Bellamy Blake generally loves being the lead singer of Mecha Station, but it’s times like these he wishes he just became a high school history teacher.
His feet are killing him, because you certainly can’t wear shoes that are broken in to the Grammys. He’s wearing a navy blue slim fit tux made out of this sort of semi-shiny material that his stylist assured him would “totally slay the red carpet,” but which she didn’t mention would itch like hell. His band’s traitorous fucking bassist had the nerve to bring Bellamy’s sister as his date, and it looks like this is going to become a thing. Not to mention the whole world thinks he’s secretly boning Mecha Station’s guitarist, Raven, thanks to People Magazine’s complete aversion to fact-checking, so he can’t even enjoy verbally tearing the whole event to shreds with her because their publicist suggested they avoid being photographed next to each other.
At least Miller (keyboard) looks just as miserable as he does.
“It’s not like we’re going to win, anyway,” Miller mutters as Bellamy tries to figure out a way to avoid Ryan Seacrest’s clutches. The guy is relentless. “We never win.”
“Yeah, well. Everyone knows the Grammys are bureaucratic bullshit,” Bellamy says. “We’re a rock band and they insist on putting us in the pop category like we’re Lady Fucking Gaga.”
“Oh please,” Murphy (drummer, resident asshole) cuts in. “We stopped being a rock band the second we got a record deal and you know it.”
This is their third Grammys and overall, their sixth year being a band, and by some miracle, Bellamy has managed not to punch Murphy in the face yet.
Their publicist, Indra, appears and herds them toward the area where all the photographers are swarming. Slowly, they move down the carpet, blinded by a solid sea of flashbulbs. Bellamy alternates between smiling and what he likes to think of as his smoldering rock star expression and makes sure he’s never next to Raven. By the time they’ve completed the trek down photo row, Bellamy legitimately can’t see.
“I’ll never get used to that,” Lincoln (traitorous fucking bassist) says, curling an arm around Octavia’s lower back. Bellamy tries to give him his best “hands off my sister” look, but Lincoln is definitely not looking at him.
So at this point, he’s uncomfortable, pissed off, hangry, and still seeing spots, when someone taps on his shoulder. He turns around to find an exceedingly cute blonde in a pale blue gown beaming up at him.
“Wow, I can’t believe it’s really you. I’m such a huge fan,” she says without preamble. “I’m Clarke.”
Great. Another music biz intern slash fangirl who wants a job. Or to be his girlfriend.
“Bellamy,” he says with as much patience for the situation as he can muster, mostly because she’s cute.
“This is really a dream come true, talking to you. I truly believe you’re one of the most talented songwriters, like, ever. I wouldn’t even be standing here talking to you if it wasn’t for your song, ‘To the Ground.’ It totally changed my life.”
“Thanks,” he says, clipped. “Nice to be appreciated.”
Over blondie’s shoulder, Miller is wildly gesturing to beckon him. Time to be moving along.
“You know, it would be completely amazing if we could work together some time. I could die happy,” she says.
Bellamy rubs a hand over his face. He’s pretty much at his wit’s end with Grammy bullshit at this point. He’s about to be a total dick. It’s inevitable.
“Listen, I’m only telling you this because you seem like you’re probably a good person,” he says. “It’s not going to happen. I’m sorry. It was nice to meet you, Claire.”
“It’s Clarke,” she says, as he’s walking away.
He feels sort of bad, but someone had to break it to her that just because you have the balls to approach famous musicians, that doesn’t mean they’re going to let you work for them.
He catches up to the band on the way into the theater after being cornered for an interview (damn Seacrest). He falls in stride next to Raven, consequences be damned.
“What did Clarke Griffin want?” she asks.
“Clarke Griffin. You were talking to her before you fell into the Seacrest fly trap.”
“You mean that blonde chick? How the hell do you know her?”
“How the hell do you not? She’s like the hottest shit on our label right now. Pretty sure she sold out more arenas than we did this year. She’ll probably sweep the country category tonight.”
“You know I don’t listen to fucking country.”
They make their way to their seats in the front row. Bellamy scans the theater and spots Clarke on the opposite side, also in the front row.
Raven sits down next to him.
“We can’t sit together, remember?” Bellamy reminds her.
“We’ll rearrange in a minute,” Raven says with a dismissive flick of her hand. “But first, you’re going to tell me what you were talking about with the princess of country music.”
Bellamy rubs the back of his neck.
“I thought she was a record company intern or something. I was kind of an asshole.”
Raven barks out a laugh. “Priceless. Classic Blake.”
“Fuck you. Why do you care, anyway?”
Raven’s smile fades and she sighs. “She’s the one Finn tried to leave me for. You know, the one he was all ‘I met someone’ about.”
Finn Collins is public enemy #1 as far as Mecha Station is concerned. He and Raven grew up together, childhood sweethearts, the whole nine. To be fair, it was because of him and his job as an A and R rep for their label that they were signed in the first place, but that doesn’t make him any less of a dickhead.
“Then she probably deserved me being an asshole,” Bellamy says.
“Nah. I’m pretty sure she was just as surprised about the whole thing as I was and she totally shut him down.”
“Well shit. Now I’m just an asshole with no excuse.”
“That’s nothing new.”
As the rest of the group shuffles up the seating arrangement (Octavia wants to sit next to Bellamy and Lincoln wants to sit next to Octavia so everyone but Bellamy ends up changing seats), Bellamy studies Clarke across the theater, where Taylor Swift appears to be introducing her to Adele. In retrospect, it seems completely obvious that she’s not just some intern. Random interns don’t wear designer gowns and look like the second coming of Grace Kelly. He could not feel like more of an idiot.
He’s never heard a note of her music, and in this day and age, there’s probably a good chance she’s a talentless, auto-tuned bimbo. But he feels bad and she seemed so earnest and real.
Indra is hovering in the aisle, clearly not wanting to retreat to wherever publicists have to sit. He crooks two fingers at her and she leans over.
“I need you to get a phone number for me,” he whispers to her.
They say you should never meet your heroes, and tonight, Clarke Griffin knows why. Bellamy Blake is a grade A dick, no matter how visionary his lyrics are or how warm and sexy his voice is. But what did she expect? The guy is a notorious tabloid playboy with more supermodels’ notches on his bedpost than Derek Jeter. She clearly should have known better than to think he would be everything she hoped and treat a woman with respect.
And now, a night she’s been looking forward to in some way her whole life is tainted.
“You just won three Grammys, honey,” her mom slash manager smile-whispers from her left. “You could at least try to look genuinely happy.”
She won Best Country Solo Performance, Best Country Album, and Best New Artist, about which she’s probably too much in shock to be as psyched as she should be. She just keeps dwelling on two things: that she lost Best Country Song and that Bellamy Blake is a massive disappointment.
The song category recognizes songwriting rather than just performing, and she hadn’t realized until now how much she wanted recognition as a writer. Her voice has always been her voice, but her writing is the thing she’s had to work at, and she desperately wanted validation that all her hard work meant something.
So to review, she lost the songwriting award and her songwriting idol basically crushed her in the same night.
“I am happy. It’s just surreal, Mom.”
She’s guided toward an official Grammys backdrop and her trophies are shoved into her arms, then the flashbulbs start and she pretty much blacks out until someone pulls her out of the line of fire. Her trophies are whisked away from her, like she might have dreamt them up.
Her mom hands her her phone. “Here,” she says. “It’s been vibrating.”
She decided not to take her normal phone to the Grammys, knowing it would be constantly buzzing all night, with congratulations from everyone she’s ever met. Instead, she opted to bring what she calls her Bat Phone, which maybe 25 people have the number for.
There’s a text from Wells (Holy shit!!!! My best friend is a legend!!!!), one from her label head, Marcus Kane (Congratulations, Clarke. The whole Ark Records family is so proud of you.), one from her publicist, Anya (Congrats, superstar! You’ll never guess whose publicist asked me for your number.), and two from a number she doesn’t recognize.
Sorry I’m such a dick. My tux is really itchy. Let’s talk about working together.
This is Bellamy Blake, by the way.
She drops the phone.
What in the absolute fuck?
“I’ll get it,” her mom says, blocking her from bending down to pick it up. “You’ll split a seam.”
