It is time.
The closed high doors are highly polished wood, inlaid with glittering topaz, and behind them lay her fate.
The thought clenches her belly but she keeps her head held high.
She is, after all, the physical manifestation of desire and lust.
Her face is hidden by the ceremonial mask but the thorns in the rose crown they have woven her, prick her scalp. They have covered her entire body with crushed iridescent pearl dust and have left her hair unbound to flow down her back in long perfumed waves. The web of gold links hang heavy on her neck and warm against her bared breasts. The only claim to modesty she has is the fabric that falls from the heavy gold belt on her hips, skimming the top of her thighs. But the rich fabric is sheer enough that it hides nothing and she thinks she might as well go without.
She has never had much use for modesty in the past and it seems foolish to start now.
With every step, pearl dust turns the air around her sparkling and she is accompanied by the musical clink of gold against gold and preceded by the scent of roses and myrtle.
She is Venus, goddess of love and beauty and her body is a weapon wrapped in the guise of a gift. She is beautiful and desirable and mortals would lay themselves prostrate before her so her feet would never touch the ground.
And her heart is bleak and cold.
The doors open and she steps in.
Ruby-red drapes fall from the ceiling, shifting gently in the wind. The air in here is perfumed with incense and the sweet scent adds to the wine in her blood. Then the undulating fall of red silk billows back and she sees him.
He's standing at the side of the bed, facing her, surrounded by candles and framed by the torches on the wall.
Her steps falter.
All he wears are the ceremonial mask and gold paint.
So, this is Vulcan, Lord of Fire and Blacksmith to the Gods.
This is her husband.
They said he was disfigured and ugly, she thinks.
It would not change a thing if he was and she still has not seen his face but she thinks they are fools.
Yes, there is no delicacy to his body, none of the slender refinement the upper echelon so prided themselves in.
But there is beauty in his heavy shoulders and veined arms, in his carved chest and ridged stomach, in his powerful thighs. Then she comes close enough to see the raised scar that the gold paint cannot hide, running down from his right hip down to his knee, sees the mangled flesh below his knee, and thinks, 'Fools, each and every one of them.'
There is beauty in her husband - it is raw and angry and Venus thinks that it is a sad creature indeed that cannot understand that beauty does not only lie in smooth skin and unmarred flesh.
'Are you ready?' she asks.
Her voice is low and husky and she watches in fascination as a vein ripples in his forearm.
'Yes.' His voice is slightly muffled by his mask but it still carries the darkness of night and the heat of a forge.
Then his chest expands in a deep indrawn breath and he finally moves towards her.
She stares down at the hand he offers her, broad and long fingered, calluses marring the paint, before she slips her own into his. His fingers close around hers and the heat from his palm shoots up her arm, settling in her belly to mix with the wine-induced warmth. He squeezes her hand gently and the unexpected comfort in his touch is a balm on her heart.
'Did you drink the wine?' she whispers.
'Almost a cask and not nearly enough.'
Her head snaps up and her eyes meet the gaze behind the mask.
His eyes are dark.
Affronted?' his voice is amused, 'Have I offended the great goddess of beauty by implying that even Juno's marital wine will not be enough to make me desire you?'
Her eyes narrow.
Yes, there is a prick of affront - she has had mortals and gods, men and women, beg for her touch. But for the most part, she is intrigued.
Who is the heart and mind that beats behind that mask?
I will need to change that if we wish for the night to pass.' she replies archly.
His low laugh comes as a surprise. 'I will endeavour.'
She has never met a challenge she has not won.
She takes a swift step towards him and sees the way his body tightens.
'Afraid I might bring the stoic Blacksmith to his knees?' she purrs and her smile behind the mask is sly.
' Goddess, Jupiter himself cannot bring me to my knees.'
His words can be considered blasphemy but Venus has heard the stories.
Vulcan is a law unto himself.
But he has not met with the likes of her.
She lays a hand on his chest, feels the beat of his heart strong against her fingers, his flesh warm under her palm.
It is a good start.
So she steps into him, presses herself to the length of his body and is gratified when his hand tightens against hers. She rests her forehead on his shoulder, breathes in his scent, and smirks when her breasts press into his chest with her indrawn breath and his body tenses.
She slips her hand out of his and runs it up his arm, feeling the muscles coil under her fingers. His hand comes up to rest on her hips, thumb stroking the dip of her waist and she momentarily loses her train of thought when the desire to lean into his touch hits her hard.
Stepping back, she smiles when his body jerks forward as if to follow her before he draws back abruptly with a short laugh. His eyes follow her movements as she moves towards the bed, gold clinking with each deliberate sway of her hips.
Regardless of her status - or perhaps because of it - Venus has never been deliberate in her seduction of another for the challenge. It may be the wine, it may be the man standing in front of her, it may be the adrenaline of the challenge itself or perhaps it is a combination of all but gods help her, lust has never threatened to consume her whole. When she's on her back, glimmering thighs cocked, her hand slipping down between them, she already knows it won't take long.
The guttural sound that comes from him has her arching into her fingers and her eyes flicks down her body to seek him out.
He has not moved from his position but his hands have turned into fists at his side, and the sight of his powerful body almost vibrating and framed between her spread legs, tears a helpless moan from her throat. His eyes snaps from her hand to meet her gaze and sweat breaks out across her body as her hips buck. He holds her eyes, hard and glittering, and tension stretches between them until it becomes a string pulled too taut and snaps.
She does not know who moves first.
She comes up off the bed just as he breaks, snapping forward and catching her.
He's hard and hot against her belly and when her slick fingers find and wrap around him, his body shudders against her. She has a moment to curse the masks, to want to feel him heavy on her tongue, before a hand clamps on the back of her thigh, lifting it to wrap around his hip, bringing her to her toes. She loses her grip on him then loses further thought when he slides a finger, wide, long, perfect, into her.
Her neck snaps back and when he withdraws and thrusts again in a slow deliberate glide, she moans, long and desperate.
Her hips tilt forward and she can feel the smooth surface of his mask against the side of her breast when he drops his head to rest on her chest. Something about his gesture makes it harder to breathe but when his hand increases in tempo, she thrusts a hand into his hair and loses herself to the feeling. Her vision swims as the pressure builds in her and she needs more.
The thought barely takes root when one finger becomes two. Her lungs close as her body clenches around his fingers and she flies apart.
Her back hits cool sheets, his heat and weight presses her down and she is still climaxing when he pushes into her, hard and desperate. Her back arches, feet planting in the bed as her hips tilt to take him deeper and her cry chokes in her throat as her hands coming up to sink her nails into his shoulders. His muffled snarl when her slick inner muscles constrict around his length has her eyes snapping open and she almost flies apart again at the look in his dark eyes.
Wild. Violent. Consuming.
She braces for a hard ride, but he stills above her. His hand comes up to her throat, thumb brushing against her rapid pulse, as he lets her adjust to the size and feel of him. She closes her eyes, the gentle touch of his hand seeming to connect her more to him than the physicality of their union. But closed eyes cannot deny the heat of him between her legs.
'Hold on to me.'
His voice is harsh and at odds with the way he gently twines his fingers with hers, drawing it up above her head.
Her heart beat, which had barely slowed, rises again, and she hooks a leg around his hip, her other hand clamping tight on his shoulder. She feels his muscles tense and coil and at his first stroke, she bites down on the moan rising in her throat.
Two more strokes, deep but slow, has her pounding her fist against his shoulder in impatience.
'You will not hurt me.' she gasps out.
He laughs but it is hoarse and strained. 'Who said I was worried about hurting you?'
The bastard, she thinks in delight.
'Have at it then, Fire God.' she laughs, tightening her muscles around him and smiling impishly behind the mask at his growl.
'I have married a demon.' he mutters above her.
'It could have been wor - '
He slams into her.
Her mouth opens in a silent moan as she arches into him. She only has time to glare into his amused, hot eyes before he bends his neck forward, withdraws and does it again. Even with the advanced warning, the feeling still leaves her breathless, still has her scrambling for purchase. Her world becomes narrowed to the pressure building in her again, to the feel of his flesh under her hands, the heat of him pushing into her body. His thrusts begin to lose their rhythm as he begins to lose the hold on his control and she wants nothing more.
'You will not hurt me.' she whispers again.
His body tenses.
Then his hand lets go of hers, clamps around her hip, pressing her down into the bed. He shifts up her body, one hard thigh sliding under hers, pushing it up and out, as he anchors himself and lets go.
The air turns static and she finds herself lost, wild, scrambling to meet his brutal pace, nails digging into his back, leaving grooves in the hard flesh, not bothering to bite back her moans this time. He snarls at the stinging pain but does not stop and she thinks that she would kill him if he did.
It's too much and all at once, not enough and she thinks she is going to lose her mind.
She arches up, bucks hard and takes advantage of his surprise, dislodging him, pushing him to his back and straddling him. She leans forward, her weight on his shoulders and her heart stutters again when his fingers wrap around her elbows to steady her, gentle, strong hands on her skin..
Then she straightens, sinks down on him and his groan mixes with her own.
She keeps her eyes on his as her hips move, watches him as she rides him. When his hands leave her hips to press hot palms to her stomach, she raises her arms to lift her hair away from her chest, to give him an unhindered view. She is rewarded with a harsh curse and long, hot fingers sliding under the links of her necklace to cup her breasts. She presses into them, looks down to see that his hands have painted her belly and breasts gold and her rhythm turns desperate. For the first time, she notices that the coat of paint has become gold streaks on rich, brown skin and she clamps tight around him.
His eyes sear into her and she hates these masks, hates what they are depriving her of.
She wants his mouth on hers, wants to taste him, wants to take him as her body takes him.
Then his eyes narrow, she feels him swell against her walls, and he knifes up to a sitting position. She flings an arm around his shoulders to keep from falling back and his arm bands around her waist, the other hooking under her arm to dig long fingers into her shoulder.
His hips snap up and she throws her head back, his hold on her shoulder bearing her down. The pressure in her belly coils too tightly and she no longer cares for ceremony.
She raises desperate fingers to the knot under her hair, yanks at it and her mask tumbles off, cool air rushing against her face. She pays no attention to the way his body tenses under hers, too far gone, reaches around him, tears the tie free and rips the mask from him.
But he is beautiful.
It is her last thought before her mind shatters.
Her body bows back violently with the force of her climax and it is his name that is torn from her lips, his face she sees in her mind's eye as her world unravels, as his arms clamp around her, holding her together as her body threatens to fly apart.
She has never fought against the waves of climax, but she does now, tearing herself free out of its grasp as soon as the strongest hit passes so that she can look at him again.
She lifts a hand to trace the tiny scar above his wide mouth, fascinated, and leans forward to press her lips against his, catching the shift in his eyes. She begins to move again, shuddering when he jerks into her in response. Then his mouth opens, he licks into her and her nails break skin at the first taste of him - slick and warm, ash and life.
And he breaks, swelling in her and flooding her with heat as she rocks her hips to his mindless pace, swallowing his groans down her throat.
They remain motionless as their hearts begin to slow, arms wrapped around each other, as their kisses turn from ravenous to gentle.
She leans back against his hands on her back and meets his eyes, smiles as she traces her fingers across his star-dusted cheekbones, the curve of his eyes, the line of his jaw, returning back to the scar above his kiss-swollen lips.
'Fools, every one of them.' she whispers.
That wide mouth quirks in a half-smile and his hand tightens in her hair to tilt her head down.
She follows willingly and leans forward to kiss her husband.
**** Chapter 1 ****
'Keep moving and I'll stitch your ear to your shoulder.'
'Fuck you, Griffin.'
Clarke's lips twitch as she continues working on Octavia's shoulder, cleaning the bullet graze. Around them, Arkadia's finest milled around them, cordoning off the scene, speaking to witnesses. On the other side, Clarke's partner works on another police officer.
She ignores the voices, the squawks of open radio lines and focuses on her patient.
There's a butterfly bandage over the brunette's cheekbone and her jaw is already starting to show signs of bruising.
Despite knowing Octavia Blake all of five minutes and despite the plainclothes cop's grouching, she quite liked her.
Built like a china doll and lethal as a viper, with the temper of a bear.
'Are you done yet?' Octavia sighs, 'I'm fine, its just a graze - I didn't even get hit.'
'I know what it was, Officer.' Clarke murmurs, pressing down padding and taping over the wound. She leaned over to throw the medical tape into the open kit and stepped back, snapping off her gloves, 'And yes, I am.'
'Thank God.' Octavia hops down, wincing as she pulls on her leather jacket.
'Try not to get it wet,' Clarke instructs as she begins throwing equipment back into the giant medical kit set on the floor of the ambulance, 'keep applying that ointment and if it gets septic -'
'See a doctor.' Octavia mutters, fingers adjusting her cuffs, 'This isn't my first rodeo.'
'You know,' Clarke says wryly, 'that actually doesn't surprise me at all.'
The brunette sneers at her and Clarke has to bite back a laugh.
But then Octavia huffs out a breath and shifts restlessly on her feet, 'Hey.' she says suddenly, 'Thanks. For, you know,' she waves vaguely at her shoulder, 'patching me up.'
Clarke throws her a smile over her shoulder, 'Just doing my job, Officer.'
Octavia grins. 'You sound like my brother. He -'
At the voice, the epi-pen that Clarke had picked up falls from her fingers as a strange current lifting the hairs on the back of her neck.
Husky. Dark. Rough. Hard.
Spinning around, she gets a fleeting look at messy black hair and slashing cheekbones before the guy grabs Octavia up in a hug, his face hidden by the curve of her shoulder.
This is the brother?
'Bell, I'm okay.' Octavia protests, voice muffled, but her arms come around to wrap around his waist as she returns the hug.
Then he lifts his head and over Octavia's shoulder, his eyes hit Clarke.
They're dark and liquid, long lidded and fiercely relieved.
But when they focus on her, they widen and the relief bleeds out as his eyes turn hot and glittering.
She stands there, pinned in place by that gaze, and she hasn't even fully seen his face but those eyes - she knows those eyes.
The edges of her vision shimmer strangely and -
Firelight flicking over brown skin, a hot body sliding against her own, long fingers pressing her wrists down into the sheets.
'Bell, let me go!'
Octavia's voice slams into Clarke and she staggers back, light-headed, catching herself on the handle of the open ambulance door.
What the hell was that?
In her peripheral, "Bell" straightens and releases the struggling brunette and Clarke uses his momentary distraction to turn away, heart hammering, breath shaky, her wrist on fire.
She resumes organising the medical kit but her hands, famous for their steadiness in high pressure situations, are trembling and it takes two tries before she can slide the lock home on the kit.
'At least you were wearing your vest this time.'
God, his voice.
Clarke closes her eyes, presses her burning wrist to her fluttering belly. Then her back goes ramrod straight, white-hot awareness slices through her, as she feels his eyes on her back.
'Shut up and get me home.' Octavia snipes. Then - 'Hey.'
Clarke sucks in a breath and turns, fixing a polite, profession smile on her face.
She does not look at the man standing next to Octavia, long arm slung around her shoulders.
But she doesn't need to because she can feel his eyes on her - shifting across her face, her hair, sliding down her body to her hips and legs, heavy and warm.
Her body reacts as if he had touched her and Clarke folds her arms across her chest, pulling in air.
'Thanks again.' Octavia grins.
She offers Octavia a weak smile. 'Like I said, my job.'
'Then good job.'
His voice sinks into her blood, warm and deep, and she can't ignore him anymore. Pressing her lips together, Clarke pulls in a breath and finally shifts her gaze to him.
There's nothing gentle about his face - hard curves, raw lines and a wide mouth she wants to trace with her fingers. If he had been any other man, the first thing she would have done when she got home was draw him - sketch those arms in charcoal, capture the shifting light on those hands in acrylics, immortalise the planes of his face in oil.
