. “Okay. I won’t. I promise."

Hanging up, she cranes her head. “Where’s Maya?”

“She went to bed early. Exam tomorrow.” Harper slowly puts her mug down, eyeing her. “Tell us what?”

She makes a sound of annoyance as she falls onto the couch again. And they understand, just from the sound.

“Ugh.” Raven sits up on the armchair. “I knew this day would come. When am I allowed to punch him?”

A wide-eyed Harper shakes her leg. “Did you guys break up already?"

“Kinda.”

She tells them about the conversation her and Bellamy had. 

Raven frowns. “What the hell? What went through this head to even make that leap?”

Harper nods. “Seriously. Are you sure that's what he said?”

“Oh my god, yes!” She throws her hands up. “I’m not making this up! Why does everyone keep asking me that?”

“Because he treats you like you're paradise made human.” 

“He can hardly go a day without being around you in some capacity. I don’t know what was going through this head, but it definitely wasn’t him wanting to break up with you.”

“Then why did he say that?”


[bellamy]

 

“Why did you say that, asshole?”

Emori kicks him from the other side of the couch, flecks of ice cream from her bowl hitting his leg. 

“I don’t know! I panicked! Clearly, being associated with me makes her a target, or something!” 

“So you told her that you wanted to break up,” Miller says slowly. 

“No, I don’t want to! I said we should. To get these people off of her back.”

They all stare at him. 

Murphy rolls his eyes. “You’re such a moron."  

“We’d still be together. Just not publicly.” He pauses, with a wince.

“Oh. That’s how it sounds, doesn’t it?”

Miller leans back. “Pretty much. What exactly brought this on?”

He sighs, filling them in on Clarke’s encounters with Finn’s lackeys and the chicks from ALI. 

“Why can’t they just mind their own business?” Emori exclaims loudly, wielding her spoon in the air.

A fleck of ice cream hits his cheek. “Can you stop?” 

“It’s not my fault John can’t make dessert." Murphy scowls across the room. 

“I don’t even think she has even gone to a frat party that wasn’t at our house." Miller ignores them, raising his eyebrows. 

“Yeah. The weirdest part is that the chicks from ALI told her that they saw a girl at the party with her ankle tattoo.”

“Okay,” Emori rolls her eyes. “I think I know at least fifty people with ankle tattoos.”

“Yeah, but they asked if it was the one with ‘five circles.’”

Murphy snorts. “They’re probably just making shit up. Everyone’s drunk or high out of their minds at their parties. I don’t even think that they can see two feet ahead of them."

“I still don’t understand your line of reasoning, though.” Miller squints in confusion.

“So, she tells you about these weird interactions, and then,” he moves his finger in the air. “You break up with her.”

“What? No!”

He thinks. "Okay, listen. After all the damage we did,” he glares at Murphy and Miller. “Over the last two months, it's like there’s a new thing every day for her. We wrapped her up in so much drama. And now she has to deal with it.” 

“To be fair, we didn’t really–” 

“Well, you gave her that nickname. Princess. Which then spread to the brothers. Which then spread over campus. Which then spread to them harassing her at the debates,” Emori muses, ticking it off on her fingers. “Stealing the underwear and keeping it at a frat house, filming her mental breakdown, an–” 

“Okay, we get it! You’re right!” Murphy cuts her off. 

Miller shakes his head. “I still don’t understand how you reached the conclusion of breaking up with her."

“For fucks sake, I didn’t break up with her!” 

They all blink, in silence. 

He sits up, eyes wide. “Did I accidentally break up with her?”

Emori sets her bowl down. “It kinda sounds like it. Seriously, Bellamy. I still have no clue what you were talking about.”

“You seriously said ‘what should we do’ at one point?” Miller grimaces. “Yikes.”

Murphy nods. “You goofed, man.” 

“Fuck.” He stands up, picking up his phone and heading towards the door. 

“Where are you going?” Miller raises his eyebrows as he passes him. 

“To go apologize for being a dumbass?” 

“I don’t think that’s–”

“Absolutely not!”

He feels a heavy item hit his shoulder.

“What the hell?” Holding his arm, he looks down, and to Emori. “Did you just throw your sandal at me?” 

“After knowing Clarke for a few months, I know that going to see her right now is a death wish. For multiple reasons.”

He opens his mouth to argue, but a sigh dissolves his words. “I don’t want her to think that I just dumped her.”

“Well, too late for that,” Murphy slaps his back. “I’m going to bed. You’re a dumbass.” 

Miller pats his shoulder. “Hey, it could be worse. She could’ve been actually cheating on you.” 

“Fuck off.” 


[clarke]

 

The next morning, she’s forced awake by the unfortunately familiar sensation of someone jumping up and down on her bed.

A hand pats her face. “Clarke!”

Groaning, she tries to turn over, but she’s held in place. “Go away." 

“No.”

She rolls her eyes, slowly lifting herself up. “We need to confiscate your extra key. Why are you here?” 

“He says he’s sorry! Take him back!”

Her urgency wakes her, immediately. “What?”

Octavia sits in front of her, a pleading look on her face.

“He’s really, really sorry.” 

“Why doesn’t he talk to me, then?” She swings her legs over her bed and walks to the kitchen. 

“Also,” she stops in the living room. “How do you even know about this?”

Octavia shoves her phone in her face.

 

Today, 1:20 AM

harper:)

1:20 AM

they broke uppPP!!!!

 

1:21 AM

huh??????????? WHAT

harper:)

1:22 

will explain tomorrow!!!!!!!!!

1:23 AM

no!

 

1:23

NOW

 

1:23

expLAIN NOW

 

Octavia huffs. “I don’t understand how she can just ‘fall asleep’ after telling me something like that. You’re lucky I didn’t come here at one in the morning.”

She sighs as she pulls a mug out of the cabinet. “She was being dramatic. I don’t even know what happened last night.”

“What?” Octavia tilts her head, plopping down on the couch. “What does that mean?”

As she tells the story of last night, a variety of emotions appear on Octavia’s face. 

“Are you sure that happened?” 

“That’s it.” She stands up, almost spilling her coffee. “I’m over people asking me that!”

Octavia jumps up. “Sorry! I just don’t understand him. He practically worsh–”

“Yeah. So I’ve been told. So, somehow, between,” she looks at the clock. “One A.M. and nine A.M., he told you that he was sorry?”

“I know what he’s thinking. Sibling telepathy!" She shouts over her shoulder, closing the bathroom door. 

Maya sweeps in and slumps on the couch, wrapping herself in the blanket on the cushions.

“The naps after eight A.M.’s are better than sex.” 

“Good morning to you, too." She sighs and hops under the blanket with her. 

She frowns. “What’s wro-”

“Maya! They broke up!” Octavia sprints back from the hallway and jumps on the armchair. 

“What?” Maya yells in shock. 

“Oh my god.” She hides her face under the blanket. “I don’t even think it was a break up.” 

Maya looks perplexed. “Oh. So, like, a half break up?” A light bulb goes off in her head. “Oh! Like, a break?”

She stiffens at the thought. She doesn’t want a break.

“Does he want a break?” She blinks at Octavia, and Maya starts rambling.

“There’s no way. Unless, there’s some crazy reason, like, what if someone’s blackmailing him and he’s trying to protect you all heroically and–”

“Okay. Nap time.” She nudges Maya with her foot. The girl sighs and snuggles into the cushion. 

Octavia huffs in exasperation. “I would go yell at him myself, but–”

“Class. And then the–”

“Finn thing,” Octavia finishes with a slow breath. 

“You know the part in Frozen where they’re all like, ‘you know what’s crazy? we finish each other’s… sandwiches! That’s what I was gonna say!’” Maya sleepily hums. “That’s like you two.” 

Clarke smiles, patting her leg. “I don’t know how you can make me smile so early in the morning. Go to bed, sleepyhead."

“Well,” Octavia sighs, looking at her phone. “I have class soon. We’re talking about this later.” She gives her a stern look. 

“Yes, mom.”

And a dark streak whizzes out the door.

Maya laughs against the pillow. "She's like human whiplash."


[bellamy]

 

“This suucks,” he whines, sitting down at the table in a corner of the library’s first floor. 

“Well, it’s your fault!” Octavia snaps.

“Yeah, I know that.” He sighs, holding the phone to his ear.

“Let’s get my ammunition ready," he mutters.

“I hope by ‘ammunition’, you mean a handle on your anger issues and unbearable arrogance.”

“I was going more for a laptop.”

“Sure you were.” She pauses. “Listen, big brother. Don’t screw this up. You’re already in deep waters with her, and–”

“‘Deep waters’? We’re in deep waters? What the hell does that mean?”

“Having trouble with your Princess?”

His shoulders tense as he hears the annoyingly steady voice behind him.

Octavia hears, too. “You got this. Godspeed."  

He takes a deep breath and turns around. “Fuck off. Sit down.” 

Finn opens his mouth, but stops, and slides into the seat across from him.

They sit in silence for a while, the simmering resentment palpable around them. 

“So, the guys told me–”

“Let’s just get this over with," he snaps, tilting his computer towards him.

Rolling his eyes, Finn starts typing a basic outline of the statement. “I was trying to say that the guys were fucked up in approaching Clarke like that. I didn’t mean for that to happen. I told them to find you.”

He scoffs. “Is that supposed to make it okay?” 

“No.” Finn runs a hand through his hair. “No. Look, I’m sorry. For being such a dick to you. And for the draft thing. It was a shitty thing to do.”

“Yeah, it was.”

They stare at each other for a few seconds, before turning to the computer. 

“At the Ball, I just–”

Finn stops and looks away with a clenched jaw. He just shakes his head and looks back at the document. Both of them switch off typing.

“Jesus.” He hears Finn mutter as his fingers fly over the keyboard. “We are so fucking stupid.” 

“Yeah. We are.” 

A few seconds later, Finn clears his throat. “Envy. It was envy.” 

He turns to him with narrowed eyes. “What?” 

“I was just envious of your relationship with them.”

He raises an eyebrow. “It’s not exactly polyamorous.”

A small, amused smile twitches on Finn’s face.

“Your friendship with Raven, and, uh, relationship with–”

He looks away, like it's a sensitive subject. 

“Yeah. Sorry for punching you. That was uncalled for.”

“Sorry for punching you back.” 

“Thanks.”

They nod at each other.

“For the record, Raven hates me just as much as she hates you,” he mutters. Finn huffs a laugh. 

After an hour or so of awkward silence, they manage to compile a coherent, decent statement.

“Good?” Finn nods.

With one click, the document is sent to Kane’s email. Neither of them move.

“Alright. Later.” Bellamy stands up. But hesitates. “We’re still not good.” 

He’s thankful that the wind slams against his face as soon as he steps outside. It forces him into some sort of certainty, pulling him away from the alloy of emotions that saturated his mind for the last few hours. 

After he reaches the end of the quad, he realizes that he doesn’t know where to go. 

 

Today, 7:04 PM

7:04 PM

Should I go see her now?

O

7:05 PM

idk if shes home or not

 

7:05

i dont know her entire schedule

7:05 PM

But you definitely do

O

7:05 PM

ya youre right 

7:05 PM

Use your tracker app

O

7:05 PM

that violates the agreement

7:07 PM  

What agreement??

O

7:07 PM

were not allowed 2 disclose locations  with significant others

7:07 PM

That’s shady as hell

 

O

7:05 PM

chicks before dicks

 

He rolls his eyes and taps on a different contact, wincing at the conversation history. 

 

Today, 10:03 AM

 

10:03 AM

The students were so fucking stupid today 

 

10:03 

One thought the Papal states were in Rome

 

Today, 5:35 PM

 

5:35 PM

Just got out of class, meeting him 

in the library soon



Then nothing.

Sighing, he makes the executive decision to stop by Sanctum. She doesn't have anything on Tuesday nights– just a few classes in the afternoon, an Art Club meeting. 

He hesitates at their door. To be safe, he leans forward to press his ear to the door. 

And, the door swings open, and he stumbles forward. Raven squints at him, one hand on her hip.

Perfect.

To his surprise, she steps aside to let him in. “Thought you’d come earlier.”

He walks in, awkwardly sitting on an armchair. “Just finished with–”

The words catch in this throat, and he looks away. 

She blankly stares at him from the couch. “Finn? He’s not Voldemort.”

“So, is she–”

“No, obviously, she’s not home. I actually don’t know where she is. She doesn’t have stuff to do after Art Club meetings.”

Slight worry ignites in him, and his leg starts bouncing. Raven looks amused. 

“Calm down, Blake. I think she’s had her fair share of Cinderella sprints.”

He sinks into the chair. “I never heard the full story of that night.”

“Not much of a story. She ran to the Waterfront. We ran after her. We sat on the dock. Then we went home.”

“I feel like there’s more to that.” 

She kicks her legs up. “If there is, Blake, I’m taking it to the grave.” 

A bit of silence hangs over them. Not as awkward as usual, but still awkward. 

“How did it go?” 

His head snaps up, surprised by the quiet of her voice. The tiniest crack of vulnerability.

He chooses his words carefully. “It was… okay. Painful. But it's over.”

She looks contemplative, and he anticipates her question, before she asks it.

“He mentioned you.”

Surprise, anger, and a bit of anxiety flashes on her face. “And?” Her jaw clenches. 

“He told me that he’s jealous of our friendship.”

She blinks at him for a few seconds, before dissolving into loud laughter. “You’re kidding.”

“Nope.” He shakes his head in amusement. A few laughs escape his own mouth at the sight of her hysterics. 

He shakes his head after she calms down. “That guy is insecure as hell.” 

“Yep.” 

Still, the tiniest amount of dejection shifts on her face. 

“Look, I know that you’re not a big fan of me, but what he did to you was so fucked up. I can’t even imagine how it felt.” 

She stiffens for a moment.

“Yeah, you can’t." Her voice is cold. 

“You shouldn’t have had to go through that. I know we’re not friends, and I know that the last thing you want is my help, but–”

She looks skeptical. A bit surprised.  

“But I’m here if you need to vent. Or be a punching bag.”

A sly smile twitches on her face. “Don’t offer things you won’t give, Blake.”

“I said what I said.”

She stares at him, unflinchingly, for a minute. And then she nods slowly. “Alright.” 

He awkwardly rubs his hands together. “I guess I should get going, then.”

“Yeah.” 

He gathers himself and begins towards the door. As soon as he puts his hand on the handle, he hears her behind him.

“Blake.” 

He turns around. 

“I’ll let you know when I hear from her." A pause. “And thanks.”

“No problem. I mean it.”

And with that, he heads home. 


[clarke]

a few hours ago

 

“Okay. Don’t forget to email me your pieces if you want the prints published in our showcase in December! Have a good night!” 

She waves to the rest of the members of the Art Club as they all file out of the studio. After stuffing some papers in her bag, she tries to tap her phone. 

Dead. Ugh.

Now, she feels bad for not responding to Bellamy’s message this morning. Truthfully, she just wanted to avoid the situation entirely, so she ignored her phone.

It didn’t help that she constantly saw her phone screen flicker on and off from the hundreds of texts from concerned friends.

As soon as Jasper’s message came up– “Operation Paint Cup 2.0?”– she figured that everyone in the group knew, and she couldn’t handle that. 

And, on top of that, Octavia calls her, approximately, every ten minutes. So, during the walk from psych to painting, she tried to answer– and the screen went entirely black.

Leave it to her own friends to crash her phone.

She looks at her watch as she steps outside. Six. Bellamy and Finn are in the library right now. Part of her just wants to say screw it and go confront him. But that’s definitely not a rational thought. 

Besides, this morning, she promised herself that she’d do this after the meeting.

On the walk over, three thoughts fill her mind. All in orbit. First– was it even a breakup? It seems like everyone’s making a big deal over nothing. She promised that she would see him later. Right?

Second– was it that ‘break’ thing that Maya spoke about this morning? He did mention that they should do something ‘until this blows over.’

Third– does she even want to be in a relationship with him if he willingly wanted to hide it? 

The rapid activity in her mind doesn’t allow her to register where she is until she’s finally there.

Greek Row. She blindly stumbles past the imposing buildings, the harsh lines and disquieting pillars of classical-gothic architecture.

God. No wonder he’s such a nerd about Greek and Roman stuff.

It takes her a while to find the right flag, her eyes getting a bit dizzy from the Alphas and Omegas and Deltas and Kappas. Eventually, she spots the glittering purple and silver letters in the center of the cul de sac. 

When she steps up the driveway, she stops short. You’ve got to be kidding.

Resounding, pulsing EDM blasts from the house, so loud that it shakes the sidewalk she stands on. Annoyingly drunk undergrads stumble on the lawn around her, alcohol sloshing in their red cups.

Well, this throws a wrench in the plan. Who the hell throws a party on a Tuesday night? Will any of them even be sober enough to talk about her ‘cheating’ on Bellamy?

Taking a deep breath, she slides past the tipsy students and opens the large door. 

A stinging whiff of weed and beer inundates her senses. She scans the room, tempted to shrink back through the door. 

It's way worse than the ARK house. People are screaming over the booming music, empty Malibu bottles and shot glasses are littered all over side tables, at least three couples are making out on a single couch, and the purple LED lights make the room just shy of complete darkness. 

She covers her nose and mouth as she weaves through the buzzing bodies. How the hell do people survive these things?

Then, she realizes that she has no idea what she’s doing. Her original plan was to knock on the door and ask around, hopefully finding the three girls from yesterday.

But, as she stands in the foyer of the ALI house, it's pretty clear that all previous ideas are now completely unfeasible.

Figuring that she’s already well into the house, she starts to snoop around, looking for quieter places, maybe hallways where she could corner a sister. Or find their rooms. 

She narrowly dodges a spilled cup as she creeps up the marble staircase. And, as she thought, two gold arches split off into hallways from the upstairs living room.

God. How much money do Greek orgs get?

The hallway is less crowded, and actually breathable. Some doors are open, some have names on them. But she doesn’t recognize a single one. She sighs, ready to give up. 

“Clarke?”

A distinguishable, soft voice sounds behind her. She turns around, and exhales in relief.

“Roma!” She crosses the hallway to meet the striking brunette. “Thank god. I started to think I’d asphyxiate if I breathed in another trace of rum.”

She laughs. “Yeah. Doesn’t really seem like your scene.”

“I didn’t know you were in a sorority.” 

“Rushed freshman year. No offense, or anything, but why are you here?”

“Can we go–” 

Roma nods, grabbing her hand and tugging her to the opposite hallway. She relaxes when they step into her tidy, plain room. 

She leans against the wall. “Thank you. I can actually breathe again.” 

Roma laughs, sitting down on one of her floor pillows. She joins her, and the ringing in her ears dwindles down. 

After a few seconds, she huffs a laugh. “How do you survive these?” 

“You get used to it.” She smiles and adjusts her skirt. “So?”

“Right. Yesterday, a few of your… sisters stopped me. They said they needed to talk to me.” 

Roma frowns, sitting back on her palms. “What did they look like?”

She tries her best to describe the one with dirty blonde hair, the redhead, the one in the sweater dress.

She winces. “Oh. Josephine. You’re talking about Josephine. And Layla, and Kaylee, I think.”

She straightens up. “So you know them?”

“Well, yeah. Layla is the recruitment chair. Kaylee is treasurer. And Josephine is our president.”

Shit,” she inadvertently chokes out. Something about that makes her uneasy. 

Roma seems to notice her discomfort. “Yeah,” she draws out. "She’s pretty popular. Good to have her on your side.”

"On my side? What?"

Roma leans over and pats her shoulder. “I’m just being dramatic. Some of the girls are just a bit… extra.”

“Do you think any of them are here?” 

“Yeah, definitely.” She nods slightly, her eyes still inquisitive. “What did they want?” 

“They told me that some of your sisters had seen me cheating on Bellamy. At parties, or something.” 

“Huh.” Roma folds her legs underneath her. “That’s…”

She trails off, her eyes shifting to the floor near Clarke.

“Roma? Are you okay?” 

“Oh. That’s what they were talking about.” 

“Who?” 

She lifts her head up. “At Chapter last Sunday, Layla went on this whole rant about maintaining the ‘integrity’ of our sisterhood. How we need to protect the ARK brothers ‘cause some girls were disrespecting them, or whatever. It was painfully cliche." Clarke lets out a quiet laugh.

“Anyways, at the end, Josephine started to describe the girls,” Roma’s eyes flick down at her leg. “One of them was a pretty blonde with curly hair, who had a tattoo of some circles on her ankle.” 

She huffs a laugh, running her fingers over the tattoo. “Wow. That doesn’t sound pointed, at all.”

“Yeah, it was kind of bizarre. “I’m sorry, Clarke. If I had kno–” 

She shakes her head. “It’s not your fault. It seems like they were pretty set on confronting me, anyways. But,” she sighs. “Do you have any idea why they’re after me? ” 

“Other than what they said on Sunday, I can’t think of anything. I mean, I don’t want to be that person, but… there’s Gina.”

She frowns. Honestly, she’d be surprised if Gina has something to do with it. It's not like they were close, or anything, but they did seem to make amends at the beach fundraiser. She just doesn’t care about whatever Clarke or Bellamy are doing anymore. 

“Maybe." She rises to her feet. “So, you think I should just wander around? See if I can find one of them?”

Roma sighs. “Maybe? I wish I could tell you what to do. But let me know if you need any help. To find out whatever’s happening.” 

“Thank you. Seriously.”

The girls exchange a quick hug before she dips back into the house.

Creeping down the stairs, she notices that the air is more breathable, and a considerable amount of students have left. Her eyes flicker from every single girl in the room who looks like they could be in ALI. 

After a few seconds, she deflates. It might look a bit odd to other students, seeing a girl in a hoodie, clearly out of place, linger awkwardly in the living room. As soon as she turns to the door, she hears a familiar brassy, steady laugh.

“Gina!”

She turns around, the two other sisters behind her looking perplexed.

“Clarke? What the hell are you doing here?” 

“I have to ask you something."

When she reaches them, the two girls glance over her, and the one of the right perks up.

“Oh! It’s her!” The girl points with her cup.

The other one traipses behind her and makes a noise of affirmation. “That’s the tattoo!” 

Amazing.

She looks at Gina, who, unexpectedly, looks apathetic, a bit annoyed. “What?”

“Why are you all doing this?” She gestures behind her to the two girls who are now bouncing all over the room, announcing Clarke’s presence.

“Oh, chill out. Not all of us care for whatever thing Josephine and Layla are playing at.” She wrinkles her nose. “Just the sisters who are bored and have nothing better to do.” 

She probably sees the exhausted look on Clarke’s face, and sighs.

“Honestly, I have no idea. Josephine’s acts like a stone cold bitch. She’s harmless. But, she gets what she wants.” 

“Great. Well, this was useless.” She spins around and heads towards the door. 

“Clarke,” Gina’s sharp voice rings behind her. “Trust me. Don’t waste your time when it comes to Josephine. She’ll get bored and find a new plaything.” 

She looks over her shoulder. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

Gina shrugs, but hesitates. "Just be careful, okay?"

And she struts back into the hallway. 

As she stomps out more confused and more angry, she collides with a fur coat as she’s about halfway down the driveway.

“Oh, shit.” She reaches out to stabilize them. “I’m so sorry, I was–” 

But she pulls back and sees the bright hazel eyes blink in the dark, and the ponytail–

“Josephine?” She stumbles a bit. Partly from the collision, partly from intimidation. 

She smiles politely. “Clarke. Hello. I didn’t know that you were coming tonight.”

“I didn’t know either.” She looks behind her. “I was actually looking for you, or your two friends.”

“Oh! Is this about Bellamy? I’m very sorry. It must’ve been hard to tell him something like that.”

She shifts uncomfortably. “Yeah, it is. But I just needed to talk to you some more. I'll come back another time.”

She brushes past Josephine, but her hand lightly grabs her forearm. 

“That’s okay. I’m not busy. Are you walking home?”

“Oh, yeah, I’m in Sanc–” 

“I’ll walk with you.” She smiles, this time with her teeth, and, honestly, it's a bit terrifying.

As they start walking, she finds herself having to speed up to fall in step with Josephine. Luckily, the charming sounds of Greek Row prevent a totally awkward silence from descending between them.

Josephine clears her throat. “So. What did you want to talk about?”

She takes a deep breath. “I was wondering how you all knew about my tattoo? I try to keep it concealed.”

“Some of the sisters saw it at the parties–"

“But I haven’t gone to any of the parties.”

She sees annoyance flash in Josephine's eyes, but it's blinked away. “Are you sure? Maybe you’re not remembering fully?”

“I’ve never been drunk or high enough to not remember anything. I swear.” She starts to look at her almost beseechingly. “Josephine, I swear, I don’t want to cause any drama at all. But I promise I’ve never even been to an ALI party.”

Josephine looks at her, as if she's considering her words.

“I don’t want to mess up the connection that ALI has with ARK. I swear. After you found me in front of the library, I looked up your sorority, and I thought that what you all do is really admirable.”

Maybe sucking up will help.

“‘Girls supporting girls’ is a really lovely motto.”

The tiniest smile arises on Josephine's face. After a few seconds, she nods. 

"Thank you. Maybe… maybe the sisters got it wrong. I’ll talk to them.”

"That would be amazing." 

God bless.

And, surprisingly, the small talk they make on the way back is only mildly forced.

She turns to her as they reach main campus. “Seriously, thank you for hearing me out. I didn’t mean to cause any drama.”

Josephine sighs dramatically. “That’s okay. Sometimes the sisters stir things up when they get bored.”

“Will you be okay getting back? It’s pretty dark.” 

“Don’t worry.” She pulls out her keychain, a small pepper spray tube dangling from the ring. 

She huffs a laugh, ducking a hand in her bag and pulling out her lanyard. “I have the same one.”

They exchange a smile, a brief understanding of each other despite the messy confrontation.

She suddenly feels fur tickle the side of her face, and realizes that Josephine is hugging her. 

Before she has time to be surprised, Josephine pulls back. “Thanks for being so cool about this.”

And with a wave, they turn their backs to one another.

When she gets back to the suite, her clothes smell like vodka and faint traces of perfume, probably from Josephine.

After a shower, she tiptoes back into their room, only to notice that Harper's bed is empty.

Huh. It's late.

She weakly shoves the charger into her phone, intending on texting her. But the moment she lies down, her exhaustion gets the better of her.

 

The next morning, she can barely listen to Octavia’s bright voice as they walk to class.

Her late night made for a late morning, and she scrambled to get ready in five minutes, just managing to meet Octavia as she flounced through their door. 

“Clarke?” 

It feels like sand weighs down her head. “Sorry. I hardly slept.” 

“Yeah. Clearly.” Octavia looks at the dark rings under her eyes. “Did… something happen? With Bell?” 

She smiles apologetically. “No. Not like that, at least."

Octavia sighs. “Everyone was worried last night. You weren’t picking up your phone. We practically sent a search party.” She pauses. “Well, we were the search party.”

“Oh, shit. I’m sorry." She pushes the lecture hall's doors open. "To be fair, it crashed after you kept calling me all day."

“Oh. Yikes,” Octavia grimaces. “Sorry. Last night was a lot. Everyone was–”

Too exhausted to carry on anymore conversation, she slumps in her chair. "I'm sorry. I just... had to do some things at night.”

Octavia frowns as they settle into her seats. “What things?”

She looks over her shoulder. Miller and Bellamy aren’t here. “I’ll update you later.” 

Octavia squints, but nods. “Fine. Also, don’t worry. He’s too much of a nerd to skip class.” 

But, ten minutes later, as Pike strolls down the aisle, her assurance falters.

“Not this again,” Octavia mutters, tapping angrily on her phone screen.

Her own phone seems to weigh heavier in her pocket, but she puts her hand on top of Octavia’s and presses it down.

“Later. Help me not fall asleep during this class.”

For the rest of the period, Octavia pushes the tip of her pen into her hand every five minutes, whenever her eyes flutter shut and her head tips to one side. 

By the end of class, her left hand is spotted with blue smudges.

“Well, it worked.” 

On their walk to her next class, Octavia stares down at her phone with a sigh. “First you disappear. Now he disappears.” 

She frowns. “I didn’t disappear.” 

“Well, you still haven’t told me where the hell you were!” 

For the rest of the walk, she tells Octavia about her trip to the ALI house. 

“I can’t believe you went there alone.” 

“I know. It was a trip.” 

“Okay." Octavia kisses her cheek as they reach the building. “Talk later.” 

She smiles weakly. “Later.”

For the rest of the day, she's reprimanded or yelled at in class countless times for nodding off.

After she updates all of them, Raven takes pity on her and buys her coffee before their lab, and Monty and Jasper hide her as she naps at a table in the library. 

And after her last class, her phone dies. Again.

Chapter Text

[bellamy]

last night

 

When he pushes the door open, he stills at the sight in front of him. 

Clarke’s entire friend group, as well as Miller, Murphy, and Emori, crowd the living room. Sitting on every surface and spilling onto the floor. And it's almost scary how quickly their heads collectively snap towards him. 

“Jesus,” he mutters, hanging up his coat. “It’s like The Brady Bunch and The Outsiders decided to have an orgy.”

Harper wrinkles her nose. “Ew.”

He raises his eyebrows at Miller and Murphy. “What is this? An intervention?”

Miller shrugs. “They all just showed up.”

“Well, I’m having a great time,” Murphy sighs contentedly, putting his feet up. “Did you know that they can make moonshine?” 

“No!” Octavia hops up, ignoring Murphy. “It’s a search party.”

“A search party,” he says slowly. “You know Raven is in your dorm room, right?”

Jasper rolls his eyes. “Yeah, she’s the anchor.”

Harper narrows her eyes. “Do you even care about finding your girlfriend?”

“What?” He shrinks a bit, seeing her stormy eyes.

“Harper!” Maya nudges her shoulder. 

“What do you mean ‘find’ her?”

Octavia crosses the room and grabs his arm, pulling him to the couch. “She’s not responding to any of our texts. Or calls. Not even from Wells.”

“You couldn’t have told me that when we spoke an hour ago? And why the hell didn’t Raven tell me?”

“She probably didn’t want to worry you,” Maya pipes up, sitting against the wall. 

“Since when does Raven care about anything related to my well being?” 

“Actually, she probably just figured that you’d panic and do something stupid.” Maya nods. “That sounds more accurate.”

