Chapter 1: July - September
Bellamy breathes in a lungful of cool, Minnesota air. The week at the steel mill seemed to drag on for years this time, but thankfully, it was over. He waves to Miller and Monty, who promise to meet up later at his place. Bellamy waits for a good few minutes, leaning against the mill’s outer wall and watching the sky grey above him. He hates the thought that he could be watching the seasons change from that very spot for the rest of his life.
He hears Octavia arrive before he sees her. “Hurry up! I’ve left the bar understaffed and it’s getting crowded,” she shouts out the passenger seat window at him.
Bellamy climbs in and laughs a little. “I told you buying The Dropship was a bad idea.”
“Well, we didn’t have a lot of options after Turin. You should be grateful we have the regular customers we do.” The truck angrily jerks forward, and Bellamy can tell that it’s reflecting Octavia’s mood. He glances to his left and finds her scowling at the road. They pull onto the highway and drive further and further away from built-up districts, and closer to the fringe of the city – closer to home.
“I’m going to need you to cover some shifts tonight,” Octavia says as they pull into the small lot in front of their restaurant. The ‘DROPSHIP’ sign hangs at an angle on the roof, decorated in green paint that chips away with each passing year.
Bellamy grabs his lunchbox and jacket from the bed of the truck and walks past Octavia on the way to the small shed that services as his room. “No can do, O,” he calls over his shoulder. “I got practice tonight.”
Octavia follows him. She obviously expected him to say something like that. “Right. Practice. With what team again? Oh, that’s right: The Grounders.” She scoffs. “Bell, it’s not exactly the NHL. I think you can miss one practice.”
“I have to keep my game up!” Bellamy insists, snatching up his bag, filled with his pads and skates. The phrase ‘Team USA’ is written in faded red, white and blue letters across the body of the duffel. “I gotta be ready in case any of these teams finally realize their mistake and take me on.”
“Bellamy,” Octavia starts, before pausing. She reaches into her jacket pocket and retrieves a slightly rumpled envelope. It’s been opened. “This is the last letter.”
She timidly hands it to him, and he takes it. He’s read the same letter twenty-two times, and yet it still shocks him.
Thank you for offering your talent to this team. We regret to inform you that we are unable to take on new players at this time –
“Face it, Bellamy: nobody wants an injured player.”
His eyes snap up to meet hers. “I’m not crippled, O! I went to the goddamn Olympics!” He’s yelling now, taking the letter and throwing it with the stack of others. “I was good then and I’m good now! Why don’t these people see that?”
“You lost part of your eyesight, Bell – ” Octavia shouts back, “degrees of your peripheral vision at Turin! You think Olympic coaches want a player with a blind side?” Octavia’s eyes water, but she still shakes with anger. “Not to mention that you could’ve died.”
Bellamy softens. He remembers how hard it was for Octavia after his head injury. While he received x-rays and eye exams, she roasted Bellamy’s coach alive, calling him incompetent and threatening to sue him for negligence. His teammates who witnessed it attributed it to something in Blake DNA.
Carefully putting down his duffel, Bellamy moves to wrap his little sister in a hug. “I’m sorry, O.”
“Forget it,” Octavia mumbles into the hug. “Cover some shifts tonight and we’ll call it even.”
Bellamy barely registers the man standing at the foot of his ladder. Now that Bellamy is… mostly invested in The Dropship, Octavia insists that he help her fix it up. Every weekend for a month had been spent renovating the bar, updating the furniture, and mending the restrooms. Today’s task is adjusting the sign on the roof because it’s crooked and driving Octavia “up the fucking wall.”
“Who’s askin’?” Bellamy asks, holding several screws between his lips.
The man clears his throat. “I’ve seen footage of your games. You’re pretty good.”
At this, Bellamy looks down. Whoever he is, the stranger seems insignificant, and wearing an outfit that Bellamy assumed only stuffy old grandfathers would wear, complete with cardigan and brown loafers.
“I think you could be just the person for this job.”
“Job?” Bellamy holsters his screwdriver and climbs down the ladder. “I knew one of my letters had to be circulated! What team are you from?”
The man frowns. “Team? I don’t think you understand. Mr. Blake, my name is Marcus Kane. I’m here representing the Griffin family. They wish to audition your talents.”
“Your talents. For ice skating.”
“Look,” Bellamy starts, “if you’re not from the NHL, why the hell do you want me?”
Kane pauses, as if searching for the right phrase. “I’m scouting for a skating partner for my good friend, Abby Griffin. Her daughter wishes to return to competitive skating, but can’t seem to find a partner that suits her. If you choose to fly out to New York to audition, the Griffin family will compensate for your airfare, room, and board – ”
Bellamy puts up a hand. “Hold on a second. When you say this lady needs a partner, you mean…”
“Figure skating, Mr. Blake. Competitive figure skating.”
It takes a few minutes for Bellamy to stop laughing.
Clarke enjoys being on the ice by herself. There was something freeing about it – the effortless, yet consistent battle with friction. Of course, she knows she could never compete by herself. She’s too short, or so said most of her trainers growing up; she’d be the perfect size for couples’ skating. So here she is, at the peak of her career, only trained to skate with a partner, with no partner. It isn’t her fault. Her mom and Marcus said she was being too picky, but that wasn’t it. No one compared to Wells. He was the only person who understood her, the way best friends from birth often do. They could read each other on the ice better than any group, and it showed. They were unstoppable.
That is, until Turin.
Clarke is hoping for her second chance, because that’s the only reason to skate anymore. When the door to her family’s private rink is opened, Clarke’s face falls. This is not what she thought her second chance would look like. A gruff-looking man, who couldn’t be more than a few years older than Clarke, stands at the entrance, his jaw slightly agape. He’s bundled in flannels and carries a well-worn duffel over his shoulder.
“Woah, you guys have your own rink?”
Kane nods. “We have ice all year round.”
Clarke skates over to them. “You said you were bringing Jasper.”
“No,” Kane replies. “You thought I was bringing Jasper. This is Bellamy Blake.”
Clarke searches Bellamy’s face for a recognizable feature. “Who?”
“Bellamy is an excellent skater,” says Kane. “One of the best in his field.”
Then Clarke makes the connection. “Oh. You’re that hockey player.”
Bellamy steps onto the ice, his hand outstretched. “Nice to meet you.” He’s smiling, and Clarke supposes that, in the right light, some women could find him attractive. He has a nice smile, and nice eyes, probably, if she could see them behind his unruly mess of black curls. On the whole, though, Clarke thinks that he’d probably be more attractive if he didn’t think so well of himself.
“Look, Marcus,” Clarke says, refusing Bellamy’s hand and crossing her arms, “I know you’re trying to please my mom here, but was there really no one else? The phrase ‘scraping the bottom of the barrel’ doesn’t even begin to cover… this.” Clarke gestures vaguely to Bellamy’s general appearance.
Bellamy snorts. “Tell me how you really feel, Princess.”
“You don’t want to know I really feel.”
“Hey, I didn’t fly all this way to be judged by you, alright? I just came to skate.”
“Don’t let us keep you,” Clarke laughs sarcastically. “I’m sure there’s a few frozen ponds that come around during the winter that will be much more your speed.”
Bellamy bristles and turns on Kane. “You said ‘headstrong,’ but now I’m starting to think there’s another word for it.”
“You told him I was headstrong?”
“Yeah, which was the understatement of the millennium, apparently,” Bellamy snaps. He quickly looks Clarke up and down, sizing her up with narrow eyes. “You know what? Screw this – I’m out of here. Have a nice life, Princess.”
Clarke smirks. “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”
“That’s enough!” Kane yells, and his voice reverberates on the ice enough to stop Bellamy and Clarke in their tracks. “We’re done with pleasantries. I know this isn’t the most ideal situation, but neither of you are in a position to be judgmental. You have no partner,” he says to Clarke, “so good luck going to the National Championships – let alone the Olympics – without one. And you,” Kane turns to Bellamy. “Face facts: I’m the last person on earth coming to look for you. Now, let’s skate.”
The rink is silent. Slowly, Bellamy makes his way to where Kane stands, off the ice. Muttering something about regretting this decision later, he begins to take off his shoes.
Chapter 2: October - November
Bellamy groans as his alarm goes off. Five AM. He discovered quickly upon staying at the Griffins’ (for a “probationary period,” as Clarke kept saying) that the only thing stricter than Clarke’s manners is her workout routine. She gets up at five-thirty every morning, rain or shine, and runs through the woods around her family’s estate. Then, she goes to the gym that takes up one of the dozens of larger rooms in the house, and does cardio or core work for the rest of the morning. Bellamy couldn’t help but be impressed by her discipline, but at the same time disgusted that all the money the Griffins have (too much for only two people, Bellamy thinks) couldn’t buy Clarke a more polite countenance. After one too many comments at lunch on how lazy he was to only work out in the afternoons, Bellamy made up his mind. He’d beat Princess at her own game.
