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Together

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Bellamy knows it is madness. It's less than two months since he first met Clarke, and they've spent a good part of that time separated by circumstances. But all the same, he could swear there is something off in her body language as she hugs Monty and lingers outside the gate.

He gathers his courage and crosses the distance that lies between them.

"I think we deserve a drink." How else is a dedicated delinquent to start a difficult conversation?

She's not looking at him right, and he doesn't like it. "Have one for me."

He tries to hide his shock at her implication, casts about for something reassuring to say. "Hey. We'll get through this." At least, he hopes they will.

"I'm not going in."

"Look. If you need forgiveness, I'll give that to you. You're forgiven. Please come inside." He knows he sounds desperate, but that's because he is. He is every bit as desperate to get Clarke to stay as he was to protect his sister back in that damn Mountain.

"Take care of them for me."

"Clarke -"

"No. Seeing their faces every day is just going to remind me of what I did to get them here."

"What we did. Together." He takes a deep breath, and reaches out to snatch her hand as she starts to turn away from him. He knows she will hate him for what he's about to do, but in this moment, he cannot think of a better idea.

She looks up at him, expectantly. She has always been able to read him a little too well.

"I can't do this without you, either, Clarke. I can't take care of them without you."

She crumples at that, as he knew she would. That resolve she has clearly spent so many hours trying to shore up softens before his very eyes. All the time she has spent preparing herself for this moment, wasted.

"I – I don't -"

"You have to stay." He tells her, hating himself even more than she hates him for manipulating her like this. "You have to stay and look after your people. They need you."

She brushes aside a tear, and storms off, and leaves him standing and watching her retreating back.

But she's retreating back to Camp Jaha, so at least he's won. At least he's won the most hollow victory of his young life.

…...

He finds her three hours later, already half way up to her eyeballs in moonshine as she slumps over the very table they sat at to talk strategy only weeks ago. It's not quite what he had in mind when he suggested they grab a drink, but Clarke has always had a knack for turning his plans on their head.

"I hate you." She informs him, the venom in her voice slightly undermined by the smell of alcohol on her breath.

"I know."

"You knew I'd stay if you said all that about staying for my people. You knew I'd feel so guilty that I'd just give in and stay."

"Yeah." He counts the imperfections in the table top to avoid meeting her eyes. "I did. That's – that's why I did it."

"That's emotional blackmail." She informs him, spitting the words like a curse.

"More or less." He agrees. "And I'd do it again. Want another drink?"

She gives a humourless laugh. "Yes please."

He makes his escape, then, practically jogs to the bar and throws back a shot – or two or three – before he takes their order to the table. He deposits a couple of drinks in front of her and waits for her reaction.

"This is more than one drink."

"Didn't see the point in going to the bar more often than we needed to." He says with a shrug, sparing just a moment to detest himself for implicitly encouraging this terrible idea.

"I still hate you." She tells him, and he's not sure if she sounds less venomous because she's actually warming up to him or because the alcohol has softened some of her sharp edges.

"So you should. I'm a monster. Isn't that why we're both here?"

She nods, and throws back her next shot of moonshine. And so it continues, as the minutes stretch out to hours and they trade nonsensical insults and misplaced anger and redirected grief. It's not how he imagined his first drink with Clarke would go, if he's being honest. A time or two when he was in the Mountain, he would tell himself a tale of better days, when all this was through and he would be able to get to know Clarke as an attractive young woman, and not as the saviour of her people.

He should have known that was never going to happen. He should have realised that breaking the Mountain would break them both, too, and that it was going to take more than a dash of corny romance to put the pieces back together again.

The evening lengthens, and he finds his tongue growing loose with liquor. He can't believe Clarke is still upright, when he counts the glasses of moonshine she has managed to put away. Then again, she always was stronger than she looked.

This is a bad idea. Everything about this is a bad idea, and he knows it. Drinking their troubles away is stupid, and unhealthy, and getting loose-lipped around the woman he's been thinking of since she sent him to his probable death a fortnight ago is the worst idea of all.

Then his mouth comes up with an even worse idea.

"When I asked you to stay, and I gave you that reason – that wasn't the reason I wanted you to stay." He confesses to her. "I gave you the reason I thought might work on you, but it wasn't the real reason."

"I know." She tells him, necking another drink and trying not to look at him.

He presses on, despite her less-than-encouraging tone. "I wanted you to stay for me."

"I know." She says again, because of course she does.

She's Clarke Griffin, several units down and hot on the heels of a genocide. He should have realised this was not a good moment to admit he cared about her in the slightest.

…...

Clarke wakes up the following morning to a raging headache, an unfamiliar bed, and a very familiar scent coating the pillow beneath her cheek.

"Bellamy?"

She sits up in confusion, trying to make sense of her circumstances. It is definitely Bellamy she can smell on the sheets. There is a glass of water on the bedside cabinet. There is no one else in the bed.

There is a mop of dark curls and a hint of snoring in the chair across the room.

"Bellamy?" She repeats it once more for good measure, this time with even more confusion in her tone. Is she to understand that he has spent the night sleeping in that chair and watching over her while she passed out in an alcohol-induced stupor? It would almost make more sense, she reckons, to wake up to evidence that she had drunkenly fallen into bed with him, and that they had some kind of angry sex as she tried to process her feelings at the way he manipulated her into staying at Camp Jaha.

She's still angry about that, for the record. She's more than angry – she's incensed. No glass of water on his bedside cabinet is going to put that fire out any time soon.

"Clarke." He sits up, frowning in evident discomfort. She's not sure whether it's more physical or emotional discomfort that he's feeling – for her part, she knows she's certainly feeling a pretty unpleasant combination of both.

"What happened?" She asks, admitting defeat and taking a sip from the water glass. She may be furious with him, but that's no reason to turn down perfectly good refreshments.

"We had a drink." He says, and she curses the fact that he is forthcoming only when it suits him.

"I guessed. Did I do anything stupid?"

"Not really." He shrugs, but she notices that he's putting a little too much effort into it. She thinks there must be something going on here that she's missing. "Apart from drinking that much in the first place. I don't think that's the healthiest way of processing all this, Princess."

She bristles at the nickname, at the poor timing of wheeling that out now of all moments. "Did you do anything stupid?"

She's hit a nerve there, she can tell from the way he clenches his jaw.

"No." He lies through his teeth at her. "Nothing to report."

She finishes the glass of water, and then she walks out of his room.

…...

Clarke isn't sure what to do with herself for the rest of the day. She's not responsible for medical matters here, not like she was back at the dropship. Her mother and Jackson have entirely replaced her in that regard. And she's not responsible for leadership or strategy, she presumes, now that the alliance with the grounders is broken. Surely Kane will take over on that front, now that there is no reason for it to be her who holds things together.

She doesn't know what to do without responsibilities. She can't remember what it's like, to be Clarke Griffin without the weight of the world on her shoulders.

And she has another weight on her shoulders, now, the weight of hundreds of lives, and she's got no idea how to process that. Not all of her kill count are fresh deaths, of course. She's committed a good number of massacres in recent months, starting with the grounders at the dropship and carrying through to the Mountain Men only yesterday. She includes the missile victims at TonDC in her calculations, too – she might not have pulled the trigger on their lives, but it's her fault they're dead all the same.

She had to let them die. That's what no one seems to understand. She had to let that missile drop on that village to save Bellamy.

That's not a thought she's proud of. A good leader makes decisions based on the fate of all their people, she seems to remember, rather than letting herself be swayed by an attachment to one individual. She has tried so hard to justify it, to reassure herself that Bellamy's life represented the lives of all their people because he was the only one who could save them all, but somehow those words always ring hollow in her mind.

She bites her lip, and tries to clear her head, and casts about for literally anything to do other than wallow in self-loathing.

She goes to see Raven, first. That seems like a good and friendly and useful thing to do. But then Wick is already at her bedside, holding her hand and laughing with her about nothing in particular, and Clarke is faced with the indisputable fact that she is useless here, too, before she has even set foot in the room.

"Clarke." Raven notices her, and beckons her forward.

"Hey." She swallows with difficulty. "I thought I'd check on you. Do you need anything?"

"I'm good thanks. Your mum has been incredible. And Wick here's been OK, he brought me some lunch." Raven teases him with a grin.

"OK then. Well, I'll be going."

She turns around and walks straight back out the door.

It is the same story everywhere else she goes, that afternoon. She checks in with her mother, wondering if such a thing as a hug might be in order after all they have just been through, but Abby thinks she is there to help out in med bay and says that they have plenty of hands and she should go and relax. She calls in on Kane, asks if there is anything she can do, but he suggests that she should take a couple of rest days. She gets so desperate that she even seeks out Miller who is training with the guard, and is on the point of asking if she might shoot a gun for a while for something to do when she sees Bellamy hefting a rifle some metres away and flees.

She's forgotten how to be idle. She's forgotten how to relax, and how to rest, and how to be at leisure. But most of all she's forgotten how to be useless, how to be anything other than busy and productive and in charge.

But she doesn't want to be in charge any more, because people die when she's in charge - friends and enemies alike.

It is barely supper time when she finds herself in the bar once again.

…...

Bellamy knows there is some irony here. After he went to such lengths yesterday to prevent her from leaving, Clarke has managed to spend the entire day running away from him. Sure, she's stayed inside the camp fence the whole time, but from the moment she fled his room this morning to the way she took one look at him and walked out halfway through a conversation with Miller this afternoon, she couldn't have made it more plain that she is doing everything in her power to avoid his company.

He's not just going to sit back and take it. She's hurting, he knows she is – he knows it, because he is hurting, too – and he's going to see what he can do about it. And in the meantime, he's going to do what he can to ensure she's at least physically well while she takes her time to get her head back in the game.

With that in mind, he strides to the mess hall and takes two portions of whatever slop they're distributing for supper tonight. He saw Clarke escape to the bar only minutes ago, and he's absolutely certain she did not eat first.

He finds her at the same table as last night, a glass that is over two-thirds of the way to empty sitting before her. That's not the only glass on the table, though. There is a full one set before the place he already considers as his, too.

"Expecting company?" He asks, as he sinks into his seat and pushes a bowl towards her.

She only shrugs, and makes no move to pick up the spoon he places next to her hand.

Not sure what else to do, he digs into his own supper and watches her out of the corner of his eye. Any naive hope he might still have harboured, that all this would blow over quickly and she'd thank him for the gesture of bringing her food, finally flees from his mind.

He's embarrassed to admit it, but he actually made a start on planning what he would say to her if she asked after his day. He was going to tell her that it was great to shoot with Miller, and that Kane's suggested he might lead a hunting party later in the week, but that it sucks that he's not allowed to do anything more meaningful than that. He was going to say that it's an odd adjustment, going from being some kind of high-stakes inside man to hanging about camp feeling so goddamn safe all the time. And he was going to use that conversation as a bit of a gentle gateway into talking about what's bothering her, because he's pretty sure she's experiencing some similar things right now, but it's not really in the nature of their relationship to just go ahead and ask those difficult questions outright. They always have to find some awkward back door to the conversations that really matter.

But she's ignoring him – or trying to – so he doesn't say any of those things.

"Eat your stew." He instructs her, in the end.

She really must be feeling terrible, because she actually does what he tells her to. She takes a couple of spoonfuls, and washes them down with moonshine, and avoids his gaze for all she is worth.

He wonders about offering to get them another round of drinks, just because the silence is getting to him. But he doesn't want to encourage her to make a regular habit of getting as thoroughly trashed as she was last night, so he fishes about desperately for anything else uncontroversial to say.

He is on the point of commenting on the texture of the stew, of all things, when she pushes her chair back from the table with a scrape.

"I'm getting another drink." She informs him, tone cold. "Want one?"

"Please." He nods, and it is an admission of defeat. He's not proud of himself, for the record, but – well, he's feeling pretty grim just now, too. And it's taking every shred of sanity he has left to try to look out for Clarke, and if she's so determined to make his life even more difficult, he thinks he might just give in and join her.

He eats a couple more spoons of slop, and tries to gather his composure. He was doing so well, he thinks, at pretending to the outside world that he was doing OK, and a bit of silent treatment from Clarke is not going to leave visible cracks in his mask.

By the time she arrives back at the table, with not just two drinks but half a dozen balanced on a tray, he reckons his expression is almost neutral once more.

"The food's better than I remember." He tries, but then he realises his mistake. That could sound like a veiled reference to his recent fortnight of absence from Camp Jaha, and could therefore tread too close to the issue they are avoiding.

Sure enough, she doesn't answer. She just necks a glass of moonshine, and splutters out a short cough.

"I hear you visited Raven." He offers instead. "How is she?"

"She's doing OK. Wick's with her." That's not a lot of words, but he'll take it.

"That's good. I think they could be good for each other, if – if she'll let him in." Clarke's not stupid, so he knows she doesn't miss the allusion to their own circumstances. He can read it in her eyes.

"Thanks for supper." She says, much to his surprise. "Have you got any plans for the evening or are you staying for another drink?"

It's a stupid question. She's already given him those couple of extra drinks she just brought back from the bar, but he plays along for her benefit. "I'd like to stay for a while, if that's OK with you."

"Be my guest." She says.

So that's that. That's the closest friend he has on this damn planet, doing him the courtesy of permitting him to stay and drink in her presence. He supposes that, given the way he manipulated her yesterday, he can't be choosy. He will just have to accept that this is all she can face right now, and keep her company, and keep ensuring she eats. And maybe in the days and weeks to come he might even try to help her find a healthier coping mechanism or two.

For now, though, he is in no state to suggest any such thing. He can hear the ghosts himself, if he's being truly honest, the hundreds of souls that lie heavy on his conscience sighing just on the edge of his hearing.

So he picks up his moonshine, and clinks his glass against hers, and drinks.

Those half a dozen glasses don't last them long. And the next half a dozen don't hang around, either, and by about the third batch the room is starting to spin. But that's a good thing, Bellamy decides. When he's concentrating on keeping his supper in his stomach, he's not concentrating on the temptation to run out into the woods and spear a bear single-handed, or anything idiotic and risky like that. He's not concentrating, either, on the fact his baby sister doesn't need him any more, or the fact the hundred don't need him any more or – or the fact that his people don't seem to need him any more, if he's being really honest.

In fact, the only person in the world who still seems to need him is sitting right next to him, gulping down moonshine like it's water.

She hasn't said much all evening and it's eerie, after a couple of months of knowing her as a woman who sometimes talks too much for his convenience. But she's said enough to imply that she's got her wits about her slightly more than she did last night, so that's progress.

She's got her wits, but evidently she doesn't have her legs. When he suggests that it's time to call it a night and she stands up to leave, she staggers sideways into him and almost overturns the table.

"S'OK." She promises him, with the first true smile he's seen from her in as long as he can remember. "Don't worry. I'll be OK – Bellamy will get me home."

Well then. So much for her wits. And so much for that mask that he's been wearing so carefully, which shatters into a thousand pieces the moment he hears her talk of his protection with such utter confidence.

"You're right, Clarke. He'll take care of you." He knows that there is no point prolonging this conversation, but somehow he finds that he is powerless to stop it.

"Yeah. He took me home last night. Well – not my home. His home." She hiccups. "He's great, is Bellamy."

He doesn't have the words to reply to that. He doesn't have the words, because he's a bit busy clenching his jaw to stop some ill-timed confession from sneaking past his lips. He simply wraps an arm about her waist and starts shepherding her back to his room. It looks like he's going to have another sleepless night, but it's worth it. He's had sleepless nights for the sake of keeping Clarke safe before now, and he has no doubt it'll happen again.

She doesn't speak, as they make their way slowly down the corridor towards his quarters. She doesn't speak when they arrive, but simply pulls back the covers with a familiarity that makes his heart ache, as if she has already made herself at home in his bed.

He speaks, then. He speaks because he cannot help it, because he is too drunk and exhausted and frankly overwhelmed to reconstruct that damn mask.

"I'm glad you're here, Clarke. I'm glad you stayed. I know you hate me right now and I'm sorry for the way I got you to stay but – the only way we're going to survive this is if we face it together."

He likes to think that the humming noise she makes as she falls asleep is one of agreement, but he's not altogether sure.

Chapter Text

Clarke isn't surprised when she wakes up in Bellamy's bed the following morning. She remembers enough of last night to have seen things heading this way – more than she remembers of the previous night, that's for sure. But she's unsurprised, too, because she's beginning to realise that she would always choose to spend the night in Bellamy's bed if it were an option. She still hates him for manipulating her into staying in Camp Jaha – that goes without saying – but she has to concede that nothing makes her feel safe quite like the familiar scent of him on the pillow slip beneath her cheek.

Those two things ought to be incompatible, she muses. She ought not have such strongly mixed feelings about him. But amidst the general mess that is the state of her head at the moment, her conflicted emotions towards Bellamy seem like the least of her worries.

She sits up, and reaches for the glass of water on the bedside cabinet – because of course there is a glass of water on the bedside cabinet. Bellamy is dozing in that chair once again, and Clarke spares a moment to decide that, next time she finds herself in this bed, she hopes she'll be drunk enough to ask him to share it with her. Just to sleep next to her, obviously – nothing more. She just doesn't see the sense in him being so uncomfortable when there is space here for the two of them.

She still hates him, though. Naturally.

"Bellamy." It's not a question this morning, as she whispers his name into the space in between them. Golden morning light is spilling through the small window and the glow it casts over his freckled cheeks is in danger of doing funny things to her insides.

But she still hates him. Really she does.

"Morning, Princess." He mutters, warm and unguarded as he surfaces from sleep. "How are you feeling?"

"Better than yesterday." She acknowledges, drinking deeply from the glass. "Thanks for the water."

"No problem."

"And the bed."

"No problem." He repeats, very slightly grinning at her now, and this is almost starting to look like a half-way normal conversation between the two of them. "What have you got planned for the day?"

Just like that, all semblance of normalcy vanishes. Because she has nothing planned for the day, and he must know full well that she has nothing planned for the day, and she is beyond angry with him for asking. Has he not noticed, recently, that she doesn't much fancy talking to him about anything of importance?

He decides to speak, as if choosing to ignore her silence. "I think I might go see Kane and ask him to assign me something to do. I guess it'll be some low-ranking post in the guard but at least it'll give me a purpose, you know?"

"You, taking orders from Kane?" She asks, incredulous.

"Well I don't see you giving me anything to do any time soon." He bites back smartly. The words are harsh, yes, but she realises that he could have been harsher. She ought to be grateful for that, at least, she reckons – he could have full-on pointed out that she's the only person he's ever even contemplated following an order from before now, but she seems to have given up and resigned herself to drunken uselessness.

She decides that, maybe, she ought to make the most of his olive branch. It is only rational to treat him fairly, after all – the fact that he seems to be her only genuine friend in the world right now is neither here nor there.

"I'll go see my mum. If nothing else I can be an extra pair of hands in medical."

"That sounds like a great plan." Bellamy tells her, with rather more warmth than she thinks such an unoriginal idea can possibly merit. "Shall we get breakfast?"

"Breakfast." She repeats back at him, tone dull. Breakfast isn't really a thing she does any more, she's pretty sure.

"Yeah. If we go now we can get there before they stop serving. And I'm on a mission to make sure you eat, remember?"

She does remember. She remembers that bowl of disgusting stew she received with such ingratitude last night, and decides that, in the fresh light of morning, she might have a go at making up for that now.

"Thanks, Bellamy." She tells him, and he looks up in surprise at her sudden warmth. "Sure. Let's go get some breakfast."

…...

Bellamy can feel Clarke regretting her decision to join him for breakfast the moment they enter the mess hall. She doesn't say anything – she hasn't said anything the whole walk here from his room – but she suddenly goes from a relaxed kind of silence to one that positively fizzes with horror.

OK, he can read Clarke's silence. And what of it? It's no crime to know a close friend this well. He feels a little odd justifying it to himself like that, given she's currently furious with him, but he reckons they'll sort themselves out in time.

He needs them to sort themselves out, sooner or later. He's not sure how to function in a world in which the two of them are at odds for longer than the length of a single argument. They've always bickered and challenged each other, and that's what part of makes them such a strong team, but this mess he has made – this is something different. And it couldn't have come at a worse time, he seethes, as he hears his baby sister's laugh over the noise of the crowd and remembers pulling a lever for the sake of being able to hear that sound again.

Clarke has frozen at his side, now, barely a toe over the threshold of the mess hall, and she's looking at him in panic and wordlessly demanding that he find a solution. He remembers her words, only two days ago, about the sight of her people reminding her of what she did, and he understands that, now.

He has to admit it – he feels much the same.

"We don't have to stay and eat here. We can grab some food and get out of here." He whispers to her, and he feels her relax the moment he suggests it.

"I'd like that." She agrees, the tension already melting from her stance.

"Follow me. We'll be out of here before you know it."

He leads her to the servery, and they grab bowls of porridge and spoons, and then they make a run for it – almost literally – as they walk as briskly as politeness will allow towards the door again.

"Don't you want to stay and eat with your sister?" Clarke offers, nodding in Octavia's direction.

"She's not going anywhere. I'll catch her later." He says with a careful shrug. Clarke may be showing him marginally more warmth, this morning, but he's still pretty sure she's not ready for him to admit he'd rather eat with her. And he knows beyond all doubt that neither of them is ready for the can of worms he would open if he started telling her about his newfound hatred of crowded dining halls.

They walk to Raven's Gate, in the end. They don't discuss it – rather, it is simply where their feet take them. He wonders if it will always be like this between them, that no matter how much anger they hold onto they will always be moving in the same direction.

He certainly hopes so.

They crouch in the grass behind this forgotten corner of the Ark, careful not to touch the fence, and balance their bowls on their knees. He wonders if Clarke is thinking the same thing he is, whether she is remembering the times they have walked this way before.

He has to ask her. He needs to know that she has not forgotten the partnership he thinks they share. He's aware that acting impulsively is going to get him hurt, one of these days, but – this is Clarke. No way would she hurt him, however angry she might be.

"Do you remember the first time we met here?"

"Of course I do." Clarke looks affronted that he even felt the need to ask, and he stifles a grin. Perhaps things are not so broken between them after all.

"That was one hell of a day."

"It was." She agrees. "I just remember being so happy to see you alive, and then you dropped that bad news about Finn and – it was beyond confusing."

He ought to pick up that train of thought. He ought to encourage her to keep talking, he knows, because she never mentions Finn and he's pretty sure that all this bottling up of grief is one of the reasons they're here, now, hiding out behind a fence because neither of them can face a goddamn dining room.

But he's had to be brave too often, of late, and he can't quite do it any more.

"Clarke Griffin, confused?" He teases. "Never."

She cracks a weak smile, and the moment of honesty is lost.

…...

Clarke's angry with herself for warming up to Bellamy this morning. He damn well blackmailed her into staying at camp, only two days ago, and yet she distinctly remembers smiling at him over breakfast. She huffs a little, and keeps striding towards med bay.

She's even angrier with Bellamy, though, for making it so utterly impossible not to warm up to him. What else is she supposed to do, when he does all those thoughtful things? He's infuriating, with the way he keeps giving up his bed to her and sleeping in a chair, and leaving out water for her, and helping her navigate her horror of the breakfast hall.

She's a logical woman, so she can join the dots, here. She knows that he's going out of his way to be kind to her to show that he's sorry for the way he got her to stay. He might have said he'd do it again – she remembers that all too well – but that doesn't mean it's not hurting him.

She knows how that feels. She'd let a bomb drop on TonDC again, if she had to, if it meant saving him. If it meant saving everyone. That doesn't mean, though, that she doesn't feel guilty for it.

Damn it. She doesn't want to understand him. Understanding is half way to forgiveness, and she hasn't decided to forgive him, yet. She needs a little longer to decide where they stand. To decide whether he has atoned for manipulating her, or whether it's only that love has weakened her resolve.

Needless to say, she's in a bad mood by the time she arrives at med bay. She has to concede that her short temper is not entirely Bellamy's fault – she's here for all the wrong reasons in the first place. She's here for want of anywhere else useful to be, not out of any genuine enthusiasm for the idea. And she's here, too, because saving lives seems like the only way she has any hope of atoning for all the lives she has taken, of late.

"Clarke." Her mother greets her with visible joy, and it makes her stomach sick with guilt. No one is supposed to look happy to see her – she's a monster.

"Hey. Is there anything I can do to help? Any bandages to wrap?"

"Clarke, honey, you shouldn't be thinking of bandages today. Take a few more days off, get some rest. You deserve -"

"We'd love some help." Jackson interrupts, pausing on his way between patients, and Clarke has never been so grateful for him. "Dressing change on bed number four, if you're up for it?"

"I'll clean my hands and get started." She agrees, wilting in relief.

Changing a dressing is not a difficult task. She concentrates on it harder than is strictly necessary, focusing on the texture of the woven bandage beneath her fingertips, memorising the notes in the patient's file. When that fails, she counts the stitches in the wound she's wrapping, and when she runs out of stitches she starts to count the beeps from the monitor at the bedside. The patient is, unfortunately, not quite up to holding a distracting conversation, but it's good enough. It keeps the ghosts at bay.

When she's done, she reports to Jackson to be assigned something else to do. He seems to understand her current situation rather better than her own mother does.

"Thanks." She greets him at the sinks as they both clean up after their most recent tasks. "It's like you knew I needed to be here, keeping busy."

"That's exactly what I thought." He agrees. "I – I know what it's like to hurt, Clarke. I can't imagine what you're going through right now but if you need to talk, I'm here."

She doesn't allow herself to cry at his kindness, because she knows that, if she cries now, she'll never stop. "I just need you to give me another job to do."

"Sure. Bed seventeen needs her meds." She smiles at him, hopes he can read the gratitude and relief in her eyes, and flees.

The day follows in much the same fashion – meds and dressings, occasional blood transfusions. By early afternoon her mother has admitted defeat and even asks if she wants to scrub in on a little minor surgery, and she jumps at the chance. All in all, this is turning out to be a pretty sound way of keeping busy, and she's even doing something of use while she's at it.

The other good point, she has to admit, is that it's not keeping her too busy. She hasn't got enough spare thought capacity for her brain to go into some guilt-ridden overdrive on the theme of massacres, but she has just enough time, in the odd moments between tasks, to decide that probably Bellamy is just trying to protect her. That seems to be all he ever does and – well, she doesn't have a lot of close friends to spare, just now. Maybe she ought to think about talking things through with him, just as soon as she can string together a meaningful sentence without falling apart.

Maybe hating him is a bit strong. Maybe she should work on being able to explain to him that she's merely justifiably angry.

Maybe.

Her mother surprises her, towards the end of the day, with the suggestion that Clarke should come with her to check in on Raven. She explains that Raven has been moved to her own quarters, like most of the walking wounded, but that she's still getting regular doctor's visits.

Clarke says yes. She figures there's no reason why seeing Raven should set off her self-loathing any more than seeing anyone else. Sure, she struggled a bit with seeing her yesterday but she can't overcome challenges by just avoiding them.

When they arrive, Clarke is surprised to see that Raven is alone. There is no sign of Wick – only Raven frowning at a datapad, her mouth a sour line.

"Raven?" Abby greets her on behalf of them both. "How are you doing?"

"I'm doing great." Raven responds, fooling no one.

"Where's Wick?" Abby asks, tone gentle.

"Not here."

"I can see that." Abby persists. "I'm surprised, he was refusing to leave your bedside last time I saw you."

"I sent him away." Raven tells them, matter of fact.

"Why would you do that?" Clarke speaks up at last, beyond confused – and she likes to think that she's not easily confused.

Raven merely shrugs.

"Raven, honey, is there something we should know about?" Abby continues. "We're just concerned about you. You know you can tell us if -"

"He said he was my boyfriend." Raven tells them flatly. "Gina came by to bring us lunch, and Wick referred to himself as my boyfriend."

Abby is blinking in silent confusion, but Clarke gets it. She gets it only too well, knowing Raven as she does.

"So you sent him away." Clarke fills in the blanks. "You flipped out and told him he was no boyfriend of yours – that you didn't need a boyfriend – and that he needed to get out of here and never come back. Because you couldn't face the idea that someone might actually care about you, you didn't trust him to just stay with you and -"

"That's rich, coming from you." Raven snaps back at her.

Clarke is not a good enough actress to pretend that she doesn't understand what Raven means. She knows exactly what she's trying to say, can see the allusion she is trying to make, and it makes her sick.

It is that, exactly that, which sends her running to the bar.

…...

Bellamy isn't surprised to find Clarke at the bar by the time he finishes an all-too-rushed chat with his sister. Who is he kidding? He is positively expecting to find Clarke at the bar, when he shows up at the same hour as yesterday balancing two bowls of stew in his tired arms.

It's been a long day, a day of pushups and burpees and crunches and goodness only knows what else until he can barely walk, right now. But that is good, and is exactly what he needed to keep his mind off things.

Ok, maybe it's not exactly what he would have chosen. When he went to see Kane this morning he rather hoped his recent mission in Mount Weather might have earned him something more than a day of keep-fit with a bunch of twenty-year-olds. But it's what Kane offered him, and it's what he accepted, and it's what has him tired enough that he thinks there's some chance of him falling asleep in that damn chair before three AM, tonight.

He presumes he'll be sleeping in the chair again today. He's guessing that based on the way Clarke is already here, already half way down her second glass. Apart from the fact she's already getting started on the drink, he can't quite get a read on her, this evening, and that worries him. She's smiling at him as he walks over there, which is certainly not something she's done for a while, but she looks shifty, too, fidgeting in her seat.

"What is it?" He asks, as he sets down her supper.

"Nothing." She lies through her pained smile.

He huffs out a grudging laugh. "It'll shock you to hear that I don't believe that."

Her smile grows a little less obviously fake at that. "You're right, it's something. But it's not something I can talk about right now."

"I get that." He says, as she picks up her spoon and starts to eat. "Let me know if you want to talk about it another time."

He feels odd saying that. They don't exactly talk about the nature of their relationship very often – they've been sharing the stuff that really matters since that time she watched him fall apart at the foot of that tree after killing Dax, but they don't talk about the fact they talk to each other, and that's a distinction he thinks is important. Normally it just unfolds, organically, in a moment of distress. He's never said out loud before that he intends to be there for her for some future conversation, and it scares him.

It scares Clarke, too. He can tell from the fact she looks even more anxious than she did when he arrived. But she's never been one to back down out of fear and, sure enough, she's still trying for that strained but warm smile.

"Thank you, Bellamy. And thanks for supper, as well."

"No problem. How was med bay?"

"It was OK." She hedges, still shifty. "It was good to keep busy and feel like I was helping. But then I went to check on Raven and we argued." From the tone she's using, he can tell that costs her a lot to admit. He suspects it's something to do with her current mood, but he won't push her to say any more than she's ready to say.

"I'm sorry. You'll be OK, though. You two have been through too much to let one fight stand between you." She nods, still looking unconvinced, and he presses on. "Want me to tell you about my day?"

"Please." She agrees, looking distinctly relieved.

He talks about his training for a couple of minutes, and it's actually quite pleasant. Clarke nods in all the right places, laughs when he tells her an anecdote about Miller tripping over his own shoelace, and that smile is still fixed on her lips. He knows it's at least partly fake, sure, but he figures it still means something. He reckons it means that she's trying to show him she's in a better mood with him, that she's at least beginning to accept what he did to convince her to stay. And even forced cheer over supper is better than no cheer at all, he decides.

By the time he starts recounting their jogging expedition, he feels more human than he has since pulling that lever.

That's what gives him the confidence, in the end, to say what he's been wanting to say for the last two nights. When Clarke scrapes back her chair and rocks forward as if to stand and get the next round of drinks, he reaches out a hand in a quelling gesture.

"Don't get another, Clarke. There's no need."

She glares at him. "What did you just say?"

"Don't get any more drinks. We shouldn't keep drinking as much as we have the last couple of nights, and I'd rather just sit and chat." Confident or not, that's the closest he can bring himself to tread to the suggestion that conversation is a better coping mechanism than alcohol. He should know – she's the one who first introduced him to the idea of talking to her about his state of mind, after all.

"That's not what you said." She informs him, fire in her voice. "You said there's no need. And believe me when I say you have no idea what I need right now."

"Then tell me!" He wants to reach across the table and shake some sense into her. "But trust me when I say that you don't need to get wasted three nights running."

"I need another drink." She tells him, voice low and angry – with him or with herself, he's not quite sure. "Let me explain it to you, Bellamy. I need another drink – or more than one – so I can sleep tonight. Not because I won't fall asleep without it – I will, because I'm so exhausted I can barely see straight – but because I won't stay asleep without it. I'll wake up to nightmares of Mount Weather, and TonDC, and hell, probably even barbecued grounders. And I'll wake up to these nightmares alone, because if I'm not drunk then I won't have an excuse to stay at yours, so I'm going -"

"You don't need an excuse." He interrupts her, quiet but firm.

"What?" She wasn't expecting that, he can tell.

"You don't need an excuse to stay at mine. I – you're welcome any time. I hate the idea of you having nightmares on your own." He doesn't add that he expects nightmares for his part, too.

"You mean that?" She is still struggling to process the idea, and that hurts. It hurts that he betrayed her trust so badly by twisting her arm into staying here that she is confused by his wishing to care for her.

"Of course I mean that. If you're so tired we don't have to stay here long, we can get an early night." An early night sounds like heaven to him, but he doesn't want to push her. And he'll be on the chair anyway, he reminds himself firmly.

"I'd like that." Her smile is more genuine, now, as she sets down her spoon.

"Great. I'm ready when you are."

They don't even speak – they just stand up and start heading to the mess hall to drop off their dishes. There's something about the smooth way they deal wordlessly with the practicalities that feels almost like their pre-Mount-Weather dynamic, if he squints. He could nearly believe they are the two slightly more innocent youngsters who used to lead a camp of teenagers together. Sure, they had too many kills between them even then, but it was nothing compared to the guilt he knows they are both swimming in now.

They are silent, too, as they walk back to his room, but that's OK. Clarke's body language is more relaxed than it was earlier this evening, and he's looking forward to getting slightly more rest than he has managed the last couple of nights. Now he comes to think about it, he didn't sleep much in Mount Weather, either. In fact, he's not sure when he last got eight hours sleep in an actual bed – it must be a good three weeks, he reckons.

Clarke says nothing as she kicks off her boots, and he follows her lead as he does the same. She hangs her jacket on the back of his door, still without talking, and even wriggles out of her tight black trousers. That's just for practicality's sake, he's certain of it. They don't look very comfortable to sleep in. But all the same, it has his breath catching in his throat.

He hasn't bothered removing any clothes. He's going to spend the night in discomfort anyway, so there doesn't seem a lot of point.

"You've got a decent-sized bed." Clarke comments at last, taking him by surprise.

"Yeah." He agrees. "The Chancellor gave me the room a couple of weeks ago for helping find her daughter."

She doesn't so much as smile at his poor attempt to lift the mood, and that puzzles him. She would normally at least acknowledge that he was trying to buoy her spirits, and he likes to think they've reclaimed some small slice of normalcy this evening, so he would expect at the very least a little grin.

She's still staring at the bed when she speaks again. "As it's a big bed, we could both sleep in it without us having to touch. Without it being awkward."

It is important, he knows, to match her carefully light tone. "Sure we could."

With that, he sheds his jacket, and strips off his trousers, and the two of them slip silently into opposite sides of the bed.

Strangely, it isn't awkward. Now he comes to think about it, things with Clarke rarely are awkward, in his experience. Sure, there's sometimes anger or disagreement, or even shame, but they don't tend to bother with the pettiness of feeling awkward. In fact, it is pretty pleasant, lying quietly beside her in the darkness. She's the only other person in the world who can even vaguely relate to what's going on in his head right now, and that brings with it its own kind of peace. The fact that she looks beautiful when she smiles, or that he's just had a good view of her bare legs, doesn't come into it – or rather, he doesn't allow himself to dwell on those things, much.

"I'm still mad at you." She whispers, just as he is on the verge of falling asleep.

He notices that there's no mention of hatred, and he decides to take that as progress. "I get that."

"Thanks for being here for me." She murmurs, so quietly he can barely here her.

"Any time."

So it is that they fall asleep, neatly on their opposite sides of the decent-sized bed.

…...

It's Bellamy that has the first nightmare, and that catches Clarke by surprise. It occurs to her, all in a rush, as she wakes up to him screaming and panting and kicking at the bedclothes, that she should have realised he was having a hard time, too. Logically she knew it, of course she did – they both pulled that lever together – but she's been so busy wallowing in her own self-loathing that she's let him down, she realises now.

As she reaches over and smooths the hair back from his forehead and whispers his name, she finds that all thoughts of hating him for what he said at the gates seem to have fled her mind.

"Clarke?" His panicked gaze clears as he looks up at her in the dim light that filters through the window and under the door.

"You're OK, Bellamy. It's me, and we're in your room, and you're safe."

"Octavia?" He chokes out, still audibly anxious.

"She's safe." Clarke has to admit that she's not actually spoken to Octavia since they got back, but she did catch that glimpse of her at breakfast this morning.

He nods, and takes a few deep breaths, and stares at the ceiling. Her hand is still stroking his hair, but he doesn't seem to be objecting, so she sees no real need to remove it. She has a feeling the motion is calming her at least as much as it's calming him.

"I'm sorry." He says, when he has relaxed, and she swallows down surprise.

"What for? Don't be. We both get nightmares, that's no surprise."

"For waking you up and bothering you. I don't – I know this is difficult for you, and I don't want to push my problems at you, too."

She thinks her heart might have broken on hearing that, at least a little. "Bellamy. Trust me when I say I always want you to bother me with your problems." He looks sceptical at best, so she keeps speaking. "I mean it. I'm sorry – I've been so wrapped up in my own head that I never thought about how you were coping. It was selfish of me, and I'll do better."

"That's OK." He murmurs, a smile in his eyes that she's pretty sure she doesn't deserve. "I was selfish when I pressured you into staying."

"I can be mad at how you did that without hating you." She tells him, because that's about the closest she thinks she can get to telling him what's going on in her head right now.

He grins at her. "Good. Listen, don't go to med bay in the morning."

"What? Why?"

"I mean, go to med bay if that's what you actually want to do. But don't go as a distraction. I've got a better idea. I'm not going to go to training – I'm going to sit down with O and Lincoln and see what's going on with this kill order."

She lets the silence sit for a moment, still smoothing her hand over his curls, while she works up the courage to say what needs to be said.

"Could I join you?" She asks, at last, and she can see how proud he is of her for getting the words out. "I know Octavia's still angry with me but I'd like to do something useful."

"Sounds like a plan, Princess." He grins at her as she finally convinces herself to retract her hand and settle back onto her pillows.

"Sleep well. Let me know if you need anything." She whispers.

"You too, Clarke. Sweet dreams."

Chapter Text

Bellamy should be confused when he wakes up the next morning – confused, or at the very least surprised. Seeing Clarke on the other side of a bed that he has evidently also slept in is hardly a normal occurrence, after all. But somehow it feels so right, to have her just there, and to be able to see that she's safe and well, and to watch the morning light catching the brightest highlights in her blond hair. He cannot help but feel that their situation makes perfect sense.