“Thanks,” she says, and her voice sounds strange to her own ears.
She looks at the screen and it still says the same thing.
Anya is under strict instructions never to give out the Bat Phone number. Yet Anya gave him the Bat Phone number.
She’s spent most of the night when she wasn’t being photographed or accepting awards thinking about why Bellamy was such a dick to her. She came to the conclusion that it must just be how he is. But an itchy tux? She types out a response.
My dress is tighter than fuck, but you don’t see me crushing people’s dreams.
He texts back almost immediately.
Trust me, the dress was not lost on me. The dress deserves its own award. Speaking of awards, congrats on the hat trick.
Stop flirting with me.
I’m not flirting with you. I’m trying to get you to work with me.
I have a no asshole policy in both my professional and personal lives.
His next response takes longer, and she realizes why when she looks up at a monitor and Mecha Station’s first nominated category is being announced. It comes as no surprise to Clarke when they win because she was sure this was finally their year, and while the rest of his band is jumping up and hugging each other, Bellamy is… texting.
Her phone buzzes in her hand.
Hold on, think my band just won a Grammy.
She barks out a laugh.
“Is that Wells?” her mom asks.
“Yeah,” she lies, though she’s not sure why.
Bellamy stands in the back while Raven makes the speech. Maybe Clarke was wrong about him. Maybe it really was just an itchy suit.
From very recent experience, Clarke knows that Mecha Station is being herded into an area just offstage, waiting for the rest of their categories to be announced. She makes sure her mom is too busy networking to notice, and slips away, back toward the stage. No one seems to care that she’s going back to an area she’s supposed to have vacated already.
He’s standing slightly set off from the rest of his band, head bent over his phone, rubbing the back of his neck. The rubbing turns into scratching under his collar and she grins. He seems to be putting a lot of thought into what she assumes is a message to her.
Wordlessly, she approaches and stands next to him. He does a distracted double take, then drops his phone. Her grin widens. “Hi,” she says.
He scrambles to pick up his phone. “Hey,” he says. “I’m sorry.”
“So you said. Congrats on the hardware.”
“No, really. I’m so sorry.”
And then it dawns on her. How did she not see it before?
“On the carpet, you called me Claire. You had no idea who I was, did you?”
Is he blushing? “Would it help or hurt for me to tell you it’s because I never, ever listen to country music?”
“God, I’m such an idiot,” she says, covering her face with her hands.
At that moment, Mecha Station’s second win of the night is announced.
“You’re not – shit, don’t go anywhere,” he says, following his band out onto the stage.
It takes everything Clarke has in her not to retreat back to her mother in shame. How could she have gotten to the point where she thinks she’s such a big deal that she doesn’t need to be introduced to Bellamy Blake to ensure he doesn’t think she’s some rando?
This time, the bassist, who is both hot and terrifying, makes the speech. Bellamy practically sprints off the stage when he’s done.
“Listen,” he says, returning. “When you came up to me out there, I thought you were angling for a job as my assistant or something, because I’m the idiot here. Clearly, I had flashbulb mush brain. And I was an asshole because, well, sometimes I’m an asshole. I’m not proud of it. But I have a good feeling about you and I want us to write a song together. And then we can come back here next year and accept one of these damn things together.”
“You… you want to write with me?” she says, breathless. She should say no. She should definitely say no. But this is Bellamy Blake.
“Yeah. I’ve been meaning to collaborate more, anyway.”
Clarke pretends to consider. “I’ll have to look at my schedule and think about it and let you know.”
“Weren’t you the one who asked to work with me in the first place?”
“I guess I meant it in an abstract sense. I was never crazy enough to think you’d do it.”
“Well I will.”
“You’ve never even heard one of my songs. Hell, you don’t even know what I sound like singing.”
Bellamy tosses his head in apparent frustration. “I don’t care, Clarke. I have gut feelings about people and they’re never wrong.”
Clarke’s mother chooses that moment to burst into the area, making a massive amount of noise worrying over where Clarke is until they lock eyes.
“Where the hell have you been? Come on, Rolling Stone is waiting,” Clarke’s mother says on one breath before dragging her away.
She hears Bellamy call out, “See you at the after party!”
Once they’re in the next room, Clarke’s mom rounds on her. “You will not be seeing him at the after party.”
“Why the hell not?”
“Because you’re going to make a brief appearance and then we’re on the next plane to Nashville. What did I tell you about getting involved with rock stars?”
Clarke tosses her head to emphasize her massive eye roll. “I’m not getting involved.” She can’t help the little smile that creeps across her face. “We’re going to work together.”
Her mother makes a sound of disbelief. “Is that what he told you? Oh, Clarke, honey, men like that will say anything to get what they want.”
Clarke is momentarily distracted by a nearby monitor, which currently shows Bellamy onstage by himself. He must have won Song of the Year. The ultimate songwriting award. Fuck, she wants to work with him more than anything.
Weeks later, Bellamy is still bummed he didn’t get to hang out with Clarke at Ark Records’ big Grammys after party. From photographs, he knows she was there, or at least changed her outfit and walked the red carpet, but despite spending all night looking for her, he never found her.
Since then, he can’t seem to stop texting her, like a high school kid on summer vacation trying to make sure his crush still remembers he exists. Because God, does he ever have a massive crush on her. She had him at “My dress is tighter than fuck.”
Since the Grammys, hers is pretty much the only music he’s listened to, and aside from a few questionably bubblegummy country-pop snoozers (none of which she was involved in writing, he notices), it’s all really, really good. He doesn’t even like country, but Clarke’s gritty take on southern girl power is probably more Heart than Faith Hill, which is perfect. In fact, one of his favorite things she’s ever done is a cover of “Alone” he found on her YouTube channel. He seriously considered making it his ringtone, but then he realized how creepy that would be.
It’s also on her YouTube channel where he figures out what she meant about his song “To the Ground” changing her life. She sang a cover of it years ago, and it’s the most watched video on the channel with millions of views. From reading a Seventeen Magazine profile on her (the Google stalking got serious), he finds out it was that video that got the attention of their record label. He has since contributed at least 150 new views to the total tally.
So of course, he texts her about it.
Saw your cover of To the Ground. Amazing.
Thanks. But it’s the song that’s amazing, not me.
Shut up. I think I’m your biggest fan now. I’m serious.
There’s a little girl in Albuquerque who painted a giant mural of my face on her bedroom wall who would beg to differ.
I want a giant mural of your face on my bedroom wall.
Creepy, but okay.
He is stupid into this girl. He barely knows her and she probably kind of hates him, but he can’t help it. It’s getting ridiculous. He wants to be around her. Now.
He decides to call her because the texting is starting to give him carpal tunnel.
“Where are you right now?” he says without preamble when she picks up.
“Are you still doing the creepy fan bit or do you really want to know?”
“I really, really want to know.”
“Dallas,” she says, smile audible in her voice. “Why? Where are you?”
“About to be on my way to Dallas.”
There’s a pause. “I still can’t tell if you’re being serious or intentionally creepy.”
“Dead serious. Please don’t file a restraining order,” he says, getting out his laptop and immediately starting to look up flights while he talks. “We need to get to work on our song and it just so happens Dallas is one of my favorite cities in these here United States. Home of my favorite Thursday night hotspot and the best tacos I’ve ever had.”
“Well as long as you take me to the tacos, I’m in,” she says. “So we’re really doing this, huh?”
“Hold on, I’m a few clicks away from having my last minute flight booked.”
“Flying commercial?” she says in mock shock. “Wow. Stars: they really are just like us.”
“Ha ha,” he deadpans. “It’s done. I get in at seven, then tacos.”
“Then tacos,” she agrees. “See you soon.”
He throws a bunch of clothes, a few toiletries, and – in a fit of insane wishful thinking – condoms in a bag Octavia got him last Christmas which she refers to as a “weekender,” whatever that means.
“Going somewhere?” Octavia says as he walks past the living room. O lives with him in his cozy Santa Monica bungalow, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. But the downside is that they know entirely too much about each other’s lives.
“Dallas. For work.”
“Lincoln didn’t mention anything,” she says, suspicious. Bellamy tries not to let it bother him that O expects to know Lincoln’s whereabouts at all times.
“He’s not going. I’m collaborating on writing a song.”
