“They’ve agreed,” Clarke says, sliding a little on the mud as she comes back down the slope to him, “it’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.”
“Agreed to what?”
“To a trial by combat. It’s a formal thing, there’s a ritual cleansing and it’s done in front of everyone. There’s rules; he can’t just shoot you and get away with it.” She waves behind her, towards the settlement. “It’ll be in there though. Can’t go home yet, sorry.”
“Is it to the death?” He asks, all too aware of the Grounders surrounding them, weapons pointed at the ground but held in readiness. Clarke shakes her head.
“To first blood.”
Bellamy lifts an eyebrow. “I’ve won already then,” he says dryly. Clarke’s gaze flickers over him, so fast he wouldn’t have noticed had he not been waiting for it. He knows how he looks; beat up clothes, gun still slung over one shoulder, covered in blood from the deer he’d brought down. It’s on his face too, Clarke’s eyes lingering there for a moment before she shakes her head again.
“You have to be cleansed first, and they’ve said their healer will treat any injuries you’ve got.”
“When do I have to do this?”
“Tomorrow. We can’t leave until it’s done.” She squares her shoulders, and her chin juts out a little, expecting him to argue. He nods instead, glancing over her shoulder to where the Grounder who attacked them - his opponent, now - is laughing with a group of other fighters. They don’t make eye contact, but Bellamy remembers the smug look on his face when his friends took the deer, the way his eyes had travelled over every inch of Clarke.
“Fine,” he says, mild and even. “Do we start now?”
The cleansing ritual is for all of them, apparently. Bellamy sits with his minder, a short middle-aged Grounder with a network of scars across his shoulders. He’s running to fat around the middle, but his arms are like tree trunks; once he’s flexed a bit, and they’ve settled into an understanding that Bellamy won’t run, and he won’t crush Bellamy, they chat a bit.
Then it gets too hot to talk.
They sit together in a small wooden cabin, on low wooden benches that circle a deep firepit. Periodically stones are brought in, red hot from being heated in a fire all afternoon, and the Grounder douses them in water flicked off a bunch of herbs. The steam is fragrant, and almost overwhelming. Bellamy thinks he can feel sweat oozing from individual pores.
Clarke is in another cabin like this one, with several women; he’d seen her go in, dressed in wraps of white fabric the same as he’s currently wearing around his waist. She’d washed, same as him, her hair free of braids, clean and scrubbed. Clarke had turned, as if sensing him watching, and she’d given him a thumbs up before they vanished into the hut.
Another set of stones is brought in, slid in through a small opening in the door so that little steam escapes, and his minder adds them to the pit with rough metal tongs. Another splash of water goes cascading over them, and Bellamy lets his thoughts drift as the steam wells up.
He sits through four rounds of hot stones, until he can barely move to accept the cup of water his minder passes him.
“If we hadn’t been in here from the beginning,” the older man says, gesturing towards the stones, “we’d be unconscious by now. Or dead, maybe.”
“Comforting thought.” Bellamy drains the water and passes the cup back. “I might be dead tomorrow anyway.”
“You won’t be,” his companion says. He shrugs, leaning back against the wall. “Brennan is a loudmouth, and a popular guy, but he can’t fight for shit.”
Bellamy leans back too, and closes his eyes. “Got any tips for me?” He asks, to cover his surprise.
There’s a long pause, then; “he drops his left shoulder before he makes a move. And he’ll have another knife somewhere, a small one.”
Bellamy sits up and looks at the older man, who’s watching him with a bland expression. “You don’t like him.”
“I like you more. You’re more useful than he is, and he’s got a vicious streak that’s made him a liability.” He extends a hand. “Terek,” he says. Bellamy shakes; there’s no point introducing himself, they’d been paraded before half the settlement before the cleansing had started. “He’s going to try and kill you tomorrow.”
“I know,” Bellamy says, and Terek nods, leaning back against the wall again. “Do I know you,” he asks, finally. “You volunteered for this.”
Terek nods again. “I saw you fight against the Charter settlement, when they attacked last week. You and your people saved us that day. Brennan...he talks a lot, but does little. And he did nothing that day, except boast and make a few cuts.”
That’s enough for Bellamy, and he nods, both of them falling silent again. He watches the steam drift up, lit from below by the fading light of the red hot stones. Clarke is doing the same thing, he knows. Sweating out all the grime that’s ground itself into their skin since they hit Earth, feeling clean for the first time in months.
We need somewhere to wash, he thinks, eyes tracking tendrils of steam, zoning out until even the heat barely registers. Somewhere we can heat some water. A bathhouse. And soap. Maybe-
Someone knocks on the door, heavily, and his thoughts scatter.
