“Here we are, Miss Blake.”
A key is dropped into their hand and Octavia looks down at it in wonderment for a second.
It’s the kind of key that one might see on Harry Potter or Downtown Abbey, something a knight would have to pick up for one of their holy quests. It’s old-fashioned and ornate and sits solid and heavy in their palm, grey and, after a moment, warm. It’s just the metal taking on their body heat but Octavia grips it tightly and pretends that it’s because this is the right thing to do, that it’s a sign that everything is going to be okay. Better—that it’s going to be magical.
“Now please, Octavia, if you need anything at all please don’t hesitate to ask.” The head of the dorm, Miss Cartwig, is a woman with slender wrists and a stern set to her mouth that belays the instant kindness of her voice and eyes. She’s tall, taller even than Bellamy, and her voice is crisp and direct. “My room is on the first floor, just by the stairs. Room 103.”
“Thank you so much,” Bellamy says and she nods and leaves them alone. When she’s disappeared into the stairwell, Bellamy reaches over and claps a hand onto Octavia’s shoulder, gives them a tiny, supportive squeeze. “You ready?”
“Are you gonna open the door or what?”
“I’m savouring the moment, alright? Just give me a second. Jesus.”
Octavia finally looks up from their hand—the metal key digs into the soft of their hand so they know that this is actually, totally, completely real—and when they unlock the door, their hand only shakes a little.
Bellamy is too impatient to wait for Octavia to open the door as well, since just unlocking it took what felt like an age, so he turns the knob for them and pushes the door open. Gently, though, because everything about the school so far has been calm colours and lovely carved banisters and actual stained glass windows that cast long, long green shadows across a marble floor, and he really doesn’t want to break anything.
Octavia throws their arm across his chest, stopping him. “Me first,” they say, and he grins.
“It’s all yours, O.”
And it is, which is just…wild.
Their new room is literally the loveliest place Octavia has been in their entire life. It’s eight per cent expensive, eighteen per cent wildly expensive, and two per cent ludicrously expensive, and they tug at the hem of their best dress shirt and do their best not to feel too out of place.
Octavia steps into the room and, when Bellamy nudges at their back, another step so that he can join them.
“It’s so pretty,” they whisper, and Bellamy nods.
And it is.
The walls are a gentle sea foam green that Octavia adores on sight. Combined with the light that steams cold silver in through two large windows on the far wall, and the high ceiling, the room is light and large and lovely.
Against the far wall are two beds. On the left, a large bed made up with crisp white sheets and covered with a grey quilt that looks soft and warm. It’s very clearly Octavia’s bed, because the other has more personal touches—coloured pillowcases, what looks like a soft toy crammed in against the wall, and it looks a little rumpled. To their left is a large desk, empty shelves built in above it. There is a door just beyond the desk that opens into a not-small bathroom and another door by the first that opens to a small walk-in closet. That too is empty other than two spare blankets folded on the top right hand of the shelf.
Octavia is uncomfortably aware, looking down at the two bags that Bellamy sets carefully down on their bed, that all the clothes they’ve ever owned in their life wouldn’t fill that closet, let alone the small amount they had brought with them.
They set their backpack and their third bag—smaller, filled mostly with knick knacks and things they told Bellamy they couldn’t leave home without, like their favourite mug, their Lara Croft figurine, all that stuff—on their desk. Their desk. They have a full half of this beautiful room—a small bedside table and a dresser, plus their closet and desk, and they’re just standing and staring and not doing anything so Bellamy checks the wardrobe and the bathroom, checks the sink is working and the tap doesn’t drip, checks the lock on the bedroom door and on both of the windows, knocks on the walls for some reason and the sound pulls Octavia out of their daydream (they’re royalty, and everyone adores them, and they’re eccentric but wildly beloved).
They roll their eyes at their brother. “Happy now?”
He grunts. “Looks sturdy enough.”
“Right, because you’ve read the building code of standards.” Bellamy huffs and shoves his hands into his pockets. Instead of listening to them tease him, he takes a cautious step—lifting his feet like there is an imaginary line he’s stepping over—into the other side of the room. “Bell,” Octavia hisses. “Don’t.”
“I’m not going to touch anything, relax. I just want to get a feel for this girl. Make sure she’s a good match for my little sister.” He gins. Octavia crosses their arms tight over their chest and watches him carefully, scowling just the smallest bit.
