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First Comes Love

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Clarke is running late.

It's not a surprise; her mother claims she raised her to be punctual, but she also raised her to be a princess, and punctuality is for important things. Everything else can wait.

In Clarke's opinion, people are always important, even non-royal people, and there's no excuse for being late to any engagement, even a blind date she doesn't want to be on. Rudeness is rudeness, regardless of whether or not she's standing up a foreign dignitary or Miller's random actor friend.

Not that she's actually standing Bellamy up. She's just late.

Fuck, so late.

"What's this guy been in again?" she asks Monroe. Miller's not driving tonight, which is probably a good thing. He'd be making fun of her a lot more.

"Why are you asking me? How am I supposed to know?"

"I was hoping Miller told you something. Like why he was setting me up with anyone."

"I assume he likes you and wants you to be happy."

IMDB finally loads on Clarke's phone. "Do you at least remember his name?"

"Nathan Miller."

"Ha ha."

"Bellamy Blake."

"You deserve a raise."

"You could give me one."

Clarke scans through the page once it loads. She did look him up before, but all the information she really retained that he was a couple years older than she was, was a regular on a TV show she'd never seen and featured in a bunch of other movies she'd never heard of, and had gone through a lot of hairstyles, some of which worked and some of which worked less.

He's also very attractive; there's only so much he can do to his hair to screw that up.

"I might. Stay outside, okay? I'm not even sure he's still going to be here."

"Did you text him that you were running late?"

"I didn't actually give him my number. I told Miller to tell him."

"I say this from a place of love: he's not going to be there, and you're going to deserve it."

"I'll apologize to Miller."

"To Miller?"

She checks her makeup as Monroe pulls into a spot in front of the restaurant. "I don't know Bellamy. I'm sorry for being a dick to him too, but I'm more worried about my long-term relationship with the person who works for me."

"Fair enough, I guess. Let me know if you're drinking the pain away here or you want me to take you home to lick your wounds in private."

Clarke ducks out of the car. "Will do."

She's not really expecting to feel much pain; Bellamy Blake is attractive and probably good company, but it's hard to be invested in a random blind date. The only reason she agreed to come in the first place is that Miller suggested it. Which is still bizarre to her, if she's honest. The novelty of Miller, of all people, setting her up on a date was too much to ignore.

Except, of course, she did. But not on purpose.

"Highness," says Niylah, giving her a small smirk. Clarke comes here because the food is good, the tables are private, and the whole staff is used to her and doesn't really treat her like that much of a princess. "Your date is running up a tab."

Clarke raises her eyebrows. "He's still here?"

"He is."

"Fuck. I guess that means I have to talk to him. How is he?"

Niylah shrugs. "Polite. A little pissed at you, but you deserve it."

"I do." She sighs. "Okay, thanks for the warning. Where am I going?"

One of the waiters brings Clarke to the back room, and she gets her first look at Bellamy Blake in person. He's looking comfortable, sprawled in his seat, a glass in one hand and his phone in the other. His hair is shaggy right now, and he's got a tidy if slightly patchy beard that she hadn't seen in any of the pictures that she saw online. He's ordered some gyoza, but only eaten a couple of them.

Clarke suddenly hopes, very much, that she didn't screw this up.

"Bellamy?"

He doesn't startle, just looks up at her, eyes flicking over her quickly. She looks nice, she knows--she's known how to dress herself for every occasion for as long as she can remember, and first dates are easy.

But first impressions are more than just appearances, and she's already doing pretty badly here.

"Your majesty," he says, standing with a nod.

"I'm so sorry," she says, crossing the room to offer her hand. "My mother doesn't consider dates to be important engagements."

"Wow. Are you seriously blaming the queen? That's some serious passing the buck. If I'm pissed at her, is it treason?"

Clarke has to smile. "If it's treason to be pissed at her, it's probably treason to be pissed at me too. We're both royals,
I don't think it matters that much whether or not I'm the ruling monarch. But I really am sorry. I wasn't expecting you to still be here."

"I asked the hostess if I could charge the meal to you, and she said yes. I was going to get something really expensive."

"But you haven't yet?"

"Still deciding what I want."

"I've got some recommendations if you want."

"Sure."

He waits for her to sit before sitting himself, and Clarke studies him in the candlelight. He has freckles, which she hadn't been able to see on her phone's display, and a small scar on his lip. They probably work well, on screen, giving his face a little extra depth, on top of the handsomeness.

"Any dietary restrictions?"

"Nothing relevant to sushi." She cocks her head, and he clarifies, "I avoid dairy and red meat."

"Okay, so we're just buying a ton of really expensive rolls and getting drunk?"

A smile plays around his lips. "Is that what we're doing?"

"It can be. I'm trying to get back on your good side."

"I have heard the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. What should we get?"

They figure out their order and place it, and their waiter brings her usual cocktail without her having to order, which makes her feel a little better. Bellamy seems mostly amused, at this point, not angry, and when Monroe texts to see what she should do, Clarke feels confident in telling her to give them a couple hours.

The date is still happening.

"So, how do you know Miller?" she asks, taking one of his gyoza.

