She's a small thing, clinging to the ladder. Thin fingers grip the metal rungs, and bright blond hair falling out of a braid frames her round face. Annoyance twists her delicate features. She's small, alright, so the demanding, deep tone she musters up to demand that he stop from opening the dropship door doesn't suit her. He doesn't expect the crowd to part for her tiny frame, either, but it does. She marches up, so confident that she can take control. It's then he knows that she is one of them: like the Commander that manipulated his mother, the soldiers that imprisoned Octavia, and the Council that floated his mother. He can't fathom why she is here, what rule she broke, and he doesn't care. Bellamy has had enough of them controlling his life, so he brushes her off. She is going to argue with him, he can see it. But then Octavia is there, and they are outside, and he is free.
He doesn't see the blonde again until later. Her hair is down now, loose and almost white in the sunlight. Her expression is softer too, but that tone, the privileged one, is still there. And it pisses him off. He looks around, and the uncertain expressions on the kids' faces worry him. They can't buy into her bullshit, and so he calls her out for what she is: one of them. Feeling the tide of the crowd turn back toward his side, he smiles, even chuckles under his breath at Octavia's nickname. Princess. Couldn't have said it better himself.
He turns away from Atom, and out of the corner of his eye, he sees Clarke standing there, like a shadow. Always watching, over his shoulder, a moralistic angel or nagging devil, he never knows which she'll be. What he does know is this planet is a lot more hellish than he expected, full of choices he had never anticipated having to make. And the ones he does make she always disagrees with, arguing in that same demanding, commanding voice he first heard from her. It still pisses him off. Princess can't understand that life is not fair, people die, and the strongest (not Jasper) survive.
She walks over to Atom's other side, and Bellamy's hands are shaking, because he was supposed to kill Atom (the knife is in his hand) and how in the world is he going to convince Clarke that they can't save this one, just like they probably can't save Jasper—and then she just shakes her head. A breath escapes her, and with a brittle smile, she takes command. This time Bellamy doesn't mind.
Ok, she says. Her steady hand takes the knife out of his trembling one. I'm going to help you, she says to Atom. Maybe to Bellamy, too. As she hums, the knife slides into flesh, and back out, now covered in black-red blood. Her eyes don't leave Atom's, even after his have shut. Compassion, sadness, regret, and fear flicker across her face, the one that Bellamy has only seen express annoyance and frustration in his direction. The single common trait that she has shown to him and shown now is strength: strength of conviction, strength of character. Clarke is small, but she is strong.
She is still humming when Bellamy decides that having a shadow as strong as her over his shoulder isn't the worst thing in this new world of theirs.
Bellamy has seen Clarke angry before (usually at him), but there is something different about her fury when she barges into the interrogation room brandishing the Grounder's knife. Her energy is frenetic and frayed. The bitterness in her voice—he knew Finn was going to die no matter what we did—belies her desperation, as does her anxious fumbling through the box of antidotes. Clarke is always the one with the answers, the solutions; she's a fixer, but she can't fix Finn. Bellamy knows that fact is driving her to a dangerous place, a dark space he sees reflected in her eyes when she tells him: do it.
So he does it; he swings the buckle into their prisoner's abdomen. Impatiently, anxiously, she darts forward, interrupting him. Please, she begs the Grounder. Clarke never says please. She looks up at the prisoner, hands clutching her knees, the vials haphazardly spread before her. Bellamy can feel her hoping to drag the answer out of him by sheer force of will—it has worked for her (on him) so many times before. She is a force of nature, relentless, but her desperation has drained too much from her. Bellamy can't take it anymore, so he reaches out, hand to her shoulder, and whispers her name gently. She tenses, shoulders bunched to her ears, curling forward in defeat. Shrugging him and his comfort away, she retreats to let him resume. She can't fix this, but maybe he can.
He gives her an out (you don't have to be here for this), but she doesn't take it. Brave princess. Her desperation fuels his, and they continue. It all repeats—his violence, her pleading, the Grounder's silence—growing more intense with every cycle. Octavia's actions take them both by surprise, and he barely has time to recover before Clarke is gone, finally with the solution she needed.
