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Well, I'll Be Your Partner In Crime

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The whole mess begins with Bellamy’s pitiful attempt at chivalry.

“My agent thinks we’re dating.” Clarke says in lieu of hello, flopping down next to him and spearing a chunk of waffle off his plate. “Also, she says that it’s imperative that you sort out your hair.”

He scowls, shifting his plate away from her with his elbows. “If we’re looking at self-improvement, I don’t think we should start with that. My personality clearly needs work.”

“True.” She agrees, adjusting the pair of sunglasses perched precariously against the bridge of her nose. “Though, I really do think we should aim for something achievable first. So probably the hair, yeah.”

“Hilarious.” He deadpans, taking a pointed sip of his coffee. “Pray tell, what is it that I did this time to give off that impression?”

Clarke shrugs, feigning nonchalance as she pinches off the corner of his now unguarded waffle, popping it into her mouth. It’s a bald-face lie, of course. Anya had bombarded her phone with pictures of last night, Bellamy’s hand resting against the small of her back as they left the bar. She could have explained that he was her best friend- that affection came easy to them, that he was the only one she trusted enough to completely at ease with- but she highly doubted that her stern-faced agent would understand anyway.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s a good thing, according to her.” Waving a waitress over, she places a order for her usual coffee and pancakes before swooping down on the stray cluster of berries left over on his plate. “At this point, anything that shows I’m moving on from Lexa is a step in the right direction.”

“Ah.” Bellamy nods, grinning. “How’s my favorite emotionally closed-off superstar?”

“Doing well, according to the tabloids,” she chirps, beaming with false cheer. “Meanwhile, on the other side of town, you have her crazy ex-girlfriend whose career is currently in shambles.”

“I wouldn’t put it like that,” he goes, mild. “You still have a few gigs lined up, right?”

“Cancelled.” She mutters, slouching down slightly in her seat when a passing waitress eyes her a little too inquisitively. Clarke really shouldn’t be surprised , though. It’s generally what happens when you have a very public meltdown after breaking up with your girlfriend of a few months. Never mind that said girlfriend is an award-winning actress with a humongous fan-base.

“Fuck them.” He shovels the last few squares of his waffle onto her plate, drenches it generously with maple syrup. “Besides, you can always use the time to work on your new album.”

“All the inspiration I had for that died along with my career.” She snarks, the angry buzzing of her phone divesting her attention long enough for Bellamy to steal a forkful of eggs.

ANYA: you can’t keep ignoring me, clarke

Clarke raises her phone off the table, wiggles it by his face. “Should I risk it?”

He arches a brow at her, “Not unless you want her to hunt you down and dismember you.”

“Probably not today.” She reasons, grimacing at the bitter slide of coffee down her tongue. Black coffee was the worst, but also one of the few things that could keep her awake for hours on end, so it was a necessary evil.

As I said, we’re not actually dating, she taps out. Just friends.

The row of question marks she receives in return makes her smile, mostly because she can’t imagine Anya having such an extreme reaction to anything, ever. We grew up together. He’s a teacher. Then, after a beat, she adds, he’s my best friend.

“Have you told her about our plans to elope yet?” Bellamy snorts, taking yet another obnoxiously large slurp of her eggs. Glaring, she swats at his forehead, yelping when he catches her wrist gently before she makes contact. “Predictable.” He admonishes, and she spares him one last cutting glare before directing her attention back to her phone.

ANYA: I couldn’t care less about what it actually is. but keep it up. it’ll detract some attention away from your latest fuck up

“Let me guess,” he says when she finally glances up from her phone, a small smirk curling up along the edges of his lips. “She wants us to hold hands and play house.”

Groaning, she jostles his knee, making sure to put some force into it. “Rein in your enthusiasm, Bell. I’m not sure I know how to deal with it.”

He laughs, reaching up to tuck a loose strand of hair away from her face. The gesture is familiar, fond even, but she can’t help but shiver a little at the warmth of his palm against her face. “God, your job is so fucked up.”

Clarke frowns, reaching for his hand instinctively and pulling him closer. “This is-- it’s weird, right? Besides, I don’t want you doing anything you’re not comfortable with. I can always get someone else--”

He quietens at that, expression contemplative. “I don’t know. I mean, it helps you, right?”

She blinks, tries not to show her surprise at the utter sincerity of his tone. Clarke knows that there’s nothing Bellamy wouldn’t do for her or vice versa, but it still catches her off guard sometimes. She’s never had a friendship like this before- especially after Wells moved away- the kind that was instinctual and easy as breathing, yet so deeply rooted and ingrained within her that it was impossible to imagine her life without him in it.

“I mean, hypothetically it would.” She exhales, gives a shaky laugh. “And if I had to pick anyone, of course it’d be you.”

His thumb rubs soothing circles over the bones of her wrist absentmindedly, and she thinks she catches a glimpse of something flicker in his eyes before it shutters away, replaced by his usual unbearable smugness. “Duh. I’m a catch. I teach elementary school english, Clarke. Everyone in your circle is going to want a piece of me.”

Choking back a laugh, Clarke traces the grooves of his fingers, the familiar dips and curves of his arm. “You’re just counting on meeting a whole bunch of famous people, aren’t you?”

“Just Natalie Dormer,” he says, without missing a beat, his fingers tightening around hers and squeezing, hard, an anchor keeping her from floating adrift. “Alright, chief. I’m in if you are.”

“I’m swooning,” She snorts, flicking the dregs of her coffee over at his face.

To his credit, he doesn’t even react, just grins at her, infectious and insouciant all at once. “As you should.”  

+

The aforementioned photo makes its rounds on the internet for about a week or so before it hits the stands, which is not surprising or anything, really. Clarke picks up a copy of the magazine she detests the least during her grocery run before detouring and heading to Bellamy’s apartment instead.

He’s still at work when she gets in, so she just kicks off her shoes (because he has a thing about wearing shoes in the apartment, it’s weird) and settles in on his couch. His pillows are rumpled- most probably from falling asleep after grading while watching netflix- and still smells faintly of his shampoo. It’s comforting, and she finds herself dozing off despite her best efforts, the magazine still crumpled in her fist.

And when she wakes up- mouth dry and head pounding- he’s there, stroking her hair with her head in his lap and flipping the pages idly, fanning himself instead of actually reading.

“So,” Bellamy drawls, fingers halting their calming ministrations against her scalp. “What do you think of Natalie Portman’s highlights?”

“I plead the fifth.” She grunts, bumping up against his stomach until he gets the message and resumes carding his hands through her hair. “What time is it?”

He hums, rubs at the spot behind her ear which makes her muscles feel like jelly, “Time for me to get started on dinner. Does pasta sound good?”

“Definitely.” She sits up, smiling down at his socks. “Didn’t I get you these last Christmas, and you insisted you threw them away?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he says, bright, wiggling his toes at her so it looks like Abraham Lincoln is flexing. “I bought these because they’re educational .”

“I’m sure they’re a hit with the kids.” Clarke laughs, trailing after him and resting against the door frame to watch him work. She’s always liked watching him in the kitchen, movements deft and sure, constantly stopping to taste everything from scratch. It’s cute. “So, I take it you saw the pictures.”

