Bellamy Blake wasn’t Clarke’s favorite customer—that honor went to Old Woman Bailey who lived in the bell tower above the church—but he was definitely her favorite grump, which was honestly more of a big deal.
Clarke didn’t tend to like grumps, on principle. She found their general demeanor annoying and their negativity overwhelmingly droll. But she liked Bellamy, and Bellamy was as grumpy as they came, at least at first.
It took her a while to realize that Bellamy was only grumpy because he cared, and was in a decidedly better mood after he had coffee. Which was convenient, since she owned a coffee shop, which was how they met.
He wandered in just before closing, bruising all around both eyes, hair and clothes disheveled and a little soot-stained, with all the tell-tale signs of exhaustion. There was a pile of old books clutched in one arm, and in the other a handful of gold coins, which he dropped unceremoniously on her countertop, letting them scatter every which way.
“Fifteen shots of espresso,” he said, prompt and weary and just a little bit sharp. “Extra-bitter.”
“Fifteen?” Clarke repeated before she could stop herself. He glared down his nose at her, which is when everything clicked together; the books, the sharp words, the gold, the heat in his eyes and just the smallest of scorch marks on his upper lip—he was a dragon.
“That’s what I said, isn’t it?” he snapped, and she saw the exact moment when he noticed her mark, and she watched his whole body stiffen. “Or should I use smaller words, Princess?” He spat the word out at her, which hardly seemed fair; sure, dragons and princesses didn’t have a history of getting along, but he didn’t even know her.
Clarke just rolled her eyes and keyed his order into the register, bending down to scoop up the coins that had rolled off the counter’s edge. “Clarke is fine,” she sighed, pointing to her nametag.
The dragon just frowned at her, before walking over to sit at one of the tables. The coffee shop wasn’t anything extraordinary; simple, but clean, with old refurbished furniture she’d bought half-price at a thrift shop, and a bookshelf in one corner stocked with board games and all the ancient encyclopedias her father had left her in his will. Her mother never understood why he’d bothered to bequeath them, since they’re worthless and incredibly out of date, but Clarke did. He knew she’d never get rid of them. He knew she’d treat them right.
Clarke finished the espresso in record time, quietly pleading with the machine and willing it to work faster. It was a grump too, old and cranky in the way only old things are, but it’d been having a nice morning, and it liked Clarke, so it listened. She added some cacao to the drink, because everyone knew dragons liked cacao. Then she carried it over to his table, and waited.
He raised a brow at her, glancing up from his book. “Did you need something?”
“Your thoughts,” Clarke chirped, nodding at the cup. “On the drink.”
For a moment she thought he’d refuse to drink it, out of spite, but then he heaved an enormous sigh, the barest tendrils of smoke coming with it, and took his first sip. And then another, and another, until he’d gulped the whole thing down.
She knew she was looking smug about it, but. She’d sort of earned it, really. The dragon, for his part, was frowning even deeper, annoyed that he’d enjoyed it.
“It’s good,” he said finally, biting the words out like they pained him. Clarke just hummed and marched back behind the counter, and pat the espresso machine like a good dog.
She didn’t think she’d see the dragon again, but he came back three days later, with even more books, looking even more tired as he thrust out twice as many coins. He didn’t drop them this time until her hands were cupped underneath them, which was an improvement, and he ordered two drinks, downing them both immediately before settling into his table to read.
He stayed until closing, packing up when he noticed her flip the sign, and leaving without a goodbye.
He came back the day after, and the day after that. It was ten days before she learned his name, but by then she’d already decided to like him. He always tipped, and that meant something, and he always wiped down his own table with a wet napkin, even when there wasn’t anything to clean.
“You know,” she said on the tenth day, after deciding she’d had enough of waiting around for him to break the ice. Clearly he wasn’t going to, and she wasn’t about to just wonder, not when she could find out the answers for herself.
Curiosity wasn’t necessarily anything new for a princess, but stubbornness was, and a willing to do whatever it took to figure things out was practically unheard of. But Clarke had never really been very good at being a princess, and she wasn’t about to start now.
“We’re on an uneven playing field.” She slipped into the seat across from him, as the dragon glanced up, marking his spot on the page with a finger. There was still smoke leaking from his nostrils, which she’d learned meant he was concentrating. She might have looked up a few things about his kind, after that first week. She didn’t like not knowing things. She liked to be prepared.