That’s why he literally rolls out of bed a half hour before Clarke does, just to see that split second of fury when he’s out running in front of the house when Clarke is just coming out the front door. When she’s angry, Bellamy discovers, Clarke either looks calm, or practically snarls, before going off to run by herself. Today, however, when she marches up to him and offers that they run together, Bellamy is taken completely off-guard.
“I know some trails that go a few miles north,” she explains, putting her hair up in a tight ponytail. “It’s rougher terrain, but since we’re both running in the morning anyway, we might as well.” Bellamy notices that she doesn’t mention the competition they are so obviously in. “Unless you think you can’t handle it.”
Bellamy grins. “Ready when you are, Princess.”
The path is a lot harder than Clarke made it sound. The sun rises slowly behind the New Yorks hills, filtering sunlight through the leaves that had started turning shades of red and gold, but the trail is so thickly settled it’s like running in the dark. There are branches and fallen trees at almost every turn, and Bellamy guesses this is what Clarke meant by “rough terrain.” But the worst part of the trail is that Clarke is actually beating him. For a short person, she can sprint with lightning speed in short bursts, and she uses these bursts every time Bellamy starts to get ahead of her.
After a few hours, he stops for a second to lean against a boulder. Clarke turns around and smiles. She’s barely out of breath, and Bellamy has never felt so shamefully out of shape.
Bellamy shakes his head, but it’s probably not convincing, given that he’s panting and sweating profusely. “Are you sure you know where we’re going?” he asks. “’Cause we stopped going north awhile ago.”
“How do you know?”
“Moss on the trees,” he rasps out.
Clarke furrows her eyebrows together, and goes to check a few trees. “You’re actually right,” she admits, and Bellamy rolls his eyes. Like he would lie to her about tree moss. “I haven’t been on this trail in a while…”
Bellamy looks up, and sees Clarke differently than he’s ever seen her. She looks sad, almost wistful, gazing at the trees around her like they’re painful memories. In a moment, though, the sadness is gone, and Clarke’s eyes return to their natural icy blue.
“Let’s just head back,” Clarke decides. “It’ll be time for an early lunch by the time we get there.”
Bellamy nods, and after another few moments of rest, they run back the way they came, staggering into the dining room. After a few platefuls of food, Bellamy boasts that he let Clarke “win” the run, but he would beat her in the gym after lunch, and Clarke scoffs. Kane and Mrs. Griffin exchange looks, but say nothing. It’s not as if the two young people stop arguing long enough to notice that they’re there.
From then on, any exercise either of them does is with each other, and it’s draining. Bellamy has never felt soreness in his entire body they way he does when he wakes up in the morning (though they both agree to get up at six now), not even when he was on an Olympic team. He stretches and uses certain muscles he has never had to before when he joins Clarke for yoga in the afternoon. Even Clarke is often late to morning skating sessions with Kane because she’s so exhausted from lifting weights with Bellamy every other day.
It has nothing to do with impressing each other, they tell Kane on separate occasions. It’s a competition, that’s all.
“Will you please learn how to use your skates?” Clarke yells at Bellamy, who has again fallen on his face. He may be competing with Clarke off the ice, but one thing is certain: when it comes to figure skating, Clarke kicks his ass.
He pushes himself up, cursing under his breath.
“Clarke,” Kane warns. “Be patient. Bellamy has to completely relearn how to skate, given that even the blades on his skates are different than before.”
“I don’t have time for him to relearn!” Clarke cries. “Nationals are coming up, and I need to be ready.”
Bellamy wipes the ice off his pants. “You know, you’ll never get someone to date you with an attitude like that.”
“I have a boyfriend, actually,” says Clarke, turning to glare at him. “His name is Finn, and he’s a lawyer.”
“I’ll send him my condolences. Can we skate?”
“I don’t know, can you?”
Bellamy ignores her. “Kane, I’d like to run it again.”
Kane nods, and begins instruction. The two assume their starting positions. Clarke stands in front with one arm outstretched, Bellamy moves behind her, one hand on her hip. He notices how she stiffens against his touch, probably surprised by the contrast between his body temperature and hers. He’s always been warmer than most people, even on the ice, and Clarke is unsurprisingly living up to her title as Ice Princess. Bellamy stores this tidbit of information away, though he doesn’t know what for. He suddenly becomes drawn out of his thoughts when Kane yells, “Begin!”
Less than a minute later, Bellamy’s body slaps the rink. They try again, and again, and every time Bellamy makes at least one mistake. Clarke is merciless, laughing when he falls, and skating just far enough in front of him that he loses his balance when he reaches for her hand.
When they call it a day, Bellamy can tell he will need ice packs all over his body tomorrow. Part of him thinks that he should stop now, while he’s ahead, and go back home to Minnesota. No one would blame Bellamy if he did; they’d say he just wasn’t cut out for figure skating. But, Bellamy remembers, Blakes don’t quit. He’s going to Nationals, even if it kills him.
Hopefully, he won’t kill Clarke before then.
It’s the times when Kane isn’t around that Clarke acutely feels how large a part skating is in her life. The days are counting down to Thanksgiving, and Kane goes to visit his family in Massachusetts for the weekend. Clarke’s mother seems somber by his absence, but Clarke doesn’t mention it. The Griffins aren’t really ones for talking about personal feelings, anyway.
Without Kane, however, Clarke is bored. She hates being bored. Trying to pass the time, she curls up under some blankets and draws whatever she sees. She sketches some birds that hover in the bushes outside her window, the Zamboni that slowly drags itself around her rink, and, annoyingly, she finds herself drawing a figure holding a hockey stick. Of course, Bellamy had to be using the rink today of all days.
Bellamy sets up a few cans and gloves that service as makeshift goal posts, and pretends to be in a game with himself. He yells commands to his “teammates” and cheers when he wins. Clarke tries not to laugh at how ridiculous he looks and continues drawing. Despite herself, she thinks he looks almost graceful when playing hockey, in a Neanderthal sort of way. There is no doubt in her mind from watching him that this is his element. Whether or not he could translate that talent into figure skating could go either way at this point.
Though, Clarke had to admit that she never met anyone who worked as hard as Bellamy to be her partner. Other candidates had worked with her for only a few weeks before giving up. Perhaps she had misjudged him. So engrossed in her thoughts, and getting the contours of Bellamy’s face to have some resemblance to the man, Clarke doesn’t notice Bellamy skating over to her edge and asking her a question.
Clarke jumps and shuts her sketchpad shut. “What?”
“I asked what you were doing.” Bellamy only seems half interested, but is certainly amused that he startled her. He manages to grin while taking a swig of his water bottle.
“I’m drawing. What’s it to you?”
“Easy, Princess!” says Bellamy, throwing his hands up in mock defense. “Just trying to make polite conversation. We should make an effort, seeing as it’s the holidays.” He pauses to take another gulp of water, and gestures to her sketchbook with the bottle. “You any good?”
Clarke shrugs. “Probably not. I don’t have a lot of time to practice because of my skating.”
“May I? I promise I won’t laugh.”
Clarke deliberates the idea in her mind for a moment, and – without quite knowing why – she turns to the sketch of the Zamboni and holds it out for Bellamy to take. “Just the one,” she says.
Bellamy takes the pad gingerly from her hands. Before looking down at it, he smiles at her, as if he is preparing himself to hold back his laughter. When his eyes hit the paper, however, his face falls. Clarke can feel his shift of emotion in her stomach; it was stupid of her to think he wouldn’t be disgusted by anything artistic.
“That bad, huh?” she jokes, faking a laugh.
Bellamy’s eyes suddenly widen at Clarke, confused. “Not at all,” he insists. “I was actually going to say the opposite.”
“Yeah,” he says, one of his fingers tracing the lines on the page before handing it back to her. “I can’t believe you’re this good at your hobby. It’s kind of infuriating.”
Clarke chuckles and puts the sketchbook in her lap. “My dad told me practicing would pay off… Don’t you have any hobbies?”
Bellamy laughs. “Where I come from, people don’t have hobbies.”
“People can’t afford them.”
Clarke searches Bellamy’s face. She’s never wondered about Bellamy’s hometown – or life, even – before he came to skate with her because, frankly, she didn’t care. She assumed that he wasn’t as affluent as she was; few people are, and Clarke is pretty sure she has met all of them at one party or another. But to not be able to afford a hobby is a different matter entirely.
“What about books?” she asks. “I presume you can read.”
