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afraid to call this place our own

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 “We’ve got sutures in three and probable stomach-pumping in six,” Jackson informed her.

 “God, I hate Halloween.  Rock paper scissors?” Clarke replied.  On the count of three Jackson threw rock and Clarke threw paper, so she covered his fist with a smirk.  “Enjoy stomach pumping,” she decided, and Jackson groaned and handed her the chart for sutures.  She straightened her alien antenna as she walked down the hall, dodging patients as she went.  Madi had pronounced it the lamest costume ever, but Clarke shrugged it off.  With her green scrubs it worked well enough and anyway, most people in the ER on the weekend before Halloween were too drunk to care.

Clarke scanned the chart when she approached curtain three.   Male, 33, four inch laceration on left forearm.   “Looks like you’ve got a nasty cut there, Mr...Blake?”  Clarke stopped halfway into sweeping aside the curtain, her stomach dropping when she double checked the name at the top.   Bellamy Blake.

Shit.

She looked up and there he was, sitting with his hand holding a towel to his left arm.  There was a helmet on the floor near his feet and he was dressed as a gladiator, skirt and everything.  His eyes widened.  “You?” he said.

They stared at each other awkwardly until the woman sitting next to him unwound her arms from across her chest.  “Anyone going to tell me what’s going on?”

 “I’m Dr. Griffin,” Clarke said at the same time Bellamy muttered, “It’s nothing.”

 The other woman’s eyebrows went up.  “Okay, and are you going to fix up my brother or just stand there staring at him?”

 “Can it, O,” he muttered under his breath.

 But Bellamy’s sister’s attitude snapped her back into doctor mode.  “Right, sorry about that,” Clarke said and reached for her latex gloves.  “What happened?”

 “A friend fell down some stairs,” Bellamy said.  “I tried to catch him and my elbow went through a window.”

 Clarke grimaced sympathetically.  “Have you been drinking?”

 “Only one beer.  Someone’s gotta stay sober at their parties— people fall down stairs otherwise.”

 “Jasper falls down stairs sober, Bell,” his sister threw back.  “I’m Octavia, by the way.”  Clarke nodded politely at her and Bellamy winced when Clarke peeled the towel away from his arm.  

 She prodded at his wound.  “Well, the good news is the edges are clean and it’s not too deep.  The bad news is you’ll definitely need stitches.  It says on your chart you’ve had a tetanus shot recently?”

 “One of the perks of teaching.  You’re always up to date on your shots.”

 Clarke pulled out her kit and laid a clean cloth on the mobile table, motioning for him to lay his arm out for her.  “So you too know each other,” Octavia observed.

 “My daughter has him in class,” Clarke said and kept her eyes on the wound.  Her ears were burning a little, to be perfectly honest.

 “Oh shit, are you her?”  Clarke tried to think of a way to answer that question but Octavia barreled on.  “Bell, if this is the princess who—” 

“Take a walk, O,” he gritted out.  Clarke risked a glance at him and he was staring at the floor, his jaw tense.

“But—”

 “Take. a. walk.”

 Octavia threw her a dirty look as she flounced out of the room.  “I’m sorry about that day, you know,” Clarke said and flushed the laceration to make sure it was clear of debris.  

 “You’re sorry?  I’m sorry.  I’m honestly surprised I still have my job after that.” 

“Wait, what?”  Clarke looked up.

“After the shit I said to you?  I assumed you’d go straight to the board.  And it’d be warranted.”

 “Oh, well...you might have had a point.  About my timing, not about my parenting,” she said.  “I wasn’t thinking about your schedule, just mine.”

 “Yeah, well, still.  I was way out of line.”

 A soft smile played around the corners of her mouth.  “That you were.  But so was I.”

 He gave her a crooked grin and the tension in the room seemed to dissipate.  “That’s fair.”

 For a heartbeat she looked into his eyes— a brown so dark she was momentarily dazed— and then she made herself look away.  “I’m going to give you a shot to numb the area,” she said and picked up a syringe.  “If you’re the fainting type, look away now.”

 “I’m tougher than I look,” he said, a note of playfulness in his tone.

 Octavia pulled the curtain back partway.  “Did you two work your shit out or do I have an ass to kick?”

