Oh don't you dare look back,
Just keep your eyes on me.
I said, “You’re holding back …”
She said, “Shut up, and dance with me!”
This woman is my destiny ...
Clarke Griffin was tired. Physically, mentally and (most of all) emotionally. She could deal with the physical and mental exhaustion that came with taking a full load of pre-med classes and holding down a nearly full time job; after-all, she’d made the choices that led her there. But the emotional drama, most of which wasn’t her doing, was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
“I’m done,” she announced to her apartment’s empty living room as she dropped her backpack onto the floor by the door.
“With?” The voice came from somewhere further into the apartment.
“Everything,” Clarke replied as she kicked her ratty Chucks off in the middle of the hallway.
“Perfect.” Raven Reyes poked her head out of a doorway and mumbled around a mouthful of food.
“Wow, thanks,” Clarke pulled her hoodie over her head and dropped it at her feet before entering the small cubby that passed as their kitchen. Raven stood at the counter, scooping peanut butter straight from the jar with a giant serving spoon and shoveling it in her mouth.
“You know what I mean,” Raven responded, but it sounded more like “chew knowf vat I mhean.”
Clarke sighed. “Rave—”
Raven swallowed, and smiled. “Monty and Jasper will be here in a half hour.” She kissed Clarke on the cheek, leaving a film of peanutty oil, as she walked out of the kitchen.
Clarke felt like lying on the floor with the rest of the belongings she’d stripped off her tired body and not moving until Monday morning, but she knew better than to try and argue with Raven. Slumping her shoulders, she muttered “damn mechanics,” as she shuffled toward her room.
Clarke emerged only when she heard excited voices coming from the living room. She’d been lying, face down, on her bed for the past twenty minutes, but had finally roused enough energy to put on a clean shirt and a coat of mascara.
Clarke raised her hand in a limp approximation of a greeting before flopping to the floor where her shoes lay. Jasper’s enthusiasm was usually a welcome distraction, but Clarke wasn’t going to pretend that she was the least bit interested in being chipper.
“Long week?” Jasper asked. Clarke nodded as she tied her laces.
A giant cup of iced coffee was thrust into her face. Clarke’s eyes lit up and she looked at the bearer of the oh-so-welcome gift. “Monty, if I had the strength to get up off the floor right now, I would kiss you.” Monty smiled, somewhat sheepishly.
Raven looked over from her perch on the arm of the couch. “That’s what you’re wearing?”
Clarke looked down at her form-fitting T-shirt, which read “Recluse” in white lettering across a black background. “This is as good as it gets tonight,” she replied. She looked at Raven, who was wearing at least three layers of camisoles, the top one streaked with something that looked suspiciously like engine grease. “And you’re one to talk.”
Raven snorted. “It’s a good thing The Ark doesn’t have a dress code.”
“Like we’d go anywhere that did,” Clarke replied.
“Point.” Raven rose and grabbed her keys from their spot on the coffee table. Clarke raised one of her arms, limply, waving her hand toward the guys. The other was wrapped tightly around the coffee cup, which she managed to drink nearly half of before Jasper reached her.
“Lush.” Jasper laughed as he pulled her from the floor.
Although the coffee was helping, Clarke knew that she’d need something with more of a kick if she was going to make it through the night. When the group reached The Ark, Clarke went straight for the bar, ordering a Red Bull and vodka. Being pre-med, she knew how bad the combination of energy drink and alcohol was, but The Ark didn’t serve espresso in IV bags.
She ordered for the other three, too, and took all four drinks to their usual table. “Who’s playing tonight?” she asked, as she squeezed in the booth next to Monty.
“Some band called Hidden Until 16,” he replied.
Clarke raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, I don’t know,” Monty said with a grin.
“The lead singer’s in my chemistry class ...” Jasper started, without taking his eyes from the stage.
“... and he’s got a huge crush on her,” Monty finished.
Raven snickered. “When does Jasper not have a crush on someone?”
“Never,” Monty and Clarke replied in unison. Jasper scoffed, good naturedly.
As she sipped her drink, Clarke let her eyes roam around the bar. The Ark’s typical clientele was all present; it was a strange mix of locals and the college kids who’d rather drink beer and listen to indie bands than pay $10 for a watered down drink at Mount Weather, the town’s attempt at a dance club.
The lights dimmed, and Clarke leaned her head back against the tall seat. She closed her eyes as the first notes rang out, but opened them when the lyrics began. The lead singer, a pretty, petite girl with a dangerous glint in her eye, strutted across the stage as if she was stalking prey. Her voice was smoky and deeper than one would assume by looking at her. She was damn good.
Clarke poked Jasper in the ribs. “Is that her?”
