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Waste Time With a Masterpiece

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See you walking 'round like it's a funeral
Not so serious, girl, why those feet cold?
We just getting started, don't you tiptoe

Waste time with a masterpiece
Don't waste time with a masterpiece
You should be rolling with me
You should be rolling with me, ah
You're a real-life fantasy
You're a real-life fantasy
But you're moving so carefully
Let's start living dangerously
Cake By The Ocean - DNCE

 

 

“I can’t believe you’re dragging me to the Sexy Fireman Calendar shoot,” Murphy complained as they got out of the car, boxes of food in hand. “And on New Year’s Day, no less.”

Clarke rolled her eyes. “It’s hardly dragging, Murphy. This is the bisexual dream, you can’t tell me you’re not invested in this.”

She could barely see his face above the stack of containers in her arms, but she could imagine his disdainful expression as she strode past him towards the entrance. He huffed, still checking the inventory in the trunk. “But I’m hungover and we’re working, so I can’t thirst over them the way god intended.”

“If you’d learn an ounce of subtlety, you could thirst over them and get away with it, like I’m going to.” She pointed out, trying to nudge the door open with her shoe.

“Is that so?” A familiar voice said as the door swung open.

“Not you Roan, just everyone else.” She said, grinning towards him as she passed.

“You wound me, Griffin.”

She peeked over the top of the stack, “I’m going to do more than that if you don’t point me in the direction of somewhere I can put these down.”

“Down the hall.” He said, gesturing vaguely.

She readjusted her grip; it was starting to get heavy and her temper was already wearing thin. Twenty minutes in a car with Murphy would do that to a person. “Could you just show me?”

“I’m very busy. I’m a model you know.” He said, rubbing oil into his pecs, and she was ready to aim a swift kick in his direction when he yelled out. “Oi, Blake, c’mere!”

Someone jogged over and Clarke had to step awkwardly in a circle to see him, and even then it didn’t help. His hair was an untamed mess of curls and she could see tan skin covered with freckles, but she was so focussed on keeping the stack balanced that she barely registered anything beyond that. When he spoke, his voice was gravelly. “What’s up?”

“Can you show Clarke to the catering table? She needs an escort.”

“No I don’t,” she snapped. “Why can’t you show me?”

“I told you, I’m very busy, and Bellamy’s not doing anything, are you Blake?” Before the man could answer, Roan forged ahead. “See? It’s fine.”

“I swear to god, if you’re avoiding helping me so you can hook up with your boyfriend, I’m gonna refuse service to you.”

Roan just winked at her, clapped Bellamy on the shoulder, and strode off. Clarke closed her eyes and counted backwards from ten. She loved her friends, and she was really glad for the opportunity to cater this thing, but sometimes she wondered how she put up with them. When she opened them, the man was still standing in front of her.

“Sorry, which direction to I need to go?” She asked, putting her customer service voice back on.

He spun on his heel and started walking and she followed, watching the back of his head as he moved down the hall and into a large room, like a mess hall. He stopped in the center of the room and turned back to her. She could just about see his eyebrows.

When he didn’t say anything, she sighed and readjusted the boxes again. “Where can I put this down?”

“That table over there.” She had a feeling he was pointing.

“I’m gonna be honest, I can’t see anything below your hairline, so if you could make your directions a tad more specific-” She was cut off when he moved closer and large hands wrapped around her upper arms and guided her firmly towards one side of the room. She felt the edge of the table under her hands and managed to get the boxes down without breaking anything. She sighed in relief and turned around, only to come face to face with possibly the most attractive man she’d ever seen. “Jesus Christ.”

He was semi-shirtless, clearly about to be involved in the photoshoot, because the suspenders and heavy pants were a dead giveaway that he was a firefighter, and the glistening abs were a dead giveaway that he was sexy. And she could barely look him in the face because his jaw and those freckles and his deep brown eyes were almost too much for her to handle. She was struck with the sudden desire to lie down.

He frowned. “What’s wrong?”

“No, nothing, I’m just having a Victorian Crisis,” she said distractedly.

“What?”

“I’m stressed,” she amended. “Sorry, it’s been a long day, uh, I’m Clarke.”

She held her hand out for him to shake and he took it, still eyeing her warily. “It’s ten in the morning.”

“My days start at four,” she said, shrugging. “Life of a baker. I’m the catering for the photoshoot - Roan hired me?”

“Oh the guy you were being a dick to before?” Bellamy asked pointedly.

She bristled. “Yep.”

“Right,” he said, flat, and she shook her head slightly and went back to the boxes; she needed to start unpacking everything before she went back to help Murphy carry in the cake. She busied herself setting up the table but quickly realised that the man was still standing there.

She raised an eyebrow, not looking up from rearranging the crab puffs. “Yes?”

He shifted his weight from foot to foot. “There a reason you said you wouldn’t serve him and his boyfriend?”

Ah, that was it. She started setting up the cake stand. “Not because I’m homophobic, if that’s what you’re getting at.”

“You sure about that?” He said, deadly serious. She appreciated that he was looking out for his friend, but his unwavering solemnity was a little funny.

She snorted. “Yeah, pretty sure.”

“Good. Because Roan’s a good man, and his boyfriend is-”

“Here to annoy the caterer.” A voice she would recognise anywhere said, right before someone crashed into Clarke from behind and spun her around.

She laughed, smacking his arm playfully. “Wells, stop manhandling me!”

“I’ll take words that Roan has never said for 500, Alex.” Murphy said as he strode in. “Hey Wells.”

“Murphy,” he said, nodding his head towards the man as he let Clarke down and she turned and flung her arms around him. He chuckled. “I thought you weren’t getting here for another hour?”

“Blame Clarke’s perfectionism.” Murphy grumbled.

She ignored him, looking her best friend over. “When was the last time you ate?”

“Don’t mother me, I’m fine,” he tutted at her, snatching one of the finger sandwiches off a plate and taking a bite. He pointed blindly behind him, “Murphy if you make another joke-”

“Are you kidding? When was the last time you ate? That’s way too obvious; low hanging fruit.”

“Not unlike yours,” Clarke said, high-fiving Wells. Murphy rolled his eyes but he couldn’t hide the appreciative smirk at the joke. She went back to screwing the cake stand together but she couldn’t help prodding Wells a little further. “Seriously, you promise you had breakfast?”

“Yes, Mom,” he kissed her cheek. “Did you?”

She avoided his gaze. “No comment.”

“You better be joking,” he scolded.

“Clarke never jokes about not eating.” Murphy said, helping unpack the last of the boxes out onto plates. “Sometimes we have to physically sit her down and stand over her just to make sure she takes her lunch break.”

“Who’s your boss, I’m making a complaint,” Wells deadpanned. She elbowed him in response and Bellamy’s concerned expression finally cleared.

“I take it you know each other?” He asked.

“Clarke’s my oldest friend-”

She cleared her throat.

“-best friend, she’s my oldest and best friend.” He rectified, hands up in surrender, and shared a smile with her. “She started this catering business a little over a year ago and she’s pretty good-”

“Gee, thanks.”

“-so when Roan said you guys were looking for someone to make food and a novelty cake, naturally she was the first person that sprung to mind.”

“Naturally.” Bellamy parroted, nodding sardonically. Amusement was starting to creep into his expression now that he knew Clarke wasn’t being rude for the sake of it, and she found it very annoying because even the barest hint of a smile made him more attractive to her. She needed someone to fan her with a banana leaf.

She looked away, meeting Murphy’s gaze, and he jerked his head towards the door. She fell into step next to him, heading back towards the street so they could bring the cake inside. He took one side of the container and she grabbed the other, and they walked it carefully back through the firehouse, past the shoot where Roan was posing dramatically, and into the mess hall. Bellamy was still there, chatting amiably with Wells, but Clarke managed to ignore his looming, attractive presence, and focus on getting the cake safely on the table. Murphy helped her lift it up onto the cake stand and position it properly, and he passed her one of her brushes so she could fix the minor imperfections that had formed over the car journey.

“Uh. What the fuck is that?” Bellamy asked.

“It’s a cake.” Clarke said patiently.

Wells laughed. “Clarke went to art school before she took up baking. She makes all the cakes.”

“Murphy does most of the hors d'oeuvres though. And Monty is actually better at baking than me, I’m just here to make it pretty.” She said, squinting at a small dent in the icing near the base. She brushed over it, smoothing the edge, and with all the nicks covered, she stepped back to admire her handywork. The cake was huge - a life-sized replica of a fireman’s bare chest, suspenders made of fondant laid down carefully atop perfectly sculpted abs. It was some of her best work, even if she did say so herself.

“Don’t sell yourself short, Griff, this is a hotass cake.” Murphy said, slapping Wells’ held up hand.

Bellamy stepped closer to inspect it, fascinated, and she put a hand on his (thankfully covered) shoulder and nudged him back. “No touching the masterpiece before the party.”

“You sticking around that long?” He asked. “Because without you to guard it, this thing’s gonna be gone in the next twenty minutes.”

“Oh I’m here all day.” She grinned, flicking her gaze purposefully down his body and back up. “You’ve got no chance.”

He opened his mouth to retort but before he could, a tall woman strode in, grabbed his face, and kissed him forcefully. Clarke blanched. She didn’t know where to look, so she decided the plates weren’t arranged properly, shuffling things on the table so she didn't have to look at the romantic display. Murphy was making fake-gagging noises somewhere to her left.

“Hey baby.” The woman said when they parted, looking around as if she didn’t notice that he’d been mid-conversation. “Oh I’m sorry, was I interrupting? I’m Bell’s girlfriend, Echo; I’ve been looking for him.”

Clarke smiled, her customer service voice back in full force. “Not at all! I’m just trying to keep him away from my cake.”

Echo scrutinized it, her nose turning up in distaste. “Hmm. It’s a bit in-your-face, don’t you think?”

Clarke smiled thinly, squashing the part of her that wanted to argue. “I suppose, but it’s what they asked for.”

“I like it.” Bellamy said decisively. Her smile tilted up a little, became more genuine, and he winked at her. Jesus fuck if he did that again she might have a coronary. Luckily, he didn’t seem to notice the effect he was having on her - but his girlfriend did.

The woman put a hand on his face, turning his attention from the table and back onto her. “When’s your shoot, baby?”

“After Harper’s,” he shrugged, checking his watch. “But judging by Roan’s preening and the fact that Miller is before her, probably not for another hour.”

“At least.” Clarke said.

The two of them disappeared and she really didn’t want to think about where they were going, so she hooked one arm around Wells’ elbow and the other around Murphy’s. “Show me to the hot firefighters.”

“You’re so single,” Wells said, but started leading them out towards the main area again.

“Urgh, don’t start, I’ve got dinner with my sister next week and I just know it’s all she’s gonna talk about,” she complained. “It’s all ‘well I got married at twenty so when I see that you’re 25 with nobody in your life, it means you’re gonna die alone’ and I’m going to drown myself in the soup bowls. At least Gabriel’ll be there to break up the monotony. Maybe I’ll actually hear a question about my life that doesn’t pertain to who I’m sleeping with once every few hours.”

When they sat down to watch the photoshoot, Roan was just finishing up, so Wells didn’t last long, ducking out with his boyfriend to “help him get the oil off” and leaving the other two to thirst over the firefighters on their own. The next guy went up, all stoic confidence, and a gorgeous blonde woman in the corner was laughing with the photographer as she unplaited her hair. Murphy planted his face in Clarke’s shoulder, unable to deal with the attractiveness in the room.

“This is ridiculous. There’s no way that everyone who works here is so hot,” he muttered.

“That’s what I say every day,” a voice said, and they both looked up to see a heavily pregnant woman smirking at them. She held out her hand in greeting. “Diyoza, I’m the captain.”

Clarke shook it. “You’re the one Roan likes.”

“That’s me. You’re Wells’ friend, right? You should cater all our events, that cake is incredible,” she said, jerking her thumb in the general direction of the mess hall.

“I’d be happy to,” Clarke said. “Consider it a standing order; whenever you need us, we’re there.”

The blonde woman shrugged off her jacket and posed in front of the firetruck, and Diyoza shook her head. “Every year we shoot a calendar on New Year’s Day and every year Harper’s abs are more defined. It’s really immensely unfair.”

Murphy nodded dimly and Clarke had to agree - some people were just ridiculously attractive, and it was definitely an imbalance in the universe. The shoot carried on for hours; Clarke had to duck away just before Bellamy’s session to start heating up some of the food, which she honestly took as a blessing because she had a feeling that if she saw him completely shirtless and oiled
up, she’d lose all her remaining composure.

When the shoot ended, everyone changed into casual clothes and moved into the mess hall, joking around as they ate and took turns cutting into the torso cake. Clarke and Murphy drifted around, keeping all the drinks topped up and checking on the food, and they got sucked into conversations with almost everybody.

Harper was the nicest person Clarke had ever met.

Lincoln was quiet, but listened intently and always had something pertinent to say.

Miller was just as much of a Slytherin Bitch as she was.

Anya was way too cool for her, but seemed to like her anyway.

Shaw was funny, and smart, and seemed to go way back with Diyoza, who was incredible.

In fact, the only person Clarke didn’t really get to talk to was Bellamy. Largely because, every time he approached the table to fill up a plate, he barely had a chance to get two words out before Echo was plastered to his side, distracting him from whatever he’d been about to say. It was pretty rude, but Clarke didn’t let it bother her - it wasn’t like she actually liked Bellamy, he just happened to be the most attractive person she’d ever seen. Whether or not he was worth talking to was debatable, and she didn’t mind having the option taken off the table; she probably would have just made an idiot out of herself somehow anyway.