“It’s just kind of out of character that she didn’t respond to anybody for the entire day,” Monty muses, next to Harper. “Usually she’ll text a group chat, or something. And our messages were sent, so her phone was on at some point.” 

“Her phone is dead, you morons.” Murphy rolls his eyes. “She’s probably just…” 

“Just…?” Emori squints at him. 

“I don’t know. Maybe she’s doing art shit. Or dance shit.”

Octavia jumps up. “That’s it! Dance shit!”

Harper grabs her hand. “To Studio D!” 

The girls flounce out, leaving the door wide open.

“Are we supposed to–” Miller looks from them to the open door. 

Monty shrugs. “I guess.”

 

A few minutes later, they climb the winding stairs of the art building to the hallway of dance studios. Maya flits from door to door, using her RA card to swipe open the doors.

“That’s definitely an abuse of power. And it could be used for such spicier things.”

He glares at Murphy. “You’re disgusting."

“You’re telling me that having sex in a dark room with mirrors doesn’t sound fucking amazing?” 

“I’m not answering that.” 

“She’s not here,” Octavia sighs, the girls close behind her. “We checked every door.”

“Well, now what?” Miller leans against the wall.

They all shift in silence in the building’s rotunda, faces contemplative. 

Harper brightens, raising a finger. “We phone a friend.”

The girls hover over her shoulder, looking at her phone, before nodding vigorously and voicing their agreements.

“What the hell is going on?” Miller whispers. 

“I have no fucking clue.” 

But, he’s feels a bit fidgety. She would never ignore her friends. So his mind starts to spiral.

What if she’s hurt? Or at a hospital? What if someone took her?  

Miller and Murphy notice, and Murphy nudges his shoulder. “I’m sure she’s fine, Blake.”

Miller nods. “And the fight you guys had wasn’t that bad, right?”

He swallows. Was it?

“No. Not that bad.”

“Wells!” He hears Octavia shriek. “Clarke’s missing!”

Fuck.

“What?”

Maya rolls her eyes, snatching the phone from Octavia. “She's being dramatic, Wells. But she still hasn’t responded to any of our texts or calls. And it's getting pretty late.” He shifts, his worry intensifying.

“You’re the one she always goes to when she’s stressed. Do you think she’s on her way to you?” 

"She would’ve texted me, at least. Or maybe she'd do her whole show-up-in-the-rain thing again.” 

His cheeks start to burn, and he hears Murphy and Miller snicker.

“But even if she did that, she’d be here well before now. It only takes twenty minutes by metro.”

Octavia deflates. “Okay. Thanks, Wells. We’ll text you updates.”

“Should I come over? I can Uber–”

“No, don’t worry. We’ll find her soon.” Maybe everyone has noticed his rising panic, because Harper looks directly at him as she speaks. 

When she hangs up, a disquieted silence hangs over the group. 

“Well,” Emori draws out. “Anyone have some bright ideas?”

 

After that, in desperation, they travel to any place they can think of.

Monty and Jasper suggest the library, at their favorite table. They get yelled at by an angry librarian for being too loud, but no Clarke.

Emori suggests the garden seating outside of the campus coffee shop, where she likes to study. Nothing. Just Murphy cursing loudly and slapping his arm where another mosquito descends on his skin. 

Miller and Murphy mention the outside amphitheater, where she likes to sketch. 

They all look at them in cautious surprise. Murphy shrugs. “What? We pay attention.”

But no luck.

Octavia clears her throat. "Any hail Mary's?"

Silence.

So they all shuffle back in disappointment. Even Murphy looks a bit discouraged. 

“She’ll be okay,” Jasper speaks up. It sounds more him reassuring himself.

After rounds of ‘Call me when you see her’s or ‘Text me when you hear from her’s, they all part ways, and go home. 

An hour later, he still stares up at his ceiling, refusing the desire to sleep. He knows that it’s stupid, but he can’t help but wonder if Raven was wrong. If she did run. 

Where else could she be at two A.M.? If not on campus, if not at Wells, where? 

He thrashes in his sheets all night, so much that he doesn’t notice the faint blue light of his phone screen blinking on the ground. Finally, exhaustion overcomes him, and he falls asleep as the sun rises. 

 

When his eyes blink open, the unusually intense rays of sun peeking in through his window make him sit up, abruptly.

Shit. He scrambles to pick up his phone from the ground.

Noon? How the hell did he sleep until noon? Why didn’t Miller wake him up? 

Frantically checking his texts while he hops around his room to pull on clothes, he freezes, one arm through his shirt.


Today, 12:51 AM

O

12:51 AM

shes in her bed

 

12:51

think she got back right befor us

 

A deep, relieved exhale leaves his mouth. He quickly gets ready and runs to his TA class, reminding himself to yell at Miller later. 


[clarke]

 

“Who the hell is Josephine?” Raven dumps her textbooks on the kitchen counter after they all get back from class.

“Apparently, the president of ALI. Who really hates me,” she sighs, her head on Harper’s lap. 

“So…” Harper smoothes her hair down. “ALI is ARK’s 'sister organization'? What does that even mean?”

Raven shakes her head. “Fuck if I know.” 

“This came out of nowhere.” Maya cuddles with Jasper on the armchair. “I mean, you and him haven’t technically been together a long time, but it’s been at least…” She counts on her hands. “A week. Why now?” 

Well, she’s definitely jealous," Harper huffs.

“Definitely.”

“What’s with the hype around him, anyways? What is there to be jealous of?” 

Harper glares at Raven. 

Monty offers her a weak smile. “I don’t understand anything about Greek life. I’m sorry, Clarke.” 

“I still stand by Operation Paint Cup 2.0,” Jasper insists. “Oh! It can be, Operation Paint Cup: Sorority Swap.” 

“On the topic of,” Raven leans forward with her phone. “Octavia says Blake wants to come over. And that’s she’s annoyed with you for still ignoring his texts.” 

Maya blinks. “You’re still ignoring him?”

She sighs. “I just didn’t have the physical or emotional energy to respond.” 

Raven raises an eyebrow. “You responded to me.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t break up with me. And you’re my best friend.” Raven sits back on her knees, a self-righteous look on her face. 

“Hello?” Jasper frowns, waving his hands. “We’re here, too!”

“I responded to you too, Jas. In the group chat.”

“Oh. Right.” He mimics Raven’s smug smile.

She yawns. "Honestly, for now, all I want to do is sleep. I don’t know how any of you are conscious right now. You were out way later than me.”

Harper pats her head. “Yeah, but we didn’t have eight A.M.’s today.” 

“Octavia did. With me. And she looked perkier than ever.”

Raven scoffs. "Yeah, well, it’s Octavia. I think her Patronus is the Energizer Bunny.”

“Did you just…” Jasper looks at her, incredulously. “Reference Harry Potter?” 

Maya closes her eyes. "Oh, god."

“I always knew you were a closeted Potterhead!” 

The two start bickering loudly. Harper looks down at her. “Nap time?” 

“Yes, please.”


[bellamy]

 

Two classes and five more sleep deprived hours later, he drops on the couch with a groan.

Today, 5:36 PM

5:36 PM

Do you think she’s home?

O

5:37 PM

hi to you too big brother

 

5:37

i mean ya her classes are over

5:37 PM

Should I go see her?

O

5:38 PM

ummm

 

5:38

i think shes with the squad rn

5:39 PM

Can you ask them?

O

5:39 PM

don’t u have raven’s number

5:39 PM

Yeah

 

5:39

She’d just tell me to fuck off though

O

5:40 PM

well then maybe u should fuck off

 

He frowns.

5:40 PM

When did you become so mean?

O

5:41 PM

when did u start telling girls that u dont want 

to date them publicly?

 

He winces and sets his phone down. It's almost pathetic how much he misses her, considering they saw each other two days ago. Maybe he should fuck off. She’s talked to other people since. Just not him. So maybe she really thought they were broken up.

He groans, hitting his head against the wall.

 

O

5:43 PM

i texted raven n she said that clarkes tired

 

He sighs. That's fair. 

5:43 PM

What even happened last night 

O

5:43 PM

long story tell u later

 

5:44

with lincoln byeeeee

 

Murphy walks out of the kitchen with a brownie. “My single man!” 

He closes his eyes. “I’m not–” 

Murphy sits down next to him, and he opens one eye. “Are you seriously eating a weed brownie at five PM on a Wednesday?” 

“Well, I figured I could use sustenance for our upcoming battle.”

“Battle?” 

Miller walks in. "Let’s go, assholes!” 

“What the hell, Miller?” He shoots up. “Why didn’t you wake me up?”

“You usually wake me up. I could’ve used a good sleep-in anyway.”

“I could’ve seen her in class!”

“Whatever. Murphy and I thought of a plan for tonight.”

“Which is?”

Murphy yawns. “I mean, it's not that deep. Apparently, a bunch of brothers are going to a party at the ALI house tonight. Some mixer.”

Miller shoves his hands in his pockets. “We thought we could go figure out what’s happening with Clarke.” 

“You’re doing something for Clarke?” 

“Yeah, yeah,” Murphy rolls his eyes. “We’re real stand-up guys. Now, let’s go.” He stands up and offers a hand.

“Uh, it's five.” 

"Oh. Right.” Miller frowns and collapses on the couch next to them. Three hours later, as Emori joins them, and Murphy gets higher than he should, they're on their way out. 

“Onwards, soldiers!" Murphy salutes as they walk through the door. 


[clarke]

 

A few hours later, Harper gently shakes her awake from her nap. “Clarke? We have an idea.” 

Disoriented, she sits up. “What’s the idea?” 

“We thought we could go back to the ALI house with you!” Octavia pops up behind her.

She jumps at the loud voice, and places a hand on her chest. “God. Raven was right about the Energizer Bunny thing.”

“What?” 

“Nothing." Harper waves and pulls her up. “Come on. Let’s go. Even Maya agreed to go.”

“Our Maya?”

“Yes!” She also leaps up behind Harper.

“I’m not sure I want to go back there. I’m telling you, we’ll need breathing tubes before we go.” 

Octavia rolls her eyes. “I’ve been to these things with Lincoln before. They’re having a mixer. It's more chill. Come on.” 

Maybe she could see if Josephine actually talked to the sisters. She hesitantly drops off her bed and nods.

“Also,” Octavia huffs, hands on her hips. “Can you stop ignoring my brother?”

“I’m sorry. I was just so tired today, and my ph–”

Octavia snatches her phone from her desk and tries to turn it on. “Seriously? Your charger is literally right there!”

“Baby Blake!” Raven calls from the living room. “Scold her later! We’re going sorority girl hunting!” 

“Can we please not call it ‘hunting’?” 

“Allons-y!”


[bellamy]

 

“Seriously?” He looks at Emori and Murphy making out against a wall. “Is that the only reason he wanted to come?”

Miller shrugs. “Probably for the alcohol, too."

They scan the busy living room. “So, what now?” 

“Honestly, we didn’t think that far.”

“Great. We walked for twenty minutes in the freezing fucking cold to be pushed around in a crowd of obnoxiously drunk college students. And Murphy has now abandoned us.”

“Chill out. Let’s go talk to… what’s her name? Josie?”

“Josephine.” 

They only really know a few girls from ALI, mainly from their mixers and philanthropic events. She's usually the one who leads them. 

He squints as they stroll through the living room. “And Gina had those other friends, too. Layla and Kaylee.” 

“Shit, dude,” Miller pauses to greet one of the brothers that pass them. “What if it was Gina?”

“You’d think so, but, somehow, her and Clarke formed some sort of truce.”

“Wow. She really can make friends with about anyone.”

“Yeah. That’s why this whole situation just seems off to me.” 

“Let’s go see if we can find one of them. I think I remember some of the other girls from that ‘dogs on the quad’ event they did last year. Pretty genius,” Miller mutters.

Luckily, as they wander into the kitchen a few minutes later and see the familiar, talkative brunette, the search ends up being quite brief. “Bellamy! Nathan!” Layla jumps from her seat on top of the counter. “We haven’t seen you in a while.” She softly places her hand on his forearm.

Miller rolls his eyes. “We came to ask you about something.”

“Oh?” Her voice is sweet, curious. “What’s up?”

They exchange looks, not really knowing what to say. Bellamy clears his throat. “Do you know if any of your friends talk to Clarke? Clarke Griffin?” 

She taps her fingers against the side of her cup. “Hm. I think Gina and her occasionally see each other in passing. Not sure if any of the other sisters know her. Just through you, I guess. Why?”

“Oh, uh–” He looks at Miller.

“I think she just met some girls recently, and wanted to meet up and talk with them.”

Well. It's not a complete lie.

“Oh!” she exclaims brightly. “Come with me, I’ll go find some of the sisters for you!”

They hesitantly follow her to the backyard, and she hurries them onto the bench in front of their firepit. “Wait here!”

“Uh, actually–”

But she flounces off, leaving them in front of the crackling flames.

“Well,” Miller sighs, rubbing his hands on his jeans. “At least they have an outside bar.” 

For the next hour, Layla brings around a steady stream of girls. The two didn’t get a single word in, as every one of the girls either blatantly flirted with them, or ranted about how much they love the ARK brothers or some other random, mundane thing. They’re all harmless, and (mostly) sweet, but he really starts to lose his patience when an extremely drunk one talks his ear off about her barre class. 

The last two girls speaking to them finally walk away, and him and Miller slump down. “That might’ve been the most painful, overwhelming hour of my life. And I take a political philosophy class with you at eight in the morning.”

“Your plan sucked.” 

“Yep,” Miller exhales. “I’m going to get Murphy and Emori and tell them we’re getting the fuck out of here. Be right back.”

He nods and stares at the tiny flames dissipating into the air. Hearing faint footsteps on the grass behind him, he begins to rise, but a soft voice stops him.

“Bellamy?” 

He turns around to see a smiling Josephine approaching him. She sits down, her blonde hair flicking him in the face. “I heard you were looking for me?”

“Oh, uh, we were just leaving, it's no big deal–”

“No!” She places a hand on his arm and pulls him down. “What’s up? I want to help.”

Admittedly, he’s relieved to see someone he knows. Especially Josephine, who probably knows more than anyone else. 

“Alright,” he nods, shoving his cold hands into his pockets. “You know my girlfriend, Clarke?” 

He almost falters at the title, but presses on. She nods with a polite smile. 

“She talked to some girls from your sorority Monday night, and I think she wants to find them, so they can talk again, or something.”

“Oh? Why didn’t she come with you tonight?” She looks around him, as if she's searching for her.

“She’s... busy."

She nods. “Ah, I bet. I’ve heard she’s really smart. Trying to be a doctor, and stuff.”

“Yeah. She is." He's quiet, a bit wistful. “So, do you know who she talked to?"

“I’m sure a lot of the girls know her,” she chirps, tucking a strand of hair back behind her ear. “She’s popular.”

Weird. Layla said the exact opposite.

“I’ll ask around for you!" She tips her cup towards him. “Whiskey?” 

"All good. Plus, never take a drink from a stranger, right?”

She laughs. “Right. My bad.” When she pulls back, she's a bit too aggressive, and the alcohol spills all over her, and on his lap. 

“Shit! My bad!” She places the cup down and rubs her arm.

His arms raise instinctively, but he just waves it off. “No worries.” 

“Here." She pulls the fabric of her shirt over her hand and wipes at the dark splotch on his jeans. 

“Uh, thanks."  

She looks at him apologetically. “I hope I didn’t ruin them.” 

He shifts his leg away from her. “Just jeans. Definitely not the worst thing I’ve experienced at an ALI party, anyways. At least it's not puke.” 

She giggles. “I’m not sure whether I should be concerned about your experiences at our parties, or thankful that this isn’t the worst of them.”

He coughs awkwardly and smiles. Where the hell is Miller?

“Oh, shit.” She stares at his upper arm. “How the hell did it get here?” And she starts rubbing at the wet spot with her sleeve. 

“Uh, that’s okay–”

He looks down to see her chin on his shoulder, only a few inches away, and only manages to blink a few times before she leans forward and presses her lips against his. 


[clarke]

 

When she spills into the ALI house for a second night in a row, she’s relieved to see that Octavia was right. It's much tamer. Still over exciting and chaotic, but not as much.

Maya rubs her hands together. “So, what’s the game plan?” 

“What did you say the other names were again? After Josephine?” Harper looks at Clarke.

She describes the three girls’ appearance to them. “Roma said that it was Layla and Kaylee, too.” 

“Okay. Octavia and I will take upstairs, and Maya and Harp will take the bottom floor. Griffin is our floater.”

“Wasn’t the whole point of this to ensure that I don’t go in here alone?”

“Well, if people see us with you, they’ll know exactly what we’re up to,” Raven yells over the music. 

“I guess."

“Since Clarke’s phone is still dead,” Octavia glares at her. “Let’s be back here in ten minutes for a status update. Break!”

Clarke sighs as the girls disappear into the crowd. Where does a floater go first? She awkwardly ambles through the house, looking for a familiar face.

To her surprise, she does find one, but it's not one she’s expecting. 

“Emori!” 

Dark hair whips over her shoulder. “Clarke! What are you doing here?” 

“Princess!” Murphy raises his eyebrows. “Good to see you. We thought you were dead.”

“John!” 

"Were you actually worried about me, Murphy?” 

He pushes himself up from the wall, with a lopsided grin. “I can be the good guy, too. So, this is awkward.”

“What is?”

Emori glances at Murphy. “We’re actually here for you."

She raises an eyebrow, looking between the two of them. “You’re making out against a wall in the ALI house for me?” 

He smirks. “It’s just a detour on the larger battle.”

“Battle?” She looks to Emori.

“We came here to see if we could find some of those girls that talked to you on Monday.”

She hides the smile that spreads on her face. “We?” 

“Blake and Miller are here, too.” Murphy whistles, looking around the room. “Somewhere.” 

“Um, okay. I’ll try to go find them. Enjoy… yourselves?” 

Murphy snickers and Emori rolls her eyes. 

Turning away from the couple, she wanders further into the house, cutting into corners that she didn’t explore yesterday. When she reaches the kitchen, she stops. One of the girls from Monday leans against the sink, happily chatting with a few boys. 

What did Roma say? Was Kaylee the brunette? Or Layla?

She weaves through the bodies to the sink. “Hey!”

Layla/Kaylee turns to her and wrinkles her nose. “Clarke. What do you want?”

“Uh…” The boys’ eyes shift towards her, and one of them lights up in recognition.

“Oh, hey! You’re Blake’s girl." He jerks his chin up in greeting. 

Layla/Kaylee seems to tense at that. “Oh. Right. Are you looking for him?”

“Actually, I was hoping to–” 

“Talk to Josephine?” Layla cuts her off. “She’s in the backyard.”

She blinks rapidly, slowly walking away. "O-kay."

It takes her a while, but she finally finds the sliding door to the backyard. The air smells like wet grass and smoke, and a bright fire pit stands in the middle of the yard. She wanders around, scanning the crowd of people around her. And freezes when her eyes roam over the fire pit, spotting Josephine’s blonde hair and petite frame. 

And she recognizes the curly hair of the man sitting next to her. And she has one hand on his cheek. And she’s kissing him. And it looks like he’s kissing her back.

She steps forward a few feet and stares blankly, not really knowing what to do. Or say.

“Bellamy.” 

The two break apart and he whirls around, wide-eyed. “Clarke–”

“Clarke!” Josephine’s voice sounds shocked, but underlying it is something honeyed.  

She just blinks. 

But when he rises and starts walking towards her, she steps back quickly, almost tripping on a beer bottle on the ground. And she spins on her heel and pushes through the students, running back inside, hearing his voice disappear behind her.

“Clarke!”

She frantically looks around, eventually spotting Harper’s blonde braid. “Let’s go," she mutters, grabbing Harper and Maya’s hands.

“Woah, wait!” Raven and Octavia hurry over, and they all spill outside. 

“We have to go!" She pulls their hands so hard that Maya stumbles over the curb. 

"Griffin! What is going on?” Raven searches her eyes.

Over Raven’s shoulders, she sees him, followed by the guys and Emori, standing in the doorframe. She freezes.

The girls look between her and him, in confusion. 

Octavia blinks at him. "Bell?"

He walks down the driveway. “Clarke, I swear, it wasn’t what it looked like.”

Quiet realization dawns over the girls. 

Raven tenses. “It wasn’t what it–” 

But she just stares at him, and he just stares at her, a pleading look in his eyes. She lets go of the girls’ hands and walks over to him. 

And, for the second time, her hand strikes his cheek. 

She hears Murphy muffle a laugh behind him, and Raven does the same, behind her. Before his head can snap back, she turns around and rejoins the girls.

On the walk home, she can tell that they’re anxious to ask, despite having a fairly good idea of what could’ve happened. When they stand silently in the elevator, she breaks. “He was kissing Josephine.”

Octavia chokes on her water. “What?” 

“I fucking knew it." Raven slams the door so aggressively that it makes Maya jump. 

“Did you know her, O?” she asks quietly, sitting on the couch. 

She sits next to her, dazed. “Yeah, through Lincoln. But Bell would never cheat.” 

Raven scoffs. “Well, he did."

Octavia narrows her eyes. “Gina cheated–”

“Please." She looks between Raven and Octavia. “Not now.” 

Harper brings her a mug of tea, Raven grabs her laptop, and they all settle down with blankets. They’re about three-fourths of the way through The Princess Diaries before she sighs.

"Is it even cheating if we were broken up?” 

No one says anything. Just Anne Hathaway’s voice playing softly from Raven's computer. 

Harper readjusts the mug in her hand. “I didn’t think you both were actually broken up. I thought it was just a big misunderstanding.” 

“I thought it was, too,” she says quietly. 

Maya reaches forward to pause the movie. “Yesterday night, when we were looking for you, he seemed like he was going to stroke out from the sheer amount of guilt on his face."

“Maybe you both just need to talk,” Octavia tries. “Maybe she just kissed him out of the blue.” 

“I mean, it looked like he was kissing back. I don’t know. It was dark.”

Octavia sits up straighter. “So, maybe it was just a misunderstanding! I’m sure he would never cheat on you, Clarke. He’s not that kind of guy.”

“Once again, Baby Blake," a bit of frustration seeps into Raven's voice. “He did. Even if they were actually broken up, he still went and kissed a girl who is actively trying to ruin her, a day after.”

Octavia puts her mug down. "I just think that there’s more to this than we think!” 

“What more could there be?” 

“I don’t know! If Clarke could actually respond to him, maybe we’d know!”

The air in the room falls flat and stale. Clarke’s eyes flicker down to her mug, trying to focus on the remnants of her cold tea.

Octavia stands up. “I’m going to bed. See you guys later.” 

And she walks out. 

As soon as she leaves, Raven shakes her head incredulously. “That was such a shitty thing for her to say.” 

“It kinda was,” Harper quietly agrees. 

She closes her eyes. “But she’s right. I should’ve just talked to him. Maybe this whole thing wouldn’t have happened.”

“Are we forgetting that he’s the one that broke up with you?” 

She tries to blink back the rising tears, her voice trembling. “So, you think we’re really not together anymore?”

“Oh, Clarke." Harper wraps her arm around her, and Maya rests her head on her shoulder.

“We’ll figure it out later," Raven's voice softens. “Let’s just go to bed.”


[bellamy]

 

“What the hell was that about?” 

A banal sting still tingles on his cheek as they all watch the huddle of girls retreat into the darkness of Greek Row.

“Bellamy?” Emori waves her hand in front of his face. “What just happened?”

He frowns, turning around to face them. “She kissed me. Josephine.”

“What?” Miller chokes out. “I left you alone, for like, five minutes!”

“I don’t know where she came from!” 

“Did you kiss back?” 

He spins on Emori. “What? No! How could you even ask that?”

“Well, it had to be long enough for Clarke to see it happen!” 

“Was she here the whole time? Why wouldn’t Octavia tell me?”

“Nah, she came in after us.” Murphy mindlessly flips his phone up and down. “She saw Emori and I. We told her why we we're here.” 

“You couldn’t have given me a heads up?” he snaps. “Texted me? Called me?”

“We thought you and Miller were busy!” 

Miller rolls his eyes, and starts walking. “It doesn’t matter, anyways. Clearly, it happened, like, five minutes after she saw you both. I didn’t see her on my way to find you guys.”

Murphy kicks a cup on the sidewalk. “Well, if she didn’t think you were broken up before, she does now."

“Fuck off.” 

“Let’s keep our distance.” Emori pulls them back. “I don’t think any of them are up for another high noon.” 

Miller shoves his hands in his pockets. “Well, now what?” 

“Now, I’m going to go ask Josephine what the hell is wrong with her.”

He tries to turn around, but Emori pulls him back, again. “You’ll just make it more messy. Let’s just go back.”

Miller nods. “She’s right. We can talk to them later.” 

“Fine."

They walk back in near silence. Miller and Murphy greet the other frat kids as they pass them, but him and Emori silently cross the sidewalks, ignoring everyone else. When they step foot on campus, she clears her throat. “I think the worst part is,” she pauses. “That she seemed so… sad. Not angry. Just so much sadness in her eyes.”

He blinks. “Thanks for that.” 

“Just telling it how it is,” she sighs, pushing the door open.

When they’re all back in their rooms, he groans as he scrolls through his texts.

 

Today, 9:31 PM

O

9:31 PM

raven n i just got into another fight

9:46 PM

Thanks for the update

O

9:47 PM

i snapped at clarke

 

9:47

bc she wouldnt text u back

9:47 PM

Thanks for the second update

O

9:48 PM

are u ok?

 

9:48

josephine ambushed u didnt she

9:49 PM

Basically

O

9:49 PM

knew it 

 

He drops his phone on his chest. Great. He contemplates texting her, but figures that he should leave her alone. And she probably wouldn’t respond, anyways. 

And he's right. She doesn’t. For a week. 


[bellamy]

one week later

 

After classes and office hours, he comes home to see Emori furiously typing away on the couch. She looks up.

“Hey. Can you help me with something?” 

“Sure? Since when do you need my help with things?”

“Since I don’t know a fucking thing about history. Nor do I care to learn.” 

He sits down next to her. “What do you need?”

“Do you know anything about American history?”

“Pretty sure I know the histories of most significant civilizations and nations.”

“Geez. Nerd.”

“Do you want my help or not?” 

She sighs. “My final for my reporting class needs to reflect ‘expertise’ on a certain subsect of journalism. I was thinking video journalism. I thought I could do a report on the first through ninth amendments, because–”

“Yes, the anniversary of them being completed is soon.”

"What crawled up your ass today?”

He leans back. "Well, my girlfriend– who I’m pretty sure isn’t even my girlfriend anymore– hasn’t spoken to me in a week. Her and my sister are fighting, and all of her friends have now blocked me on every form of social media. Thanksgiving Break is in a few days, and I haven’t finished grading any papers or even started on my finals. So, forgive me if I'm not full of vim and vigor, today.”

She blinks. “O-kay then. So, I’ve interviewed some of the history professors and the political science professors. I need students. You free right now?” 

“What does it look like?”

“Grumpy,” she mumbles, putting her stuff away. “Alright. Let’s go to the media room.” 

“I didn’t know this involved moving.”

She rolls her eyes, tugging him up. “It’s just at the student center. I don’t have any equipment with me.”

“Fine.” 


[clarke]

 

After class, extremely sleepy and in need of a nap, she drags herself across the quad after seeing the bright, white glove shoot up in the air and wave.

Finally, after a week, Octavia texted her back with a profuse apology, and asked if they could get coffee after she got out of chemistry. She tried texting Octavia for the past few days, and was met with radio silence. She sat with Bellamy in Pike's class, and avoided their dorm at all costs.

That, on top of not seeing him, made her pretty distraught, and most nights, Raven, Harper, and Maya rubbed her back while she cried. Even the sorbet they brought didn’t help. When she wasn’t in class, she sat in her room doing work, refusing the girls’ plates of dinner. And everyone had grown extremely concerned when she skipped game night and slept for all of Saturday, instead.  

So, getting her text this morning was the biggest, best kind of relief. 

“Hi.” Octavia awkwardly waves at her, huddled in her coat and scarf. They hug, but not as warmly as they used to. “I missed you. Let’s go inside?” 

She nods, and they traipse into the student center. She’s about to dump her stuff down on an empty table, but Octavia tugs at her sleeve. “Let’s go to the upstairs study lounge. They have couches.”

“Alright,” she breathes, warily eyeing the long set of steps reaching up to the second floor. 

“Oh!” After dragging her up the stairs, Octavia points to the large, half-opened glass doors of the media room. “It’s Emori!”

“Hm?” She lets Octavia tug her forward, and before she knows it, the glass doors swing open and she’s pulled inside.  

“Emori!” Octavia waves excitedly.

Clarke smiles and goes to greet her, but her eyes follow the camera to the microphone, and she freezes when she sees him. His own eyes widen on the stool. 

She sighs. “Seriously?” 

“I’m sorry. I really am sorry for ignoring you the past week. I was a bitch.” She sounds sheepish. But genuine. 

“Yeah, you were."

“I’m sorry about this, too.”

She’s so confused by her words that she doesn’t notice Emori scurry to gather her things until her brown hair smacks her in the face as she pushes past her. “Gotta go! Bye!” She watches the two girls flee through the doors and slam them closed. A sense of dread rolls over her.

“No!” She rushes forward to tug on the handle. It's locked. She looks up at Emori and Octavia through the glass. “Please don’t do this.” 

“I’m sorry, Clarke.” Emori’s voice is muffled, but she does look genuinely apologetic. “This is necessary.” 

And two dark streaks turn and run down the hallway. She sighs, leaning her forehead against the glass.

“How the hell are we going to get out?” His voice rings out from behind her, and she tenses just at the sound of him. God, she’s missed it.

She jerks the handle, but the door just shakes. “I have no idea.”

“I don’t even know if I have the hope that they’ll come get us eventually.” His voice is half-hearted, but light.

Closing her eyes, she slides down to the floor. “I’ll text Raven to come get us.”

Silence cloaks the room, the small whir of the camera doing absolutely nothing to dissolve the awkward absence. After a few minutes, his low voice breaks the silence. “I miss you.”

The three words make her chin tremble, the sadness she’s held for the last day flaring up inside of her. “I miss you too.” 

She finally opens her eyes, and sees that he’s moved closer to her, just a few feet away. She watches him tentatively lean down, kneeling in front of her. And she doesn’t move, or flinch when he reaches out a hand to touch her cheek.