He watches her sleep for a little while. Not in a creepy way – at least, he hopes it isn't creepy – but just to reassure himself that she's OK. She seems to have slept surprisingly soundly for someone who was so worried about nightmares. Either that, or he was simply so exhausted that he snored right through any distress she experienced.

At times like this, he wishes he had books. It would be lovely, he decides, to lie quietly by her side and read while she catches a few more minutes of rest. That sounds like his perfect definition of domestic bliss, all things considered.

He sees Clarke stir and decides that domestic bliss will have to wait. He has no idea how she will react to waking up here, for all that she was technically the one who suggested this arrangement. He grows slightly nervous as he watches her squirm and then open her eyes.

"Morning." He offers, uncharacteristically tentative.

"Hey." She cracks a broad smile, the truest smile he has seen from her in weeks, and he breathes a sigh of relief. "How are you doing?"

"Great. That's more sleep than I've had in months."

"Me too." She agrees, rolling over to face him.

She's close, now, distractingly close, her mouth only inches away from his. So much for his decent-sized bed, he muses, and so much for no chance of awkwardness.

He rolls away before the moment can risk growing awkward and decides it is time to get on with the day. "You still want to come and talk to O with me?"

He watches her swallow her nerves. "Yeah. Of course."

"Great."

The silence hangs between them for a moment, and he is half way to sitting up and leaving the bed when she surprises him.

"We should eat breakfast in the mess hall this morning."

He turns to stare at her, stunned. His first reaction is to yell at her that she must have lost her mind if she thinks that he wants to eat in a crowded room at a time like this, and to point out that she's been running away from human interaction at almost every opportunity, these last few days. But then he remembers that Clarke's ideas do tend to be good ideas, even if he doesn't always see that right away. Perhaps she has some plan here that he has not yet understood. He takes a deep breath, and forces himself to keep calm while she explains.

"You sure about that?" He asks, not entirely able to keep the incredulity from bleeding into his tone.

"Yeah. We're not going to overcome our problems by running away from them, and this seems like a good place to start." He watches her swallow slowly. "It's still early, so there won't be so many people there. We can get a table at the edge of the room, just the two of us. It's a small step, and if it goes well we can – maybe work up to hanging out with people more. Human interaction is good for our mental health." She recites, carefully, as if addressing a patient in med bay.

There is nothing he has less enthusiasm for than this idea, he's pretty sure. He's just woken up after a good night's sleep to the sight of Clarke Griffin's hair on his pillow, and he figures parading himself in front of a bunch of people who think he's a hero for committing mass murder is the surest way of ruining that promising start to his day.

But Clarke wants to do this, and he'd do anything for her. He'd do anything to protect her from her demons.

"You really want to try it?" He checks, and he can hear the resignation in his own voice.

"Yes." She confirms, her mouth set firm with resolve.

"Then I'm with you. Let's go."

…...

Clarke decides that breakfast is going well. To be clear, she decides it rather more than she feels it – it's a matter of exerting her will and convincing herself that this is about as successful as any mildly horrifying experience could be. They each have a bowl of porridge, and they have not had to speak to anyone other than the servery staff, so that's a good point. There's only been one time that she caught herself counting the number of people in the dining room and comparing it to the number of human lives she's taken recently, and arriving at the unsurprising conclusion that the four dozen people in the mess hall are almost trivial compared to her recent genocide. OK, so that's not ideal. But the point is, breakfast is going well.

She expresses that sentiment to Bellamy, breaking the silence.

"Yeah." He nods, with every appearance of cheer.

She waits for the rest of his sentence, but it never comes. For one mad moment she actually misses the Bellamy who used to argue with her, back when they first landed. Now she comes to think of it, he has been a little quiet these last few days – another thing, she supposes, that she missed in her selfish obsession with her own troubles.

She'll never forgive herself if he doesn't start arguing with her again, sooner or later. Sure, she prefers it when they don't argue about anything of substance – but she will blame herself and what she made him do in that Mountain forever if he doesn't get that spark back, she decides. That energy and that wilful streak are what make him Bellamy, just as much as the big heart and the tousled hair he's still managing to hold onto.

"I think this was a good idea." She continues, determined. "We should come back here for lunch, as well. We've got lucky – most of the people here right now weren't even in – weren't at – they weren't there."

"Mount Weather." He says, enunciating each syllable carefully. "There are not many people at breakfast this morning who were at Mount Weather."

She always knew Bellamy was strong, but she has never admired him as much as she does in this moment. "Yeah. There."

Silence falls again, and she plays with her porridge. She's managed to eat a good portion of it, but she thinks she might be nearing the end of what she can cope with for one morning. She is on the point of voicing, once again for good measure, the opinion that breakfast is going well and the suggestion that they should get out of here, when breakfast gets a whole lot worse.

Raven takes a seat next to her, and a young woman Clarke loosely recognises sits down at Bellamy's side.

"Morning, guys." Raven greets them, and Clarke cannot read whether her tone is more warm or abrasive. That's the thing about Raven's cynicism – it's not always easy to tell the difference.

"Hey." Bellamy greets her, while Clarke nods self-consciously.

"This is Gina." Raven explains, and her companion waves. "Not sure if you've met before? She works in engineering, we knew each other up on the Ark."

"That's good." Clarke offers. "I'm happy for you, that you were reunited. Nice to meet you, Gina."

Clarke hopes that will be it. She was about to suggest they should leave anyway, of course, so now that introductions have been shared she would quite like to flee before she can end up continuing that argument she had with Raven yesterday. It's not altogether clear to her why Raven would choose to sit with them after that, but presumably she has her reasons.

So, yeah, she's about to clear out of here. But then Bellamy goes and ruins it all by speaking.

"So, Gina, how are things in engineering?"

"Pretty good since we got Raven back." Gina says, with an easy smile that Clarke cannot help but envy. "She knows we just can't function without her."

"That does sound like something I would say." Raven chimes in.

"We're working on communications at the minute. Radios and walkies for the guard, mainly." Gina continues.

"That sounds cool." Bellamy sounds enthusiastic, and Clarke tries not to let her surprise show on her face. It's not exactly earth-shattering, is it? The idea that people might make radios?

"Raven tells me you're in the guard?" Gina asks, still smiling that easy smile, and Clarke begins to suspect that she knows what's happening, here.

Gina keeps speaking, and smiling, and Clarke abandons all hope of a speedy exit from this place. Bellamy is talking, too, and that hurts for reasons she can't quite identify. The idea that the only real friend she has right now is more interested in some inane conversation about radios with a stranger than in escaping from the situation with her kind of sucks, she decides. And Raven is engrossed in that conversation as well, contributing occasionally, and Clarke decides that is probably all the answer she needed as to whether they are on good terms after that conflict yesterday.

So much for breakfast going well.

She gathers her wits and tries to join in the conversation with Gina. She tries so damn hard, fishing for literally anything light and cheerful to talk about, but the girl is all sunshine and Clarke can't do it. She just can't do it, and she doesn't know how to process the fact that Bellamy's face as he speaks to this new friend holds more sunshine than she has seen in his smile for weeks.

That's the thing that pushes her over the edge, in the end. She's always thought she was decent when it came to self-control, but what with the events of recent days and this positively lovely young woman who is making Bellamy smile when she has done nothing but fail on that front, she finds that she has reached breaking point.

She interrupts their conversation, and she interrupts it in the worst possible way.

"How's Wick?" She asks Raven, bold and outright.

Raven glares at her, while Bellamy frowns, and even sunny Gina's expression looks slightly clouded.

"How's Bellamy?" Raven snaps right back at her. "You still trying to run away from him?"

"I'm right here." He coughs out, confused. She can hardly blame him – he has missed Raven's pointed comments of recent days. He doesn't understand that Raven is talking about her avoiding not only his physical presence but also any kind of honesty and openness in her relationship with him.

"We actually have plans together today." Clarke says, a little smug, although she knows her feeling of victory will grow hollow when she steps away from the heat of the moment. Even when that happens, though, she knows she will continue to feel proud of the fact that her friendship with Bellamy is one thing she has made some real progress with, in the last day or so.

Raven doesn't give her long to rest on her laurels. "Plans that aren't getting wasted and pretending to hate yourselves?"

For once in her life, Clarke is rendered completely speechless. She has no idea how to respond to that, no idea how things have gone so wrong between her and Raven. She has no idea about anything, right now, as she casts about in the emptiness of her mind for something to say.

Bellamy beats her to it.

"Trust me, Raven, we're not pretending."

With that, he gets to his feet. Clarke watches him stack her bowl with his own, feels him curl an arm around her shoulders. And somehow, without her quite understanding how it has happened, she finds that they are at Raven's Gate once again, and he is holding her while she weeps.

…...

Bellamy has never been more frightened, he's pretty sure. OK, the night they took his sister and came for his mother runs a pretty close second. But at least that night didn't really catch him by surprise. He'd spent his entire life worrying that someone would find Octavia so, nightmarish though it was when it actually happened, he was painfully well-prepared to face it.

He's lived through other frightening things, of course. Shooting the Chancellor, surviving an unknown Earth. Infiltrating Mount Weather and being hosed down with that shower that burned. But, again, all of these were at least challenges he was expecting, obstacles he was ready to overcome.

He can't think of anything more unexpected than Clarke Griffin dissolving in a flood of panicky tears. It's just not what she does – she's the strongest person he knows.

He should have realised there was more to it than that. He should have realised that showing such a strong front to the outside world just meant she was bottling everything up inside.

He's managed to half-carry her as far as Raven's Gate, now, so they sit in the grass side by side. He holds her, and she cries, and that's how it is for quite some time. It's frightening, because he feels absolutely powerless to do anything about the situation. He is surely being less than useless to her, now, offering an arm round the shoulder and the occasional reassuring whisper. He's scared, too, because he was telling the truth the other day when he said her people needed her. He's not quite sure what they'll all do without her, if this is some kind of sign that she's cracking and needs to take a break.

He's not sure what he'll do without her.

It's almost funny that she said she'd been selfish, last night. Sure, she's been a bit wrapped up in her own concerns, but he reckons that's understandable, given the circumstances. The thing she didn't seem to have realised as she said that was that her just being here, just existing, helps him plenty. He does have to concede, though, that the whole stroking-his-forehead thing was good too. The point is, he needs her, whether she can see it or not, and the thought that she might not be her usual self is terrifying.

The other thing that scares him about this is the guilt. He was already feeling guilty enough, but now he adds the fact that he's manipulated someone he cares about into staying in a situation that makes her feel like this, and that's a whole new depth of self-loathing he hadn't realised he was capable of sinking to.

That thought brings tears to his own eyes, but he brushes them angrily away. He has no right to cry, not now. This moment is about Clarke, and he needs to stay strong for her.

She's still weeping when she starts to speak, but she is at least weeping a little less.

"She's supposed to be my friend." Clarke chokes out between sobs, and Bellamy knows full well she is struggling to process the idea that Raven might lash out at her like that.

"I know." He soothes quietly, pulling her even closer.

There is a pause, and then she gives voice to a thought which is somehow even more heartbreaking.

"I'm supposed to be her friend."

"I know." He repeats, helpless. "And you still are, Clarke. It's not a good time, you know that. Emotions are running high and you lashed out at each other. You'll fix it when you're both doing better."

He ignores, with considerable effort, the thought that there is no sign of either of them doing better any time soon.

No, that's not quite true. He's pretty sure Clarke was starting to do better, between the way she smiled more easily yesterday, and the care she showed him during that nightmare, not to mention the fact she decided they should eat breakfast in the mess hall. And he's angry beyond belief with Raven for throwing all that away – even if he does have to acknowledge that Clarke shares some of the blame.

Huh. Seems like he's keen to protect her from blame, every bit as much as he's always tried to protect her from physical danger. Maybe that's why he went and pulled that damn lever with her.

"Bellamy?" Clarke asks quietly, still sniffling but no longer actively weeping.

"Hey, Clarke. You doing alright?" He speaks softly to her, in a voice he doesn't remember having used since his sister was a young child.

"I'm working on it. Let's go find Octavia and Lincoln."

He opens and closes his mouth, rather stupidly, a good three or four times. He must have misunderstood her. Surely he must have misunderstood her. She has just spent several long minutes crying in a trembling heap and he's supposed to just pretend this morning is business as usual?

He gets it, then, as she meets his eyes with a steady gaze. This is business as usual, for Clarke. This is what she does – she packs her pain into a tight little box and sets out to help other people with their problems. Isn't that what she's been doing from the moment he first met her?

"I don't know. I think we should go and get you a glass of water first." He supports her in the only way he knows how – by arguing about logistics, and trying to look after her physical health.

"I'm fine, Bellamy. I'm more or less a doctor, I know whether I'm dehydrated. Let's go see what we can do." With that, she gets to her feet, and he cracks a grin as he unfolds his legs and follows her. It's uncanny that she's put her saving-the-day face back on again so quickly, but that's his Clarke.

No, she's not quite the Clarke he thought he knew. Because there, just on the edge of his hearing, just as she starts striding away from him, is a heartfelt whisper.

"Thanks, Bellamy. Thanks for being here for that."

…...

Their welcome at Octavia's quarters is not a warm one, and Bellamy is sorely tempted to throw a bucket of cold water over his sister's head for her rudeness. That seems like a proportionate response – it would make her just as uncomfortable as she's currently making Clarke, but without causing any lasting harm. It seems like the kind of thing an angry big brother might forgive himself for being tempted to do.

He thinks that thought might be the first thing he's forgiven himself for this month, actually.

He has to admit, he's disappointed in his sister. She's been nothing but friendly to him around camp for all that they have not seen each other as much as he might have liked, so it comes as a nasty surprise that she is so furious with Clarke. He knows that they had their disagreements, while he was in the Mountain and before, but he hates to see such discord between the two most important women in his life.

"We don't want your help, Clarke. I've seen your help. When you try to help entire villages get blown sky high."

"That's not – Octavia." He watches her flounder for words. "That's completely different, and you know it."

"Octavia -" Lincoln tries to interrupt in a measured tone, but is overruled.

"Why do you get to decide that, Clarke? Why do you get to -?"

"Octavia." Bellamy interrupts at last, voice raised despite himself. "Don't speak to her like that. She came here because she genuinely wants to help. We both know you and Lincoln hate being stuck in camp, so let us see what we can do about it."

"I want nothing from her." Octavia practically spits the words.

"Octavia." Clarke pushes past him, iron in her voice. It catches him by surprise – he doesn't remember stepping in front of her. He supposes it's just instinct, by now.

Something in her tone has Octavia freezing and looking expectantly at her.

"I'm here. I stayed. Isn't that good enough for you? Isn't that enough as a sign that I mean it when I say I want to help? I'm here for my people – and that includes you, whether you like it or not – and I'm sticking it out. Even if you yell at me like that every damn day. So tell me what this kill order is all about and we'll work together to get it lifted."

He's proud of Clarke for saying that – and he can't help but feel that she chose those words for his benefit just as much as for Octavia's. But he's prouder still of his sister, for acknowledging Clarke's point and backing down when she knows she's beaten.

He watches Lincoln look between the two of them, sees him reach a conclusion.

"So we're agreed?" Lincoln asks, keen as ever to seek a relatively peaceful solution. "We're doing this?"

There isn't much to tell about the kill order, as it turns out. Both of them refused to retreat when ordered to, and Lincoln went and escaped captivity into the bargain. Bellamy's not sure what they can possibly do to fix that – in his experience, negotiations with grounders are rarely worthwhile – but he loves his sister, and he accepts Lincoln for her sake, so he supposes he ought to try for a bit of optimism. He's starting to like Lincoln in his own right, too, he has to concede. Their experience of trekking to the Mountain together laid the foundations, and this conversation has only confirmed that he's a level-headed guy with his heart in the right place.

His baby sister could do worse.

They stay a long time, in the end. The conversation about the kill order is over briefly but then they get onto the topic of Bellamy's training session from the previous day, and that turns into wondering what happened to Miller's beanie, and before he quite knows what's happening he's telling Clarke and Lincoln stories from his childhood with Octavia and they've almost missed lunch.

They wander to the mess hall together. Bellamy wants to check whether that's OK with Clarke, whether she wants another go at eating with people after the horror of breakfast this morning, but he doesn't know how to ask it in front of the others without showing them the cracks in her mask.

He doesn't ask, in the end. He trusts his instincts, puts faith in his belief that he would know if it wasn't OK with Clarke. He watches her carefully, observes the smile that looks almost genuine as she listens to an anecdote of Octavia's. He makes a point of letting her choose the table they sit at to eat, and sure enough she chooses one that's at the edge of the room, but she doesn't stride there in panicked haste. She makes a point, in fact, of stalling and waiting for him, and teasing him about his choice of beans over rice from the rather limited selection on offer at the servery.

He loves her.

That's not news to him, of course – or it's not really news. He's always known there had to be a reason he'd willingly go to the ends of the Earth – or even to Mount Weather – for her, had to be a reason he was so desperate to get her to stay. But it's clear to him, now, as he watches her trying to find a smile even in the midst of her despair, as he thinks of the way she made Octavia and Lincoln her priority this morning despite her own distress.

Most of all, though, he loves her for the moments when she doesn't try to find a smile, when it's just the two of them, and she lets him see what's really going on behind closed doors.

"You OK? Bellamy?" She asks him, concern lacing her tone, and he realises that the middle of the mess hall at lunch time was probably not the best location or moment for that epiphany.

"I'm great." He tells her, taking a seat by her side.

The conversation unfolds around him, and he is pleased to note that Octavia is making a game effort to be polite to Clarke. That's a definite improvement, he decides, on anything about this morning.

He tries not to be distracted by his recent realisation. There's no reason why he should be distracted, he figures – nothing has actually changed. He has merely noticed what he can now see has been there all along. And it's not like there's any point mentioning it to her or trying to act on it. Neither of them is in any place right now to be thinking about relationships.

He's still distracted, though. He reckons he had quite enough going on in his head, what with his recent murdering spree and all, without adding an ill-timed acknowledgement of love to the mix. So, yeah, this has kind of knocked him for six, and he doesn't contribute much to the conversation.

He is caught by surprise when he realises that Abby is taking a seat at Clarke's other side, and forces himself to pay a bit more attention. He knows that Clarke has had a difficult relationship with her mother in recent months, and he needs to be ready to support her should it come to it.

"Clarke, honey, I've been looking for you all morning! I went to your room and you weren't there, and Jackson thought you'd be coming to medical but -"

"I'm fine, Mum. Really. I've – I've been spending a lot of time with Bellamy. And then we went to see Octavia and Lincoln." She explains, with a gesture across the table at them.

"Thank god you're OK. I don't know what I thought – that you'd maybe gone out into the woods or something."

"I'm OK." Clarke reiterates, deftly avoiding the subject of whether wandering out into the woods on her own is something she's ever contemplated. "But I didn't mean to worry you. I was going to come into med bay this afternoon if that's OK."

"You don't have to. Take some time off."

"I want to." She presses, and Bellamy takes a risk and reaches out to squeeze her thigh in silent reassurance under the table. "I'll see you there as soon as we're done eating."

"If you're sure."

"I am. I'll see you soon, Mum."

Abby stands up to leave at that, and Bellamy presumes the conversation is over. But Abby takes him by surprise – and takes Clarke by surprise, too, to judge from her reaction – by reaching out to pull her daughter into an enthusiastic and graceless hug. They hold each other for long seconds, and Bellamy finds himself turning to Lincoln and wondering whether he might strike up a conversation. It feels like intruding, somehow, to watch Abby and Clarke share their moment.

"Thanks, Mum." Clarke whispers, as they separate. "I needed that."

Bellamy makes a careful note of that. If Clarke needs hugs, he's only too willing to provide them.

…...

Clarke realises something as she walks from med bay to the bar that evening.

Her day could have been worse.

She's aware that she's setting a pretty low bar, there, but she thinks it's worthy of note all the same. Today may have involved one seriously unpleasant incident, but it also involved reaching a more stable friendship with Bellamy, and putting things right with Octavia, and a shift in med bay where no one died on her watch. All in all, that's pretty successful compared to her most recent few days, she decides.

She still hasn't quite dared to let herself stop and acknowledge what she's feeling. That's where she went wrong this morning, she reckons – once she started letting the tears out, she had a hard time stopping them again. So, yeah, she's still got a fair amount of trauma locked away in a box marked Mount Weather in her mind, and it's staying there for the foreseeable future. But she's made it through today in a state that is, if nothing else, rather more functional than she was feeling yesterday. She no longer finds herself concentrating abnormally hard on holding a basic conversation, and when she enters a room, she can mostly remember why she went in there in the first place.

She's not going to open that Pandora's box of guilt, tonight, but she's had such a successful day that she decides to make a start on something else. She has spent the better part of the afternoon rehearsing her words, so when Bellamy approaches her in the bar holding two portions of supper she comes right out with it, to his evident surprise.

"Thanks for making me stay. I -"

"Clarke, what -"

"No, Bellamy. Let me finish." He subsides into fidgety silence. "Thank you for getting me to stay. I might not like how you did it, but I think it was worth it. You were right to insist on it. It would only have been harder to look myself in the eye in the long term if I ran away from everyone now. And you were right to insist on me staying with you, too. We made that choice together and it's better that we have each other now."

He remains quiet for a moment, searching her eyes as if checking she is finished. "You're welcome, Clarke. I meant it when I said I couldn't have done this without you."

She gives a hollow laugh. "I've been no help so far – too caught up in my own head."

"That's not true." He argues fiercely. "You've been more help than you know."

She hums, not agreeing with him, but not inclined to have an argument. She's quite enjoying the comfortable atmosphere now that she has cleared the air between them. She takes a few bites of supper, and decides that it tastes better than usual – or perhaps that's because she's not feeling so nauseous, today.

"I can't remember the last time I ate three meals in one day." She muses out loud, but Bellamy does not appear to be listening. He is turning his spoon over in his hands as if contemplating something.

She gives him a moment to respond, but he does not seem inclined to do so.

"What is it, Bellamy?" She asks gently.

"I'm annoyed at you." He says, in a tone she thinks is jovial, but she wouldn't swear to it. "I spent all afternoon planning how I was going to apologise properly to you for making you stay. I nearly hit Miller in the head at one point I was so distracted. And you just took that opportunity away from me." Beneath his poor attempt at humour, she can hear real distress.

"If it'll help you to say it, I'll hear you out."

"I'm sorry." He begins immediately. "I'm so sorry. However desperate I was, I shouldn't have pressured you like that. It should have been your choice, and now I've put you in a situation where you get upset like you did this morning and that wasn't what I wanted for you. I should just have been honest with you, and told you it was important to me that you stay, and let you decide."

"I forgive you." She says easily.

"Just like that?"

"Just like that." She confirms. "You're Bellamy. You always try to do what's right for me, even if you don't always stop and think through the best way to go about it. And like I just said, I'm pleased I stayed."

"Thanks, Clarke."

He picks up his spoon at last and gets on with eating. She does likewise, and drinks the odd sip from her glass, too. She got them a measure of moonshine each when she arrived, because having a drink in the evening seems to be their thing, but she's left it at one each for now. She figures Bellamy can always go fetch more if he fancies it, and if not – well, she wouldn't say no to another early night.

The silence is comfortable, and that's good. But Clarke figures she has some lost time to make up for as far as being a supportive friend goes.

"Tell me about it." She invites him, while he's half way through a mouthful of supper.

"About what?" He asks her, confused and coughing.

"All of it. Any of it." She tries to sound encouraging. "The culling, the Mountain. Whatever's on your mind."

He stares at her for a long moment, then gives a wry grin. "I'm not drunk enough for that."

She frowns at him, confused and a bit disappointed. "You said it's not healthy to -"

"I know." He stops her, his grin slowly gathering genuine warmth. "I'm joking. Or – half joking. We'll talk about it one day, Clarke."

She meets his eye, raises her glass in an ages-old gesture of companionship. "I'll hold you to that."

"I won't let you down." He promises, raising his glass in turn.

They eat together for a little longer, and it's pleasant. It's nice in that unobjectionable warm way that eating with family can be, and she's not felt that way in a long time. It's not quite the dynamic she expects between her and Bellamy – they've always shared a bit more fierceness and fire, and been into tackling challenges and overcoming obstacles together. But it's good enough, in the same way that most of her day has been good enough compared to other post-massacre days she has known.

Then he suggests they get an early night, and it only gets better.

They take opposite sides of the bed again, but that's fine. She figures she'd better learn how to be human again before she starts acknowledging that Bellamy has beautiful shoulders. So, yeah, he's painstakingly careful not to touch her as they lie side by side in the darkness, but she can work with that.

She can work with that, because the last thing she hears before sleep is Bellamy's whisper wishing her a peaceful night.

Chapter Text

Bellamy gets used to waking up next to Clarke in the days that follow. There she is, without fail, every morning – a mess of blond hair and cautious sleepy smiles a polite arm's length away. She tends to smile less, once they get up and go about their day, but that's fair enough. He's beginning to realise that she finds it a lot easier to show him a smile than wear one in public, and that's more than fine by him.

They've been sharing the bed three nights when he notices her toothbrush by his washstand. And after that it's like the floodgates open – spare socks and clean pants and even art supplies start showing up in his quarters, until he wonders what on Earth can possibly be left in the room that is nominally hers.

He doesn't mention it, though. He's no fool – he knows she's still fleeing, at heart, for all that she's physically here. He sees no reason to push her away over something as petty as clarifying their living arrangements.

It's an odd situation, and he knows it. No one else of his acquaintance lives with – and politely shares a bed with – their closest friend whom they happen to have accidentally fallen in love with. But then again, everything about his relationship with Clarke has been unusual to say the least from the very moment they met.

He wakes up before Clarke, this morning, and watches her sleep for a while. He often finds himself doing that. He's not been in love before, and the whole experience is rather fascinating. It's such a messy bundle of affection and attraction and respect and protectiveness that it ought to be confusing, but somehow, when he looks over at her head on the pillow next to his, it all makes perfect sense.

"Bellamy." She whispers, eyes still closed.

"Mhmm?"

"You're watching me again, aren't you?" He fidgets a little, startled and slightly worried he might have made her feel self-conscious – but because this is Clarke, he doesn't quite feel awkward.

"Sorry." He murmurs. "I didn't mean to freak you out."

"S'OK. It's good to know you look out for me. I promise I'm not running away any time soon, though." She mumbles sleepily.

He doesn't correct her misapprehension. If she thinks he's just being protective, or checking she doesn't change her mind about staying, maybe her ignorance of his real feelings is for the best, for now.

"Breakfast?" He asks instead, turning aside before he does something really silly like reach out to rest a hand on her shoulder. They've shared the occasional daytime hug, since he watched her appreciate that hug from her mother earlier in the week, but they don't touch whilst in bed.

"Breakfast." She confirms easily.

Breakfast is one of the things they have made a success of, in recent days. Every morning without fail they brave the mess hall, and usually they sit with Lincoln and Octavia and share stories of the past.

There has been no more mention of the kill order, though, and Bellamy hates himself a little for that. He's frustrated with Clarke's silence on the matter, too – he thought that getting the kill order lifted was supposed to be their project, their opportunity to do something useful and leader-like despite their guilt and circumstances. But somehow it hasn't happened, and they've been avoiding the subject ever since.

He hates himself most of all because he knows exactly why he's avoided the subject. He cannot bear to try and take the issue any further, because he cannot face letting anyone else down. Most of all he cannot deal with the idea of failing at a moderately sized diplomatic mission hot on the heels of failing to keep the civilians of Mount Weather alive.

If he knows Clarke half as well as he thinks he does, she's avoiding the subject for exactly the same reason.

Breakfast this morning, then, is no different. They take their places at their usual table and wait for their usual companions.

"Morning." Lincoln greets them with that quiet, easy warmth that comes so naturally to him.

Bellamy envies him that, in this moment.

"Hey." Clarke is almost smiling at the newcomers. "How are you both? Sleep well?"

"Well enough. You?" Octavia asks.

Bellamy watches Clarke blanch and disguises his snort of laughter as a sudden sneeze. They haven't actually told anyone about their sleeping arrangements, but he reckons some of the people who know them best are beginning to suspect a thing or two.

"Fine." Clarke says carefully. "How about you, Bellamy?"

"I've been sleeping really well these last five nights or so." He says, with a smirk that, he is sure, will confirm all of Octavia's suspicions.

That wins him a reluctant half-smile from Clarke, and he's proud of that. He takes every one of Clarke's smiles as a personal victory while they're so rare.

"Have you got plans for the day, Lincoln?" Clarke asks, reminding him all over again why he's quite so fond of her. She's always going out of her way to make Lincoln feel part of the family, even while his own people have cast him out. Even while he knows she feels wretched herself, she won't quit trying to make Camp Jaha a better place, one small step at a time.

It makes him even more frustrated that neither of them can pull themselves together and talk about the kill order.

And then he grows only more frustrated, because of course Lincoln's plans for the day are hanging about camp and doing nothing in particular, because Bellamy has failed to clear his name.

…...

Clarke has never been so frustrated with herself in her life. For every day that the horror of Mount Weather fades from her memory, and the guilt she bears for those sins feels a little further away, she grows to hate herself even more for being so damn pathetic now. And for all that she's managed to put some distance between herself and her guilt over the Mountain, she hasn't actually dealt with it, so really she's just accumulating self-loathing at a dizzying rate.

She knows it's unhealthy, but she can't break the cycle.

Getting the kill order lifted shouldn't be the biggest challenge she and Bellamy have ever faced together. All they need to do is get in touch with Lexa and send some kind of apology, or leverage a trade deal, or offer help healing the reapers. But she just doesn't have the emotional energy to face even such a small challenge right now. And she certainly doesn't have the emotional energy to face Lexa, after that kiss and then the betrayal that followed so soon in its wake.

She therefore does what she has done for the last couple of days. She goes to med bay and tries not to think about it.

Her mother looks pleased to see her when she arrives, and silly though it is, that almost sends her over the edge. She's just so angry with herself that she can't quite bear to have her mother give her a loving smile and a cheerful wave when she walks through the door.

"Clarke, honey. Great to see you. How are you doing this morning?"

"I'm fine, Mum." She lies briskly. "Who's my first patient?"

It carries on like that for the rest of the morning. Jackson praises her for a neat solution to a pregnant woman's severe morning sickness, and Clarke finds herself repressing the urge to vomit in panic at his kind words. Abby comments that Clarke's skills have definitely improved since coming to the ground, and Clarke tries very hard not to remember the circumstances which have brought her so many opportunities to practise.

She's almost at breaking point when a child – a girl, no more than eight years old – actually outright thanks her for taking down the Mountain. The kid's dad is a member of the guard, it turns out, and so the girl was worried that her father would be fighting for the rest of his life. But then Mount Weather was defeated and so, in this child's narrative, Clarke brought peace.

Peace – and it only cost Clarke her soul.

She can't cry, of course, because this is the middle of med bay, and these people look to her as a calm and collected doctor. So she simply heads for the door and for freedom and escape and -

And for Bellamy, as she walks straight into his firm chest when he enters the room.

"Clarke." He greets her with warmth, but not with that obnoxious happiness Abby was showing her earlier. He greets her, too, with a fierce hug, as his arms wrap around her where she stands and he doesn't let go for quite some time.

"What are you doing here?" She asks, words muffled by the way her mouth still rests against his shoulder.

"Taking you to lunch."

"Lunch?" She pulls away from his embrace in panic. "I can't, Bellamy, not today. I can't eat in there with everyone -"

"In that case I'm taking you out of here." He amends, his hands still warm on her upper arms. "And then we're eating at Raven's Gate. That OK?"

She nods, relieved, and wonders for the hundredth time what she would do without him.

…...

Bellamy should have seen this coming. He knows Clarke so well – better than anyone, he's beginning to realise – and he should have been able to see the red flags for what they were. He's ashamed of himself – he likes to think he makes it his business to protect her, but today he has failed time and time again to read the signs of her deteriorating mood.

He should have known something was wrong when she hugged him like that in med bay. He was so caught up in the loveliness of having her in his arms that he didn't stop to wonder why she was drawing his hug out for so much longer than usual. Maybe a really selfish part of him didn't even see it as a sign that anything was amiss – maybe he wanted to believe that she was embracing him at such length for the sheer joy of embracing him.

But he definitely knew that her request to eat at Raven's Gate rather than in the mess hall was a sign. That's why he's so angry with himself – he knew that meant she was upset, and he just let it happen. He just fetched them some food, and sat with her, and made inconsequential chit chat while they ate. That should have been another indicator of things to come, he can see that now – he was having to put rather more effort than usual into sustaining a lighthearted conversation, and she wasn't exactly joining in.

Fool that he is, he let her go back to med bay anyway. He said goodbye to her for the afternoon, said he'd see her that evening as usual, and went on his way.

He had a decent afternoon – that's what makes him so ashamed. He knows, now, that she was falling apart at the very moment that he was laughing with Lincoln. He's made an effort to invite his sister and her boyfriend along to training with him the last few days, and they've been having a good time. When Lincoln slaps him on the back he can almost believe that he is human again. No, that's not quite right. It's more that the Mountain made inhumane monsters of them both, but that makes him feel at home with Lincoln.

So he was in good spirits when he went to the bar to look for Clarke.

But that all ends, here, now, as he settles reluctantly into his usual seat and wonders what on Earth has gone wrong.

"Clarke?" He asks, cautious. She's got half a dozen empty glasses already scattered across the table before her and the stench of moonshine hangs heavy in the air.

"Bellamy." She greets him, eyes glossy with drink and sorrow and something that looks all too much like despair. "You here for a drink?"

"I'm here for supper. We usually have supper together." He prompts her, carefully, pushing towards her one of the bowls he brought with him.

"I'm not eating supper today." She sounds very sure of that, and he wracks his brain for anything that could have caused this sudden anguish. Abby is fine, he knows – he just saw her in the mess hall. And sure, Jasper and Raven remain sour but they haven't been openly antagonistic as far as he's aware.

"Clarke -"

"I'm not eating supper today." She repeats forcefully. "Today is a drinking day. You joining me, or are you getting out of my face?"

He recoils, more hurt than he reckons he'd be if she'd slapped him. She's never spoken to him like that before – it's just not Clarke. Clearly something is very wrong today – something is beyond wrong – but no way is he going to roll over and leave her to drink herself into a stupor.

"Of course I'm joining you." He tells her, throat thick with grief. "That's what I do, isn't it? I'll – I'll get the next round if you'll tell me what's going on with you."

She pierces him with a look that is surprisingly steady for one so drunk. "I'm not talking about it. I'm drinking. Again, join me or don't."

He joins her. Of course he does. He may not recognise this angry and obviously devastated young woman, may have no idea what could possibly have happened to turn his best friend into this, but – she's Clarke. She didn't leave him, and he's not about to leave her when he so obviously needs her the most.

…...

The following morning marks the first time Clarke has ever been ashamed to wake up in Bellamy's bed. She more or less remembers what she put him through last night – the harsh words, the lack of explanation, and a huge amount of drinking – and she's disappointed beyond belief at her own poor behaviour. Sure, she was falling apart – but that's no excuse for lashing out at the one person who helps her to keep it together.

The worst thing is, she's still not ready to tell him what's wrong. She's still not ready to do anything at all, if she's being really honest, but she reckons the quicker she hops out of bed and gets on with breakfast, the sooner she can get out of his presence.

She's not often tempted to run away from Bellamy, but she just can't face his kind concern this morning. She doesn't deserve it, not after letting loose the monster that was raging inside of her last night.

"Come on. Breakfast." She suggests, with a smile they both know is fake.

"Clarke -"

"You're usually up before me." She chastises him as brightly as possible. "We don't want to be late for breakfast. Come on, breakfast awaits."

If she has to say the word breakfast one more time, she swears she will scream.

He gets the picture, then, and hears loud and clear the message she's too frightened to give him out loud. She sees him process that she's still not ready to talk, and admit defeat, and get ready to leave the room.

They're not late for breakfast, of course – quite the opposite. Clarke has rushed them so briskly out of the door that they are almost the first people to arrive at the mess hall. They are certainly there long before Octavia and Lincoln this morning, but that's just fine with Clarke.

She bolts her porridge down, pausing in between mouthfuls just long enough to offer the occasional inane comment on the weather.

As he watches her set aside her spoon, finished, Bellamy makes one last attempt. "Clarke, you know you can always tell me anything. There's no need to – to feel ashamed, of anything, between you and me."

"I know." She tells him, because she does. It's not shame that's stopping her from speaking to him – it's more that she's genuinely incapable of forming the necessary words, just now.

"That's good." He nods, jaw clenched. He's still only half way through his porridge, but she needs to get out of here. She needs to get out of here now.

"I'm sorry, Bellamy, but I have to get going. I told my mum I'd be in med bay early today."

"Sure." She can see he's finding it difficult to look relaxed about all this. In fact, she's not sure she's ever seen him look so tense. "I'll catch you later though, Clarke? And take care."

She nods, swallowing down tears at his kindness. She doesn't deserve him – she has never deserved him – but she's beginning to wonder if maybe friendship isn't about what you deserve.

She returns her bowl and leaves the mess hall. She walks across camp, waving at passing acquaintances and maintaining every semblance of a normal morning routine.

But then she gets to med bay, and she keeps walking. She walks past her supposed destination, and through the gates of Camp Jaha.

And still she keeps walking.

…...

Bellamy's morning spent on target practice with the guard should be almost enjoyable. He likes shooting, and he's good at it, and joking about with Miller reminds him of rather more innocent times. Mornings like this are the closest he ever gets to forgetting what he did only last week, and they give him hope that one day he might be able to put it out of mind for entire minutes at a stretch.

It's nowhere near enjoyable, though, on this occasion. It's not even in the same universe as pleasant enough. He's so distracted by worrying about Clarke that he can barely think straight. He still shoots straight, though – hitting a target under any circumstances is one of his better skills. In fact, the only time he can ever remember being distracted enough to miss a shot is that day he first stood rather too near to Clarke and realised he was in serious danger of falling for her.

He makes it to lunch time – barely – and goes to find her. He's spent the morning thinking of a plan or two for how he might go about helping her out. Maybe they might spend the afternoon with Octavia and Lincoln to lift her spirits. Or perhaps he should get started on making a plan to lift the kill order. That could be a nice surprise for her, he reckons – sure, he's been putting it off because he's scared witless of failing at it, but if he gets the ball rolling maybe she'll find it easier to join in and then they might both feel better about themselves. That's good enough motivation for him to consider giving it a go.

The best plan he's managed to come up with, though, is just to give her a hug.

He makes it to med bay and raises a hand towards Jackson in a gesture which, he hopes, bears some resemblance to a wave.

"Hey, Bellamy." Jackson greets him cheerily. "How are you doing?"

He can't answer that question both truthfully and politely, so he tries for a nod and gets on with asking his question. "Where's Clarke?"

Jackson's face shows a flicker of surprise. "Isn't she with you?"

"No." Bellamy explains as patiently as the panic rising in his chest will allow. "She's been here all morning. She came in early, said her mum wanted her for something particular."

"Abby's barely been here two hours." Jackson explains in confusion. "She had some Chancellor business to deal with. And Clarke's definitely not been here. We both guessed she was with you."