Jasper nodded without looking back. “Her name’s Octavia.”
“She’s damn good,” Clarke voiced her earlier thought. The rest of the band—all girls, Clarke was surprised and a little delighted to see—were all equally good.
As the band finished up their first song, and moved into their second, people begun to move in front of the stage. Jasper grabbed Raven’s hand and pulled her from the booth. Clarke laughed at the look of annoyance on her roommate’s face, but stopped, abruptly, as she was pushed from the booth from behind.
“Traitor,” she shouted back at Monty as Raven caught her wrist and pulled her along.
The three grabbed a spot near the stage. Jasper started flailing along to the fast-paced song, and Raven and Clarke exchanged an amused grin. Raven leaned closer, so that she could be heard. “I’m not nearly buzzed enough to match that,” she said. Clarke nodded and went for the bar, ordering two House Specials. As she waited for the drinks, she felt a presence come up beside her. She didn’t bother looking until Miller, her favorite bartender (and owner’s son) passed two glasses her way.
“What are those?” A deep voice said from her left.
Clarke looked at the drinks, which were both bubbling slightly. “I—I don’t actually know,” she said as she turned her face toward the voice. “I just know they do the trick better than anything else.” Clarke expected to see a face, but instead found herself staring at a broad chest.
“The trick being …?” The voice trailed off as Clarke raised her chin, her eyes traveling up the man’s (gorgeously tanned) neck, past his (well-defined) jaw, and over his (adorably freckled) cheekbones.
“To help you forget,” Clarke replied as she finally met his eyes.
He smiled—no, more like smirked—at her from above. “To forget what, Princess?”
Clarke’s guard immediately went up. Of course this guy was one of those guys. He was way too hot not to be.
Rolling her eyes, Clarke grabbed her drinks from the bar, tossed a $10 bill on the counter and headed back to her friends. She heard Miller chuckle as the (really unfairly hot) jackass turned to him and asked, “What did I say?”
The band took a short break after a few more songs, and Clarke returned to the bar for another round of House Specials. She was feeling much better than she had been when she got home earlier that evening, but deep in the back of her mind, she knew it was all a placebo. Everything that had made her so exhausted was still waiting to be dealt with, but for the rest of the night, she was going to do her best to not worry about it.
The drinks—and their questionable ingredients—were certainly helping.
Miller slid her drinks across the bar, and Clarke turned to pay. A large hand slapped a $20 down before Clarke was able to pull her bills from her pocket. She looked up and scowled. The ass had returned. He smirked down at her, his messy curls flopping (sexily) over his forehead. Clarke felt her face flush of its own accord as she imagined brushing his hair back from his face. She quickly turned her face away and shot daggers at his (obviously strong) hand. She reached out a finger and poked at it, not softly, trying (in vain) to ignore how warm and soft his skin was.
“Nope,” she stated, forcefully.
“C’mon, Princess—” he started.
Clarke looked up again, hoping that her many years of dealing with Resting Bitch Face would come in handy. “I don’t need you to pay for my drinks.”
“I didn’t mean to insinuate that you did,” he replied. “I just think we got off on the wrong foot, and I’m trying to be nice.”
“Being nice involves snotty nicknames and asinine assumptions, hmm?” Clarke was startled to realize that her finger was not only still on his hand, but that it had begun drawing lazy circles on his skin. She drew her hand away, but not without a small bit of hesitation.
He chuckled. Clarke felt her pulse quicken.
“Nope,” she muttered, this time more to her traitorous body than to him.
Miller returned to check on them, and the man handed his money over before Clarke could complain again. “One of those for me, too, please,” he asked.
The politeness startled Clarke. This guy was all over the place, and Clarke’s tired and alcohol-dulled brain struggled to keep up. She picked up her drink off the bar, but didn’t make a move to go back onto the dance floor.
“I don’t get you,” she said, to no one in particular.
“You don’t know me,” he replied, not bothering to check if she was talking to him. “But you could …” He trailed off, his words filled with an edge that wasn’t altogether unpleasant.
Clarke bit down on the stirrer in her glass, and weighed the pros and cons.
Pro: He was gorgeous as hell.
Con: He was cocky as shit.
Pro: He seemed to have good manners.
Con: He called her Princess.
Pro: He looked seriously good in that henley shirt he was wearing.
Pro: The fit of his jeans—yeah, she’d noticed—wasn’t bad either.
Pro: He bought her a drink.
Pro: He wasn’t Finn.
The band started up again, this time with a cover of a song Clarke knew. The lyrics weren’t anything philosophers would be studying a hundred years from now, but in that moment, they spoke to her. She set her drink down on the bar a little more forcefully than she meant to, and, without looking back, grabbed his hand and dragged him toward the stage.