The first time Bellamy summons Clarke is, coincidentally, the first time she ever gets summoned.
The circle is fairly standard, but he's written it himself instead of hiring someone, and he put in a few unexpected flourishes that make her curious, runes for kindness and care, obscure symbols that aren't used very often, in these sorts of things.
Demon is still such a dirty word, although it's getting better. When people summon them, it's not usually because they're expected to be warm and fuzzy. There aren't so many people who remember demons can be more than just security guards and bullies.
"Holy shit, did that work?" is the first thing Bellamy says to her, and Clarke cocks her head, inspecting him. He's not the first human she's met--she shadowed Jackson on a few jobs, before she took her first one--so she has some sense of what kind of human he might be. He's fairly young, probably around her own age, with wide eyes and messy hair. A boy out of his depth and desperate, but she's not sure for what.
"It did," she says. "Was it not supposed to?"
He runs his hand through his hair. "I didn't think it would." There's a book next to him and he fumbles to grab it. "Tell me your name, demon."
She rolls her eyes. "Clarke."
"I want to enter into a contract with you."
"How old is that book?"
His serious facade falters. "It's from the library, they didn't have a great selection. The fifties, I think?"
"Okay, you don't have to say the exact words."
"No offense, but I don't want you to kill my sister, so--" He waves the book like it will ward her off. "I want to enter into a contract with you."
She sighs. "What do you require?"
She chokes. "Babysitting?"
"Look, if I get this bartending job, I'm going to be gone some nights. I need someone to watch my sister and I can't afford to pay. I did the research, I know what you need from me for a few hours of service. I'm not doing anything wrong, right?"
It's a form of security, she guesses. Usually, there's more focus on looking intimidating, but if this guy wants her to sit on his couch and watch TV for a night, she can live with it.
He still looks anxious, for which she can't exactly blame him. Demons have a reputation for turning on the people who summon them, finding loopholes and exploiting them, but it's a stereotype. In Clarke's (admittedly limited) experience, there are two reasons demons try to get out of contracts: because the contract is awful, or because the demon is an asshole.
In the old days, before bureaucracy, it used to be much more common for the asshole demons to get contracts, because they were the ones who publicized themselves. Now, there's a registry, and a rating system. Humans can go on demon Yelp and leave feedback, and the assholes don't get new contacts.
When the contact is awful, the human doesn't usually get to leave feedback for a while, if ever. Demons have their own rules too.
"Did you write the binding sigil?" Clarke prompts.
"I hope so." He holds up a piece of paper, and she frowns.
"If I tell you something's wrong, are you going to believe me?"
"Depends on what's wrong."
She points to one of the runes. "There should be a line here. You want ka, you've got ish."
He flips to the back of his book, and then to a diagram, looking between the pages and his own paper, and then he adds the line. "Thanks."
"No problem. You did ask for a demon who wasn't going to give you trouble."
"Yeah, but I might have fucked that up too."
"Can I order pizza?" she asks.
"Sure. Just get what Octavia wants on half." He looks anxious. "I don't have to pay you?"
"You don't have to pay me with money," she says, because that's important too. Human currency doesn't mean much to demons, but she needs energy, magic. The boy will have used his own strength to summon her, and it's not much, this time.
It's so little that humans don't notice, usually. It feels free, right up until it doesn't.
"Energy, I know," he says. "I need you for four hours. I'll recover what I spend sleeping. I did the math."
"Then we just have to seal the contract in blood."
He hesitate for a second. "And you won't hurt my sister."
It's a little endearing, the fact that he went to all this trouble, finding the book, practicing the sigils and summoning rituals, and after all that, he's still not quite sure he can trust her.
"People hire demons to not hurt people all the time," she points out.
"Yeah, but this just has to go wrong for me once."
She doesn't have a counterargument, but he doesn't make her give one; he exhales, pricks his left pinkie finger and lets the blood well up, and touches it to the sigil on the paper. He passes her the knife, and Clarke does the same with her right pinkie. The sigil glows, and the magic sinks into her bones.
"You didn't tell me your name," she says, once the contract is sealed.
"And your sister is Octavia."
"Yeah. She's twelve. Either she'll be pissed at you because she thinks she's too old to need a babysitter or thrilled that I got a demon to do it."
Clarke nods. "Okay, so--you can show me the house, and then you can go."
His smile tugs at his mouth like he's fighting in, but the smile wins. "Yeah, I can do that."
As first jobs go, babysitting a twelve-year-old girl isn't bad. As Bellamy predicted, Octavia is sullen and annoyed for the first hour or so, but when the pizza shows up, she slinks downstairs and starts asking questions about what it's like to be a demon, what the demonic realm is like, how the summoning works.
After the fifth question, Clarke can't help asking, "Don't you guys have a computer? Anything? You can look this stuff up."
Octavia shrugs. "Bell has a phone, but that's for jobs and emergencies, not surfing the web. And it's not like it's that important. I wasn't going to summon one."
"I guess I could. Could you do my homework?"
"I'd have to report it once the contract was over. The homework would get done, but as soon as you let me go I'd tell your guardian."
"In your case, yeah. If we're used to commit crimes, we report to the police. If we're used to break rules, we tell the person who cares about the rule being broken. If you're going through official channels."
"How do you go through unofficial channels?"
Clarke gives her an unimpressed look. "You really think I'm going to tell you how to illegally hire a demon?"
To Octavia's credit, she really doesn't seem to have realized that was what she was asking, and she flushes. "I was just curious."
"The same way criminals find each other here, I guess. People who want to break the law break the law. But it's easier for demons if we follow guidelines. This way, we aren't at odds with humans."
"Couldn't you just kill us all?"
"Why would we want to?"
"Why wouldn't you?"
Clarke shrugs. "We have our own world, our own resources. Yours isn't better. There are demons who like working with humans, so we do. Why start a war you don't need to start?"