Jackson doesn't have to say any more than that. Bellamy understands all too well exactly what has happened here – he understands it more clearly than he can bear.

She's left. That must be what's happened – she's got everyone thinking she's somewhere else and she's run straight out the front gate. And he should have seen this happening based on the way she behaved last night, but damn it, he thought she was staying. Fool that he is, he believed her when she said that she was going to stick it out.

He's not sure who he's more angry with – her or himself. He's beyond furious that she would leave without a word. Sure, she was obviously in a bad place, but he thinks she could have had the manners to give him a heads up before straight up abandoning him like this. But he's even more bitter at his own stupidity in going and falling in love with someone who would leave him, just when he needs her the most.

He gives Jackson an excuse, one he doesn't give much thought to and won't remember later, and then he walks right back out of med bay.

Just for a second, he contemplates going after Clarke. But there's no point, and he knows it. She left hours ago, and he's no tracker. It's times like this when he could have used Finn's help. And anyway, even if he could find her, what on Earth would be the point? If she wants to leave, he won't be able to change her mind. He's already laid all his cards on the table and made it clear he wants her to stay.

He goes back to their room – his room – the room. Clarke's things are still everywhere, clothes strewn haphazardly on that chair he slept on twice, her sketchbook perched precariously on the bedside cabinet next to an empty water glass.

He sinks onto the bed and, thoroughly aware that his behaviour is absolutely pathetic, he reaches for her pillow and hugs it close. He'll remember to be angry with her later, but right now he needs a moment to admit that he's going to miss her more than he can bear.

With trembling fingers he reaches for her sketchbook and starts flipping the pages. There's a sketch of his sister that he remembers watching her draw, only a couple of days ago. She looked almost peaceful as she drew it, he seems to remember – he didn't realise, then, that she was on the point of walking out on him. And then there's a sketch of her mother giving a tired smile, then a silhouette of the hills behind Camp Jaha.

He makes it as far as a portrait of himself, laughing over a drink in the bar, salvaging some scrap of happiness from their terrible situation by sharing it with her. He makes it to that page, and then he gives up.

The tears start to fall, and he does nothing to stop them.

…...

Clarke is confused to say the least when she sees Bellamy shuffle into the bar that evening with red eyes and a tired frown, exuding misery like no one she's ever seen before. She grows only more confused when he walks straight to the counter and downs a couple of shots before making his way to their usual table.

It gets weirder. He sees her, at last, as he turns, and his glass is sent tumbling to the floor where it shatters noisily into countless fragments. A conflicted expression she cannot make sense of replaces that weariness he's been wearing like a shroud.

"Bellamy." She gets to her feet, fully intending to pull him into a hug. He looks like he needs one. And then she supposes they had better get on with clearing up the mess he just made.

"Stop it." He snaps at her, and she's not quite sure why. "Just stop it. It's not like you to do stupid shit like this. That's my job. And you just – it's not fair, Clarke. People need you. You can't just sit here getting wasted every evening. And you certainly can't just leave me like that and then pop up at supper time as if it's nothing. It's – I – I thought you were gone." And then, as his conclusion to that frankly odd collection of statements, he pulls her roughly into an overzealous hug.

She hugs him back, hard, and sorts through her thoughts. He's evidently some combination of furious and relieved that sounds like it might take a while to unpick. From what he's just said, she gathers that he feels abandoned by her taking a break today, although frankly she can't see why that should be the case. They didn't have plans as far as she's aware, and she's pretty certain he was training with Miller all day.

"I'm right here." She whispers into his collarbone. "I told you I was sticking around, and I meant it."

"Then where the hell were you at lunchtime?" He demands, still holding her tight.

She eases away from him, then, and looks him in the eye. He's certainly not happy with her – so much is clear. "Sit down, Bellamy, and let's talk about it." She decides that cleaning up that glass can wait until he appears to be in less imminent danger of falling apart at the seams.

He does as she suggests, fidgeting in his chair and fixing her with an intent stare. "Where were you at lunchtime?" He repeats. "I came to look for you and you weren't in med bay and I thought you'd left."

"You came to look for me at lunchtime." She repeats, realisation slowly dawning.

"Yeah. I know we didn't say we had plans but we've had lunch together the last few days. And you looked happy to see me coming to look for you yesterday at lunchtime and I knew you'd been having a rough time so I thought I'd come fetch you again today." He rushes out, still visibly distressed, and she feels guilty all over again.

No, she cautions herself firmly. She's not going to lapse back into self-loathing. She's got herself in a better headspace, now, and she's going to clear this up pragmatically and sensibly.

"I was at the dropship." She explains. "I didn't realise you'd be looking for me – like you said, we didn't say we had plans. I went for a walk and spent some time at the dropship and got my head in a better place." She swallows with difficulty. "I told Wells goodbye, and that he doesn't need to look out for me anymore because I've got you for that now."

Bellamy visibly softens at that. "You went to the dropship." He repeats, tone understanding.

"Yeah. Because – you're right. It's not me to do stupid shit, but for the record I don't think it's you either. I think it's time for us to do something about this kill order. We should get started on that first thing tomorrow."

He looks confused, and she can well see why. She has to concede it is a bit of a sudden change of mood from where she was at this morning. Sure enough, he asks her about that next. "You ran out of here on the verge of falling apart this morning, and now I'm supposed to believe you've just walked back in here ready to save the world again?"

"Not the whole world." She concedes. "Not all at once. I just – I needed some space. And like I said, I needed to talk to Wells. And talking to Wells made me realise I want to start talking to you, more, too. Everything's not fixed. As almost a doctor, I'm pretty sure grief and guilt aren't things you can just fix like that. But while I was out there I thought about some things and decided the best way to work on them is to get on with doing something useful and to stick with you."

He looks unconvinced. "Go on, then. What did you want to tell me?"

"Martha Richards died yesterday." Clarke forces out the words, phrases she has practised carefully countless times on her walk back from the dropship this afternoon. "She was very sick. It – it wasn't my fault."

She sees him makes sense of that the second the words are out of her mouth. "But you were her doctor. You were in med bay when she passed away. That's why you were feeling so bad yesterday and this morning. She was another person you couldn't save."

She nods, tearing up. That's fair enough, she reckons – her resolution of the day was that she would try to talk to Bellamy, not that she would always succeed at it.

"You know that's not your fault. Like you said, she was very sick." He murmurs, his earlier anger apparently forgotten.

"It felt like my fault." She confesses past the lump in her throat.

"I get that. Everything feels like my fault at the moment. I was really angry with myself when I thought you'd left, even though that makes no sense." He reaches out to give her hand a quick squeeze, and then leans back in his chair, so much more relaxed than he looked on entering the bar mere minutes ago that she cannot believe he is the same man. "Which d'you want to do, Clarke? Clean up that broken glass or fetch our supper?"

"What?"

"Two chores. Two of us. Pick one and I'll meet you back here in five."

That's it. That's the moment she realises she's gone and fallen in love with him. Heaven knows she ought to have seen it coming, but in her defence, she's had her eye on a few other priorities, of late.

He's remarkable. There is no other word she can use to describe his behaviour this evening. He was so angry at first – justifiably so, she realises now, since she's been so much worse at being here for him since they got back than he has been at supporting her – and the way he switched so quickly and with such conviction back to looking out for her, and forgiving her, and eating supper with her, has her blinking in astonishment. He's always had these qualities, of course. And she was beginning to realise she loved him before she sent him into Mount Weather. But there's a subtle difference between loving him and being in love with him, and she knows which side of the line her feelings fall now.

"Clarke?" He prompts gently, oblivious to her ill-timed realisation.

"Supper." She decides impulsively. "I want to try facing the mess hall. And I figure you deserve a break after what I put you through today. I really am sorry, Bellamy. I didn't realise you'd think I'd left."

"Already forgiven."

Of course he's already forgiven her. That's her Bellamy.

She practically runs to the dining hall, nearly knocking a passing older gentleman off his feet in the process. She mutters a hurried apology and goes on her way, almost dizzy with joy at the idea of a cheerful supper and drink with the man she's just realised she loves. Sure, she still has a shopping list of sins on her conscience, but when she looks back at recent days she reckons this evening counts as pretty damn joyful by comparison.

By the time she returns to the bar, Bellamy is sitting at their table with not a drink in sight. She sets down their food and asks a question.

"Why were you here if you thought I'd run away?" She cannot make sense of it. Why should he keep to their evening plans if he didn't expect her to show?

"I figured it was time to tell your mum you were gone. I know I've been telling you to drink less but I couldn't face doing that stone-cold sober."

"I'm sorry I put you through that."

"Like I said, we're good. You're home and I'm so relieved you're OK. I've never been so angry in my life, that too, but I'm focusing on the relief." He tells her with a warm laugh.

She stares at him a second too long. She's never seen him laugh quite like that before, and it suits him. And it makes her hate herself a little for what she's about to do. She brushes that thought firmly aside – she's practising not hating herself, and she's pretty sure this is the way to go about achieving that.

"Can we talk about Mount Weather?"

A shutter falls across his eyes, but she can see that he's trying to look encouraging. "If it'll make you feel better, go for it."

"Maya." She tells him, knowing he'll get it. "She's my biggest regret. I feel guilty about everyone else but – I regret Maya."

She doesn't necessarily expect a reply. She wants to have a go at getting some things off her chest, and he's welcome to join in, or not, as he chooses. She is pleased, then, when he does respond in kind.

"Yeah. She was good. She saved me when they were taking my blood." Clarke nods, encouraging, even though she already knows this. "I wish we'd saved her."

Clarke nods again, and goes back to her supper. Neither of them is laughing now, of course, but the atmosphere still has a lightness to it and she's proud of them both for the start they have made at processing their guilt. The stew is decent today, some combination of wild boar and root vegetables, and she's wondering about making a cheery remark on it to move the conversation in a happier direction when Bellamy surprises her.

"Sargent Lovejoy had a son." He tells her, as if she's supposed to understand what that means.

"Sargent Lovejoy?"

"The man whose uniform I took." He swallows loudly. "The man I killed. He had a little boy who went to the school and wanted to know if I'd seen the ground. He was a really polite kid and I killed his dad." Bellamy swallows again, then continues in a pained whisper. "I killed his dad, and then I killed him."

"We killed him together." Clarke whispers, reaching out to cover his hand with her own, just as he did for her on the day they are discussing. "And now we're going to work out how to live with that together, as well."

He nods, briskly, and scrubs a hand across his eyes. And then, because he is Bellamy Blake, he suggests that supper tastes like one of Jasper's more unsuccessful experiments and the subject is dropped. She helps him out with that, because she, too, has had about as much of emotional exhaustion as she can manage for one day. She tells him about the wildlife she saw on her walk, comments that the air has been growing colder in the mornings of late. He follows up on that, wondering whether the lake will freeze and they might skate like he has read about in old Earth books. And all in all they have a successful supper together, without drinking another drop of moonshine.

…...

Bellamy might have told Clarke he was angry, but it's no longer true. That surprises him, because he's self-aware enough to concede that he's always been a bit prone to angry overreactions, but he's so deeply relieved to have her back at his side and to know that she really has chosen to stay with him that his wrath seems to have scattered like so much dust in the wind.

There's something very Clarke about the conversation they have over dinner. She has decided that the pragmatic way to deal with her guilt is to do something useful, and to talk about her regrets, and so that is what she shall jolly well do. He knows there will be days when she finds that difficult – and even days when she finds it impossible – but he resolves that he will do his best to help her out on those occasions.

He's not pragmatic like Clarke. He wouldn't choose to be talking about any of this. He would probably choose to distract himself with sex, or fight someone, or yell a bit. But that's one of the reasons he's in love with Clarke, isn't it? She'll help him to do the right thing, and he'll help her to stay strong, and between them they'll be OK.

They go straight back to their room after supper, and Bellamy is more than happy to do so. He could go for an early night, especially if he gets to listen to Clarke fall asleep at his side.

"You tidied up." She observes, looking around the place in confusion.

"Yeah." He admits. "I wasn't in a good place when I thought you were gone. Your things are in a box under the bed if you want to start leaving them all over the furniture again."

She laughs at that, but it's a nervous, high-pitched sound. "Could I get a drawer?"

"What?"

"Do you have a spare drawer? Or could we get more storage? I just – it seems like I stay here a lot now and I should have somewhere tidy to put my things."

"You could get the drawers from your room if you're not staying there any more." He suggests, keeping his tone as light as possible. Given the circumstances, that's not very light at all. He can't entirely believe they're having this conversation, with all its implications of her moving in, so soon after her thought he might have lost her altogether.

"Would that be OK?"

"Of course."

"Great. Help me move them tomorrow? We should make a start on the kill order first, but after that?"

"Sure." He agrees, trying not to smile too hard.

It's a lost cause. He's grinning from ear to ear. And it seems a bit disrespectful that he's so goddamn happy after everything he did last week, but he just can't help it.

Maybe one day he might be able to put that massacre out of mind for entire minutes at a stretch.

His confidence is buoyed by that tacit admission that Clarke has moved in, and it gives him the guts to do something he's been wanting to do for a while now. When the lights are out and they are settled in the bed, he whispers a question into the darkness.

"Could I give you a hug? Just, you know, as a welcome home, and because I was worried about you -"

He stops talking rather abruptly, because a pair of enthusiastic arms are around him and squeezing him so tight he's not sure they'll ever let go.

In fact, as it turns out, Clarke doesn't let go. She relaxes a little, letting him breathe more easily, and she eventually rearranges herself so she's curled into the side of his chest rather than crushing him at an odd angle. And he wraps his arms around her in turn, and holds her close, and that is how they fall asleep.

She doesn't let go when the nightmares come for him, either. Even as he's shaking with horror at a bad dream of her leaving him to face the Mountain alone, she's there, holding onto him, telling him she's not going anywhere. And she's shifted a little by the time they wake up in the morning, but she's certainly still got an arm around his waist.

Yeah, he thinks he might be right. She's not letting him go.

Chapter Text

Clarke never intended to fall in love so soon after Finn's death and Lexa's betrayal, but as she wakes up the following morning curled around as much of Bellamy as she can reach, she decides it's a bit late to worry about that, now. Time moves strangely on the ground, anyway, she reckons. Every relationship seems more intense when death is only ever hiding behind the next tree.

She's pretty sure she'd have fallen in love with Bellamy sooner or later either way.

He tends to wake up before her, so this makes a pleasant change, she decides, nuzzling into his chest a little while he's asleep and can't read anything amiss in her behaviour. She's in something of a quandary, really – she's feeling cautious about admitting her love, even to herself, and she's terrified at the idea of displaying too much affection, because she feels like if her feelings are allowed to become real the universe is bound to object and take him away from her. That's what happened to her father, and to Wells, and to Finn, after all. On the other hand, she kind of wants to sing about it from the rooftops. She has this deep and instinctive need to show Bellamy that he's loved, because she knows she doesn't show him often enough how much she values him.

That's what she's going to do, she resolves. She's going to show him that he is valued, and that he's important to her, and that she wants to take care of him, just like he has always taken care of her. But she's not ready to put on display the more romantic side of her love just yet, and she figures that's fair enough. She doesn't need to be ready to face everything all at once – yesterday, the mess hall, today, the kill order.

Bellamy is starting to stir, now, tightening his arm about her shoulders a little more as if worried she's about to up and leave again.

"Morning." She whispers, suddenly feeling almost shy after the closeness of yesterday evening.

"Morning. Glad to see you're still here."

She stiffens at that, and starts spluttering out incoherent noises of apology and concern and shame.

"Clarke. Hey. I didn't mean that to upset you. I guess I was trying to be honest with you, like when we talked last night. I was trying to tell you I'm still scared you might disappear."

She's beyond proud of him for taking her words to heart, now that she understands he didn't mean to criticise her. "Thank you, Bellamy. I swear I'm not going anywhere."

"That's not all I meant by you disappearing. Anything could happen to you on the ground."

"Nothing is happening to me." She reassures him, with one last squeeze of her arm about his waist before she sits up and makes a start on getting out of bed. "Breakfast?"

"Breakfast." He nods, all business, and makes a start on dressing for the day.

…...

Eating with Octavia and Lincoln is always one of the better things about his day, Bellamy thinks. He has loved his sister all her life, but their relationship has shifted to something a little more positive of late. They've passed that period where he was essentially a father figure to her when she was younger, and they've made it through the disagreements that came with their arrival on the ground and her desire for rather more freedom. And now they get to try a new phase in their relationship, where they are both young adults living their lives, yet still they are family.

He reckons part of the reason Octavia is in such a good mood with him recently is his acceptance of Lincoln. But it would be difficult to do anything other than accept Lincoln – he may be the size of a house and considerably older than her, but he's also completely genuine and obviously cares deeply for her. And he did save her life a month or so ago – that definitely counts in his favour.

Of course, the other wonderful thing about mealtimes spent with Octavia and Lincoln is Clarke. He enjoys the four of them chatting together, and he notes that this daily breakfast could almost look like such a thing as a double date, if he squints. That's a leisure activity he could never have dreamed of on the Ark – his sister could hardly have had a date whilst living beneath the floor, and he couldn't have any kind of serious relationship whilst hiding that secret.

He's getting ahead of himself, he remembers abruptly, shocked into concentration by the sound of Clarke's buoyant laugh. This isn't a double date, because Clarke isn't dating him.

"Bellamy?" She turns to him, confusion in her gaze.

"Yeah?"

"Are you OK? You seem distracted."

"I'm fine." He lies brightly.

"Lincoln was just telling us a story about pranking Indra when he was a boy." She fills him in patiently, explaining why she was laughing just now. She still looks amused, actually, joy in the curve of her mouth, and it does his heart good to see it. He reckons it suits her.

"Thanks. Sounds good." He nods a little, frustrated with himself for being so monosyllabic. He takes a careful mouthful of breakfast, and all the while Clarke is looking at him with something rather like concern.

He thinks he feels a hand rest lightly on his thigh, just for a moment, but maybe he's imagining that.

Octavia moves the conversation along, then, to speculation about what might be on the training schedule for the guard today. Clarke throws Bellamy a loaded look, and he knows that's his cue.

He takes a deep breath, and prays that this time he might manage to be a little more loquacious.

"We're actually not going to training this morning, O. We're going to work out what to do about this kill order. We've put it off long enough."

She nods, enthusiastic. "Great. Let's get on with it, then."

"Can we wait till we've eaten?" Clarke asks, sounding almost shy. "I just – it's only – Bellamy and I -"

"You're not that comfortable in here?" Lincoln finishes the thought for her. "I don't blame you. Me neither. It's better when we're with you two though, right, O? We get less dirty looks with you here too."

Bellamy watches Clarke gulp in shock. "People are openly rude to you when we're not here?"

"Of course they are. We don't fit in." Octavia shrugs, and Bellamy feels a stab of guilt. He's been so worried about himself and Clarke that he never stopped to wonder how people behaved towards his sister and her boyfriend when he wasn't looking.

"I'm so sorry, O."

"Don't be. Not everything is your responsibility, big brother."

…...

They go back to Octavia and Lincoln's quarters to make their plan, and Bellamy is glad of it. He thinks a bit of privacy is a good idea for all their sanity while they discuss this. Part of him, though, would rather they used his and Clarke's room. He has to admit that he already feels more comfortable there than he's felt in any home since his mother was floated.

He brings his focus back to the matter at hand.

"We should keep it simple." Lincoln suggests. "My people don't like anything too much like playing tricks."

"We should just send a message to the Commander. Someone like Nyko or Indra would take a message for us." Octavia offers.

Bellamy is pretty sure that's the worst idea he's ever heard. "Why should that work? The Commander betrayed us. She's not going to lift a kill order just because we ask nicely." He knows he sounds disparaging of his sister's suggestion, but that's because he thinks it's naive at best – and outright laughable at worst.

"She might if she thinks Clarke is asking nicely." Octavia clarifies in a tone he cannot quite make sense of.

"What's that supposed to mean?" He asks, wondering why Lincoln will not meet his eye.

"Lexa takes a lot of interest in Clarke's opinions." He's becoming increasingly convinced that Octavia is teasing, but he cannot for the life of him work out why.

"Octavia -" Clarke begins, voice firm with a warning.

"Hasn't she told you, big brother? Hasn't she mentioned that while you were risking your ass in that mountain because she told you to, she was getting cosy with Lexa?"

Bellamy sits, stunned and stupid, and stares at his sister for long seconds. No, as it happens – Clarke hasn't told him anything about this. He risks a peek at Lincoln, now, and then turns to look at Clarke. From the embarrassment on both their faces he's pretty sure Octavia's telling the truth.

It makes sense, he tells himself, slapping his thigh in a vain attempt to pull his mind back to the present. That would explain why Octavia was quite so hostile to Clarke when they got back here, and it certainly explains how Clarke managed to make peace with Lexa in the first place. He's not an idiot – he saw something in the way Lexa looked at her, but he never quite realised anything actually happened. He certainly had no idea Clarke was interested in her, too. Sure, Octavia didn't quite say that outright – but from her tone, and from the look on Clarke's face, it is obviously the truth.

He feels stupid. He feels like the biggest fool in the world. For crying out loud, he never even realised Clarke was into women, too. And yeah, he knows that makes him prejudiced and shortsighted and a bit of a monster. But he's already established he's a monster, so what's new?

The worst thing is, these three people he loves and respects are just sitting here watching him fall apart at this news. Octavia looks victorious, and he's furious with her for that. He genuinely thought she was on good terms with Clarke, now. Lincoln looks apologetic, and sympathetic, and like he's half-tempted to offer a hug.

And Clarke? For the first time since he met her, Clarke looks awkward.

Bellamy casts about for the tattered remains of his dignity and has a go at speaking. "We should use that to our advantage, then. Maybe Lexa will pardon you as a favour to Clarke."

"She betrayed us." Clarke points out, tone unreadable. "But maybe it's worth a try. We need someone who can get direct access to her to take the message – I suggest Indra."

"Indra's a good choice. We know she won't hurt me if I can find her and speak to her." Octavia adds, apparently content to play nice again now she has dropped that recent bombshell.

"It should be me and Octavia who go to meet with Indra. Lincoln really can't go outside because he escaped. Octavia needs to be the one to find Indra. And she shouldn't go alone, so I should join her. If – if we're right and Lexa cares about me, no one will hurt me." Clarke concludes, staring at the floor, still looking distinctly awkward about this whole conversation.

Normally, of course, Bellamy would pick approximately three thousand holes in that plan. He'd start with the fact that it involves both Clarke and his baby sister going out into danger without backup. He'd mention, too, the naivety of thinking they can just walk out into Trikru territory and demand to see Indra. And then, once he'd highlighted everything that was actually wrong with it, he'd keep bickering with Clarke about it for something to do and to keep their minds off the danger, because that's what they do for each other.

But today, he's not really up for that.

"Great." He agrees, standing up and shoving his hands in his pockets with such force that he snags a fingernail or two in the process. "Great plan. Let's try that tomorrow."

With that, he bolts from the room.

…...

Clarke finds him several hours later. No, it's better than that. She ambushes him as he's leaving the men's bathroom. He's impressed with her persistence, actually – he rather presumed he wasn't going to see her again until dinner.

He's pleased to see her, and that annoys him. The odd mixture of betrayal and jealousy and incongruous relief he feels at her appearance is going to take him a while to get his head around.

"You missed lunch." She says, handing him a hunk of bread, still wearing that awkward look he hated so much this morning.

"Yes." He agrees. "Kane asked me to take a hunting party out." It's not quite the truth. Technically, it was Bellamy who suggested the idea, but Clarke doesn't need to know that.

"Did you catch much?"

He shrugs, chewing on a mouthful of bread. Damn Clarke and her insistence on being a kind friend and bringing him food when he wants to be annoyed with her.

She takes a deep breath, and he prepares himself for something he won't want to hear. "Listen, Bellamy, I wanted to talk to you -"

"Clarke, if this is about what Octavia said, I don't want to talk about it. We don't need to talk about it."

"We're talking about it." She insists, much to his frustration. "I want you to know what actually happened. Because Octavia was right, it wouldn't have been fair for me to start something while you were on that mission. So I didn't. She kissed me, once. And I said I wasn't ready. And that was it."

There's a hell of a difference between not ready and not interested, he frets. But he can't tell her that bothers him, so he tries for a carefree expression.

"It's fine, Clarke. I just felt like an idiot for missing it. I thought I knew you better than that. And I'm sorry she betrayed you. That must have really hurt if you were interested in her."

"Bellamy -"

"No. That's it. That's all we need to say. You're welcome to kiss whoever you like." With that, he starts striding away from her. He only came here for a piss, for god's sake, not for some caring and sharing session.

"No." She stops him with a hand clasped firm about his forearm. "That's not all we need to say. I need to say that she betrayed me, and I'm staying here with people who won't do that to me. With you, who'd do anything to protect me."

Before he can decide whether that means what his heart wants it to mean, she is gone.

…...

Bellamy's face still doesn't look right when he walks into the bar that evening, and that bothers Clarke. He's got a bowl of supper in each hand, though, so she supposes she ought to smile and pretend that everything is rosy between them.

Everything isn't rosy between them, though, she's pretty sure. She doesn't know what it means that he reacted that way to finding out about her kiss with Lexa – is it jealousy she can see in the lines creasing his forehead, or is he just feeling affronted that she was enjoying a spot of kissing while he was putting his life on the line at her command?

The only way to learn the answer for certain, she knows, would be to ask him. And she's sure as hell not trying that any time soon after that stilted conversation they had this afternoon.

She knows there are more important issues they should be working on right now, but if this is going to come between her and Bellamy it's bound to take up a disproportionate amount of her energy. In fact, now she comes to think about it, any issue that comes between her and Bellamy is by definition an important one – because her relationship with him is incredibly important to her. If this is making him feel hurt or confused, then it's only right that it should be her priority.

She remembers the resolution she came to in bed this morning, that she was going to try to make him feel valued, and sets about doing so with considerable determination.

"Hey. Thanks for bringing supper." She tries to infuse her voice with warmth.

"No problem." He sounds robotic to say the least.

"It's sweet of you to fetch food every evening. Maybe I should start meeting you at the mess hall and save you the trouble?" He doesn't reply, just looks at her in confusion, so she presses on. "Can I get you a drink?"

He considers that for a moment. "Yeah, go on. Thanks."

She spends the walk to the bar considering her options carefully. She's already asked him about his hunting trip without success. It doesn't seem like a good moment to remind him of the furniture they were supposed to move from her room to theirs today – she's not completely sure it is theirs, any more, after the way he spoke to her this afternoon. And she's obviously keen to avoid any mention of the plan for tomorrow so as not to bring up again any thought of Octavia's comments about Lexa.

By the time she makes it back to the table and sets down their drinks, she has a plan.

"So Octavia is named after a Roman? Someone you used to like reading stories about?" History was never her best thing, but she figures she just needs to get him talking.

"Yeah." He looks puzzled. "Why the sudden change of subject?"

"Just trying to get to know you better. I know that you snore a little and can shoot straight, and roughly how many people you've killed. But I wanted to learn more about what your interests are." She finds herself fighting a blush as she stares determinedly at her dinner. This is starting to sound awfully like that horrifically awkward conversation she had the last time she tried to go on a date, back on the Ark.

Of course, this is Bellamy, so the conversation does not turn out to be awkward at all.

"You'll wish you'd never asked." He threatens, already growing visibly more relaxed. "I could bore you all evening with stories about Greek heroes and Roman emperors."

"Go on then." She challenges him, eyebrow quirked, relieved to find that her conversational gambit has met with success.

He is as good as his word – almost. He does keep up a continuous stream of stories over supper, but she isn't bored. It's fabulous listening to him speak with such animation, and she rather enjoys the view as his eyes soften when he talks about something he so obviously loves. She'd give anything to get to know this side of him better, this side where he shows his big heart through tales and conversation, not by protecting people in the heat of battle.

In moments like this, she can almost forget that Mount Weather ever happened.

The mood is lighter, then, by the time they walk back to their quarters. He doesn't seem surprised that she joins him, but she decides to leave any more mention of moving drawers for another day, just in case. She now knows everything there is to know about Achilles – or at least, she feels like she does – and she likes to think that Bellamy now knows she'd rather share stories with him than share kisses with Lexa. That was the message she was trying to deliver, with every encouraging nod and well-timed laugh, and she hopes that he received it.

She's full of optimism as she changes for bed and slips under the covers. Things are back to normal between them, she's sure they are, and they're going to cuddle under the blankets like they did last night and they will be OK, the two of them, sticking together.

Only then he positions himself as far from her as possible in the decent-sized bed, perched right on the edge of the mattress, and he even has his back to her for good measure.

She genuinely nearly cries. It's stupid, and it's petty, but it's barely twenty four hours since she realised she loves him, and now he won't even look at her, all for the sake of an ill-timed kiss.

She can't ask him for a hug. She tries, but she just can't get the words past her lips.

She rolls over, her back to his back, empty space in between them, and notes in a detached sort of way that she seems to have started hating herself all over again.

…...

Bellamy is bored of nightmares.

There's just something so tiresome about having his sleep disturbed, night after night, by a repetitive succession of essentially similar bad dreams. They often involve Octavia being arrested, or his mother being floated, or Clarke falling in that spiked pit. And if it's not the people he loves, then it's the people he didn't care about in the slightest until they were dead – the victims of the culling, the grounders at the dropship, the civilians of Mount Weather.

So, yeah, he thinks he's seen it all. Every bit of trauma he represses during the day, repeating on a nauseating loop by night.

Tonight there's something new. Clarke and Octavia are setting out to look for Indra, and it feels so very real, because he knows this is happening tomorrow. But then Octavia comes back alone, and he's angry about that, in the dream, because he thinks Clarke has left him. He thinks she's wandered off into the woods without him, or gone to visit Lexa, or goodness only knows what.

Then his sister tells him Clarke's dead, and he sobs himself awake.

"You're OK, Bellamy, you're OK." Clarke whispers as he comes to his senses. "I'm right here, and I've got you."

That does seem to be true, he notes with confused detachment. He seems to be curled up against her with his head on her chest, and he's not sure how he ended up here. He distinctly remembers them going to bed on very opposite sides of the mattress.

"Clarke?" He's not sure what he's asking, only that his mind is swimming with questions.

"You're OK." She strokes the hair back from his forehead. "I'm not going anywhere."

He accepts that as the truth, and sinks into her embrace for a moment while he tries to relax. No one's ever held him like this before – why would they have done? He's always been the protector of his family, has never really had anyone to look after him. And certainly none of his one night stands has ever branched out into comforting him in such a way.

He could get used to it, and that worries him. He could get used to having Clarke watch out for him, with that remarkable combination of human warmth and fierce fire that she balances so well. And then where would he be, if ever she did actually go and leave him?

That's a question for another day, he decides. Because lying here in her arms is beautiful beyond belief – almost worth having a nightmare for – and so he decides not to question his good fortune. She's a lot smaller than him, of course, but strangely his head fits rather well pillowed on her breasts and the whole situation is quite comfortable.

Well, it's comfortable for him. It occurs to him rather suddenly that it might not be so pleasant for her.

"I'm sorry. I must be squashing you." He tries to pull away, but she's holding him tight.

"You're fine. Stay here as long as you want to." She needs to be careful, he muses, or he might just stay here all night.

"Thanks."

"That sounded like a bad one. Do you want to talk about it?"

"It was about you and O heading out tomorrow. You – you died." He knows she's still alive, can feel her heartbeat beneath his cheek, but it's a struggle to get the words out all the same.

"We'll take care. I promise we will. You know it's the best plan."

He nods against her. He doesn't much like letting them go out there without him, but he knows Clarke is speaking sense. Speaking sense is what she does, after all.

"Clarke?"

"Mhmm?"

"Thanks for staying."

She laughs a little at that, a sweet, warm sound. "You don't need to thank me for that every day."

"Message received. Every other day from now on."

He's still smiling in her arms when he drifts off once more.

Chapter Text

Bellamy watches Clarke and Octavia leave Camp Jaha the following morning with his heart in his mouth. No, that's not quite right – it's more like his heart is there, with them, and he's watching them carry it casually out into the unknown.

He doesn't know what he'll do if either of them doesn't come home. And if neither of them comes home – well, that possibility doesn't even bear thinking about.

"Go find something to do, Bellamy." Lincoln recommends, slapping him on the shoulder in a vaguely supportive manner. "No good standing here staring at the trees all day. Trust them to come back to you."

"Have you got plans?" He asks, an idea beginning to form.

"I'll keep myself out of trouble." Lincoln says, not meeting his eyes. Bellamy's pretty sure that's code for I don't want to be a bother to anyone.

"I've got a better idea. You're helping me move some drawers." Bellamy declares.

"Drawers?"

"And maybe a bedside cabinet. We'll see what we can find."

"What's going on?" Lincoln asks, eyes narrowing in suspicion.

At that, Bellamy realises very abruptly that he's made a mistake. There is no way of telling Lincoln what's going on without admitting that Clarke shares his bed, these days. And that's not something he's discussed with her, but he's pretty sure she doesn't want the whole world to know. But she does want drawers – she said so, only two days ago – and it seems like it would be a cheerful surprise for her to come home to. And it's a selfish move on his part, too, because he reckons it would reassure him that her place in his life and in his room is likely to last. Apart from anything else, it would keep him and Lincoln busy, so that's another point in favour of this idea he's become so irrationally attached to so quickly.

"A friend asked me to move some stuff between rooms." He says, as vaguely as possible.

Lincoln still looks suspicious. "And this is legal? And there's no funny business? And you've got the key cards for the rooms?"

"No funny business. This – ah – friend was very keen on the idea."

"And you've got the keys?"

"I've got one of the keys." He hedges, already walking towards Clarke's old quarters. "And I've got Miller."

Sure enough, Miller is easily convinced to skip a morning's training to break into a room and do some heavy lifting. Even more conveniently, Miller's dad is in charge of the cadets for the day and waves them all away with an indulgent smile, saying something about how they deserve a break as they go.

A break is not what they get. Not in the slightest. Because Miller succeeds in coaxing open Clarke's door, and then the three of them spend the next couple of hours hefting significant amounts of furniture across Camp Jaha.

It's silly, because Clarke only asked for a drawer. But now that he's had this idea, Bellamy cannot even consider doing anything other than going all in. His room is big, courtesy of Abby's gratitude all those weeks ago, but rather bare. Clarke's old room is smaller, but as the daughter of a wealthy family she has more childhood possessions than most – a good dozen changes of clothes, some spare sketching materials, and even a handful of books. So it is obvious, surely, that he decides to take every last belonging from Clarke's old quarters and move them to the place they now share.

He does experience a moment of doubt, just for a heartbeat, a couple of minutes in. Only yesterday he seems to remember feeling upset and jealous and rejected on finding out about Clarke and Lexa kissing. And moving in together does seem like a bit of a big surprise to spring on her while she's not looking.

No, he reminds himself firmly. Clarke was the one who brought up the idea of moving some of her things into his room in the first place. She won't be angry – it will be, he reminds himself, a pleasant surprise. And living together properly will only serve to consolidate the closeness they began to build in the aftermath of his nightmare last night. Really, when he looks at it like that, this is a perfectly sensible way of encouraging her to stick around.

"You going to tell us why you're breaking into your girlfriend's room instead of just borrowing the key?" Miller asks with a grin as he flips through a sketchbook on the desk.

"She's not my girlfriend." Bellamy answers on reflex.

"That's even weirder, man. You going to tell us why you're breaking into the room of a woman who's not your girlfriend?"

"To move her stuff."

"Yeah, yeah. You said that. Still weird." Miller holds out the sketchbook, open at a drawing of Bellamy's face he pretends not to see. "Still not your girlfriend?"

"Still not my girlfriend." He insists patiently, ignoring the way his heart does funny things at the combination of picture and question.

"Sure. Whatever you say. Where are we taking her stuff?"

"To – erm – her new room." Damn it, he did not think this far ahead. "I've got the key for that!" He declares proudly, hoping this might make the whole situation look a little less weird.

"Great." Lincoln has been silent so far, but now he lifts a substantial chest of drawers as if it is a bouquet. "Lead the way."

It's not that he's feeling threatened by Lincoln's strength, or competitive, or anything like that. But all the same, Bellamy takes great care to appear as unbothered as possible as he hefts a bedside cabinet and sets out down the hallway.

It's a long journey, unfortunately. People give them odd looks as they pass, but that's fine. He'd rather have people whispering behind his back because he looks like a twit hugging an article of furniture than because he recently committed genocide. And by the time they approach the apartment, Bellamy is starting to regret the moment of impulsive masculinity that had him trying to lift anything like what Lincoln chose.

Lincoln still looks completely calm, of course. Typical. And Miller's not even carrying furniture – he's got a bundle of clothes over his arm and a cocky grin on his face.

"Quite near your room, this new room of Clarke's, isn't it?" Miller asks, all innocence.

Bellamy doesn't answer. He's not sure he can – turns out being able to survive on the ground and being a removal man are rather different skill sets. This thing is awkward, damn it, and bulky, and -

And here they are.

"This is it." He sets down the cabinet and reaches for his key card. And then he opens the door, and avoids Miller's eye for all he is worth.

"Very near your room, this new room of Clarke's." Miller offers, sniggering hard. "She must be living right on top of you."

"Miller -"

"I thought this was damn weird to start with. But you have got to be kidding me if you think I'm going to let this go now. You wanted me to break into your girlfriend's room so we could move her stuff into your room?"

"Still not my girlfriend." He corrects, again, because he cannot afford to let that go. If he allows people to get away with using that word, he fears he might be in danger of starting to think of her in those terms himself.

"Their room." Lincoln insists, quiet but firm.

"What?" Miller asks, confused.

"Their room. They've been sharing it since Mount Weather. We're just moving Clarke's stuff in while she's out with Octavia but we forgot to ask for the key." Lincoln sounds completely calm, and Bellamy stares at him in shock. He knew they were over half way to becoming friends but this – this is an unexpected development in the department of having his back. Not to mention, he never told Lincoln they were sharing the room at all. Damn him, the intelligent, observant man.

"Yeah." Bellamy tries to gather his wits. "Exactly. We've been roommates for a while." He tries for a shrug. "Come on, let's go fetch the next load."

Lincoln places his burden against a wall and sets out. Miller drops the clothes on the bed and speaks to Bellamy, just as they are leaving the room, in a voice scarcely louder than a whisper.

"Just one problem with your roommate not girlfriend story, man. You've only got the one bed."

…...

Bellamy manages to distract himself for most of the day by spending time with Lincoln and Miller. They move Clarke's things. They eat lunch. They even have a sort of impromptu wrestling lesson, by the end of which Lincoln can still take down both Miller and Bellamy single-handed, but it at least now takes him longer than three minutes.

The sun is beginning to set when Bellamy gives up on pretending he's not concerned. Miller wants to go meet up with his dad, so Bellamy and Lincoln sit together on a rock by the gates and get on with worrying about their womenfolk.

"They'll be OK." Lincoln says, for the fourth time inside twenty minutes. "They know what they're doing."

Bellamy doesn't doubt Octavia or Clarke's competence. But after the challenges life has thrown at them, he's seriously beginning to doubt their luck.

"They'll be back soon." Lincoln asserts, less than usefully.