Bellamy shoots her a look. “Yes, we peasants just manage to get by with learning the alphabet.”
“So, what books do you like? That could be a hobby.”
“I never really read in college,” Bellamy explains. “People just expected me to put points up on the board, and that got me a free ride, so it wasn’t like I was going to complain. I did like the stories about ancient Greece, though, when I was little. My mom would read them to me and my sister all the time.” He smiles at the memory. “And what about you? How’d you like college?”
Clarke feels heat beginning to rise in her cheeks, and begins folding up her blankets. “I never went.”
“What?” Bellamy starts to laugh. “No hoity-toity sorority pranks at an Ivy League? No wearing pajamas to your nine AM English Lit class?”
“My mom got me tutors,” Clarke states, lacing up her skates. “The best tutors money could buy. I couldn’t be going off to school when I had the chance for an Olympic gold medal, could I?”
Bellamy laughs some more. “You know, the scenario of the princess being trapped in the tower is something I never would’ve imagined being able to apply to modern life.”
“And so Finn came and rescued you, is that it? Was he some stable hand that won your affection?”
Clarke slides over to where Bellamy sits. “For your information, Finn is a family friend and has a degree from Harvard. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, it’s arguably the best school in the country.”
“How do I know he even exists?” Bellamy retorts, picking up his puck and hockey stick. “Maybe you made him up. I mean: he’s never visited.”
“Don’t worry, he’ll be here for New Years’.”
“I can hardly wait,” Bellamy calls sarcastically over his shoulder, before slapping the puck cleanly through the two cans at the other end of the rink.
Clarke stops the puck with one of her skates. “You’re really going to keep playing by yourself?”
Bellamy grins and skates over to his duffel. He pulls out another stick and offers it to Clarke. “Unless you think you can’t handle it,” he says.
Clarke snatches the stick out of his hand, and the battle begins. However, Clarke quickly learns that it’s not really a battle and more humiliation on her part. Every cruel thing that she had done to Bellamy over the past two months, he manages to condense into a half-hour game. At the end, Clarke is so angry that she is ready to break her hockey stick on Bellamy’s face.
“Hey,” Bellamy says, “now you know how I feel.”
And that is what stops her from mutilating him with her blades. She’s never been a gracious loser, and Bellamy makes sure to milk her misery for all it’s worth at dinner, but there’s a small part of her that tells her that she may have deserved it.
That night, Clarke decides to see how Finn is doing in Chicago. Her call goes straight to voicemail.
Chapter 3: December - January
Quite out of nowhere, Bellamy becomes good at figure skating. Clarke doesn’t know if it’s practice or willpower, but one day in early December, he performs their routine without mishap. And then he does it again. Clearly pleased with himself, he beams at her, at Kane, and does several victory laps around the rink. Clarke is shocked, but too happy at his success to find a way to be annoyed by it. Now he can skate with her at Nationals, and that makes her feel better about returning to compete.
But that doesn’t mean they’re done working.
“Alright, alright,” Kane shouts over Bellamy’s crowing. “Now that we’ve got the basics down, let’s perfect some things, and then make them a little more complicated.”
When they assume their starting positions, Clarke can feel the joy radiating off of Bellamy in waves, and it’s contagious. Neither of them even complains when Kane throws new moves at them. For the first time in years, a practice is fun.
Clarke doesn’t realize she’s been smiling the whole time until she leaves the rink.
It’s suggested by Clarke’s mother (and Bellamy knows it’s secretly an order) that he should go home to be with his family for Christmas, but come back for New Years’. Bellamy agrees, partly because he misses Octavia like any protective older brother would, and partly because he thinks that he and Clarke should have some space from each other for at least a week. Now that he’s finally gotten the hang of figure skating, he and Clarke had become more comfortable with each other. They still tell each other off about everything, but it’s somehow different, like they don’t really mean it. It’s almost… friendly.
Frankly, it scares the shit out of him.
So Bellamy packs whatever clothes he brought with him out of what’s become his room at the Griffin’s, and prepares for his flight the following morning. He spots one article of clothing in particular, and considers it carefully, before tearing out of the room to find Kane.
A couple hours later, he finds Clarke in one of the drawing rooms with a fireplace. She’s holding a book that looks like it’s had its share of wear, and attempting to read it by the light of the fire and a few lamps. Bellamy almost laughs because the whole atmosphere is so typically Clarke. Suddenly feeling the need to be polite, he lightly raps on the door.
Clarke looks up, her blonde hair almost glowing in the orange light of the fire. “Hey.”
“Hi.” Bellamy awkwardly takes a few steps into the room. When Clarke doesn’t kick him out, he reveals the package he’s been holding behind his back. “I got you something,” he blurts out. “You know, for Christmas. Since we won’t see each other on the day.”
Clarke smiles and shuts her book. A little more relaxed, Bellamy joins her on the small sofa and hands her the gift. She immediately raises her eyebrows when she holds it in her hands, and Bellamy can tell she’s trying not to laugh.
“Sorry about the wrapping job,” he says, reading her expression. “I asked Kane where the paper and ribbon were, but you can probably tell that I don’t wrap stuff very often.”
“What do you do when you give presents at home?”
“Bags and tissue paper,” he admits.
“That’s cheating,” Clarke laughs, but she takes great care in opening his present anyway. Bellamy can’t help but like the way Clarke smiles – and wow does he need to get some distance from her, before he does anything stupid that will jeopardize their chances at Nationals.
Clarke brushes the ends of the snowflake wrapping paper aside, and slowly lifts out its contents. “University of Minnesota,” she reads, holding up the maroon sweatshirt with gold lettering.
Bellamy thinks she sounds disappointed, and he immediately backtracks. “I thought that I’d give you my old college sweater ‘cause I – ‘cause you never got the chance to – ” he falters. “Forget it. It was a stupid idea. I’ll take it back.”
He looks up and meets Clarke’s gaze. She’s looking at him with an unreadable expression, but when he tries to take the sweatshirt back, she snatches it and holds it close to her chest. “No!” she says. “I want it.”
Bellamy pauses. “Seriously?”
And there’s that look again. “Yeah.” She glances between him and the sweatshirt before smiling. “Thank you, Bellamy.”
He’s not really sure if she means it, but leans back on the sofa. “No problem.”
“Do you want your present?”
“Uh, sure,” he says, but she’s already out of the room retrieving it. She got me a gift? he thinks. Clarke returns before he can think of what it might be, giving him the rectangular present and plopping down on the sofa.
“Open it!” she orders gleefully.
Bellamy pulls off the green ribbon and starts on the gold paper. “Way to show me up with your wrapping game, Princess,” he teases. “This is so meticulous – it’s almost a shame to ruin it.”
Clarke rolls her eyes. “Just open it.”
He does, and while he’s already guessed that it’s a book, he’s not sure what Clarke would want to get him. Given her wealth, she could get him anything. He considers that maybe it’s a gag gift of a book on personal hygiene or something.
The book smells old, and the odor is so strong that it’s what Bellamy notices first. In a strange way, he likes the antiquity of the smell, just like he appreciates the traditional gold edging to the pages. The cover is a dark shade of blue, and in black letters, the title stares at him: The Complete Works of Homer. Awestruck, Bellamy opens the cover. It’s a first edition, printed in 1935, and if that isn’t enough, the inscription written inside of it almost makes him fall out of his place on the sofa.
To my little girl, it reads in neat, cursive handwriting, on the occasion of her seventh birthday. Don’t forget to be adventurous! Happy Birthday, Clarke. Love, Dad.
“Clarke,” Bellamy starts, sighing when words fail him.
“I can’t accept this.”
Clarke’s brow furrows. “Why not? You told me you and your sister used to read these stories.”
“Clarke, it’s a gift to you from your dad.” Bellamy can’t believe he has to explain this to her. He’s put the pieces together in his time at the Griffin household and concluded that Jake Griffin was no longer in Clarke’s life, and only recently did he discover (from eavesdropping on Kane and Abby’s hushed conservations in the library when he just happened to be walking by) that he had died of an incurable disease when Clarke was young.
“I know,” Clarke says. Her eyes are softer now. “But I want you to have it.”
Clarke looks away, towards the fireplace. “Dad always said books were the most powerful when the person reading them appreciates the story. You and your sister will appreciate it more than I did.”
Bellamy is speechless. He isn’t used to Clarke’s generosity, and it’s a shame because he thinks it comes naturally to her. And, now that he’s thinking about it, his gift seems quite inadequate compared to this. “Thank you,” he manages to say finally.
Clarke smiles at him. “Merry Christmas, Bellamy.”
“Merry Christmas, Clarke.”