And okay, maybe they have a little peek too. But safely and properly and respectfully from their own side of the room, since they haven’t actually been invited to look.
What they notice, is that it is well-lived in and well loved.
There are dozens of polaroids tacked to the wall over the bed—a few, two or three, are down on the wall next to the pillows where someone might, perhaps, be able to stare at them when they’re drifting off to sleep or first thing in the morning. Each of them feature the same girl who is smiling in most of the others, a girl with long hair and lovely hands, but that’s all Octavia can make out from a distance. On the end of that bed is a soft looking blanket, folded very neatly.
The desk is littered neatly with books and papers, and there is a bookcase that—Octavia checks their side of the room—she must have brought with her from home. It stands about chest height against Octavia, between the two beds, and it’s entirely full.
All in all, it looks soft and neat and expensively practical, a kind of cluttered wishful-minimalist aesthetic going on, and Octavia think they might get along really well with their roommate.
“When did Headmaster Kane say the other students were arriving?” Bellamy asks, trailing his hand over the back of their roommates desk chair. When it spins a little, he whips his hand away guiltily, and then pretends that he hadn’t. “O?”
“When does your roommate arrive?”
“Oh.” They think back to their meeting that morning—the Headmaster, a man named Marcus Kane, had leapt up from behind his desk to greet Octavia and Bellamy and had asked before he shook their hands and, when Octavia had said yes, he had taken one in both of his hands and said with the utmost sincerity that he was so very glad they could join the school. He had been kind and helpful and warm and he had told them, “Next week,” Octavia says. “Give or take a few days. Before class starts.”
“Right, right.” Bellamy nods. He pushes his hands into his pockets and he won’t meet their eyes. “I should go. Unless you want help unpacking?”
“I’ll be alright.”
“You could stay for lunch?”
“Nah, I have to get back.”
They’re awkward and stilted and Octavia is afraid that he will leave when it’s like this between them, but then he glances around the room again and nods and says, “This is gonna be good, O. Don’t fuck it up, yeah?” He laughs to take the sting out of it and Octavia smiles. It doesn’t wholly reach their eyes—things haven’t been great between them for a while and though Octavia isn’t happy to be so far from home, they’re king of thrilled to be out from under the too-watchful eye of their big brother. “Call me if you need anything,” he says, and when Octavia nods he clears his throat and nods as well and clears his throat again. “Alright. Good. C’mere.”
They hug—Octavia buries their face into his shoulder and their hands come up to clutch at his shirt, just for a second or two or twenty. He makes them furious sometimes—a lot of the time—but he’s still their brother and they love him and they’re gonna miss him.
Bellamy folds himself over to hug back tight and when Octavia finally, reluctantly, pulls away, he pats their shoulder and pulls away too. He rests a hand on their shoulder and squeezes gently when he looks away to clear his throat for the nine billionth time that day.
Finally, he steps away completely.
“I, uh.” He pushes a hand into his pocket and pulls out a small packet—a familiar ire strokes up Octavia’s throat and they swallow it down because Bellamy really doesn’t want—or deserve—the last thing his kid sibling says to him before he leaves to be a rant about how unfair it is that his pockets can fit his keys, wallet, a gift, and the entirety of the Library of Congress and their pockets can barely fit their phone. “Here.” Bellamy hands it over. It’s a gift, the size of a postcard, and it’s wrapped very meticulously in smooth dark blue paper. OCTAVIA is written on the front in Bellamy’s neat block script. “I’m gonna miss you, O. Do good, okay?”
Octavia nods and he can’t help but reach back to them and squeeze their shoulder again. Then she steps out into the hall, and leaves.
“Bye Bell,” Octavia whispers, pressing the door closed with a quiet snick of the lock.
They breathe in and go to sit on the end on their bed—it’s so soft, softer than it looked, and that’s what does them in. They drag their fingers over the quilt and let out a shaky breath and they try not to cry. They’ve only been here for, like, two hours in total and that’s way too soon to be homesick. Even if it is all overwhelming and their hand cramps and aches from all the paperwork they’ve signed and the school is weird and a bit of a maze and so, so different from what they’re used to.
Octavia has always been of the opinion that you feel what you feel, however, so they allow themselves a few minutes to feel it. They slump sideways into their pillow—and wow, amazing, it smells fresh and clean and ever so faintly of flowers—and push their face into it and breath a few calming breaths until their heart rate slows a little and their knuckles don’t feel like they’re ready to pop out of their skin.
