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Hardest Goodbye

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“Come on, Clarke, let’s go. We promised Bellamy we’d get there early.” Clarke meets Bryan’s gaze through the mirror as she finishes the last few touches on her lipstick. Just the sound of his name makes her insides stir.

Grabbing her purse she rushes out the door, ignoring the rest of their family still rushing to get ready. She hadn’t seen Bellamy in four years, she hadn’t seen her cousins in four years either but that didn’t matter as much to her. Because they still actively FaceTimed each other, Snapchatted each other, etc. But she was always too scared to so much as follow Bellamy on any type of social media. Instead she shamelessly stalked him in silence. They were close but she was always scared of overstepping. Growing up they saw each other at least once a year, sometimes as much as four times a year but it seemed the older they got, the less she saw him. 

She wasn’t proud of stupid she was acting but she was just terrified of the thought of scaring him away. It was just that he had some hold on her that she couldn’t quite shake. She found herself posting more on Instagram in hopes that he’d see her post and somehow make the first move. They had an odd friendship. When she was visiting her cousins they were basically attached at the hip, he went wherever they went. But once she left it was like none of it was real. Like it was all some sick and twisted dream.

The ride to the venue was long. Bryan spent most of the time on the phone but she was too caught up in her own feelings to even think about what he was talking about. The sick feeling in her gut as they got closer. The anticipation of seeing him was overwhelming. A part of her was excited but another part of her was absolutely terrified. W

What if he has a girlfriend? What if she’s there with him? What if he’s too busy to hangout? What if I get drunk and do something I’ll regret?

Alcohol was the only thing that was going to get her through any of it. She took two shots before getting ready to prepare herself for the worst. But whatever lays ahead she promised herself she’d make the most of the night. It was Octavia’s reception and she deserved a night filled with nothing but love and happiness.

As they pulled up to the venue the valet opened her door for her. Her cousin held out his hand for her as she stepped out. She quickly ran her hands down the velvet material of her dress, straightening out the wrinkles as they make their way inside. 

Even with all the beautiful lights, the flowers, and the loud music it seems like the first thing her eyes land on is him. He’s talking to some guests with a large smile on his face. His curly dark hair beautifully falls along his forehead, his freckles perfectly scattered across his nose and cheeks. And she can’t help but feel giddy inside as she stares at him. 

But she quickly gathers herself together as she begins to greet his mother. Pressing a kiss to her cheek as she wraps her up in her arms. “Congratulations Mrs. Blake. I’m so happy for you.”

“Thank you, Clarke. I’m so glad you could fly out to attend the wedding.” Mrs. Blake holds her a little longer than usual giving her a firm squeeze. And for some reason, it feels reassuring. It feels right. She always loved Mrs. Blake like she was family. Maybe it was because in a weird way they always had been.

“Of course, I couldn’t miss Octavia’s wedding. Thank you for inviting me.” Even as they pull away from each other, she's still holding Clarke by the shoulders her eyes filled with love.

Clarke doesn’t waste too much of her time as she moves past her and continues inside. Bryan has already ditched her to join his friends at the bar. But before she can make her way over she feels a hand run along her waist. A hand she feels far too comfortable with. 

Bellamy pulls her into a hug burying his face momentarily into the base of her neck sending a wave of goosebumps across her skin. “You look stunning tonight,” he softly whispers in her ear.

“Thank you. I see you have extremely good taste.” She flashes a sly smile at him too amused by their unplanned matching to resist teasing him. She holds the edge of his burgundy tuxedo running the palms of her hand down his chest enjoying the feeling of the velvet against her skin. 

He runs his hand up her bare back holding her even closer his fingers carefully scraping the edge of her dress. “Great minds think alike. I see you also enjoy the velvet.” He’s taunting her as he keeps a tight hold on her. He was clearly a few drinks into his night and so was she, maybe they were both ready to make some bad decisions.

It isn’t until she feels several eyes around the room look in her direction does she move out of his hold. No matter how much she enjoys it the last thing she needs is unwarranted attention. “You look amazing, Bell...amy.” 

A soft smile tugs at the corner of his lips at her small slip up. But he doesn’t say anything. Instead, he presses a kiss to her cheek. As he leans in closer to her ear she feels the fire in the pit of her stomach begin to grow. And she can’t quite hide the shock that runs through her body. “Save me a dance later,” he whispers before moving past her. 

