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Choking on Your Alibis

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Clarke is used to waking up and finding a girl in the kitchen, so the curly-haired brunette pouring herself a coffee isn't a strange sight in and of itself. It's Bellamy--sharing breakfasts with his one-night-stands is a part of Clarke's life that she'd adjusted to very early in their roommate arrangement. She's even learnt to perfect some seriously impressive Nutella crêpes for the ones she particularly likes. But this girl makes her pause--not because she is, at first glance markedly different from the girls Bellamy usually brings home (in fact, as a leggy brunette, she's pretty much the textbook definition of his type)--but because Bellamy is actually out there with her. Like, with her. Not making polite small talk having dressed fully while she slept, no. Clarke's best friend is shirtless with his sweatpants hanging low on his hips and his arm draped casually around this girl's shoulder.

"Morning," she says.

Bellamy is murmuring something to the girl that makes her snort, but he looks over his shoulder. “Sleeping Beauty, you’re up!” He grins at her. When Clarke doesn’t say anything, he seems to suddenly realise what’s holding her attention and pulls the girl more closely into his side. “Gina,” he says, “I’d like you to meet my roommate, Clarke.”

Gina sticks her hand out, smiling. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Clarke shakes her hand, knowing she probably still looks gormless. Bellamy has definitely never introduced any of the other girls to her.

“Clarke,” Bellamy continues, “this is my girlfriend, Gina.”

There’s a banging sound followed by an ouch! as Clarke bumps her her hip on the corner of the counter on her way to the cabinet.

“You okay?” he asks, brow furrowed in concern.

“What? Oh, yeah, I’m fine!” she says. “You know me, just not a morning person,” she gives a breezy laugh which, in retrospect, is less breezy and more wheezy , “clumsy.”

“Clarke…”

“Oh shit!” she slaps her forehead with her palm. “I completely forgot! I have that thing today!”

Bellamy’s face has shifted from one of concern to outright confusion. “What thing?”

“The thing ! With my mom! I told you about it last week, remember?”

He squints at her. “The Halloween party?”

“Yes!” she shouts it a little too loudly, grateful that he’s given her an answer.

“In September?” Gina interjects mildly, tilting her head.

“Ha!” Clarke tries to ignore the fact that Bellamy looks like he’s genuinely concerned that she may have lost her mind. “Of course not! The party is on Halloween. Obviously. But today, I’m going to a planning lunch with my mom.”

Bellamy folds his arms across his chest, and she tries to ignore the way it causes his very bare muscles to flex. “You always talk about how much you hate getting involved with your mom’s social stuff.”

She takes an overly long slurp from her cup of coffee. “I’m trying to expand my horizons. Anyway, I’m running late.”

“For a lunch?”

“Yes.”

“It’s nine thirty in the morning.”

“Okay, so it’s more of a brunch .”

Bellamy opens his mouth like he’s going to speak again, but Clarke doesn’t think she’s going to be able to hold it together through another five seconds of this conversation. “Well,” she starts walking backward to her bedroom. “I’m gonna go get ready. Gina,” she manages to smile at the girl, “it was nice to meet you.”

“You too,” says Gina slowly before looking back up at Bellamy. “You gonna get ready to go too, babe? If we want to walk to the museum we should leave soon, before it gets too hot.”

He glances down at her and smiles. It makes something churn uncomfortably in the pit of Clarke’s stomach. None of the usual girls ever get a smile like that out of him. But then, Clarke supposes, Gina isn’t one of the usual girls. She’s his girlfriend .

“Yeah,” he says, “okay. Clarke…” he frowns again, “we’ll catch you later?”

She hopes her expression is as bright as she’s going for. “Sure!”

Bellamy still doesn’t look totally convinced, but when he looks back down at Gina he smiles again and kisses her.

Clarke waits before the door shuts behind her before stumbling back her own bedroom and sliding down against the wall to flop listlessly on the floor.

 

One might think that finding out about Gina would be the thing that made Clarke wake up and realise that she's desperately in love with her best friend, but honestly, she was already there. She knows, and she is not like Raven seems to think, in a state of denial. She knows Bellamy is her favourite person in the world bar none, she knows his grumpy rants make her feel stupid with affection, and that she has a near-constant desire to run her hands through his inky curls. She knows that seeing him happy does weird things to her heart and that when he hugs her it feels, for a moment, like every bit of chaos in the world has stilled. For fuck's sake, she's a Harvard graduate, of course she's smart enough to put those symptoms together and work out that she's in love with her best friend. Frankly, she spends more time wondering why the rest of the world isn't in love with him too. But she's also smart enough to know that however much he might care for her, love her even, in a strictly platonic capacity--and he does love her, that much she believes--he's not in love with her.

