For the first time in months, when they returned to camp, they came together. The trip to Arkadia from Polis was long, heart wrenching, and filled with silence, but still they made it together. When they came through the doors, Bellamy’s heart didn’t clench like last time. He didn’t watch her face out of the corner of his eye like last time. This time, while the weight of the world rested on their shoulders and the clock ticked every second closer to another apocalypse, they faced it together. His heart was heavy with Octavia’s disappearance, but Clarke’s hand on his when she told him she’d see him at dinner was light, welcomed. She left to the medbay and he watched her go, knowing how her mind was racing by the set of her shoulders but, this time, they had each other to lean on.
One week past before it happened the first time, Bellamy pressing Clarke up against the cool wall of the Ark, her hands in his hair and his working fingers inside of her. They needed this, needed each other. The time might not have been right but they knew, tucked in a dark corner in the dead of night, this was the only chance they’d have. The first time didn’t last long, all scratching nails and swallowed moans, and afterward they parted ways without any words other than mumbled goodnights as Clarke went back to her quarters and Bellamy went back to his patrols. He felt lighter and heavier at the same time and Clarke lay silent in the empty room, staring at the wall because she couldn’t sleep. It felt strange for her, like a mixture of guilt and elation. Bellamy had always been a “someday” for her, not as much an if as a when. But now that their somedays had been taken from them, waiting until they were ready wasn’t important anymore. It didn’t sit well in the pit of her stomach but she wasn’t ready to die without having some kind of a chance.
They didn’t talk about it. Every couple of days she’d sneak off to his patrol or he’d find her in a council room, they’d share a look, and that was it. He’d press her against a wall or she’d move onto a table, he’d make her come on his fingers or his tongue, and she’d hold onto his shoulders as he finally pressed into her and wrapped his arms around her back. Always the same desperate dance. When it was over, Bellamy would press his forehead to hers with his eyes closed for just a moment, and then he’d pull away and hand her her clothes silently.
He loved her, she could tell. The way he looked at her, the way he held her, the way his hands touched her like she was something precious. She knew. It made her heart ache every time she watched him dress himself silently. She felt an empty space in her life she knew he could have filled if things had been different. He could have loved her fully if things were different, could have held her with confidence instead of just holding her together.
She never let him see her cry afterward; always waiting until Bellamy’s footsteps faded away, the same heavy beat as her heart. Their new dynamic was too fragile for this kind of reaction. Clarke would fold in on herself and let silent tears fall until her eyes dried on their own and she could go back to pretending all was well.
When they aren’t holding each other and pretending they’re alright, they’re working on trying to save the world. Four months, three weeks, and two days. Their clock ticks a constant, deafening rhythm as they race against time. It feels hopeless. They hardly know where to begin and once they do, they find themselves behind. Alie is dead and gone but her destruction remains in her wake and all they can do is try to build this puzzle that’s missing half its pieces. It takes its toll on everyone involved. Monty and Raven shut themselves away and search desperately for the locations of the bombs while Bellamy and Clarke argue about strategy and next steps until they’ve exhausted each other. They’ve reached their breaking point too many times on this earth to have much heroism left in them. All that’s left of the delinquents is broken hearts and stolen childhoods but they push on anyway. They have no choice.
Sometimes Clarke dreamt of a different life. A life where she could have walked away and lived the six-month sentence without feeling a duty to her people. She wanted to be selfish and take the rest of her life to spend how she wanted, up and leaving again but this time with her friends by her side. In that life, she would take her people to the sea and spend her days in the water and her nights on the sand. And when the bombs would go off, if there even were bombs, the last moments of her life would be spent in the sun with the man she could have loved. Unfortunately, such pretty dreams could never outshine her nightmares.
Her nightmares got worse and worse as days went on, flickering images of levers and blood and a warrior’s call. The world ended every time she closed her eyes and when they opened in the morning, she was one day closer to it becoming her reality. One night, when they got so bad she couldn’t shake them, Clarke broke her own rules. Bellamy’s quarters were on the other side of the residential ruins of the Ark and she walked slowly on her way there, the path memorized and second nature even though she often tried desperately to avoid them. Two lefts, one right, through the long corridor, lit with flickering and sickly colored fluorescent lights, the third door on the left. Every footstep on the way there felt like a mistake she couldn’t help but make.
She didn’t knock, for fear of losing the edge that drove her forward. Clarke went into the dark room and closed the door behind her, barely letting her eyes adjust before she took the distance to his bed and climbed in behind him, her arm wrapping around his chest and her body laying rigid just barely against his.
“Clarke?” Bellamy asked, his voice half-stolen by sleep. She didn’t answer, just tucked her face into the space between his shoulder blades. His over worn t-shirt was soft against her skin, a contrast between the rough, large hand that engulfed hers and held it close over his heart. He didn’t say anything else, didn’t turn to try to touch her more or initiate what they usually did when they were this close. He needed it as much as she did, the silent comfort of another person suffering through a long night with you.
They stayed like that for a while, quiet and still and weighted down by the tension in the air around them; both too afraid to break what delicate danger came with such close proximity.
Clarke broke the silence first. “Do you think we’ll get another chance?”
Bellamy’s hand tightened on hers and his eyes closed. “I don’t know.”
“Maybe we’ll have another life after this,” Clarke whispered, her voice barely audible over the hum of the Ark.
It took him a long moment to respond but she waited for him, almost feeling his brain working in the dark. Something about it made honesty easier. “Do you think I deserve that?”
Her heart broke for him. “We all do.”
“I’ve done enough to lose my shot at something better.”
“We deserved better than this,” Clarke admitted, her voice choked off with unshed tears, almost a plea to a god she knew wasn’t listening. “We should have had a chance.”
“I’m not sure life is in the business of giving out what people deserve, Clarke. If it was, we wouldn’t be here.”
Clarke gave a sob against his back and held him closer, the image of a warm beach and a life she’d never have printed on the back of her eyelids. She saw smiles on faces that had only worn pained expressions lately, heard the easy laughter of a carefree world, could smell the salt of the sea as a tiny, freckled hand held hers and heard children’s songs as it pulled her out towards the water. It was a heaven she couldn’t have, a peace she’d never feel.
Bellamy rolled over to face her and wrapped his arms around her back. His hand rested on the back of her head, fingers braiding into her tangled locks and holding her close to comfort her. He’d dreamt of this a thousand times but reality wasn’t quite as sweet.
“Maybe we’ll find our way there someday,” he said quietly. “Stranger things have happened on the ground.” It was the least he could give her.
They stayed like that until she fell asleep, her even breath soft against his chest. Maybe they would, he thought. Maybe they could have this and have it finally be real. Maybe they’d have something to call their own, not fragile and slipping through their fingers like the small slices of happiness they had been allowed so far. One more hurdle, one more almost-apocalypse, and maybe they’d find that. Maybe the other side of this tragedy finally held something sweet that they could call their own.
If not, if they were only allowed happiness in some other world, he hoped his happiness was Clarke.