The door slammed shut as Octavia walked into her apartment. “Hey, Clarke, you got a letter,” she called into the living room where her roommate was elbows deep in another painting.
The blonde nodded absentmindedly while Octavia dropped her purse and keys on the kitchen counter. Clarke made no move to stop what she was doing, and didn’t so much as glance over. Octavia folded her arms, clearing her throat significantly.
A second passed. Clarke blinked. “Um, what? A letter?" She thought about getting up, but then remembered that her hands were covered in paint. "Is it a bill?"
Octavia shook her head. "Looks way too personal to be a bill."
"Oh, then you can just go ahead and open it."
Octavia ripped the envelope open. It was oddly fancy, cream-colored with a dusty rose lining. “Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Collins and Mr. and Mrs. Pedro Reyes request the honor of your presence…” she drifted off, reading the rest silently. “Oh no. Oh fuck no, you’ve got to be kidding me.”
Clarke had gone stiff, recognizing the names and the meaning of the invitation despite Octavia’s omission. There was no doubt in her mind. It was a wedding invitation. Her asshole cheating ex had just invited her to his wedding. His wedding with the woman he was engaged to while he was dating Clarke.
Her first instinct was to refuse. Finn either wanted to rub it in her face, or to see her again because he still had feelings for her. Neither of which were good scenarios. But then she realized. It was a test. If she didn't go, he'd think she was heartbroken or something. He'd think she still wasn't over him. Which she was. She totally was. 100% completely over him.
“You’re not going,” Octavia said firmly.
Clarke shook her head, sharing her thoughts. “Of course I’m going. If I don't, he'll think I have feelings for him. I have to go and show him just how apathetic I am now."
Octavia hurried over to her, gingerly placing her hands on her friend’s shoulders, avoiding paint splatters. “Clarke. You seem to have forgotten. He pursued you. Failed to mention his fiancée. You found out about his fiancée. He wanted to be with you regardless. And now that you’ve dumped him and moved on, he invited you to their fucking wedding?!” Octavia paused for a moment in thought. “I wonder how Raven felt about him inviting you. Do you think she knows?”
Clarke frowned. When Raven had found out about her, she hadn’t been mad at Clarke for long. She realized that Clarke had no idea she even existed. When Raven had come back from her time abroad, doing whatever it is mechanical engineers do in developing countries, she was more than willing to let bygones be bygones and forgive Finn. He’d continued to hold a torch for Clarke, even after Raven came back, and that’s when Clarke knew she had to cut ties.
“I’m not sure why I was invited, exactly,” Clarke admitted. She was 50% sure the invitation was all Finn, for whatever reason, but at the same time, she was 50% sure it was Raven’s way of saying Clarke wasn’t a threat.
“Clarke, honey, you haven’t dated anyone since Finn,” Octavia reminded her gently. “How sure are you that there won’t be a problem?”
A pause. “Not sure at all,” Clarke slumped, realizing her friend was right. “What if I'm still not over him? What if he’s still not over me?”
Octavia considered it. “Well in that case, the best option would be to go with a date and be all over him.”
Clarke pressed her lips together. She and Octavia had watched The Wedding Date together countless times. “O, I am not hiring a male escort.”
A wicked gleam appeared in her best friend’s eye. “What if I said you didn’t have to?”
Clarke eyed the brunette warily.
“What if,” Octavia continued, “I told you that a certain someone owes me a huge favor... And that he’d do anything I ask regardless…”
Comprehension dawned on Clarke’s face. “Octavia. No. Your brother and I hate each other.”
“You so do not, or why else would Finn have been so jealous of you two together?”
“That… It… That was just Finn’s guilty conscience about cheating on Raven. He was projecting his cheaterness onto me,” Clarke protested.
Octavia shook her head. “Y’all might fight like cats and dogs, but there’s definitely some sexual tension there. Lincoln sees it too.”
“I… we… no, that’s not… there’s no tension. No sexual tension.”
“Think about it. You show up, acting all lovey with Bell. Finn goes insane because he was hoping you’d come crawling back to him. You and Bell have fun making fun of all of the extended family.”