Bellamy didn’t know how his homecoming for Christmas was going to play out, but he certainly wasn’t expecting him and Octavia to get in a fight. Well, not immediately, anyway.
Granted, the fight is mostly justified. Bellamy thought he’d surprise his little sister by taking a cab from the airport to The Dropship, and while he certainly didn’t think that everything was going to be the same as he left it three months before, he was not ready for the whirlwind of change that had taken place in his absence. The Dropship looked packed, and as clean as he had ever seen it. There was even a new coat of paint on the outside. He cautiously entered with his bags because, really, the bar could be under new management for all he knew.
And that’s when he sees a very handsome, very tattooed bartender giving his baby sister a kiss over the counter before she takes a tray of food over to some tables.
“Hey, O,” he called out over the din of the bar, and maybe it was the time putting up with Clarke, but his self-restraint was working overtime to keep himself from flying across the room and punching the bartender in the face.
When Octavia saw him, she pounced on him in the doorway and gave him one of her famous bear hugs. “Bell! I can’t believe you’re home! You’re staying for Christmas, right?”
“Can I talk to you for a minute?” he said, ignoring her.
Now, Bellamy is in Octavia’s room upstairs, the sounds of the bar muffled by the floor. By the way they’re looking at each other, Bellamy can tell this isn’t going to go well.
“Why didn’t you call?” Octavia begins.
“I thought I’d surprise you.”
Octavia laughs a little. “Okay. By the look on your face, though, something happened between August and now. Are you okay? Did your crewmates treat you rough?”
Bellamy freezes. He’s forgotten that he might not have been exactly truthful with Octavia about where he’s been for the past few months. And she may be under the impression that he’s working for a fishing company in Mount Weather, Maine. And Bellamy may not have persuaded her otherwise.
This is going to be a Blake-level shit show.
“About that,” Bellamy says. “I didn’t have any crewmates."
“Well, whatever you sailors technically call yourselves. It’s not like I know the difference – ”
“I wasn’t on a fishing boat.”
Any humor Octavia had in her countenance is gone. “What? Then where the hell were you?"
“Upstate New York.”
Bellamy runs a hand through his hair. “I’m trying something new, and I didn’t want you or any of the guys here to know about it in case it didn’t work.” Octavia says nothing, but crosses her arms, which is Bellamy’s signal to continue. “I got a chance to go to the Olympics, O. An agent approached me in August, and it was my last chance to skate professionally, you know? So I took it.”
“An agent for what?”
Octavia’s eyes widen, and Bellamy had forgotten how scary she could be when she’s pissed. “Are you telling me,” she screams, “that you left me high and dry with our only steady stream of income, so you can make a fool of yourself trying a sport you’ve never competed in before?! What the fuck were you thinking, Bellamy?”
“Business looks fine to me!” he counters. “And as for the help you need around here, I don’t think you’re in trouble there. I saw you and tattoo-guy downstairs.”
“Lincoln,” Octavia says pointedly, “is the best goddamn bartender we’ve ever had! And he helped me with the repairs that you were going to finish before you left.”
Bellamy throws his hands up in the air in exasperation. “And you’re sleeping with him? He looks like he’s my age!”
“You are not in a position right now to judge me about keeping things from you, big brother.” Bellamy opens his mouth to respond, but closes it. Octavia sighs, and sits next to Bellamy on the bed. The two are quite for a few minutes.
“So… figure skating.”
Bellamy nods. “Yeah."
“Like, leotards and glitter and stuff.”
“Absolutely no glitter will be worn by a Blake, thank you very much.”
Octavia pauses. “Do you like it? I mean, do you think you have a shot at the Olympics?”
Bellamy thinks on the question for a moment. “It’s a lot fucking harder than hockey, O. And we’ve been working our asses off for months, fifteen hours a day… I think we have a shot at the gold medal.”
“Oh, right,” Bellamy says, pulling out his camera. “Here’s a video our coach took of us before I left. That’s Clarke,” he says, pointing to the blur of blonde hair and white skates, “and that’s me.”
“Wow,” Octavia concedes, her eyes never leaving the screen. “You guys are pretty good! When’s the preliminary competition?”
“Nationals is late January, and if we get in the top two slots there, we get to go to Vancouver at the end of February.”
Octavia hands Bellamy back his camera. “Are you going to tell the guys?”
“Um, no,” Bellamy says, laughing nervously. “I think their reactions would be a hundred times worse than yours if they knew I stopped playing hockey to wear tights and guy-liner.”
Octavia snorts. “We’ll see about that.” She marches out the door and down the stairs. Bellamy realizes too late what she intends to do, but follows her anyway. By the time he’s anywhere near the bar, he looks up to see his little sister, standing up on the counter with a knife and a large beer glass. Lincoln turns the TV off, and many of the patrons protest the loss of the sport game.
The ringing of the knife hitting the glass quiets down the crowd to a few murmurs, and Octavia pockets the knife. “Listen up, assholes,” she shouts. “My brother’s got a shot at going to the Olympics again – ”
The crowd starts cheering, and Bellamy can feel his face getting hot. This has to be the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to him, and that includes the time Octavia walked in on him and a foreign journalist having some fun at a hotel in Turin, and Octavia told her all about his head injury (making it sound like he couldn’t even go to the bathroom by himself, the little brat) so she would leave.
“ — for figure skating,” Octavia finishes, and the room is suddenly quiet again. “Anyone who has a problem with that can get the hell out now, and don’t bother coming back!” With that, she descends from the bar.
Slowly, chatter returns to the atmosphere of The Dropship. Only a few people leave, and Bellamy recognizes a couple of them, like Murphy, his old hockey rival from high school. Murphy yells something to him about ballerinas and playing for “other teams,” but Miller appears a few moments later to shove him out the front door. In no time, Bellamy is drinking with Octavia and Miller. He even introduces himself to Lincoln, and invites him come over for dinner sometime.
All in all, Bellamy has a pretty great Christmas. But he can’t help wondering how a certain blonde, with lots of money and few friends, is spending her holiday.
“There you are!”
Clarke looks up and finds her mother, dressed in pajamas and a silk robe, leaning against the doorframe of her father’s study. Since his death, the study has become more of a shrine to Clarke’s skating achievements than anything else. Golden trophies line the bookshelves, and pictures of her competitions are more than filling the walls, all of them in chronological order. The photograph Clarke is holding now is the only one worthy enough to be in its own frame and sit on her father’s desk. In it, a six-year-old Clarke and her father are standing next to the pond a few miles down the road. They’re both smiling, rosy-cheeked from the cold. It was the first day Clarke put on a pair of skates.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Clarke explains before her mom asks her why she’s there.
Abby nods and perches herself on the arm of the leather seat Clarke is sitting in. “Are you excited for the party tomorrow?”
Tomorrow. New Years’ Eve. Clarke hasn’t forgotten about the party because it is the biggest party of the year that the Griffins throw, and the one tradition Abby insisted on keeping after her dad died. “I guess,” Clarke shrugs. “I don’t know.”
“We have plenty to celebrate,” Abby insists. “This will be the year where you’ll get the gold medal. All thanks to that Mr. Blake.”
Clarke doesn’t need to be reminded how important it is to her mother that she win at the Olympics. It’s what she’s been training for since she first got her picture taken at the pond down the road. It’s why she didn’t go to college. Her victory would make her dad proud, her mom had told her from the beginning.
“What if I don’t win, mom?” Clarke asks quietly.
“Of course you’ll win, sweetheart.”
Clarke laughs humorlessly. “You said that at Turin.”
Abby slowly straightens her frame and steps out of her place on Clarke’s chair. She kneels in front of Clarke. “What happened in Turin wasn’t your fault, Clarke.”
“But it was, mom,” Clarke says, and her voice breaks. The glass of the picture frame is the only thing protecting her father’s smiling face from becoming distorted by the tears Clarke begins to shed. “And what if something happens again? I can’t lose Bellamy, too.”
Abby envelops Clarke’s shaking frame in her arms. “Listen to me,” she says soothingly in her ear. “Nothing is going to happen. You just need to focus on kicking ass at Nationals, okay? And have fun tomorrow night! You’ve been working so hard – you deserve a break.”
Clarke nods, but it takes a while for the tears to stop falling.
As usual, the party waits until an hour before midnight to get into full swing. By then, people are drunk enough to let loose and dance in the largest ballroom the Griffin mansion has to offer. The live band Abby hired starts playing some old jazz music, and people go crazy.
