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If there’s anything that Bellamy has learned on the job, it’s that there are several hard and fast rules for each department: Don’t use the coffee machine over by Sales, for one, because no one knows what Jasper puts in it. Get all your stationery from HR instead of raiding the cabinets, because they always hoard the best ones for themselves.

And never, ever pair Clarke Griffin with him on any project, whatsoever.

It has to be common knowledge, at this point. Monty has a scoreboard up in the meeting room detailing their various squabbles (he’s leading by two points as of now, much to her chagrin), and everyone knows about the time they had a no hands barred screaming match during the office’s Christmas party, culminating with Clarke pouring eggnog down his shirt.

Everyone seems to have gotten the memo, by now.

Everyone, it seems, except Jaha.

“I think the two of you would be perfect for this project I have in the works,” Jaha begins, shooting them a wide, self-indulgent smile. “Now, normally I would entrust a project of this calibre to the senior writers instead, but I have to admit, I see potential in you both.”

It’s highly unlikely that Jaha has any idea what he’s talking about, considering he’s been at the office for all of two days, in the past week— but Bellamy finds himself straightening in his seat all the same. He can practically feel Clarke snapping to attention next to him, her body thrumming with anticipation.

(God, what a brownnoser.)

“I’m all ears,” she chirps, somehow managing a saccharine sweet smile all while glaring over at him. “What did you have—”

“What the Princess means is that we are all ears,” he cuts in, managing a sickly smile of his own. That prompts a barely concealed look of disgust on her part, and he has to fight the urge to pump his fist in response. Small victories.

If Jaha senses something amiss, he doesn’t let it show. “Excellent,” he nods, directing his attention back to the sheaf of papers before him. Then, frowning, “Now, you know that there has been a vacancy in Entertainment ever since Ontari quit.”

Its an exercise in willpower to keep from snorting at that. Fired is a lot more of a accurate description, but it’s not as if he can expect Jaha to know that. “Yeah,” Bellamy tries instead, struggling to keep his face carefully blank. “It’s a shame.”

“Definitely,” Clarke chimes in, glancing over at him pointedly. (Her lips are twitching, as if holding back on a smile, and it’s moments like these when he doesn’t hate her, all that much.) “We miss her… pizazz.”

“And her reluctance to cooperate on anything, in particular,” he says brightly, wincing when that earns him a sharp jab to the ribs on her part. Ow. “But that’s neither here nor there,” he adds hastily.

A small, awkward pause. “Right,” Jaha continues, his brow furrowing slightly. “So we were thinking of doing a new video series in lieu of hers, with both of you leading the project, as I’ve mentioned.”

He blinks, resisting the urge to rub at his ears to make sure he’s not mishearing things. “I’m sorry, but— a video series? As in, our own production?”

“Exactly,” he shrugs, nonchalant. “We’ve had several meetings on this, and we think a paranormal series is the way to go, as of now. It’s low-budget, entertaining. It’ll generate a lot of traffic for the site, that’s for sure.”

The temperature of the room seems to spike, at that, and he can practically feel himself go a little lightheaded with it. “Paranormal,” he repeats, with exaggerated slowness. “As in, ghosts? Ghost hunting?”

The expression on Jaha’s face is distinctly amused. “That’s generally what paranormal means, yes.”

“Cool,” he says faintly, swallowing hard. It’s getting to hard to keep from fidgeting, at this point, and so settles for drumming his fingers restlessly against the armrest. “Cool, cool, cool,” he breathes, tugging at the starchy, stiff collar of his shirt. “No doubt! None of them, at all.” His laugh is shaky to his own ears, his voice progressively gaining in pitch, and god, does he hate himself for it. “I have— just— absolutely zero doubts about this.”

(He doesn’t need to look over to know that Clarke’s looking at him like the cat that got the cream, and the fact that she’s not even attempting to hide it just irritates him further, really.)

“You have to excuse him,” Clarke points out, grinning. “Bellamy doesn’t do all that well with the supernatural.”

“I do just fine,” he snaps back reflexively, crossing his arms over his chest. It’s a outright lie, if anything, but he’ll deal with it. Anything to keep her from looking at him like that, all smug, as if she’s already won— chin tilted and smile growing wider with each passing second, and he just— he can’t let her have this. He can’t.

“Look,” Bellamy bites out, huffing. “I may not be the biggest fan of— ghosts and phantoms and what not—”

“Supernatural entities,” she offers, not entirely unhelpfully.

That,” he stresses, blowing out a breath. “But I’m a professional, alright? I can handle it. Plus, I’m one of the best damn researchers there are, and one of your best writers, too.”

Jaha opens his mouth as if to say something to that, but it’s quickly cut off by the small noise Clarke makes, sounding almost suspiciously like a snort. “And a great orator too, clearly,” she recovers quickly, sarcasm lacing at her every word.

He grits his teeth, forcing a smile. “And of course I’ll have Clarke with me,” he says, with as much false cheer that he can muster. “With her expertise, I’m sure she’ll be able to assist me just fine.”

It strikes a nerve, if the tension in her frame is any indication. “Co-host,” she replies coolly, the jumping of the muscle by her jaw belying her words entirely, “we’ll be co-hosting the show together.

He cocks at his head, widening his eyes comically. “Isn’t that what I said?”

Jackpot. A beat, her fingers clenching into fists and his snarl matching hers. For half a second, he actually thinks she might actually pounce at him, but she seems to contain herself, with great effort.

“Definitely,” she says, her composure returning as she turns to face Jaha; toothy, winning smile in place. Then, clearing at her throat, “So, when do we start?”

 

+

(They come up with Unsolved a week after— a in-depth look at several of the most elusive and unsolvable supernatural cases of all time, to be filmed and produced and directed almost entirely by themselves.

It is, possibly, going to be the worst shit-show of all time.)

 

+

She calls for a team meeting the day they get their proposal approved, which—from what he knows about Clarke— isn’t surprising in the least.

Still, he would be a lot less pissed if she actually put his work schedule into consideration here.

“Not to jump the gun here, but I have a few ideas,” she says in lieu of a greeting, plopping a handful of files down on his desk. They fan out against his desk, a riot of color and loose sheets, and he has to bite back a snippy comment about keeping her mess off his. “Most of them center around the biggest hauntings in the past century or so, but we can definitely look at some more recent cases, too.”

Carefully, he reaches over, lifting the files and aligning them neatly to the side. The fatalities incurred include a stack of post-its, now creased at the corners, and the notes on the latest story he’s been working on for the past hour, the wet ink now smeared and smudged over the page.

Bellamy takes a deep breath, steadying himself. Picking a fight would be the least conducive use of his time, especially considering that he has to work with her on a regular basis, now.

“Sure,” he manages, flashing her a tight smile. “I’ll look at them later.”

It’s subtle, but clear, all the same. Polite. He’s a little proud of himself for his remarkable show of restraint, if he’s being entirely honest—

Except she doesn’t seem to be getting the message.

“I know most shows tend to focus on a single area of haunting, but I was thinking we could kick off our premiere episode with a little more panache,” she continues, settling into her own chair. (He gives himself a brief second to curse whoever assigned him a desk directly across hers.) “Like, multiple locations, you know? Obviously, this means a longer duration for our premiere, but it shouldn’t—”

“Fine by me,” he interjects impatiently, rubbing at his temples. He can feel a headache forming, pulsing low and erratic, and it takes everything in his power to keep from just storming off. “You decide, just like you always do.”

It’s the wrong thing to say, if the sudden silence that descends over her is any indication.

He sighs, tearing his gaze away from his work to look up at her. For a second, he thinks he catches a flicker of hurt cross her face. “Look, what I meant is—”

“You know what?” she cuts in, the slight tremble to her voice sending a surge of guilt crashing over him. “I get it, okay? Message received: You don’t care about Unsolved. But I do. I know it’s more important for you to make my life as difficult as possible, rather than—”

“Are you seriously accusing me of unprofessionalism right now?” he interrupts, barking out a sharp laugh. Incredulity and anger are coursing through him, now; hot and venomous and uncontrollable. “You, of all people?”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me,” he snarls, pitching forward in his chair. “Look, I get that some people can do a shoddy job on their other assignments, considering how their parents are well acquainted with Thelonious Jaha—”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“— but us normal folk have jobs to do, okay? Our fucking paychecks are on the line. Now, I know it may be hard for you to empathize, considering how your daddy plays golf with the boss, and has a tidy little sum deposited to your bank account every—”

She gets to her feet jerkily, the movement so sudden that it startles him into silence. Her cheeks are splotchy with color, her hands trembling by her sides, and it dawns on him that he’s never really seen her lose control like this. Clarke snipes, and dismisses, and delivers remarks so cutting he feels it for weeks, after— but he’s never seen her falter, or be anything but ice cold and deeply methodical, especially during their arguments.

Her gaze flicks over to him, meeting his. “Fuck you,” she says, holding his stare for a long, breathless minute before striding off, the door slamming in her wake making him flinch.

Everyone in the vicinity is staring, at this point, and there’s a part of him that’s tempted to go after her, somehow, but he can’t quite bring herself to move. Woodenly, Bellamy reaches for his smudged pages instead, clicking at his pen and scribbling a quick note for himself in the margin.

He has work to get to, anyway.

 

+

(It doesn’t occur to him that there’s something different until he glances over at the haphazard lines of text Bryan has scrawled over the board, tiny and incomprehensible under the harsh fluorescent lights.

The tally of his and Clarke’s fights are gone, wiped off hastily— edges of it still peeking through, like the familiar curve of her name, and a looping B for his. Whoever did it hadn’t been thorough about it, clearly.

For some reason, the thought of it stings way more than it should.)

 

+

Ironically enough, not everyone seems to think that this whole venture is going to end in total disaster.

“You know you guys don’t actually hate each other, right?” Miller says, bored. He doesn’t even bother to look up from his cereal at that, which Bellamy would be offended by if he didn’t know that nothing is actually capable of distracting Miller from his food.

(Well, maybe except Monty, but they don’t talk about that.)

“I think the actual scoreboard that detailed our million and one fights in the meeting room would disagree,” he points out, reaching past him to snag his own bowl. The break room is, blessedly, empty, so he gets to grumble in peace without worrying about anyone overhearing. Though admittedly, it’s not as if their rivalry is news, or anything. “And, you know, the part where she tells me on a regular basis how much she hates me.”

That earns him a disgruntled noise on Miller’s part, brows rising up to his hairline. “So, you’re telling me that Griffin looks you in the eye and tells you to your face that you annoy the shit out of her, every day?”

“... Not in so many words.”

“Sure,” Miller says, mild, spoon half poised to his lips. “It’s not like you started it, or anything.”

It’s pointless to argue with that, considering how it’s mostly true, but Bellamy tries his best anyway. “I think you’re forgetting the part where she marched right in this place like she owned it,” he reminds him, dropping his spoon against his bowl with a jarring clank, “and then tried to implement a whole bunch of changes right at the get-go, all because she supposedly grew up with the Jaha’s, or whatever.”

