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this ain't a scene, it's a goddamn arms race

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The newsroom is a hive of activity when Bellamy arrives, people scurrying to and fro as they prepare for this evening's broadcast, but he has little trouble carving a path through the chaos in the direction of his office. Along the way, he catches sight of Octavia at her desk and lifts his hand to wave. Her answering smile is blinding and he's momentarily stunned (they have a close sibling relationship, but she's usually prone to rolling her eyes at him, not smiling) until he glances over his shoulder and catches sight of Lincoln.

 

"Bellamy," Lincoln greets casually as he eases around him in order to approach Octavia's desk.

 

Knocking his chin against the jut of his shoulder, he watches the couple while pushing into his office, mentally reminding himself for the ten millionth time that it would be career suicide to maim his leading anchor -- but there is something about the massive size difference between the pair, the way Lincoln almost blocks Octavia from view as he hunches over her desk on today of all days that ties him up in knots.

 

But Octavia's a big girl, he reminds himself, and he has a show to prepare for, so he wakes his computer with a nudge of the mouse and types in his login information. 

 

Or what he thinks is his login information.

 

"Fuck," he mutters when the invalid password alert flashes across the screen -- goddamn IT and their goddamn rules about changing passwords every 2 months -- searching through the stacks of papers scattered across his desk for the post-it note containing his latest creation.

 

"What's wrong?" A voice asks and he barely bites back a yelp while snapping his head up to peer over his desk.

 

It doesn't take long for him to locate her tiny form huddled against the bookcase in the back corner of his office, knees drawn up against her chest and hands fiddling with the large watch on her wrist. (He'd teased her about it incessantly when they'd first starting working together, back when they were at each other throat's, fucking princess with her fucking watch that cost more than his entire fucking wardrobe. Now the sight of it is a reminder of the kinship they share -- the brotherhood of children who outlived their parent.) 

 

But it's the tell-tale marks of moisture on her cheeks that captures his attention, and the knots in his stomach only multiple as he blurts out, "What are you doing?" 

 

She returns to staring at the floor at the floor in front of her. He's almost given up on her answering when she finally murmurs, "I didn't feel like being around people I actually like." The corner of her mouth quirks upwards, a fragile, fleeting thing that's gone in an instant.

 

Even without the gesture he would've known she hadn't meant it. They had called an unspoken truce six weeks earlier when a common enemy (otherwise known as an ignorant Republican with misguided views on women's rights) triggered them to combine forces and had been tiptoeing closer to friendship ever since.

 

"Why aren't you in your office?" He asked while stepping closer.

 

"Dax is using it. I didn't want to disturb him."

 

"You shouldn't be sharing an office anymore," he scoffs, arms folding in front of his chest. She was the lead anchor of the 6:00 block, surely that dignified getting her own office.

 

"I don't mind. Dax is nice, and he's usually in DC anyways. He brings in his dog in sometimes. Basset hound - always looks very puzzled. Just confounded, but working on it you know? Just everybody slow down, and let me catch up, 'cause I'm down here." Her voice breaks at the end and she draws her legs closer to her chest.

 

The sight of her folding in on herself, the fact that Clarke Griffin is hiding, causes a strange sensation to flutter in his chest,  but she continues before he can even start to string two word together. "There's no way to see this coming," she whispers, wet eyes flicking upwards to meet his for a second before darting away again. "He's a really nice guy. Totally trusted him."

 

It's the thread of self-loathing in her voice that finally spurs him into motion, shifting away from his desk to drop down on the floor next to her. Her face crumples and she reminds him so much of Octavia that he has to trap his hands under his knees to keep from touching her. 

 

"It's all right," he murmurs as he watches fresh tears streak down her cheeks. "It'll be all right."

 

----

 

They have been sitting in silence for what feels like hours, when she clears her throat. "Your staff is probably waiting for you."

 

He flicks a glance down towards her wrist, checking the time. "They'll manage."

 

"I should call my mother," she announces after another brief silence, sinking back against the bookcase.

 

Startled, he turns his head with an arch of his brow. "Do you have to?" He's spent enough time around Clarke to realize that her relationship with her mother is rocky, to say the least.

 

"Her staff will tell her if I don't," she answers, voice hoarse with the weight of someone contemplating their doom. 

 

Bellamy is once again reminded of how horribly out of his depth he is as he says, "She has to understand." She scoffs and he shifts towards her slightly, suddenly desperate to make her believe him. "She will."

 

Clarke just shakes her head. "She won't, not deep down. No one will."

 

----

 

It is Bellamy who breaks the silence this time. "What happened?"

 

A brittle chuckle escapes her mouth. "You mean how did he .. why did I pose --"

 

"No!" Bellamy cut in sharply before raising his hand in a silent apology when she slants a startled glance in his direction.  "I mean .. was it a bad break up?" His hand continues upward, raking through his hair. "I didn't even know you were going out with someone."

 

When she speaks, her voice is clinical, the clipped tones of someone repeating a story for the hundredth time. "He's an analyst and we met at a Forbes party. We dated for six weeks. I gave him the camera as a present. I even asked Monty for the help picking it out. No, I didn't think it was a bad break up, he wasn't very upset about it -- but even if it had been, this would be okay? What the fuck!

 

"No, I know," he soothes, even as his hands curl into fists.

 

She catches him by surprise when she tips her head to rest it against his shoulder. "I wish I was dead," she whispers.

 

"I know." His voice equally soft as he rests his cheek against her hair.

 

----

 

"There wasn't any way to tell?"

 

"No."

 

"'Cause I don't mean to be a dick, princess, but there's a pattern here." 

 

"There's no way to tell, Bellamy," she snaps, retreating to her former position a few inches away. "They don't carry signs that say I'm a cheater, or I'm going to humiliate you in front of the entire world. There just isn't."

 

"I refuse to believe that." Stubbornly. "We both know that I can be an asshole, right?" He waits for her answering chuckle before continuing. "It's obvious. So, I can't believe that someone like this, someone so colossally fucked up, was able to keep it a secret from someone they've been dating for six weeks."

 

She averts her gaze as she considers his words. "You're saying I knew he was like this but didn't care?"

 

"Yes, maybe -- and I don't get it." He studies her face intently. "Don't you know understand how impressive you are?"

 

Her eyes widen in response to his admission, and he's woefully unprepared for the emotion glinting in their depths so his mind instinctively starts to search for a sarcastic remark, a joke, anything to keep her from staring at him like that - only to sputter when she springs to her feet. 

 

"I think I'm done in here," she announces before casting a glance over her shoulder on the way to the door. "Are you coming or what?"

 

----

 

In the future, whenever someone asks him, he'll say the moment she knocked out Finn Collins was the day he fell in love.