At the end of the day she was packing the containers into the car while Murphy attempted to hit on Shaw, and boxing the leftovers when Bellamy approached.

“D’you need a hand?” He asked.

“Nah, I’ve got it,” she glanced around. “Where’s your girlfriend?”

“Bathroom.”

“Ah, the guard is sleeping so you’re sneaking out.”

He frowned. “What?”

“Nothing,” she closed the lid over the final container. “Murphy! C’mon we’ve gotta get back before Emori hacks Jasper to death with a spoon.”

“Monty can handle them,” he waved a hand lazily.

“Alright, but I’m your ride, and I’m leaving,” she said, lifting the stack of boxes into her arms. However she barely made it two steps before the weight disappeared; Bellamy was carrying them for her. She scrunched up her nose at him. “I’m perfectly capable of taking those myself. Just because you have abs doesn’t mean my arms don’t work.”

He chuckled and walked towards the car, calling back over his shoulder, “I’ve gotta take any chance I can to apologise for being a dick earlier, and the guard’s in the bathroom so I finally have a shot.”

She faltered mid-step, noticing the way he grinned towards the ground at her surprise, and had to jog to catch up. “Oh really?”

“I’ve been trying to figure out a way to apologise all day,” he admitted. He put the boxes in the trunk and leaned against the car. “Echo-”

“Has your balls in a vice?” Murphy drawled as he slid into the passenger seat. Clarke lifted her eyes to the heavens - next time she was bringing Monty; Murphy was way more trouble than he was worth.

Bellamy’s ears were turning pink. “She comes on a little strong. But she’s great when you get to know her.”

“I’m sure.” Clarke nodded politely.

They stood there for a moment just looking at each other, letting the awkward silence sink into their bones until Murphy leaned across the dash and honked the horn, startling Clarke out of it.

Bellamy rubbed the back of his neck. “Uh. Anyway. Bye, Clarke. It was nice to meet you; sorry I implied you were an asshole.”

He backed away, not turning around until he reached the firehouse door, and Clarke got into her car and pulled out onto the road.

“He’s hot.” Murphy said.

“Mmhm.”

“Nice, too.”

“Sure.”

“Shame about the girlfriend.”

Clarke shrugged.

Murphy huffed petulantly and turned on the radio. “Teasing you is no fun when you agree with me.”

I don't say a word
But still, you take my breath and steal the things I know
There you go, saving me from out of the cold
Fire On Fire - Sam Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ohhh, I get a feeling, feeling
Got me rockin' and a reelin'
I Got A Feeling - Four Tops

When Bellamy helped the blonde find the mess hall, he’d been irritated by her remarks to his friend and trying to think of a way to call her out on them and he was so preoccupied with formulating the right way to say it that when she put the boxes down and turned around, he wasn’t ready.

She was gorgeous, and he almost took an actual step back to escape the draw of her big blue eyes. His brain was completely scrambled so it took him a while to catch up to what she was saying and it wasn’t she until stuck her hand out to shake that he managed to collect himself.

Her voice was pretty too. This was going to be a problem.

Luckily, Roan’s boyfriend came in and distracted the woman long enough for Bellamy to take a few deep breaths and center himself. He watched her switch easily between mercilessly teasing her friends and being genuinely concerned for them and realised he’d been wrong about her. Then she revealed the cake and he moved closer in awe of it and suddenly they were talking and he thought for a split second that she might have been flirting with him.

And then Echo arrived.

He didn’t see Clarke much after that.

His shoot was awkward - he always felt weird doing that kind of thing, even if it was for charity - and he was more than glad to shower off the baby oil and get in some normal clothes to watch the last of the photos being taken. When it was all over they ended up in the mess, eating the delicious foods and handing out pieces of cake and even then he couldn’t seem to catch Clarke. In the brief moments she wasn’t enthralled in conversation with one of his friends, Echo always happened to be the focus of his attention, and when the day was coming to a close he finally saw a chance to speak to her.

He helped her carry the catering boxes to the car, and when he tried to apologise for how he’d acted in their first meeting and for not finding the time to talk to her during the day, her friend appeared and the conversation ground to a halt.

He defended his girlfriend against the guy’s joking remark and Clarke nodded along, all politeness.

Not sure what to say after that, he stood, staring at her, and didn’t even register how long they’d been hovering in complete silence until the car honked and Clarke’s eyes tore away from his own.

“Uh. Anyway,” he rubbed the back of his neck, feeling awkward. “Bye, Clarke. It was nice to meet you; sorry I implied you were an asshole.”

She smiled as she got in the car and he backed slowly towards the building, only turning when he absolutely had to. He took solace in the fact that he’d probably never see the woman again, so he’d never have another chance to embarrass himself in front of her.

He found Echo waiting by the fireman’s pole and took her home, listening to her talk about her upcoming photoshoots and asking about her New Year’s resolutions.

The next few days passed slowly; he went to work, fought fires, hung out with Echo, went for drinks with his work friends and just generally lived his life.

Everything was normal.

Then, nearly a week into the new year, it got weird. He was getting ready to go for a run one morning before work, and he was stretching against the fence when he heard a strange, sad noise coming from underneath the bushes. He paused, waiting, and when the noise happened again he dropped to his knees and peered under the leaves. While his eyes adjusted to the light, there was nothing - only darkness - and then something began to take focus, shaking against the fence.

There was a tiny puppy huddling under the hedge, whimpering to itself.

Bellamy’s heart broke for the little thing. He shifted closer, being careful not to startle it, and started cooing softly at it. “Hey, hey little buddy, it’s okay. I’m not gonna hurt you. I’m just gonna pick you up, okay? It’s okay.”

The puppy was surprisingly compliant, letting him wrap a hand around it and detangle it from the bushes, and he cradled it to his chest as it shied away from the sudden light. It was was tan-coloured, with floppy ears and a slightly darker snout, and it was so small. It was shaking in his hands.

He immediately forgot his running plans and bundled the dog carefully into his car. He made it to the vet in record time and shifted anxiously from foot to foot as the man inspected it.

“He’s okay,” he said finally, and Bellamy breathed a sigh of relief. “He’s not chipped and there’s no collar but he seems relatively well-fed, so my guess is that he was a Pet For Christmas.”

“A what?”

“People buy pets for Christmas presents and when the novelty has worn off after a few days and owning a pet actually becomes a commitment, some people just release the animals onto the street. It’s despicable, but there’s always a spike in the amount of strays around January.”

Bellamy scratched the puppy behind its ear and it nosed against his palm, licking it happily. He had no idea how anyone could do that to a creature like this. “What can I do?”

“Well, you can leave him here and we can take him to the ASPCA,” the vet took off his gloves and tossed them in the wastebasket, “or if you know anyone who’s willing to take him in-”

“I will.”

The vet regarded him sternly. “Are you sure about this? Like I said, pets are a huge commitment and if you’re not capable of taking care of him properly, he’d be safer somewhere else. Are you certain you’re ready to adopt this dog?”

He nodded. “I am.”

There was a long silence and then the man cracked a smile as he passed over a clipboard, “In that case, you’ll need to fill out some forms.”

 


 

Bellamy had almost forgotten he needed to be at work and was on his way home with the puppy on the front seat when his phone pinged with a text from Miller asking him where he was.

He swore and made a u-turn, heading for the firehouse.

Diyoza was leaning against the doorframe, tapping her foot impatiently, when he pulled in. He scooped the puppy into his arms and walked towards her, tripping over his words in an effort to explain. She didn’t say anything, just walked towards the mess with him in tow, and when they walked into the crowded room she declared, “Blake’s got a puppy!” and everything descended into chaos.

Within seconds he was surrounded by them, clutching the dog to his chest while they all cooed over it. Diyoza was the only one who hung back, smirking at him. It didn’t take him long to explain himself and when he finished, the captain seemed appeased at his lateness and his friends had calmed down a little.

Miller smiled at the puppy with an affection Bellamy had never seen him wear. “What are you gonna name him?”

“I hadn’t got that far yet,” he said, stroking under its chin.

“You’re gonna have to keep bringing him in for a while, right? So he’s basically a precinct dog - we should get to suggest some names,” Shaw said, leaning back in his chair.

“I agree,” Anya said, winking at him so he knew she wasn’t serious.

“Suggest away,” Bellamy shrugged, “but I get final choice. He’s my dog, even if he’ll be a precinct mascot too.”

Harper was the first person to come up with something and once she did the rest of them quickly followed suit. “Matchstick.”

“Marshmallow,” Roan said.

“Tiny.” Anya leaned back in her chair, biting into an apple.

Shaw shook his head, like they were all wrong. “Esteban Julio Ricardo Montoya de la Rosa Ramírez.”

“Bruce,” Lincoln added.

“Come on guys, we need to think of names Blake’s actually gonna pick,” Miller pointed out. “Nerdy shit, you know?”

They ignored his indignant protests and started discussing ideas. He harrumphed and played with the puppy’s paws while they argued, until finally Diyoza cleared her throat.

“What about something Greek? Like Apollo, or Ares?” She said.

Bellamy mulled it over, warming to the idea, and a lightbulb went off in his head. “Oh, perfect.”

“What? What’s his name?” Miller asked.

“Hephaestus. God of fire and the forge,” he held the puppy up to all of them. “Heph, for short.”

Harper beamed and took it from his outstretched hands. “It’s nice to meet you, Heph. We’re all gonna have a lot of fun together.”

 


 

He dropped Hephaestus home and made sure he was happy and safe in the back garden before he got right back in his car and drove to the store, compiling a mental list of all the things he’d need.

He was hovering in the middle of the pet aisle, feeling very overwhelmed, when he heard a devastatingly familiar voice.

“Bellamy?”

Oh fuck.

“Hi, Clarke,” he cut his gaze across to her. She looked just as gorgeous in that moment as she had a week ago, and she was wearing sweatpants. It really was immensely unfair for anyone to look that good all the time. Her trolley was stuffed full of ingredients and she was clutching a crumpled list in one hand. “How are you?”

“Better than you, I’m guessing,” she said. At his confused look, she smiled consolingly. “You look stressed.”

He slumped. “Is it that obvious?”

“Little bit. Maybe loosen your shoulders a bit, take a breath,” she teased. “What’s up?”

He gestured widely at the baffling array of things on the shelves. “I’m lost. I just need some dog food but I’ve realised that I have no idea what I’m doing or what I need and it’s beginning to occur to me that I should have googled something about owning a pet before I decided to adopt a dog on a whim, because this is already so much harder than I expected it to be.”

“Why are you looking for dog food in the cat section?” Clarke asked, sympathetic but still clearly amused.

“There are different sections?” He responded weakly.

She laughed. “Okay, come over here, I’ll show you what to get. What kind of dog is he?”

“Puppy.”

“Oh boy, we’re really working with the basics here.”

“Tan.”

“You do own a dog, right?”

He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, “Yeah. I found him in my garden this morning; he’s a stray so I’m not exactly sure what he is.”

She tilted her head, thinking it over. “Okay, do you have an idea of what breed he is?”

“German Shepherd, maybe?”

“That’s a good place to start!” She said cheerfully. Bellamy was beginning to feel like an idiot, but she didn’t seem to notice, just took him by the arm and guided him down the aisle to where the more canine things were. She went through all the basics and listed off some good brands, and by the time she was done, his basket was significantly heavier. She put a final packet on top and tapped it like she was sharing insider knowledge with him. “Those are treats for when you start training him, which is important if you want to own anything that hasn’t been peed on.”

He laughed. “Thanks.”

“Anytime,” she said, and again they were left swimming in awkward silence as Bellamy’s brain short-circuited and he forgot how to make small talk.

Unfortunately, the silence was broken by a shriek.

“Oh my god! You’re the guy!” The woman gushed, smacking the girl next to her excitedly, “Babe, this is the fireman that saved my life last year! Came crashing through my window like Superman when my apartment complex burned down. He’s a hero!”

Bellamy felt his ears turning pink, self-conscious, and in the time it took for him to shake the woman’s hand, Clarke disappeared. He tried to shake the disappointment he felt at her departure and chatted to the couple for a while before the woman he rescued gave him a bear hug and sent him on his way.

It had been a weird day.

I've met someone that makes me feel seasick
Oh what a skill to have
Oh what a skill to have
So many skills that make her distinctive
But they're not mine to have
No they're not mine
Kill The Director - The Wombats

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woah oh oh, I'm star struck
Woah oh oh, no gravity for us
We're intergalactic, with thoughts full of static
Woah oh oh, I'm star struck, for you
Freckles and Constellations - Dodie

After Clarke recovered from bumping into Bellamy at Walmart - by downing three rum-and-cokes with her dinner and frantically texting Wells about it - she flopped on the couch and waited for Waffle, her light brown Bernese Mountain Cross, to climb up next to her. It didn’t take long; within minutes he was settled half on her lap, half on the free sofa cushion, and she stroked his ears while she scrolled through Netflix.

“Jumanji?” She asked, looking down at Waffle, who blinked at her. “No, you’re right, I’m too tired, I’d fall asleep halfway through. I need a half hour show or something.”

She flicked through the options.

“Your mom’s a disaster, you know that?” She said absentmindedly.

Waffle licked her hand.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

She fell asleep halfway through an episode of The Good Place, head lolling against the back of the couch as exhaustion overtook her. Her days seemed to get longer every week. She was glad the business was doing well, but there was always more to do, always more she could be doing, and she was tired all the time. She wouldn’t change it for the world.