Then, they sit up and scoot back until their back is against the wall, legs stretched out in front of them. The bed is so wide that their feet don’t reach the edge so they toe their shoes off, not wanting to dirty the pristine sheets.
Bellamy’s present turns out to be a little book of puzzles—of course it is, that nerd—and they fish their phone out of their pocket and text him.
—sure. i m rly proud of u. u know that, right?
Octavia wipes their cheek—one traitor tear has made a break for it so they swipe it away and the rest of the tears know to stay exactly where they are. They tilt their head back and blink quickly. They do know that Bellamy is proud of them, they know that he would do anything for them. They just wish that he would be less of an asshole about it sometimes.
—im gonna miss you, they send, and it’s mostly true.
—alright. text me every day
A second later, Octavia’s phone buzzes again.
—maybe not Every day. if u don't want to. but im gonna check in on u ok?
— worried i’ll get up to mischief?
— yeah, o. literally always.
“Whatever, Bellamy,” Octavia says, and they throw the phone and the offending message onto their pillow. He hasn’t been gone for nearly long enough for that to be endearing big brother behaviour instead of annoying big brother behaviour.
He can sit and stew for a bit, they decide. It’s not like they don’t have a lot to do.
What they really want is to have a closer look at the other side of the room, their roommates side—there are a lot of photos on the wall and some drawings and, on the desk, Octavia catches a glimpse of some sketched—but they look away quickly and ignore the temptation. Invading their roommates privacy seems like a pretty dodgy way to start out.
Kane had told them their roommate—Claire? Clark?—is great, really sweet, really smart, had only the best things to say about her, and he seemed confident that they would get along well. Since Kane has been truly excellent as far as principals go, they let themselves be cautiously excited. They’ve never lived with a girl before. It’s been them and Bellamy for forever and they know it’s not going to be, like, one of those TV deals where there is that instant connection and they’re BFFs in the first hour and proceed quickly to sharing life details and braiding each others hair before they go to sleep, but at the very least Octavia hopes that they get along.
They hope that she likes them.
And okay it’s true that having an instant best friend would be nice, they could use that right now, but someone they can tolerate would be fine too.
Octavia shakes themselves out of their thoughts—they’re just kind of staring at the opposite wall, eyes lingering on a black and white photo, a profile of a girl and the ocean stretching out behind her—and they hop up onto their feet.
There is a mammoth pile of subject reviews waiting for them to check out. Octavia stares at them blankly—it’s kind of the school to provide them, they know that, because starting halfway through a year is hardly ideal, so they know that it is nice and super generous for the teachers to help them catch up but it’s also, well… It’s a lot to handle.
They sit down at their desk and pull their backpack onto their lap. The weight of it, the way the folder inside digs a little at the soft of their thigh, the slightly coarse fabric and the familiar smell—all of it grounds them and they let out a long breath and nod. With their back to the bright, sweet, soft, loved space their roommate has made for herself, they get to work.
The first four days Octavia spends alone.
It’s not relaxing, exactly, but there is a sense of relief that comes when they can make mistakes without anyone knowing. Octavia raises a thankyou, to whomever is listening, for the swagger they’ve been blessed with. It makes them look perpetually like they are sure of what they are doing and no one ever second guesses them and it buys them enough time to actually figure it out.
They walk into several rooms that aren’t their own, back pedalling once they realise their mistake. They get lost on their way to the dining hall for lunch one day because they swear they took a left but clearly they hadn’t, ending up outside on the far side of campus. There are other things too—the rules to learn, picking up their uniform from the school shop, getting their school ID and library card, all of those things and Octavia ends up texting Bellamy before each one. He’s not soothing—he’s actually a bit of a dick about it, and it sends steel shooting up Octavia’s spine and they set their teeth and tell themselves You’re Octavia fucking Blake, kid, you’ve got this and it works.
Another time, they stayed up late to study and they’re hungry in the morning. Starving, actually. They take their bowl back to the line of cereals and watch the cook—chef? Waiter? Octavia isn’t sure what his title is—carefully to see what his reaction is when they go for seconds. He doesn’t even look their way once. Okay, he does, but it’s because they knock their hip loudly against the bench and panic for a hot second because the cereal containers teeter before they settle. They hiss when they feel a bruise bloom across their skin but they aren’t told off, so they guess that they’re allowed to take seconds. It’s good to know because they’re fifteen and they’ll never be as tall as Bellamy but they’re ravenous every minute they’re awake and they need. to. eat.