“Didn’t you essentially try the same thing, except without the Jaha advantage?”

Exactly,” he huffs, throwing his hands up. “That’s what fucking pisses me off about her— just— her blatant privilege.” Biting back a swear, he rubs at his face, calming himself. “Her entire life is a fucking handout,” he continues, glaring. “And she’s okay with it.”

He’s not sure how it’s possible for Miller to look more skeptical than before, but he manages it, somehow. “It’s not like she can help it,” he says finally, lifting his bowl to his lips and draining the dregs of his cereal. “Surprisingly,” he adds, after a beat, “not everyone has traumatic childhoods involving absentee parents and foster care.”

It’s impossible not to smile, just a little, at that. (He’s at a point in his life now where it’s easier to accept that, yeah, he hasn’t had the easiest time, and maybe none of it is exactly his fault.) “You’re forgetting the part where I had a baby sister to take care of, too.” He snorts, kicking at his ankle.

That earns him yet another one of his disgruntled huffs, along with one of Miller’s legendary eye-rolls. “We get it, your life was a extended version of It’s The Hard-Knock Life.”

“Except I’m still waiting for my own Warbucks.”

“Any day, now,” he says dryly, scooching back in his chair to dump his bowl in the sink. Then, smirking, “Besides, it’s not like you’re financially independent now or anything.”

“Getting adopted by some rich asshole who’s going to pay all your bills is a universal concept Miller,” he counters, pouring another handful of cereal into his bowl. It’s distracting enough that it takes him a full minute to realize that he’s still hanging about, hovering, almost; which prompts him to look up from his food.

“What?”

“Nothing,” he says, shrugging. “Just— look. I don’t think you should discount Griffin too much. You guys are a lot more alike than you think.”

He opens his mouth to argue, but Miller beats him to the chase. “Whatever, dude. I’ve said my piece,” he says, punctuating it with a hard yank of the refrigerator door, sliding the milk carton in. “You can hate her, but you’re going to have to work with her, regardless, so. Find a way to deal with it.”

It’s true, at any rate. It’s not like they have to like each other for them to make this work, but they definitely have to be on speaking terms, at least. The thought of her hurt, flushed face still makes his stomach twist painfully, though, the weight of it crushing at his chest. He’s not even sure how to begin, really.

Blake.”

He snaps out of his reverie, gaze drifting back over to Miller, already half out of the door. “Yeah?”

“Not that it matters,” he says, with the quirk of his brow, “but she’s been legally emancipated for years, now, so.”

The truth of it startles him for a split second, guilt settling in almost immediately after. Distantly, a part of him registers Miller leaving, and the persistent, annoying chirp of the fridge signalling that he’s forgotten to shut the door behind him, but it’s a little hard to focus with his own confused jumble of thoughts cluttering up everything.

He basically told her to her face that she was a selfish and pampered and spoiled off her parent’s money. Sure, he’s been implying it for a good few months, but he’s never come right out and said it.

And as it turns out, that’s probably not even true.

Groaning, he drops his head in his hands, glaring down at his bowl of cereal.

Yeah, now he’s definitely going to have to apologize.

 

+

She’s already setting up by the time he arrives; face screwed up in concentration and head bowed.

It’s poor form to be late, considering how he’s supposed to be grovelling for her forgiveness, but it would be worse if he had turned up without the equipment anyway, or his own meticulously researched notes. Swearing under his breath, Bellamy picks up the pace, drawing up next to her. “Hey,” he breathes, hitching his pack higher up against his shoulder. “Need some help?”

Ordinarily, this would induce one of two reactions from her: grudging acceptance, or some sort of defensive jibe along the lines of her being perfectly capable of handling herself, thank you very much. Honestly, he’d be fine with both, at this point, as long as it meant resuming some sort of status quo between them, but she goes for a half-hearted shrug instead, biting at her lip. “It’s fine, mostly,” Clarke says, gaze still fixed on the tripod. “I’m just trying to get it balanced and locked.”

“Sure,” he swallows, resisting the urge to fidget. “They can— uh. They’re pretty finicky, though.” The stand gives a little lurch at that, nearly upending the camera entirely, and the loud curse she emits at it is definitely a little too sacrilegious considering they’re right outside a church. “Let me take a look?”

She shrugs, shifting ever so slightly to the side so he has to brush past her awkwardly to grab at the stand. It’s hard not to tense a little at the proximity; at the sudden brush of her hair against his skin when she leans forward.

He clears his throat, focusing his attention back on the tripod. “The knob here always tends to get a little stuck,” he starts, unwinding it deftly, “so you have to twist it counter clockwise a couple of times until it stays. You’ll hear it once it fully locks into place.”

That pulls a small noise of acknowledgement out of her, her hands reaching past his to do it herself. “Like that?”

“Yeah,” he manages, a click sounding as she slides the knob into place. “Perfect.” Then, tilting at the camera experimentally, “See? Works like a dream.”

He can feel her gaze against the side of his face as he hits at the power button, working through the set-up carefully. Logically, he should tell her to start prepping their script, or to liaise with their contact in the church to make sure everything’s in place, but it’s easier to apologize like this, probably. Without having to worry about what he’s doing with his hands, or if she’s looking at him. Wetting at his lips, he takes a deep breath—

“So,” she says, glancing over at him. “Is there a reason you’re suddenly being all that much nicer to me?”

He can’t help it, he laughs— relaxing at the dry humor in her voice; at the sharp turn back to their familiar territory of thinly veiled hostility and arched remarks. “I help you with a tripod one time and suddenly I’m nice, Princess?” he teases, shaking his head. “That’s some pretty low standards if I say so myself.”

“I dated Finn Collins,” she states flatly, snorting. “It’s safe to say that your assessment isn’t entirely inaccurate.”

“Well, at least you’re self aware.” He grins, sneaking a surreptitious peek over at her. There’s a small, barely-there smile playing on her lips, and it’s weird how his chest floods with warmth at the sight of it. Clarke’s smiles are rare— her temperament serious, more often than not— and he’s never really been on the receiving end of one before. “But, uh,” he pauses, weighing the words in his head. “Low standards aside, I guess— I know shouldn’t have said any of that to you, last week, so.” His voice feels scratchy to his own ears, hoarse, and it takes a concentrated amount of effort to get the words out. “You didn’t deserve it.”

It’s not a apology, exactly, but the surprise on her face is evident. She shakes the shock off quickly enough, though, worrying at her lip.“I shouldn’t have called you unprofessional either, I suppose.”

“Mm. You think?”

She rolls her eyes at that, smacking at his shoulder lightly. “You’re ruining my apology, you know that?”

“Not much of one,” he says lightly, nudging at her elbow so she knows that he’s joking. He’s never been much of an apologizer, or a good one, at least, so it figures that Clarke’s the same. “And I know you can’t stand the sight of me, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’re in this together now, so.” He straightens from his half-crouch, dusting his hands off and offering her one. “Truce?”

A beat, her expression a little wary. But she takes it, fingers weaving into his perfectly. “Truce,” she tells him, sighing. They shake on it, and he’s pulling his hand out of hers when she blurts it out— an afterthought, more than anything, “I don’t, you know.”

He raises a brow over at her, quizzical. “You don’t what, now?”

She doesn’t answer immediately, dipping at her chin as she works at the cords of their multiple chargers. Her reply is almost muffled entirely by her hair, but he hears it, anyway. “I stand the sight of you just fine,” she mutters, flushing slightly, her lips clamping into a tight line after, as if she can’t believe what she just said.

(It’s not much, but it’s progress, all the same.)

He can feel a smile rising to his lips, instinctive, and he looks away before she can spot it; hiding it against the collar of his jacket. “You too, Princess.”

 

+

(They’re back at each other’s throats within the hour, yelling about the actual relevancy of Times New Roman v.s. Arial, and debating if they’re actual options for the Unsolved title card.

There isn’t a cup of eggnog lying around for her to pour down his shirt, this time, but she also does rip one of his countless post-its right in front of him, so. He retaliates by wadding up the remains and flicking them onto her desk all throughout the day.

It doesn’t seem to bother her all that much, if he’s being entirely honest. One time, he thinks he catches her smile, but that could just be a trick of light.)

 

+

Things are markedly… better, after that.

It’s disorientating, at first, having to adjust his perception of her. She’s still the same person, of course— stubborn, and strong-willed, and ridiculously morally righteous— but none of it grates against him like it used to. A part of it may be attributed to the fact that it’s not so much directed towards him, anymore, but he knows there’s more than that, really.

It’s sitting in a stairwell with her at three in the morning, drinking room-temperature coffee and eating cold pop tarts as they edit and splice their scripts into perfect, bite-sized chunks. It’s knowing that she has a tendency to fall asleep in the car, and that she tosses and turns even in the limited space. It’s laughing with her over The Office reruns, and convincing her that matcha in coffee is one of the worst things in existence.

He understands her better, now, maybe sometimes even admires her (though, to be fair, he has always found her admirable, albeit in a grudging way) and there’s no denying that they get along, at this point.

Except for when she pulls her whole ghosts-don’t-exist-shtick, of course.

“I can’t believe we’re making a special trip down just so you can get your Aquafina blessed,” she grumbles, slumping back in her seat as he eases the car into the too-small, cramped parking space right by the church. “Honestly, what are you expecting? That a demon is just going to ease up because you doused it with holy water?”

“Uh, yes?” Bellamy says pointedly, giving his bag a quick once-over to make sure he has everything he needs. Soon to be blessed water? Check. Torchlight? Check. Sleeping bag and noise-cancelling headphones? Check. Carefully, he grabs the bottle, stowing the rest back into the bag. “Should I be concerned that you don’t know how exorcisms work?”

The look she shoots him is half exasperated, half fond. “No, because exorcisms aren’t real,” she mutters, sliding out of the car. “But whatever makes you feel better, I guess.”

“It does, actually.” He tells her, locking the car behind him. A quick glance over at his watch shows that they’re still on schedule, at least, so he doesn’t feel half as bad for insisting on making a pitstop. “And you know what? We’re going to be sleeping over at this demon-infested hell den, so don’t come crying to me when you wake up with this bloated, twisted face staring up at you.”

“Considering how I’m going to be sleeping next to you, I’d say that it’s going to happen all the same anyway.”

He throws a dirty look over his shoulder, just in time to catch her cracking up; the handheld in her hand tilting precariously before she collects herself, wiping at her eyes.

“Cute,” he deadpans, reaching over to swipe at the camera. She dodges skillfully, swatting his hand away in a single, smooth motion. “Just— seriously.” He huffs, folding his arms across his chest. “The camera is for work purposes. Ghost-busting reasons only.”

“And I thought I was the one with the stick up my butt.”