“You haven’t been sleeping.” His voice is thick with guilt as he runs a finger under her eyes. 

She huffs a laugh, looking at the dark circles under his own. “You’re not looking too rested, either.” 

He sits down next to her. “It’s hard to sleep when you’re not there.”

The words immediately surface the feeling of the cotton sheets tangled around their legs, his smile against her neck, the smell of peach (after Murphy thought it would be funny to replace Bellamy’s soap).

“What the fuck, man?” 

“What’s wrong with peach?”

“I’m a dude!”

“Well, Clarke seems to like it!” 

The memory makes her smile at the ground. “How are you?” 

“Could be better."

“Me too.” She stares at her phone, waiting for Raven’s name to pop up on the screen. “Thanksgiving is soon.”

“Yeah." His gaze is warm on her face. “I think all of your friends blocked me.”

She smiles apologetically. “Yeah. I thought they would. 

“I think Monty or Jasper did something weird with my email, because I keep getting invitations from Christian Mingle and Ashley Madison.” 

She bites back a laugh. “Sounds like them.” 

They settle back into silence for a bit, and her eyes start burning into her phone screen. Why hasn’t Raven responded? She moves it back and forth in her hands. “So, what did you think of Pike's lecture on Medea?”

“I don't think I’ve retained any information from that class. Especially not from the last few 'discussions.' He’s not a very good lecturer.”

She brings her legs up to her chest. “Yeah." 

“What did you think?”  

She pauses, thinking. “I love Medea. It's considered one of the first feminist Greek tragedies.”

“Why?”

“Because Medea killed her cheating husband.” 

“Oh," he blinks. “Right.”

She smiles inwardly at the rigid discomfort on his face. Euripides would be proud. Her text tone disrupts the silence.

 

Raven

5:17 PM

what the hell? they locked you in?

 

5:17 

ok coming be there in 20

 

She makes a sound of frustration. 

5:17 PM

20?? Seriously?

Raven

5:17 PM

oh im sorry shaw n i didnt plan that

our trip 2 chesapeake bay would

be cut short bc u and blake are

locked in the media lounge

5:17 PM

Fine. Hurry.

 

“All good?”

She looks up to see Bellamy raising his eyebrows. “Yeah. Raven’s coming soon.” 

“That’s good.”

She nods slowly, picking at the fibers in the carpet. More silence. Finally, he sighs.

“Clarke, can I please explain?” 

She takes a deep breath. “It’s okay."

His eyes are hardened in determination. “Just hear me out. Please.”

“Fine.” 

“That kiss that you saw with Josephine, it–”

She relaxes against the glass, staring at the camera and microphone stand in front of them. “It's fine. We were broken up. I shouldn’t have slapped you.”

“I didn’t mean to break up with you,” he says softly, reaching out for her hand. 

She draws back, narrowing her eyes. “I don’t think that sentence makes much sense.” 

“I don’t know why I even suggested that. I was just frustrated that people kept harassing you because of our relationship. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“So, you broke up with me instead?”

“I didn’t–” His voice raises a bit, but her stubborn gaze silences him. His jaw twitches.

“Okay, whatever!” He throws his hands up in frustration. “Broken up or not. That kiss still didn’t mean anything. She leaned forward and kissed me! Out of nowhere!”

“You were kissing her back. Seemed like something.”

“It might’ve looked like that, but I swear I wasn’t! I went to that party trying to figure out why they were all talking about you.”

“Well, seems pretty clear now.” 

For a few seconds, he just furrows his eyebrows, a nonplussed look on his face. He sits back when realization starts to flicker in his eyes. “You think she's into me?”

She scoffs, flicking a piece of lint off of her jeans. “Don’t play dumb, Bellamy. You see how girls look at you.” 

He shakes his head, shocked. “I don’t care how they look at me.” 

“Well, you kissed one of them, so clearly, you do.”

“She kissed me!” In her peripherals, she sees his fists clench on the ground.

“Okay. I’m sorry for slapping you.” She gets up and walks across the room, pretending to be interested in the journalism equipment. 

“Seriously?” 

She looks over her shoulder. “What?” 

He rises to his feet. “You can’t keep walking away from me! This time, you literally can’t.” 

“I’m not walking away.” She looks at the photos on the wall. “I said I’m sorry.”

“So that’s it?”

“What’s it?”

“Are we done?” His voice grows louder, and she feels the heat of his body stir closer to her.

“You broke up with me.” Her eyes trail across a photo of a bunch of the communications students, arms around each other on the quad. She spots Emori in the middle, grinning with her chin on top of some guy’s head.

Well, that’s wholesome.

“I just said that I didn’t mean to. That was the last thing I wanted.”

She traces her fingers across the photos as she walks. “Then why did you suggest it?”

“I told you! I just didn’t want you to keep being caught up in useless drama!”

Suddenly, she feels his body right behind her, and he places two palms on the wall, trapping her. She takes a deep breath and turns around. 

He looms over her, a fierce look in his eyes. “Stop walking away from me.” 

She says nothing, her own face resolute and unflinching.

“What else can I do to make you believe me?” he snaps, irritation thick in his voice.

His dark pupils tear into her, his thumbs grazing some strands of her hair. Which almost makes her break. His eyes flicker down to her lips, just for a moment. It’s like something obstinately tethers them together, some invisible thing that constantly magnetizes them, prevents them from being apart. His head starts to lower, but she ducks under his arm.

She backs up, shaking her head. “No. You’re not allowed to do that.” 

“Do what?” 

“Angrily kiss me whenever you don’t want to talk!”

“You’re the one who doesn’t want to talk! And that only happened once!” 

“Twice.” 

He hesitates. “That one doesn’t count.” 

“How? You physically stopped me from leaving the garden and forced me back around!” 

“It didn’t seem forced to me.” 

She can’t help the tiny flutter in her chest at the thought of that night. “That was different!” 

“How? We were fighting then, and we’re fighting now!”

“You didn’t kiss another girl right before that!”

He makes a loud sound of frustration. “For fucks sakes, she kissed me!”  

“We weren’t together then!” 

“Well, apparently, we’re not together now, either!”

She stills, and her fists clench. But, before she can respond, a voice breaks in.

“Griffin? What the hell?” Raven, bobby pin in hand, pushes the door open with Shaw. 

She turns around and breathes a sigh of relief, still trembling a bit. “Thank god. Let’s go.” She gathers her stuff and roughly brushes past Shaw, seeing Raven glare at Bellamy as the door shuts behind them. 

Shaw frowns as they hurry down the stairs. “Who the hell locked you in there?” 

She rolls her eyes. “Emori and Octavia. I think they thought it would get us to talk again.”

“Well, that backfired completely.” 

On the way back to Sanctum, she indignantly relays the conversation that her and Bellamy had. Shaw holds the door open for them. “Damn. Doesn’t sound like that was a very productive conversation.”

“Seriously,” she huffs. They plop down on the couches next to Maya and Harper, but she paces the room, lingering frustration still coursing through her. They all look at her, concerned.

“Clarke, RA’s need to report whenever there’s damage to our dorm room, and it looks like you’re going to tear up our carpet,” Maya says slowly. 

“Sorry. I’m just still so pissed. I think all of the annoyance I’ve been suppressing is just surfacing, or something.”

“Maybe you should draw? That always helps you sort out your emotions,” Harper pipes up.

“No. I don’t think I could even hold a pencil in my hand without snapping it in half."

“Why don’t you go for a run?” Shaw suggests.

They all look at him in confusion. “Zeke. You know how I feel about running.” 

“I know. But trust me,” he stands up, putting a hand on her shoulder. “It’s cathartic. You just release all of your energy. Even ten minutes might be good for you.”

She raises an eyebrow and looks at Raven, who’s pursing her lips. “I agree. It might help. It always helped me with Finn.” And she turns to Harper and Maya, who shrug and nod. Sighing, she drags herself to her room and changes.

She tugs on her shoelaces. “I’m going to die."

Raven rolls her eyes. “Just once around the quad, okay? And see if it helps.”

“Fine." 

When she finally steps outside, the cold nearly stings, and the shivering only seems to intensify her annoyance. But, she takes a deep breath, and moves into a slight jog, crossing the street. She circles one edge of the quad.

Who does he think he is? He broke up with her. Said that they should hide their relationship. And says it was an accident?

Her pace quickens a bit, the shuffling of her shoes against the ground becoming more audible. 

And then he kisses someone? And he’s the one who’s sad?

She huffs, the air whipping across her face as her arms move vigorously.

And Octavia ignored her. She sat alone in class. She cried every night. 

And he just thinks it's fine to push her against a wall? Kiss her? That it’ll make it all better?

She doesn’t notice how her legs start flying through the air, catching the concrete in larger strides. Or how she starts to veer off the quad, and onto the grass. And then onto the sidewalk. And then further. The music in her ears becomes white noise to the loud thoughts bouncing around in her head, and she races past the blurred lights of cars, block, after block, after block.

About fifteen minutes later, she looks up and stops, laughing humorlessly. Of course. 

Pushing through the bushes and branches, she reaches the gate. Not patient enough to fiddle with the lock, she just climbs and leaps over the railing. Her fall is anything but graceful, and she winces at the small cut on her arm, probably from skimming the metal. Why did she even think she could do that? But the crisp, pure smell of rosewater centers her, and she makes her way to the gazebo. The stupid, Roman gazebo. 

Wait, no. He said it was a Greek temple. 

She stomps up the stone steps until she's under the sprawling dome, the familiar circle of pillars around her. And laughs dryly. She goes on a run to forget him, and she ends up at the very place that reminds her most of him. She reaches in her pocket to text Raven that her run ended up being... longer than usual. The fiery resentment dissipated into exhilaration, the curls that flew out of her ponytail whipped back from the rush of air, the cold turned a renewed warm on her skin. How cliche. 

As she catches her breath, she lets her head fall back to look at the the carved, circular scalloping, and starts spinning slowly. What was once probably a clear, marble white is now dirtied and browned, timeworn cracks in the stone. She could make out some faded mosaics and frescos, but just barely. 

She laughs. God, it's so ugly. 

“It used to be more refined.”

Her head snaps down and she bites back an annoyed groan. “Seriously?”

He steps up on the stone floor. “What?”

“Why did you have to come here the one night I do?” 

“I found this place first!” 

She scoffs. “You don’t own it, Bellamy.”

“Well, I didn’t follow you on purpose, if that’s what you mean.” He wearily sits on the bench under the pillars. She blinks at his fatigue, a stark contrast to the still-flowing energy stinging her skin. 

He glances over her. “Since when do you go on runs?” 

“Ever since I get angry about being trapped in a room with my not-boyfriend and his infuriating superiority complex.” 

“Ex boyfriend.”

“What?” 

He looks at her, amused. “Ex boyfriend. You said not-boyfriend.” 

She tries to suppress the instinctive affection that she feels when she sees him smile. “Whatever.” She stares at him for a few seconds, but he doesn’t move. Huffing, she hops down the stairs and walks back into the forest, laying down on the grass.

A few minutes later, she hears the ruffling of leaves and feels the press of grass beside her.

“Now, you definitely did that on purpose.” 

“Yeah.”

But he says nothing else. So she gazes up at stars, counting each one, watching how the moon shifts with every passing minute.

A soft noise interrupts her. Her mind refocuses a bit as the sound grows louder. A song. 

'What's somebody like you, doing in a place like this? Say, did you come alone or did you bring all your friends? Say, whats your name, what you drinking?'

A laugh inadvertently spills from her mouth at the ridiculous lyrics. She looks over to see Bellamy holding his phone over his face, wrinkling his nose. “God," he blinks at the bright phone screen. “This song is fucking terrible.” 

She laughs again, thinking back to that night. 

“What’s a girl like you, doing in a place like this?” 

“Did you just quote Timbaland and Katy Perry?"

When she blinks back into the present, their heads are turned towards each other, strands of grass spotting their vision. She feels something rough sweep across the back of her hand, and doesn’t even think before her palm opens up, and his fingers curl around hers. The smallest, almost unnoticeable movement sends solace throughout her body, spreading over her skin, warming the places where the cold grass pricks at her arms. 

“I missed you so much.” Her voice is barely more than a whisper, one that could’ve been easily carried away by the gales that sweep over them every few seconds.

His smile is small, soft. “I missed you too.” 

She unravels her fingers and closes the distance between them, resting her head on his chest. His arms wind tightly around her.

“Please forgive me.” He murmurs the three words into her hair, and she thaws completely.

“I forgive you,” she breathes. “I really am sorry for slapping you again.” 

He huffs a laugh. “It’s okay. I know how it must have looked.” 

“I should’ve known better. You would never do that to anyone." She twists her head to look up at him. “I’m sorry.” 

His lips brush against her forehead. “It's really okay. I’m such an idiot.”

“Yeah. You actually said, ‘What should we do?’” 

He cringes. “I don’t know what I was thinking. I felt so guilty. I just wanted you to not be harassed for one fucking day of your life.”

“It’s fine. Just don’t leave me next time.”

“I won’t. I promise.”

She can't help but smile at the solemn, all-too-serious look on his face. So, she hops up to her elbow and leans down, pressing her lips against his. And, in that moment, came the pathetic realization: that a week, just a week apart from him, is too much.

Surprised, he hesitates for a moment, before wasting no time, taking his hand to the back of her neck, pulling her tight against him. It's slow, patient. Their lips shift and sway in the winter night, the chirps of the cicadas, the wet press of grass against them, the white glow of the moon all irrelevant, unnoticeable. Her mouth finds each stitch of skin, laying down her sorry's, her adoration, everything she missed. And when her cold fingertips draw up the hem of his jacket, she feels the dark reverberations of his laughter echo against her chest.

"Here?"

"Why not?"

And it's hard to tell if the slow rise of goosebumps on her skin are from the cold, or from the profound, measured need for him, as she sheds her leggings and unzips his jeans. And time eases away as she hovers over him and sinks down, as if it all begins and ends with them. His voice is airy, the small puffs of breath blowing from his lips. "God, I missed this."

"Me too."

But their words slip away into the darkness, and it's just them, together, a quiet sliver in time. When he rolls over and gently lays her down, a whimper dies on her cold lips as the warmth of him becomes a lurid disparity to the crisp grass around her, stinging her skin. And as they fall into each other, she splays her hands over every inch of his neck, his shoulders, as if he'll slip through her fingers right there, if she doesn't. His hair tumbles onto her forehead as he looks down at her, and his tongue softly sweeps between her lips, his gentle knuckles brushing against the flush of her cheek.

And his eyes are so full of tenderness, of incredulity, of wishing, wanting, and the sweeping, shattering feeling of him gazing right through her, being everywhere, all over her, all at once, becomes too much to bear. A chilly shudder breezes over her, wispy snaps of pleasure crack on all over her body, and his name rips across her lips. Her cries tumble into the air, and into nothing, dissolving into the tiny atmosphere around them. 

It's long, and she unravels right there on the grass, her hips rolling to feel him more, feel everything more; it's reverential, blissful. They're enveloped in that brief moment, the space between the moon, and the earth, and the stars. Not too long after, her own name floats into the air, and he presses into her so deeply, that she feels she might fall to pieces in his arms.

Even after, their foreheads still tip towards each other, their lips still brushing together. Slowly, they redress, and she curls back into his side. Watching the stars blink in and out, they just lay there for awhile, their breaths mixing with the cold air, the sound of running water, the smell of roses. She raises her fingers and taps the familiar sequence on his chest. He smiles, and taps it on her arm.

“Can’t we just say 'I love you' like normal people?”

“Nothing about us is normal. We met because you humiliated me in class.”

“And our first kiss was you slamming me against that pillar over there.”

“And the first time we had sex was when you ran to my house in the pouring rai–” 

She slaps his chest with a smile. 

“It’s a more interesting story, anyways.” 

“Okay,” she shifts off of him and stands up, brushing the grass off her clothes. “I’m fucking freezing. Let’s go.” 

His lips twitch up. “So romantic.” 

She starts swinging his hand as they walk back through the forest. “You know what would be really romantic?” 

He raises an eyebrow, a wary look on his face. “What?” 

“If my adoring and extremely apologetic again-boyfriend carried me home.”

He rolls his eyes and picks her up. “You’re lucky I love you.” 

“Yeah,” she rests her head on his shoulder. “I am.” 


[bellamy]

 

He walks back into the house, freezing and wet, but with the stupidest grin on his face. Miller, Murphy, and Emori are sprawled on the couches, weird looks on their faces.

“Bear attack?”

“What?”

He walks to the mirror next to the coat closet, and blinks. Holy fuck. He really needs to monitor her. 

“Princess has some good hickey game,” Murphy quips. Emori slaps him. 

“So,” Miller pauses the TV. “I’m assuming you made up?”

“Something like that.” He sits down next to them. 

“Spaghetti?” Emori points at the bowl on the table. 

For the first time in a week, he goes an entire dinner without screaming at Murphy, or angrily stomping out of the room. And, that night, he lies in bed, smiling at his phone.

 

10:56 PM

You need to calm down with the biting

Clarke

10:57 PM

:(

 

10:57 

You’re mean. 

 

He texts her a picture of his neck. 

 

Clarke

10:58 PM

… 

 

10:58 

Oops. 

 

And then he texts Emori. 

10:59 PM

Do you have any of that foundation stuff?

Chapter Text

[clarke]

 

“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” 

Octavia flits around a rack of dresses, pushing each hanger aside with a dissatisfied wrinkle of her nose. 

After apologizing (again) for ignoring her and locking her in a room, Octavia insists that she make it up to her by taking her shopping. Which means that Clarke’s just been following her around in complete disinterest, listening to her rant about everything she missed in the week they were apart. 

“Hm?” She looks up from her phone. “Oh. I’m not sure.”

Octavia smiles slyly. “Are you texting my brother?”

"No. Raven is asking what she should wear to dinner with Zeke’s family.”

She frowns. “Why didn’t she ask me?” 

“Because you don’t exactly have the same... style.” She motions to the lavender, flowery dress that Octavia holds up against her body. “Also, she’s still kind of pissed at you.”

She sighs. “Fine. That’s fair. But–”

“I know. You love us both so much, and you were tired seeing us unhappy.” She stares at some blouses on the wall, mumbling to herself. “But for some reason, that involved exclusively ignoring me."

Guilt flickers on Octavia’s face. She opens her mouth, but Clarke waves it away. “Bygones.” She winces at the price tag of a pair of jeans, and changes the subject. “What are you two doing for Thanksgiving?”

“Usually we just hang out at the house since most of the brothers are gone,” Octavia shrugs. “Order Chinese and watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.”

“He voluntarily watches Charlie Brown?”

Octavia smiles smugly, gazing at the jewelry stands. “No. I force him to. But then he makes me watch a History Channel documentary about Thanksgiving.”

“That sounds awful.”

“Yeah. I just sleep through it. What about this?”

She looks at the short, pink dress. “Isn’t that a bit inappropriate for Thanksgiving?”

Octavia pouts. “No fun.”

“You should get it, though. It would look a lot better on you. Lincoln would like it.” 

Octavia sighs. “He invited me to come meet his family.”

Her mouth tips open. “That’s huge.” 

“Yeah. But I can’t leave Bell alone.” 

She blinks, looking at her wistful face.

“I can invite Bellamy over. So you can go with Lincoln,” she blurts out.

Octavia looks up at her with wide eyes. “Really?” But she deflates.

“It’s so messed up that I’d rather spend Thanksgiving with my boyfriend than my own brother.”

“Well, we’re having Friendsgiving tomorrow, before we all leave on Thursday. And maybe you can do something small together. I’m sure he’d understand, Octavia. He just wants you to be happy.”

Octavia rocks on her heels, considering. A mischievous smile spreads on her face. “He’d be in the same room as Dean Kane, wouldn’t he? And the infamous Mama Griffin?” 

Clarke pauses, thinking back to the last few Thanksgivings.

Her mother’s side of the family only approves of her because of her academic success, so the dinners are filled with every one of her uncles quizzing her on obscure medical trivia. And her aunts constantly prod her about her love life, asking if she’s found a ‘proper boy.’

That was especially painful when she brought up her freshman year girlfriend. Lexa. The women fell so silent, not even the clinks of her mother’s china filled the large space. But the moment was quickly saved by Marcus’ change of subject, to some random academic theory. That was the first Thanksgiving at her mother and Marcus’ new house, and he was a hit with the entire family. He’s her only respite, constantly rescuing her from conversations with her relatives, claiming that he ‘needs her help in the kitchen.’ It works every time. Even when she’s sent away from the adults to greet her cousins, they always give her a flagrant once-over, their Ivy League noses wrinkling in disgust. 

One Thanksgiving, her sixteen-year-old self was feeling especially confrontational, so when she spoke up about what she was thankful for, she said two words: my father. She didn't know that the human gaze could burn so much until that moment, where she felt like she'd start a forest fire as the twenty faces looked at her with distaste and shame. All of them except her dad’s mother sitting next to her, the only relative on her father’s side that would show up. She never asked her grandmother where the rest of them were, but she always sat next to Clarke, placing a hand over hers on the table. Her saving grace. But she passed away her senior year of high school. 

Her mother also didn’t allow her to go to the next two Thanksgivings after that. So she spent them with the Jahas.

She shakes her head frantically. “I take it bask. I’m sorry.”

“Geez,” Octavia’s eyes widen. “That bad?”

“You have no idea. I can’t do that to him.”

Her face falls, and she starts playing with the sleeves of the dress. “Oh. Okay.” 

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have mentioned it.” 

“That’s okay. Maybe we can have dinner before he goes home.”

The shopping experience is decidedly less fun after that, as they trod from boutique to boutique. Octavia dejectedly wanders along, her face full of resignation. 

Finally, at the third one, where she stares longingly at a dress and murmurs, “Lincoln would like that,”– she breaks. 

“Okay. I can’t keep looking at you walk around like you’re watching the ending of Marley and Me on repeat. How about–”

She sighs. “How about we ask Bellamy what he thinks?”

Octavia’s eyes light up, and she starts nodding vigorously “Yes! Please!” 

“Okay. We’ll ask him when we get back.” 

“Yes! That’d be amazing!” She practically jumps up and down, grabbing Clarke’s hands. “Thankyouthankyouthankyou!” 

It makes her smile a bit, despite the anxieties rising in her. “You’re welcome. As long as it makes you happy.”

“I don’t deserve you.” Octavia flings her arms around her, squeezing tightly. 

“You do. Just don’t ignore me for a week again.”

Octavia pulls back, a serious look on her face. “Never. I promise.”

Clarke watches how her demeanor instantly changes, the sadness that filled her eyes just a minute ago, now completely dissolved. “You really love him.”

A dreamy look twinkles in her irises. “I love him so much.” 

Clarke takes a deep breath. “Okay. At least help me find a dress that won’t make my cousin Jade call me a peasant for the third year in a row."

“I’m on it!” Octavia salutes, immediately running deeper into the store.

She smiles weakly, and inwardly braces herself. This will be an interesting conversation to have with her mother.


[clarke]

“No.”

“Please!

“No.”

“Please, Bell!” 

She sits on the couch, watching Octavia and Bellamy argue in front of her, and she can barely contain her amusement, thinking about all the times she’s been on the receiving end of one of Octavia’s convincing endeavors. 

Surprisingly, her mother took the suggestion fairly well. On the bus ride home, Octavia insisted that she call her, immediately. 

“Clarke?”  

Her mother’s voice held a large amount of surprise. Probably because the last time they spoke on the phone was freshman year, when she was yelling at her about choosing a major. 

“Hey mom. Can I ask you a favor?” 

And when she mentioned Bellamy, the line fell understandably silent. 

“I suppose I can use it as a vetting opportunity. Since you failed to mention that you were dating the boy.” 

It wasn’t very hard to figure out since the Ball, especially if her mother is actively following her life. But she sounded teasing, amused. Not angry or bitter. 

“Yeah, sorry about that. When did you first notice?”

“Well, that picture you posted of him and you kissing at that ice cream place made it pretty evident.” 

Right. Her social medias are pretty much exclusively pictures of Bellamy or her friends.

“So, that’s a yes?” Her eyes flickered to Octavia.

"Yes, of course, Clarke. I want to be in your life again. Which means being around the people you care most about."

She smiled down at her lap. “Okay. Thanks, mom.”

Octavia practically leapt out of her seat when she heard her response.

“I love you, Clarke. I promise that this year, if Uncle Titus tries anything, I’ll personally throw the carving fork at him.” 

And she laughed. A full, bright-eyed laugh. 

“I love you. See you soon.” 

But now, in the living room of the frat house, she watches a very different conversation.

Bellamy is growing increasingly exasperated. “It’s Thanksgiving, O! You should be with family!” 

“I’ll still be with you before!” she pleads, looking down. “And he’s becoming my family, too,” she hears Octavia say quietly.

Her own eyes grow large, looking at Bellamy to see his reaction. To her surprise, something gentle peeks out from his angry veneer. 

“And it’ll be okay! Clarke said that we could do Friendsgiving, and spend some time together before we leave!” 

Oh, shit.

He looks at her. “This was your idea?” 

“Don’t bring her into this!” Octavia angrily crosses her arms.

“You just did!” 

“Just because she cares about my happiness! I practically forced her by being such a brat while we were shopping.” Octavia shoots her an apologetic look. She weakly smiles back, trying to be reassuring. 

But the thought of Bellamy having to witness and participate in a Griffin-Kane Thanksgiving makes her a bit nauseous. He’ll be so disgusted by it all. Which he should be. The displays of wealth are annoying, her narrow-minded racist and sexist relatives are suffocating, and the overall ambience of judgement is… too much to handle. 

He looks between her and Octavia. 

“How would you even get there?” His voice still belies a significant amount of frustration.

“We’d drive down Thursday morning and be back on Sunday night. I won’t miss any class.” 

“You’re just going to drive off to some place you’ve never been? With people you barely know?” 

“Bell! It’s just Baltimore, an hour away! And you know Lincoln! He literally lives with you!”

Clarke looks at Bellamy, whose resolve is clearly being broken down, piece by piece.

“Please, big brother?” Octavia walks over and wraps her arms around his chest.  

Oh, it's over.

“I’m an adult. I’m responsible. You can even do that tracking thing on me if you want.” 

He’s still tense, his arms unmoving. She watches his face twist in contemplation.

She has to muffle a laugh as she wears the most charming, lovable, Octavia look on her face. “And he makes me really, really happy.”

A long moment passes.

“Okay. You’re an adult. I trust you.” 

Octavia’s excited shriek startles both of them, and she hugs him tightly. “Thank you! Thank you!” 

And suddenly, she's leaping across the room to her, flinging her arms around her. Again.

“Thank you, so, so much, Clarke,” she mumbles into her shoulder. “You have no idea how much this means to me.”

“My sister likes my girlfriend more than she likes me,” Bellamy grumbles, sitting down next to them. “At least I won’t have to watch that stupid Charlie Brown movie. And can enjoy my documentary in peace.”

He leans back, closing his eyes. She stills.

Octavia frowns. “I’m not leaving you alone here, Bell.”

He opens his eyes and raises his eyebrows. “Where else am I going?"

“To Clarke’s.” Octavia points to her. She blinks. 

His eyes widen and he sits up. “I didn’t know that was part of the plan.”

Octavia looks offended. “You really think I would leave you here alone?”

“I mean, yeah." He shrugs.

She huffs. “Do you think Clarke would leave you here alone?”

He’s quiet, but a small smile still plays on his lips. 

“Wow,” Octavia collapses into the cushions. “My brother likes my best friend more than he likes me.” 

She laughs brightly. “I'm just likable.” 

“Clearly,” he mutters, shaking his head.  “You managed to make amends with my ex girlfriend.” 

“You’re really never going to let that go, are you?”

”She cheated on me! I’m bitter!” 

“Alright!” Octavia bounces up. “I’m going to go ask Harper and Maya for their opinions on the Thanksgiving outfits I planned!”

He frowns. “Plan–” 

But the door’s already swinging.

She pats his knee sympathetically. “I understand how you feel. Like, actually. She did that exact same thing to me so I’d go to that dumb afterparty.”

He pulls her head into his lap, smiling down at her. “That afterparty wasn’t very dumb to me.”

“Yeah, well, I had a bruise for days after you slammed me against a pillar.”

He touches the back of her head. “I thought I was more gentle."

She laughs, looking at him in disbelief. “You were many things that night. Gentle was not one of them.” She pauses. “Until you carried me home, I guess.”

A withering look descends on his face. “I can’t believe I did that.” 

“Soft from the very beginning.” She reaches up and pokes his cheek. Her eyes trail to his neck and she coughs a laugh, running her finger over the red and purplish patches.

“How did you cover this?” 

“Emori put foundation on my skin. But it didn’t match. So I don’t think it was subtle. My TA students were very amused.” 

She giggles. And immediately slaps a hand over her mouth. His eyes flash with amusement and pretension. “I made you giggle again.” 

“It’s a rare sound. Treasure it.”

He raises an eyebrow. “I can make it less rare.”

She squints at him. “Wha–” 

But his hands are on her sides and stomach, and she starts squirming out of his grip. “Stop that!”

But his hands keep her firmly in place, tickling her as she wriggles in his arms. And she giggles.

“Easy.”

She huffs, sitting up. “Yeah, yeah. You can put ‘making my girlfriend giggle’ on the special skills section of your resume.” 

He grins, pulling her legs back. Some emotion she can’t decipher suddenly descends on his face, and he clears his throat.

“You really want me to come to yours for Thanksgiving?”

She scoffs. “No.”

A hurt look flashes over his face, and she hurriedly sits up, placing a hand on his arm. “No! Not like that. If I had a normal family, definitely. I would’ve been ready for you to meet them as soon as we had our first date. But not with the one I have."

His brow creases as he grabs her hand. “No families are normal.”

“Bellamy. If you think my mother is bad–” She looks away, shaking her head. “It’s awful. I don’t want you to experience it.”

“But your mom and you are good now, right?”

“Yeah, I guess. But she can’t control the rest of them.”

“Clarke. You’ve dealt with so many difficult things in your life. How bad can some relatives be?”

“Really bad.”

“Then we’ll handle them together.”

She looks up, a small smile on her face. “Yeah?”

“Of course. Kane has to like me in that situation, right?” 

“Well. Maybe not like you, but he’ll be nice to you.”

He groans and flops back onto the cushions. “Will he ever like me?”