“Picture.” Bellamy corrects her. “People are speculating that I’m Brody Jenner. It’s really inflating my ego here.”

“Well, enjoy it while you can.” She starts handing him the dishes once he turns the stove off, spooning a generous amount of sauce over his portion. “Anya’s going to play up the mystery dude angle for a while before they get a picture of your face.”

“So, that’s about two more weeks of feeling flattered that I’m being compared to an actual celebrity,” he muses, handing her the parmesan. “Should we-- we should probably talk about how we’re going to do this, right?”

“I mean, yeah.” She says through a mouthful of food, kicking him in the shins when he snickers at the glob of sauce that somehow landed on her top. “It’s pretty standard. I’m just thinking about over the top displays of PDA.”

“Like handholding?”

“Amongst other stuff.” She shrugs. “I don’t know. You’re at a pretty good height for forehead pecks, I guess.”

He cracks up at that, has to steady himself by grabbing the edge of the table despite the pointed glare she shoots him. “Really romantic, Clarke. You’re doing great at selling this.”

“Why don’t you suggest something then since you’re so good at it?”

“Nah.” He grins, bumping his ankle against hers. “I’ll just wing it. Maybe I’ll just check out your boobs really obnoxiously in a public setting.”

“Please,” she scoffs, folding her arms across her chest. “ Everyone checks out my boobs. They’re great.”

“I know.” Bellamy replies, mild, scraping his fork through the remains of sauce on his plate. She bites down a smile that’s threatening to show, busies herself with wiping at her mouth. It is pretty gratifying that he’s noticed, though. Clarke’s kind of proud of them. “Look, we’ll be fine. We probably need to come up with a convenient backstory though, just in case.”

“Why can’t we tell them the real story?”

“I meant the story of how we got together.” She sighs exaggeratedly. “Keep up, won’t you?”

“Well, we have to keep mostly to the original material considering we’ll be lying to our friends too.” He points out, and she pushes down the swell of guilt that surges up at that, nods. Raven would kill her if she knew what was really going on, but they agreed that they couldn’t risk it. “So the story is: we’ve been friends for the longest time, but I never acted on my feelings until now.”

“Revolutionary,” She nods, mock-grave. “I can see why they hired you to be a english teacher. You really have a way with description.”

Bellamy scowls, “If you would just let me finish .

Clarke makes a noise of assent, pulls her feet up so she curl up on the chair.

“So when Lexa broke up with you, I was there.” He continues. “The way-- the way you were always there for me too, through everything.” The admission seems to rattle him, just a little, fingers clamping down over his knee until they go white. “And once the dust had settled, you decided-- you asked me out.”

“Hold up, I asked you out?”

“That’s right,” he says, relaxing. “ You asked me out because you realised you had feelings for me too.”

“That--” Clarke gapes, sputtering. “That is just absurd. It makes absolutely no sense, you’re the one who’s pining away for me!”

“Which is why I wouldn’t be making the first move,” he goes, rolling his eyes. “That way the narrative makes sense.”

She narrows her eyes at him, “Why can’t we just tell them that you saw an opportunity and took it?”

“Because,” Bellamy growls, “it seems ridiculous that I’d make the first move, considering I’ve been in love with you for years and did nothing about it.”

“Supposedly.” She hastens to add, digging her nails into the skin of her palm to calm the racing of her pulse. “Supposedly in love.”

“Right,” he says, distracted, ruffling his fingers through his hair. “What I just said, basically.”

“Basically.” She agrees, grabbing at her cup so she has something to do with her hands. “Just-- fine. We’ll go with that.”

“Good. I’m glad that’s settled.” He’s out of his chair before she can even blink, dishes in hand. “I’m going to clean up.”

“You’re supposed to let them soak.” She calls out, nearly tripping over her own feet in her haste to catch up. “God, Bellamy. You’re such a heathen.”

“Are you really criticising my dish-washing technique?”

They argue over it for a while, Bellamy begrudgingly settling on drying while she washes, and by the time that’s over- previous conversation long-forgotten in favor of squabbling- Clarke’s already feeling a whole lot better.

+

It’s never a good thing when Anya calls- mostly because she’s a firm believer in texting and emails and boundaries- so Clarke’s pretty much expecting the worst when her phone starts blaring the jaws theme song.

“If you’re calling to yell at me about buying tampons in broad daylight, I will put my phone in this blender.” She chirps, sliding her pen across the table and watching it roll lacklusterly to the edge. There’s been several half-hearted attempts on her part to get out a new song, but it’s not like she’s trying all that hard either.

There’s a beat, almost like if she’s considering if she should yell at Clarke about the tampons first or get on with the programme. Then, with a barely suppressed sigh, “Has he cut his hair yet?”

“I’m assuming you’re talking about Bellamy, and no, he hasn’t.” Swearing under her breath, she grapples for the pen as it tips over the edge, narrowly catching it between the crook of her fingers. “What’s wrong with his hair? I like it.”

“It’s a mess.” Anya declares, flat. “Is he secretly terrified of combs? Is that why?”

“Did you really call me just to complain about the state of his hair?”

“No,” she says, brisk. “I’m calling to ask you to bring him for next week’s charity event.”

Biting at her lip to keep from groaning out loud, she works to keep her tone nonchalant. “Since when?”

Anya sighs. “Since it was actually beneficial for my client to show up to these sort of things. Look, it’s not a large-scale event or anything like that. It’s pretty low-key, actually.” Then, almost an afterthought, “Lincoln will be there. You like Lincoln.”

“Wow. That does sound appealing,” she intones, shifting her weight to her other foot when she feels the familiar twinge of muscles that suggests an imminent cramp. “Especially considering people are going to be staring and pointing at me all day. In an enclosed space. Good times.”

“That’s why I suggested you bring some encouragement.” There’s a considerable pause as she considers this, weighing the options, and she can almost feel Anya relent ever so slightly in the time it takes her to speak. “Fine. One hour. Just stay for an hour, okay?”

“You’re the best.” Clarke beams. “Have I ever told you that? I feel like I should.”

“I thought we agreed that flattery gets you nowhere.” Anya comments, dry. “Let it be known that if his hair isn’t respectable when the photos are printed, I’m swinging by his house with a razor.”

“I feel like you’ll enjoy it more than you should.” She muses, shoving a stray lock of hair out of her face. “Don’t worry about Bellamy. I’ll take care of him.”

“Put him in a suit . I’m trusting that he has one.”

“Right,” she says, slow. The last time she had seen Bellamy was back in high school, when he thought crashing their prom to keep an eye on Octavia was a good idea. She spent all night brushing lint off his pants. “Yeah, he has one. Definitely.”

Clarke--

She hangs up before Anya gets to change her mind, letting her phone clatter down onto the table as she wipes her palms against her jeans. There’s some things that Anya probably shouldn’t know, and the fact that Bellamy owns a powder blue tux is probably one of them.

True to form, he reacts to the news with a mixture of exasperation and a kind of fond indulgence that he must have inculcated from all those years of raising Octavia. “Do I have to buy one? Is renting an option?”