“It’s an oddly specific stick, in your case,” he ekes out, relenting when his next attempt to reclaim the camera just ends with him nearly stumbling over his own feet instead. Glaring, he flips her off, turning away resolutely and heading towards the entrance instead.

He makes out a muffled laugh on her part just as she catches up, falling into step next to him. The camera is still trained on him, but there doesn’t feel like there’s a need to posture or pose when Clarke’s behind the lens, strangely enough. Sure, they’ll have to do their lines and be professional at some point, but for now, it feels like he can just relax and be his usual grumpy, uncooperative self.

“So,” she chirps, bringing the lens up to his jaw; a decidedly unflattering angle. “What are you most looking forward to tonight, for when we sleep over at the Preston Manor, the site of one of the most haunted houses in America?”

“The part where we leave,” he says, flat, taking the steps two at a time as he bounds up to the entrance. There’s a smile ticking at the side of her mouth, barely visible with the way her face is pressed to the viewfinder, but he can’t help but feel a little buoyed by it, anyway. “Or maybe the part when everything is explained by a rat colony living in the house.” He interjects, cocking at his head mock-contemplatively. “Either is good.”

“You’d rather deal with thousands of vermin rather than a hypothetical ghost?”

“Uh, yeah.” He can’t help but stare at that, horrified and impressed all at once. (Mostly horrified.) “Wait, are you telling me that you’d deal with a demonic entity rather than a actual, tangible animal?”

“Multiple animals,” she corrects, with the wrinkle of her nose. “And they’re rats. It’s not like they’re puppies. How am I the abnormal one here?”

There’s a beat where he considers that she might actually be joking, but if the confused tilt of her chin is any indication, she’s dead serious.

“First of all, rats make great pets.” He starts, rubbing at his face with his palm. “Jesus, I don’t even— it’s just— have you not seen a horror movie in your life? Or heard one of those stories told over campfires? Because all this supernatural shit can really fuck you up, Princess. I promise.”

She raises a brow over at him, the motion distinctly skeptical. “From the way you freaked out the one time you broke a mirror, I’ll have to say you’re a little biased.”

“Yeah, well,” he mutters, making a face, “you try growing up with a supremely superstitious, hell-fearing grandma and see how you do, then.”

“The one who made all that pandesal when you were a kid?”

“Yeah,” he sighs, tipping his head back to rest against one of the pillars. They should probably get a move on, but it’s a nice day out, and he’s tempted to stay right here with her: in the warmth of the sun, her hair glinting gold and amber under the light. “She used to tell me all these stories, you know, mostly about—” he stops, frowning as her words finally register, “wait, how do you know that again?”

She blinks, looking distinctly caught out; a blush spreading over her cheeks and down her neck, too. Then, haltingly, “Just— ugh, fine.” She blows out a breath, averting her gaze. “I read your piece, okay? On roots.”

For a second, he can only stare, trying to comprehend what he’s hearing: Clarke Griffin read his work, from as far as two years back. She read it, and she remembered.

She must be thinking something along the same vein, because the flush against her cheeks seem to deepen, if anything. “Don’t,” she says warningly, snapping the camera shut and reaching over to rap her knuckles at the door. “Let’s get someone to pray over your water and go.”

It’s a lot to take in all at once, but he manages to recover just as he hears footsteps from the other side of the door, drawing closer. “For the record,” he says, before he can lose the nerve; before he can over analyze the implications of what it means to tell her this, “I read every single one of your works, too.”

(She nearly trips over the threshold going in, minutes after, and he tries not to take too much satisfaction at the fact that he is, somehow, capable of making Clarke Griffin get all flustered. It’s the small victories, really.)

 

+

The Preston Manor is a two hour drive from the church, so it’s dark out by the time he pulls into the driveway.

It’s nothing he didn’t expect, considering his latest Google search— all chipped paint and rotting floorboards and tangled strands of ivy. Someone’s even scratched out the Preston painted on the mailbox, R.I.P carved in place instead.

In all seriousness, it’s probably the single most terrifying place he’s seen all his life.

“Yeah, we’re definitely going to die here,” he says, just as Clarke pipes up with a cheery, “It kind of looks like Epcot.”

He groans, dropping his head down onto the steering wheel with a pointed thunk. “You’re trying to kill me even before I get through that front door, aren’t you?”

“Possibly,” she says brightly, reaching into the back and hauling her bag onto her lap, sliding it up her shoulder with all the brisk efficiency of someone all eager to get the show on the road. “C’mon, we’re wasting daylight here.”

“It’s already dark anyway,” he mutters, easing his own door open reluctantly. It’s bitterly cold out in the open, and he has half the mind to slink back into the car to burrow down in his seat. Still, he’s pretty sure she wouldn’t let him hear the end of it if he tried anything, though, so he settles for skulking up to the porch in a huff.

He doesn’t even realize that she has a camera out until she comes up next to him, her fingers working at the dials deftly as she pans it up to him. “How you feeling?” she asks, all mock-solemnity as she pans the camera around, getting a shot of their surroundings before jerking it back towards him, zooming in on what might be the side of his twitching jaw.

“Fuck you,” he says, automatic. That pulls a laugh out of her, the sound bright and lilting, and it calms him for all of a minute. Still, the thought of voluntarily walking into a house that is known to be haunted rises to the forefront of his mind, soon enough, and he swears, rubbing at his face in a valiant attempt to pull himself together.

“So,” he clears his throat, planting his hands on his hips. “We should get the cameras set up so we can get some formal footage, since I highly doubt we can just rely on shaky handheld clips.”

She makes a small noise of agreement, but doesn’t put the handheld away either. “Don’t you want to introduce us to the place, first?”

“Sure,” he grunts, bending over to grab at the tripod, unclipping at its legs briskly. “The abbreviated version? Really fucking rich family tears down abandoned orphanage to build their house. They see creepy shit throughout the years, but no one does anything about it, and their entire family is found mysteriously dead shortly after by God knows what. And that concludes today’s story on how to be illogical and white.”

“We’re known to have done stupider things,” she says, mild, turning her camera onto the wilted bushes by the front yard. “You think they stayed because of the azalea bushes?”

He snorts, sliding the camera onto the stand. “Wouldn’t surprise me. It’s a tie-up between that and the clawfoot bath tub upstairs. It came with the property, and apparently one of the kids drowned in it.”

“So you’re telling me the demons didn’t invest in a shower?”

He jerks back, his chin catching at the edge of camera and making his eyes water. Scowling, he turns to face her, rubbing at the rapidly forming bruise. “Do you seriously think joking about the lack of proper bathing facilities is a good idea, considering how the last few people who stayed here were taken out by some sort of unknown phenomenon?” he demands.

“Depends,” she says, tapping at her chin chin in what, he supposes, passes as mock-consideration. “Is the unknown phenomenon most commonly referred to as smallpox, or scarlet fever?”

The noise that escapes him is exasperated and admiring all the same. “You’re impossible.”

(She grins up at him, and for a fleeting moment, he almost forgets that he’s probably standing on top of some sort of satanic summoning circle. There’s only the tilt of her lips, and the warmth in her eyes, and the slow dawning realization that he’d kill for her to look at him like this, always.)

“Here,” she says, grabbing at her phone and angling it towards him, “let’s take a photo to commemorate the first time we sleep over at old, disease-infested death trap.” Then, beaming with false enthusiasm, “Say faulty electrical wiring with me on three!”

“... God, I hate you.”

The flash goes off, blinding him momentarily. He blinks, spots of light flickering in and out of his vision. Briefly, he thinks he hears her give a muffled curse before everything comes back into focus, his gaze landing back on the screen.

It’s a little blurred, but he can make out the curve of his own mouth, the fondness in his eyes; both belying the words he said just as the shutter went off. Her face is tilted up to his instead of facing the camera, her grin blinding, and the sight of it makes his stomach warm pleasantly.

(Objectively, he looks good. They both do.)

“Good shot,” he brings himself to say, wetting at his lips. Then, because he has nothing to lose anyway, “Send it to me?”

If she hears the slight tremble in his voice, she doesn’t show it, at least. “Yeah,” she says, sliding her phone into her pocket before grabbing at the handheld once more. “But no more stalling,” she teases, wiggling her brows over at him as she curls her fingers over the door knob, “Ready, partner?”

He grimaces, reflexive. “As I’ll ever be,” he mutters, bracing himself as she pushes at the door, darting inside and leaving him to follow her into the dark.

 

+

The first thing he hears is the jarring screech of the door as he eases in after her, the motion sending clouds of dust swirling up in the air.

Wincing, he tightens his grip on the camera convulsively, forcing his breathing to even out. In the dark, the air feels more oppressive, made worse by the light sprinkling of rain he can hear starting up outside. Jesus.

Clarke, obviously, doesn’t share the same sentiment.

“These demons should really think about investing in WD40,” she says, amused, hitting at her torchlight with the flick of a wrist. “And maybe a cleaning service, you think?”

“Don’t phrase it like a question,” he hisses, taking a cautious step forward. There’s sweat gathering against the back of his neck, despite the cold, and his pulse is screaming so loud in his ears that he has to strain to hear himself. “You’re practically inviting them in for a conversation!”

“It’s a valid suggestion!”

“You’re not supposed to be suggesting anything to them!”

She makes a impatient noise at that, reaching over to snag the camera from him. He gives it up without a fight, wiping at his sweaty palms surreptitiously while she positions it carefully, muttering a stream of instructions at him the entire time while he follows through robotically.

There’s a part of him that recognizes that he should snap out of it, now; that he has a job to do, too— but he can’t shake the feeling that there’s something fucking awful is going to happen, somehow.

“I don’t have a good feeling about this,” he manages, swallowing. “In fact, I have a really, really bad feeling about this, Clarke.”

She peers up at him, attention still mostly fixed on the camera she’s working at. “Since when have you felt good about anything, ever?”

“... Not funny.”

“If you say so,” she says dryly, straightening to her full height. The look of intense focus on her face is familiar, even in the barely there light provided by the torch. “Alright, we’re good to go. Remember, I’m starting us off, and you come in when I lapse over to the history of the house.”

He takes another deep, shuddering breath, steeling himself. “Got it.”

That seems to catch her attention, at least. “Hey,” she frowns, crossing the room towards him; the slight brush of her fingers against his arm making him jump. “You know it’s going to be okay, right?”

He can’t help the strangled noise that escapes, at that. “We’re sleeping over at a house notoriously known for being haunted by numerous ghosts and demons, Clarke,” he groans, closing his eyes in a desperate bid to calm himself. “You don’t know that.”

A slight pause, long enough for him to crack his eyelids open to look over at her. She’s staring at him, all open surprise, and for some reason, it makes him blush. “What?”

“Nothing,” she says, recovering herself. Still, he’s pretty sure that the edges of her lips are twitching ever so slightly. “It’s just— you called me Clarke. To my face.”