***

They met her sophomore year of college, when he was a senior. She’d thought Bellamy was a colossal dick when they met at some frat party, and to be fair, he was . Sure, she may not have been the epitome of social grace either, but the point was they’d gotten into a very loud, very long argument about some random detail she can’t even remember, and she’d ended the night hating him. They hadn’t encountered each other again until after the Finn disaster at the end of her junior year, when she’d developed a tentative friendship with Raven, Finn’s girlfriend-- other girlfriend--who she had only learned about when the girl had arrived from for a weekend from MIT to surprise him and discovered him and Clarke making out. She’d been waiting to meet Raven at a café to talk things through, and the girl had walked in with Bellamy in tow.

“What are you doing here?” Clarke had snapped.

Raven had cocked an eyebrow. “You two know each other?”

“We’ve met,” she’d gritted out tersely.

You’re the asshole’s other girlfriend?” he’d squinted at her.

“Well,” Raven had said, “Bellamy and I literally just met last night. He was my rebound fuck.”

“Wow,” it was Clarke’s turn to raise an eyebrow, “I thought you’d want to make yourself feel better .”

Raven had snorted, and even Bellamy had managed an amused smirk. “Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it, Princess.”

That had led to another argument, but more snark and bickering than the outright anger of the party.

After that, Clarke and Raven became friends, and their friend circles begin to merge. Raven adopted Bellamy in, and somehow, Clarke found herself and Bellamy becoming friends. They had started with the circumstantial kind of friendship, where they’d been at the same social gatherings and hung out with the same people. But one day, Bellamy had wandered into her and Raven’s dorm their senior year and found Clarke, sobbing like her heart was breaking, clutching the phone after her mother had told her that her dad had been killed in a car crash, that her mother had been driving and had been replying to a work text and been responsible. He’d held her, murmuring soothing sweet nothings into her hair, and helped her pack her bags quickly while she booked a flight ticket. He’d even come to the airport in the cab with her and told her to text him when she landed.

When she’d gotten back, they became friends , real friends who hang out all the time, and somewhere along the line, she became closer to him than everyone else. She’d realised she was in love with him a year or so later, while she was dating Lexa--specifically while Lexa had, during one of their many, many arguments, spat an accusation about the closeness of her friendship with Bellamy, and Clarke realised she felt dishonest denying that she felt something for him. She’d broken it off with Lexa that same day and spent the night more shaken up by her newfound realisation than by her breakup, however awful that made her. She’d made her way to his apartment the next day, practically vibrating with nervous energy and a pent-up confession while she knocked on the door. If Bellamy had appeared then, Clarke would probably have blurted her feelings out all at once. As it happened, Bellamy did not appear, just a mean-looking girl wearing nothing but his t-shirt draped on her slender flame.

“Can I help you?” she’d asked, looking like she’d rather do literally anything else.

“Oh. Um. Is Bellamy here?” Clarke had felt herself heating up, her stomach twisting uncomfortably. “Actually, uh… nevermind. I’ll catch him later.”

She’d hurried out of the building, Bellamy’s voice saying, “Hey? Is someone there?” trailing after her. In retrospect, the moment had been a godsend. Just because she had realised her feelings for him, that didn’t mean he returned them--clearly, he didn’t if he was still interested in sleeping with random girls--and she had saved herself the humiliation of admitting anything stupid to him and ruining a treasured friendship. It was the smartest course of action, and she’d followed it.

They’d moved in together a few months after that, and, well. Clarke had known Bellamy got laid. But once he became her roommate, it became evident that he got laid a lot . It hadn’t been that surprising given that he looked the way he did, but when every weekend night saw him texting her either a warning that he’d be bringing someone home or that he wouldn’t be coming back until very late, knowledge of the extent of Bellamy’s sexual escapades became an instantly more prevalent part of Clarke’s life. When drunk enough, she could even be persuaded to start listing as many of his conquests as she could remember: there had been Lily, with the nose ring, Bree, who had been nice enough until they’d had to kick her out because Clarke had discovered some substances of the less-than-legal nature stashed in her jacket, Roma and Mel, who had come together (in both senses of the word), Glass, who had been the loudest , and that one girl with cool back tattoo whose name Clarke never actually learnt…there were a lot of girls. But the honest truth was, it never really bothered Clarke. It wasn’t her ideal situation, obviously, but there had never seemed to be much point in getting worked up over seeing Bellamy with other girls when there was a new girl every single time, and none of them ever seemed to be involved in his life for more than a couple of hours. There was no point, not when she got Netflix marathons with Bellamy’s head in her lap while she petted his hair, or Bellamy pretending to be grumpy at her tendency to forget to feed herself when she got wrapped up in a project but always bringing her coffee and sandwiches, or listening to Bellamy go off on adorably excited speeches about a new interpretation of a millennia-old Greek myth…

All roommates have their quirks, after all. Bellamy’s happened to be his endless stream of girls. And Clarke could truly say she had learnt to deal with it.

***

“Can we talk?”

Clarke glances up from her sketchbook, startled by the interruption but relaxing when she sees it’s just Bellamy, apparently back from his day out. Fine, his date . “You’re talking to me now.”

He ignores her, getting straight to the point. “Do you not like Gina or something?”

“What?” she splutters, aware she’s blinking like a rabbit caught in headlights, “what makes you say that?”