"I guess," says Octavia. The dubiousness in her voice is very human; demons get a bad rap, but they do what humans ask them to. The worst that can be said for demonic influence is that the energy drain can lead to adverse effects, if people aren't careful. There's a certain rush to using magic, and the combination of the endorphin release and the energy drain can have a bad impact sometimes. It messes with people's heads. It's not everyone, but there's a reason these things are regulated now. Everyone gets what they want, and everything's on the record.
Not that Bellamy's summoning was entirely on the level; he did it himself, instead of hiring someone, and he probably didn't report it. But as long as Clarke logs it when she gets back, it'll be fine. If Bellamy wants to keep doing this, she can direct him to some resources to make it official, and she wouldn't mind if this became a regular duty. Pizza is good, and Bellamy has a bunch of cool books. It's a pretty good gig, if she can keep it.
He gets back right on time, looking pretty exhausted, and that's something to consider too. He doesn't want to lose energy right before his shift starts, and she knows there are summoning circles that defer payment. They could make this less difficult for him.
"You're still here," he says, voice heavy with relief.
"I'm still here. Your sister is upstairs, asleep. There's change for the pizza on the counter, and a few leftover slices."
He slumps onto the couch. "That's it?"
"What else would there be?"
"I don't know. It's this easy to get a demon for a babysitter? Why doesn't everyone do it?"
"It's dangerous, relying on demons too much. We can fuck with your heads."
"My head is already fucked. I don't have to pay you?"
"You did," she reminds him. "Why do you think you're so tired?"
"I'm always tired. At least this time I get something out of it." He cracks his eye open to regard her. "Do I have to tip you or dismiss you or what?"
"Are you planning to do this again?"
"Get a demon for a babysitter."
"Fuck, of course. Not every night, I've got friends and stuff who will look after her when I need it, but I need this job and I can't afford to pay for childcare, so--"
"So you need to follow some regulations, just to make sure you don't get in trouble. If you have access to the internet--"
"Everyone has access to the internet," he says, amused, and she rolls her eyes.
"Sorry, I couldn't tell, your book was ancient."
"I don't think ancient demon-summoning books are from the fifties. The fifteen-fifties, maybe."
"Will you be quiet and let me help you?" she asks, exasperation at war with amusement in her tone, and he grins.
"Register yourself online with the summoner database. It's free, all you have to do is sign up. Before you perform a summoning, you just say what you're doing, why, and for how long, so it's on record. After, you can rate the service you receive, which is good for me."
She shrugs. "If you'd done that before, you could have gotten a well-reviewed demon to begin with, instead of a newbie."
"You worked out pretty well for me. Is there a way I can request you?"
There's a request system on the website, but that involves getting someone else to perform the summoning, and there's no reason to make him pay extra. She writes down the three runes that make up her name and hands over the paper.
"You know where you wrote kindness, care, protection?" she asks. "On your circle?"
"Next time, put these three runes in their place, and you'll summon me directly. If I'm busy, it'll redirect you to my agency, and they'll send someone else."
He nods. "Thanks. I appreciate it." His smile is wry. "I feel like I should be giving you something more."
"Five stars on the database," she says. "And we'll call it even."
"I can do that. Thanks again."
"You should check out the summoning tips on the database. You can pay me after I'm done, so you won't have to be worn out before work. It's just a few changes to the summoning circle."
"I'll keep that in mind."
"Then I'll see you later?"
"Yeah. Goodnight, Clarke."
She steps back into the circle and lets its power surge around her. "Goodnight."
Bellamy isn't her only client, but he's definitely her most dependable. He calls her once a week, sometimes twice, and she goes over to his apartment and watches his sister for a few hours. He always leaves her enough money to buy a pizza, and once Octavia gets used to her, it really is the easiest work she ever does. Octavia stays in her room, and Clarke lies on the couch and reads until Bellamy gets back.
At first, when he gets back, they exchange quick pleasantries, the polite kind of talk that she understands humans like. He makes sure that nothing of note happened with Octavia, and she asks how his shift was. But his shift is always interesting, and he always has a story she wants to hear, an argument turning into a fistfight, a longtime flirtation finally culminating in a relationship, another ending in heartache. Bellamy is engaging and funny, and before she knows it, Clarke is finding excuses to linger, to talk to him for longer and longer.
She finds out that he's twenty, and his mother recently died, which is why he's the one taking care of his sister. He can't legally drink yet, but is allowed to prepare alcohol for other people, which makes no sense to Clarke, but a lot of human laws are pretty baffling to her. But at least this one is benefiting her.
"What do you do when you're not here?" he asks, when she's been working for him for about six months. "Am I allowed to ask?"
"Why couldn't you ask?"
"I don't want to pry."
"You're not prying. We're friends."
His face lights up like the sun. "Okay, so what do you do when you're not here?"
"The same kinds of things you do. Our dimension is a lot like yours, now. I live in an apartment with my roommate, he's an incubus who doesn't like clothing."
"I assume there are humans who don't like clothing either."
"Yeah, but I wouldn't live with one."
She smiles. "He's not bad. My girlfriend introduced us because she and I weren't ready to move in together yet."
"Girlfriend?" She can't quite read his tone, but she thinks it might have been the answer to something else he was wondering.
"We aren't as hung up on gender as humans are, so, yes, girlfriend."
He smiles. "I try not to be hung up on it either. I had a boyfriend in high school, I wouldn't mind having another one."
"Well, if you want me to set you up with my roommate who doesn't wear clothes--"
"Is that an option? I'm not saying I want it," he adds, quick. "Uh, no offense to him. But do demons date humans?"
"We can, if we want to. It's kind of a pain." He cocks his head, curious, and she waves her hand. "We can live in this realm, but humans can't live in ours. There's a process to immigrate, but it's difficult. Dating is easy, but long-term relationships can be a challenge."
"What about kids?"
"No, we're--" She pauses, settles on, "Sexually compatible, but not reproductively. It's so weird to me that humans don't learn this."
"There's still a lot of stigma about it. Good people don't work with demons, or something, but I think that's getting better, slowly. It probably doesn't help that we can't go to your realm. Who wants to learn about a cool place you can never visit?"