“Eventually.” She squeezes his hand. “He’s my lifeline during these events, you know.”

“Really?”

So, she tells him everything– her aunts, uncles, cousins, the ridiculous displays of wealth, the snobbery, sexism, racism, all of the -isms. 

After she finishes, he sits back with wide eyes. “Holy shit.” 

“That’s why I was so hesitant for you to come. Not because of you. You’ve been meeting-family material for a long time.”

“Ever since the first date, huh?” A lopsided grin spreads on his face, and she shoves him. 

“You said you’ve loved me since the first time I yelled at you in class, so you’re the pathetic one.”

“Ow. My pride.” He clutches his heart and falls onto her lap with a sigh. “Well, I may be pathetic, but I’m pathetically in love w–” 

She places a hand over his mouth, rolling her eyes. “I can’t take that level of corny Bellamy today." But she looks down at him, his bright eyes, his wide smile, his willingness to listen to her, and she can’t help but quietly agree.

She feels him shift underneath her after she moves her fingers over the sides of his ribcage. She squints, and her fingers slowly descend on his sides.

"Clarke!" He starts laughing and twisting in her lap. But he overpowers her, and soon, she’s flat on her back, him hovering over her, holding her wrists in place. 

“This secret goes to the grave with you.”

She nods firmly. “Absolutely.” 

He leans down and kisses her, gently. “But seriously." She blinks at him when he pulls away. “How does no one else know you’re ticklish?”  

He shrugs, kissing her jaw. “I hide it well.”

“Even Gina? Not even when you were having se–”

“Can we please not talk about me having sex with my ex girlfriend?” 

She laughs. “My apologies. Would you like to speak about having sex with your current girlfriend?” 

“What makes you think I want to have sex with my current girlfriend?” 

“I bet I can make you want to have sex with me by just saying a single word.” 

He raises an eyebrow. “Oh yeah?” 

“Yeah.”

“Try me.” 

She reaches up and places a kiss to one of the red patches on his neck. “Mine.”

He blinks at her.

And in two seconds, he’s standing, and she’s swept in his arms. “Yep. Let’s go.” And her laughs echo throughout the house as he runs up the stairs. 


[clarke]

 

She triple checks the amount of silverware, glasses, and plates, before slumping on the couch with her wine glass.

“It’s going to be fine, Clarke,” Maya pats her shoulder. “Why are you so anxious?”

“Because she wants to make sure Blake doesn’t run away from Friendsgiving like the way he’s going to run away from actual Thanksgiving tomorrow.” Raven walks in, Shaw in tow, holding two large plates. 

She takes a long sip of her wine. “Thanks for the support.”

Monty emerges from the hallway. “Oh wow. He’s meeting the family?” Harper walks in a moment later. 

“Can you at least try to fix your sex hair before you walk into this sacred space?” Jasper asks in frustration, taping streamers on the wall. 

“Yes. Because somebody absolutely needed to go home with their boyfriend this Thanksgiving.” 

“You’re not allowed to guilt trip me about it when it's already happening!” Octavia’s voice rings out from the kitchen.

“But I can be bitter!” She nudges Maya to pour more wine in her glass, and raises it. “And here’s to being bitter.”

Raven fiddles with a paper turkey, nearly ripping the eyes off. “When is Wells coming? She’ll stop being sad and annoying then. Also, why do we need decorations, Jasper?” 

“Because!” He precariously stands on a chair, hanging up the ‘Friendsgiving!’ sign. “It’s festive! And some people are clearly in need of some festivity." He looks pointedly at her. 

“Jas. You spelled it wrong.” 

He swivels his head around, seeing that the ‘i’ and ‘e’ are swapped. “Monty! Why can’t you spell?” 

“I’m a computer science major!” 

“We are aware!” 

Clarke sighs, placing her glass down. “I’ll fix it.” She finds some Sharpies from her room and draws a pumpkin over the mismatched letters.

Jasper blinks as she steps down. “Why didn’t we just make you draw the banner?”

“She was probably busy having sex with Blake.” Raven shrugs, taping the centerpiece together. 

“Why must we taint the legacy of Friendsgiving?” 

“The food’s almost ready!” Octavia shouts. “Bell says that they’re on their way!” She peeks her head out from the wall, pointing her spoon at Clarke. “Go change into your Friendsgiving outfit.”

She reluctantly walks to her room with Harper. “It looks lovely!” 

Clarke snaps the elastic on her ponytail. “Yeah. Okay. Let’s go.”

Harper huffs, and stands in front of the door. “Enough! I’ve seen grumpy Clarke. This isn’t it. What’s wrong?”

She exhales wearily. “I just don’t want to lose him again.”

The annoyance on Harper’s face diminishes into sympathy. “Oh, Clarke.” She leads her to her bed and sits her down. "You’re not going to lose him. He wouldn’t leave you like that.”

“You haven’t met my family.”

“That’s not true. I was there freshman year when your mom walked into your room screaming at you for scheduling a non pre-med class.”

“Oh. Right. Now, imagine that, but times twenty.”

Harper’s nose wrinkles. “That sounds like a lot. I’m so sorry that you have to go through that.”

She smiles weakly, squeezing her hand. “Thanks, Harper.” 

“Listen. He’s not going to leave you. No matter how bad your family is.”

“You can’t possibly know that.”

Harper pulls back, looking challenged. “Even after months of that stupid presidential race stuff–which is objectively way worse than one shitty Thanksgiving–you two are still together. He reached out to you even after the academic strike, after the jersey thing, all of it. He punched Dax in front of the entire student body, punched Finn in front of a bunch of rich and important people, and was ready to be expelled for it. Also…” she raises her eyebrows. “He did so many shitty things, and your selfless ass put your own academic career on the line for him. I don’t think you would even let him leave, even if he could.”

The last bit makes her mouth twitch into a smile. Harper squeezes her hands. “Don’t let this ruin Friendsgiving. If not just for you, for us, too.” 

“You’re right. I’m sorry.”

She gets up, offering her hand. “Don’t be sorry. Let’s just go spend time with people we love. And make sure that we get a piece of Jasper’s pie before everyone else eats it.”

She takes it, with a grateful smile. “Let’s go.”

Raven raises an eyebrow when they walk back in. “How did you do it?”

“My naturally sunny disposition?” 

Raven bumps Clarke’s hip when she passes her. “You okay?” 

“If you try to drink all of my wine like last Friendsgiving, I won’t be." She bumps her hip back with a playful glare. 

Raven grins. “I brought your favorite.” 

Her eyes widen. “My favorite, favorite?” She eagerly runs to the kitchen and cheers when she sees the dish.

“Who the hell actually likes candied yams?” Monty mutters.

She narrows her eyes. “At least I don’t like vegan gravy.”

“What?” Octavia shrieks, looking at the boat on the table in disgust. “That’s vegan gravy?”

“It tastes better!” He protests, protecting the boat with his hands. 

“It tastes awful!” Maya shouts from the living room. 

“That’s what you get. Don’t insult the yams.” 

“Who’s insulting the yams?” 

She beams at the familiar voice. “Wells!” Him and Delilah walk in, holding bottles of cider. She hugs both of them tightly.

“We can only stay for a bit. We have another Friendsgiving to get to.”

Raven gasps. “You have other friends?” 

Clarke frowns. “But we’re your friends.”

“You can have multiple groups of friends, Clarke. How many Friendsgivings did you get invited to tonight?”

“That’s besides the point.”

“Update us!” Maya eagerly urges, almost spilling her drink. 

“Well,” Delilah looks at him. “Guess who’s going to be a President again?”

“Seriously?” Raven deadpans. “One time wasn’t enough?”

“That process is so unfair,” Clarke points with her glass. “How come undergraduate presidential races are so long and drawn out? And the graduate ones are just a single debate and a vote?” 

“Uh, I had to do that one, too. There’s just less of us at the grad school. We don’t need the whole parade of activities.” 

“So,” Shaw kicks up his feet. “What’s the first presidential declaration?” 

“I’m thinking about something with the audit fees. And…” 

“Boring,” Raven rolls her eyes, turning to Clarke as the two men keep talking. “If the stuff with Blake doesn’t go well tomorrow, the usual?”

For the last few Thanksgivings, it's after dinnertime when she finally has her emotional breakdown of missing her dad, detesting her relatives and cousins, and hating life in general. Which usually occurs around nine. So, for the last three years on November 26th, at nine P.M., they both have a two to three hour call in their phone history.

She nods subtly, appreciatively squeezing Raven’s hand. 

“Helloo!” A happy voice chirps from their door. 

A handful of people spill out of the hallway, and Maya makes a surprised sound next to her. “Oh my.”

It is overwhelming, watching Emori lead the pretty imposing Lincoln, Murphy, Miller, Jackson, and Bellamy into their fairly small living room.

She was afraid that it’d be awkward– some of her friends hadn’t exactly unblocked Bellamy yet– but Octavia running across the room to hug Lincoln quickly dissolves the tension. She stands up to help them all in, warily eyeing the bottles of alcohol and plates of food.

“Hi.” She feels lips press against the top of her head, and intuitively smiles. 

She looks up. “Hi.” 

Bellamy laughs at the face she makes. “Not enough food?” 

Her and Octavia find any inch of counter or table space to put the dishes. She stops when she sets one down on the dining table.

“Murphy,” she says slowly, turning to him. “Tell me you didn’t bring weed brownies to my Friendsgiving.”

A smirk spreads on his face. “I wish I could, Princess.” 

She turns to Bellamy, who holds his hands up. “I can’t control his baking habits.”

“Hey, man.” She watches Wells clap Bellamy on the back so hard that it knocks the breath out of him. “Long time no see.”

“Wells!”

Bellamy shakes his head. “It’s deserved.” Wells narrows his eyes at him.

“I’ll leave you two to it, then.” She smiles innocently at Bellamy over her shoulder as he glares at her.

She sits on the arm of the chair next to Delilah. “So, I heard that you and Wells are moving in together. I think this is the part where I have to grill you, too.” She gestures to Wells and Bellamy in the kitchen corner.

Delilah laughs brightly. “I’m ready. Hit me.”

She takes a deep breath. “Wells is my best friend and has been there for me since I entered this world and I don’t know what I would do without him and he’s the best person I know and you seem really cool and nice and pretty but if you hurt him or make him upset I’m legally obligated to be angry at you or enact some sort of revenge on you to ensure that I carry out my best friend duties.” 

Her and Delilah stare at each other for a few seconds before dissolving into laughter.

“I solemnly swear,” Delilah places a hand down, as if on a Bible. “That I love Wells with my entire being, and if I ever hurt him, you have free reign to enact whatever revenge that you feel fit. But maybe make sure it’s legal.”

“Then, you have my blessing.” She smiles earnestly. “Seriously, though, I can tell that you’re good for him. Don’t tell him I told you, but, you’re the only girl he’s ever brought home to his parents.”

Delilah sits back, eyes wide. “Really? I figured there was at least one before me.”

She shakes her head. “You’re special to him–”

“So don’t screw it up?”

Clarke smiles, with a firm nod. “I guess I have to go play hostess now.”

Sometime during her and Delilah’s conversation, Wells and Bellamy had moved back to the living room. There wasn't any blood, so she’d deem it a success.

“Hey,” she nudges Octavia’s shoulder in the kitchen. “Need any help?” 

“Nope! All good!”

She reels back. “And just when I thought the Energizer Bunny was losing battery."

Octavia sighs, dropping the spatula to grab her hands. “I have to tell you something. But you have to promise you won’t tell anyone. I mean it.” 

She blinks at the rare seriousness in Octavia’s eyes, as she tugs her over to a corner, drawing closer. “Okay. I promise.”

“Lincoln asked if I wanted to get an apartment with him.”

She chokes on her gasp. “What?” 

“Shh!” Octavia looks around them to make sure no one’s listening. “I think I’m going to say yes.”

“Are you sure? It's only been like, three months.” 

“You and my brother have been together for half a month, and I’m pretty sure you’re both ready to marry each other.”

Her words make her choke on a cough, again. “Absolutely not.”

“I was right the first time, and I’ll be right the second time, too,” she mutters to herself, rolling her eyes. “Clarke. I can tell. With Lincoln. Even if it's only been three months. It’ll be one of the campus apartments, anyway. Nothing crazy.” 

She pulls back with a sigh. “You’re an adult, Octavia. I’ll support any decision you make.” 

Octavia beams, squeezing her hands. “Please don’t tell my brother. I know he’s like, your ‘person’ or whatever, but–”

“I won’t. Promise.”

They smile at each other and walk back to the table. God. This year’s Friendsgiving is exciting. And they haven’t even eaten yet.

“Food’s ready!” 

Twenty minutes later, somehow, they manage to get fifteen people plates of food and places to sit. 

“This gravy tastes… interesting,” Jackson raises his eyebrows, and they all turn to Monty.

“See!”

“Look what you did!” 

Most of the guys look confused. Raven shakes her head in shame. “It’s vegan gravy.”

Harper gestures behind her. “We have real gravy in the kitchen.” 

“What the hell are these things?” Murphy pokes at the dish hesitantly.

Clarke huffs. “Why does no one like yams?”

“Because they’re disgusting,” Wells says, matter of factly. She glares at him. 

Bellamy pats her knee. “I’ll try.” 

He winces after she feeds him a forkful. “Yum.” 

She sighs. “More yams for me.”

Maya raises her fork in the air. “Enough with the food shaming!” 

Miller sits back. “So, what’s the weird ritual this time?”

“Miller!” Bellamy hisses. 

Jasper puts his plate down, slowly. “Weird ritual, huh?” 

Clarke looks at Bellamy with wide eyes. “Are you dumb?”

Emori speaks over them. “Uh, he means that we told him that you had game nights, and stuff. Every Saturday. Like a…tradition. Ritual.” 

Jasper shrugs. “Well, at least our ‘rituals’ aren’t getting drunk out of our minds and comparing dick sizes.”

Raven practically barks a laugh, and the rest of her friends fail to muffle their laughter.

Clarke chokes on her wine. “Jasper!” 

Miller and Jasper stare at each other for a few seconds, but Miller finally leans back, nodding. “Respect.”

Harper shakes her head. “No specific traditions for Friendsgiving. Just the usual!”

Lincoln takes a napkin to his hands. “What’s ‘the usual’?” 

“What everyone is thankful for!” Octavia pipes up. “Of course!” 

Bellamy looks at her. “O, we have never–”

“Shut up, Bell.” 

Oooh,” Jasper draws out.

Octavia sits up straight. “I’ll start. I’m very thankful for my boyfriend.”

She adoringly leans her head on his knee. Raven gags.

“And I’m thankful for my brother and Clarke for letting me meet his family this weekend.” 

Delilah, Harper and Maya aawww, and Miller and Murphy shove him, winking. She feels Bellamy tense next to her, and she rubs his arm.

“Down, boy,” she whispers, earning a frown from him. Which she leans forward, and kisses.

“Clarke!” Wells snaps next to her.

She rolls her eyes and turns to him. “What?” 

“We said that PDA isn’t allowed around each other!”

“Wells, we were like, fourteen when we made that pact! Also, hello?” She gestures at Delilah, practically sitting in his lap. 

“Let her be,” Delilah pats his shoulder. He still turns away with a slight scowl. 

Bellamy groans, leaning his head back. “Why do they all hate me?”

“Do you really want me to answer that?” 

“Well, none of my friends hate you.” 

“You want your friends to hate me?”

He wraps an arm around her waist and tugs her closer “You’re just un-hateable.”

“I mean, I’m pretty sure Josephine comes close.”

“Whatever happened with her?” Murphy interrupts them, clearly eavesdropping. 

“I haven’t seen her,” she shrugs, picking at her plate. “Has she talked to you at all?” 

Bellamy shakes his head. “For someone who’s supposedly into me, she hasn’t really done anything to follow up.” 

She narrows her eyes.

“Not that she should,” he hurriedly finishes.

Emori takes a long sip of her cider. “Maybe it wasn’t about him."

Miller frowns. “What do you mean?” 

“Maybe it was about Clarke.” 

It's silent for a few seconds, the clinking of forks stopping for just a second. 

Raven huffs a laugh. “That would make so much more sense.” 

Laughter and sounds of agreements echo around the room. 

Bellamy scowls. “Thanks.” 

But she shakes her head. “That doesn’t make sense. Why would she confront me like that? And spread weird rumors? And kiss him?”

Harper counts on her fingers. “One: if she was into you, she had to talk to you somehow. Two: you’re not in Greek life, so how else would you be able to see her again? If you went to their house.”

“Harp, I think this is a stret–” 

“Three: Because if you dump him, then you’re actually available for a rebound. If Bellamy dumped you, then you’d be all sad and mopey. And not wanting a rebound.”

Everyone in the room considers it, ultimately voicing conflicting opinions.

“Nah,” Murphy snorts. “That’s too calculated. They’re not smar–”

She glares at him. 

“They’re too busy for that.”

“But if she was into Bell, she would keep trying to contact him,” Octavia waves her glass around. “Why isn’t she?”

“Oh, wait!” Clarke frowns, searching the cushions for her phone. “I got some texts from an unknown number a few days ago. I didn’t look at them, I thought it was just spam.”

She taps the text conversation, and rapidly blinks at the screen. 

“Lemme see!” Octavia leaps forward and snatches it.

“Octavia!” 

She clears her throat, reading aloud.

 

Monday, Nov 25th

Unknown (4082961059)

2:15 AM

hey clarke, its josie. 

 

4082961059

2:15 

i’m so sorry for what you saw 

at that party. it was a complete fluke

 

2:16 

i don’t know why i did it. i’m

really sorry about you and bellamy

 

2:16

i was hoping i could make it up

to you with coffee or something. 

i understand if you dont want to

though

 

2:17 

just let me know if you want to

 

2:17 

oh i got this number from gina 

lol sorry if it freaked you out

 

When Octavia puts her phone down, they all stare at her, in shock.  

Raven crosses the room to grab the phone, and starts scrolling. “How did you not open these until right now?”

She’s a bit frantic. “I don’t know. That paper for Pike was due Monday, and Raven and I had our bio midterm, Tuesdays are my hell days with all of my classes plus tutoring plus art club plus debate club… and now, it's Wednesday, I guess. Not to mention I’ve been steeling myself to enter that house of horrors tomorrow.”

They blink at her. 

“How are you alive?” Jackson looks at her incredulously. “If that’s what you’re acclimated to, you’ll be just fine in med school.” 

“Wait,” Octavia stops. “How does Gina have your number?”

“We got coffee once.”

“Of course you did,” Bellamy mutters next to her. 

Emori raises her glass. “Told you! It makes more sense!” 

“Clarke,” Harper rises to her knees, scooting over to her. “Was she ever flirty, or something?”

She thinks back to last week. 

Josephine sighs softly, placing her hand on her arm. “I know it’s hard, but Bellamy’s one of the better ARK brothers.”

“Please do the right thing.” She reaches down to squeeze her hand before the three of them flounce away.

“At the end, Josephine started to describe the girls.” Roma’s eyes flick down at her leg. “One of them was a pretty blonde with curly hair who had a tattoo of some circles on her ankle.”  

Gina shrugs. “But she does get what she wants."

"She’ll get bored and find a new plaything.” 

Her hand lightly grabs her forearm. 

She suddenly feels fur tickle the side of her face, and realizes that Josephine is hugging her.  

Her mouth slowly tips open as the moments run through her mind.

Maya gasps. “Oh my god! She totally was.”

“What the hell?” Bellamy snaps, looking at her.

“I didn’t– I didn’t realize!” 

Octavia frantically waves her hands. “What happened?” 

She relays the nuggets of memories, the sequence of moments ever since she first met Josephine.

After, they all stare at her.

“Griffin,” Raven sighs. “You are an idiot.”

“‘A pretty girl with curly hair’?” Harper blinks. “Why didn’t you tell us this?”

“I didn’t think it was significant! I'm just as shocked as you are!"

“Clearly,” Bellamy rolls his eyes, angling away from her.

She frowns. “Are you angry at me because I didn’t know that a girl was flirting with me?”

“You yelled at me for not noticing how girls ‘look at me’! When we were locked in the media room!”

“Why were they locked in the media room?” Jackson whispers to Miller. 

“I’m sorry! How was I supposed to know? You were the one who was kissed!”

Octavia wrinkles her nose. “I mean, it was pretty obvious.” 

She hears Monty whisper to Jasper. “What the hell is going on?” 

Murphy leans down to them. “Just let it play out, boys.” Miller, Lincoln, Wells, and Shaw roll their eyes. Jackson just sits there, looking awfully confused.

Delilah nods slowly. “I’m sorry, Clarke, but– putting a hand on your arm? Squeezing your hand? You just met!”

“I–” she stutters, at a loss for words. “I didn’t know." She looks at Bellamy. "I’m sorry.” 

She watches a few emotions flicker on his face– anger, confusion– but it just ends with him looking coolly at her “Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Yeah.” 

They stare at each other. 

“Alllrighty then,” Octavia stands up and clinks her glass. “Let’s keep going around the room. Linc, what are you thankful for?” 

“I’m thankful for a good semester. And the Lightbournes’ 4-0 streak.” Him and Miller high five.  

Octavia frowns. “What else are you thankful for?”  

“And I’m very thankful for my beautiful girlfriend.” He leans down to kiss her, and she beams.

“Ugh,” Raven whines. “Why did we invite so many of them?”

Octavia glares at her. Raven sighs. “Fine. I’m thankful for my friends. And good food.” 

Shaw kisses her cheek. “Echoed.” Her lips twitch up.

Maya leans on Jasper's shoulder. “I’m thankful that Jas is always very considerate and buys me iced coffee before my music midterms.” 

“Thank god none of us are single,” Raven mutters. 

After everyone speaks up, and after Raven gags at least ten times, they all look at her and Bellamy hesitantly. Neither of them have moved or even looked at each other, him with his arms crossed, looking at his phone, and her, sitting on her feet and swirling her wine. 

Octavia clears her throat. “Clarke?”

She looks up.

“What are you thankful for?”

“Oh,” she smiles, but it's not very convincing. “I’m very thankful for good friends and good food.” 

“That’s what Raven said.” 

“Okay,” she says slowly. “I’m thankful that out of the twenty-thousand students on campus, you all are the ones that are in my life.” 

Loud awwwww’s fill the room. “You mean that, Princess? Even me?” Murphy tilts his head.

She rolls her eyes. “Yes, even you, Murphy.” He sarcastically wipes away a tear. 

“Bell?” 

“Bellamy!” Octavia snaps. He looks up from his phone. “What are you thankful for?”

He pauses. “I’m thankful that I have friends who don’t yell at me for doing something that they were actually doing the whole time.”

Clarke blinks. The room falls silent. 

“O-kay,” Raven slowly stands up. “I’ll just start clearing the plates.”

She nods and rises with her, gathering the cups and silverware around her. “And maybe now we can–”  

“No, actually,” Bellamy straightens. “I’m thankful that I have friends who don’t ignore me for a week and then walk away when I try to talk to them.” 

She freezes, in the middle of picking up another plate. Her hand viciously grips the stem of her wine glass, but she exhales steadily, standing up. 

“Just stop, Bellamy.” Her voice is quiet.  

“Stop what? Just saying what I’m thankful for.”

“Well, I’m thankful that I have friends who don’t decide to make a scene where a scene really doesn’t need to be made," she speaks under her breath, with a biting smile.

In her peripherals, she sees everyone frantically looking at each other, not moving an inch.

“Well, I’m thankful that I have friends who don’t tell me that I’m ‘playing dumb’, and end up being the ones playing dumb the whole time.”

She hears someone’s breath catch behind her. But she just exhales, gently putting the glass and plate back down. And spins around to face him.

“I’m thankful that I have friends who won’t end our relationship just because they’re afraid of a few people talking.”

“Oh shit,” Murphy mutters. 

He stands up, towering over her. But she doesn’t flinch. “Yeah? I’m thankful that I have friends who don’t put irresponsible ideas in my sister’s head!”

Octavia slowly rises, hands up. “Okay, let’s not–” 

“I’m thankful that I have friends who understand that college students aren’t children anymore, and can make their own decisions!” 

“I’m thankful that I have friends who don’t hide the fact that someone’s flirting with them!”

“Uh,” Jasper whispers to Monty. “That one didn’t make too much sense.”

“Oh, please, Bellamy. Girls flirt with you every single day. Everywhere we go.  When we got coffee yesterday, the barista literally asked you if you ‘like it hot’! You don’t see me throwing a bitch fit!” 

And then they start yelling.

“I’m throwing a ‘bitch fit’ because you ignored me for a week for something that wasn’t even my fault!” 

She suppresses the urge to push his chest, mostly because Delilah is sitting right behind him, and that would be disastrous. 

“I ignored you for a week because you broke up with me!” The girls are wide-eyed underneath her, and Harper tries to touch her arm, but she’s too busy gesturing wildly in his face. 

“I didn’t mean to break up with you!” 

“It doesn’t matter what you meant, Bellamy! It happened! Just like I didn’t mean for Josephine to be into me!” 

“Fine!"

“Fine!”

They stare each other down, faces red, chests heaving.

“I need a second,” she mutters, stepping over everyone to walk into the hallway.

“And, once again,” he turns around, throwing his hands up sarcastically. “You’re walking away.” 

“Yes. I’m walking away. Whatever gets me out of this conversation I’m having with you seems like a good move.” 

Ooh,” Jasper whispers, again.

He huffs, following her. Jackson’s eyes grow large, and he frantically moves the glass bowl out of the way before Bellamy tramples it.

“You can’t walk away from everything!”

“Watch me!” 

And she spins on her heel, the sound of a door slamming following a few seconds later.

“Clarke!” He yells after her, walking into the hallway and pushing her door open.

Everyone in the living room shifts in silence, bewildered and pained looks on their faces. Excluding Murphy, who continues to snicker into his hand.

Chapter Text

Murphy takes another bite of his pie. “I love Friendsgiving."

“John!” Emori pushes his fork down.

Harper frowns. “Well, now what?”

“Don’t worry. They’ll have angry sex and make up. It’s their thing. And they’ll come back soon, he doesn’t last long with her.” Disgusted voices and shouts surface around the room in response, and a green bean hits Murphy’s cheek.

Amongst all the clamor, Wells shoots up from the couch. “Okay! Time for Delilah and I to go.” 

Raven raises an eyebrow. “She’ll be pissed off if you leave without saying goodbye.”

He rolls his eyes. “She’s already pissed off.” Delilah waves apologetically. “Good luck, guys.”

Maya wrinkles her nose. “Should we… wait?” 

“Trust me,” Murphy leans back. “Give them twenty minutes, tops.”

 

A few doors down, she sits on her bed with her arms crossed, and Bellamy paces in front of her. “Did you seriously have to do this now? Of all times? You’re making all of our friends uncomfortable!”

He grips the top of her desk chair, the muscles of his forearm unnervingly taut. “Well, fuck, I’m sorry that I was uncomfortable as you recalled every time Josephine was blatantly flirting with you!”

Contempt coils in her words as she throws her hands up. “Oh my god! I said I’m sorry! How many times do you want me to say that? I didn’t know!” 

He huffs a humorless laugh, turning to her. “I just can’t believe that I spent a week feeling like shit because my girlfriend thought I cheated on her with another girl, when in reality, that girl was into my girlfriend!” 

She blinks, a bit turned around. “Well, it's not like everything was just peachy on my side! I was crying every night! Your sister ignored me, too! How do you think that made me feel?”

“How do you think being blocked by ten people feels? Or getting spammed with emails from Ashley Madison feels?” 

“At least you aren’t best fucking friends with them! For a week, I lost two of the people who are the most important to me!” 

“For the hundredth time– you ignored me! Who does that to somebody that's so important to them?”

“The same somebody who dumped me!”

He takes a deep, aggressive breath, turning away from her. “We’re going around in circles.”

She huffs. “Well what else should we do? If I didn’t know better, I’d say you want to break up again.”

He turns around and stalks across the room to her. “No. Unlike you, I don’t run away from things as a coping strategy.”

“You don’t know anything about my coping strategies,” she snaps.

She reaches out to jab a finger at his chest, but he grabs her wrist. “Actually, I do, seeing that I’ve known you for three months.” 

She jerks her hand away with a caustic glare. “Yeah, and we’ve been together for,” she turns around, looking at the calendar on the wall. “Barely two and half weeks.” 

“I’ve known you from the very first time I walked into your dorm room.”

“You mean the first time you stomped into my dorm room to drag Octavia away like she’s a toddler at daycare? You knew me then? What, by the mildly startled and annoyed look on my face?”

“No, I knew you when I saw you slide that napkin under Octavia’s door while I was on my way out!” 

She sits back for a second, stunned by his memory. But her surprise blinks back into aggravation. “What? You knew that I could draw a face on a napkin?” 

“No, I knew that you were a good friend to Octavia!” 

“Knowing small things like that is different than knowing my coping strategies, Bellamy.” She says his name with added spite, knowing it’ll get a rise out of him.

And it does. He raises his eyebrows, stepping back with a burning challenge in his eyes. “Oh, really?” She just holds her chin high, refusing to back down.

“Then, how do I know that you tap your finger against the side of your jeans every time you desperately want to get out of a conversation? Or how you start flexing your ankle when you’re impatiently waiting to counter some stupid guy’s argument in class? Or how you always pretend to look at your texts when someone mentions your mother?”

Her mouth tips open, and she starts blinking rapidly.

“Or how you angrily grasp the ends of your hair when we fight? Or how the only time you ever put your hand on your hip is when you’re arguing with Miller or Murphy? Or how your jaw sets back a bit when you’re defending someone you love? Or how–” He pauses, looking away. “Or how you always look at your watch when your dad comes up.” His voice is intense, quieter. “So, I know you. Trust me.”

Her heart rate starts to bounce as she processes everything she’s feeling– frustration at her own transparency, shock at the attention he pays her, a kind of affection at the fact that he commits all of these things to memory, and annoyance that he’s using it all against her. “That’s not fair.”

He throws his hands up in frustration. “What’s not fair? The fact that I know you better than anyone else knows you?” 

“No!” she yells. “The fact that you just think that you can decide what I’m thinking and doing! Fine, you know my tedious habits. But you can’t just push and pull me wherever you want! At the rose garden, in the media room, and now, at my own dorm. God, you even did it at that stupid beach fundraiser!” 

“I only did that because you ran away in the first place! Didn't you hear what I just said?”