Bellamy hums, unconvinced. He's not a very good conversational partner when half way to mad panic. It's pretty dark, now, and he's struggling to pick out much detail in the treeline opposite them.

"Clarke will be happy you moved her things." Lincoln offers. Bellamy is beginning to realise that his sister's boyfriend is rather tenacious.

"Do you think she will?" He asks, because worrying about whether Clarke will be annoyed with his presumption seems like a more comfortable prospect than worrying about whether she is dead. "You know I didn't exactly tell her I was planning that?"

"I know. She'll be happy, trust me." The thing that surprises Bellamy is that he is, in fact, a solid eighty percent of the way to trusting Lincoln – on this, and on pretty much everything else.

Bellamy lets the silence sit for a moment. He wonders if it's time to suggest they go to supper. They could save some food for Clarke and Octavia, who are evidently going to miss the mealtime at this rate, and it would give them something to do other than sitting here and worrying. Yeah, that's what they should -

"There they are." Lincoln declares, in a voice that is almost calm. But Bellamy knows him better than that, by now – he can hear the excitement and sheer relief bleeding through.

"You can see them?" He asks, perplexed, squinting out into the darkness.

"Yeah. Don't they teach you to see in the dark in your Earth Skills?" Lincoln teases.

Bellamy lets him have that one, rather preoccupied with standing and jogging to the gate. And then the guards' flashlights are catching on two small figures, and then he's running with little regard for his dignity out into the night and throwing his arms around a rather surprised Clarke.

"You're OK." He murmurs into her hair, half reassurance, half exclamation of relief.

"Yeah. It went well. I'm sorry we're back late."

"We were starting to worry." He admits, forcing himself to pull away. Octavia and Lincoln are still wrapped up in each other, kissing with considerable enthusiasm, but Bellamy reminds himself firmly that he's not supposed to behave like that around Clarke.

Sadly, his body doesn't always get that memo.

Steeling his resolve, he takes an entire step away from her. "What happened?" He asks.

"We managed to find Indra. No one killed us on the way. She agreed to take a message to the Commander." Clarke summarises. Bellamy has a feeling it was probably more complicated than that – why else would they be so late home? - but Clarke does not appear interested in being more forthcoming.

"How's Indra?" Lincoln asks, finally disengaging from Octavia's lips.

"Good." Octavia responds. "She was happy to see us."

"She was happy to see you." Clarke corrects her. "She asked after you, too, Lincoln. She'd be interested in having more contact with Camp Jaha. She said just because the Commander broke the terms doesn't mean we can't still trade between ourselves."

"She said that?" Lincoln appears shocked. "Indra?"

"She's a sensible woman, she sees the advantages." Clarke points out. "Not to mention she's got a soft spot for Octavia." They all smile at that, and Bellamy has to admit that his sister does look happy for having seen her old mentor.

"So it was a success?" He reiterates. It sounds like it's all been too simple, so far.

"If you count three hours hiding in a ditch and four being guarded like prisoners as a success, sure." Octavia sounds rather blasé about that development.

"Prisoners?" He repeats, stunned. Why did Clarke not mention that sooner?

"Stop worrying about us. We're OK. Just another day on the ground, and we got the message through. Success." Clarke soothes, giving him a tired smile.

He supposes he ought to leave it at that. He trusts Clarke's judgement. But, for the record, he's mad with her for deciding that four hours of imprisonment isn't worth mentioning. He's mad at her, but more relieved she's OK.

"We should eat." Octavia suggests, apparently similarly unconcerned by the stresses of the day. Maybe Clarke's right – maybe this is just something that comes with the territory.

"Yeah." Lincoln agrees. "But I think Clarke needs to go drop her pack at her room, first."

Bellamy frowns a little, understanding all too well what his friend is trying to achieve. He somehow thought he had more time before Clarke would be confronted with the evidence of how they'd spent their morning, but he cannot see any good excuse for delaying her.

"Yeah. This thing is feeling heavy. We'll see you there." She says with a nod, grabbing Bellamy by the elbow and setting off in the direction of their room.

Well, then. At least she really does consider their room as her room. That's promising. He supposes that maybe he ought to warn her, or something, before they get there. How is he supposed to go about doing that? Telling a woman he loves that he's moved her into his room without warning is not exactly something he has a lot of experience of.

"Clarke?" He asks, disappointed at the nervousness in his own voice.

"Yeah? What is it? You doing OK?"

"Yeah." He sucks in a breath, and realises the short journey is mostly over and he is running out of time.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you about being captured." She says, laying a light hand on his arm. "I didn't want to worry you, but I didn't mean you to feel lied to."

"That's OK." He shakes his head. "That's not -"

"It really was a success." She repeats, as they round the last corner. "And I talked things out with Octavia, too, after – after she brought up Lexa the other day, you know? In fact -"

"Clarke." He interrupts her, mere metres from their threshold. "Just – when we open the door, don't freak out, OK?"

She frowns at him, confused, but nods firmly.

Breathing carefully, Bellamy walks forward. He takes his keycard from his pocket, reminds himself for the fifteenth time inside five minutes that Clarke did ask for drawers, and opens the door.

He keeps a close watch on her face, alert to the slightest sign of freaking out, but she barely bats an eyelid. It's almost anticlimactic, actually.

"I guess I should give my old keycard back to the Chancellor, huh?" She asks lightly, taking a look around the room as she drops her bag at the foot of the bed.

"Maybe." He hedges, unsure of her reaction. "We can ask for a second key for this place for you, if you want?"

"Sounds like a plan." She agrees easily, still looking about her in open curiosity. Curiosity is much better than panic, he decides, but he'd give anything to know what she actually thinks of this surprise.

He can't deal with the suspense any longer. He can feel himself cracking, on the verge of asking her whether -

"I should have known that if I asked for drawers you'd move everything I own. Typical." She smiles and pulls him into a rather fierce and utterly unexpected half hug, one arm around his waist, her cheek burrowing insistently into his shoulder. "You just can't do anything half-heartedly, can you? This must have taken you hours."

From her tone and from the hug, he supposes she's happy. But she hasn't said she's happy, so he's not about to count his metaphorical chickens just yet.

"Lincoln and Miller helped me. We had a good time hanging out along the way. I hope you don't mind me asking them – I guess that means that they, you know, they know where you live now."

She brushes that concern away with a wave of her hand. She's not technically hugging him any more, but she's still leaning up against him, and overall he's beginning to hope that there are more good vibes here than bad.

"Thanks, Bellamy. God, that sounds pathetic – thanks when you've done all this. But I mean it. And I'll thank Miller and Lincoln next time I see them, too."

"So you're OK with this?" He checks, not quite ready to wilt with relief until he hears her say it explicitly.

"OK with this?" She echoes, incredulous. "Of course I am. I asked you for help, as I remember, not to do it all for me, but it's a nice surprise to come home to."

"Great." He replies, allowing that relieved and somewhat ecstatic grin to split his cheeks at last. "Supper?"

"Supper." She confirms, taking one last look around the room as she leaves.

…...

Clarke has read a fair amount of old Earth literature. She's not as obsessed with the books of days gone by as Bellamy is – she was always more of a biology geek at school, herself – but she's familiar with idioms about feeling warm and fuzzy. She's no stranger to the idea that warmth and fuzziness are supposed to happen when a person does something to show that they care.

Up until today, though, she always thought it was utter crap. She was positive it was some poetic rubbish, a figure of speech with no basis in actual fact. But now, as she walks towards supper at Bellamy's side and thinks about him moving her things into their room as a lovely surprise for her to come home to, she genuinely does feel a buzz of coziness stealing over her chest.

One glance across at his face is enough to show her that he's feeling pretty content with the situation, too. He's wearing a genuine smile of open happiness, which is a rare sight in recent times, but he also looks relieved, she's pretty sure. And she does seem to remember that he looked nervous before showing her what he'd been up to. He's a silly man, she decides affectionately. What was there to be nervous about? She did say she wanted to move in. Sure, she didn't necessarily say it in actual words or whole clear sentences, but she implied it pretty heavily and, in her defence, he's always been great at understanding everything she isn't saying, before now.

"I'm having a good day." She whispers to him in a confidential tone. "We found Indra, you moved my stuff."

He looks surprised, and she doesn't blame him. Good days have been in short supply, of late. "Happy to hear it. I'm having a good day now you two are home in one piece."

She walks a little closer to him at that, and he does her the kindness of pretending not to notice. She summons her courage, and tries for the next step of her good day. It seems like the perfect opportunity, she reckons, to push her luck and try for a bit of progress in a rather different area.

"If Raven's at supper could we sit with her?" Clarke asks, before she can lose momentum.

"Sure." Bellamy says, tone carefully light. He's got a talent for this, she muses affectionately. A talent for helping her face things that frighten her by backing her up when she wants to pretend they're no big deal.

Octavia and Lincoln are hovering outside the mess hall and waiting for them as they arrive. Clarke blinks a little at that – it's been a while since she had steady friendships that were built around making plans and waiting to meet up. They take their supper with no complications, and then Bellamy points out Raven and Gina, sitting together at a table on the edge of the room.

At least they're not in the thick of the crowd, Clarke tells herself carefully. Sure, she had bargained without Gina to complicate things, but it's fine. That sunshine girl is surely not going to be any obstacle to a bit of reconciliation.

She makes her way towards them, her friends following her closely. She knows she ought to have practised some words, or made a plan for how she wanted to set about putting things right, but in this moment only the most simple of greetings comes to mind.

"Raven. Hey. Do you mind if we sit here?" She asks.

Raven blinks, confused, for perhaps two seconds. And then she gets on with being Raven. "Go for it. As long as you didn't get the panther meat – I swear that stuff stinks."

"Panther was our first meal on the ground." Bellamy informs her, taking his seat with every appearance of ease. He pats the chair at his side with a look at Clarke, and she takes him up on his hint with a strained smile.

"It stank then, too." Clarke offers. As peace gestures go, it's not a very sophisticated one, but as Raven laughs with only a little false brightness she supposes it will do the job.

"Meat is meat." Lincoln points out philosophically. He has, of course, a plate full of some identifiable stew simply because it was the option the kitchens had the greatest excess of. He does take being community spirited to unusual lengths, Clarke thinks. She knows it's largely out of guilt that he's living here at all, since the kill order, but all the same she is filled with a burst of affection for her newest friend.

"What have you guys been doing today?" Gina asks perkily, because of course she does.

"Octavia and Clarke went on a diplomatic mission." Bellamy tells her, voice brimming with what Clarke can only identify as pride. That makes sense, she supposes – his little sister is growing up fast.

"Where to?" Gina is either genuinely interested or a good actress.

"Trikru. To talk to Indra." Clarke says with a shrug. Gina may be a lovely woman, but Clarke doesn't much fancy telling a relative stranger her entire life story.

"That's cool." Raven comments, not meeting her eyes. "That's – you know, it's quite something."

"Thanks." Clarke tries for a smile, and almost succeeds. This whole reconciliation thing could be going worse, she decides.

"And you, Bellamy? What have you been up to?" Gina's persistent, Clarke has to admit. Persistent in that infuriatingly chirpy way that somehow grates against her patience.

Or maybe that's just the jealousy talking.

She's not stupid – she knows she's jealous of all this burgeoning smiliness between Bellamy and Gina. And yeah, that's somewhat illogical given he's just spent the day moving her stuff into their shared room, but in her defence they're platonic bed-sharing roommates. They're not together or anything.

To Clarke's surprise, Bellamy still hasn't answered the question. He's chewing very carefully, and she rather wonders if he's deciding how to go about revealing that he lives with Clarke without putting Gina off.

"We moved some furniture together." Lincoln declares. "And then I taught him and Miller some wrestling moves."

"Yeah." Bellamy chimes in, apparently now finished with that particular spot of chewing.

"You didn't tell me about the wrestling." Clarke comments, almost a little peeved to have been left out of that piece of news.

"I've not had chance yet." Bellamy points out.

"That's not it. He doesn't want to admit to you that he lost every time." Lincoln accuses him, grinning widely, while he and Octavia share a congratulatory fist bump that is somehow even more sickeningly coupley than all their long-drawn-out public kisses.

Raven snorts. "Good. His ego needs deflating every now and then."

Clarke chuckles a little, for the sake of reconciliation, and keeps eating her not-panther-meat.

Their mealtime continues in much the same way for a few minutes. There are good-natured jibes, and a general atmosphere of cheerfulness that manages to disguise the undercurrent of awkwardness between Clarke and Raven, for the most part. Neither of them actually says anything about apologising, of course – Raven is not always the apologising type, and Clarke wants to follow her lead while they have an audience.

Lincoln and Octavia excuse themselves the moment their bowls are empty. Lincoln says something about a long day, but from the look in Octavia's eye, Clarke is pretty convinced that they're desperate to flee to a more intimate setting. Bellamy definitely seems to think that's what's going on, based on the way his jaw clenches.

Repressing a sigh, Clarke reaches out to rest a quelling hand on his leg. He's growing pretty close with Lincoln, these days, and she knows he'll regret it if he lashes out at Lincoln now over outdated protectiveness towards his sister.

She half expects Bellamy to push her hand away. Gina is right there, after all, and this is a public dining hall. But he does no such thing – and his jaw softens a little – so her good day grows only even better.

That's what gives her the courage to make her next move.

"Bar?" Bellamy mutters to her, as they finish their food.

"Yeah. Can we invite Raven and Gina?"

He nods, and so she does. And Raven says yes without even batting an eyelid, and so the four of them make their way to the bar together.

It's an odd development, Clarke muses. She seems to remember that drinking was mentioned in that horrific argument she had with Raven the other day. But she can't think of another way to socialise casually with the pair of them and continue in her quest to put things right.

They arrive at the bar and choose a table. Bellamy volunteers to grab drinks, and of course Gina jumps to follow him – but for once, Clarke's fear of losing Bellamy to a blossoming romance with his new friend is outweighed by her joy at this opportunity to speak to Raven without an audience for a few minutes.

The moment Gina and Bellamy are out of earshot, Clarke speaks.

"I'm sorry, Raven, I -"

"Don't you ever get tired of blaming yourself for everything?" Raven interrupts her. "This one's on me, Clarke, and I'm sorry. I can't imagine what it's like to be you."

"It sucks sometimes." She admits cautiously. "But other times there's Bellamy, or Octavia or Lincoln or – or you, so that's good."

"I'm so sorry." Raven repeats, and Clarke wonders whether Raven's ever apologised to the same person twice in a row before now. She's more one for showing she cares about her friends than saying it, normally.

"Me too. Just – we're good, OK? I want us to be good."

"I want that too." Raven says, nodding firmly and steadfastly ignoring the tears that are visibly welling up in her eyes.

"Great. So, how have you been?" Clarke asks, deliberately light.

Raven laughs. "Getting there. I actually started working on another project with Wick, and I wanted to be able to tell you that I'd heard what you said that day but – yeah. I wasn't sure I could."

"That's great. What kind of project?"

"Comms tower." Raven shrugs. "Nothing special but it gets us hanging out again. I haven't said anything about – about anything, you know? So it's like we're talking but we're not really talking."

"I know the feeling." Clarke mutters, trying to keep her eyes from straying to the sight of Bellamy and Gina laughing together at the bar, trying to keep her mind from straying to the question of what kind of situation involves sharing a bed with the best friend she's in love with whilst wondering if he has the hots for another girl.

"Hey, you're doing OK, Clarke. You haven't run away, and you haven't pushed him away, and that's half the battle."

She frowns, unconvinced. She doesn't feel like she's doing a great job of living up to her resolution of showing Bellamy that there are people in this world who care about him – he still seems to spend more time going out of his way for her than the other way round.

"Anyone can see the two of you are devoted to each other." Raven insists. "I know you're still working out what kind of relationship you have but – you're a team. And apart from anything else, he moved all that furniture for you, didn't he? That's hardly something he did by accident."

"What? How did you -?" Clarke splutters on nothingness, wondering how Raven has worked that out.

Raven only shrugs, that smug grin gracing her lips that she wears only when she's fully aware she's just done something remarkably clever.

Clarke admits defeat, and asks a favour. "You know something? We could use a spare keycard to room 208. You know, if you wanted to be a good friend."

Raven quirks an eyebrow, but does not tease her any further. "Consider it done."

Chapter Text

Bellamy is fine. Of course he's fine. No one he loves is in imminent danger of dying, which is basically as good as life gets, in his experience. And he's lying here in bed, quiet and peaceful, listening to Clarke's soft breathing and reading one of her old books she has kindly lent him.

OK, if he's being truly honest, he's failing to read one of Clarke's old books. But that's not because anything's wrong, because he's fine. It's just that Van Gogh isn't his favourite subject so it's only natural that his attention is wandering slightly. As for the direction his errant thoughts are taking – well, it's hardly surprising that he's seeing the little Lovejoy boy's sweet smile, or asking himself how many mothers were killed in the culling, or whether he deserved to survive his mission in the Mountain.

But he's fine. He's definitely fine.

It's just that he's got less to distract him, these days, fewer things to concentrate on and keep his mind off the slow unravelling of his sanity. When Clarke was drinking herself into a stupor and needed reminding to eat, he had a sense of purpose.

Now he just has a guilty conscience and a hopeless crush on the best friend he doesn't deserve.

Clarke's doing really well, of late, and he's proud of her. She's looked almost happy since they moved in together last week and he's even starting to believe she might genuinely be sticking around for the foreseeable future. She's going to work in med bay with a renewed sense of purpose, and is talking about taking a small team to meet with Indra and arrange some kind of trade deal. And they've been eating in the mess hall consistently, often enjoying the company of Octavia and Lincoln or Raven and Gina. Bellamy's finding that pretty helpful, he has to admit. Where he shied away from human contact in their first couple of days back at camp, it seems that he's now keen to keep himself distracted with company and conversation.

He's finding Gina's company and conversation particularly helpful, and he's not an idiot, so he knows why. He can see the pattern, and is perfectly aware that he's always used women's interested smiles as a distraction from his problems. It's no coincidence that he had more sex in his first couple of weeks on the ground than ever in his life before or since.

But the drive to use that particular coping mechanism is causing him trouble, at the moment. There's a reason he's currently lying a careful distance from Clarke and failing to read a book, rather than holding her close and nuzzling into her hair – it's becoming impossible to pretend he doesn't want her when he's anywhere near her. And he's certain she's not interested, or not ready, or some combination of both, so he's dead set on keeping his inconvenient arousal well out of her way and finding some other way to deal with the urge to lose himself in an interested woman.

Which brings him back to Gina. Yes, he's in love with Clarke. Yes, he's been encouraging Gina. Yes, that makes him a monster – but he's already a monster, remember?

The less-than-subtle erection he woke up with, then pressed against Clarke's lower back as he gravitated towards her in sleep, has almost subsided now, thanks to Van Gogh and guilt both playing their part in bringing him back to Earth. And that's good. That's as it should be. He should be able to control himself around his good friend Clarke, and he's fine.

"Bellamy?" Clarke's whisper catches him by surprise.

"Morning."

"How's the book?"

"Good." He lies with all the cheerfulness he can muster. "Thanks for letting me borrow it."

"No problem. How are you doing today?" She asks, her eyes slightly narrowed at him.

Damn it. She's always been a little too good at reading him. "I'm fine."

Her stare is even more critical now. "Are you sure, Bellamy?"

Even if he wasn't fine – which he is, of course, totally fine – he wouldn't be able to tell her. She has enough things on her plate, and she's doing really well at the moment and he doesn't want to be the monster who ruins her progress. He's already the monster who's genuinely intending to sleep with a good woman he doesn't care for as a mindless distraction, after all.

"Yeah. Of course. I'm fine."

"Bellamy -"

"Drop it, Clarke." He growls, letting loose that damn monster, hating himself even as the words leave his lips. "Leave it. I'm fine."

They don't talk while they get out of bed and dress for the day. Clarke doesn't talk because she's annoyed with him – so much is obvious from the set of her brows.

Bellamy doesn't talk because all he can think, the only words he can remember, the only phrase in his mind, echoing over and over and over, is cut from a nightmare and has no relevance to breakfast.

My dad is training for a ground unit.

…...

Bellamy's been enjoying the distraction of training sessions in recent days, and this morning is no exception. They've spent an hour or so on their target practice, and now they're loitering by the gates of Camp Jaha and waiting to be sent out to hunt.

"Catch me a deer, big brother. I'm feeling like venison for supper." Octavia gives him a fleeting smile.

"You'll be able to come with us soon, just as soon as Indra gets that message through."

"We'll see about that." Lincoln is evidently less optimistic. "I fear it may not be so simple."

"I think it'll work." Octavia says, and it rather surprises Bellamy to see her so hopeful. She reminds him suddenly of her younger self, before that cursed party.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. It's Clarke, isn't it? She could talk anyone into anything."

"O -"

"No, Bell, I mean it as a compliment this time. I shouldn't – what I said the other day, you didn't deserve to find out like that. I should have trusted her to talk to you about it when she was ready. But I really think she'll be able to get Lexa to clear us."

"You do?" Bellamy chooses to focus on that, rather than wondering why Octavia even thinks he has any business knowing about Clarke's kisses.

"Yeah. The grounders – they respect and fear her. Indra told us that she's become a bit of a legend. They're calling her Wanheda."

"The Commander of Death." Lincoln breathes, disapproving, barely audible over the noise of some cadets bickering about goodness only knows what a few feet away.

Bellamy bristles at that. "She's not the Commander of Death. She's – she's Clarke. Why are they going around giving her that awful name?" He can scarcely think of anything less suitable for someone he associates so strongly with life.

"Because of the Mountain."

"We did that together." He points out, noticing with a certain detachment that he now seems to be half way to shouting.

"But everyone knows it was her idea." Octavia says, reaching out to lay a soothing hand on his arm.

"She -"

"Bellamy." Lincoln's voice is quiet and calm. "Anger is not -"

Lincoln keeps talking, but Bellamy is no longer listening. He seems to have found himself turning around, and he has no memory of deciding to do so. But he is helpless to behave otherwise, because the squat blond man in the middle of that clutch of loud cadets has commanded his attention.

"...don't care what the Chancellor says. She's as bad as her daughter – both sleeping their way to the top, the pair of them."

"What did you just say?" Bellamy seems to have closed the distance between himself and the offender, and he's not sure when that happened.

"Which bit?" The blond is wearing an ugly smile. "That Griffin girl being the grounder queen's whore? Or the mother -?"

Bellamy doesn't hesitate. He doesn't so much as think. He sees red and fists fly.

…...

Clarke is worried about Bellamy. That's nothing new, of course – she's been worrying about him almost since they landed on this crazy planet, or at least since the day she realised he wasn't actually a monster.

But today she's worried about him in a rather more specific way. He clearly wasn't fine this morning, but between his reluctance to say much and his propensity to snap at her, she found herself forced to let it go. But maybe she could have tried harder. Maybe she should have tried harder.

She just hates it when he's angry with her.

This fretting isn't doing her any good, she reasons. She has things to do – inventory of their supplies, and a couple of patients need their medication soon. She ought to get on with that, and perhaps while she's concentrating on something else her subconscious will come up with some brilliant plan to convince Bellamy to tell her why the hell he keeps snapping at her. It's been growing gradually worse since about the time she got back from visiting Indra, and she cannot make sense of it. Why move her stuff into his room if he cannot abide her company? Surely he should be happy that they are now roommates, not short-tempered?

She huffs a sigh and starts counting painkillers. It's not riveting stuff, but -

There is a commotion at the door of med bay, and she runs from the storage closet to investigate. Jackson is already there, ushering a squat blond man with a blood-streaked face towards a chair, waving away Kane. What is Kane doing here?

And then Clarke approaches more closely, and Kane steps out of the way, and Clarke sees the figure in the doorway behind him.

"Bellamy?" What is Bellamy doing here, in the middle of the morning, with a scrap of cloth pressed to one cheek?

"Clarke. You'll see to Bellamy's injuries?" Kane asks, all business.

"Yes. Yes, of course." Without further ado, and without asking any of the thousands of questions that are crowding her thoughts, she leads Bellamy to a chair.

She doesn't say anything while he takes a seat. She's sort of leaving it to him to speak first – surely he will explain what's happened, sooner or later? He must realise that she's concerned about his wellbeing, and that she wants to know what landed him here. If she had to guess, it looks like some kind of accident or altercation, but she cannot be sure.

He sits, silent, jaw clenched. And she wants to give him space, really she does, but apart from anything else she cannot treat him if he will not tell her what's wrong.

At last, she gives up. "What happened, Bellamy?"

"We had a fight." He grinds out, jaw still stubbornly set.

"He looks worse than you." She offers, attempting to lift the mood.

It does not work. Bellamy doesn't even bother replying.

"Tell me what hurts." She tries again.

He shrugs, sullen and distinctly unhelpful.

She tries a different tactic. She kneels at his feel, and takes one of his hands in her own, and looks up into his eyes. "Bellamy, please. I'm worried about you and I want to be able to help you. Because that's what we do, isn't it? You and me, we look out for each other. So how about you take that cloth from your cheek and let me take a look at it?"

Her wheedling tone does the trick, and he slowly lifts the cloth. "And my hand's kind of sore, I guess." He admits reluctantly.

"Great. We can deal with this." She promises him, ghosting her fingertips over his bruised knuckles as she gets to her feet. "I'm going to go grab what I need, and while I'm gone you're going to think about what you can tell me about how this happened." She needs to know. She needs to know not as his doctor, but as his friend and roommate and occasional counsellor and all the other things they are to each other that defy description. She's not sure what started this fight, but she's only seen threats or insults to Octavia get this kind of reaction out of him before.

She makes short work of grabbing some antiseptic and a suitable dressing, and within moments is back at his side. She's expecting him still to be slow to talk, but to her surprise, he starts explaining himself the moment she approaches.

"I started it." He tells her, shame in every line of his face.

"That's forgivable." She reassures him, setting to work on cleaning his cheek. "Do you want to talk about why?"

"That – that ass said you were Lexa's whore." Well. That's not quite what she was expecting, if only because sexual slurs are virtually unheard of in the tolerant Ark society she thought she knew. She forces herself to breathe deeply and not let the insult affect her too much. A stranger may have called her a name, but Bellamy is evidently falling apart over it, and that needs to be her focus right now.

"Well at least now he knows I swing both ways." She tries to lighten the mood.

"What?"

"Well he's probably going to – you know – infer things from the fact you punched him for insulting me." She explains, suddenly very uncomfortable with her implication. "So he'll think that we – yeah – you know."

"I know." Bellamy agrees, with a solemn nod she cannot quite make sense of.

She moves the conversation swiftly on. "You don't have to go around starting fights when people are rude about me."

"I know." He repeats, sounding rather lost. "I just – it just happened. I've been so angry recently. And this morning when you asked if I was OK and you knew I wasn't and I – yeah, I'm sorry."

"It's OK. It's OK." She's stroking his hair, now, but she doesn't allow herself to overthink the action. "Want to tell me what's going on? I'd like to help you deal with it."

"Thanks, Clarke. I guess that it's just -" He stops himself, takes a shuddering breath.

And then he never starts speaking again. It is as if a switch has been flicked inside of him. His jaw is clamped shut again, his eyes are cold, and he is doing everything in his power to avoid looking at her.

She still hasn't finished cleaning his scraped knuckles, but he strides out of med bay all the same.

…...

Bellamy is furious with himself. He almost did it, then – he was teetering on the very edge of telling Clarke everything that's on his mind. And he can't do that, he mustn't. Clarke has quite enough problems of her own, and she's doing really well, and he can't drag her down or give her any reason to run away from him. His job is to protect her at all costs, even at the cost of his own sanity.

Anyway, he seethes, she never even told him that the grounders thought she was the Commander of Death, for goodness' sake. He thinks if she's allowed to keep a secret like that, he can damn well keep his rage and frustration to himself.

But he doesn't think he can pretend to be fine, any more. Not after a brawl half the camp ran to watch.

He wishes all this anger would just go away. Anger isn't a useful response, here – he should be feeling guilty. And he is, of course – but mostly he just wants to hit people. Or screw someone.

He wants to screw Clarke. He wants it so badly it hurts – he wants to lose himself in her, and make her feel good, and have her make him feel at least not bad in return. And then, he thinks, maybe after that he might manage to relax enough to tell her some part of what's on his mind.

But screwing Clarke isn't an option. She's not interested in him, not like she is in Lexa. And maybe if he were in a calmer frame of mind he might stop to ask himself whether his utter fury at Lexa might have more to do with his current mental state than with her personally – but he's not calm, in case that wasn't clear, so he settles for hating Lexa with considerable passion. And he settles, too, for seething that he will never get to screw Clarke even though that's the one way out he can see from this horrific maze he has managed to lose himself in.

He hates himself the moment he has the idea. Of course he does – hating himself is his greatest talent, right now. But he cannot see a better plan, so hides his bruised knuckles in his pocket and heads to engineering.

It's time to ask Gina out for a drink.

…...

Clarke is worried about Bellamy. That's been the theme of her entire day, really.

She's not seen him since he stormed out of med bay earlier, and it's now long past the time they usually meet for supper. She's loitering outside the mess hall growing increasingly frantic and wondering if he's managed to get into another fight, or take himself off on an unlikely nighttime hunting expedition, or whether he's maybe just kicking a defenceless barrel of rifles somewhere all on his own.

So, of course, when he does finally appear round the corner, she gives him a piece of her mind.

"Bellamy! Thank God. Where have you been? I've been here for -"

"I was with Gina." He shrugs, like that's no big deal. "We met up for a drink. Supper?"

No. No way is he dropping that revelation on her and then marching straight into supper. "You were having a drink with Gina?"

"Yeah." He's not meeting her eyes, and she doesn't like it.

"Just you and Gina?"

"Yes, Clarke. I had a drink with Gina, just the two of us. And I'm sorry I'm late for supper, now can we go eat?"

She's not crying. She can't cry, not here, in a crowded hallway, and not in front of Bellamy. She can't cry, but she really wants to cry. She's not sure how else to respond to the fact that this man she's spent the entire day worrying about – this man she loves – has just been on a date with an inoffensive young woman who smiles too much.

Bellamy hasn't even waited for her to answer the question. He's already ahead of her, joining the queue, as she stares pathetically at his retreating back.

She catches him up and tries again.

"Why did you have a drink with Gina?"

"Why does a straight guy normally have a drink with a pretty woman, Clarke?" He asks, that dreaded temper flaring again.

"You – erm – you like her, then?"

"She's nice." He offers noncommittally, and suddenly Clarke finds herself more tempted to give an hysterical laugh than to cry. They evidently have very differing opinions of Gina's potential as a romantic partner, but at least they are agreed that she's nice.

"Nice?" She asks, poking at the sore even though she knows it will only hurt her. "You wanted to have a drink with her because she's nice?"

"What's wrong with that, Clarke?" His voice is raised. "Why can't I want a drink with a nice woman?"

"Because nice isn't you!" The words fly out of her, quite against her will, overcoming that self-control she has spent eighteen years perfecting. "You deserve better than nice, Bellamy. You're so brave and warm but also frankly terrifying, and I don't understand what you see in a giggly girl who smiles too much!"

"I like her smiles." He protests, but there is no heat to it.

"Then enjoy eating supper with her!" Clarke cries, throwing her hands up in the air for good measure, and stalks from the dining hall.

She knows the whole of Camp Jaha is staring at her, but she doesn't care. She is powerless to care about anything beyond Bellamy disregarding their supper plans for the sake of a woman who is nice.

…...

Bellamy is furious with himself. That's been the theme of his entire day, really.

The worst thing is, he thought he was doing better. He had a pleasant enough drink with Gina, and ended up not screwing her because he wanted to eat supper with Clarke, and he thought everything would turn out OK, after that significant decision had been made. He was even hoping to have a go at telling Clarke he's been struggling a bit recently, and apologising for taking it out on her.

So much for that, he thinks bitterly, staring at the slow-moving queue before him.

"Bellamy?" Because the universe hates him, it is Gina who joins the queue behind him.

"Hey." He tries for the kind of smile he might wear whilst chatting with a prospective sexual partner, but it won't stay on his face. Probably just as well, he decides – he's already decided that hanging out with Clarke is more important to him than trying to seduce Gina, after all.

"I thought you were eating with Clarke?"

"I thought I was too. That – erm – it's not going so well."

"I'm sorry about that, Bellamy. I know how important she is to you." This is the kind of good quality he should have mentioned to Clarke, he muses. He should have pointed out that Gina is actually very kind.

She deserves better. That realisation hits him, all at once, with at least as much force as that bullet he once shot at Jaha's stomach.

"Yeah. She's really important to me, actually. Listen, about this afternoon -"

"We're never doing that again?" Gina suggests. "I know we're not, Bellamy. I get it, really I do. I was surprised you even asked, and I enjoyed it, but it was just a drink with a friend."

"We're OK?" He asks, taken aback that he might manage to have a successful conversation in this day that has been marked by consistent failure.

"Of course we are. The whole camp knows you belong with Clarke – I hear the grounders worked that out, too. She must be the only person who's still working it out. I like hanging out with you, but I'm not stupid enough to fall for a guy who's already taken."

"I'm not sure about that. We're really not doing well." He frets, wondering how it is that he's currently having this conversation with the very cause of their most recent argument.

"So fix it. You said you were leaving the bar to take Clarke to supper. Maybe you need to take supper to Clarke."

"Thanks, Gina." He manages a genuine smile, this time. "Maybe I will."

…...

Clarke goes back to their room. That's the worst thing of all – she has nowhere else to go, besides this room she shares with Bellamy, with a bed she's beginning to suspect he might have shared with Gina, this afternoon.

She tries to draw, but her heart's not in it. She picks up a book, but puts it aside before the page is through.

She's only been sitting there a couple of minutes when Bellamy eases open the door.

"Clarke. Thank God you're here." He says, as if that explains anything, and then he presents her with a bowl of supper.

She's confused, she has to admit. He looks less visibly angry, and he's giving her food, but she cannot forget the mood of the day so quickly.

She remembers herself, and starts on the words she has prepared. "Bellamy, I'm sorry about how I acted earlier. It was none of my business and I shouldn't have lashed out at you."

"Eat your supper." He says, instead of replying. "Do you mind if I sit?"

Clarke gestures to a space at her side, and presses on with her apology. "I really am sorry, Bellamy. You have every right to go on dates with whoever you want."

He snorts a little, then speaks in a tone she has not heard him use before. "That drink was no more a date than the drink we get every single night is a date."

"It sounded like a date." She tells him, trying to keep the bitterness from her tone.

"It wasn't. Neither of us – yeah, it's not like that."

She lets him have that, although she's pretty sure it's not the whole truth. She simply nods and eats her supper in awkward silence. She doesn't like it, when things are awkward with Bellamy. It doesn't happen very often, and she's not well-versed in dealing with it. She's not sure what to do apart from concentrate on her food and hope it goes away. Maybe they ought to have some kind of lighthearted conversation about the weather, or about the stew. It's certainly not a good idea to mention her plans for tomorrow morning, not when -

"I'm not fine." He tells her, abruptly, the very opposite of that lighthearted trivial chat she was considering.

"I know." She whispers, not sure what else to say. "I want to help, if you'll let me."

"Still? Even after today?"

"Always. I know you only lashed out because you were hurting, and I want to help you with it."

"I don't know how to let you." He admits, and he sounds broken, and it hurts her heart. But at least in his brokenness he sounds human, rather than the raging storm she's been trying and failing to speak to so far today.

"What do you mean?"

"Earlier in med bay, when I tried to tell you what was going on, I panicked. I protect other people – that's what I was always taught to do. I don't want to lay all my burdens on you."

"What happened to together?" She asks him, reaching out to rest a hand on his forearm. "Remember that? We stood outside these gates, Bellamy, and you told me I didn't have to bear anything alone."

He nods, silent.

"I wouldn't feel burdened if you wanted to tell me what's wrong." She continues. "I'd feel honoured that you trusted me with it."

That gets him frowning, but it is not an angry frown. Rather it is thoughtful, and she can see him following her logic with painstaking care.

"Thanks for waiting for me at supper." He begins. It is not immediately clear to her what this has to do with his state of mind, but she's prepared to be patient with him. "After everything that happened today – that fight, and me being late because of Gina – it's a stupid thing, but it meant so much to me that you cared enough to wait for me."

"No problem." She says easily. She'd wait for him no matter who he was on a not-date with, nice or not.

"I've not been doing so well since you've been doing better. I know that sounds horrible but reminding you to eat, keeping an eye on your mood – it gave me something to concentrate on that wasn't the monster I became in that Mountain."

"I get that."

"It's the Lovejoy kid I think about most. He was so proud of his dad, and I was wearing his uniform – that was the worst. I – I grew up without a dad. I shouldn't have done that to another kid."

"Your dad would be proud of you for so many other things you've done, though."

"He wasn't." Bellamy says, with a hollow laugh.

"What do you mean?" She cannot make sense of it. He never knew his father, as far as she is aware.

"He made the choice never to acknowledge my existence."

"You know who he is?" She is shocked at this new development.

"Was. He didn't make it down here. Of course I know who he was – not a lot of my mum's friends on the guard had Asian heritage. There's only one guy it could possibly have been. I was twelve when I worked it out. My mum confirmed it, and explained that the guy wanted nothing to do with me. So that's that."

"Bellamy, I'm so sorry -"

"Don't be sorry that he wanted nothing to do with me." He shrugs, and eats some stew. "He was an ass. But thanks for being sorry that I didn't have a dad."

"Thanks for trusting me with this, Bellamy. I never knew it was like that."

"Of course you didn't. I've never told anyone. Even O doesn't know." Clarke can't believe it – that he would go from yelling at her this morning to trusting her with this, now. It's a bit much to process, really, and she has no idea how to reply.

She doesn't reply, in the end, or at least not in words. She pulls him into a fierce hug that has splatters of stew spilling over both their laps.

They laugh at that, laughter more genuine than either of them has managed in quite some days, and set about cleaning themselves up and finishing their food. The conversation flows more naturally, now – not about fathers or fights, but about her recent sketches and his lack of enthusiasm for Van Gogh, and it has Clarke remembering all over again why she's so inconveniently in love with her closest friend.

Inconvenient isn't even half way to accurate, she decides, as she catches herself staring at his lips for perhaps the fifth time since he walked in here. She really must keep better control of her attraction to him. Apart from anything else, she's already established that this would be a bad time for her to pay too much attention to the physical aspect of her interest in him.

She's supposed to be showing him she cares, she reminds herself firmly, sitting on her hand so she won't be tempted to reach out and lay it on his arm yet again. She's supposed to be showing him she cares, not that she's pathetically attracted to him.

And if today has proved nothing else, it has surely proved that he's not interested in her like that. Clarke cannot think of any other reason why he'd be going on what was so obviously a date with Gina. She's sorry for his sake that it apparently didn't go well, of course she is, but she's rather too busy being sorry for her own sake that it happened at all to offer him much in the way of sympathy for his disappointment.

"Clarke?" Bellamy is looking at her in some concern, and she gathers that she must have missed something he said.

"Yeah?"

"I asked whether you wanted to get to bed."

"Sorry. Yes, yes of course." She is flustered, and not just because he caught her distracted. She's also distressed to find that she is running out of time to introduce the topic of her plans for tomorrow.