Clarke laughs. "You could visit. Just not live there for more than a few weeks."
"It's a pain to get there too." He leans forward, elbows resting on his knees. "Do you get paid for this? Other than whatever energy you get from me. How do you pay your rent?"
"We get a stipend for working with humans. It's considered a public relations thing. Outreach, to change public perception of the demon realm."
"And you want that?"
"We like visiting. And if people are going to summon us, we might as well do it right. Give them the resources to do it safely, without demons being forced to do immoral things or humans summoning recklessly."
"What other kinds of jobs do you do? I assume it's not all babysitting."
"It's similar, I guess. Mostly security. People who want a demon around to make their team look more threatening. Bouncing on popular nights at clubs."
"Does that work?" he asks. "Can they really tell you're a demon?"
"The horns and tail don't give it away?"
"They're not as noticeable as I thought they would be," he says, studying her face carefully. She'll admit, the demonic traits aren't so obvious--the horns are only about an inch long each, and almost look like accessories to hold her hair back, and she can control pretty easily how much anyone sees of her tail--but she thinks she has a kind of inhuman aura. People can definitely tell. "No secret wings or anything you can show off when you need to be intimidating?"
"My eyes glow when I'm mad."
It's not hard to light them up at will, and she demonstrates, is rewarded with a delighted laugh from Bellamy. He doesn't laugh enough, in her opinion.
"Okay, yeah, if I saw that when I was thinking about harassing someone at a bar, I'd think twice. Not that I've ever thought about harassing someone at a bar, but--"
"If you ever need extra security at work--"
"I think I'm good. You like it?" he adds. "Doing stuff like that?"
"Not as much as I like doing this," she says without thinking. "But it's not bad."
"You like babysitting?"
"I get to read and eat pizza, it's awesome."
"No video games?"
"I've never actually played one. Electronics came over to us a lot more slowly than other things. Power is expensive, so it's more in public spaces and businesses than homes."
"Want to learn?" he offers.
In theory, she has stuff to do, but it's not pressing. And she doesn't need to wake up early in the morning.
Mostly, she really does want to.
"Yeah, I'd like that."
The job ends without too much fanfare, and with no hard feelings on either side. Octavia gets old enough she doesn't need a babysitter anymore, and Clarke and Bellamy still hang out for the first few months, but he decides to take up night classes, and Clarke is getting busier as she develops a reputation as a fairly solid, dependable demon-on-call. She still likes him, in theory, but their lives have gone in different directions, and she doesn't know how to bring them back together. They were friends, but situational friends, and their situation has changed. It's no one's fault, even if she does miss him sometimes. These things happen.
It's been about four years since she saw him when she gets summoned with a circle shockingly close to the first one he used--three runes, care, protection, and female--and for a wild second, she wonders if it's him, if he forgot how to write her name and had to come up with a circle on the fly.
But the circle doesn't take her to Bellamy's small, neat living room. The room is a mess, and the woman staring at her is staring with desperate eyes and wild hair. "Are you a demon?" she asks.
"And I can make a deal with you?"
She doesn't like taking advantage of people; it's bad for business. But this woman did this herself, without anyone's approval, and she looks terrified.
That's what seals it--it's not taking advantage to help someone, and if this woman needs help, she'll get it.
"You can. What do you need?"
She thrusts something into Clarke's arms, and Clarke is so surprised she nearly drops it. It's a baby, this a small, red thing, somehow still asleep despite the commotion. Clarke doesn't know much about infants, demonic or human, so she doesn't know how old it is, but it's tiny, far too small to speak. It's probably not even weaned yet.
"I--" Clarke starts, and then the woman holds up a binding sigil, one of the ones that doesn't need the demon's blood to seal the deal. They're illegal, but it's too late for her to protest, to do anything. She's stuck in place with the infant in her arms.
"You'll take care of her. You'll keep her safe from her father," the woman says. "She'll be all right, won't she?"
"I don't know wh--"
"You will care for this child," says the woman. "I give my life as the price." Her smile is the most painful thing Clarke's ever seen. "Her name is Madi."
She presses her open hand against the sigil, blood Clarke didn't even notice welling up on the paper, and the force of the magic pushes her and the baby out of the human realm and back to the demonic, back to Clarke's small apartment, the one that is in no way prepared to care for any child, let alone a human one.
"Fuck," she says, and then, remembering the baby, "Sorry."
The baby finally starts to cry, soft and watery, the tears bubbling out of her like a tiny waterfall, and Clarke tries rocking her, not sure what else to do.
"Glad we're on the same page."
Clarke doesn't have a boss, really. She has a government contact who pays her and reviews the feedback she gets and tries to make sure that things like what happened with Madi's mother don't happen.
But it did happen, so that ship has sailed.
"Cute," says Indra, dry as sand, and then adds, "I assume."
Clarke smiles. "She looks almost exactly like a demon baby."
"But if she stays here, it's going to damage her permanently. So you have a decision to make."
"I don't have a decision to make. She bound me with her life. I can't say no."
"There are things you could do. You could find a human family for her, one that would take care of her. There are welfare systems in place."
"And if they didn't work? If the baby was hurt, what would happen to me?"
"I don't know. I'm not telling you to do this," she adds. "I'm presenting options. You do have them. But if you need me to get in touch with the authorities and find you a place to stay in the human realm, that can be arranged."
"It's my understanding that you'd be busy with the child for a few years."
Bellamy flashes to her mind again. His sister had been twelve, independent compared to Madi, and he'd still summoned a demon to babysit. Human young can't just be left unsupervised, not fora long time.
Indra nods. "This is a work-related obligation. You were assigned to respond to a summons, and you did. As always, we'll give you the resources you need to complete your contract, however you feel you need to complete it. Motherhood isn't a responsibly to be taken lightly," she adds, and guilt lurches in Clarke's stomach. She forgets, somehow, that Indra is a mother. "You have a choice."
Madi starts to cry in her arms, but when Clarke rocks her, she quiets, coos a little.