Octavia’s expression turns all too knowing. He hasn’t done a great job of being discreet about his massive crush on Clarke.
He cuts her off before she has time to tease him. “If Lincoln sleeps over while I’m gone, know that I will find out and murder him,” he says, rushed. “If I don’t leave now I’ll miss my flight. Bye, O.” He slips out the front door before she can respond.
Bellamy has had inconsistent success at going unnoticed in public by wearing a beanie and his glasses, but thankfully, today is one of those days when it works. If people in the airport notice there’s a bona fide rock star in their midst, none of them are brave enough to approach him. The older gentleman he sits next to in first class probably wouldn’t have recognized him even if he wasn’t asleep the whole time. The flight attendant who serves him his Jack and Coke clearly knows who he is, but seems to be trying to play it cool.
When he turns his phone back on after landing, he has a text from Clarke.
I’m picking you up. Look for me by baggage claim, superstar.
Shit. This could turn into a media shitstorm.
When he gets to the area near baggage claim where all the limo drivers hold up signs for their passengers, his eyes catch on a sign that says “Mick Jagger” held by a girl with black hair, a fedora, and glasses who is so clearly Clarke in disguise it’s not even funny.
“Cute,” he says when he reaches her. He’s not sure whether they’re on hugging terms yet, so he just doesn’t.
“Your chariot awaits, Mr. Jagger,” she says with a bow. They fall into step, heading toward the exit. “I can’t believe you’re here.”
“It’s the tacos. I’ve been craving them for months.”
She gestures to a black town car idling at the curb.
“Of course you have a driver,” he chuckles.
“Shut up. It’s my mom’s doing.”
“She’s also my manager,” Clarke grumbles.
They slide into the back seat together and Bellamy tells the driver where the taco joint is while Clarke removes her disguise. At the Grammys, her hair was in a sleek, old Hollywood style that looked pretty amazing. Now, her hair has that effortlessly mussed look to it, and it suits her even more. He imagines it’s the kind of hair that would be really fun to tangle his hands in.
“That must be kind of… complicated. Having your mom as your manager, I mean.”
The car starts moving and Clarke looks at her hands.
“It’s fine. We make it work. But I think having a ‘momager’ is probably why I tend to avoid mixing my personal and professional lives in every other regard.”
“But we’re working together and also going to get tacos. Doesn’t that break the rules?”
“Even people who work together have to eat sometimes.”
They settle into a comfortable silence and within a few minutes, Clarke has fallen asleep. He knows firsthand how exhausting a music career is, but he has a feeling Clarke probably works harder than he does, in general. Her intensity is evident in every interaction he’s ever had with her, even via text, and he takes it as a good sign that she’s comfortable enough around him to fall asleep.
It’s been a while since the last time Bellamy flew into DFW airport, and he’d kind of forgotten how far it is from Dallas. In her sleep, Clark begins to wilt sideways until she’s leaning on his shoulder. Her hair is so close and it smells like lemons and vanilla and he’s a goner.
She also looks adorably bewildered when Bellamy gently shakes her awake as they pull into the restaurant parking lot.
“Well this is embarrassing,” she says, voice more gravelly than usual.
“Nah. The snoring wasn’t so bad and the drool on my shirt will dry in time.”
She shoves him and he laughs. Maybe it’s just him, but he feels like he’s known her for years. Bellamy has noticed that his friendships with other famous people tend to skip steps, whether because they don’t have time in their busy lives to let a friendship naturally develop or because you tend to feel like you already know someone through their work, but this is different.
Bellamy asks for the back corner booth and immediately orders tacos for both of them without allowing Clarke to look at the menu. He definitely isn’t one of those assholes who order for girls on dates without letting them have a say, but this isn’t a date, and he’s really built these tacos up.
Conversation comes easy with Clarke. Bellamy learns that Clarke grew up wanting to be a racecar driver, hates horses, is double jointed, and happens to be best friends with the president’s son (with whom the press believes she’s having some secret affair). She also turns out to have excellent taste in tacos.
“So, I’ve always wondered,” Clarke says, pushing away her clean plate. “Where did the name Mecha Station come from?”
“It’s really not that interesting,” Bellamy says. “Raven used to work in a garage called Mechanic Station. Original, I know. A few of the letters fell off the sign. When we started out, we used to practice there after close, and it just kind of happened.”
“Raven worked in a garage?”
“Yeah. She’s the best mechanic I’ve ever met. She’s fixed our shitty tour bus more times than I can count.”
Clarke considers for a moment, chewing slowly on a leftover complimentary tortilla chip. “Raven’s the coolest person in the world, isn’t she?”
“She’s pretty awesome, yeah.”
“And I ruined her life.”
Clarke won’t meet his eyes, so he reaches across the table and squeezes her hand. She looks up, eyes like saucers, and he pulls back, not wanting to spook her.
“You didn’t do anything. I’m sure everything that happened was Finn’s fault, and even if it wasn’t, you would’ve done her a favor. You both deserve better than that guy.”
“To be honest, I guess I was kind of… charmed by him. But I swear, I never even considered him romantically. It’s just how I am. He was a work person, not a personal life person. The thought never even crossed my mind.”
She pauses and he eyes her, certain she’s not finished.
“So you and Raven… you never… I mean, you two aren’t…” She can’t seem to get it out, but Bellamy’s been asked about this enough times to know where this is headed.
“We have never been even a little bit romantic, no,” he says, then hesitates. He really doesn’t want to scare her off. Oh well. “Full disclosure: there was one time, after the whole Finn thing. Things got… physical? But we’ve never spoken a word about it since. And I can promise you that neither of us is secretly pining for the other.”
“It’s not weird?”
“Not at all. Though it is kind of annoying that the press seems to think we’re secretly in love.”
“God, isn’t that the worst? I swear, it makes me not even want to hang out with Wells, just to avoid having to deal with all the attention.”
“I can’t believe you talk about the president’s son like he’s just, you know, some guy you know.”
He can’t get over the fact that she’s best friends with Wells Jaha. She probably knows President Jaha. Bellamy’s sort of a big deal in the music world, but he’s never met the fucking president.
“To me, he is. We grew up together.” Clarke grins. “I’m pretty sure a larger percentage of the population would be way more impressed that I know you.”
“Musicians are a dime a dozen. Presidents of the United States are not.”
“Not musicians like you.”
He can feel his face heating up.
“So what were you doing in Dallas, anyway?” he asks, changing this subject.
Clarke begins to fidget with her napkin. “Well, um, I’m playing a show Friday put on by one of the country radio stations here.”
“We usually fly in and out the day of the show for that kind of thing. Seems like a lot of time to spend here just for that.”
Clarke looks around, as if checking for spies. “I’m not supposed to talk about it.”
Now he’s intrigued. “Well now I have to know. I’m not going to tell anyone.”
“Fine.” She takes a deep breath. “It’s my voice.”
Clark rubs absently at her throat. “There’s a really great voice clinic at UT Southwestern. I had an appointment this morning.”
“It just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t hurt, or anything, and I can still sing, obviously, but I feel like I’m straining more or something. They stuck a camera up my nose to look at my throat. Apparently my vocal cords are inflamed, although I’m pretty sure they used a much more terrifying word. No nodules or anything. But apparently I’m overworking my voice and if I don’t change some things, I’m going to do more serious damage.”
“So what are you supposed to do about it?”
“I’m going to have to start working with a vocal coach to learn how to sing more efficiently or some shit. And after the concert on Friday, I’m supposed to go on vocal rest for two weeks.”
“What the hell is vocal rest?”
“No talking, no singing, nothing.”
Bellamy lets out a low whistle. “That’s intense.”
“Yeah. My mom’s panicking. I have about a million appearances scheduled. She’s worried people will think I’m checking into rehab or something.”
“Why not just tell the truth? About your voice, I mean. Put out a statement or something.”
“We’re supposed to be renegotiating my contract with the label in a month. You know they’d use it against me, say I’m too much of a risk to deserve a better deal.”
Bellamy gets it. When Mecha Station renegotiated their deal when their initial contract was expiring, the label tried to argue that they were a “breakup risk” because of how popular Bellamy was becoming in his own right. He had to accept a clause binding him to the label if he ever decides to go solo, even though he has no intention of ever doing that.