"College. Did you know he was a performing arts major?"

"Miller? Really?"

"Yeah. I graduated a year ahead of him, but we were always pretty tight."

"I can't imagine him as an actor."

"He's good." He shifts a little, uncomfortable. "It honestly kind of sucks sometimes, being the person from my group who's actually making a living off of this. I want to say I deserve it because I'm the best, but--" He shrugs. "Hollywood is a crapshoot. I'm the one who got lucky."

"Trust me, I know all about unearned prosperity," she says, and he laughs.

"Hey, I earned it," he teases. "But plenty of other people earned it too. I'm just the one who got it."

She swirls her cocktail, thinking over her next line. "I don't know much about your show. Honestly, everything I know about you I know from skimming your IMDB page in the car."

"Yeah? What did you find out? I haven't been on there in a while."

"I didn't check the trivia, so not much. You're three years older than I am, you're Filipino on your dad's side and Irish on your mom's--that was displaying on the main page, I didn't have to go looking for it," she clarifies, when he opens his mouth. "And you're on a show I've barely heard of and might be confusing with something else."

He laughs. "At least you're honest."

"As much as I can be. What's the show?"

"Orbit. Science fiction, I guess? But not aliens or anything, pretty realistic, not too far in the future. It's about a group of astronauts on an international space station when World War III hits. Suddenly the facilities that would let them get home are destroyed, their countries are fighting each other, and they have to figure out how to live together and survive until they can make it back to Earth."

"That sounds pretty cool."

"The first season was shaky, but we've found our legs by now. I don't think it'll last more than another season or two, but it's been good for me."

"How did you get into acting?"

Bellamy is an engaging storyteller, confident and charismatic, with a dry sense of humor that Clarke appreciates. He didn't have the best homelife as a kid, but he's far enough away from it that time has blunted the edges, and he doesn't dwell on the bad too much, or for too long. It's nice for now, but Clarke hopes they get there someday. She wants to know everything.

But for now, he tells her about his mother, who never had enough hours in the day to do everything she needed to, and about his sister, a firecracker of a girl he spent most of his childhood trying to defuse. In return, Clarke tells him about growing up royal, the second child who had less responsibility, but more pressure.

"Obviously, we were both supposed to be--dignified," she says, picking her words carefully. "I'm not saying Roan got away with more than I did, because he didn't. But royalty is really into gender roles. If he got in a fight, he got a slap on the wrist. If I did, I was unladylike and got three hours of etiquette lessons."

Bellamy taps his jaw. "I remember hearing you had a wild period. Was that it?"

"From birth to age nineteen, yeah."

"What happened when you were nineteen?"

"I got my heart broken."

"I'm sorry."

It's been twelve years; she can smile about it. "You didn't know?"

"Are you going to be offended if I admit I know almost nothing about you? Or is that okay?"

"That's fine. It was when I got outed."

He winces. "Okay, yeah, I do remember that. Senior year of college. Miller and I got drunk and ranted about all these shitty tabloids talking about the lesbian princess."

"That was just salt in the wound, honestly. My girlfriend leaked pictures of us kissing to get her fifteen minutes of fame, but she didn't even bother to clarify I was bisexual."

"And as soon as you made that clear, I'm guessing the narrative shifted to well at least it's just a phase and she can still marry a guy like she's supposed to."

"Are you sure you weren't following this? It's like you were there."

He shrugs. "I'm bi too. I hadn't totally gotten it figured out back then, but I know all the lines by now."

"I'm starting to see why Miller wanted us to meet."

"So I should have told you I was bi before you were half an hour late?"

Clarke groans, and he grin wider. "You're never going to let me forget that, are you?"

"Nope. You were half an hour late, C--" He falters. "I assume I can call you Clarke."

"It would be weird if you didn't, yeah. Friends calling me your highness gets old fast. And it's always awkward when I have to tell them they're actually using the wrong title, so, yeah. Clarke." She takes a sip of her drink. "I really am sorry about being late."

"I know."

"Yeah, but--I would have liked to have the extra half an hour with you," she says, deliberate, and he ducks his head, smile soft.

"I don't have anything to do after this. I think we can probably make it up."

"That's not how time works. For the rest of our lives, there's always going to be that half an hour where I could have known you and I didn't. I can't ever get that half an hour back."

She doesn't think anything of the statement, not until Bellamy cocks his head at her. He's trying to smirk, but there's this cautious optimism in his eyes that makes Clarke's heart stutter.

"The rest of our lives, huh?"

It doesn't have to be love or marriage, doesn't have to be him signing up for the life he'd get, if he was with her. It could just be friendship, just a guy she can already imagine herself texting after a bad day, seeing whenever he's in town, maybe even flying out to see, sometimes, when she can come up with an excuse for her mother.

It doesn't have to mean anything, but she knows exactly what she wants it to mean. She knows how she wants this to go."

"The rest of our lives minus half an hour."

He reaches across the table and puts his hand on hers. "Like I said, it's your own fault for being late. I've got that one for the rest of our lives too."

"Yeah," says Clarke. "You do."