“I don’t know, Clarke, maybe the fact that when I introduced you to her, you acted like you’d never met another human before and then made up the flimsiest excuse in history to get away. How was your planning lunch by the way?”

“Productive,” she snipes primly. When she sees he’s still frowning, jaw clenched, she sighs, bowing her head. “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be so weird, you just caught me off guard, that’s all.”

Bellamy’s frown goes from annoyed to confused. “I know seeing her was unexpected but…were you really that thrown off?”

She worries her lip, searching for a response. “It was just really early,” is what she settles on. “I still felt like a total slob and I guess I just panicked when I realised I was meeting your girlfriend . I didn’t feel like I was really ready to make my best impression.”

Clarke ,” he says, expression gone as fond as his voice has gone gentle in a way that makes her heart ache, “you don’t have to try to impress her. You’re might best friend, she’s bound to like you.”

“Mmhmm?”

He shakes his head, grinning. “I didn’t mean to spring it on you,” he admits, “but I wanted you to meet her before everyone else did. I’m bringing her to the bar tonight?”

Realising the tentative note in his voice is him seeking her approval, Clarke swallows down the completely uncalled for urge to snap " but why?!"  and smiles weakly. “Oh. That’ll be…nice.”

Bellamy smiles more widely at her. “I hope so. I want her to meet the group, you know?”

She nods, quiet for a moment before speaking again. “So, uh…how long have you…has this…”

“Yesterday was our first official date,” he says, “I’d been flirting with her for a couple of weeks before I worked up to asking her out though.”

“Oh.”

“I wasn’t trying to keep anything from you,” he says anxiously, reaching forward to take her hand, “it’s just, I wasn’t really sure what there was to tell until yesterday. And I wanted you to be the first to know so you could have our backs before our asshole friends get there.”

If he notices her laugh sounds forced, he doesn’t comment.

“So…” he gets up slowly, “you’re good?”

“Yeah, Bellamy,” Clarke nods, “I’m great.”

 

By the time Clarke reaches Grounders, she feels better. She's composed herself, her new top looks cute and the lipstick she's tried on is making her feel good. It's going to be fine, she tells herself, it's going to be as fun as any other bar night .

The bar nights are casual congregations of her friends accompanied by alcohol, good conversation, and, on one memorable, inexplicable occasion, a miniature Hot Wheels tournament, courtesy of Jasper. It makes perfect sense that Bellamy is bringing Gina to one. After all, Jasper brought Maya, Murphy brought Emori, and Raven brought Luna. Now all three of those girls are regular members of the group that Clarke loves as much as their significant others. It doesn't matter in any way, shape, or form, that Bellamy has never ever brought anyone to bar night before. Clarke is completely calm with the idea of Gina becoming a permanent member of the group. Or that's what she's telling herself at the moment she walks up to their regular table and sees Gina in her usual place, in the booth next to Bellamy. Except instead of just being next to him, she's right up against him with his arm slung over her. Clarke only ever sits like that when she's really,  really drunk. But Gina doesn't have to be drunk to do this she scolds herself  because she's his girlfriend and she is allowed to .

It's only when Raven says, "Earth to Clarke!" that she realises she's just been standing there while everyone stares at her.

"Hi!" she says, flustered, "I'll just go pull up a chair."

"You need help?" Bellamy asks, already moving to stand.

"I can manage a chair, Bellamy," she says, waving him down perhaps a little more assertively than she means to. "So," she continues when she's finally settled and let Monty pour her a margarita, "what are we up to?"

"We were just asking Gina ," Jasper sounds as excited about her as a child does when given a yearned-for Christmas present two weeks early, "what she does."

"I'm a bartender," Gina supplies, "though nowhere this classy."

Clarke laughs. "Unless you literally serve homemade moonshine out of a Denny's parking lot, I really doubt that's possible."

"Hey," Jasper snaps, " Jordan's Juice was a successful urban micro distillery and I resent your tone."

Gina chuckles at that, and Bellamy squeezes her shoulder.

Clarke takes a healthy gulp of the margarita. "So is that where you met Bellamy?" she asks, "at the bar?"

"No, actually," Gina shakes her head, "although it is pretty close to his school."

Bellamy just shrugs. "The kids are a handful but they  haven't actually driven me to day-drinking yet, so I didn't go into the bar much."

"He and I go to the same used bookstore," Gina's smile is dimpled, "we started talking after he recognised me a couple of times, and he asked me out in the Ancient Literature aisle."

Classic Bookstore. Ancient Literature. Cool, so she's literally perfect for Bellamy. That's great. That's abso-fucking-lutely peachy . Clarke takes another sip of the margarita.

Raven notices, and whistles. "Jesus, Griffin, tough day at the office?"

"I had a very demanding planning lunch with my mother," Clarke mutters.