But nothing she can produce will ever mimic the draw she felt to him.
Undeniable. Raw. Natural.
Except he isn't hers.
That thought in mind, Clarke nods curtly and turns away.
She pretends to be busy as she hears Octavia drag him away. When their voices start to fade, when she no longer feels his eyes on her, Clarke finally looks down at her wrist, rubs at the tattoo that had been inexplicably flaring hot earlier.
The words 'Tutte le strade portano a Roma' in elegant flowing script, lie against her pale skin, innocuous.
All roads lead to Rome.
The tattoo had been an allusion to her choice to walk out of the hospital, an year left to her residency.
Art was her true passion but medicine was in her blood. She had wanted to help people, had loved the feeling of being able to offer relief where she could - that feeling was her Rome. But she had come to realise that her heart wasn't in following in her mother's footsteps and becoming a surgeon.
Becoming a paramedic was perhaps the best choice she had ever made. It had provided her more time to work on her art and her work gave her the feeling of accomplishment she loved as a resident - it gave the best of both worlds.
The tattoo, for her, had been hope given a voice.
Now, standing on a sidewalk in uptown suburbia she can't shake the feeling that it had become a warning.
The dreams start that night.
She wakes up at two am, heat curling in her belly, breathing harsh, fingers on her neck where she can still feel a mouth hot and open on her throat. She can't remember anything else but her body tells her the nature of the dream and her mind tells her why.
She doesn't sleep for the rest of the night and avoids Finn's eyes the next morning.
For two weeks, all she remembers when she wakes in the morning, her body feeling heavy and her skin too tight, are flashes - the feel of a hand, calloused and hard, sliding into hers, teeth playfully nipping the lobe of her ear, a thigh slipping between her own.
Clarke refuses to think of him.
Refuses to admit that those long dark limbs are his, that the heat on the small of her back in the shape of a palm, right above the curve of her ass, is his.
Then one night, things escalate.
She blames it on the alcohol she had been downing - she could even blame her mother for dragging her to that awards event at the hospital. Clarke had let herself be talked into it because sometimes she got a kick out of murmuring pointed remarks and watching those condescending old men falter trying to figure out if she had meant what she had said. She suspected Abby did too.
Plus free booze.
Only this time, sipping wine turned into shooting tequila at Azgeda where she and the few friends she had made during her residency kept the hot bartender in tips all night. In retrospect, Clarke thinks she should have left the club after the fifth shot instead of testing the boundaries of alcohol poisoning.
Instead, she's staggering through her apartment at four am and after downing enough water to drown a seal, collapses face down into bed. In an alcohol-induced haze, she sees the glow on the wall flicker gently, like her bedside lamp had been exchanged for a candle.
She squints at the wall, dismisses it, closes her eyes.
She's on her belly, arms stretched out above her head.
Her heartbeat is a roar in her ears, her head feels fuzzy and her body is screaming. She's ready to beg, ready to give in, but she bites her lip to keep herself from saying the words out loud.
She won the last time and she is not conceding this round either.
Then he straddles the back of her thighs, leans forward and the bed depresses as his hand plants itself beside her shoulder. She does not move when his fingers brush her hair away from her back even though she wants to arch into his touch.
She does not move when she feels his mouth on the nape of her neck, though she has to clench her fists.
She does not move when his tongue flicks the lobe of her ear, though she has to suppress a shiver.
She does not move when he shifts against her thighs, moving lower and his mouth follows, pressing soft kisses down her spine, though she has to close her eyes and her breaths start to pick up speed.
She does not move when his lips become teeth, sinking gently into the curve of her hip, and his hands move down the outside of her thighs, sliding under them, lifting her up until she's leaning her weight on her elbows.
She does not move, but the desire to win this round is starting to fade.
She does not move when his mouth - finally - finds her, though her lips part and she's panting now.
Winning is vastly overrated, she thinks as the burn in her belly flares dangerously, as it licks up her sweat-slick legs, scorching her insides, sends her mind spinning out of control.
But though he is sovereign over fire, she is the mistress of victory and she will never concede.
So she stops herself from pushing back against his mouth and clenches her fists in the sheets instead when the burn turns into an inferno. Her head snaps back, blonde waves flying, and she stares unseeing at the walls painted in candlelight and her body starts trembling but words do not fall past her lips.
Just a little longer.
The fire in her explodes, a guttural sound tearing from her throat as the heat wave crashes over her, drowning her, drawing her into the abyss. She falls into it willingly, rises to meet the next wave and lets it drag her into the depths of hot oblivion.
She's still trying to recover when his hand slides to rest on her belly, the other on her chest and he draws her up into a kneeling position, back to chest, his legs bracketing hers.
She's weak limbed and lets him take her weight, falling back on his chest.
He chuckles and the sound rolls through her like thunder. His arms come around her, holding her to him, and he buries his face in her neck. She lifts a hand, shifts her fingers through his hair.
'How is it when I lose against you,' he murmurs into the side of her neck, 'I still feel I have won?'
Clarke's eyes fly open.
She pushes the heel of her hand into her throbbing temple and resolves never to mix tequila and red wine again. Glaring blearily at the sunlight flooding through her windows, she slumps back down into the bed.
Her eyes go to the empty space beside her.
Thank god for small mercies.
Finn was out of town and even if he hadn't been, she had stopped inviting him to spend the night. They hadn't been together in weeks and if Clarke's being honest with herself, she's relieved.
The last time they had sex, she had felt guilty, felt like she had cheated.
The thing is, it wasn't Finn she felt she had cheated on.
So she stopped inviting him to spend the night, stopped initiating sex, started thinking of ways to break it off, had waffled about her decision because it didn't make any sense. She enjoyed Finn's company, he made her smile and something was seriously wrong with her if she was going to let someone perfectly good for her go because of a man who she met only once and whose full name she didn't even know.
She'll give it a while longer, Clarke decides, staring at the ceiling.
It can't get any worse than this.
She's right - the dreams gentle considerably and they come less often as the weeks go past.
Clarke thinks everything is going back to normal.
She was wrong.
'You're such a fucking nerd.' Raven coos lovingly at Monty.
The people of Firehouse 82 were crazy.
As the newly assigned Paramedic in Chief of Ambulance 6, Clarke thinks this should worry her.
But it doesn't.
Because it's her first day and Monty Green, her new partner, had hustled her into the common room to meet everyone and now she's sitting at a table with Raven Reyes and Nathan Miller, who kicked out a chair for her, grinning like he had known her for years.
Clarke smiles into her coffee and thinks that she's going to enjoy it here at 82.
Miller grins at Raven's words but his eyes never leave the slender paramedic.
'I know.' Monty winks, 'The earliest fire station dates back to Rome. Like, Ancient Rome. Some -'
Clarke stills at the voice - a voice she hasn’t heard in months - the hair on the back of her neck standing, and her head wrenches around to the door.
And there he is.
He's just as breathtaking as he was the first time she saw him and memories of her dreams, all the feelings they brought - love, desire, joy - flooded her again as she stared at him.
Black hair curling carelessly around his ears, plain grey t-shirt, jeans, work boots and a backpack slung across a broad shoulder. Those dark, long lidded eyes slice to hers and her insides freeze when they rake across her, taking in her uniform, the neat braid, and his mouth tightens.
He doesn't want her here.
Confusion and dread condenses into a cold, hard ball in the pit of her stomach at the scorn and distaste on his face.
A hand clapping her on the shoulder jerks Clarke out of her bewildered, hurt daze to see Miller rising from his seat.
'Well, that’s me.' Miller says cheerfully, 'Welcome to 82, Clarke.'
'Right.' Clarke replies numbly, 'Warm welcome.'
Miller saunters away and Clarke turns back around, cheeks hot, refusing to look back.
If he doesn't want her around, that's too bad because she's not leaving.
'You know Bellamy?'
Clarke looks up to see Raven watching her with narrowed eyes. 'What?'
'Tall, dark and surly.' Raven jerks her head towards the now empty doorway.
'No.' Clarke swirls the coffee in her cup to give herself something else to focus on. 'No, I don't.'
It felt like she did - god, did it feel like she did - but the reality is, she doesn’t even know his full name.
'Huh.' Raven leans back, runs an assessing eye over her, 'He sure seemed to know you.'
'Raven.' Monty murmurs warningly.
The brunette turns to Monty and bugs out her eyes innocently.
'He doesn't know anything about me.' Clarke snaps.
The words come out sharper than intended and she winces. She really didn't need to sport a shiner on her first day at work and Raven seems like the kind of person who doesn't take kindly to offence.
But all Raven does is arch a dark brow.
'Is he, uh,' Clarke taps a finger against her cup, 'here often?'
Please say no.
Please say he's a visitor of Miller's.
Please say -
'Oh, babe.' Raven's voice is sympathetic, too knowing and it shatters Clarke's hopes, 'That's Lieutenant Bellamy Blake, Rescue Squad 47.'
Clarke takes a sip from her cup to hide how her lips are trembling.
The coffee is bitter on her tongue.
She has seen that look on Bellamy's face before. That condescending, I-know-how-you-got-here, scornful look.
As Lieutenant, he would have been briefed on the new Paramedic in Charge assigned to his house. Arkadia's Paramedic Association, Fire Department and Police Department weren't exactly huge - everyone knew or knew someone who knew someone. And Bellamy had, at the very least heard of her, and assumed that Clarke Griffin, daughter of medical royalty Abigail Griffin, had only made PIC because of her connections.
Anger and disappointment burn a path across her chest.
The anger is easier to handle because she's amazing at her job and she'll shove his face in his assumptions soon enough. But the disappointment - oh the disappointment is a slow, all consuming burn because Bellamy Blake is just like the rest of them.
Clarke knows it's her fault, that she shouldn’t have made her own assumptions based on the pull she felt for him, but that doesn’t make the revelation any less bitter.
She was fooled by false hope and empty dreams and a connection she only saw in her head and it’s a bitter, bitter lesson to learn but there she was. Reality is never kind and her reality can be cruel. She put her trust in her heart and dreams - who the hell does that - listened to them when she should have known better. And now that anger and disappointment is near choking her because she listened to that damn pull , despite not knowing a thing about Bellamy.
Bellamy Blake is no different from any other person who had looked at her and had only seen her name. The thing about those people though, is Clarke tears down their expectations of her before leaving them staring at her cold back.
And no stupid, fairy-tale pull she thinks she has to him is going to change that.
Her phone buzzes, and grateful for the distraction, she leans onto a hip and slips the phone from her pocket, glancing at the caller I.D.
His image blinks at her but Clarke can't bring herself to answer. She's being a terrible girlfriend and she really needs to work past these ridiculous issues before she messes everything up with him.
'More bad news?' Raven watches her with sharp, dark eyes.
Clarke bites her lip and slips the phone back into her pocket, unanswered. 'My boyfriend.'
'Hmm.' the brunette murmurs, 'More bad news then.'
Before Clarke can say anything further, her phone vibrates again.
Throwing Raven and Monty an apologetic look, Clarke takes the phone out, brandishing it at them. 'I better take this.'
Raven tilts her mug. 'Good luck.'
She doesn't make it to the door when the phone stops vibrating. Head down, Clarke hits the speed dial as she pushes open the door with her hip.
She turns, steps slowing in surprise when she sees Finn standing just outside the doors, a lone figure on the pavement.
He looks good.
Hair artfully styled back, tailored stone-gray three piece suit, Italian leather loafers, the black wool overcoat she bought him for his birthday. Cool, professional, collected, perfect.
'Hey!' she smiles as she changes directions.
Her smile falters when she remembers that she had ignored his call earlier but it falls completely when she sees the look on his face. His brows are drawn, he's pale and his dark hair bears signs of him carding his fingers through it.
'What happened?' she asks as she nears him.
He takes her hand and his fingers are cold and clammy.
'Can we talk?' he asks, dark eyes bleak, face taut. 'Coffee, maybe?'
'Finn.' she whispers, laying a hand on his chest, 'I can't leave - I'm still on call.'
He nods, raises a hand to rub at his face, 'Right, I'm sorry, I forgot.'
'Finn, what's wrong?'
He smiles but it's sad and it makes Clarke brace, makes her move warily back.
'Clarke,' he begins slowly, 'I -'
A blur of black and navy blue flies past her and it takes a moment for her to realise that it's Raven who has thrown her arms around Finn's neck, hugging him hard.
Clarke starts to laugh, 'You guys know each -'
Then Raven kisses Finn.
It's not a 'Hi, friend!' peck on the mouth either.
And Clarke realises that maybe she wasn't the only one hiding things.
'You can say that.' Raven laughs, pulling away, 'Finn's my boyfriend.'
She turns and Clarke tries to hide the hurt, tries to recover, but she knows she's not fast enough when Raven's smile turns confused.
The brunette picks up on the atmosphere and her eyes fly to Finn, sees the stricken look on his face. She turns back to Clarke and her face is stiff and cold but her eyes are pleading and disbelieving.
Too late, Clarke tries to bury the guilt before she can read it on her face.
'Oh.' Raven says quietly, eyes falling to the phone clenched in Clarke's hand, 'I see.'
Clarke's heart clenches.
'Raven,' she whispers, 'I swear I didn't know. I'm so sorry -'
'Clarke, can we please talk?'
At Finn's words, Raven's mask slips and the hurt that bleeds through slaps Clarke across the face.
She places a hand carefully on Raven's arm, relieved when the brunette doesn't shake it off, and turns to Finn, 'No.'
Her reply is quiet and final and knows Finn understands what she's saying when his face pales.
'I didn't mean for it to turn out this way.' he pleads, hand out.
Clarke steps back, pulling Raven with her. 'I'm sure. Doesn't change anything.'
'I - Raven,' he turns to the brunette, pleadingly, 'I'm sorry. I love you too -'
Raven's arm stiffens under Clarke's hand.
'I want you to get your shit out of my apartment.' Raven tells him, voice steady. 'I want you gone by the time I get off shift.'
Clarke realises, sick to her stomach, why Finn never really asked to stay the night with her.
God, how the hell does she get herself into these type of messes?
Finn steps forward, dark eyes shining, 'Raven -'
His pleas are cut short when, above them, the alarm light starts flashing, the siren wails and dispatch calls for all hands on deck.
Raven shakes off Clarke's hand, turns to her, 'If you're looking for an apartment,' she says grimly, 'I've got a spare room.' Her eyes slash to Finn, 'Leave the key under the mat.'
Then she's stalking away.
The plea in Finn's voice makes her turn to him. She should feel hurt and betrayed - and she does - but there's also relief. If she's being honest with herself, she's more worried about Raven, a woman she had only met not two hours ago. That alone tells her more than guilt over dreams.
She steps back, shaking her head.
It's been over between them for a while, it's just official now.
Behind her the sound of feet running on the pavement brings her back into reality.
She has a job to do.
She's only two steps away when Finn grabs her hand.
'I'm sorry, honey.' he whispers. 'Please, let me explain.'
Clarke can hear the sound of truck doors opening and slamming, raised voices, and the urgency builds in her.
She yanks her hand away. 'I can't -'
She spins around at the bark and sees Bellamy Blake, one leg on a truck step, already in protective gear, helmet in hand, mouth in a hard line.
'Get your ass moving!' he snaps before he swings into the cabin of the truck and disappears from sight.
Her cheeks flame.
Clarke grits her teeth, shakes off Finn's hand and sprints.
'You okay?' Monty asks quietly as he pulls out behind the trucks.
She glances at him as she wrenches the seatbelt over herself. His eyes are sweet and kind and Clarke realises that he's asking simply because he can tell she's upset.
'Yeah.' she breathes out.