She’s expecting it, but the bucket of cold water hits her overheated body and she shrieks, dancing around in her thin wrap. The women around her giggle, but not nastily; several of them attack her with rough blankets almost immediately, wrapping her up in a warm bundle before the water too chills her too much. Two of them hold blankets up as a barrier while a third helps her put on the clothes she’s given.
Being clean again feels better than she could have imagined, and being dressed in clean clothes, even if it is a rough shift dress and not her own things. “Soap,” she says to no one in particular. “We need soap.”
“Time for that later,” one of the women says, smiling. “Are you hungry?
“I could eat a-” Clarke stops dead, mouth gone dry. On the opposite side of the ring of building the door to the men’s steam hut has opened, and the large Grounder she remembers volunteering to escort Bellamy steps out, followed by her friend. For a heart-stopping moment she can’t remember to breathe, because this- this is nothing like she’s ever seen him before.
His curls are flattened to his head, tousled where he’s pushed them out of his face. The steam has made his skin slick, and the wrap around his waist is barely covering him, almost transparent and clinging to places she doesn’t think about in daylight; Clarke is suddenly even more grateful for the blankets she has wrapped round her. Then one of the Grounder men throws the bucket of water at him, and for a brief moment, she swears her heart fucking stops.
“Time for that later too,” the same woman says with a laugh, and Clarke blushes. One look at the other woman and she bites down the denial.
“I’m very hungry,” she says instead, keeping her voice steady somehow.
“Good, because there’s a big meal tonight.”
“Any excuse for a meal,” one of the other woman says. Her hands are deft in Clarke’s hair, braiding it back from her face.
“Even though one of them might die tomorrow,” she asks, unable to keep the bitterness out of her voice. It's such a waste.
“Especially then,” the first woman says seriously, then looks over Clarke’s shoulder. “He’s dressed now,” she says, and Clarke can feel the blush hot on her cheeks as the women giggle. It’s worth it, kinda, to hear laughter again.
They eat better than they have in weeks, that night. There’s a fire burning in the centre of the settlement, banked and built to last. Pots are set onto the wood to cook, and benches dragged to form a ragged circle around the flames. Not all the Grounders are there, Clarke reckons, scanning the other benches; the children and younger ones are missing, and probably some of the elderly ones too. It’s mostly the fighters that remain; tough men and women who want to see this through from start to finish.
Clarke waits until she finds Bellamy, tilting her head in reply to his half-smile across the bonfire, before she takes a seat. He’s in borrowed clothes too, loose pants and a shapeless shirt, his own boots. No weapons, obviously. The same women who helped her in the steam hut sit by her side, giving her a little space, space she’s glad of when Bellamy’s gaze travels over her, taking in the fact that she’s okay, and unharmed.
Clarke catalogues everything, knows Bellamy is doing the same. How much of this can they trade for, she wonders, and what would food like this be worth? The knowledge of how to make it would be more useful, but worth even more, and they have nothing worth trading. Yet.
“Relax,” one of the women says, sat next to her. She holds out a cup to Clarke, and when she sips it, it’s fruit juice, tart and sweet. “Stop staring at the food, and eat.”
“And stop staring at him,” a woman on her other side adds, with a huge wink. “You can eat him too later.”
Clarke is glad her cheeks are already flushed from the fire.
The food is good, and the juice delicious, but better than all of that is having a night off. No one interrupts with problems that need solving, there’s no chaos or catastrophe waiting in the dark to ruin their sleep. All Clarke has to do is eat, and answer the odd question put to her by the Grounders settled around them. She keeps track of Bellamy too, sat opposite her with a barrier of Grounder fighters between him and the rest of the group.
They can’t talk, but they watch each other, across the fire.
The hut he’s given to sleep in is dark, but warm. There’s a single candle attached to a shelf partway up the rough concrete that makes up two of the walls, enough to see by once his eyes adjust, and a low bed covered in furs. Bellamy slides his hands over them, wonders what kind of animal they came from, if he could hunt it.
The candle flickers and he’s reaching for his gun before he remembers they took it, but the person that pulls the heavy hanging covering the door aside is pale in the gloom, hair a cloud of bright gold that catches the weak candlelight. Bellamy glares at her, but can’t find much real annoyance; he’d been expecting her. Someone has lent her a simple dress, in more of the plain, pale, thin fabric that these Grounders seem to use a lot of; if it wasn’t dark, he reckons she wouldn’t be walking around in it so calmly.
“Should you be in here?”
