On average, most people consider themselves lucky to have one or two soul marks on their body. Usually one for their romantic soul mate, one for friendship or family. Sometimes, people found themselves with one for an enemy or, even, a pet. None were guaranteed. To have any was lucky.
Clarke Griffin had four.
Which may seem overly lucky, until you remember that no one knew which mark stood for what.
“But how am I supposed to know? ” Clarke asked, the words halfway between a whine and a question. She was eight with her ratty blonde hair pushed behind her ears and her mouth already spilling enough questions to drive her mother mad.
Abby pushed her paperwork to the side with a sigh, reaching up to her shirt to pull at the collar. “See this one?”
Clarke nodded eagerly, sitting up straighter on her chair and tugging her own shirt to reveal the same symbol– a thin silhouette of a bird flapping its wings, flying nowhere. Her dad had the same symbol on his thigh, big enough to take up half of it.
“This is for us,” she said. Abby leaned forward on her forearms; her smile was tired but loving, admiring the spark of something beautiful in her daughter’s eyes. “This means family.”
Clarke’s brow furrowed. “Do you have one for dad? Because you’re soulmates?”
Her mother went quiet, though her face didn’t reveal any certain emotion. Clarke shifted in her seat, wanting to hear more. Abby was always shy when it came to the topic of soul marks, and she wasn’t sure why her mother never told her more. The answers always seemed a step away, close enough to see a blurry outline of but never fully formed.
“This is the only one that matters,” Abby said. She tapped the symbol Clarke knew laid underneath the fabric, smiling the same way she always did when she was overcome with warmth for her daughter. “It appeared on my body when you were born. It tied us all together.”
A few years later Clarke would catch her mom changing into her work clothes and see the tiny soul mark in the shape and color of the world revolving around her hip. Clarke wanted to ask her if she knew who it belonged to, but she figured if Abby knew, then Clarke probably would have known, too.
“Great,” eight-year-old Clarke said with a sigh, puffing a golden strand of hair out of her face, “one down, three to go.”
Abby looked suddenly serious. She always looked serious, Clarke would be quick to remedy, but there was something in the steeliness in her eyes. The ferocity in the turn of her lips. “Soul marks are lovely, Clarke, but they don’t know everything. You make decisions for yourself.”
Clarke tried to nod serious enough to match her mother’s energy, but she wasn’t sure she got it. The world had chosen to scratch against her skin… who was she to turn a blind eye?
Moving cities a week before Clarke’s sophomore year of high school wasn’t ideal, but neither was her dad dying in a car crash two months prior. In the end, she wasn’t sure she minded moving that much. She liked her friends, the people she had known forever, but they asked too many questions. Asked so much of her. It was too much to bear.
The only problem with here , though, was she wasn’t sure where to eat lunch, and she couldn’t fake her way through it. Most kids had just ignored her, but the ones who did see her seemed to think her strange in her paint-stained, faded jeans and overly baggy white v-neck tied together at the sides. She had a book underneath her arm, planning on sneaking away to the library to eat her bagged lunch in peace.
“Clarke Griffin!” The voice bounded down the hallway, friendly in an easy way.
When she turned, it only took her a second to recognize the face of Wells Jaha. They had met each other on and off over the years due to parents who were friends from college, but they had never been close enough that Clarke thought he would seek her out on her first day. She should have remembered how kind he was without question, she realized.
“Wells. Hey,” she said. She tried to smile but she had the feeling it looked something like a grimace.
Her voice was dry, dusty from being left unused. She’d spent the whole week prior sitting in front of her TV watching Keeping up with the Kardashian reruns while her mother threw herself into work. It had been a while since she talked to another human being, specifically one her own age.
He smiled. It was nice that he was polite enough to either ignore her lacking attempts at human communication or truly didn’t seem to mind. “My dad told me you were going here now. I’ve been trying to find you all day.”
Clarke wasn’t sure what to say to that, so she stayed quiet.
“You have to eat lunch with me. Well, me and Gina. She’s harmless, I swear.”
Even if she had wanted to decline, Clarke got the feeling he wouldn’t have let her. He nodded for her to follow, waiting for her to fall in line with him before walking down the hall and outside. Kids were sprawled all over the expansive lawn, but Wells clearly had a specific spot in mind. He lead her toward a big Oak tree with a nice spot of shade. As they got closer, Clarke saw two girls already sitting below it.
The first one waved excitedly the second she spotted them. Her brown hair was half-pulled up and away from her face. She had a soft smile; in fact, everything about her seemed particularly soft. She wore a light pink tank top and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a small carton of skim milk.
“You must be Clarke,” she said. “I’m Gina.”
Clarke gave a small wave in greeting, sitting down between Wells and the unnamed girl. Where Gina was soft, this girl was wild. Her hair waved uncontrollably, filled with braids and beads. She wore a floor-length skirt and colorful necklaces stacked around her neck.
“I forgot to mention Luna,” Wells said as he unpacked his lunch. “Also harmless.”
Luna didn’t look quite as harmless as Wells assured her she was, but she made a point of nodding in her direction. She pushed some hair behind her ear, and Clarke could finally see the soul mark that spread across her forehead and almost down to her cheek. It was five rose buds; slowly they opened then closed.
“Your tattoo is beautiful,” Clarke said in awe. Most soul marks were uncolored, and the ones that were colored didn’t look like that. The rosebuds were splashed with reds and oranges like a watercolor. “Could I paint it?”
Luna’s lips spread into a genuine smile, and Clarke was pretty sure she was going to do all right at Arkadia High School.
It wasn’t until nearly a year later Clarke finally saw the expansive tree on Wells’s back that matched the one on her thigh. It was probably her favorite tattoo because it changed with the seasons. She’d spent years trying to match the beauty of it into a painting but had never quite been able to describe its ever-changing nature with oils or pastels.
They drove about an hour out of Arkadia to a swimming hole with a waterfall Luna had heard about from some theater kids. After parking and a mini hike to the spot, they were quick to drop their stuff. Clothes were flung every which way as they stripped to their swimsuits. Wells was first, ripping his shirt off and running toward the water.
Clarke’s hands were frozen on the cuff of her shirt.
