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It Kept Me Awake So Long

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About 90% of Clarke doesn't believe in anything even a little bit supernatural. She doesn't think there's an afterlife, magic isn't real, fortune tellers are bullshit, astrology could be done just as well by a well-programmed robot, there's a scientific explanation for yeti and Bigfoot sightings, mummies are embalmed dead people who will never rise again, and ghosts and zombies are as much of a fiction as trolls and elves. Aliens probably exist, admittedly, but somewhere in the vastness of the universe, not here, abducting people for weird experiments. They're just around, on some distant planet, doing their own thing, leading their own lives, not caring about humanity.

But there is that last ten percent of her, and that's the part that's freaked out by Dear David.

Obviously, she doesn't think it's real. These are all things you can fake. It's on Twitter, and Twitter is full of fake things, including videos and images. Everything has a perfectly logical explanation, especially if the guy is using Twitter for longform storytelling, which he must be, because if this was real, surely he would have done something more.

But at the same time, what would she do, in his place? Moving out of her apartment because she thought it was haunted would be giving a lot of power to a supernatural phenomenon, one she doesn't even believe in to begin with. And she thinks the Dead David guy is living in New York, with two cats. Clarke hasn't rented a lot of property, but she had to sublet in DC for an internship last summer, and she remembers seeing NO PETS on most of her potential rentals. If she was him, she might not move.

So in a horror movie, she would probably be the white lady everyone yelled at for being stupid. But it makes sense to her. How hard would it be to actually make major life decisions based on a dream and some weird noises? Her mother would never let her hear the end of it.

Luna puts an almost immediate moratorium on Clarke reading Dear David updates in their room, less because she about sixty percent believes in the supernatural and more because, in her words, listening to Clarke rationalize how she would deal with a haunting is exhausting, and she doesn't want to deal with it.

It's a fair criticism that Clarke can't argue with, so she starts checking the updates at the library, as a study break.

In theory, it's a perfect solution. She already does most of her studying at the library, and she needs things to do about once every forty minutes to give her brain a rest from her actual work. If a Dear David update is actually posted while she's at the library, she reads it then and there, and when she sees an update other times of day, it serves as an incentive to go and study later. She's not allowed to read the updates anywhere except the library, after at least thirty minutes of productive work, and every time she sees one, that's all she wants to do.

It's really a great system right up until it's two a.m. the night before her midterm English paper is due and she sees something in the back of the stacks.

It's obviously not a ghost. It's obviously not anything. When she goes back to look, with her phone camera on just in case, it's just an empty row of books with a window at the end. The movement she thought she saw was probably just the curtain, blowing in the air conditioning or something.

Or this is the part of the horror movie where she dies.

Leaving the library is an obvious option, but it feels like an overreaction to just one weird event, especially one she probably imagined. Her paper isn't done yet, and it's not like the library is empty. The part of the library she's in is pretty quiet, but she doesn't have to be there. Grabbing her laptop and finding another living human to sit sort of near is a good compromise between fleeing the scene and dying like the horror-movie white girl she definitely would be.

The first person she spots is asleep on a table and drooling, which isn't very comforting, and the next is watching a movie with headphones in, so if something happens, they probably won't notice.

The third is a guy she's seen before, another library regular. They've never spoken, but he's very noticeable. He's in her top five library crushes, and many days he comes out on top of that list; it's hard to go wrong with messy hair, freckles, muscles, and glasses. Plus he's always buried in a pile of history books. He might look like a jock, but he's definitely not one of those jocks who skates by without doing any work.

She's considering the best way to approach him when there's a crash, and she and the guy both look up, but she's the only one who jumps and squeaks a little. It's just the sleeping kid, who pushed a book off her table and woke herself up with the noise. She blinks at it, confused, and then shrugs and goes back to sleep.

When Clarke turns her attention back to the hot guy at the table, he's watching her with his head cocked. "Everything cool there?" he asks.

He has a nice voice, low and a little rough, and his eyes are sharp in the best way. Sharp with concern, if that's possible.

"Can I sit with you?"

He makes a show of looking around at the free tables near him, but then he shrugs and moves his books a little. "If you want to, yeah."

"Thanks."

"It's a big table." He drums his fingers on the table, still watching her. "Are you on something?"

"What?"

"You look kind of--" He waves his hand. "I'm not an expert on illicit substances, so I don't know if you look drunk or stoned or, uh, cocained or what, but--"

"I'm not high. I'm freaked out," she admits. "Are you on Twitter?"

"No, but it does freak me out, so I can relate."

Clarke can't help a smile. "It's not all of Twitter. There's, uh--this is going to sound stupid."

"Don't worry, that ship has sailed."

That earns him a glare, but he is honestly making her feel better, so there's no real heat in it. "There's this guy who's live-tweeting his apartment being haunted."

"Wow, you're right. That does sound stupid."

"Shut up," she says, laughing. "I know it's not--I'm pretty sure it's not real."

"Pretty sure?"

"There are videos. And I'm hedging my bets, okay? I don't want to say it's all bogus and then he actually dies or something."