She looks in the rear view mirror of the ambulance, watching Finn's figure grow smaller, framed by the huge station garage.
He still looks good.
But, Clarke notes, he no longer looks like part of her world.
'Hell of a first shift.' Monty holds out his fist and Clarke bumps it with her own, a grin spreading across her face.
She had responded to fires before, worked with firefighters on calls, but it hadn't felt like this.
It was different, working with them as a team, assessing possible injuries to victims and to their own, feeling their eyes seek her out as they come hurtling out of the burning building, arms covering the heads of the rescued.
Firehouse 82, craziness aside, was a slick team as Clarke had witnessed first hand. Battalion Fire Chief Kane was the definition of cool-under-fire and his trust in his Lieutenants was apparent. Clarke had been to scenes where the Chief was constantly directing and re-directing their teams but it seems like the Truck and Rescue teams of 82 had escaped that fate. It took Clarke one response call to understand why Miller and Bellamy (though the latter she had to admit grudgingly) had made Lieutenant.
Bellamy was a judgemental ass, but the man was damned good at his job.
The fire had been stamped out, no lives were lost, and no further damage had been done to the surrounding buildings. Clarke knows that they wouldn't be this successful in all their calls, but she'd take her victories where she could.
She's still riding the high as she rounds the ambulance to follow Monty into the house.
Her high takes a nose-dive.
Clarke bites her tongue and pastes a stiff smile on her face before turning around.
It's your first day, she reminds herself, be polite. Tomorrow, you can rip into him.
Bellamy jumps down from the truck, heavy boots hitting the ground with a thud, the suspenders hanging from his hips clinking.
He stalks over to her.
'Listen, I get it's your first day.' he says, jaw clenched, 'But in our line of work, response time is everything and distraction means people can die. So deal with your personal life off the clock.'
You are not my superior. You do not get to chastise me. I do not report to you.
Clarke thinks her tongue is going to start bleeding soon.
But all she says is, 'It won't happen again.'
She's damn proud her voice doesn't shake.
She holds his gaze steadily, ignoring the rest of the firefighters passing them into the station. So, when his eyes move across her face, Clarke catches the shift, catches the way they flicker when they drop to her mouth. She suddenly becomes aware of how close they're standing.
Her throat goes dry.
There's soot smudged across his caramel skin, his grey AFD t-shirt is patchy with sweat and he's close enough that she can see the cinnamon gold freckles on his cheekbones, that she can smell the ash and smoke on his skin.
The sight of him ripples and -
She sinks her teeth into his sweat-slickened shoulder and his taste - smoke, salt and shadows - fills her mouth.
'How are you here?' Bellamy murmurs and she doesn't hear - ignores - the confusion, the heavy meaning behind the words as if he means more than he is saying.
All she hears are the words and the words pierce her deep.
Clarke steps back and this time it's rage that sets her blood pumping.
'By graduating at the top of my class and working my ass off in the field.' she says icily, 'And before you can ask, I'm here to do my damned job. So maybe you can afford me some professional courtesy.'
'Professional cour -,' he cuts himself off as his eyes narrow, 'you wanna explain that to me?'
Her anger spikes.
'What did you hear about me?' she demands, stepping up to him, 'Before I got here today, I mean.'
'What the hell does that have -'
He looks down at her, jaw ticking. 'My sister told me who you were the day we - we met.'
'No, what she told you was my name.' she corrects quietly. 'You still have no idea who I am. That means you have no idea what I can do, and what I can do is be one hell of a paramedic.' she steps back, coldly calm, 'I apologise for today. It won't happen again.'
Then she turns and pushes into the station.
She doesn't hear the quiet, 'Fuck.' that is whispered to the space where she had stood.
Lieutenant Bellamy Blake of Rescue Squad 47, Firehouse 82, was a complete and utter asshole.
A month at 82 has taught her that.
Clarke stares unblinkingly at the fork in her hand as snippets of the conversation she had overheard earlier, through the door of the showers, replay in her head.
' - she didn't know.'
'You sure about that?'
Bellamy's voice is biting and Clarke grits her teeth.
'You've known her all of two seconds and you're sure?'
'Fine, I barely know anything about her.' Raven threw out, 'But you didn't see her face, ok? There's no faking that shock. Clarke didn't know about me.' A pause. 'And maybe I don't know her but I've known Finn my entire life. I knew he was acting weird, acting distant. I just didn't want to admit it. He hasn't been in love with me for a while.'
'And now you know why.'
'You know, Blake,' Raven snaps, 'if you could see past that gigantic chip on your shoulder, you'd realise Clarke isn't what you think she is.'
'If you could see past your bleeding heart, you'd realise people like her take what they want.' Bellamy shot back.
'God, you're a cynic.'
'And you're naïve.'
'Really?' Raven challenged. There's the loud click of something metallic hitting a hard surface, 'Because no one has a problem with her, except you. Like it or not, Clarke is a part of this firehouse now - she's ours. She's damned good at her job -'
'Never said she wasn't.'
'Then maybe you should let her work talk for her.'
'Lay off her, Bellamy. I mean it.' Raven said quietly, 'She doesn't deserve the shit you're giving her because she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.'
'She doesn't belong here.'
'What are you gonna do?' Raven challenged, 'Run out her out? Make her transfer to another house?'
'Jesus, I'm not that much of an asshole.'
'Then why the fuck are we even having this conversation?'
It was at that point, Clarke had had enough.
She had returned to the common room, let Sterling, the newly minted firefighter on Truck, pile her plate high and sank into a seat at the table. She picks at the pile of scrambled eggs on her plate. They're pale gold and steam rises off them in a herb-and-butter scented wave.
Her stomach recoils at the thought of eating.
She'll admit that she and Bellamy move so much more easily around each other in the field ever since that day at Oppen Bridge several weeks ago. She and Monty had performed a tricky emergency airway puncture using the metal tip of a tube because they didn’t have a cricothyrotomy kit. After that call, there was a definite change in Bellamy’s attitude towards her, moving from cool professionalism to actual trust.
Clarke had even thought that perhaps they might be making some leeway at the house too. He, at least, had stopped completely ignoring her and had even nodded at her yesterday morning when she came in.
Looks like she was wrong.
Clarke picks up a fork and, remembering the dream she had woken up from that morning, stabs it into the steaming waffle next to the eggs.
Foolish, stupid girl.
She doesn't belong here.
Bellamy's words resound in her ears and she clenches her jaw to stop the tightening of her throat. As if fate delighted in her pain, flashes from that morning's dream cruelly batter her mind - a low rich laugh as he lies under her, his whispered encouragements, his hands tight on her hips, his voice telling her that she was made for him, that he belonged to her.
Stupid, delusional girl.
This is what she gets when she lives in dreams.
She looks up as Raven drops into the seat next to her.
'Fine.' she shoots the brunette a smile, shoves a piece of waffle into her mouth so she has the excuse of not talking.
'Hey, so.' the other woman drums her fingers on the table, 'I wasn’t joking the other day. I really am looking - '
The siren cuts Raven off mid-sentence.
'Ambulance 6, gunshot victim, corner of Cliff and Raine.'
Relieved, Clarke shoots up, averting her eyes and mutters, 'Sorry, Raven.'
She doesn't wait for a reply and jogs out to the door, turns her head looking for Monty. Instead, she sees Bellamy rounding the corner.
Hurt, pain and anger crashes over her again and she battles it viciously back. She forces her face to go blank and looks right through him. He stops in the middle of the hallway, opens his mouth and Clarke turns away, slamming open the door and walking out.
Perhaps if she knew what was coming, she may have acted differently.
An hour later, Clarke's sitting in the back of the ambo, the ring of a flat-line on the monitor loud in her ears, the smell of blood heavy and cloying in her nose and the feather-light weight of a newborn in her arms.
They tell you never to become complacent on the job, they tell you, clichéd as it may be, to expect the unexpected.
They tell you, in this job, you need to learn to brace yourself.
The baby snuffles quietly.
Monty had turned off the sirens when he had climbed into the back of the ambo to assist her and although he had left the lights on, he hadn't turned the siren back on when he had returned to the driver's seat.
There wasn't a need for a siren anymore.
The victim - deceased now - was seventeen, pretty, heavily pregnant and had been caught in a shootout between rival clans. She had been terrified, panicked, had begged them to save her baby and went into cardiac arrest enroute to the hospital. Monty had pulled over as she flatlined and they had had perform an emergency caesarean in order to save the baby.
Clarke was still numb when they got to St. Vincent's, still numb when the nurses pulled the mother's still body from the ambo and had only came to when another nurse held her arms out to take the baby.
Her head still filled with the ghost of the girl, she had almost resisted and had only allowed Monty to take the baby from her.
In the ambo, the tears started and didn't stop.
Monty, quiet strength and gentle hands Monty, had pulled her into his arms and let her cry into his uniformed shoulder. She had curled an arm around his neck, surrounded by the comforting scent of his cologne, and held on as his murmuring voice turned thick with his own tears.
They walk into the station together and straight into Bellamy.
He was the last person Clarke wanted to see.
His head turns towards them, and he comes to an abrupt stop, eyes widening in shock as they flick from her to Monty. When she drops her gaze and tries to move past him, his arm slashes out in front of her.
'Whoa, hold on.' Bellamy orders, brows drawn, 'What happened?'
She doesn't want his kindness, his pity, doesn't want his comfort, doesn't want whatever else he has to say or offer - she doesn't want it, doesn't want it.
Maybe if she told herself that enough, she'll believe it one day.
Even then, she must be completely out of it to want comfort from someone who might just tell her to 'suck it up' and sneer because he thinks she doesn't belong at 82. Bellamy might be nothing but professional to her out in the field but in here, away from emergencies, he's still a dick.
As she found out, just this morning.
'Bad call.' Clarke says harshly and turns, walks away from him, ignoring the way his mouth tightened.
Monty's low murmur follows her down the hall. When she reaches the turn to the bathrooms, Clarke looks over her shoulder and stops.
Bellamy has a hand around the back of Monty's neck and she watches as pain flashes across his face and he pulls Monty to him. Monty hooks his hands under Bellamy's arms, as he buries his face in Bellamy's shoulder.
The two men stand in the middle of the hallway and although she can still hear the sound of the flat-line, can still feel the weight of that baby in her arms, it cannot detract from the tragic beauty of friends - of family - seeking and finding comfort in each other.
Then Bellamy turns his head and Clarke freezes when his gaze meets hers above Monty's head.
His eyes are shadowed and fierce and Clarke wrenches her gaze away because she cannot deal with the heaviness in his eyes right now.
She escapes into the bathroom.
Clarke doesn't want to admit she wants to know the comfort of Bellamy's arms around her, holding her tight enough to distract her from the pain. The need is a buzz under her skin and she tells herself that it's just left-over adrenaline, just the ache in the wake of a tragedy, tells herself that it's anything else but what it actually is.
Frustrated, she washes her hands viciously, slaps water on her face and straightens, keeping her head bowed over the sink.
The porcelain white is dotted with drops of water, sliding down the edges. Her tears join them, dropping into the sink without a sound. Her vision blurs but when she begins to feel the edge of her sight beginning to darken, she knows what's coming and it's a welcome distraction.
For the first time, she throws herself into the vision.
His voice is a balm to the ache in her heart. She clings to him in the darkness of their bedroom and he shifts them until she's lying on top of him. Her despair wets his skin with her tears and his arms rise to encircle her shoulders.
He lets her cry, does not try to stop her tears with empty words.
'I'm here.' he says and those are the only words she needs.
So she takes them and lets them sink into her blood, lets them comfort her. His strength surrounds her like a blanket, warm and safe, and in his arms she finds protection. It is not weak to fall upon the strength of others when yours has failed and he is offering his own so that she may use it to break free from her pain.
'I'm here.' he whispers and she tightens her hold on him.
He is solid and unmoving as he strokes her back and kisses the closed lids of her eyes, as salt drops wet onto his lips.
Clarke grips the edge of the sink, surfacing and holds still, waiting for the dizziness to pass. When her feet feels solidly planted, she raises her face to stare at herself in the mirror.
Her eyes are swollen and red and her skin is blotchy. But the lines of her face aren't so strained anymore, her mouth isn't so tight, and she can't deny that her eyes aren't as hazy.
It's crazy, right?
She knows it is.
She closes her eyes and uses the memory of Bellamy's - or whoever it is - voice, the ghost of his arms around her to pull herself together. Uses the memory of his strength to push herself through this.
It's crazy, to be sure, but for now, Clarke can't bring herself to care.
She ends up moving in with Raven.
It's not something she'd usually do - move with someone she had just met a month before but it feels right, feels good.
'Are you sure you want to do this?' Abby asks, 'If it's money you're worried about, you know -'
'I know, Mom.' Clarke interrupts gently, 'But it's not just about the money. Raven's nice and the room at her place is bigger than mine here.' she transfers the phone to her other ear, cradling it against her shoulder as she tapes up the last box, 'It's closer to work, it's got a balcony and the light there is amazing.'
'That's good for your art.' Abby hums. 'And you can't do much better than Raven Reyes.'
Clarke smiles as she nudges the box to the side with her foot. 'She thinks very highly of you too.'
She had often wondered why Raven had been so open to being friends with her. She suspected that part of that was just Raven's big heart. But Raven and Bellamy seemed pretty close - they definitely cared a lot for each other - and it just seemed a little strange to her that Raven would be so friendly in the face of Bellamy's obvious dislike.
Then one day, back at the station after a callout, Raven had walked out of the shower, wrapped in a short towel. It had been a shock to see the thin white streaks against Raven's honey-toned skin, twisting up her left knee and up her leg. Scar tissue. The brunette had seen where Clarke's eyes had gone and smiled wryly.
'Got trapped under a fallen roof, couple of years back. Structure fire.' she had said, 'They told me I'd never walk again, let alone come back to work. My mobility was fucked.' her mouth twisted, 'It was hard.' Then she cocked her head at Clarke in the mirror and grinned, 'But then I met Abby. She told me the surgery was risky but if I was game, she'd be there for me every step of the way. And she was. Your mom's a badass.'
Clarke had stared at her, at a loss of words.
'Abby talked about a lot about you during our sessions.' Raven had said, poking Clarke with a finger, 'When I heard you were being assigned to 82, I couldn’t wait to meet you.'
'I hope you're not disappointed.' Clarke forced the words to sound light.
Raven had winked. 'Not at all.'
'Clarke.' Abby says softly, bring Clarke back to the conversation with a jolt, 'I'm glad you're making friends again.'
She stills, stares at the floor. 'Mom -'
'Sweetheart, I'm your mother. I will worry even when you're gray and old. But,' Abby's voice is tinged with relief, 'it sounds like you're finding your place with 82.'
Clarke blows out a breath. 'They're great people.' she looks around at the knock, 'Well, most of them anyway.' she amends, dropping the tape on the counter on her way to the door, 'Raven's here.'
'Most of them?'
'Some of them are a bit of a challenge.' Clarke mutters.
'Lieutenant Blake, you mean?' Abby asks casually, ' Yes, you've mentioned him. Several times. Loudly.'
She does not appreciate the laughter she's hearing in her mother's voice.
'If I've mentioned him, it's because he's a dick.' she scowls, halting at the door, 'Arrogant, hot -,' as hell, '-headed, infuriating, stubborn and I swear to God,' she throws the locks, 'if he smirks at me again,' yanks open the door, 'I - shit.'
Bellamy stands there, filling her doorway, hands shoved into his pockets, brow arched. 'Anyone I know?'
Clarke snaps to at the sound of Abby's voice calling her name. 'I'm here, Mom. Sorry, I have to go.'
'Are you alright?' Abby asks curiously, 'You sound strange.'