Clarke buries her face against his side, breathing him in. He always smelled faintly of sugar after work, mingling with the sharp scent of cologne and laundry detergent. The Blakes’ had used the same brand for years , and it was like carrying around a piece of home with them. “Are you telling me you have a tuxedo rental place on speed dial?”

Bellamy huffs, but she can feel him smiling against her hair. “I meant I could probably work something out with Miller.”

“Miller is a way better dressed than you, yes.” She goes, innocent, yelping when he reaches over to pin her side, holding her down effortlessly when she tries to squirm away. It used to be a lot easier to retaliate when they were both scrawny seven year olds, but it’s a lot more challenging now considering his arm could probably fit around her entire torso. She tries not to stare at the flex of his muscles as he hovers over her, grinning stupidly at his triumph.

“You were a lot better at this when you were a midget,” he remarks, drumming his fingers against the inside of her wrists. “I swear you’ve lost your edge with age.”

“Well, some of us didn’t have a spectacular growth spurt in middle school.” Clarke sneers, poking out her tongue at him. “We got normal things from our childhood. Like lifelong issues and the occasional trauma.”

His grin widens. She scowls, pushing up slightly so she can gain some leverage, but it only serves to brush up against his chest, the heat of his skin making her shiver. His eyes darken imperceptibly at that, darting down to her mouth, lingering, and for a heart-stopping second, she thinks he might actually kiss her.

But he clears his throat instead, wetting his lips. “I have a key. We could go get the suit from Miller’s place.” The hoarse quality of his voice makes her toes curl but she disguises it with a laugh, hating how shaky it sounds to her own ears, a beat too slow. “Have you even asked him yet?”

“No, but it’s not like he’ll disagree.” Bellamy retorts, releasing her wrist and pushing off onto his feet, fingers tapping an uneasy rhythm against his thigh. “Miller tried to throw out my clothes on several occasions back when we were roommates, so. I doubt he’s going to object to this idea.”

“Remind me to snap a few photos for him then.” Clarke notes, shoving her worn baseball cap over her head and tucking the strands in. She’s barely gone a few steps ahead when he reaches out to flick the brim of her hat, dislodging it, his smile pulling crookedly against his mouth. “I’m not sure you’re ready for this, actually. I clean up really well. Wouldn’t want you drooling all over your shirt.”

“Unlike you, I have some degree of self-control,” she says sweetly, jabbing her elbow against his ribs. “Besides, I’ve seen you in a suit once, remember? I didn’t ravish you on sight.”

“I’m more than aware that you’re immune to my charms.” He goes, wry, flashing her a self-deprecating smile. (It’s a expression she hardly gets to see on him, mostly reserved for her and Octavia only, bashful and a little resigned, too. Clarke likes how it looks on him.)

And she can’t help but think about the slide of his skin against hers, the press of his nails against her wrist. The slow, languid smile he shoots her, like a cat basking in the sun, scar winking at her under the light and how she always wanted to press her mouth against it.

“Maybe not entirely.” She admits.

His big, stupid grin lasts all the way to the car.

+

Raven is a notoriously vague texter, so she really doesn’t think much of it when she receives a single here from her. Maybe she meant to type hey or hide all your cookies. It’s a toss-up when it comes to Raven, but Clarke still sends the requisite row of question marks back anyway, fumbling for her keys before finally getting it into the lock and twisting.

There’s a brief moment of confusion when she realises she left her TV on before her vision is completely obscured by dark hair, laughter ringing in her ears as Raven wraps her up in a bone-crushing hug. She squeals, has to grab onto her shoulder to regain her balance as they sway on the spot, grinning like idiots--

“I can’t believe you drove all the way out here.” She laughs, pulling away but keeping a tight grip against her elbows. “On a weekday and--”

“Well, I for one can’t believe you didn’t tell me.” Raven responds, tone morphing from delighted to accusatory. “I had to find out from the tabloids, like a peasant. I’m surprised Octavia hasn’t marched here yet and ripped you to shreds.”

“Wait, what?”

Raven rolls her eyes, exasperated. “About dating Bellamy, you ass. Have you even looked at your phone?”

Clarke swears under her breath, yanking it free from its charging station. There’s an alarming number of messages and missed calls that she should probably look at, but it’s a little hard to concentrate when Raven’s here, rooting through her fridge and complaining loudly about the lack of options.

“So what was the photo like?” She asks, working to keep her tone nonchalant as she slides her phone into the back pocket of her jeans. There’s already sweat gathering on her palms, and her forehead feels stupidly clammy at the blatant lie.

“Nauseating.” Raven replies, after a beat, popping the tab off a can of beer. “You guys were holding hands. Octavia nearly blew up my phone with all her messages of exclamation points and punching emojis.”

“The ground was all slippery .” Clarke argues- out of instinct more than anything- and at Raven’s arched brow, backtracks. “But uhm, yeah. It’s pretty new. We don’t want to make a huge deal out of it.”

“I figured,” she says, flopping back down onto the couch and patting the spot next to her until Clarke settles down too, curling up into her space. “I never thought you’d admit to being in love with him though, so there’s progress.”

Resisting the urge to gape, she bites at her bottom lip, deliberates a rational response. “How did you figure it out?”

“Easy.” She goes, smug. “Remember a few years back, when I told you I slept with Bellamy? You were weird around me for weeks, Clarke. It’s like you couldn’t even look me in the eye.”

“That’s crazy,” she points out, letting her head fall back against the couch to face the ceiling instead. “Bellamy’s slept with lots of people. I don’t care.”

“It’s not that, exactly.” Raven frowns, fingers instinctively reaching out to fiddle at her leg brace. “You just-- the expression on your face gave you away. It bothered you, I could tell.”

“Fine.” She mutters, conceding, tamping down the flare of possessiveness that rises up at the memory. It wasn’t so much as the fact that he had slept with Raven that had bothered Clarke- in fact, she was pretty sure that her upset feelings had more to do with her secret fear that they might start dating. None of Bellamy’s girlfriends had ever measured up- which she mostly blamed on his poor taste in girls- but Raven, on the other hand--

Clarke stops herself before she can finish that thought, trying to shake off the sensation of frost curdling over her spine, holding her still. She sounded irrational and worst, jealous even to her own ears. Clearing her throat, she swipes a sip of Raven’s beer, tries valiantly to think of anything else.

“I’m right, aren’t I?” She smirks, wiggling her fingers in her face and booping her nose. “At least it all worked out great.”

“You’re the worst.” She grumbles, jostling her shoulder and slouching down lower so she can rest her chin against her shoulder.

“And don’t you forget it.” Raven beams, baring her teeth.

+

“So, I got my first hate mail. Well, e-mail that is.” Bellamy tells her, voice muffled from behind the door. It’s followed by a loud thump, his cursing gaining in pitch as she snorts, pressing her face up against it. It’s been ten minutes and he still hasn’t won the battle with the suit yet.

“Was it everything you hoped and dreamed of?” Clarke gasps, dramatic, tapping out a beat against her thigh. “Look, are you sure you don’t need my help?”