It’s the fourth day—a Thursday, and cold—and they return to their room laden with snacks. Octavia snuggles into their desk chair. The quilt is draped to the side and they tuck it around their body carefully, adjusting it to optimal comfiness, and scoot the chair forward until they’re tucked under the desk. They set their drink to the side, on the right, and their snacks just to side of their drink and adjust the handle just so and…they’re all set. Ready to get back to studying.
The pile of reviews they organised from fuckin easy to less fuckin easy is steadily diminishing as Octavia works through it. Partway through, stuck on algebra for the time being—they might have slightly overestimated how much they remember from class, though there is a fond memory of laughter and pen ink tattoos that goes with a few of the more familiar formulas—the door slams open and a girl walks in.
She’s talking on her phone. That’s the first thing Octavia notices. It’s hard to avoid hearing her in the small room—she’s got a nice voice, a nice laugh too, low and warm, and she pairs it with some of the filthiest language.
“Fuck off. You have no ide—what do you mean did I arrive without breaking anything else? You can’t just ask if I’m here safe like a normal person, can you?” Whatever else the person says, Octavia’s roommate laughs and then tells them exactly what they can do with a cane—explicit, violent, and very detailed instructions—and then hangs up.
Octavia thought maybe she hadn’t seen them sitting there and they shift a little, clear their throat. The chair creaks a bit and they push at the desk so they roll out and can turn toward her. The girl—Clarke, Octavia knows her name is spelt with an e after they accidentally snooped a little—looks them over for half a minute and then turns pointedly away.
She throws her bag onto her bed, pulls the zipper down in three rough tugs and upends the lot. It must be easier that way, maybe even necessary. There is a bulky cast covering her left hand and most of her lower arm and it’s clearly new because the white padding of it is clean and bright.
“I’m Octavia,” they say, standing. It takes a while—they have to awkwardly remove their quilt and they kind of hop when it tangles around one foot—but they do stand. They need to stretch and get away from their books and they’re kind of excited to meet their roommate. “Clarke, right?”
She’s still facing away.
“I’m new. Obviously. I got here on Monday.” Clarke leaves the pile of clothes at the end of her bed. She picks out her headphones from the muddle of items. “Headmaster Kane says we’re going to be roommates and I promise I’m not usually this messy, it’s just been a really hectic couple of days. I’ll clean up right now if you want and—“
“Okay, hey, look,” Clarke interrupts. She pops one ear phone in and flashes Octavia a perfect smile. “It’s not that I’m not, like, super interested but I don’t care.” She struggles a little with the other earphone, her cast making her fingers clumsy and uncooperative, but she manages. “Welcome to Polis,” she greets, smooth and sweet and she bestows that perfect smile on them again and Octavia has never felt boundaries expressed so clearly before with just three words and a look. Clarke’s blue, blue eyes watch for a moment to make sure that Octavia understands, and then she nods and leaves their room as quickly as she arrived.
“Nice to meet you,” they say quietly to Clarke’s back, and then she’s gone. “She’s so sweet,” Octavia repeats Kane’s words and they roll their eyes hard and throw themselves back into their chair. “You’re going to get along famously. Nice Good one, Kane. A regular house on fire.”
When Clarke returns, she smells faintly of laundry detergent.
She flicks the lights on and Octavia groans, raises their hands to cover their eyes. Clarke looks over at them with a faint look of surprise—clearly, she had already forgotten that Octavia exists.
Clarke walks around the room—she’s in the same sweatpants as before and a too big sweater with HARVARD stamped across the front—and she turns down her bed, sweeps all her things onto her desk chair. Mostly she works with her back to Octavia but, now and again, she makes quick little glances over at them. It feels to a tired Octavia that she’s uncomfortable or self-conscious maybe but like there’s more to it than that, and they don’t know, it’s honestly exhausting to be awake, but they’re going to be roommates for the whole semester—maybe for longer—and Clarke is young, just like them, and no doubt she’s got some issues—everyone does, y’know?—so they want to try.
And so they do.
“Hey,” Octavia says quietly, voice sleep-rough. “Welcome home,” they say with a little laugh.