No matter how many of these parties she hosts, Clarke never stops feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of attendees. There must be at least a hundred people in the ballroom, and another two hundred milling in other rooms around the house. Half of them, she’s sure, weren’t even invited, but the Griffin’s New Year’s party is famous for being easygoing when it comes to that sort of thing. Still, it is exhausting. Clarke hasn’t even seen Bellamy yet. It’s not that she’s looking for him or anything; she just thought she would have seen him by now. He did fly back that morning, after all.
As Clarke thinks on that, a figure with black curls slips into an unused room. Clarke follows. When she pokes her head into the room, she is relieved to find that it is Bellamy.
“Hey, Princess!” he greets, grinning. “Nice party.”
Clarke’s eyes threaten to pop out of her head. Bellamy looks… hot. His body completely compliments the suit he’s wearing, and Clarke has always had a thing for men in suits (for God’s sake, she’s dating a lawyer). Bellamy’s also finally managed to do something with his hair, and now that Clarke can see his eyes, she doesn’t want to look away. But she does, clearing her throat in a vain attempt to pretend like she wasn’t checking him out five seconds ago. “Are you hiding in here?”
“Kind of,” he says, rubbing the back of his neck, and goddammit, even that is attractive. “I like parties just fine, but I’ve never really done the whole black-tie thing. I’ve been following Kane around all night, trying to blend in, but that’ll probably never happen.”
“Come here,” Clarke orders, and Bellamy moves towards her. She’s never noticed their height difference as much as she notices it now. “Now turn around.”
“Just do it! I need to make sure you didn’t get anything on yourself.”
Bellamy obeys, smiling devilishly. Clarke brushes off the minute amount of dust and lint that had landed on Bellamy’s shoulders, and moves to fix his collar.
“You look nice, by the way,” Bellamy says nonchalantly.
“Thank you,” Clarke responds. She ignores how hot her cheeks feel. “You, too.”
Bellamy laughs. “Are you kidding? I feel like a store mannequin.”
“Don’t be dramatic, you look fine. And as for blending in,” Clarke continues, nudging Bellamy with her hand to get him to face her again, “just be yourself. You’ll be refreshingly real and down-to-earth compared to the stuffy old suits that usually make up these parties.”
Bellamy’s gaze is warm when he looks at her, and Clarke feels herself smiling back. In a theatrical show of bravado, he offers Clarke his arm. She takes it, and they reenter the chaos of the party, navigating through the throngs of people. Bellamy’s almost pushed her into the ballroom, when Clarke feels a kiss on her cheek.
“Mind if I cut in?”
“Finn!” she says, letting go of Bellamy’s arm to throw her arms around Finn’s shoulders. “I thought you couldn’t make it until after the ball dropped.”
“I thought so, too,” Finn replies easily. “But I just knew I couldn’t miss spending New Years’ with my favorite girl.”
Clarke giggles (though she immediately hates the sound – seriously, where the hell do those noises come from?). She turns and remembers that Bellamy is still standing next to her. “Oh, I’m sorry. Finn Collins, this is Bellamy Blake.”
Bellamy’s face has become stone cold. His eyes narrow into slits. Still, he grabs two glasses of champagne off of a caterer’s tray and begrudgingly offers one to Finn. “It’s nice to meet you,” he says, forcing a smirk.
Finn is no better, taking the glass like it may be poisoned and plastering on his fake lawyer-smile. “Likewise. I haven’t had the opportunity to thank you. You’re the guy who’s going to put my girl back on her way to the path for the gold medal, after all.” Clarke notices the flinch in Bellamy’s body when Finn refers to her as “his girl.”
“Glad I could be of assistance.”
The tension between the two is tangible enough to be cut with a knife, and after about thirty seconds of it, Clarke has had enough. “Well,” she says, removing herself from Finn’s side, “this is embarrassing. When you two have stopped comparing the size of your dicks, let me know.”
Clarke leaves and finds a few familiar faces across the room. She looks back only once, just in time to Finn looking smug at something he must have said. Glaring, yet calm, Bellamy leans over to say something quietly to Finn. Finn splutters, arrogance gone, while Bellamy just raises his glass to him in a small salute before sauntering off to a group of amiable young socialites.
Not long after, the tumult of midnight reverberates through the house. Clarke hugs her mom first – shouting “Happy New Year!” over everyone’s screams. Kane and Abby kiss chastely after that, and Clarke quickly moves out of the way before she gets too uncomfortable. She can hardly see where she’s going; the lights are still low from the countdown to midnight, and the couple dozen people brave enough to light sparklers inside were waving them too frantically to be useful. People were kissing one another left and right, and Clarke felt it only right to try and find Finn before it got too late after midnight.
Quite by accident, she bumps into a tall, muscular figure. “Oops! Sorry!” she says out of habit. When she looks up, she locks eyes with dark brown ones. Bellamy looks like he’s holding his breath, and she’s holding hers, too. Clarke catches him looking between her eyes and her lips. “Auld Lange Syne” is being butchered by everyone around them, but Clarke doesn’t notice. They both lean forward.
“Bell! You promised me a kiss at midnight!”
And suddenly, Bellamy’s head is being redirected, toward a girl from before, the one with light brown hair. And he kisses her. Clarke is instantly brought back to reality, and marches away from the two before she thinks too much on what the fuck just happened.
Because she almost kissed Bellamy Blake.
Now he’s kissing someone else.
And Clarke can’t help feeling bothered by that.
Clarke doesn’t notice Thelonious enter the ring, too engrossed in the private practice she gives herself before Bellamy and Marcus arrive. When she does notice him, she slows down to a figure eight on the rink. In a way, it’s almost familiar for him to be there, watching her. He’d been her first coach, after all.
“Your left leg’s still low,” he begins.
Clarke huffs out a forced laugh, and skates to the edge of the rink to retrieve her water bottle. “Hello to you, too, Thelonious. What are you doing here?”
He shrugs. “I was happy to see that you had entered for Nationals. Wells would have been pleased, as well.” At the mention of Wells’ name, Clarke bristles. “You must imagine my surprise, then,” Thelonious continues, pacing around the edge of the rink like a cat circling its prey, “when I saw who you were partnered with. Not Jasper, or Roan, or any of the other reliable names in the circuit, but this Blake person… a hockey player Clarke. It all seems rather embarrassing.”
Clarke takes a swig out of her water bottle, and levels her eyes at Thelonious. “Please tell me that you didn’t drive over here to tell me that you don’t approve of my new partner. You’re not my coach anymore.”
“That doesn’t mean I don’t care about your reputation.”
“You’ve never given two shits about my reputation, Jaha,” Clarke snaps. “Not in all the years I trained for you, not in all the competitions Wells and I performed – And as for Bellamy, I think you’ll be happy to know that, besides Wells, he’s the best partner I’ve ever had. We’re quite prepared to crush anyone who gets in our way at Nationals.” A silence falls between them, heavy, uneasy. Then, Clarke slowly lifts her head.
“I’m assuming you still know your way out.”
Thelonious stands pensively, for a moment, before turning and walking towards the rink’s doors. Just before leaving, he calls out: “I hope that Mr. Blake knows what he’s getting into. We wouldn’t want what happened to Wells to happen to him.”
Clarke freezes. That must have been Jaha’s purpose in coming all along. As if Clarke would ever stop feeling the suffocating, agonizing guilt. Her face is hot, and suddenly the room seems to spin of its own accord. She turns to leave, when Bellamy appears on the ice next to her.
“You alright?” he asks, his hands rubbing warmth back into her arms.
Clarke blinks the world back into focus. “How much did you hear?”
“And? Don’t you think you should reconsider skating with me?”
Bellamy studies her for a moment. Then, an affectionate grin spreads across his face. “And waste time practicing for Nationals? I don’t think so. Not when I’m the best partner you’ve ever had.”
Clarke laughs, despite herself. “You know I was just trying to prove a point, right?"
“Uh-uh,” Bellamy says, swerving easily away from Clarke’s playful slap, “no take-backs, Princess. Now, let’s skate.”
Chapter 4: January (Part II) - Febraury (Part I)
January 2010 – US National Championships
Bellamy would be lying if he said he didn’t feel a little overwhelmed by the hubbub of the skating world. Their practice time on the rink – a rink that was a lot bigger than Clarke’s – became a blur of introductions and commentary by Clarke on the other couples competing. Jasper Jordan and Maya, for example, had such sweetness and fluidity in their movements that Clarke joked the judges would get cavities. Raven Reyes and her new partner, Kyle Wick, were more aggressive in their routines, by comparison. Dozens of couples that Clarke seemed to know from years of competition zipped by them with well-rehearsed ease, and it took all of Bellamy’s willpower not to be put off by it all, especially the quizzical looks and whispers behind hands, all aimed at him. Whenever Clarke caught someone gossiping about Bellamy, her face would morph into a predatory glare, scaring the perpetrator into silence. Bellamy liked to think that Clarke did this to protect him, somehow, but he knew it was more likely to preserve her own reputation.