Clarke pursed her lips, hiding a smile. As much as they fought, she and Bellamy were capable of having fun together. And if anyone could liven up a terrible wedding, it would be him. And there was a part of her that hoped Finn really would go crazy at the sight of them together.
“I’ll think about it.”
Octavia eyed her friend. She knew that was as good as a yes. Clarke just didn’t want to look like she'd caved right away. She shrugged, dropping the invitation on the coffee table and prancing back to her room. When Clarke wanted to say yes, she knew where to find her.
A little less than a week later, Clare was sketching in the classroom where she taught art at the local high school. With the trust fund from her sickeningly rich architectural engineer father and cardiac surgeon mother, she could afford the pitiful public school wages. And since she wasn't teaching all day every day the way core subject teachers did, she had plenty of time to work on her own art projects.
Right now, she was thinking about Bellamy. She'd given Octavia permission to ask him to be her date, and now she couldn't stop thinking about it. Would he say yes? Or would he take the opportunity to tease her mercilessly? She'd later found out that it was a destination wedding, and the parents of both the bride and groom had booked several floors at a resort. This meant that not only did she have to pretend to date Bellamy in front of everyone else, but she would also most likely be forced to share a room with him.
Maybe he'd say no. Maybe he wouldn't be able to spend 24 hours a day for five days with her. And then what? Would she just send a regretful RSVP? “Sorry, but I don't have enough vacation days?” That was a lie. The wedding was in June and it's not like there were art classes at summer school.
Deep in her thoughts, Clarke hadn't realized just who she was sketching. She was particularly focused on the shape and movement of his hair when a sudden voice made her jump, flinging her sketchpad across the room.
“Thinking of me, princess?”
Clarke slapped Bellamy's arm. "Don't do that! You scared me half to death!"
Bellamy quirked an eyebrow at her. "I called your name several times. It's not my fault you were too busy drawing me to pay attention."
Clarke felt heat spread across her face. "I was thinking."
"About how much you love me?" he smirked, looking like the cat that caught the canary.
"Ha ha," she said dryly, hopping off her desk to go reclaim her sketchpad. "No, this book is actually like Death Note; whoever I draw in it dies."
"You are such a fucking nerd," Bellamy shook his head, but his eyes glinted with humor. He followed her closely, which would be disconcerting if she wasn't already used to it.
Clarke set the sketchbook down, shut, on a nearby table and put her hands on her hips. "So is that why you showed up unannounced to my place of employment? To insult me?"
"No, princess. I'm here to do you a favor."
The wedding. Does this mean he was saying yes?
Clarke looked at him skeptically. "I thought you owed your sister a favor."
"You say tomato," he shrugged. "I just wanted you to know that I'm in."
"Seriously?" Clarke asked breathlessly, gratitude all over her face. If she wasn't so desperate for him to come, she might have thought to be more aloof, so as to avoid teasing.
"Seriously, princess. I'm your knight in shining armor." Bellamy struck a pose, as if holding a sword.
Clarke snorted. "You know it's a destination wedding, right? Some tropical island in the Caribbean or Virgin Islands or something like that."
"Even better," Bellamy smirked. "Does this mean we get to share a hotel room?"
Clarke shrugged, not quite as indifferent as she was letting on. "If we're pretending to be dating, I guess we should."
Bellamy shot her a predatory grin and Clarke rolled her eyes.
"In all seriousness," she cut in, before he could get them even more off-track. "Thank you for this. It means a lot."
Bellamy grew serious as well. "Anytime. Besides, I owe you as much as I owe my sister. I know you gave Octavia a deal on the rent, even if she doesn’t know it."
Clarke protested, "I-no, it's actually a really cheap apartment."
"Clarke, I've been there. There is no way the rent is $2,000. Not with that space."
She shrugged helplessly. "It's not much more than that."
Bellamy gave her a level look. He was right, Clarke was paying significantly more than Octavia. But she didn't mind it at all. Octavia and Bellamy had been raised by a single mother and had very little to their name, and Clarke had too much. She couldn't help her family's wealth, but she could do something useful with it.
Bellamy relaxed slightly. "Okay, I'll stop fighting you on this. But I'm covering both our plane tickets."
"I don't need you-"
He laughed. "Of course you don't need me to. But I want to. I'm making good money now. I got this."