It's hard for her to imagine what must have been going through that woman's mind, when she summoned a demon to take her child from her. When she gave her life to bind her child to a stranger from another world. It must have been awful, for this to seem like the best solution.
She trusted Clarke to do this, and Clarke can't be sure it's done right unless she does it herself.
Indra nods, answering a statement Clarke hasn't yet found the voice for. "Any preference for where you'd like to live?"
There's only one human city she's spent a significant amount of time in, the one where Bellamy lived. Still her most regular appointment, four years later.
"Boston," she says, and Indra nods.
"Boston it is. I'm sorry," she adds. "This sort of thing isn't supposed to happen."
"Occupational hazard," says Clarke, with a shrug. "She could have had me kill someone."
"She could have. I'll disconnect you from the network. No more summonings. This is your job now."
Clarke hasn't thought much about motherhood, not in any serious way. It was something that might happen, when she was older, when she had a partner and a home.
It wasn't supposed to be like this, but here she is.
"I guess it is."
Being a demon living in a human city is very different from being a demon working in a human city, as it turns out. Clarke never had to worry about things like shopping and entertainment for more than a few hours. She never felt as if she stuck out because she wasn't exactly trying to fit in. She was around to be a demon; that was her job.
And people expect demons, in some contexts. They expect them to be acting as security guards and escorts, to be temporary.
The first time Clarke goes to the grocery store with Madi, at least five people stop her, but it's kind of in a curious way, like this is a use for demons they never thought of, one they might want to take advantage of.
Bellamy really was ahead of the curve.
She finds herself thinking of Bellamy a lot, those first few months. She knows that even as a child himself, before his mother died, he was taking care of his sister, and she doesn't know how he did it. She can barely deal with a baby now.
But it gets easier. Madi seems to be a good baby, based on what she reads online. She sleeps pretty well and is vocal about when she needs food or her diaper changed, doesn't usually cry for no reason at all. She seems to like Clarke, and it's going to be awkward someday, when she's old enough to ask questions about where she came from, but human babies don't learn to talk for a while.
She's got time to work on that one.
The lack of talk is tougher than she anticipated too, though. She does have friends--Roan comes to visit sometimes, and Jackson and Lexa--but it's like living in a foreign country. Travel between the realms might be faster than travel across continents, but without the summoning circle, it's much more of a pain, and Clarke can't summon her friends herself.
She needs a human friend, and technically she has one, but it feels oddly selfish to get in touch with Bellamy. He might not even live in this area anymore, might have moved somewhere else. Octavia would be in college by now, and Bellamy in his mid-twenties, with a job and life that would be unfamiliar to her.
She's still not great with the phone; she couldn't just call him.
So instead, she has to make a new human friend, and Raven Reyes presents herself on the train, of all places. Clarke is taking Madi to the park, as being outside seems to relax her, and even though the train is crowded, there are two free seats next to her. She mostly finds it funny--people don't mind her so much in the grocery store or on the street, but something about demons taking the train unnerves them--and appreciates the room, but it's lonely too, this reminder that the horns Bellamy thought were barely noticeable are still enough to keep people away like she's contagious.
At least until Raven sits down next to her.
"Do people really summon demons to babysit?" she asks, by way of greeting.
"They do," Clarke confirms. "But that's not what I'm doing. She's mine."
The woman leans down, examining Madi curiously. "She doesn't look like she's part demon."
"Huh. You always get this much room?"
She's got her legs stretched out next to the stroller, and Clarke can see there's a brace on one of them. She must appreciate having so much space.
"Pretty much. Combination of being a demon and having a baby."
"The dream team. You live here?"
"Yeah. Humans can't live in the demon realm, so--"
"Yeah, that's what I thought. Where are you going?"
"Awesome, me too. Try to keep anyone from sitting next to me, either."
They do the slightly awkward thing where they get off the train together and then keep walking in the same direction, and Clarke's the one to finally ask, "Where are you going now?"
"The botanic garden. I try to walk a lot, stretch the leg."
"That's where I'm going too."
"Cool. I'm Raven."
"Seriously, how'd you get the baby?"
She can't actually think of any reason to lie. "Her mother summoned me, bound me, and gave up her life to seal a contract so I'd protect her."
"Fuck. From what?"
"Her dad. And anything else, I guess."
Raven whistles. "And you have to do it?"
"I had to do something, I had options. There are loopholes, it wasn't like she was that careful about her wording. But I didn't think I could live with it if I just put her into a foster home. Not if I didn't know what happened to her."
"And I'm guessing most people wouldn't want a demonic fairy godmother hanging around, making sure they're doing a good enough job with their foster kid."
"If you want something done right, do it yourself," says Clarke, and Raven snorts.
"That's one way of looking at it. What's her name?"
"Madi. Based on what the doctor said, she's probably about ten months old."
"You got a birthday picked out for her?"
"Good date. Having a party?"
"Why do you care?"
"Making conversation. Is that a problem? I'm curious."
Clarke sighs. "I don't have anyone to invite to a party. How are babies supposed to make friends? She can't even talk yet, it's not like she can socialize."
"She can, but I don't think you're fucking up if she doesn't." She clucks her tongue. "Have you been to the children's museum?"
"No. I took her to the aquarium, she liked that, but I wasn't sure if the children's museum would have anything for kids this young."
"One of my friends used to work there. He hated the under three room, but apparently the kids like it. Might be a good place to start getting to know people. You think there are demonic nannies?"
"I don't know. I doubt it."
She leans against the stroller as they walk. "As far as I know, I'm the only demon who ever got hired as a babysitter, and that was just because he couldn't afford a human one. Having a demon take care of your child isn't a status symbol, it's a last resort."
Raven clucks her tongue. "Yeah, you're probably right. I know rich people are cheap, but you wouldn't want to be the only person at the country club with a demon watching your kids. No offense."
"None taken. We don't have enough history here to really face institutional oppression, just wariness and prejudice. And it wasn't really an issue until I moved."
"Still sucks." Madi wakes up and starts to fuss, and Raven offers her a little wave, lets her latch onto her finger. "How old was she when you got her?"