“How’s that?” His voice was low and grumbly, which she didn’t think was a particular trait of dragons—just him.
“You know my name, but I don’t know yours.”
There was a flicker of amusement in his eyes—then it was gone, but that didn’t matter. She’d seen it. “Who says I want to even the field at all?”
“I do,” she said, and the amusement was back, even with the hint of a smile. His teeth looked very sharp. “I don’t think you’d want a cheap win.”
Both eyes flashed with at that bit of challenge, and she knew she’d already won. “Bellamy,” he said on a puff of warm air, hitting her skin like sunlight. “Bellamy Blake.”
“Clarke Griffin,” she stuck out her hand for him to shake, a sort of test, and he didn’t shy away from it. His nails bit into the skin of her arm where he grasped. “Nice to meet you.”
He grinned a little wickedly. “The pleasure’s all mine.”
Bellamy Blake, the dragon, quickly became a fixture at her shop. She was fairly popular with the locals, and was used to having a steady stream of customers throughout the day, but just a week after Bellamy started showing up, the stream slowed down to a trickle. She was lucky if she got three customers, and had to start setting free samples on a table outside to lure foot traffic in.
Monty Green was one of her faithful regulars who dropped by every day for his morning latte and scone, and Clarke tugged him aside to ask about it.
“Oh,” he blinked at her, like he was surprised she didn’t know. “It’s, you know,” he tipped his head towards the table Bellamy had staked a claim on, covered in old books and empty coffee mugs, cacao dusted along the rims. “The dragon.”
He whispered the last bit, like he was scared of the word itself, and it made Clarke inexplicably furious.
“Well, good,” she declared, loud enough to make Monty jump. “Because I don’t want any prejudiced, bigoted, dimwitted—assholes in my shop! Tell them that the dragon’s staying, and they’ll just have to learn to deal with it, or no more lattes and scones for them!”
Monty looked stricken and quickly promised that he’d pass her message along, before all but running for the door.
Clarke sucked in a breath, and chanced a glance at Bellamy.
He was staring at her, smoke evaporated, eyes big and warm and so fond it made her teeth ache.
Clarke wondered what her mother would say, if she told her that she was thinking about dating a dragon. She could practically hear her now—Clarke, she would splutter, that simply isn’t done! The thought of it made her smile.
Bellamy smiled back, every bit as sharp as he was. “Careful princess,” he grinned. “I think there might be some dragon in you.”
Clarke felt herself flush all the way to her roots. The espresso machine started laughing at her—just a shrill hiss to anyone else—and she smacked it with a dish towel.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she told Bellamy, in her haughtiest, most proper princess voice, but she could tell he didn’t buy it.
They weren’t actually friends until Thanksgiving. Bellamy first showed up at her shop in November, so he hadn’t witnessed her Halloween decorations, which was a shame in and of itself because Halloween is Clarke’s favorite, and she makes an awesome paper mache spider. So Bellamy didn’t know what to expect for Thanksgiving, but a bunch of brown-red-black streamers and finger painted paper turkeys probably wasn’t it.
“Someone has vandalized your shop,” he declared when he stepped in. He glared up at the largest of the turkeys, spinning around on a string, taped to the ceiling. She probably could have stuck it up there with a spell, but scotch tape tended to last longer.
Clarke sighed, handing a to-go cup to the last customer, before putting both hands on her hips so she could give frowning at Bellamy her whole attention. “You would hate Thanksgiving.”
“What is there to like?” he wondered, sounding genuine, and pulled a gold coin from her ear.
That was something he liked to do, she’d found; parlor tricks. He was like a child about them, giddy to show her the new one he’d learned from Youtube or Wiki How, and waiting for her approval. She always gave it. She loved his dumb fake magic.
Clarke gasped dramatically and raised a hand, to tick the reasons off on each finger. “Food, friends and family, you get to dress up for dinner, fancy placemats, history I can’t believe you’re not interested in that one, paper turkeys, pilgrim buckles,” she looked at him pointedly. “I could go one, but I’ve only got so many fingers.”