 “We worked our shit out but she’s about to start the stitches, so how about I meet you in the waiting room?” Bellamy said.

 “I can handle it,” she protested.

 “You passed out the time Lincoln had to get them on his knee,” Bellamy replied.

 “I did not.”

 “Did too.  I was the one who caught you, remember?" He redirected his attention to Clarke.  "This shouldn’t take long, right?”

“Right,” Clarke confirmed.

 Octavia eyed them warily.  “Okay, fine.  I’ll see you out there,” she said, and swung the curtain closed a little more forcefully than was strictly necessary.

 “Is she your only sibling?”  Clarke usually made chitchat with patients to distract them, but if she was honest, she was more than a little curious about him.

 “Yeah.  But she’s six years younger and my mom worked a lot, so it’s...complicated.  I sort of raised her.   By which I mean I drove her to a lot of things and made a lot of mac and cheese.”

 Clarke kept her eyes on her work.  “With us it’s pop tarts,” she said.

 “Pop tarts?”

 “You know, instead of organic smoothies,” she ribbed gently.  “When I first got Madi it was all she would eat for breakfast and I had to pick my battles, and now...well, there’s no real excuse for it now, but yeah.  Pop tarts.”

 He chuckled.  “God, I was such an ass to you,” he said.

 “Pretty much, yeah,” she laughed.  “What does your sister do now?”

 “She’s a cop.  Fiancé’s a social worker.”

“In town?  Wait, Lincoln DuBois?”

 “You know him?”

 “Slightly.  He wasn’t Madi’s caseworker, but I met him a few times.”

 “How long have you had Madi?  If you don’t mind me asking,” Bellamy said.

 “Not at all.  She's been with me five years; I was her foster mom at first, but I adopted her two years ago.”  Clarke had been in a bad place after Lexa left and registered as a foster mom a few months later out of a need to do something.  Madi was her second placement and they clicked despite (or maybe because of) Madi’s tendency to start fights back then.  She was an angry kid and Clarke understood anger.  Her birth mother was in prison— twenty years for dealing oxy, an absurd sentence even if it was her third offense— and Madi had years of neglect in her past.  But Clarke was patient and it was Madi who brought up Clarke adopting her if her mother would sign the papers.  The day the judge finalized the adoption was far and away the best day in Clarke’s twenty-nine years.

 “Congrats,” he said warmly.  “She’s a neat kid.”

 “She says you’re a hardass.” The sutures were almost complete but part of her wanted to draw this out, keep chatting.

 Bellamy snorted.  “I am, but difficult teenage girls are my specialty,” he said, and then his eyes got big.  “Oh god, if you tell anyone I said that I’ll definitely lose my job.”

 “Your secret’s safe with me,” she laughed.  “What’s with the costume?”

 “Well, you see, it’s Halloween,” he said drily.

 “I know, but why a gladiator?”  She started tying the last suture off.

 He shrugged with his opposite shoulder.  “It’s the only one I have.  Octavia hates that I wear the same thing every year so now I wear it out of spite.  And it’s easy, seeing as it’s the only one I have.”

 “Plus it shows off your legs,” she teased, despite the fact that flirting with a patient was definitely against the rules, not to mention her daughter’s teacher.

 “That’s right, it does,” he grinned.  “Your antenna are crooked, by the way,” he said, and reached out to straighten them.

 Abruptly they both seemed to realize what they were doing and an awkward silence fell, both of them looking away, their smiles fading.  Clarke taped a bandage over the stitches and stood up.  “Right.  So keep this dry for the next 48 hours, and then come back in six days to get the stitches out.  I’ll have a nurse stop by with instructions and discharge papers and send your sister back in,” she said without looking at him and hurried out of the room.

 Apparently, they had two modes— fighting or flirting.

 November was looking worse all the time.

 


 

 Clarke scanned the crowd at the base of the bleachers for Wells and checked her phone again.  It was a brisk fall night and he’d promised to join her for the football game but then he'd gotten stuck at the office and Clarke felt a little weird being here by herself.  Madi was hanging out with her friends just to the left of the bleachers, ignoring the game— and Clarke—  entirely.  