Later, when he sees her in the camp yard, he can still see the desperation in her, this time to have not done what she did, to turn back the clock (not even her father's watch can do that). He can feel the regret rolling off of her in waves, stirring his own. Not for the Grounder—bastards would do the same to them—but for Clarke and the dark deeds unable to be undone now permanently lingering in her blue-eyed gaze.
It is her first time holding a gun. He can see that in the way she is wary of it at first, but when she aims, her form isn't half bad. She is holding it steady, lodged securely into her shoulder with those small (strong) hands wrapped firmly around the grips. Once she positions herself, she doesn't shift, doesn't fidget, steady (stubborn) as ever, self-assured in her placement. Confidence is half the battle, his instructors used to tell him. Clarke has no shortage of confidence, that Bellamy knows for sure.
Stepping closer to help, he moves behind her, checking her stance. Boot-clad feet planted firmly, the right slightly in front of the left, shoulder-width apart, and knees not completely locked. Her tattered blue coat rides up with her arms raised, revealing her pale hips, which are square and facing just left of the target. Ribcage and chest angle the same way. The rifle has slid down her shoulder just the slightest bit, so he reaches around to readjust it, drawing him closer to her. His other hand comes to rest on the back of her arm, shifting it, and his chilled fingers tingle at the contact with her warmth. Once noticed, he can now feel the heat from the rest of Clarke's body spread against his own, being as close as they are, with her back to his front and his arms wrapped around her.
She inhales, and they brush against each other. For a split second, they are touching, but then she lets out the breath and cold air seeps between their bodies. He shivers, tightening his grip on her arm just a bit. She bows her blonde head—her hair is darker and wavy now, from dirt and rain and getting caught on branches while running for their lives—sighting the target down the barrel. He checks her aim one last time: dead on. If the target were a Grounder, she would be aiming straight at his heart.
Bellamy goes to move away, to let her shoot, but pauses, absorbing her heat for just another second. In that moment, the red and grey of the bunker fades to forest green and brown. An image flashes: Clarke standing among the towering mossy trees, rifle to her shoulder, blonde head ducked over the barrel and intense blue eyes locked on an armor-clad, battle-ready Grounder in front of her, and she is aiming at his heart, but she only has one chance—or it is her who will be on the damp ground bleeding (dying)—one chance because Clarke is by herself, because he is gone.
Red and grey suddenly fill his vision again. Bellamy can still feel her breathing, the only warm thing in this icy metal bunker, this girl who is suddenly a breathing body in front of him, whole and intact, not just a nagging voice, lingering conscience, or distraught stare. But he needs to move on, from her, and from the camp, because he knows the Ark won't let his body breathe for long once they are down on the ground. Jaha will make sure of that. So, he shifts away (yeah, uh, that's good), his body already missing her heat.
Turns out he doesn't need to be close to her though, no, her smile can warm him up just fine (that was amazing – am I awful for feeling that?). He tells her to try shooting again, chuckling at the lust and power in her voice. She is growing claws, this princess, and he couldn't be happier for it, seeing some of her fierceness come out, because he knows she will need it when he is gone.
Clarke's high wears off quickly, though. Bellamy watches the excitement drain from her face, everything tightening as thisislifeanddeath invades their space again. She is talking logistics of the guns, and trusting Miller, and he forgets how friggin' observant she is and watches the pieces fall together in her mind. Then they're yelling at each other (you're going to run, what about Octavia? – I shot the Chancellor!) and he is storming out, away from the bunker and the guns, away from Clarke's confused face and the image of her, alone in the woods, with only one chance to shoot the enemy.
Crouching to the ground, he sucks in deep breaths, heat blooming across his cheeks in spite of the chill descending with the night. Underneath his jacket, his shirt sticks to his clammy skin. Sweat rolls down his face, and he can hear a soft buzzing in the dusky light. It grows louder, louder, louder, until all sound cuts out, leaving only one voice: Bellamy Blake.