Clarke didn't argue. She knew how proud he was, and how little he liked charity. He probably would have offered to help Octavia pay her fair share of the rent if she wasn't as proud as he was. All things considered, it was easier to let Octavia think she was paying half. Her job paid little more than Clarke's, and she needed to save her money more.
"Thank you," she said finally.
Bellamy quirked a small smile. "Anytime, princess."
"But you're gonna have to stop calling me that."
His smirk widened into a full-fledged grin. "No way. It’s a term of endearment. As your boyfriend, I’m obligated to."
Clarke crossed her arms. "And just what am I supposed to call you? Prince?"
Bellamy grimaced. "No way. We've still got a few months before the wedding. Why don't you think about it?"
"Ugh, great, you're giving me homework. I thought I was the teacher here."
"Yeah, speaking of that, where are your students?"
Clarke checked her watch. "I don't have class for another half-hour."
"Ah, no time for me to take you out for lunch, huh?"
Clarke raised both her eyebrows. "You know we aren't actually dating, right?"
Bellamy raised an eyebrow back. "You don't think we won't need practice? Or a back story?"
Clarke conceded. He had a point. "Dinner? I can meet you at your office?"
“Sounds good. I get off at six tonight."
Clarke nodded. It was so strange, planning dinner with him. Not being at each other's throats. She knew part of it was that he was making an effort not to actively antagonize her right now. She knew they shared a certain amount of respect for each other, which didn't make it totally unusual, but it was strange not being completely annoyed at him all the time.
Bellamy made a move to leave, but at the doorway, he stopped and turned back to her. "You know, that drawing of me wasn't half bad... If you ever need a nude model..."
Cracking up, he ducked, avoiding the markers she'd thrown at him. "See you at six, princess!" he called over his shoulder as he left.
Clarke shook her head, rolling her eyes. She should have known.
For some reason, Clarke decided to spend her spare time before dinner agonizing over an outfit to wear. She was one of the few teachers allowed to dress casually for school, since she usually got covered in paint, charcoal, clay or whatever they were using at the time.
The jeans and t-shirt she'd been wearing were lying on the floor along with the rest of her clothes. Would a dress be overdoing it? Bellamy would be coming straight from work, so he'd be in a suit. If she was dressed too casually, he might look strange. But if she dressed too nicely, he'd doubtlessly tease her. She'd ask Octavia for help, but she and Lincoln were out together. Clarke was on her own.
After a short crisis, she settled on a business-casual sort of style with a cream-colored blouse, a gray fit-and-flare blazer, and dark-wash skinny jeans. Worried that it looked too business casual, she added a long necklace with a clear crystal pendant, and some heeled oxford booties.
She frowned, regarding herself in the mirror. Still a bit professional. She shrugged, decided to do a smoky eye, and if that wasn't good enough, oh well.
She'd taken her time getting ready, so by the time she was done, it was time to go to Bellamy's office. She grabbed her purse, made sure she had her keys, phone, and wallet, then left the apartment.
She took the subway uptown, getting off a few blocks from his building, and walked quickly. She wasn't exactly late, but she was cutting it close. She didn't want to come hurrying in late and give him the satisfaction of chastising her.
At 5:55, she found a pillar in the lobby of his swanky office building to lean against. She looked around, impressed. He'd really come far. In high school and college, Bellamy had done a bit of modeling, but he'd quit and gone into sales at a software company. He was so attractive and charming, he could get anyone to buy anything. So naturally, he rose through the ranks quickly and was now one of the top sales reps.
Clarke had tried to tease him about his model past, but he turned it around on her, aching cocky and obnoxious. He even did a short performance of "I'm Too Sexy" once, but refused to admit to it.
At six on the dot, Bellamy came walking out the elevator, loosening his tie and ruffling his hair. Clarke had to admit that he was attractive. It's not like he was a model for nothing. And it’s like he knew how to make himself look good.
When he caught sight of Clarke, he grinned, eyes crinkling. "Hey, princess."
Clarke couldn't help smiling, and walked towards him, meeting him halfway. Bellamy slung an arm over her shoulder, kissing the side of her head. Clarke turned sharply, almost knocking her forehead into his chin.