"If you were being haunted, why would you tweet about it?" the guy asks, sounding thoughtful. "Is he tweeting about other stuff too? How does it work?"

"Sometimes. He's an artist, so he posts comics and stuff too, but it's been more and more content for this."

"Probably gets more attention than his comics. Good marketing. So, what happened?"

"What?"

"Did he have a really freaky update or what?"

"Oh, no, I--" She smiles, sheepish. "I freaked myself out being alone in the stacks. I thought I saw a ghost."

"Yeah, okay."

"That's it?"

He shrugs. "I don't need a weird Twitter scam to know that being alone in a library in the middle of the night is creepy. That's just basic primal fear. I've been there. You just needed someone to talk to?"

"Basically. A witness."

"If you seem haunted, I'll let you know." He offers his hand. "Bellamy, by the way."

"Clarke. Thanks for being my ghost buddy."

He snorts and turns his attention back to his laptop, and Clarke opens hers up to do the same. She doesn't have a ton left to do on the paper, and she's got the first draft done by three-thirty, which is later than she'd like, but she can get some sleep, go to class, and have time to edit and submit before the four o'clock deadline tomorrow afternoon.

Plus, she hasn't been killed by a ghost and she managed to introduce herself to a cute boy. A successful night, all things considered.

She stands and stretches, and Bellamy looks up from his laptop, glasses sliding down his nose. "Heading out?"

"Yeah. Luckily I don't need to do an actual all-nighter."

"Where do you live? I'm leaving too," he adds quickly. "Not stalking you."

Clarke feels herself start to smile. "Were you hanging out waiting for me to be done?"

"I've been playing Hearthstone for like twenty minutes, yeah. I don't have class until noon tomorrow anyway."

She has to smile. "I live in Alpha."

"Cool, I can walk you home. I'm in Mech."

"Really?"

He shoulders his messenger bag. "Sorry, do you think I'm lying about where I live?"

"You stayed late to keep me company and didn't tell me, so you might just be making up an excuse to walk back with me. Which I would appreciate," she adds quickly. "That's sweet. But you don't have to."

"I really live in Mech," he says. "But thanks for giving me theoretical credit for lying."

"Good lying. Chivalrous lying."

"Yeah, that makes me feel so much better. You ready?"

"Ready." She smiles. "Really, thanks for waiting."

He shrugs, playing it off with only slight awkwardness. "What was I going to do with an extra twenty minutes of sleep?"

*

On their walk back to Ark Quad, Clarke learns that Bellamy is a senior history/political science double major who would like to be a professor, even though he knows academia is basically a clusterfuck.

"If you get tenured somewhere you like, it's a total racket, from what I can tell," he explains. "But both of those are kind of a crapshoot. But I got funding for grad school here, so I figure I should take it. Then if I'm unemployable, I'm not in that much debt, and I can call myself a doctor."

She doesn't manage to find a casual way to ask if he's single and interested in women, but that seems like something that they could work towards. After all, the ice has been broken. Once you've confessed middle-of-the-night spooky ghost feelings, everything else is less awkward.

She hopes, anyway.

Between classes, she finishes and submits the paper, which means she's actually in pretty decent shape, academically speaking. But Wells sent her a translation of a bunch of tweets from some Spanish guy who's being stalked by his own clone from an alternate universe or something, which doesn't sound particularly plausible, but if it makes her get a head start on her bio problem set, that's not a bad thing.

And if Bellamy happens to be at the library to sit with while she reads it, all the better.

He's at the same table he was at before, surrounded by the usual pile of books, scowling at his phone like it's personally offending him, but his face clears when she sits down across from him.

"Hey," she says. "Bad time?"

"My mom and my sister both text me when they're arguing so I can mediate remotely, which doesn't work well for anyone. I would love to remove myself from this narrative."

"You could just not answer."

"You make it sound so easy." But he puts the phone down. "How'd you sleep?"

She frowns. "Fine?"

"I thought you might have ghost nightmares."

"Oh, no. I don't usually get dreams like that." He cocks his head, and she makes a face, trying to explain. "You know how in books and movies people have dreams that directly relate to what they were doing during the day? I don't have those. I can't really draw a straight line between what I was doing and what I dream about."

"So you're not going to worried you're going to have any nightmares about--I don't even know what the haunting looks like here. What's his evidence that he's haunted?"

"You want a summary?"

"It's either that or actually doing my homework," he says, not unreasonably, and Clarke grins.

"Okay, so, it does actually start with a creepy dream."

"Oh good, I'm thematic."

"Shut up. I'm explaining."

He doesn't interrupt again as she walks him through the Dear David narrative thus far, just looks increasingly amused as she goes on.

When she's done, he says, "I can't tell if you want to believe or not, honestly."

"I don't want to be wrong. I'm about ninety-percent sure it's fake, but part of me still thinks that if it was actually happening, this is all a logical response. Like--he's setting up stuff, he's documenting, he's even taking advantage of it."

"So if you thought you were being haunted, you'd use it to boost your social media brand?"

"Why not? If I survive the haunting, I want to leverage it to my advantage."