“I’m fine,” he insists, though she can make out the strain in his voice even through the wood. “There were a bunch of people lurking by the school, too. Thankfully we have security around so that went away pretty quickly.”

“I’m glad.” She smiles, moving her fingers up to the door instead, shifting to morse code instead. “I would recommend a change in email too, but knowing how stubborn you are, I think the spam filter is probably a better option.”

“Shut up.” Bellamy says, fond. Then, after a beat, “You know Anya will kill you if your dress appears crumpled in the photos, right? I’ll get off the floor if I were you.”

“She’s not the boss of me,” she mutters- just to be defiant- but peels herself off the ground anyway, smoothing out the wrinkles from her dress. “Are you any closer to being done yet?”

“I may need some help with my tie.” He admits, sheepish, voice a lot louder than it was before. Clarke turns on her heel, witty retort already prepped and poised to slip off her tongue and--

The words die in her throat, lodges itself against her sternum. His hair is long enough to be falling into his eyes now, shirt sleeves rolled up roughly and unevenly, the color stark against the bronze of his skin. There’s something flailing wildly under her skin, the thrum of a livewire coursing through her body, affirming what she thought she already knew: Bellamy Blake was stupidly, stupidly handsome.

She can’t quite make out the expression on his face, the only indication of any kind of emotion being the slight widening of his eyes when he takes in her bare legs, the bob of his throat when he swallows. “You look nice,” he declares, rough, the gravel behind it making her shiver.

“You’re… okay.” She decides, taking a steadying breath before stepping forward to take the tie from him. Her fingers feel clumsy as she loops it around the neck, his breath searing across the skin of her neck. Her breath hitches involuntarily at that, and she has to bite down on the inside of her cheek to remain impassive.

He reaches down to tug a curl loose from her up-do, smiling. “Feels like prom all over again, doesn’t it?”

“I went stag, remember?” She huffs, groaning when the fabric slips through her fingers, forcing her to start again. “No one asked me.”

“Oh come on, it wasn’t that bad.” He retorts, pegging her on the cheek with a flick of his finger. “We had fun. Remember when we stole all that shrimp and tried to put it down Atom’s shirt? What a dick.”

“You just hated him because he had the nerve to ask Octavia out.” Clarke smooths down the collar of his shirt, trails her fingers down his chest. “And it was fun. But it would have been nice to have had a normal prom experience, that’s all.”

Bellamy grimaces when she gives the tie one last tug, tightening it. “But where’s the fun in that?”

“You’re an idiot.” She delves her fingers into his curls, scrunching it carefully. “Did you even try to brush your hair out?”

“Definitely,” he says, mock-grave. “Did Anya say something again?”

“Well, obviously she’s adamant on getting it cut, but I really couldn’t care less.” She brushes his hair back from his forehead, pushing it back behind his ears only for it to spring right back. “Lock your doors tonight, though. She might--”

“Are you telling me you deprived me of my makeover montage?” He cuts in, clearly amused. “Clarke, come on. It’s practically a requirement for all the nineties movies.”

She wrinkles her nose at him, exasperated. “You can’t seriously be comparing this to a nineties movie.”

“Why not? We’re pretending to date,” he points out, ticking off his fingers. “You’re popular while I’m not. Oh, and we’re also complete opposites when it comes to everything else. Honestly, we just need a makeover scene to round things out. Give it color.”

“I’d put some mascara on you, but I would prefer if you didn’t outshine me,” she snarks, reaching past him to grab her purse. “Come on. We’re already late as it is.”

The jacket is a little snug on him- as is the shirt, she realises after careful consideration, but, well. It’s a good look. He’s fidgety when they pile into the car though, constantly patting his hair down at every stop light, rubbing his palm against the back of his neck. She’s contemplating saying something, or maybe recommending him one of those breathing exercises her short-lived acting coach taught her when he speaks up. “For what it’s worth, I would have asked you.”

It takes her a minute to catch on, her mind scrambling for the thread of thought as she looks over at him, cheeks flushed and clearly a little embarrassed. “Oh.”

“Not that it matters but--”

“Bellamy.” She interrupts, digging her nails into the skin of her knees to keep her voice from shaking. “I would have said yes.”

“Good.” He says, staring ahead staunchly. The corners of his mouth twitch slightly, like he’s keeping from laughing. She turns away, hides her smile behind her palm.

“Good.” She echoes back just as the light turns green, the car surging forward until Bellamy’s apartment disappears from sight.

+

Her jaw clamps together instinctively at the first click of the camera shutter, muscles going taunt despite Bellamy’s hand in hers.

It’s not a big crowd- as Anya promised, it’s just a few scattered photographers and reporters shouting questions- but she still feels stiff anyway, awkward. She licks her lips. Bellamy squeezes her palm once, twice. The familiar weight and texture of it gives her a rush of strength and Clarke unclenches her teeth, forces a smile. The flashes go off like bulbs, painting her vision white. “So this is why celebrities wear sunglasses all the way.” he remarks, bemused, and she has to pinch at the skin of his thumb to stifle his laugh.

They don’t linger for long- though she does answer a few questions about her new beau, her work- and Bellamy’s a natural at this, all wry charm and playful teasing. It helps that they know each other well too- she knows exactly when to jump in when he falters, knows what it means when he pulls away to splay his hands against the small of her back, pushing her forward gently. It makes her profoundly grateful that he’s the one she’s doing this with, the one person whom she trusts completely and implicitly.

His hand flutters against the curve of her back, steering her closer. “We should get inside now, shouldn’t we?”

“Yeah.” Clarke shoots the reporter a quick smile, prays it comes off as apologetic rather than relieved. “It was nice talking to you.”

“Walk, don’t run.” He murmurs, fingers curling around her hip when she leans closer, pressing her weight on him. His laugh is a low, even rumble against her cheek, and she pushes closer than before, enjoying it while she can. She’s supposed to be his girlfriend, anyway. Might as well reap the benefits. He kisses her hair, slows his pace to match hers.

It’s warm when they push through the double doors, and Clarke shifts reluctantly, settling for looping her arm through his instead. There’s a few curious stares directed their way upon their entrance, but nothing too confrontational, and she finds herself relaxing, even nibbling on some of the shrimp platters that Bellamy’s devouring.

“Not so bad, huh?” He grins, helping himself to another canap é.

“Bearable,” she concedes, tucking herself more securely into his side. If it bothers him that he has to do everything one-handed now, he doesn’t show it, his fingers curving against her hip seamlessly. “It’s not as bad as I thought it would be. Granted, that’s probably because no one here recognizes me. Yet.”

Bellamy hums in response, resting his chin lightly against the top of her head. “Didn’t Anya say that one of your friends was going to be here?”

“Later, probably.” She shrugs. “Do you want to grab us some drinks from the bar?”

He eyes her, clearly apprehensive. “You’re going to be okay by yourself?”

“You’ll be gone for all of three minutes,” she teases, disentangling herself fluidly. “Go on. I’ll be right here.”