The next day she woke to Waffle whining to be let out and she peeked out the curtain to check her landlord wasn’t around before she opened the door.

Work was busy - they had three clients who booked for the same day, so they were stretched a little thin - and Clarke spent most of the afternoon helping Monty field complaints from people that the chai was too spicy.

“It’s chai,” Monty said as they packed up.

“It’s ridiculous,” she agreed. “People are the worst.”

“Whoever came up with ‘the customer is always right’ never worked in customer service.”

“Truer words were never spoken.”

He smiled at her and she poked him in the rib playfully as she passed, making him jump. He got her back though; “Oh, don’t you have dinner with your sister tonight?”

Clarke groaned and draped herself dramatically over the bonnet of the car. She’d completely forgotten about it, and now she was definitely going to be late. “Can you run me over so I don’t have to go?”

Monty winced sympathetically, patting her on the leg, and handed her the car keys.

She sighed, “What use are you if you won’t even kill me when I ask?”

He snorted. “I like to think you keep me around because I won’t kill you when you ask. Murphy’d do it in a second. So would Emori. Even Jasper I’m not sure about - but I’d never kill you, even if you promised me riches beyond my wildest dreams.”

“Damn, that was gonna be my next tactic.”

“You don’t have that many riches,” he pushed her slowly down the bonnet until her feet touched the ground and she was carrying her own weight. “On the plus side, you only see her a few times a year. You get tonight over with and then you don’t have to do it again for a few months. Plus you can complain about it for the rest of the week and I have no power to stop you.”

Clarke side-hugged him before she climbed into the car. “See, this is why I keep you around.”

 


 

She arrived at the restaurant twenty minutes late, but at least she looked put together. Her hair was in a messy updo and she was in the pink dress Josie had gotten her a few years ago in the hopes that it’d steal some points.

It didn’t.

They were barely through the starters when Josephine made the first condescending remark, and Clarke called the waiter over for a top-up, readying herself for a long night. Gabriel, Josie’s long-suffering husband, was always sympathetic to Clarke’s distaste for the dinners, and managed to draw the conversation over to the business for a while, which she appreciated. Throughout dinner, she kept looking around for an escape while her sister asked her increasingly personal questions and at one point Gabriel mouthed “fake an illness” across the table at her, which made her choke on her mouthful of spaghetti.

While they were waiting for the dessert menus to be brought over, the dreaded question came up; “So, Clarke. Are you seeing anyone?”

Gabriel’s expression was sympathetic, but Josie was deadly serious, waiting for a response. Clarke took a long sip of her drink, trying to prolong the inevitable, and was ready to tell her sister that she was single as ever but when she put the glass down, she somehow ended up saying, “Yeah, kind of,” instead.

Whoops.

Josie had the audacity to do an entire double take. “You are?”

“I’m gonna pretend I’m not offended by the tone of surprise,” she folded her arms over the table. Well, she was in it now, she may as well commit; like Monty said, she only saw her sister a few times a year. “Yeah, it’s pretty new, but I’m-”

“Girl? Guy? What do they do? How did you meet? How long have you been seeing them?”

Gabriel put a hand on his wife’s arm. “Perhaps let her answer a question before you ask another one.” He gestured for Clarke to continue.

She smiled gratefully, mind whirring as she attempted to come up with a believable lie. “Uh, well, he’s a firefighter-” oh, for christ’s sake “-we met on New Year’s Day at that calendar shoot I catered-” good, it gets worse “-and we just hit it off.”

She was so going to hell.

Josie narrowed her eyes over her wine glass. “Really? A firefighter?”

“Yep.”

“Uh-huh,” she tilted her head sceptically. “What’s his name?”

Fuck. Clarke was ready to come clean, to pretend she’d been joking, when she noticed a familiar set of curls over her sister’s shoulder. “Bellamy?”

“Bellamy? What kind of name is that?”

Clarke tossed her napkin on the table, “Sorry, just, I’ll be right back, one sec.” She darted through the restaurant to the bar, where the man in question was chatting to the bartender like they were old friends. Maybe they were. She sidled up to him. “Hi.”

He squinted at her teasingly. “Are you stalking me?”

“I was here first, I should ask you the same question,” she joked.

“Oh? Who are you here with, Roan and Wells?”

She made a face. “I wish. No, I’m out with my sister and her husband.”

He glanced back in the direction she’d come from, looking for the backs of their heads and being met with incredibly unsubtle glances in his direction. “Why are they staring at us?”

Clarke winced. “Um. Listen, I know this is ridiculous and please feel free to say no, but can you pretend to be my boyfriend for five minutes?”

His expression froze. “What?”

“My sister is obsessed with my love life and to get her off my back I told her I was seeing someone, and I said it was a firefighter because it was the first thing that popped into my head and then you appeared and, I don’t know, I figured it would really help sell it if I could produce an actual person. But if you’re busy or you’re on a date or something-”

“-I’ll do it.”

She blinked. “Really?”

His face cracked into a wide grin. “I’m meeting my sister for dinner too, and all she does is complain about my taste in girls, so I get it. I’m actually here early to get a few drinks in before she arrives.”

“That’s smart, why didn’t I do that?” She said, annoyed at herself for being late. He chuckled and slid an arm around her waist, which made her pulse skyrocket, but she managed to keep her expression neutral.

As they walked towards her sister, he leaned in closer, nose nudging her temple, “What’s the plan here? I’m assuming we met last week, it’s pretty new, you wanna rub it in your sister’s face?”

She nodded and felt his smirk against her hair before he straightened and introduced himself to the two gobsmacked people sitting before them.

“Wow.” Josie shook her head in disbelief. “And you’re a firefighter?”

“I am.”

“There is no way you’re dating my sister. People as hot as you should be dating supermodels, not bakers.”

Clarke rolled her eyes. “Gee, thanks, sis.”

Bellamy laughed, tugging her closer and squeezing her waist in support. This was a lot and she was struggling to focus on anything except where his palm met her shirt. Luckily, he had enough charisma to carry them both through. “Don’t undersell her, have you seen your sister? She’s pretty and she bakes and she’s funny - it’s the whole package.”

“I can’t believe you were here, of all places. I never come here,” Clarke said, looking up at him.

“Neither do I,” he glanced at their surroundings. “It’s weird, it’s like… fate, or something.”

Clarke felt her stomach flip and watched her sister’s grip tighten on her fork and decided that this was either the best or worst idea she’d ever had. Gabriel ducked his head, trying and failing to hide his blatant amusement at his wife’s shock. Josie put on her best smile and pointed at the free chair, “You should stay for dessert!”

“He can’t stay,” Clarke answered for him.

“Yeah, sorry, my sister’s in town and she’ll be here any minute, so I should probably go back and wait for her at the bar. But, uh,” he took a single step back, hand still trailing along Clarke’s waist, “see you soon, Princess.”

‘Princess?’ she mouthed at him, but he only winked at her as he left. She returned to her seat, picked up the dessert menu, and pretended that nothing about that interaction had been anything out of the ordinary. “I think I might get a brownie.”

Gabriel hummed thoughtfully. “That’s a good idea, I was contemplating pecan pie.”

Josie put her menu down on the table way too hard, rattling the plates. “What the fuck, Clarke.”

How many kinds of people do you think there really are
For me?
I want to see you in the bright, bright, bright, bright, bright, bright, bright, bright morning
Argentina - Tokyo Police Club

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This thing called love, I just can't handle it
This thing called love, I must get round to it
I ain't ready
Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Queen

Bellamy found his sister almost immediately and she made a show of craning her neck around him. “Who was that?”

Just a friend of mine,” he said, shepherding her to their table.

“You were standing very close to that friend of yours,” she said, eyebrows raised.

“She’s having dinner with her sister, needed someone to pretend to be her boyfriend for a minute. Apparently her sister is really pushy,” he emphasised, but Octavia didn’t take the hint.

“Oh. So you’re still seeing Echo then?” She asked, like there was a bad taste in her mouth.

He sighed. “Yes, and don’t start-”

“What does your friend do?”

“She runs a catering business.”

“A business own? Impressive. And she’s pretty.”

Bellamy needed another drink. “Yeah.”

“Is she nice?”

“I think so,” he slouched against the back of his chair. “What are you getting at?”

“Oh nothing, I just think it’s interesting,” Octavia said cryptically, and then she changed tack completely and started asking him about his week and how everyone at the firehouse was doing. He told her about the calendar shoot and his ideas for the house, and Hephaestus, and asked about her travels and how the new job was going, and by the end of the night he’d all but forgotten her inquiries. As they were leaving, he glanced at the table Clarke had been sitting at but they were gone, and he shook off the mild disappointment and followed his sister out onto the steps.

“Happy New Year, O,” he pulled her into a hug.

“You too, Big Brother,” and then muttered something that sounded suspiciously like, “Here’s hoping it’s the year of better romantic choices,” before she danced off into the night.

His phone lit up with a text from Echo and he flipped his phone over in his fingers as he thought it over. He shot her a quick text saying he was going home, and she told him she was finishing up at a model party and would swing by.

When he got home, Hephaestus greeted him eagerly, running in circles and jumping up at his knees until the poor thing got so excited that he peed on the kitchen tiles. Bellamy couldn’t be too bothered by it though, cooing at the puppy while he cleaned it up.

He was still sitting on the floor, Hephaestus in his lap, when the doorbell rang. He yelled out that the door was open and Echo strode through. She was wearing a slinky dress and high heels that exuded an air of composure which immediately vanished when she saw him.

“Urgh, what’s that?” She shrieked, disgusted.

“This is Hephaestus,” Bellamy said patiently. “He’s my new stray, I rescued him.”

“Please tell me you’re joking,” she said, looking like there was a bad smell under her nose at the mere thought of him owning a dog. When he shook his head, she sighed and threw her purse on the counter. “I’m not sleeping with you while you smell of dog, so if you want me to stay the night you’re gonna need to shower.”

She walked towards the bedroom and he looked down at Hephaestus’s confused little face. “She’s a little uptight, huh?” Heph just yipped happily in response and chewed on his thumb.

 


 

For a few weeks, Echo demanded that he came to hers instead of staying at his place, and she always made him shower when he got there. It was beginning to feel like a lot more trouble than it was worth considering it had started as a casual fling, which was only confirmed the next time he saw Clarke.

It was the middle of March and the firehouse was throwing its annual Make A Wish Fundraiser and Diyoza hired Clarke’s catering company again, and probably to stop Roan for asking for an inappropriate cake, had sent her own instructions over.

Half the town was going to be there, but the firefighters and their guests were there early to help set up, along with the caterers. He brought Hephaestus with him, not only because he didn’t want to leave him at home all day, but also because literally every person at work had demanded he be there. The puppy basically ran the place at that point.

Clarke and two people he didn’t recognise turned up just after he arrived and got to work setting up the tables outside. The guys she was with seemed dorky but in a really charming way and they said quick hellos to everyone as they passed, although they looked at him a little strangely before they were dragged away by Clarke to cover the hors d'oeuvres.

She flashed him a smile, but she was clearly busy and he had his own things to get to, yet he had a feeling that wasn’t why she was avoiding him; Echo had been trailing him all morning. When things were almost finished being set up, he finally found a spare moment to approach the food.

“What are you looking for?” Clarke asked, stacking napkins.

“The cake,” he said, scanning the tables, but there was no cake stand to be seen.

“It’s in the mess hall, Jasper and Monty are guarding it,” she shot him a look and he placed a hand over his heart.

“From me? I’m offended, Princess, I thought we were close, but clearly you don’t trust me-” he was cut off when she rolled her eyes and grabbed his hand, pulling him through to the mess hall. When they got there, he could see the large box in the corner with the two guys “guarding it” which seemed to be code for “taking a break”. The gangly one was on his phone and the other one had struck up a conversation with Harper, who was leaning against the wall and smiling flirtatiously at him.

Both guys glanced up when they came in, and the gangly one jerked his chin at them in greeting.

“Bellamy wants to see the cake,” Clarke said, dropping his hand. “Bellamy, this is Jasper and Monty, guys this is Bellamy.”

Jasper smacked the table happily. “I win.”

The other one, Monty, sighed and handed him a dollar bill. Bellamy didn’t want to ask what that was about, but apparently his questioning look was enough for them.

“We’ve been trying to work out which one of you was Clarke’s fake boyfriend, based on the description she gave us,” Monty explained. “I had money on the one in the beanie, because everyone else here is bald or Roan, and she had a lengthy tirade about your hair-”

“-very funny.” Clarke said, glaring at him good-naturedly. “And the one in the beanie is Miller. I see you’ve met Harper.”

Harper tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “Yeah, sorry for distracting him.”

Clarke waved a hand, unbothered, and got Jasper to help her lift the covering off the cake. It was beautiful, two tiered blue marble cake, with what appeared to be a fondant Tinkerbell floating on top of it, positioned so that it looked like she was raining glitter down onto the icing. Bellamy’s jaw dropped.

“That’s fucking incredible,” he said, awestruck.

Clarke blushed. “It’s mostly Monty-”

“-don’t try it, Griffin, that was all you,” Monty interrupted. “All I do is make the base, you actually have to do all the work to make it look nice.”

“What kind of cake is it?” Harper asked, fluttering her eyelashes at him.

“Chocolate marble,” he said dazedly, and Bellamy tried to hide the smile at their obvious attraction to each other. It was cute.

