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endless itch

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Raven hangs out with the smokers behind the bike shed, sometimes. Finn thinks it’s because he hates smoking, and he’s not wrong, but she broke up with him last week – finally, finally – and she still finds herself there in free periods, at lunch, on cold mornings when everyone huddles close, smokers’ solidarity.

She doesn’t even smoke, but she gets close to wanting to when her mom’s been drinking too much, or when she’s had a fight with Finn, or when there’s a problem she just can’t solve, no matter how hard she bashes away at it.

The first time she ends up there, she’s angry and lonely and stomps right up to Bellamy Blake, her hands fists in the pockets of her leather jacket, and she says, “You got a light?”

Bellamy might be two years older but Raven’s pretty sure she ranks higher on the social hierarchy. Not that she cares about any of that shit, but it’s important to factor in when you may or may not be risking humiliation.

“You actually gonna smoke it?” Bellamy asks, no judgement, and Raven’s shoulders go down just a bit.

She does, shoulder to shoulder with Bellamy and Miller, holding her breath in her lungs the way she’s seen her mom do, and when she’s stubbing it out under her foot Bellamy asks, “Did that help?” and Raven shakes her head. She never asks again, and he never offers, just nods at her when she walks up and squeezes in next to them and settles into their conversation like she was there all along.

Today, there’s no one else here yet because Raven clattered out of the house too early and cycled too fast down the hill to school. She locks up her bike and sits on the edge of the tiny brick wall under the shelter, blowing onto her hands.

Bellamy’s the first to arrive, waving to Octavia as she doubles back to meet the guy she’s seeing from the school who’s always kicking their ass at football. When he sees Raven, he folds himself down on the wall next to her.

“Heard about Finn,” he says, and, wow, that took a while to get around. The rumour mill must have been too busy with Monty and Miller’s will-they-won’t-they, which is either reassuring or kind of insulting. “He’s a dick, you can do better, but it’s still rough.”

Raven wouldn’t have found out about the cheating if she hadn’t been at the bike shed when Monroe was telling some story about finding Finn Collins in a cupboard with a girl who most definitely was not her. Smokers know everything; it’s some sort of rule of the universe.

“And I’m a certified genius,” she says, steely and sharp, “if we’re just stating things I already know.”

Bellamy smiles, small, and bumps her shoulder with his. Raven shivers.

“Here,” he says, shrugging off his coat. It’s warm and smells like he does. “You need something warmer than that jacket, you know.”

Raven shrugs, and one of Bellamy’s arms goes around her to rub at her back, and it just feels natural to drop her head to his shoulder and inhale the smoke from the cigarette he's lit.