For a moment she’s left standing there in shock. But it’s not long before she shakes the feeling as she makes her way towards the bar to join Bryan and the others. But even surrounded by her cousins and friends she couldn’t stop thinking about the feeling of the palm of Bellamy’s hand against her skin. She quickly downs a few drinks the warm bitter feeling of the alcohol burning its way down her throat.

“Easy, tiger.” Bryan places a hand on her shoulder eyeing her suspiciously. And the idea of him finding out about her insane crush on his best friend seems to paralyze her. The last thing she wanted was to ruin the one stable relationship she had in her family. 

Rolling her eyes she downs another shot. “You’re getting soft on me, Bryan.”

“Is that a challenge?” 

Clarke responds by ordering a round of several shots. The trash talking begins to start and the rest of their group starts to gather around them. Monty, Harper, Emori, Luna, Jasper, Miller, Raven, Murphy, and Maya. Everyone starts to pick sides.

“You three are idiots if you actually think Bryan stands a chance against Clarke.” Jasper drapes his arm over Clarke’s shoulders, pulling her closer as he points at Raven, Miller, and Murphy. 

“Look, I have to support my man no matter what. That’s why I’m team Bryan.” Miller shrugs his shoulders before pressing a kiss to Bryan’s cheek. 

She feels a hand against her spine before she feels Bellamy rest his chin on her shoulder. It takes everything in her not to react to his every move but she can’t quite help herself. She’s so aware of his every move. But she tries to focus her attention on Bryan standing in front of her. 

“Look, look. We all know last time we were doing this Clarke downed an entire bottle of tequila and Bryan could barely finish half of it without throwing up.”

“You’re never going to let that go, are you?” Bryan smiles in response the memory clearly replaying in his mind to their last contest. But he simply shrugged in response. “Momma didn’t raise a bitch, Blake.”

Bellamy shrugs his shoulder moving away from Clarke as the bartender spreads the shot in front of them. And she feels a little disappointed by the loss of contact but quickly refocuses her attention to what was important. Right now that was beating Bryan.

There’s a short countdown before they start. Each of them rushing to down their line of shots. Halfway through Clarke is still completely unfazed by the burning sensation of the tequila running down her throat and spreading across her chest. The sound of everyone cheering her on behind her accompanied with the feeling of Bellamy’s close proximity is enough to keep her going.

Within a matter of minutes Clarke is done slamming her last shot glass into the bar as Bryan’s struggling with the last few shots left. There’s tears in his eyes and his breathing is heavy. Clarke pats him on the shoulder a soft smile on her face. “I think you forgot but I will always be number one.” 

Bryan shakes his head at her but he’s quick to admit defeat. Clarke has never lost a drinking battle since as long as she can remember. But it wasn’t because she was out having fun like the rest of them. She spent most of her time stealing alcohol from her mom’s stash while she’s gone with Marcus. Since her dad died it had become a sick habit and she’s never told anyone about it.

Their group starts to break apart as they all lose themselves in several conversations. Bellamy makes his way back to her side replacing her empty glass with a new one. She tries not to look at him, avoiding his beautiful brown eyes that just make her feel so transparent.

“So, did you guys plan to match or do you just share a brain?” Miller wraps his arms around Bryan’s shoulders as he flashes a teasing grin in her direction. 

Before Clarke can even respond Bellamy wraps his arm around her waist pulling her closer to his side. And she can’t hide the way the blood rushes to her cheeks or the way she gasps for air like the oxygen is being ripped from her lungs. “Maybe we did. Are you jealous you didn’t get the memo?”

Clarke takes a moment staring up at him through her lashes. But she weakly slaps his chest with the back of her hand in response. He catches her wrist in his hand softly running his thumb along the inside of her wrist. 

Miller rolls his eyes as he whispers something to Bryan but Clarke can’t quite focus on anything but Bellamy. She’s so hyper aware of his every move, every touch. The way his calloused thumb gently brushes against her pulse. The way his eyes are locked on hers filled with an intensity she hasn’t seen before. The slight smirk on the edge of his lips. They’ve had a close relationship before but something in the way he was looking at her tonight was different. The way he kept finding his way back to her. Something changed between them and she couldn’t figure out what it was.

She’s wanted Bellamy Blake for as long as she could remember, but this was the first time she felt like everything wasn’t just in her head. Maybe it’s the alcohol or maybe it’s just the years of anticipation. But it felt like the stars were aligning. Maybe it would finally light the fire between them. The fire she so desperately wanted to light but was too scared to do anything about. 