“You ok, Clarke?” Gina, ever sensible, was spraying herself down with sunscreen before she joined Luna and Wells in the water. Her eyes finally caught the tree on Clarke’s thigh, and suddenly she was frozen, too. “Wells…”
Wells and her had been best friends for almost a year now and had known each other on and off for their whole lives, but she’d never even contemplated him being her soulmate. She loved him, but it had never felt like the all-consuming passion she thought true love meant. Almost more shocking, though, was that she had gone nearly 17 years and had never gotten a glimpse of his back like this.
“What’s going on?” Wells popped out of the water, ignoring as Luna tried to tug him back in. His eyes flashed to where Gina was now staring intently, and he froze before a laugh pushed out of his lips like a bulldozer. “Well, Griffin, I guess we’re soul friends, aren’t we?”
As soon as he said the words, Clarke realized their truth. He was right. It was as simple and as easy as that, like everything with Wells was. Best friends, and now the world seemed to confirm it.
He gave her a big hug and tugged her into the water, the squeal so loud it made birds fly from the trees. When Gina took her time wading in, Luna and Wells both ran out to pull her in, too. They spread themselves out, floating in a wayward circle.
“Do you have soul marks, Gina?” Luna asked as their breaths began to even out.
The water lapped around her hands as she kept her body stationary. “No.” They all paused to think about the implications of that, of not being tied to anyone. “Do you have any other ones?”
It wasn’t clear who she was directing it at, but Luna responded. “No, just the obvious facial masterpiece. Wells?”
He held his arm straight up, showing his hand. A small lady bug fluttered on the knuckle by his thumb. “I’m assuming this is for my soul mate, but you never know.”
“It’s cute,” Gina said. “I saw your bird, too, Clarke.”
Clarke felt nervous to admit to having so many when Gina had none, but she sighed and said it anyway. “I’ve got four.”
The water splashed as everyone turned toward her. It had been a while since she had revealed this to anyone; she had forgotten how shocking it was. Shifting from floating to treading, Clarke saw her friends waiting patiently.
“Four?” Luna asked. She never seemed that surprised by anything, so the high arch of her eyebrows was startling.
Clarke pointed to her bird which fluttered by the strap of her bikini. “This is for my family– my mom has it and so did my dad. You guys obviously know my tree, which Wells also has.” She flipped onto her back, pushing with her hands so she could stay afloat enough to show them the flames that flicked at her ankle. “I don’t know what this means.”
Finally, she treaded again and turned around, lifting the wet hair from her neck to give the full view. Between her shoulder blades sat a large compass. Every once in awhile the arrow fluttered, but it was definitely the most stationary out of all of her marks. Clarke had always loved its sturdy lines, though, the way it was the most hidden. “Last but not least.”
Gina reached out a tentative hand and traced over the compass. “Beautiful.”
Then the moment was ruined as Wells splashed her, and Luna dove under to pull at their legs. They dissolved into screams and laughs. A half an hour later as they walked out and dried off for a picnic lunch, Clarke snapped her mouth shut when she saw the tiny ladybug tattoo on Gina’s heel.
It wasn’t her secret to tell.
Bellamy Blake crashed into their lives about a half a year later. Well, he sure crashed into Clarke’s life. Wells, Gina, and Luna didn’t seem to have much problem with him. If anything, they genuinely liked him.
Clarke thought she might murder him if they were ever left alone for too long.
One day she had never met him and then the next he was everywhere. He came into her AP European History class and sat in the desk next to her. November that year was particularly biting, and the thick sweater he was wearing seemed to prove it. His hair was wild, thick glasses sat on his nose, and a smirk seemed imprinted permanently on his face.
“Good morning, princess.”
Three words. That was all it had taken for Clarke to know they were not going to get along. So it was a surprise to come to lunch to find him and Wells laughing, and Gina sharing her carrots with him. Clarke didn’t even sit down, just paused in her steps and crossed her arms.
Bellamy looked up. “Ah, princess, glad we meet again.”
Clarke huffed, but Wells shot her a pleading look and she plopped down on the bench next to him. “The feeling isn’t mutual.”
The smirk that spread almost wide enough to be considered a smile made Clarke want to yank it right off of his face, but she bit the inside of her cheek. He’d be gone before long, she decided. She could ignore him until then.
Christmas came and went, then New Years. It became clear Bellamy was not going anywhere, but it didn’t mean Clarke had to be happy about it.
Clarke opened her front door already wearing a weary expression, lips pursed. “Don’t think because I invited you over to study that I like you.”
Bellamy rolled his eyes. “Just let me in.”
“We’re not friends.”
Bellamy threw a bag of dum dums at her. “Payment to get past the troll bridge.”
She flipped him the middle finger before widening the door.
“Do you ever think about what your soulmate is like?” Wells was sprawled on Clarke’s bed, as comfortable as if it was his own home.
Clarke swiveled in her desk chair. “Sometimes.” She shrugged. “Probably the opposite of everything Bellamy Blake is.”
Wells chuckled and shook his head. He was endlessly amused by their feud. “You have to like something about Bellamy.”
“Nope.” The answer came lightning fast. “Actually, that’s not true. I like Miller. Miller is the best thing about Bellamy.”
Miller had come a few weeks after Bellamy, slipping into their friend group with the sort of ease that made it hard to forget a time before him. The “core four” had transitioned into the “spectacular six” (“I’m not condoning this name,” Miller had said. Bellamy had made a point of using it even more after that), and it felt like that was how it had always been.
They hung out most weekends, and rituals had sprung up between different clusters. Luna, Bellamy, and Miller went on long runs when it was nice out. Gina and Miller got together to do work for their creative writing class. And all six went every Saturday to the Monster Movie of the Week night at The Dropship, a local, indie theater that was always showing a mish mash of films.
“Seriously, Clarke.” Wells sounded a little distressed, which made Clarke give him her full attention.
She stood up from her desk chair to jump on the bed next to him. “I don’t even know if any of these are soulmate marks. I hope so, but I can’t imagine who it would be.”
Wells sighed, and he brought his hand up toward his face. The ladybug fluttered just where it always had, and Clarke reached up to tap it.
“I know Gina has my mark,” Wells said.
Clarke’s eyes snapped to the side of his face. “Really?”