Bellamy just rolled his eyes. “The history behind Thanksgiving is actually pretty horrible. Do you know how many Native American tribes were just completely wiped out of existence? A lot, Clarke. Just gone, and for what? Terribly inaccurate textbooks and a day where everyone eats turkey?”
“Sometimes we have ham.”
She made a face as he groaned, and waved him off towards his table. “Oh, just sit down, Negative Nancy. You’re such a grump.” He grinned as she said it, and if anyone had told Clarke a month ago that she would one day use the word grump as a term of endearment, she would have laughed in their face, and maybe turned their coffee cold.
But she liked Bellamy’s grumpiness. She had him over for Thanksgiving dinner, because of course he wouldn’t have anything planned—“I’ll probably just microwave some Jenny Craig lasagna, like usual.” “Oh my god, frozen pasta? Bellamy!”—and he dragged along his sister and her boyfriend, and they all suffered through Charades because it’s Wells’ favorite tradition, and Clarke made the best apple pie of all time, thank you very much.
She walked him to the door after, and he hugged her. It was awkward, because it’s Bellamy, but it was warm too, and when he pulled away, her hair still smelled the faintest bit of charcoal.
And then he avoided her for the next four days. Clarke was a little hurt, of course, but mostly she was angry; even if he was a disaster of a person, she didn’t deserve to be tossed aside just because he didn’t know what to say.
He’d given her his address, for the membership stamp card at her shop, and Clarke showed up at his door just after closing, banging on the door with her fist before giving it a solid kick when he didn’t answer.
On the third kick, the door swung open and Bellamy stood just inside, looking hollowed-out, like a wrung dishcloth. His hair was unwashed, sticking every which way from the grease, and even the bruises under his eyes had bruises. His eyes themselves were bloodshot, and he was wearing boxers and a t-shirt with what looked like tomato sauce stains.
“What happened?” she asked, sure there’d been a death in the family or something. Oh god, his sister—
Bellamy frowned, squinting down at her. “Clarke?” He sounded dazed. “Nothing—I have a book due tomorrow.”
Clarke blinked. “A book.” She knew he sometimes wrote history guidebooks on the side, for some stuffy publishing company based in New York. Like all dragons, Bellamy hoarded knowledge like it was actual treasure, so it made sense that he’d be good at writing four-hundred-page theses.
Bellamy yawned, letting out huge puffs of smoke with each exhale. She wasn’t sure he’d even slept since Thanksgiving. “Yeah.”
“Right,” she nodded, and then pushed past him, into the apartment. She’d never actually seen where Bellamy lived before, and she’d never let herself picture it, but if she had, this was what it would have been. All hardwood and dark leather furniture, old and worn-in but still comfortable. Shelves and shelves of books, tables holding nothing but books, books piled up on the chairs and the sofa and in little congregations on the floor. Some open, some bookmarked, some soot-stained or water-stained, hardback and paperback, covers torn or perfect or missing completely, loose pages stacked up on all sides. It was like Bellamy’s brain had decided to crawl out through his ears and make itself at home in the living room.
Clarke could clearly see the spot where he had nested to write his book; a corner by the window, where a plush easy chair was filled with threadbare quilts and opened reference books and his old laptop, screen still blinking in sleep mode. There were dozens and dozens of empty mugs and to-go cups from gas stations, probably from quick five-minute coffee runs in the middle of the night, when her shop wouldn’t be open. A plate of half-eaten leftover lasagna sat on the floor, and she was pretty sure that green spot on the corner wasn’t spinach.
“Right,” she said again, mostly to herself this time, and jabbed a finger into his chest. “You’re taking a shower,” she declared, leaving no room for argument. “You smell.”
Bellamy frowned at her, offended. “Well pardon me, but I didn’t ask for your opinion. You barged in. I was minding my own business, stinking in the comfort of my home.”
“I thought you were dead,” Clarke said hotly. “Or dying or—avoiding me. Or something. I haven’t seen you since Thursday.”
At that, Bellamy softened and for a moment, he didn’t look like a dragon at all. He reached over to play with her hair, which was something else he liked to do. Usually he just tugged on it to make her huff, or used it in one of his magic trick, but this time he brushed three fingers against the skin of her cheek, pushing the curls behind her ear, impossibly gentle.