"About a month."
"And you've been doing it alone this whole time?"
Clarke shrugs. "I've got some demonic friends to help, but they don't make it over much. My mom's been by a few times. But it's hard to get them over without a human to do the summoning."
"We use your energy to cross over. We don't have to, but it's the easiest way. Otherwise there are permits, rituals--it's taxing."
"Huh. I've always been curious about that. I'm not good at the whole magic thing, I like rules and logic. But magic has to follow rules too, right?"
"It does, yeah. I can tell you what I know."
That gets them through a walk and some coffee, and by the end of the afternoon, Clarke has Raven Reyes' phone number, and her promise that if Clarke ever needs a human to do a summoning circle, she'll figure something out. It's not as if she didn't have other options--there are professionals who do this for a living--but it feels better to keep it personal. She's not looking for a contract, she's just looking for some company.
And it turns out Raven is just the start of that. It's not quite like a dam bursting, but it's like a single raindrop turning into a light shower. Clarke starts going to the children's museum, which apparently has regulars, and she develops a few fairly casual relationships, regulars she gets along with and ones she doesn't, staff members who know her name. Madi's too young to really know people, but it feels like a good first step, starting her getting used to being around other children.
They're both doing better, but it's apparently not enough for Raven, because she shows up on Clarke's doorstep a month later with Roan.
"Hey," says Raven. "I summoned your weird ex-roommate so you can come hang out. He says he can take Madi for the night."
"You can?" Clarke asks, interested. Roan isn't bad with Madi, but they've never been alone together.
"If you leave your cell phone, I can call Raven if there's a problem. But I think we'll be fine."
She doesn't have a counterargument, so she turns her attention to Raven. "Where am I hanging out, exactly?"
"With me and my friends. If you're going to be living here, you could use a social circle, and mine's as good as any. I don't know how else you're going to meet anyone. Most people do it with school or work, and you don't have either of those. What you've got is me. So come on, we'll go to the bar. Gina's working tonight, you'll like Gina."
"She's cute and she has alcohol, what's not to like? Do you have other clothes?"
Clarke looks down at herself. "Yes?"
"Show me your closet. You good, naked ex-roommate?"
"Wonderful, thank you."
"Awesome," says Raven, and pushes Clarke into her room.
Within twenty minutes, Clarke is wearing a low-cut top and tight jeans under her winter coat and on her way to Raven's favorite bar, listening to Raven rattle off a long list of names that there's no way Clarke will remember. "So, Monty and I went to college together, that's how I met him. His best friend is Jasper, who's dating Maya. Maya's roommate is Emori, she's got this on-off thing with this guy Murphy. Honestly, we all kind of have an on-off thing with Murphy, but I think you guys are going to get along. Kind of."
"You'll see." She taps her jaw. "Bellamy's the one who used to work at the children's museum."
Clarke isn't great with human names, but she knows that Bellamy isn't a particularly common one. She'd always known that if she wanted to look for him, the uniqueness of his name would make it easier.
It's so unlikely it's anyone else.
"Bellamy Blake?" she asks, trying to keep her voice casual.
Raven glances at her sidelong. "Don't tell me you guys have met. You don't know anyone."
"I used to babysit his sister."
It takes a second for Raven to put it together, and then she doubles over, practically cackling with laughter. "Holy shit, Bellamy would summon a demon to babysit. Jesus, how old was he? How old were you? I don't know how demon ages work."
"Pretty similar to human ages, once we hit adulthood. We have a shorter period of infancy, though. A demon Madi's age would already be at the developmental level of a human three-year-old. So I'm younger than you are, but--"
"About the same age mentally."
"Yeah. Bellamy was twenty when we met. I haven't seen him in almost five years."
"No wonder he knew so much about demons."
"You asked him about me?" Clarke asks, feeling her skin prickle. It's strange, knowing she's walking to him, that Bellamy is still here, still close, that he's been hearing about her for a month.
"Just said I was making friends with a demon who moved to town. I guess I never told him your name, but he was the one who told me I should bring you. He said he wanted to meet you."
She has to smile. He wants to meet her because he already met her, because she told him about how it was, being a demon living in the human world, even though she didn't know first hand back then. It's kind of cool to be reaping her own benefits.
"It'll be nice to see him again," she says. "How do you know him?"
"Honestly? One-night stand after my dick boyfriend cheated on me."
Clarke blinks. "I need a lot more background on that."
It's a long story, long enough to carry them all the way to the bar, which Clarke appreciates. It makes no rational sense that she's more nervous to meet someone she's already met, but it's been so long since she saw Bellamy, and she doesn't know if he'll like how she turned out.
She didn't know she cared if he liked how she turned out.
Raven opens the bar door for her, leaving Clarke to walk in first. It's still cold, even in February, and the blast of warmth from inside the bar takes a second to adjust to. It feels almost cozy, which she wouldn't have expect, but the place is small and carefully lit, more homey than divey. There are two people behind the bar, a cute girl she assumes is Gina and a guy whose name she doesn't think she got. Across from them is a group of people around Clarke's own age, laughing and talking, and Clarke spots Bellamy instantly, even though he's mostly facing away from her. His hair is still a tangle of black curls, but he's filled out, gotten broader in his back and shoulders, and his neck as he tilts his head back to take a swig of his beer is suddenly and unexpectedly the hottest thing she's ever seen.
Not that he wasn't always attractive, but she'd never quite noticed, not like this. Not with the sudden surge of want that claws its way up her throat.
The timing leaves something to be desired.
Raven slings her arm around Clarke's shoulder, jolting her thoughts away from Bellamy. "Come on, I'll introduce you. Reintroduce you. Hey, Bellamy, I found your babysitter!" she adds, before Clarke can say anything, and when he turns, it's even more to take in, even before his gaze falls on her and he breaks out in a huge, familiar smile.
"Holy shit," he says, sliding off his barstool and crossing the small room to wrap her up in his arms.