“Is it gluten free?” Echo asked, appearing in the doorway and striding over. Monty was too lost in Harper’s eyes to hear her, so Clarke answered for him.

“No, but there are-”

“How can you expect to cater a charity event without catering for different dietary needs? It’s rude, and honestly you’re going to upset a lot of people. What about dairy, I’m assuming it’s not lactose free either? Or sugar free?”

“Well, it’s a cake, so,” Clarke said, sounding simultaneously bored and irritated. Jasper had forgotten his phone and was watching the interaction intently, and even Monty and Harper had started to realise something was happening. Bellamy didn’t know whether to interfere or not.

Echo bristled. “What kind of business is this that caters without thinking about the vegan population?”

“A cake one,” she retorted.

“There’s no need for the attitude,” Echo snapped. “This is an unacceptable excuse for customer service, what’s your manager’s name? I’d like to make a complaint.”

Jasper looked like he was about to explode from the effort of not laughing.

Clarke nodded slowly and handed Echo a business card, “Here’s her number, you can call her yourself.”

Echo typed the numbers in and held the phone up to her ear.

Fergalicious started playing, and Clarke pulled her cell out of her back pocket. “Griffin Catering, this is Clarke speaking.”

Jasper broke, cackling with laughter, and Monty and Harper followed suit. Bellamy couldn’t help but join in, covering his mouth as he threw his head back with mirth. Harper slid down the wall, unable to hold herself up she was laughing so hard. Monty was basically crying. Clarke hung up, her point successfully made, and smiled politely at the other woman.

“You’ve got balls, Princess, I’ll give you that,” Bellamy said, still snickering.

Echo’s head whipped around to him, face contorted in a snarl. “Princess?”

He turned to her, amusement fading, “It’s a nickname.”

“It’s a petname.” She corrected him.

“What’s the difference?” He asked, knowing full well what the difference was.

“The difference is whether or not I’m going home with you tonight,” she said snippily.

“Well, you’re hardly coming to my place, are you?” He muttered. “It’s not like you’ve set foot at mine since Hephaestus moved in.”

“Moved in? He’s a dog, not a roommate,” she made a face at him, unimpressed. “But you’re right, maybe if you put a dog and this irritating stranger over me, this isn’t worth continuing.” There was a dramatic edge to her voice like she was delivering some kind of ultimatum. The others had stopped laughing and Monty and Harper were edging towards the exit.

“Echo we were only ever casually dating,” Bellamy said slowly. “If you’re asking me to choose between you and my dog, I choose the dog.”

She made a high-pitched disgruntled sound and spun on her heel, storming from the room. He watched her go, and somewhat serendipitously, that was when Hephaestus lolloped into the room and practically bowled him over. Clarke yelped and dove to put the cover back on the cake, and Bellamy scratched Heph’s ears until he calmed down and flopped at his feet. He’d been running around the precinct all day, spending time with anyone who’d give him a treat - which meant everyone - so he was tuckered out, poor thing.

Clarke made sure the container was secure and then turned around and launched into an apology. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to cause any trouble, I just get really sick of dealing with rude customers and it’s not like we don’t have all those options, there are vegan cakes already on the table, it’s just that this one is a normal cake and I really didn’t-”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“-seriously, I’m so sorry, if you want me to go and talk to her-”

“No it’s fine, really, we were only casual,” he promised. “Besides… she doesn’t like dogs. So it was never gonna go anywhere.”

“In that case…” Clarke’s worried expression cracked slightly. “One of my ex-girlfriends didn’t like dogs either. Waffle was only a puppy at the time too, and that relationship didn’t last long.”

“Oh, are you…?”

“Bi,” she said. “Although Waffle has been the only consistent thing in my life for a while now and I’m not even supposed to have him. My apartment complex doesn’t allow animals, but he was the last thing my dad gave me before he died and I refuse to part with him. He’s basically my child at this point and he’s very well behaved, but I’m always paranoid that my landlord is gonna find out.”

“He didn’t notice when we smoked weed at your place, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it,” Jasper said, returning his gaze to his phone.

“You would say that, you don’t live there,” she said, taking his phone off him. “Go and heat up the chicken wings, the fundraiser starts in ten minutes.”

He snatched the phone back and held his hands high in mock surrender, “Alright Griffin, just because you wanna hang out with the hot firefighter, I’ll do as you ask.”

“You should probably do as I ask because we’re at work!” She called after him. “And I’m your boss! Ah, he doesn’t care.” She glanced down at Bellamy’s feet. “I’m guessing this is Hephaestus?”

She knelt down and patted him and he rolled over immediately so she could scratch his belly. He licked her arms while she tickled him whined when she tried to stand up, so she crouched back down and squished his face playfully between her hands and he tried to lick both of them at once. She laughed and looked back up at Bellamy. “I don’t see Echo’s problem - he seems like a great roommate to me.”

Oh, he was so screwed.

I need the sun to break, you've woken up my heart
Need The Sun To Break - James Bay

 

 

 

 

 

Could you love this?
Will this one be right?
Well, if I'm being honest
I'm hoping it might
Could you love this?
Did you plan to fall?
Well, if I'm being honest
Oh, I bet it's not that at all
If I'm Being Honest - Dodie

The rest of the fundraiser passed without a hitch - all the civilians had enough food (with vegan and gluten free options, obviously) and the firefighters kept them entertained with games - and when the cake came out, it felt like the climax to a truly wonderful day. By the time it ended, Clarke was exhausted but happy.

Plus, she’d made such an impression on Hephaestus that he followed her everywhere she went, which was pretty gratifying.

Diyoza was heaping praise on them for their work and everyone was helping them pack the remains of the day up and ferry things to the car. Monty made sure they left some good food in the fridge in the mess hall, Jasper was joking with Roan and Wells as he emptied the bins, and all the unpleasantness with Echo was completely forgotten.

Miller offered to help Clarke bring the tables back inside and while they were carrying them through the firehouse he said, “So you broke Bell and Echo up, right?”

She almost dropped her end of the table. “What? Did he say that, I thought he said it was fine-”

“Relax, I’m not saying it was a bad thing; we’ve been trying to convince him to ditch her for months, but he was in a rut and Echo was easy.”

Clarke raised an eyebrow.

“To be with, don’t put words in my mouth,” he amended, and they both chuckled as they positioned the heavy table against the wall and stepped away, job done. “Anyway, we’re all really grateful to you for getting rid of her, so we were wondering if you’d be willing to do another party for us, maybe on Thursday?”

“You want me to cater something two days from now? With no notice?”

He shrugged. “It’s not really catering, we’re probably gonna order pizza, we just want a cake.”

She started to get an inkling of where he was going and tapped her foot, thinking it over. “And what would you want the cake to be?”

“You know the I Just Had Sex music video where they have a cake that says-”

“Congrats on the sex.”

“Yeah. Could you make that, but change ‘sex’ to ‘ex’?” Miller asked, a sly smile tweaking at the corners of his mouth.

Clarke let the request hang in the air for a few seconds. “Bellamy’s going to kill you.”

“And it’s gonna be so worth it,” he grinned. “See you on Thursday?”

She slapped his hand in a high-five, sealing the deal, “See you then.”

 


 

She was riding a high all the way home, so happy with the way the day had turned out, and she was ready to curl up with Waffle and fall asleep watching a nature documentary, but sometimes the universe just wants to kick you in the teeth.

She noticed her door was unlocked the second she got to her apartment and for a split second she panicked that she might have been robbed.

And then she opened the door to find her landlord standing there, arms crossed, with Waffle cowering behind him on the couch.

“Fuck.” She whispered.

“Indeed,” he said, thrusting a copy of her lease agreement at her. “I want you out of here by morning.”

“What, but-”

“You knew the rules, and you broke them. You don’t get two weeks to move out, you get tonight. If you and your dog aren’t gone by tomorrow morning, I’m having him put down.”

She clapped her hands over her mouth, horrified, and he left, slamming the door behind him. Once he was gone, she sunk to the carpet, feeling numb, and Waffle hopped off the couch and plodded over to her, always knowing when she was upset. She stroked his ears while her mind raced, trying to think of something to do.

It wasn’t that late, so she did the first thing she always did in bad situations - she called Wells.

It took him ten minutes or so to calm her down, but once she had, they managed to come up with a solution. “Listen, you can stay with me as long as you need. Your lease was almost up anyway, so I know you were looking for more places, this just rushes it along a bit.”

“What am I gonna do with Waffle he can’t stay with you, your apartment’s tiny!” She sobbed. “I don’t want to send him away anywhere.”

Wells hummed sympathetically, pondering the problem. “Doesn’t Emori have a farm? Why don’t you give her a call, ask if she can dogsit for a few days until you find a place?”

Clarke swallowed around the lump in her throat and lay down on the floor next to Waffle, resting her head on his shoulder. She loved him so much that even days apart felt like too long, but she’d much rather he stayed with Emori than anywhere else. “Okay, I’ll ask.”

“I already texted her, she’s picking him up tomorrow,” Wells said. “You’re gonna be fine, okay?”

She sighed. Rationally, she knew that, but the universe seemed to take a particular delight in her suffering.

 


 

Emori picked them both up the next morning and dropped her off at Wells’ before she took Waffle to the farm, and Clarke tried not to cry as she hugged him and waved them off.

It was only for a few days.

Wells made her some tea - “because coffee is great, but sometimes a situation needs a good cup of tea” - and they sat at his little dining table together, looking over apartments.

They had about seven circled by the time she checked her watch and realised she needed to get to work. Luckily, she had the afternoon shift that day, so she didn’t have to wake Wells up at four in the morning so she could move her stuff into his place, but unfortunately she was still stuck. When she started the business, she’d traded her car for the catering truck so she mostly got around via bus, but she knew there were no stops anywhere near Wells’ place. She was frazzled and tired and stressed, so it took her by surprise when Murphy turned up on the doorstep.

“Your carriage awaits,” he deadpanned, gesturing to his fourth-hand 1980s Chevy Cavalier. It was still the worst car she’d ever seen, but he loved it and refused to buy a new one.

Murphy turned the music up full blast while they drove, practically shouting the lyrics of My Humps at her until she finally allowed herself to cheer up a little.

When they got to work, Emori was already there, and assured her that Waffle was fine, and that he had made friends with her cat almost immediately.

They started baking together and Murphy turned the kitchen speaker on and continued with his Black Eyed Peas tirade until the two of them were begging for mercy. Monty and Jasper checked in a few times to let her know how the event they were catering was going, and Wells kept sending her photos of possible apartments. A few years ago, she might have had a full breakdown at the events of the last twelve hours, but the fact that her friends rallied around her - and the therapy she’d been taking for two years - really helped her keep it together.

She only remembered Miller’s bizarre request late in the evening, and she and Murphy said goodbye to Emori while they mixed cake batter and joked with each other, guessing how Bellamy would react to his coworkers through him a breakup party.

“Does he seem like the wall-punching type?”

Clarke scrunched up her nose at him. “No.”

“Then he’ll probably laugh. You’d hope your coworkers would know you well enough to know what to do when you’re going through something,” he said, and the way his gaze lingered on her made her emotional. She put the trays in the oven, set the timer, and then launched herself at her friend, wrapping him in the biggest hug she could manage. He feigned disgust, “Get off me you’re gonna get batter on my jeans!” But eventually just stood there and let her, and even joined in.

While they waited for the cake to cook, they sat up on the kitchen counters and played uno - a game that Murphy was infuriatingly good at, to the point where she half-suspected he was cheating - and talked about the business.

“We’re pretty good at this, you know,” he said, putting down yet another reverse card.

“Yeah, well, I knew what I was doing when I poached you,” she said, checking for green cards. Three years ago, when they worked at a fancy restaurant, Murphy as a line chef and Clarke and Monty as pastry chefs, they’d started talking about starting their own business. It was never that serious, just something they brought up when they went out for drinks, the same way college guys all talk about buying a bar or starting a podcast. But over time they got more and more serious about the idea, until one day shortly after her dad got sick, Clarke went and swapped out her car for what would eventually become the catering van.

The guys hadn’t even let her ask the question before they said yes, despite the reminders that there was no guarantee it would work. They built it from the ground up for over a year, buying a store and fixing up the van and eventually hiring Jasper - Monty’s friend from college - and Emori - who they discovered by accident when switching food suppliers - and then clients started rolling in.

Clarke was just glad she’d been able to show her father some of her success before he died. She remembered the day she was sitting next to his hospital bed and her entire staff surprised them with food and cake and balloons and made Jake happier than he’d been in a long time. Her friends were good like that.

“Is it poaching if I basically leapt into your arms and begged you to take me out of there?” He joked, adding another card to the pile. “Uno.”

“Poaching sounds more professional,” she said, putting down her last green.

“And has the added advantage of being a cooking pun, so I’ll give you that, but I refuse to allow you victory in this game,” he said, before he smacked down a draw four and cheered at yet another win. She tossed her last few cards at him and thought about how lucky she was to have the life she did, even if she didn’t currently have anywhere to live.

 


 

The instant Clarke walked in the door of the firehouse, Hephaestus nearly bowled her over, and it took some truly impressive acrobatics to keep the cake upright and in its box as he tangled himself in her legs.

“Hey buddy,” she tried to walk to the mess but he kept nearly tripping her up. “I’ll pat you in a sec okay? I’ve just gotta put this down.”

“Shit,” Shaw said, running up to them and grabbing Heph’s collar. “Sorry, Bellamy’s on call somewhere so I’m supposed to keep an eye on him. Clearly I’m good at it. You got the cake?”