“Princess,” he said, still soft, and that meant something too. He hadn’t called her princess since he’d started calling her Clarke. “I couldn’t avoid you if I tried,” he smirked a little. “Clearly.”
Clarke rolled her eyes and shoved him towards where she assumed the bathroom was. There were only two doors, and she wasn’t going to think about what might be behind the second. She could show remarkable restraint, when necessary.
“Go,” she ordered. “Wash. I’ll take care of the dishes.” She turned towards the mess of lasagna, but Bellamy tried to protest.
“You don’t have to,” he started, ears turning pink, clearly embarrassed. She squeezed his wrist.
“I want to,” she promised, and it was true. Bellamy was, first and foremost, her friend, and he needed her help. “Besides, I’m a princess. I’m good at cleaning.”
“That would be the first princess thing you’re good at,” Bellamy teased, and then went thoughtful, touching at her hair again. “That, and your hair. You look like a princess.”
Clarke made a face. “Entitled and pretentious?”
“Pretty,” Bellamy said, making her breath catch. His hand grazed the side of her neck as it fell back down. “And soft.”
Clarke cleared her throat, once she could breathe again. “Go clean up,” she said, quiet, and he disappeared into the bath.
She washed the dishes while he was gone, and the steam began to fill up the apartment, drifting in from under the door. Once the dishes were done, she started in on the books, trying to organize them by title, and then by aesthetic when they had no title at all. She folded all the quilts and stacked them on the couch cushions. Clarke wasn’t lying when she said she was good at cleaning, and she gave a small thanks to her mother, for forcing her to sit through all those housekeeping lessons.
By the time Bellamy came out again—wrapped in a towel. Just a towel.—the apartment looked less like a fire hazard and more like a slightly chaotic library. He grinned at her, teeth flashing white.
“So you are a princess.”
Clarke threw a quilt at his face. “Shut up,” she said, but there was no heat to it. “Go put on some clothes, you exhibitionist.”
“Maybe I should just wear my scales,” he said mildly, and everything inside her melted. She was so done for.
“Can you actually do that?” she asked, a little awed despite herself.
Bellamy grinned cheekily, and she threw another quilt.
When he came back out he was fully clothed, and she was only a little disappointed. She curled up beside him on the sofa, pressing the cup of tea in his hands. He sniffed at it, suspicious.
“I don’t own any tea. Where did you find tea?”
Clarke shrugged. “I made it.” When he just stared at her, she added “I am magic, you know. You have to know. I’ve done spells in front of you.”
Bellamy frowned, which meant he really hadn’t noticed, and Clarke couldn’t help feeling a little insulted. She never actually made a point to show off, but she definitely had, in a sneaky way so he wouldn’t realize she was trying.
“How does a princess end up at a coffee shop, practicing magic?”
Clarke sighed into her own cup of tea. To be honest, she thought he’d ask ages before, in the first week, even. People have asked in less time. She’s an anomaly; who’s born into royalty, and then just decides it isn’t for them? Nobody, except her.
“She doesn’t want to end up locked in some tower, practicing needlework,” she shrugged, and he grinned, but he could tell that wasn’t the whole of it, and she actually wanted to tell him. She wanted to tell him everything about herself. She wanted to learn everything about him.
“Her father dies, having never lived the life he wanted, because he let other people tell him what to do.Kings don’t build bridges,” she mimicked. “And queens don’t love their children, they test them. And princes just rescue princesses, and princesses just wait to be rescued, and dragons can only destroy.” She felt him tense at the last bit, and reached over to take his hand. It was warm, so warm it made her skin itch, but she held it anyway. “It’s all bullshit. I didn’t like sewing lessons, I liked anatomy lessons. Drawing lessons, cooking lessons, magic lessons. And princesses aren’t supposed to like any of that, but who cares? We’re not some characters in a fairytale. We deserve to make our own choices.”
Bellamy’s voice was rough when he spoke. “Yeah,” he sighed, eyes already drooping from the tea. It was a special recipe, meant to induce sleep, but now she was regretting it. He looked ready to tell her something important, and she wanted to know what it was. “We do.”