“If you won’t be singing for a while, we’d better get this song of ours written and recorded ASAP,” he says.
Clarke scoffs. “Oh yeah. Let’s just write a great song and record it in two days. Easy as that.”
As it turns out, it is easy as that. Bellamy checks into the same hotel as Clarke and they lounge around his hotel room all through the night drinking really good Bourbon and eating vending machine snacks. Clarke finds out that Bellamy has never been able to play guitar and sing and the same time (no matter how hard he tries), that he’s completely overprotective of his little sister, that he’s never met his father and has no interest in ever doing so. They talk about love and breakups and friendship and loss and devotion and dependence, and in the process, they write a song so fucking awesome that Clarke can hardly believe she had any part in it.
The sun is rising, but Clarke is too wired, too high on music to be tired. Being a part of Bellamy’s writing process is like working with Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel. The way the words just pour out of him, how he seems to already know the song before it’s even written – it’s a lot to take in.
And then she notices the way the sunlight streaming through the gauzy curtains brings out his freckles, and for the first time since her career took off and her life became an endless stream of scheduled time, she has the intense urge to paint, to paint him, wishing she could capture this experience and make it last forever, make it tangible.
Bellamy flops back on the bed. “We have to lay this down immediately. I know a studio in town. I’ll call in the morning and try to reserve some time.”
“Bellamy, it is the morning. In case you haven’t noticed.”
He glances at the window. “Oh. Right.”
She carefully lies down next to him (at a safe distance, of course), and as soon as her head settles into the pillow, a tidal wave of fatigue hits.
The next thing Clarke knows, she’s waking up to the smell of fresh coffee. She jolts up to find Bellamy smirking at her, extending a coffee cup to her.
“I fell asleep?” she asks, a little unnecessarily.
“We both did. I just have this horrific body clock that won’t let me sleep past seven o’clock, no matter how late – or in this case, early – I go to bed.”
Clarke looks around frantically for her phone. “What time is it?”
“A little after ten.”
She blanches. “Ten? You let me sleep until after ten? Fuck, Bellamy, I haven’t slept past ten since… ever.” She snatches the coffee from him.
“You don’t sleep enough, Clarke. I already know that about you. You needed it. There was no way I was going to wake you up.”
Clarke takes a sip of coffee and tries to keep her glare adequately icy. “I sleep.”
“Please. I’ve been in town for like fifteen hours and you’ve already fallen asleep literally on me twice.”
“We stayed up all night, smartass. Of course I passed out. And it certainly wasn’t on you.”
Bellamy grins. “What? It’s okay. You’re a cuddle-seeker when you’re asleep. It’s not a bad thing.” Clarke hurls a pillow at him.
“We did not cuddle. That would be totally unprofessional,” Clarke says as she combs her fingers through her hair to little effect.
The jerk just keeps grinning, now in an awfully smirky manner. “Oh no. We wouldn’t want to be unprofessional.” He tosses her a brown paper bag. “Hope you like croissants.”
It only takes her about twenty seconds to devour a rather large croissant, trying to ignore the feeling that Bellamy is definitely watching her.
“I reserved us some studio time today,” Bellamy says casually as Clarke licks the buttery grease and crumbs off her fingers.
“Do you just have studios on speed dial in every city?”
“Oh absolutely. I’ve got pros in different area codes.” He’s smiling smugly like he’s just said something very clever, but Clarke knows she’s staring at him like he’s an idiot. “Oh, come on. You don’t know ‘Area Codes?’ Ludacris? 2001? Horrible radio edit? Nothing?”
“I was like eight years old in 2001. Assume I wasn’t listening to rap.”
“That’s too bad. Ludacris is awesome. Also a really cool, down to earth guy in person, incidentally.”
Clarke stretches like a cat and edges off the bed. “God, this is the strangest life. I’m sitting in a hotel room with Bellamy Blake talking about how cool Ludacris is. How did we even arrive at this topic?”
“I was telling you about our studio time today. I don’t actually have studios on speed dial in every city. Just L.A., New York, and Dallas. Lincoln’s grandma lives here. We were about to start recording our first album when she got sick, so we recorded here.”
Unsure what to say, Clarke just nods and looks around for her phone, which she finds under her jacket on an armchair. She has about a million calls and texts from her mother.
It’s at this point when she catches a glimpse of herself in a mirror and can’t breathe for a moment. Yesterday’s eye makeup is all over her face, her hair looks like a bale of hay, and she’s never looked so tired in her life.
“Um, I should probably go deal with my mom and, you know, shower. Meet you in the lobby in an hour,” she says quickly, gathering up her jacket and purse and hightailing it to the door as Bellamy looks on smirking.
It’s pretty clear he just views her as a constant source of amusement. She takes a few steadying breaths in the elevator.
“Come on, Griffin, get your head in the game,” she tells herself. “Be calm, be cool, be professional.”
“I think we got it, guys. That was fucking awesome,” says Wick, by far the best music producer based out of Dallas who was, by some miracle, in town and available on a moment’s notice. Evidently, the musical gods were smiling on this collaboration. “I want to play around with some levels and maybe tinker with the guitar part for the bridge, but I think we’ve got a hit on our hands.”
Bellamy has never gone through the entire life cycle of a song, from writing through recording, in less than 24 hours. He’s running on fumes, but he has to agree with Wick – the song is epic.
It’s got sort of a folksy country-rock vibe that’s actually really cool, and he can’t stop marveling at how precisely Wick pegged what they wanted to do with the arrangement.
“You’re a genius, man. I owe you big time,” Bellamy tells Wick through the soundproof glass.
“Dude, I’m glad to do it. Do you have any idea how much money this song is going to make me? And for that matter, do you have any idea how much money ‘To the Ground’ is still making me?”
“You produced ‘To the Ground?’” Clarke pipes up, clearly impressed.
“Yep. Mecha Station has been very good to me,” Wick says. And then his face changes to an overly casual, breezy expression and Bellamy knows exactly where this is going. “Speaking of Mecha Station…”
“No, Raven’s not in town,” Bellamy replies without needing to hear the question. Raven and Wick have a very middle school relationship, in that he clearly likes her but only seems able to interact with her when he’s antagonizing her. Consequently, the only thing Raven ever has to say about Wick is, “That guy drives me crazy” (and not in a good way).
“That was absolutely not what I was going to ask,” Wick says, unconvincing. “I was just going to, you know, congratulate you on the Grammys. And you too, Clarke.”
“Thanks,” Clarke says brightly, as simultaneously, Bellamy says, “Bullshit.”
“Anyway, you two crazy kids get out of here. I’ve got a song to finish.”
Bellamy follows Clarke out of the studio, trying as hard as he possibly can not to admire the mesmerizing way her ass moves when she walks. Sometimes it’s hard, like now, but Bellamy generally tries not to be an overt ogler. The sun is setting behind distant rain clouds, creating the coolest sunset Bellamy has ever seen, with streaks of pink and yellow and orange in stark contrast to the dark blue-gray clouds.
Clarke spins around to face him, sliding her hands into her pockets. “You mentioned something about a great place to go on Thursday nights?”
He can’t help the slow grin that creeps across his face. He’d almost forgotten about the Starlight Lounge.
When Bellamy had mentioned a Thursday night hotspot, this wasn’t exactly what Clarke had pictured. The Starlight Lounge itself is a pretty unimpressive place, a run-down Karaoke joint in a questionable part of town with cheesy music note decorations and red velvet upholstered chairs that all seem to feel damp, even though they’re not.
Even more unexpected, though, is that Bellamy has brought her to “Twilight Night,” which is a fancy way of saying they’re the youngest people in the building by at least 50 years.
“Bellamy, you do realize this is senior citizen night, right?” she asks him as he pulls out a chair for her at a table near the back.
“I wouldn’t come here any other night,” he says, joining her at the table.
“Are you going to provide any more information, or should I conclude that you have a pretty extreme definition of what constitutes a cougar?”
“Lincoln’s grandma was a regular here. After she died, Lincoln asked me to come with him and sing her favorite song in tribute. It’s kind of fantastic because no one has any idea who we are. They all think I’m an accountant named Bob who sings in the church choir.”