He turned his own head, meeting her own gaze. “I like her. I don’t want to push her to have to like me though just because we have marks. I mean, it doesn’t mean we’re soulmates for sure or anything, but…”
“You know,” Clarke finished for him in barely a whisper.
He nodded. “Everything just seems better when she’s around. Life isn’t as hard. She’s… so beautiful.”
His face was so earnest that Clarke’s heart tightened. That was love. That was the kind of devotion you could only hope to receive from someone. It didn’t matter if you had a mark or not, it didn’t guarantee that someone as whole-hearted and as purely kind as Wells could look at you like you were a puzzle he’d never get tired of solving.
“Ask her to prom.” The idea came out of her mouth before she fully thought it through, but then she seemed to get charged with it. “Yes, you should ask her to prom and see where it goes from there. It’s perfect.”
“We weren’t going to go to prom,” Wells said.
Clarke shrugged. “It’s fine. I’m sure the rest of the spectacular six won’t be that upset. We could all go as a group.”
Wells leaned his head over, resting it on her shoulder. “Thanks. For this but also for being my best friend.”
In all honesty, Clarke wasn’t sure how to describe how thankful she was for him. He had saved her. A new school, her father just recently dead, and Clarke had nothing to hold onto. Then there was Wells, reaching out a hand and holding her up until she could stand on her own two feet. If Clarke never found another person with a matching soul mark, she wasn’t sure she’d mind all that much. Wells was already more than she could ever hope for.
“Nah,” she said. “Thank you .”
“Griffin, you understand I wouldn’t ask you unless I had zero other options,” Bellamy said.
Clarke leaned against her doorway. The February weather was still a little too chilly for her to feel comfortable standing out here much longer, and she pulled her sweater tighter around herself. Her eyes scrunched together as she looked him over. “You could try to at least ask gratefully. It might make the ‘helping you out’ thing easier.”
His teeth ground together. “ Please .”
“Ok, but only because there’s nothing good on TV.” She pushed back up to standing, reaching around the door to grab her purse. “Mom, I’m going out!”
There wasn’t a response, but Clarke couldn’t even remember if her mom was actually home or not. She might have had an extra shift. Or she could have been helping Marcus Kane with his new house again. Either was probably as equally likely.
Despite knowing Bellamy for a few months now, she had never actually been inside his Jeep. It was clean with a fresh scent; it made sense he would keep it impeccable. Bellamy didn’t have many things to his name, and the ones he did were usually rewards from his own hard, diligent work.
“Where do I go?” he asked as he pulled out onto the main road.
Clarke rolled her eyes. “Just go to the mall.”
Bellamy mumbled something underneath his breath, but in the name of not getting them both killed from a car crash, Clarke let whatever it was slide. She took the liberty of shifting through his CDs and put something mellow on. His heat didn’t work all that well, and Clarke was wishing she had grabbed a bigger coat than the sweater she had been casually wearing while she studied.
Once they had gotten to the mall, she tried her best to be reasonable with him. It was a sore spot, trying to afford the tux for prom when every cent he worked for was being saved for college. Him and Miller were both seniors, and while college still felt far away to Clarke, it was right around the corner for them.
“What about this? Is this good?” He stepped out in a black tux, and while it didn’t look bad, Clarke knew he could look better.
It was part of one of the reasons she couldn’t stand Bellamy Blake—his objective good looks. He was just so aesthetically pleasing, and it pissed her off. He was either completely oblivious to it or too aware of it, and both sides of that coin seemed to lead to her own frustration.
As she eyed the suit jacket with its loose shoulders and too long arms, an idea struck her. “Ok, that looks good, but…” She stood up, trying to find the navy blue tux she had spied earlier. “Try this one. It’s gonna look really good with your hair and your skin tone.”
He took it from her, and for a minute she thought he might actually be bearable.
But then he wiggled his eyebrows at her. “My hair and skin tone, huh princess?”
Clarke fell back onto the couch. “I fucking hate you.”
His laugh was too joyful as he slipped back into the dressing room, but she kept her mouth shut. When he exited a few minutes later, she couldn’t help that her mouth felt a little dry. It was the whole ‘objectively good looking’ thing.
“It’s perfect, but I need to fix your collar.” She hopped up, turning him toward the mirror so he could see himself as she adjusted the shirt underneath. As she perched up on her toes to reach where she needed to, she saw the peak of a strong tattoo that felt familiar.
Her curiosity always got the better of her, and she kept acting like she was fixing the tux as she tried to sneak a better look. The top of a compass peaked out, and she knew exactly where she had seen his mark– right on her own back. For a second Clarke felt her heart stop, but then she realized exactly what it was. People had marks for their enemies; that must be it.
“Get off, princess. I’m sure it’s good back there.”
“I do one nice thing for you…” she trailed off.
Enemies. That made perfect sense. She just didn’t want to mention it to him. He was insufferable as it was.
Miller sat himself down in the chair next to Clarke as the music got louder and the students more rambunctious. On the dance floor, she could still eye Bellamy and Luna doing something she assumed was meant to resemble a dance. They were laughing too hard for it to look ridiculous, though.
“So, I just saw Wells and Gina making out.”
Clarke gasped, turning toward him. How could his face look so impassive during a time like this? “Why did you wait so long to tell me that?”
“I only witnessed it a minute ago.” He shrugged.
“And you took the time to sit down first, wow.” Her eyes slithered over the dance floor in an attempt to see the two of them, but they were gone from her eyeline. “They have matching soul marks, you know.”
This got a reaction out of him. He quirked his eyebrow up, a small smile finding his lips. “Really?”
Clarke nodded. “A little ladybug.”
“Maybe soul marks aren’t total bullshit, then.”
A lot of people were skeptical about them, but she’d never heard someone who talked about them with near disdain. “You don’t believe in them?”
He shrugged again. “Neither of my parents had any.”
The song switched from fast to slow, and Clarke finally caught a small glimpse of Wells and Gina. They swayed together, impossibly close. Her heart swelled.
“I just grew up knowing that you don’t need a soul mark telling you to love someone to know it’s true.” Miller reached behind him to get a drink of water. “You have quite a few, I’ve heard. I’ve seen the tree and the birds.”