Oh. He’s almost tempted to play it off like he didn’t, really, but it feels like they’re past that point, anyway.

(Besides, it’s not like it’s a big deal or anything. Not exactly.)

“Better get used to it, Your Highness.” He says instead, biting at the inside of his cheek to taper a smile. “I’m not going to remember all of my little pet names for you when we’re being pursued by numerous demons and ghouls all at once.”

“Yeah, just leave that part to me,” she says wryly, poking at his ribs none-too-gently. “You like dickweed better or sweetiepie?”

“The one that comes without the connotation that I’m a dessert, I guess?”

“Fair,” she laughs, sobering quickly after when she catches a glimpse of the camera, in-place and all set to record. The sight of it tempers his fear, too, if only for a second; reminds him of what there is to lose if he doesn’t go through with it.

“Hey,” she says again, her expression remarkably soft. “So look, maybe I can’t promise that nothing’s going to happen. But, if anything,” she pauses, taking a deep breath, “at least we have each other, right?”

It’s his turn to laugh now, the sound shaky more than anything. Still, he recognizes the truth in her statement, if anything. “Yeah,” he murmurs, mustering a smile. “Being dragged down to uncertain death together sounds very promising, Princess.”

“It’s a reassuring thought,” she teases, the tips of her hair brushing against his collarbone as she turns away to face the camera, rolling out her shoulders surreptitiously. (It only dawns on him, then, how close they were standing before.) “Ready?”

“Yeah,” he tells her, shifting to face the camera head-on; the tension from before dissipating as determination sets in, instead, steadying his voice. “Start rolling.”

 

+

A few hours in and a freakish incident with a torchlight aside, there’s nothing much else that suggests that the place is haunted in the least.

Still, it’s probably better to be vigilant.

“You know you’re being ridiculous, right?” Clarke points out, smoothing out her pile of blankets neatly. She has her phone out, the screen illuminating her face as she taps at it calmly—as if they’re at a normal sleepover and not a place where he’s pretty sure actual murders have went down. “We’ve been here for the past five hours. If someone wanted us dead, we’d already be.”

“Something,” he corrects, because he’s a pedantic asshole like that. “Saying someone insinuates that we can reason with it.”

“Demons can be reasonable. You’re just not giving them a chance to.”

Bellamy snorts, folding his arms across his chest. “You give it a shot, then.”

She glances up at him at that, a smile quirking at her lips. “I will, if you take off your jacket and come sit down.”

He eyes the soft cocoon of blankets spread over the ground, the assortment of pillows she had insisted on bringing in from the car. It looks comfortable, at any rate, but the thought of relaxing at all makes him feel like he’s going to break out in hives. “I’m fine,” he bites out, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Maybe standing vigilant by the door isn’t the best idea, but at least the exit is close by, if anything.

“Well, only if you’re sure,” Clarke says, arching her brow over at him. There’s something about her expression that is making him nervous, really, but it’s possibly his paranoia talking, or—

“I’m just going to go get changed then,” she continues gamely, yawning exaggeratedly as she gets to her feet, spinning on her heel with a little flourish. “Bathroom’s down the hall, right?”

She’s already slipped out by the time he regains his senses, picking his jaw up from the floor. “This isn’t a joke, Princess!”

There’s no reply on her end, the silence permeating the room and making him grow more uneasy than ever. Not for himself, but for her. She’s out there, alone and unsuspecting, and that’s pretty much the start of every single fucking horror movie, ever. Sure, she’s smart and resourceful, but—

“Clarke!” he thunders, stomping down the length of the hallway; hand already raised so he can pound at the door until she stops fucking around and answers, damn it, “I swear to God, you better not be dead, or—”

The door falls open, then, so suddenly that he backs up a few steps. His first thought is, maybe it’s a demonic presence. The second is there’s Clarke, and then he realizes she’s not wearing a shirt, and the sight of it pretty much just short-circuits his brain on the spot.

“Bellamy!”

Swearing, he turns away, shielding his eyes automatically. “Fuck— shit. I’m so sorry, it’s just you didn’t answer, and I was freaking out, and—”

“It’s fine,” she interjects, sounding a little closer than before. He chances a peek when he hears the quiet snick of the door easing shut, her tangle of blonde hair coming into view. If anything, she sounds a little more amused than distressed. “I did tell you I was changing, you know.”

“Well, I thought you were just trying to scare me,” he mutters, hand going up reflexively to rub at the back of his neck. It’s a nervous tic, one that Miller calls him out on constantly. “Who goes into the bathroom of a fucking haunted house and changes? Or pees?”

“Unaware white people, most of the time.” She cracks, pushing lightly at his shoulder. It’s teasing, friendly; but he still jolts at the touch anyway, his brain flooding with images of the pale expanse of her back, the scattering of moles against her shoulder blade. Fuck.

“Bellamy?”

He snaps out of it, managing a smile. “Sorry,” he says, falling into step next to her. “Zoned out for a bit.”

She makes a small, non-committal noise, crossing the room and plopping back down on the sheets. Her hair hangs loose, now, free from its usual braid and he can’t help staring, just a little. He’s never seen her look more comfortable, and it’s a nice look on her, if he’s being entirely honest.

“Are you going to stand there all night, or are you going to at least attempt to fall asleep at some point?”

“Like you’d let me do the former,” he points out, huffing. Then, before he can talk himself out of it, he shrugs out of his jacket, flopping down onto the sheets next to her. “There. Happy?”

“Ecstatic.”

He yanks at the blankets, pulling it up to his chin to hide a smile. “Can’t believe you bullied me into this, Princess.”

Me?” she says, sounding genuinely incredulous, as if she didn’t just bait him into it all of five seconds ago. “Hey, I was just trying to make sure I got my beauty sleep, okay? Can’t do that if there’s going to be someone hovering by the door for the next eight hours.”

“I highly doubt I’m going to be falling asleep anytime soon, so that’s still going to happen anyway,” he tells her, reaching for the nearest pillow and sliding it under his head. “Except, you know. In much closer proximity instead.”

Her laugh this time is soft; private. Intimate in a way that he didn’t think he’d ever get to experience, especially not from her. “Fine, how about this: I talk your ear off until you fall asleep. I’ve seen your eyes get all glazed everytime I open my mouth, so this should be effective.”

He groans, burying his face against the pillow. “Hey, be fair. It’s only when you used to go off on a tangent about how much of an ass I was supposedly being.”

“That’s eighty percent of the time, back then.” She muses, settling into her cocoon of sheets before turning to face him; her face half hidden in the dark and in the mounds of fabric. “Did you know I used to be this huge party girl, back when I was eighteen?”

He grins, shifting on his side so he can look at her properly. “You’re kidding, right?”

“You wish.”

It goes on like this for a while, exchanging pieces of each other in the hazy state between sleep and waking. She tells him about her pre-med days, of antiseptic and scrubs that feel like sandpaper on her skin and falling asleep for days after. He offers up his best memories— ones of Octavia, and growing up with Miller, and his grandma’s palm warm against his cheek. She likes orange juice with cereal better than milk, while he likes his dry. They both think multiple Avengers movies are unnecessary, as is caramel popcorn.

“Hey,” she murmurs, right as he’s on the brink of sleep, drowsy and hoarse from talking all night, “remember that day when I walked away from you, all upset?”

He blinks, his thoughts hazy and sluggish, almost impossible to trawl through. “I upset you all the time,” he manages, struggling to keep his eyelids open. There’s something about the darkness that makes it easier to be honest, really; to be unguarded. “Most of the time without actually meaning to, but,” he stops, shaking his head to clear it. “Yeah. I know what you’re talking about, though.”

“Yeah,” she whispers, and he senses her smile rather than sees it— wry, but a little sad, too. “You were talking about my dad, remember? My dad, and Jaha.”

“And golf.”

“And golf,” she echoes, nudging at his wrist lightly with hers. “Anyway, it wasn’t— it’s not true, you know.” Then, a deep, shaky breath, “My dad’s been dead for years, now.”

It feels impossible to comprehend her words entirely with the state that he’s in, but he feels his breath catch in his throat; shame and regret and empathy flooding in. “Clarke,” he rasps, reaching blindly for her, fumbling in the dark until he feels his fingers slide against hers. “I’m so sorry. I’m— fuck.”

“I know,” she murmurs, the sheets rustling as she shifts a little closer; close enough that he can feel her breath fanning across his collarbone. “I didn’t tell you this because I want your pity, though. It’s just— I thought you’d want to know.” Her voice hitches at the word, betraying her nerves, and even in his sleep-addled brain, he finds himself clutching at her tighter, reassuring her the only way he knows how. “Because— because I think of you as my friend. Even if you don’t think of me as yours.”

He closes his eyes once more, the truth of it pushing at his ribs and spilling off his lips.

“That’s where you’re wrong, Princess,” he mumbles, squeezing at her palm, keeping ahold of her even as the darkness finally claims him, pulling him under.

 

+

Getting up and going to work the next morning is, possibly, the hardest thing he’s done in a while.

(He’s exhausted despite all the hours of sleep he got the night before, traffic is terrible, and there’s a persistent ache by the back of his neck that just won’t go away. Logically, he knows it’s probably from falling asleep holding Clarke’s hand, but he can’t bring himself to be mad about that now, really.)

Thankfully, no one seems to notice or care when he shows up fifteen minutes late, hair still wet from his shower and Starbucks in tow. He gets a cursory nod from Miller, a high five from Jasper, and Jaha doesn’t even seem to be in his office when he breezes by.

All in all, it’s a pretty ideal situation.

Until he finds her half-slumped over her desk, still in her sweats from the night before and tapping frantically at her laptop.

He stops short, frowning. “Tell me you went to sleep after I dropped you off at your place, and that you didn’t come here straight away to get started on editing instead.”

A miniscule pause, her expression going sheepish as she looks up at him. “Can’t,” she says, making a face. “Because that’s kind of exactly what I did.” She brightens when her gaze lands on the coffees, though, straightening in her seat. “Are those for me?”

“You’re impossible,” he mutters, before reaching over to pluck hers from the tray. “Here. Americano with three shots.”

She makes a small, contented noise, curling her hands around the cup and taking a sip. “You remembered.”

“No one’s ever going to forget that you drink gross, dark coffee,” he says gruffly, ducking at his chin so he can’t catch him flush. (It’s true, at any rate. He’s seen her drink Jasper’s custom-blend, and that thing could put a horse down.) “So,” he plants his hands on his hips, summoning his best attempt at changing the subject, “which part are you working on?”

“I’m just putting the clips together, but,” she hesitates, biting at her lip. Then, scooting over slightly in her seat, “Will you sit?”

It’d probably be smarter to drag his own chair over, but he’s never been all that smart when it comes to Clarke, anyway. “Sure,” he shrugs, dropping into the small sliver of space next to her. The heat of her thigh pressed up against his is distracting enough, but he pushes it out of his head in favor of focusing on the screen before him. “This is when we were at the church, right?”