At that moment, a trio of little old ladies closes in on their table. “Bob!” says the one in the middle. “We’re so pleased to see you. Just last week, Esther was saying we hadn’t seen you in quite some time.” The one on the left, presumably Esther, nods sternly. “You had us worried, young man!”
“I’m so sorry, ladies. The firm has me traveling a lot, so it’s been really tough to get here. I’ve been thinking about you all.” It’s a little disconcerting, watching Bellamy with his “ladies.” He’s completely dazzling them, oozing charm, and Clarke wonders what it would be like to be on the receiving end of that kind of effort from him. It’s a good thing they’re keeping things professional, because that might be hard to turn down.
“And who’s this?” The one on the right asks, looking pointedly at Clarke.
“This is, um...” Clarke notices Bellamy looking around for inspiration, and his gaze settles on a poster of Liza Minelli on the wall. “… Liza. From my church choir. Liza, this is Esther, Dot, and Louise.”
“It’s so nice to meet y’all,” Clarke says, all down home southern charm.
Dot rounds on Bellamy. “Bob, please tell me you did not ask this poor girl out on a date and bring her to senior karaoke night,” she says, hand on hip.
Bellamy’s mouth opens and closes a few times, and Clarke decides to save him the trouble of trying to come up with a convincing backstory. “I think it’s perfect,” Clarke says, reaching across the table and taking Bellamy’s hand. “I’ve just been waiting so long for him to ask me out, I would have gone anywhere he wanted. Plus, I know how important y’all are to Bob, and we both love to sing.” They hold each other’s gaze, and Clarke can’t seem to look away.
Dot, who seems to be the ringleader, leans down and whispers something in Bellamy’s ear. His eyes stay locked on Clarke’s until Dot straightens up, smiling with a hint of mischief, and Bellamy turns to smile back at her with a nod.
“Well, we’d better go find seats before the singing starts. I’m so glad we got to meet you, Liza,” Dot says. “Come on ladies,” she says to the other two, and squeezes Bellamy’s shoulder as she turns to lead the others away.
“What did she whisper to you?” Clarke asks.
Is he blushing? “She said, ‘this is the one you’ll marry, Bob.’”
“Wow. Got all that from knowing me two minutes, did she?”
“I guess when Dot knows, Dot knows,” he says, studying the drink menu with great concentration.
“I’m assuming those were Lincoln’s grandma’s friends?” Clarke says, desperate to steer the conversation away from anything potentially unprofessional.
“Yeah. Lorna and Dot grew up together. They had been best friends for over 80 years when Lorna passed. Dot says they were more like sisters.”
“How do they not know who you are? Didn’t Lincoln’s grandma mention that her grandson was in a popular band?”
“She was sick while we were recording and she died before the album was released, right around the time our first single started taking off. I don’t think she knew it was something to brag to her friends about at that point.”
A stout woman in a long skirt waddles over to the table and asks for their drink orders. Bellamy orders a Shiner, which he explains is a Texas beer, and Clarke says, “Make it two.” She’s a little edgy, because last night was the first time in forever that she had anything stronger than a sip of champagne (“Think of the empty calories,” her mother would say), and she’d decided to nurse the same tumbler of whiskey slowly to keep from getting embarrassingly drunk embarrassingly quickly. But she just co-wrote and recorded a kickass song with Bellamy Blake, and if that’s not an occasion for a little celebration, then Clarke’s not sure what is. Plus, her mom’s not here.
When the woman gets back with their beer, she brings along a clipboard with the karaoke sign-up sheet on it. Bellamy signs himself up to sing Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight” and Clarke takes a minute to decide on “Jolene” by Dolly Parton. There are a few people signed up ahead of them already, so Clarke has some time to get her nerves under control.
It’s probably crazy that she’s nervous to sing at a karaoke lounge full of senior citizens, but Clarke’s always felt better about performing for massive arenas than intimate venues, and somehow the fact that they don’t know she’s actually a professional makes this worse. Maybe if they don’t know she’s a famous singer, they won’t be predisposed to think she’s any good.
The first few singers are completely precious. But then Clarke has always loved old people. In fact, when most of her friends lose their shit over cute babies and text her pictures of them, Clarke tends to respond with pictures of cute old people. Something about a big old wrinkly smile turns Clarke to mush.
Clarke is two and a half beers in by the time it’s Bellamy’s turn and he winks at Clarke as he bounds up to the stage. Hearing him sing Frank Sinatra is pretty surreal. She never would have expected it, but he totally pulls it off, with the warm, silky quality of his voice. It makes her wish he’d record a whole album of old standards just for her to play while she’s in the bath. Or maybe that’s a weird thing to wish for.
Part of being famous is that you have a sixth sense for people around you taking pictures and video, and Clarke’s eye is immediately drawn to Dot, who has her brow furrowed in concentration, holding up an iPhone. Clarke wishes she’d thought to record him. When he’s done, he gets a standing ovation from everyone who is able, and when he returns to the table, Clarke throws her arms around him without knowing what possessed her to do so.
Clarke is, of course, next on the sign up sheet, so she climbs up onstage and waits for the familiar guitar melody of “Jolene.” She’s always loved Dolly Parton, but then what honest-to-goodness country singer doesn’t love Dolly Parton? Before he died, Clarke’s father took her on annual father-daughter road trips to Dollywood, and she sometimes wonders if desperation to feel connected to her father was what made her want to become a country singer in the first place.
She kills it, if she may say so herself. Dot films her, too, and so does Bellamy.
“Have I told you lately that I’m your biggest fan?” Bellamy says as she returns to the table amidst an ongoing standing ovation and shouts of “Encore!”
“Not since yesterday,” she grins.
Bellamy is very conscious of the rate of his breathing as he and Clarke ride the elevator up to her room. In… out… in… out. Being the chivalrous gentleman he is, he offered to walk her up. He really doesn’t want to say goodbye yet.
This is his dream girl.
She’s a kickass singer and song writer. She the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, and he’s seen a lot of beautiful women. She’s smart and brave and outgoing and sarcastic. She loves his favorite tacos. She charmed the pants off Dot, Louise, and Esther. She’s so fucking easy to talk to. She even smiles in her sleep, which could not be cuter.
And maybe he doesn’t know everything about her yet. But for the first time maybe ever, he’s found a girl he actually wants to know everything about. It’s terrifying, but Bellamy’s always been a thrill-seeker.
They arrive at the door to her room and she turns to face him, not immediately fishing for her key card. Bellamy takes that as a good sign.
“So, um… my mom had a meeting in Nashville, today, and I don’t think she’s back yet,” she says, her eyes wandering away from his. “You feel like hanging out for a bit?”
“Absolutely,” he says.
He follows her inside and sits down on one of the couches in the living room area of a truly massive hotel room. She sits entirely too far away from him at the other end of the couch.
“Thank you,” she says quietly, picking at a loose thread on the couch cushion.
“This. All of this. I can hardly believe that working with you, having you here… that any of it is real.”
He pulls one leg up onto the couch and turns to face her more fully. “I can hardly believe you’re real,” he says softly, and notices the way her breathing quickens. “It’s going to be really hard for me to go back to L.A.”
Clarke blinks at him, wide-eyed, and suddenly she’s off the couch, standing stiffly facing away from him.
He stands up slowly, deliberately. “Clarke?” She turns to face him but won’t raise her gaze higher than his chest.
“You can’t say things like that to me,” she says, tone low and unwavering, eyes drifting back to the ground. “Please don’t say any more.”
“Fine,” he says. “Then I won’t say anything.”
Instead, he closes the distance between them in two strides and she only has enough time to let out the briefest noise of surprise before his mouth is on hers. For a split second, he’s terrified that he’s made a huge mistake, that she was trying to tell him she wasn’t interested, which would mean he’s now forcing himself on her. But then she whimpers and surges closer, wrapping her arms around his neck and sliding her lips against his, hot and needy. He lets his hands explore her hips and her back, pressing her flush against him, feeling the softness of her chest against his. Her teeth drag lightly over his bottom lip and the noise he makes is legitimately embarrassing, but he feels her smile against him. His brain starts churning out all kinds of ideas about where this can go from here.
And then he hears it: the unmistakable, pointed clearing of a throat. “Ahem.”