Clarke lifted her ankle. “Also fire. And one on my back. What about you?”
“It’s pretty nerdy.” Miller turned his head and pulled his ear out of the way, and now Clarke saw the mark that had always been too hidden to see. A little DNA structure, spinning around and around. “I don’t even like science that much.”
The idea of it was funny enough to spark a laugh on her lips. “You think it’s your soulmate?”
“Despite everything I’ve said?” Miller paused, breathing in deep. “I kinda hope so.”
“Yea,” Clarke said, watching Gina and Wells sway—almost like Miller’s tattoo of DNA, the two strands twirling around one another, separate but one. “I hope so, too.”
The night of Miller and Bellamy’s graduation, the weather was warm and breezy. It made the whole ceremony bearable, and after the obligatory pictures and hugs, the gang was so pleased by the June weather they built a big bonfire in Wells’s backyard.
Luna brought a massive handle of vodka, and Gina was having too much fun mixing drinks for her friends. Miller was a surprising lightweight, but Clarke wasn’t that far behind.
“Bellamy! Truth or dare?” Clarke bit her lip. Her eyes were all challenge when he met them, and for a few seconds they were glued to one another. They felt hotter than the fire roaring between them.
“Dare, princess.” He quirked his head. The all too familiar smirk was fully on display.
“I dare you to never call me princess again.”
Gina snickered into Wells’s shoulder, and Luna guffawed. “Really?” he asked.
“No, it would be a waste,” Clarke said. She smiled, leaning forward to rest her forearms on her knees. “I dare you to streak around the neighborhood.”
His smirk spread. While Miller started giggling, and Clarke wore a self-satisfied smile, he was calm and collected.
“Easy.” He peeled his shirt off without breaking eye contact, but then turned and ripped his pants off as he ran off.
The group laughed and cheered, but Clarke was too transfixed by the thick lines on his back. It really was identical. Not only did they have the same tattoo, it was in the exact same place and nearly the exact same size.
Some day, she should probably tell him about it. What did she care, though? He would go off to college and forget about his once upon a time nemesis/friend. Enemies didn’t stay in touch.
Then why did she seem to want to? She shook away the thoughts as a side effect of the fog of her alcohol and drank a little more instead. When Bellamy ran back around, waving his arms like he had just won the olympics, she couldn’t help the smile that fought its way to her lips.
They all ended up sleeping in Wells’s basement like they had a million times before. Luna and Wells always got the couches, and sometimes Gina ended up curling up with him while other times she decided to lay on the ground nearby. As she looked around now, though, Gina was nowhere to be found. Probably the bathroom, puking after a few too many drinks.
Clarke always insisted on sleeping between Bellamy and Miller, not because it was them but because she never liked sleeping on the end. It also meant she could pretend to still be sleeping and kick Bellamy awake by accident, which never got old.
Her phone showed her 3:47 as she blurred awake. She had thought the unbearable heat she felt was from a bad dream, but now that she was up she could have sworn the room was swelling with it.
“Bellamy,” she whispered. Her voice was bleary, and she reached out a hand to his upper arm to push him up. Miller took too long to rouse from sleep. “Bellamy, wake up.”
“Wha?” he asked. He didn’t even bother opening his eyes, instead just leaning closer to hear whatever it was she had to say.
“Doesn’t it smell like… smoke?” Now that she had pinpointed it, Clarke’s heart began to race. This wasn’t just a little smoke, it felt heavy and was only getting heavier. She leaned up on her arm, and then she heard a window crack.
Bellamy rushed up to his feet, running into Luna’s couch in the process and waking her up as well. Following his lead, Clarke stood up and walked toward the hallway.
It would have been beautiful if it wasn’t so terrifying. The corner of the room was up in flames—red and orange and yellow dancing furiously. “Holy fuck.”
They scrambled over one another to get back to where their friends were sleeping. Luna was already half-up, but Clarke rushed forward to shake Wells while Bellamy got Miller.
“Your house is on fire. We have to get out of here,” Clarke screamed. The fire was starting to get louder and louder.
It took another minute for the rest of them to get up, but the second they were all on their feet Bellamy and Clarke were rushing toward the stairwell. While smoke was billowing down, the back door was now covered in flames they wouldn’t be able to get through. The only choice was the front door.
Halfway up the stairs Clarke felt a hand on her wrist, and she twisted to see Wells. “Gina is still in the bathroom,” he said. “I’ll be right behind you guys.”
“No,” Clarke said, begged.
“Right behind you,” he promised before dashing away.
She wanted to follow, but Bellamy was still by her side and he yanked her forward. They crawled up the stairs, smoke so thick they could barely see. And when they got to the front door, the doorknob was burning hot. It bit into Clarke’s palms, but she didn’t have time to find another solution. She pushed into the bite, and the group of teens pushed through the doorway.
When she was in elementary school, Clarke remembered learning about fire safety. The firefighters would come once a year and let them pull the big hoses, take their picture up in the cabin of the truck, and teach them how to stop, drop and roll. But all she could remember now was that they had said a small fire can turn into a big one in only 30 seconds. A house can collapse in only a handful of minutes.
“Wells,” Clarke said as she pushed back toward the door, but only a couple of seconds later and the door disappeared in a flash of fire and a tumble of wood and glass and house. “No… Wells! GINA! WELLS, NO. ”
She didn’t realize her body had still been pushing toward the house until she felt Bellamy’s arms wrapped around her middle like a cobra. He clasped her to his chest, and when she fell to the ground, he fell with her.
Luna sobbed to their right. Miller sat motionless to their left. And Clarke screamed, Bellamy’s ragged breathes in her ear. The screams switched to cries, and soon all four of them were clutching closer together. Not four individuals but a knot of limbs, watching a house crumble to rubble in front of them while sirens flashed in the distance—too late to save the only things worth saving.
A thought hit Clarke sharp, like jumping into an ice water bath, and her cries stopped abruptly. She shimmied to pull down her pajama pants, ignoring Bellamy’s hands trying to hold her together still. The three others seemed to figure out what she was doing all at once, and they pulled back. Curiosity and dread filled them, too.
Clarke’s thigh was bare. No tree. Just empty, creamy skin.
The sobs hit her again, and Bellamy’s already impossibly tight hold grew tighter.