“Right.” She nods, dragging her cursor further along the bar. “And I got as far to when we were introducing the house, but,” she pauses, running a hand over her face. “It’s just— God, I wish I could explain it.”

He nudges at her elbow, mindful of his strength so she wouldn’t spill coffee everywhere. “If it’s something to do with the face that I pull every time you say poltergeist, just spit it out.” That pulls a snort of laughter out of her, the sound bright and lilting, and he can’t help but grin at it. “I get it,” he continues, punctuating his statement with a dramatic sigh, “I’d laugh at myself if I wasn’t so fucking terrified in that moment.”

“Poltergeist related face pulling aside,” she stresses, flicking at his bicep teasingly. “I think it’s better I show you.”

“Sure.”

“Just,” she chances a quick peek over at him; apprehensive. “Withhold judgment until the end, okay?”

“I’ll try my best,” he says dryly, grimacing when that earns him a sharp jab to the ribs. Still, she plays the clip anyway, fidgeting the entire time.

It’s pretty standard, from what he can tell— the introduction, the interviews, and the history of the case. With a decent soundtrack and maybe some additional sound effects, it could pass as a show on SyFy.

Except that it would pretty much be no different than any other show on SyFy.

“Okay,” he concedes, rucking his fingers through his hair as the clip comes to an end. “I see what you mean.”

“Yeah,” she says, closing the window to pull something else up; her face drawn tight in concentration. “Now watch this instead, and tell me what you think.”

He barely manages to protest before the clip starts, opening up to a shot of him— back facing the camera and hands tucked into his pockets as he hurries down a path. It’s a little shaky, but he can hear himself loud and clear, face half-turned towards the camera. “—at this demon-infested hell den, so don’t come crying to me when you wake up with this bloated, twisted face staring up at you.”

Then, Clarke’s voice coming from behind the camera, “Considering how I’m going to be sleeping next to you, I’d say that it’s going to happen all the same anyway.”

The look he shoots her is even more exasperated than he thought it would be. Her responding laugh is infectious, the shot blurring as he attempts to grab the camera from her hands. The next clip is of them talking about the rat colony on the steps of the church, interspersed with official shots of the house, and shots of their interview with the Father, visibly annoyed by his relentless stream of questions. The camera then turns itself onto Clarke, sticking her tongue out as he prattles on, unaware.

It’s funny. And sharp, and witty, and like nothing he’s seen. Not recently, anyway.

She’s still looking at him when he turns over to look at her, brows drawn and lips pursed. Worried, he realizes, that he wouldn’t agree; that they would be on different pages for the direction of Unsolved. A few weeks back, she wouldn’t have cared what he thought, and neither would he. Somehow, the thought of it is both thrilling and terrifying all at once.

He clears his throat, turning back towards the screen. “So,” Bellamy says, working to keep his tone deliberately conversational. “You take the first half, and I’ll work on the second?”

(Her answering grin is blinding.)

 

+

Ark Feed @arkfeed 1h ago

Introducing our new series, Unsolved, featuring co-hosts @cgriff and @bellblake! This week, our Mulder and Scully take on #ThePrestonManor.

@nickgrayson: this is fucking HYSTERICAL

@lokiapologist: fake

@unfunnyoreo: uh is it just me or does anyone see the pure CHEMISTRY between @cgriff and @bellblake???

@chrissykate: I SHIP IT!!!!

 

+

In all honesty, Bellamy hasn’t even considered the notion that Unsolved might be a smash hit. Sure, Ark Feed has a decent following, and he gets recognized on the street from time to time, but it’s not like they’re a household name, or anything. In terms of the digital media market, they’re solidly in fifth place— behind Grounded and the one site that talks exclusively about alien conspiracy theories.

So it definitely comes as a shock when Unsolved implodes within a week.

“Last I checked, you guys were at two million views,” Monty says brightly, punctuating the statement with a hard tap of his keyboard. “Which crashed the servers, unfortunately, but Raven and I got it back up in a few hours, so.” He shrugs, a smile twitching at his lips. “It won’t happen again. Unless,” he pauses, raising his brows pointedly, “you decide to make out with Clarke on camera.”

The worst part about it is that it’s true, probably. Fighting back the flush threatening to show on his cheeks, he settles for flicking a paperclip over instead, scowling. “Shut up,” he mutters, giving a surreptitious peek around to room to make sure Clarke’s not around. It’s not like she doesn’t know that there are people on the Internet actively rooting for them to get together, but not acknowledging it seems to be the safest option as of now. “And Jesus,” he swears, running a hand over his face, “don’t say shit like that in front of the Princess, okay? I don’t want things to get awkward.”

We’re not saying it,” Raven reminds him, gliding into the room so quietly that he can’t help but startle a little at her sudden presence, “the Internet is.”

He glares, flipping her off when she smirks over at him. “You’re not being very helpful right now, Reyes.”

“What exactly is it that you need me to help with?” she continues, without missing a beat. “I mean, we didn’t say it, but we all thought about it at some point.” She snorts, giving a quick shake of her head. “I always knew you guys would get along fine once you got your heads out of your asses.”

“We just didn’t think it’d be that fine,” Monty interjects, grinning, barely managing to dodge this time when he lobs another paperclip over. That pulls a cackle out of Raven, both of them exchanging high-fives while he stews, huffing.

“It’s not fucking funny.

“It is when you’re making a big deal out of it,” she points out, rolling her eyes. “We can’t help that your budding relationship with Clarke is considered a morale booster around here.”

(Logically, he knows that Raven’s teasing, more than anything— and yet the thought of everyone having a stake in their relationship makes his mouth go dry. He didn’t think he could bear it, if he lost Clarke’s friendship over this. He’s come to appreciate her company, her wit, her ability to cut right through the bullshit and look at things for what they were unashamedly.

Losing all of it now— losing her— feels a lot like a punch straight to the gut.)

“Or maybe you guys could just stop putting up my love life for public dissection,” he says sharply, folding his arms across his chest. It comes out harsher than he intends it to be, if the way Monty winces is any indication, but he can’t bring himself to feel bad about it with his relationship with Clarke on the line. “Seriously, you guys. I know you mean well, but just stop.”

That earns him a distinctly apologetic look on Monty’s part, though he can’t say the same for Raven. If anything, she just looks like she’s mulling things over, the crease between her brows deepening and—

“Holy shit,” she says suddenly; a bright, delighted laugh escaping. “You have actual feelings for her, don’t you?”

It takes a second for him to catch on, his thoughts going into overdrive as he tries to reconcile the fact that Raven just called him out on having feelings for Clarke Griffin; barely managing to sputter out a hasty, “That’s— just— what the fuck, Raven.”

She glances over at him, her brows jerking higher up towards her hairline. (The problem with Raven, he thinks grimly, is that she’s known him for too long to fall for any of his diversionary tactics.) “It’s not a no.”

“It’s not a yes, either.”

“But it’s something,” she grins, ponytail swinging as she reaches over to punch at his shoulder; hard enough that he makes a small noise in protest, squirming away. “You should tell Clarke.”

He grits at his teeth, reigning back the urge to swear at her vigorously. “No fucking way.”

Tell her, so help me God, or I’ll—”

“Tell me what?”

He doesn’t fall out of his chair at the sound of her voice, but it’s a near thing. Monty scrambles to his feet, clearing his throat, and even Raven goes a little pale when Clarke shuffles in, coffee mug in hand and chin cocked.

“Tell me what?” she repeats, frowning slightly. Then, her gaze landing on him, “Bell?”

He thinks he can vaguely make out Monty mouthing Bell under his breath in a state of disbelief, but it’s hard to concentrate when she’s looking at him like that, all expectant and confused. Wetting at his lips, he manages a half-hearted, “Uh—”

“Oh, give it up.” Raven interrupts, waving him off. “Fine, if you must know: Monty and I were discussing throwing you guys a surprise congratulations-on-breaking-the-site party until Bellamy came right in and foiled that plan. There didn’t seem to be a point in just surprising one of you, but he was insistent.”

She’s so convincing that for half a second, he almost feels guilty for something he clearly he didn’t do. “Right,” he chimes in, recovering. “Shit. Guess the cat’s out of the bag, huh?”

“Evidently,” Clarke says, narrowing her eyes over at him. Still, there’s no suspicion in her expression, and the wave of relief that crashes over him makes him go a little weak at the knees. “You know, you’re going to have to accept that I’m a generally unflappable being at some point of time, right?”

“Sounds fake, but okay.”

“Do I want to know where you heard that from?”

He opens his mouth to respond, a quip already poised at the tip of his tongue when Raven gives a pointed cough; the sound snapping him out of his reverie and back into the situation at hand.

“So anyway,” Raven chirps, sounding way too cheery for his liking, “how about tomorrow night at the Dropship, to celebrate? At nine?”

If she senses anything amiss, she doesn’t show it, at least. “Sure,” Clarke shrugs, turning over to him. “You’re coming too, right?”

“Yeah,” he manages, meeting Raven’s smug gaze; dread pooling in his stomach when she shoots him an exaggerated thumbs-up and a wink. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

 

+

There’s a surprisingly good turnout at the Dropship for a Thursday night, so it takes him a while to navigate through the crowd— only catching sight of his friends by the end booth when he hears a all-too-familiar whoop piercing the air.

Jasper. For a split second, Bellamy deliberates darting over to the bar to retrieve a few bottles of water (he’ll need it, knowing Jasper) but he decides against it, in the end, sliding into the booth instead.

“Fellow associates,” he greets, raising his hand in mock-salute when that earns him a cheer and a bottle of beer on Miller’s part. “How are we holding up?”

“Good, despite our guests-of-honor being late,” Monty quips, grinning. “Clarke isn’t here yet either, if that’s what you’re wondering.”

It’s the first thing he noticed since he sat down, but Bellamy’s not going to tell him that. “Oh,” he says, working to keep his voice nonchalant. “I didn’t realize. She had that thing with her mom before this, right?”

“Dinner,” Raven pipes up, swiping at his beer and stealing a swig. Then, lowering her voice conspiratorially, “But you knew that already, didn’t you?”

(He did, in fact, know this, if the numerous texts he’s received from Clarke is any indication. Most of them are just variations of kill me that made him smile stupidly to himself the entire ride over to the bar.)

“She might have mentioned it,” he says casually, shrugging. It’s taking everything in his power to remain completely calm with the way Raven’s waggling her eyebrows over at him, but he refuses to let her faze him in any way. Not tonight. Instead, he settles for jerking his chin over to the bottle between her fingers, brow arched. “You might as well finish that, while you’re at it.”

“I only had a sip!”

“So where did the other half go?”

He thinks she says something in response to that, but most of it is lost in the sudden roar of noise that descends over their table; a figure squeezing through their huddle, cheeks pink from the cold and wisps of hair escaping from her updo.