The sound of the DJ’s voice causes Clarke to jump nearly a foot away from Bellamy. They weren’t doing anything wrong, they were just two people spending time together. But for some reason she just felt so guilty about it. Like they were hiding something from the rest of the world.

“The Bride and Groom will be arriving shortly if everyone could quickly find their seats.”

Placing his hand on her hip he leans into her, his lips brushing against her ear sending another wave of goosebumps across her body. “You seem tense, are you okay?” It’s clear from the tone of his voice that he’s genuinely concerned about her. 

In her heart, she knows that the only reason he’s so close to her ear is so that she can hear him over the blaring music. But her body can’t help but react to everything he does, everything he says. It was just the uncontrollable effect that he had on her.

Regaining her composure she places her hand on his tricep carefully pulling him closer to her if they could even get any closer than they already were. If he was going to play with her emotions she wasn’t going to let him off the hook so easily. Two could play at this game and she was increasing the stakes.

Maybe it was the alcohol. Maybe it was the fact that she knew she was leaving tonight. Or maybe it was the fact that she just broke up with her abusive boyfriend and felt better than ever. But whatever it was the words that came out of her mouth were far out of her control. 

“You’re making me tense. Care to help?”

A wave of shock washes over Bellamy as he stands with his mouth hung open. Clarke mentally beats herself as she takes in his expression. If the world could do her a favor and just swallow her whole maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. At least it would save her from whatever he was going to say next.

When Bellamy finally snaps back to reality there’s a new look in his eyes. She can feel herself melting beneath his gaze but she doesn’t back down. Eventually, he scans their surroundings before leaning back into her, his hand now tightly holding her against his body. As if he’s aching to feel her body against his. Trying to break down the barriers standing between them. “Don’t tempt me.”

Clarke catches her mother’s eye from across the hall causing her to immediately step out of Bellamy’s hold. She simply slides his drink to him paired with a smile. She doesn’t say anything as she rushes over to her table. Really she didn’t know what she could say to that. She knows what she wants to say, but there’s no real rational response. 

When she finally does take a seat at the table with her mom she’s immediately bombarded with questions. “What was Bellamy saying to you? Why were you two so close? Is there something going on between you two?”

Clarke rolls her eyes at her hypocritical mother before taking a large sip of her drink. “We were just talking.”

“Clarke, he’s Bryan’s best friend.”

“Yeah, just like Marcus was dad’s best friend before he died. But that didn’t stop you.” Clarke drinks the rest of her drink in her glass slamming it  into the table before rushing off. The only reason she was being civil was for the sake of the family. So, they wouldn’t know their pretty perfect family wasn’t actually as pretty or perfect as they made it out to be. But she still tried to push her limits with her.

As she’s rushing off towards the bar she feels a hand wrap around her wrist. Bryan gives her a sad look. Because even though no one else knew how fucked up things were for her, he did. Or at least part of it. He was the only person who understood. And that’s why he came to her rescue whenever he got the chance. 

“Come on. Sit with us.” Bryan leads her to a table with the rest of their friends. And she feels guilty for intruding but she’d rather crash their table than being stuck at hers with her mom. 

Clarke gratefully smiles at Bryan as she takes a seat beside him. The table is packed. But they don’t let her feel out of place. She’s welcomed with open arms. It helps her keep her mind off the fact that she’d have to go home to the same bullshit. She was going to have to enjoy this last night the only way she knew how. By drowning herself in alcohol and dancing like no one’s watching.

It’s not long before Lincoln and Octavia make their entrance. It’s all tears, smiles, and laughter as they walk in hand in hand. Everyone in the hall is on their feet cheering for them. And it feels nice. Since Clarke broke up with Finn she wanted nothing to do with relationships. Nothing to do with love. But seeing how happy Octavia and Lincoln are together she feels almost envious. They make it look so easy. Maybe there was hope yet. If Octavia can go through everything she’s gone through and find love then why can’t she?

When it’s time for their first dance Clarke feels tears welling up in her eyes. She wants to be happy for her but she can’t fight the pain in her chest. The fear that she may not actually ever be as happy as they are. It was fucked up to think she was sitting there angry at her own love life instead of being happy for these newlyweds and their happiness. So, she wiped at her stray tears and plastered a fake smile just for them. 

“Now if all the couples can join these beautiful newlyweds on the dance floor.” 