“I won’t be long.” He promises, ducking down to plant a swift kiss against her cheek, stubble scraping against the line of her jaw before ducking aside. Dumbfounded, she rests her fingers against the reddened skin, tries not to think about what would have happened if she had just moved an inch to the left.

Taking a deep breath, she decides to focus on the room instead, trying to make out the familiar faces. It’s not her usual crowd- which she’s all the more grateful for- and she catches sight of Lincoln at the exact moment she realises that someone else is walking towards her.

Swearing, Clarke turns away, nearly bowling over someone in her haste. Muttering a vague apology, she pushes further into the crowd blindly, resisting the urge to sprint out of the door. Or she could always try veering off to the bathroom--

She startles when something cool brushes up against her forearm, the sensation calming her feverish skin. Bellamy frowns at her obvious alarm, offers her the full glass of champagne. “What’s wrong?”

“We have to go.” She ekes out, gulping down hers in one fell swoop and placing the grass on a abandoned table. “Costia’s here.”

The crease between his brows deepen, his eyes immediately darting back out to the crowd. “Who’s that?”

“She was-- is Lexa’s girlfriend. I think.” She brushes a strand of hair out of her eyes impatiently, cursing herself for putting her hair in an updo in the first place. “I don’t think Lexa ever really got over her, and I know they’re still friends, so--”

He nods, lurching forward slightly on the balls of his feet. “Curly brown hair, really tall?”

“Fuck, is she--?”

“Yeah,” he goes, casual, reaching up to tuck the stray lock of hair behind her ear. “She’s watching us.”

A hysterical laugh bubbles out of her throat, barely contained with a pointed look from Bellamy’s part. “Should we just start inching towards the door? God, what if she actually wants to talk to me?”

“Well, it depends.” He shrugs. “Do you want her to tell Lexa anything?”

“Kind of,” she admits, swallowing. “But it’s nothing she won’t get from just looking at the tabloids anyway.”

“Not really.” Bellamy says, careful. She looks away, focusing on the curve of his throat instead. It’s hard to look him straight in the eye when he’s peering at her through his lashes, mouth parted and radiating with a kind of tension that she can’t quite seem to understand. “There’s a lot of other things she could tell her.”

“What would you suggest?” She retorts, quavering, curling her fingers against the jut of his hips to stay upright. His hands shake when he tilts her chin up, exceedingly gentle, giving her enough time to demur if she wanted to. He doesn’t do anything more, just rests his forehead against hers, waiting. She can feel his lashes fluttering faintly against her cheekbone, louder than the thundering of her heart.

She leans forward, brushing her lips against his. It was meant to be chaste, sweet . Something they could walk away from. But his mouth burns against hers, his fingers twisting in her hair and rucking it up, and she falls into it, deepening the kiss and whimpering against his mouth when she feels the sweep of his tongue. She always-- she always knew he was like this, blazing bright and burning, but she never thought that he could set her aflame too.

“Clarke?”

He pulls away first, and she doesn’t catch on- not right away, at least- still chasing after his mouth even after he steps out of reach. The remains of her lipstick are smudged against his mouth, a vivid red, and he swipes it off with his palm, giving a terse smile at the source of intrusion.

“Lincoln, hey.” Clarke rubs at her mouth surreptitiously, hopes that the wide smile on her face doesn’t give her away. “I was looking for you.”

“I didn’t mean to interrupt.” He replies, amused. “I can come back later.”

“It’s fine,” she interjects, bright. “I was planning on introducing you guys anyway. Bellamy, this is Lincoln Woods. And Lincoln, this is Bellamy.”

“The elusive boyfriend.” Lincoln remarks, stretching out his hand. “Clarke tells me you’re a teacher.”

It’s easy from there, with Lincoln taking a genuine interest in Bellamy’s job and with their similar sense of dry humor. Clarke stops paying attention after a while, too distracted to delve into whatever they’re discussing, trying to stave off her light-headedness with a quick sip of seltzer.

(She realises he missed a spot when she sees a streak of red against his jaw, smudged and trailing down to his neck. She doesn’t wipe it away.)

+

Anya mails her a few of the tabloids over the weekend, which is about as much as she has seen of the pictures considering she disconnected her wifi a few days ago. There’s also the small matter of her having chucked her phone somewhere along the deep recesses of her sofa and having lost it under the mountain of painting supplies she bought, but she’ll worry about that later.

The last few days have been spent in a haze of painting and watching bad reality TV to pass the time, trying not to dwell too much about the kiss and mostly failing miserably. She hasn’t spoken to Bellamy either, other than the quick text she fired off days back about needing some space to write. He had understood- as he always does- and she had been moping around ever since, only ducking out to get takeout or the occasional ice cream run.

It’s stupid considering her go-to person for situations like these was Bellamy.

Impatiently wiping her palms against her already stained sweats, Clarke ignores the buzzing reverberating from under her seat cushion and settles back down, reaching for her paintbrush. She’s a little rusty from all those years of non-practice, but painting never failed to take her mind off things. It was mindless, easy.

The buzzing stops five minutes after, and she gives the sofa a kick for good measure. Good riddance.

Then comes the unmistakeable sound of a key being thrust into the lock, the door catching when it slides open. Clarke resists the urge to throw a pillow, settling for a glare instead.

“Raven told me to check up on you.” Monty goes, meek. “Don’t murder me.”

“I’m fine ,” she sighs, but beckons him forward anyway, dropping her chin against his shoulder when flops down next to her. “What did she tell you?”

“Something along the lines of how you need human company and nourishment.” He picks up one of her abandoned pieces, eyeing it critically. “This one’s really nice.”

“I don’t trust your judgement.” She mutters, setting it back down on the floor. “Fine, I am kind of hungry.”

“Cool,” he says, bright. “Jasper’s on the way over with pizza, and Bellamy’s bringing the beer.”

Seriously ?”

He blinks, confused. “Are you-- are you guys fighting? Is that it?”

“No,” she bites out, slumping back down onto her seat. “Not exactly. I’m just annoyed that I have to go get changed, that’s all.”

“It’s not like Bellamy hasn’t seen you in worst.” Monty points out, kicking at her ankle lightly. “Remember when you had the stomach flu?”

Clarke groans. “Yeah, didn’t need the reminder. I’m going to get cleaned up, you can pick what you want to watch on netflix.”

There’s no point in taking a shower, so she just cleans herself up with a wet towel, scrubbing off the remains of paint and lead off her elbows. She can make out voices drifting over from the kitchen by the time she’s finished, keenly attuned to the sound of Bellamy’s laugh, hoarse and low, raspy compared to Jasper’s clear one. Steeling herself, she takes three steps forward, ducking into the kitchen.

“Hey,” Jasper calls out, waggling his eyebrows at her. “We got your favorite. How many slices are you looking at today?”

“I don’t know.” Clarke grunts, plopping down onto the stool. “Three to start?” She can feel Bellamy’s warmth radiating against her bare arm, his eyes on her as she keeps hers fixed on the countertop.

“Everything okay?” He asks, soft, as Jasper plates up the slices for her, still chatting animatedly to Monty. His fingers brush against her elbow, twitching, like he’s tempted to grab hold.

She turns to face him, pastes a smile on her face. “I’m fine.”