All the same, she forces herself to take calming breaths and get herself ready for bed. She could tell him about it in the morning, she supposes, but she decides that it's probably a better idea to tell him while they're lying together in the darkness. He tends to be a bit calmer, then, and she reckons she might find this conversation easier if she's enjoying a Bellamy hug at the same time.

She waits for him to turn out the lights and come to bed, and then she shuffles towards his warmth. She doesn't completely close the distance between them, not quite – she will leave that decision to him, tonight, after all the discord that has got in their way today.

"Bellamy?" She asks, tentative, when at last all is still. "I need to tell you something."

"OK." He sounds almost as unsure as she is.

"My mum wants me to go to Mount Weather with her tomorrow." She forces that dreaded name past her lips. "We're going to salvage medical supplies."

He lets out a long breath and draws her into his arms. "For a moment there I thought you were telling me you wanted to move out."

She can't make sense of that. "Move out?"

"Yeah. I know I've been an ass recently, I thought maybe you'd had enough."

"Why would I move out after we've just talked it out?"

"I don't know." She feels him shrug. "Just – yeah."

"I get it. You still worry about being left. But you're not getting rid of me." She murmurs, tightening her arm about his waist and cursing his father and the Ark that floated his mother and locked up his sister.

"Thanks, Clarke. I'm sorry – you were trying to tell me about tomorrow." She does not miss the fact that he chooses not name the Mountain.

"Yeah."

"How are you feeling about it?"

"Surprisingly not too bad. I knew that it was coming, and it will be good to go there with a proper purpose, get something positive out of the day."

"That's good."

"I was actually wondering – and I know this is a terrible time to ask, when you've just had a tough day – but I'd been thinking maybe you would want to come with me? Maybe the first time we go back there, we should go together? Help each other through it?"

He is silent for a long time, and she spends those endless moments preparing for rejection. She knows it's an ambitious suggestion, and she can well understand that it might be unrealistic to say the least to expect Bellamy to jump at the chance to accompany her to Mount Weather. What they did there has driven him past the brink of control more than once, of late, and she can well understand that he might say no.

But he's Bellamy Blake, so of course he says yes.

"That's a good idea, Clarke. I'll join you if you think your mum will be OK with that?"

"She will." There is no question on that front in Clarke's mind.

"Great." He says, in a voice that makes it quite plain that he does not feel great about any part of this. "I think you're right. It will be best for me to come with you. But – I don't promise to find it easy."

"Promise you'll try to tell me when you're not finding it easy?"

"I promise I'll try."

Chapter Text

The following morning, Clarke is on the alert for any sign of Bellamy falling apart. She watches him carefully as he climbs out of bed and dresses for the day – only because she's concerned about him, of course, not because she finds it at all difficult not to watch him wandering around the place in boxers. She keeps a close eye on him at breakfast, but he does not appear inclined to punch anyone. And by the time they make it to the rover, ready to set out, he has not so much as snapped at her all morning. On the contrary – he's been all soft smiles and effusive gratitude, and that worries her even more than the snapping.

It's like he's scared of her, or scared of her reaction if he pushes her patience again, and she doesn't like it. Does he truly think so little of himself that he thinks one understandable week of poor mood is all it would take for his closest friend to up and leave him? She can see why he has abandonment issues, now she knows a little more of his story, but surely he realises that she cares about him rather more than that?

She's not going to mention it today, though. Today is about making it through their first return visit to Mount Weather, not about trying to educate Bellamy on the matter of his deep importance to her.

"I've not ridden in the rover before." Bellamy comments as they wait to leave, evidently fishing for something cheerful to say.

"Me neither." Clarke adds, quite unnecessarily. They both know each other's every move since the day they got home, or near enough.

"We're hoping to bring a couple more back today." David Miller offers, clambering into the back of the vehicle along with them. "That's why Jean and I are here."

That serves as their introduction to Jean, an older woman Clarke loosely recognises from the guard, who is now boarding the rover in turn.

With that, it seems, they are all present and correct, as Sinclair starts driving. Abby in the passenger seat makes up the rest of their team, with Jackson left behind to staff med bay for the day.

Clarke is pleased to have David and Jean's company during the journey. Sinclair and Abby are engaged in a serious discussion about the logistics of their trip, but their companions in the back of the rover contribute to a much more lighthearted conversation about scenery and about the wide range of foodstuffs available on the ground.

That's just what they need, she muses. It gives Bellamy something to do other than be not fine, as he shares stories about their early discoveries of edible plants near the dropship camp. It's not a thrilling conversation, as conversations go, but in its own way the sheer normalcy of the discussion is every bit as therapeutic as those words he entrusted to her about the Lovejoy boy, last night.

They arrive at the Mountain quickly. It catches her by surprise – she knew the rover would be fast, but subconsciously she was still expecting something like the agonised walk home they undertook only weeks ago.

"We're here." Abby announces, as if to remind them she is the Chancellor.

"I'll go my own way." Sinclair tells them. "See you back here when it's time to leave."

"Let's go find us a rover or two." David urges Jean out of the rover.

And then Clarke and Bellamy are left alone. She supposes she had better get on with doing something useful – ushering him out into the sunshine, perhaps, and then taking him to medical to help her mum. Or maybe she ought to ask her mother to let them have a minute for Bellamy to get his thoughts together, or maybe he needs a hug.

He needs neither of those things, it turns out.

"I need a favour, Abby." He informs her mum, with that odd mix of deference and defiance he always shows to the Chancellor. Or maybe he shows that because she's her mother, Clarke muses. Either way, that's how it is.

"Yes?"

"I need to borrow Clarke for a while. We'll come help you as soon as we're done. There's just – there's something I need to show her, first." He explains, voice thick with emotion.

Abby understands, of course. She is a doctor – she has some competence in understanding people's feelings, even if that sometimes falls by the wayside amidst her Chancellor duties. Clarke is proud of her, when she just nods and sends them on their way.

Clarke doesn't know where they are going. She has a general idea, of course – presumably they are going somewhere that is part of the story of why Bellamy is not fine, and maybe it'll be part of her own tale of trauma, too. But she's not sure which room they are heading for, nor which hallways lead there, so she follows close on Bellamy's heels as he strides down dimly lit corridors.

She knows when they have arrived. She knows not because he says anything, but because he stops, suddenly, with an air of finality, as if stuck in the doorway of the room.

She eases past him, looks about her. Counts showers along one wall. Six of them, bare tarnished metal. The drain runs along the centre of the floor in a channel, scabby with limescale. She turns around, slowly, to look at the rest of the room.

The other wall is worse.

Showers and limescale was one thing, but this wall holds what she can only describe as instruments of torture. Half a dozen long poles lean up against one corner, with some fixture on the end that looks like a pincer, or maybe even a collar. Heavy chains are attached to the wall at regular intervals, another set of rods leaning up in the far corner.

This room is disgusting. It's disgusting because of the air of horror brought about by all these tools, because of the implications of the subjugation of people, and treating human beings like animals. But it's actually disgusting, too, with its limescale and with the dark rust-coloured spray that stains one patch of wall. It is such a contrast to the rest of Mount Weather, with its too-clean floors and too-shiny glass and too-white walls, that Clarke is on the point of retching.

She can't, though. She cannot let it get to her. She needs to stay strong, for Bellamy.

He's still standing in the doorway, jaw locked firm, eyes fixed on the floor. She approaches him tentatively, her hands outstretched before her. She ought to say something, she supposes, something gentle and soothing to help him -

"The showers weren't water." He informs her suddenly. "Or not only water. They – something burned."

"Bellamy -"

"Those things, they're collars. They'd hold us at arm's length while they were processing us. Like we were wild or something. And they dosed us with some kind of medicine, at arm's length again. Stuck those ones down our throats for that. The guy next to me – he gagged on it and threw up. They put him back in the shower for that."

"I'm sorry." She says, helpless to say anything else.

"Don't be. It's not your fault."

"It is my fault, Bellamy." The words spill out of her in a guilty torrent. "I sent you in here. It's all my fault. I should never have -"

"I didn't come here because you sent me, and you know it. I came here because it was the right thing to do. It wasn't you who tortured me – it was them."

She shakes her head, not quite capable of speaking, but desperate not to let him forgive her so easily.

"Clarke, please. I didn't bring you here to make you feel guilty. I brought you here to show you what happened. I'm not like you – I can't just decide to talk about it, and then get on with doing it, and fix everything. But I hope maybe I could show you instead."

"I'd like that." She chokes out, leaning into his side.

He wraps an arm about her, and she's pretty sure that serves to comfort both of them. "I know you'll always feel responsible for me coming here no matter how many times I tell you I don't follow orders from you. But even if it was your fault, Clarke – which it's not – don't you think you've made up for it by looking out for me since we got home? Don't you think you could forgive yourself after what you did to help me out last night and right now and so many other times?"

She's never looked at it like that before. She has to admit that Bellamy's words make sense, but her strong instinct for logic is having a little trouble keeping up with her guilty conscience just now.

"I promise I'll try." She says, in the end, echoing the words he offered her last night.

It seems that is good enough for Bellamy, as he retrieves his arm but keeps standing close by her side such that she can feel his warmth. He's still here, still breathing, despite the horrors of this room.

"Is there anywhere else you want to show me?" She asks.

"Yeah. If that's OK. I don't know how long we have before you need to help your mum."

"We have as long as you need."

He doesn't argue with that, and she's grateful for it. He needs her time now far more than her mother does, and it's only right for his concerns to come first for the moment. She's rather hoping that, sooner or later, she might be able to teach him that taking care of himself is a worthy goal to pursue in its own right and that he doesn't always have to bend over backwards to take care of everyone else.

They move towards the cages, next. She knew about these before, of course, but a personal tour with Bellamy in which he points at the very one that was briefly his home has an unpleasant impact on quite a different scale. From there they head to a maintenance closet where he once hid to snatch a few hours' sleep, and stop by the quarters Maya shared with her father.

Somewhere between there and the acid fog tank, Clarke notices that they seem to be holding hands. She can't say that she objects to this development – she's always rather liked his hands, which are warm and strong and somehow make her feel safe. And on this day of all days, there is a comfort in being able to hold onto him, and a glow in her heart at the idea that she might be bringing him some small comfort, too.

Bellamy stays a long time at the acid fog room, and she's not entirely sure why. There's not much here. A lot of charred remains and a stench of burning, but very little of anything else.

"You doing OK?" She asks, instinctively giving his hand a squeeze.

"Yeah." His jaw is clenched, and he's breathing heavily. He doesn't seem to be doing OK – and after the last few days, she counts herself as something of an expert on the way he pretends to be alright when he's not.

"Want to tell me about it?" She offers.

He takes a shuddering breath. "This is where I stopped caring when I killed them." He pauses, brows furrowed, and tries again. "That's not it – I cared. But this is where I got casual about killing them. There's a guard in my way – shoot. There's a bunch of them – blow up the acid fog. This – I think this was the start of the slippery slope that had me pulling that lever."

"That's not how I see it." She tells him, because this is what they do for each other. They challenge each other's viewpoint, especially when there is an important truth one of them is refusing to hear. "You never intended to pull that lever. It was my idea, so you can't claim you were heading that way ever since you defended yourself here. You only pulled it because you love your sister and she was in danger, and because you didn't want me to bear that guilt alone. You pulled that lever because you cared so much, not because you stopped caring about people's lives when you were fighting for your life in this room."

He's still frowning. "I hear what you're saying. But – that version doesn't feel right, somehow."

"That's because you're still processing what happened here. The story you've been telling yourself is built out of guilt, not facts."

He turns to meet her gaze, then, looking at her as if she's just saved his sister from a bear trap or some equally momentous deed. "Thanks, Clarke. I don't know what I'd have done without you today. Or this week."

"I don't know what I'd have done without you this year." She tells him, because it is the truth. There is no way either of them would be alive right now were it not for each other, and for the team they have formed together.

He gives a weak grin at that, and presses her fingers, and turns to pull her towards the door.

"Are there any more stops on this tour?" She asks, pretty sure she already knows the answer.

"I think so." He mutters. "Just one. If that's OK with you."

She nods, and they set out for the command centre.

…...

Bellamy's annoyed with Clarke for coming up with that sentence about not knowing what she'd have done without him this year. He'd have quite liked to have been the one to think of that, because that's exactly how he feels about her. But he doesn't wish he'd said it just because he wants to praise the slightly dysfunctional codependency they've got going on – he wishes he'd said it because he thinks that's about the closest he might be able to get to a declaration of love, given the circumstances.

He was dreading today. Last night was filled with nightmares, so he's spent the morning tired beyond bearing on top of being distressed at returning to Mount Weather.

But somehow he's glad they came here. That's ridiculous, of course it is. It's not that he's enjoyed it, because that would be absurd – it has alternated between wretched and horrifying, with the occasional moment of disgust thrown in for good measure. But it has turned out to be such a positive experience to share this day with Clarke, and he can feel them growing closer with every difficult sentence that passes between them.

In fact, he's not sure he's ever felt this close to another human being in his life before. Sure, he shared a home with his mother and sister for sixteen years, but he never really shared his thoughts with them.

It makes it pretty damn inconvenient that he's in love with her. For one brief, frustrated moment, he wishes that he had this kind of deep friendship with Miller. Then he could get on with having a crush on Clarke without fear of the consequences.

That's ridiculous, of course. He doesn't have a crush on Clarke. He's in love with her specifically because of the complexities of their relationship – it is that deep friendship and dysfunctional codependency that have ended him up here, every bit as much as her determined kindness, her bravery, and her rare smile.

But, for the record, it sucks to be in love with someone who's so breathtakingly essential to him. And it sucks even more when he adds the fact that Lexa exists into the mix.

"Bellamy?" Clarke's gentle question interrupts his thoughts. It's one of the ways in which she never ceases to amaze him, the fact that she can be a gentle friend or a fearless leader depending on the need of the moment.

"Sorry." He tries for a smile, but it quickly becomes a frown when he notices that the command centre is exactly as they left it.

She nods, as if agreeing with his unspoken observation. "I guess I thought they'd already been in here." She comments. "I thought they'd at least have cleaned up."

He knows that Dante Wallace's body is lying on the very periphery of his vision. He can just about pick out one foot, but he's determined not to turn and look at the corpse in detail. He doesn't see how it would help him, to upset himself just for the sake of seeing that a dead man is, in fact, dead.

"This is it." He says, slightly choked. "Where everything changed."

"You're wrong." She informs him conversationally – or at least, he gets the sense that she is trying to keep her tone light, but that it is something of a challenge. "Nothing changed here. We had each other's backs, just like always. We saved our people, just like always."

"We had a horrible choice, just like always." He joins in.

"Exactly. The only thing that changed was that the Mountain stopped making reapers."

He lets that thought sit for a moment, stays silent. He doesn't really agree with her, and thinks that's a pretty damn heartless way of looking at the situation, but he doesn't want to upset her. He reckons this morning's farewell tour has already been quite upsetting enough.

"That was a nice lie, wasn't it?" She asks after some moments, tone cynical. "I think I'm going mad, trying to balance it out in my head. Rationally, we made the right choice. We saved more lives than we took. But they're still human lives."

"We can be sorry for the deaths while still forgiving ourselves for doing what we had to do." He suggests, but he's not quite satisfied with the way he phrased it. "Or hopefully we will be able to do that, one day, when we've had some time to process."

She's quiet for a moment, and when she speaks, she takes up a new theme. "Thanks for coming with me today."

"Thanks for suggesting it. You were right, it was best to face it together."

She nods, jaw tense in a way he is not used to seeing, evidently working up the courage to face something substantial.

"What is it, Clarke?" He asks, squeezing her hand to remind her he's still there.

"I want to move President Wallace's body. And bury it properly, outside. I know the rest of the residents have been cremated but I think he should be outside. He liked the flowers. And he was a good man, some of the time."

A good man, some of the time. Bellamy wonders if that is how he himself will be remembered by future generations.

"Of course, Clarke."

If there's one thing he's learnt, in recent weeks, it's that the two of them do best when they face their demons together.

…...

Bellamy is grateful that Clarke doesn't push him to say anything on the way home, as the two of them ride in the back of the rover with no other company for distraction. She hasn't pushed him to say anything all day, of course – she's just been there for him when the words have come spilling out of his mouth. She seems to understand him even better than he understands himself, with her instinctive awareness that he's rather better at feeling and acting on emotions than talking about them.

He dozes off for some of the journey, leaning down onto her shoulder without bothering to be self-conscious about it. It's not an ideal situation, given she is considerably shorter than him, but it's good enough for an exhausted man to snatch a few moments' rest.

Thoughts flit through the edges of his consciousness as he hovers between sleeping and waking. Thoughts about the Mountain, thoughts about Clarke. Thoughts about how the two things will always be inextricably bound together, in his mind, since he chose to pull that lever to show her he would never leave her alone. He hopes that today's therapeutic tour has only served to emphasise that fact for her. He still hasn't entirely forgiven himself for nearly standing her up last night in his misguided belief that dating Gina would put his head right, but he reckons that today might have shown Clarke that he considers them bound together. She might not want him in quite the way he wants her, but he doesn't think he's wrong in believing that this friendship is incredibly special to both of them.

As if hearing his insecurities spoken aloud, she soothes them with the plan she suggests as they arrive back at Camp Jaha. He's not used to having someone look out for him, and it always takes him by surprise when Clarke goes out of her way to take care of him, even though she's been trying to do it more or less since they got back from Mount Weather.

"Why don't you go back to the room?" She mutters, her eyes narrowed at the very spot where his hand is rubbing his neck, which is sore from napping at such an uncomfortable angle.

"Where are you going?" He asks, instinctively alarmed at the thought of her going anywhere.

"I'm going to get us some food and bring supper to you. Go on, you look tired and you've had a tough day."

He bristles at that, his pride a little hurt. "I'm fine. I can come to supper. It's not a problem."

"I know it's not a problem." She sighs heavily. "I know you're capable of coming to supper. Just – let me do this for you, OK? You've still fetched me supper ten times more often."

When she puts it like that, it gets harder to say no. She really does seem to want to do a kind thing for him. And as long as he still looks after her more often than she returns the favour, he supposes his overactive protective instincts are more or less satisfied.

Without arguing further, he gives her shoulder a squeeze and sends her on her way.

He realises something, as he walks back towards their room, and feels the ghost of her warm skin against his palm. He's been touching her an awful lot today – all innocent touches, of course – but he should have been more guarded. She's bound to realise he's attracted to her if he keeps finding all these excuses to take her hand or give her a hug. He tries to justify it to himself by recalling that it's been an emotional day and he let his guard down, but it doesn't quite work – if only because he knows he lets his guard down around Clarke far too often, emotional day or not.

He needs to be more careful. He needs to take a step back, otherwise he's going to make her uncomfortable. But in his defence, it's difficult to remember to keep his hands to himself when he wakes up every morning cuddling her.

Maybe that strong impulse he felt yesterday to take her to bed wasn't only the product of a bad day and his favourite coping mechanism. Maybe he's just getting pathetically desperate to sleep with her for its own sake.

He needs to do something about that. He can't risk losing her, scaring her off with his pesky feelings. Perhaps he should hook up with someone else and get it out of his system. Gina's not an option, it seems, but surely he can find someone willing. He was inundated with offers, when they first arrived on the ground, but no one has come onto him in weeks now.

Apparently people find that learning he's a mass-murderer is a bit of a turn-off, or something.

It doesn't take long for Clarke to get back with their supper, and he's glad of the distraction from his own unproductive train of thought.

"I got you beans and boar." She tells him with a grin. "You have bad taste, but what can I do?"

"I have great taste." He argues, pleased to engage in her cheerful banter after a day sadly lacking in cheer.

She only shakes her head, and perches on the bed at his side.

"What did you get, then?" He asks, eager to enjoy some mundane chitchat.

"Venison stew and bread. Want some?"

He nods, and she swaps him a small serving of her meal for some of his boar meat – bad taste or not. Their fingers brush as she takes the fork from his hand, and she smiles as she concedes that it could be worse, and the whole interaction is so heart-wrenchingly domestic that, as he brings the fork to her mouth for a second bite, he genuinely finds himself on the point of following it up with a kiss.

He needs to get himself under control. This is ridiculous. He ought to have his mind on other things – on Mount Weather, and on murder, and on the precious medical supplies they salvaged this afternoon. But his mind is full of Clarke, of the way she stood by him all day, of her warmth at his side right now, and of how hopelessly gone he is over her.

"What are we doing tonight?" She asks, either oblivious to his internal struggle or pretending to be so.

"I don't know. Looks like we're not going to the bar, and we never do anything else."

"We should try something new."

"What do you have in mind?"

"Sinclair gave me a datapad he found today." She explains, suddenly appearing almost shy. "We could watch a movie?"

He swallows thickly at the thought of spending an evening in the darkness with Clarke nestled against his side. He can't really imagine anything more enjoyable, if he's being honest, but nor can he imagine anything more troubling to his self-control.

"I'd like that." He manages to say at last. "If that's what you want to do?"

"Yeah. I mean – if you're OK with us using their stuff." She doesn't have to say any more than that. He knows that she's struggling with the idea of taking possessions once owned by people they killed.

"I think so."

"However we feel about what we did, there's no sense in letting their resources go to waste." She says the words carefully, as if she has practised them, as if she is determined to view this emotionally loaded question through the lens of pure logic.

With that decided, they put aside their empty plates and watch a movie. It's one Clarke chooses, which she remembers from her childhood – something about a young woman playing football, when that was considered a man's pursuit. Bellamy can rather see why it appeals to Clarke, what with her disdain for old Earth gender stereotypes, and when she explains that her family and the Jahas used to watch a lot of football it becomes even more clear. It's not necessarily what Bellamy would have chosen, but it is entertaining enough and Clarke is happy, so that's all he needs to enjoy the evening himself. It is good, he decides, to do something uplifting after the day they have had. He even catches himself laughing at one point, and she turns to smile at him with something that looks almost like pride when he does so.

"I'm sorry." She whispers, about twenty minutes in, and he cannot for the life of him work out why.

"What for?"

"Choosing a movie that you wouldn't have chosen. You must be bored. I won't be upset if you fall asleep."

He may not have slept much last night, and he may be feeling distinctly knackered, but as he tightens his arm around Clarke's shoulders he reaches a firm conclusion.

There is no way he's missing a single second of this.

Chapter Text

Clarke judges herself, the next morning, when she looks back on their movie night and recalls the shameless way she allowed herself to snuggle into Bellamy's side. That's not the kind of relationship they have, she chastises herself, and didn't she decide only the other week that it would be inappropriate to pursue anything romantic so soon after Mount Weather?

Anyway, she thinks sourly, there would be no sense in pursuing him. Not since Gina, and the drink that Clarke is seeing as irrefutable proof that he's not interested in her romantically. She's a logical woman, and she cannot fathom any reason why he would ask out someone else if he had any interest at all in her.

So, yeah, she's judging herself for getting cuddly last night. But that doesn't stop her from snuggling a bit closer to him, now, as she lies in bed and watches him read. Another moment of weakness she will no doubt judge herself for, later, but worth it in the moment.

"You OK?" He whispers, juggling his book in one hand as he eases the other arm under her neck, inviting her onto his chest.

"Yeah. You?"

"Bored of Van Gogh." He jokes. "But otherwise I'm doing alright."

"That's good." She says, and means it. She wasn't expecting him to look so perky after yesterday. Sure, he's something of an expert in looking perky when he feels terrible, but she likes to think that she knows him well enough by now that she can mostly see through that act, and she thinks he is being genuine this morning.

Neither of them speaks, for a while. Bellamy is reading, and Clarke isn't sure what to say. She fears that if she starts talking while her cheek is pressed against his chest and her breath is ghosting across his bare skin she will only draw attention to their distinctly unconventional situation. It is one thing to be the roommate of one's platonic close friend, or even to share a bed with them when the circumstances force it, but she's pretty sure this kind of morning snuggling is a pretty weird way to behave outside of a romantic relationship.

Bellamy doesn't seem to be complaining, though. He's just reading, and breathing, and occasionally running a thumb along the bare skin of her arm. She likes to feel his chest rise and fall, warm and firm against her cheek. He stopped wearing a T shirt to bed about a week ago, and Clarke rather wonders if he knows what that does to her sanity.

The time to get out of bed and go to breakfast arrives. And then it passes, and the two of them are still lying in bed. Clarke isn't even reading, or talking, but somehow she's not bored. She thinks she could lie like this forever, and if this is the only kind of physical closeness that is ever going to feature in her relationship with Bellamy she is determined to make the most of it.

She knows they need to get up eventually. She is scheduled to go on another diplomatic mission to see Indra today and discuss the terms of a trade deal. But surely another five minutes won't hurt their chances of securing friendly relations with the woman who already loves Octavia like a daughter.

A knock on the door shatters their peace.

"You'd better be dressed because I'm coming in." Octavia announces. Of course it is Octavia – who else would dare to hammer down the door before breakfast?

"It's locked." Bellamy calls back without apparent concern or remorse.

"Then you'd better get out here soon. I'm sure there's a good reason you weren't at breakfast on time?"

"There is." He says, but does not elaborate further.

Clarke sniggers against his chest. Sure, she's a little embarrassed at the thought of what Octavia probably presumes they were up to, but she has to see the humour in the situation.

Huh. That's odd. She doesn't find situations humorous, as a general rule, since the Mountain. Perhaps this is healing at work, or something.

They throw on their clothes in record time, and Clarke snatches up her pack before they make it to the mess hall for the tail end of breakfast service. Octavia seems more exasperated than angry with them for their tardiness, and Lincoln simply offers them that slow, broad smile of his. That is, Clarke supposes, further confirmation that their friends have got very much the wrong idea about why they were so late.

Before she knows it, Octavia is ushering her out of the camp. Bellamy and Lincoln stay with them as far as the gates, where Lincoln says goodbye to Octavia for the day in a flurry of overenthusiastic kisses.

Bellamy, meanwhile, stands with his hands firmly clasped on his hips, nodding stiffly at Clarke and wishing her a safe journey.

Giggling a little – for the second time in one morning, something of a record in recent times – she pulls him into a fierce hug. He seems startled for a moment, then relaxes into the embrace and wraps his arms around her in turn. She can feel him nuzzling into her hair as he whispers goodbyes against her skin, and all in all it seems like a far more appropriate leave-taking than that silly stiff nod he started with.

Octavia strikes up a conversation as the two of them leave the gates behind them. Clarke is glad of it, or at least she thinks she is. She's had a turbulent relationship with her in the last couple of months, and although they're mostly on good terms they are used to having Bellamy and Lincoln around to smooth over any jagged edges between them.

"You going to tell me why you were so late to breakfast?" She asks, with a sly glance. Clarke thinks she's teasing rather than genuinely trying to be hurtful, but sometimes it is hard to tell with Octavia.

"We didn't want to get up, I guess." She tries for a shrug.

"That's one way of putting it."

"We weren't – we don't -" She stops and tries again. "It's not like that, Octavia. We're not sleeping together. We genuinely didn't want to get up. Your brother was so tired yesterday, and he looked so peaceful reading in bed this morning. I wasn't about to remind him we needed to get to breakfast."

Octavia gives her a considering sort of look, and it lasts quite some seconds. Clarke is almost beginning to grow nervous when at last the younger girl speaks. "You're good for him. I don't always like to admit it, but it's true. He's never had an equal, or partner. He's been looking out for me and mum his whole life and it's good to see someone looking out for him – even if I don't always approve of your methods."

Octavia really must be in a good mood with her, Clarke thinks, if she is referring to the bombing of TonDC with that euphemism rather than criticising her outright. Those words get her thinking, though, about how sad it is that no one has ever taken care of him before. And somehow she finds herself remembering what he said about Van Gogh this morning, and wondering how hard it would be to get hold of a book from Mount Weather that might be more to his taste. There is no better way of showing him that she wants him to be happy than by giving him a heartfelt gift, surely? Perhaps that's something she ought to look into.

"Thanks for saying that." Clarke offers in the end, somewhat inadequately. She's feeling too overwhelmed to come up with anything more useful to say.

"One thing, though. You are sleeping together, technically. There's only one bed in that room."

Clarke laughs at that. This is getting ridiculous, she thinks – what has she done to deserve so much happiness this morning?

"You knew what I meant, Octavia."

"Yeah. But you're sleeping with my brother, so I figure I get to give you a hard time."

…...

Bellamy is disappointed in himself. It's one thing that he permitted himself to hold Clarke close while they were watching that movie last night. But the way he shamelessly allowed himself to lie in bed late and bask in the glow of her company this morning – that's something else entirely. And he meant to keep his distance after that, really he did, and be a good, respectful, platonic friend. But then she went and hugged him as she was leaving for the day and sent his resolve crumbling.

It's just as well she did, though, he decides now as he watches her and Octavia walk into the forest. He'd never forgive himself if something happened to her out there and he hadn't even hugged her goodbye.

Lincoln speaks up, then, suggesting a spot of wrestling practice, and he is glad of it. There's no point him standing around pining after Clarke all day. They invite Miller along as well and make a morning of it, the three of them laughing and joking like old friends.

Bellamy supposes this is the closest he's going to get to old friends, in this life. Well, apart from Clarke. But he really wishes she wasn't so much a friend as a lover, so surely -

Damn it. There he goes again, distracted by Clarke. This is getting ridiculous, now, and embarrassing, as Miller clocks him on the left ear while he isn't even looking.

He needs to get this out of his system. He needs to find some other way to satisfy his stupid sex drive, and then he can go back to behaving calmly around her, right? And he can go back to not thinking stupid inconvenient thoughts about her when he's supposed to be beating Miller to a friendly pulp.

He eats lunch with his two friends, but when Lincoln asks if he wants to hang out for the afternoon, he acts on his newfound resolve and turns him down.

"No thanks. I have plans." It's not strictly true, of course. He doesn't have plans yet. But he has plans to have plans, and that's what counts. This is the perfect opportunity, after all – Clarke is out and not expected back until the evening, so he has the room to himself and any young woman who might be interested in visiting it.

He doesn't allow himself to consider the insensitivity of inviting someone else back to a bed he shares with Clarke. This may not be the perfect solution, but he's got himself convinced that he's the best solution he's going to get. It will get some of his desire out of his system, and might give his mood a bit of a boost into the bargain. Sex has always worked for him as a distraction before now, has always made him feel better about himself, and he sees no reason why this afternoon should be any different.

It's been a while since he's had a casual hookup and he's not sure how to go about it. He never had to plan them, before – they just happened. Women would express interest, and he'd take them up on it. But no one has expressed interest in a good few weeks now and he's not got much clue how to initiate anything himself. The bit that actually happens in bed, that he's confident with. But getting there in the first place suddenly looks rather daunting, especially without alcohol or a party atmosphere to throw opportunities into his lap.

He starts by considering his options. None of the girls from the dropship has looked twice at him since they got back from Mount Weather, and he's not sure why. Must be that thought he had the other day, about mass murderers not being so attractive. Gina is evidently off the table, and he doesn't know many other young women who made it down to the ground.

There's only one who stands out. Mel always seemed sweet on him, liked to say flattering things about how heroic he was to rescue her. He even remembers her following him around a little in the days just before he went into Mount Weather. All things considered, she seems like a good place to start in his quest for a casual hook-up. Now he just has to hope she's available in the next six hours.

He seems to remember she works in the kitchens, so he starts there. And, sure enough, when he asks for her a helpful guy points him in the correct direction.

This has all been too easy, he frets as he approaches her. He was expecting to have longer to work out exactly how to go about asking a near stranger if they want some no-strings-attached sex. He can no longer entirely remember how he once ended up in the midst of a threesome – all he can recall is that it certainly wasn't his idea.

He's terrible at this. Or, at least, much worse at it than he thinks he ought to be.

"Mel." He greets her with a bright smile. That's one part of the seduction process he feels fairly confident about.

"Bellamy?" She seems confused rather than intrigued, which is not ideal. "What are you doing here?"

"Looking for you." He says, in a confidential tone, leaning in towards her a little.

"You were? Why?"

"I haven't seen you around much lately. I was wondering how you're doing?"

She is definitely confused. "I'm fine, thanks. Peeling carrots." She gestures to the vegetables before her self-consciously.

Damn it. This is not going well. Nowhere in his plan to scratch this itch and stop going unhinged over Clarke were carrots a feature.

He takes a steadying breath and shores up his smile. "How about you leave those carrots and keep me company for a bit?"

She frowns. "Keep you company?" She asks, bemused. "Don't you have tasks assigned for the afternoon?"

"Erm... not really." His embarrassing lack of clear employment status is not where he saw this going. He leans in further, whispers in her ear. "If you wanted to keep me company you might have a good time. If you know what I'm saying?"

She pulls away from him as if burnt. That's not quite the reaction he was hoping for.

Then it gets worse.

"I'm not interested in helping you cheat on your girlfriend and I don't want a threesome. So you can keep yourselves company, thank you very much." She spits at him, all affronted pride.

He's puzzled. "Who said anything about a threesome?"

"I – I'm not – you -" She splutters, flushing and angry, for a few moments. "I don't want to come between you and Clarke. And I don't want to join you and Clarke. So, please, take your offer and leave the kitchen."

Well, now. This he can clear up. "Clarke and me, we're not together like that."

She gives him an incredulous look. "You live together, Bellamy. Everyone knows it. And we all heard you having that fight in the supper queue last week – something about you standing her up for another woman? I don't know what game you're playing here, but I don't want to get caught in the middle of a fight like that."

He admits defeat, then. Her conclusion might be patently untrue – much to his disappointment – but he has to admit that she's built it out of a fair amount of accurate evidence. He therefore stammers an apology and leaves the kitchen.

So much for Mel, and so much for him being a hero.

He's ashamed to learn that she thinks him capable of cheating on the girlfriend he doesn't actually have. Sure, he knows he's a monster, but surely everyone can see that he's not specifically that kind of monster? He supposes it at least makes sense of why no other woman has come near him in weeks – if they all think he's in a relationship, it's no surprise they think he's not worth hitting on.

He doesn't feel worth anything much at all, right now. As if he wasn't already feeling quite a lot of self-loathing, now he's gone and offended harmless Mel into the bargain.

He starts stalking back to their room, wondering if just jerking himself off will hit the spot. He could do that in their bathroom, maybe, pretend that Clarke was there with him – or would that be even worse? Fantasising about his roommate in their shared bathroom is probably less than acceptable. But then again, nothing is acceptable about much of his recent behaviour, he's pretty sure. The odd sexual indiscretion is surely not on the same scale as the murder of countless strangers.

He's about to give up and spend the afternoon with his own right hand when he finds himself walking past engineering. That gives him one last, desperate idea.

He lets himself in and starts looking around. Most of the people here know him, what with him and Clarke being friends with Raven and Gina, so no one questions his presence. It's not long before he finds himself at Raven's workbench.

"Hey, Blake." She greets him cheerfully. "Come to pester me while Clarke's not here to keep you company?"

"Something like that." He agrees, swallowing discomfort.

She fixes him with a questioning glare.

He decides he ought to cut to the chase. "Remember when we slept together?"

Her glare is even more questioning, now. "Yes?"

"It wasn't bad, right?"

"It wasn't bad." She agrees, with an emphasis that makes his heart sink. "I mean, it was fine, but I've had better. Where is this going?"

"Want to try it again?"

She gapes at him for several seconds. It's pretty unflattering, he feels. "You're suggesting we sleep together again?" She repeats back at him, as if hoping she has misheard him.

"Yeah."

"Why would I want to do that?" She asks baldly.

This afternoon is really not going to plan. "You just said it wasn't bad. I thought maybe we could help each other out."

"Leaving aside a thousand other problems with this entire conversation, I don't need your help. I'm seeing Wick tonight." She explains, almost shy.

"You are? That's great news, Raven!"

"It's not a big deal." She says, even though the grin on her face reveals that it is most definitely a big deal. "What we should be talking about is why the hell you want to hook up with me when you and Clarke are literally living together."

He does wish people would stop making this about Clarke. It is about Clarke, of course, but not in the way they seem to think.

"She doesn't see me like that." He says, trying for a carefree shrug and not entirely succeeding.

"I call bullshit. I get that you're both still working things out, but you can't tell me you honestly think she doesn't see you like that at all."

"I don't know." He shifts his weight from foot to foot, humiliated beyond belief to be having this conversation. "I – you know, Lexa."

"Have you ever actually talked to Clarke about that? Properly talked? She would barely give Lexa the time of day most of the time you were in that Mountain, she was so worried about you." Bellamy starts at that. It can't be true, can it? Clarke would have said something, surely. "I get that she's not exactly ready to define your relationship but trust me, she'll get there one day. And in the meantime, I wouldn't go hooking up with anyone else if I were you. You saw how jealous she got about Gina."

"Jealous?" That doesn't sound right.

"Jealous. Now get out of my workshop. Go spend the afternoon picking Clarke a bouquet of daisies." She suggests cynically.

Bellamy goes. Not to pick daisies, of course, because that would be silly. And he doesn't believe what Raven said, anyway. Obviously. If Clarke was into him, he'd know about it. She's not into him, because she likes Lexa who betrayed her, and because she's still healing. And she wasn't jealous of Gina at all – she just wanted Bellamy to date someone more suited to him.

He doesn't believe Raven one little bit. But he'd like to.

…...

Clarke has had a good day with Octavia. Indra certainly wants a trade deal, and has invited a small delegation to visit a trading post on Trikru territory in the coming days. And whilst there is no reply from the Commander regarding the kill order as yet, it is quite clear that no harm will come to either Octavia or Lincoln if they venture out into land that is under Indra's control.

As news goes, Clarke reckons this is better than they could have dared dream of. She's very aware that Indra is sticking her neck out in circumventing Lexa's wishes like this, and that makes her even more grateful for the gesture of friendship. Indra tries to pretend that it is not friendship but politics, of course, but the light in her eyes when she speaks with Octavia rather gives the game away.

By the time they leave for Camp Jaha, then, Clarke is almost happy. She is certainly the closest she has been to contentment in quite some weeks. Productivity suits her, and a day of successful negotiations is just the thing to keep her mind in a good place.

By the time they arrive at Camp Jaha, however, much of her positive mood has fled. She cannot quite put her finger on it. It's like the transition from being out and about, and being somebody of use, back to loitering around her home achieving nothing, is slowly sapping the joy out of her. And Octavia is much less chatty, on this leg of the journey, as the lengthy trek is starting to get the better of both of them even though they're pretty fit for Skypeople.

Clarke ought to be happy that she's heading home. Her mum is at home, and Raven, and Bellamy. But Bellamy is causing a funny kind of disquiet in her belly, just now. She's almost dreading seeing him when she gets back because she's finding it increasingly difficult to hide her attraction to him, and is increasingly feeling like she has to be on her guard around him. And she enjoyed their lazy morning far too much – she realises that now – and she can't let anything like that happen again. Even worse, what if he says something about it? Or what if he's spent the whole day thinking about her excessively clingy behaviour and decided he's had enough of it?

She needs to get a hold of herself. Good sense is normally her greatest attribute. But somehow or other her sense always seems to fly out of the window whenever Bellamy is involved.