“Probably not.” She slips past the hanging and it falls heavily closed behind her, shutting them both into the warm dimness. “How’re you doing?”
He shrugs. “I’m clean, I’ve eaten, I’ve got a bed, and tomorrow I have to fight that piece of shit so that we can go home. I’m good.” It’s meant to be lighthearted, but he’s not great at that, even now. Clarke frowns, wrapping her arms around herself. It does interesting things to her breasts, shifting under her thin dress in ways that even in the dim light he tries not to notice.
“There’s something off about it,” she says, frowning harder. “Did you notice that no one seems to be supporting the other guy?”
“They’re not exactly cheering me on,” Bellamy points out dryly.
“In their way, they are.” Clarke begins to pace, five steps one way, five steps back, worrying at her lower lip. “He’s got supporters, but they’re all his friends. None of the adults are around him.”
“And none of them volunteered to do the steam hut thing with him. Did you notice that?”
She nods, and her pacing stops. “The elders chose someone for him.”
“Maybe they knew too many people would want to support him,” Bellamy says, because he’s relaxed and no one is shooting at him, and a pissed off Clarke is a hot Clarke. “No one here cares if I’m dead in the dirt tomorrow.”
Clarke glares, and yep, it’s hot. “Look, Bellamy, if there was another way-”
“I know,” he interrupts, pushing aside his other thoughts, because he does, and yeah, now isn’t the time to joke. She’s still so good; he’d thought it was naivety, for a long time, but not any more. She just wants the cleanest, best solution to everything. “You’ve done everything you could.”
“It’s not enough,” she snaps, but there’s weariness in every word now, and her shoulders have slumped. “You shouldn’t have to do this. It’s a stupid custom - do you know how many of their fighters have been killed doing trials like this? Or been maimed? It’s such a waste.”
“Clarke, stop.” He moves closer, and rests his hands gently on her shoulders. There’s still some blood under his fingernails, stark against her pale skin and the pale fabric of her dress. The contrast catches his attention, until he realises Clarke is silent and still under his hands, looking up at him patiently.
“I can beat him,” he says. “He’s a shitty fighter, and he’s arrogant.” He decides not to mention Terek; he needs to figure out how to tell her about a potential ally without mentioning the tips. Clarke will see that as cheating, and he doesn’t want an argument, not now; afterwards, maybe, when he’s won.
Clarke’s eyebrows go up. “And you aren’t?” She says, snippy, but she’s smiling.
“I am, princess, because I’m just that good.” He smirks, and Clarke rolls her eyes, smile fading. She doesn’t move away though. “I am,” he repeats, voice dropping. “I’m good enough to beat him tomorrow, and I’m good enough to kill him if I have to.”
“I won’t, if there’s a chance. We need these people, princess; I’m not gonna kill him for fun if there’s a better option. Even a shitty fighter is better than a dead one, down here.”
“And if he doesn’t give you that chance?”
“Then I’ll kill him, and quickly.” Clarke is silent under his hands, teeth worrying at her lower lip. Even now, in the tense Grounder camp, in the knowledge that he might die tomorrow because of an invented transgression, he finds it almost unbearably erotic.
She nods, once, decisive.
“If you have to. I’ve been talking to the leaders here, a bit; we might be able to turn this into a bigger opportunity than just some food and respect. They won’t commit to anything until after the trial,” she pauses frowning, acknowledging the reasoning behind that, “but there’s a chance they’ll be willing to trade with us on an ongoing basis.”
“Think they’d trade teaching us how to build one of those steam huts?”
Clarke pulls a face. ”It’ll be a long time before we have anything worth trading for something like that,” she says, but there’s a thoughtfulness in her voice that he knows well. A horn call outside makes them both jump. “Curfew. I should go.”
Bellamy drops his hands away from her, and curls his hands into fists at the loss of contact. “Early start tomorrow,” he says, managing to keep it light. “Lots to do.” Clarke doesn’t smile, but the tension she’d carried into the little hut has eased. They hug, briefly, and Bellamy catches the scent of some fragrance in her hair, sharp and fresh. He wants to know what it is, so she can always smell that way.
At the doorway she stops, one hand on the heavy blanket. “Bellamy- I don’t think he’ll back down.” Then she’s gone, leaving him in the gloom. For a long time he stands motionless, thinking; about the meat they’d lost, the sloppy way the Grounder had attacked him, the fall of Clarke’s hair, clean and soft for the first time in weeks.
He reckons the loose pants Terek gave him when they left the steam hut and the dim light hid the fact that he was half-hard from her presence alone, and he debates getting off, stroking himself into hardness with the image of Clarke in her pale dress and cloud of golden hair. It’d be easy- too easy. Bellamy settles down on the heaped furs and keeps his hands off himself.