“Yes! I don’t know what you want from me! I apologized! I’m so sorry about the Josephine thing. Okay? What else can I do?”

“I don’t know! I’m just–”

“What? What are you?”

He huffs, getting in her face. “I’m jealous! I’m jealous, obviously!” 

She looks up at him incredulously. “This is all because you’re jealous? You’re jealous of a girl I’m not even interested in?” she shrieks, throwing her hands up.

“Yeah, I guess I am!” 

“I don’t know what else to tell you. There is nothing to be jealous of! What other red-blooded, manly claim on me do you need? I am dating you! I am yours!” 

His eyes burn into hers. “God,” he mutters. 

And, in one, fleeting second, his hands are grasping at her face, and she’s rising to her knees, and their lips are resignedly colliding. Her fingers curl into his collar and she yanks him down, an impatient mess of limbs tumbling onto her bed. She almost laughs against his mouth, flashes of their first kiss flaring up in her mind as his fingertips drag across her throat. As his teeth take to her neck, pain and pleasure start to twist together, and her hips hover upwards as clothes are torn off in violent blurs, slumping into pathetic heaps on the ground. And as his fingers disappear under her sweater, she chokes back a moan, her head falling back against the pillow. And a prolonged rip whistles through the air. 

She sits up, furiously. “You did not just rip my favorite bra.” 

He shrugs apologetically. “Not my problem.”

“Asshole.” Clumsily jerking him down, she swings her legs over and eyes his neck. “Fine. Be that way.”

His eyes widen, and he scrambles to sit up on his elbows. “No–” But her lips are already scraping the fading patches of red, sweeping across his skin, bringing the color back. He attempts to push her off quickly fall short, choking on the back end of a gasp as her hand slips under his jeans. The laugh that was previously stuck in her throat tumbles out as she blinks at his neck. Her tongue draws steady lines across his ribs until she firmly tugs at his waistband, dipping her head down.

Fuck.” And she smiles against him, watching his eyes flutter shut, his mouth tip open as she rises, falls. He gathers the comforter in his fists, and a groan rips from his mouth as her lips tighten around him. She feels his hand slide into her hair, grasping the strands between his fingers, pulling it roughly. But she jerks away. 

Clarke.

Her eyes flicker up. “Shut up.” 

He blinks. As her tongue and hand move together, tendrils of pain lash against her skin as he collects her hair in his fist, and she lays down a soft moan against him. But his fingers still tug at her, desperately, urgently. “Please.” Finally satisfied with her hold on him, she crawls up and hovers over him. “Anything for you.” 

But before her hips fall against his, she’s thrown onto her back. “Absolutely not.” 

Frowning, she shoves his chest, trying to flip them. “Stop,” he growls, pinning her wrists down. 

“No,” she snaps back, wrapping her legs around him and swinging them over, ripping his wrists off of her. He tries to hold her hips in place, but she thrashes against him, fingers grappling at his shoulders. “Clarke,” he warns, tightening his grip on her. She just huffs, trying to wrestle his hands away.

During all the flailing of limbs, they find themselves precariously hanging off the edge of the bed; and with a final shove, the comforter slips, and they fall to the floor in a knotted, chaotic heap. 

She rubs her head. “Ow.”

He winces, trying to unravel himself from the sheets. “That was completely on you.”

She sits back indignantly. “How? We were doing just fine until you decided to throw me around!”

“Well, maybe I wanted to throw you around!”

Well, that’s not very–” 

But the words die on her tongue as he presses his fingers inside of her. A gasp floats from her lips, her back arching off the carpet, writing on his hand; the intense, fragile wisps of heat that had spiraled over the last few minutes snap easily, and she’s fluttering, trembling on him, in seconds. With a lopsided, obnoxious smile, he lifts her up and shoves her against the dresser, wrapping one of her thighs around his hips. His gaze is focused, searing, as he pushes inside of her, forcing her onto her toes. Their moans twirl together in heated cadence, pleasure taking place of breath, shudders breezing over her skin. 

Her fingernails dig deep, scarlet lines across his spine as they move together; it’s raw, impatient, and she comes apart in fiery threads, her body swaying forward. He holds her as the flame built between them in the last few minutes catches like a struck match, and a scream rips across her lips as they fall into each other, wrestling with each inch of skin, each angry press of lips, each tremble, shudder, and everything in between.

After a long, languid minute, he carries her to the bed and they lay down together, still buzzing from the inundation of desire, pleasure. “That was the best sex I’ve ever had,” he breathes.

“Are you just going to say that every time?” 

He shrugs. “It gets better and better.” 

She slaps his chest. “I’m sorry for being such a hypocrite. I shouldn’t have ignored you and said all of that stupid stuff in the media room. I should’ve known you would never kiss Josephine.”

“It’s okay. I understand how it could’ve looked.”

“I hate fighting with you.

He reaches down to pull her fingers into his. “Then let’s not fight anymore. And promise to tell each other everything, from now on. No secrets.”

“Deal.” She kisses his cheek. “Is it unhealthy that the only way we resolve our arguments is through sex?”

“Doesn’t seem unhealthy to me.” 

She laughs, poking his stomach. “We should go apologize for ruining Friendsgiving.” 

“No.” He settles further into her neck.

“Come on.”

As they’re getting dressed, she glares at him, lifting up the pile of lace. “You owe me a new bra.”

He tugs on his shirt. “No. I’ll buy you something that I can take off easier.” 

She rolls her eyes. “Whatever.”

They sheepishly walk out of the hallway, hand in hand. Murphy checks his phone. “Twenty two minutes. Told you.”

Jasper claps his hands and stands up. “Okay. We’re going to pretend like the last half an hour didn’t happen. Happy Friendsgiving!” Everyone hesitantly laughs, echoing Jasper’s sentiment, and starts to clean up their plates and glasses.

Clarke looks around, frowning. “Where’s Wells and Delilah?” 

“They had to go to another Friendsgiving. And I don’t think he wanted to hear you and Blake banging.” 

“We–"

Monty narrows his eyes. “We had to play Nickelback at full volume, Clarke. Nickelback.”

She winces. “Sorry.”

An especially difficult goodbye happens as everyone shuffles out. “Be safe.” 

Octavia sighs. “I will, Bell.”

He turns to Lincoln. “Drive safe.” 

“Be–”

“Bell! Please!” Octavia puts her hands on his shoulders. “I’m going to be just fine.”

“Fine.”

Clarke nudges him. “Don’t worry. I’ll take your mind off of Octavia potentially being in danger with my own relatives making you feel like you’re in actual danger.” 

He rolls his eyes. “Stop being dramatic.”

Raven whistles, roughly hitting his back. “You’re in for a rude awakening, Blake.” 

She kisses his cheek. “Go get your beauty sleep, grumpy.”

“Wait, do I have to wear fancy clothes?”

The room falls silent. “Oh my god, he’s going to be eaten alive,” Harper mutters. 

“Shit. I should’ve prepared you better.”

“I’ll help him figure out something,” Jackson pipes up. “And I’m sure one of us has something he can wear.”

She looks at Miller. “I like your boyfriend better than you.” 

He frowns. “You didn’t like me very much in the first place.”

“You’re right.” She grabs Bellamy right before he goes, an apologetic look on her face. “I’m sorry, I should’ve warned you.”

“It’s okay,” he says softly. “I should’ve expected too. It’ll be fine.”

She wraps her arms around his chest. “I don’t deserve you.” 

He kisses the top of her head. “You’ve got it backwards.”

Raven pushes him forward. “Okay, thanks, get out.”

After everyone leaves, the girls slump on the couch. “God,” Maya blows a strand of hair out of her face. “I forgot how exhausting Friendsgiving is.”

They hear the clatter of plates, and Octavia walks out of the kitchen. “Okay. Time for Girlsgiving!”

Raven groans. “We don’t do Girlsgiving here.”

Octavia plops down on the couch. “Well, I’m here, and we’re making new traditions.”

Harper smiles weakly. “O, we’re all just really t–”

“Please!” Octavia sits forward, a pleading look on her face. “It’s really important.”

Raven sighs. “Fine. Shoot, Baby Blake.”

She takes a deep breath. “So, I already told Clarke this, but–” Octavia looks to her for reassurance. She nods encouragingly. “Lincoln asked me to get an apartment with him next semester.”

“Oh, shit,” Raven raises her eyebrows, sitting back. “That’s big.” 

Maya nods. “It’s only been three months, hasn’t it?”

“I said that, too.”

Octavia glares at her. “Yeah, and then, I said, that you and–”

“Okay!” Clarke clears her throat. “I think O is an adult, and she can make her own decisions.”

“Agreed,” Raven nods. Octavia looks at her, shocked. “Unlike your brother, I actually believe that you’re not a toddler.”

Harper sighs. “I’ll support whatever decision you make.” 

“What did Bellamy think?”

“So, here’s the thing–”

Maya’s eyes widen. “Oh my god, he doesn’t know.”

“Octavia!” Harper shoots up. “Housing registration ended on Monday!” 

Clarke frowns. “I didn’t know that.”

She smiles sheepishly. “Yeah. Let me rephrase: Lincoln and I are getting an apartment together next semester!” 

Everyone is quiet. “Oh my god,” Harper murmurs. “I really hope we’re not around to see that conversation.”

Raven sits up. “I do!” 

“Actually,” Octavia looks at Clarke. “I was hoping that–”

“Absolutely not! He and I just stopped fighting. I’m done being in the middle of your siblingship.”

“This is definitely a conversation between Big Blake and Baby Blake.”

Octavia sighs. “Fine. You’re right.” 

Raven stands up. “Amazing. Goodnight.” 


[bellamy]

 

When they get home, he falls face-first onto his bed. “Oh my god, I’m going to be eaten alive.” 

"You’ll be fine,” Emori assures, patting his back.

Murphy snorts, leaning on the doorframe. “Nah, you definitely will.”

He glares at him. “Have I ever mentioned how much I actually hate you?”

“Not enough.” 

Jackson pulls out a navy dress shirt from his closet. “This is nice.”

He sits up. “I didn’t even know I owned that. Must’ve been for one of Octavia’s fancy dance events.”

“Okay, uh,” Miller pulls out a random pair of jeans. “Maybe with these?”

Murphy snorts. “Jeans? At the Griffin household?”

They all stare at him. “What? I actually pay attention when the Princess talks.”

Miller rifles through this drawer. “What about these things?” 

Jackson looks at him in amusement. “Those are called trousers.” Their eyes find each other, and they wind their fingers together.

Murphy gags. “Gross. You’re even worse than Blake and the Princess.”

“When did it even become acceptable for you to use that nickname anymore?” 

He shrugs. “Don’t know. She doesn’t correct me.”

“Of course she doesn’t,” he mutters, taking the clothes from Jackson. 

“Fashion show!” Murphy sarcastically exclaims. He flips him off on the way to the bathroom. When he emerges, Jackson nods. “That looks nice!"

He winces before he utters the next two words. “A tie?”

Jackson rifles through his drawers, pulling two out. “Uh, the black one works. Why do you have a tie with George Bush on it?”

Murphy snickers.

“That’s why.”

Emori smiles when she finishes looping it. “We’ll make a gentleman out of you yet!” 

He frowns. “I am a gentleman.”

Miller scoffs. “Before Clarke, the only date you ever went on was a re-showing of Saw II at the movies with Gina.” 

Jackson raises his eyebrows. “Really?” 

“Good to know that I have friends that support me before my death day.”

Emori winks. “Should I teach you correct fork placement?” He freezes. 

“I was kidding,” she laughs, before pausing. “Wait, fork placement isn’t an actual thing, right?”  

He blinks, scrambling for his phone. 

Today, 12:49 AM 

 

12:49 AM

Is fork placement a thing?

Clarke 

12:49 AM

… Seriously? 

12:49 AM

I don’t know anything about this stuff

 

12:50

Take it easy on me

Clarke 

12:50 AM 

Aw. Poor baby. 

 

12:50 

No fork placements. 

 

He takes a deep breath. “We’re good.”

His phone dings. 



Clarke

12:50 AM

Make sure you know spoon placements, though. 

12:50 AM

What

 

12:50 AM

I don’t know spoon placements

Clarke 

12:51 AM 

Kidding. :) 

12:51 AM 

Not nice 

 

12:51

Why are you still awake? 

Clarke 

12:52 AM 

Girlsgiving.

12:52 AM 

Okay?

Clarke

12:52 AM

Yeah.

12:53 AM

I will… leave you to it

 

12:53

Love you 

 

When he finally looks up, they’re all staring at him with amused expressions. “What?”

“Nothing. So no fork placements?”

“No fork placements.” 

Jackson smiles sympathetically. “It’ll be great, Bellamy. What’s the worst that can happen?”

“Princess’ mom could kick him out, Kane could eviscerate him, he could embarrass himself in a room full of rich people–”

Emori drags Murphy out. “It’ll be fine, Bellamy! Have a good Thanksgiving!”

Miller salutes him. “Godspeed, my man. See you Sunday night.” 

When he’s finally alone, he evaluates all hypotheticals. What he’ll say if they ask him why he’s a history major, how to deflect when they ask about his parents, how to especially deflect when they ask about his relationship with Clarke. He frowns and grabs his phone. 

 

1:02 AM

You better say it back

Clarke

1:02 AM

I love you. :) 


[clarke]

 

The next morning, she smoothes down her dress in the mirror, practicing her polite smiles and rehearsing her responses: 

Her studies are going well. She’s applying to med schools to do research. She just won another award on the debate team, and she’s student body president. 

God. What the hell is her life?

Usually, she couldn’t care less about any of it. But she needs to bear all the discomfort possible to prevent Bellamy from completely fleeing the premises– and if that means that she has to do the whole performance, so be it. All she has to do is distract each relative to prevent them from harassing him, try to steer the conversations away from relationship talk, and hide him from as many icky displays of wealth as she can. Easy.

Okay. Un-wrinkled, unnecessarily expensive dress. Check. Equally as expensive purse. Check. Overly dramatic pearls. Check. 

On her way to the house, she’s on the receiving end of a mixed set of looks. Some just blink in awe. Some roll their eyes. And some– ew – smirk at her approvingly. She ducks her head down and walks as fast as the stupid pumps would let her. And practically falls into the house, slamming the door behind her. 

“Bellamy?” 

She hears rustling from upstairs. “Coming!”

A few moments later, he jogs down the stairs. They hesitate, looking each other up and down, their faces mirrors of apprehension. “You look beautiful.” 

“Thank you,” she curtsies sarcastically, assuming an aristocratic tone. “You look very handsome. This evening shirt does wonders for your arms.” She wraps her arm around his bicep. 

He looks down in amusement. “I’m glad you like it, my lady.”

They stare at each other, and start laughing. Nervously, and because of the ridiculousness of the situation. “You really do look handsome though.” She watches him look in the mirror in distaste. “I promise.”

He smiles down at her. “And you really do look beautiful.”

“Well, we already knew that,” she flips her hair over her shoulder. He laughs, squeezing her side, and looks at his watch. “Shouldn’t we get going? The next bus is in seven minutes.”

Her eyes shift to the ground. “Uh, my mother is sending someone to pick us up.”

“Sending…” he trails off, studying her. “I’m going to get so annoyed tonight, aren’t I?”

So annoyed. I can just tell my mom that we can’t go anymore. Since we’re on good terms, I–”

“Clarke,” he says softly, taking her hand. “It’s just dinner. No running away.”

She winces. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Her heart sinks further as she watches his face scrunch up when the town car pulls up. God, what was she thinking? On the ride over, she tries to huddle near the window, but he places his hand on top of hers, pulling her back whenever she moves away. And when they step out of the car into the horrifying suburbia, she watches his jaw drop at the sprawling English manor.

“Oh my god,” he mutters. “It’s like we stepped into Downton Abbey.” 

“If you comment on the historical architecture, Bellamy, I swear to–”

“This is a textbook result of the 20th-century Tudor Revival, you know,” he murmurs to her, scanning the mansion. She rolls her eyes. “The oriel windows, the openwork brick balustrade. Beautiful architectural work.”

“Yeah, well, to me, it feels like we’re walking into a game of Clue,” she mumbles as they walk up the spiraling cobbled driveway. She cringes as they walk past the perfectly trimmed hedges, the fountain in the middle of the rotary. “My god,” she whispers. “It’s even worse than before.”

He squeezes her hand as they approach the front door. “I’m here. Not going anywhere. I’ll just focus on the fascinating Tudorian trademarks instead of my intense desire to rant about the one percent.”

She laughs dryly, throwing her shoulders back. “Tudorian. Great. Okay. This will be fine. We will be fine.”

Only moments after they ring the bell, the door opens– pleasedontbeabutler, pleasedontbeabutler, pleasedontbeabutler

“Ms. Griffin.” A kind, resonant, familiar voice greets them. Fuck.

She smiles politely. “Anders. It’s lovely to see you. This is my guest, Bellamy Blake.” She anxiously watches him, but he just smiles warmly, offering a hand. The surprise on Anders' face descends into an approving smile, and he shakes Bellamy's hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Blake.” After he takes their coats, they trickle into the foyer. Bellamy’s eyes rake over the marble staircases, the empire chandelier. And she’s mortified. “Still time to run,” she says quietly.

“Are you going to be like this in every room we step in?”

“Probably.” 

He sighs, pulling her under the ramp of the staircase, and takes her face in his hands. "Listen to me. Is this a lot? Yes. Am I angered by the pretentious displays of opulence? Yes. But I love you. More than I hate all of this,” he gestures around them. “I want to meet your family. No matter how shitty they are. Let me be in your life. Even if it's this… indulgent one.” 

Her eyes grow wet. “Oh, no.” He pulls her to his chest. “No crying. Not yet, at least.” A laugh bubbles in her throat as she pulls away, blinking back the tears. “You’re just too good to me.” 

He kisses her forehead. “Nope. Together?”

She nods. “Together.”

They amble from the foyer to the living room, where they hear a clear, commanding voice. Relief washes over her as she leads Bellamy to the familiar face in front of the windowed wall. He sees her over the shoulder of whoever he’s speaking to, and a soft smile appears on his face.

“Clarke,” Marcus waves her over with his glass. “You look lovely.” His focused gaze turns to right. “Bellamy,” he nods curtly. “Good to see you.”

She feels him tense next to him, and she reassuringly grazes the back of his hand with her pinky. “It’s good to see you too, sir.” God, they sound ridiculous.

Marcus' eyes are as piercing as ever. “Michael, this is Abby’s daughter, Clarke. And her guest, Bellamy. Michael is a family friend.”

Bellamy shakes his hand. “Nice to meet you." And they repeat this exchange until they’ve met every incredibly important person in the living room. “This will be quite the Thanksgiving dinner,” he mutters in her ear. 

“Most of them leave before the dinner bell,” she says quietly. “Ready for the really hard part?”

He raises his eyebrows. “That wasn’t the hard part? I had to listen to a guy rant about venture capital for ten minutes.” 

“Those were the randoms. Time for the actual family.”

He nods resolutely. “Lead on, then, commander.” She laughs quietly, moving deeper into the house. 

With a final, dangerously deep breath, she leads him into the hearth room. The warm and homely feeling that descends on them as they walk into the wine-accented, darkwood room is entirely too deceiving. Steeling herself, she scans the floor for any relatives that she desperately needs to avoid; before she can actually catch the faces of each grandparent, aunt, uncle, or second cousin twice removed, her mother spots her and Bellamy.

“Clarke!” In front of the glowing fireplace, her mother beckons them over, in conversation with– fuck– Uncle Bill and Aunt Brell. She pulls on her most well-mannered smile as she leads Bellamy over to them. 

“Mom,” she smiles. It's closer to a real one this year– for the first time in a long time, her mother looks excited to see her. After they hug, she pulls back, blinking at her mother's ruby dress. "Wow. You look stunning.”

"Thank you!" Her beam grows thin-lipped as she looks behind Clarke. “Bellamy. Good to see you.” 

Well. That could’ve been worse .

“Thank you for having me, Mrs. Griffin. Your home is lovely.” 

Her lips twitch up in amusement. For someone who didn’t grow up in this world, he’s doing really well navigating it. Her mother blinks, pleasantly surprised. “Thank you.” 

“Where’s our hello?” Aunt Brell loudly exclaims, an over-dramatically expectant look on her face.

She winces at her strident voice, and forces a smile. "Hi, Aunt Brell. It’s been too long.”

The woman forcefully sweeps her into an uncomfortable hug, petting her hair. She pulls back, scanning Clarke’s outfit. “You’re filling out well!” Though she’s completely unfazed, she feels Bellamy tense behind her, and surprisingly, her mom frowns, gripping her wine glass tighter. “Now, Brell, that’s–” 

But Clarke looks at her with a minimal shake of her head. No drama. Not so soon. Her mother’s jaw tightens, but nods. 

“My little princess!” Uncle Bill wraps an arm around her shoulders and squeezes. She barely suppresses her laugh at Bellamy’s startled face.

“Who’s this?” Aunt Brell coquettishly tilts her head.

Oh god. She's going to throw up.

Her mother clears her throat. “This is Clarke’s guest, Bellamy. A fellow student at her University.” 

He smiles politely. “It’s a pleasure.”

“Oh?” Aunt Brell looks between them with her usual, annoying, knowing smile. “You're very handsome, young man. Clarke is a lucky girl.”  

At this point, it's a considerable effort to swallow the bile in her throat. But at least he seems collected. “Thank you, ma’am. I’m very lucky to know her, as well.” 

“So,” she arches an eyebrow, raising her wine glass to her lips. “What kind of rela–” 

Mercifully, her mother cuts in. “Bellamy, you’re a history major, correct?"

He nods. “Double majoring in education and history. With a concentration in empires and imperialism.” 

Uncle Bill nods, impressed. “Skillful pedagogic skills. I’m assuming you’d want to be an educator?” 

“Yes, I’ll be applying to PhD programs. Hopefully, studying to be a Professor.”

“Excellent. It’s good to see serious, young academics. They’re in decline. In fact…” 

Her eyes begin to hurt from the urge to roll them, so she turns to her mother, making sure to keep one ear on their conversation. But her anxieties have relaxed just slightly, watching Bellamy clearly hold his own. “Thanks for trying,” she whispers gratefully, putting a hand on her arm. Her mother covers her annoyed frown with the rim of her wine glass. “I can’t believe I let them speak to you like that for so long. Absolutely ridiculous.” 

The fiery, protective glint in her mother’s eyes brings a small, but genuine, smile to her face. “That’s okay. At this point, I’m mostly desensitized to it.” Though her face still holds disappointment, her mother looks at Bellamy with an impressed eye. “He seems to be doing just fine.”

She follows her eyes, where her Aunt and Uncle are laughing heartily at something Bellamy says. "I should’ve expected. His charisma is no joke. I mean, he charmed twenty thousand students.”

“Yes, well, the twenty thousand students eventually voted in favor of my daughter.”

She almost laughs at her proud, declarative tone. Her mother sighs. “I wish I didn’t have to ask, but–”

“Time for us to make the rounds?” Her mother nods, smiling weakly. Clarke takes a deep breath. “Okay. I’m prepared. Am I allowed to tell Aunt Kara that her boobs are practically falling out of her dress?” 

They hide their laughter as they look across the room at the woman. “You have my full permission.” 

Her mother takes her hand before she turns away. “Thank you for doing this. I know I don’t deserve it.” 

Clarke smiles, squeezing it tightly. “Second chances.”

Her eyes are profoundly thankful, a bit tearful. “Second chances.” After they exchange a final look, she turns back around. 

“...I find Cartesian ideals much more attractive. I’d like to think that the self is built on the indubitability of existence. Then my own selfhood comes from my thought, from man’s very essence.”

“Clarke! Thank heavens,” Aunt Brell sighs theatrically. “These two have been going back and forth about some philosophy nonsense for ages. So tedious.”

She smiles politely, listening to Bellamy’s response. “Sure. Though, Lockean thought can be more useful in the discussion of the self being that compilation of sensation and reflection– then selfhood would be carefully crafted, expansive.”

Uncle Bill nods sagely. “Indeed. But–”

“Actually, it could be argued that there exists an Cartesian-Lockean overlap in the construction of selfhood: between Descartes’ immaterial substance theory and Locke’s content of consciousness, there’s the underlying assumption that both sensation and reflection and thought are formal constitutive elements in compiling the self,” she interjects, with a gracious smile. 

Her uncle looks at her with raised eyebrows, and she sees Bellamy’s amused expression in her peripherals. “I wasn’t aware that a young woman could be so well-read in ancient political philosophy in addition to knowing the ins and outs of the medical field. Quite a lot of intellect."

Ugh. “Yes, well, both Bellamy and I are ‘well-read’, seeing as we’re in the same political philosophy class. We should go greet the rest of the family.”

“Of course,” Aunt Brell winks at Bellamy. “Good luck with your academic endeavors, young man.” 

“Thank you, ma’am.” And with that, she wraps her arm around his, and steers them away. 

“I love it when you talk philosophy to me,” he whispers playfully. She has to bite her tongue to hide her laugh.

“How are you holding up? 

Bellamy scoffs quietly, shaking his head. “I’m fine. I should be asking how you’re doing.” He tightens his grip on her, looking at her intensely. “You know that they’re idiots, right? That you’re beautiful?” 

She pats his shoulder with a soft smile.  “Yes. I know. They’ve been making comments about my body every year. Before I got boobs, after I got them. Doesn’t matter how I look. They’ll find something to say.”

His eyes hold worry. “It doesn’t remind you of–”

“Finn? No. I think it hurts more when it's from someone you love. Because you know that part of them is telling the truth.” She gestures behind her. “Those people also think that bisexuality is a sin. So, I take whatever they say with a grain of salt.”

“How do people like that actually exist?” 

She huffs a laugh. “I have no idea. But the Griffin-Kane murder house has many of them.”

“Also, Finn’s a dick, and I feel like we should take what he says with a grain of salt, too.”

She smiles, just barely laying her head on his shoulder. “I know that now.”

And, after they circle the room, and many, many painful conversations later, she practically sprints out. 

“Okay,” Bellamy takes a deep breath as they walk into the hallway. “Now, I’m actually annoyed.” 

“Which part? When Aunt Karina told me I should try the Mediterranean diet, or when Uncle Nelson looked at me and told me that I’m ‘certainly not his baby niece anymore'?" 

His fists clench. “All of the above.” 

She reaches down to unravel his fists and lace their fingers together. “I have a surprise for you.”

“Is it the permission to punch Uncle Nelson?” 

She laughs, bumping his hip. “No. It's better.”

“Doubt it,” he mutters, tugging her into his side. She leads him down the winding hallway until they reach the large doorway. She hears his breath catch, and smiles as he wanders into the two-tiered library, looking in awe at the walls of books, at the spiral staircase in the corner, at the reading nook in the center. 

He huffs a laugh, walking along the bookshelves. “This is nuts."

She hugs him from behind, pressing her cheek against his back. “Let’s just hide here for the rest of the night."

“Don’t tempt me," he grabs her hand and kisses her palm. “This still isn’t better than punching Uncle Nelson, though.”

She laughs, tugging him towards the staircase. “Maybe this will be.” She leads him up to the second floor and into a corner, where a small alcove peeks out from behind a bookshelf. He looks around in confusion.

“These don’t look like books,” he pulls out a light purple spine and raises his eyebrows at the binder in front of him. “‘Clarke 12’?”

“Open it.” 

She watches his eyes grow progressively larger as his fingers flick through the pages. “She kept all of them?” 

Clarke pulls out a green one– ‘Clarke 8’– and smiles she flips through it. She found these binders the first Thanksgiving she spent here, after she ran away from her cousins in tears. She walked into the small alcove, and pulled out each binder and folder in awe; the tears didn’t stop as she flicked through drawing after drawing– the ones she drew for her mother, for her father, for her school projects. Drawings from each year of her life, ever since she could hold a pencil– ‘Clarke 5.’ There were hasty stick figures on her dad's legal pad, messy crayon smears on construction paper, indiscernible finger paintings. And, as the numbers grew, the sketches became a bit clearer, a bit more defined– tighter pencil strokes, hatchings and cross hatchings, accent lines. Stick figures changed to cute doodles, to sketches of inanimate objects, to people, to portraits, and soon, to everything she found worth drawing. 

As he flicks through the binder, she watches him smile, frown, look concerned, laugh. Twelve year old Clarke was angsty. There was definitely a drawing of her mother and father yelling at each other. Some captioned with “i hate her!” or “so stupid!!!” One or two shitty portraits of herself, where her nose is abnormally small (after a seventh grader said her nose was too big). Lots of swinging ponytails and brown eyes with big, fluttery eyelashes, after her first crush. And planets. So many planets. Twelve year old Clarke loved space.

Some of her sketchbooks are spattered among the shelves, too. When she moved out as a fifteen year old, she hardly took enough clothes, nevertheless her sketchbooks. So, when she came down here freshman year, she felt like she had found lost pieces of herself. Pieces and memories of her parents, her friends, middle school, high school, all of it. 

He stops on one of the last few pages. She peers over, and nods when she sees it. “One of my better ones, huh?” 

She was twelve the first time she tried stick charcoal. Obviously, she chose her father as her test subject; she remembers how much she loved the chalky feel of it, how she could rub it furiously with her fingers, how she could weave between thin and thick, gray and black. Since then, it's been her favorite medium.

“I mean, it looks like a picture of him,” Bellamy shakes his head, wide-eyed. He snaps the binder shut. “Who let you be good at so many things?” 

“My parents. Who had to make sure I wasn’t a one-trick pony at donor events and fancy balls.” 

He nods slowly, scanning the packed shelves.

“Yeah. That’s just ‘Clarke 12’ part one.”

“Well,” he slides it in and pulls out the second one. “Looks like we’ll be here for awhile, then.” 

She spends the next few minutes flipping through the binders and folders. She cringes at number thirteen, complete with self-portraits with huge sidebangs, sketches of her favorite punk rock band’s albums, bleeding hearts, the whole thing. Bellamy frowns as he gets to high school, holding one of her sketchbooks up. “How did you go from having cute girlfriends to being into guys like Finn and I?” 

“I was fifteen, Bellamy. Everything was cute back then.”

“Not me,” he mutters. “I was definitely not cute.”

“Aw,” she sits next to him on the floor, laying her head on his shoulder. “I’m sure high school Clarke would like high school Bellamy. I’d still humiliate you in class discussions, of course. But maybe it’d still lead to an angry kiss under the bleachers.”