Everyone slowly makes their way onto the dance floor. Bryan and Miller. Jasper and Maya. Harper and Monty. Raven and Luna. Emori and Murphy. Even her mother and Marcus are on the dance floor. She takes another shot as she sits alone at their table. If there was ever a time to feel lonely it was definitely at a wedding. She doesn’t even know why she came. 

But then seeing Bellamy dancing across the dance floor with his mother she realizes why she forced herself to come after all. Because of him. Because she missed him. Because she was so desperate to see him she was willing to put up with all the extra baggage that came along with this trip. 

Their eyes lock on one another as he’s dancing with his mom. She weakly smiles trying to mask the pain she actually feels. The way he’s staring at her makes her nerves tingle with sensations she can’t be bothered to put into words. Whatever it is she feels good. The pain she was once feeling washes away beneath his gaze. 

Clarke breaks their trance as she ditches the table to head to the bar. She can’t take the heat anymore and it seems no amount of alcohol has been enough to make her feel more in control of herself. 

As she’s waiting for her drink she’s approached by a man. She tries to ignore his lame attempts to get her attention but his inability to quit becomes frustrating enough for her to give in. “What?”

“Let me buy you a drink?”

She looks over him rolling her eyes at even the idea of giving him the time of day. He’s tall and skinny with dark brown hair. His suit hangs loosely from his body as if he’s borrowed it from a friend. Everything about this man is completely underwhelming. “How about I don’t but we say I did?”

Clarke turns back towards her drink when she feels his hand on her arm. “I said let me buy you a drink.”

“And I said no.” Clarke rips her arm from his grasp trying to ignore his angry presence. It’s clear he’s about to say something but he quickly shuts his mouth and turns away. 

It isn’t until she sees Bellamy through the corner of her eye that she realizes why. His hands are clenched tightly into fists. But when he looks at her it’s like all that anger evaporates. His lips quirk up into a smile. 

“Come on. You promised me a dance.”

Before she can protest she finds herself being dragged down the aisle towards the dance floor. She can feel everyone’s eyes on her as Bellamy holds her hand but something about it feels good. Soon enough she’s in the middle of the dance floor surrounded by the rest of their friends. Everyone’s taking their turn to dance in the middle of the circle, showing off their most ridiculous dance moves. 

It feels like everything seems to evaporate as she’s dancing with everyone. They’re all enjoying themselves without a care in the world. With one hand in the air and the other in Bellamy’s she feels unstoppable. 

But her fun quickly comes to an end when her mother is dragging her off the dance floor. With her flight being 7 in the morning and her suitcase still left unpacked she knew she had to leave the party early. Before getting there she didn’t mind but now that she was there with everyone, with Bellamy, she felt sad. Like she was going to lose something for good. 

Too anxious to say her goodbye’s she leaves without a word. The last thing she wants is to ruin anyone’s mood by leaving early. She’d see Bryan at home before she left but everyone else was going to have to deal with a sad Snapchat before she got onto her flight. 

Even as she’s packing her things she feels a large weight on her chest. Like she’s not ready to go. Like she made a mistake leaving without having said goodbye. Maybe she should have said something. They were finally starting to push past their boundaries and she had to leave. If she wasn’t such a coward maybe this wouldn’t be the end of whatever happened. She wouldn’t have to spend her time thinking about what he was doing and who he was doing it with. 

Sitting on her packed suitcase Clarke pulls out her phone. The alcohol still has her brain buzzing but for the most part she’s coherent. So, she does what any other stupid girl with a crush on a guy. She follows him on Instagram. It’s obvious he’s probably not going to see it until the morning when it’s too late to say anything to her about it. At least in person. 

But maybe that was exactly why she had the courage to do it. Because she knew she’d be leaving in a few hours and she wouldn’t have to see him until God knows how long. 

As 3 AM rolls around everyone’s starting to come in from the party. Her Aunt and Uncle quickly say their goodbyes before heading to bed. As she’s tucking away her suitcase in the back of their rental car she sees Bellamy pull up in his car. There’s an almost angry look in his eyes as he helps Bryan out of the car. He ignores her standing in the driveway as he drags Bryan’s limp body inside. 

Clarke tries to ignore the pain she feels from his lack of acknowledgement but it feels overwhelming. It hurts. Sure she left without saying goodbye but that was so she didn’t have to do this. She sucked at goodbyes. And Bellamy Blake was one person she couldn’t get herself to say it to ever. 