One encounter intrigued Bellamy more than the others. A slender woman, with long brown hair and a stoic expression, made her introduction to Bellamy via an effortless triple axel in front of his feet.
“Hello, Lexa,” Clarke had said, smiling.
Lexa’s eyes softened upon seeing Clarke. “It’s good to see you, Clarke, after all this time.” She paused, looking over Clarke with some familiarity. Then, she whirled to come face to face with Bellamy. “I’d wish you good luck,” she said, “but with Clarke as your partner, I know you won’t need it.”
With that, Lexa skated away to meet her partner. Bellamy’s confused expression still hadn’t left his face. This Lexa certainly knew how to make something innocent sound like a threat. “Who the hell was that, Princess? Your rival?"
Clarke shook her head. “Ex-girlfriend.”
The rest of their practices continue without a hitch, minus a small, heated interaction between Mrs. Griffin and Clarke’s ex-coach that Kane immediately intervenes to remedy. The night before their first performance of their short program, therefore, is full of anxiety and excitement.
Bellamy hears the soft knocking at his hotel room door and checks his alarm clock. Two AM. There is only one person who would disturb him at that hour. He throws on a robe over his boxers and T-shirt and opens the door. As expected, Clarke is standing in the hall, holding a sketchbook and six-pack of Gatorade.
“Mind if I come in? I can’t sleep.”
Bellamy nods and opens the door wider. Clarke shuffles inside in her multicolored socks and drops dramatically to the floor. Almost immediately, she lets out an exasperated groan. “Bellamy, I’m so bored. And I hate this waiting! I – I just want perform our programs and leave.”
“Draw something,” he says with disinterest. “Unless, you’d rather do something more… physical.” Bellamy gestures to the part of the bed he’s not lying on.
Clarke lifts her head from the floor to glare at him. “Pig,” she mutters, before looking at him with sudden fascination. “I didn’t know you wore glasses.”
“You’ve never seen me read without my contacts in.”
“What’re you reading?” Clarke asks. Bellamy does nothing more than to lift The Complete Works of Homer above his knees for her to see. “Gee, thanks. I was trying to make conversation here.”
Bellamy looks at her over the rim of his glasses. “You’re the one who interrupted my feeble attempts at falling asleep at a decent hour.”
“Decent hour? It’s two in the morning.”
“Hey, when I was on the hockey team, we’d be out till at least three or four the night before a match.”
Clarke scoffs. “I should probably thank you for taking figure skating more seriously.”
“Nah, it’s more the threats of mutilation and death from you that have kept me this disciplined,” Bellamy says, returning to his book.
Clarke goes quiet for a moment. “Is your family coming?”
Bellamy pauses. “My sister can’t really afford to make the trip, so she’ll just see it on the TV in the bar.”
“My mother and I would be more than happy to pay for her – ” Clarke starts.
Bellamy shakes his head. “Octavia would rather die than to accept charity like that. She’s very proud that way.”
“Must run in the family.”
Bellamy laughs, and the room falls into silence again. Clarke tries drawing, tries pacing around the room, but nothing seems to make her tired. She knows she has to sleep, and usually her sleep cycle is controlled, and yet, for some reason, she can’t.
It’s like Turin all over again.
“Bellamy?” He makes a little grunt in response. “Tell me about Minnesota.”
At this, Bellamy shuts his book on the scrap of paper that served as a bookmark. “Why do you want to know about Minnesota?”
Bellamy seems incredulous, but he puts his book down and starts with his hometown. Apparently, it’s one of those small towns where everyone knows everyone, and depending on what family you’re from, that can be either a blessing or a curse. For the Blakes, their situation leaned more towards the curse end of the spectrum. But it isn’t a bad place to grow up, really, if you’re looking for the quiet life, as Bellamy’s mother was. There’s a handful of shops, one one-room movie theater, a volunteer-based fire department and less than ten policemen. Winters there last a lot longer than almost anywhere in the U.S. – all that cold arctic air, you know? It’s good for winter sports, and how Bellamy was able to make a name for himself. The rest of the year is pretty mild, temperature-wise, and summer seems the shortest season of all –
Somewhere between Ms. Goodman, Bellamy’s least favorite high school English teacher, and work at the steel mill, Clarke leans backwards and rests her head on the floor. Bellamy’s voice is relaxing, soothing, and before Clarke feels it, she’s asleep.
When she wakes, she finds a pillow under her head and a blanket over her frame.
It’s their time at Nationals. Standing near their entrance, Clarke fidgets with her costume. She hates that it’s red, and that the bodice is covered in sequins. She hates that she hates the costumes, because she had picked them out herself. (It was actually quite an ordeal, getting Bellamy to agree to anything that had a remote amount of sparkle. He insisted that they’d look better in simpler outfits, and flatly refused to wear any of the tunics with puffy sleeves. “We’re going to look like those twins from that High School Musical movie!” he had said, multiple times. “And everyone in the movie hated them!”) She also hates that Bellamy won’t stop marching around her in circles, muttering about forgetting the entire routine.
“Will you stop flittering around me like a fly?” she hisses. “You’re making me nervous.”
“Sorry,” Bellamy says, voice strained, and running a hand through his sweaty curls. “I can’t help it! Look at all those people, Clarke, holy shit…”
“Are you gonna be sick? Come on, you’ve done plenty of hockey games in front of crowds bigger than this!”
Bellamy’s whole demeanor is one of a man on the edge of collapsing into a fit of nerves. His body shakes, and his eyes are unfocused. “It’s not the same! Before, when I was on the ice, I knew what to do, I knew how the game would go. This,” he waves his hands in reference to Jasper and Maya, who were skating elegantly to A Whole New World, of all things, “I don’t know this!”
“Bellamy!” Clarke grabs his shoulders, forcing him to face her. “Look at me. Look at me! Now, breathe. Listen: we are going to be fine. Win or lose, I’m telling you right now that we are the best skaters out there because we’ve worked our asses off more than all of them put together, and then some! Do you understand me?”
Bellamy smiles weakly. “Of course, Your Highness.”
“Oh, good, your humor’s returned.” She forces him to breathe a few more times before letting go of his shoulders. Their names are called. They take the ice. Blood is pounding in Clarke’s ears, drowning out the crowd and the music, and for a second she thinks she can’t start. But then, they take their position, and Bellamy feels calm. Somehow, that makes her calm, too. So, they skate.
Both of their programs are executed almost flawlessly, and the Griffin-Blake team is announced as representing the U.S. in the Olympics, along with the Reyes-Wick team. Bellamy hollers so loudly at their victory that Clarke swears half the audience can hear him. Clarke also isn’t expecting Bellamy to pick her up by the waist and twirl her around in celebration, but she lets him, mostly because she can’t believe that they pulled this off.
“WE’RE GOING TO THE OLYMPICS!” Bellamy yells again. “VANCOUVER, HERE WE COME!” Bellamy even envelops Kane in a hug, something that, judging by Kane’s expression, he wasn’t expecting.
Clarke feels like she’s walking on a cloud when she returns to the hotel, desperate to find Finn and tell him the good news. He is in the hotel, or so she had heard from others staying there. She texts him for the room number and comes early, as a surprise. Clarke brings an open bottle of champagne and a few glasses with her because, hell, she never imagined that she could make the Olympics again.
“Finn?” she calls, lightly tapping the door. “Open up, I’ve brought refreshments.”
Something is wrong. The room is too quiet. Then she hears it: the yelling of another woman, and Finn’s protests. Before Clarke knows what’s happening, Raven Reyes bursts out of Finn’s hotel room, barely dressed and carrying her shoes in one hand. Her face is wet with tears. Clarke thinks she looks like a wounded animal.
“I’d ask him why he always comes late to your competitions,” she spits. “It’s probably for the same reason that he leaves my competitions early.”
Finn emerges a second later, his pants loose around his waist and the front of his shirt undone. He stares, gaping, at Clarke, and at Raven. None of them move. Finally, Clarke pours herself a glass of champagne, and takes a sip. Finn starts to explain, to finagle his way out of the situation he’s in. Before he finishes his first sentence, Clarke throws the rest of her glass’ contents in his face. She leaves the other glass and the bottle with Raven; it seems only fair.
Clarke returns to her room, throws on her University of Minnesota sweatshirt, and cries herself to sleep.
Despite what most of his ex-girlfriends will say, Bellamy isn’t a total idiot when it comes to women. He practically had to raise his sister by himself, for God’s sake, so he knows a thing or two. This is how he knows, for instance, that Clarke’s been a bit… off since Nationals. By a bit off, of course, he means that Clarke has been snapping at him like she did at the beginning, before they became what can loosely be described as friends.