Clarke set their mugs down on the floor, so he wouldn’t knock them over as he sprawled out along the couch. She meant to be responsible, to stand up and head home, or to at least move to the easy chair, to give him more leg room. But Bellamy tugged her in against him, letting her curl up on his chest, like she belonged there.
She closed her eyes and breathed him in like a campfire. She belonged there.
“So what kind of magic can you do?” he asked drowsily, and she huffed a laugh because of course that was the part he would focus on.
“Not much,” she admitted. “I didn’t get very far in my lessons. Little things. I can heat things up or make them colder. I never burn what I cook. I have a fireproof spell, so I can’t burn either. I can talk to things, sometimes. Things other people can’t talk to.”
“Like what?” His voice was slurring, but he was trying so hard to stay awake for her. Clarke grinned against his shoulder.
“My espresso machine hates you.” He laughed, chest vibrating underneath her cheek. She sighed and settled into the warmth of him as he pet her hair, almost absent mindedly, like he didn’t even realize he was doing it.
Clarke woke up underneath him, having rolled over in their sleep. Bellamy slept with his face pressed to her chest, snoring against her, burning so hot her skin was pink, like she’d just stepped out of a sauna.
She smelled like smoke for days.
On the first day of December, she wore festive tights, with one red leg and one green, and draped the shop in so many bells and sprigs of holly that it looked like the set from a Hallmark Christmas Special. Bellamy looked positively disgusted, when he walked in.
“Is this going to last all month?” he asked, shuddering at the thought of it.
Clarke just handed him his coffee and stood on her toes to smack a loud kiss to his cheek. She was wearing bright red lipstick, and it left a smudge on his skin. “Yep.”
She took to showing up at his apartment through the week, whenever she knew he was working on a new manuscript. She’d bring all the leftover scones from her bakery, and whatever coffee hadn’t been sold, and she’d make him eat a dinner that wasn’t flash-frozen, and actually wash his goddamned hair. He had greathair, and he was just wasting it.
She took to bringing him paper snowflakes too, or holly sprigs, or any of the Christmas cards she liked at Walgreens. She didn’t actually win him over though, until the ornaments.
She’s honestly not sure why she didn’t think of it earlier.
“You are such a dragon,” Clarke shook her head, watching as Bellamy stared at the shiny red ball, enamored.
“You knew that already,” he pointed out, and then reached for another gold one from the box. He seemed to like gold best.
When she mentioned it, he went bright pink, all the way to his ears. “It matches your hair,” he said gruffly, and Clarke had to bite her lip so she wouldn’t smile.
He gave her a book for Christmas, one from his collection, and she stared at it in quiet shock.
It was from one of her dad’s encyclopedias; a better copy than her own, and with the extra pages that were missing.
“I thought dragons didn’t give away things from their own hoard,” she said, finally, and Bellamy shrugged, clearly trying for nonchalance, still staring at the ring she’d given him.
It felt silly in comparison to his gift, and childish, and cheap. Just a plain gold ring with a crudely etched crown. But he kept playing with it, spinning it around on his finger, moving it this way and that to watch it catch the light.
“They don’t,” he said simply. “Merry Christmas.”
Clarke held a party on New Year’s.
She didn’t tend to hold many parties—get-together’s, sometimes, and she’d let friends stay the night when they’d stayed out too long—but the idea of dozens of people, some of them strangers, in her rooms and touching her things, made Clarke nervous.
But Octavia and Raven ganged up on her, and Wells refused to take a side, and Bellamy assured anyone who would listen that he didn’t care, so in the end she was forced to.
“Bell,” she said, collapsing down next to him on the balcony, moonshine sloshing from her cup as she did. “Bell, there are people.” She glared behind them at the people in question, still laughing and dancing and generally just making a lot of noise in her living room.
Bellamy reached out a hand to steady her, warm and heavy on her shoulder, and she slumped in against her side. “You’re the one that decided to invite them,” he pointed out. “Besides, you’re a princess. I thought princesses were supposed to like parties.”
“Bellamy those are balls,” Clarke explained, in a voice that was probably not quiet enough for inside.
Which was fine, since they were outside, and Bellamy was laughing. Laughing at her, most likely, but she’d forgive him for that. He didn’t get to laugh very often, and he deserved it.
“So do you,” he murmured, squeezing her closer, and oops—she might have said that out loud.