Clarke doesn’t look at Octavia.
“Are you excited for class to start?”
“It’s school, Olivia.”
Clarke doesn’t even acknowledge that and Octavia bites hard down onto their tongue—they might be uncomfortable, sometimes, that people assume they’re a girl because of their name and because of other stuff, but they love their name and Clarke dismisses it just like that and it grates at Octavia but…they want to try one last time.
“Polis is pretty out of the way, isn't it?" Crickets. "My brother dropped me off,” they say, yawning into their pillow. “Which was cool and all, even if he is a jerk.” Clarke makes some gesture, a nod, a shrug. “Did anyone drop you off? Or is this old hat to you by now? Get yourself here?”
They aren’t sure exactly what they said wrong but it’s clear that they did because Clarke turns to them and she looks like ice—all brittle and cold and very beautiful—and Octavia’s breath freezes in their lungs.
“Look, I don’t talk to people worth less than ten million dollars. And even then,” she crinkles her nose delicately like the very thought of only ten million was something unappealing, like trash or being called out on their subtle racism, “I find it hard to concentrate.”
“Wow.” Octavia blinks over at the girl, who looks very faintly pleased—or disgusted, maybe?—and they can’t think of a single thing to say. Rather, they can think of many, many things to say but none of them are hurtful enough so they just roll over to stare blankly at the wall.
Clarke rustles for a little longer, then she flicks off the overhead lights, and all is quiet.
The first day of class makes one thing abundantly clear—Octavia Blake is not cut out to be a Polis student.
They stare at themselves in the mirror—them, in their skirt and fitted shirt and their tie and blazer and they pull up their socks and tie the laces of their heavy black school shoes and they brush their hands, which are not shaking not at all, over the waist of their skirt and twist it a little but it's still uncomfortable and they're pretty sure it will be no matter what they do. They tug on running shorts beneath their skirt and that feels a little better and it barely looks different at all, so they snatch up their bag and make their way to class.
Which. Wow. It's just a disaster.
They’re behind on everything. They don’t understand a word that the teacher said in their history class, they fare a little better in English, but they’re right back at the rear of the pack when it comes to math.
Before today, Octavia hadn’t known that humiliation could actually physically hurt. They had no idea—they’ve always been funny and popular and smart, they’ve always been more than capable, but the teachers keep calling on them and Octavia thinks they’re trying to be nice because they hadn’t made them stand up the front of the room and talk for two minutes about who they are and where they come from, and maybe it’s supposed to be a subtle way of being, like, ‘hey students, this is Octavia, she’s new’ but all it’s actually just awful.
They have to shake their head and admit quietly that they don’t know—inevitably, an awkward silence follows as fifteen pairs of eyes fix on them and the teacher gives Octavia a minute longer to think about the answer before moving on, and Octavia wants to sink down behind their desk and then further down, right through the floorboards, right down into hell, preferably.
At lunch, they have no one to sit with or talk to and they tuck themselves into the far corner of the room and bend over the last of their subject reviews and, when they’re done, they start the pile all over again because clearly they still had a lot to learn.
By the end of the last class, Octavia aches.
They ache, but they drag themselves to the library and they pour over all the notes they’ve taken and they aren’t sure at all that it’s sinking in but when the closing bell for the library rings at five to ten, they suppose they’ll find out the next day.
All they want to do is sleep—and maybe call their brother, though they know what he’ll say, something along the lines of well we knew it would be harder, O, you just have to use some of that Blake charm and keep trying, study harder and it won’t be helpful but they miss his warm voice and the way he always thinks he knows what he’s doing, which is as comforting at times as it can be aggravating. It’s only ten-thirty but that shit was tough and their bed, their lovely, lovely big soft bed, is calling for them.
Octavia hopes that Clarke is still out wherever she spent most of the weekend—she hasn’t said anything to Octavia since, they just ignore one another and it’s worked just fine. Octavia has written Clarke off as a huge ass and Clarke clearly has her mind set on Octavia being beneath her. They assume that Clarke doesn’t feel the need to bitch twenty-four seven, though. Just if Octavia speaks to her directly. Otherwise, they aren’t worth Clarke’s time. They aren’t someone worth getting worked up over.
It’s too much to hope that she’s gone, though. It was possible, certainly—Clarke is in, like, twelve clubs or “societies” or whatever and it might only be the first day but still, they thought she’d be out.