“Enough!” she says over Kane’s protests in practice one day. “We have five weeks till Vancouver, Kane. Five weeks to create a medal-worthy performance! Don’t try to push us too far – we just can’t do the most complicated stuff. Let’s just stick to what we know.”
“But they’ll be expecting us to do that!” Bellamy says, feeling like he’s repeating himself. “Clarke, you know that doing something different is the best strategy to get a shot at any medal.”
“I’m not going to combine a lift, then a death spiral, all into a throw jump! For one, it can’t be done without the proper momentum, and second, I’ve already tried this. It didn’t work.”
“Since when have you ever backed down from a challenge?” Bellamy skates up close to her on the ice, imposing his height over her.
Clarke scowls. “Since never, but this isn’t a challenge. This is suicide.”
“Clarke – ”
“Let me know when you have a routine we can actually use.” She’s speaking to Kane, but Bellamy suspects she’s speaking to him, too. In a flash, she’s off the ice and out the rink, slamming the door behind her.
Bellamy groans and puts his head in his hands. “Why is she being so stubborn, all of a sudden? First I can’t keep up, and now I’m going too far?”
Kane looks to the spot where Clarke stood a few moments previous, then to Bellamy. “I know this may sound surprising, but I don’t think she’s angry at you. At least, not in this case. I’d go find her.”
“Come on, Kane, she’s in viper-mode right now. She wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say before baring her fangs.”
“Maybe you should be the one doing the listening, then,” Kane replies. “I have a feeling that her anger has something to do Finn.”
Bellamy turns to ask Kane just what the hell he means by that, but he’s already out of the building. “What is with these rich people and leaving in the middle of conversations,” Bellamy grumbles to himself, taking off his skates.
It takes him a while to search the house for her, but he finds her where he should have figured her to be: getting some miles in on the elliptical to blow off some steam. She sees him enter the gym but doesn’t say anything. Beads of sweat line her nose and forehead, and her breathing is shallow. Bellamy ignores how attracted he can be to a woman who currently looked as if she was ready to kill him.
He walks over to one of the workout benches and sits. “If I had a white flag, I’d be waving it.”
“You and Kane may think you know what’s best,” Clarke begins, “but I can tell you right now that you don’t.”
“I’m not here to talk about the routine. Unless you want to, of course,” Bellamy adds quickly. He doesn’t want to Clarke to get the wrong impression, and the whole listening thing is another one of those characteristics that didn’t seem to travel down the Blake family line.
Clarke looks confused, and slows her running on the elliptical down to a sustainable jog. “What are you here to talk about, then?”
“Kane may have implied that you were more pissed at something else. Or someone else.”
“He’s always been very astute,” Clarke mutters, before turning to Bellamy. “You want to talk about Finn?”
Bellamy laughs. “Not particularly, but if something between the two of you is going to interfere with our practice for the Olympics – Well, I’m more than happy to listen.”
Clarke stops for a moment, and dismounts the elliptical. Finally, she tells Bellamy: “I broke up with him.”
“Really?” Bellamy’s eyebrows shoot up to his hairline. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”
“Why’re you so surprised? You never liked him.”
“Well, yeah,” Bellamy admits, rubbing his palms on his knees, “I thought he was a flaky prick. But he seemed to make you happy, and he was certainly presentable, unlike… you know, people from the wrong side of the tracks, or whatever it is the upper class say.”
“He was cheating on me for months,” she states, her voice cold, apathetic, “with Raven Reyes. So I dumped him.”
Bellamy can feel his muscles tighten, and suddenly he is furious. “He what? That fucking asshole!”
“Yeah, and look who dated him,” Clarke says, and it’s the first time she shows the smallest bit of sadness, almost shame.
“Clarke,” Bellamy says angrily, “are you seriously blaming yourself for this? Because you shouldn’t be! If Finn couldn’t keep his dick in his pants, no Harvard degree makes him any different than other cheating boyfriends.”
Clarke nods, but she sighs, sitting down next to Bellamy. “I thought he was the one, Bellamy. I really thought he was.”
Bellamy doesn’t really have anything to say to that, so he tentatively reaches a hand to Clarke’s back and rubs it. They sit like that for almost an hour until Clarke says quietly, “If we modify the spiral, maybe we could make Kane’s stupid plan work.”
The throw jump is almost impossible. For almost two weeks, Bellamy and Clarke work with Kane to perfect that one move. They practice it until Clarke’s sides are covered in bruises from falling wrong on the ice and Bellamy insists he has whiplash from constantly throwing Clarke. Nothing seems to work, but Kane grows more insistent with every failed attempt.
“Marcus,” Abby says one day when visiting a practice, “don’t you think you’re pushing them too hard? Maybe this is a fool’s errand.”
“They can do the move.” Kane never shifts his gaze from Clarke and Bellamy. “They just need to trust in each other more.”
Abby wonders if that’s some sort of skating philosophy she’ll never understand. She shifts her focus to Clarke, who keeps smacking the ice in ways that make her motherly instincts wince. Every time, Bellamy immediately skates over to help her up. He always murmurs a, “You good?” even if the question gets old, and Clarke always returns it with a pained nod.
On day twelve, however, sometime in the afternoon, Clarke skids across the ice like a rag doll. When Bellamy goes to help her, Clarke shakes her head.
“Bellamy,” she says, her breath a little short, “I can’t do this.”
Bellamy stops. Without thinking twice, he picks her up in his arms and carries her off the rink. She feels so small. “Kane,” he says with newfound authority in his voice, “we’re taking a break. Clarke and I will choose a song to fit the routine. Tomorrow, we’ll start something else.”
If Bellamy didn’t know better, he would have thought he saw Clarke blushing.
Leave it to Thelonious to take Clarke’s hard work and turn it to shame. Kane finally caved after Bellamy pointed out the time pressure they were under to modify their performance, so the last few weeks had been non-stop rehearsals, followed by a plane ride to Vancouver, an Opening Ceremony, and several receptions where Bellamy was overwhelmed with international female attention. Much to Clarke’s surprise, Bellamy was an absolute gentleman through it all. He didn’t reciprocate any of the attention but was nonetheless charming and diplomatic. Raven glared at Clarke through all of their events and interviews, and Clarke couldn’t help but feel like she deserved it; she and Finn had been together longer, according to Wick.
Clarke tries to take it all in stride, but there’s a pressure, a weight on her shoulders that she hasn’t felt in years, since the last time she competed at the Olympics.
It was only a matter of time before her past caught up with her again.
Clarke opens the letter while having dinner with Bellamy and Kane in the hotel. It’s simply addressed ‘Clarke,’ and that alone gives her cause for perturbation. She opens it slowly. An Italian newspaper clipping falls from the envelope. Attached to it, there’s a sticky note that says, ‘I hope you haven’t forgotten. –T ’
“What’s wrong?” asks Bellamy through a mouthful of salad.
It’s getting harder to breathe, Clarke thinks. She looks around the room for Thelonious, but he isn’t there. How could he do this to her? Her world is starting to go fuzzy.
“Clarke,” says Kane, “are you alright?”
Clarke only remembers trying to stand when her world goes black.
“That bastard!” Mrs. Griffin says, pacing around the hotel suite for the thousandth time. “I’ll have him arrested!”
“Don’t be dramatic, mom,” Clarke says drily from her chair. An icepack is balanced on her forehead. “It’s not like he tried to poison me.”
Bellamy goes to sit next to her. He had never seen Clarke so spooked. She had gone white as a sheet before she collapsed. Thankfully he had been there or she might have hurt herself on the table.
“Maybe not physically,” Mrs. Griffin continues, “but psychologically! He’s been trying to get you off your game for months! He even made a stab at me at Nationals, something like, ‘At least one of our children could learn from Turin.’ What bullshit.”
“He’s got every right to be upset,” Clarke says quietly.
Mrs. Griffin stops pacing to gape at her daughter. “You’re not defending him!”
Clarke shrugs. She looks resigned, something that Bellamy has never seen before, and that contrast in her countenance is so stark that it frightens him. She looks defeated.
Bellamy turns to Mrs. Griffin. “What the hell happened in Turin?”
“There was an unfortunate accident – ”
“My last partner died,” Clarke interrupts, and the statement leaves the room in thunderous silence. “It was my fault.”
“It wasn’t, Clarke – ” Mrs. Griffin begins again.
Clarke stands up so forcefully that her chair is thrown backwards. She turns on her mother and Marcus. “Wells was running after me, mom! He was trying to make me feel better about our score, and I didn’t want to hear it! I ran into the road, and he followed, and – ” Suddenly, Clarke is on the ground in a fit of sobs. “He was by best f-friend, and I killed him!”