When she does find the courage to follow him inside he pulls her into the garage, alone. The heat rises in her cheeks as she stands before him eyes dropped to the floor. She feels like a kid who was found with her hand in the cookie jar. What she did wouldn’t kill anyone, but it sure as hell would disappoint the people she loves.

“So, what? You thought you’d just slip away and leave without so much as a goodbye?” Bellamy places his fists on his hips, his jaw tightly clenched as he waits for a response. 

He’s never been this angry at her since she’s known him. At least not at her. 

“I didn’t want to ruin the mood by leaving early. It was your sister’s reception. I just didn’t want to interrupt.”

“Didn’t want to interrupt?” He tries to maintain a whisper but it still feels like he’s yelling at her. She drops her gaze once more staring at the floor. He takes a deep breath before grabbing her chin and tilting her head up towards him. “Clarke, I haven’t seen you in 4 years. And who knows when I’ll see you next. You think I care if you want to take time to say bye.”

Clarke’s mouth falls open. She can’t seem to make sense of a single word that has come out of his mouth. She hears what he’s saying but she can’t seem to comprehend it. 

“God, Clarke.” He runs his fingers through his hair in frustration as he stands in front of her. “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t go back and forth with you anymore. I can’t pretend anymore.”

“Do what?” 

Her voice is so small and she feels her body preparing itself for him to break her heart. But instead he takes her hands in his giving them a gentle squeeze. “Clarke, I got an internship in your city. I’ve been applying for it every year since I’ve been in college. I’m going to your university this fall.”

“You-you what?”

“I applied to your school because I couldn’t just be away from you anymore. I don’t know if this is going to workout. Or if this will be anything. But I can’t go on without trying. Without seeing where this could go or what it could be.” Bellamy’s breathing heavy as if he’s been holding this in forever and he’s finally able to breathe again. 

Clarke just stands there like an idiot with her mouth hanging wide open. All the things lingering in the back of her mind are just incapable of coming out. 

“I can’t pretend like this doesn’t mean anything to me anymore, Clarke. That you don’t mean anything to me.” He takes a deep breath, tightening his grip on her hands. Clarke feels tears burning in her eyes and all her emotions riding up her throat. “Don’t you realize I’ve always been in love with you? You can’t honestly look me in the eye and tell me you didn’t know?”

A single tear runs down her cheek and she can’t contain herself anymore. She simply shakes her head laughing at her own stupidity. Placing a hand on his cheek she takes a deep breath. “You can’t honestly stand her and tell me you haven’t realized that I’ve been in love with you?”

“You-you what?”

“Yes. You absolute idiot.” Clarke nervously laughs trying to swallow the lump in her throat but she remains unsuccessful. It feels like all her emotions are hitting her at once and everything it coming up at once like word vomit. “I’ve loved you since we were 8. When we would secretly watch the Harry Potter movies when everyone went to sleep so they wouldn’t make fun of us. Since we were 10 when you learned how to braid hair when I broke my arm so that it wouldn’t get in my face every time we tried to play. Since we were 13 and you beat up Bryan for making fun of me for not having my first kiss.”

Bellamy stands there completely dumbfounded but that doesn’t stop Clarke. “I’ve loved you since we were 16 and I drank too much out of our parent’s secret alcohol stash. When you carried me to my room and told everyone that I was sick from the chicken when I was actually too drunk to move. And I love you now after all these years. When we haven’t talked since the last time I saw you and we still pick up right where we left off.”

There’s not a single thing left to be said. She’s laid her heart out on the table for him. And now it feels like there’s no going back. This is her cousin’s best friend, yes. But this is also the love of her life. No matter how much she tried to deny it and no matter how many times she tried to move on it felt like every time they were together, she was back at square one. Falling in love with him all over again. 

She waits for him to respond but feels herself starting to fall short as his eyes fall to the floor. Her hand begins to fall from his cheek. But he grabs it, holding it in place before wrapping the palm of his hand around the back of her neck pulling her into a kiss. There’s not much to really say about it other than the fact that she’s never been kissed like that before. The heat of the moment, the euphoria of their kiss. It’s all just everything she’d imagined. 

When they do pull away from each other Bellamy holds her in place, pressing his forehead against hers. She tightly holds onto his shoulders to hold herself into place. Hoping that for once this isn’t a dream. That this was real. That he was real. 

“I love you Clarke Griffin.”

Clarke lets out a slight laugh too scared to open her eyes in fear that he’ll disappear. “I love you Bellamy Blake.”