Clarke meets Bellamy's eyes, fighting down a flush when they move to the cell at her ear and the corner of his mouth tips up in sardonic humour. 'I'm fine - I have to go. Love you.' she hangs up and shifts uneasily on her feet. 'What are you doing here, Blake?'
'You're moving into Raven's.' he replies dryly, 'Thought it was obvious, princess.'
'You're here to help?' she asks, incredulous.
'I'm here to get Raven off my ass.' Bellamy corrects as his eyes move to the shoulder bared by the cut of her t-shirt. He pauses. Then he shakes his head once and his eyes flick back to hers, mouth now tight. 'Gonna let me in or do I go back and tell her you don't want my help?'
Clarke hesitates, weighing her options.
Bellamy shifts impatiently, folding his arms across his chest.
She tries not to notice that the sleeves of his navy blue t-shirt strain against his biceps or the way his jeans, faded and stressed with wear and age, mould to his thighs. She also tries to ignore the shorn neckline of her t-shirt slipping even lower on her shoulder, the light sheen of sweat on her neck and the fact that she had not brushed her hair that morning and had just pulled it into a slipshod bun on top of her head.
Then Clarke blows out a breath. 'Might as well.' she mutters and steps back and away from the doorway.
When Bellamy doesn’t move straight away, she glances back at him, sees his eyes fixed again on the curve of her bared shoulder and heat flushes up her neck.
It's ridiculous, of course, it's just a shoulder and she's worn much more revealing things but god, the look in his -
Bellamy's eyes go unfocused and he pales.
Her eyes widen.
His hand shoots out to grip the doorframe and he grunts, staggering slightly, when his weight hits his wrist. Without thinking, Clarke darts forward to steady him.
'Are you okay?' Worry and shock sharpens her voice. She raises a hand to tilt his head towards her.
Bellamy catches her wrist before her fingers could make contact with his face, his head snapping up.
She inhales at his unexpected proximity - she could see the mahogany glints in those dark brown eyes, can see the frustration, the anger and another emotion that clenches her belly. She can see the faint laugh lines at their outer corners and bracketing his mouth. Then his mouth, with it's perfect full lower lip, twists angrily and he releases her hand abruptly.
'Don't touch me.' he bites out.
The angry sneer in his eyes burns her skin in embarrassment and turns her insides to ice. Very gently, she removes the hand she hadn't even noticed she had placed on his hip and takes a step back.
'Sorry.' she apologises coolly, 'You didn't look -.'
'I'm fine.' Bellamy's eyes shift away and he pushes off the door frame. Then grudgingly, 'Late night.'
'If you don't feel up -'
'I'm fine, Griffin.' he repeats harshly. He rolls his shoulders back as if trying to release the tension in them. 'Just - just don't touch me.'
It takes a minute but she realises what he's saying to her and it shrivels up something in her.
Bellamy had never displayed any sort of discomfort with anyone before - accepting hugs from Jasper with amusement poorly concealed as exasperation, he tugs on Monroe's braid once in a while, even slings an arm around Miller's neck in easy affection. He wasn’t the most expressive member of 82 but he never seemed to have a problem with physicality.
Unless it's her.
He really meant what he said - he just doesn’t want her to touch him.
'Noted.' she says quietly, dropping her eyes, her face feeling stiff and strange. She turns her back on him and walks into the apartment, leaving him to follow, 'This way.'
'Clarke,' he calls, voice rough, 'I -'
'I'm almost done packing, so it's this,' she waves an arm at the boxes piled neatly in her living room, 'and whatever I finish in my room.'
She's grateful for the help but god, Raven, Freddy Kruger wasn't available instead?
Behind her, Bellamy curses quietly before his footsteps sound on the hardwood floor. When he draws up next to her, Clarke glances quickly at him, giving him a curt nod.
'Start with any of these,' she turns on her heel towards the back of the flat, 'I'll get the boxes in the bedroom.'
'Just bring them out,' Bellamy grinds out, 'and I'll take them down. You can help when you're done with packing, yeah?'
'Fine with me.'
Despite their agreement, Clarke waits until she hears him leave the flat before she comes out with the first box.
From then on, they work in silence, speaking only to agree on splitting the boxes between their cars. The last thing he says is a curt 'I'll drop your stuff with Raven.' before disappearing out the door.
Clarke turns in her keys to the superintendent, pulls away from the curb and doesn't look back.
Despite her alteration with Bellamy that morning, she still can't stop a smile as her new apartment building comes into sight. She grabs a box from the back of the car - Raven is going to have help her get the rest -, jogs up the stairs and unlocks the door to her new home.
She steps in and comes to an abrupt stop as she takes in the scene.
'Hey!' Raven calls cheerily from the open plan kitchen.
A chorus of 'Hi, Clarke!' s come from the crowd in the living room - Monty, Jasper, Murphy and Miller - and Harper waves at her from the balcony before turning her head to talk to someone else.
Bellamy's missing from the crowd packed into the apartment. Clarke tells herself that she notices his absence because she knows she saw his truck in the parking lot downstairs.
Monroe appears from the bathroom, a shoebox in her hands that Clarke recognises as having packed her spare toiletries in. 'We pretty much unpacked everything for kitchen, living room and bathroom -'
'But we left the boxes labelled 'Bedroom' alone because I ain't going through that shit again.' Miller calls from the couch, lifting a beer bottle at her.
Snickers and snorts come from everyone and Monty shakes his head, burying his face in an open palm.
'Oh no,' Clarke's eyes shift from Harper to Miller, 'what happened?'
'The last time?' Miller says, brandishing his bottle, 'The last time, we helped Harper move and the next thing I know, I'm unpacking her collection of toys. I do not need to know that much about my co-workers, okay? There is a line, dude, a line.'
The room descends into laughter and a giggling Harper throws a corn chip at the Lieutenant.
'Most guys would draw the line at tampons.' Clarke grins.
'Tampons?' Miller scoffs, 'Please. Every guy in here has done a tampon run at least once since joining - we've been enlightened and gotten over any tampon and period phobia we may have had prior to Firehouse 82.'
'We have the highest female to male ratio in the city.' Jasper puts in, 'It'll be stupid to get squicky over the natural functions of a woman's body.'
'Remember the first time -'
'Yes, yes, thank you, Harper, I am painfully aware that I was squicky once too.' Jasper glared, 'In my defense, I was still wet behind the ears and reeked of social conditioning, okay? Like Miller said, we've been enlightened.'
Clarke turns to find Raven crooking a finger at her from the island.
'You okay with everyone here?' the brunette murmurs when Clarke walks up, 'They just wanted to help out a bit and hang, but I've told them that if you're tired and need space -'
'What, no!' Clarke protests, waving a hand, 'No, Raven, this is…' she turns her head to watch Monty throw an M&M into Jasper's open mouth, grins and turns back to Raven, 'I like this.'
'Are you sure?' Raven persists, 'They've agreed to clear out, just say the word.'
'Raven.' Clarke grabs her hands, 'I'm fine.' she remembers what her mother had said and looks away, 'I don't make friends easily.'
The brunette's face softens. 'Okay. But let me know - we can get a bit smothering sometimes.'
Clarke grins. 'I like your type of smothering.'
She doesn't ask about Bellamy.
At one point, she wanders out to the balcony, lifting her face to the sun.
The conversations behind her fall to a muted buzz as she breathes in deep and closes her eyes. Harper's giggle reaches her and Clarke smiles. She opens her eyes, glances down and the ground rushes up towards her, vertigo hitting her in a dizzying rush.
As the world turns blurry, Clarke grips the banister tightly in panic -
'Thank you.' she whispers.
'I made you a promise.' he says, his chest warm against her back, his heat a comfort. 'I intend to keep it.'
She turns her head, heart soaring, heart aching with bittersweet joy, and presses her mouth against his. His head goes back in surprise but he responds to her kiss, his hand coming up to cup her jaw.
She doesn't know how to show him her gratitude using her words without showing him her heart. So she'll show him her gratitude using her lips and as she shifts to push him to his back, her body.
Sex, after all, is just another language.
His interpretation, however, is all up to him.
Shuddering, Clarke comes to.
Slowly, the conversation behind her, the music and the voices, rise in volume as she grips the banister and uses the pain in her fingers to pull herself back into reality.
What is wrong with her?
There are tears gathering behind her eyes as her heart aches - a strange bittersweet ache that doesn't belong to her but does at the same time. Clarke shakes her head, eyes still tightly closed, trying to rid herself of the images in her head, the sound of his voice, the taste of his lips, the feel of his body.
When she hears his voice, she thinks she's still caught in the dregs of the vision. Then she realises that he's using her name.
She jerks up, spins and looks up in the direction his voice had come from. The sun momentarily blinds her before a dark figure moves into it, blocking it and at first she thinks she's seeing things.
But no, that really is Bellamy, standing on a balcony, above her. His hands are braced against the railing, body held away. He looks like he's about to vault over the railing and down to her. Raven's balcony jutted out far enough that he could have made the jump without hurting himself.
Bellamy straightens and leans over the railing, his face tight. 'You okay?'
Clarke means to tell him that she's fine but what comes out is, 'What are you doing there?' But then she remembers Harper earlier, standing exactly where she is now, waving at her before turning to talk to someone - Harper had been talking to Bellamy.
But before she could say anything further, confusion shifts across Bellamy's features.
'I live here.' he says, brows drawing down.
Clarke closes her eyes and smiles tightly.
Of course he does.
'Raven didn't tell you.'
She opens her eyes to see him watching her. He was still wearing the jeans from earlier but had changed into a tank top and she could see the veins running up the hard, rounded outlines of his upper arms. His dark hair was tipped a fiery red by the light behind him and he looked like an ancient god, haloed by the sun, strong boned face, dark eyes and wild hair.
Her mouth goes dry.
There's a thought, a whisper, on the edge of her consciousness but she can't quite grasp it.
Forcibly, Clarke focuses on his question. 'No, she didn't.'
Bellamy's mouth twists and he huffs out a short laugh. 'Yeah, sounds like her.'
Her belly burns unpleasantly. 'Is this going a problem?' she challenges.
He rises a brow. 'Not for me.'
'You sure?' she throws back, 'Because the last thing I want to be is something that doesn't belong.'
The words are out of her mouth before she can stop them and Bellamy's head jerks back.
But it's too late to take the words back now and she holds his gaze, watching as his jaw clenches and his mouth tightens. He is the first one to break, looking away and the tense line of his shoulders move on an inhaled breath.
When he looks up, Clarke feels sort of a vindictive pleasure at seeing the flash of shame those dark eyes.
'It's no problem for me, Clarke.' he says quietly. 'I give you my word.'
The phrase jolts her out of her anger and hurt and she feels the earth shift under her feet. She shakes her head to clear it, struggles to hold on to her anger.
'I'll stay out your way.' she says finally, 'You won't even know I'm here and you stay out of mine and we'll be fine. Deal?'
He doesn't reply at once, just continues to watch her and Clarke swears pain flashes across his face before he straightens off the railing and the sun blinds her again.
'Deal.' he says roughly, a dark faceless shadow.
Then he's gone.
Clarke drops to her knees and leans over to check the victim’s eyes. ‘He’s responsive. Just knocked out.’ Noticing the wallet on the coffee table, she grabs it, flips it open and finds his driver’s licence. She leans back over him, ‘Gary? Gary, you need to wake up.’ She taps him lightly on the cheek.
‘That must have been some bump.’ Monty remarks, ‘Stretcher?’
They had been responding to a distress call that came from inside the building - a guy the cops were still chasing down somewhere blocks away had shot a man in one of the flats. The rest of the residents panicked and caused a small stampede at the doors. The sole lift in the building had jammed. The gunshot wound victim was enroute to hospital but the bullet had missed anything vital and some of the other residents had to be treated for shock and some bruising by other paramedics on the scene but otherwise, were okay.
She and Monty, given the go ahead by the police officers stationed in front of the building, were sweeping the rest of the apartments just in case.
Clarke hums in agreement and Monty moves away.
It's been a just over a fortnight since she moved in with Raven and Clarke thinks her decision to stay with the firefighter might have been one of her best yet.
Bellamy kept his word and aside from the music that drifted in through the open balcony doors on quiet nights, Clarke wouldn't have even known they were living in the same building. She doesn't know if that was a relief or not. Her dreams continued to plague her but Clarke thinks that she ignores them enough, maybe - just maybe - they'll go away.
She was a master at bottling things up and ignoring them, after all. She has been ever since she lost her father and then Wells.
At the station, she and Bellamy had seemingly reached a stalemate. It might have pleased her but for the fact that she notices his eyes on her a lot more now and it's slightly disquieting. Clarke doesn’t want to wonder at the reason why.
She hears Monty’s fading footfalls replaced by heavier footsteps. Turning her head, she sees Bellamy filling the doorway, helmet and jacket in a black-gloved hand, a jack in the other.
They must have already dealt with the lift.
‘You good in here, Griffin?’ Bellamy asks, eyes on Gary, coming in deeper to the room.
‘Should be.’ Clarke murmurs as he drops into a crouch next to her. ‘Tried reviving him but he’s knocked out pretty good. Monty’s gone to get the stretcher.’ She purses her lips, studying Gary again. ‘Hand me that C-Collar?’ The collar is placed into her open palm and she leans forward over Gary, unsnapping it. ‘Actually it’s a good thing you’re here,’ she says absently, ‘You can help us carry him out.’
‘Just tell me where you need me.’
Before she can reply, a form moves in the corner of her eye. Clarke freezes when she sees the man who had appeared in the doorway of a bedroom.
Then her eyes drop to his hand and shock churns her belly.
The cops never caught the shooter because he had never left the building.
Ignoring Bellamy's curse, the gunman’s eyes shift to Clarke, ‘Back off, lift your hands where I can see them.’
Clarke swallows, glancing down at her fingers resting on the collar she had managed to slip under Gary’s neck. ‘Just let me get this on him?’
It was the wrong thing to say.
The shooter’s face twists and the gun swung upwards.
Fingers bite into her shoulder and she’s yanked backwards, dropping the collar and falling back on her ass. Her sight of the shooter is partially blocked Bellamy’s back, his arm slashing out and above her.
‘She’s off, okay?’ Bellamy snaps, rough and hard. ‘She’s off.’ His other hand comes up, placating, ‘Come on, man, take it easy.’
Breath knocked out of her, Clarke stares at his turned back, the protective arm he had raised over her.
Bellamy had basically thrown himself between her and a loaded gun.
Terror and indecision snaps her out of shock and she lies there, motionless and mouth dry, wanting to pull him away but terrified that she might set off the gunman again.
‘Get up!’ the shooter snaps, stepping to the side to wave the gun at Clarke, ‘Now!’
Clarke sits up slowly, raising her hands. She pushes against Bellamy’s arm but it remains solidly in front of her.
‘Hey, talk to me.’ Bellamy says quietly to the shooter, ‘You don’t have to do this. You can just walk away –‘
‘You’ve seen my face!’ the armed man yells, eyes wild and frantic landing on Clarke, ‘You should have left with the other one! Come out!’
The gun shakes uncontrollably and Bellamy surges up on his knees, arms spreading out.
Clarke clutches Bellamy’s shoulder and yanks back because she knows what he’s doing, she knows he’s trying to draw the shooter’s attention, making himself a bigger, easier target and her heart is going to give out at the thought.
Bellamy shakes her off roughly and reaches back to wrap an arm around her waist, shoving her behind him even more firmly and holding her there, pressed to his back.
‘I’m sorry.’ she calls, pushing at Bellamy’s arm and managing to slip out of his hold. She ignores his hissed ‘Clarke’ and moves into the gunman’s view, ‘I’m sorry. Please don’t do this – you don’t have to do this.’