She licked her lips a little—they still tasted like marshmallow. Earlier, when the sun was just beginning to set, Octavia had dragged Bellamy out into the backyard and made everyone follow.
When Jasper asked why, she just shrugged and said “Fire hazard.”
Then she poked and prodded and pleaded and stomped her foot at her brother until he finally relented, snorting two bursts of angry smoke before glaring at each of the crowd members in turn. “Does anyone have some marshmallows?”
They roasted them on sticks, like in summer camp, with Bellamy breathing just hot enough to soften them, but not burn. Clarke didn’t have any graham crackers, so they just ate them with their hands, licking at their fingers clumsily before heading back to set off fire crackers in the parking lot.
But that had been hours ago, and now Clarke was outside with Bellamy, dangling their legs over the edge of the balcony, and the last of the fireworks had just petered off, so there was nothing for them to watch but the stars.
“You’re not drinking,” she frowned, noticing his empty hands, and shoved her half-empty cup in his face, as an offer. He grinned, gently pushing it away.
“Dragon, remember? We can’t drink. Fire and alcohol don’t mix all that well.”
Clarke made an ahh noise, to let him know she understood.
“You’re my favorite dragon,” she told him, and he smiled, warm.
“I’m your only dragon.”
She felt a sudden surge of affection at that, and snuggled in even closer, blaming the slight January chill. “You are,” she agreed. “Bell?”
“Hmm?” He was petting her hair again, and she had a lot of moonshine, and he was just so warm.
He was purring a little, too. He did that. But only when he was really happy, which made her grin—she was the one making him happy.
She wanted him to know it was the same for her.
“Bell,” she sighed, and he laughed.
But she was already asleep.
February came, and Clarke dyed the ends of her hair pink, to celebrate.
Bellamy plucked at the strands, first thing, and she batted his hands away as he frowned.
“What did you do?”
“It’s called holiday spirit,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Something which you lack.”
Bellamy sighed, glaring around at the paper hearts she’d cut out and hung up. She’d taped them everywhere—on the counter, on the tables, on the bookshelves and chairs. The espresso machine wanted two dozen, so it was covered in red, white and pink. She’d even doodled little hearts on all the to-go cups, during a slow hour.
“Which one is it this time?”
“Valentine’s Day,” Clarke gaped at him. “How do you not know about Valentine’s Day?”
Bellamy’s frown deepened. “The one with all the chocolates? That holiday’s the worst, Clarke.”
“You think every holiday’s the worst.”
“And you always try to prove me wrong,” he said, and she grinned at him.
“I usually do. Just wait—Valentine’s Day is the best. There are chocolates, Bellamy. And balloons, and hearts, and everything’s like fifty percent off for date night! It’s literally a holiday about love, what is there to hate?”
Bellamy sniffed like the drama queen he was. “Plenty.”
Clarke just shook her head at him and set about making his drink. She’d convince him—it just took a little planning, that’s all.
She’d known she was going to tell him soon, how she felt. Since New Year’s. Since every time she looked over at him, he was already watching, like he was waiting to catch her eye, and offer a lazy grin. She didn’t have anything that didn’t smell like wood smoke, anymore.
She waited until Valentine’s Day, when she knew Bellamy would be holed up in his cave of an apartment, working on some biography about Henry IV, Henry VIII’s less well-known cousin. She cleaned and closed up the shop, packing the leftover strawberry crème cupcakes in a paper bag, and walked the two blocks north to Bellamy’s.
Clarke had her own key to the apartment, because he’d gotten tired of her kicking his door each time he took too long to answer, so she just unlocked it herself and walked in.
He was at his desk, writing, like she knew he would be, and he looked up at her with wide, surprised eyes. He was so dramatic.
“Easy tiger, it’s just me,” she teased, toeing off her sneakers before crossing over. She sat the bag on the edge of his desk, only feeling about seventy-five percent nervous.
She couldn’t have been misinterpreting him. She just couldn’t. There were too many moments, too many almost’s—almost confessions, almost touches, almost kisses.
And even if she had, so what? He deserved to know how she felt about him, and she deserved the chance to move on, if he wasn’t interested.
And it was Valentine’s Day. The perfect time to confess her undying love to her best friend.