“Clarke!” Raven calls out, extending her hands out for a hug. “You made it!”

She laughs, bending at an awkward angle to return the hug before straightening to her feet, her eyes meeting his briefly. He manages a smile in return, has to remind himself not to let his gaze linger for too long on the curve of her neck, the lift of her mouth. (It’s not like it’s the first time he’s seen her like this, all dressed up, but— things are different, now. Clarke could put on a potato sack and he wouldn’t be able to look away either, most likely.)

He clears his throat, biting at the inside of his cheek to taper the wide, goofy grin threatening to show on his face. “Hey.”

“Hey,” she says, the sides of her lips twitching as she plops down into the space next to him; close enough that he can make out her perfume, sweet and powdery. “Sorry, dinner took forever. My mom wouldn’t shut up on the harmful effects of reality TV.”

“Well, I mean she’s not entirely wrong.”

“Nope,” she agrees, bumping her wrist against his lightly, the gesture sending a bolt of heat up the length of his arm. He takes big gulp of his beer to compose himself, resisting the urge to wrap his fingers around her wrist; to hold her close. “But it’s her, so basically the whole point of it was just so she could talk about how much she disapproved of Unsolved.”

It’s not surprising considering what he knows about her already strained relationship with her mom, but he’s not going to bring that up and make her feel worse. “And right at the get-go, too,” Bellamy sighs, nudging at her knee lightly so she catches the teasing tilt to his chin; the deliberate lightness behind his words. “Wait until she gets to the episode where we participate in that demon orgy.”

She seems to be struggling to keep a straight face, at that, which he can’t help but feel a little proud of. “Or the one with all the necrophilia references.”

“None of them are as bad as when you decided that wearing uncovered shoes to a unsanitary, literal haunted house was a good idea.”

That pulls a full-blown laugh out of her, along with a swift kick to his ankle that makes him yelp. “Shit,” she swears in between bursts of laughter, her shoulders shaking, “sorry. I forgot I was in heels.”

He snorts, his eyes still watering slightly. “Clearly.

“Shut up,” she says goodnaturedly, ducking at her chin. “I know I’m overdressed.”

“Nah,” he says, reaching up to tug at a stray lock of her hair teasingly; the alcohol in his system loosening his tongue and the words slipping off his tongue, “you look good.”

She flushes but doesn’t pull away, leaning into his touch instead. “Please,” she finally says, the tremble of her voice belying her words, “you’re just saying that.”

Her cheek is warm against his fingers, strands of her hair tickling at his skin, and he can practically feel his breath catching in his throat when she looks up at him from under her lashes. He swallows, wetting at his lips surreptitiously. “No,” he rasps, holding her gaze— hoping she understands that he means every word, hoping that she understands what he’s really trying to say. “I’m not.”

The moment stretches, her gaze darting over to his lips once. Twice. Then, she moves, leaning closer, her breath fanning over him and making him shiver. “Bell—”

The sudden thunk of something striking against the table breaks the spell, both of them startling apart. He blinks, trying to comprehend the sight of the tray of bottles before them, his pulse still thrumming too loud against his ears.

“I thought you guys could use a drink,” Jasper crows, beaming over at them. His gaze is unfocused, already swaying slightly on his feet, and for a minute, Bellamy considers actually tripping him just so he can go back to that moment with Clarke— to that three seconds when she leaned forward; when it felt like she might do something impossible, like kiss him.

But Jasper’s actually singing now— a piss poor version of 99 Bottles of Beer— and staggering just about everywhere, and he feels himself relent, despite everything. Getting to his feet, he steps forward, hauling Jasper’s skinny frame over his shoulders and half-dragging him out of the booth.

The look she shoots him is distinctly commiserating, though, and it lifts his mood for a brief second. “I’ll be back,” he promises, pushing the tray forward until she gets the message and reaches for a beer, snapping the cap smoothly. “Give me fifteen minutes to work my magic.”

“Yeah,” she tells him, a wry smile playing on her lips; soft and fond and just for him. “I’ll be here.”

 

+

It, unfortunately, takes a lot longer than fifteen minutes.

He’s past the forty-five minute mark by the time he gets back in, grumpy and smelling faintly of vomit. It’s impossible not to deem Jasper a lost cause after he empties the contents of his stomach onto the sidewalk for the third time, so he opts for calling him a cab to Maya’s instead. There’s a part of him that feels a little guilty for saddling someone else into this, but there’s only so much he can handle about his drunken shenanigans, and Jasper’s actual girlfriend is probably a lot more equipped to handle it than him anyway.

Besides, there’s somewhere else he’d rather be. Or, more specifically, someone else he’d rather be with.

The bar is blessedly empty as he skirts past, barely managing to catch the drink Gina slides over. The look on her face is amused and sympathetic, all at once, and he can’t help but grin at it, taking her proffered drink and stealing a sip. She makes a pleased noise at it, reaching over to pat at his shoulder companionably. “Parenting sure is tough, isn’t it?”

“Shut up,” he says, making a face. Being the regular bartender over at the Dropship means Gina knows more than anyone how much time he spends taking care of his friends instead of enjoying himself, but it also means that she takes every opportunity to tease him about it, always. “Raven is yours to handle from now on anyway, so who’s the real winner here?”

She blushes at that, ducking at her chin as she pretends to work at a spot on the bar with a rag. “We’re not together.”

“Yet,” he corrects, downing the rest of his drink before casting a cursory glance over at their booth, now significantly emptier than before. There’s Monty and Miller next to him, and Raven with her head bent over a napkin, conversing with Harper in low tones—

“Hey,” he frowns, setting his empty glass back down onto the bar. “Did you happen to see this girl anywhere? Uh, blonde, fancy clothing. About this high?”

“Clarke?” she interrupts, brightening. “Yeah, Raven introduced us earlier. I think she went outside for some air?” Then, shrugging, “You know how it is. Monty brought the cards out, and it got competitive, so. She was a little out of it, the last time I spotted her.”

Oh. Swearing, he gets to his feet, barely managing to tamp down the panic rising in his chest. “Did she go out by the front?”

“Yeah. I’m sure she’s fine, though—”

He gives a distracted nod and wave in return, crossing the room in three strides and ducking out. It’s bitterly cold, outside, but it doesn’t take him long to spot her, half-leaning against the wall and fumbling for something in her bag; face creased in concentration and slightly off-balance. The sight of it is enough to calm him, somehow, and he can’t help but smile just a little at it. In all the years he’s known her, he’s hardly seen her look remotely undignified, let alone tipsy.

“Hey,” he calls out, drawing closer, and mostly because he can’t resist, “you looking for me over there?”

Her head snaps up at that, her confusion quickly giving away to a wide, uninhibited grin when she notices him. “Funny,” she giggles, extending her hand out to rake a hand through his curls when he pulls up in front of her, her expression dreamy. “And pretty. You have such pretty hair, Bell.”

It’s highly possible that he’s not going to let her live this down for the next five years. Ten, if he can stretch it. “Yeah?” he grins, catching at her wrist gently when she pulls away, tugging her to him carefully when the momentum nearly sends her lurching straight into a lamp pole. “You think I’m pretty?”

“Stupidly so,” she tells him, flicking at his nose lightly before sagging into him, pressing her face into the jut of his shoulder. “Hey,” she mumbles, nuzzling her face into the crook of his neck. “Hey. I’m really tired, Bell.”

He snorts, pressing a comforting hand in the space between her shoulder blades. “Anyone would be, after going up against Monty. You wanna head home, Princess?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, I’ll call you a cab, and—”

“No cab,” Clarke says suddenly, staggering away. She makes it three steps before she nearly trips over her own feet, the heel of her shoe twisting against the uneven ground, and he just about throws out his back leaping forward to catch her. “I’m—” a hiccup, “I’m walking home.”

He barely manages to grunt an acknowledgment before he’s grappling for her once more, trying to keep her on her feet. Ordinarily, it wouldn’t be a big deal, considering she only lives a few blocks away— but she’s hardly in the state to do anything, let alone walk home in the dark. “Yeah,” he huffs, “not to burst your bubble, but that probably isn’t the best idea.”

“But why?”

She’s almost entirely draped over him at this point, so it’s not much of a stretch to drop into a crouch, reaching back to grasp at her thighs to steady her. She gives a little squeal of delight at it, clasping her arms tighter around his neck. “Piggyback!”

“Evidently,” he mutters, biting back a swear when she presses closer, somehow, her breath warm against the shell of his ear. “Alright, do me a favor and just hold on tight, okay?”

“Mm.”

“Don’t let go.”

“I won’t,” she sing-songs, delving a hand back into his hair once more, and it takes all of his willpower not to shiver at the sensation of her nails scratching lightly at his scalp; her chin resting against the top of his head. “I missed you. Miss you.”

The utter sincerity in her voice makes him flush, involuntary, and in that split second, he’s glad she can’t see his face. “I was only gone for a little while.” He reminds her, tightening his grip on her surreptitiously.

“Felt like forever,” she announces, blowing a raspberry into the air. “Or really, really long at least.”

He makes a absent noise in response, squinting over at the street signs coming into a view. They’re about two blocks away, if he’s not wrong, which is good considering he’s pretty sure his face is going numb from the cold, at this point. “Well, you gave me a scare when you just upped and left, so I’d say we’re even.”

“I didn’t want to,” she mumbles, shifting so her cheek is resting by his ear, instead. “But I— she was there. Flirting with you. It made me sad.”

That startles him so much that he almost drops her, scrambling to regain his balance while she squawks, her nails digging into his shoulders. “Sorry, sorry,” he breathes, stopping in his tracks so he can catch his breath because honestly, what the fuck. “Did you just— flirting?”

She hums, the motion sending her hair tickling at his cheek. “She touched your arm, like this.” Her fingers curl around his bicep, squeezing slightly. “I,” a pause, her sigh long, “sad.”

It takes him a few minutes to realize she means Gina, and another few to stop laughing, really. “Yeah,” he chokes out, shaking his head. “Trust me, you have that totally wrong.”

“If you say so,” she mutters, sullen. The thought of it— of Clarke, jealous, over him— is almost enough to set him off over again, but for the sake of keeping her upright, he refrains.

“I know so,” he tells her, pushing up the final steps to her door. His arms are shaking, just a little, but he’ll probably able to hold out for a few more minutes. Hopefully. “Okay, we’re here. Keys?”

She mumbles something incoherent, rifling through her purse before slapping something to his chest. He fits it into the lock with some effort, unlocking it and stepping in before easing the door shut with his foot.

It’s exactly the kind of apartment he pictured Clarke to stay in: kitschy and soft and a little messy, too. There’s shoes strewn all over the ground, and a small row of paintbrushes lined up by her kitchen counter. “Nice place you have,” he says dryly, pushing a pair of combat boots aside with his foot. “Ever think about investing in a shoe cabinet?”