The man’s gaze is wreaked and his face is shiny with sweat. Clarke knows its too late for her when she sees his decision flash across his features and the gun swings in her direction.
In the heartbeat that follows, several things happen all at once – Murphy charges in and, swinging the heavy halligan bar like a golf-club, slams it into the gunner’s arm. The gunshot explodes in the small room just as Bellamy twists at the waist and tackles her.
Clarke has a second to hear her soul scream before Bellamy’s weight hits her, her head smacking into the floorboards a split second before her back and her breath whooshes out of her body in a gasped wheeze.
The tang of blood blooms in her mouth, sharp and salty, where her teeth had snapped down into the side of her tongue.
Then deafening silence.
Dazed, Clarke barely feels the weight on her chest shifting off.
‘Clarke?’ a voice, hoarse and angry cuts through the buzz in her ears, ‘Clarke!’
Her eyes fly open and she shoots up into a sitting position, batting away his hands and twisting to see him crouching next to her, his features tight, eyes hard.
‘Turn around,’ she snaps, then too impatient, she leans around him, running her hands across the expanse of his back. Her fingers encounter nothing but warm solid flesh under his black standard issue polo but her heart is still racing, ‘You shouldn’t have done that!’
‘You mean I should have let him shoot you?’ Bellamy’s tone is dry.
‘I – you – you know what I mean!’ she snarls.
Then her voice dies when Bellamy swivels on the balls of his feet, capturing her hand. His gloved touch is hard and solid against her fingers.
Too late, she remembers that he didn't want her touching him and she yanks her hand out of his.
But all he says is a quiet, ‘I’m fine, Clarke.'
He’s right there– he’s only inches away from her and Clarke realises that she wants to lean up and press her lips to his, drowning herself in his taste to wash away the memory and horror of him facing down a gun.
Reality crashes into her and Clarke jerks back and away to look around Bellamy. Straddling the knocked out shooter, Murphy grins at her, the gun lying harmless several feet away.
There’s powdered plaster on the rug below where the bullet had dug into the ceiling.
‘That was fun.’ Murphy smirk.
He replies to her mouthed ‘thank you’ with a wink just as police officers and firefighters burst into the room.
Avoiding Bellamy’s eyes, Clarke shifts forward towards Gary who had slept through the entire drama. Bellamy rises to answer the questions and there’s no more softness in his voice as he demands to know who had swept the floor and cleared it.
Clarke finishes strapping Gary’s C-collar and when Monty drops down next to her, sends him a comforting smile.
‘Are you okay?’ he whispers, voice pitched under Bellamy’s growls.
‘Yeah,’ she assures as they slide the stretcher under Gary. Then, lips compressed, she whispers back, ‘Bellamy put himself between me and a bullet.’ Before Monty could respond, she stands, ‘Come on, lets get Gary out of here.’
With some help from Monroe and Jasper, they lift the unconscious man and move through the maze of uniforms in the room.
At the doorway, they need to pass Bellamy and the police officer in charge of the scene. She steals a final glance at him. He’s standing, hands on hips, fingers resting where the faded red suspenders began on his waist.
On his left arm, a vein runs from under his short sleeve of his polo shirt, down his arm to disappear into his glove where it ends at his wrist.
Clarke remembers how that arm had sliced out in front of her, unshakeable, protective.
Her own words echo in her ears - Bellamy put himself between me and a bullet - and she swallows.
Another voice, harsher with the grit of smoke, whispers, 'You will have everything I am at your back.'
Clarke jerks away from the words, fists her trembling fingers around the handles of the stretcher and pushes the voice out her mind.
Three days later, Clarke finds herself at St. Vincent, surrounded by the scent of antiseptic and in the quiet of the Maternity Ward.
She knows she shouldn't be doing this - in fact she's read all the policy manuals on the subject and knows just why she shouldn’t be doing this.
Emotional attachments to victims are not encouraged in her line of work. You get to a scene, you work it, you do your best to save lives and minimise harm done and if you lose a life on your watch, it's not your fault. If you succeed, you get the victim to hospital and your watch ends when the hospital staff takes that gurney from your hands.
In her line of work, you leave your attachment just inside those hospital doors.
But Clarke has never been good at that.
She knows the dangers, she knows that caring too much will burn her out in the long run, she knows.
But sometimes she can't help herself.
'How is she?' Clarke asks the smiling nurse beside her, eyes on the sleeping baby.
'At birth, she was a little anaemic, a little under-weight,' the nurse says, 'but she's pulling through now. She's a fighter that one.' the nurse shifts on his feet, 'I heard you and your partner were the ones who conducted the post-mortem Caesarean. You saved her life.'
Clarke wonders what type of life they saved her for.
'No one has come forward yet?' she asks, 'Grandparents, aunts, uncles - no one?'
The nurse - Palmer according to his name tag - shakes his head, mouth tight. 'If no one comes forward, it can take months before they find anyone.' He places a hand on her shoulder, squeezes comfortingly and leaves.
She closes her eyes, remembers the young mother's terror, her hands on her swollen belly, begging her and Monty to save her baby. Clarke rubs a tired hand across her face, her promise weighing heavy on her shoulders. She goes back to that day, backtracks, thinks of everything she could have done different to change the outcome.
It's a foolish, dangerous thing to do and it only served to make things worse.
She leans forward, presses her forehead and a hand against the glass, 'I'm sorry.' she whispers, 'I'm so sorry.'
Was she distracted that day?
Yes, she was when she left the Station with Monty - distracted by her own crap but didn't she shake it off like she did for every other call?
She did, right?
But what if she hadn't as much as she had thought?
What if she was off her game during that call, what if she wasn't at her best?
If she hadn't been so distracted by her own hurt, would she have been able to see something that could have helped?
Is that what had happened?
Did she cost someone her life? Robbed a child of her mother?
Tears, guilt and helplessness, gather under her closed lids. 'I'm so fucking sorry.'
She jerks back from the glass in shock to see Bellamy standing in the middle of the quiet hospital hallway, an empty crate dangling from his hand.
'What are you doing here?' she tries to laugh it off, brushing the tears off her face quickly.
He doesn't reply at once, his brows drawing down as his eyes scan her face. Then he sucks in a breath, chest expanding under his olive-drab t-shirt and shoves his free hand into the pocket of his bomber jacket. He lifts the crate. 'Books from the charity drive last week. Came to drop them off.'
Clarke silently swears - if she had remembered that he was going to be here, she would have waited for her day off to do this. 'Right.' she throws him a stiff smile, 'Okay, so I have -'
'You know better than this.' he says, eyes flicking to the room beyond the glass.
'Clarke,' he steps forward, 'you know you can't afford to get att -'
'I'm not.' she snaps. Then she exhales in frustration, 'I know, Bellamy.'
He stands there, studying her with those sharp, dark eyes and Clarke resists the urge to shift under his gaze. Then he turns his head to look into the room and his face softens.
'This wasn't on you.' he says quietly. His eyes come back to her, 'It's tragic and heartbreaking but it isn't on you. You and Monty did your best.'
If only he knew.
She looks away, swallows the bitter laugh scratching the inner lining of her throat.
'Clarke.' he calls and when she turns back to him, he starts to shake his head slowly, 'We can't save everyone. We can try. But we won't be able to.'
She lets the words sink in and tries to drag up a smile.
He opens his mouth to say something further, hesitates, then, 'See you tomorrow.'
Bellamy had already taken several steps when Clarke calls him back, his name echoing in the quiet corridor. He turns automatically, the lines of his face tight. Without thinking, Clarke moves forward to place a hand on his arm.
'Thank you for the other day.' she says as his head drops to look at her hand on him, 'I didn't tell you before but thank you for…' saving my life 'having my back with that shooter.'
She doesn't realise that his arm had gone rigid under her touch until Bellamy pulls it away. He does it slowly, but the implication and the reminder is there and Clarke's cheeks flame. Some foolish part of her had thought that perhaps they may have gotten past this stage but she clearly misunderstood.
Her hand drops to her side, her fingers tingling strangely, her tattooed wrist flaring suddenly.
'You're a good paramedic.' Bellamy says roughly, eyes suddenly flat.
He saved her because she was a good paramedic?
Because she was an asset to his house, she realises dimly, a rushing in her ears. Hurt swiftly followed and then was drowned in vicious self-deprecation.
What did you think, a voice mocked her, he risked himself for you because he cared?
'Right.' she says numbly to his chest and steps back.
She doesn't see the way frustration narrows his eyes or that Bellamy had opened his mouth again only to snap it shut. She misses the way he closes his eyes briefly before he turns away.
Clarke only sees his back as he walks down that hallway.
You'll have everything I am at your back.
His voice echoes in her ears and this time, she doesn’t stop the bitter laugh from bubbling up from her.
The smell of spilled diesel is heavy and cloying in the air.
Clarke glances at the firefighters working the accident scene as she and Monty take care of the driver and hope they can get out of there soon. Spilled diesel always brings back bad memories for her and her skin feels too tight.
She leans over the victim.
'Mark?' she calls out, 'We're going to take you to Sacred Heart but I'm going to need you to stay awake for me until we get there, ok? Do you understand?'
He blinks up at her. 'I understand.' he says, words muffled by the oxygen mask.
There's no sign of slurring in his speech - that was encouraging.
At Monty's mutter, she looks up, hands briefly still as she adjusts the C-collar around the man's neck. 'What?'
Monty slides his eyes to the left and looking into the crowd of bystanders, she clocks them. There are three of them, late teens, early twenties. And tweaked to the gills if their body language is anything to go by - restless bouncing on the balls of their feet, jittery hands. If she went up to any of them and shone a light in the eyes currently locked on the inside of the ambo, Clarke would bet they would be dilated.
'They've been watching us ever since we got here.' Monty murmurs, 'We should let Bellamy know.'
She hesitates, glancing over her shoulder to see Bellamy, belly to the ground, peering under the wrecked Civic Honda. His team worked around him in full damage control mode. Protocol states that if she needs back-up, she should call for it. But she hesitates because she doesn't even know if the teens are a viable threat - her gut tells her that they are but…how much can she trust her gut?
Lately, her gut has been telling her too many things that have turned out to be wrong. Lately, her gut has been messing up her perception of reality because it keeps telling her that her dreams are real, that those hallucinations and visions are memories.
Her gut has told her that she had known Bellamy before she had ever met him, that he had loved her once and will so again, that his love for her spanned a millennia, that her soul was linked with his irrevocably, that she could love no other the way she would love him, that their love for each other was all consuming and true.
Instead, she found a man who had judged and underestimated her until she proved him wrong, who just plain didn't like her, who had thought - probably still thinks - that she didn't belong, who might risk his life for hers but only because he recognised a valuable team asset.
What sort of cosmic love was that?
Lately, her gut has been confusing her too much - she doubts it can point her in the way of coffee in a café now.
So Clarke hesitates. Besides, if the ambo leaves now, they may not even be a problem.
'No. Help me get him in,' she finally tells Monty, fingers moving quickly, ' then I've got the rest and you can get us the hell out of here.'
They wheel the gurney to the ambo and as Monty engages the collapsible legs, Clarke jumps up to pull Mark fully into the cabin. The doors close with a comforting thud as she's strapping him in more securely and her breath leaves her in a relieved rush.
Except the doors fly open again, momentarily blinding her and when she regains her sight, there's someone climbing into the cabin.
It's one of the teens and out of the corner of her eye, she sees his friends crossing the street rapidly. Her heart jumps into her throat.
'Hey, get out!' she storms over.
'Lady, I just want a little morphine.' he whines, eyes too bright, wide, innocent smile. 'You wouldn't even miss it.'
'Out!' she repeats harshly and pushes him back a step.
Face twisted, the teen pushes her back hard enough that her foot catches on the corner of the bed and she goes down on her ass, red spikes of pain blazing up her spine.
'Clarke!' Monty's voice echoes in the small small.
Pissed now, she kicks out, catching the teen on the leg and sending him staggering away from the plastic drawer he had yanked out. She tilts her head back to see Monty's face in the cut-out, wide-eyed, already leaning towards the door.
'I'm good!' she yells to stop Monty from coming to her, 'Get us out of here!'
She lurches to her feet as the engine rumbles to life under her and jumps at the teen who had fallen back further as the ambo jerked. She must have underestimated because, tackling him around the waist, she sends them both tumbling out of the vehicle. He cushions her fall but fire blazes from her forearms and up her arms as the road scrapes off skin and her knee becomes a knot of pain as it hits the ground with a jarring thud. Cursing her stupidity, Clarke staggers upright, leaving the groaning teen on the road, and backs limping into the ambo.
A couple of metres away, Raven and Monroe had the other two teens on the ground, Bellamy coming up fast behind them, his eyes locked on her.
Heat, having nothing to do with pain, prickles her skin as she hefts herself up into the vehicle and into a crouch, still holding his gaze. The teen she had left on the ground staggers to his feet and surges at her. Her eyes leave Bellamy and her arms snap out, fingers gripping the hand-holds on either side of the open ambo doors, barring the teen's entrance with her body. He screams something unintelligible at her and his fist rises.
Oh, hell no.
Suddenly incensed, Clarke falls back, plants her foot in his chest and shoves.
He goes flying back - straight into Bellamy.
'Monty, now!' she yells.
The only thing that keeps her from sliding across the floor as Monty steps on the gas is her tight grip on the hand holds. She winces when her shoulder protests as she pulls herself up back in order to close the doors.
Her last sight of the accident scene is Bellamy, struggling teen in his grasp, police officers swarming around him, eyes on her crouching figure. She crouches there, framed by the open cabin, as they speed away and even with the rapidly increasing distance between them, she can tell he's pissed.
Clarke pushes him out of her mind, swings the doors closed and rushes back to Mark. His eyes are open - alert, wide and a little awed.
His hand pulls down his oxygen mask. 'Is it always this exciting around you?'
She collapses onto the bed opposite him, relief and adrenaline making her weak-kneed, and sucked in air. She tries to hold it in but Mark's soft chuckle sets her off and Clarke begins to laugh, gasping, breathless snorts that are joined by Monty's relieved giggles.
'Put your mask back on.' she wheezes at Mark, waving a hand.
He slips her a soft grin. 'Yes ma'am.'
Despite the razor sharp pain in her forearms, the ache in her knee and her tailbone as she moves around Mark, checking him properly, it can't touch the warmth in her belly.
At the hospital, they wave goodbye to Mark as the nurse wheels him away and spend the next hour filing their report. Monty hesitated about mentioning the incident with the teens but Clarke arched a brow at him. They both know its potential for going south, reporting it, but Clarke's willing to take it on if it comes to that.
If it ever comes to that.
As they're walking out, Monty bumps her companionably with his shoulder and she shoves him back gently, grinning at him.
'Bellamy's gonna hit the roof.' he says conversationally.
Clarke pauses, glancing at him. 'Why would you say that?'
'Because he was the Lieutenant in charge when all that went down and he didn't stop it before it happened.'
She nearly stops walking. 'It wasn't his fault.'
'Haven't you noticed?' Monty sighs, shoving his hands into his pockets, 'Bellamy takes on more blame than he actually owns.'
When they get back, everyone's crowded in the common room. It's casual enough but a lot of eyes turn her way and she slows.
Not everyone, Clarke thinks, looking around.
Bellamy's nowhere to be seen.
She glances over her shoulder to see Fox standing in the hallway. The new Administration Assistant is young, a little quiet, but there's a sharpness to her eyes that Clarke knows doesn’t miss much. That sharpness now gives Clarke some warning for what's to come next.
'Chief Kane wants to see you in his office.' Fox says. She shifts on her feet. 'You should know, he has Cage Wallace with him.'