By late in the evening, it's clear that Gina is lovely. She's smart, and funny, and pretty, and delightful, and Clarke can sincerely say she likes her. There's the small matter of the fact that every time her eye catches on Gina's fingers lying across Bellamy's hand, Clarke is overcome by a wave of acute nausea, but apart from that, she's thrilled . Her best friend has found a girlfriend who shares his interests, really likes him, and gets on with all his friends. All of Clarke's best-friend-dreams are fulfilled. So there's really no explanation for the fact that when Jasper suggests a round of trivia and they start dividing up into teams, she feels a cold clench of horror in her gut when Monty rattles off, "so that's Me and Miller, Luna and Raven, Murphy and Emori, Bellamy and Gina, and Jasper and Maya."

That is the logical breakdown of teams. Couples paired off together? Couple means pair, it’s a synonym . It is a completely logical assumption to make. Clarke did science and shit, she knows logic. And that right there? That's logic. Solid, impenetrable logic.

"Shit," Jasper says, "what about Clarke?"

Bellamy opens his mouth but Clarke jumps in quickly. "That's okay! I was going to head home now anyway. Seriously!” she says over the loud chorus of groans, “I’m meeting with a couple of new clients tomorrow anyway, I need some sleep.”

“You’re going to go home by yourself?” Bellamy’s voice cuts through the din. “It’s late.”

“I’ll be fine,” she says dismissively. Seeing that he’s not about to let go she plows on hurriedly, “I’ll call an uber.”

He’s still frowning. “Are you sure you can’t wait a little while so that we can go together?”

“I’ll be fine,” she repeats. “I’ll see you at home later, yeah?”

Bellamy and Gina exchange a look, a brief silent conversation. “I was actually gonna go back to--”

“Say no more!” Clarke says hurriedly, swallowing down the bile rising in her throat, “‘night everyone!” and she turns to go.

***

Raven is the first one who calls her on it, because, well, it's Raven and that's just her brand.

"So," she says without preamble, "are we going to talk about what the fuck was up last night?"

"Hi Raven," Clarke deadpans. "How are you? I really cherish the time we spend together, the fact that you came to join me on my lunch break means a lot t--"

"Cut the bullshit Clarke," she says, brisk. "In case you haven't noticed, I met you in the midst of one of your emotional crises. I know all your tells, no matter how slick you think you are with all your weird repression fuckery," she waves her hands dismissively. "I don't know if you're aware but you go from Clarke “I'm-like-a-cool-efficient-frighteningly-competent-version-of-Barbie” Griffin into some kind of malfunctioning robot."

"You know, the robot metaphor really starts to lose its impact when literally every problem in your professional life revolves around malfunctioning robots."

"Quit evading," Raven snaps. "What's up?"

Clarke considers denying it, but it's Raven, and Raven has the persistence and resilience of a military grade battering ram, so she gives up. "So you saw Gina."

"My eyes are still functioning, thanks for that."

She scowls. "I just. She's nice ," Clarke insists, "I liked her a lot."

"Yes, I can see how these things are definitely worth having a crisis over. Dear Diary ," Raven mimics in a high-pitched voice, "met a nice girl today. Was nice. Kill me."

"Fuck you," she snipes. Then she just gives up completely and buries her head in her hands. "She's nice but I just felt so damn uncomfortable the whole night! The whole day, actually, since Bellamy decided to introduce us at the ass-crack of dawn ."

Raven nods. "Okay. And? I'm still failing to see why this is giving you a crisis. You dislike people every day. It's basically your trademark. You once spent fifteen minutes explaining why you got 'untrustworthy vibes' from the sixteen-year-old serving the popcorn when we went to see Deadpool."

"I maintain that although the ridiculous popcorn prices weren't his personal decision, he seemed way too happy when we were paying them."

Raven fixes her with her flattest, most unimpressed stare. Which is, by the way, really very flat and unimpressed.

Clarke bangs her head on the table, splashing the latte out of its cup a little. "I don't get it," she whines, "it's never happened before. Bellamy's had like five hundred different girls over, and I've never been this much of a disaster over it!"

"Oh good, there's the tremulous shred of self-awareness I was looking for," Raven mutters more to herself than to anyone, before gently but firmly lifting Clarke's face back off the table by her ponytail. "You know I still don't get that, right? You've even admitted you're in love with Bellamy yet you just sit there and say nothing instead of acting on your feelings and turning that insatiable sexual appetite of his on yourself."

Clarke shudders. "I am begging you," she says, "for the love of all we have built this friendship on. Please never use that phrase again."

Raven shrugs, unrepentant. "If that's what you really want. But the issue at hand is this--you're confused as to why you're jealous of Gina but not any other girls."

She sits up so fast she almost gets whiplash. "I am not jealous !" she splutters.

Raven closes her eyes. "Rest in peace, sweet shred of self-awareness," she murmurs, "taken so soon. Gone and instantly forgotten, apparently."

"I'm not!" Clarke insists, crossing her arms. "We've established I'm not the jealous type!"

