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Let's Go to the Mall!

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Clarke Griffin loved her job.  Really, she did.

Two months ago when her favorite art supply store in the local mall had posted job offerings for the summer she’d been one of the first to hand in an application.  She’d landed the job two days later.

No, Clarke Griffin loved her job.  What she didn’t love was the hot (wait, she didn’t really just think that, did she?) asshole who worked in the bookstore right across the aisle.

Because Bellamy Blake was an asshole.  A nicely dressed, dark-haired, freckled, sarcastic asshole.  And Clarke hated him.

Really.

It had all started when she came in for her interview, dressed snappily like her mom had told her in a skirt and blouse.  He’d been sitting at the Starbucks attached to the bookstore, drinking a coffee and looking much too attractive than was fair for a Sunday afternoon.

        She had tried to block the whole thing about of her mind, but there had been some almost-wolf whistling and he’d called her “princess” (seriously, who does that to someone they’d never met before?) and she’d ignored it but it had grated on her nerves.

        Three days later she showed up for her first shift wearing the t-shirt she’d been given only to find the coffee-drinking-wolf-whistler from before wearing a nametag that said “Bellamy” (damn him why did his name have to be that?) and straightening the display of James Patterson’s newest release.

        She wasn’t going to lie, she’d frozen in the middle of the mall staring at him until he noticed and winked (yes winked, the nerve) at her.

“Hey, princess,” he’d said.  “Nice shirt.”

She wished she could say she’d flipped him off but she’d been too flustered to do even that.  Instead, she’d turned sharply on her heel and flounced into the art supply store to find her manager, determined to never speak to him again.

If only things worked out the way they were supposed to.

Flash forward two months and it was the middle of July.  Clarke was still on summer vacation and still taking all the shifts she could at the store to make extra money.  And somehow, Bellamy Blake had only managed to get more and more irritating with each passing day.

They both seem to be the only ones willing to open their respective stores and so 5:30 AM finds both of them being the only people getting out of cars on their side of the mall’s parking lot and the only ones with open stores before the rest of the mall employees start trickling in around 7:00.

And then there’s lunch.  Getting to the cafeteria food court requires walking past the bookstore and Bellamy at his front register with that shit-eating grin that she alternates between wanting to punch and kiss off (wait, no, punch.  Definitely punch).

Usually he just watches her go smiling while ringing up a customer and on a bad day maybe calling out “see ya, princess.”  But then on July sixth he fell into step beside her as she was zipping her hoodie over her store-issued shirt on her way to lunch.

“Good afternoon, princess.”

The usual greeting.  She still wasn’t sure if he actually knew her name.

She weighed her options.  She could ignore him, of course, but past experiences have shown that to be not the most effective.  He was prone to shadowing her in silence, walking too close, so that their arms brushed and sometimes the backs of their hands so her stomach jumped just a little.

“Blake,” was what she settled on, in what she though was a suitably distant tone that said I could care less about you, who are you again?

She forced herself not to look at him.  After all she could see the smirk that was absolutely plastered across his face in her head perfectly clearly, thank you very much.

“Someone’s in a good mood,” he replied, and damn him she can even hear the smirk in his voice.

“Why are you following me?”

He chuckled.  “I’m not following you.  I’m walking with you.”

“No you’re not.  Walking with someone implies that they want you to be there.  Which is very much not the case.”

“Oh, come now, princess, you’ve hurt my feelings.”

“I could care less,” she snapped, abandoning all pretense.

By now they’d reached the food court and Clarke was hoping she could lose him in the crowd that always inexplicably forms around the hamburger joint (seriously their fries are always soggy.  Who likes soggy fries?) so she can stand in line for her burrito in peace.

She darted away through a straggling group of teenage girls who were definitely giggling behind their hands at Bellamy (ugh, some people really need standards) and risked a quick glance behind her.  She couldn’t see him, which was good.

Fifteen minutes and a burrito later there was still no sign of him.  She sat at one of her usual tables tucked away behind the sushi joint that no one ever seemed to be able to find and pulled out a book.

Winning sure did feel good.

Another tray clattered down onto the table across from her and she threw her book down angrily.

Bellamy Blake was sitting across from her eating one of those soggy fries.

She always knew there was another reason why she couldn’t stand him.

“How can you eat those?”

He stared.

Oh, shit, she’d said that out loud.

“What?”

She pointed at his tray.  “Those fries.  They’re always so soggy.  And I’m pretty sure they use Kraft singles on their burgers.”

Bellamy looked down at his burger, still wrapped up, then back up at Clarke.  For the first time in two months he looked genuinely confused.

“What’s wrong with Kraft singles?”

“They taste like plastic.”

“They don’t.”

“They so do.  In fact, I’m sure they actually are plastic,” she retorted at the same time that he added, “and the fries aren’t that soggy.”

They glared at each other across the table.

“Tin foil is bad for the environment.”

She opened and closed her mouth rapidly.  His eyes flicked from her face down to the foil wrapping her burrito.

She felt herself turning red.

“Says the person drinking soda out of a Styrofoam cup.”

He looked down at said cup, smiled slightly, and took a sip from the straw.

“You’ve got a lot of opinions, princess,” he said next.  But it was softer and teasing.  And not in the usual way.  It didn’t feel like he’s making fun of her.

“I could say the same about you, Blake.”

Dammit, Clarke, don’t smile at him you’ll only encourage him.

He grinned.

He had dimples, she noticed.  Because of course he did.

She just snarled at him and picked up her book in one hand and her burrito in the other.  If that was where he wanted to sit, well, it wasn’t fine with her but at least she could make the best of the situation.

She thought she heard a chuckle and the rustle of pages.  Carefully after a moment she risked a glance over the top of her book.  He was reading something that looked more like an encyclopedia than a book entitled The History of Roman Civilization.  Of course it was something thick and pretentious with paper-thin pages and micro-lettering.  Of course it was because it was Bellamy Blake.

Thirty minutes later when her lunch break was nearly over, Clarke put her bookmark back, rolled up her foil, and slung her bag over her shoulder and starting back to the art store, thankful for the chance to finally get away from him.

And Bellamy was right behind her.

“What do you think you’re doing now?” she grouched but she found there wasn’t as much meaning behind it as there should have been.

“You’re not the only one with a thirty-five minute lunch break, princess,” he said breezily, shoving his hands in his pockets, that absurd book shoved under his arm.  It was a miracle she hadn’t noticed it earlier really.

Thankfully he didn’t say anything else to her on the walk back.  Just whistled a tune that she should have found significantly more irritating than she did.

When they parted ways he mock tipped a hat to her, grinning.  “Until tomorrow.”

“You wish,” she snapped back, spinning on her heel and marching into the store.

The sound of his laughter followed her.

And was it her imagination or did he spend way more time that afternoon straightening the front displays than was necessary?

And no, she did not start blushing furiously that one time they locked gazes accidentally.  And she absolutely did not have to hide in the back room for ten minutes pretending to do inventory until her cheeks stopped burning.

Absolutely not.

And if they happened to take a lunch break at the same time tomorrow, it was like he said: they both had thirty-five minute lunch breaks.