Clarke barely manages to suppress a groan. 'That was faster than I expected.' she mutters to Monty, then to Fox, 'Thanks, I'll be right there.'
Harper mutters something that sounds suspiciously like 'This is bullshit.' from her seat at the table. It should have earned her, at the least, a warning look from her Lieutenant but Miller just purses his lips and concentrates on the apple he was munching on.
Clarke sighs and follows Fox out of the Common Room.
She can see hear Cage Wallace's voice before she even reaches Kane's office.
The man was a dick of creepy proportions. He was also, unfortunately, an officer with Arkadia's Paramedic Association, and his father and Abby knew each other. All things considered, Clarke was ready to deal with him.
What she didn't expect, however, was to hear Bellamy's distinct growl over Cage's oily tone.
' - if he wants to take it out of anyone's hide,' Bellamy's voice snarls, 'tell him to take it out of mine. I was the Officer in Charge.'
Monty was right, she realises with a start, he really does take on more blame than he owns.
She pushes the door open and the occupants of the room turn to her.
Bellamy, AFD grey t-shirt, lower half still in protective gear and boots, slashes her an furious look from under unruly hair. He's standing in front of Kane's desk, frustration and animosity radiating off him as he faces off with Cage.
'Griffin, please come in.' Kane gestures her in.
She closes the door behind her and approaches the trio in the room, Bellamy moving away to make space for her.
'Mr. Wallace here,' Kane says quietly, 'says that a young man reported that you got into an alteration with him today.' he pauses, 'He's making a formal complaint against you.'
'A formal complaint?' Clarke repeats incredulously.
'The man you hurt is Rodrick Degraw, Clarke.' interjects Cage meaningfully.
The name sparks a memory but she can't figure it out yet.
'He says you,' Cage purses his lips, 'attacked him. He claims to have gotten into the ambulance to offer his assistance - he doesn’t deny being at the scene of the accident.'
She rears back in shock and fury before finding her voice again. 'Are you serious - he attacked me!'
'Of course he doesn't deny being at the scene.' Bellamy mutters scathingly at the same time, 'Hard to, seeing as he was arrested there.'
'Mr. Blake,' Cage says, his sneer setting Clarke's teeth on edge, 'you managed to inject yourself uninvited into this discussion. I am an APA officer, watch your tone.'
'Lieutenant.' Clarke snaps.
'Pardon, my dear?' Cage asks.
She hates the patronising way Cage looks at the firefighter standing beside her. She wants to slap that smirk off his face. 'Lieutenant Blake is a decorated officer with the Arkadian Fire Department. Use his proper title - he earned those stripes.'
Cage's eyes go squinty and the silence in the room becomes pointed.
There's a lot of controversy surrounding Cage Wallace's appointment, rumours rampant that he had pulled the considerable heft of his father's name to land a job he was untrained for. Considering the amount of times he had screwed up and the dismal effort the APA used to clean up his messes, it became clear pretty soon after his appointment that he was woefully unprepared for the responsibilities of his post.
However, Clarke had not meant her words the way Cage was obviously taking them but she can't take them back now. And honestly, she meant what she said - Bellamy had earned his title and she's seen proof of it every day.
'Don't worry about it, Clarke.' Bellamy says into the quiet, 'He can call me whatever the hell he wants. I don't need to wave around a title to prove the size of my c -'
'Cage.' Kane booms as Cage's face turns an alarming shade of red and Clarke chokes down a laugh, 'Surely there's some other way we handle this. A suspension is really blowing this out of proportion.'
'A suspension?' Clarke whispers disbelievingly, laughter dying abruptly, 'Chief, he was going for the morphine. I told him to stop and he shoved me. I had a victim in the back of ambo with me - I reacted accordingly.'
Kane turns to Cage, raising his eyebrows.
'It's her word against Roddy Degraw's.' Cage huffs out, tearing his eyes away from Bellamy.
Clarke blows out a frustrated breath. Roddy Degraw. Now it makes sense.
'Senator Degraw is not happy that his son is being held in custody.' Cage continues, 'He wants this resolved and Clarke suspended.'
'It's a good thing that the Paramedic Association isn't going to roll over and give up one of their own, just like that though, right?' Bellamy drawls.
Cage glares at him. 'It's more complicated than you comprehend.'
'Is it?' Bellamy challenges, 'The kid's probably scared his dad's going to find out he's been shooting up and pissed that someone half his size put him on his ass. Look into it, take statements. Hell, I'll give you mine before you leave.'
'All you saw,' Cage snaps, 'is Clarke and Roddy falling out of the vehicle before she kicked him in the chest.'
'And him trying to get back on while threatening to knock Clarke out and calling her a 'stupid bitch'.' Bellamy retorts.
So that's what he had been screaming in her face.
Cage shifts on his feet. 'Ah.'
'Ah?' she bites out, 'Ah what?'
'Senator Degraw,' he says, spreading his hands out and smiling slickly at Bellamy, 'has personally asked me if I could ensure that that part of your incident report is struck out.'
'What?' Clarke yells, fury hitting her in a lava hot wave.
'Clarke, my girl,' Cage turns to her, 'Senator Degraw is a very powerful ally to have and he'll owe you a marker. It's only a suspension.'
'Yeah, and my professional reputation,' she snaps, 'you dick!'
Cage turns shocked and scandalised and oh, how she wishes it was on account of his preposterous proposition instead of what she had called him. She doesn’t know she's moving towards Cage until an iron grip wraps around her arm. She looks up to see Bellamy staring at Cage like the APA officer had crawled out of a sewer.
'The good Senator will also ensure that you will be generously compensated, of course. Promotions are easy to come by and Firehouse 82 will be well regarded.' Cage continues and Clarke realises he's talking to Bellamy this time.
Clarke's stomach drops and her eyes fly to Bellamy.
If he chooses to take the deal, it's her word against a Senator's son and if they can get to a APA officer this far up the ranks, they can get to those in medicine and law enforcement willing to take a bribe.
Then Bellamy smirks and it's beautiful in its insolence. 'Fuck off, Wallace.' he says succinctly.
Clarke closes her eyes in relief.
Cage sneers. 'You're making a mistake -'
They all turn to see Kane staring at Cage with distaste.
'Chief Kane, I suggest -'
'And I suggest,' Kane snaps, 'that you reconsider the path you are on. Do not come into my Firehouse, threaten my paramedics, try to bribe my lieutenants and expect me to sit idly by.'
Cage draws in a breath, looking at Bellamy and then Kane. 'Are you sure you want to do this?'
'You come after Clarke,' Kane warns, 'you'll be coming after Firehouse 82. And trust me, we do not go down easy. The Senator will find it easier to handle the media storm that he faces by putting his son into rehab than the storm we are capable of becoming.'
Cage takes in Kane's words then nods stiffly. He turns towards the door, pauses, and looks at Clarke.
'This isn’t like you, Clarke.' he tells her.
'What, standing up for myself and refusing to take a bribe?' she icily asks.
'Making waves.' Cage sniffs, 'You would have never resorted to violence and you would have seen reason. You would thought of your mother and her reputation.'
The sting is, he was right.
Once upon a time, she would have handed Roddy what he wanted or sat quietly while he took it. Once upon a time, she would have yelled and fussed but would have taken the deal in fear of her job being taken from her. Once upon a time. She's not that girl anymore.
But all she says is, 'You've obviously don't know my mother as well as you think you do.'
'Oh, but I do know and this isn't you.' Cage's mouth is a thin, pressed line. 'It must be the company you're keeping.' he says, glancing meaningfully at Bellamy.
Bellamy bares his teeth in a sharp grin, unbothered by the insinuation.
When Cage finally leaves, the air in the office seem fresher for his absence.
'Thank you, Chief.' Clarke says into the silence.
Kane waves a hand. 'We look after our own here, Griffin.' he gives her a comforting smile, 'Don't worry, we'll handle this.'
She hopes so.
Bellamy is already halfway down the hallway by the time she finds him.
'Hey!' she calls out, jogging to catch up with him.
He looks over his shoulder, strides slowing but not stopping entirely. 'I have to be somewhere, Griffin.'
His face is back to it's other default around her: stony. Her stomach drops at the sight but she shakes it off.
'Relax.' she says when she finally closes the distance between them, 'I just wanted to say thank you for backing me up in there.'
A muscle ticks in his jaw. 'Just doing my job.' he mutters, still not looking at her.
Clarke blows out a breath - her legs are shorter than his and at the pace he's going, she still needs to take two steps for every step he takes.
'Could you just slow down?' she snaps, 'I'm trying to talk to you.'
Bellamy stops so suddenly, she nearly runs into him. Then she's backing up quickly when he spins around to face her.
'What the hell were you thinking?' he hisses, long-lidded eyes hard and narrowed.
'Did you know that kid was there?' Bellamy demands, 'Did you know he was angling for the ambo?'
'I knew it was a possibility.' she admits quietly.
'Then the why the hell didn't you call for back-up?' he snaps, the angular lines of his face tight with anger, 'What if he had a knife? A gun? You could have been seriously hurt, Clarke!'
'I thought Monty and I could handle it.' she explains, holding her ground, 'And we did.'
Bellamy's laugh is bitter and stinging. 'You call Cage Wallace paying us a visit, threatening this house, having 'handled it'?'
Her mouth drops open in disbelief.
'That's not fair.' Clarke protests hotly, 'I didn't kn -'
'Fuck fair.' Bellamy bites out. 'You could have been hurt - do you not understand that? This could have been avoided if you had alerted us the second you clocked that dipshit and his friends. You didn’t. Instead, you decided to play hero and -'
'I wasn't playing at anything!' she snaps, 'I get what you're saying -'
'Do you?' he retorts, 'If shit hits the fan, we're taking on a fucking Senator. Do you have any idea what he can do to this house?' his furious eyes rake her, 'This is my family.' he steps back, shaking his head, 'You better pray the only person he goes after is me.'
Clarke sucks in a breath - she hadn't thought of that. And suddenly his anger makes a lot more sense. Shit.
'I'm sorry.' she offers quietly, 'I never meant for this to happen.'
Bellamy's eyes return to her, studying her, mouth tight.
'Next time, call for back-up.' he says finally, eyes hot and pissed, 'You and me, we might not like each other but out there? I have your back. So maybe you should have a little more trust in your team.'
What the hell was that supposed to mean?
But before she could articulate her incredulity, Bellamy has turned and is striding away, leaving her in the middle of the hallway, alone with her guilt and anger.
She doesn't follow him this time.
‘It’s Clarke, right?’
She turns towards the voice and freezes mid-step.
Octavia Blake stands framed in the doorway, leather jacket, emerald green t-shirt tucked into dark jeans, badge clipped to her belt, gold glinting. She tucks a slick fall of dark hair behind an ear, her light eyes taking in Clarke.
Clarke nods warily – the last time a Blake found out who she was, things did not go so well. In fact, Clarke thinks wryly as she remembers her blow-out with Bellamy last week over Cage Wallace, she’s still dealing with that particular issue.
‘Detective.’ she says.
‘Octavia.’ The small brunette corrects with a sly smile, ‘Come on, Clarke – I can call you Clarke, right? – you’ve sewn me up, I’ve insulted you, we bonded. I’m pretty sure that means we can be on a first name basis.’
‘Ok. Octavia.’ Clarke accepts the offer of familiarity with some trepidation. She waves a hand at the officer, ‘How’s the arm?’
Octavia shrugs the shoulder in question. ‘Healed up just fine.’ She tilts her head, eyes sharp, ‘How’s 82?’
Clarke hooks her fingers into her back pockets, rocking back on her heels. ‘It’s been great. The guys are great.’
‘Oh please.’ Octavia scoffs, coming all the way into the station, ‘My brother’s probably been an ass.’ she grins and it’s on the right side of wicked, ‘I can arrest him for you. Leave him handcuffed on your doorstep.’
‘Uh.’ A snort tickles the base of her throat but the mental image of Bellamy handcuffed to her headboard slides into her brain and suddenly it's heat she's trying to swallow, ‘Pretty sure that’s illegal.’
‘I won’t tell if you don’t.’ Octavia smirks.
Clarke can’t stop the laugh that bursts from her. ‘If it gets that bad, I’ll let you know.’
‘Trust me, I’ve been dying for an excuse to arrest him since I graduated from the Academy. You’ll be doing me a favour. Here,’ Octavia reaches back for her wallet, slips out a card and holds it out for Clarke, ‘call me anytime.’
Clarke stares down at the plain white card. All it had was Octavia’s name and a cell number. That’s it. No embellishes, no APD coat of arms, no address. Just a name and a number. It makes Clarke wonder what exactly Octavia does for APD.
Better not to know, Clarke decides, tapping the card against one palm. ‘I’ll keep that in mi –‘
Both women turn their heads to see Bellamy at one end of the hallway, eyes flicking from Clarke to his sister. He changes course, heads for them instead, long legs eating up the distance.
As he passes under the high row of glass windows, the sun streaks his hair blue-black, catches on his cheekbones, the line of his jaw. He’s in station uniform – boots, navy blue cargoes, black polo with its embroidered AFD emblem above his heart – the same clothes the rest of firefighters in the building are wearing.
But he stands apart.
Walking down that hallway, drenched in sunlight, he stands apart. It’s in his bearing, the broad line of his shoulders – proud and strong, in the confident, easy grace of his stride. Everything about him says that this is a man who can make a difference, a leader, a survivor. It vibrates off him in waves and his magnetism can fill a room and it’s not only the strange dreams that has Clarke wanting to move towards him.
Then his eyes slice to Clarke, narrows at the card she has in her hands, flicks to Octavia and his mouth tightens.
His obvious distaste is effective as a bucket of cold water and Clarke catches herself before she sways towards him. She grits her teeth, clears her throat, moves away from Octavia.
Octavia , who is, Clarke realizes with a start, is watching Clarke with a smug smirk on her face.
‘What do you want, O?’ Bellamy rumbles, still a couple feet away.
The brunette finally turns away from Clarke to meet his clearly wary face. ‘Nice way to greet your sister.’
‘O...’ Bellamy warns.
The smirk falls as her face turns soft. ‘I’ve got news.’
Bellamy studies Octavia briefly before inhaling roughly, ‘Alright. Let’s talk.’ His eyes moves to Clarke, a muscle ticking in his jaw and he turns to her, face tight. ‘Grif –‘
‘Got it.’ Clarke interrupts, holding her hands up, ‘I’m going.’ she aims a smile at Octavia as she turns away slowly, ‘Good to know that arm’s healed up.’
‘Uh huh.’ Octavia murmurs, the edges of her smile turning sharp again, ‘It was good talking to you, Clarke.’
She's about to look over her shoulder at the other woman’s strange emphasis on her name but Bellamy’s grittier tone is muttering, ‘Jesus Christ, O.’ and by the time Clarke turns, Bellamy is leading his sister out the door, one hand clamped around her upper arm.
Octavia is giggling all the way out.
Clarke plops into a chair next to Murphy and although she tries, her gaze keeps returning to the profiles of the pair standing just outside the glass doors.
Octavia’s talking, head tilted forward, one hand gesturing, the other hand’s thumb hooked into a belt loop, hip cocked. Bellamy’s listening, legs braced apart, hands on his hips, his focus sharp on whatever his sister is saying.
At first glance, Clarke muses, the Blake siblings look nothing alike. Even their dark hair are different in texture and colour – Octavia’s is finer, pin-straight and its sheen is sable brown, not the raven-wing blue of Bellamy’s thick waves.
And then, of course, there’s the obvious difference. Octavia was white. Bellamy was not – if Clarke had to hazard a guess, he’s most likely part Asian, maybe South-East blood.