“Was there anyone still inside?” The firefighter stood in front of them as water began to pour on the house.
“Wells Jaha and Gina Martin,” Luna said in a wavering voice.
“My best friend,” Clarke said in a whisper more like a breath.
Bellamy’s head dipped to her shoulder, resting there as a sob shook his own body.
Clarke couldn’t decide if it was better or worse that they had died together. Her heart ached for them both, for the spectacular six to remain six instead of crushing back to four. She wanted her best friend back, the one who had saved her from death the first time around. She wanted Gina with her unquestionably kind words, her peanut butter and jellies she was always willing to share a half of, her quick wit.
“Clarke,” Miller released in a breath. One of his hands was clasped tightly onto her wrist where it had been since they’d come together, but the other pointed down to her ankle.
Luna crawled toward it, switching her gaze from the flickering tattoo to Clarke’s face to the burning building. The fighting fire illuminated her tear-stained face. “Your greatest enemy,” she whispered.
The fire tattoo seemed to roar more than it normally did, and she wasn’t sure if it was just her imagination or real life. She hated the mark. A memory flashed of Wells saying it was badass, but now she would do anything to carve it off of her skin.
All four of their worlds had gone up in flames, and now the reminder of it stared at them from her ankle.
The funerals, like all funerals, were horrible. The four of them decided to do a speech together, and luckily having them all up on stage made it easier to get to the end. Thelonius Jaha hugged them all afterward, but Clarke felt like she was burning all over again. They lived and his son had died. Gina had died.
The next few months sucked. They mostly only got through it because they got through it together. Luna slept at Clarke’s house that summer more than she slept at her own. The four of them went on hikes, watched movies, slowly recollected the fallen parts of their lives and built it into something different but verging on whole.
The hardest came when Miller and Bellamy left at the end of August.
Miller packed the last of their things into Bellamy’s Jeep, clapping his hands together.
Luna turned toward Clarke. “They’re going to eat Pop Tarts for every meal without us.”
Bellamy reached forward, grabbing Luna into a hug. “Oh, shut up.”
Miller shrugged. “We’ll at least eat pizza for half of our meals.”
“Thank god,” Clarke said. “Try to put some peppers on it or something. You can pretend you're eating vegetables that way.” Miller and her met in the middle, clasping onto each other before stepping back. He pressed a quick kiss to her cheek, laughing as she jokingly pushed him away.
“You going to miss me, princess?”
It had been a while since Bellamy had given her that smirk, but seeing it back almost warmed her heart. It didn’t seem as malicious as it used to. He didn’t make her hate him the way she used to. Over the last few months she had felt comforted by him being near, the release of being with three other people who understood exactly what you felt.
A month after the accident, Bellamy had come over with cookie dough ice cream and a board game Miller had requested. While the two of them waited for the other two, not bothering to wait on the ice cream front as they dug in, Clarke realized he was the first person she wanted to tell about the secret that had been burning in her belly.
“Can I show you something?” she had said.
If Bellamy was thrown off but the abrupt flip in conversation or the hurried tone of her voice, he didn’t show it. He just took another scoop and nodded his head.
Even as she unbuttoned her shorts he remained fairly calm. She turned slightly, pushing her pants down just enough to show him her hip but nothing else. Where a month ago there had been nothing, now a bright north star blinked.
“Holy shit,” he said, leaning forward. It hit him that it was weird to reach out and almost touch her hip, to stare at it so intently, and Bellamy cleared his throat and looked away.
“That’s not one of your soul marks, right? That’s new.”
Clarke nodded. “It appeared a few days after… everything. Halfway through a shower it blinked into existence.”
“What do you think it means?”
Her voice was almost ashamed. “Maybe it’s a new best friend.”
Bellamy took a long time not saying anything before he spoke next. “Wells is always your best friend. He’s one of a kind, you can stop worrying about replacing him. It’s not wrong to meet new people, though, and the world clearly wants you to at some point in the future.”
Clarke smiled, hiding it by shoving a scoop of ice cream in her mouth. “Stop saying nice things, or I’ll forget I hate you.”
Snapping back to the moment, Clarke eyed Bellamy. It had barely been a year of friendship, but she already couldn’t imagine what it would be like without him. Him, there in his thick glasses and thicker sweaters or flannels. Always with a quip or a joke or a fact that reminded her how incredibly smart he was.
“Please, I’ll never miss you,” Clarke said. “Luna and I are excited for the alone time.”
Bellamy laughed. The comment didn’t stop him from leaning forward and wrapping his arms around her.
They were enemies, Clarke said in her head as she wrapped her arms around his middle. Enemies, she chanted as she pushed her head into his chest. Enemies , as she closed her eyes and breathed him in.
“I’m always a phone call away,” he whispered into her hair.
Enemies. It used to be so much easier to remember.
Finn Collins was barely around long enough for him to be a mistake when Clarke realized how much of a mistake he was. Luna was busy with the fall musical, which meant more alone time than Clarke had been forced into since before high school. Art was the best bandaid she had ever known, so that’s how she healed her empty hours.
That, and Finn Collins, who took photographs in all black and white. Sometimes, when she sat at her easel after the final bell and worked, Finn sorted through his portfolio. It only took a week of that before she was hit with a moment of weakness, and the two kissed in the dark room while his photographs developed. For only a couple of weeks the two made out between photographs and canvases. Just long enough for it to hurt when she discovered two whole albums filled with pictures of a stunning girl who showed up at Arkadia High as a transfer student two days later.
Nothing flooded the halls of Arkadia High as quickly as gossip. Raven Reyes knew her boyfriend had cheated on her by third period. She knew it was Clarke by sixth.
The stool beside her squeaked, and Clarke looked up from her AP Biology textbook to see Raven Reyes herself. The pictures hadn’t done her justice.
“Raven Reyes,” she said, holding out an elegant hand with a pulsing north star on the back of it. Just when Clarke was sure the situation couldn’t get any more fucked up.
“Clarke Griffin.” She reached forward, tapping at the back of Raven’s hand. “The north star is on my hip.”