She takes deep breaths as she sees Camp Jaha come into view. It's very likely, she knows, that part of the reason she's feeling irrationally anxious about Bellamy is that she's actually still upset about TonDC and Mount Weather but is instead chaneling her disquiet into something closer to home. She has enough sense to realise this, but apparently not enough sense to do anything to stop it.

She doesn't hug him when she gets to the gate. No, he hugs her – and well before the gate, too, running out of the camp as if she's been gone a month not a day, and wrapping his arms around her tightly.

Well, then. Apparently he doesn't object to her clinginess.

"You OK?" He asks, stepping back to give her a quick once-over, as if expecting her to be concealing the fact she's been mauled by bears, or something.

"I'm fine. You can stop worrying about me."

"Not sure I can, actually." He tells her with surprising lightness. He does seem to be doing better for having gone to Mount Weather yesterday, she notes – or maybe he's doing better for having slept in this morning.

She doesn't answer that with words, but with a cheery grin and a passing squeeze of his bicep. After all, he's apparently content with clinginess, and his biceps are well worth squeezing.

No. That thought has no place here. She's supposed to be going to supper, not wondering what it would feel like to -

"Clarke?"

"Sorry, Octavia. You were saying?"

"Supper's almost over. Let's get going."

…...

They eat their food in record time. Clarke has to admit, she's pretty damn hungry after a day pacing about the forest. And somehow the food always tastes better now that a hundred teenage delinquents she feels responsible for are not risking their lives to catch it.

"Have we got plans after supper?" Octavia asks towards the end of the meal, much to Clarke's surprise. Normally she and Lincoln tend to take time to themselves, rather than seeking out company in the evenings.

"I guess we'll go get a drink if you guys want to join?" Bellamy offers.

Clarke swallows her disappointment. She has no right to wish for another movie night. Last night was a pleasant change, but going to the bar is their thing, and she shouldn't expect Bellamy to give that up just to cuddle with her under the pretence of watching a film.

"Yeah, come to the bar with us." She invites them. She really is getting on pretty well with Octavia at the moment, and it seems like she should probably take this chance to encourage that.

"Let's go." Octavia says, getting to her feet. She is, after all, not one for planning to do something, when she can just get straight on with actually doing it.

Lincoln gives an indulgent – or perhaps adoring – smile and stands, too. And then Clarke finds that she and Bellamy are somehow left tagging along to their own evening plans, looking for all the world like spare parts and not like the people who suggested this idea in the first place.

Raven and Gina are already in the bar, and Clarke's not sure what to think about that. She hasn't seen Gina since Bellamy went for that cursed drink with her the other day. When he offers a polite nod but no extravagant smile in the direction of the nice girl he's definitely not dating, Clarke breathes a small sigh of relief. It seems that friendly, but not too friendly, is the way they have left things.

She therefore suggests to Octavia that they take their drinks over to join Raven and Gina, and thus she finds herself in the midst of the largest social gathering she has experienced in quite some time. It's odd, she decides. There are voices, all the time, over the top of one another, having many different conversations at once. Or, perhaps more accurately, two conversations, but that's twice as many conversations as she's tried to follow at once since the day they got back from Mount Weather. She seems to remember a time when she liked the buzz of human company, but now it's just hurting her head.

She's puzzled, too, by the weird looks passing between Raven and Bellamy. She could swear she saw Raven wink at one point, but Bellamy only frowned in return, and that seems like an odd exchange. Another thing for her to worry about, when she should be concentrating on dealing with all these damn people.

No. They're not damn people. They are her friends. But she's frankly ashamed of herself that her ability to socialise has deteriorated to such an alarming extent that she's genuinely frightened of laughing in the wrong place at Raven's latest anecdote.

"Clarke?" Bellamy's soft whisper in her ear somehow breaks through all the rest of the noise.

"Yeah?" She tries to sound calm, but it comes out as more of a squeak.

"I'm still pretty tired from yesterday. Want to get out of here and get an early night?"

She physically wilts in relief, leaning right up against his side, her inhibitions apparently malfunctioning. "I'd like that. Let's go."

They haven't finished their drinks, but that's hardly a priority right now. Clarke pushes her glass away from her as Bellamy scrapes back his chair.

"We're heading home." He announces to the table at large. "I need to get some sleep."

"Tired, big brother?" Octavia asks, somewhere between teasing and concerned.

"He's fine." Clarke rushes to assure her, suspecting that he doesn't want the little sister he protects so assiduously to know that he loses so much sleep to nightmares. "He's just getting old." She teases in the hope that her poor attempt at humour will distract Octavia from the question of his health.

"Old?" Lincoln asks, mock offended on his friend's behalf. "He's a strapping young man, Clarke. He almost won a round against me today."

"It's OK, Lincoln. She's allowed to take the piss." Octavia insists in a stage whisper. "She's sleeping with my brother, she can do no wrong."

In the silence that follows, Clarke reckons she can almost hear Bellamy wince.

Chapter Text

This day trip to a local grounder trading post is the most exciting thing that's happened to Clarke in weeks.

Yes, she's aware that's pathetic. But after the high-stakes life she lived the first couple of months on the ground, things have been a little too slow since she got back from Mount Weather. She understands that her mother thinks she needs to rest and recover, really she does, but spending most of her days in med bay waiting for something to do is not exactly testing her talents.

She's particularly excited because of her excitement, in a funny kind of way. It's been so long since she's experienced such a purely happy emotion as excitement that it makes her day, in and of itself. It's a kind of marker of her progress, a checkpoint she didn't expect to reach so soon.

She's proud of the role she played in bringing about this trip. Thanks to the visit she and Octavia made to see Indra a few days ago, the Trikru leader herself is now showing half a dozen residents of Camp Jaha towards the trading post. Octavia and Lincoln walk at the front of the group with Indra. Lincoln is positively glowing at the chance to enter the forest for the first time since the kill order was placed on his head, safe in the knowledge that no one but the Commander herself would dare to touch him while he's at Indra's side. Harper and Monty walk next, laughing about something Clarke cannot hear, relaxing far enough to let their rifles hang unattended down their backs while their hands draw in the air with considerable animation, accompanying their jolly conversation with gestures Clarke cannot hope to understand.

She wonders if there's something there, between the two of them. She's been wondering it on and off since the Mountain, since she witnessed Monty fuss over Harper in a way she's never really seen him behave towards anyone else.

It's not her business to speculate, of course. And she knows better than anyone that excessive fussing is not necessarily indicative of a romantic attachment. Bellamy continues to positively smother her with his protectiveness, but he couldn't look less romantically interested if he tried, she's pretty sure. He's been avoiding touching her, the last few days, and it's driving her mad – almost as mad as the sight of his shirtless shoulders each morning. She just wants a long-drawn-out hug once in a while.

OK, she wants a lot more than a long-drawn-out hug. But she'd settle for one of those. She has grown used to getting Bellamy hugs quite often, and she's rather put out that they seem to have been taken away from her.

Bellamy is either oblivious to her craving to be near him, or pretending to be so. He is, at least, willing to walk by her side as they trek through the forest today, and she's glad of it. She's still not got to grips with hanging out with large numbers of people, so it suits her that this group has split off into smaller clutches as they walk.

"What's on your mind?" He asks, sounding for all the world as if he genuinely wants to know. He's a good friend – the best – and she knows she ought to be grateful for his friendship, rather than greedily wishing for what she cannot have.

She cannot see how to go about explaining her warring excitement and frustration, so she swerves the question. "This should be interesting, shouldn't it? I wonder what a grounder trading post is like."

"Indra says she doesn't expect Niylah to have any books to trade." He is visibly disappointed.

"Maybe some will turn up." She says airily. She has something in mind on that front, but she doesn't want to let slip the secret just yet.

"What if this Niylah doesn't want grain or scrap metal? What then?"

"Then we've had an adventure and we know to bring something different next time." Clarke is surprisingly calm at the idea. However this day turns out, they will know more about trading with the grounders by the end of it than they do right now.

…...

As it happens, Niylah does want both grain and scrap metal. And more than either of those things, it seems she wants to be the pioneer who starts a friendly and mutually beneficial relationship with the Skypeople.

Clarke gets the feeling that she might want something else, too. There's the odd sly glance thrown her way, a hand lingering on her arm longer than strictly necessary, and the whole package gives her the distinct impression that Niylah is into her.

Whatever. Maybe it's just wishful thinking. Maybe all this damn appetite that Bellamy has unwittingly stirred up is just driving her mad. All the same, she finds herself strangely tempted to take Niylah up on her unspoken offer, and wondering whether there is any way she might sneak back here for a visit in the coming days. There is something in her determined eyes that reminds her Lexa's fire, but something in her soft smile that has a hint of Bellamy's protectiveness, too.

OK, sure, so she doesn't much like Niylah for her own sake, and that makes her a monster for even considering this idea. But she's lonely, damn it, for all that she spends her days surrounded by people, and a lazy afternoon of lovemaking sounds like just the thing to help her feel both relaxed and appreciated.

She continues to puzzle over that idea on the way home. She reckons Niylah is probably not a viable candidate – the logistics of sneaking out to see her are complicated, and she figures she shouldn't jeopardise their new trade deal by adding sex into the mix. But surely there must be someone at Camp Jaha who would help her out?

Bellamy is silent at her side as they walk, and he looks grumpy to say the least, but Clarke cannot bring herself to do anything about it. She's just so sick and tired of the way he blows hot and cold with her. She cannot for the life of her understand how it is that they were propping each other up like some long-married couple on that journey round Mount Weather, but can barely speak a word between them on a simple trade mission.

She flees his company the moment they get back inside the gates. She needs to find Raven.

She lets herself into engineering, giving Gina a swift wave as she searches for Raven's workstation. Wick passes her in the corridor, too, looking more cheerful than she's seen him in weeks, but she doesn't allow herself to be distracted by wondering why that should be. She has something to achieve.

"Raven. I'm looking for a hookup." She announces, the moment she enters the room. Not because she's feeling nervous or awkward about this conversation, of course not. Rather, because she is a businesslike young woman and interested in getting on with this.

Raven looks amused, and that annoys her. "A specific hookup? As in, you've misplaced someone you recently screwed? Or will anyone do?"

Clarke takes a calming breath. "Not a specific one. Just – you know, you're my friend, and you know people. I thought you could set me up with someone."

"As it happens, you're the second person who's been in here looking for casual sex this week." Raven says, all feigned nonchalance as she toys with a screwdriver.

Clarke nods eagerly. "Great. Sounds like we can help each other out. Who was it?"

"Bellamy."

Clarke doesn't actually faint, and she's proud of herself for that. But she does sit down, rather abruptly, because the world is spinning about her and she doesn't like it. Bellamy? Bellamy was here, asking Raven to find him someone to warm his – their – bed? He really must not be interested in her. And this must be the ultimate proof that his drink with Gina was definitely supposed to be a date.

"Clarke?" Raven actually looks concerned as she hovers over her.

"Sorry. Just – yeah, long walk." She offers, feeling rather foolish. Her disappointment must be written all over her face, she realises, trying desperately to school her expression into something more neutral. Sure, she's pretty convinced that Raven's already worked out how she feels about Bellamy, but there's no point making it so obvious.

Raven does her the favour of accepting her excuse at face value. "I guess you won't be in the mood for that hookup after all, then, if you're so tired."

"No. I am. Just – any other suggestions?"

"I just gave you a great suggestion, Clarke. You can both help each other out. And think of how practical it would be – you already live together. You have to admit it makes more sense than inviting someone else back to your room and explaining to him or her why Bellamy's boxers are already on the floor." When she puts it like that, Clarke starts to see that Raven might have a point.

"I don't..." She trails off, not sure where her sentence was ever planning on going in the first place.

"You do." Raven tells her firmly. "Look, you know he's nice to look at, and I'm telling you he's a decent screw. You could do worse."

"Yeah, I believe you. I just – what if it gets awkward?" She realises this is a stupid question, given their relationship has been distinctly awkward for the last few days, but she finds herself asking it all the same.

"It won't, Clarke. You know this makes a lot of sense."

Damn Raven. Damn her for appealing to Clarke's sense of logic and love of a neat solution that kills multiple birds with one stone.

As she bids her friend goodbye and walks out of engineering in a daze, she is shocked to find that she is genuinely considering the idea. She is genuinely considering asking the best friend she is in love with, who sees her in a completely platonic light, to have sex with her out of sheer convenience.

OK, convenience and lust. But the point stands – this is a stupid, moronic, dangerous idea.

But it is, above all, deeply logical. And so it is that she cannot get it out of her head.

…...

Bellamy doesn't know what he's done wrong. Clarke's been looking at him almost angrily since about midday, in stark contrast to those inappropriately warm gazes she was sharing with their new friend Niylah. That served as proof if any were needed, he thinks sourly, that Raven was completely wrong with what she said the other day. Clarke is blatantly not interested in him romantically in the slightest. She's never looked at him with such unmitigated heat as she was showing Niylah.

So, yeah, the weird glares were one thing. But now they're sitting side-by-side at supper and she's not looking at him at all. She's staring at her food as if it is a source of some great fascination to her, speaking only when directly spoken to, toying with her bread and barely eating a bite.

"Clarke? You doing OK?" He whispers in her ear.

She jumps as if stung. "Yeah. Yeah, fine. Sure. Great." She lets off the string of syllables seemingly at random, and returns to staring at her food.

He's really worried, now. What if it's not that he's done something wrong? What if it's worse than that, and something she saw or heard today triggered unhelpful memories of TonDC, perhaps? What if she's spiralling, all alone, not realising that she could reach out and ask him to help her?

He tries again. "Are you sure you're OK, Clarke? You know if something's bothering you, you can tell me?"

"I know." She tells him, with a stiff smile and a dose of false brightness.

He stops asking, then. She's obviously not going to say anything. But he's picked up over the last couple of weeks that she often finds a bit of physical contact comforting when she's having a tough time, so he rests a hand on her thigh beneath the table and shifts a little closer to her side. Whether she's ready to tell him what's going on or not, he will always be here for her.

He's not sure what reaction he's expecting to his attempts at physical comfort, after her odd mood today. He's certainly not expecting her to shuffle even closer to him and smile up at him from beneath her lashes, but somehow that is what happens.

Well, then. The mood of the day just got even odder.

Lincoln and Octavia are sitting opposite them, positively overflowing with excitement about the success of the trade delegation, and Bellamy is grateful for it. He's glad that they're happy, of course he is, but he's even more glad that neither he nor Clarke have to contribute much to the conversation.

When they're done eating, he reaches out to stack Clarke's bowl with his own. He knows she could take it back to the dishwash drop-off herself, but he figures if she's having a tough day he might as well do it for her.

"Thanks." She murmurs, with another incongruous smile.

This is really getting weird now. "No problem. Bar after this?"

"I was actually wondering if we could go back to our room." She suggests, a wobble to her voice that he cannot entirely make sense of.

Yes. Something is clearly very wrong here. If she'd suggested heading back to their room last night, he'd have been right on board with the idea, and thought that maybe she wanted to watch a movie again, and got himself thoroughly overexcited. But that wobble has him worried – does she need to head home so she can cry in private? Is it as bad as that?

He agrees to her request without asking her to explain herself, and gets on with returning their dishes and then accompanying her back to their room.

The evening grows only weirder when they arrive. He sits on the edge of the bed, expecting her to do the same. They normally sit side-by-side on the mattress when they are hanging out in the room. But this time she sits herself in that chair he slept on, the first couple of nights home from the Mountain. Her hands are clasped in her lap and she's staring in rapt concentration at the carpet.

He's beyond concerned, now. He's well past worried, and half way to outright frantic.

"Clarke?"

"We should have sex." She announces without preamble, to his deep and instant confusion.

"Pardon?" Surely, he must have misheard her.

"We should have sex." She clears her throat. "With each other."

He gapes stupidly at her for a moment, then locks his jaw tight before he can do something really foolish like agree wholeheartedly and fling himself at her feet. He's been dreaming of hearing her suggest this for some time, of course, but he never imagined it playing out quite like this. Her tone is the furthest thing from seductive or romantic, and she's so damn far away, and he always imagined that, if it came to this, she'd be staring at his lips, not the floor. Disappointment at the circumstances is warring with sheer excitement in his chest, and much though he tries to restrain himself, he knows which one is going to win. He's going to -

"I've been thinking about it, and it makes a lot of sense. We could help each other out." She continues, despite his silence. It's just as well he didn't speak, he thinks sourly, otherwise he'd have made a complete fool of himself. There he was naively thinking she was actually vaguely interested in him, when all along she only wanted to sleep with him out of sheer logic.

He's still going to say yes, though. Of course he is. He might be disappointed, but he's not an idiot. It's not like he's ever going to get another chance.

"Help each other out?" He asks, through the lump in his throat, trying to work out exactly what she's suggesting.

"Yeah. I just thought – you know, it's been a while for me, and I guess it has for you too. It's difficult to hook up with anyone else while we live together. And you seemed to like to, err, you know, quite regularly when we first landed. I figure you might be about ready to..." She trails off hopelessly and his heart goes out to her. She may be capable of leading armies, but inviting her friends to engage in casual sex with her is apparently not her strong suit.

But he's still disappointed, obviously. And hurt and offended and confused and somehow, stupidly, grieving. Grieving for the kind of relationship he always wanted with her and now realises he will never have.

"Yes." He says all the same.

"Yes?" Is it his imagination, or does she look more excited than he expected?

"Yeah. You're right, it makes a lot of sense. And it's been a while." He tries for a carefree shrug.

"Great." She even offers half a smile to accompany that, leaning forward a little in her chair.

So, that's that. Decision made. And the two of them sit there, entire metres apart, and stare at one another in awkward silence.

Damn it. When did his relationship with Clarke get awkward?

He shakes his head slightly and tries for a pragmatic approach. He's no Clarke, but even he can see that drowning in unhelpful emotions is not going to aid matters, right now. "So, when were you thinking of trying this?" He asks her, as light as he can manage.

She swallows with visible difficulty. "Now, if you want?"

He wants. He very much wants. "Why not?"

"Great." She repeats, with another swallow.

He sighs, somewhat exasperated with the both of them. They're better than this, damn it. Better than stilted stuttering and sticky swallows. It occurs to him rather suddenly that Clarke hasn't done this a lot of times before, as far as he's aware. Sure, she's no blushing virgin, but she's not really done the whole casual-sex-for-fun thing as much as he has.

It looks like he might need to help her out.

"Come over here, Clarke." He pats the bed at his side. "You're right, it's a good idea. But it's only going to be good if we relax and make it good, you know?"

She nods, stiffly, and moves to sit next to him. He allows himself to wrap an arm around her. He figures that will probably help her to relax, and surely it won't look weird or clingy that he's a bit touchy-feely with her if they're about to go and actually sleep together.

"Do you want to talk about what we're going to do? Any rules or boundaries you want to set?" He asks softly. He's normally more for jumping into bed than planning his sexual escapades, but this is Clarke, and he's determined to do a good job of it. In fact, there's a little voice in the back of his head that suggests if he gets it right this time and makes it really good for her, he might even get to try it again some time. That's how pleasure works, right? If she has fun with him, she might come back for more. And then he might even be able to show her that it would be worth her while to view him in a less platonic light, and he might one day be able to win her over for real.

In his dreams.

She brightens at his question, always glad to have something useful to concentrate on. "I don't think so. I trust you. Just – take care of me?"

That request shoots straight to his cock, and he doesn't do a very good job of hiding it. "Of course, Clarke. Of course I'll take care of you." He would take care of her for the rest of his life, in every possible way, if she let him. There are so many thousands of layers of meaning in those words and he wants them all, damn it.

Small steps. One thing at a time. Show her a good time, first, and maybe he'll get a chance to show her his heart, later.

She's biting her lip, visibly nervous, but her eyes are steely and determined. It's so Clarke, that cocktail of vulnerability and bravery, and it's doing dangerous things to his insides.

"Can I kiss you?" He asks, hating the hoarseness of his voice.

Clarke doesn't seem to hate it, though. Her gaze grows more heated as she nods and looks up at him, and that about does it for his self-control.

He brings his lips down to meet hers with more enthusiasm than elegance, pressing up against her as firmly as he can, mouth open and tongue exploring before he has even given her a chance to draw breath.

He needs to slow down, he reminds himself firmly. He needs to take his time, and make this the best it can be for Clarke.

She doesn't seem to object to the pace he has set, though, as she matches his eagerness and parts her lips to invite him in. He's kissing her just the way he has always dreamed of kissing her, hot and dirty, and even a little messy, and it's so glorious he can barely think straight.

Then she slips a hand up his shirt and he completely loses his mind. It's stupid. It's only skin, just her hand on his lower back, but in this moment it feels so unrepentantly sexy that he can feel his cock twitching in his pants.

"Is this OK?" She murmurs against his lips, apparently misreading his awestruck response for one of annoyance.

"Great." He reassures her quickly. "Can I -?" He asks, starting work on removing her shirt in turn.

She nods easily, and takes that as her hint to start undressing him, too, and before long they're both panting into the kiss and running their hands over each other's naked bodies.

Well, nearly naked. Bellamy's still wearing his socks. But he was trying to be smooth, damn it, and he's so determined to make this good for her that it seems like a bad idea to break away from kissing her to deal with his stupid socks.

He guesses he'll just keep them on. But he feels really self-conscious about the whole thing, because really, what kind of man tries to have hot sexy sex in socks? But he can't see a way of reaching down to take them off without either letting go of her breast or disentangling his hand from her hair. And he's grown pretty attached to her breasts already, and she always gives this delightful little gasp when he rubs his thumb over her nipple, so he can't bring himself to abandon that. As for her hair, he's been dreaming of knitting his fingers through her hair and holding her face against his in a heated kiss for – well, for far too long to give it up now.

It looks like the socks are here to stay.

He knew making out with Clarke would be stunning, but he never realised it would be this stunning. She's just so responsive, the shifts in her breathing telling him everything he could wish to know about what feels good to her, and she seems genuinely into this whole idea as she kisses him desperately in return. If she's like this when she's having a casual hookup with a convenient friend, he wonders how absurdly passionate she would be with someone she actually had feelings for.

"Bellamy?" She breaks away from his mouth to whisper his name, but her hands are still pulling him flush against her by the waist, so there's that.

"Mhmm?" He takes advantage of the opportunity to bend and place a succession of kisses along the line of her collarbone.

"Do you want to take your socks off?" She asks, laughter in her voice.

Shame heats his face as he breaks away from her embrace and bends down to deal with the offending clothing. He should have realised he wasn't going to be able to make this so perfect and smooth and romantic for her, he frets darkly. He should have realised he was going to do something stupid like this to screw it all up.

"Sorry." He mutters, throwing them into the far corner of the room and hoping he never sees the cursed things again.

"Don't be." She doesn't start kissing him again, but reaches up to trace his cheek with a finger. "It – this will sound silly – it kind of helped me relax, you know? You're still you, and I'm still me, and we can laugh at your socks along the way."

He wasn't laughing, of course, but he does give a strained chuckle now for her benefit. He's pleased she's relaxed, but he can't relax. He needs to concentrate on making this worth her while. He reaches out to run his thumb over her cheek, tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. Leans down, slowly, to give her a moment to get used to the idea of starting to kiss again.

She beats him to it. She brings her lips up to meet his, all fierceness and fire, and he could swear he falls in love with her a little bit deeper. And barely has he had chance to get started on kissing her again, when she starts teasing his cock with her fingers and he nearly lets out a curse. She can't keep doing that. She mustn't. If she carries on playing with him like that he'll come straight into her hand and that'll just be embarrassing for everyone.

"Not yet." He tells her, trying to keep his tone light. "Let me try something first?"

She nods, utterly trusting, and lets him guide her back onto the bed. She doesn't seem surprised when he takes himself down to the foot of the bed and starts lowering himself onto his forearms between her legs. She's either feeling very relaxed, which would be a good thing, or word that he quite likes eating girls out got around the dropship camp. Whether that would be a good thing or not, he's not so sure.

"This OK?" He asks, with a nod towards her crotch that makes his intentions quite plain.

"If you want to." She says, a slight squeak to her voice. Well, then. Perhaps she is feeling a little nervous after all.

"I'd like to." He confirms, and gets started.

He's always enjoyed doing this, because bringing people pleasure makes him feel good about himself. There have been times in his life when it's been just about the only thing that makes him feel good about himself, and he's aware that's screwed up, but that's how it is.

So, yeah, he was expecting to enjoy himself. But now that the woman he's eating out is Clarke, that just takes it to a whole new level.

He can feel her gasping, but he can no longer strictly hear her, because she's got her legs clamped around his ears. That ought to be uncomfortable, but somehow it only makes the whole thing even hotter, his world reduced to Clarke, and to the way she writhes and wriggles against and around him. It's like he's working in this perfect little bubble where everything sounds like her, and smells like her, and even tastes of her.

Every now and then she gives a mewling noise, high-pitched enough to carry even through to his obstructed ears, and every time she does he feels it go straight to his cock, which is throbbing and hard against the mattress. He slips a finger inside of her, then another when she takes it with an ease he cannot help but find flattering, and all in all he reckons he's doing OK at his plan to show her a good time. She's certainly finding this pleasurable, breath growing ever shorter, stuttering sighs growing ever longer.

He can tell she's close when she grabs hold of the back of his head, fingers tangling in his hair, urging him to give her just a little more pressure. He's only too happy to oblige, of course. He's never enjoyed anything quite like he's enjoying making Clarke happy. And then she's really teetering on the edge, reaching down to grab his free hand with hers, squeezing his fingers so hard it ought to hurt but somehow it only sends pleasure spiralling through his belly. He's had cause to hold hands with her, a time or two, in the last few weeks, but it turns out it feels even better when she's trembling around his ears.

When she comes, clenching down on his fingers, he's almost disappointed. He's honoured that he's satisfied her, of course – and maybe even smug – but he was sort of hoping that this evening would go on forever.

She looses her legs, and stops tugging on his hair in favour of threading it playfully through her fingers.

"Come up here." She instructs him, and he cannot help the grin that breaks out across his face. She may have been nervous, and may not be the most experienced in this department, but that is undoubtedly a flicker of the confident Clarke he knows and loves breaking through.

He does as she asks, and props himself up on one elbow at her side, looking down at her satisfied expression. He'd quite like to tell her she looks beautiful, but that doesn't seem like a very casual hookup thing to say.

He's not sure who starts it, this time, but before long they are kissing again. And then she's got her hands on his butt, urging his hips over hers, angling him against her with a message that is anything but subtle.

"You sure?" He asks, the urgent desire to be inside of her warring with his absolute need to make this evening all about her.

"Sure." She confirms with a grin. "Get in there." He kisses her for that, overjoyed with the decisive tactlessness of that instruction. It's so thoroughly Clarke, and it's everything he ever dreamed sex with her would be – and he hasn't even started screwing her yet.

He takes his time getting inside of her, lining himself up carefully, easing in a little at a time. She huffs impatiently, and tells him she's fine, but he's not about to risk hurting her.

It isn't long before he starts to build up a rhythm, though, taking long, deliberate strokes, trying not to let himself get carried away too soon. Clarke's not really helping him in that, her hands on his butt just a bit too encouraging, her lips on his far too demanding. And then she actually starts asking him to move faster and that makes things difficult. He can't move faster, damn it. If he lets himself start getting into this, he's going to get there before her, and he doesn't want to leave her hanging.

His self-control only extends so far, though. She's so tight and warm around him, and her mouth is hungry against his, and things start to spiral away from him, quite against his will.

Evidently exasperated, she breaks away from the kiss to whisper into his ear. "Relax, Bellamy. I've got you. You can let go."

He does let go. Damn it, he does. He's spilling inside of her, groaning her name with a sincerity he's pretty sure he's going to regret later, sagging on top of her and panting against her ear. He allows himself to lie there, just for a moment, relishing the touch of her hands as she strokes them gently over his clammy skin.

Then he recalls that he left her hanging and, over half way to horrified, slips out and rolls off of her. He reaches a hand out, ghosting over her stomach and towards her crotch, eager to get on with bringing her pleasure.

She stops him in his tracks, clasping his hand in her own.

"I was going to finish it for you." He says, somewhere between confused and disappointed.

"I'm fine. I'm good, really. I'm done."

He doesn't understand what she's saying. She didn't come, he's certain of it. Well, she did have that one orgasm while he had his face between her legs, but she didn't come again, and that doesn't seem fair. He doesn't want to leave her hanging – that's surely the opposite of showing her a good time and convincing her to try this again. But he does want to respect her, of course, and if she really doesn't want him to touch her then obviously he won't.

Where does that leave him?

"I'd be happy to, if you wanted me to." He says, genuine and a little hurt.

"No, we're done here." She insists. The words ought to be harsh, but she's smiling such a bright smile that he's really very puzzled.

"OK." He nods, deciding that part of respecting her has to be taking her words at face value, and not pursuing the issue any further.

"Maybe next time." She offers, scooting towards him and reaching out for a hug.

That has his head spinning, as he struggles to decide whether she's serious about there being a next time, and why she would even want a next time when he's just failed to satisfy her.

She does seem content, though, as she snuggles up against him and drapes herself unceremoniously across his chest. This is something he's dreamed of, the uninhibited cuddling that comes with satisfaction, and he's pleasantly surprised to find that Clarke's interested in that right now. It's not something he associates with a casual hookup, and it's certainly not something he associates with leaving a girl hanging, but she is definitely nuzzling into his chest and tucking her arm around him.

"Are you OK?" He asks. All her body language would indicate that she's OK, but he still needs to hear it said.

"Yeah. Thanks, Bellamy. That was pretty great." Her tone is light, but he can hear that she genuinely means it. All things considered, he thinks he'll take pretty great and her passing implication of a next time. It might not have turned out quite how he hoped his first time sleeping with Clarke would go, but he figures there are more positives here than negatives.

"I enjoyed it, too." He tells her, wondering how to balance being honest and encouraging without sounding absolutely pathetic. "Thanks for suggesting it. We could do it again some time, if you want."

"I'd like that."

He wonders if she's aware that she's running her fingers over his abs, and that it's a little distracting. Then again, he did just catch himself kissing the crown of her head without ever quite making the decision to do it, so he supposes he can hardly criticise her.

"We should go to sleep." He suggests. He's a bit surprised that he has to be the one to say it – more often she is the sensible one who reminds him to get enough rest.

"I don't want to stand up and get the lights." She admits, sounding slightly ashamed of herself. "This is too comfy."

"Then I'll go." He offers, beginning to slip out from beneath her.

"No." She tightens her arm about his waist. "You're my pillow. You can't go."

He laughs at that, genuinely overjoyed. He's pretty sure he doesn't deserve to feel overjoyed after every mistake he has made in recent months, but he feels that way all the same. He's just had sex with Clarke, and she might like to do it again some time, and now she's joking about his use as a human pillow and showing him a frankly carefree side of her personality that he never even dreamed he could earn the privilege of witnessing.

He loves her like this. He loves her ruling the world and running the camp and arguing with him about what to do, and he loves her weeping and falling apart and trusting him to hold her together. And he loves her squirming and gasping beneath his tongue, and he especially loves her cuddling him and joking and behaving like a happy, unburdened young woman.

He loves her so much it hurts a little, when he remembers that it's not like that, for her.

"What are you thinking?" She asks, drawing a swirling pattern over his bicep for no apparent reason.

He can't tell her, of course. He's too scared of losing her. So he says something else instead.

"Why don't we both get out of bed and turn the lights out together?"

Chapter Text

Clarke wakes up the next morning in Bellamy's arms. That's not an unusual occurrence, in itself. In fact, she's done it every morning for the last couple of weeks. But it is certainly a new development that she is stark naked, and this is the first time his hand has been possessively cradling the lower curve of her breast in sleep.

She smiles to herself, snuggling into him more closely. She's pretty sure her radiant mood this morning is the very definition of glowing. She doesn't know yet what Bellamy makes of recent events, of course, but she's feeling reasonably confident. He didn't hate screwing her last night, as far as she can tell, and although it's a rather substantial change in their circumstances she is absolutely determined that she will not allow this to become awkward. They already had a complicated and multi-faceted relationship, and if she gets her way, sex will become just another part of that.

She realises that she's going to need to put a bit of effort in for it to turn out that way. She's beyond relieved that he seemed up for trying it again some time, because she honestly doesn't believe that she gave a very good account of herself last night. She remembers mostly just lying there, overwhelmed by the moment, and not contributing a great deal to his pleasure. She reckons she ought to do better than that, in future, if she wants him to make this a more long-term arrangement. And she's certainly going to have to be a more generous and appealing lover if she wants this to become less of an arrangement and more of a relationship.

But, all in all, she figures she can work with this.

It makes a change for Clarke to be awake before Bellamy, and she enjoys it while it lasts. His arms are firm and familiar around her, but his hand seems somehow different, this morning, in the warm light of dawn, now that she knows how it feels to clutch it whilst dizzy with pleasure.

She can tell when he wakes up. His breathing changes slightly and then all at once he freezes and starts withdrawing his hand.

"Sorry." He mutters, and she can hear the embarrassment in his tone.

She catches his fingers before he can pull away completely. "Don't be. I don't mind. I think we crossed that line last night, don't you?"

He lets out one brief huff of laughter and she feels it tickle the back of her neck. "Yeah. You doing OK? Not … sore or anything?"

"I'm doing great." She assures him. "You?"

"Yeah. Definitely. Really good." If she didn't know better, she'd say he sounded a little flustered.

"You slept well." Clarke observes. "It's not like you to sleep in longer than me, and I didn't notice any nightmares."

"Yeah. You must have tired me out last night."

"Sorry about that."

"I'm really not complaining." She's pretty sure she's never heard him sound so relaxed. This certainly hasn't turned out to be awkward at all, she muses, and if she didn't know better she might even believe he was happy.

There is a heartbeat of silence. And then there is another. And another, and another, as they lie there and Clarke tries to work up her courage.

It's not a big deal, she tells herself. It's a conversation they more or less had last night, for starters, and she's pretty sure his hand wouldn't have sneaked back to that breast while they were talking if he wasn't at least a little bit interested.

But it is still a struggle to get the words out.

She swallows, coughs a little, and finally manages it. "So we're definitely trying that again some time, right?"

He is silent for a while before answering, but it doesn't bother her. She knows his silence is born not from hesitation, but from the fact he's decided to press his lips to the back of her neck.

"Definitely." He confirms, as he pulls away and makes to get out of bed.

Clarke follows, resigning herself to putting on some clothes and getting on with her morning. She doesn't much want to get out of bed, but her smile remains fixed in place.

This is, she decides, the best possible start to the day.

…...

Bellamy tries not to grin too broadly as he eats his breakfast. He doesn't need Octavia taking the piss, for one thing, nor Lincoln giving him that quiet, knowing smile. And he wouldn't want to embarrass Clarke by having people make assumptions about the nature of their relationship just because they had seriously good sex one time.

After all, if he embarrasses her, it might stay at just one time forever. He can't quite believe his luck that she seems keen to try it again – especially after he left her hanging, which he still hasn't forgiven himself for. So he's determined not to do anything to put her off giving him a second chance.

That's not the only reason he tries not to look too visibly happy, though. He's pretty sure that as soon as he starts getting too carried away with joy, the universe will conspire against him to ruin it again. He's convinced that the murderer of Mount Weather doesn't get to be openly ecstatic.

He decides, therefore, that he will stick to quietly ecstatic for now. And if he meets Clarke's eye over the breakfast table slightly more often than usual, neither Octavia nor Lincoln says anything, so that suits him fine.

Octavia and Lincoln are talking about their plans for the day. They are heading out into the nearby forest for a hunting expedition, counting on Indra's protection to keep them safe while they stay on her land.

"What about you, Clarke?" Octavia asks. Bellamy's heart does a bit of a happy hiccup in his chest at the sight of his sister and the woman he loves genuinely getting on well.

"I guess I'll go to med bay." She says, with a shrug.

Bellamy clears his throat and makes a suggestion. "You could come with me to see Kane."

Clarke turns to look at him so quickly he can practically hear her neck snap. "Why are you going to see Kane?"

That's a very good question. He can't altogether explain it himself. It's just that he's been doing better, the last few days, and he woke up this morning finally feeling confident enough to go and ask for a role rather more suited to his skills.

"I want to ask him for something useful to do." He says, in the end. That seems both honest and not too deep or revealing for a busy breakfast hall.

Clarke narrows her eyes at him, just for a moment. And then she gives a slight nod. Damn her. Can she actually read his mind, or is he imagining it?

"Looks like we're going to see Kane." Clarke tells Octavia, tone light. "That's what I've got planned for today"

…...

Abby is technically the Chancellor, of course, but there is a reason Bellamy intends to ask Kane to find him a role. Abby has a great deal to do in med bay, and is increasingly leaving security matters and responsibility for supplies to Kane. Bellamy rather expects Abby to talk Kane into taking back the title of Chancellor rather than only the workload in due course.

So it is that Bellamy and Clarke walk towards Kane's office.

"What are you hoping he'll suggest?" Clarke asks.

"I don't know." He shrugs. "As long as it's not cleaning toilets I'm good."

He doesn't talk about that part of his life much. The year he spent as a janitor with an imprisoned sister was awful beyond bearing. But somehow it feels natural to mention it to Clarke.

"My guess is he'd like to promote you in the guard."

"That could be OK." He hedges. "But – I don't know – that would be a lot like what I'm already doing by training with them. Just with more ordering people about. I don't know if that's what I want."

"No?" It's just a single syllable, but it is enough to convey her patient interest and encourage him to keep talking. He's never really talked to anyone quite like he can talk to Clarke.

"This will sound stupid – I want to do what I'm good at. Like you with that diplomatic mission. And I'm not sure what I'm good at, but I don't think it's shouting at people to do their fitness training or rifle practice."

"You're good at telling me stories about Greek heroes." She says with an affectionate smile. "You're good with kids. And you're damn good at surviving. Let's see what Kane offers you. We can always argue if you don't like it."

Somewhere along the line, it seems she has decided that he is not in this alone. Somewhere along the line, they have become a we.

Kane is pleased to see them, welcoming them in with a nod and a smile. Abby is there as well, and greets Clarke with a hug. Bellamy rather wonders what she makes of that – he knows that mother and daughter have spent less time together since Clarke moved in with him. He supposes he ought to feel sorry about that, but he gets the sense that it's what Clarke needed. A bit of space from the mother who was so devastated by her daughter's role in the TonDC bombing seems to have done her a world of good.

"What brings you here?" Abby asks, not unkindly.

Bellamy takes a deep breath and a leap of faith. "I want to do something useful with my time."

She doesn't bat an eyelid. It is almost, Bellamy thinks, as if she was expecting him to ask this sooner or later. She simply turns to share a look with Kane.

"Did you have something particular in mind?" It is Kane who asks the question.

"No, sir. Just whatever you need me to do." He can feel Clarke at his side as he speaks, her steady presence reassuring him that he is right to take this next step today.

"Good. That works out nicely." Kane gives a nod.

Abby joins in. "Great. That's perfect."

Bellamy wonders what they are talking about. "What is? What are you thinking?"