"Unholy shit," says another guy, although Clarke barely hears it. Most of her focus is on hugging Bellamy back, trying to relearn everything about him, his scent, his warmth, the way he feels around her, as soon as she can. She wants to stop missing him as soon as possible. "Right?" the guy asks. "That's the demon, so she counts as unholy."
"Her name is Clarke," says Raven. "Shut up, Murphy."
Bellamy pulls back, still grinning, looking her up and down. He's wearing glasses, and he's got a neatly trimmed beard that makes him look like they've been apart for more years than they have. His shirt is plain and black, but it suits him. He doesn't need a lot of help to look good.
"Hi," he says, and she finds herself hugging him again, throwing herself into his arms, but he doesn't seem to mind.
"You got bound to a kid?"
"Almost a year old."
"Fuck, I'm getting you a drink."
He keeps his arm around her shoulders as he takes her to the bar, and she barely even remembers there are other people around until a masculine voice says, "Uh, I feel like we missed something?"
"Apparently Bellamy used to summon Clarke here to take care of his little sister," Raven says. "Stop hogging her, I need to introduce her to everyone else."
Bellamy rolls his eyes. "Gina, this is Clarke. Clarke, Gina. What are you drinking?"
Gina must know something about demonic tolerance levels, because she fills the glass to the top without comment, sliding it across the bar. "Nice to meet you. Want another round, Bellamy?"
"I'm good." He finally turns his attention back to the rest of the group. "I assume Raven already prepped you. That's Monty, Miller, Murphy, Emori, Jasper, Maya. Everyone, this is Clarke."
"And she used to babysit for you?" asks Miller. Clarke's not sure who he is in relation to anyone else, but she'll probably figure it out.
Raven thumps him on the shoulder. "Come on, is anyone surprised Bellamy needed a demon to help him babysit his sister? Miller is Monty's boyfriend," she adds, to Clarke. "But he was Bellamy's friend first. I got kind of distracted on Bellamy's friends when you said you knew him."
"It's fine, I don't mind figuring it out," says Clarke, and means it, right up until a gorgeous girl with dark hair shows up, and the first thing she does is kiss Bellamy.
Clarke can't help noticing it's not much of a kiss. Just a quick peck, and then she's taking off her coat and leaning across the bar to order a beer from the guy, someone called Shaw. No one bothered explaining him, but Clarke's pretty sure Raven is flirting with him, just like she's pretty sure this new brunette is Bellamy's girlfriend.
Her smile when she sees Clarke is pleasant, though, and Clarke returns the expression. "You must be Raven's friend," says the woman.
"Shit, sorry," says Bellamy. "She's actually my friend too." The woman's eyebrows shoot up, and he smiles, easy. "Remember I told you I used to get a demon to come take care of Octavia?"
"Oh, Clarke," she says, and it does strange things to her stomach, that Bellamy told his girlfriend about her enough that the woman knows her name. "I'm Echo, nice to meet you."
Clarke manages a smile. "Nice to meet you too."
It shouldn't be a big deal. That's what she tells herself all night, as she and Bellamy catch up, as he tells her about his sister's ongoing college rebellion and the job he's doing now, working as a counselor at a high school. She tells herself it doesn't matter, but she also can't stop her eye catching on his jaw and his smile, can't ever quite pull her attention away from him for more than a few minutes.
There are plenty of attractive humans in the realm. Plenty of them are here, now. Gina is single, and cute. Raven could be persuaded away from flirting with Shaw. She could find someone else.
But she still can't stop looking at him.
Bellamy: When can I come meet the baby?
Clarke still jumps every time her phone buzzes, and seeing Bellamy's name on the display just makes it worse. It's been a week since the bar, and he's texted her at least once every day, just quick little updates, like he's trying to remind her that he exists.
Like she ever forgot about him. Even before, she'd wondered.
This is the first time he's asked about actually meeting Madi, though, instead of just checking how she's doing. It feels dangerous, to invite him over, but it's not as if she's going to be overcome with lust, or try to seduce him. She should be getting used to spending time with him in casual settings.
It's not just that she wants to see him.
Me: Pretty much whenever
My schedule is very flexible
Can I come now?
Your place is actually on my way home from work
About ten minutes?
It doesn't feel like long enough to prepare herself, but she doesn't have any real reason to say no. And the longer she has to wait, the more she'll fret.
So ten minutes is probably just about right.
Clarke: See you soon
The apartment that Indra got for her is nice, large and clean with room for her to grow into, but she hasn't really grown into it yet. She goes to the library a lot, but doesn't have many of her own books yet, or really many of her own possessions at all. Mostly she reads or surfs the internet or watches movies to try to get a better understanding of human culture.
It's not really the kind of apartment that says she's a fun twenty-something woman, and judging from the face Bellamy makes when he lets her in, he's thinking the same thing.
"How long have you been here?"
"Wow, that was fast," he teases, and then his expression softens. "I'm just curious."
"Almost a year."
"Do you like it?"
"I don't know what else to do with it," she admits. "I don't have a lot of time to shop."
"We could go," he says, picking up the book on her coffee table and inspecting the spine. "I know it's hard to do stuff with a kid, but you don't have to do this alone."
Given that she still thinks they're friends, it shouldn't be so surprising that he feels the same. But there must have been a part of her that thought he hadn't minded losing touch with her.
After all, he always could have summoned her. If he wanted.
"I'm still getting used to that," she admits.
"I get that. Where is she?"
Madi's room is pretty much the nicest in the apartment, mostly because Indra outfitted it herself, and she remembered what babies needed. It's painted a soft yellow, full of light and toys, with a nice chair where Clarke does a lot of her reading.
She's expecting Bellamy to be happy with it, but his frown only deepens.
"You know this doesn't have to be your whole life, right?"
He leans over the crib, watching the baby with soft eyes. "I get what you're going through, Clarke. Probably better than almost anyone else here. You know what my mom did when my sister was born?"
"No. I assume she was drugged, human reproduction sucks."
He smiles, but it's still more than a little wistful. "She handed me the baby and said your sister, your responsibility. And she made me say it back."
"You were eight."