She ignores him, mumbling something sleepily under her breath. Thankfully, she left her bedroom door open, so he doesn’t have to spend another fifteen minutes going room-by-room looking.

Stepping in, he makes his way to her bed, easing her prone form off him. She curls up in her sheets the minute he sets her down, making contented noises under her breath as he works her shoes off, placing them aside.

He’s contemplating if he should look around for some aspirin when she seems to jerk back awake, catching at his hand before he can draw away. “Bell.”

“Hmm?”

A yawn, her fingers tightening on his. “Stay.”

He swallows hard; gives himself three seconds to squeeze back with equal pressure, reaching out with his other hand to sweep a sweaty lock of hair away from her face. “That’s— not a good idea, probably. I don’t want you freaking out on me when you get up tomorrow.”

She turns her face, pressing a kiss into his palm. “I’ll just think that I got lucky.”

He groans, rubbing a palm over his face. Drunk Clarke is, simultaneously, the best and worst thing that has ever happened to him. “Okay,” he says, giving a helpless laugh. “We’ll table that for when you’re not several drinks in the next time, okay?”

That seems to placate her, at any rate. “Okay,” she murmurs, snuggling deeper into her sheets. “Don’t forget.”

He strokes at her cheek with his fingers, sliding his thumb down her jaw before stepping back. “Yeah,” he manages, hoarse, just as she slumps back, her breaths evening out and holding steady in the quiet of the room; finally sinking into sleep. “That’s unlikely, Princess.”

 

+

(She texts him the next morning— a picture of a dented box of aspirin with a bottle of water, captioned mood— and he grumps at her about getting hydrated, damn it and she calls him a grouch and it’s business as usual, mostly, except for the part where he can’t stop thinking about the brush of her lips against his fingers; her face hovering inches away from his as she leans in.

But she doesn’t bring it up, though, so neither does he, and when she finally ends off with, thanks for taking care of me, he tells her always, instead, and tries not to think about how much he means it.)

 

+

Ark Feed’s Unsolved News @infounsolved 3h ago

PHOTO| #bellarke sighting at TonDC bridge!! Filming or on a date? We just can’t tell.

@brooklynb: there’s filming equipment everywhere so I’d say the former

@bellarkeblarke2k4ever: @brooklynb it’s called multitasking u neanderthal

@mcnuggetnugget: can y’all actually stop trying to actively ship every possible thing ever, thanks

@capristunts: uhm not to freak out here but THEY’RE IN LOEV

 

+

The realization— or rather, the tiny, minute inkling of hope— that Clarke might reciprocate his feelings in any shape or form is, distracting, to say the least.

It’s not as if things are drastically different, now, but there’s something in the way that things are between them that makes him feel surprisingly hopeful. Sure, she still makes a face whenever he insists on taking necessary precautions before filming (see: holy water, salt circles, purchasing a rosary that one time) and her spending habits drive him crazy, and they can’t seem to agree on what constitutes the perfect ratio of peanut butter to jelly, but it all falls away when he catches her looking at him, somehow.

(It’s in the way she smiles at him, he thinks. In the way she says his name, and the way her gaze always seems to find him— as does his— no matter where they are; satellites circling the same path. It’s in the way he knows that she’s ticklish by her elbow, and that she’s scared of heights more than anything, and that she misses her mom more than she lets on.

He knows her, and he likes her, and he doesn’t know how she manages to be a storm and a safe harbor all at once, but he can only hope that she feels the same way about him, too; the light in the dark and the chaos that turns his world on its head, all the same.)

All of it is enough to handle as it is, so he’s understandably preoccupied during the next few filming sessions of Unsolved. It’s not like it shows on camera, but he knows for a fact that he’s been a little sloppier when it comes to research and preparation— forgetting to bring certain equipment to set, or having only three pages of notes to his usual five, or looking up the wrong site, on one memorable occasion.

Still, it’s really no excuse for getting them locked up in a haunted hospital overnight.

“It’s not like we weren’t planning to sleep over anyway,” Clarke points out, shrugging. She has their makeshift map spread out over her knees, the sharp point of her pencil digging into the sheet as she adds to it— perfectly and utterly calm at the prospect of being trapped in a humongous space teeming with possible demons and airborne diseases. “You have our sleeping rolls?”

“Do I have our— of course I have our sleeping rolls,” he huffs, indignant. (In retrospect, considering his recent track record, it’s a fair question to ask.) “And look, I know you think the odds of this place being actually haunted aren’t high, but it just makes me a little uneasy that we’re stuck here until morning.” His phone gives a faint bleep at that, the signal bars flashing, and he can’t help swearing at the sight of it. “It’s a old hospital, okay?” he adds, hitting at the call button once more. “What if something catches fire?”

“Like what?” she retorts, snorting. “Your pants?”

He levels a glare over at her, the effect of it somewhat ruined at the sudden noise sounding overhead, making him jump. “That’s— you heard that, right?”

She cocks at her head, brows knitting together as they both fall silent together, straining to listen. There’s a long, tense beat before it happens again— a ominous thump coming from upstairs; the sound of something striking the ground with significant force.

“It’s an old building,” she says finally, rolling up the map and getting to her feet carefully. “It’s probably just the wind, or something.”

Bellamy groans, running a palm over his face. “You did not seriously just say that.”

Her laugh echoes in the cavernous space as she fumbles for her handheld, flicking at the power button and bringing the camera right up to his face. “You’re right, I should have suggested we split up, instead.”

“Don’t you dare, Clarke Griffin.”

She grins, reaching over to pluck at the phone from his grip. “C’mon, let’s go check this place out.” Then, without waiting for an answer, she glides away, humming lightly under her breath. “Besides, you can breathe easy knowing that in the end, the guy with the keys is going to show up tomorrow morning anyway.”

“I’ll breathe easier if he came by with the keys now,” he grumbles, trailing after her as she takes a sharp left, turning into a long corridor lined with various rooms. “Or, you know. If he actually did his job and made sure no one else was in here before he closed this place up.”

“That’s too much to expect from someone who’s not getting paid to maintain this place.” She reminds him, easing her torchlight free from the clip at her belt and switching it on, too. The combined efforts of both their lamps makes him feel a little comforted, at least, and he finds himself relaxing almost unconsciously. “So, where to next, Magellan?”

He tears his gaze away from her— clearing at his throat and ducking his head hastily so she doesn’t catch on that he had been staring just a few minutes ago. (It’s been happening with increasing frequency, now, and he hates himself for it.) “Well, if we want to start off with a bang, we can go down to the chute.”

“The chute?”

“Yup,” he says dryly, jostling at her hip until she gets the message and hands him the map. “See, back then, there were so many people dying in this hospital that there had to be a way to transfer the bodies out discreetly, right? Enter the chute. It’s basically a tunnel used to dispose of the bodies, about five hundred feet long that brings us down the hill.”

“Ah,” she says, beaming. “So, basically, a large, enclosed space filled with angry, long-dead spirits?”

“That’s a summarized version, yeah.”

“Fun,” she says, her arm brushing up against his once before her fingers catch at his jacket sleeve, holding him close. The look on her face is distinctly nonchalant, as if it’s unprecedented for him to be freaking out over the fact that she’s holding his hand for no conceivable reason possible. “What?” she says, batting her lashes over at him. “I don’t know about you, but I’m concerned about walking down a giant murder chute by myself.”

Knowing Clarke, that’s probably the least of her concerns, but he appreciates that she’s trying to make him feel better in any way, however small. Biting back a smile, he shakes his head, squeezing at her palm gently. “Nice try, Princess.”

“Alright, you caught me,” she sighs, pivoting on her heel so she’s facing him, fingers still loosely linked between this, “I’ll admit that this was all a ploy just so I could hold your hand, Bellamy Blake. I’m your biggest fan, did I ever tell you that?”

“You’re saying that on tape? Brave.” He comments, adjusting at the lens of the GoPro strapped to his chest. “Let’s get that one more time for posterity. It’ll explain why you had to go into hiding after the Internet comes for you.”

“You don’t have that many fans, you egomaniac.”

“My seventy five thousand followers beg to—” he stops short when his torchlight begins to flicker, illuminating the entrance of the chute before it goes out, plunging them into darkness. “Fuck. Clarke?”

“Here,” she breathes, her hand tightening in his briefly. “Mine went out too, but it does that all the time. Give me a sec.”

He frowns, grabbing at his phone reflexively and hitting at the home button. “You charged them before we left, right?”

“They were at full batt,” she says, tapping at the base with her knuckles quizzically. “I even checked when we were outside, and— fuck.”

Something lands heavily against the ground, then, skittering against concrete; and in that split second, he feels her fingers sliding out of his, her warmth leaving him.

Panic rises in his throat, hot and all-consuming. Swearing, he lifts at his phone, illuminating the screen as quickly as he can. “Clarke?”

“I dropped the camera,” she calls out, and he whirls towards her voice, his heart going into fucking overdrive when he catches a glimpse of her, already darting down the tunnel and disappearing from sight. “Wait there!”

He makes a noise of protest, his voice only catching up seconds after. “For fuck’s sake— no, Clarke! Just— goddamn shit fuck.”

There’s no response on her part, not even the sound of her footsteps going down the tunnel— just silence and the sound of the wind rustling past him, making him shiver. He grimaces, booting up his flashlight app before shining it into the depths of the space.

The tunnel is impossibly dark and long, the place just barely wide enough for two people to fit through it comfortably. For a second, he considers the impracticality of it; of how much of a squeeze it’d have to be to transport bodies through it. Maybe the tunnel is meant for something else, or possibly even someone else, or—

He closes his eyes, an overwhelming thought coming to the forefront of his mind: Clarke. Clarke, down there, all alone, possibly lost in the dark. Clarke, unsuspecting and unafraid, stumbling over her own feet and fucking cracking her head open in some murder ghost tunnel, and him not doing anything about it.

Taking a single, deep breath to calm himself, he plunges forward and straight down into the tunnel, keeping one hand to the wall to anchor him. “Clarke! Can you hear me?”

Still nothing, but he thinks he hears the rhythmic sound of footfalls gaining in volume, drawing closer to him. Heaving another deep breath through his lungs, he pushes forward, going a little faster. “If you can hear me, say something—”

Something collides into him right then, the force of it nearly sending him sprawling. There’s a impossible, chilling minute when he thinks it’s a goddamn demon, sent from the fucking pits of hell to murder him right there and then— but then he feels arms encircling him, her voice breathless against his ear, and he can practically feel his body sag in relief when she presses closer, muffling a half-sob against his shoulder.

“You’re okay,” he manages, burying his hands in her hair, exhaling against her neck. “Fuck. You’re okay, right?”

“I’m fine,” she chokes out, her fingers roaming aimlessly along the curve of his shoulder, as if to make ascertain that he’s really there. “It was— I don’t know what’s down there, but it’s not— let’s just say I’m not looking forward to a repeat of that.”