 A crop of dark curls caught her eye.  Bellamy saw her and a smile flashed across his handsome face so quickly it had to have been an unconscious reaction. Her stomach flip-flopped like she was fourteen, not the mother of a fourteen year old.  She waved to him and he made his way up the stairs.  “How are those stitches?” she asked as he took the seat just in front of her.  She wished he’d sat down next to her.  It was a chilly night and she’d forgotten a blanket.

 On second thought, the seat in front of her was probably a better choice.

 “Got them out yesterday.  I thought you’d be there, but they said you’re off for a few days,” he replied easily.

 “What’d you tell the students?”

 “That I fought a bear.”

 Clarke snorted.  “Did they believe you?”

 “Not in the slightest.  And I saw on the list you’re chaperoning the trip to DC with me,” he said.  A gust of wind blew and he turned up his collar.  His hair ruffled in the breeze and she desperately wanted to fix it for him.  Instead she just balled her hands into fists inside her mittens.  

 “Uh, yeah,” she said, and tried to think of a polite way to say I signed up because I didn’t trust you to treat my kid fairly and now it’s a problem as I am unfairly attracted to you but it’s too late to back out and failed, so she just smiled at him.

 Bellamy grinned back.  “It’ll be exhausting, but I’m looking forward to it.  Antigone is a fun play.”

 “Fun?” Clarke asked archly.  She’d skimmed Madi’s copy of it a few nights ago and found it a little grim.  Compelling, but but grim.

 “Well, fun to teach,” he said, a little abashed.  “It gets them talking, at least.  But what brings you to the game?  Did I miss something and Madi’s now our quarterback?”

 “I wish.  She hates sports,” Clarke laughed.  “Her friends are in band though, so she came to support them.  And I came because she needed a ride and because some of us like sports.  My friend was supposed to meet me here but he’s running behind.”

 Something flickered in Bellamy’s eyes but his face stayed genial.  “Hey, nothing wrong with being a nerd.  I’ll make sure Madi knows that,” he teased.

 “And what’s a nerd like you doing at a football game then?”  Out on the field Polis managed to kick a field goal and they both jumped up to cheer with the rest of the crowd.  When they sat back down Clarke realized either she’d shifted a few inches closer to Bellamy or he had shifted closer to her, but either way she wasn’t complaining.  Her knee was almost brushing his shoulder, and she really needed to get her shit together because noticing that was ridiculous.

 “I try to make it to at least one event for each team.  Well, for the kids I have in class.  I try to be supportive.”  

 Clarke bit her lip because god, that was cute.  He smiled at her out of the corner of his eye and for the next twenty minutes they chatted.  He was surprisingly easy to talk to, and other parents and students periodically stopped by to say hello to him.  He was just as warm with all of them as he was with her, she realized, which, well, sort of sucked.

 She wanted to be special.

God, this was bad.

 Fortunately Wells showed up around then, which helped put Clarke back at ease.  She had a tendency to get stiff and cold when she was uncomfortable, but Wells and Bellamy hit it off and soon enough she was back to her old self, chatting and laughing with them both.  Polis Academy was down 14-3 when Bellamy stood up and said his goodbyes.  She watched him walk down the bleachers and get stopped by a small mob of kids at the bottom— Madi included— demanding high fives.

 “So you gonna explain that?” Wells asked, his voice pitched low under the crowd.

 “Explain what?  He’s Madi’s teacher.”

 “Then why did I feel like the third wheel on a really great second date?”

 Clarke shifted uncomfortably.  “He’s Madi’s teacher,” she said again.

 Wells nodded and patted her back in sympathy.  “You don’t really have to do the no-dating-until-college thing, you know.  I think Madi would understand.”

 Clarke shrugged and stood up with the rest of the crowd.  The game was over and they joined the scrum by the stairs.  “It doesn’t really matter, you know?  He’s not exactly an option right now,” she said.

 Wells stuffed his hands in his pockets.  “I get it,” he said.  “Hey, think Madi would be up for ice cream with her godfather?  Or is she too cool for us now?”

 “Probably too cool,” Clarke chuckled.  “But I’d be up for a beer.”

 Wells bumped her shoulder with his.  “You’re buying.”