“I do,” She held up the box.

“Awesome. You staying?”

“Staying?” Her brow furrowed in confusion.

“For the party?”

“Oh, no, that’s okay, it’s not my business-”

“Don’t be ridiculous, we want you to stay! We voted; it was unanimous.” He said expectantly, and Clarke couldn’t say no to anything when Hephaestus was looking at her like that. Shaw sensed that she was caving and offered to carry the cake for her so that the puppy could attack her with full force.

The second she handed it to him, he let go of Heph’s collar and the dog bowled her over, licking all over her face and doing that excited full-body-wiggle that Clarke loved so much. She was so enthralled by the little ball of excitement leaping all over that she didn’t hear the sound of the firetruck pulling quietly back into the building. A pair of boots drifted into her peripheral vision and not expecting it, she made the fatal mistake of looking up.

“Jesus Christ,” she said, aloud. Again. She really needed to learn to close her mouth when Bellamy could hear her. He was leaning in the doorway, half out of his fire gear, sweat making his skin glisten and hair stick to his face. There was soot on his pants.

“Hello to you too,” he frowned.

“Sorry, it’s just-” she gestured at all of him, “firefighter.”

“Oh,” he said, turning his frown down towards himself, completely - and thankfully - misunderstanding her. “Sorry, we we called out to a blaze on the edge of town, I’m a little singed… uh, not to be rude, but what are you doing here?”

Before she could answer, a chorus of, “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” filled the air, and his coworkers emerged from the mess, some of them clearly just back from the fire like him, but all of them grinning as Diyoza led the charge, cake propped on her belly.

“I hate you guys,” he muttered, turning to face them.

Lincoln stepped forward and stoically placed a green party hat on Bellamy’s head. “The feeling’s mutual.”

Clarke giggled into her hand as she got to her feet and made to join them, and Hephaestus followed her merrily, licking the back of her knee. When Bellamy saw the cake, he rounded on her, accusatory, “You made this.”

“No I just thought I’d come down to a firehouse in the middle of the day for no reason,” she raised an eyebrow.

He laughed and then he was hugging her and she was going to die, because he smelled like smoke and aftershave and his arms were wrapped around her waist and his sweaty hair was messing up her foundation and it was the best hug she’d ever had. He very quickly remembered that he hadn’t showered and leapt back with apologies pouring out of his mouth, but she just waved him off like she wasn’t about to pass out and grabbed a slice of pizza from the box Roan was offering round.

“How you holding up, Griff? I can fan you with a palm leaf if you need?” He asked sneakily, and she trod on his toe.

She hung back for a while, letting Bellamy’s friends tease him, and texted Monty to let him know she was going to be late back. He asked her if Harper was there, but when she told him he could come down if he wanted, he said he was too busy. Clarke shook her head at her phone. He was so cute when he was infatuated.

“Whatcha smiling at?” Speak of the devil, and she will appear; although Harper was probably the furthest thing from a devil Clarke could come up with. In Clarke’s mind the devil spoke with her sister’s voice. “Secret boyfriend? Girlfriend?”

“Just Monty,” she said, and Harper blushed. “He says hi, by the way.”

“How is he?”

“Really into you.”

Harper’s blush deepened. “He’s sweet.”

Clarke appraised her. “Do you like him?”

“How could you not?”

“In that case, please ask him out, because he’s too nervous to do it himself and I can’t watch you dance around each other the way I watched Murphy and Emori, it’s exhausting.”

Harper snorted. “Deal. How are you doing anyway?”

“Oh, you know. Got evicted, sleeping on Wells’ couch, just girly things.”

“You’re kidding?” Harper said. “Just like that?”

Clarke shrugged. “Yeah. I hid my dog in my apartment and my landlord isn’t a fan, so Waffle is living on Emori’s farm until I can find somewhere that’ll take both of us.”

Harper opened her mouth as if to respond but changed her mind halfway through, “Hold that thought.” She scanned the room for something. “Blake! Get over here!”

Bellamy shuffled over, biting into a piece of cake.

“Don’t you have a house you’re doing up?”

He nodded, still chewing.

“It’s got spare rooms, right?”

The chewing slowed.

“Because Clarke here has been evicted, and she needs a place to stay that would take in both her and her dog,” Harper finished, and Bellamy swallowed his mouthful just as Clarke started protesting. Harper counterprotested and they were talking over each other in their effort to get their points across until Bellamy held up a hand.

“Yeah, you could stay at my place, no problem,” when he saw she was about to argue he forged ahead. “But only because you’re bringing a dog.”

She shook her head, “Bellamy, I can’t ask you to do that-”

“You didn’t, Harper did, and she’s an old friend of mine so I’m sure I owe her about a thousand favours, right Harp?”He asked. Harper nodded vehemently. “See? It’s really not a problem, it’ll be nice. Maybe our dogs can be friends.”

“You’re living there too?” Oh fuck.

“I didn’t want to waste rent on a place if I’m spending most of my time here or at the house,” he explained. “But if that’s a problem…?”

“No!” She said, way too quickly. “Uh. It’s fine, I’m just… are you sure?”

He rubbed the back of his neck. “Course. What kind of fireman would I be if I didn’t help someone in need?”

Okay. She was moving in with Bellamy. This was fine.

She’d take Roan’s offer of a fan now.

 


 

After the Breakup Party, she went back to work and almost forgot the plans she’d made with Bellamy. Monty asked if he could leave early for a date with Harper - which she obviously said yes to before he even finished asking - and Jasper was off that night, so it was just the three of them hanging out. She was having so much fun watching Murphy and Emori flirt while they debated which spices were best in the Pumpkin Pie for the anniversary dinner that night that when Bellamy appeared at the counter, she forgot how to breathe for a second.

She was gonna have to get better at being surprised by him if they were going to live together, or it would be very bad for her health.

“Hey Bellamy,” she was barely through his name when Emori practically sprinted out of the kitchen, skidding on the tiles in her hurry to see the infamous, much gossiped about fireman.

“This is the hot firefighter guy?” She asked, yelling back to Murphy, “I don’t see it.”

“Well do you have fucking eyes, Mori, because that man is built like a Greek God-” he appeared in the doorway but didn’t lower his voice one jot “-and he saves lives for a living, show him some respect and objectify him the way he’s supposed to be objectified!”

Bellamy shifted his weight from foot to foot awkwardly, clearly embarrassed. “Good to see you too Murphy.”

“Calm down, fireboy, I’m taken,” Murphy deadpanned, winking at Emori, who mimed throwing up into the register. “Anyway, what are you doing here?”

He looked confused. “I’m here to pick up Clarke.”

Murphy couldn’t hide his surprise and Emori nearly dropped the whisk she was still holding on the floor. “What?”

“She’s moving in with me?” It sounded more like a question and he turned to Clarke. “You are still doing that, right?”

She assured him that her plans hadn’t changed and he relaxed slightly, leaning on the countertop. It took a gargantuan effort to not let her gaze drift to his biceps but somehow she managed it. While she looked for her bag, she explained the situation to her friends, who were both still looking at her like she was crazy.

“Wells already dropped off your stuff, so we just need to go pick up Waffle,” Bellamy said, taking the bag off her shoulder and hiking it onto her own.

“Again, I can carry my own things,” she pointed out.

“But why would you when there’s a hunk to do it for you?” Murphy said, adopting a dreamy voice and resting his chin in his hand.

“We need to leave now, before Murphy accidentally ends his engagement,” Clarke said, ushering Bellamy towards the door and shaking her head at Emori’s mouthed questions.

His car was nice, and he put the radio on low while they drove so he could ask her about her life. He told her the full story of how he adopted Hephaestus, and some funny things he’d done since becoming the firehouse mascot. She responded by telling him about Waffle - he was a rescue she picked out with her dad - which led them into conversation about Jake, and by the time they reached Emori’s place they were jokingly comparing their Dead Parent Cards as he reminisced about his mother.

She climbed out of the car and used her spare key - that she bragged about constantly because she got a key to Emori’s place before Murphy did - to get in the back garden, and she was immediately tackled to the ground by a very large, very excited Waffle.

He was whining gleefully as he licked every inch of her face and pattered in circles over her body, nearly stepping on her nose more than once.

“Hey baby boy! Who’s my good boy? It’s you, you’re a good boy!” She gushed and he danced so hard he fell over, rolling to his feet in an instant. As she pushed herself to her knees, he spotted Bellamy getting out of the car. Clarke called out a second too late, “Hey, watch out-”

And then Bellamy was dropped to the floor by nearly 100 pounds of fluff and joy.

He laughed, winded, and she ran to check that he was okay, but he was too busy rubbing Waffle’s face and cooing at him to even notice she asked. Well, at least her dog liked him too.

Maybe this was going to be fine.

“He was pointing at the moon, but I was looking at his hand.”
― Richard Siken

 

 

 

 

 

Ooh, each morning I get up I die a little
Can barely stand on my feet
Take a look in the mirror and cry 
Lord, what you're doing to me 
Somebody To Love - Queen

Clarke had been living in his house for four months and he was losing his entire fucking mind.

The end of March had come and gone and he thought he’d get used to waking up to the breakfast she left him in the hall, or the fact that she fell asleep watching movies at night, or the way she smiled at him when either of them got home, but he didn’t. In fact, it seemed to be getting worse.

Every day he noticed something new and magical about her; like the fact that if she gave Waffle a treat, she always made sure to give Hephaestus a treat too, or the potted plants she brought him one afternoon because “breathing in paint fumes isn’t good for you, we should get some fresh oxygen running through this place”.

His house was barely functional and so was he.

It wasn’t helped by the fact that every two weeks someone at the firehouse decided that there was an event worthy of being catered, from the genuine - Anya’s birthday in June had been a truly fun affair, not to mention the day they’d surprised Diyoza in the hospital after the birth of her daughter- to the ridiculous - Miller threw a party celebrating there having been no fires for four days, and during the cake cutting they got an emergency call and had to rush to stop a bar from burning down.

His friends teased him mercilessly, and before long, her friends had started joining in; joking about them being old and married already and making eyes at them whenever they shared an in-joke at the bar.

Even their dogs were best friends - Waffle was a little older, a bit more relaxed than Heph, but they adored each other, playing until they wore each other out. He started taking Waffle with him to the firehouse every now and then too, just so he wasn’t leaving him alone, and felt more comfortable leaving Heph at home as long as the older dog was there to keep him entertained. Waffle fit in very well at the firehouse, mainly because whenever the siren went off he howled quietly to himself and nudged the nearest firefighter as if to let them know. At one point, Harper started crying while cuddling him and telling him she’d die for him, and Hephaestus came over to lick her face to cheer her up. Everything was great.

Kind of.

Clarke was in his house, she was friends with his friends, she came into his work twice a month, if not more, and she didn’t seem to mind that he often did 24 hour shifts and then came home and crashed.

He knew his job had drawbacks; that was part of why he’d kept all his relationships casual for so long - he didn’t want to lead anyone on only to be unable to commit because of his job. But living with Clarke was easy. They had a rhythm.

It was dangerous.

And it all came to a head at the end of July, in sweltering heat. He got home in the early hours of the morning after fighting summer fires all night long and he heard her moving around in the kitchen, which was odd. The entire time she’d lived there, they had to order takeout or she’d bring leftovers from work, because he hadn’t gotten around to the kitchen yet; still stuck picking colour schemes for the bathrooms, but neither of them minded.

He called out to her but she didn’t answer, so he trudged exhaustedly down the hallway.

“What. The. Fuck.”

Clarke was crouched under the the counter, screwdriver between her teeth, twisting something into the wall. She startled at his voice and hit her head against the underside of the sink. Her “ow” was muffled by the screwdriver in her mouth.

“Clarke, what’s going on?”

“I woke up early,” she said, as if that explained anything.

“Okay,” he said slowly, “why are you under the counter?”

She crawled out, dusting off her knees as she stood up. “I hooked up the oven.”

“You…?”

She pressed a button and blue flames sprang from the stove top. She flicked it off again and grinned at him.

He blinked. “How do you know how to do that?”

“I run a bakery, I can hook up anything kitchen related,” she said. “I woke up early and realised I’d been waiting for you to get to the kitchen, when I could have just done it for you, so.”

“You hooked up the oven,” he said dumbly. “Okay. I’m going to bed now. Have a good day at work.”

He shuffled upstairs and collapsed, face first, into bed. Unconsciousness took him while his brain was still trying to chew through the idea of Clarke being a handyman, and how inexplicably attracted he was to her even with a screwdriver hanging from her mouth.

On his next shift, he walked into work, dumped his bag on the table everyone was sitting at, and said. “She fixed my kitchen.”

“Oh boy,” Lincoln said. “You’re about to have a breakdown, aren’t you?”

“She fixed my kitchen,” he repeated.

Harper looked up from texting Monty and smiled sympathetically, “Are you finally ready to admit that you might have a little bit of a crush on her?”

“I don’t have a crush, I’m not twelve,” he collapsed into the nearest empty chair and ran his hands through his hair.

“Debatable.” Miller clapped him on the shoulder. “Look at it this way; do you like spending time with her?”

“Yeah, of course.”

Anya stuck her feet up on the table, “Is she still looking for another place to live?”

“Well, no, but-”

“At the end of a hard day, whose face do you most want to see?” Diyoza asked, balancing Nada on her hip as she strode in.

Bellamy took a moment to really think it over. He loved his sister but they barely saw each other anymore. His best friend was Miller, except- oh fuck. He closed his eyes, feeling like an idiot. Clarke was his best friend and he definitely had a crush on her.