"Clarke," Raven steeples her fingers, "I'm not arguing with the fact that you sit by and remain completely calm whenever your idiot roommate hooks up with someone. For a long time," she considers a moment, "like, a really fucking long time, I thought that was just you repressing your problems as usual and letting your jealousy fester inside you so it could manifest itself as some other really screwed-up personally trait a few years down the line--"

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Raven, I appreciate it."

"But I get that you have actually made some weird, bizarro peace with yourself over that. When you say Bellamy's hookups don't bother you, I believe you." She sighs, taking a swig of her coffee. “Seriously, though, Clarke, you’re jealous . Plain, old-fashioned jealous.”

“I’m not!” she insists. “I’m just surprised, that’s all! This is new territory for me. I’m just adjusting to it--Bellamy’s never had a girlfriend before.”

Exactly ,” Raven snaps her fingers. “You’ve dealt with seeing him with one-night-stands without getting jealous, right?”

“Right.”

“But you’ve never had to see him with a legit girlfriend.”

When Clarke still doesn’t speak, Raven heaves a sigh. “Think about this Clarke.”

So she does. And the harder she thinks, the clearer it becomes. She’s never been jealous of the hookups and the one-night-stands because…well she doesn’t want that. She doesn’t want to be a quick fuck, to sweep in-and-out of Bellamy’s life in one night and never see him again. How can she be jealous when what she has is so much better ? He may not be interested in sleeping with her, but he wants to hang out with her, to live with her. He lets her see him when he was at his most vulnerable, upset after another fight with his sister, or stressed out from his job. They can communicate so effectively in silent glances and minute gestures they’re basically telepathic. They’ve even been known to walk in sync. He’s her best friend, her person , and there’s no one he cares about more than her.

Except now there is. “Shit,” Clarke groans, sliding down in her chair, “ damn it!” Unbidden, a series of images rush through her mind, of Gina next to Bellamy on the couch instead of her, of Bellamy calling Gina when he needs a night of documentaries and take-out, or letting Gina wear his ratty green hoodie when she’s cold, or doing the stupid synchronised walking thing with her. “Fuck!”

“There it is,” Raven mutters.

“What do I do ?” she says, pleading.

Her friend sighs and actually looks perturbed. “Look, usually, I’d say just tell him. I don’t know why you haven t told him that you’re in love with him as yet.”

“Because he clearly doesn’t return the feeling!” she snaps, “because he doesn’t date! Or, doesn’t date me ,” I guess, and she figures she looks so sad that Raven crosses over to hug her.

“I know this isn’t what you want to hear right now,” the brunette says, “but I think you were being completely dense about that. Everyone on the planet could see he was crazy about you except you apparently.”

Clarke doesn’t say anything. What is there to say, when Raven’s so clearly wrong ?

“The point is,” Raven says, and it’s so uncharacteristically gentle that Clarke knows she must look like a wreck, “Gina’s his girlfriend.”

“I know,” Clarke wipes her hand across her face. “I know.” And she does . It was one thing when Clarke thought he wasn’t into her because he didn’t date. There’s an acute pain with knowing that he just doesn’t date her . Her mind wanders back to the bar when Gina slid so easily into what Clarke has always thought of as her place--by Bellamy. But it isn’t hers, is it? She was just a placeholder until the real thing came along.

Beside her, Raven sighs. “Good luck with this,” she mutters.

Clarke just groans.

***

Bellamy texts to say he’ll be out late, so she gives herself the night to wallow. “Wallowing” consists of sprawling across the couch with a sizeable glass of wine while a playlist Jasper linked in the group chat a while back called “Cry Tunes” blares (there’s a lot of early 2000s Coldplay and The Script on it). Clarke makes really productive use of the time, including scrolling through apartments near her work on Zillow--in case Bellamy ever decides he wants Gina to move in and she winds up kicked out--making a Pinterest wedding board for Bellamy and Gina’s hypothetical wedding, and deciding whether she would be emotionally stable enough to handle being godmother to their hypothetical children.

The next morning, she’s ready . It’s not like she suddenly feels better about everything, but she’s always been a woman of action, so Clarke does what she does yet and formulates a plan. She asks herself a series of questions to determine her objectives and ends up with a list in her little planner (paper is more manageable than spreadsheets, okay?). The thing is, no matter how utterly shitty Clarke feels about the whole thing, it’s still Bellamy. He’s her best friend and she loves him. She wants him to be happy, and she’s glad he’s in a relationship with someone nice. She’s just not sure she’s ready to watch him be in a relationship, to watch him grow more and more distant from her, to find all the things she wants with him…with someone else. The solution really is obvious. It’s the same highly effective, airtight solution Clarke’s been using for all her problems since time immemorial. Avoidance. The root of the problem, after all, lies not in Gina, or Bellamy’s relationship with her, no. It lies in the fact that Clarke has feelings for Bellamy; the solution ergo lies in removing said feelings from the equation. Feelings, Clarke reasons, are like any living creature. Starve them for long enough, and they’ll wither away and die.

“All I’m getting from this is that you’re trying your best to be a fucking sociopath,” Raven says when Clarke calls her to explain her conclusion.