"I haven't put enough thought into the mercenary side of paranormal phenomena. Well, I guess I have," he grants. "I spent years when I was a kid trying to find cryptids living in the woods near my house."

"Were there stories about something living there?"

"No, it just seemed like a good thing to do. I should have just faked it for Twitter."

"It's not too late. You could still fake it for Twitter."

"Not until I'm done with grad school. Too busy."

"You're never going to have a viral tweet with that attitude."

"Yeah, I'll live." He wets his lips, looking her up and down. "So, are you planning to be freaked out again tonight?"

"My best friend from high school sent me a new viral thread to obsess over, so, yeah, definitely."

"Cool," he says, pulling his laptop in front of him. "Let me know how that goes."

*

As it turns out, friendship with Bellamy actually does not help the situation at all. He's at the library all the time, and that means Clarke wants to be there all the time because he's both single and interested in women, in addition to being great company.

But every time she sits down, he expects her to have some new viral tweet about paranormal activities to share with him, and she doesn't want to disappoint, which means she's spending her free time scouring the internet for creepypasta posts and saving them to a special bookmarks folder to read in the library with Bellamy and freaking herself out.

As seduction techniques go, it's not the best, but she likes to think of it as a work in progress.

"Have you considered asking him on a date," Luna says, not even a question. She already knows.

"These are like dates. Study dates."

"Where you sit together in mostly silence, punctuated by you reading him ghost stories from the internet?"

"It's a work in progress," she says, scowling. "You're the one who said I couldn't read this stuff here. I had to find someone who appreciated me."

"And once you find him, you should date him. But don't listen to me. Enjoy your bizarre courtship."

"Thanks," says Clarke, with an overly bright smile. "It's pretty awesome so far."

*

It's been about a month when Bellamy collapses into the seat across from Clarke at their regular library table and says, "I think you broke me."

"Yeah?"

"I had a nightmare about being haunted."

Clarke pauses. "Are you fucking with me?"

"Swear to god. It really freaked me out."

"So what happened?"

"It wasn't that bad to start with. Kind of funny. We were on one of those ghost hunting shows."

"We?" she asks, perking up.

"Yeah, you're my supernatural guru. Of course you were there."

"Okay, so we're ghost hunting. What do we do?"

"So it's a dream, I'm making it sound a lot more linear than it was. That's another reason I don't trust the Dear David guy," he adds. "All his dreams are really coherent."

"Because they're being influenced by ghosts, obviously."

"Then I guess I'm safe." He rubs the back of his neck. "Anyway, yeah, we're in my high school, and it's haunted. And it's still fun right now, we're not taking it very seriously, but then--something starts following us."

Clarke actually feels herself shiver a little. "Follow us how?"

"Like--when you're alone in your apartment in the middle of the night and you start thinking about how something could be behind you, and then you tell yourself it must be and you're really fucking paranoid even though you know nothing's there?"

Clarke puts her head down on the table with a groan. "Did you have to be that specific?"

"I'm painting a word picture." She hears the scuffs of movement, and then his hand is rubbing her back, like she's the one who had a nightmare and needs comfort. "But, yeah, it sucked. And I kept losing you."

"Losing me?"

"We were supposed to have radios, but I couldn't hear you, so I was freaking out. And my sister was there too and I couldn't find her either, and the setting kept changing, so I didn't know my way around. I was just looking for you guys and I had no idea how to get to you."

Clarke looks up to see him watching her with soft eyes, and she returns the expression. "That's a really shitty dream."

"Yeah. I don't think it means I'm haunted, but I might need you to start reading me stories about heroic animals instead."

"Sorry."

"Hey, I asked." He considers her. "I am kind of worried, though."

"You think you're haunted?"

"I think this could be the start of a recurring nightmare. I probably shouldn't sleep alone tonight."

Clarke lets out a sharp laugh, half surprise and half delight. "Are you seriously using your traumatic nightmare to pick me up? Really?"

"If I'm going to have a traumatic nightmare, it might as well get me laid. Assuming you want--"

She leans over and presses her mouth against his, quick and soft. "I could live with switching genres to romance. Horror's getting old."

Bellamy grins. "Yeah. That's what I was thinking."

*

"Dear David update," Clarke says, burrowing into Bellamy's side.

"It's still fake."

"If it's fake--"

"Which it is."

"If it is, it's still compelling, well-done storytelling. Stuff doesn't have to be true to be scary. Have you never seen a horror movie?"

"Not if I can help it. I don't get the appeal of purposefully freaking yourself out. And I just get mad at everyone for being an idiot."

"So you don't want to snuggle with me while I read the new tweets?"

"I never said that. I just want it on the record that I think it's fake and you should stop reading it."

"It's on the record." She leans up to kiss him. "Come on, don't you want to know how it ends?"

"Is it over?"

"I don't know. But when it does, you're going to want to know."

"I'm expecting you to keep me posted, yeah." He tugs her closer, propping his chin on her shoulder. "And if it gives me nightmares, you'll protect me, right?"

"Yeah," she says, petting his hand. "I've got you. Now shut up and let me read you the scary story."

"Yes, ma'am," he teases, and settles in to listen.