“That’s what I thought,” she said, when he didn’t respond.

“This is fine,” he said, right before the alarm went off signalling another fire. He tried not to read into that too much.

I fill my calendar with stuff I can do
Maybe if I'm busy it could keep me from you
And I'm pretending you ain't been on my mind
But I took an interest in the things that you like, ah-ahh

And I'm just tryna play it cool now

But that's not what I wanna do now
Crush - Tessa Violet

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It's full of charts and facts and figures
And instructions for dancing

But I
I love it when you read to me
And you
You can read me anything
The Book Of Love - Peter Gabriel 

Clarke catered yet another event at the firehouse in August; honestly, she was beginning to suspect that they were hiring her just so they didn’t have to eat takeout, but she also suspected it had something to do with messing with Bellamy because he never seemed to be aware of the fact that she’d be showing up.

He’d been acting weird for a few weeks, like he didn’t know how to act around her, but she put it down to stress or exhaustion. It was a long summer and there were a lot of fires to put out.

This time it was for Harper’s birthday, so at least they had a legit excuse to hire her, and she had a good excuse to bring Monty along instead of Murphy, despite the latter’s calls of “TRAITOR!” as she left.

When they arrived, Monty didn’t even get to say hello before Harper kissed him full on the mouth in front of everyone, prompting exaggerated whoops and wolf whistles from her coworkers.

Clarke noticed Anya in the corner and slunk over there while everyone fawned over the happy couple.

“It’s disgusting, isn’t it?” Anya said, handing her a balloon.

“Yeah,” she nodded, leaning against the wall. “They’re so in love.”

They stood in silence for a moment, watching as Harper blew out the candles on the cake Clarke and Monty had lovingly made together - light green icing covered in edible flowers - until Anya nudged Clarke conspiratorially. “Look, I know you have a massive thing for Bellamy, but if you ever wanted someone to casually hook up with, I’m not currently seeing anyone.”

“I don’t have a massive thing for Bellamy,” she spluttered. “I find him attractive, but who wouldn’t? It’s ridiculous to suggest that I feel anything more for him than friendship. We live together, I mean… that would be too complicated.”

Anya stared at her, expressionless.

“What?” Clarke wondered if there was something on her face.

“I get it now,” she said pensively. “You don’t have a thing for him-”

“Thank you.”

“-you’re in love with him.”

Clarke let go of the balloon and it floated to the ceiling. “What?!”

Anya was still wearing that inscrutable expression and she pulled a pack of cigarettes from her pocket. “Ah, it’s okay. If I was straight he’s definitely on the list of men I’d hit on. But the offer’s always there.” And with that, she half-saluted and drifted out the door to have a smoke. Clarke tried to push down her misgivings at Anya’s comments and focus instead on the irony of a firefighter smoking.

But she couldn’t shake it.

She knew she was attracted to Bellamy - that had never been up for debate. But in love with him? Surely that was ridiculous. She hadn’t been in love for years, but she remembered what it felt like and Bellamy was… different.

“You okay, Griff? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Roan appeared at her side, startling her from her stupour.

She looked over at him. “I’m not in love with Bellamy, right?”

He grimaced. “Uh. This seems like a conversation for Wells. Or Monty. Or literally anyone other than me.”

She stepped on his foot.

“Jeez, fine!” He feigned agony. “Do I think you’ve got a bit of a thing for Bellamy? Obviously, who doesn’t? Is it love? Griffin the only person who is capable of answering that question is you. I could guess, but that’s not going to help you find the answer.”

She slumped, “When did you get so wise?”

“Honestly I think it’s mostly Wells,” he said, side-eyeing her. She let him pull her into a hug and when it was over she resolved not to let the issue bother her.

She spent the rest of the day trying to be as involved as possible, giving Harper presents and offering food to everyone and playing with Nada while Diyoza shotgunned an entire chocolate milkshake in under a minute. She showed Miller the tricks she’d been teaching Hephaestus and he was so impressed with it that he made everyone else stop what they were doing and watch while she did it again. Hephaestus was delighted at the praise he received for playing dead and shaking paws, and showed his appreciation by peeing on the floor.

It was a good day, but every time Clarke looked over at Bellamy to find he was already looking back at her, the question lingered in the back of her mind, and as the sun started to set, she found herself looking up at the ceiling where her solitary balloon was floating slowly towards the corner.

 


 

September was a weird month, largely because she kept finding excuses not to be in the house when Bellamy was there. She wasn’t even sure if he noticed, because he was taking on extra shifts at work due to Diyoza’s daughter getting chicken pox and her appointing Bellamy acting captain in her absence.

Of course, Clarke always made sure she left enough food for him, that the coffee machine was ready in the mornings, that she smiled whenever she saw him - but whenever he smiled back she felt it land like a rock in her chest.

But September couldn’t hold a candle to October.

For the first time all year, she skipped a firehouse event completely, but that had more to do with her sister than anything else.

“I hate this,” she said for the hundredth time.

Josie’s expression seemed pleasant on the surface but there was nothing behind her eyes. “I don’t care, you’re gonna do this and you’re gonna do it with a smile.”

“I hate it too,” Gabriel mouthed over his wife’s head, making Clarke smile.

She was all dressed up, not a hair out of place, attending her sister’s work party. Every year the law firm Josephine worked for - run by her father, naturally, because nepotism was real and thriving in the 21st century - hosted a party where everyone was encouraged to invite their families. On Halloween. She didn’t understand why; personally, she thought it was stupid and banal and she’d rather be scrubbing melted chopping boards out of an oven for eternity than attend,but every year her sister somehow managed to get her there. So instead of partying with her friends or eating candy while watching scary movies, she had to put on her best polite face and interact with a bunch of people she had nothing in common with.

Luckily, she wasn’t the only one.

“Aw, you look beautiful,” Wells said, kissing her cheek. “Where are we on the Josie Scale?”

The Josie Scale was something the two of them had come up with a long time ago to determine how urgent Clarke’s need to kill her sister was, (ranging from 1: mild infuriated and in need of a drink, to 10: already holding a gun). Gabriel knew about it too, and occasionally held up a couple of fingers from across the room.

“Three.” She begrudgingly admitted. It wasn’t terrible yet.

She had to talk to Josie’s father, Russell, which she hated, and she was trapped in a conversation about gated community by-laws with the most boring woman in the world, and eight different sleazy lawyers hit on her, but none of it was terrible.

No, the truly terrible moment happened about an hour later, when she was getting another - needed - drink from the bar. A figure sat down on the barstool to her right and as Clarke paid for her margarita, she realised that she knew the person next to her.

Urgh.

“Clarke? I didn’t know you came to these sort of things! Bit upmarket for you, don’t you think?”

She took a large mouthful of her drink before answering. “Echo. Lovely to see you. And uh, yeah, my sister’s dad runs this firm. I come every year. How did you get in?”

“Oh, I’m just here as a date,” she said, in the tone of voice of someone who was winning an argument. An argument that only she was having.

“Good for you, I’m glad you’re happy,” Clarke said, trying to mean it. She was cruising towards a 6 on the Josie Scale.

“I am. Especially since Bellamy called me last week.”

There wasn’t enough margarita in her glass to smother that statement. She opted instead to smile sweetly at her. “Oh? That was nice of him.”

“Yeah, I guess he’s thinking of getting back together. Of course, he’d have to get rid of you and the dogs, but if you’re moving into a new place you can take them both with you.” Echo sipped champagne with an unbearable smugness that made Clarke want to throw up. That was a definite 8 on the Josie Scale. At least.

“I suppose,” she said. The condensation on her glass was suddenly the most fascinating thing in the world to her.

“Yeah. We’re probably going to make it official sometime soon,” she was intolerable.

Clarke looked around the dining hall and pretended to spot Wells. “Oh sorry, my friend’s calling, but have a nice night, yeah?” She didn’t wait for Echo’s reaction, just picked up her margarita and stepped into the crowd. It didn’t take her long to find her friend - he was cornered by the same boring lady she’d been accosted by earlier - and she apologised on his behalf as she led him away from the woman.

“Thanks for the save,” he said, right before she downed the entire margarita. “Whoa. What’s wrong?”

“Nine.” She whispered.

“Nine? What happened?!”

“I just need to go home, okay?” She felt inexplicably like crying. “Can you take me home?”

“I thought we were gonna swing by the bar after this for Halloween drinks with Bellamy and the others?” Wells asked.

“Not tonight.”

“Clarke, this is your second favourite holiday after Christmas and you’re going to abandon the actual fun part of the evening to go lie on your own in the dark?”

“I won’t be alone. I’ll have the dogs.” Wow, that was probably the most depressing thing she’d ever said, at least judging by Wells’ face. He slung an arm over her shoulder and walked her to his car. “Thanks for doing this.”

“Are you kidding? I’ve got an excuse to escape the worst Halloween party of all time, I should be thanking you,” he said, squeezing her hand as he twisted the ignition and headed for Bellamy’s house. When they arrived, he offered to stay but she shooed him off the porch, telling him to go have fun with the others and that she’d see him soon. He looked at her sceptically, but she wasn’t taking no for an answer.

The second she was sure he was gone, she collapsed onto the couch and stared at the ceiling. For some reason, she was thinking about that balloon again. It didn’t take long for the puppies to realise she was home. They both clambered haphazardly onto the couch, sitting on top of her and each other, and she scritched both their foreheads absentmindedly.

“Why am I so upset over this?” She asked aloud.

Waffle whined and booped his nose against the underside of her chin.

“You’re right, I’m being ridiculous. It’s none of my business if Echo and Bellamy get back together.”

Hephaestus started chewing on her socked feet.

“Exactly, Heph - it’s not like he dates anybody seriously anyone. Everyone knows that Bellamy Blake doesn’t do relationships. He doesn’t commit. Because of his job. Right?”

Both dogs seemed to be falling asleep.

“So even if they do get together again, it’s not like he’s in love with her.” She paused. “Which I definitely don’t care about, because it’s none of my business. I’m just concerned, as a friend.”

Waffle opened one eye at her. Even he knew that one was bullshit. She blew a long gust of air out towards the ceiling in frustration.

“I think I might be in love with Bellamy.”

Oh would you be so kind
As to fall in love with me, you see
I'm trying
I know you know that I like you
But that's not enough
So if you will please fall in love
I think it's only fair
There's gotta be some butterflies somewhere
Would You Be So Kind - Dodie

 

 

We're only young and naïve still
We require certain skills
The mood it changes like the wind
Hard to control when it begins

The bittersweet between my teeth
Trying to find the in-betweens
Fall back in love eventually
Young Blood - The Naked and the Famous

When Wells turned up to Halloween drinks without Clarke, Bellamy was panicked. He wanted to go right home and make sure she was okay, but with quiet words from both Wells and Monty, he realised that what she needed most was space, and decided to stay at the bar.

He wasn’t happy about it though, and it showed. He left earlier than he ever had before, much to the chagrin of his friends, and swung by Clarke’s favourite Chinese place on the way home.

When he arrived, the house was dark but Clarke wasn’t asleep; she was lying on the couch, both dogs sprawled across her with head turned to whatever was on TV.

Bellamy nudged Hephaestus off her feet and sat down, putting the food on the coffee table. She didn’t so much as glance at him.

“Do you wanna talk about it?”

“No,” she said, apologetic.

“Okay. What are you watching?”

“Clue.”

He squinted at the TV, recognising a few of the actors. “I’ve never seen it.”

She lifted her head to look at him, brow furrowed, and then picked up the remote and started the film over from the beginning. “You’ve never lived, Bellamy. This is a seminal classic. It’s the best movie ever made. It’s a masterpiece.”

As the opening credits rolled, he sank into the couch, passing Clarke the spring rolls while he tucked into some noodles. He noticed her legs were bunched up in a position that looked uncomfortable and gently nudged her feet into his lap to put her at ease. For a moment she went rigid, but the first joke of the movie played out and she laughed, relaxing into it.

His phone kept buzzing with photos of their friends in the bar getting wasted and having fun without them, but when he looked over and saw a small smile curling at the corners of Clarke’s lips, he decided this was more than worth it.

 


 

November passed slowly.

There was something in the air, like anticipation or something stronger.

He spent more time with Clarke, went out of his way to organise his shifts around hers so they could have at least a couple of nights a week in the house together, talking and watching movies.

Clarke was going to visit her mother for Thanksgiving, so she and Bellamy had their own little Turkey Day a few nights before she was due to fly out.

It ended with them watching an old movie - classics, Clarke called them, but they weren’t any classics he’d seen before - and playing Scrabble on the floor. They kept getting rudely interrupted by the dogs, who took it upon themselves to walk all over the board, but Bellamy just called it Scrabble Roulette and it made her laugh so hard she almost cried.

“What are you thankful for, Princess?” He asked, trying to work out if he could fit the word ‘jacuzzi’ anywhere.

“This,” she put down her letters one at a time, spelling out F-A-M-I-L-Y using the M in MESSY. “My family - a firehouse full of incredibly jacked nerds, a kitchen full of my closest friends, a place for me and my dog, and… nights like these.”

He looked at Waffle, who was lying near the TV with Heph, both of them sound asleep.

“What about you?” She asked.

He gave up on ‘jacuzzi’ and went for J-A-R instead, using the R in RIDDLE. “I’m thankful for my job and my friends. I’m thankful for my dog and his adopted older brother. I’m pretty thankful for the woman who hooked my kitchen up when I was too lazy to do it.”