Jaha is there, blood gushing from his stomach, condemnations spewing from his lips. His words tear at Bellamy's conscience. He brings the ghosts too, all three hundred and twenty of them, to pick at Bellamy's gnawing guilt like animals at a carcass. Then Bellamy is down in the mud, face pressed into the dirt, inhaling it, absorbing the punches, absorbing the remorse. His head snaps back, and he hears his neck break with a—
CLICK. He is staring down the barrel of a rifle, but on the wrong end. Nothing personal, a dull voice says. CLICK.
Bellamy breathes. He is still alive, and his world swoops rapidly back into focus: Dax, rifle, dud bullet, thisislifeanddeath. He reaches for his gun, aims, but it isn't there anymore, though the rifle pointed at him still is, as is the resigned darkness in Dax's eyes. Thisislifeanddeath.
Then Clarke is there (put it down, Dax), with her rifle and her sureness. Bellamy is lost, trying to sort through real and not real and Dax and Clarke and rifles pointed at each other, all the parts fitting together in one sudden realization of how his crime on the Ark has followed him down here, to this moment. Time stops as he looks up at Clarke, who is pointing the gun at her enemy, head bowed and eyes intense, and she only has one chance—CLICK.
No bullet and Dax is still standing, then firing, Clarke ducking, missing a bullet in her body just barely. She is still breathing.
He rushes Dax, because Clarke is not alone, he is there, and it is him and Dax and punches and choking, choking, the rifle against his neck, but Bellamy is not alone (get the hell off him!). Then the bullet casing is in Dax's neck, blood spewing onto the wet, decaying leaves covering the ground. Thisislifeanddeath.
Adrenaline forces Bellamy to crawl to the tree where Clarke is, forces the guilty, regretful, self-loathing admissions (she raised me to be better, to be good – I'm a monster) to spill out of him. And though he expects agreement from her, this girl who always tries to do the right thing, she is just as gentle with him as she is with everybody else. He drags his gaze to her face, searching for harshness, but all he sees is this: brow furrowed in concern, nose flaring in worry and fear, mouth parted with sympathy, eyes asking him not to leave her (I need you – you're forgiven, ok – you have to come back with me).
So they sit there, in the dark woods, the dampness of the ground soaking into their thin clothes until they are both shivering. Bellamy can't feel her warmth anymore, not even with her head resting on his shoulder and the rest of her pressed up against his side. It doesn't matter, really, though, because he can see her breathing. He watches her sides expand and compress, a shaky up and down, eventually steadying as the shock wears off. Clarke is breathing, and so is he, and they are just two bodies sitting in the dark, trying to figure out what the hell they are going to do next.
From twenty feet away, he watches her stand on weak legs at the dropship entrance, eyes rimmed in blood and shoulders tense with worry. Yet, even in the face of biological warfare, Bellamy marvels that Clarke can find a moment of lightness as she says in a wry tone: some medicine might be nice.
Bellamy lets out a brief laugh, but he isn't amused by her for long, not after her scratchy voice admits: she's not here, I sent her to see Lincoln. He sees sorry in her eyes, but her face is set, decided, resigned. Whether or not she thinks she is being a good leader for the camp, Bellamy's anger rises at her audacity at putting Octavia in danger.
He ignores her calling for him, frustration and apology lacing her words—will this goddamn kid get out of his friggin' way—then the boy turns, blood trailing from his eyes (get to the dropship, now!). There is yelling, a wet hacking cough, Bellamy turns. More screaming, the flick of safeties being switched off and fingers shifting on triggers. Chaos descends. He wraps his hand around barrel after barrel, forcing them to the ground, hoping that no one gets shot, that they don't cripple themselves more because best case scenario, even a single accidental injury means one less body protecting the camp. Worst case scenario meant one more body in the ground.
Frantic cries shoot past him as the crowd turns on itself. He shouts in frustration (calm down!), so goddamn tired of feeling out of control (the sickness, the Grounders, Clarke going behind his back), so anxious that he can almost hear bullets firing—and then he does.
Panic races up his spine as he spins towards the dropship, but there is no bleeding kid on the ground, no horrified kid holding a smoking gun. All he sees is Clarke: feet planted wide on the ramp, back straight and tall, rifle pointing skyward in her right hand, hair clumped, clothes soaked in blood, and she is pissed off.