Clarke springs away from him, breathing heavily. He recognizes her mother from the Grammys, and there she is, standing in the doorway, looking mutinous.
“Out,” she says, staring at Bellamy like she wishes she could shoot lasers out of her eyes.
He hasn’t been spoken to like that since he was 16, but he’s not going to push his luck. “Goodnight, Clarke,” he says. She doesn’t meet his eyes or respond.
He shuffles past Clarke’s mom, offering a weak smile that is not returned, and makes his exit.
It’s like he just got out of the hot tub and jumped straight into the pool.
Clarke gets the worst night of sleep of her life that night, which is really saying something, considering how right Bellamy was about her never getting enough sleep.
Bellamy. All trains of thought wind up speeding right toward Bellamy station.
The conversation with her mom had been brutal. It, of course, involved a lot of “I told you so”s and “all rockstars are the same”s and “I’m so disappointed in you”s and ended with Clarke being forced to agree not to see Bellamy unless she absolutely had to for promoting the song or label events.
But what really keeps her awake is one undeniable fact: she likes him. Bad.
She had told herself it was all work, that any lingering attraction was just leftovers from when she was no one and he was her celebrity crush. In the whirlwind of writing and recording their song, she hadn’t even let it occur to her that he might be looking at her that way, not seriously anyway. And then he started saying those things, and her armor of professionalism tried to keep him out, but she never stood a chance.
And just lying in bed staring at the ceiling and thinking about that kiss makes her mouth go dry and her heart rate pick up.
It’s still dark out when her mother throws open the sliding doors to the bedroom and says, “Clarke, wake up. We have a situation.”
Clarke sits up and rubs her eyes. “What is it?”
Her mother shoves an iPad at her, and it’s open to People Magazine’s website. The headline is “Clarke Griffin and Bellamy Blake’s Texas Tryst: New Couple Alert?”
“Oh God,” Clarke groans.
She scrolls down. Someone got a picture of them at the airport in disguise, and there’s another from the taco joint. There’s one from just outside the hotel, which includes Bellamy’s hand on her lower back. Lastly, there’s a link to a YouTube video.
Oh God, Dot’s video from karaoke. It’s entitled “Bellamy Blake and Clarke Griffin do Senior Citizen Karaoke Night” and the summary reads, “My grandma has been trying to convince me to come with her to her senior karaoke night for ages, and she sent me this video to try to prove to me that younger people attend. I almost choked on my gum when I watched it. Grandma had no idea who they were. Enjoy!”
Clarke watches Bellamy sing “The Way You Look Tonight” with both a heart-pounding wave of affection for him and a sinking sort of dread. When Video Bellamy finishes singing, Dot’s camera follows him to the table, and Clarke watches herself pretty much tackle him. It looks… really, really romantic.
Oh God. Oh God, oh God, oh God.
“I’m so sorry, Mom,” she says. “I just… I wasn’t thinking.”
Her mom sits down on the bed, weirdly calm. “Anya came up with a plan. I wasn’t on board at first, but I think it will actually be good for you.”
Clarke blinks at her. Why isn’t she mad? “Um. What’s the plan?”
“Don’t worry about it right now,” her mom says, patting her leg awkwardly. “We’ll talk about it later. You’ve got a show today, remember?”
Before leaving the room, her mom returns both of Clarke’s phones (Bat and regular), placing them on the dresser, because as she had found out the previous night, apparently being an adult and making out with another adult in the privacy of your own hotel room is a crime punishable by parental phone confiscation. High school may never end, Clarke fears.
Knowing that her regular phone will have blown up with messages from everyone she’s ever known asking about Bellamy, she switches the Bat Phone on. Maybe she should just get rid of her regular phone altogether.
There’s one message from Bellamy.
Back in L.A. I’m so sorry. I made a huge mistake and I should never have kissed you.
The bottom falls out of her stomach. Even though she agreed not to see him, Clarke had planned on comforting herself with the knowledge that Bellamy Blake wanted to kiss her. But maybe he didn’t.
For at least 20 minutes, Clarke tries desperately to come up with something brilliant to say back, but in the end, she chucks the Bat Phone at the chaise in the corner and flops onto her back. Because she can’t very well just say “It wasn’t a mistake. I want you to do it again. Repeatedly. Forever. But we can’t. Because my mom.”
Clarke manages to put on a pretty damn good show for the fine folks of Dallas. As she comes off the stage, her mom greets her with a spiral notebook and a pencil, and says, “Vocal rest starts now, sweetie. If you need to say something, write it.”
There are a lot of things Clarke wishes she could say right now, but she doesn’t write them. She just nods.
In the back of the town car on the way to the airport to catch a private jet to Nashville, Clarke opens up the notebook to the first page and writes, “Plan?”
Her mom glances at the notebook and takes a deep breath.
“We’re going to L.A.” is all her mom gives her to go on.
Clarke responds with a puzzled expression.
“Anya talked to Bellamy’s band’s publicist, and she’s working on clearing his schedule for the next two weeks.”
The puzzled expression gets squintier.
“We’ve decided to embrace the relationship rumors. You’ll stay with Bellamy for the next two weeks, maybe spend part of the time on a secluded beach somewhere, and we can pass off your vocal rest as a… whirlwind romance.”
Clarke’s face is blank. Even if she was allowed to talk, what would she even say to that?
“I know this is a lot, and really different from what we discussed last night,” her mom continues, “but the public eye will be on you now. When you’re not making appearances or talking to the media, we’ll need a good excuse.”
On the next line in the notebook, Clarke writes, “What happens after two weeks?”
“We should probably let everyone think you’re still together for a while, to give your song some momentum."
Clarke’s heartbeat is thundering in her ears and she wonders if it’s loud enough for her mom to hear too.
“So,” Clarke writes, then purses her lips and hesitates, “… I can really be with him?”
Her mom puts on her best faux-apologetic frown – better known in the south as the “Bless your heart” face – and puts an arm around her shoulder. “You know that’s a bad idea, Clarke. I thought we agreed.”
On the flight to L.A., Clarke manages to sleep a little. Or at least she thinks she does. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between lying awake with your eyes closed wishing you were asleep and actually sleeping.
It’s dark when they get to Bellamy’s house, and Clarke is shocked to find not a single paparazzo loitering on the sidewalk. The house itself is charming – a small hacienda style ranch on what appears to be an unusually large plot of land for Santa Monica. The path leading up to the house is inlaid with mosaic tiles in every shade of blue, like ocean waves lapping the sand. Clarke’s mom knocks on the dark-stained door with a heavy knocker.
A woman answers the door. A really fucking beautiful woman. Clarke has a moment of panic before the girl says, “Finally,” then turns around and shouts, “Bell!”
“What?” comes the unmistakable irritated grunt of Bellamy Blake.
“It’s for you,” the girl says, turning back to grin at Clarke. “Come on in. I’m Bell’s sister, Octavia. Big fan.”
Bellamy appears through an arched doorway into the foyer. He’s wearing gray sweatpants and glasses and nothing else. It’s all Clarke can do to stay upright.
By the look of complete shock on Bellamy’s face, Clarke gathers that he didn’t know they were coming.
“Clarke, Mrs. Griffin… what’s going on?” he asks, crossing his arms over his chest, like maybe he’s shy. All that does is make his arms look really, really awesome.
“Indra didn’t tell you?” Clarke’s mom replies.
“Tell me what?”
“That Clarke will be staying here for a while.”
“Here as in here in my house?” he asks.
“That was the plan.”
Bellamy looks at Clarke, flabbergasted, and all she can do is offer him a weak shrug.
“Must’ve slipped Indra’s mind. Unless…” he turns to look at his sister, who is edging sideways out of the foyer. “O, did you by any chance forget to tell me something?”
“Indra might have called when you were in the shower. And I might have decided that you don’t have enough surprises in your life.” Bellamy glares at her, grinding his teeth. “Don’t worry. I got the guest room ready. Nice to meet you!” Octavia sing-songs, slipping from the room.
“Let me get this straight,” Bellamy says after a beat, hands steepled in front of his mouth. “We’re right in the middle of an explosion of tabloid rumors about us dating, and you’re going to be my houseguest? You realize you’re pouring lighter fluid into an inferno.”
Clarke shrugs again.
“She can’t talk,” her mom explains.