She snorted. “That’s what I’m here for.” But there was something in the way she looked at him that just didn’t quite make sense. He picked more letters out of the bag while she contemplated her turn.

“AXE!” She said triumphantly. “And it’s over a triple word score, so I will take all the points now.”

Wasting time with Clarke Griffin was the most fun he’d had in a long, long time.

 


 

For Thanksgiving, Diyoza always closed down her bar - because of course she owned a bar - so that she could throw a raging party, but being a single mother didn’t lend itself well to ragers, so she did something more lowkey that year. She still closed down the bar, but she only invited the firehouse and their friends and family.

It was sweet; Wells and Roan were chatting in the corner, Harper was watching Monty and Jasper have a dart competition which seemed to involve very little actual dart throwing, and Emori was mixing virgin cocktails for Diyoza.

Bellamy should have been having the time of his life.

But something about it felt hollow.

Midnight came and went and they were all still there. His sister had come up for Thanksgiving - as she always did - and she was spending an awful lot of time talking to Lincoln, which, if he was less preoccupied with his own concerns, he probably would have been irked by. As it was, he stayed mostly in the booth, staring at a three-hour-old pint of beer. Roan, Jasper and Shaw did shots off the pool table while Anya challenged Murphy to an arm wrestle and Diyoza enjoyed her first real night out since Nada was born.

Octavia wasn’t the first to notice, but she was the first to call him out on it. “What is your problem? You’re moping harder than when that woman painted over the Jesus.”

“That painting was a piece of history,” he said, but his heart wasn’t in the argument.

“Seriously, what is your deal?”

He shrugged her off and she rolled her eyes dramatically at him which he was pretty sure meant that the conversation was over. He went back to watching the condensation slowly evaporate from the glass until it was completely dry.

However, less than twenty minutes later, the others had had enough.

“Dude.” Miller slid into the booth next to him. “You’re being a real buzzkill here. And it’s not your fault, but I think it’s time we had a little talk.”

Bellamy scowled. “I’m not in the mood.”

“Oh we know,” Harper said, coming in from the other side and effectively blocking him in. It felt planned. Which was only confirmed when Monty, Lincoln and Shaw sat across from them, all sharing looks with each other that he didn’t understand.

“What?” He snapped.

“This is an intervention,” Octavia said, leaning on the table. He wanted to laugh at the idea, but his friends were sitting around him, deadly serious.

“For what? Failure to be an alcoholic?” He gestured at the untouched beer in front of him.

“Bellamy, don’t you think it’s time you... acknowledged the elephant in the room?” Lincoln started, very tactfully.

“You’re in love with her man, just admit it,” Miller blurted out, less tactfully. Shaw smacked him on the arm. “Sorry! It’s just, it’s been killing us watching you so deep in denial. I know you admitted you had a thing for her, but this is way more than that. It’s beginning to physically hurt me. You’re giving me arthritis.”

“What?”

“Clarke. You’re deeply, annoyingly, ridiculously in love with her, and it’s really hard to watch because you haven’t done anything about it. It’s like seeing a car-crash happening in slow motion.” Shaw said.

“Now who’s being blunt?” Miller said petulantly.

“Look,” Octavia took control of the situation, “I know you don’t do commitment, because of your job and because it’s easier that way, but if you don’t address the fact that you have feelings for Clarke, it’s going to fester and you’re going to keep being miserable with no idea why. All because you didn’t face the truth. You’re in love with her.”

“I’m not-”

“Don’t say those words unless you’re a hundred percent sure that you mean them,” Harper said softly, and his mouth was left hanging open with no words coming out. Because he couldn’t. She patted the back of his hand sympathetically.

He was in love with Clarke.

Fuck.

That wasn’t supposed to happen.

“If it helps, she feels the same way,” Monty said.

Bellamy scoffed.

“I’m serious, she’s crazy about you,” he promised, but Bellamy couldn’t allow himself to believe it. He could barely cope with his own revelation.

“What if she isn’t? What if I’ve misjudged it and I lose my friend? We live together, if I say something and she doesn’t reciprocate my feelings, it’s gonna screw everything up.”

Lincoln moved the lukewarm beer from between them so he could look Bellamy in the eye unobstructed. “If you don’t want to jump in with both feet, you should test the waters. Pay attention to how she responds when you talk to her, or hug her. Ask her how she feels about relationships, and whether she has had the opportunity to be with anyone since you moved in together. You’re never going to be completely sure unless she tells you, but if you’re too scared to ask you can hang back until you know more.”

“Why is he so much wiser than us?” Miller muttered, fistbumping the man respectfully.

“But how will I know?”

“Look, Christmas is right around the corner, right? So hang mistletoe on every surface and if she kisses you, she loves you back,” Octavia said, moving her hand to imply it was obvious.

“Do not do that.” Harper cut in.

Bellamy groaned and faceplanted into the table. He didn’t want to think about this. Clarke was the perfect housemate, she was his best friend, and most days she was the reason for the smile on his face. He really didn’t want to lose that. He was right in the thick of feeling sorry for himself when his phone rang and he had to sit up to answer it. His friends looked at him expectantly and of course; it was Clarke.

“Hey Princess. How was your Thanksgiving?”

“Totally sucked. Mom and Marcus are nice, but I miss my dogs.”

He laughed weakly. “Just the dogs?”

“The homeowner is pretty great too,” she admitted softly. “How’s yours? I can hear Jasper and Roan singing karaoke in the background so I know it’s not over yet.”

“Sucks,” he said. “I’m pretty sure my sister and Lincoln are secretly hooking up.”

Octavia went bright pink and crossed her arms defensively, but Lincoln lifted a shoulder in acknowledgement.

“Are you about to go all Crazy Older Brother on them?”

He let his forehead drop into his palm. “Nah. She’s an adult, she can make her own choices and she could do a lot worse than Lincoln.”

“True - he’s one of the good ones. Hey, I’ve gotta go; my mom wants to watch terrible Hallmark movies with me, it’s our Christmas tradition but she wants to do it now because I’ll be spending the holidays with you.” She paused. “Well, not just with you, but… you know what I mean. Anyway. I’ll see you soon.”

When he rang off, the others were sitting in exasperated silence. “What, did you want me to tell her over the phone? I’m sure that would have gone down well.” He said sarcastically.

“No, we’re just… we want you to be happy,” Miller said, being completely earnest for the first time in a long time. “And Clarke makes you happy.”

 


 

Apparently, Clarke was a Christmas person.

He found this out when he woke up on December 1st and found that nearly every surface of the house was covered in something Christmassy - tinsel, fairy lights, baubles, wreaths, the whole nine yards.

He shuffled into the kitchen to find a note from Clarke on top of a plate of snickerdoodles telling him that breakfast was in the fridge and that her shift finished late. He popped a cookie in his mouth while he made a coffee and took in the kitchen. There were snowman fairy lights strung over the window and ornaments hanging from the cupboard doorhandles. He had no idea where she’d gotten all that stuff from: it definitely wasn’t his, and he didn’t think she had enough boxes to fit it all when she moved in.

It had been a long time since he felt what he would tentatively describe as “the spirit of Christmas” but with Clarke in the house, festivity was starting to creep back into his chest.

Diyoza hired Clarke for their annual firehouse Christmas party on Christmas Eve, and then also invited her entire business to attend. They were all so close now that it would be weird if they spent the night carrying trays and serving them, especially considering it wasn’t a huge charity event; it was just the firefighters and their closest friends and family. She promised that as long as they brought the food, everyone else would do the rest so there was no need to worry about keeping things tidy or cleaning up. Bellamy kept asking Clarke what kind of cake she was making but she kept waving him off, promising a surprise.

It was perfect.

Except for the fact that all he could think about was how in love with her he was.

Pathetic, really.

It didn’t help things that every shift when he arrived at work, one of them would ask, “Told Clarke you’re in love with her yet?” Only to shake their head disappointedly and add a tally to the blackboard in the corner. He didn’t even know the firehouse had a blackboard.

One night, after getting home from a long, hard day at work, he stopped in the hallway to take a breath before he spoke to her, and she poked her head around the door. “Bellamy? You okay?”

“Yeah. No. Someone died today,” he scrubbed a hand down his face, leaning all his weight against the shoulder that was pressing painfully against the edge of the doorway.

“Oh Bell… I’m so sorry,” she inched closer, tentative, unsure what to do.

He exhaled slowly. “It happens - people don’t call us in time, or we’re just not fast enough - but it never gets any easier.”

Her eyes were darting over his face, and then she stepped forward and wrapped her arms around him, pressing her face into his shoulder. He readjusted his weight so he could hug her back, and burrowed his face into the crook of her neck like it could shield him from the memories of the day. She didn’t try to say anything comforting; she knew there was nothing that could be said to fix it, so she just held him for what felt like an hour.

When she finally stepped back, he felt better, although he immediately missed her closeness. “Can I do anything?” She asked.

He shook his head. “All I want is to eat dinner and maybe watch one of those classics you like.”

They collapsed on the couch with plates of lasagne and let the dogs sit between them because neither of them was capable of telling them no. He was pretty sure Clarke was feeding Waffle meat from her plate. She scrolled through her list of movies, trying to find something cheerful and christmassy, and eventually landed on The Shop Around The Corner, which he had never heard of - “How could you have never even heard of this, Bellamy? It’s super famous!” - but felt like he vaguely recognised the plot. Half an hour in, he finally asked her where he knew it from.

“You’ve Got Mail,” she swallowed the large mouthful of lasagne she’d popped in her mouth just before he asked. “That Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan movie? It’s a remake of this.”

“Right! Meg Ryan’s bookstore is called The Shop Around The Corner too, I can’t believe it took me that long to get it.”

“Well, you’ve had a long day,” she teased, squeezing his arm in comfort, and he wished she’d moved closer. He felt better the closer she was.

When the movie finished, she offered to do the dishes but he wasn’t about to let her cook for him, cheer him up, and then clean, so he snatched his plate off the coffee table before she could. He dropped it into the sink and then turned around to grab Clarke’s dishes too, only to run into her in the archway. They both huffed through their noses goodnaturedly, doing the dance people always did when they bumped into each other, and then Clarke put her plate down on the counter next to them and pulled him down into a kiss.

His brain short-circuited and it took him a second to realise that he was already kissing her back; like it was instinct. Her hands were in his hair and his arms were around her waist and her lips were soft and he never wanted it to end. The dogs ran up to them, confused, and squished their noses against both of their legs, but they barely reacted. When she did pull away, lowering herself back to the ground - he hadn’t even realised she was on her tip-toes - he almost tugged her right back.

“Sorry,” she said, breathless. “I had to.”

“Because I had a bad day?” He asked, brain still on some kind of time delay.

She giggled and pointed above them. There was a large sprig of mistletoe in the archway, one that he hadn’t remembered seeing earlier.

Right.

Mistletoe.

He straightened, running his fingers through his hair to untangle it, and smiled politely at her. “Well, rules are rules.”

Something flickered across her face but it was too fast for him to recognise in his dazed state, and then her cheerful disposition was back. “Go to bed, Bellamy, I’ve got the dishes. You can do them next time, I promise.”

He hovered in the doorway but she was already halfway through them and Hephaestus was nudging at the back of his knee like he was helping her get rid of him. He gave in to peer pressure and let Heph herd him upstairs and into bed, but his mind was whirring and despite his exhaustion, he couldn’t get to sleep.

Hephaestus raised an eyebrow at him, like he knew what he was thinking, and he sighed, shoving a pillow over his own face.

 


 

“Hey Blake,” Lincoln said, not looking up from his newspaper as Bellamy shuffled into work, Hephaestus and Waffle on his heels. “Told Clarke you’re in love with her yet?”

“No.”

He half-folded the paper and got to his feet so he could add another line to the board. When he turned around, he frowned. “You look terrible.”

“Thanks,” Bellamy said hoarsely, “I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.”

“Neither did I,” Shaw lumbered into the room, looking about as awful as Bellamy felt. “Yesterday was rough.”

“Mm,” he concurred, pouring himself his third coffee of the day. He hadn’t seen Clarke that morning but she’d left him a plate of bacon and sausages and a note informing him of the tomatoes in the fridge.

Miller was the third person to arrive, slightly more chipper than the others, and he patted Heph’s head when the dog ran up to him. “Well, today sucks,” he said, taking an apple out of the fridge. He took a large bite and spoke around the mouthful. “Told Clarke you love her yet Blake?”

“No.”

He groaned. “C’mon man! At some point you’ve just gotta grow a pair and kiss the girl!”

He tried not to react, but his ears felt warm, and Miller’s eyes widened. He made a point of looking back towards his coffee, but his friends weren’t about to let it go.

“Did you kiss her?” Shaw asked.

“No,” he hesitated. “Yes.”

Lincoln put down his paper.

“You what?!” Miller almost let go of his apple.

“Technically she kissed me, so,” he said weakly. “But it was mistletoe, so it’s not like it counted.”

“It definitely counts, of course it counts. Did she just peck you on the cheek or did she kiss you?” He asked, taking another bite. “Because those are different things. One is- sorry, one is friendly, and one is a declaration.”

“What actually happened?” Lincoln asked while Bellamy was still trying to translate Miller’s words through the medium of chewed apple.

He folded his arms. “We were arguing over who was going to do the dishes-”

“Oh you’re so fucking married,” Shaw grinned.

“-and we bumped into each other in the doorway, and she just. Kissed me.”

“Did she tell you about the mistletoe first?”