Clarke sighs patiently. “It makes perfect sense, okay? I just give myself some space from Bellamy until I stop being in love with him--”

“This is a terrible plan--”

“And then I slip myself back into our friendship in a way that’s less emotional torture for me but more wholeheartedly supportive towards him!”

“Cool. Except for the fact that the pair of you are so disgustingly codependent, you get all emo and anxious if you don’t see each other for more than a day.”

“That’s an exaggeration,” Clarke snaps. “Look, I’ll be fine with the whole thing because I know I need to avoid him for a while so that I can stay friends with him without spending the whole time marinating in my own jealous, and he’ll be so focused on Gina he’ll hardly even notice I’m not around!” She swallows, hoping that last part came out breezily enough. “ I’ve thought this through.”

Over thought Clarke. You’ve over thought this.”

“It’s going to work!”

“In case you’ve forgotten, you live together ! How are you going to avoid him ?”

“Watch me!”

“Clarke--”

“Bye, Raven!” She hangs up.

Clarke knows her plan is going to go smoothly, and she even gets a sign from the universe at work. She gets put in charge of curating an exhibition on upcoming local artists, and she’s genuinely excited. Curating and meeting with new creators is exactly the kind of thing she loves most about her job. The fact that it means she’s going to have to work late every night for the foreseeable future just happens to be a perk. She texts Bellamy to warn him about her schedule change.

That sucks , comes his reply, you work too hard. Congrats on the project though! But that sucks .

I’m good , she shoots back, ttyl .

Of course, the project takes care of her work day, but that still leaves mornings and weekends. Clarke has always meant to sign up for some of the free classes they offer at the Rec Center the next town over, and this? This is the perfect excuse. She can go take a class in the morning, spend the day sketching and hanging out in town. They offer a Ceramics course on Saturdays which she signs up for instantly. There’s a weekly Philosophy lecture for Sundays, which sounds less enticing, but it can be used as a napping period if nothing else.

It’s harder to come up with something to do on mornings, but mornings are vital . Bellamy always looks soft and sleep-rumpled in the mornings, and they lounge about the kitchen having breakfast together, Clarke practically wrestling down the urge to kiss him. All this combined with the fact that he’s probably going to have Gina there with him…yeah, Clarke needs to find something to do.

Which is why Bellamy finds her lacing up a pair of Nikes that she hasn’t used since high school at five-thirty in the morning.

“What the fuck?” he asks without ceremony.

“Morning,” she says, “I’m just getting ready for my jog.”

Bellamy raises his hand in front of him and pinches it. “Nope,” he says, lowering it again, “not dreaming. I repeat,” he looks back at her, “what the fuck ?”

“It’s important to maintain healthy lifestyle habits.”

“Last week you almost blacked out because you got winded climbing up the stairs .”

“That’s why I need to get healthy lifestyle habits.” And then she’s out the door.

No, the jogging does not get easier or more pleasant over time--on the third day, an elderly woman passing by actually offers to call a paramedic because Clarke’s turned such an inhuman shade of puce--but it does get her out the apartment and away from Bellamy. In fact, Clarke’s plan is going off without a hitch. She’s barely seen Bellamy at all for the past two weeks, only exchanging a few brief texts here-and-there, so… suck it Raven (she’s not actually going to say that to Raven because Raven might hit her, but the sentiment stands).

 

She stops short when she walks into the apartment late Friday night to find Bellamy stretched out on the couch, his grading spread across him. When he hears her come in he starts scrambling to make room for her.

“You’re still awake?” she asks. Usually, he’s asleep by the time she gets back, already exhausted.

“Yeah,” he says. “I feel like we haven’t hung out in a while, you’ve been so swamped with your project and stuff. I don’t know about you, but I could use a night to lounge around and do nothing. The new Death Note movie’s on Netflix, I figured we could watch it and heckle?”

He looks so eager when he smiles at her that Clarke’s heart twists, and for a moment she’s overcome with a profound sense of longing , a desperate need to crawl onto the couch beside him and nestle into his side and never ever leave it. But that kind of thinking is dangerous, and exactly why she can’t .

“That sounds fun,” she says, “but I think I’m gonna hit the sack instead.”

“Oh,” he says, deflating a little. “Okay.”

“Goodnight!” she calls, and practically flees to her room, her hands trembling the whole way.

***

Everything is going perfectly. She’s making solid headway on the exhibition at work, she’s compromised and replaced her jog with a brisk walk, she’s made a vase and learnt the correct pronunciation of “Nietzsche” (no, she doesn’t actually know anything else about him, but whatever)--Clarke doesn’t think her avoidance mechanisms have gotten rid of her feelings for Bellamy exactly, but they leave her so exhausted that she hasn’t got time to dwell on them, or the fact that they’re unrequited, or the fact that she’s going to have to babysit his and Gina’s hypothetical twins Topsy and Tim one day. Everything is running smoothly.