It’ll be a reward after the fight tomorrow. The dead deer wasn’t the only thing Brennan wanted, and he’ll never say it to her face, but if it was up to him he’d kill the Grounder and be done with it, just for the once-over he’d given the Clarke in the forest that morning.
He’s trying to sleep when he realises that Clarke hadn’t questioned his ability to kill the Grounder fighter, if necessary.
A young child wakes her the next morning, leaving something that smells a little like coffee, but it's got a kick to it that sends Clarke from sleepy to wired in five seconds flat. She eyes the mug warily, and then downs the rest. It’s going to be a long day.
Dressed, in her own clothes this time - washed and mended, and Clarke traces the fine stitches in her shirt, wondering what this will cost them - she steps out of the hut into the cool morning air. Already there’s a crowd gathered, formed into a rough circle around the trial ring erected the afternoon before. It’s smaller than Clarke expected, marked by a ring scraped into the dirt and short wooden poles planted at regular intervals.
Clarke scans the area, and her eyes narrow when she catches sight of the Grounder challenger - Brennan, she’d heard someone call him - emerging from a hut, surrounded by his pack of cronies. They’re laughing, and Clarke wants nothing more than to strangle him with her bare hands. A hand on her elbow stops her before she gets more than a step in their direction.
“Save it for when I’m done with him,” Bellamy says, looking down at her. His hand is warm through her shirt.
“There won’t be anything left,” Clarke tries to joke, but it comes out a bit strangled.
“I’ll leave some just for you, princess.”
“How kind.” Behind Bellamy his minder waits, probably listening but turned away, watching the crowd gather in strength. “Should we be talking?”
“Probably not.” Bellamy glances over his shoulder at Terek. “He’s a good guy,” is all he says, but Clarke can read between the lines; ally, Bellamy is saying, and she files that away for afterwards. The Grounder turns to them, and jerks his head towards the crowd. Bellamy nods, hand sliding away from Clarke’s elbow.
“Time to go.”
Clarke wants to say something, but can’t get the words out; Bellamy nods, like she said them anyway, and faces the ring, Terek at his side again. “Ready?”
“We are never doing this again,” Clarke tells him, and means it.
She winces when the rules are called out. ‘First blood’ turns out to mean first serious wound between hips and neck; degree of seriousness to be determined by a tall, rangy woman with a mass of dreadlocks. Bellamy doesn’t react beyond a narrowing of his eyes, but she knows he’s filed the information away carefully.
The tall woman holds out a selection of knives, short, stubby, wicked-looking blades. Clarke hates looking at them, but she can’t help the thrill that runs down her spine when Bellamy takes his pick and tests the blade. His clothes have been cleaned and mended as well, but the leather jacket is gone; extra protection, she realises. There’s a heated discussion between several of the older fighters, and Brennan is called over.
“What’s wrong?” Clarke asks, to anyone within earshot.
“He’s being told to remove the vest.” A woman says, turning to look at her. “Rules of the trial state no body armour, and that vest is reinforced. Little shit thought he could get away with it.”
Clarke’s eyebrows go up. She pushes further forward, until she can see the whole ring. There are a few fighters their age stood together on the opposite side, one of them holding Brennan’s banned vest while he stretches. The rest of the crowd is evenly spread out around the circle, a mixture of ages; none of them, Clarke notes, are visibly supporting either fighter, and there’s a careful gap left between Brennan’s supporters and the others.
The rangy woman steps into the middle of the ring, Brennan and Bellamy on either side. Clarke barely registers what she says; all her attention is on the two men. The Grounder fighter is confident, grinning arrogantly, the knife twisting between his fingers. He lifts his arms when the woman calls his name, and steps forward with a swagger to take his place on one side of the ring.
Bellamy holds the knife solidly by his side, and merely straightens his shoulders when his name is called out. He nods to the crowd, flashes a smirk at Clarke that does nothing to reassure her, and turns his back on her to face the Grounder. She hugs her arms tightly around herself, and watches.
The ground gets churned up beneath the pair as they fight, back and forth, both of them bleeding from half a dozen small cuts in no time at all. The crowd is quiet, mostly; it’s nothing like the fights they’ve seen in other Grounder camps. Sometimes someone will call out; twice Brennan’s cronies are warned to shut up, and once someone yells out advice to Bellamy.
Clarke’s focus is exclusively on Bellamy, but she spares a second to thank the unseen helper. They’re both breathing hard, blood slicking Bellamy’s hand from a slice on his forearm; he wipes it off on his pants, and gets sprayed with blood when he breaks Brennan’s nose in almost the same movement.