He huffs a laugh. “O would beg to differ.” 

“Well, now I have to text her and ask for pictures!”

She pulls out her phone, but he snatches it from her, holding it above his head. “Absolutely not.” 

“Hey!” she frowns, falling over him to reach it. “I’m letting you enter my entire childhood psyche. I deserve a picture, at the very least.”

He sighs, giving it back to her. “Fine.” 

“For the record,” she snatches it from his hand. “I had a cute girlfriend freshman year too.” 

He frowns. “Well, you definitely weren’t supposed to tell me that.”

“Why?”

“Because, I’m going to find a picture of her and be annoyed that I’m not as attractive as her.” He takes his own phone out, but she laughs and swats his hand away. “Here.” She scrolls through her old social media posts and angles the screen towards him. “Lexa. We were together for most of freshman year, after Finn.”

His frown deepens. “Now I’m going to be irrationally possessive for the rest of the night. And Aunt Brell might be unnerved.”

Her bright laughter echoes around the empty library. “I think last night serves as a reminder of why there’s no reason to be jealous.”

A smug smile descends on his face. “Damn right.” He puts the binder down and kisses her, pressing her to the ground. She smiles against his mouth, squirming in his grip. “I think we’ll be permanently banned from Thanksgiving if someone catches us making out in the library.”

“Would that be so bad?” he murmurs, kissing down her jaw.

She giggles–ew– and gently pushes him off, readjusting her dress. “Come on. It's been awhile. Dinner is soon. And then you get to meet my cousins!” she cheers sarcastically, clapping her hands. “Yay.” 

They place all the binders back and walk down the stairs. “Anything I should know before entering the warzone?” 

She looks at him wearily. “Well, firstly, they’ll make more jokes about food and my body, so get used to that. And probably say something about me entering the medical field as a woman. They’ll ask you what your parents do, and ask you why you’re studying history and education. And will most definitely ask what your ‘romantic prospects’ are, while looking between us pointedly.”

He takes a deep breath, running a hand through his hair. “Sounds easy. You promise that napkin placements don’t exist?” 

She shoves him. “No. But don’t eat until everyone else starts to. And probably don’t take alcohol unless it’s offered to you. Oh. And,” she looks down at their hands, unraveling them. “No PDA.”

He sighs exaggeratedly. “I have to go a whole hour without touching my girlfriend?” 

She laughs, patting his shoulder. “You’ll manage.”

He pauses in the hallway with a wide grin. “Well, I guess I’ll have to get it all out of my system now.” 

She takes a step back. “Bellamy, no–” But he’s already on her, pressing her against the wall, tickling her sides and stomach. She giggles, trying to push him off.

“Ahem.”

They fly apart when they hear the voice. She freezes, her cheeks pink with embarrassment. 

A lean, striking girl in an inky shift dress stands in front of them, one hand on her hip, an eyebrow raised. Clarke clears her throat. “Hi, Jade. It's lovely to see you.” 

“Likewise, cousin.” She smiles sweetly, flipping back the thick, black curls that tumble over her shoulders. Her eyelashes flutter, looking at Bellamy, intrigued. “Who’s this?” 

She swallows, forcing a pained smile onto her face. “This is Bellamy. He attends Ark U with me. Bellamy, this is Jade. My cousin, Aunt Brell and Uncle Bill’s daughter.” 

He smiles brightly, offering a hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Jade looks down at his hand with amused, twinkling eyes. Curse his charisma.

“The pleasure is mine," she holds his hand daintily, tucking her clutch under her arm. And for a bit longer than Clarke would like. “Are you both heading to the den? Dinner should be beginning soon.” 

“Actually, we were–”

“Nonsense. I’ll walk you there.” Her voice is sugary and synthetic as she falls into step between her and Bellamy. Her eyes flicker to him, and he seems to be listening and smiling politely, completely oblivious. GreatWhen they make it to the den, her mother’s face momentarily lights up, and then twists into sympathy as she sees who she walks in with. Standing next to Marcus, she waves her over. She turns around to lead Bellamy with her, but Jade stops her.

“It’d only be appropriate for family to ring the bell!” she insists with an innocent smile, wrapping her arm around Bellamy’s. “Don’t worry. I’ll keep him company, cousin.”

Her jaw tightens, but she forces a smile. “Thank you, Jade."

When she joins her mother at the head of the den, she tries to hide her grimace with a tight smile. “She’s just as bad as her parents,” her mother says, under her breath. 

“She might be worse."

Marcus looks at her with a hopeful, searching smile. She nods, shrugging, and her mother gestures to a servant, who brings Clarke a wine glass. She looks at her apologetically, and holds her free hand.

“It’s okay, mom," she sighs, swirling the dark, ruby liquid. “Red is my favorite, anyway."

Marcus taps on his glass, quieting the buzzing family members. “Dear friends and family,” he starts, judiciously. “Thank you for choosing to celebrate your Thanksgivings with us, here in D.C…” 

She tries her best to listen, but her eyes keep flickering to Bellamy and Jade, the latter still quietly giggling, and holding his arm. But her mother squeezes her hand, so she presses a smile on her face, her fingers harshly pushing into the glass in her hand.

“...Now, please join us as we proceed to the dining room.” And with that, the servants ring the dinner bell and usher all the family members to the large table. She sneaks a glance at Bellamy, who seems a bit overwhelmed by the diamond cut glassware, the elaborate name cards, the ornate, decorative scrollwork on the chairs. They're seated next to Marcus and her mother, who are at the head of the table. Bellamy pulls out her chair for her. She raises an eyebrow at him. “Thank you.” 

When they’re seated, he leans over. “Well, that’s pretty cool,” he whispers, looking at his name card in front of him. A small smile spreads on her face. “That’s you. Mr. Bellamy Blake.” 

“Why doesn’t yours say Princess?” She kicks him under the table. “Your cousins seem nice so far,” he whispers, watching the servants place glasses down. 

She rolls her eyes. “Don’t make me actually mean it when I tell you that you’re actually playing dumb this time.” He frowns, sitting back. But before he can respond, another bright tinkle of a glass rings around the room. Marcus announces the beginning of dinner, they say grace (with her clutching Bellamy’s hand a bit tighter than usual), and the food is served. 

Happy chatter spreads around the room, and she tries her best to be courteous, to smile when she has to, to not take too much food, to not take too many sips of wine. And to nod when Vera (Marcus’ mother, who’s extremely invested in Clarke going into politics) says something about law school. Or to laugh elegantly when her uncle tries to be funny. Around the time that they start bringing out the turkey, the labor of decorum and the intense pressure to protect Bellamy from her relatives starts to weigh on her a bit too heavily; her smiles grow weaker, her posture slackers in her chair. Basically what happens every year after dinner, where she finds an empty bedroom and erupts in tears. 

Bellamy puts his hand on her thigh under the table. She twitches a little, the touch yanking her from her performance. “Are you okay?” He looks at her in concern, watching her nudge some brussel sprouts and shreds of turkey with her fork. “You’ve barely eaten anything.”

“You’ll see why.” 

“So,” Uncle Hugo places his glass down, a roguish look on his face. “Marcus, I must ask– when are you going to propose to our Abigail?”

Bellamy raises his eyebrows at her, and she shrugs. It's asked every year. Marcus sets his fork down and places a hand over her mother's, a polite smile on his face. “As I say every year, Hugo. A ceremony or ring won’t change anything.”

“Besides,” her mother takes a long sip of her wine. “Marcus barely makes it home for dinner, and the hospital’s hours are demanding. We’re simply too busy.” 

Uncle Hugo sighs dramatically. “Ah, fine. A man can only dream.” Hearty laughter fills the room. 

“Now, Hugo,” Aunt Karina pats his arm. “No harm in thinking of young love, instead.”

Well. Here it goes.

Her Aunt's eyes flick to her cousin. “Jade, you’ve almost graduated. Any interesting young men in your life?”

Jade pulls her shoulders back and smiles, shaking her head. “Not as of lately, Auntie. I’m too busy graduating at the top of an Ivy League class.” Clarke tilts her head down to roll her eyes.

“Ah, fine. Tris?” 

They move through each of her cousins, always making sure that she’s the last. After her cousin Drew also declines any relationship prospects, all prying eyes turn to the head of the table.

“Clarke. You must give us some hope," Aunt Brell enthuses, tipsily waving her wine glass around.

“Clearly, she has already,” Uncle Ridley simpers, looking at Bellamy. “Who’s this?”

Vera exhales dramatically, with a flourish of her hand. “I’m so glad you’ve brought around a young man. Not that girl, again.”

“Mother,” Marcus steely says under his breath. 

“Oh, stop, Marcus!” Vera waves him away. “I’m simply complimenting her on this handsome young man she’s brought! Introduce us!” 

Clarke’s smile is pained as she speaks. “This is Bellamy. He attends Ark U as well.”

“Yes, indeed,” Uncle Bill nods, winking at him. “He’s very intellectual. Knows all the classics of philosophy. Almost bested me in a discussion of Cartesian dualism.” 

Actually, she did. But whatever.

“Fascinating,” Aunt Karina sits forward as a servant pours more wine in her glass. “What do you plan to do with a philosophy degree? Not exactly as practical as pre-med.” 

She winces, about to interject, but Bellamy beats her to it, smiling politely. “Philosophy is actually my minor. I’m double majoring in education and history, as well.”

“Wow!” Uncle Hugo drops his knife, the grating sound making her jump a bit. “Bill is right. Extremely intellectual. You’re looking to be a professor, then?” 

“I’ll be applying to PhD programs, in the hopes.” 

“At least someone is making full use of the second-tier university," her cousin Pascal pipes up from the end of the table. 

“Pascal!” Uncle Ridley scolds. “Enough.” 

Jade cocks her head, innocently. “Why aren’t you double majoring, Clarke?” 

She bristles. “Well, in many respects, my double concentration in biology and psychiatry makes my pre-med track a double major. Not to mention the political science minor that Marcus forc–” He looks at her sternly, but the slightest bit of amusement underlies it. Her lips twitch up. “Encouraged me to add.” 

“Terrific!” Vera exclaims loudly. “You know, many law students didn’t pursue pre-law as undergraduates. Actually, your debate skills might prove tremendously helpful in scoring high on the LSAT.”

“Speaking of her debate skills,” Tris chirps from the end of the table. “Trina, Jade and I have been following the presidential race.” 

Both her and Bellamy still. “Presidential race?” Aunt Brell tilts her head.

Marcus tries to make a save. "Yes, both Bellamy and Clarke ran terrific campaigns for student government this semester.”

“Well, who won?” Uncle Bill practically yells, his voice filled with excitement. Her and Bellamy are quiet, and don’t look at each other. This time, her mother swoops in, clearing her throat. “I believe Clarke received no more than six-hundred votes over Bellamy, correct?”

“Yes. That’s right,” Marcus nods. “A close race.”

The table buzzes with surprised, approving, or questioning noises. “Why, that’s absolutely fantastic, Clarke!” Aunt Karina exclaims, placing her napkin on the table. 

“Even more reason that you’d be a terrific politician!” Vera adds vehemently. 

“Definitely.” She hears the smirk in Trina’s voice, and closes her eyes in anticipation. “The debates were riveting.”

“I can only imagine! Bellamy must’ve presented an excellent campaign,” Uncle Bill insists, and she rolls her eyes. In one day, he's Bellamy’s biggest fan. 

“Oh, the second debate was absolutely captivating,” Jade trills. 

Of course, they found the stream. Bellamy grows rigid next to her, his hands slipping under the table, fingers tightly gripping his legs. She sees Marcus’s face harden in her peripherals.

Aunt Brell waves her wine glass around. “Do tell!” 

Bellamy clears his throat. “It was a strong end to the race. I’d like to think that both of our closing statements were sound. The cross-questioning was fine, as well, it just got a bit,” he pauses. “Tricky, during the audience’s question and answer.” 

Uncle Ridley raises his eyebrows. “It’s often the questions from the constituents that land harder than the debate topics, I believe."

Tris smiles, placing her chin on her fists. “Agreed. But it was Clarke’s fundraiser that caused quite the stir.”

Marcus clears his throat, placing his napkin down and flagging the servants over. “It’s almost time for dessert, let’s–”

“Ooh!” Vera's eyes sparkle as she interrupts her son. “For what organization?”

The entire exchange is making her dizzy, dread starting to cloud her head. Trying to keep her composure, she smiles brightly, throwing her shoulders back. “The Freedom Fund. Nearly two-thousand dollars, which is quite a feat for a college fundraiser.”

“Ah, yes!” Jade raises her fork. “We saw the pictures. It seemed to be wildly successful with students.”

How the hell did they see pictures? What pictures? She’s blocked all of them on all platforms. 

Aunt Brell waves eagerly. “Let’s see!”

No, no, no.

She tenses, about to object, but Jade is already passing her phone across the table. Bellamy’s gaze is uncomfortably hot on the side of her head as she stares at her lap. 

“Oh.” She hears Aunt Brell’s shocked, slightly disgusted response. 

Aunt Karina furrows her eyebrows. “What is it, Brell?” 

As the phone circulates the table, the heat is elevated, as every set of eyes turns to stare at her. She feels her mother’s fingertips on her legs, but she can’t bring herself to look up. Drew clears his throat. “Well, that’s an interesting approach.” 

“Indeed," Uncle Hugo’s voice holds revulsion. 

“I was surprised to see it on my feed!” Jade blinks innocently. “I think we have some mutuals, cousin. I believe one of my classmates knows your good friend, Octavia.” 

Bellamy frowns next to her, and her mouth presses into a thin line. Why did she have to post a fucking picture? She musters a shocked expression. “I didn’t realize she posted anything. Let me see.”

She pulls out her own phone, and almost cries out in frustration as she sees what Octavia posted. It's a picture of her and Octavia, in bikini tops and jean shorts, pointing water guns at each other. She's flinching as Octavia is throwing her head back in laughter; in the background, students are throwing water balloons at each other, talking to each other with margarita glasses in hand, dancing. 

Her mother's smile is pained. “Well, it is college. Just innocent fun. I’m sure we all did similar things in our undergraduate years.” 

“I don’t know if I’d call that innocent,” Trina murmurs to Tris, the two giggling quietly. Her mother shoots them an annoyed look. 

Vera stares intently at her. “May I ask what inspired this… approach?”

Her heart starts to race, unsure how to answer their question. Her hands wring each other in her lap. “Well–”

“I did something similar, for the first fundraiser,” Bellamy speaks up, voice steady. “And it worked. Two excellent organizations received deserving donations. That’s the bottom line.”

While his voice is still light, still polite, her family members are taken aback by his confidence and directness. “Of course,” Uncle Bill nods firmly. “I’m just unsure that a young woman should be advertising herself as such, in a professional, presidential race.”

“It’s hardly ‘professional’, Bill,” Marcus' jaw tightens. “It's an undergraduate student government competition. I wouldn’t take it with so many stakes.” 

Aunt Karina looks at her condescendingly. “Regardless, if medical schools see that these kinds of events are responsible for your presidency, I’m not sure if it’ll be an impressive facet of your resume.” 

“With all due respect, Aunt Karina, I wouldn’t label that event as the sole reason I won the presidency.” 

Bellamy nods next to her. “I agree. In fact–”

“Clarke, I must take you shopping,” Aunt Brell frowns, squinting at Jade's phone screen. “There’s no reason for you to be wearing clothes that are too small for you.” Her mother shifts in her, and Bellamy’s hands turn into fists on his lap. 

"Those clothes fit just fine, but thank you for the offer, Aunt Brell.”

“Don’t worry,” Aunt Karina waves her away as she studies the photo as well. “No shame in being a size six or seven.”

Her chest starts to clench from embarrassment and shame. “I’m not–”

“Oh, did you borrow the clothes of your friend in this picture? She’s quite fit,” Aunt Brell muses.

Aunt Karina holds a finger up. “This is why I suggested the Mediterranean diet for your body type! I think these shorts would sit on your hips so much easier.” 

Aunt Brell nods vigorously, and spares a glance at her plate. “And you’ve barely had any carbohydrates or saturated fats! You could even start today. And–”

“That’s enough!” Her mother slams her palm on the table, making the silverware quiver.

The air is sucked out of the room as all of them look at her with wide eyes. Clarke releases, almost shudders, a relieved breath, the suffocating conversation no longer pressing on her chest. “That’s enough, Brell. Karina. There is no reason for either of you to be telling my daughter how to live in her own body.” Despite the fire in her eyes, her voice is steady.

Clarke’s chin trembles in gratitude, at her mother's protectiveness. Brell blinks, a bit of remorse spreading on her face. “So sorry, Abigail. Just wanted to help with–”

“She’s doing just fine on her own. And she’ll ask for help if she needs it,” her mother says coolly. 

“Absolutely. Apologies.” Aunt Karina looks sympathetic. Not regretful. But she ignores her, instead, gazing at her mother gratefully; she feels the overwhelming need for her mother to hold her again, just like she did when she was little. She clearly understands, as she squeezes her fingers on Clarke’s knee. She glances at Marcus, who looks proudly at her mother, and looks at her with concern. She nods, with a small shrug. 

An awkward silence falls over the table after that, just the clinks of glassware and the quiet, annoyed murmurs from her cousins filling the air. Dessert is brought out, and Marcus conducts polite conversation again. She just focuses on appearing collected, sneaking glances at the clock, counting down the minutes. Bellamy reaches over and places his hand over hers, but her fingers are limp. Pushing around the pieces of pie on her plate, she listens along with the conversation, offering a small smile, but nothing more.

And, when Marcus concludes dinner, she practically jumps up and sprints out of the room. She doesn’t look back, praying that her mother will know that she doesn’t want anyone to follow her. After hopping up the stairs and rounding the corner, she breathes a sigh of relief after she doesn’t hear any lingering footsteps behind her. She wanders down the hallway to what Marcus insists is ‘her’ room. At first, she wasn’t too sure if it looked any different from the guest bedrooms; but, when he first showed her it, she saw that he’d taken the things her mother kept of hers (which was, surprisingly, a lot), and put it all away. The framed pictures from her childhood bedroom are hung on the walls, her books are on the shelves, and her dad’s jewelry box is on the dresser. She almost cried when Marcus showed her the desk, after she saw that he’d gone behind her mother’s back and filled it with all of her dad’s stationary. 

Now, as she pushes the door open to the bedroom she’s only slept in a handful of times, she doesn’t even hesitate as she crosses the room and flings open the balcony doors. She breathes in the sharp night, the biting cold sending shudders through her body as she inhales the air. Leaning on the stone ledge, she stares out at the backyard, at the covered pool, the sprawling hedges of the garden, the acres upon acres of green grass. She imagines all the things her and her father would do on these grounds– they had their own patch of grass at her childhood home, but nothing compared to this. Not this weedless, perfectly cut, flawlessly emerald land. 

She would probably whine for him to build a stage again, with those rickety wooden planks, so she could sing, and dance, and shout into the boundless air. And, on that stage, she would pretend to be him at one of his protests, fiercely chanting and yelling, raising goosebumps on every inch of skin in the crowd. She would steal her mother’s shawls again, pretending that they’re capes, raising them to the wind, as she sprinted barefoot across the grass. She’d flop down with her sketchbooks, drawing Wells as he awkwardly posed for her. 

And, if she stayed with her mother after her father died, she would definitely have laid in the middle of that massive field, falling into the black of the atmosphere, pretending that she knows the momentum of each star after she learned that p=mv in AP Physics. Or pretend that she can trace the trajectory of the moon. That’s the momentum change.

But now, all she can do is stare and conjure fake, could’ve-been memories, filling up those lost years with her eyes. She retreats and closes the balcony doors behind her, her eyes flicking to the desk. As she sinks down in the chair, she runs her fingers over her father’s legal pad. Gold and engraved on the leathered top. JG. Flipping through the ink-worn pages, her eyes run over the various protest schedules, legislation summaries, meeting notes with politicians. When she reaches the first empty page, she takes one of his pens and starts writing.

Dear Dad,

Happy Thanksgiving. We live through these dinners to fight another day! 

She pauses, the fountain pen bleeding ink where her hand hovers. 

I hate this. I miss you. I wish you were here. I’m a President now. Not the kind you want me to be. Just for my class. And I met a guy. If only you knew how we met– I don’t think I’d ever hear the end of it. You would laugh for hours.

The momentum change. Using my song. I’m trying. I really am. But life isn’t really giving me much to work with. I know what you would say if you were here– ‘just wait for the velocity to shift. The mass to adjust.’ But I don’t know if shitty relatives and shitty frat boys care much for mass or velocity. 

I’ll keep trying, though. For you.

I love you. 

The ink swirls in front of her as a single tear hits the last three words. She rips the paper off, just like she did for the last two years, and moves to her dresser. She takes his matchbox and lights the candle that Marcus placed in her room. As the flames flicker shadows on the walls of the dark room, she lowers the paper to the flame, watching the cinders lap against the paper, the words drip into ash. And with lingering embers sitting on the charred remains of the note, she throws it into the trash can, watching it sink into nothing. She takes a deep breath, calm slowly returning to her body. And after her pulse evens out, she steels herself, and leaves her bedroom. 

At first, she’s not sure where to go. Have most of them left? Are the ones who stay the night already in their rooms? Are the cousins still there? But, after she hears familiar giggles and laughter, she knows where everyone is. She turns the corner to the game room, and immediately stops. 

In the middle of the game room, at the pool table, Bellamy stands with Drew and Pascal, smiling and laughing as he holds the pool cue. He lines up the yellow ball, and sinks it easily. Trina, Tris, and Jade cheer loudly from the surrounding couches, raising their glasses of champagne. She watches as Drew high-fives him, and how he passes the cue to Pascal with a cheeky smile. Her eyes scan their surroundings, the girls’ heels on the floor, Pascal and Drew’s suit jackets draped over the chairs with Bellamy’s tie. His face is slightly flushed from the alcohol, and his hair is mussed up. And he looks so happy.

And, for whatever reason, that makes her extremely sad, so she bolts without a word, retracing her steps. She slams the door behind her and collapses on her bed. And starts sobbing. Her tears soak (and probably ruin) the silk fabric of the pillow, and she curls the comforter in her fists as she sniffs.

A phone ringing immediately silences her, as her head snaps up and she looks at the clock. Nine.

She half-falls off the bed and grapples at her desk, where her phone screen lights up and vibrates in the dark. She picks and holds the phone with both hands at her ear. 

Clarke?” 

“Raven?” 

Hey, Griffin.” 

And she releases a choked sob. 

Tell me everything.” 

So she does, flopping back onto the bed and curling her body on the comforter.

“I just don’t know why that made me so upset,” she sniffs after a few minutes, wiping her face. “It wasn’t even their stupid comments this time. It was seeing him with them.” 

I mean, your asshole cousins just basically exposed you to your family and called you a slut for an hour, so I think it makes sense why it hurts to see him just chilling with them, like nothing even happened.

“It's just... in one day, hell, in one hour– he somehow made friends with the people who have hated me ever since I was child.”

And the fact that you told him that before… that’s what pisses me off. If I was there, I would’ve punched each one of them. Or cursed them out. I can’t just make friends with these people who have made you feel like trash. You shouldn’t do that when you love someone.

“But I left him alone. What was I expecting him to do?”

Um, talk to and potentially repair his relationships with your mother and/or Marcus?

She pauses. “I didn’t think about that.”

"Yeah. Maybe Jade and those other girls tugged on him and tried to bat their eyelashes or whatever, but he’s a big boy. If he wanted to leave that situation, he definitely could.

This makes her even more sad, and another sob tumbles from her lips. “So, you think that he thinks that they didn’t do anything wrong? And that they’re fun to hang out with?” 

I think that if he really took you seriously, and actually cared about your happiness, he wouldn’t just be shooting the shit with these cousins that have consistently made you feel horrible about yourself."

She frantically wipes at the tears rolling down her cheeks. “You’re right. Why is he doing that?”

I don’t know, Clarke. I know that you’re in love with the guy, but I’m just–” Raven stops. She faintly hears Shaw in the background. "I’m just tired of him hurting you. Especially this time, when he sat there and literally saw firsthand how your relatives speak to you.”

“Yeah, I know, but he–”

And how it's almost ten, and he still hasn’t even checked up on you.

Raven’s words hit her. Why hasn’t he? Her silence gives her away, and she hears Raven sigh.

I’m so sorry, Clarke. First of all, it just fucking sucks that every year I hear you feeling like this, and I can’t do anything. And now, even when you actually have someone there, he doesn’t do jack shit!” Her voice grows louder, practically blaring on speaker. She hears Shaw again, this time, with a more soothing voice, murmuring something to her.

She sniffs, staring at her phone lying next to her, the numbers ticking away on the screen. “I miss you so much.” 

God, Griffin. It's barely been twenty-four hours. Why are you so obsessed with me?” 

She lets out a watery laugh. “You know what I mean.”

I know. I miss you too.” 

“Did Zeke’s family end up liking your outfit this year?” 

Oh, yes. The jeans absolutely blew their mind.

“Ugh. I wish I was in jeans right now.” 

For the next forty-five minutes, Raven tells her all about Shaw’s family, which makes her extremely jealous, but so thankful that she has him. “You willingly played Risk with them? I underestimated your love for him, clearly.”

Raven snorts. "They’re all so… cheery.” She laughs, picturing how she’s wrinkling her nose, right then. “It’s infectious. His little sister is just like me.

“Short-tempered, but badass?” 

Shut up. But she’s actually such a firecracker. She has the makings of my extremely witty and intelligent personality."

She smiles. “I believe it.” 

“Clarke?” A soft knock sounds at her door. She freezes.

“Was that a knock?” 

The door cracks open, and she looks over her shoulder to see Bellamy peek his head in. She blinks. “I’m talking to Raven.” 

“Oh.”

Is that Blake?

She hurriedly takes Raven off of speaker and lifts her phone to her ear. “Yeah.”

The line is silent for a bit. “It’s almost eleven. I should probably make sure I say goodnight to mini-Raven.”

She quietly laughs. “Fine.” 

And maybe it's time…to do whatever you need to do.

She pauses, still acutely aware that Bellamy is still silently standing in the doorway. “Okay,” she says quietly. 

I can still text. Okay?” 

“Okay. Thank you. Love you,” she squeaks, sad that they can’t speak any longer. 

Yeah, yeah. Love you too.” 

She hangs up with a laugh, immediately feeling the absence of assuredness and comfort Raven's voice gave her. She doesn’t turn over just yet, but hears the closing of the door, followed by footsteps around the room. In the corner of her eye, she sees him scan the wall above her dresser. “Wow. Your mom ended up keeping a lot of your stuff.” 

She scrolls through her phone, her voice bland. “Yeah.” 

He stands in front of the doors to the balcony. “How's Raven?” 

“She’s good.” 

He twists his body towards hers, and his palm rests on her shoulder. But she’s unmoving. “Are you okay?” 

She almost laughs out loud at the ridiculousness of the question. Still staring at her phone screen, her voice is nonchalant, not too expressive. “In what world would I be okay right now?” 

“You’re right. Dumb question.” 

His eyes burn into the top of her head, willing her to drop her phone, and look up at him. But she doesn’t. 

“Clarke?” He squeezes her shoulder, trying to turn her. 

She shrugs his hand off. “Stop, Bellamy.”

“Can we please talk?”

“I’m busy.” Again, she almost laughs at her own words, staring down at the news article she’s reading.

His voice starts to develop an edge. “Doing what?” 

“Just reading.”

“Reading what?” 

“Stuff.” 

“Clarke!” His hand shoots out and covers her phone screen, pressing it down to the bed. “What’s wrong?” 

She lets out a quiet, humorless laugh, still avoiding his gaze. “What’s wrong? I feel shitty. That’s what's wrong. I feel shitty about myself, my academic endeavors, my body, my career goals. I feel shitty about everything.” 

His hand wraps around hers, squeezing it. “I know. I–”

“And I feel shitty because, after hours of my own insecurities being put on blast, I sprint out of the room, and my boyfriend doesn’t check on me until almost two and a half hours later.” 

Bellamy stills, moving his palm to her cheek. “Your mom, she told me not to follow you, to give you some space.” 

“Two and a half hours worth of space?”

“I didn’t know–”

“You didn’t know? Or were too busy having a good time with my cousins?” 

He blinks. “Is that what you’re upset about?”

And that does it for her. She pushes him off of her and she sits up forcefully– but it's not anger that weaves through her words. She’s too tired for that. It’s an amalgam of sadness, disappointment, hurt. “Yes, that’s it, I guess,” she says warily, inching away from him. “It makes me upset that you’re now best friends with people who actively make me feel like shit. Have made me feel like shit for years.”

His mouth drops open, guilt in his eyes. “I was just trying to get to know your family better. They seemed nice, I just figured I should go along with the whole schedule they have.” 

The sadness sinks deeper. “Nice? Drew, Trina and Tris all but called me a slut. Pascal essentially told me that my academic pursuits are useless. Jade deliberately passed around a picture of me in a bikini to my conservative family members, knowing how they’ll react.”

“I know. That was so fucked up,” he says softly, leaning forward to place his hand over hers. But she moves back.

“It was. Which is why I don’t understand that I found you hanging out with them after dinner, as if everything was totally fine.”

“I’m really sorry. I just thought that you said that after dinner, all the adults do their own thing, and you and your cousins go off on their own, so…” 

She looks at him, trying to understand his reasoning. “So?” 

“I just thought that I should do that, too.”

“Okay,” she nods. What else can she say? 

“I’m sorry, Clarke,” he pleads. “You’re right. That was wrong of me.”

He reaches out for her, but she dodges him, again. “Okay. I don’t really want to talk. I think I just want to sleep.”

He nods and stands up, his eyes swirling with remorse. “Alright. Let’s go back.” 

She just stares at him, her hands shifting in her lap. “I think I’m going to stay here.” 

He blinks. “Oh. Okay.”

They sit in awkward, uncomfortable silence for a few seconds. “You can just ask my mom or Marcus for a ride back. They’ll have a driver.”

He huffs a laugh, running a hand through his hair. “Even after today, I’m not sure they like me any more than they did before.”

“Well, maybe if you didn’t spend two and a half hours with people that don’t matter to me, and actually spent time with the two people who mean a lot to me, that wouldn’t be a problem,” she snaps, the irritation flaring up again. 