Raven quirked an eyebrow. “Huh. A north star, or this north star. Because Finn, who I hope we can both objectively agree is the worst, had a north star that was different from this one, but I still thought…”
Part of Clarke was still frozen in place over everything happening too fast to think through, but the part of her that wasn’t freaking out couldn’t help but laugh. “It’s the exact same one.” The two paused, unsure of where to go from there. “Do you want to come hang out after school? My friend Luna is going to come over, and she makes the best lemon bars so if you need something to eat while you shit talk your horrible ex-boyfriend—”
Clarke’s words stuck on her tongue when Raven cut her off with a raised palm. “All you had to say was lemon bars.”
“You want something to drink?” Clarke asked.
Raven shook her head no as she ate another pretzel rod. “Maybe in a little bit.”
The front door opened, and Clarke assumed it was probably Luna. They’d given up knocking two years ago. Her mom, who was still uptight about a fair number of things, didn’t seem to mind all that much. As long as Luna kept giving her advice on how to keep the lemon tree in the back from dying, she was good in her book.
It wasn’t Luna, though, but her mother and Marcus Kane.
“Hey mom, Marcus.” Clarke gave a small smile before motioning to Raven at the kitchen table across from her. “This is Raven. We have a matching soul mark.”
Abby sighed in a lovingly aggravated sort of way. “I hope you know how lucky you’ve gotten with your soul marks. Not everyone meets so many matches so young.”
Clarke tried to not think about the tree that no longer sat on her thigh. It made her feel distinctly unlucky .
Raven turned back to her. “How many you got, Griffin?”
“So far I’m 75% with my four,” she said. That wasn’t true, but it was the truth she had been telling for years. The compass was a secret. A secret that had become increasingly hard to keep.
“Do you want to stay for dinner, Raven?” Abby asked. “I’m off for once and was planning on making spaghetti. You’re invited too, Marcus, of course.”
“Stay,” Clarke said. “Her garlic bread is worth staying for.”
Raven and Marcus agreed with a laugh and a nod, and then the two adults escaped to Abby’s office to do some work.
“Is that your mom’s boyfriend?”
Clarke sputtered. “No, he’s…”
Marcus had been around a lot the last few months. And now that she was trying to explain why he had been around, she couldn’t really come up with a good reason besides he didn’t have much else to do and he got along really well with Abby and Clarke both.
There wasn’t much purpose to him being around anymore. Sure, he came over with a vague something or other about work, but then he ended up on their couch. Or doing paperwork at their dinner table. Sometimes he helped Abby cook. There probably hadn’t been a week in the last month where he didn’t stay over for dinner at least once.
“I actually don’t know.”
Raven’s head flung back with her laugh, and then Clarke was laughing, too. The situation was beyond ridiculous, yet it felt like it had come together just the way it needed to. Obviously, Raven needed time to move on, get over the anger in her stomach she was furiously pushing away, but the two of them were meant to connect.
The front door opened and shut again. “Are you in the kitchen?” Luna called. Her feet padded down the main hallway, and when she saw Raven she gave a small wave.
Clarke smiled at Raven, about to introduce her when she noticed how frozen she was.
Her name jolted her awake, and Raven popped up to her feet and stepped toward Luna. Turning around, she held up her ponytail just enough to see the crown of rose buds that followed her hairline on her neck.
“Two soul marks in a day, that has to be like a record or something, right?” Raven turned back to Luna, letting her ponytail swing back into place. “Do you want to go on a date with me? Friday, maybe? Or, well, anytime.”
Luna’s voice was soft, cautious. “Friday is good.”
Maybe Raven wouldn’t need as much time to get over Finn as Clarke had initially thought. Not when you had the promise of a crown of rose buds and a flashing north star on your side.
“When are you and Miller coming home? I need the backup.”
“You’re really missing us today, princess.”
Taking a deep breath, Clarke gave herself a second to readjust the pillow behind her back and regain her thoughts first. The stars were flickering outside her bedroom window. She probably should have gone to bed by now, but talking to Bellamy had gotten her too energized.
“I’m missing not being the only soulmate-less person in the room. Like, don’t get me wrong because Raven is amazing, but they’re so in love .”
“After only a month?” he asked.
“After only a month,” she said. Soft rustles echoed over the phone, and Clarke wondered what he was doing. She tried to imagine what he must look like. Probably lounging on his dorm bed, hair rustled and wearing sweats. “Are you coming home for Thanksgiving this weekend?”
“I don’t have much reason to.”
“Bellamy!” Clarke exclaimed. “You’re talking to your reason right now . Did you not hear me the last hour complain about being alone with love birds?”
“Trust me, I heard the complaints.” He sighed. “My mom won’t do a thanksgiving dinner. I would just come home for the weekend to sadly eat chinese food. Which I can do just as easily from my nice, clean bed.”
“Then come to the Griffin Thanksgiving Dinner. Duh.”
“You’re actually inviting me over?”
Clarke paused. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“I guess I thought…” he trailed off. “I’d like that. If it’s ok with your mom, of course.”
“Of course it is. Now get packing so you’re ready when Miller drives back tomorrow. I want us to be able to get the squad together as soon as possible. Plus you’re going to love Raven.”
“I can’t wait,” he said.
Clarke smiled to her ceiling. “Me either.”
“Miller!” Clarke launched herself onto his back, ignoring his grunt and holding tigther. He reached a hand around her back, laughing so hard he lodged her off.
“I come home for you, and all I get is ignored,” Bellamy said.
Clarke regained her balance, finally seeing Bellamy in front of her for the first time in what felt like forever. He looked different and the same, new and old. Instead of unsettling her, it reassured her that the core of Bellamy was always going to be Bellamy.
“You came home for my mom’s turkey and Luna’s apple pie.”
The left side of his mouth twitched up, and that was all it took to get Clarke jumping into his arms. He tightened his arms around her back, the two suspended in a moment before letting go and stepping back.
“The girls are prepping for you,” Clarke said. She looped one arm around Bellamy’s neck, the other around Miller’s. “You guys can see the lovebirds and then agree with me that it’s simultaneously wonderful and unbearable.”
Miller laughed. “Missed you, Griffin.”
Clarke squeezed tighter. “I missed you guys, too.”
The kitchen was wafting over with smells, and Clarke was stuck cutting onions. If she didn’t love her mom, she might have revolted.