“Yeah, there isn’t going to be one.” He tells her firmly, pulling away only so he can grasp at her hand, the other going around her shoulders as she leans over, trusting him to take her weight. “C’mon. We’re going up to the surface to be tormented by less vengeful, hopefully more well-adjusted ghosts.”

That gets a watery laugh from her, at least. Then, in a voice so small he barely catches it, “You came for me.”

And he’s not sure what it is that makes him brave, really; maybe it’s the dark, or the feeling of her hand in his, or the sheer adrenaline of the entire experience, but he finds himself pressing a kiss to her temple anyway, tasting sweat and salt and the sweetness of her perfume. “Did you think I wouldn’t?” he rasps, his voice rough from the shouting, before; wavering slightly at her ensuing silence.

“No,” she admits, her head bumping lightly against his chin, nuzzling at his jaw. “But only because you’re so fucking scared of all of this, you know? I thought it’d be too much.”

“I was,” he tells her ruefully, tilting at his phone so he can see just how much further they have to go. “I am,” he takes another deep breath, steeling myself. “But I went anyway, because it’s you.” He swallows, a shaky chuckle escaping. “I’d never leave you behind. Not if I can help it. And even if I did, I would have moved goddamn mountains and cosmos to get back to you. To find you.”

It is, possibly, the most ill-timed and least thought out confession there is, but it’s out there, at any rate. Her sharp intake of breath is loud in the quiet, making his stomach twist, and for a second, he thinks she might not say anything to that; that she might move past it entirely—

“The feeling’s mutual,” she tells him, soft, going up on her toes suddenly to press a kiss against his cheek; lingering and gentle and dangerously close to his lips. “I would,” her voice catches before she seems to steel herself, too; her words coming steady, “I would brave ten dinners with my mom for you, Bellamy Blake.”

He can’t help it, he laughs, the tension from before dissolving and lifting at the weight on his chest. “Ten?” he teases, poking at her ribs. “You sure about that, Princess? You could barely survive one, the last time.”

“Eight, then.”

“Yeah, okay,” he tells her, grinning as they emerge out into the light; her hand in his, both of them still holding each other up, despite everything, “I believe you.”

 

+

They end up in the children’s ward, after much deliberation, because Clarke feels guilty for depriving their viewers of what genuinely could be a very terrifying spirit in the body chute.

(It’s a sound idea, of course, except for the part where he’ll have to sleep in a room supposedly occupied by several supernatural entities. And the part where he’s not sure where he stands with her, or what’s going on in their relationship, but still.)

He’s really not going to pass up on a chance to tease her on this.

“So let me get this straight,” he starts, angling the camera to frame her in the shot. “You, Clarke Griffin, notorious skeptic and non-believer—”

“Non-believer and ghost-proof, but go on.”

“No one’s ever ghost-proof. You’re just an idiot that refuses to see proof.”

She looks distinctly amused at that. “We know it bugs you that I’m absolutely and definitely ghost-proof, Bellamy,” she sighs, pressing a hand to her chest. “You don’t have to keep bringing it up.”

“That’s— not the point,” he mutters, even though it kind of is. “But I digress. Anyway, to continue: are you, Clarke Griffin, notorious skeptic and non-believer, saying that ghosts are real and that you might have seen one in the body chute?”

Her jaw is twitching incessantly, at this point, and he’ll admit that it’s pretty admirable how she’s managing to keep her cool despite his blatant baiting. Grinning, he sidesteps her fluidly when she tries to swipe at him, her face twisting into a scowl when she misses by a mile.

“I can try staying still for you next time so you’ll be able to reach.”

“Fuck you,” she says automatically, rolling her eyes. There’s no heat behind her words, though, and he catches at her fingers the next time she comes at him, twining it between his briefly before pulling away.

(It makes her blush, which is gratifying as much as it is a relief. If the conversation in the tunnel is any indication, well. The odds of Clarke returning his feelings are good, but if not, he’s feeling strangely zen about it. Either way, he’s made his feelings clear. It’s mostly up to her, now.)

“Anyway,” she says primly, directing her attention back to the camera once more, “I’ll admit that I saw something down in the body chute and freaked out, but it could be anything, okay? A raccoon, perhaps. Or maybe a overly large dog. The janitor, even.”

It’s not surprising that she’d defer back to the most plausible sounding explanation, really, and he has to hold back on the snort just waiting to escape at it. “Sure,” he nods, summoning the most contrite expression he can muster. “I mean, I still think it’s a lot easier to say that there was a fucking demon out there, but—”

“If you say so,” she says dryly, the edges of her lips curling up into the smallest of smiles, and he looks away to keep her from catching his, too. (The sight of her smiling at him is growing to be a familiar one, now, and he can’t say he minds.) Then, clearing her throat, she continues, “But to make it up to you guys, we’ll be sleeping over here at the children’s ward, which is supposedly haunted by a half-goat that I suppose Bellamy will tell you more about.”

“Demon,” he corrects, patting at the side of his thigh surreptitiously to check for his latest batch of holy water. “It’s a half-goat demon, but okay.”

He’s not as sneaky as he thinks he is, if the way her gaze follows the motion is any indication. “Is that,” Clarke pauses, struggling to contain herself; shoulders shaking with the effort of it, “a water gun filled with holy water?”

“It’s for efficiency’s sake.”

“Bellamy,” she says, with all the seriousness normally reserved for funerals and taking out bank loans, “I think you’ve just outdumbed yourself.”

He shakes his head, shoving at her side lightly until she stumbles away, laughing. “Just go set up our sleeping bags,” he grumbles, settling down against the ground. “I’ll take first shift on demon patrol.”

She’s suppressing a smile when she grabs at their rolls, spreading them flat against the ground. “If you say so.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he says, watching as she pulls a sweatshirt over her top, getting comfortable and settled. “Just know that you’re going to be singing a different tune when you start hearing weird bleating noises at night.”

“I keep telling you,” she says, widening her eyes in what he supposes passes as her best impression of doe-eyed innocence, “it’s not as embarrassing as you keep making it out to be, Bell. I’ve heard weirder snoring.”

“God, I hate you,” he mutters, groaning when that earns him a pillow to the face. “Nice. Real mature.”

She flops down across from him, grinning. “Thanks, that’s what everyone tells me.”

“Hate to break it to you, but that probably means all your friends are liars, Princess.”

It’s a joke, more than anything, but she sobers at it almost instantly. “You don’t,” she says quietly, shooting him a wry, crooked smile. “Not that, you know, all my friends lie to me. Just,” she stops, making a frustrated noise, “you’re always honest with me.” Another pause, this time longer than the last, teeth scraping at her bottom lip. “Even when you didn’t like me. I— I like that about you.”

He’s not sure what she’s attempting to do by telling him this, but it’s not like he can hear anything beyond the rapid beating of his pulse anyway; beyond the rise of her shoulder and the lift of her mouth when she said, I like that about you.

“Oh,” he manages, wetting at his lips. Then, because he’s an idiot, “I mean, if we’re being honest here,” he jokes, making a face, “I’m not too crazy about that thing you do with your hair, you know, when—”

That earns him a kick to the shin, a impatient huff. “I’m trying to tell you something important here, you know.”

“So am I.”

He catches at her ankle before she makes contact, wrapping his fingers around it carefully; light enough that she can pull away if she wants to. She doesn’t, though, going still in his grasp instead, looking up at him from under her lashes.

A long, drawn-out beat, the only sound being the sound of their breathing, quick and shallow. He swallows, thumb brushing against bone, the motion making her shiver. “Clarke.”

“Bellamy,” she answers, releasing a shaky exhale as she leans forward, as close as she can get with his fingers still curled over her leg. “I’m— this is me being brave, okay?” she gives a watery laugh, her breath fanning over his cheek warmly. “The way you were when you came after me tonight. And I’m fucking terrified, but I’m doing it, and—”

He sets her foot down gently, fingers skimming down the length of her leg as he draws closer; close enough to slide his hand up to cup at her face. There’s a wide, stupid grin on his face now, but she’s smiling now, too, and it’s, possibly, the best moment of his life.

“Don’t be,” he tells her, and he thinks he tastes her laugh when she closes the distance between them, kissing and kissing him until he goes dizzy with it, sinking his fingers in her hair and easing her back onto the tangle of sheets.

She giggles when he nips at her neck, hooking her leg over his to keep him close. “Well, finally,” she groans, pressing a chaste kiss to his shoulder. “I was starting to think I wasn’t being obvious enough.”

He can’t help it, he laughs; hoarse and incredulous and fucking happy, above everything. “You could be a little more so,” he agrees, before swooping down once more to kiss her senseless again. “I seriously thought this was all one-sided, at various points.”

That pulls a indignant noise from her. “I had the photo of the both of us set as my phone wallpaper.”

“Is that supposed to mean something other than the fact that you could have really liked the photo?”

She flips them over, her kiss chastising against his lips. “It means I really like you, you idiot,” she says, shy, hiding her face against the crook of her neck so the rest of the words come out muffled. “Stupid, unfortunate amounts.”

He smiles, rubbing at her hip with his thumb soothingly. “Good,” he breathes, pressing their foreheads together. “We’re on the same page, at least.”

“We tend to be, on most things.” She tells him, dropping a kiss against his nose before turning over, her face to his chest and arm draping over him loosely. Then, teasingly, “So, I take it you’re in total agreement about having that quickie now, right?”

He laces their fingers together, feeling her shoulders shake with laughter at his groan. “We’re not giving the demons a show, Clarke.”

“No? Voyeurism not their thing?”

“Probably not,” he tells her, kissing at the space between her brows and feeling her sink further into him; warm and trusting and good, everything he only dared imagine in the safety of his blankets, everything he’d never dared want. “I’m thinking more along the lines of breakfast, then sex, then showing up to work two hours late. How does that sound?”

She makes a soft, contented noise at it, snuggling closer against him. “I’m going to hold you to that, Bellamy Blake.”

He hides a smile in her hair, closing his eyes. “Yeah,” he tells her, stroking at her spine just as her breathing evens out, his following after; chasing one another into the dark. “Count on it, Princess.”

 

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Ark Feed’s Unsolved News @infounsolved 1h ago

VIDEO| live footage of #bellarke seen HOLDING HANDS at mel’s diner #allwedoiswin #WETOLDYALL @cgriff @bellblake

@beingsuli: WE NEVER LOSE BITCHES I CALLED IT

@danidaydream: @infounsolved omg so are they dating or is it just a platonic thing???

@antidinosaur: chill tf out friends can hold hands too smh

@cgriff: @antidinosaur sure! I mean, it’s not the case for the both of us, but I agree with the sentiment.

@infounsolved: @cgriff @antidinosaur SOMEONE HOLD ME

@infounsolved: god is real and so is bellarke, goodNIGHt!!!