Kane takes pity on him and explains. "We need someone to work with the guard, help them adapt to this new environment. I want to call it 'Applied Earth Skills'. Someone who's good with people, patient with the cadets and has the respect of the old hands. And most importantly, someone who has a head start on getting to know everything about the ground – the terrain, fauna and flora, grounder customs."

Bellamy cannot believe his ears. This is surely too good to be true. "You think that should be me?"

Abby fixes him with a look that says he is out of his mind if he thinks it should be anyone else. Kane nods firmly. But it is Clarke, of course, who seals the deal.

"That's perfect for you, Bellamy. You're going to be great at it."

…...

Bellamy is great at it, as it turns out. But more importantly he enjoys his first day on the job, the next morning. He has Lincoln teach the younger guards a bit about grounder culture, and a lot about wrestling, and Bellamy and Miller break off and pass on what Lincoln has taught them in recent weeks to their own groups, too.

It's a resounding success. The guards learn a good deal about wrestling, and even more about cooperation with Trikru. And the fights stay friendly, and do not extend beyond the confines of the training exercises, and so all is well.

"Good work, Bellamy." Lincoln slaps him cheerfully on the shoulder as the guards disband.

"I don't know why you're saying that. You did most of it."

"That's exactly why I'm saying that. Not everyone would have the confidence to have someone else stand at the front of the room for so much of their first day. They respect you for it." Bellamy gives Lincoln a considering sort of a look. He wonders if this might be what it's like to have a brother.

Miller joins them, then, a knowing grin gracing his cheeks. "Where's Clarke, then? Not here to congratulate you on your big day?"

"She's at Mount Weather with Jackson." He explains, shrugging as if this is no big deal.

It is a big deal. He misses her. She's only been gone since dawn, but that's far too long for his liking. He didn't get to eat lunch with her, and he hates that. Their daily lunch dates are one of his favourite things.

Not that they're dates, of course.

"No she's not." Miller's statement breaks into his thoughts.

"What?" His friend needs to provide a little more context than that, he thinks.

"She's not at Mount Weather. She's come to make a fuss of you after all." Miller says, gesturing past Bellamy's shoulder.

He spins around embarrassingly quickly, and is delighted to see that Miller is telling the truth. He wouldn't put it past his friend to make that up just to laugh at his over-eager reaction. But Clarke really is here, walking towards them, a bag slung over one shoulder and a nervous smile about her lips.

Why on Earth does she look nervous?

"Clarke. Hey." He greets her with a slight excess of warmth, but decides against hugging her. It doesn't seem like the right thing to do while she's maintaining a little physical distance between them and still looks somewhat uncomfortable.

"Hey. Do you have a minute?"

"Yeah, sure. What is it?"

"I mean – do you have a minute to come back to our room?" Now that's an interesting request, he decides. Between wanting to take him back to their room and the stiff, nervous way she's standing, he could almost believe she's trying to invite him into bed.

He can feel his heart rate pick up at the very thought of it.

"Yeah, sure. Let's go." He forces himself to maintain some semblance of calm as he gets the words out and says goodbye to Lincoln and Miller.

They talk a bit, the two of them, on their walk home. Bellamy asks after Mount Weather, and she says little but doesn't seem upset. She wants to know all about his first day in his new role, and he is only too keen to enthuse about it at quite some length.

He doesn't ask why she wants to borrow him and take him back to their bedroom, and she doesn't volunteer the information.

He forces his mind back to the matter at hand. He tells her all about how successful the wrestling session was, and how the guy he got in a fight with last week was in Miller's group to avoid any issues, but actually came up to Bellamy after the session to shake his hand and thank him. That made his day, so far, but he suspects that whatever Clarke has in mind when they get home will beat even that.

She isn't trying to invite him into bed, it turns out.

No, it's better than that. He can't believe that – he didn't think anything could be better than sex with Clarke – but today is the day that he learns it is possible.

The moment the door is closed behind them, she is slipping her backpack from her shoulders. And then she opens it, and delves around inside.

And then she pulls out a book.

"I got you this." She says, and then she thrusts it towards him. He reaches out to take it, trying to meet her eyes, but she's staring at the floor and worrying at her lip.

He can't understand why. Surely she must realise he loves it. He hasn't even looked at the title yet, but he loves it.

"You got me a book?" He repeats, dazed and verging on overwhelmed. People don't get him books. It's not a thing that happens.

"Yeah. History of Rome. I hope that's OK. I hope you'll like it. I didn't know what to get you – I've heard you talk about the Iliad but I thought maybe it was time to try something new."

"Yeah." He swallows the lump in his throat. "Yeah, a good time to try something new. You – you got this for me?" He knows he sounds a bit of an idiot, being so slow on the uptake as this, but he really cannot believe that she went to all this trouble for him.

"Yeah." She repeats, finally glancing up at him. "I just thought – you've done so much to look out for me these last few months, and the last couple of weeks most of all. So I wanted to thank you properly and – and show you how much it means to me." She finishes, voice hardly above a whisper.

He engulfs her in a hug, then. He cannot think of any other way of showing her how grateful he is, but most of all how moved he is. He cannot remember the last time he received a present – his mother did not exactly have a lot of money to spare. And he has certainly never received one as thoughtful as this. He can actually imagine Clarke perusing the bookshelves of Mount Weather, trying to decide what he would most like to own. And, as usual, her instincts are spot on.

He's moved most of all by her explanation, though. He thinks he will hear her whispering about how much his care means to her in his dreams, after today.

He hugs her hard and for a long time, daring to drop one solitary kiss to the crown of her head while he's at it. The embrace gives him a moment to collect himself, and to will away the tears of surprise and joy and love that are blurring the edges of his vision.

"Thanks, Clarke. I owe you." He says, when at last he pulls away.

"No you don't." She looks distinctly uncomfortable with the idea. "That's not why I got you it. There are no debts between us, OK? That's not how this works." She gestures between the two of them in a motion that somehow encompasses everything from fetching supper to occasional sex. "I got it because I wanted to make you happy, not to make you feel like you owe me anything."

"OK. I'm sorry." He hopes his tone is soothing. "Really, though, thanks."

He wonders about taking that further, explaining to her that this is probably the kindest thing anyone has ever done for him. But one glance at the look in her eyes shows him that he needn't bother.

She already knows.

She already knows almost everything about him, by this point, he's pretty sure.

He likes to think he knows her quite well, too. But there's one key thing missing, in this moment. Now he needs to work out how to make her as happy as she's just made him.

…...

Clarke doesn't know what to do. She's been in this odd state of uncertainty since she and Bellamy slept together and decided that it was something they could do again. Because it turns out there's a hell of difference between deciding they could do it again, and actually doing it again.

This is a convenient arrangement, rather than a romantic relationship, so she's pretty certain she can't just kiss him and see what happens. But she's embarrassed when she looks back at the stiff, awkward way she suggested they try it the first time, so she doesn't want to go down that route again.

Surely there has to be some middle ground?

Deciding how to initiate is just one part of the puzzle, of course. She also needs him to say yes. She doesn't just want him to say yes, she needs it, because if he turns her down she knows it'll hurt her deeply. That's the problem with being in love with her casual hookup.

Bellamy seems oblivious to her internal struggle as they spend the remainder of the afternoon and evening together. He reads his new book for a while, beaming from ear to ear, as she sketches. And at supper they sit with Octavia and Lincoln and exchange cheerful anecdotes about their days.

He's been in an abnormally good mood these last couple of days, and she rather likes it. She loves him in all his moods, of course, and over recent weeks she's had particular reason to learn how to love him at his worst. But she is glad for his sake to see him getting back to something approaching his best. The new job is good for him, she decides. He doesn't stop talking about it all evening.

Octavia invites them to the bar as they are finishing supper, but Bellamy tells her he wants to read his book, and Clarke tries not to glow with pride too obviously.

"You've got a book?" Octavia asks, puzzled. "Since when do you own a book?"

"Clarke gave me it." He explains, reaching out to squeeze her knee for no apparent reason.

Octavia looks between the two of them, a slow smile spreading across her cheeks. "You found him a book?"

"It's not a big deal. There are plenty at Mount Weather. I picked one up on our salvage mission today."

"It is a big deal." Bellamy contradicts her. "You put a lot of thought into choosing one you knew I would love."

She can feel her cheeks flushing as she ducks her head. She hasn't been a giggly mess like this since she was a fourteen-year-old with her first crush, she's pretty sure.

"That was sweet of you, Clarke." Octavia says, and Clarke can hear the implicit thanks in her tone.

"Clarke Griffin, sweet?" Raven teases, as she takes a seat at their table, uninvited but not unwelcome.

"Sweet." Octavia agrees, while Clarke feels her cheeks burn ever brighter.

"What's she done?" Gina asks, joining the party.

"She got me a book." Bellamy declares. Somehow his hand is still on Clarke's knee, and it isn't showing any signs of moving any time soon.

Gina's smile is blinding. "That's great, Bellamy. I'm so happy for you."

Clarke finds that a bit of an odd statement. She's given him a book, not a child, for goodness' sake. But some communication she doesn't entirely understand seems to be passing between Bellamy and Gina, some coded message in their matching smiles.

She's not jealous, she tells herself firmly. Bellamy's hand is on her knee, and he will be in her bed tonight, and if she gets her way, they'll make love some time in between.

No, she mustn't think about it as making love. It's not like that, for him. But it's a precious chance to steer things in that direction, if she plays her cards right.

The table at large still seems to be talking about the book. Raven asks what it's about, and Bellamy starts to enthuse about maniacal generals whose elephants tumble from mountaintops. It all sounds a bit far-fetched to Clarke, but he seems happy, and that's what counts.

He deserves to be happy more often.

"Are you coming to the bar after this?" Raven asks when she gets bored of falling elephants.

"No, that's how the book came up in the first place. We're heading home." Bellamy says apologetically.

Clarke never agreed to head home, as it happens. The conversation got sidetracked by Bellamy's new book before she could give an opinion. But she nods along with what he's saying, because sleeping together sounds more likely to happen at home.

They take their plates back and head for their room. Bellamy's hand isn't on her knee anymore, of course, and she misses it even though it's silly to think he would hold her knee on the way down a corridor. They get home, and sit side-by-side on the bed, and set about enjoying a leisurely evening. He has his book and is staring in rapt concentration at the page, and Clarke gets out her sketchbook and pretends to draw.

She doesn't last very long.

She means to let him read. Truly, she does. But he's sat so close to her, the warm skin of his arm pressing up against hers, and he smells good in a way she appreciates a little too much. And it's a whole two days since they last – and first – slept together, and really, she thinks that's far too long.

"How's your sex drive?" She asks, trying for a casual tone.

Damn it, for her next attempt she should just go in for a kiss. This is even worse than that cringe-worthy announcement she made last time.

"I could screw." He says, a smirk playing around his lips as he sets his book aside. "Why are you asking?"

"Why d'you think I'm asking?" She challenges, brow furrowed.

"I just want to make sure I understand." He's definitely playing with her deliberately now, as he reaches out to run a teasing finger along the heated skin of her forearm.

"Bellamy, you don't have to -"

He cuts her off abruptly, lips fastening over hers, hand swooping up to tug her towards him by the neck.

She laughs a little into his mouth as she pulls away and sets her sketchbook safely by the side of the bed. "Are you sure you want to?" She asks, needing to double check after the events of this afternoon. "If this is about owing me, you don't need to -"

"It's not about owing you. It's about wanting you."

Before she has time to wonder whether that means what she thinks it means, he is kissing her again. She gives up wondering anything much, then, and gets on with kissing him back. His lips are every bit as good as she remembers – or perhaps even better, now that this is their second attempt and she is feeling slightly more relaxed. He's kissing her firmly, hungrily, but his lips themselves are soft and remind her of the gentle way he brought her supper when they first got back here.

No, she mustn't go thinking things like that. She can't love him too much while they're having sex – he's bound to notice, if she does.

She forces herself to keep her mind in the moment, and concentrates on tugging his shirt over his head. She has something of a fascination with the planes of his chest and the sculpting of his shoulders. She reckons that's understandable – she is an artist, after all, so there's nothing wrong with her appreciating a bit of beauty. That's all she's doing, now, as she presses soft kisses down his arm. She's just appreciating beauty.

"Clarke." His voice is breathy, and it sends a burst of heat to her crotch.

"Bellamy." She tries for a teasing tone, but instead ends up huffing his name against his skin.

"Get back here and kiss me." He requests, tone half way to begging.

She stands on her tiptoes to keep kissing his shoulder while she considers her answer. "I'm enjoying this."

"You can do that later. I promise. Please?"

She gives him what he wants, then, and returns her lips to his. He groans into her mouth, the second she makes contact, twisting his hands in her hair as if refusing to let her go.

She can understand why he was so popular at the dropship camp, all things considered. If he makes every girl he takes to his bed feel like this, special and cherished and wanted, then he ought to have them queuing half way to Polis.

She takes her own shirt off, a few moments later. It's hardly classy, but she is fed up of the fabric coming between them. His chest is bare, and she wants to be able to feel him, skin against skin. The rest of their clothes follow quickly after that, and both of them manage to get rid of their socks, this time, too.

Remembering her resolution to show him that a relationship with her could be worth his while, she reaches a hand down to tease his cock. She was annoyed with herself for just lying there and letting him pleasure her last time, so this time she is determined to return the favour.

He sighs when she starts to play with him, gently at first, cradling his cock in her hand more than anything. But the moment she starts to slide along the length of him, really starting to get him going, he grasps her hand with his own to stop her.

"Leave it." He requests, and she jumps back as if shocked. She didn't think she was doing it so very wrong, and the noises he was making seemed to suggest he was enjoying himself. But she must have made a mistake if he's pushing her away like this.

"Sorry." She mutters, eyes fixed anywhere but his face.

He closes the gap between them, and cups his hand around her cheek. "Don't apologise. That felt really good. But this isn't going to last very long if you do that."

"Another time?" She asks, pouting slightly.

"Another time." He agrees, reaching back in to kiss her.

At this rate, she thinks gleefully, they're going to have to sleep together a few more times yet. They do seem to be gradually building up quite a list of things to try later or another time.

His hands are everywhere, now, growing increasingly frantic as things get heated. He does this thing where he plays with her nipples that drives her mad, but he always pulls away just as she's starting to arch into his hand.

He's a tease, but she loves him all the same.

No, she's not supposed to be thinking like that. She's just supposed to be concentrating on making this good for him. Only she's not sure how to do that if he wants her to leave his cock alone. She concentrates on kissing him, and that seems to be something he enjoys. She experiments a bit with running her hands over his shoulders, with gripping his waist tight, and then with slapping his butt.

He seems to enjoy all of it, as far as she can tell. Maybe he's not fussy, or maybe she's not very good at reading him. Or maybe he's just being kind, and making her think she's doing a decent job so his convenient hookup won't pull out of their arrangement.

No, he is enjoying it, she's pretty sure. No one is a good enough actor to gasp like that without it being genuine. She should know – she's experiencing much the same thing, herself, just now.

When at last he does push inside of her, she moans in relief. The foreplay has been beautiful, but this is what she's been dreaming of, these last two days. He wastes no time in establishing a rhythm, kissing her all the while. Normally it takes her quite a while to reach the edge, but she has a feeling that today this could all be over far too soon.

Bellamy seems to be experiencing a similar problem, panting into her mouth as he runs his hands over every part of her he can reach. She stops one of his hands with her own, not because she doesn't like it, but because she wants to hold hands again. She liked that, when she came last time, and she thinks she's going to be there again before too long.

He likes it, too. She can tell from the way he tangles their fingers together and squeezes, hard.

"You OK?" He chokes out, in between gasps. Of course he does. He's Bellamy – even in the midst of passion, he still remembers to check that she's doing alright.

"So good." It turns out that talking whilst kissing him makes for a damp mess, but he doesn't seem to be complaining.

He seems to be groaning, instead, and almost shaking with the effort of holding himself back. That's silly, and she wishes he wouldn't do it. She wants him to enjoy himself. She wants him to come, and she tells him so.

That does the trick.

He gives a couple more thrusts, then relaxes against her so quickly it almost takes her by surprise. She deals with it, though, stroking a hand over his slightly sweaty shoulders while she keeps the other clasped in his. She always thought sweat was one of the more unsavoury aspects of sex, but it turns out that she doesn't mind it so much when the circumstances are right.

She has just got used to the weight of him above her when he rolls off, disentangles their fingers and trails a hesitant hand down her front. "Do you want me to help you out, this time?"

"Yeah. If you want to."

He does want to. She can tell by the way he kisses her, hard and hungry. He somehow manages to get his fingers inside of her quickly but gently, and then he starts teasing her to completion.

He's good at this. He's really good at this. But it's not so much that he has any particular skill – his hand is basically doing exactly what she would do herself. It's the whole package, the way that he kisses her, and fondles a breast occasionally with his free hand, and listens so carefully for her response.

He has this way of making her feel special, and she thinks that could be dangerous.

"Relax." He whispers into her ear, and echo of what she said to him last time.

She mewls a little. Relaxing is hard, when you're in love with the convenient friend whose fingers are currently sending you dizzy with pleasure.

"Breathe, Clarke. Keep breathing for me and let it happen."

She's trying to breathe. Really, she is. But kissing him is making it a bit of a challenge, and gasping every time he touches her breast isn't exactly helping, either.

He changes it up, then. He pulls away from the kiss, and takes his head down to rest on her chest. It's not unlike the position they have occasionally gone to sleep in, when he's been having a tough day and has needed a protective hug. Only this time his lips are fastened on one breast and his tongue is doing frankly alarming things to her nipple.

It hits her all at once, then, and the next thing she knows she is tightening around his fingers and digging her fingernails into the back of his neck. She might cry out his name – she's not really sure. She's a bit too busy feeling deliciously undone.

He stays where he is for a while, toying gently with her breast, his fingers seeing her through the last aftershocks. And then he moves back up to meet her lips softly with his own.

She keeps kissing him for a long time. She likes kissing him, and it seems like she's not meant to do it unless they're having sex, so she reckons she ought to make the most of it. And he seems to feel the same way, cradling her head gently as his kisses become ever lighter and more delicate.

He pulls away, at last, and scoots her over to lie on his chest with all the subtlety of one of her terrible come-on lines.

"Better?" He asks.

"Hmm?" She doesn't understand the question.

"How's your sex drive?" He echoes her earlier words, and she can hear the smirk in his voice. "Doing better now?"

She doesn't answer him. She doesn't answer because he's being a tease, and she doesn't want to rise to it – although part of her does want to encourage this carefree side of his personality. But mostly she doesn't answer because she's a bit busy pressing kisses along the length of his arm.

He wouldn't let her do that, earlier, but he doesn't seem to be complaining now.

Chapter Text

Bellamy is feeling comfortable when he wakes up the following morning. Not just the kind of comfortable that comes with a soft bed and a warm body in his arms, but the kind of comfortable that comes with knowing that sleeping with Clarke has not made their relationship awkward in the slightest.

It ought to be too soon to jump to that conclusion, he knows. But he's always been more for gut feeling than waiting around for hard evidence, and after last night, his gut is telling him they're going to be OK.

He still has concerns, of course. He still has no idea if there's any hope of her ever loving him the way he loves her. But in the meantime, they're having pretty great sex without it ruining their friendship, and that's better than he would have dared to hope for, a week ago.

He presses a gentle kiss to the back of her neck, and that has her snuggling more deeply into his arms even while her breathing stays soft with sleep. That's a shame, he decides. He was going to roll over and reach for his book but if she's going to seek out his embrace like that he guesses he ought to stay put.

OK, it's not a shame at all. He's over the moon that some part of her likes him enough that her subconscious wants to be close to him while she's asleep. And it's a good book, but it'll still be there later. Whereas Clarke, he supposes, will disappear from his arms once they wake up and get on with the day.

He knows when she wakes up. He's getting good at reading her body language, so he can tell she's with him when she stiffens ever so slightly and the rhythm of her breathing changes. He prepares himself for the inevitable moment when she will pull away from his arms.

Only she doesn't. She just lies there, doing a pretty poor job of pretending still to be asleep.

He's beaming from ear to ear, he can feel it, but he's powerless to stop it. He's never been so happy, which is strange considering he committed mass murder less than a month ago, and his sister is essentially a prisoner in her own home. But Clarke likes sleeping with him, and she likes waking up with him, and that's the best news he's had all year. He was right – this is not going to be awkward at all, and they are most definitely going to be OK.

He knows they need to get up eventually, so he sets things in motion a little. He shifts such that Clarke is still lying on one of his shoulders, and reaches the opposite arm out to grab his book. He figures he can just about hold it to read with one hand, and that will give her a subtle prompt that he is awake and they might want to get on with their morning routine.

"I don't want to get up." She moans as he opens his book, right on cue.

"Good morning to you too."

She gives a small chuckle, and buries her nose in his bicep for a moment. "Morning. How are you doing?"

"Yeah, not bad." He resists the urge to add that he'd be doing even better if they started the morning with a quick spot of shower sex. He'll let himself ask for that one day, he promises, just as soon as this arrangement is looking a bit more long-term.

"Not bad?" She asks, pretending indignity. "You ought to be better than not bad."

He tries to ruffle her hair and ends up nearly dropping his book on her nose. That has them both giggling, thankfully, and stops him from blurting out anything too revealing about the fact that the latest shift in their relationship is the best thing that's ever happened to him.

He's screwed. He's completely screwed, but in the best possible way.

…...

Clarke knows it's silly to be this happy just because she's started sleeping with Bellamy. She is still responsible for several hundred deaths, and she knows it, but somehow the guilt weighs on her less heavily when she's in his arms. It's something about the way she feels less alone, with him around. And although she knows he doesn't feel exactly the same way about her as she does about him, he clearly cares about her happiness and enjoys their new sex life, and that's better than nothing. He makes her feel like she's still human, still valued, still wanted.

Her cheeks flame at that. She still can't believe he said he wanted her, last night. That's something Gina presumably never got to hear, for all her nice smiles.

They get up and go to breakfast, barely in time for Bellamy to make it to his first duty of the day. They need to stop lazing around in the morning, now one of them actually has somewhere to be.

They're striding down the hallway uncomfortably quickly when Bellamy asks her something unexpected.

"If Monty's there, can we sit with him? I want to ask him about botany for my Applied Earth Skills programme."

"If Monty's there, Jasper will be with him." She points out. They haven't really attempted to speak to Jasper since they got back from the Mountain. He always seems to be either drinking or shouting, and neither of those exactly suggests a spirit of reconciliation.

Bellamy's jaw is tight with nerves. "Do you think that might be a good thing? Do you think it might be time to have a go at talking to him?"

Clarke considers her answer. She doesn't feel ready to try to fix things with Jasper, but she's not sure she ever will. And she does feel more robust than she has felt in weeks, so it might be worth a try.

"OK." She nods, bites her lip a little, and continues. "But only if it's just the two of them. I don't think I can deal with Jasper and a crowd."

He doesn't bat an eyelid at her nervous honesty. "Sure. That's fair. You got this, OK, Clarke? We got this."

His optimism is well-placed, as it turns out. Monty and Jasper are sitting alone at a table, and when Bellamy asks if they might join them, the response is as positive as can be expected. Monty nods and gives a strained smile, and Jasper doesn't actually throw anything at them.

"This morning gets worse!" Jasper greets them with sarcastic cheer. "Monty pours a bucket of ice cold water over my head and says I need breakfast, and now my two favourite murderers are joining the party!"

That's a lot of words for someone visibly hungover, Clarke decides. It's almost impressive. She tries to concentrate on that trivial thought rather than her guilt, as she seeks out Bellamy's hand and holds on tight.

"We're here to talk to Monty about keeping people alive, actually." Bellamy says as lightly as he can manage, but she can feel the tension in his hand. "I wanted to talk about botany."

"You wanted to talk about botany." Monty repeats back at him, incredulous.

"Yeah. It's this new job I have, teaching the guard about Earth Skills. But not the theory we learnt on the Ark, real-life examples of what the Earth is like round here. Plants we discovered at the dropship, things like that."

"You should teach them about Jobi nuts." Jasper suggests, forgetting to hate them for a moment.

"If you wanted to help Monty with a session, you could mention Jobi nuts." Bellamy concedes, a tentative peace gesture. "As long as you tell them to avoid getting high on duty."

Jasper frowns for a long moment. And then he gives a sudden, lighthearted shrug. It's one of the things that puzzles Clarke, in the stories she has heard about Jasper since they got back. Apparently this extreme changeability in his mood is normal now.

"I'm in." Jasper says, tossing back the last of his glass of water as if he hasn't a care in the world.

"Me too." Monty says, more cautiously. "What exactly have I agreed to?"

This, Clarke decides, is what passes for a successful breakfast, round here.

…...

It's Bellamy who initiates it, the third time around.

He doesn't mean it to turn out like that. He planned to let her take the lead until this felt like more of a regular thing, until he'd got a better feel for how frequently she likes to have sex, and how to read when she's in the mood.

But it happens all the same.

They've been watching a film together, curled up in each other's arms on the bed. It's a whole new level compared to the way she leaned against him the first time they had a movie night – this time round, he can scarcely tell whose limbs are whose.

So when the credits roll, and she peers up from beneath her lashes and asks him if he liked the movie, he doesn't stop to overthink it.

He just leans in and kisses her.

One thing leads to another, then, until they are both gasping out loud and lying side-by-side and thoroughly satisfied on the bed.

"You good?" He asks, because he always has to check.

"Yeah, you?"

"Great." He confirms, reaching in for another kiss.

They kiss a little while longer, their hands skimming lazily over each other's bodies, neither of them in any great hurry to stand up and get on with their bedtime routine.

But then Clarke breaks away, suddenly, and speaks.

"Thanks."

He's confused by that. "For what?"

"For starting this tonight. I was starting to feel like it was always going to be me pestering you for sex whether you were actually up for it or not."

"I'm always up for it." He says, and it's not really a lie, as long as Clarke's involved. "But I'll bear that in mind."

…...

He does bear that in mind. He does more than bear it in mind – he acts on it, the very next night. She can always say no if she's not interested, he figures, and if she does say yes then everyone wins.

"How are you feeling?" He asks, when they get in from the bar and sit down on the edge of the bed together, faintly merry from moonshine.

"Tired. Guilty, but not overwhelmed. Interested in screwing you. Which of those did you mean to ask about?" She asks, a provocative slant to her brow.

Happiness looks good on her. He just hopes it will last.

"Can I eat you out?" He offers, feeling surprisingly comfortable going ahead and saying it outright.

Only then he sees her flinch slightly, and suddenly feels distinctly uncomfortable.

"Clarke?"

"Sorry. I'd like to have sex." She says, rather than actually taking him up on his offer.

This is, he decides, a very strange set of circumstances. "You sure?"

"Yeah. I'd like to." She offers him a shy smile. "I like feeling your cock inside me."

His self-control crumples when he hears those words on her lips. He collapses against the bed, pulling her down with him, the two of them joined together at the mouth. It's a bit messy, and she giggles a little as she sinks down by his side, but the urgency is a good fit for them, tonight, he thinks.

Clarke seems to agree with him, as she starts shedding her clothes with impressive speed. He'd like to take his time with her, one day, peel back each layer of clothing and kiss a path along her skin in its wake. But that is for another time. For now, while this is all so fresh and new, he just wants to dive straight in.

He tugs trousers and boxers down his legs, and manages to ditch his socks, too. He doesn't bother with his T shirt, though, because the pair of them seem to be in an urgent mood and he's perfectly capable of screwing her with a shirt on.

Or at least, that's what he thinks. That's what he thinks until Clarke sits up on the bed at his side, her arms crossed in protest.

"You have to take your shirt off." She informs him, tone firm.

"I didn't think you'd want me to make you wait."

"I can wait for you to take your shirt off." She insists.

He complies, slightly puzzled.

"That's better. It's not fair if I don't get to see you shirtless." She tells him, leaning forward to press kisses to his chest.

Well, then. That's another accidentally wonderful Clarke compliment he's going to be hearing in his dreams for the foreseeable future.

They don't hang around long once they're both naked. He lies back, and pulls her down on top of him, and she arranges herself so that she can ride him until they're both panting with pleasure.

"Feels good." He manages to grunt out. It's an understatement, but it seems more appropriate than an accidental I love you, and he's pretty sure that's what will slip out if he tries to say anything more complicated than feels good.

She prevents any ill-timed declarations of love with a finger over his lips. "Shh. I don't want you to talk. I want you to relax and enjoy yourself for me."

That's a difficult request, although she doesn't realise it. He's been struggling to fully relax when he's in bed with Clarke, the pressure of making it good for her and his anxiety about making her uncomfortable by letting slip his real feelings conspiring to keep him on edge. But tonight it feels different, somehow. He's managed to successfully initiate, and she's found the confidence to go on top and set the rhythm, and he's pretty proud of them, really.

He closes his eyes, and concentrates on the blissful sensation of her sliding up and down along the length of his cock. He reaches out towards her, hoping for something to hold on to, and is pleasantly surprised to find her fingers appearing and grasping his.

And he does it. For a few, precious heartbeats, there is nothing in his mind but sensation and sighs and Clarke.

She gets there first, this time, and he's pretty sure that's never happened before. And then he follows a moment later, thrusting up against her and wondering if it will always be this good, between them.

He hopes so. And in fact, he's willing to promise he'd do anything to ensure it turns out that way.

"That was something." He can hear the hoarseness in his voice, and he's shocked to find that he's almost on the point of shedding tears. That's pathetic, right? He shouldn't be on the verge of crying simply because he recently had the best sex of his life.

It just means a lot to him, OK? He's waited a long time to find himself a moment where nothing matters but pleasure and the woman he loves.

"Yeah." Clarke sounds slightly dazed, too, as she scrambles off of him and lies down at his side.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. We should do it like that again. I – I liked that position."

He hugs her tighter for that. She's never talked about anything like that before, and he hopes this might be their way into a conversation he's been contemplating for a little while now. Tonight makes four times inside of a week, and it's beginning to look like this arrangement is going to be a regular thing. It's about time, he reckons, to start sharing their thoughts.

"We should talk about what we like." He suggests, skimming a hand over the soft skin at her waist to distract himself from the magnitude of this conversation.

"What do you mean?"

"If we're sleeping together pretty regularly we should tell each other what we're into." He's never really had a steady bedmate before, so he's not sure how to go about doing this.

"OK. I like what we just did."

He's grinning from ear to ear. "I noticed."

"Was that the kind of talk you meant?"

"Yeah, that kind of thing." He takes a deep breath and gathers his courage. "I've been wondering – was there a reason you didn't want me to eat you out? It's fine, of course. We can do whatever you want. I guess I was just surprised because I thought you enjoyed it the other day."

He can hear her swallow. It's more of a gulp, really. "I definitely enjoy it. But it's complicated."

He trusts his instincts, and ploughs on. "Is it to do with the way that – you know that time you didn't want me to finish it with my hand?"

He feels her nod. "I'm not good at orgasms."

That's the stupidest thing he's ever heard. He's certain of it. How can she possibly say that, when he felt her pulse around his cock not five minutes ago? She's great at orgasms, and she's great at helping him to enjoy them, too.

It's stupid, but it is obviously important to her, so he tries for a soothing tone. "What do you mean? If you explain it maybe we can work on it together."

"Sometimes I have them. Sometimes I don't, or often they take ages. And I don't ever really have two in a row. So that first time – I was having a good time, but I'd already come and I knew it wasn't going to go anywhere. Or not for a really long time."

He doesn't know how to answer that. He doesn't know how to deal with anything much about this entire conversation, if he's being honest. After a lifetime of casual hookups he's ill-equipped to deal with the woman he loves fretting about her perceived sexual inadequacy while her voice shakes with emotion.

He decides a hug and a forehead kiss is a good place to start.

And then he has a go at saying what's on his mind. For the first time since they started sleeping together, he allows himself to be somewhat honest.

"I like having sex with you, Clarke. It's great and I enjoy every minute. So if it lasts a bit longer because it takes you a while to come, that's fine by me, you know? That's just more time enjoying myself."

She is silent for a long moment, idly stroking his chest with a fingertip.

"You mean that?"

"Yeah. The only reason you should be asking me to stop is if you actually want to stop. Don't feel like you have to call it done because you're embarrassed or worried about me getting bored or whatever. I won't get bored. And you being embarrassed isn't going to help you relax and enjoy yourself, is it?"

"No." She agrees. "I think that's partly it. And stress. I mean – I'm a doctor, I know how it works. But it sucks when I want you to have a good time."

"I'm having a good time, Clarke. I wouldn't sleep with you four times in one week by accident."

That might just be the most honest thing he's ever said to her, he thinks.

Chapter Text

Clarke is happy that Bellamy has a job now. She's happy for him, but she doesn't have a neatly defined job herself, so she's still working out what her role is, exactly.

It seems that her role is made up of many things – and that's for the best, she figures, because she's still prone to fixating on the Mountain if she's allowed to sit idle for too long. So her role involves the occasional trip to Mount Weather to salvage supplies, a few trade runs to see Niylah, and a number of shifts in med bay. Those things don't necessarily hang together as a coherent whole, but they are all things that make use of her various skills and keep her occupied, so she supposes that's about as good as life gets, round here.

She mentions some of this to Bellamy, one morning, as they are leaving breakfast.

"Do you think of yourself as a teacher or a guard?" She asks him. "Because I can't decide whether I'm a doctor or an ambassador or – I don't know – a scavenger?"

He looks at her as if she has lost her mind. To be fair, that seems like a reasonably apt description of her overall progress – or regression – since she came to the ground.

"You're not any one of those things. You're Clarke." He tells her firmly.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that you've never been one to do some narrow job assignment like people had on the Ark. You've always been a doctor and a leader at the same time. Just like your mum. And just like your dad was an engineer and an activist all in one. Your family doesn't do job descriptions."

She is so very tempted to kiss him, for that. She likes kissing him, and if they were in their room right now she'd probably push him back into the mattress for saying something so sweet and encouraging and have her way with him.

But as it is, they're in the middle of camp, and the physical side of their relationship has yet to really see the light of day, out here.

She tries to pay him a compliment instead. "You're a pretty great teacher and guard and janitor and inside man yourself."

It's clumsy, but he smiles at her for the attempt all the same.

"What are you doing this morning? I don't start for another hour. Want to hang out?" He asks.

"I can't. Kane and my mum want to see me about something. You could come with me?"

"Do you want me to?"

She always wants him to. "Yeah, if you're not busy. I could use some company." She doesn't explain that she still feels irrationally nervous at the thought of what they might say to her. She doesn't have to explain, because she knows that he already knows. Despite all the smiles, she's still a little irrationally nervous about most situations, if she's being honest. Or at least most situations where she doesn't know what to expect.

She's had enough of the unexpected to last a lifetime.

…...

Bellamy is very aware that he has no good reason to be visiting Kane and Abby this morning. He's perfectly prepared to admit that he's just following Clarke around, but the fact doesn't make him particularly uncomfortable. Following Clarke around is what he does, after all.

He feels even more comfortable with his decision when Kane smiles and welcomes him into the room. Then Abby seals the deal.

"I told you they'd both show up anyway." She says to Kane, as if this is a matter they have already debated.

"You did." Kane concedes, with one of those dignified nods of his. "Welcome, both of you. Sit down."

They do as he asks. Clarke is looking expectantly at the two of them, and Bellamy is looking consideringly at Clarke. He's noticed that happening rather often, recently, but now they're sleeping together and all he doesn't tend to bother feeling self-conscious about it.

"What's this about?" Clarke asks, not impatient, but brisk as she usually is.

"I want a party." Kane states.

There is a beat of silence – confused silence, or perhaps even horrified silence, but definitely silence.

It is Bellamy who breaks it. He can keep quiet no longer. "You want a party? Missed your birthday, did we? Why the hell would you want a party?"

"He phrased that poorly." Abby shoots Kane a withering look. "What he meant to say, is that we've thought about it and we think a celebration would be good for morale."

"I disagree." Clarke states, calm and collected, but Bellamy can hear disbelief and even fury simmering beneath her words.

"So do I." He chimes in. "To throw a party after what happened at the Mountain would feel wrong."

"Insensitive." Clarke offers. He shoots her a grateful smile, and tries not to overthink the fact that they can finish each other's thoughts, these days.

"Insensitive." He repeats. "It wouldn't be right."

Abby nods, taking their point on board, but she is not in agreement with them when she speaks. "We thought you'd say that. We wanted to invite you here because we value your opinion, but also because you were amongst the most affected by Mount Weather. You know how those who don't want to party right now feel. You can help us change their minds and pull the camp together." Bellamy resists the urge to point out that neither of them was anywhere near so affected as Maya. He doesn't suppose that will help matters.

It is Clarke's turn to nod, now. Bellamy is still simmering with annoyance at Abby, but apparently Clarke is used to her mother placing strategy above such trifling concerns as causing conflict with her daughter.

She starts to speak, that thoughtful twist to her mouth that never fails to make Bellamy want to kiss her. "It's closure. That's the problem. The people who died in the Mountain – they weren't our people, so we can't grieve properly. Everything is mixed up with too much guilt."

Bellamy picks up her train of thought. "We should hold a memorial. To say that even though they weren't our people, we regret the loss of life. And then you can have your party after that."

"The two have to go hand in hand. We're celebrating the victory as well as remembering how many lives were wasted along the way." Clarke concludes.

Bellamy cannot help but turn to give her a small smile. They may be talking about death and destruction, but working in perfect harmony with her like this always makes him smile.

Kane nods, writing down notes with an earnest expression on his face. "Shall we say a week from now?"

Clarke makes an agreeing sort of noise, and so it is that Bellamy finds he has agreed to go to a party to mark a victory he has still not forgiven himself for winning. He hates parties enough at the best of times, and this is anything but the best of times.

As if she has read his mind, Clarke turns to him and reaches out to squeeze his hand while she whispers to him in reassurance. "It'll be OK, Bellamy. We'll get each other through it."

He squeezes back, but he doesn't say anything. He doesn't have much to add, and he's already beginning to fret at the thought of all the potential obstacles hidden within this plan.

He's so distracted by her hand and his own thoughts that he doesn't notice Abby's careful scrutiny until she speaks up.

"I'm proud of you two kids."

Bellamy can't remember the last time anyone other than Clarke was proud of him.

…...

Clarke and Bellamy spend more time apart, these days, than they did on first arriving home from Mount Weather. Bellamy has his duties with the guard, and he enjoys them, but that's entire hours of his day that he's not spending with Clarke. And she is spending increasingly long stretches of time out of the camp on trade missions, or working alongside Octavia as unofficial ambassadors to Trikru.

He's starting to miss their lunch dates. They've only managed to meet up for the midday meal twice all week. Sure, they're sleeping together now, but that doesn't entirely make up for it. What he's missing is a very different kind of closeness, the easy camaraderie of talking about the events of the day. And he always liked to be able to spend the morning looking forward to seeing her at lunch.

She's on another salvage mission to Mount Weather, today. Bellamy hates days like this most of all – she won't be back until late afternoon, and in the meantime he has to worry about how she's coping in that haunted place without him. He's not been back since that first time, and she never says much about her visits, so his imagination fills in the blanks with images of her swallowing down tears and pretending that all is well while she forces her face into straight lines and gets on with her task.