“You doing ok?” Abby asked.
“Only crying a little,” she joked.
At the stove, Abby stirred the soon-to-be-gravy. A laugh erupted from the room over, and Clarke was reminded once again how well Bellamy and Marcus Kane had hit it off.
Abby paused, trailing her eyes over Clarke’s face. “Is Bellamy your boyfriend?”
Clarke was glad she hadn’t been drinking anything, because she was pretty sure it would have shot out her mouth and sprayed the kitchen. “Boyfriend? No. Definitely not. Just a friend.”
“He’s not…” Abby pointed to her back, but Clarke knew what she meant. They didn’t talk about it much, mostly because it had always been a bit of a touchy subject. “Is he?”
Clarke bit her lips, unsure how to answer that. “I’ll let you know,” she decided upon.
Even though she knew that was most certainly an unsatisfactory answer, Abby didn’t push it. That was one thing Clarke loved about her mother, how they both knew when to let something go.
“Yeah?” Her eyes were trained on the pot again, distracted.
“Does Marcus Kane have a tattoo of the world?”
Abby didn’t turn around, but her hand stopped stirring. Tension was clear in her shoulders. She sighed so deep her whole torso moved visibly, and then she turned back toward her daughter. “When did you see it on me?”
“A few years ago.”
Abby nodded. “He does.”
The onions, thank god, were finished. Clarke washed her hands off in the sink and leaned up against the counter nearest her mother. It felt like the kind of conversation that was best had close.
“Do you think that diminishes what you and dad had?”
“ No ,” the answer was steely, resolute. Absolutely certain. “Fate or the world or whatever you think puts these marks on our body only do so much. Falling in love is a decision, not a preordained miracle. A soul mark might help, but it’s not everything.”
Clarke waited as the answer processed. “I’m glad you get to be happy again.”
Her mother smiled, reaching forward to tuck a strand of hair behind her daughter’s ear. “You made me happy, y’know.” She patted her collarbone, where Clarke knew the bird was flying even if no one else could.
Clarke tapped her own too for good measure.
Once Thanksgiving came and went, Christmas was a breath away. Miller and Bellamy only disappeared back to school for another two weeks before they were back, this time a month for the winter holidays.
By the time Christmas was only a week away, only the boys and Clarke were left in town. Raven was at some mechanic convention with Sinclair, her guardian, and Luna was in Turks and Caicos with her mother. Which left just the three of them spending most of their break together, Miller opting out when he’d reached his bar for social interaction for the day.
Bellamy laid on her bed, eyes skimming over a book he had picked up from her bedside table. It was only five days until Christmas, and the whole room had a chill that felt it.
The compass seemed to burn on Clarke’s back. She wanted to talk about it but also wanted to forget it existed at all. “Do you have any soul marks?”
He closed the book, throwing it back on the table. “Why do you ask?”
She shrugged. “My mom and Kane have a matching soul mark. I’ve just been thinking about them a lot lately.”
He paused, and for a moment she was sure he saw right through her. “I have one.”
“Can I see it?” she asked.
He rolled his eyes. “You have seen it. Remember me streaking?”
Everything that happened that night before the fire had become a meaningless blur, so though she did distinctly remember Bellamy streaking, it wasn’t actually as strong of a memory as it normally would have been.
“This is just so you can see me shirtless, isn’t it?” He sighed dramatically, sitting up and turning away from her. He lifted his shirt up over his head before Clarke could even (pretend) to protest. “I love it.”
It was even more exact this close up. Every line, thickness, curve and edge was identical to the one on her skin. Before she could question it, Clarke had reached out and touched the planes of his back.
He sucked in a breath, surprised by the contact though he didn’t say anything. His skin was warm to the touch, tantalizing. Her pointer finger trailed around the compass and over the prongs, before she opened her whole palm and laid it flat over the compass. Their breaths were ragged, fast and loud. This was just her touching his back, Clarke realized. What would it be like to kiss him?
They hadn’t been enemies for a long time. Not ever, truthfully, but Clarke wasn’t ready to acknowledge what that meant. The fire on her ankle was her enemy. The bird on her collarbone her family. The disappeared tree had been Wells’s, and the north star on her hip now Raven’s– both for friendship.
But the compass on her back was all Bellamy’s. It was all love.
The realization made her pull back. As he put his shirt back on, she turned away.
“Do you think our whole lives are fated?” Clarke asked. She wasn’t sure why her voice was so close to a whisper, but seeing and touching him had made her feel like everything in this room was vulnerable.
He leaned his back against her headboard, the two of them close enough their upper arms touched. “Spit it out, Griffin. What are you thinking about?”
Clarke leaned her head back and eyed her white ceiling. “The north star appeared on my hip a few days after Wells and Gina. That was 17 years of my life that Raven wasn’t my best friend, and it could just be that Wells was gone and the universe filled its place, but that doesn’t always happen. It was like maybe Wells and Gina weren’t supposed to die, like fate had to rewrite itself.”
“Can I be honest?” Bellamy waited for her to nod before continuing. “You’re wasting your time.”
“What?” Clarke twisted her head to meet his gaze.
“You have four soul marks, and you know what almost all of them mean. Even to have a soul mark is lucky, but to know what they mean?” He paused, and guilt boiled in Clarke’s stomach as she realized she could take that anxiety away.
“It doesn’t matter if fate is real or not, because at the end of the day… you have all of it. You have a mom who loves you and you love, a dad who loved you more than anything, a best friend and a group of people who would fight for you. You made that happen, Clarke. Whether it was fated or not, you made people stay. You made people love you.”
Clarke nestled her head into his shoulder. She wanted to say something to make him understand how much that meant to her, to tell him how much he meant to her, but the words stuck in her throat.
She was pretty sure he knew anyway.
The room was ripe with anticipation as Raven, Luna, and Clarke sat in a circle on the floor of Luna’s bedroom. Stacks of envelopes sat in front of all of them. Shot glasses behind them, the pungent smell of tequila filling up part of the space.
“We should just start,” Raven said, anxiety ripping at her voice.
“This is probably a horrible idea.” Luna looked them both in the eye to let them know, deciding she needed one last shot and swallowing it with only a minimal wince. “Acceptance or rejection, we’re one girl gang. Nothing is going to tear us apart.”