There she is, Clarke and another girl—Octavia feels like they recognise her fuzzily and it takes a moment to place her but then they glance over at Clarke’s wall and realise that this is her, this is the girl in all of the photos—and she’s sitting prim and proper at Clarke’s desk, with Clarke lounging behind her. On Octavia’s chair.
Clarke is touching her, her front against the girls back, her chin propped on her shoulder, and she reaches around to point at something on the computer screen and the girl sighs and rolls her eyes and makes some murmured comment that has Clarke smiling. An actual real smile and Octavia finds themselves smiling too because look, she’s human. Look, she’s lovely.
They open the door a little more and step inside and it comes crashing back down that Clarke hates them. Eh—doesn’t care about them one way or the other, really. She throws a look at the door and rolls her eyes when she sees that it’s Octavia and she turns back to her friend without saying a word.
“Clarke,” the girl sighs and she tugs the ends of her sleeves over her hands. “This isn’t working. Can we move this to the fourth?” That’s all Octavia hears from the stranger, and then her voice dips too low to make out when she bends over the pages on the desk and Clarke looks over it too and they’re absorbed in whatever it is that they’re working on.
Uncaring whether they distract the pair, Octavia dumps their bag on their desk and kick their shoes off underneath it.
They walk into the bathroom to wash their face and change out of their uniform and, when they come out, Clarke is waiting for them. She’s turned around in her chair—Octavia’s chair—so she is facing them and she looks like she’s ready for a fight. Her chin is jutted out and her arms are crossed over her chest.
“I suppose you want this back then,” Clarke challenges, and there is a hard look in her eyes that Octavia honestly can’t be bothered to deal with.
They roll their eyes. “Keep it. Looks like you’ve made yourself comfortable with my stuff.”
“It belongs to the school. Trust me,” Clarke says—and she always sounds so sweet Octavia is always surprised when she’s a huge ass, “I wouldn’t touch anything of yours if you paid me.”
“I thought you said you didn’t talk to anyone with less than ten million dollars.”
“Well then,” Octavia spreads their hands and smiles sweetly back at her. "Shut the fuck up.”
Clarke narrows her eyes dangerously and she sits up slowly. Her hand, the one not in a cast, bunches up into a fist and her body looks like it's winding up, like she's preparing for something, like she’s about to spit something vile at Octavia. They brace themselves for the bitchiest of all bitchy comments, but then the other girl—the one from the photos, clearly adored—finally looks up from her papers with a sigh and she turns in her seat so that she can reach over to Clarke. She lays a gentle hand on top of Clarke’s.
“Don’t,” she says softly. “Don’t, Clarke." She ducks her head low so Clarke is looking in her eyes and Octavia can see her lips turn up a little. "You can talk to me instead, love. I’m worth 217 million.”
Clarke huffs a little laugh and leans into the girl. Her hand is mostly covered in cast, but the girl doesn’t let that stop her. She holds Clarke’s fingers and rubs her thumb down the length of them. Her other hand runs lightly through Clarke’s hair and sweeps it behind her ear and she smiles, very gently. Clarke deflates visibly, entirely, sinks back into Octavia’s chair, and she nods.
When Clarke is calm, the girl turns to Octavia.
There is a purpling bruise around her left eye and a scratch, a little cut, on her eyebrow. Octavia blinks in surprise. The girl is very slim and she moves steadily, like she’s thought out exactly what she’s going to do and where she’s going to go before she starts, and her hands are so gentle where they touch Clarke so all in all, she doesn’t look the type to get into fist fights.
They’ve been wrong about that before, though.
And her knuckles are a little jagged, a little rough even from a distance so maybe she's the muscle in the team.
She squeezes Clarke’s hand and shoos her off Octavia’s chair and delivers it to their side of the room. When it’s tucked fully under the desk, she turns to face them and places her hands behind her back and lifts her chin, making use of her height and she looks Octavia over very purposefully—much the same as Clarke had, that first night, but unlike with Clarke, Octavia can’t be sure what it is that the girl is looking at. Or for. She has an inscrutable and incredibly pretty face and Octavia shifts under the cool, green eyes.
