“So remind me again why I agreed to this ridiculousness?”
Bellamy looked down at her with a smirk and looped his arm around her shoulders, tugging her closer to him. “Because O said Echo is bringing her new boyfriend to the party and I don’t want her to think I’m not over her. Because I am.”
Clarke made sure he saw her rolling her eyes as she huddled into him, stealing his body heat for herself. “Right, of course. And in your infinite wisdom, you decided that the best course of action was to pretend we’re dating. And somehow you convinced me to go along with it, which I’m still lost on. I think I blacked out when I agreed to this.”
“Nah, you couldn’t say no to months of massages from my magic fingers,” he told her with an eyebrow wiggle. She tried to glare up at him, but was betrayed by her mouth fighting to break into a grin.
“Could you have made it sound any dirtier? Don’t answer that,” she ordered when he opened his mouth with a mischievous look on his face. “Also, you could have easily prevented this if you had just told your sister, you know, the one hosting the Christmas party?, if you’d just told her not to invite your ex-girlfriend. But noooo, that would be too logical for Bellamy Blake, melodramatic grump extraordinaire.”
“She’s Lincoln’s cousin and the rest of their family lives hundreds of miles away. If I asked O to not invite Echo, she’d be convinced I was trying to ‘ruin Christmas’ for her boyfriend or something, and it’d turn into some huge debacle that actually would ruin Christmas.”
“And here I thought I was missing out all these years, stuck in my mom’s house not celebrating much of anything. Turns out I was just being spared the drama of friends and family during the holidays. Who knew!”
“Yeah, yeah, Princess, laugh it up, just remember to go along with it at the party.”
Clarke squeezed his fingers that were wrapped around her shoulder, feeling an inexplicable surge of fondness for the silly man. “You know I will.”
What Bellamy didn’t know was that she wasn’t doing this for massages, or to tease him (well, a little to tease him). She was helping him because she loved him, and she would always do anything she could to help him with anything he wanted. If she got to cuddle up to him for a night, she sure wasn’t going to complain. Abby wasn’t the best mom, but she didn’t raise a fool.
He squeezed her fingers back, and they continued the walk to Octavia and Lincoln’s apartment in silence, trying to keep warm as snow softly drifted down from the sky.
When they arrived, the atmosphere was warm and cheery. The heater was on full blast, which Clarke’s frozen nose particularly appreciated. O had done a great job decorating the apartment festively. There were arrangements of pine, holly berries, and poinsettias tied with red ribbon. Garland with red and gold ornaments of various sizes hung over all the doorways and along the mantle, which also had stockings lined up along it. There were several small trees dotted around that were decked out in red and gold, and one huge tree in the main room that was dripping in ornaments and had presents piled under it. The air was filled with Christmas songs playing softly, and the scent of freshly baked sugar cookies.
O had gone all out this year, and it was easy to see how she’d made a career of decorating parties and other events.
“Bell! Clarke! You guys are finally here!” The hostess herself appeared as though summoned, and launched herself at Bellamy like she was still six years old and knew her big brother could do anything.
He caught her, of course, and pulled her into a bear hug like he hadn’t seen her in years rather than two days. Clarke smiled at the scene as she unwound her scarf and took off her coat, hanging them on the coat rack by the door.
After a moment, Octavia turned to her with a beaming grin and pulled her into a crushing hug of her own. Clarke laughed and returned the embrace.
“It’s so good to see you guys! You’re the last ones to arrive, I’m sure that’s Bell’s fault,” she exclaimed all in one breath, ignoring her brother’s scoff in the background.
“It’s good to see you too, O, even though I just saw you last night you know,” Clarke teased her friend.
Octavia was unrepentant. “Yeah, but it’s Christmas Eve! It’s the time for family to all gather together and enjoy spending time with each other.”
“Yeah, squirt, it is,” Bellamy agreed with a fond expression, reaching over to try and ruffle her hair.
Octavia leapt back with a shriek, going from grinning to glaring in a second. “Don’t you dare , Bellamy Blake.”
“Octavia?” Lincoln’s voice could be heard calling from somewhere in the apartment. “I’m not sure what’s wrong with the pie, but I don’t think it should be green?”
“Green? It’s a pecan pie, why would it-” Octavia gasped, eyes widening before narrowing in fury.
“If Jasper and Monty screwed with my pie, they’ll learn hell hath no fury like a Blake scorned.” With that she took off for the kitchen, hollering something back to Lincoln as she went.
“Well, that was exciting, huh?” Bellamy asked her with a grin, wrapping his arm around her waist as they made their way into the main room. Clarke wound her arm around him and returned his grin, feeling warm and happy, never having felt so content as she felt now in Bellamy’s arms.
She was about to answer when there was a soft throat clearing. They both looked up and saw Echo standing in front of them with a muscle-bound mountain of a man beside her.