It’s ridiculous, but Clarke is more turned on than she’s ever been in her life.
The idea of Bellamy dying makes her sick, but she can’t help the flush that goes up the back of her neck and down her spine when he paces around the Grounder fighter and she can see him, intensely focused, eyes dark, blood smeared over his face. she’s seen him fight before, but this is different.
Every move is calculated. Where Brennan is arrogant and wild, Bellamy is controlled and precise. He lashes out with fists and feet, but never needlessly; he has bruises from where the Grounder has done the same, wild attempts to distract Bellamy from the knife and get in close enough to use it. Bellamy is wearing the other man down, Clarke realises, each hit or slash with the knife designed to make him move and use up energy.
Suddenly Brennan dives to Bellamy’s left, twisting and slashing at his legs with the knife. Bellamy kicks out and lunges forward, away, Brennan swearing, rolling back, arm held close to his chest, knife skidding away.
Nect to her, a Grounder man her age hisses in shock. “What,” Clarke demands, “what was that meant to do?”
“He’s trying to hamstring your fighter,” he says, never taking his eyes off the fight. “Would’ve maimed, put him on the floor so Brennan could slit his throat.”
“Piece of shit.”
The Grounder glances over at her, and shrugs. “Your guy will win.”
Several moments later, Bellamy does. He lashes out with a leg, foot catching Brennan in the ribs with a sickening crack. Two broken at least, part of Clarke thinks. The rest of her is intent on where blood covers the Grounder’s shirt, just over his hip; the dreadlocked woman shouts for a halt, and strides over to him. She yanks his shirt up to see the wound.
“The trial is over,” she shouts. “Winner-” Brennan twists away and lunges, knife a blur as he attacks Bellamy again, all pretence at following the loose rules gone. Bellamy dodges, drops to one knee, and Brennan lunges down at him with the knife, blade bloody, aimed at Bellamy’s neck.
Clarke bites her lip and tastes blood.
Bellamy ducks lower, comes up inside the sweep of Brennan’s arm, his knife held close and sure. When Brennan falls Clarke freezes, because shit, but the rest of the crowd surges forward, pushing her back, cheering. Clarke is too stunned to figure out what it means, for a moment, but then she realises - people wanted him to win. She pushes through until she finds Terek.
“Why, why is this okay,” Clarke demands, grabbing Terek’s arm. “You don’t know us-”
“He is a good fighter,” Terek says, grinning down at her. It’s not a nice grin; there’s teeth and darkness in it. “We want to ally with people who can fight like that, not shits like Brennan who don’t deserve to be in the same room as my daughters.”
Oh, Clarke thinks, because there’s the missing piece. Through a gap in the crowd she can see several people carrying the body away, but not many pay it any attention; she tries to care, but Bellamy is alive and - mostly - unhurt. That’s all she can think about. Clarke elbows forward, until she can see Bellamy, still stood in the ring, facing away from her, chest heaving, the blood on his borrowed knife thick and dark. His shirt is wrecked, and the doctor in Clarke wants to treat his wounds, but she holds back.
Bellamy turns, and for a moment she think’s he’d going to lift his arms like the ancient gladiators he’s told her about - fucking typical - but he’s searching the crowd, not soaking in the victory. Clarke pushes further through until she’s at the edge of the crowd, and Bellamy’s attention snaps to her. Something in her gut twists, and her cunt clenches, and shitting hell, they’re eyefucking in front of fifty Grounders.
It’s the adrenaline, she tells herself, a biological reaction. But it’s unconvincing in the face of the intensity in Bellamy’s gaze, the way he focuses on her to the exclusion of the people coming up to slap him on the back, or offer him a shirt and water. Fucking fuck, she thinks, and just as she has to pick between jumping him there and then or her knees giving way, someone reaches up to dab a cloth at the wound in his shoulder, and his attention snaps away.
Clarke doesn’t run out of the crowd into clear air, but it’s a close thing.
There’s food, afterwards, and someone brings a bucket of cold, clean water for Bellamy to wash the blood off. No one takes the knife off him, and he can’t seem to drop it; the weight in his hand feels right, like this is what he’s made for. His blood is still pounding, and when Clarke reaches his side with a bandage and careful hands on his skin, he can’t help the kick of adrenaline that thrums through him. From the look on Clarke’s face, it’s possible she knows exactly what he’s thinking when he looks at her.
He upends the bucket over his head, and it barely helps.