So of course she goes and gets sick. At first, it doesn’t feel like a big deal. She wakes up with a scratchy throat and a runny nose, but she’s worked through colds before. Her walk-- brisk walk--leaves her a little shakier and sweatier than it usually does, but she ignores it and goes to work. She thinks she’s doing okay, but then she feels a pounding headache come on, and the next thing she knows, she’s throwing up in the toilets. Her boss sends her home, but it starts drizzling as soon as she shuffles out of the office. Within minutes there’s a torrential downpour, and Clarke doesn’t feel like walking all the way home. Raven lives closer to the gallery where Clarke works and mentioned having today off, so she makes her way to her apartment instead.

“Holy crap,” Raven cries when she opens the door, “what happened ?”

“Got sick,” Clarke rasps and winces. It hurts to speak. And it hurts to wince too. She doesn’t realise she’s shivering until her friend wraps a blanket around her, doesn’t realise much of anything, really, just feels her awareness slipping as she stumbles further into unconsciousness.

 

She doesn’t wake up again until she hears voices over her.

“--pretty high fever,” Raven is saying in an urgent whisper, “I think it’s a virus.”

“Oh my god,” the other voice says, and Clarke stirs because that’s Bellamy , sounding worried. “She walked here? In this weather?”

The weather…that must be rain, Clarke realises, not just a thrumming sound in the back of her head. And Bellamy’s here--is he supposed to be here? Clarke has a feeling she’s not supposed to see him, though she can’t remember why.

“You called him?” she croaks accusingly.

Both their eyes snap down to her. She wants to say something, but then her stomach flips and she grabs for the bowl that Raven left by the chair and empties her stomach into it.

“Yeah,” Raven says, “you think he’d forgive me if I had you on your deathbed and didn’t even let him know so he could prepare his dramatic-ass eulogy?”

“Shut up,” he snaps, and Clarke rubs her head. “I’ve got you,” he says to her, and then the floor is slipping away from beneath her and she’s floating. Clarke realises he’s picked her up.
“You got this?” Raven asks.

Bellamy nods, or she thinks he nods, she can’t really tell. “Let’s get you home, princess.”

“‘S fine,” she mutters, “not s’pposed t’see you.” But he ignores her, and she burrows into the warmth of his chest.

She’s not really awake for much of the ride back home, not really aware of anything until they’re standing outside the bathroom and Bellamy’s peeling her coat off of her.

“We need to get you out of your wet clothes and warmed up,” he says, “can you get showered?”

Clarke nods.

“Okay,” he says, “I’m gonna go get some dry clothes for you, yeah?”

The hot water warms her skin up, and she feels her breathing ease a little, but she still feels like her legs can’t quite hold her weight. Bellamy’s left his green hoodie for her, along with a tank top and her flannel pajama bottoms. They feel warm and soft when she pulls them on.

Bellamy guides her gently into bed, makes her drink some soup and take some medicine water.

“Get some rest,” he says, and his fingers feel cool when he brushes her hair back from her forehead.

“Stay,” she murmurs when he moves to get up.

He stills. “What?”

“Stay.”

Bellamy gulps. “Are you sure?”

Clarke’s already half-asleep, but she doesn’t understand why he’s arguing, just that he’s not supposed to go . “Mhmm.” A thought occurs to her, striking her through the fevered haze, and she frowns. “Wait,” she tries to sit up and it makes her head spin, so she doesn’t, “you’ll get sick too, you should--”

But he’s pulling back the sheets and sliding in next to her. “I’ll be fine, princess,” and she forgets why she was protesting, “now sleep.”

***

The day after next, she finally feels clear-headed enough to get out of bed for herself. Clarke’s still a little weak in that post-flu way, but better .

“You’re up,” Bellamy says, and he sounds a little giddy with relief. “How’re you doing? You need anything?”

She shakes her head. “I’m fine, okay.”

“Good, that’s good.” He passes her a cup of tea, and she sips. The warm liquid feels nice running down her throat. “I called your work, so you have until tomorrow off. You can get your strength back.”

“Thanks,” she says, rolling her neck to work the cricks out, “I could use a break.” She looks at him when he doesn’t answer, and he’s frowning.

“Clarke…are you…have I done something?”

She freezes. “What?”

“You’re never here,” he says, “at first I figured it was just because you’ve got the exhibition but you’re always out…did I do something to upset you? Is that why you don’t want to see me?”

Clarke looks at him, his forehead creased in worry, hunched with concern, and it hits her in that moment that she is awful . Any thoughts of shrugging him off with feeble excuses about her schedule fly out the window. She can’t do this, can’t make herself be the reason that Bellamy looks so upset, and she steels herself, shifting so she’s facing him properly.

“I have been avoiding you. Not because I’m mad!” she plows on hurriedly when his frown deepens, “it’s just. I needed space. To figure some stuff out.”

“Clarke,” he says, “what the hell is going on?”

Her nails dig into her palms. “I was jealous .”

Bellamy’s sharp intake of breath is audible, and his eyes widen. “What did you say?” he croaks.