No one says anything. For the next few minutes, all Bellamy can do is listen to Clarke’s labored breathing and try to think of something comforting to say, but he can’t find the words.
Finally, Clarke swallows the rest of her grief and dries her eyes. “I don’t deserve to win,” she says in a small voice. “I’m not competing tomorrow.”
Bellamy watches her go. He only waits thirty seconds before leaving the room to follow her.
Clarke thinks that she’s found the perfect place to hide in Vancouver when she finds a secluded park bench near the hotel. It’s cold, too cold to snow or do anything fun outside, but she’s glad. This means fewer people, and more time to think.
So much for privacy.
“How the hell did you find me?”
Bellamy jogs over to her. His coat is barely over him, like he’d left in a rush to follow her. “Call it natural instinct.” When she raises an eyebrow at him, he points to her coat. “There’s only so many blondes with magenta winter coats looking for a quiet place when it’s this frickin’ cold out.”
“Cool, you found me,” says Clarke humorlessly. “Now go.”
“I’m sorry about what happened to Wells,” Bellamy says, and Clarke can tell he’s sincere. “I know how it feels – you know, the guilt.”
Clarke tries not to laugh. “Don’t try and sympathize with me, Bellamy,” she snaps, drawing her coat closer to her chest. “You can’t know.”
Bellamy ignores her and tentatively takes a spot on the opposite end of the bench. When Clarke doesn’t leave or bite his head off, he continues. “My mom gave up everything for me and Octavia to go to school. She worked all sorts of jobs; we hardly ever saw her. I had to raise Octavia practically by myself. Our mom kept working and saved up everything, and didn’t even tell us when she got sick.” Clarke turns to look at him. “Octavia was only a kid, so I was the only one who understood… that it was our fault that she died.”
Clarke moves a little closer to him on the bench. “I don’t know what to say, Bellamy. Except that I’m sorry.”
“I was too,” Bellamy admits. “For years I blamed myself for not helping more, I blamed our dad for leaving, and for a while I even blamed my mom for not saying anything. But then, I started skating professionally, and Octavia went to college, and I realized that we couldn’t have done that without my mom’s sacrifice. It wasn’t anyone’s fault that she died, and thinking about it that way took away from what she’d given us.”
“So you’re saying,” says Clarke tentatively, “that I should compete, because Wells would’ve wanted me to?”
“I’m saying that whatever you choose to do, it should be for yourself,” says Bellamy, standing. “Not for your mom, not for Kane, and not for Wells. I don’t care either way,” Bellamy adds, sensing her next question. “I’d love to win, but I’m just grateful to you and Kane for letting me get this far. I never thought I’d go to the Olympics again.”
Bellamy smiles. “Let me know what you decide.”
He leaves Clarke on the bench. Fresh snow begins to fall into view, clean and bright in the light of the streetlamps. Clarke sits there for a while longer, her thoughts a blur in her head, but one thought resurfaces again and again: when did Bellamy become so wise?
Bellamy is packing his things the next morning when he gets the knock on his door. He meant every word he said to Clarke, and with their performance only hours away and no word from her or Kane, he knew that this was it. He didn’t have the heart to call Octavia; all of The Dropship would be glued to the TV today – they’d hear it one way or another. So he packs away his clothes in his new duffel bag, and prepares himself for a quiet exit after he talks to the housekeeper.
But when he opens the door, he’s shocked to see Clarke, out of breath, with both of their costumes in hand. “We’re competing,” she pants, thrusting his costume at him.
Bellamy can’t help but grin, but his smile falters. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” she says with conviction. “I’m doing this for me, but,” she pauses, and looks nervously at the floor, “I’m also doing this for you.”
“What do you m– ” Bellamy doesn’t even finish his sentence before Clarke throws her arms around his neck and kisses him hard on the mouth. Bellamy freezes in utter astonishment, and Clarke recoils.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done th– ”
And then Bellamy cups her face and kisses her more gently. Clarke begins to deepen the kiss, tugging at his hair, pulling at his shirt, and god, Bellamy thinks he’s found something he loves doing more than skating. It’s too much, all of the looks and the moments and the fantasies from the last six months – Bellamy can’t believe that they’re happening. Clarke nudges Bellamy back into his hotel room and the door swings to a close. He notices between kisses that Clarke is wearing his University of Minnesota sweater, and that sight alone practically kills him. Clarke has uncharacteristically thrown her costume on the floor, and reaches for his, when he stops.
“Wait,” he says, as out of breath as Clarke had been. As soon as the word leaves his mouth, a part of him regrets it.
“You don’t want to,” Clarke supplies, hurt. “Not with me.”
“No!” Bellamy cries hastily, making Clarke flinch. “It’s not that. It’s definitely not that… It’s just… We should wait. Until after we compete.”
Clarke picks up her costume and heads for the door, and for a second, Bellamy thinks that Clarke is going to kill him, or even worse, cry. Instead, she turns around and smirks. “Deal. Unless you think you can’t handle it.”
Bellamy stands there, jaw agape.
He doesn’t need a medal. He feels like he’s already won.
Sorry for the incredibly long hiatus! I had started the final chapters for this and never got around to finishing them, so a HUGE thank you to thesiege for leaving me a comment that kicked my butt back in gear!
I hope you guys like the ending!
Chapter 6: Epilogue: The Olympic Winter Games, Vancouver
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“GOLD!” Bellamy is shouting. “I CAN’T BELIEVE WE WON GOLD!”
“I can’t believe I can still hear out of this ear,” Clarke says, though her expression is fond. Their routine went perfectly. It was a split second decision, to add their new move. Bellamy grabbed Clarke’s hand, and their eyes met, and suddenly she knew what to do. Now she’s struggling to hold several bouquets of flowers in her arms while avoiding the press.
“BELL!” a voice shouts from down the hall. “THAT WAS SO GREAT!”
Clarke sees a girl around her age with dark hair and pale eyes wrestle her way past security, only to throw herself onto Bellamy. By her features and the fact that she’s screaming and laughing just as loud as Bellamy, Clarke guesses that this is his little sister.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Bellamy asks, putting her down. “I thought you’d be at The Dropship.”
“Lincoln’s looking after it. Hi,” she says, turning to Clarke. “I’m Octavia, Bellamy’s little sister.”
Clarke shakes her hand. “Clarke.”
“You guys fucking crushed it!” Octavia says, gushing pride and astonishment. “When you threw her into the air, Bell, I thought she was gonna break her leg or something!”
Bellamy snorts. “Thanks for the confidence.”
“I’ll let you guys catch up,” Clarke says, suddenly feeling an obligation to leave. As she turns, Octavia grabs her sleeve.
“Hold on. I wanted to give you something.” Octavia pulls out an envelope and hands it to her.
Clarke examines its contents. A dozen or so bills and some loose change are wadded inside. “What’s this for?”
“Mostly for the plane ticket,” Octavia admits, and Clarke pointedly looks away from Bellamy’s questioning eyes. “The rest is for putting up with this loser for the last six months,” she adds, punching Bellamy in the shoulder in a way that looks like it hurt.
Clarke smiles. This must be the Blake family pride she had heard so much about. Tentatively, she hands the envelope back. “No payment necessary. Your brother earned every penny in here.”
Bellamy is beaming at her and Clarke can feel her face getting warm, so she says her goodbyes and lets the Blakes have their moment before Octavia catches on too much. Clarke only gets another thirty feet before she stops. Raven is leaning against the outer wall, waiting for her, with a serious expression on her face. Clarke approaches and clutches her bouquets tightly.
To Clarke’s amazement, Raven extends her hand. “Congratulations,” she says. Then, she smirks. “But trust me, I’ll be getting the gold next time.”
Clarke smiles. She understands what Raven means – a new beginning for both of them. She takes her hand. “I look forward to seeing you try.”
“You bought my sister a ticket,” says Bellamy, breathless. “I told you not to.”
Clarke chuckles. Her clothes are somewhere between the door and the bed, but her bra is becoming problematic. “Sue me. I just wanted your family to be there to watch us win.”
“If I didn’t know better, Princess,” Bellamy whispers, reaching a hand around her to take her bra off in one swift motion (and of course he can do that), “I’d say you were trying to be nice to me.”
Clarke responds by pushing Bellamy onto the bed. “Don’t get used to it.”
“This is a bad idea, isn’t it?”
“I don’t think I care, though,” Bellamy says, brushing some hair from her face and grinning.
Clarke smiles. For the first time in a long time, she feels at home. “Me neither.”
I couldn't resist a sappy ending. Enjoy!