Octavia is aware, suddenly, that they’re short. Small. They’re aware that they don’t fit in. They would have known that even if they weren’t being calculated and analysed by a stranger, but suddenly they feel the ache from the bruise on their hip and the presence of the scar on their shoulder and coarseness of their sweatpants and their hoodie, unfashionably too big—it’s Bellamy’s though, they remind themselves, and it’s warm and soft and he always rolls his eyes when he sees them in it and demands it back just to pick a fight and they stole it from his room before they left for school because when it really counts he’s always, always been there for them so they don’t care in the slightest what some rich kid thinks about it, they don’t care at all. There is probably a hole in their sock and they’re aware of their legs and their arms and their hands curling into fists and their body as one whole, awkward entity and they burn under the intensity of this girls gaze and they try not to look away but they’re uncomfortable and tired and their throat feels thick with tears.
Octavia makes themselves remember that time they punched a dude out the summer before—he’d been at least twice their size—and they clench their fists and plaster on a cocky grin and lift their chin.
“My name is Alexandria Woods,” the girl says then. “I am the junior class President, President of the National Honour Society, the Mathletes, captain of the chess club and varsity field hockey team. My class ranking is one and my GPA is 5.2. My family built the library.” She pauses, tilts her head a little. “I’m Clarke’s best friend,” she says, and the way she says it lets Octavia know that it’s the most important part.
“That’s hot,” Octavia drawls, just to throw her off and sure it’s not the best idea but it does the trick. She blinks and her eyebrows shoot up and she turns to look at Clarke, who—yikes almighty— glares at Octavia.
Maybe, they reconsider slowly, that wasn’t the best thing to say in front of Clarke, Alexandria’s maybe girlfriend and the roommate who already hates them.
“Look, whatever, it’s nice to meet you,” they half lie. Alexandria inclines her head in a gracious nod as if to say of course it's nice to meet me but it doesn't feel hugely self-obsessed, just kind of an acknowledgement that she knows she's great. They get the impression that without Clarke there, Alexandria might actually be decent. “Keep going with your…stuff, don’t let me interrupt,” Octavia adds and waves over at Clarke’s desk.
“Like we would,” Clarke says nastily. She drops backwards onto her bed and Octavia rolls their eyes because she’s so dramatic and annoying, honestly.
“We’re planning our semester together.” Alexandria says calmly, settling back into Clarke’s chair. She takes her hair out of its tie and runs both hands through it—the action makes Clarke roll onto her front and she props her chin up on her non-injured hand and smiles this really soft smile over at her friend. Alexandria ties her hair up again into a messy bun and her eyes meet Clarke’s and this lovely smile is her answer—they have a ten second long moment and then she looks back over at Octavia. “We’re very busy. It helps to combine our schedules.”
“So, like, you have matching calendars?”
“Oh-kay,” Octavia says slowly, and they shrug. It’s none of their business but that’s the gayest thing they’ve ever heard. “Well. Goodnight.”
Alexandria nods and gives them a small, polite, close-mouthed smile but neither she nor Clarke say anything and for the seventh night in a row, Octavia falls asleep missing home.
They drift awake, just a little.
They don’t know what woke them up but they’re warm and comfortable and they don’t need to pee so it’s going to be no trouble at all falling back asleep. They’re curled into a ball around their pillow and they hug it a little tighter, rub their nose into it. They sigh into the warmth and they’re not really awake but they open their eyes and vaguely recognise what they’re looking at.
The overhead light is off so it’s just the light from Clarke’s desk lamp that illuminates the space. It’s warm and golden and Octavia can see Lexa, still sitting straight at the desk. It can’t have been long since they drifted off to sleep, then.
Clarke has taken Octavia’s chair again and she’s sitting behind Lexa at a small distance. Her cast rests heavy on her thigh. She’s staring at Lexa and Octavia doesn’t know how the girl can’t feel it—Clarke’s eyes are dark, intent, and there is the line of a heavy frown between her eyebrows. She looks…Octavia would say afraid, if they didn’t know that Clarke is heartless.
Clarke’s other hand twitches toward Lexa, now and again, and Octavia must close their eyes for a moment because when they look again, Clarke has shifted forward and her hand is on Lexa’s waist and the other girl is leaning back into her. Clarke drags her nose down across Lexa’s shoulder and finishes right where her shoulder drops off down into her arm and she presses a kiss there to the skin and Lexa turns a little and murmurs to her and they are close and shadowed and it feels very heavy. Private.
Octavia doesn’t want to draw attention to themselves so they close their eyes and pretend they are still asleep.