“Hello Bellamy, Clarke. It’s good to see you again,” the woman said, clearly feeling awkward but determined to push through it. Clarke, despite not knowing Echo very well, could respect that.
“Hey, Echo. I’m glad you could make it tonight, it looks like O really outdid herself this year,” Clarke said with what she hoped was a friendly smile. She’d been accused in the past of having a resting bitch face, and didn’t want to make Echo feel unwelcome, despite the awkwardness of her being Bellamy’s ex.
Echo gave her a small but genuine smile, and gestured to the man beside her. “Thank you, and you’re right, Octavia did an amazing job decorating the party. I’d like to introduce you both to my half-brother, Roan. He recently moved here from Alaska and I wanted him to meet my friends so he’ll know more people in the area.”
At the words ‘half-brother’, Clarke could almost feel the question marks popping up over her head, like in the Saturday morning cartoons she still watched when she had the time. Brother? Not boyfriend? But Bellamy said…
Trying desperately to keep the confusion off her face, Clarke greeted the large man politely. “It’s nice to meet you, Roan. Welcome to town. And whatever he said when you met him, I promise Murphy’s like that with everyone.” She had no idea what Murphy had said or done when introduced, but she knew Murphy, and she knew it was probably anywhere from brash to mildly traumatizing.
The large man flashed her a smile, but was distracted by a high-pitched shriek from the kitchen. “Octavia, no please, we’re sorry, really, we’re so sorry, nooo, not the face!” Jasper and Monty had messed with the pie, then. And now were being made to regret it.
Clarke laughed and rolled her eyes at her ridiculous friends, most of whom were heading for the kitchen to watch and laugh at whatever horrors O was inflicting on the unfortunate pie-tamperers. Raven was cackling and brandishing her phone, which was no doubt recording everything, as she led the charge. Murphy followed quickly after, also with his phone out, and soon the sound of snapping photos could be heard.
It was sure to be hilarious, whatever was going on in there, but Clarke turned to Bellamy with a raised eyebrow. “Her half-brother?”
Bellamy scrubbed his hand over his face, but couldn’t stop her from seeing the blush creeping up his cheeks and ears.
“Would you believe me if I said it was an honest mistake?” he asked hopefully. She raised her other brow in answer and his shoulders slumped dramatically. It took a force of will to not smile at him, but that would ruin her interrogation.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Look, I’m really, really sorry. I don’t even know what I was thinking, I just- I just didn’t want to ruin anything, but I couldn’t stand it anymore.” He said all in a rush, pulling her tighter to him as though he was afraid she would try to get away. It seemed to have escaped his notice that she was still happily ensconced in his arms and would have to be pried away with a crowbar at this point.
So many emotions were running through her that Clarke couldn’t name exactly what she felt. She’d say she felt sick, but in a good way, like after you get off a roller coaster and your adrenaline is up and your heart is going a million miles an hour. Elation, joy, disbelief, excitement, determination. Love.
Despite this, Clarke didn’t say anything. She’d known Bellamy for years, and she knew by now that arguing and shouting just made him clam up even more, but silent expectation and patience could pull answers out of him like nothing else.
He buried his face on the top of her head, probably trying to hide the bright red blush he was no doubt sporting. “I couldn’t stand being so close to you but still being so far away. I wanted to ask if you would come to the party with me as a date, but I chickened out at the last second like a fucking loser,” he whispered, his hand spasming around her waist. “Only I could manage to fuck up asking someone out so badly.”
Clarke wrapped her other arm around him in a hug and leaned her head on his chest. Her voice was hushed as she spoke, and she couldn’t keep the tremble out of it. Even now that he’d practically confessed to having feelings for her, she was terrified.
“In the spirit of confessing things we’ve hidden from each other for way too long because we’re both dumbasses, I… love you. I’m in love with you. I have been for a long time. Since before you met Echo even, since you showed me how to shoot a paintball gun and then we won when we took Murphy out together, but I was always too chicken to say anything. I was afraid of ruining things between us, and I would rather have you as a best friend than nothing at all.”
A hand gently nudged her under the chin, and she looked up at him slowly. She’d never seen a look on his face like that before, but she liked it, a lot. Warm and fond and tender and slightly amused.
“You’re right, we’re both spectacular dumbasses. But I can’t think of a better Christmas present than this,” he said, tightening his arms around her and gazing into her eyes.
Reaching up, she slowly wound her arms around his neck and lifted her head, moving closer to his face. He stood, frozen in expectation, and she stopped a centimeter from his mouth. “Neither can I,” she whispered, before closing the distance to his lips. She’d never spoken a truer statement in her life.
Time lost all meaning for the two of them as they stood entwined in each other’s embrace, their surroundings faded, sound disappeared, and they were quite happily aware only of one another.
They didn’t even register the sound of a shutter snapping, and so missed the shark-like grin on Murphy’s face as he glanced at his phone in satisfaction before hurrying back to the kitchen. “Hey guys, have I got a Christmas miracle for you…”