“Oh, right. Vocal rest.”
Clarke’s mom rounds on her. “You already told him about that?”
Once again, she’s only able to shrug innocently. Maybe this vocal rest thing isn’t half bad.
“We thought this arrangement would suit everyone,” Clarke’s mom reasons. “Your song gets a publicity boost. Clarke has a place to hide out during her vocal rest. The tabloids get a story. Everybody wins, right?”
He looks at Clarke, searching. “As long as it’s what Clarke wants to do, I’m in.”
It’s not what Clarke wants to do. What Clarke wants to do is leave the guest room untouched and crawl into bed with him tonight. She wants to map out the cartography of his chest, playing connect-the-dots with his freckles. She wants to tell him that last night wasn’t a mistake, that it was exactly what she needed to make her see sense, that this is new and exciting and they shouldn’t be running away from it.
But she won’t tell him any of that, because not only is she forbidden from talking and not allowed to be with him, but she’s also a huge coward.
The first day Clarke stays with him, Bellamy takes her to the farmers’ market. Clarke does pantomime impressions of the most unbearable hipsters they pass, which is both adorable and hilarious, and helps Bellamy pick out ingredients for kebabs. She goes with red pepper, zucchini, tomato, pineapple, and mango to go with chicken, and Bellamy thinks she’s insane – he’s not one to put fruit on a kebab – until later that night after Clarke hijacks his marinade preparation and they turn out to be the best kebabs he’s ever grilled. A picture of them walking home from the farmer’s market hand in hand shows up on TMZ. A swarm of paparazzi appear on his street out of thin air and they decide to lay low for a few days.
Bellamy has really never had a serious, grown-up relationship. There was Roma in high school, which lasted three years too long, but they mostly only saw each other at school and when they were making out in her basement. Since becoming a celebrity, he keeps getting hooked up with models by his publicist, which hey, he’s not objecting to. But none of his supermodel “girlfriends” has ever wanted to cook with him, or listen to him rant about how Spongebob is turning children’s brains to goo, or hear his theories about what really caused the fall of the Roman Empire, or spend two whole days binge watching House of Cards. The domesticity of it all is both refreshing and alarming.
It’s also pretty weird that she can’t talk, but they’re getting around it. Mostly, she uses paper and pen to communicate, but occasionally, she’ll use this app she downloaded that will say anything you type, but in Spongebob’s voice, because she clearly enjoys riling him up.
It’s sort of like being the prince from The Little Mermaid, except that he doesn’t need a swamp full of animated creatures to convince him he wants to kiss the girl. He wants to plenty. The more challenging task is not kissing her.
On day five, he’s awoken by the unmistakable dip of his mattress that tells him he’s no longer alone on his bed. He feels around on his nightstand for his glasses, and as soon as he gets them on, he notices his alarm clock, which reads 5:17. It’s still dark, so he turns on the lamp.
Clarke is sitting at the foot of his bed with the end of a pen in her mouth and one of those yellow notepads that Bellamy uses for making lists (he likes to make lists) in her lap. She gives him a weak smile and starts to write something.
She passes him the notebook. “I’m bi,” it says. “And I’ve still never said so out loud.”
“Why not?” he asks, passing the notebook back.
“I’m a country singer. My career would be over,” she writes.
“No way. Channing Tatum is bi. Sam Smith is gay. So are Ellen Degeneres, Cara Delevigne, and hell, even Miller from my band. All of whom have wildly successful careers in entertainment.”
Clarke scribbles for a while. “Actor, pop singer, TV host, model, rock musician. It’s not the same. It sucks and it’s archaic, but it’s the truth. I love country music, but the country community isn’t exactly accepting of people who don’t fit perfectly into their cookie cutter.”
He’s about to respond, when she grabs the notepad back from him and starts scribbling again. “Not to mention it’s already hard enough to be a female country singer. Did you know that more than 80% of airtime goes to men on country radio? The country world already doesn’t like women. One toe out of line and my career is over.”
“So I’m the only one who knows?”
“No. My mom knows, she just chooses not to acknowledge that my sexuality is a real, permanent thing. I’m pretty sure my publicist knows, because publicists always seem to know everything, though she’s never said as much. And there was this girl, Lexa, back in college. When it started to seem like I was going to have a music career, my mom made her sign a non-disclosure agreement, and that didn’t sit so well with her.”
Bellamy studies her for a long moment. They’ve barely scratched the surface of knowing each other at this point, but already, she trusts him enough to fall asleep on him and tell him her biggest secrets. It’s a heady feeling. “Why did you tell me?”
“I don’t know,” she writes. “I just wanted you to know. Wanted you to know me. Someday maybe I’ll get to a point in my career when I’m such a big deal that coming out wouldn’t end my career. I really hope I get to that day. If I’m the first, maybe it’ll be easier for the second.”
Not immediately sure of what to say, he nods. Eventually, he settles on, “Well, I’m glad you told me.”
“Me too,” she writes. “Sorry I woke you.”
Bellamy can’t help but smile. Looking at her, he feels like a giddy little kid who just caught a firefly in his hands and has no idea what to do next.
“Wake me up any time. Please.”
Later, Clarke gives Bellamy a one-on-one yoga lesson, which is mostly hopeless because every pose he does looks like it should be named Dead Praying Mantis. Octavia breezes in that afternoon, and for the first time, it occurs to Bellamy that she definitely hasn’t slept at their house in days, and it takes Clarke throwing herself in front of the door to keep him from driving over to Lincoln’s house and picking a fight with a guy twice his size.
That night, he hasn’t even fallen asleep yet when he feels his bed dip again. Once his glasses and lamp are both on, he finds Clarke in the same spot she sat in that morning, holding up the yellow notepad again. This time, it says, “I seem to sleep better when you’re around. I’m tired of not sleeping.”
He throws back the covers on the other side of the bed and settles back down into his pillow. When Bellamy wakes up the next morning, Clarke is still asleep. Afraid of waking her, he doesn’t want to get out of bed. When she finally wakes up that afternoon after fifteen straight hours of sleep, he’s still next to her, slowly starving to death and reading A Confederacy of Dunces.
Clarke is shocked at how easily silence has come to her. Most people, when asked not to speak for two weeks, would probably have a lot more trouble, like trying to stop biting your nails. But Clarke is starting to think she missed her calling as a monk.
She can’t remember the last time she felt so little anxiety, so much calm, so well-rested.
But maybe that has more to do with Bellamy than the vocal rest.
He’s… not at all what she expected. In fact, he’s kind of a nerd. He knows more about ancient civilizations than anyone she’s ever met, has an extensive collection of Star Wars figurines (still in their original packaging, no less), and actually enjoys watching documentaries.
But then he’s also this gorgeous, talented man who makes her feel safe and serene, sings old standards while he cooks her dinner, plays Scrabble with her every night even though he knows she’ll kick his ass, and doesn’t seem to want to get out of bed in the morning until she’s awake.
The days fly by and she wishes she could interrupt the flow of time and stay here for days, months, years. She’s not ready to leave him and go back to her real life. But her mom is coming to pick her up tomorrow, and that’s what’s going to have to happen.
During their hibernation, both Bellamy’s and Clarke’s “teams” stay hard at work, expediting the release of their song. Wick has been sending them each new cut he tweaks and there has been some buzz building about the song on social media, Anya’s doing no doubt. So it probably shouldn’t come as a shock when the song comes on the radio as she’s undressing for a shower, but she can’t help a shriek of surprise.
She wraps herself up in a towel so she can go get Bellamy, but before she can leave the bathroom, the door bangs open and Bellamy is standing there looking terrified.
“Are you okay? I thought I heard you scream,” he says.
If she weren’t still on vocal rest, she’d point out that he came very close to barging in on her naked, but she just nods and points frantically to the radio.
She watches as his expression changes, from worry to joy to something akin to disbelief. There’s a really intense aura settling around the room and she swallows thickly. Suddenly, it’s like there’s a fish hook caught somewhere behind her navel, and he’s reeling her in.
Clarke is very aware of her breathing as they drift toward each other, and then she’s very aware of his breathing when he’s close enough that she can feel it. The anticipation builds, a tight, coiling, rising feeling in her stomach, and Clarke can feel his warmth and smell his clean, spicy scent. She wants this. She wants this desperately.