After that, Bellamy keeps himself away from Clarke for the rest of the day. He busies himself cleaning his gun, and the knife - the tall Grounder woman said he could keep it, with a curl of her lip that spoke volumes. Finally, several of the Grounders his own age approach the hut he’s sitting outside, and invite him to go hunting.
For a moment, Bellamy sizes them up, but none of them have drawn weapons, and they seem friendly enough. “Sure,” he says finally. “Hunting what?”
“They’re like sheep,” one of them says, “but with teeth.”
“And horns,” another adds. “Hunted any of those?”
“Not yet,” Bellamy says, standing, slinging his gun over one shoulder. One of the Grounders holds out his jacket; cleaned and stitched, same as the rest of his clothes. He nods a thanks, shifting the gun to slide it on, and finds a sheath wrapped inside it. He raises his brows, glances at the Grounder.
“You earned it,” the guy says simply. He holds out a hand. “Owan.”
Somewhere Clarke is bartering for as much as she can get; he sees flashes of her hair amongst a tight knot of Grounders, all of them talking enthusiastically, as the hunters get their gear together. He makes sure someone tells her where he’s going, and they head off, out into the forest.
On the trail of the sheep-things, heading away from camp and listening carefully, Bellamy learns that Terek was right; Brennan wasn’t popular, and several of the hunters spit when they say his name. Another, a thin guy with a nasty facial scar, clears up why most of the Grounders were cheering for Bellamy.
“He was scum. Rapist scum.”
Bellamy skids down a slope, following Owan down into a steep valley. “So no one’s going to stick a knife in me,” he says, just to be clear, “because I killed him?”
“If you had lost,” the thin scarred guy says, “he would have killed you and taken the woman.”
“If Jaga and the others hadn’t been hunting too,” Owan clarifies, helping Bellamy over a rockfall that threatens broken ankles, “and found you both, Brennan would’ve shot you and fucked her right there.”
For a split second, Bellamy’s vision goes dark. He wants, with every fibre of his being, to kill Brennan again, and again, and thousand times over in ways he’d be be ashamed of, if he gave a damn any more. He breathes in deeply, filling his lungs with cool air and the scent of the trees around him. It reminds him of the scent in Clarke’s hair, from the hut the night before.
“That’s why you won,” the scarred guy says cheerfully, clapping him on the back. “You fought for something, not just for the sake of fighting.”
While Bellamy’s still processing that, they crest a ridge, and spot the herd they’ve been tracking. All other thoughts get pushed aside, in favour of hunting.
There’s another meal that night, more of a feast than the last; no one seems to be mourning Brennan, as far as Bellamy can tell. He carries his kill into the settlement, and thinks he’s starting to develop a kink for the look in Clarke’s face when she sees him covered in blood.
“Two victories in one day,” the dreadlocked Grounder woman comments when he drops his kill by the bonfire, one eyebrow raised. “We chose well.”
Bellamy looks at Clarke for an explanation, and she shrugs, smiling. “They’re going to trade with us,” she says, “food and fabric at first, for some of our spare tools, and Raven’s help with some of the tech they’ve taken from Mount Weather.” Her voice is perfectly even, but there’s a flush on her cheeks, blue eyes fixed on the smear of blood on his cheek.
“Well done, princess.”
“Wouldn’t have been possible without you.”
“Next time we need a trade agreement, I’ll just kill someone for you.”As soon as he’s spoken, if he wasn’t already half-hard from the sight of Clarke staring at the blood on his face, the deepening flush and widening eyes would have done it. She opens her mouth to speak, but a group of Grounders interrupts to surround them, pulling them towards the fire and the makings of a feast.
He sits by her side this time, watches her charm the Grounders until Owan is beaming and slicing meat off the roasted carcass for her; Bellamy catches his eye, and the Grounder holds his hands up in mock surrender. When Clarke looks at him, questioning, Bellamy shakes his head.
“Don’t be mysterious,” she says, smacking his arm with what he can tell is only mock annoyance. She leans into him to speak, body pressing against his side, hotter somehow than the bonfire lighting up the settlement. “Try this.”
This is meat, spiced and cooked until melts off the bone, held up to his mouth by Clarke’s steady hand. His pulse kicks up a notch, all the adrenaline from the fight skidding under his skin again when he flicks his tongue over her fingers. Her eyes are practically black in the firelight, fingers brushing his lips before she ducks her head and turns to answer a question from the woman on her other side.
Food, talk, even music, it all takes too long before he can slip away and catch his breath in the darkened hut he’s using. Away from the fire, from Clarke, his body cools, but only on the outside.