“Clarke,” he says, voice dipping though it’s impossible to miss the undercurrent of anxiousness, “if it was something I did-- if I did something that upset you--”

No ,” she yelps, lowering her voice quickly when Jasper glances over at them. “You didn’t do anything. It’s nothing, I promise.”

The crease between his brows deepens, “Are you sure? It’s just--”

“It’s fine.” She insists, going onto her tiptoes to plant a kiss on his cheek, dangerously close to his mouth. From the way he staggers back, it’s safe to say he’s not expecting it either. “Can we go watch TV now?”

He eases up once she snuggles up next to him, resting her face against the hollow of his throat while he cards his fingers through her hair. She’s not even sure what’s she trying to prove at this point- that she can still be normal around him, that it’s not that much of a big deal- but it’s nice and warm in the circle of his arms, so she forces herself to stop overthinking it and start enjoying it instead.

“Wow,” Jasper muses, pulling her out of her stupor. “So if I had a camera now--”

“Don’t even think about it.” Bellamy growls, shifting so she can hide her face in the curve of his bicep. She smiles, buries her face closer against the soft fabric of his shirt. Some things don’t change.

+

Awards season rolls around a few weeks later, a fact which Octavia is all too happy to remind her about.

“So you’re definitely bringing Bell, right?” She asks, beaming. “Because I need him to be there to shamelessly promote me to all these cool Hollywood execs if I’m going to be the next Maggie Q.”

“You know I could always do that for you, right?”

Octavia clicks her tongue in disapproval. “I don’t want you ruining your reputation. Bell has none to speak of anyway.”

A muffled I heard that! drifts over from the kitchen, punctuated by a defiant clank which suggests he may have dropped the soup ladle. She doesn’t even bother trying to hide her smirk, just goes back to slicing up the tomatoes needed for the sauce. “I’m only going for the one which I’m nominated for. As for your brother, I don’t know. What does he think about travelling to London over the weekend?”

The high-pitched shriek Octavia emits is enough to draw Bellamy out of the kitchen, scowling and brandishing his flour-covered apron at her. “Cut it out with the theatrics, O. I nearly took my finger off with all that screaming.”

“How are you being so blasé about this considering it’s going to be your first time on a plane?” She demands, swatting the apron away impatiently.

He shrugs, exasperated. “Well, I’ll be with Clarke, so. I think I’ll be okay.”

“That’s not what I meant,” she groans, popping one of the tomato slices into her mouth. “Honestly, Clarke. How do you put up with this wet blanket all the time?”

“He’s not so bad,” she points out, absentminded. “He settled our travel insurance when Anya forgot. And he got us all those travel-sized bottles too.” He shoots her a grateful smile at that, one which she returns, bumping her ankle against his under the table.

Octavia makes a disgusted noise, the sound suspiciously reminiscent of hacking up phlegm. “You guys are nauseating.”

“Not according to the Internet.” He says, mild, giving Clarke’s shoulder a quick squeeze before sequestering himself back to the kitchen. With a quick pat to Octavia’s head, she follows, passing him the plate of sliced tomatoes and leaning back against the door frame to watch.

“Thanks for coming with me.”

“Don’t kid yourself.” He grins, sliding the tomatoes into the boiling pot with a decisive flick of his knife. “I’m doing this for entirely selfish reasons that may or may not involve a walking tour of all their historical sites.”

“Nerd.” She teases, butting her head against his shoulder. “Let me guess, you have our entire itinerary planned out and a packing list too.”

“Fine, shit on my packing list.” Bellamy mutters, petulant. “Don’t come crying to me when you forget to pack your toothbrush.”

“Why would I, considering I can just steal yours?”

“Your disregard for oral hygiene is gross.” He sighs, twisting around to look at her, his gaze dropping to her mouth involuntarily. Her stomach flips at that, remembering the warm slide of his mouth against hers, the scratch of his stubble against her skin.

Clarke licks her lips, “No one’s complained before.”

The corners of his mouth quirk up at that, his hand stilling over the pot. “I wasn’t thinking about that when I said it.”

She’s almost afraid to move at this point, so wound up that it feels as if a misplaced step could shatter the moment itself, bring them back right where they started. It was unbearable to stand so close to him- to feel his breath stirring her hair and fanning across her cheeks- and to be unable to do anything about it.

It was surprising, too. Clarke didn’t think she could ever feel like this again, not after Finn, and certainly not after Lexa. It was impossible to want when you felt like you had nothing left to give, but it was different with him. Bellamy didn’t expect anything from her that she couldn’t give, didn’t paint her out to be someone that she didn’t want to be. He saw her for who she was and accepted it wholeheartedly. There was a shortage of things in the world that could ever hold her steady- but Bellamy Blake was that one immovable force.

She lifts her eyes up to meet his. “Yeah?”

His hands quiver when he rests them against her cheek, twitching restlessly against the jut of her jaw. Clarke closes her eyes, shivering at the sensation. “You have great oral hygiene.” he murmurs, absolutely fucking wrecked , bellying the teasing quality of his words.

She leans forward first, noses brushing--

“Something’s burning, isn’t it?”

He jerks away at the sound of Octavia’s voice, jumping like a scalded cat. She fumbles for the fire, turning it to low as he pokes at the congealed mess in the pot, wincing at the black bits that rise to the surface.

“It’s fine, I’ll fix it.” He calls out, relaxing after hearing a murmured noise of assent. There’s a prickly flush working down to her toes, a scattered, chaotic kind of energy screaming in her veins, and Clarke wants nothing more than to run and run and run . (But also kiss him, too.)

“I have canned sauce,” she offers instead, backing up a few steps.

“Perfect.” He says, unreadable, as Octavia barrels in, demanding to know why the hell are they taking forever--

She ducks out after that to wash her face. God knows she needs to cool off.

+

Bellamy doesn’t start panicking until after they strap themselves in.

“You do know that the odds of being killed on a single airline flight is one in twenty-nine million, right?” She muses, tapping her nails over his knuckles. His curls are matted with sweat, jaw working furiously as he glares out of the window. She would laugh if he wasn’t so clearly distressed.

“I’m not afraid.” He bites out, shuddering when the plane rumbles underneath them, primed for take-off.

“I didn’t say you were.” Clarke says, soft, scratching her nails over his scalp just the way he likes it. The first-class cabin seats are roomy so she has to scoot all the way to the end to reach him, but it’ll be worth if it she gets him to calm down.

His knee starts bouncing frantically once they get moving, eyes fixed resolutely on the screen in front of him. The glass of complimentary champagne given at the start of the flight remains untouched, something which Bellamy probably regrets right now. She laces their fingers together when the plane jerks forward, rubs soothing circles against the bone of his wrist.

“How do people do this everyday?” he swears as they pick up speed, tarmac blurring before them as they hurtle forward. Bellamy loses his resolve once they retract the wheels, burying his face against the crook of her neck, mumbling nonsense against her skin.

“It gets better once we hit cruising speed.” She says lamely, before ducking down impulsively to brush a kiss against the space between his brows. He shivers, pushing closer, and she threads her fingers back into his hair, working through the knots.