Either of them could have been adopted but watching them, Clarke is now betting on the likelihood of Bellamy and Octavia being half-siblings. Because Bellamy’s proud jawline is now shown off on Octavia’s profile after she absently tucks that fall of hair behind her ear. Because when Octavia smiles, her cheekbones are a reflection of Bellamy’s – a gentler, more rounded line perhaps but that bone structure is too similar to be overlooked.
Then Bellamy’s shoulders slump in obvious relief, his head lowers and he’s smiling at the ground. He’s in profile and Clarke can only see a glimpse of the corner of his mouth tilting up but the sight still clenches her belly. This is the first time she has ever seen him smile.
Octavia moves towards him, going on tip-toe to hook a slender arm around his neck to give him a hug. One of Bellamy’s arms circles her waist and he squeezes her briefly.
Clarke tears her eyes away. She wonders at their story but hastily reminds herself that it’s none of her business.
‘Hard to look away, huh?’
Clarke starts guiltily and swivels in her seat.
She had been so absorbed in her own musings that she had missed the man leaning against the island, an amused Harper on the other side of the counter. Which goes to show just how distracted she had been because the newcomer is no one she had ever seen at the firehouse.
Even leaning, elbow on the counter, he’s clearly very tall – over 6 feet easily, mocha skinned, leanly muscled in a way that reminds Clarke of a whip. His hair is only a shadow on his otherwise shaven head. There’s a tattoo winding up the back of his neck, others on his forearms and peeking from under his white t-shirt.
When he pushes off the counter, coffee mug in hand, and saunters over to her, Clarke blinks at the badge clipped to his belt.
‘Lincoln.’ he says, offering her a long fingered hand.
She looks up into his face and blinks again.
Did they add a ‘must be stupidly attractive’ checkbox to AFD and APD job applications? Please tick yes or no? If no, we thank you for your time, the exit is that way? If yes, welcome to Arkadia’s civil service?
She realizes that she had been just staring at him and hastens to take his hand. ‘Clarke.’
His eyes flick up over her head and when his gaze comes back to hers, the corners of his light eyes crinkle. ‘I gathered.’
Before she could ask, he shoves a hand into a pocket, gestures with his mug with the other. ‘I can relate to seeing the Blakes together. I’m Octavia’s partner.’
‘Who comes over to mooch off us,’ Murphy grumbles beside Clarke, ‘because APD coffee sucks.’
‘Hey now. You know that’s not true,’ Lincoln protests mildly, ‘I come for your pretty face too.’
‘Ain’t that shit true.’ Murphy mutters, lifting a fist for Lincoln to bump, not taking his eyes off the TV.
Harper rolls her eyes as she passes the cop and collapses into the adjacent sofa. ‘The Dalmatian tonight. Lincoln, you in?’
Lincoln sucks in his lower thoughtfully. ‘Depends on whether we can close this deal tonight.’
There's a muffled yell from outside and Clarke is distracted by the sight through the glass of Jasper lifting Octavia off her feet in a hug, Bellamy stepping back quickly, grinning.
‘The Dalmatian?’ Clarke repeats absently as she tries to pull her attention back to the conversation.
‘Yup.’ Miller swaggers into view, ‘Yo, Linc.’
‘Yo.’ the cop replies dryly.
Miller nudges Harper’s feet off the sofa , ignoring her indignant ‘Hey!' and dropping into the vacant space with a satisfied sigh, ‘Bar, couple blocks down.’ he explains to Clarke, ‘It’s been a haunt for 82 firefighters since it was first built way back when. You should come tonight.’
'She is.' Raven calls from the table, words slightly muffled by the pencil she's chewing on.
Raven looks up from the blueprints spread in front of her and gives her a grin, more bared teeth than smile. 'You are.'
Clarke raises her hands in surrender. 'I am.'
Harper, curled on her side, lifts a fist in triumph.
'Lincoln, you ready to go? Hey guys.'
At Octavia's voice, Clarke turns back to see the brunette standing at the entrance of the common room, Jasper's arm around her neck, grinning at the chorus of 'Hey Octavia!'s and Miller’s 'Hey, ninja-girl.'. She tries to ignore Bellamy who's leaning on the door frame behind his sister even though his presence lifts the hair on the back of her neck.
Lincoln passes her with a quiet, 'Nice meeting you, Clarke.'
'You too.' she replies and watches as he exchanges those hand grasps men do where they equate their affection with the amount of effort they put into trying to crush the other man's fingers with Murphy and Miller, and smiles with Raven and Harper.
Octavia elbows Jasper in the side as Lincoln makes his way to her. 'Where's Monty?'
'Dunno.' Jasper frowns, eyes scanning the room, before arching a brow at Clarke.
She has no idea where her partner is.
'Maybe he's in the back?' she offers.
'He's across the street with Monroe, getting laundry detergent.' Miller says casually.
'What?' Miller tilts his head back to look at Bellamy upside down, 'We're out of detergent and some of us need to do our washing.'
Clarke presses her lips together before she can smile. Miller might be right about the detergent but she's with Bellamy on this one - Miller pays enough attention that he would know where the paramedic had disappeared off to when his best friend and partner can't locate him.
Judging by Octavia's amused expression, she hadn't missed the implication either.
Then Lincoln's there and they're turning to go when Octavia stops, swivels on her heel and looks at Clarke directly.
'I didn't place it before. You're Clarke.' she says bizarrely.
Clarke's eyebrows shoot up in confusion. 'Yeah..?'
She might not have explicitly told Octavia that she could use her first name, but thought it was implied anyway. Besides, she doubts Octavia would have listened if she had refused.
'O.' Bellamy hisses, coming off the frame.
Clarke's only warning is the apologetic flash in Octavia's green eyes.
A dagger lances her chest at his name.
Behind the brunette, Bellamy freezes but it doesn't really register in Clarke's mind. She's too caught up in the memory of her best friend's smile.
Her dead best friend.
'You knew Wells?' she asks numbly but she's already doing the math.
'We enrolled at the Academy in the same year.' Octavia says, proving Clarke right, 'He was a good guy. I'm sorry.'
The pain in Clarke's chest gentles to a soft ache at Octavia's hesitant smile, the truth in her words.
Octavia throws her one last apologetic look and another, strangely defiant, at her brother, Clarke is now noticing, whose jaw is so tightly clenched that it looked in danger of being shattered.
'I'll walk you out.' he tells Octavia tightly, eyes furious.
From the back, the brunette's shoulders are resigned. 'I bet.'
Lincoln rubs the back of his neck, half turns to give the now quiet group a wave, and follows the tense siblings out the door.
Clarke sits there, lets the memory of Wells wash over her, bittersweet and aching. Memories tinged with regret and shame. She never told him how sorry she was, how proud she is that he followed his dream, how much she loved him.
If he had lived, would he be visiting her at the house too? Striding through that door, big grin on his face, dark eyes bright?
Her own begin to burn.
A foot nudges hers.
'You ok?' Murphy mutters.
She blinks away the ghosts, the heartache, the burn.
Murphy has a strange look on his face, like he cares and he blames Clarke for making him feel that way. The urge to laugh bubbles up and clears her head.
'Don't strain yourself, I'm fine.' she shoves his shoulder but she's smiling.
There's actual relief on Murphy's face.
Clarke tilts her head back against the back of the armchair to see Raven standing behind her.
'The Dalmatian. Tonight.' Raven murmurs, tapping a finger against Clarke's forehead gently, 'We'll toast him.'
Warmth suffuses her body.
'Hell yeah.' Miller mutters and Clarke cranes her neck to see him watching her from his seat.
Harper offers a smile, sweet and soft, nodding.
Jasper walks around the back of her chair, leans in to bracket her head with his arms. He drops a loud, noisy kiss on her forehead. 'Yes, we will.'
The warmth reaches her eyes and Clarke needs to close them. This time though, the burning at the back of her eyes is different. This burn is clean, soothing and encompassing. She's starting to fall in love with these people, these people and their ability to love.
The sound of the main doors opening swishes into the silence, followed by footsteps.
Clarke opens her eyes to see Monty and Monroe hurrying in. They come to a stop, eyes scanning everyone's faces.
'Ok, what the hell happened?' Monroe breaks the silence, 'Bellamy and Octavia are in the parking lot,' she jerks a thumb behind her, 'tearing into each other. And then we come in here to find,' she waves a hand at them, 'this. What the hell did we miss? We were gone for like ten minutes.'
Clarke meets Monty's eyes, nods when he mouths You ok?, gives him a smile when he doesn't look convinced.
Raven blows out a breath. 'A lot can happen in ten minutes.'
The Dalmatian is a small tavern, intimate, dimly lit with all the personality of an Old World pub. It smelled of teak, smoke and frothy beer. Their only concession to the modern world is the top of the line sound system, currently pumping classic rock, and a pool table, occupied already by Harper and Miller.
Monty and Jasper are perched on stools at the long, gleaming teak bar, chatting with the bartender. The bartender, a tall, brunette Amazon, looks up from her post as Clarke and Raven file in and grins, waving an arm.
She's cute, Clarke notices, all curly bronze hair and creamy skin in a black tank-top. And, as the bartender lifts the pass-through to snag empties from the nearest table, legs up to her ears.
She glances over to see Raven watching her with a raised brow. 'What?'
'Her name.' Raven nods in the bartender's direction, 'Gina Martin.'
'Oh. She's cute.'
Raven snorts and leads her over to the bar, 'Yup, everyone seems to think so.'
Gina winks as they slide in next to Jasper and Monty. 'Hey, Raven.'
The bartender's gaze lands on Clarke. 'I know what Raven wants, how about you?'
'Wine. Dry red, if you have it. White's fine, if you don't.'
'A woman who knows what she wants. I like you already.'
Clarke laughs and is rewarded by Gina's smile, easy and sweet.
'Look, I know house wine's reputation but we have a really really nice red.' Gina cocks her head, 'I think you'd enjoy it.'
'Perfect.' Clarke leans forward, chin on her cupped hand. 'Just put it in a big glass.'
'The biggest.' Gina promises with another wink before pushing from the bar.
'She's good.' Clarke murmurs, watching Gina sashay away.
Jasper tips his beer in her direction and Monty smiles into his drink.
Raven hums, shrugging out of her jacket. 'She's interested.'
'Or she could be just be a bartender who's good at her job and reading people.'
Raven fluffs out her hair, lips pursing into a thoughtful moue. 'Business has picked up since she started a couple of weeks back.'
Clarke sighs and unwinds the thin scarf around her neck, just as Gina makes it back with their drinks.
'So,' she throws coasters down in front of them, 'is it really your first time here?' she asks Clarke as she hands Raven her beer, 'Or is it just my first time seeing you?'
'First guess.' Clarke accepts her wine gratefully and drinks deep. When Gina presses her lips together to hide her smile, Clarke laughs ruefully, 'It's been one of those days.' she lifts the wine glass, 'You were right, by the way, this is very nice.'
'I'm glad.' Gina murmurs, leaning into the bar. Her eyes flick to Raven in deliberate conversation with Monty and Jasper, 'How do you know Raven?'
At the call, both women turn their heads, Clarke with a startled drop in her belly.
Across the room, partially gilded by the light hanging low over the pool table, Bellamy stood, pool cue in hand, face carefully impassive, although Miller is smirking at the balls on the table.
Bellamy raises the beer in his other hand. 'Can we get another round?'
'Sure.' the bartender calls back and in a lower voice to Clarke, 'Sorry, duty calls.'
Clarke tears her eyes away from Bellamy back to Gina. 'No yeah, yeah, of course.'
After Gina had moved away, Clarke sneaks another look over her shoulder. Bellamy has moved away and is now leaning deep and low over the table, lining up a shot.
He's broad shouldered and lean in a dark long-sleeved Henley and Clarke is having trouble looking away from the veins in his outstretched forearm as they disappear into his bunched up sleeve. His face is all sharp lines and slashing cheekbones under the harsh light, wide mouth tight in concentration, dark eyes narrowed at the black eight ball as he re-adjusts his grip on the handle of his cue.
Her mouth goes dry.
There's always something illegally attractive about guys - especially if it's a guy who looks like Bellamy Blake - playing pool.
'That was quite the pointed cock-block.' Jasper mutters.
With a snap, Clarke comes to guiltily and she spins around in her seat. She avoids Monty's knowing eyes and instead focuses on Jasper.
'What?' Jasper bugs his eyes out innocently, 'I didn't say anything.'
'Yes, you -,' Clarke waves a hand and instead leans over to whisper, 'When did Bellamy get here?'
'He was already here,' Raven interjects with a wry smile, ' when we walked in.' she takes a delicate pull from her bottle and stares straight ahead, 'You were a little preoccupied with Gina's legs.'
Clarke glares at her flatmate, opens her mouth but closes it again when Gina walks by, beers on a tray.
She turns, tells herself that she's watching the bartender, even though her eyes move again to Bellamy beyond Gina. His eyes meet hers and -
'I'm yours.' she slides against his bare back, her mouth brushes against the shell of his ear, 'Only yours.'
She comes to with a start, grabbing the bar to keep from pitching off her stool.
'Whoa.' she laughs unsteadily, meeting Raven's amused gaze, 'That wine really went to my head.'
Raven glances in Bellamy's direction. 'Right.' she says drily.
'You're not as subtle as you think, Clarke.' Monty murmurs and his lips twitch when she glares at him.
'Neither are you.' she mutters under her breath.
She's seen the way her partner watched Miller around the station. It was cute but it was twice as cute because Miller did the same thing. She wonders how long that had been going on.
Monty only shrugs a slender shoulder at her. 'At least I don't fool myself into thinking that I'm being inconspicuous.' he winks at her, 'If you want to know something, just ask.'
Huffing out a breath, Clarke gives up the charade and gives into her curiosity. 'Bellamy and Octavia.'
'Ah yes, the Blake siblings.' Jasper tilts his glass in her direction.
'Same mother, different fathers.' Raven says crisply, answering Clarke's unspoken question.
'I figured.' Clarke says, 'At first I thought one of them had been adopted but that jawline and cheekbones are a dead giveaway.'
Raven snorts wryly. 'Yep, it's like they were heaped with good looks to try and make up for the fuckery of their childhood.'
Clarke's head snaps up, shock and ice crawling up her spine. 'I'm not going to want to hear the rest of that story, am I?'
'It's not exactly of bedtime ilk.' Jasper says though he tries to soothe the bitterness in his tone with a smile.
'Look,' Raven leans forward, 'some things are AFD legend.' her lips tip up in an ironic smile, 'Like my leg - basically every firefighter in the department knows why its ripped up.' she cocks her head, eyes serious and steady, 'Sooner or later, you're going to hear something about the Blakes. I mean, one's a Lieutenant and the other is…well, no one knows exactly what she is, just that she's part of some badass, super-cop task force. People like to talk about people like the Blakes. It can suck for them.'
'So you can ask us,' Monty says softly, 'Or you can ask Bellamy or Octavia.'
Clarke can never ask now - knowing that there was tragedy in their stories, she can never ask. She knows how it feels to have gut-wrenching pain in your past. Pain that defined you, pain that you cannot shake fully. She can't talk about her own, she'd never ask another about theirs.
But she's not going to ask her friends either.
That would be crossing a line.
'I'll ask them.' she lies quietly.
Raven tilts her head to the side, studying her and Clarke knows that Raven can tell she's lying. But the firefighter doesn't call her out on it, just nods and sips her beer. Then she's smirking at Clarke.
'You know,' she says slyly, 'for a girl who professes hate for the guy, you're sure interested in his life's story.'
Clarke snorts and rolls her eyes. 'Don't even start.'
'I'm just saying -'
'I don't want to hear what you're 'just saying'!'
' - hate sex is a thing!'
Clarke chokes on her wine.