“No, but the Christmas decorations have been up since the beginning of December, so she probably assumed I noticed it at some point,” he said. “She kissed me, and then pointed at the mistletoe and told me she had to, and I said, ‘rules are rules’ and then she went and did the dishes like everything was normal.”

His friends were staring at him, expressions frozen. Lincoln picked his paper back up and shook his head. “You’re a fucking idiot.”

And when there's nowhere else to run
Is there room for one more son
These changes ain't changing me
The cold-hearted boy I used to be
Yeah, you know you got to help me out
Yeah, oh don't you put me on the backburner
These Things That I've Done - The Killers

 

 

 

Everybody's gonna love today
Love today, love today
Everybody's gonna love today
Anyway you want to, anyway you've got to
Love, love me, love, love me, love, love
Love Today - MIKA

When Clarke kissed Bellamy, she thought there was something there, that he might feel the same way she did. For a split second she allowed herself to believe that he was kissing her back because he loved her and not because he was tired and surprised, but then he acted like nothing had changed and she had to fold her disappointment away to not let it show on her face.

Luckily, it was four days to Christmas Eve and she wasn’t going to get to see much of him anyway because Griffin Catering had about fifteen events to cover with only five members of staff and the few waiters and waitresses that the venues provided.

She threw herself into the kitchen with the fervour of someone on some kind of stimulant, to the point where Murphy asked her six times a day if she was on speed.

Jasper and Emori were acting as runners, constantly going back and forth between venues and events to make sure everything was covered, and Clarke, Monty and Murphy were mainly focussed on getting the food out at a steady pace. As Christmas Eve came hurtling towards them, she hoped that all her work had been enough to force the Bellamy Issue to the back of her mind, but she had no such luck. Then it was the day of the party and she still hadn’t dealt with it at all.

Bellamy was already at the firehouse, having worked a shift that morning, so after she and Monty carefully loaded the cake into the van, she ducked home to get changed before she headed over there.

She picked out her favourite Christmas dress and slipped it on, checking herself in the mirror. It might be too obvious of a choice, but she didn’t care. It was a 50s vintage cut red dress with white fluff across the hem as it dipped into a v-neck, and she was struck with the urge to blast Lizzo’s Good As Hell as she twirled and the skirt spun with her.

She looked incredible, even if she did say so herself. And happily, she wasn’t the only one to say it.

“Holy shit, Griffin, the ugly stick clearly missed you completely,” Roan complained when she pulled up at the firehouse, picking her up so he could dramatically spin her around and kiss her cheek.

“You’re one to talk.”

He helped her carry the container with the cake in to the mess hall and she was struck with a sense of deja vu; it was almost a year since she’d first been here catering, since she’d first met Bellamy and the Sexy Firefighters, and her life had improved tenfold since that day. She’d made a family here.

Speaking of family- “You look nice!” Josephine said as she approached, and Clarke did a double take.

“Who invited my sister?” She muttered to Roan.

“I think it was Diyoza - she was trying to be nice, and by the time I saw it, it was too late,” he said, grimacing, just as Josie reached them.

“You look good too! What are you doing here?”

“We were invited,” well, at least Gabriel was there too. “Besides, we really wanted to meet all your hot firefighter friends. Is that a problem?”

“No, of course not,” Clarke pulled her sister into a hug. “It was a surprise, that’s all.”

They were knocked out of the embrace by two very excited dogs, who leapt onto Clarke like that hadn’t seen her for years. It had been a few hours at most, but the fact that they always greeted her with the most possible enthusiasm always put a smile on her face.

She was bending down to kiss Waffle on the nose when Bellamy stepped into the room and halted in his tracks.

“Jesus Christ.”

She glanced up, smiling at him. “Hey stranger.”

“That’s, uh, that’s some kind of dress, Princess,” he swallowed, eyes locked onto her as she walked over and wrapped him in a hug. He turned his face into her hair and she tried not to like it too much.

“Merry Christmas,” she said, stepping back.

“AND ALSO TO YOU!” Jasper and Monty yelled, barrelling into her at full-force and lifting her into the air.

She threw her head back and laughed as they carried her around like a pharoah, taking her around the entire firehouse with the dogs nipping at their heels. Finally, they made their way back to Bellamy and let her down. His arm snaked out to steady her on her feet and she expected him to pull it away when she got her bearings back, but instead he settled it around her waist as he struck up a conversation with Gabriel.

In fact, he kept her close for most of the afternoon.

People came up to hug her and wish her a Merry Christmas, and still his hand never fully left her person.

She didn’t know what to make of it, but she knew she liked it. And she knew that Wells was waggling his eyebrows at her suggestively without even having to look. Waffle curled up by their feet while they talked and ate and listened to the loud, terrible Christmas music that Jasper had put on.

At one point Murphy and Emori pretended to slow dance to Merry Xmas Everybody which was quite possibly the least romantic song in the world, so it suited them just fine. Then Lincoln invited Octavia to join them, and Anya offered her hand to Diyoza while Miller swayed back and forth with Nada on his hip.

The song changed to You’re a Mean One Mr Grinch and Clarke smothered her laughter into Bellamy’s shirt as Wells and Roan also joined the makeshift dancefloor and started waltzing irreverently.

“Wanna dance, Princess?” Bellamy asked.

She beamed up at him. “To this? Absolutely.”

He took her hand and Gabriel seemed to take their example and dragged Josephine out on the dancefloor after them, despite her protests. Monty, Harper and Jasper were dancing with each other, and Shaw joined Anya in spinning Diyoza around the room.

Bellamy’s nose brushed her cheek and she could feel his breath against her skin and his arms against her back. She wanted nothing more than to kiss him, and she was edging closer to the precipice, fingers playing with his collar as the song came to an end.

It was the perfect moment, in a perfect day, with the perfect group of people.

So naturally, it was ruined by the entrance of the one person who could mess it up.

“Bellamy!” Echo said, striding across the room towards them.

“The fuck is she doing here?” Diyoza snapped, and Clarke was thinking the same thing, but before she had a chance to ask, Echo had grabbed Bellamy’s face and started making out with it.

Clarke stepped back in shock, feeling sick.

Wells appeared at her side in an instant, offering a reassuring hand on her shoulder. It felt like her entire world was crumbling to dust, and for one long, painful moment, she watched Echo kissing Bellamy.

Until he grabbed her wrists and yanked them from his face, taking a huge step away from her. “What the fuck are you doing?!”

Echo pouted. “I’m doing what I should have done earlier - we should never have broken up over a stupid fight like that.”

“That was nearly a year ago.”

“Time means nothing when it comes to love, Bellamy,” she said. Hephaestus’s ears pricked up at her voice and he padded over, growling long and low in his throat.

Clarke was beginning to understand what was going on, and released a breath she didn’t realise she’d been holding. She wasn’t the only one; Miller and Shaw were both halfway across the room, murder in their eyes.

“Well, it makes a difference when someone doesn’t love you,” Anya snapped.

Echo didn’t have a chance to retort because Miller, Shaw, Lincoln and Roan stepped between her and Bellamy, effectively distracting her. Jasper took the opportunity to hand Bellamy some napkins and a glass of water to wipe away the remnants of Echo’s kiss. The bulky firefighters crossed their arms, an impenetrable wall between her and her target, and she stomped her foot. “Get out of my way.”

“No, I don’t think we will,” Roan said.

She tried to make eye contact with Bellamy through the gaps in their shoulders. “Come on, you know that breaking up was a mistake. I care about you and I know you care about me.”

“Is this because I called you last month?” He frowned, baffled. “Echo, that was to return your jacket that I found under my bed when I was cleaning.”

“We both know it was more than that.”

“Do we?” Harper said sardonically, making Monty chortle into his hand.

Bellamy rolled his eyes and stepped forward. “Echo, I don’t have feelings for you. I mean, I never really had feelings for you, because we were casually dating, but especially not since we broke up a year ago and I’m in love with Clarke!”

Clarke froze.

Bellamy froze.

Clarke lost her breath again.

Bellamy slowly turned his head to look at her, eyes wide.

Clarke couldn’t move.

YES!” Octavia cheered, cutting through the moment like a knife through fondant.

“You love me?” Clarke asked, voice small.

He swallowed, hard, and started walking hesitantly towards her. “I didn’t mean to tell you like this, but… yeah. Of course I love you, how could I not? You’re perfect.”

“Are you sure it isn’t the dog?” She asked.

“It may have something to do with the dog,” he grinned, barely a foot away and getting closer. “But if anything that’s just an added perk. You’re beautiful and kind and funny and you bake and create things I could never even dream of and living with you this past year has been the highlight of my life. I love you, Princess.”

She inexplicably felt like crying. “Jeez, warn a girl before you make a declaration like that. This is good mascara.”

“This is good television,” Roan interjected, and their friends nodded.

Clarke blindly flipped the bird at him and Bellamy’s grin only widened.

“You know I love you too, right?” She asked, looking up at him from under her lashes as he slid both arms around her waist exactly like how they’d been before Echo broke them apart. “I mean, how could I not? You’re a Sexy Fireman.”

He laughed and made a show of dipping her, lowering his head to kiss the smirk right off her face. The firehouse erupted in cheers and the stomping of feet as Clarke kissed him back, throwing her arms around his neck. When he lifted her back to her feet, she pressed her forehead against his, breathing him in.

“I spoke that into existence!” Octavia said loudly, and Bellamy jerked his head up to make a face at her.

“No you didn’t, O!” He retorted, before Clarke dragged his lips back to hers.

The music turned back on, playing Santa Tell Me, which made everyone laugh as they returned to the dancefloor. Echo had long since left by the time anyone thought to look for her, and Hephaestus and Waffle sat by the door so if she came back they’d all know.

“This is kind of perfect,” Bellamy hummed in her ear.

“Kinda?”

“Well, the ex-girlfriend kissing me kind of puts a damper on things.”

“True. But next year you won’t have to worry about that.”

‘Next year?”

She felt his smile against her temple. “Yeah, I was thinking we could have the party at our place next year - it should be finished by then, plus there aren’t enough of us to fill this whole firehouse.”

“I love you,” he mumbled, peppering kisses over her face.
]
“Gross,” Jasper said as he and Shaw twirled past, but he high-fived Clarke all the same.

They danced and talked and sang and ate all afternoon until finally it was time to unveil the cake. Diyoza and Lincoln took hold of the cover and yanked it away dramatically to reveal a life-sized version of Hephaestus and Waffle, adorned in tinsel and both wearing Christmas hats, and everybody gasped. There were truffles disguised as baubles hanging off the fondant tinsel, and real fairy lights tucked under the layers so that it lit up.

The real Waffle tilted his head to the side, looking at the cake curiously, but Hephaestus was too distracted watching a bird flying on the curb outside.

“Holy fuck.” Harper said, tearing up. “They’re beautiful.”

“You’ve really outdone yourself this time, Griffin,” Roan agreed.

“Good, cause I’m retiring,” she joked, leaning back against Bellamy, who murmured an endless stream of praise in her ear.

“I feel bad cutting into them,” Anya said, knife hovering over the cakes.

“I’ve got this.” Jasper grinned at took it off her, beginning to cut massive chunks of cake out and plating them up.

They collectively slumped into chairs, eating in semi-silence. Lincoln complimented the art and Gabriel gushed about the buttercream and Monty and Clarke blushed at their praises while their significant others practically shouted their agreement. Murphy pretended to be upset that people weren’t as excited about his finger food, until Emori started throwing said food at him and he conceded that the cake was just as good. Nada crawled over to Waffle and scrunched her little chubby fingers into his fur. Luckily, he was a relaxed creature and had no issues just lying there while she did.

They’d come so far in the last year, and it was only going to get better from here.

And then Josie leaned over and asked Clarke, “When are you gonna have one of those?”

She almost choked on her cake.

Nothing ever really changed.

“We’ve got two already,” Bellamy pointed out, saving her from having to answer.

“But-”

Gabriel put a hand over his wife’s mouth. “Can you guys hear anything? I can’t hear anything at all. Especially not any pushy questions from anyone to her sister.”

Josie shoved him away but she let the issue drop and started asking Murphy and Emori about their upcoming wedding instead. Gabriel rolled his eyes, but he did it with love, and Clarke couldn’t help but love her sister too, no matter how annoying she was at times.

“While you’re all here, I’d like to hire you for our New Year’s Day Sexy Calendar shoot again,” Diyoza said. “Last year it brought two couples together, so this year I’m hoping for at least one proposal,” -she looked pointedly at Roan and Wells- “and, I don’t know, maybe a firehouse cat or something.”

Clarke agreed, shaking on it. Bellamy groaned. “I hate those shoots.”

“Yeah, but now you get to do it while I objectify you, and doesn’t that just sound perfect?” She teased.

“Something like that,” he grumbled, hiding his face in her shoulder.

Anya held up her glass of wine. “A toast! To my favourite people in the world, to the best cake I’ve ever eaten, and to the firehouse mascots, without whom, Bellamy and Clarke might never have fallen in love.”

“Hear, hear!”

Everyone raised their glasses towards each other, and then towards the dogs, who both panted happily at them, ears pricked in excitement. Clarke had never felt so lucky in her life. And she was about to spend Christmas Day with the man she loved and their two dogs, in the house they were fixing up together. All because she catered a firehouse event on New Year's Day. Her life was so weird, but she couldn't imagine doing anything differently. 

She had a feeling it was going to be an amazing year. 

 

Let me do it right for once,
for the record, let me make a thing of cream and stars that becomes,
you know the story, simply heaven.
- Richard Siken