He calms down once the plane levels out but she still keeps her forearm pressed up against his anyway. Bellamy would never outrightly admit that he needed reassurance, and he never had to, not when it came to her. What they had was instinctual, borne from years and years of learning each other inside out. It had been slow and arduous and painful at times, but worth it, too. They had laid out their pieces a long time ago, and she understood every single one of his as if they were her own.

They play Tetris for a while and Bellamy picks a documentary after, but it’s just not as fun when they can’t watch together, having to constantly lift up one end of her headphones to make a scathing comment or poke fun at his choice of entertainment. In the end, he reads while she dozes off fitfully against his shoulder, only startling awake when the pilot announces their imminent descent.

“My ears are congested,” he announces, overly-loud, as the plane screeches to a halt.

“Try yawning.” She suggests, shuffling down the aisle as quickly as she can without tripping over the hem of her too long sweat pants.

The cab ride to the hotel is a uneventful affair- both of them too exhausted to appreciate the sights around them- and Clarke lets him take the first shower when they arrive, preferring to bury her face against their luxuriously soft bed to nap for just a little while longer.

This time, when she wakes, it’s to a towel-clad Bellamy rifling through his bags for a shirt. Her mouth goes dry.

She should say something, she really should, but. There are clusters of freckles spanning across his shoulder blades that she’s never seen, the tantalizing dip of his spine that makes her want to splay her fingers across it. Shaking his hair out, she can’t help but snort a little at how it flares out in peaks, scruffy and messy and impossible.

He whirls around at the noise, surprise evident on his face. “So sleeping beauty is finally up. Welcome back to the world of the living.”

Clarke huffs, slouching back against the pillows. “How are you not jet-lagged?”

“I am.” He smirks, smoothing out the creases of his shirt languidly, like he has all the time in the world. “I’m holding out so I won’t have a irregular sleep schedule.”

“Well, bully for you,” she grumbles, sardonic. “I’ll take my shower now and then we can head out for dinner?”

“Sure.” Bellamy shrugs, crossing his arms over his chest. Clarke glares at the spot directly above his head, refuses to make eye contact. He still hasn’t put on a shirt. “I can go ask the concierge for a spare cot while you shower.”

No ,” she says, a little startled by how forceful she sounds. Composing herself, she tries again. “I don’t want people to talk. Besides, this bed is huge.”

“Are you sure?” He asks, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth.

“We have had sleepovers together, you know.” She points out, wry, stretching out her taut muscles carefully.

Bellamy sighs. “You were six , Clarke. I gave you a pair of my boxers when you wet the bed.”

“You said you weren’t going to bring it up!”

“It’s not like we’re in public.” He laughs, fingers going to the knot around his waist. She’s out of the bed before she realized her feet even moved, already stumbling to the bathroom, duffel bag in tow. “You better not have used up all the hot water.” She yells in response, slamming the door shut behind her before she can something stupid like gawk. How was it possible for a history teacher to get so ripped anyway? It was preposterous.

The hot water does ease her nerves a little, and Clarke’s feeling a whole lot better once she emerges from her shower. Bellamy insists on checking out one of the restaurants he picked out from yelp despite the fact that it’s on the other side of the town, and they arrive just in time to order the last of the desserts before heading back to the hotel again. (Honestly, she would be mad about it if the tiramisu wasn’t quite so spectacular.)

“A real glamorous weekend this has been.” She teases, bumping his knee until he moves aside, grumbling quietly under his breath. Having deemed the table too small and the bed impractical, they had settled themselves on the floor, digging out of their takeout cartons and generally making a mess of things. It’s nice .

“Oh yeah. Five stars,” he deadpans, leaning over to swipe the last bite of her shortcake. “Just thinking about all the free food we’ll be having tomorrow gets me excited.”

“I’m glad you have realistic expectations about all of this.” She grins, picking at the loose thread from his fraying pyjama bottoms. “These are cute, by the way.”

“I’m wearing them for your benefit.” He smiles, scooping up the remaining cartons and dropping them into the bin. “Do you have a preferred side?”

Clarke shakes her head, not trusting herself to speak. He shrugs, but the tense set of his shoulders give him away as he flops down on the left side, angling his face away.

“G’night.” She mutters, flicking off the lights and shuffling over to her side. The bed creaks when she settles in, staring blankly at the dark shapes of the lamp, the shard of light shining in from the bottom of the door.

It feels like they’re holding their breath, but she’s not even sure why.

Bellamy breaks first, shifting and tugging at the blankets with a muted grumble. “Listen. I can’t sleep with my shirt on.”

“Take it off if it bothers you so much then.” It was meant to be breezy, nonchalant, but it comes out as a squeak. She bites back a groan, wiggles further away when she hears the unmistakable thump of his shirt hitting the floor.

“Night,” he says, brushing his foot against hers, so light she could have imagined it.

“You too.” She mumbles into her pillow; his deep, even breaths finally lulling her to sleep.

+

Clarke’s not all that surprised when she wakes clinging to Bellamy- arms banded around his torso and cheek warm from it having been pressed up against his back all night. Lexa had hated it while Finn had been ambivalent, Raven more amused than anything. It was something she did even back when she was a kid, and her dad had attributed it to the fact that she got cold easily. Clarke hated to admit that perhaps it was because she grew up lonely.

He’s still snoring peacefully when she peers up at him, resting her jaw against the jut of his shoulder blade so she can look at him properly. His eyelashes are stubby, all tangled and curly just like his hair. There’s the distinct scar right above his lip courtesy of Octavia, who thought it would be a great idea to play with a pair of gardening shears when she was five. She had been inconsolable when Bellamy had to be taken to the hospital and Clarke held her hand the entire time they waited for him to come back.

(The first thing he did when he arrived home was to give Octavia a lollipop he got from the hospital waiting room, the black row of stitches pulling at his mouth warping the shape of his smile. Bellamy had no sense of self-preservation even back then, and it makes her heart hurt stupidly at the thought.)

She pulls away when his eyelids begin to flutter, movements slow and careful to keep from waking him. She’s deliberating if going up and over is a better option when he catches onto her elbow, momentum forcing her onto her back as he hovers over her.

Bellamy blinks, as if looking at her for the first time. “Were you spooning me?”

“I was cold,” she manages, poking her tongue out at him. “And you’re essentially a space heater, so.”

“I am pretty hot.” He smirks, oblivious to the fact that his dick is pretty much pressed up against her thigh. Clarke’s mostly trying not to think about it by reciting the entirety of the star spangled banner backwards. “Are you even listening to me?”

She swallows, can’t help glancing over at his bare chest, the deep vee of his hip bones exposed from his low-slung pants. “Sure.”

There’s a beat, his expression morphing from confusion to considering. His breath is warm against her face when he exhales, stale too, but she can’t really bring herself to care when he’s looking at her like that. “So what did I last say?”

Something stupid, probably, she means to say, but he kisses her before she can, lips crashing down on hers. It’s desperate and messy, her fingers fumbling to pull him closer, his hand slipping past hers so he can cradle her neck. “This is for practice,” she says in between furious kisses, whining when he focuses his attention on her neck instead, sucking dark marks against her skin. “I don’t-- we need to be convincing.”