'Yeah, not going to happen.' she coughs out through a burning throat.
'Why not?' Jasper wants to know.
'Bellamy hates me.' she points out the obvious.
'You can do better than that, Griffin.' Raven sneers. At the same time Jasper is snickering and whispering conspiratorially, 'That's why it's called hate sex.'
Monty leans over. 'And he doesn't hate you.'
Clarke raises a brow in disbelief. 'Where have you been the last couple of months?'
'Fine - he doesn't hate you anymore.' Monty amends smoothly, 'You just - you confuse him.'
Clarke gapes then waves her friends away.
She has no idea what's going through their brains but they couldn't be more wrong. She can't hide the fact that she's attracted to Bellamy, even if its against her will. But its even more complicated than they could ever imagine and they'd probably think she had inhaled too much smoke if she tried to explain.
Hell, Clarke thinks, her eyes drifting again to Bellamy now in conversation with Gina, easy grin on his face, she can't even explain it.
She ignores the burning in her stomach when Bellamy laughs, reaching out to tug a curl of Gina's hair. He looks care-free and playful and she hates the fact that she wanted to be the one he looked at like that. Hated the fact she wanted to be the one to make Bellamy laugh like that. Hated the fact that all she gets from him is anger and distaste and scorn.
Clarke reaches for her glass, upends it and pastes a smile on her face when Raven tilts her head at her in concern.
What can she say?
When Miller calls Monty over for a match, Clarke averts her eyes from the men at the billiard table. But every now and then, when she hears Bellamy's deep, rich laugh coming from that section, she can't help but wonder about him, about his story, his childhood.
She knows who he is in the field, who is he is at work. She thinks of the man she knows in her dreams. She cannot reconcile them.
Who is Bellamy Blake?
That night, she dreams of fingers sliding down her arm, the warmth of bare skin along the length of her back and down the line of her thighs. She dreams of a hand sliding into the space between her arm and where it lies on her waist.
In her dreams, the hand presses gently into the soft, vulnerable flesh on her belly and as it applies pressure, Clarke obeys its touch and shifts to her back.
She looks up into his shadowed face and all she can make out in the darkness is the line of his cheekbone.
'Nothing.' she denies.
Lies. Lies. Lies.
To distract herself from the voice, she pushes him to his back, straddles him and leans down to kiss him. He resists for a second but then responds, his hands coming up to cup her face. The gentleness with which he touches her hurts her chest.
Then he pulls back.
She can't see him clearly in the darkness but she feels his eyes on her face, searching. Then, to her relief, he pulls her down again to him, kisses her harder than she expects and the sting of his teeth is a relief.
It becomes a rush now, fumbling hands and clumsy fingers. A missed kiss as she leans in for his mouth and finds his cheek instead. They are out of sync and it should feel wrong but it doesn't - it's just a different type of tragedy and it somehow adds to the desperate fire in her.
He arches up into a sitting position, she lifts up on her knees, feels his hand brushing her inner thighs, another on her hip, pushing her down and she follows his wordless direction. Sinks down onto him, feels him stretch her to breathtaking fullness, feels him shudder against her and hears him groan her name, she buries her face in his neck. His hand leaves her hip to fist in her hair and he holds her against him, tight and hard.
When she is moving against him almost mindlessly, he pulls her away from him. She assumes he wants her to kiss and obeys his touch, quietly desperate.
'Tell me what's wrong.' he whispers against her mouth.
She freezes, heart nearly bursting.
He takes advantage of her stillness, flips them, begins moving again, deep but slow.
She arches up into him. 'Faster.'
He leans in to kiss her neck, sweet and gentle, and maintains his grueling pace. 'Tell me.'
And she gives in because the pressure building in her body matches the pressure building in her heart and she needs to relieve both.
'Maia.' she finally gasps, hooking a leg around his hip, taking him even deeper.
It is his time to still and she hisses in frustration, pushing him until she's back to straddling him. His hand comes up to pull her down and she resists.
'Whatever you are thinking, it is -'
'I do not want to know.' she gasps out but her eyes burn and the tears that escape her closed lids contradict her.
She continues to move, reaching for completion mindlessly. With a muted growl, he grasps her upper arms and flips them again, returning their frantic pace to a slow, burning slide.
'If you cannot trust my words,' he tells her, lifting up on an arm, his body trembling with the effort of holding back, 'Then trust this.' he places a hand on her breast, above her heart. He leans in to kiss her, 'And if you cannot trust that,' he murmurs against her mouth, 'then trust this.' his fingers brush against her belly. 'Your heart knows me and your instinct has not failed you thus far. Trust them.'
His words are still echoing in her head when Clarke wakes up, eyes on the ceiling, heart racing.
It's barely dawn and she tosses to her side, squeezing her eyes tight.
What is wrong with her?
It must be full moon.
Or something - anything to explain the shift she and Monty have had.
It seemed that all of Arkadia had some sort of emergency that needed EMTs and they must have spent a total amount of 30 minutes at the station. Every time they finished a job and were heading back, dispatch called in another emergency.
By the time, Monty pulled into the station, it was almost 5am and they were both dead on their feet. They pulled themselves out of the ambulance wearily, Clarke wrapping an arm around Monty's waist as they trudged slowly towards the dark station.
They had about an hour left on shift and Clarke was begging every deity out there that they could spend it under blankets.
'One hell of a night.' Monty slurs, slinging an arm around her shoulders. 'But we did good.'
'Yes, we did.' Clarke smiles at him tiredly.
She pushes the swing door open and it takes some clever manoeuvring, but they squeeze in without letting go of each other.
Clarke suspects that if either of them let go at this point, they'd both end up on the floor in a graceless heap.
Personally, she can do without the added pain.
The common room is dark, the TV silent, table empty, everyone long gone to bed. Except as they round the corner, Clarke realises that she was wrong.
Bellamy's behind the long counter in the kitchen. He looks up as they enter and Clarke nearly misses a step when his eyes hit her and his brows draw down.
'Thank you, God.' Monty mutters.
She only has a second to process before he releases her and makes a beeline for the steaming mugs on the counter. Monty slumps into a stool, pulling a mug towards him and taking a long grateful sip. Clarke is left standing in the room awkwardly.
She decides that it would be pitiful to ask Monty for a sip from his cup and is about to continue on to the sleeping quarters when Bellamy pushes the other mug towards her.
He doesn't say anything, just leans back against the sink and watches her with an inscrutable expression.
Her bleary eyes land on the mug.
Clarke gives in, joins Monty at the counter and wraps her frozen fingers around the stoneware, grateful for the heat that sears her flesh. The first sip is heaven and she feels ridiculous that something as simple as hot tea can make her eyes burn.
But it has been one of those shifts.
'Hungry?' Bellamy asks softly.
Monty shakes his head and offers him a grateful grin. Clarke keeps her head down and doesn't reply.
She and Monty drink their tea in exhausted quiet, Bellamy a silent sentry.
Clarke doesn't look up at him but she can't ignore his presence and she knows from the way her skin prickles that he has not taken his eyes off her. She wishes he would because she's too tired to fight the emotion that is dragged up because he did something nice. Very nice, actually. But one act doesn't erase everything else. And he probably did it for Monty, she just happened to be there and Bellamy might be an asshole but he isn't heartless.
She hates him and he hates her and how fucked up is it that all she wants to do is crawl into his arms and sleep for a year?
Clarke stares into her mug.
God, it's too tiring to deal with this shit right now - it's too tiring to think of the way her tattooed wrist burns around him, how the air shimmers around him when she looks at him, how she knows he's looking at her by the tingles running up her back, how she misses him when she has no right to - all of it is just too tiring to think about because none of it made any fucking sense.
She's still got half of her cup to finish when Miller pads in on socked feet, rubbing his face.
'Any word yet?' he asks the room at large before his eyes focus on the trio in the kitchen. He blinks, recovers, grins tiredly, 'You're back.'
He was not talking to Clarke.
'Waiting up, Nate?' Monty quips, a sleepy smile spreading across his face.
To Clarke's amusement, Miller's mouth opens, closes, and there's a definite flush on his cheeks.
'Falling asleep at the wheel is a real thing.' the firefighter mutters, almost sheepishly.
'I know.' Monty's smile turns soft.
Miller studies him and Clarke just wants to drag Bellamy out of the room so that these two can have it to themselves. Then Miller grins at Monty, hand rubbing the back of his neck.
'Glad you're back safe.' his eyes go to Clarke, 'Both of you.'
Clarke wiggles her fingers at him and Miller blushes again when her smile turns teasing.
'Ok.' Monty exhales, 'I'm done for the night. Thanks.' he aims at Bellamy and nudges Clarke with his shoulder, 'Night, partner.'
She presses the side of her arm against him briefly in reply and Monty flashes her smile as he hops off his stool. Clarke watches as he and Miller melt into the darkness of the hallway leading to the sleeping quarters.
They make an unlikely couple but she thinks that's why they would work.
Then she becomes aware of the silence Miller and Monty had left in their wake and is suddenly painfully conscious that she's alone with Bellamy.
'Are you hungry?' Bellamy repeats quietly and her eyes fly to him.
'I don't need you to wait on me.' she snaps defensively.
'I wasn't offering to.' he shoots back, 'Jesus.'
Then his eyes close and his hands come up to rub at his face, 'Look.' he says on an exhaled breath, 'I'm pissed tired and you're dead on your feet. So how 'bout we call it quits for tonight? Tomorrow you can go back to hating me.' his jaw ripples yet his eyes are steady on hers, 'Right now, one of my own just walked in after a 48 hour shift and I have no fucking clue when was the last time she ate.'
At his words, something inside her slides into place and the click is so loud, she hears it in her head.
Her vision wavers, goes black around the edges and -
'Why did you choose me?'
His disembodied voice, grit and smoke, comes to her from the darkness. It echoes in the cavern that is his forge and though it lies dark and untouched, the air carries the warmth of the ocean of fire under their feet. She cannot see him and the thought that he is watching her from somewhere in the shadows is a little disconcerting.
But that is not why she has come.
'I did not think you would agree.' she says honestly.
'If you wish, I can decline your offer.'
'That is not why I have come.' she denies swiftly.
'Has desperation cornered you so completely that you would choose me?'
Yes. Yes, it has.
'Why did you agree?' she demands.
'Pity.' he replies finally. 'A forced hand is never an easy choice to make.'
No, not pity, she thinks, compassion.
'I want an ally in this pit of snakes.' he continues, 'You need one.'
She has her answer.
'I do.' she agrees readily. 'And you would have one in me.'
A laugh, heavy with irony, 'You would pledge your loyalty to a man you know nothing of?'
Not entirely true.
'No,' she replies, 'I would pledge my loyalty to the man that is to be my husband.'
There is a brief silence before his chuckle slides from the darkness again.
'Betray me and your bones will serve as kindling.' he tells her, 'As long as you keep your word, you will have everything I am at your back. That is my offer and vow to you, Venus, daughter of Saturn.'
She lifts her chin, pushes back the covering on her hair and lifting her face to the light. She knows he can see her clearly and gives him her answer.
'I accept your offer, Vulcan, son of Jupiter.'
She wobbles and slides off her stool.
Her arm already comes out to catch herself, but she never hits the floor. Bellamy appears next to her, fingers tight around her arm, keeping her steady.
'Are you okay?'
His voice is sharp but for the first time, it's not with anger or dislike.
'Yeah.' Clarke mutters, holding on to the counter for dear life.
The world has not stopped spinning behind her closed lids and she plants a foot on the floor to make sure she doesn't go down again, ignoring the heat of Bellamy's hands on her shoulder and back.
When the worse of the vertigo has passed, she opens her eyes, gives him a little nod.
He releases her but doesn't move away.
'What the hell was that?'
'I -' she bites her tongue, 'I'm just tired.'
What else can she say?
I just had a waking dream where your voice called me by a different name - a name that belongs, I'm pretty sure, to an ancient Roman goddess. Also, I have no idea who Vulcan is in Roman mythology, but I'm almost certain he's a god - Jupiter's a god, right? So the son of Jupiter would be a god too?. And we're engaged. In my dreams. Oh, and I've dreaming of this guy since we've met and I'm also pretty sure he's you. Like ninety-nine percent sure. Did I also mention we've had sex? Loads of times. In my dreams. And now, we're engaged. In my dreams. We've had sex and we're engaged. In my fuc -
Her eyes fly to him. 'I - I beg your pardon?'
'Beg all you want, princess.' he snaps, folding his arms across his chest and looming over her. 'I saw your eyes. They glazed over and went blank.'
'That happens when you're about to faint.' she says carefully.
'Bullshit.' this time it's quiet, 'Your eyes don't go blank and you don't sit frozen for ten fucking seconds if you're about to faint - because you'd just fucking faint.'
Is that how long she'd been out?
It had seemed like longer. Much longer.
Clarke wants to ask but the look on Bellamy's face reminds her that they were having a completely different conversation.
And how can she explain it to him? How can she explain it to anyone? The pressure of it all and her exhaustion makes her irritable and defensive and she snaps at him.
'Back off.' she warns, keeping her eyes steady on his. 'Now.'
His jaw ripples and his mouth tightens but he takes a step back, hold her gaze, then -
'Do you wanna eat or not?'
She blinks in surprise and searches his face but there's only resignation and weariness.
He really is letting this go.
God, weird visions that feel heavy and meaningful, Bellamy being nice to her, making her tea and offering to make her food - it really must be full moon. There's no other logical explanation for what's going on tonight.
Clarke sucks in a breath and the gratitude and relief makes her woozy and uneasy.
She bites her lip, nods. 'I'll help.'
'Sit.' He waves her off, backing away, 'You’re not going anywhere near a stove until you've had about twelve hours of sleep.'
She doesn't protest.
So, she sits there, finishes her tea while he moves on the other side of the counter, taking out pasta, milk and butter and herbs, his movements clean, easy and practised. In the end, he makes her mac and cheese and when he sets the steaming bowl in front of her, Clarke offers him a tentative smile.
Smiling is allowed under their temporary truce, right?
Bellamy's eyes move across her face and, unexpectedly, they soften.
It sends something hot and blazing into her chest and Clarke ducks her head, heartbeat rising, unsure what to do. She fully expects him to leave, job done, but he doesn't. Instead, he makes himself a cup and rounds the corner to slide into Monty's vacated stool.
She glances at him under her lashes but when he continues to stare ahead, she gives in, picks up the fork and digs in.
It's hot and creamy and perfect and she doesn't tell him that mac and cheese is her favourite comfort food and that the tears that well isn't because her mouthful is burning the roof of her mouth and her tongue.
She can handle the heat.
But this - this quiet camaraderie, his solid presence, the dreams, the weariness - is crashing down on her and she's not sure how to handle it.
In fact, Clarke's not even sure if she hates Bellamy.
They don't speak and he lets her eat in peace, but she finds comfort in his presence and it's the most unnerving thing she has experienced all shift.
The quiet is broken as the house comes slowly awake, as the dawn slowly moves across the tiled floor, as the room lightens. Still, they don't move even though her bowl is finished and Bellamy's coffee has cooled.
When Raven walks in, she lifts a dark brow but she doesn't comment, just walks over to pour herself coffee.
Bellamy clears his throat and shifts off the stool. Clarke misses his heat straight away.
'Truce over, princess.' he murmurs.
Her stomach drops.
She glances up at him as he passes but he doesn't seem his usual cynical self, he just looks tired and in need of sleep, a comb and a shave.
When he disappears from sight, Clarke catches Raven, mug in hand, studying her.
'What was that?' the brunette asks, eyes going to where Bellamy had disappeared.
Clarke lifts helpless, exhausted shoulders. 'I have no idea.'
And when it comes to Bellamy, not knowing is terrifying.