“I didn’t know, okay!” His voice rises in pitch. “It’s not easy to navigate all of this stuff with your family!” 

She smiles, shaking her head at her lap. “You have no idea.”

“I do, though!” he says exasperatedly, his hands slightly raised. “I’ve been doing it all day!”

Her head snaps up. “Imagine doing it for two people. Constantly doing it, while your body is picked apart in every conversation. Thinly-veiled insults lashing at you every few minutes, unraveling each of your insecurities. While every backhanded compliment you get is prefaced by ‘as a young woman.’” 

His face twists into understanding, and he sits back down, putting his hand over hers in her lap. “Fuck. You’re right. I’m sorry I’m being such a dick. I just want to make a good impression. And make you happy. I was trying to ease the pressure that you have to face. I didn’t do too good of a job, clearly.”

He offers her a small smile, but she just stares at her lap. “Can you go?” 

He reels back a bit, pulling his hand away. In the silence, she feels his eyes on her, as if he’s waiting for her to take it back. When she doesn’t, the bed lifts back up as he rises. “Yeah. I’ll go.” 

And she doesn't look up once, not as he gathers himself, not as he walks past her, not as he stands in her doorway for a final moment before closing it. For another hour, she just lays there, intermittently texting Raven. Hot, silent tears running down her face. All the resolve and walls she built up over the years to take her family’s comments, their insults– it all crumbled when Bellamy entered. Maybe she was too busy creating a wall for him. And that left her vulnerable. Or maybe it's just that after a whole day of protecting him, him not coming to see her was twice as disheartening. But she doesn’t expect him to understand. 

When the door cracks open, she’s still curled into herself, trying to process all the hurt she feels. But when she feels the lighter, softer hand on her shoulder, she turns over and buries her face in her lap, sniffing into her dress. “Oh, Clarke,” her mother strokes her hair as they sit in silence. 

After a few minutes, she sniffs. “I don’t know why I’m so upset.” 

Her mother shakes her head with a stony look on her face. “You have every reason to be upset. Brell and Karina were absolutely out of line. Your cousins’ behavior was completely abhorrent. And–”

“No, mom,” she wipes her face. “It’s Bellamy.” And she tells her how she found him in the game room, their recent conversation. 

Her mother brushes her hair back with a frown. “We never explicitly told him to section off with your cousins. In fact, Marcus started a conversation with him.”

Her heart sinks so low, that she feels it might just disintegrate entirely. “I just don’t understand. He saw how they spoke to me. Why would he just… smile? And be with them like nothing is wrong?” 

Her mother sighs. “I don’t have a single clue.” 

“Did he get a ride home?” 

Her nod is small. “He looked… distraught when he approached Marcus and I. Which is why I came to check on you. Everyone has left.” 

“That’s good. Him getting home, I mean.” 

Her mother lets out a small laugh. “It’s good that the rest of them went home, too. I was beginning to think that there wouldn’t be enough wine in the cellar to keep me from snapping at your aunts once again.”

She turns over, looking up at her mother. “You didn’t have to do that at dinner. I could’ve managed.” 

“Of course I did,” her mother speaks sharply, frowning at the memory. “It’s the least I can do. After six years of letting them off the hook, that was tame.” 

She smiles, the wet in her eyes finally starting to dry. “Can I stay here? For the rest of my break?”

Her mother's own eyes brighten. “Of course! I’ll have new bedsheets made up for you. And I must show you the studio Marcus and I saved for you, and–”

“A studio? For me?” 

With a soft smile, her mother places a hand on her forehead. “After I saw those men rip up your drawings…” Her voice still holds disgust, anger. “I held out hope. That you’d come back, one day.”

And the tears return, further ruining the fabric of her dress. “Thank you, mom.” 

“I love you, Clarke. I’m going to do anything and everything to make up for those years I lost.”

She sniffs and nods. “Second chances.” 

“Second chances.” Her mother insists that her bed be newly made-up, have all of the towels in her bathroom replaced, and add all that useless aromatherapy stuff to the bath. She would be annoyed at the indulgence and dramatics of it all, but for just then, having her mother flit over her is just what she needed. And she sleeps so well. 

 

The next four days pass too quickly. 

In the mornings, she sits on the veranda with Marcus and her mother, and rolls her eyes every time her mother insists on bringing her a Belgian waffle. And a fresh plate of fruit. And mimosas. But sitting with them on those cold, sunny mornings, is a kind of reprieve she didn’t anticipate. 

In the afternoons, she busies herself in the studio that they created for her. When her mother first opened the wooden door, she was almost overwhelmed by the amount of effort it displayed; they’d hung up some of her old drawings on the walls, easels were spattered among the room, surrounded by shelves upon shelves of art materials she hadn’t even seen before. The benches and the lounge space were washed in a bright white, the sweeping windows nearly blinding in their expansiveness. It was young Clarke’s dream. 

One afternoon, her mother perched on the bench with a glass of wine, watching her mess around with some acrylics. And nearly burst into tears after she painted a hasty portrait of them in an embrace. During another, Marcus tried to draw something on one of the large sketch pads and immediately received angry scoldings from her mother, who yelled ‘This is Clarke’s space!’

And, in the evenings, she sat at the dinner table, blinking in awe at her mother’s stories at the hospital. At the groundbreaking medical trials they conducted, how they can cover costs for low-income patients, at the twelve hour surgeries she’s had to perform. 

There were some blips among her fleeting getaway, though. The first being the morning immediately after Thanksgiving.

She woke up entirely too late, and her phone was inundated with a range of text messages. A flood of questions in the group chat, begging to know how it went, if they liked Bellamy, or, as Harper asked, if ‘he really was eaten alive.’ Some individual ones from Wells and Octavia. And a few from Bellamy, wishing her a good morning. Saying that he loves her, hopes that she had a good night, that he’s sorry again.

She tries to put it aside, but in the middle of her painting that afternoon, the video call inevitably comes in. Sighing, she picks up the phone, faces flooding the screen. Immediately, when she joins, their voices spill over each other.

Well?!” Maya shrieks, Jasper’s face pressed up against hers.

Monty angles the video so Harper is in the frame. “How did it go?

Oh man,” Raven sighs. “You should all sit down.” 

She recounts the story of last night, punctuating her frustration with angry waves of her hands. “And he was just standing there! Pool cue in hand!”

It’s always pool,” Jasper mutters, eyes narrowed. 

Harper shakes her head. “That’s so messed up.” 

Exactly! These morons really just slut-shamed her, and not even two hours later, he’s just all cool with them! Buddy fucking buddy!” Raven shouts, the screen shaking. Shaw rubs her shoulders.

Maya makes a sympathetic face. “I’m assuming that’s the reason why Octavia isn’t here."

“Yeah, I guess," she sighs, looking up. “I haven’t said anything. If she knows anything, it's because he told her.”

Do you know what you’re going to do now?” Monty asks, concern on his face. 

She props up the phone against the easel as she continues to paint. “No idea. What should I say?” 

Tell him that’s a fucking moron and that you’re dumping his ass.” 

Harper winces. “Rae, it's not that simple–

She huffs exasperatedly. “But it is! Enough is enough!” She sees Maya jab Jasper as he mutters something. 

“I’ll figure it out later. It’ll be fine.” She puts her brush down. “My mom and Marcus built me an entire studio.”

What?!” 

For the rest of the call, she shows them around the studio, and takes them to her room, the balcony, the backyard, after Jasper insisted on a ‘crib tour.’ She shakes her head, sitting on her bed. “I think an actual house tour would take hours.” 

After a few more minutes of everyone else recalling their enviably perfect Thanksgivings, she sighs. “I’m going to go spend some time with Marcus and my mom. Talk later.” They all reluctantly hang up, making her promise that she’ll update them in the group chat. 

The second tiny disruption is that night, when she assumes that Bellamy gets frustrated with her sparse texts, and calls her, to which she doesn’t answer. 

10:12 PM

Hanging out with my mom. Maybe tomorrow?

Bellamy

10:12 PM

Okay

 

10:12

So everything is good with her?

10:18 PM

It's perfect. They built me a studio.

She sends a picture.

Bellamy

10:18 PM

Holy crap

 

10:18

That’s amazing

10:29 PM

Yeah, it is. Going to bed. Talk tomorrow

 

And she silences her phone, too afraid to see his response. For the next few days, the phone call doesn’t end up happening. Instead, she lets her phone sit in its charger on the bedside table for the day, only catching up on the missed calls and texts right before she goes to sleep. 

The goodbye is entirely too teary, especially because the house is no more than twenty minutes from her. But she just doesn’t want to give it up– the empty days with no responsibilities or worries, where she could just tuck everything else away for a while, and just be with her mother, with Marcus.

She holds her mother tight on the doorstep, face buried into her shoulder. “Just until Christmas. Barely a month," she murmurs, rubbing Clarke’s back.

She sniffs and steps back with a nod. “Please tell me Christmas dinner won’t be like Thanksgiving dinner.”

“Absolutely not,” Marcus shakes her head. “We’re done inviting those people into our home. And when close family comes, we’ll just tell them you’re slaving away at your finals, and can’t make it.” He winks. 

She laughs, looking at both of them gratefully. With a final wave, she hops in the towncar, watching the house she once dreaded to see fade into the trees. 

Chapter Text

[bellamy]

The rest of Thanksgiving break sucks. 

When he first got home, he responded pretty negatively to Octavia’s texts asking how everything went. Which prompted her to call him well past midnight. 

What happened?" She yells over the background noise of loud conversations, random beeps and thuds, some shouts.

“Where the hell are you?”

Black Friday shopping. Duh. Do you need anything?"

He rolls his eyes. "I'm good.”

So what happened?"

He gives her the brief summary, wincing when he recalls Clarke looking exhausted and devastated on the bed. 

Yikes. Why did she get so upset? If she wanted space?"

He rubs his forehead. “I don’t know. I was just trying to fit in with their whole schedule. And life. I figured she wanted to be left alone, and that I should just go on in her place.”

Do you think you’ll go back tomorrow? Or if she’ll come back?"

“I don’t know. She actually looked really comfortable in her room. They put up her dad’s stuff and everything.”

He hears her sigh. “Alright. We’ll be back tomorrow.” 

“No, O. Enjoy your time with Lincoln–” 

It’s fine! We’ll come back together. And I already met his family. I’m sure they’ll be fine with it. See you soon!" And she hangs up before he can protest any more. 

He spends the rest of the weekend with Lincoln and Octavia; they take pity on him and watch Civil War documentaries, him and Lincoln go on runs, and he re-reads some books, prepares some of his TA stuff. One night, when he’s especially mopey, Octavia, despite him scolding her for the invasion of privacy, checks Clarke’s location.

“Yep,” she drops her phone on the couch. “She’s still there.” Part of him is relieved, that she's not alone in her dorm. And the other part is disappointed, wishing that she was there, so he could see her. 

On Sunday night, when the rest of the guys slowly trickle back into the house with their bags, Miller and Murphy don’t even look surprised when they find him on his bed, dejectedly throwing a football up and down. They lean against his doorway. “That bad?”

“Not what you think.” 

After he catches them up, Miller winces. “You and her just stopped fighting. Literally, the night before Thanksgiving.”

He groans, closing his eyes. “I know.” 

“If anyone talked to Emori like that, I wouldn’t waste a single moment of my time on them. Nevertheless, drink and play pool with them.” 

He glares at Murphy. “Thanks. That makes me feel great.”

Miller raises his eyebrows. “I can’t believe you just used ‘nevertheless’ correctly in a sentence.” 

“Can you let me finish?" Murphy rolls his eyes. "I was going to say that you were put in a hard situation. I don’t know what I would’ve done either. I don’t think this one is on you.” 

“Oh. Thanks?” 

Miller hops on his desk. “Have you spoken since?” 

“Yeah. Just a handful of texts.” 

“Maybe she just needs… more space?” 

“Apparently, the last time she needed space, I gave her too much of it.” 

“Right.”


[bellamy]

 

When classes start back up again, Clarke just starts acting… weird.

Since they’re both frantically studying for finals, and she’s also constantly committing every minute of her free time to her extracurriculars and the presidency, the days pass in her hurried kisses on the way to class, or her spending long nights in the library, or her skipping game nights, even when he, Miller, Murphy, and Emori show up. Or her apologetic texts and calls for cancelling or flaking on their dates, lunches, dinners, and everything in between, claiming that she’s too swamped. 

After ditching him for the sixth or seventh time, he gets frustrated and angrily bangs down her door. And instantly feels bad when he sees her spread out on her floor with dark circles under her eyes, art pieces around her as she plans her club’s showcase. So he lets it go, and figures that she’ll go back to her normal self after it's all over– but, he hardly sees her. In fact, the most time they spend together is right before and after Pike’s class. And they don’t even sit together during. When they do actually see each other and hang out with their friends for an hour or two, it's fine, and pleasant. The weirdness isn’t noticeable to anyone else. It's just when it's the two of them.

A few nights before winter break, as an apology for flaking on him so much, she takes him ice skating on the Wharf. Which turns out to be a much needed distraction; the hours of her falling on her ass, pulling him down onto the ice, heads thrown back in laughter, accidentally pissing off the parents around them as they swear loudly– it all feels normal, just them again. But, on the walk back, the temporary normalcy fades, and the awkwardness sets back in. 

When they reach campus, he squeezes her hand and tugs on it. “Come over? You don’t have class until late tomorrow.”

Her smile is weak, contrite. “I wish I could. But I still have so much to do for this winter festival that student government insists on doing, and I still haven’t finished the lab reports for psych or bio.” 

He exhales deeply, looking at the ground. “I miss you, Clarke.”

Her eyes soften in guilt. “I miss you too.”

“Do you?” His head snaps up, annoyance thick in his voice. “It doesn’t seem like it.”

“I know, I’m sorry, I just have all of these papers, and assignments, and I’ve overcommitted myself, and–”

“I know. You’re busy. I just wish you could spare one hour of your time. Out of this entire month. Clearly, that’s not a priority.” When they stop in front of Sanctum and he frustratedly drops her hand, he feels her eyes on his back as he walks away. But he just ducks his head down, and counts the lines on the sidewalk until he's back at the house.

And, finally, the pent-up anger and frustration comes to a fever pitch that Thursday, when he walks into the student center to meet one of his TA students, and sees her at a table with a familiar blonde. 


[clarke]

 

She really means to talk to Bellamy about Thanksgiving when they all get back. She really does. But as soon as classes start, she’s thrust into commitment after commitment, as the emails from student government flood in, as the dozens of final assignments are posted on their student portal, as she flips through notecards for the debate team’s semi-finals, as she prints drawings and paintings for the Art Club’s showcase, as math students frantically schedule tutoring appointments for their own finals. 

So, she pours all of her energy into her responsibilities, which distracts her from any and all of her relationships. Including the most important ones. She doesn’t realize how often she’s cancelled on Bellamy until he storms into her room to find her practically in tears on the floor, preparing for the showcase. 

And that’s not even the worst of it all. The worst part? It's Josephine. 

On the Monday back, as she’s hurrying home from the library, she bumps into the blonde in front of the arts building. Josephine huffs, mumbling a ‘watch where you’re going’, before she looks up, blinking. “Clarke. Sorry about that. How was your break?” 

“No worries. It was good, thanks for asking,” she exaggeratedly looks at her watch, and starts to push past her. “Sorry, but I’m in a rush, and–”

“Wait.” 

Clarke pauses, bating her breath.

“Really fast. I just wanted to apologize in person,” she clears her throat, clearly struggling. “For that night. At the party. I was such a bitch.” 

She doesn’t say anything, and Josephine continues to shift uncomfortably. “Sorry. I’m shit at apologies. I don’t usually do them.”

That makes her laugh, just a bit. And she lets out a sigh after a few seconds of silence. “Fine. It's fine. Let’s just call it water under the bridge.”

Josephine straightens back up to her usual, mildly-intimidating posture. “Amazing. I’ll see you around?” 

Clarke nods with a weary smile, desperate for the exchange to end. As she flounces off, she releases a relieved breath, and practically sprints back to Sanctum.

But the reprieve is short-lasting. Two days later, she’s walking into the library, and immediately sees Josephine walking out. She looks tired, holding a few textbooks to her chest. “Hey. Finals season as brutal for you as it is for me?”

Clarke nods, hesitantly. “I feel like I’m going to collapse.”

Josephine nods back, shifting her textbooks to balance on her arm. “I wanted to ask– does your Art Club showcase take submissions from the general student body?”

She falters for a moment, not expecting the question. “Uh, yeah, of course. Anyone can submit.”

“Great,” Josephine smiles politely. “I was thinking about submitting a painting.” 

“Oh. I didn’t know you were into art.”

“I’m a geophysics major. Sometimes I have to create animations and digital sketches for species dialoguing, or whatever. But I paint, too.”

Not thinking much before speaking, Clarke raises her eyebrows, excitement in her voice. “That’s amazing! We don’t have any digital art submissions.”

“Oh. Maybe I’ll submit one of those, too,” she pulls out her phone. “You get my messages, right?”

“Oh, yeah, I’m so sorry for not responding. I’m so busy, and–” she fumbles, but Josephine just rolls her eyes.

“It’s fine. The 408 number, right?” 

Clarke nods and the typical, commanding expression returns to Josephine’s face. “Cool. I’ll text you if I decide to.” 


And when she explains the interaction to the girls that night, they’re puzzled.

Harper cocks her head. “So… she wasn’t being flirty?” 

“Didn’t seem like it. It seemed like she just really wanted to submit her art.” 

“Maybe she gave up after seeing that you and Blake didn’t break up?” Raven offers.

“I guess. I’ll be cautious.” 

Over the next few days, Josephine sporadically sends her some scans of her old paintings, some digital designs she’s made; and she’s shocked by her… actual talent. On Thursday, the day before the showcase, she emails all of the artists and asks them to bring their pieces to the student center that afternoon. As the hours roll on, hefty piles of paintings, sculptures, and sketchbooks cover the surface of the table she sits at.

Around seven, Josephine stops by, dropping off her painting and the prints of her digital art pieces. Clarke starts flipping through the prints. “These are beautiful! And thank you for bringing the painting in. We’ll return it right after the showcase.”

Josephine shrugs. “No worries. My boyfriend loves it, so it was just hung up on his wall. It’ll be easy to give back.”

The relieved breath that leaves her mouth is almost ridiculously audible. Boyfriend. They really had read the situation all wrong. “Great! I hope he’s coming to the showcase tomorrow.”

She rolls her eyes. “Oh yeah, he’ll be there. He claims to be my ‘biggest fan.’ It’s embarrassing. I would be annoyed if his support wasn’t as cute as it is."

Clarke laughs brightly. “I can’t wait to meet him.” 

Josephine shifts from one foot to the other. “So, I feel like I owe you an explanation for my bitchiness.” 

She raises her eyebrows. “I guess that’s one way to put it, yeah.” 

Josephine sighs dramatically and sits down next to her. “Layla, Kaylee and I–” she wrinkles her nose. “We have this game.”

Annoyance immediately starts to burn bright on her skin. “A game? This was all a game?” 

Josephine twists a strand of hair in her fingers. “Yeah. Our bad. We get bored sometimes.”

She scoffs, her voice developing a stinging edge. “And that gives you the right to mess with people’s personal lives?”

“Oh, whatever. You guys are fine now, aren’t you?” But Josephine drops her hand when she sees her start to clench her fists. “Okay, okay!” she raises her hands, flipping her hair back. “Sorry. Again, apologies aren’t my thing.”

She bites her tongue. “Clearly.”

“We just get bored. And sometimes we, you know,” she shrugs, picking at her nails. “See who can break up the most power couples on campus.”

Clarke’s mouth tips open, and her eyes blink rapidly, in utter shock. “You… try to break up campus ‘power couples’?”

“Basically.”

“That’s why you kissed Bellamy? And spread rumors about me?”

“Yep.”

She sits back, dumbstruck by her bluntness. “What about those apologetic texts? Before Thanksgiving?”

Josephine shrugs. “Just wanted to fuck with you. I’m pretty sure I was crossfaded when I sent them.”

“And the last few days?” 

She pauses. “Okay, I actually felt kinda bad. That apology was–” she shudders. “Real. I guess.”

Clarke shakes her head, disbelieving. “That’s… the most petty, childish competition that an actual adult could possibly participate in.” 

Josephine rests her cheek on one of her hands. “Yeah. You’re probably right.”

She gapes at her, who continues to look wholly nonchalant. “That’s it?”

Josephine stares blankly at her. “What else am I supposed to say?”

“Sorry. You’re supposed to say that you’re sorry.”

“Oh, right. I’m sorry. It was a stupid thing to do. And clearly unsuccessful, anyways.”

Clarke glares at her, and the indignation in her starts to escalate. But she reminds herself that they’re in public, and lets out a breath after a few seconds. “Has anyone told you that you should go into acting?”

Josephine smirks a bit, a self-satisfied look on her face. “Meryl Streep who?”

A small smile peeks out from Clarke's steely front, and the anger starts to simmer. She stares at the conniving, completely careless girl in front of her, before releasing a restrained sigh. “Just don’t fuck with me or my friends again.”

Josephine arches an eyebrow. “Deal."

And they hold each other’s gaze for a few prolonged seconds, before exchanging a terse nod. But the brief moment of peace is quickly disrupted.

“Are you serious?” 

The two girls jump apart at the deafening yell that comes from across the student center. As she looks up, she sees Bellamy, fuming, stalking towards them. “Were you really busy this whole time? Or just hanging out with her?”

Josephine blinks next to her, before sighing in realization. “Ugh. I should apologize to him too. Bellamy, listen– all of that shit that went down? It’s just a stupid game that Layla, Kaylee, and I do. It’s–”

“Yeah, I’m sure that flirting with my girlfriend was all just a game,” he rolls his eyes, spinning on Clarke. “Did you finally take her up on the coffee date?”

Josephine laughs a little, flipping her hair back. “I have a boyfriend. If you would let me–”

“This is what you were doing the whole time? When you cancelled on me?”

She closes her eyes, feeling the already low patience she has beginning to fray. “No, we just happened to bump into each other in the library.”

“Just like the last time you bumped into each other?” 

Her fingernails are pressed into the lines of her palms as she desperately tries to tamp down her rising annoyance. “She just said she has a boyfriend, Bellamy. It’s not like that. I swear.”  

The loud exchange is gathering the attention of the students around them, and she watches a few of them take out their phones. Shit.

“Then why wouldn’t you tell me that you’re seeing her and talking to her? After last time?”

She falters, stepping back. He has a point.

Murmurs start to arise around them, and embarrassment burns her cheeks. “You’re– you’re right. I’m sorry.” 

She reaches down to take his hand, but he flinches away. “I’ve felt like shit for the last few weeks. Do you even care?” 

And, for some reason, that question makes some part of her snap; the exhaustion from the sleepless nights, the constant pressures and anxieties– everything bubbles up in her like a vicious compound, and the acid is leaving her lips before she can stop it. “It’s not my fucking fault that I’m so busy! I have commitments!”

“So busy that you can’t give up an hour of your time for the people you love? I don’t know, maybe like, once a week?”

She hears an ‘ooh’ behind them, and a glimpse of sadness peeks through his incensed features. “I’m so tired of this. I know things were weird at Thanksgiving, but you didn’t even give me a chance to apologize. I’ve been trying for weeks! Changing my plans, moving my schedule around, for you!”

“This has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, Bellamy!” 

“It has everything to do with Thanksgiving! You’ve been acting weird ever since!” 

She makes a loud sound of frustration, slamming her palms on the table. “You know what? Fine. You’re right. It’s about Thanksgiving. Which really fucking sucked.”

“I know that! Maybe if we, you know, actually talked about it, we could’ve prevented the weeks of you avoiding me and flaking on me?” 

“What were we going to talk about? You hanging out with people who actively make me feel like shit?"

He huffs a humorless laugh, throwing his hands up. “I can’t win! I just can’t win in this situation! You want space, I give you space. I try to get along with your family, to make the day easier on you, and I get shit for it. What else am I supposed to do?”

“I don’t know! Maybe if your family wasn’t so fucking damaged too, you wouldn’t have to hang out with mine! And this whole thing wouldn’t have happened in the first place!” 

Her breath immediately catches in her throat, and a few gasps echo around her. She watches, almost in painful slow-motion, how his face falls. And for the first time, she sees what betrayal looks like on his face. And hurt. Really, really bad hurt.

Guilt immediately twists on her features, weaving through her words, as she reaches out to him. “Bellamy, I–”

He jerks back from her, his face unreadable. “It’s fine. You’re fine.” 

“I just dropped these off for the showcase. That’s why I was here,” Josephine sounds shocked, maybe even disgusted, and she can feel her gaze burn on her cheek. She glances at Bellamy sympathetically. “Sorry if I made you feel some type of way. I’ll see you at the showcase tomorrow, Clarke.” Her nod is barely there, and Josephine glares at her a final time before spinning on her heel, some of the phones trailing her path out. 

“Shit,” she whispers, as he stares down at the sketchbooks and paintings. The full realization of what she’d said seeps into her skin– with guilt, shame, sadness– and she turns to him with wide eyes. “Bellamy,” her voice cracks. “I am so, so sorry. I just– after the last few weeks, and–”

He just nods, the phone cameras trained on him. “I understand.” 

“Can we just–”

But he doesn’t say a word as he readjusts the strap of his bag on his shoulder, and turns on his heel. And walks straight out of the doors of the student center. And as the doors slam shut, she feels the students around her mutter tiny words of disappointment or disgust, giving her dirty looks as they dissipate. 

She sits silently at the table for a few minutes before she walks back to her dorm with the bulky bag of paintings, the cold bringing out the sharpest stings as the tears fall down her face. When she gets back to the suite, the girls greet her in the living room with their usual smiles, bowls of dinner in their hands. But as soon as they see her red eyes and the guilt written loud on her face, and Harper asks if she’s okay, she practically collapses on the couch, the exhaustion of the day, of the entire week, rolling over her in waves. 

“Christ, Griffin,” Raven sits next to her, rubbing her back. “What the hell happened?”

“I’m just so tired,” she sniffs, leaning back into the cushions. “I’m tired all the time. Of papers, and exams, and debate team, and student government, and tutoring students, and this stupid fucking showcase. And I fucked up. I fucked up so bad.” 

The way that her voice cracks on the last few words incites worry on all of their faces. “Was it Josephine?” Harper’s eyes are wide.  

She shakes her head. “It’s him.” And she tells them about the last few hours. By the time she’s finished, Raven has a disappointed look on her face, and Maya and Harper look chagrined. And solemn. 

Harper clears her throat. “Clarke, I–”

“I know. I know," she stands up, wiping away the aggressive tears. “I’m going to finish up the showcase displays.” 

“I’ll come.”

Her wet eyes blink in confusion. “Raven, you don’t have to–”

Harper and Maya stand up. “Us too.”

And they all help her carry the pieces to the rotunda. The walk there is awkward, as Raven sinks deeper into her own silence, and Harper makes half-hearted attempts at small-talk.

“I’m such a fucking idiot,” she mutters, as she yanks another painting out of the bag. 

“Okay. Agreed, but,” Maya says slowly, moving the painting away from her. “Don't take it out on the poor painting.” 

As she’s tacking the prints to the wall near the doors, Raven shuffles to her side and nudges her shoulder. “You okay?” 

“Well,” she sighs, stepping back to inspect the display. “I’m pretty sure I just ruined one of the most important relationships in my life. And now the entire student body knows how much of an asshole I am. But, it’s what I deserve. So, all things considered.” 

Raven rolls her eyes. “Not what I meant.” 

Behind her, she hears Harper and Maya playing it again, and cringes. “Maybe if your family wasn’t so fucking damaged...” 

“Harp!” Raven spins around and snaps. The blonde smiles apologetically and tucks her phone away.

She starts placing the sculptures on their pedestals, trying her best to maintain her composure. “It's fine, he deserves better. And I’ll understand if he can’t forgive me. Tomorrow, finals will be over, and we’ll all go home. I’ll go home.”

Raven raises her eyebrows. “Home?” 

She hesitates for a moment, with a small smile. “Yeah. Home, I guess.” 

After Harper and Maya hang up the paintings next to them, she takes a deep breath and spins in a circle, scanning the rotunda. Raven whistles. “I don’t know the first fucking thing about art, but this looks pretty good to me.” 

Seeing all of the art put together almost brings a proud smile to her face. Almost. “We have such talented students.” 

“Seriously,” Maya nods, peering at Josephine’s painting. “This is actually really good.”

After admiring all of it for a few more minutes, they make their way back home. Harper frowns in the elevator. “Will you be okay tomorrow night?” 

The holiday party. She almost forgot. 

“We can make something up. Say that you’re sick or something.”

Clarke smiles gratefully, but shakes her head. “I don’t know if that would work. Jasper would probably break my door down with chicken noodle soup and tissues. I’ll be okay." And she tries to convince herself just as hard as she's trying to convince them. “I’ll be in a good mood after the showcase.” 

“After winter break, no one will even remember the stupid video. They just needed some petty drama to entertain themselves.”

“You’re right,” she nods, but still winces when she recalls the interaction. 

“God,” Maya sits back, shaking her head. “Octavia is going to kill you.”

Raven opens her mouth, and closes it, wincing. “I’m assuming he’s not coming tomorrow.” 

“Doubt it.”

Maya tucks her legs under her. “What about his friends? Secret Santa won’t exactly work if five people are taken out.” 

Clarke hugs her knees to her chest, chin trembling. “I ruined everything.”

A small grimace spreads on Harper’s face. “I really don’t think any of them are gonna come.”

She sighs. “They have their own party that they were going to after ours.”

Maya bites her lip. “Are you still going to that?” 

She hesitates, feeling Raven’s eyes on her. “I guess not.” 

They all give her hesitant, tight hugs before bed. Even though she climbs into bed with lingering unease, the video playing in her head, over, and over– she still manages to fall asleep, dedicating the last bout of excited energy she has to looking forward to the showcase.


And it goes even better than she expected. The next day, a buzzing crowd of students fills the rotunda, champagne flutes and small plates of food in their hands, as they stroll from print, to sculpture, to painting. As she’s standing in front of one of her sketches, talking to a girl from her bio class, she feels a tap on her shoulder. She spins around and smiles. 

“Josephine. Good to see you!” A tall man stands next to her, a hand on her waist.