And then suddenly, his warmth is gone. He’s backed up into the doorway and she feels completely bereft.
“I’m so sorry, Clarke,” he says, voice rougher than usual, looking anywhere but at her.
He disappears from the doorway. Clarke gives her head a shake to come out of her daze and chases him down the hall, following him into his room. He starts to pace.
“God, I’m an asshole,” he says, and the words keep spilling out. “I swear, it won’t happen again, Clarke. I respect you and I respect that you have professional boundaries and I promise, I’ll stop doing that. Here you are, just trying to show me that our song is on the radio, and I have to go forcing myself on you—“
“Bellamy,” Clarke calmly interrupts him, vocal rest be damned.
He stops pacing and turns to face her. Slowly, deliberately, she unwraps her towel and lets it drop to the floor. His eyes double in size.
Fortunately, it’s all the invitation he needs. His mouth and his body and his hands – God, his hands – are on her before she can blink.
She worries that maybe she’s kissing him too frantically, too desperately, but he doesn’t seem to mind. Every inch of the front of her body seems to be fused with his, but it’s not enough, with his pesky t-shirt and jeans. His mouth moves to the underside of her jaw, one of her most sensitive spots, and how could he possibly have known that? She’s almost too distracted to grasp the bottom of his shirt and yank it upward, but she manages.
At some point he must have started backing her up toward his bed, but she doesn’t notice until she feels his comforter tickling the backs of her legs and she falls backward, dragging him with her. His bare chest finally makes contact with hers and she actually moans, which she is too far gone to be embarrassed about.
When she starts fumbling with his belt, though, something seems to change for Bellamy because all at once she’s cold and exposed and he’s sitting next to her on the bed.
“What the fuck?” is all she can think of to say, raising herself up on her elbows.
“Do you- I mean, are you sure about this?” he asks, pained.
Clarke blinks at him like the moron he is. “Well, let’s analyze the situation, shall we? I’m completely fucking naked in your bed and doing everything in my power to get rid of your clothes.”
“Yeah, but you have, you know, the rules,” he says lamely, “about separating business and pleasure or whatever.”
“Fuck my rules.”
“And, oh shit, you’re not supposed to even be talking yet. Your mom’s going to kill me.”
“First of all, please don’t mention my mother right now. Secondly, I don’t give a shit. I’m not going to wait another minute to tell you I’m crazy about you.” She squeezes her lips tightly together, not having meant to put all her cards on the table so soon.
But Bellamy doesn’t seem to mind. A grin spreads slowly across his face and he ghosts the back of his hand across the side of her breast. “Yeah?”
He settles back on top of her and looks down at her like she’s the most wondrous thing he’s ever seen. Clarke feels this wonderful glowing thing going on in her chest and realizes that she probably loves him already, which is both perfect and terrifying.
So instead of letting herself over-analyze it to death, she grabs the back of his neck and yanks him down for a searing kiss.
When Clarke’s mother is supposed to come for her the next day, Bellamy and Clarke make sure to be out of the house. He’s not even close to ready for her to leave. He’s not sure he ever will be.
Bellamy is kind of friends with one of the radio DJs in town, so he and Clarke drop by the studio unannounced for an impromptu media appearance.
The producers are all running around silently panicking in their haste to rearrange the show’s rundown and get the studio ready to have two huge music stars on air. Bellamy sits in a rolling chair in front of a radio mic, staring at Clarke and smiling like an idiot. He’s not sure what he did to make her feel anything for him, but he’s not going to question it.
Jasper starts talking, but that is, you know, his job.
“We had a great show planned for your morning commute today. Honestly, folks, we did. But we’ve pretty much thrown the plan out the window because you will never believe who just waltzed into our studio,” Jasper says.
“You really won’t,” Jasper’s co-host, Harper, says. “I almost passed out.”
“Should we tell them?” Jasper asks teasingly.
“Oh, definitely,” Harper quips back.
Jasper pushes a button and a drum roll sound plays.
“We are joined today… by none other than… Bellamy Blake and Clarke Griffin.”
“You make us sound so important, Jasper,” Clarke says, grinning.
“Well, Clarke, you are important,” says Jasper. “I don’t know if you know this, but right now, you two are the biggest story in show business.”
“Must be a slow news week,” Bellamy says.
“Always so humble,” Jasper says. “But let’s get down to it, shall we? Because you two have been pretty much AWOL for weeks now, even with your new song – which is awesome by the way – dropping yesterday. I know I want to know, and I’m pretty sure the rest of the world wants to know, too: where the heck were you guys?”
Bellamy is trying desperately to remember how Clarke talked him into doing this. He has no idea how to answer any of these questions. But apparently, Clarke does. “Well, we were both kind of worn out. It seemed like as good a time as any for a little stay-cation.”
“So is this the official relationship confirmation we’ve all been waiting for?” Harper asks.
Bellamy is pretty sure their publicists released a statement. “Wasn’t it confirmed already?”
“Not directly from either of you,” Jasper points out.
“If you need confirmation,” Clarke says, leaning in closer to the mic, “I’ll give it to you.”
“This is the greatest day of my life. I can’t explain it, but it is,” Jasper says after a beat. “I have never wished harder that this was a TV show because if our audience could only see the way you two are looking at each other, I’m pretty sure it would break the internet.”
“Don’t you want to talk about the song?” Bellamy asks, trying to steer the conversation away from how besotted with Clarke he is.
“It’s a great song, Bellamy, but I think we’d all rather talk about your personal lives,” Harper says.
“Why don’t we make a deal?” Clarke says.
“The terms?” Jasper asks.
“If I reveal three little-known facts about Bellamy, will you play our song so we can feel like we’ve adequately promoted it?”
“Um, yes,” Harper says at the same time Bellamy says, “Absolutely not.”
“Oh, come on. Be a good sport,” Clarke says, elbowing him. “First off, Bellamy makes his bed to, like, Ritz-Carlton maid, coin-bouncing standards every single day, no matter what.”
“So I’m neat, sue me,” he says.
“Secondly, he watches that cooking show, Chopped, like all the time, to a depressing degree.”
“Hey now, that show is awesome. They make these poor chefs prepare a three-course meal all while making sure to combine things like octopus tentacles, frozen burritos, strawberry ice cream, and kale.”
“Thirdly,” she says, ignoring him, “I think it’s really important that the whole world knows that his hair is exactly as soft as it looks, if not more.”
“Well, now I have to touch it,” Jasper says.
“Uh, me too,” says Harper.
Bellamy rolls his eyes. “Fine, get it over with.”
The two DJs get out of their seats and pet his head for a few seconds before returning to their seats.
“Sorry for all that dead air, guys, but it was so soft I couldn’t stop,” Jasper says.
“Told you,” Clarke says, smug.
She’s so damn happy, he can’t even be mad at her for basically inviting the entire universe to pet his head while in his presence from now on. If he could accomplish one thing in the world, it would be to see that same smile of utter joy and contentment every day for the rest of his life.
“Clarke made good on her end of the bargain, so we’ll make good on ours,” Harper says. “Here it is: the first collaboration from adorable lovebirds Bellamy Blake and Clarke Griffin, ‘Can’t Lose You.’”
The next year at the Grammys, Clarke can’t stop smiling at the adorableness that is Grumpy Award Show Bellamy. She’s always loved the grouchy old man inside of him, but somehow, it’s so much more endearing when he’s wearing a tux.
They’re finally done with what seemed like an endless red carpet, and are now following at a distance behind the rest of Bellamy’s band as they enter the theater.
“I fucking hate the Grammys,” he grumbles.
“I fucking love you,” she leans up to whisper against his neck.
“I love you, too,” he says, actually smiling, surprisingly. “You know the only thing getting me through this hellscape?”
“All that scotch you had in the limo?”
“Well, that, yeah,” he says. “But the main thing, the one that actually put a smile on my face back there, is the fact that I know I get to take that dress off you later.”
“In that case, you should probably know that I couldn’t find underwear that worked with the dress so I’m not wearing any.”
He stops walking and swallows thickly. “Fuck the Grammys. Let’s get out of here. It’s not like we’re going to win, anyway.”
They win all three of their categories and Clarke’s dress doesn’t last the limo ride home.