“You heard me the first time,” she grouses, then heaves a sigh because it’s not fair to snap at him. “I couldn’t do it, alright? I thought I’d gotten pretty good at keeping my feelings for you in check, but that all went out the window when I saw you with Gina. I couldn’t handle it, okay? She’s not some one-night-stand I can just ignore. I couldn’t deal with watching you guys and thinking about…about all the things I dreamed about having with you…you having them with someone else. I figured if I gave myself some space and stayed away from you for a while, I’d stop being in love with you and make everything easier.” She stares at her hands while she waits for him to take everything in.

“Did it work?” he says after a while.

“What?”

He’s staring at an invisible spot in the distance, voice low. “Your plan? Getting rid of your feelings? Did it work?”

“Can’t you tell?” She swallows.

“Gina and I broke up,” he says abruptly.

“Huh?”

“Three weeks ago. We split up.”

“Oh.” Clarke blinks. She tries not to dwell on the fact that he seems to be avoiding any mention of the implications of all she’s just confessed to him. “I’m sorry.”

“You know why?”

She shakes her head mutely.

“Ask me why we broke up, Clarke.”

“Why…” she wets her lips, “why did you break up?”

“I hadn’t dated--really dated--anyone in a while,” says, “not since high school, actually.”

She gives a one-shouldered shrug. “Not like you had any trouble getting action.”

“Yeah,” he smirks, but it fades quickly, “but it wasn’t enough. It just stopped doing anything for me. For a while, I just had no interest in it.”

Clarke frowns, but thinks about it and realises he’s right. In fact, until Gina, she didn’t think Bellamy had brought anyone home in a few months . How did she miss that?

“I see,” is all she manages to say.

“I thought I understood. I was ready to put down roots, ready to date someone.” He moves so he’s sitting beside her on the couch. “Gina was smart and sweet, and cute. I liked her. So I went for it, and it was good. But I was a shitty boyfriend. You know why?”

“Why?” she whispers.

“Because for the bulk of our relationship, I was panicking and trying to work out why my best friend was ignoring me.”

“I’m sorry,” she says hurriedly, “I didn’t--”

He holds up a hand and she falls silent. “And then I thought about it, and I realised. I didn’t want to be with anyone.”

Clarke’s stomach drops. Bellamy not being a relationship guy isn’t new information but it still--

“I want to be with you.”

Her eyes dart back to him. “Huh?” she splutters intelligently.

A smile is tugging at the corner of Bellamy’s lips now. “ You , Clarke, I want you . I thought I was ready for commitment, so I went for it with this awesome girl and I still felt something was missing. I thought I was just bad at relationships but she, ah,” he looks sheepish, “suggested that it might be less to do with relationships and more to do with relationships that aren’t with you .”

“Me?” Clarke squeaks.

“Apparently,” he’s smiling for real now, “I talk about you a lot.”

“But…but you’ve never been interested!” she cries, “I’ve been here forever and you’ve never thought about me in that way, and--”

“I have always,” he says, taking her hand, “thought of you as mine, and myself as yours. I only just realised what that actually means.” He squeezes her fingers. “When you started disappearing on you, and I thought I’d fucked up…” he shakes his head, sounding strained, “shit, Clarke, I was so scared. It was stupid how freaked out I was. I just couldn’t imagine a life I had without you in it.”

“You…like me?” she asks tentatively.

Clarke ,” he says, voice rich with fond amusement. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” she says weakly, unable to believe that the words can come so easily now, “so much.”

He laughs then, a short, delighted sound, and threads his hands into her hair. She surges up to meet his kiss halfway.

“You’re making this hard,” he complains, “you’re smiling so hard.”

“Sorry,” she pulls back teasingly, “should I stop?”

He kisses her cheek, her nose. “Never.”

The sentiment is lovely, but this time, she keeps a straight face so he can kiss her .

“Wait,” she says, giggling breathlessly against his mouth. He grumbles something, still trying to kiss her as she talks. “ Bellamy . I’m still gross and germy.”

He beams at her. “I can do gross and germy.” And he kisses her again. It’s hot and dizzying and perfect, and when his fingers graze her neck, Clarke feels like she’s walking on stars.

 

“I’m sorry,” she mumbles into the juncture of his shoulder and neck, “that I was avoiding you. And that I didn’t just talk to you.”

Bellamy pulls her closer to him in the bed, buries his nose in her hair. “It’s okay,” he says. “I’m sorry I was so clueless for so long. And I’m sorry you were scared of telling me.” She thinks he’s done, but he speaks again. “You know you don’t have to be jealous, right? There’s…it’s you, Clarke. Only you.”

Her chest contracts. “It’s the same for me,” she lifts his fingers to her mouth, kisses them, “you’re it for me, Bellamy.”

Bellamy looks down at her. “I love you.”

“So you’ve said.”

He snorts. “You’re a dick.”

She grins. “But you still love me.”

“So much,” he says, and presses a kiss to her nose.

***

Clarke gives up jogging the very next morning. There are other, far more enjoyable forms of exercise she needs to make room for now.