“Everything looks great. Seriously. This is my boyfriend, Gabriel.”

She shakes his hand. “Nice to meet you. Your girlfriend is really talented.” 

He looks down at her with a wide grin. “Don’t I know it.” 

Josephine rolls her eyes, lightly pushing him away. “Oh, stop.” 

But, as she returns his gaze, a small, affectionate smiles plays at her lips. Clarke falters a bit, seeing the warmth in their eyes.

Josephine notices, and looks at her with pity. “That video is… yikes.”

Gabriel frowns, nudging her. “Josephine!" 

“No, she’s right,” Clarke sighs. “It is.” And Josephine sympathetically pats her shoulder twice, before the two turn away. 

Everyone trickles in slowly. Jasper and Monty hadn't seen her for a few days, and her heart almost splits into two when she sees the disappointed looks on their faces as they approach her. “Uh,” Monty clears his throat. “When we saw the video, we created an algorithm that took down replicas of it.”

She huffs a laugh. “That’s why there were so few of them. But you shouldn’t have. I deserved it.”

“Oh, stop with the martyrdom,” Raven rolls her eyes, as her and Shaw sidle up next to them, champagne flutes in hand. “Are they coming to this?”

Jasper winces. “That would go… potentially poorly.”

“No kidding,” Raven snorts. “Hopefully Baby Blake won’t come. Don’t want to get blood on the nice pieces of art.” 

Fuck. Octavia. 

And, surely, a few minutes later, her and Bellamy shuffle in, followed by his own friends. And she looks murderous, clinging to his side; but when he catches Clarke’s eye, she almost catches a weary smile. She watches Octavia angrily whisper something to him, and he shakes his head. She huffs and spins on her heel, but he keeps walking towards her. And when she sees him, he looks awful– his eyes are red, his hair is barely presentable, and his body exudes exhaustion. And sad. He looks sad.

“This is incredible,” he finally says, hesitantly wrapping an arm around her waist. 

She manages her own smile, leaning into his embrace. “Thank you. Thank you for coming.”

Murphy, Miller, and Emori appear behind him. Emori clears her throat. “I’ve never seen your art before, Clarke! I had no idea!” 

Murphy and Miller are quiet, shifting awkwardly. Bellamy nudges them. “Not bad,” Miller nods, but she hears the discomfort underlying his words.

“The Princess is an artist, too?” Murphy raises his eyebrows. “Is there anything she can’t do?”

She laughs half-heartedly, her chest clenching at their kindness. After, she gives a small, teary-eyed speech about her stepping down as president of the Art Club; how she’s treasured each experience, treasured meeting all the new students, seeing their art. Any temptation to get overemotional is quickly dashed by Josephine’s gag and Raven’s subsequent scoff, and she ends the speech with a laugh, and a happy wave.

After all the students file out, and the artists pick up their work, her and Raven clean up the plates and glasses while everyone else heads back to the suite to prepare for the party. It seems like Miller, Murphy, Emori catch on, and leave in the direction of the house– Bellamy and Octavia awkwardly linger in the corner, the latter still angrily whispering at him, gesturing wildly at the door. 

After the trash is thrown away, and the walls and tables are wiped down, her and Raven make their way over to the siblings. Raven and Octavia have some sort of uncomfortable standoff, before they exchange an understanding look and push the doors open, walking into the night and leaving her and Bellamy alone.

“Hey,” he says quietly. 

She attempts a smile, pulling on her coat. “Hi.”

“This really was amazing.” 

They walk out together, the silence still replacing any conversation. As soon as they hit the place where they usually split off, he clears his throat. 

“Are you still coming to the house later?”

She blinks, taken aback. “You… still want me to?”

He shifts, and she can’t decipher whatever’s dwelling on his face. “Yeah, if you can.”

She nods, hesitantly taking his hand. “Okay.”

They stare at each other for a few seconds, neither of them moving– he leans forward and gives her a small peck. “Talk to you soon.”

When he turns, she watches him walk away, her heart beating fast and loud in her chest. And she has to consciously count the cracks in the sidewalk to make sure she doesn’t turn around, and do something hasty to act on the dread that’s quickly settling in her stomach.

 

“Clarke?” 

An hour later, everyone’s gathered in their living room, wrapping paper covering the floor, tinsel draped everywhere, mugs of hot chocolate or Monty’s questionable eggnog in hand, and Mariah Carey in the background; they hung garlands and lights on every wall, Delilah and Wells baked sugar cookies, their pathetic (but charming) Christmas tree sits in the corner, and the gingerbread house they tried making lies in crumbles on the kitchen table.  

It's all so lovely. A smile graces each and every face, with the relief that finals are over, that the semester is coming to a close. But it's hard to not feel the absence of his usual spot on the couch, next to her. And she misses him. 

Of course, Jasper insists that they all wear their ugliest sweaters, and Raven definitely wins– one that spells ‘engineer’ over the chest, surrounded by sequined engineering tools, Christmas trees, snowflakes, the like. It's all objectively perfect. But it doesn’t feel right without him. 

“Hm?” she blinks out of her thoughts, the Santa hat on her head falling in front of her eyes. 

“Your secret Santa gift!” Jasper, reindeer antlers on his own head, presents in a flourish, handing her a thin envelope wrapped in glittery snowflakes. 

She tears it open, and holds it in her hand, staring at it. And gapes. “Stop.” 

Monty leans down to Harper. “Does she mean that literally?” 

Excitement fills her body, and she bounces up and down. “You didn’t!” 

Maya giggles. “Who didn’t?”

“Her Secret Santa,” Jasper whispers. 

“I know that, Jas.”

Raven rolls her eyes. “Well? What is it?” 

She scans the room incredulously. “Tickets to the National Ballet? Are you kidding?” 

Wells looks over her shoulder. “Oh damn.” 

Harper sighs. “Well, everyone else loses. Clarke’s secret Santa wins.” 

“Come on, Griffin. Guess. We’re not getting any younger.” 

“Hm…” she narrows her eyes, inspecting everyone’s facial expressions. “Okay, obviously, I would say Oct–” her smile falters. “I would say Octavia, if she was here, but she was nice enough to uh, drop off Monty’s, already.”

Monty offers a smile. “I’m pretty content with my ‘Talk Data To Me’ mug.” 

She lets out a small laugh, turning to her side, looking at Wells sternly. “Wells, if you spent–”

“It wasn’t me!” 

Raven scoffs. “To be fair, you’re the only one with money here.” 

She glares at her. “Raven!” 

“I just speak the truth.”

Wells rolls his eyes, but nudges her. “Keep guessing.”

“And Raven got Harper those cute boots–” 

Harper cheers. “Monty had Jasper–”

“Which was bullshit!” Raven sat up with a scowl. 

“Zeke, Lincoln, Jasper, Harper, Maya–” she pauses after she finishes scanning the room. “Oh. This means it's from one of…” 

Wells shifts uncomfortably. “So… who’s gonna text them?” 

They all look at Raven, who glowers in response. “Seriously?”

“Okay, in the meantime, let’s frost more cookies!” Harper claps her hands. 

After a few minutes of frosting, then Jasper trying to eat one without asking, then Delilah throwing frosting at him, then all of them smearing frosting on each other, they all return to the living room in sticky laughter.

Raven puts down her phone. “You won’t believe me.”

“It’s him, isn’t it?” 

Shaw looks over her shoulder, and raises a hand to his mouth, holding in a laugh. 

Clarke blinks. “Emori?”

Shaw slowly shakes her head, and the room is silent. Harper blinks. “There is no way one of those two Neanderthals gave it to her.”

“Well,” Shaw sighs, showing them the phone. “One of them did.” 

She takes her phone in shock, reading the text out loud. “‘Good thing I have friends in high places. Merry Christmas. Don’t mistake this for kindness, Princess. You’re still annoying as fuck.’”

She puts the phone down. And laughter spills from her mouth. “Murphy?” she shrieks incredulously. “Murphy was my Secret Santa?”

Shocked laughter fills the room, all of them entirely dumbfounded. “Oh my god,” Maya giggles. “I almost wish he was here, so I could’ve seen that in person.”

Harper picks up some tinsel and throws it in the air. “It’s a Christmas miracle!” 

They spend the next hour dancing to shitty Christmas music, throwing wrapper paper at each other, trying to find Jaspers elf on the shelf, yelling at Jasper when he put the elf on the shelf in their Nutribullet, and debating whether or not The Nightmare Before Christmas is truly a Christmas movie, or a Halloween movie. 

And it's all tipsy dance moves and bad singing, heads thrown back in laughter, frosting on their faces. The most perfect night. But that all wavers when she gets a text.


Bellamy

10:45 PM

You coming?

 

“I think,” she looks up at everyone. “That I’m going to the frat’s Christmas party now. Does anyone want to come?”

Scoffs and expletives echo throughout the room, including Raven’s ‘I’d rather listen to Jasper sing ‘All I Want for Christmas’ on repeat.

Wells raises his eyebrows. “Are you sure you want to wear that?” 

“Hey!” she frowns, looking down at her sparkly sweater with two kittens on it, ‘Meowy Catmas’ written beneath it. “I’m proud of my sweater. Even if it didn’t win.” 

“Wear it with pride!” Delilah raises her mug, and Clarke raises her chin. “I think I will.”

The brief exchange brought some laughter and smiles to the room, but the awkward tension still hung in the air. She looks back at all of her friends as she pulls her coat on. “Be back in a bit. Okay?” 

When she walks in, she rolls her eyes at the remixed holiday music, the countless amount of shirtless Santas and reindeer lingerie, and the lights and garlands hastily hung up on the wall. “Geez. What a duality,” she mutters to herself, trying not to inhale whatever cinnamon-vanilla air freshener they used to barely cover the usual smell of vodka and weed. 

“No kidding.” 

She spins around at the familiar voice, relaxing when she sees Emori’s smile. “Hey. I’m glad you made it.”

“Emori! Me too,” she stands on her toes, scanning the room. Her eyes stop on the fireplace. “Aw. That’s cute.”

They hung a few stockings on the mantle. She could spot the B in the middle. Emori grimaces. “Yeah, but in those stockings, you’ll probably find condoms. Or lube. Or a pipe.” 

She frowns. “Less cute.” 

Emori laughs and leads her past the sweaty bodies. “Bellamy’s in the backyard.”

Sure enough, as Emori slides the door open, she sees them; his back is to her, but Murphy leans against one of the pillars. “The Princess made it.” 

Bellamy turns around, with a small smile. “You came.”

“I did.” 

“What the hell are you wearing?” 

She looks down with a fake pout. “What? You don’t like it?”

“Meowy-Christmas,” Miller reads it, squinting.

She laughs at his disquieted face. “We had an ugly sweater contest.”

Murphy raises his eyebrows, taking a sip of his beer. “Shit, congratulations on your win. That is ugly as fuck.” 

“John!”

She sighs. “He’s not wrong. Also, I didn’t win.” 

Miller blinks. “What could possibly be worse than that?” 

She describes Raven’s sweater, and Emori lets out a loud laugh. “What a badass.” 

“Oh. And thanks for the secret Santa present, Murphy. You didn’t have to do that.”

“But I did.” 

She hesitates. “Why?”

Bellamy looks between them, before spinning on Murphy. “He was your secret Santa? What the fuck did you do?”

Murphy smirks, tilting his head to Bellamy. “That’s why.” 

“He got me tickets to the National Ballet.” 

He nearly chokes on his beer, and she pats his back as he coughs. “He did what?” 

“Damn. Not bad,” Miller nudges Murphy. 

He grins smugly. “It was Emori’s idea. And I had the connections.”

“I don’t even want to know what connections you’re referring to.”

“Yeah, you definitely don’t.” 

Emori slaps his shoulder. “Merry Christmas, Clarke. Maybe Bellamy will end up liking ballet!” 

She looks up at Bellamy, and then back down to her with a sly smile. “Oh. I wasn’t planning on taking him.”

He frowns. “Who are you taking?”

She shifts awkwardly under his arm. “I was…  hoping to take Octavia.” The other three laugh loudly at his annoyance, and they all chat for a few more pleasant minutes, until the words she’d been expecting finally leave his mouth.

He ducks his head down to her ear. “Can we talk?”

She hesitates for a moment, looking at the other three, who are trying very hard to make it seem like they’re not listening. “Yeah. Of course.” After he leads them inside and up to his room, they awkwardly sit on the bed; three feet apart, but the actual space between them feels bigger.

“Octavia is really pissed.”

She huffs a laugh. “For good reason.” 

He scratches his neck sheepishly, his mouth opening and closing. “Yeah. Uh–” The dread from earlier is now in solid form in her chest, the anxiety quickly sparking her heart rate, as she watches his lips form the words. 

He reaches forward and grabs her hand in her lap. “I love you.” His words are thick with emotion, a bit choked.

Her eyes flutter closed as she steels herself. “I love you, too.”

“These last few weeks were hard.”

And when her eyes blink back open, her eyelashes are already dark with tears. “Bellamy, I am so sorry about yesterday, and–”

“I know,” he places his hand on her cheek. "It's already happened. The guys got most of the kids to delete the videos, anyway.”

She sniffs, hastily wiping away her tears with a watery smile. “Monty and Jasper made this algorithm thing where every replica of the video was immediately deleted.”

He laughs quietly. “Of course they did.” 

For a few seconds, all is quiet as he looks away, as her upper lip trembles. And when their eyes meet again, too many things are held in his irises for her to decipher. “Sometimes, how much I love you–” he stares at their joined hands, where her tears are falling between their fingers. “It hurts."

She reels back, and she starts to feel something scary, something she hasn’t felt in a long time. Not since Finn. “What do you mean?”

“I… was really beating myself up for these past few weeks. I felt so guilty about Thanksgiving, and every time I wanted to talk about it,” he swallows, slowly unraveling his hands from hers. “You would avoid me, or flake on me. And–”

“Bellamy, I swear, I was just so busy, and–”

“Too busy to tell me about Josephine? After we promised to tell each other? You could’ve talked to me.”

Her mouth tips open, but she doesn’t have an excuse, or an explanation. As always, he knows, and smiles sadly, swiping away one of her tears. “I think I need to step back, and… deal with that hurt,” he finishes, quietly.

Her eyebrows gather, gazing at his hands that are now sliding away from her. “Step back?”

And his words shoot straight to her heart. “I’m sorry. I just… I don’t think I can be with you, anymore.”

She sits back, her eyes darting over every inch of his face. But she gathers the sadness, the hurt, the struggle in his own, and blinks. And nods once. He hesitantly rifles through his bag beneath him, and produces a thin green box with a bow. “I… got you something.” 

And she almost dissolves into sobs at the way he still looks at her, at his thoughtfulness. “Bellamy, I–”

He grabs her hand, and places her fingers on the box. “Open it.”

She sniffs, smiling weakly. “Okay.”

And when she snaps open the box, the air in her lungs stop its circulation, for that small moment in time. Her mouth drops open as her eyes run down the thin necklace in front of her; but, most importantly, her heart skips at the pendant– a glittery, silver, Newton’s Cradle. 

A small, sad smile plays at his lips. “Merry Christmas.”

Tears cloud her eyes, and she closes the box, dropping her head in her hands. “I can’t take this.” 

“Please,” he folds her fingers over it. “For me.” 

And she holds his gaze, before nodding, holding back the sobs that are building in her throat. “Thank you.” And he still looks at her so tenderly, with so much warmth, that she can see the struggle on his own features. She can feel the reflection of the blossoming pain in her lungs, the shattering of guilt. 

And it’s too much. Unless she wants to break down in her now ex-boyfriend’s room, she has to leave. She stands up abruptly. “I’ll go. Have a good winter break. See you–" she stutters, words failing. “Have a good break.”

“Wait, Clarke, you don’t have to leave, you can stay at the party for–” 

She just shakes her head, giving him one last, watery smile, before leaving his room, softly closing the door behind her. A loud sob leaves her throat, and the tears spill fast as she frantically hops down the stairs. The loud music, the stinging smells, the warm bodies, all overstimulate her, and she feels panic arise in her as she pushes through to the door.

“Clarke?”

Her head snaps to her right, where Emori stands. She opens her mouth, but Miller places a hand on her shoulder, shaking his head. Clarke sends him a grateful smile before she practically leaps out of the house, sprinting to Sanctum. And when she bursts into the room, everyone has left except the girls, who are watching a movie on the couch. The door slams, and their faces immediately sober as they look at her, instinctively scooting to make space on the couch, where she flings herself down, and cries. 


[bellamy]

 

He’s staring at the ceiling, hands folded behind his head, when a knock sounds on his door. And he doesn’t say anything. Just watches Octavia close the door behind her in his peripherals.

She sits on the edge of his bed and puts a soft hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Bell.”

He sighs, unmoving. “Don’t be. It’s not your fault.”

She climbs up and sits next to him. “Do you think–”

“I don’t think so, O. Think this is it.”

She looks down at her lap, sadly. “You did the right thing. She had no place talking about our family, and–”

“Can we just not talk?”

She nods, sitting against his headboard, knees to her chest. 

About half an hour later, she falls asleep; he breaks his gaze from the ceiling for just a moment, to pick up his phone. A few moments later, Lincoln quietly walks in and gathers her in his arms, giving him a sympathetic nod before carrying her out. 

After he leaves, Miller and Murphy walk in, quietly settling on his desk and floor. 

“You did it?” 

“Obviously,” he snaps at Murphy.

“How did it go?”

“Exactly how we thought it would.”

Miller clears his throat. “I’m sorry, dude.”

His nod is tiny. 

“Me too, Blake.”

Another tiny nod. And then silence.

“So,” Murphy sighs, with his signature, lopsided smile. “I’m guessing angry sex won’t fix this one?”

He cranes his neck up and glares at him. But is secretly grateful for his idiocy breaking the heaviness. Miller kicks his legs up on the desk. “Did you and Octavia decide what you were doing for the break?”

“Well, for Christmas, we were going to…” he pauses. Her’s.

Murphy quickly changes the subject. “And what about the rest of it?”

He sits up. “Oh. Octavia really wanted to go up east on a ski trip. So, I saved up and booked this resort thing.”

Miller scoffs. “Putting brothers everywhere to shame.”

A small smile skims his lips. “She is pretty excited to go.” 

“Well, two Blakes on a ski mountain sounds like my worst nightmare,” Murphy stands up, patting his shoulder. “But have fun, dude. Seriously.”

The two leave his room, and to his staring contest with the ceiling. 


[clarke]

 

The only good thing about winter break is the absence of Aunt Brell’s shrill voice and Uncle Bill’s rampant misogyny. As soon as the door opens, she practically collapses into her mother’s arms. And the next few days are wrapped up in cold, wet sheets; or in the studio, when she’s coaxed her out of bed. 

“Why do students at this University feel so compelled to use social media as a tool for humiliation?” 

At breakfast, her mother frowns and squints at the video of her and Bellamy, before turning her gaze to Marcus. “Can’t you do something about this?”

He winces at her biting tone, but Clarke lays her hand on top of hers. “Marcus can’t do anything, mom. Literally. Unless he confiscates twenty-thousand phones.”

Her nose turns up. “Well. It’s still absolutely ridiculous.”

“You’re telling me,” she mumbles, kicking the edge of the wicker chair. 

Marcus stirs his coffee with a hardened expression. “I’m glad that relationship ended, Clarke.”

She bristles, the orange juice starting to taste more like acid as it runs over her tongue. 

Her mother firmly nods. “Agreed. Aren’t you?”

Is she? 

She stares down at the plate of half-eaten strawberries. “I guess.”

“Will the students who posted the video be disciplined, Marcus?” 

“Technically, they weren’t in violation of the University code. If we did reprimand them, we would set the precedent of doing so to any student who’s filming something on campus.”

A fork clangs harshly on porcelain as her mother spins on him. “You must be joking. The students–”

“Mom,” her voice is quiet. “Please.”

Her lips still a thin line, she nods reluctantly. “I was thinking of going downtown for last minute shopping. Would you like to come?”

“That sounds fun, mom, but I just kinda want to–”

“Oh, please,” she reaches forward and clasps her hands. “I’m desperate for some time with my daughter. And I’ll need help shopping for Wells.”

She straightens brightly. “We’re spending Christmas with the Jahas?” 

“We are," Marcus nods, with a small smile. “Unless you’d like call up Uncle Hugo and–”

She abruptly stands up, the napkin falling off her lap. “Time to shop!” Laughter rings around the veranda, and she can’t help but smile at the delighted expression on her mother’s face. And, on that crisp, sunny morning, everything is okay.

Later, as they stroll down the familiar stony paths, she tells her mother about her escape on the night of the Ball. “My goodness,” she laughs as they enter a clothing store. “How did your bare skin manage these precarious streets?” 

“Well, my feet definitely didn’t manage. I had bruises and callouses for days after,” she bites back a stupid grin. “Raven ripped her dress to catch up to me.”

“That girl,” her mother shakes her head, with a smile. “She seems like such a good friend to you.”

“She is. Ever since Finn, I’m positive that I wouldn’t have made it through college without her,” she huffs a laugh. “We’re told that we’re blood sisters.”

Her mother smiles fondly, as she looks down at a sweater on a table. “I’m thankful you have her.”

Her lips twitch up, reminding herself to text Raven and ask about Shaw’s sister, later. “Me too.” 

The two wander around the store, her mother holding up various shirts for Wells, and her wrinkling her nose at each one. “I don’t know if this is his scene, mom.”

She holds up a plaid, cashmere scarf. “He’s not much into Ferragamo?”

Trying her best to stifle the incredulous laugh that tempts to leave her mouth, she takes it and gently sets it back on the shelf. “I’m not sure if he’s into designer, at all.”

“Oh. But he’s worn all the other gifts I’ve given him.”

“He’s a very nice boy.” 

The laugh finally tumbles out when she sees her mother frown. She pats her shoulder. “Come on. I know a place he’d like.” After a few more hours, and many redirections of her mother away from needlessly expensive things, they finally set the heaps of shopping bags down on the dining table.

Marcus walks past, but backpedals when he sees them. “Oh, my.”

She points an accusatory finger at her mother. “It was all her!” 

He laughs. “I believe you.”

Christmas comes and goes quickly, and when Wells’ eyes light up at the sight of the gilded chess set, she just winks at her mom. And she lets herself break down again when she fills Wells in. But, occasionally, he does interrupt her wallowing, with some watery smiles.

“Guess my death threat at Friendsgiving just wasn’t enough.”

And while she spends the rest of the days mindlessly sketching in the studio with Marcus, or playing chess with Wells, or talking with her mother late into the night, it's still not enough as she stands at the door on a freezing, January night. Crying. Again.

Her mother holds her face in her hands. “We’re only twenty minutes away. You can come on weekends whenever you need to.”

She sniffs with a nod, tightly hugging the two of them. And she ducks in the car, back to campus.


[bellamy]

 

When he flings the door open, suitcase in tow, Murphy and Miller are already waiting for him in the living room.

“Our snow bunny! Welcome back!” Murphy slaps his back. 

He rolls his eyes. “My winter break was great. Thanks, dumbass.” 

And for the next hour, they all catch up. “I can’t believe you got Emori to snowboard. How the hell did she not die?” 

“I heard that!” she shouts from the kitchen. “For your information, I did great.”

Murphy barks a laugh. “Yeah, after tons of wipeouts, she could finally ride next to the ten year olds.”

She pokes her head out from the wall, with narrowed eyes. “For someone who can’t even walk in heels, I did terrific. And John was afraid to go sledding with me!” 

They snicker. “What the hell?”

He holds his hands up. “I can control a snowboard. On a sled, I’m at its own mercy!”

Miller kicks him from the end of the couch. “How was your trip, Blake?”

He sighs. “Fine. But I underestimated Octavia’s endurance. She made me cross country ski for eight hours straight.”

“Yikes,” Emori plops down on Murphy’s lap. She looks down at her bowl for a long second, before clearing her throat. “Did you hear from–”

He shakes his head. Emori scoots to sit next to him, patting his shoulder sympathetically. “It’ll be okay. Breakups are hard. But you’ll get through it.” 

He nods noncommittally. Hopefully.


[clarke]

 

When the door swings open, she’s almost knocked over. She yelps as two, thin arms tighten around her neck. “Clarke!” Harper steps back, swaying a bit.

“Missed you too, Harp," she steps into the living room, and glares at the people already piled on the couches. “Who got her drunk? Classes haven’t even started!” 

“It’s a final celebration!” Maya raises her finger, also clearly tipsy. 

Jasper stands, lifting his glass. “Hear, hear!”

Raven rolls her eyes. “Some of Monty’s suspect eggnog was still in the fridge.” 

Monty sits against the couch, eyes on his laptop. “It’s not suspect if it's delicious.”

She sighs, throwing her bags in the corner and slumping down on the couch. “Thanks for the incredibly warm welcome, everybody.”

As she scans the room, her heart sinks a bit. “No Octavia?” The room is uncomfortably quiet for a minute, even the clicking from Monty’s laptop halted. “Guess not,” Raven shrugs. 

Maya seems to sober a bit. “Has she spoken to you since?”

She shakes her head. 

“I’m sorry, Clarke,” Harper still stumbles a bit, but wraps an arm around her. 

“If it makes you feel better, she hasn’t said shit to me, either,” Raven scoffs. But they catch each other’s gaze, and her usually hardened eyes are softer, concerned.  

“It’s okay. I get it.”

They all nod, but it's evident that they’re still disappointed up until they all go to bed.


The next day, she almost cries in relief after her classes. Because she doesn’t have a single one with Bellamy or Octavia. Which, technically, makes sense, since their majors could not be more disparate. But it happened once.

When she gets back to their dorm, she feels something that she hasn’t felt in a long time: boredom.

No students need tutoring, because classes just started. She stepped down from Art Club. And speech and debate competitions don’t start until late spring. So, outside of classwork, she has nothing to do. Except be president. 

When Raven walks through the door and sees her, on the couch with papers scattered in front of her, she almost drops her water bottle. “Are you… annotating your syllabi?” 

She groans, throwing her highlighter down. “I have nothing else to do!” Raven coughs a laugh as she heads to the kitchen. 

“Is this funny to you?” 

“Well, yeah. Because, of all times you would want to be busy, it's right damn now.” 

“So, I just get to wallow in my own angst and heartbreak for the rest of the semester. Amazing.” 

Raven kicks her feet up. “Second semester freshman year, I signed up for a kickboxing class to release all my Finn anger.” 

“Yeah, but I just get sad. And lonely. Not angry.”

“I can make you angry.”

She raises an eyebrow. “What?” 

After tapping on her phone for a bit, she flips the screen towards her. She frowns, gripping the bottom of Raven’s phone. “Octavia posted this?”

“Yep.”

The video pans the quad, captioned ‘first day of classes with these two <3!!!' But, at the end the camera flips to her own face, and–

“Bellamy?” 

“Yep.” 

She squints, pausing the video on the frame– behind Octavia’s smiling face, is Bellamy, chatting with a lean girl, with dark hair. 

What the hell? Already?

She blinks, before handing the phone back to Raven. “I’m not mad.”

“Liar.” 

“I’m not! He’s allowed to do whatever he wants,” she looks down at her highlighted syllabus, trying to keep a straight face.

“Liar, liar, liar!” Raven sings, waving her phone around. 

She huffs and shoves the papers off of her lap. “Fine! I’m not mad. I’m just… peeved.”

“Peeved?”

“Yes.”

“Liar.”

“Raven!” she snaps, standing up. “I’m not mad!” 

But she stops, registering her fist at the end of her braid, the pitch of her voice, and the heat on her cheeks. Raven raises an eyebrow. 

She falls back into the cushions. “I’m not angry, seriously. Just… annoyed. But I shouldn’t be. He dumped me. It's not up to me who he dates.” 

“Yeah, but you still love him.” 

Her words catch in her throat at her bluntness. “I don't– I–” 

Raven stares at her.

She sighs. "Yeah, I do."

“Do you want me to be honest with you?”

She lifts her head. “Yeah?”

“I think Baby Blake did this on purpose.”

She sits up a bit too fast, and accidentally tears one of the papers. “What?” 

Raven leans back, watching the video again. “I think she did this on purpose. To make you jealous. Or mad.”

“Why would she do that?”

She rolls her eyes. “Seriously?”

Clarke frowns. “I really think this is a stretch. I don’t think Octavia is that calculating.”


[bellamy]

 

“How could you be so calculating?” 

Octavia throws her hands up. “I did this for you!”  

After his last class, when he pulls out his phone, he’s on the receiving end of an alarming amount of texts. And winky faces. And then, he sees what Octavia posted. So, now, he’s pacing the living room, yelling at his sister and his two dumbass friends, who are laughing on the couch.

“Did what? Posted this random video of me without my permission?” 

“No!” she shouts, exasperatedly, before pausing. “Okay. Yes. Technically, I did that–”

“Technically? I–”

“Did it because she deserves to feel what you felt!” 

He angrily shakes his phone in his hand. “You think of a video of me and a random girl will make her ‘feel’ something? What the hell are you talking about?” 

“Now, she knows how badly she fucked up! And what she's missing!”

“Oh god,” he braces a hand on the wall, trying to calm his breathing, after his phone beeps again. “O, what the hell have you done?”

She rests a hand on his shoulder. “It’s fine. Raven saw it, which means she probably showed Clarke, which means it worked.”

He shrugs her off and spins on her. “All of my friends think this girl and I are a thing now. My phone is blowing up!” 

“Well,” she huffs. “Technically, when I took that video, you were exchanging numbers with her.”

He groans, throwing his head back. “Yeah, because we’re working on the same group project!” 

“Exactly. So, technically, I didn’t really do anything," her volume decreases, faux-innocent.

He glares at her. “Why do you care so much about this, anyway? When did you become so concerned with my relationships?” 

“When certain relationships were everything to you! I’m your sister, it's my job to advocate for you, even when you refuse to!”

Her words make him soften a bit, but annoyance still simmers within him. “It’s not going to work, O. Now, I’ll just have to do a bunch of damage control, and apologize to this poor girl. Who you also filmed without her permission.”

“Oh, whatever,” Octavia waves it away. “I’m sure she’s over the moon to get attention from super-popular-frat guy-football player Bellamy Blake.” 

Miller raises his eyebrows. “I don’t think he’s that popular.”

“His phone that’s currently blowing up begs to differ.”

He closes his eyes. “What is my life?”

Murphy snickers. “Not sure. But it's entertaining