"It's wouldn't have been much better if i was your age. What that woman did to you, Clarke--it wasn't fair. Using magic to force you to take her child? That's--" His mouth twists. "I can't think of anything that's appropriate to say in front of a kid, but she was wrong."
"Even if she didn't have a choice?"
"She had a choice. I get that she thought this was the best options, maybe even the only option, but that doesn't mean she should have done it." He sighs. "I'm not saying that you shouldn't take care of the baby. But you shouldn't make that your whole life. You can be a good mother and still be a person. Or a demon."
She bites her lip on the swell of emotions rising in her throat. "I know. It's just--slow. It's hard to meet people when you're a demon with an infant."
"Yeah." Madi starts to fret, and he picks her up carefully, cradling her with the practiced ease of someone who's held a lot of children. "You could have called me."
"I thought about it," she admits. "But I didn't know what to say."
"Hey, I live in Boston and have a kid, want to get a drink and hear about how fucked up that is?"
She laughs. "Well, when you put it like that."
Madi reaches for Clarke, and Bellamy sidles up next to her to pass the baby, his shoulder warm as it brushes hers. "I thought about summoning you again."
"Honestly? All the time. I googled can I summon a demon if I want a hug a couple times. There have been some pretty rough patches."
"My sister, money--I'm in good shape now, but--"
"You could have summoned me. I would have given you a hug."
"Yeah, well. Now I just have your cell."
"And plenty of people to give you a hug when you need one."
"You can never have too many people to give you a hug."
"No," she admits, and he puts his arm around her to give her a squeeze.
"Seriously, it's really good to see you. And we should go shopping, because this is your home too. Do you have money? A job? What do you do all day?"
"I know. But--a year isn't that long, with a newborn. Especially in an entirely new world. I was keeping busy. But Raven probably came along at the right time."
"I can't believe she just found you on the train," he says, shaking his head. "What are the odds?"
Standing here in her daughter's room with this boy she thought she'd lost, it does feel impossible. Absurd, even. She doesn't see how the world could have brought them here, but it did.
And maybe that's enough. It doesn't matter that he has someone else. She was lucky enough just to find him.
"Yeah," she says. "It's pretty amazing."
Her routine shifts slowly. When she demurs from going to the bar one too many times, Bellamy points out that she has a pretty large apartment, and they could set it up for game nights, and he comes over after work for a few nights and they make sure she has an actual area to entertain people. And then people start coming over, every other week or so, and she goes out sometimes, to the bar or to movies or for games, like any human her age would.
She sees Bellamy more than she sees anyone, and she tries not to think about too much, the same way she doesn't think about how she's been struggling to warm to Echo. She's fine, as a person, a bit of a loner, but she has a sarcastic sense of humor and she and Bellamy seem happy, so Clarke should be happy for them. And she is, but in a distant way. In the way where she can't think about it very hard or very often.
But when she hasn't seen Echo for three weeks, it feels like the kind of thing she should mention.
"Can I ask you an awkward question?"
Raven is sitting on her couch playing video games while Clarke watches, which is one of those things that probably shouldn't be fun, but really is. It's somehow so much better than playing games herself. "Yeah, Bellamy and Echo broke up."
Her whole body heats up, and she knows how obvious that is. Demons have brighter blood than humans; when they blush, it's like a nuclear reaction.
"Hey, I get it, there's a reason I picked him for my one-night stand."
Clarke rubs her face. "I didn't think it was that obvious."
"It probably wouldn't have been, except I saw you before and after you found out she existed. You didn't do anything wrong, don't worry. I sort of figured they wouldn't last."
She shrugs. "They were fine, but it wasn't like--"
"You and Shaw?" she teases.
"That too, but I was going to say you and Bellamy. You guys have some epic, star-crossed lovers shit going on."
Clarke leans her head on Raven's shoulder. "Is there some human custom that dictates how long it's supposed to be before you make a move on someone who just got out of a relationship?"
"I think official rebound period is half the length of the relationship. So--like four months."
"I guess I'm not doing anything else."
Raven snorts. "You really think you're going to last four months not hooking up with him? Have you seen him? Have you seen yourself seeing him?"
"Maybe two months," she says. "If he's interested."
"Uh huh," Raven says, but it's the nice kind of dubiousness. The kind where she thinks this is going to go well for Clarke. "He doesn't seem too torn up about it. Give it a couple weeks and Echo will probably be hanging out again too. Bellamy usually has pretty good breakups."
"Good. I liked her," she offers. "I really did."
"Yeah. But you're in love with him."
If he were still dating Echo, she'd deny it. But it's been a good few months now, and it's only gotten worse. She was probably half in love with him years ago, and just didn't realize. She'd had a girlfriend, and he'd been a human, and she just hadn't thought about it.
But they've got another chance.
"I kind of am," she admits.
"So you can like her better after this."
Clarke laughs. "Yeah, that sounds right."
"So, you and Echo broke up?" Clarke asks.
Bellamy looks up from where he's sitting on the floor, playing trains with Madi, making Clarke's heart thud uncomfortably. He's been helping her out in all kinds of ways, but nothing gets to her quite like him and Madi together. She does have a life outside her daughter, more and more of one, but she still loves her daughter most.
"Yeah," he says. "Sorry I didn't tell you."
She sits down next to Madi, leaving a little distance between herself and Bellamy. "Why didn't you?"
"I never know what to say. Echo did most of the work on this one. She told Emori and Raven, they took me out drinking to make sure I was okay, and then I figured they'd tell everyone else."
"Are you okay?" she asks. It's better than admitting that Raven didn't actually tell her.
"Yeah. It was--" He shrugs. "I kind of saw it coming. We talked and agreed it wasn't working out."
"Don't be. Like I said, it was mutual. I didn't think--fuck. Does it sound bad if I say I never really thought I was going to marry her?"
"Not if you didn't think that."
"I liked her, but it wasn't like--"
"Wasn't like what?" she prompts, when he looks away.
"It wasn't enough."