"Just getting into character," he whispered in her ear, smirking.
Clarke simply raised an eyebrow at him, and snaked her arm around his waist. "So, where are we going for dinner?"
"Nothing too fancy, just a pub down the street. I'm saving the better stuff for later."
Clarke laughed. "Of course you are."
They walked there together, arms still around each other. Somehow, it wasn't weird. In all their fighting, they touched each other quite a bit, so they were somewhat used to physical contact. Still, it wasn’t often that said contact was fond.
In the pub, the pair decided to take seats at the bar, ordering a basket of fries and two beers to start.
"So," Clarke swiveled on her stool. "Back story."
"Hmm..." Bellamy said thoughtfully, a mischievous look on his face. "You threw yourself at me, multiple times, and finally I agreed to go out with you out of pity."
"As if," Clarke rolled her eyes, channeling her inner Cher Horowitz. "You know it would be the other way around. You're the James to my Lily. The Darcy to my Lizzie. The Benedick to my Beatrice."
Bellamy stared at her with a blank expression. Her jaw dropped before she could help it. "Harry Potter? Jane Austen? Shakespeare? Come on, you've got to recognize one of those."
Bellamy shook his head, smirking slightly at her incredulous response.
"Well, long story short, they're all stories about people who act like they hate each other and fight a lot but eventually fall in love. The guy always falls first."
"Always?" Bellamy quirked an eyebrow.
"Always. It helps him stop acting like a douche all the time, which is why the girl's suckered into falling for him."
Bellamy leaned in closer to her. "Are you trying to imply something, princess?"
"If the shoe fits," she shrugged, popping a fry into her mouth.
Bellamy was silent for a moment, arms crossed. He took a long sip of his beer.
"Okay," he said finally. "Let's say we do it your way. Did I just ask you out one day?"
"Too easy," Clarke shook her head. "I wouldn't have agreed to it right away. But if you did something nice for me..."
"Like take you to a gallery event my company is sponsoring?"
"I would like that, yes," Clarke nodded.
"Because there is one. An art show. Or exhibition. Whatever it's called. There's a big opening event in a couple of weeks."
"Bellamy Blake, are you already asking me on a second date?" Clarke grinned.
"Only if you behave," Bellamy eyed her.
"Me?" she said innocently. "Always."
"Would that be sufficient for her highness?"
Clarke smiled, swiveling back and forth on her stool. "Perhaps. And perhaps we find something in common."
"Those couples you mentioned. Maybe we could read those books together."
"I'm surprised you know how to read," Clarke quipped.
"And I'm surprised you don't pay someone to do it for you."
"Touché," Clarke nodded, sipping at her drink. "Okay. Much Ado About Nothing is a play. And it's been made into several movies. We could watch that? And "bond" over the similar situation. I mean, no one tricks us into thinking we're in love... but the whole verbal sparring turning into affection, that would work."
Bellamy turned to his phone, typing quickly. "I found a performance of the play in about a month. Tickets aren't too expensive."
Clarke smiled to herself. "That was fast."
Bellamy shrugged. "I think it's best if we actually do the things in our back story. Gives it more credibility. You're lucky you've had such advanced warning."
"You're telling me. Speaking of, I need to know your dinner preferences. For the wedding."
"Already? Aren't you worried about our feelings for each other fizzling out before the wedding actually happens? Not counting your chickens before they hatch and all that," Bellamy said with faux solemnity.
"Very funny," she shoved his shoulder. "If you back out of this, you're basically dead to me, so tread carefully."
"Whatever you say, princess."
"The options for dinner are chicken, beef, salmon, or vegan pasta. There's also a gluten free option but I think that's only if you're intolerant, not if you're fad-dieting."
Bellamy sat back, slightly surprised. "Oh, so you were serious about that. I dunno, beef is fine."
Clarke nodded, making a note on her phone. "I'll send the RSVP tomorrow."
"This is really happening, huh?" Bellamy said contemplatively.
"It sure is... So you'd better not let me down, Blake," she pointed a threatening finger at him.
"Wouldn't dream of it. But you've really got to come up with a better term of endearment than my surname."
Shrugging slightly, Clarke turned back to her beer. "Like you said, we've got time."