At the fire’s edge, Clarke remains deep in conversation with two women, but when Bellamy leaves it takes all her willpower to not tell them to shut up so she can go after him. Blood should not be so fucking hot, she tells herself firmly, and asks a question about preserving fruit.
Right now, she couldn’t care less about preserving fruit.
In the end, when she can’t keep still any more, when pressing her legs together becomes a torture instead of a relief, she admits it. Enough is enough. She wants it - him - and she’s getting it. The women look surprised when she stands abruptly.
“Headache,” she says, but they grin and send the blush high onto her cheeks.
The shift dress she wore yesterday is in a crumpled heap on the low bed in her hut, but it shakes out okay, and she flushes again at what she’s thinking when she changes into it.
Clarke slips out of the hut and walks around the outer circle of buildings, careful to keep in the shadows. They’re safe here, now, but the shift is kinda see-through, and she’s not looking to give anyone else a show.
Waiting, hoping, with only gut instinct and the memory of Clarke’s expression after the fight leading him, tries Bellamy’s hard-won patience to the limit. Back in their camp there’s no time to think about this any more; there’s always three hundred things to do, and sex is pushed down to jerking off, quick and dirty, before the next lot of chaos is unleashed. Now he has time to consider it, what might happen, and it’s enough - more than enough - to have him hard just thinking.
He gives it another few minutes before he goes to find Clarke, because she knows where he’ll be, but it’s a small camp, and he can hunt a single deer in the forest now; one golden-haired woman in a camp this size would be pathetically easy. The knife provides a distraction, flipping it between his hands, twirling it, testing the weight and feel. It’s clean now, but there’s bloodstains on the wooden hilt.
A scuff and the barest of breezes, candle flickering again, is all the warning he gets even with all of his attention intent on the doorway.
Bellamy looks up as she moves into the light, knife held loosely in one hand, and Clarke drops the door hanging behind her. He wonders, briefly, how she knew which hut he’s been put in last night, but it’s Clarke. She probably asked one of the Grounders to escort her.
“Come to tell me what good trading partners they’ll be?” He says, aiming for flippant, but it comes out low and rough.
“No, not for that.” Only Clarke could sound that sure about something so raw, Bellamy thinks, and it’s only her he wants.
He reaches out to her, and she comes without a word, moving to stand in front of him. In the candlelight her dress isn’t see-through, but that makes it worse; the suggestion of curves, of naked skin. His hands are huge against her hips, supporting her as she kneels on the edge of the low bed by his side, and swings her other leg over to sit in his lap.
Her simple dress rides up over her thighs, and he has to close his eyes for a moment, hands tightening in her hips, so he doesn’t break and fuck her right there.
The knife, forgotten in his hand, presses against her skin and she flinches. “Sorry,” he says, because he’s a fucking idiot, so far gone at the mere idea of her that he forgets about the goddamn sharp weapon in his hand. Clarke’s hand wraps around his wrist before he can move it.
“It was cold,” she says, and meets his eyes squarely when he looks at her, consideringly. He slides the knife along her skin for a moment, then tosses it onto the heap of his jacket and shirt. “Next time,” she adds, following the blade to where it lands.
“Clarke,” Bellamy groans, dropping his head to rest between her breasts. “You’re gonna kill me.”
“Not until we’ve fucked,” she says, almost conversationally, like this is another one of her trade talks, or discussing supplies with Monty.
“I thought you were here for a reason.” He can’t tease; his voice has gone deep and rough, and he could get addicted to the way she shivers when he speaks.
“You had to kill someone, Bellamy, that shouldn’t make me want to jump you.” She says it sincerely, but her hands tighten on his shoulders, and she settles her weight across his thighs, pressing closer.
“Clarke, I’d kill him again if I had to. I’d kill all of them, if it meant keeping you safe.” This close, he can’t miss her sharp intake of breath, the sound lost in the noise from outside, but the movement visible even in the dim light. “Would you enjoy that, princess, seeing more blood on me?”
“Yes,” she breathes, and closes the gap between them, kisses him with an intensity that makes him shudder. He moves one hand around her back to support her as he pushes up into the kiss, and slides the other hand down to her thigh, showing the thin dress up the rest of the way.
She’s hot and slick already, and the moan she chokes off when his hand moves between her legs has him moving before his brain catches up. He pulls her close and twists them both, pinning her down to kiss her until neither of them can breathe.
“How long,” he demands, pushing the dress up further as he moves down, her knees coming up to bracket his shoulders, stopping to bite at her hip when she doesn’t answer. “How long have you been this wet, princess?”