“Nothing,” Clarke repeated. She held out her pinky, waiting for the other two to connect theirs. They sat for a beat before each picking up an envelope.
For the next ten minutes they rifled through their piles, ripping them open as quickly as they could manage. Most were followed with a squeal or a laugh, only a handful with a groan or pang of sadness. Something about doing it together made it feel better, though. They were together, just like they always would be.
“We did it,” Luna said. They stared at the ripped open envelopes scattered around them like fallen soldiers. “We have options.”
“And a future,” Raven added.
“Where are we going to go?” Clarke whispered.
Luna laughed, bright and fond. “We have time to decide.”
The girls spread out on their backs, hands close enough together they could reach out and hold them if the moment called for it. The moment felt ripe with possibility, with the future.
“You should tell Bellamy,” Luna said. “So, it doesn’t affect your choice.”
Clarke chuckled. “I mean, I’ll tell him I got in, but I don’t see why it would affect my choice.”
“Not that, Clarke. The compass.”
A breath sucked in through her teeth. How did she know? She had seen her back tattoo a few times swimming or when they were changing, but she wasn’t sure she had ever seen Bellamy’s. There wasn’t any way to piece it together. Unless… streaking.
“I’m missing something,” Raven said.
“Bellamy and Clarke share a soul mark.”
“Holy shit.” Raven clucked her tongue. “That makes so much sense now.”
Clarke desperately tried to keep her breath under control. “It does?”
“He looks at you like he’s been lost his whole life and he’s finally been found.” Raven laughed a little at herself, the sound light. “That was cheesy, but also not a lie.”
“I hated him so much when we first met that I just thought he must be my enemy. But then… we got closer, and it became clear what the fire meant. I’ve been scared.”
Raven took one of her hands, Luna the other. Clarke closed her eyes and relished in the comfort of her best friends, soul mark or not. “I love you guys.”
“Forever and ever, babe,” Raven said.
Luna squeezed. “Forever and ever.”
Clarke had knocked on a lot of doors in her life, but never had one looked quite as intimidating as the one with the Finding Nemo themed name tag saying “Bellamy” and “Miller”. If she stood in the hallway any longer, she was sure the RA would walk by for the third time and finally kick her out.
That was enough to push her to knock.
“One second,” came a muffled voice. Then Bellamy was opening the door, mouth slack and eyes wide. The surprise slipped into joy, and he pushed the door open wide. “What the fuck, come in. What are you—”
“I need to do something before I lose my nerve,” Clarke said as she stepped. “I need to show you something.”
Her hands were at the edges of her shirt, yanking it up just in time for Bellamy to make a noise somewhere in the realm of a shriek.
“Clarke?” His voice was husky and unsure, which was a surprisingly tempting combination.
She hadn’t thought much past the ‘take your shirt off’ part of the plan. In her head she had done this much more smoothly, her tattoo on display right away. “Oh, right,” she said as she turned around, flipping her hair out of the way.
A gasp left Bellamy’s mouth, and then he stepped forward. His breath hovered over Clarke’s bare skin, and she shivered. The pad of his finger found its way to her back, circling a trail over her tattoo like she had only a few months prior. It was surprisingly intimate.
“Clarke…” Bellamy touched her upper arms, turning her back around. “Ok, first off, I can’t have this conversation with you when you’re shirtless. I only have so much self control.” He grabbed a shirt from his bed where he had just been folding laundry, and yanked it over her head. “Fuck, that’s not much better. Okay.”
“I want to be honest.” Clarke waited for him to look her in the eyes before continuing, wanting his full attention and also wanting to see how he reacted. His eyes were so full already, Clarke wasn’t sure how she was going to get through this. “I saw your tattoo about a year ago when we were tux shopping, but that’s when we weren’t on good terms. I thought we had the same symbol because we were enemies.”
“Enemies? Really?” The smirk was on his lips and he shook his head. “You’re kidding.”
“I knew it couldn’t really be it, but… I didn’t know how to face the reality quite yet.”
“Well,” Bellamy said, “it’s nice to know the truth. I’ve been wondering how there could possibly be a soul mate out there for me when I already feel the way I do about you. I couldn’t imagine feeling anything more. Guess I was right.”
Clarke rolled her eyes at him, even though her lips were spread wide in a beam. “Such a know it all, even now.”
Bellamy chuckled, but the sound was soft and short. His palm found the side of her face, cupping her gently. “You want this, right?”
The answer was just an exhale. “More than anything.”
And then they were crashing. Literally and figuratively, as their lips came together. Bellamy quickly grabbed onto the underside of her thighs, hoisting her up and pushing her back onto his desk. Clarke’s hands tangled themselves into his hair, tugging and scratching over his scalp.
There didn’t seem to be enough time to convey everything she had wanted to do to him, for him to know. She pulled back to kiss where a small, heart-shaped freckle sat on his right cheek. She trailed to his chin, not getting further before he wanted her back. Then he had to stoop down, yanking her shirt off so he could kiss her bird tattoo.
“Why’d you even bother putting it back on?” Clarke whined.
Bellamy grabbed her thighs again, Clarke securely wrapping them around him, and he took the three steps to bring them to his bed. They pushed the clean laundry to the floor, needing all the space for them instead. She rolled her hips up, and Bellamy groaned into her mouth.
The door flung open just as Clarke’s hands found Bellamy’s belt buckle.
“Oh shit, I’m sorr—Clarke?”
Clarke wished she could vanish, but then she also remembered that Miller had seen her near naked enough times to count on two hands and that he probably didn’t care all that much. If anyone was embarrassed, it was probably more Bellamy than herself.
“We’re soulmates,” Clarke said, the joy of saying it outloud even better than she could imagine.
“Cool, can you guys give me warning about fucking, though? Like as a future thing?”
A laugh bubbled up from her lips, and when she turned to look back at Bellamy his eyes were bright. A future thing. Clarke had her whole life to explore every inch of this man she still felt like she had only grazed the top of. There was so much left to explore and so much wondrous time to do it.
Four soul marks. She had always thought she was at least a little unlucky, but now that she thought about it?
She wasn’t sure you could get much luckier than her.