Bellamy poked at the bag, suspicious, until he peeked in and saw what was inside. Delighted, he plucked out the first cupcake, about to eat it then and there. He probably hadn’t eaten at all that day; he always got so single-minded when he wrote. Honestly it was a wonder he’d survived at all before she came along and forced food on him.
“Not yet,” Clarke said, snatching up the cake. For a moment he looked so completely shocked that she almost laughed. She gestured to the bag. “There’s something else.”
Giving her one last look of betrayal, Bellamy glanced inside the bag again. “Another cupcake? That’s nice Clarke, but I really don’t think I can eat two at the same—”
Clarke cleared her throat, cutting him off. “Something else.”
There was a pause while he searched, and Clarke felt her chest clog up with nerves when he finally found it, pulling the key from the bag. It was iron, and small, with the sort of curly handle people were so fond of in the Victorian period. She’d found it at some flea market, and it had been such a small, stupid thing, but. She’d just known, immediately. Bellamy would love this.
She cleared her throat again, for something to do, and then because he certainly wasn’t saying anything, and because the nerves were starting to spill up and out of her, Clarke couldn’t keep the words in. “I know it’s not much, because it doesn’t come with a tower or anything, like another princess might, but—it’s supposed to be a metaphor. Like, here’s this key to my heart. I love you.”
Bellamy finally tore his eyes from the key, only to reach over and hand her what he’d been writing.
Only, he hadn’t been writing it at all, but binding. He’d bound together a dozen different pages, of all sizes and ages, paper and parchment and scroll clearly all from his own collection, sewn up in a leather cover with neat, even stitches down the sides.
“I write nonfiction because I’m not good at coming up with my own words,” he said, awkward as Clarke started to flip through the book. “But if I could, these are the words that I’d write for you.”
It was a book of love poems. Sonnets and hymns about romance and marriage and fate. Clarke felt tears on the tips of her eyelashes, and she tried to blink them away, but they wouldn’t listen.
Bellamy reached up to stroke his thumb against her wet skin, letting the water evaporate at his touch. He grinned up at her, a little shaky around the edges, like he was nervous, like he had any right to be nervous, after everything she’d just said.
“So,” he started, “I guess we—”
But Clarke had had enough of words, and she slid into his lap to kiss him. She’d waited much too long to kiss him, and she wasn’t about to keep doing it, not when she could finally know what he tasted like, what his mouth felt like against hers.
Warm, mostly. Warm and wet and perfect. Clarke wanted to spend the rest of forever kissing Bellamy Blake. She’d pretty much earned that.
But he pulled back a little, to let her breathe in air that didn’t taste like smoke, and he nosed against her cheek with a smile.
“I was right you know,” he murmured, voice low and rough on her skin, making Clarke shudder. He gripped her sides tightly, the heat of his hands burning through her tank top. “You definitely have some dragon in you.”
Clarke laughed, ducking down to bite the skin of his neck, because she’d been wanting to for ages. She could feel him start to purr. “Pretty sure I don’t.”
When she sat up to see him, his eyes were pools of dark heat, burning her up from the inside out. “You’re about to,” he said, and he made it a promise.
“Oh!” Clarke shoved him when she realized the joke, but then he was ducking down to mouth at her breast, to distract her.
He pulled a condom packet from behind her ear.
“I hate you,” Clarke declared, even as she helped him pull her shirt off. “The next time you come into my shop, I’ll kick you out.”
“No you won’t,” he grinned, smug, trailing kisses down her shoulder. “You love me.”
“Ugh,” Clarke said, and he sucked a bruise into her skin, careful with his teeth, before pulling back to look at her.
He brushed at her hair, voice soft. “I love you too,” he said, just to be sure. She curled their hands together, until their marks touched—her crown against his flame, pulses matching under their skin.
“I know,” she grinned. “You shared some of your book hoard with me.” She meant it as a joke, but Bellamy was serious.
“I want to share everything with you,” he said, quiet, and Clarke kissed him.
“Me too,” she agreed, pulling at the hem of his shirt. “I say we start now, and then just keep doing that, for the rest of our lives.”
Bellamy smiled, chest rumbling underneath her hands. “Happily ever after?”
She grinned into his kiss. “Something like that.”