She groans again, coming up onto her elbows, legs shaking when he bends down to slide his tongue over her clit. “Since you looked at me,” she says, words almost lost in another moan. “After the fight- oh my god do that again.”
“Demanding,” he mocks, but does, because now he’s started he can’t get enough of her; one of Clarke’s hands comes down to thread into his hair, and fuck yes, this is what he wanted. His tongue and her scent, and her hand in his hair, pulling sharply, then his fingers inside her, curling and moving and she's swearing above him, or she’s saying his name, he can’t hear over the rush of blood in his ears as she shakes apart around him.
“You looked at me like we were going to do this right there,” she says, once she can talk again, breathing ragged. Bellamy leans into her thigh and laughs, licks his lips when she tugs on his hair to pull him up. She drags him down for a kiss and he goes like a drowning man seeking air, sinking a hand into her hair too, pulling her neck to one side to kiss down her neck. “Like you didn’t care who saw us fucking.”
“Do you always talk this much,” he says into her neck, and pushes up to hold himself over her, fumbling at his waist with one hand, shoving his pants off and away. She laughs, and he groans when her nails dig into his back, dropping back down onto his forearms to pin her down and kiss her senseless. He’s harder than he remembers ever being before, but this is good, savouring it, drawing it out until he can sink into her.
“You gonna shut me up?”
“Thought I already had.” She slides one leg up and around his waist, canting her hips up until his cock settles between her legs, sliding through the slick heat until his vision starts to blur.
“Then try harder,” she says, mocking.
And oh, that’s a fucking challenge. She cries out when he pushes into her, leg curling tight, pulling him in closer, deeper, until he’s as deep as he can go and he starts a slow and steady rhythm, but he’s losing his fucking mind. Clarke’s arms are round his neck, one hand back in his hair, anchoring him close, and they’re never going to make this last, not with the way she arches up to meet each thrust, the sounds she makes when he starts fucking into her harder.
Clarke’s nails leave thin lines of fire along his back, her mouth hot on his neck, sucking marks he can feel down to the fucking bone. He fucks into her hard when she bites, laughing, and the laugh turns into a moan that ends as a sharp gasp when he moves a hand between them to slide over her clit again.
“Bellamy please, come on, Bellamy-” He fucks into her, slowing down as much a he can, grasping at threads of control to hear the way she can only get out “Bell- god, Bell, fuck-” until that fades into moans. Short, high moans, one of her hands dropping from his neck to grip his wrist between them so tightly he’ll have bruises in the morning.
I want bruises, he thinks, and loses the threads of control, fingers sliding over her clit and rocking into her, hard, until her back arches up and she screams, pulling him up for a biting kiss, yanking at his hair, the sharp jolt of pain sending him over the edge. His vision tunnels and he tastes blood on her lips, doesn’t care who’s, doesn’t end the kiss until his arms are shaking from holding himself above her, and they need air too much to keep going.
Clarke follows when he rolls to one side, and he keeps one hand in her hair, pulling her in for kisses that stretch out from intense into languid. There’s liquid fire in his veins again, but different to the adrenaline from the fight; this, he can revel in, until Clarke shivers and rolls away with a bite at his lower lip to find a fur to wrap herself in.
Bellamy stretches, feels the scratches on his back tug in little sharp stabs. “Got a kink for blood, princess?”
Clarke laughs, low and satisfied, a sound he wants to hear every night from now until- She rolls back, curled into a thick fur, says “if I do it’s your fault,” and sinks her teeth into his shoulder, the flare of pain making his cock twitch; too much too soon, but fuck, next time.
Above them, the candle gutters and goes out, plunging them into darkness.
The furs are mostly in a heap on the floor, come morning, and Clarke wakes to find one of Bellamy’s arms thrown over her waist, solid and warm, the rest of him turned away, face-down in the remaining furs. More of the coffee-like drink is waiting on the floor just inside the door; two mugs of it, and a neat stack of her clothes.
“Considerate people, this lot,” Bellamy says, muffled. “I should kill them more often.” Clarke smacks his arm. He lifts himself off the bed, and she pretends she’s not looking at his muscles shifting.
“We need peace and trade,” she tells him, because it’s never too early for this argument, and if she kisses him she’ll forget what she needs to ask for in the way of fine trade details today.
“Whatever.” Before she can argue, Bellamy smirks, and slides down her stomach to settle between her legs. Her fingers curl into his hair like they’re meant to be there. He looks up at her, hot and wanting and something else too. She needs morning-Bellamy around from now on, she decides, looking down at him consideringly, seeing the way his eyes go dark.
“We’ll talk about it later,” she tells him, and arches up to meet his tongue.