She opens her mouth to call him out, because it's so obviously not what he was planning to say, but then she closes it again. She doesn't have to be in a hurry.
"I know how that is," she says.
"Yeah." He clears his throat. "I feel like I haven't asked about your love life at all. Are you looking? Do you want that? I guess everyone here is human, so--"
"I could date a human," she says, maybe too quickly. "I like humans. But I'm not--I want that, but I'm not looking." She wets her lips. "Do you need a hug?"
He laughs. "I wouldn't say no to a hug."
She slides over next to him, puts his arm around him, and he leans back into her.
"I'll tell her you were too good for her, if you want. Or I can always hex her. I've still got some powers."
"I'm not mad. She probably did me a favor, honestly. I wouldn't have--"
"This conversation would be a lot easier if you could finish a sentence."
"I'm bad at breaking up with people. Even when I know it's the right call. So it's good she did it for me."
"Then congratulations, I guess."
"Thanks, I guess."
"You can always summon me if you need another hug."
He snorts. "Again, I have your cell. I'll text you if I need another hug."
She shouldn't wait too long, but she can wait. He's not going anywhere, and neither is she.
So she leans her head on his shoulder and tugs Madi into her lap. "Yeah, you better."
In the past, Clarke's relationships have just kind of fallen into place. It's not like she didn't have to do anything, but she'd felt confident in a way she never seems to feel confident with Bellamy. Raven can say they're star-crossed lovers or whatever as much as she wants, but for every moment she thinks he might feel the same way she does, there's another where she's sure it's nothing, that he just thins of her as that demon girl. A friend, but--just that.
And then, he summons her.
Being summoned is different in the human realm, and Bellamy knows it. It's still a tug, but while being summoned from the demonic realm is like being lassoed, being summoned here is like someone tugging on your arm--the pull is there, but it can be shaken off easily, unless the person is incredibly strong.
Bellamy is no warlock; he's just a boy who knows the three runes to summon her, and he's using them to tap her on the shoulder.
But she has a baby. She can't just leave.
Me: Is everything okay?
Bellamy: Need some company
Raven's on her way to get Madi
I was hoping she was already there
Me: Not yet
If you want to resummon I'll text when she's here
Otherwise I need half an hour to get there on the train
Bellamy: I don't need to bind you, just get you here
I can spare the energy
Madi is asleep, which means she has absolutely no distraction from all her nervous energy. She's been doing more art--she always liked drawing, but she didn't have time for a while, and now she has plenty of it--but none of her sketches are engrossing enough to stop her worrying.
"You know what's wrong with him?" Raven asks, when she shows up.
"No. Madi's asleep, there's formula in the fridge, I--"
"Clarke. I've done this before, I know the deal. I'm gonna get Zeke to come over, he can see how good I am with kids and I can work in that I never want kids, so that's on the record. And if he can't come, I'll summon Roan, he always wants to make out."
At another time, she'd have about a billion follow-up questions on that, but those can wait until tomorrow. She texts Bellamy that she's ready, and then there's the feeling of being called again, but this time she gives into it, lets the circle pull her out of her own apartment and to Bellamy's.
It's the same place he's always lived, and the same summoning circle she always came to, oddly familiar for all it's been years since it last happened. Especially with Bellamy standing there waiting for her, just like before.
"Do you have a contract for me?" she asks.
"Do you need a hug?"
"I did. But then--mostly I wanted to see you as soon as possible. And this felt like--a gesture, I guess."
"It's kind of romantic, right?"
She's not convinced romantic is the right word, but it doesn't actually matter. He's got this nervous smile playing around his mouth, like he's a few seconds from trying to pull it back, and that's the last thing she wants.
"Sure it is," she says, and tugs him down to kiss him.
He smiles into it, his own hands settling on her waist as he kisses back, slow and easy, taking his time to learn her mouth when she opens for him, but keeping his hands in place, not going any further than just the brush of lips and tongues.
This part is definitely romantic.
"I've been wanting to do that since the first time I summoned you," he admits, resting his forehead against hers.
"Really? The first time?"
"I was twenty and hadn't gotten laid in like two years. There was a hot girl in my house helping me with my sister. That was a turn-on for me back then."
She has to smile. "It's still a turn-on for you. And I thought you were cute too."
"But you had a girlfriend, so--"
"And then I got you back, and you had a girlfriend."
"And now I have a new girlfriend," he says, with a slight, hopeful lilt to his voice, and she laughs.
"You do," she agrees, and pulls him in again.
Raven: Everything okay?
The message startles Clarke off of Bellamy's lap, and she flushes bright and hot. "Fuck, Madi."
"We can go to your place."
"If I can find my shirt."
He grins. "It can't have gotten that far."
She texts Raven that they're on their way back and does recover first her bra and then her shirt without much trouble. It's probably a good thing Raven got in touch when she did, when Clarke was still going to notice. "You know, you never actually told me what was wrong."
"Yeah, it didn't seem so bad once we were making out." She rolls her eyes, and he steals another kiss before tugging on his own jeans and shirt. "I had a fight with my sister. She's not coming back this summer, and I didn't take it well."
"Not coming back?"
"She decided she's roadtripping across the country with some friends, and then staying in California trying to find a job. She said she's not taking any money from me and she doesn't need my help, but if it crashes and burns--"
"I bet we could find a demon to look after her."
He laughs. "Yeah, I don't think that would go well. She's an adult, I need to let her do what she wants. But--"
"If something goes wrong, we'll deal with it."
"We will." His expression softens. "That's what I was thinking. When I--I texted Raven because I wanted you. You're the person I want to do this stuff with, Clarke. And I just--I wanted you here as soon as I could get you. Sooner, honestly."
"The perks of dating a demon."
He grins. "Are there a lot of those?"
"I don't know. You'll have to let me know."
He gives her one last kiss before he opens the door, lingers just a little longer than he should. They've still got the train ride before they get back to Madi, but Raven will forgive them for running late.
This was pretty important.
"Yeah," he says, holding the door for her, grinning like he doesn't know how to stop either. "I can't wait to find out."