Her stare pins down every member of the camp, guns lowering under her admonishing and disappointed gaze, one that matches his own. As her reprimand (this is exactly what the grounders want) turns into a plea, Bellamy watches her anger slide into frustration and then into fear, which coils in his own stomach as she brings their reality sharply back into focus. After seeing that Clarke has the crowd under control, he glances towards the woods, where the real enemy hides, where his sister may be with that Grounder, or running for her life, or with a spear lodged in her chest, bleeding out on the forest floor—
They won't have to kill us if we all catch the virus. Bellamy whips around, and there is a gun pointing at Clarke. Goddamn friggin' idiot delinquent kids. He is tired and his eyes sting and he can't think clearly while seeing a gun pointed at her (get back in the damn dropship, the idiot yells). So sick of not being in control, he takes it back the only way he knows how: gun ripped from the idiot's hands, jammed into the throat, throwing him to the ground. Bellamy doesn't give the kid a second look before turning his frustration on Clarke (your quarantine isn't working).
This time, though, she doesn't fight back like usual, doesn't voice the doubts that whisper in his own head. She isn't the devil's advocate, the voice of reason, his moral compass. This time she just falls, eyes closing and legs buckling, rifle crashing to the ground just before she does. He watches her fall, can't move to catch her, fearful (she can't leave him alone with these idiots, she can't), but suddenly Finn is there, Octavia returns, the Grounders are coming, Raven is building a bomb, and then he is the one falling, his mouth tasting of blood.
The next time Bellamy sees Clarke, she is standing upright, limbs no longer shaking. Relief wells up in his chest, and not just because she chased Murphy away. He had risen from the mattress after sleeping away the sickness, and the first thing he had seen was an empty hammock where she had been lying when he was brought in hours ago. The fact that she was here, and not on the tarp outside (she cannot leave him alone here), talking about Murphy and second chances, makes him think that things might just almost be okay. Then he makes a joke of their predicament (get everyone inside, close the doors, maybe the grounders will think we're not home) and she is worrying about their people getting sick (pointless) and he is worrying about them getting dead (hopeless). When she questions his lack of faith in trusting Finn and Jasper to get the job done, for once he is the voice of doubt in her head: do you?
He reads her mind again when they watch the smoke cloud billow up in the distance. She begins quoting the man who started it all (I know who Oppenheimer is), and he reads the question in her tired eyes: what did we just start? He doesn't have an answer, and that scares him.
The waiting weighs heavily on both of them for the rest of the afternoon. Bellamy starts at every cracking twig and twitches at every tinkle of the trip wire. Tension and anxiety bear down on his shoulders, but they lift a little each time he sees Clarke start and twitch in the same way, each time he watches the same worried thoughts cross her face. The two of them converse without pauses, finishing the other's thought, or countering it, before it can even fully be said. Bellamy can't call it arguing anymore; there is no animosity left between them. The only thing they now share is the responsibility of trying to choose the least bad of some terrible options. What he used to debate alone in his head is now spoken aloud: point (we need to talk about Murphy) and counterpoint (he was right about the bridge), point (we have pardon power now?) and counterpoint (it's hard running things).
Those words have come back to haunt him, but he doesn't mind. He watches her mouth twist up in an ironic grimace, arms tense at her sides, eyes shadowed with dark humor and a promise: it is hard, but it is easier with you. Bellamynods in agreement, breathing a bit easier, not knowing when her and me had turned into we, but grateful that Clarke is who stands beside him as night falls on the fourteen graves at their feet.
It's not enough. That's what Clarke's face reads when Bellamy looks at her, and the thought crushes him all over again. Damn it, he knows, he knows that 500 rounds of ammo, a partially mined gully, and a handful of grenades aren't enough to keep the Grounders back, but seeing it written in her eyes makes the knowledge worse somehow. Like he has finally, after all her second chances, failed her, like this is the thing that might make him lose her trust. She just looks at him expectantly—and then?—and it breaks his goddamn heart because this half-assed plan is all he, their supposed king, has. And it's not enough.