“Definitely,” he rasps, nodding feverishly. “We’re going the extra mile here.”

The insistent buzzing of her phone startles her enough to look away, instinctively reaching for it until he bites down on her shoulder, making her keen. “Don’t answer that.”

“It could be important .”

“Or not,” he murmurs, hands travelling down to her hips and latching on. “Call them back later.”

Clarke surges up to kiss him again, teeth clacking and fumbling desperately to push his pants off. He laughs at that, burying his face against her neck to muffle the sound. “Don’t make fun of me,” she orders, the effect ruined by the breathless quality of her voice. “God, you’re so annoying.”

“I’ve been told.” He snickers, releasing her hip so he can steady her hand. “Let me help.”

They don’t make it much further before there’s a knock on the door, the timid voice from behind the door almost entirely drowned out by Bellamy’s groan. Sighing, she pushes him off gently, straightening her top and patting her hair down. “Sorry, who is it again?”

“Maya? Anya sent me to do your hair and makeup.”

“Right.” She swears under her breath, lets her head fall back against the wall. “Uhm. Just give me a minute.”

Bellamy has his pants back on by the time she slides off the bed, his hair a rumpled mess and lips swollen from what transpired before. She opens her mouth to speak, but the words die before they can leave her lips, her courage failing her.

“You should get that.” He says, gentle, and she turns away, swallowing down the lump in her throat.

Maya- a true professional- doesn’t comment on the hickeys lining her throat, just covers them up with a few sweeps of her brush, even volunteering to help Bellamy with his hair. Clarke’s mostly calmed down by the time she puts on her dress hours after, reassured by Maya’s quiet presence and the few swigs of whiskey she took from the minibar. She’ll tell him after. She has to tell him after.

Still, it doesn’t prepare her for the sight of Bellamy in a suit- a well-fitting one, at that- and she hovers by the doorway for a few minutes, uncertain as to what to do next. Maya’s worked some gel into his hair, making him look older and distinguished, but she misses the curls already.

“You got the makeover montage you wanted,” Clarke says instead, barely remembering to stop herself from wringing her fingers together.

“It’s all I ever wanted.” He goes, mock-solemn, getting to his feet and offering his arm. “Shall we?”

“Yeah.” She nods, looping her arm through his. “Thanks for everything, Maya.”

“Have fun,” she trills, sliding her bulging bag onto her shoulder as they shut the door behind them. Clarke forces down the urge to call after her, takes a deep breath instead. Their reflections are warped and twisted against the elevator doors.

“Bell--”

“Let’s just get through this, okay?” He says, smiling tightly. Her heart sinks all the way down to her shoes, disappointment burning her throat and making her eyes water.

“Okay,” she says instead, turning to face forward as the doors open before them.

+

A newcomer wins the category she was nominated for, and the camera does the obligatory pan over to the rest of the nominees shot. Clarke has to say she does look appropriately distressed, though probably not for the reasons that the audience thinks she is.

Bellamy squeezes her hand, the contact making her jump. He’s barely touched her since the night began, fingers apprehensive against her back, smiles restrained and awkward. “Shit, Clarke. I’m so sorry.”

“I need some air,” she says, automatic. There’s something clawing at her throat, ready to burst, and looking at him only worsened it. “I’ll be back.”

Anguish flashes over his features, his grip tightening on her wrist. “ Clarke .”

She shrugs him off, pastes a smile on her face before departing towards the direction of the toilets, ducking into the first alcove she finds. Her hands are shaking too hard to undo the clasp of her clutch, so she rests her forehead against the cool marble instead, willing herself to breathe. A few hot tears escape, and she brushes them away impatiently, snorting when she finds dark streaks of makeup smudged on her fingers.

The clatter of footsteps sounding across the floor pushes her further into the confined space, keeping her face turned away so they wouldn’t be able to spot her so easily. A gaggle of waiters pass by and she shrinks away, keeping her gaze fixed on a crack in the wall instead. It’s easier to breathe when all her focus is directed at something, her breathing evening out and her shoulders loosening. It’s distracting enough that she almost misses the warm presence by her side, sliding down to join her on the floor. Almost.

Bellamy doesn’t say anything, just hands her a wad of tissues wordlessly. She takes it from him, dabs at the corners of her eyes roughly. “Well, there goes two hours of Maya’s work.”

“She’ll live,” he says, gruff, reaching up to work his fingers through the gel in his hair. “I don’t-- I’m so sorry, Clarke. I know it mattered to you.”

“That’s not why I’m upset.” She sighs, kneading her temples in a valiant effort to make her pounding headache disappear. “I couldn’t care less about this stupid award.”

His brow furrows at that, knee brushing up against hers so he can face her. “Wait, what?”

“Seriously, Bell?” The laugh that bubbles out of her throat borders on hysterical, but she goes on anyway. “I’m upset because I’m in love with my best friend, who won’t even talk to me after--”

He makes a strangled noise, knuckles going white. “You-- did you just--”

“I did,” she says, barreling on. “I know you don’t feel the same way, but you don’t get to--”

“That’s rich,” Bellamy interrupts, giving a shaky laugh. “Considering I’ve been in love with you almost all my life.”

The statement is enough to take the wind out of her sails, all the fight churning within her whooshing out in a rush. Her hands shake, so she curls them around her knees, pulling them up to her chin. Something small and impossibly fragile is blooming in her chest, the hint of leaves straggling through the crack in a pavement.

“I didn’t-- I never thought you’d feel the same way so I never told you. Octavia said I was hopeless, and uh. Told me I should grow a pair and do it already, but there was Finn, then Lexa, and it just never seemed to be a good time.” His smile is sheepish as he tugs on his hair, fidgeting slightly. The tremor in his voice gives him away though, the wild look in his eyes, too. She’s making Bellamy nervous .

Clarke takes his hand instead, drops her face down to his chest to hide her wide smile. “So, to reiterate what you just said. You love me.”

His chest shakes with laughter, his free hand reaching down to tilt her chin up. “Stupidly.”

“That’s the best news I’ve heard tonight.” She declares, sliding into his lap so she can kiss him properly, sighing happily into his mouth when he pulls at her lower lip, interlacing their fingers.

They stay like this for what feels like hours, kissing and laughing, and she tells him everything she only dared to admit to herself in the moments before sleep, in the safety of her blankets. Bellamy cards his fingers through her hair, fingers darting over to her wrist, the arch of her hip, like he can’t quite believe that she’s there, something impossible that he never thought he could have.

This is real, she says, with a squeeze of his fingers, the faintest brush of her lips against his temple. This is happening.

“You think we can still make the walking tour?” He says after, voice muzzy, like he’s minutes away from falling asleep.

“Probably.” She agrees, resting her cheek against the steady thump of his pulse. A part of her recognizes that they need to get up sooner or later, that there will be a line of photographers waiting outside for them and a horde of reporters to fend off. But for now, this is enough. Bellamy will always be more than enough. “Whatever you decide on, I’m with you.”