His insistent, slightly panicked message to the gunners—inflict casualties, as many as possible (like they don't already know that)—doesn't help matters. Clarke just looks away from him, studying their battle map intensely. Spacewalker pipes in with his usual criticism, and Bellamy no longer has the energy to fight with him, just wearily states the obvious cliché: you got a better idea?
And of course it is Clarke who comes up with their saving grace. With wide, feral eyes and an eerily quiet voice, she demands: I don't wanna build a bomb, I wanna blast off. It's brilliant, she's brilliant. A smile flits across his face because goddamnit she is so friggin' smart, and he may be the one who inspires their group, but it's her, every single time, who finds a way to thread the needle in these precarious situations.
Bellamy watches her spine straighten as Raven talks through the plan, glee in her voice, and Clarke's mouth relaxes as Finn doesn't voice a complaint, because even he sees this plan as their best chance at surviving. And when Raven darkly utters her oath, her promise—I'll cook 'em real good—he sees Clarke, wild and strong and determined, intelligence and triumph viciously lighting up her eyes (the ground has made a beast of this girl) and it makes him realize, for the first time, they might just win.
They are losing. Bellamy crouches at the edge of the tunnel, surveying the chaos across the dropship yard. Mutilated bodies, anguished screams, metallic smell of blood. The Grounders are like shadows bursting forth from the night, made of the dark and the dirt, terrors only the ground could conjure up. Nothing in space could be this frightening.
Fear beats in Bellamy's chest and his breathe hitches. Having to say goodbye to Octavia (he's always, always losing her) makes the possibility of them losing this battle inconceivable to him (he can't lose this too). So, despite hearing Clarke's voice command him to return—Bellamy, run!—he doesn't listen. He almost looks at her, to tell her what he is about to do, but he knows if he looks at her, blue eyes and blonde hair and someone he never knew he needed, he will not go through with it. So he stops himself, jerks his head away mid-look. Instead, he picks up a gun and runs in the opposite direction.
Everything else falls away. Only the fight remains.
Gun. Tristan. Trigger. Empty clip. Sword slash. Punch. Punch. Loss of breath. Block. Punch. Punch. Punch. Her yell (he's killing him!). Raised sword. Bullet fired (not his). Finn. Time to catch his breath. Get up. Run, run, tackle, punchpunchpunch. Thrown aside. Arm grab. Finn says: we gotta run, we gotta go, we gotta run. Stands still. Finn leaves (we need to go!). Bellamy finally understands, starts to follow the spacewalker, but first he turns, and all he sees is her.
She is at the dropship door, eyes desperate but determined, strength in her body's movements as she whips around, scanning the yard, seeing what he knew earlier (they are losing), but not seeing him. And this is a girl who will do anything to win, a princess wanting victory, a leader who will do whatever it takes to save her people. So his partner does what he would do: she retreats to the dropship, without a second look back. That is the last he sees of her, and, right then, she is everything to him.
He doesn't wait for the ramp to rise. He knows what is coming. He knows her. So he runs.
Bellamy didn't even see her coming. He was looking at Octavia, about to ask her where they should start looking for Lincoln, and then Clarke was there, clinging to him. He didn't look at her, just felt her: warm, and solid, and safe. This girl who he had hated, then tolerated, then relied on, this girl who hadn't been at the dropship like she was supposed to be, was here, in front of him, around him, with him. He didn't move (couldn't) because how how how was she here. She stayed still too, pressed up against him so closely that he could feel her heartbeat, her pulse thudding slightly out of sync with his own.
That was the moment, the one where it began for him. Bellamy wouldn't realize it until much later, until after peace had come and the remaining 100 had found their place among their people again, until after she and him had become ClarkeandBellamy (of course her name came first) and he knew not just her mind, and but also her body, better than anyone else.
Her relieved joy at his survival, the pressure of her arms around his neck, the brush of her lips against his skin as they hugged had triggered it. At the time, not knowing what it was, the only way he could respond was in kind. He wrapped her up in his arms, this warrior-healer who had somehow woven herself into his life. Later, he would realize that it was in that moment that he first began to love her. And he never even saw it coming.