He finishes today's training session with the guard – that botany lesson, with Monty and Jasper's help – and then puts a great deal of effort into distracting himself until Clarke is safely home. He asks Lincoln if he wants to hang out, but he has plans with Octavia. Miller wants to spend some time with his dad, and Bellamy doesn't feel entirely comfortable going to seek out Raven or Gina. He still hasn't spoken to them much since the uncomfortable events his stupid sex drive managed to set off the other week.

He goes back home, in the end. He hasn't quite finished his book yet, and he doesn't have much else to do. Kicking his boots off, he decides he might as well lie on the bed to read. The bed is comfortable, and it smells of Clarke, and he's had a long day on his feet so a short break sounds like just the thing.

He wakes up, minutes or hours or days later, to the sound of Clarke failing to sneak silently into their room.

"Clarke?" He sits up abruptly, embarrassed at being caught quite literally napping.

"Sorry." She hisses. "Go back to sleep."

"I'm awake now." He stands and shuffles to the light switch, and wonders when it got dark. He must have slept for longer than he intended.

"I'm so sorry." She apologises yet again. "I didn't mean to wake you up, I know you need all the sleep you can get."

He shrugs. Sure, he gets nightmares, and loses sleep to them, but there are worse things in life. And anyway, it's been getting a bit better, since he has started to relax in the last few days.

"Really, Clarke, it's fine. Tell me about your day."

She gives him a long, thoughtful look. And then she walks over the bed, and settles herself sitting up against her pillow, and pats his side of the bed deliberately.

He takes her hint and crawls back underneath the covers, leaning up against the head of the bed, wrapping an arm around her for good measure. He might not intend to sleep any longer, but he can think of worse ways to pass the time until supper than by slouching on the bed and cuddling with Clarke.

She starts to tell him about her trip to the Mountain. "It was OK. It feels easier each time, you know? I don't know whether that's a good thing. I worry I'm going to forget what I did – what we did. But it was fine. I didn't freak out, and we found everything we wanted."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. Don't overreact, OK?"

That's a mysterious instruction, he decides. What is he reacting to?

"OK." He tries to be encouraging, but the word comes out sounding distinctly quizzical.

Clarke does him the favour of explaining a little more, although not as much as he might like. "I just know you, Bellamy. You were too grateful last time, with all that stuff about owing me. And I wasn't going to do it again but I saw this and I couldn't not bring it home, could I?"

For a sensible woman, she is making very little sense at this moment, he decides. He tells her so.

She laughs a little, and reaches for her pack. "I got you another book. You're not allowed to lose your head over it, OK? It's just a book, because I like seeing you happy. It's not some massive debt you have to repay."

He's not making any promises. He went and started crying, last time she gave him a book. He hates to think what might happen now she seems to have started making a habit of it.

He simply nods, and holds out his hands expectantly.

He cries again when she puts the book in his hands. It's stupid, OK? He knows it's stupid. But he just doesn't understand what he did to deserve Clarke Griffin in his life, holding him together every time he threatens to fall apart, making him smile when the world seems grey.

She's outdone herself, this time. It's a biography of Augustus, the very Roman he was so obsessed with as a boy, the inspiration for the name of the sister he has devoted his life to. It's a lot to process, and he reckons it's plenty understandable that he sheds a tear or two.

"You need to stop doing this." He chastises her, even as he pulls her into a heartfelt hug.

"No, I don't think so. I think I'll keep doing it. You deserve to have someone making a fuss of you for a change." She murmurs, somewhere near his neck.

He presses a couple of kisses to the crown of her head and wonders what to say. He's not sure there are words capable of doing justice to quite how he feels about her in this moment.

That's partly why he decides to say nothing, in the end. He and Clarke have never needed words to understand what's going on inside each other's heads, and right now he thinks his lips are put to better use for something other than talking.

…...

Clarke is mildly annoyed with herself and Bellamy. They knew they needed to get to supper, and knew they didn't really have time to fool around in the bedroom beforehand, but they managed to waste several minutes in making out anyway.

She supposes she's not complaining. That man really knows what he's doing with his tongue.

But either way, they are now striding down the corridor a little too quickly in the hope of getting to the dining hall before it closes.

"You never told me anything about your day." She recalls, turning to him as they walk.

"It was good. I missed you at lunchtime though."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. Can we have a look at where our schedules line up in the next few days? Try to plan some days we can grab lunch together?"

"I'd like that." She agrees, as they approach the door of the mess hall.

They're just about to go inside when Raven appears, seemingly out of nowhere, and takes them both by surprise.

"No! No, you can't go to supper!" She instructs them, almost in a frenzy.

Clarke turns towards her, somewhat bemused. "What are you talking about?"

Raven catches her breath a little and starts to explain. "Wick made us plans for the evening. A picnic and stargazing. It should be sweet." Clarke is now even more puzzled. What does this have to do with her and Bellamy eating supper?

"That sounds lovely, Raven. I'm happy for you. But what does that have to do with us eating supper?"

"I mean – us." She repeats, with careful emphasis. "The four of us. I guess – you know, after everything when we first got back, he knows I'm a bit skittish about dates. So he suggested all four of us could hang out."

Clarke breathes very carefully for a few moments, repeating Raven's words over in her mind, checking that she has understood this one-hundred-percent correctly. Wick – a man she barely knows – has invited her and Bellamy to join him and Raven on a double date.

Wow.

She turns to get Bellamy's reaction to this development, but he is studiously gazing at the floor. Some help he is, she thinks with fond exasperation. If she'd known he was going to let her down at this crucial moment, she wouldn't have given him that book.

That's a lie. She would give him that book any day of the week, and twice on Sundays.

She forces herself to make some useful reply. "You want us two to join you and Wick for a picnic and stargazing?"

"Yeah. He's sorted out everything – it sounds like he's put a lot of effort in. Please."

Clarke considers the situation, weighs up the pros and cons as pragmatically as possible. She's annoyed to find that pragmatism is not coming to her so easily as usual, right now. Her emotions seem to have got a bit overexicted at the thought of Bellamy and a blanket and the night sky.

No, she needs to be rational, here. There are good points about agreeing to this scheme – she would be supportive of her friend Raven, and that might help close the last of the distance that lingers between them since that awful argument. It would be polite to Wick, who is a decent man as far as she's aware. And then, of course, she doesn't know when else she might get to go on what is so obviously a date with Bellamy.

The only downside she can think of is that Bellamy might be embarrassed. But really, she doesn't think that's worth dwelling on too long. He's her best friend, and they happen to be sleeping together. She's pretty sure he's past being embarrassed by a bit of overt romance.

"I'm in." She declares firmly. "I don't know if Bellamy has other plans, though?"

He coughs slightly. "No. No plans. I'll be there. Thanks for the invite, Raven."

Raven beams from ear to ear as she starts shepherding them down the hallway. "Great. Let's go."

"What, now?" Clarke is a little startled.

"Yeah. I've been waiting for you guys for ages. Your mum said you got back nearly an hour ago, Clarke."

"Bellamy was taking a nap." It is only slightly a lie.

"Right. A nap." Raven's tone makes it clear that she knows exactly what they were doing, and Clarke feels her cheeks flame.

"We can't go right away. Clarke didn't bring a jacket." Bellamy pipes up, sudden and audibly distressed.

She smiles fondly at him. She cannot help it. "I won't freeze, Bellamy."

"No one will freeze. We've been promised blankets." Raven declares, and thus their protests are overruled.

Sure enough, there are blankets. There is food, too – more food than four people living on a hostile planet have any right to eat in one sitting, Clarke rather thinks, but she's not inclined to argue. It's fun to enjoy a treat for once, and as long as she reminds herself that they're here to make Raven feel comfortable, she doesn't feel too guilty about embracing the relative luxury.

The seating arrangements are predictable. Raven and Wick share a blanket, leaning up against each other as they eat the meal. Clarke and Bellamy therefore follow their lead, choosing a blanket of their own, and Clarke tries not to melt completely when Bellamy insists on wrapping another blanket around her shoulders before they get on with eating. For a man who doesn't do relationships, he really is an expert at soft, caring gestures like these.

The food is good. There is bread, the first real wheat bread she has had in months, and the meat is somehow more tender than usual. She wonders out loud how such a thing is possible, and Wick explains that he has friends in the kitchen who owed him a favour. Raven evidently likes the fact that Wick is calling in favours simply for the sake of romancing her, as Clarke watches her curl closer into Wick's side. It is nice to see her giving him a real chance to win her over, rather than only trading barbed insults about engineering and living in prickly denial.

The bread is great, but Clarke enjoys the apples more. That's silly, of course, because apples are abundant on the ground, but it's the context rather than the apple itself that has her swooning. Bellamy picks one for himself and takes a bite, and then starts saying it's a good apple and asking whether she wants any, and next thing she knows, they're trading bites of the fruit and she's watching his lips and the accidental intimacy of the situation is shooting straight to her crotch.

No. Not here, not now. This is a lovely romantic date, and she can screw him senseless later.

She gets the feeling that Bellamy knows what sharing the apple does to her. He shares everything with her after that, trading portions between their plates and even holding the fork to her lips while she relaxes against him.

Damn Raven, and her ridiculous, well-intentioned meddling.

"You two OK over there?" Raven asks at one point, brow quirked.

"We're good." Bellamy tells her, his voice husky with something Clarke isn't quite brave enough to try to identify.

"Thanks for inviting us, guys. This was a nice idea." Clarke tries to steer the conversation back to the realms of sanity.

"It was all Wick." Raven sounds proud of him.

"Me, nice? Can I get that in writing?" He asks, and Raven pokes him for his trouble.

Clarke likes watching the two of them. It's a different relationship from the one she has with Bellamy in many obvious ways – not least the fact that they are officially dating. But it is the same on a fundamental level, she decides. It is built on caring for one another deeply, but not feeling the need to go about saying that in words all the time. It's built on working well together, and complimenting each other's strengths, and keeping each other going when times are tough.

She's happy for them. Almost as happy as she is for Bellamy and herself, that they've managed to salvage something positive from the horror of recent months.

"What are you thinking?" As if he can read her mind, Bellamy whispers the question in her ear.

She goes for honesty. She sees no point in pretending that this isn't the best night of her life. "I'm really happy we're here. We should invite Raven and Wick out sometime to thank them."

"Yeah. It would be good to do things like this more often." He suggests, playing with a strand of her hair for no apparent reason.

Now that's a sentiment she can certainly agree with.

When the food is finished, they move on to the stargazing portion of the evening. It seems that lying back on the blankets is a necessary part of this activity, and Clarke has no objections to that at all. She's very familiar with using Bellamy's chest as a pillow, but this marks the first time she's ever done that where anyone else can see. He doesn't seem to mind, though, as he holds her close and wraps the blanket tight around both of them.

Raven and Wick point out stars, and Clarke pretends to listen. Apparently one of them is called Betelgeuse, and she remembers that because she finds it a distinctive name. But by the end of the evening she is no closer to being able to identify constellations than she ever was.

She blames Bellamy for that. It turns out that a lot of the constellations are named after Greek and Roman myths, and if there's one thing she finds annoyingly seductive it's the sound of Bellamy's voice as he tells her the stories attributed to the stars. He starts with Theseus and Ariadne, and then her abandonment on Naxos, and then moves on to Castor and Pollux. By the time he makes it as far as Perseus, she's starting to doze off, but she forces herself to keep her eyes open. No way is she missing a single moment of this.

"You know none of these constellations look anything like what you say they are?" She asks him pertly. She thinks she probably needs to keep talking to stay awake.

"That's not the point, Clarke. The point is that these stories have been around for thousands of years."

"That hunter looks more like an axe. And I think that swan is a bent scalpel."

"Clarke. You know I have a lot of respect for your opinions. But there is no way that a bent scalpel could be a constellation."

"I'm renaming it. The bent scalpel. And there we have the two-headed deer, and that's the -"

He cuts her off with a kiss, rolling onto his elbow to press his lips to hers. If she's being honest, that's the outcome she was hoping to provoke. It's been lovely listening to him talk and all, but she wants to get onto the next stage of the evening before she actually falls asleep.

"Cut it out, guys." Raven says, but her tone suggests that she doesn't really mean it.

"Get a room." Wick recommends.

Clarke looks up at Bellamy, eyes wide and smile wider. She's still convinced she doesn't really deserve all this damn happiness, but she's not going to complain if the universe actually goes ahead and throws it into her lap.

"You want to get a room?" He asks her, voice low.

"We have a room." She reminds him.

"You know what I mean."

"Yeah. Come on, let's go home."

They remember to thank Wick, and to suggest that they should all do something like this again another time. To Clarke that sounds suspiciously like her and Bellamy agreeing to another date, but she tucks that thought away for later.

For now, she just wants to get home.

She expects them to make quick work of a brisk screw when they get in the door. That's mostly what their relationship is built on, after all, and seeing as they've just endured a whole evening of quietly driving each other mad she reckons things will boil over as soon as they get home.

She's wrong. The moment they pass the threshold, Bellamy bolts the door closed behind them.

And then he drops to his knees, and starts untying her bootlaces.

"What are you doing?" She asks, confused.

"Something I've been wanting to do for a while."

She's even more confused, at that. He's been wanting to unlace her boots for a while? That seems like an unexpected sexual preference.

It starts to make sense gradually, over the course of several minutes. First he takes her socks off, and presses a delicate kiss to each toe. That makes her a little nervous, because she's fairly certain her feet are not that attractive, and they've been in clammy boots all day. But he seems more than happy with the state of them, a blissful smile playing about his lips and a relaxed warmth in his eyes.

He unbuckles her belt, next, and pulls her trousers down. Only it's not like it usually is – he isn't tugging frantically at them, desperate to get them out of the way. He eases them down her legs an inch at a time, peppering her skin with kisses in their wake.

She thinks she's getting the hang of this, now. He seems to be on some kind of mission to kiss her all over.

That theory becomes firmer as he works on her shirt in much the same way. And then her underwear follows suit, his mouth always just a moment behind it.

He's never played with her like this before. This is nothing like their usual, functional sex, designed to get each other off with a bit of fun along the way. This is as if he's trying to show her that it's her specifically that he wants to sleep with, as if her skin is worth appreciating for its own sake.

It seems he was telling her the truth, the other day, when he said he was genuinely enjoying this new aspect of their relationship.

She wouldn't choose this slow pace every day, she decides. She is not a very patient woman by nature and she does like to get to the main event. But this is almost moving in a most unexpected way, and it is certainly helping her to feel relaxed.

Maybe that's his goal, she wonders. Maybe he's trying to help her out with what she explained to him a couple of nights ago.

"Are you done?" She asks him, when her bra is off, trying for a teasing tone.

She realises it's the wrong question the moment he freezes and takes a step back. "Sorry. I didn't – I shouldn't -"

"I was joking." She interrupts him. "Sorry. Bad moment to joke. That was lovely, really. Let's add that to the list of things I like?"

He nods. "That's good. It's on the list of things I like, too."

He needs to learn not to say things like that in the bedroom, she decides. It makes it harder not to accidentally let slip that she's head over heels in love with him.

"What do you want to try next?" She asks, somewhat shy. She likes their resolution to have a bit more honest conversation about their sex life, but it doesn't always come easily to her. She likes to be a confident woman, but this is one area of her life where she finds that confidence eludes her.

"I've got a plan, if you want to lie down for me?"

"A plan?"

"Yeah. I've been thinking about this all night."

He really needs to learn not to say things like that. But she's not going to argue about it now, not when he's looking at her almost hungrily and raking his eyes over her naked body.

She does as he asks, and lies on the bed. He's still fully clothed when he goes down on her.

Within minutes he has her seeing stars.

He's good at this, and that's a bit annoying. Because if she comes now, that might be her done for the day, and then she wouldn't get to help him out. And that seems really unfair. But his mouth is doing beautiful things and she cannot quite bear to ask him to stop. She needs to make a decision soon, though, or else -

"Relax, Princess." He eases his mouth away and makes up the difference with a finger while he talks. "It's good whether you come or not, remember? I'm having a good time either way. I just want to make you happy."

She does manage to relax a bit, then. There's something about the sound of his voice, that beautiful voice she's been listening to all evening, that reminds her she's not alone, right now. That's a stupid thought, of course, because there are obviously two of them here. But she just needed that little reminder that the other person in this bed, in this moment, is Bellamy, her closest friend. If she can relax for anyone, she can relax for him.

He seems to realise that his voice helps her relax. He speaks to her, on and off, for the next few minutes, in between working at her clit with his tongue.

She doesn't have to make a decision, in the end. That's the big revelation of the night, for Clarke – that sex is not the time or place for overthinking things. No, this is the time and place for trusting Bellamy and having a good time.

She reaches the edge almost by surprise, just as he's in the middle of murmuring something that she cannot pick out beyond that it involves her name. And then she reaches down to tangle her hands in his hair and pull him towards her for a kiss.

He doesn't want to kiss. He wants to talk about their sex life, because talking about their sex life seems to be his new favourite hobby.

"Was that OK?"

"That was great. I got there quicker than normal, I guess. And I liked how you started with all that kissing."

"Great." He looks really smug, and it's a good look on him.

He lets her play with him for a bit, then, undressing him in turn. She follows a similar pattern to he did earlier, taking her time and kissing him all over. She's maybe not quite as thorough as he was, but that's because she can already feel that his cock is hard within his pants and she gets the impression he might not want to wait around all day.

When he's naked she pushes him back on the bed. She can tell that he likes it when she takes a bit of a lead in the bedroom, so it's well worth stepping outside her comfort zone to do so. And when he's lying there, looking down at her with undisguised lust, she takes his cock into her mouth.

She's not going to do this for very long. She's hardly an expert at it, for starters, and she really wants to ride him again. That's fast becoming her favourite pastime. But she figures that if they're trying new things and working out what they like, this is worth a go.

He likes her sucking him off. That's fairly obvious, what with the groans, and the fingers he tangles into her hair, and the way he starts moaning her name when she's been at it for scarcely minutes.

Now she's in a quandary. Is she supposed to pull away and move on to something else, if he's enjoying it this much?

She raises her head experimentally, and looks him in the eye.

"You doing OK? Do you want to switch it up?" He asks

She could kiss him. She can't, of course, because his mouth is all the way up there. But she's so grateful for the way he seems to be able to read her mind.

"What do you want to do?" She throws the question back at him.

"We already did the thing I'd been planning all evening." He reminds her with a smirk.

That decides it. She's been planning a thing all evening, too – or at least, fantasising about a thing all evening, which is almost the same.

She shuffles up the bed, and straddles him, and without waiting around, she sinks onto his cock.

"I guess that answers my question." He teases, reaching out to cup her breast.

They seem to be talking a lot today, and she likes it. She might not always like it, she reckons, but for today it suits the relaxed mood and it's helping her not to overthink anything.

So, yeah, the talking has been good. But now she decides that it is time for them to stop talking, and get on with moaning instead.

She loves this position. There are just so many options – she can bend to kiss him, or she can grasp at his shoulders or arms. They can hold hands, or he can play with her nipples.

They do all of those things, tonight, and more. She doesn't know how he manages it. It's like his hands are everywhere, all at once, now urging her hips to move faster, now tucking a strand of hair back into place with unexpected gentleness.

She's a bit disappointed when he gets there before her – but only a very little bit. He does fall apart with her name on his lips, which is pretty flattering, and then he flips them over and keeps kissing her.

"You want me to use my hand?" He murmurs between kisses.

"If you want to." She wants him to, but she needs it to come from him. Even after the conversation they had the other night, she still doesn't quite feel comfortable asking him to hang around to help her out.

"Of course I want to."

That decided, he gets to work. He's talking to her again – not whole sentences, this time, but disjointed phrases and encouragements and even, implausibly, groans. She doesn't understand what he can possibly have to groan about. He isn't the one getting off here. But he definitely is groaning, and that has her teetering ever closer to completion.

It's his voice that does it, in the end. She could have guessed it would be that way, after the build up of the evening. But one moment she's stalling there, hovering near the edge, relishing the touch of his tongue and lips. And the next he pulls away, just far enough to whisper against her mouth.

"I've got you, Princess. You can let go for me."

She does let go, and by the time she manages to piece herself back together again, she is lying on his chest and trying to remember how to breathe.

"You good?" He asks, because of course he does.

"I'm good. You?"

"Yeah. Shall we talk about what we liked tonight?"

There is a pause, then. She's not going to mention the slow relaxed kissing, because she's already told him about that. And he definitely knows she likes that position she was on top in, because she's said it before.

That leaves just one thing. One thing that makes her toes curl with ashamed arousal.

"I liked how you kept calling me Princess. You haven't done that in bed much before."

She expects him to laugh. But he kisses her instead, deep and hard – almost too hard for the relaxed kissing that follows orgasm.

It seems like maybe he liked that, too.

Chapter Text

Clarke has had a busy couple of days. She's been helping her mother and Kane to plan their Mount Weather memorial and celebration, and she joined another run to the Mountain for supplies to set up a school here at Camp Jaha. For the first time since the dropship, she feels exhausted because she has so much to do, and not just because she can't sleep or feels the weight of the world on her shoulders.

So, of course, tonight is the night she is woken by a knock at the door.

"What's happening?" She mumbles, sleepy and confused.

"No idea." Bellamy seems more alert, but equally puzzled.

"Clarke." A voice she doesn't recognise sounds from beyond the door. "We need Clarke in medical, now!"

"Now?" She wonders out loud as she scoots out of bed. Whether she's asking Bellamy or the stranger at the door she's not quite sure.

"Are you in there, Clarke?" The knocking continues.

"I'm coming!" She raises her voice, and starts casting around for some clothes.

Bellamy jumps out of bed to help her. Of course he does – it's no accident that she fell in love with him. She's still hunting for a bra by the time he has her boots lined up by the door and a jacket held out open towards her.

"Thanks." She mutters, still less than half awake.

"No problem. You going to be OK?"

"I'm going to have to be." She shrugs. She's no stranger to situations which oblige her to be OK when she's honestly not doing so well.

His jaw is set in that painful line that means he's annoyed at the universe, and would quite like to fight back. But there's no way he can fight back against her being summoned to a medical emergency, so she reaches up to press a kiss just below his ear, hoping to ease some of that tension for him.

"I'll see you later." She promises, although she has no idea when that might be. This emergency could be anything.

"Take care." He drops a quick kiss to her forehead, then sends her on her way.

As she slips out of the door and into the hallway, she finds a young man in a guard's uniform, spattered with blood and filth.

"There was an accident." He explains, although that's rather obvious to look at him.

Clarke nods and starts walking. "What kind of accident? Why so late?"

"A pit with spikes, some kind of animal trap? We were out on patrol this afternoon. It took so long to get them out of there we only just got back."

"Casualties?" She asks, all business.

"Two. Chancellor Griffin and Doctor Jackson said to fetch you."

Well, then. It looks like she's not getting much sleep tonight.

…...

Bellamy is concerned when Clarke doesn't return to their room that night, but not particularly alarmed. A medical emergency could well take longer than the five hours she's been gone, he reckons. So it is that he gets himself dressed, and takes himself to breakfast, and explains to Octavia and Lincoln that Clarke was called away urgently.

By the time the dining hall opens for lunch, he is starting to wonder what's going on. They were supposed to eat together today, and Clarke's not waiting for him, so that rather implies that she's still stitching someone together.

He doesn't bother considering the possibility that she might have run away or stood him up. Somehow that's not something he finds himself fretting about, these days.

He decides to go to med bay and see if he can learn anything useful. If nothing else, he might be able to ask whether there's any way he can help. He's no doctor, but maybe he could assist with fetching and carrying. If nothing else, the medical team must need water and a solid meal by now.

He knocks on the door of med bay and gets no answer. That's not a surprise, he decides. If they're all in surgery, there must be no one around to open the door to the more public area of the facility. And in fact, when he eases the door open, he finds a hastily scrawled note telling him to come back later unless his condition is life-threatening.

That gives him pause. His condition isn't life-threatening. He's not here for a medical condition at all. But he does want to take care of Clarke, and he doesn't see how he can do that from outside.

He's in luck. While he's standing there prevaricating, a nurse stumbles, visibly exhausted, into the room and towards what looks like a supply cupboard.

"Can I help you?" The nurse asks, sounding very much like he hopes the answer is no.

"I want to know if I can do anything to help." Bellamy clasps his hands on his hips, trying to look confident and like he's not out of place.

"You're a guard." The nurse observes.

"Is there anything I can fetch for you guys?" Bellamy presses on. "Supplies? Water? How's it going in there?"

"Thank you, but there's nothing you can do. You should leave." The nurse turns and makes his way back towards the operating theatre.

"Wait! Please, wait. Is it – how's it going?" He stops, annoyed with himself. There's no way any nurse would tell a stranger how the surgery is going. He tries again. "Clarke's been here a long time and I'm worried."

Recognition flashes in the stranger's eyes. "When she gets out, I'll tell her you were asking after her. But she needs to concentrate for now."

Realising that is the best he will do, Bellamy mutters his thanks and leaves.

He eats lunch with Miller, and pretends that all is well. He's worried about Clarke, now. Really worried. If she's been operating all this time that can only mean that something is very wrong, and that there's a good chance that this will end with a negative outcome and a dead patient.

Last time Clarke lost a patient, she took it hard.

She will be OK if it happens again, he resolves. She's been doing better and better, the more time they put between themselves and the Mountain. And her relationship with him is stronger than ever – they can talk more openly, now, and if she's upset after this is through he hopes she will feel able to tell him about it.

He's still worried, though. Worried about the impact that this day might have on her wellbeing and recovery, and worried about the impact on her physical health, too. Lost sleep and missed meals are no small matter when she spends all day on her feet and in the field.

He distracts himself for the afternoon by teaching a group of guards about the local terrain. He points at a map, and talks about hazards, and tries very hard not to panic about Clarke. He thinks he's successful, more or less. The only person who seems to notice anything amiss is Lincoln, who slaps him heartily on the back for no apparent reason when the session draws to a close.

There is still no sign of her by supper time, and now he's fully frantic. Most of all, he feels helpless to do anything about it – he has already been turned away from med bay, and cannot go there again. He doesn't see how it can be possible that she's still not back. He's never heard of surgery lasting this long before.

He takes a calming breath and wonders what she would want him to do. She likes it when he thinks about a problem rather than acting on instinct, he remembers. But he's better at doing that when he's not worried witless about her wellbeing.

Food. That's where he decides to start. He fetched food for her when they first got back from the Mountain and she was struggling, so surely that's a reasonable thing for him to try now. Sure, he has no idea where she is and when she'll be home, but he figures he can at least pick something up from the kitchens to save for her to eat later.

He feels better now that he has a plan. He eats his own bowl of stew whilst half listening to Raven gush about Wick to Gina with unusual openness, and then he excuses himself to get some food for Clarke and wait in their room until she gets home.

He's not sure what she'd want to eat. He picks up some bread – not the soft wheat bread they had at the picnic the other night, but close enough that he hopes it might remind her of that evening. And that sets him off into a nostalgic – or possibly romantic – mood, so he grabs a couple of apples and some venison that looks almost as good as what Wick got hold of for the picnic, if he squints.

That's what he's going to do for Clarke. He's going to welcome her home from her hellish day at work with a picnic.

He's proud of that resolution, as he walks home.

It's a struggle to open the door with his hands full of improvised picnic food, but he manages it, apples tucked awkwardly under one arm.

Then he gets the door open, and sees Clarke sitting on the edge of the bed, and drops one of the apples in his shock. It rolls harmlessly towards her, and she leans over to pick it up.

"What's with all the food?" She asks, matter of fact, as if she hasn't been gone for eighteen hours.

"I knew you hadn't eaten all day. I thought you could have a picnic when you got in. I didn't realise you were already home, or I'd have gone to supper with you." He says, apologetic.

"It's OK. This is better. I'm too tired to go to supper."

He nods, and sets the food down next to her, feeling suddenly self-conscious. It occurs to him that bringing an entire picnic home just because she's had a long day at work is the kind of excessive gesture that could make it look a little bit like he's head over heels in love with her.

She doesn't seem to be complaining.

"Thanks, Bellamy. This was really kind." She chews on a chunk of bread, exhaustion plain to see in every detail from the shadows under her eyes to just how slowly she eats.

"How did it go at medical?" She doesn't look happy, but nor is she visibly drowning in grief.

"Two patients. We saved one and lost the other. The survivor is stable now." She lists the facts dispassionately, and he knows this is her way of keeping some professional distance, and staying safely clear of any personal emotion.

"You were gone a long time. Were you in surgery all day?"

"Most of it. The man who died, he – he clung on for a long time. And then we needed to check that the other wasn't going to deteriorate."

Bellamy's not sure what to do, here. She seems to be doing OK, but it must have been unpleasant to say the least. He settles on the bed at her side and wraps an arm about her shoulders. She sags into him, too tired to stay upright, perhaps, or maybe just relieved to have a hug.

"I'm coping." She tells him, and he believes it's the truth. They long since gave up on hiding such things from each other. "It sucks to lose a patient, however it happens. But I'm proud of us for the one we saved. And I had my mum and Jackson with me this time, that makes it easier for me to trust that we did everything right, and did everything we could." He's not sure what he makes of that. He has faith that she's an excellent doctor in her own right, and that she'd do everything right even without her mother looking over her shoulder. But he can understand why she might find it comforting all the same.

"I'm proud of you. Not for saving him, but for going to work in the middle of the night and sticking at it all day. You give so much to other people, Clarke. I just wish you'd remember to look after yourself once in a while."

She snorts. "I could say the same to you."

He lets her have that one, grunting a little and pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

They sit in silence for a while. Clarke is evidently too exhausted to say much, and he's too overjoyed at having her home and well to mind whether they talk or not. She finishes the bread, and nibbles briefly at a piece of venison. She soon discounts that as being too much effort, though, and insists that he finishes it while she toys with an apple she clearly has no intention of eating.

He hopes she's doing OK. She did say she was, but the not eating is worrying him. Maybe she really is fine, but only very tired, and she'll have more appetite in the morning.

"I need to get some sleep." She announces eventually. "I'm sorry that's no fun for you. I don't mind if you want to keep the light on and read."

"No, it's OK. I'll come to bed with you." He didn't sleep that well once she disappeared last night, so he figures an early night will do them both good.

Minutes later, they are slipping beneath the covers. He pulls her into his arms, because that's how their sleeping arrangements work, these days. He can't remember the last time he went to sleep not holding her. And then, in a movement that has grown familiar through habit, he leans down to kiss her soundly on the lips.

She stiffens, and pulls away.

"I'm sorry, Bellamy, but I'm really not in the mood for sex tonight. I'm sorry. I just – I'm so tired and it's been such a draining day and -"

"Clarke, stop. That's OK. I'm sorry if you felt like I was trying to pressure you into anything." That wasn't his intention at all. He didn't really have an intention, now he comes to think about it. He's just got so used to their routine in recent days, and part of that routine is kissing her the moment they get into bed together. Sure, the kissing usually leads to sex, but that's not what he was angling for, tonight.

"Sorry." She repeats, sounding somewhat hopeless.

"You don't need to apologise. I shouldn't have kissed you when I knew you'd had a tough day."

She doesn't reply to that for a long moment, and he wonders if she's starting to fall asleep. That would be fair enough, he reckons, as he relaxes his hold on her a little and feels his own breathing beginning to slow.

He is surprised when she starts speaking again. "I like kissing you even when I've had a tough day. Maybe especially when I've had a tough day. Do you think we could just kiss for a while before we go to sleep?"

He runs a thumb over her cheek. "Sure we can."

He leaves it to her to lean in first, this time. She takes her time, breath ghosting over his lips long before she makes contact. She takes her time once her mouth is on his, too, the kiss dry and gentle and slower than anything they've tried before.

It's different, but he likes it. This kiss has nothing to do with foreplay, but that's OK. It has plenty to do with companionship, and with comfort, and he thinks it might have a little something to do with love, too. It's like she's melting against him, sighing into his mouth as all the stresses of the day fade away. And he's just happy to be with her again after all that time spent worrying about her.

He leaves it to her to pull away first, too. They keep kissing for longer than he might have expected, given the circumstances. And when she does brush her lips against his for the last time, her hand is still curled about the back of his neck as she looks up at him in the near darkness.

"Thanks. That was just what I needed. I'll make it up to you tomorrow."

"You don't need to, Clarke. It was what I needed, too."

…...

Bellamy is dreading the Mount Weather memorial. Clarke can see it in every line of his brow, in the way his jaw grows tighter the closer they come to the day itself. He's dreading the party, too, but at least that's slightly easier to talk about.

"I can see why my mum and Kane think a celebration is a good idea. I think we could all use a little happiness." She says lightly as they sit in their room the evening before the memorial. She did wonder about introducing the subject over supper, but she knows that Bellamy finds it difficult enough to be open with her. She was never going to get anywhere if she asked him to talk about his feelings in a crowded dining hall.

"Parties don't have much to do with happiness, in my experience." He mutters darkly.

"Want to tell me about it?"

He hesitates for a second, but no longer, and she's proud of him. "Last time I was at a party my sister was arrested."

"No, last time you were at a party you told me I deserved to have fun." She reminds him, casting her mind back to Unity Day.

He didn't think of that. She can tell from the way he glances up and meets her eyes with grateful surprise.

"You deserve to have fun, too." She continues when it becomes clear that he has no intention of replying. "You've given so much to your sister, and your people – and to me. You deserve something good in your life."

"I don't need a party for that. I've got you."

She gapes at him, stunned. She's pretty sure that's the best thing she's heard all week – or possibly all year.

Collecting her wits, she has a go at speaking. "Thanks, Bellamy. I'll be right by your side if it gets to be too much, you know that?"

"Yeah. I just – that's another thing I still haven't forgiven myself for. Taking her to that party in the first place. Such a stupid, stupid thing to do. And I don't really need another reminder to feel guilty the day after the damn memorial."

She pauses for a moment, thoughtful. There's something she'd like to say, in the interests of honesty, but she doesn't know whether it will go down well.

She should say it anyway, she decides. Her relationship with Bellamy has always been built on telling each other what they need to hear.

Hesitant, but determined, she begins. "It wasn't a cautious or sensible thing to do, you're right, Bellamy. But it was – it was you, wasn't it? It's just like you. You love your sister, and you thought of a way to make her happy, and you gave into the temptation to do a nice thing for her rather than thinking through the possible consequences. There's no sense in feeling guilty for it now. You were only trying to make her happy. That's all you ever do, try to make the people you care about happy."

She knows this, because she's becoming increasingly confident in her own place on the list of people he cares about.

He doesn't say much in response to her speech, but that's OK. She knows he's got a big couple of days ahead of him – they both have – and she knows he's exhausted, since his nightmares have grown worse in recent days as he has been getting himself worked up over this. He simply nods a little, and reaches out to press a kiss to her forehead. She knows him well enough by now to read gratitude and affection in the gesture.

He's dreading tomorrow, and the day after, and her heart goes out to him. But she intends to hold his hand through every moment.

…...

The memorial is grim. That's all Bellamy has to say on the matter, when Clarke tries to start a conversation about it later on the same day of the cursed event. He feels a bit bad about that – he knows that she is only trying to help, and that he ought to have something profound to say about closure. In fact, he thinks he might even feel closure – he certainly feels something, some kind of relief that it is over. But he doesn't feel like talking about it.

He eats her out, instead. That tends to be quite a good way of reclaiming a bad day, he's found. Listening to her gasp his name never fails to make the his world a happier place.

He's scheduled to take some guards to Niylah's trading post, the following morning. That's a deliberate move on his part – with the memorial one morning, and the party the following evening, he knew he needed to plan something that would keep him busy and almost be worth looking forward to for the daytime in between.

It's a small group. His sister and Lincoln join him, along with half a dozen officers he picked as most likely to be open-minded and sociable visitors to Niylah's place. He half wishes he could have brought Clarke along, but maybe it's just as well she had to stay back at med bay. He's not sure what he'd do if she tried to ask him about his feelings right now. He's doing his level best to be honest and communicative with her, but he's struggling a bit, and he feels like he's letting her down.

She'd probably tell him that was silly, if only he could get the words out and explain it to her.

He just feels awful about it. She's everything to him – lover and friend, counsellor and comfort blanket. He should have realised that was a recipe for trouble, that he'd find himself in a situation like this where he couldn't bear to talk it out but felt guilty for unwillingly keeping things from her.

"Bell?" His sister sounds concerned. "You OK?"

He forces his mind back to the present moment. They are walking, scarcely minutes away from arriving at Niylah's.

"Yeah. I'm fine."

She looks sceptical, but she lets it go. "I was just telling you about what Indra said. That the Commander said she'd consider the message."

"What kind of response is that?" Bellamy asks, incredulous, and pleased to have something more productive to concentrate on.

"It's what we're getting." Octavia shrugs. "Honestly, it's OK. From what Indra says we should just let her consider it in her own time. And at least we can come out into this part of the forest now."

He nods. "We'll sort it out."

"I know you will. I'm pretty sure you and Clarke could do anything you really wanted to."

He makes an agreeing sort of noise, and keeps walking. Lincoln and Octavia are still talking, but they don't seem to require much input from him.

The group arrives at their destination soon enough. Bellamy introduces everyone to Niylah, and notes that he finds her a much more agreeable host now that he's not paranoid she's trying to sleep with Clarke. He's not sure when that happened, that he stopped seeing other people as competition, but it seems that it's a conclusion he's reached all the same. The officers he selected do him proud, greeting their host politely and offering the items they have come to trade. Niylah accepts them, and gives them a fair deal in pelts in return, and then encourages them all to spend some time looking about the shop.

Browsing is not something Bellamy has tried before. Why would he? He's never had money, and rarely had free time. So it is that he finds he's not very good at it. He's supposed to keep moving, he reckons, and look about the whole room. But he finds himself stopping, very early on, waylaid by the sight of a stunning blue dress.

There's no reason for him to be distracted by a frivolous piece of clothing. It's just that it's a very lovely colour, a deep blue that reminds him of the night sky, and makes him think of stargazing with Clarke last week. And then he makes the mistake of reaching out to touch the fabric, running it between his fingers and feeling how soft and cool it is against his skin.

OK, there's a bit more going on here than detached appreciation of a well-made garment. It's just that he can't help noticing that it looks to be just the right size for a short, slight woman with generous curves. And he does want to do something sweet for Clarke, to show her how much she means to him and thank her for those books. It's not a case of owing her – it's just that he's been looking for a way to make her happy for a while now.

And there is a party tonight. He might not like parties, as such, but he reckons he'd like them slightly more if Clarke was by his side, glowing in a new dress.

"You should get it." Octavia pipes up, appearing at his side and making him jump a mile.

He lets go of the dress and does an embarrassingly poor job of pretending he wasn't looking at anything in particular. "I don't know what you mean." He lies without conviction.

"She'd love it, you know she would. It would really suit her."

"Would she love it? Does she even wear dresses?" Bellamy asks, deciding that there is no point in pretending that he doesn't know exactly what Octavia is talking about.

"She'd wear it if you gave it to her."

"You think so?"

"Yeah. I know you're scared, big brother. Falling in love is frightening. But she's not going to run away if you give her a beautiful dress."

He blinks, confused. Is he really that transparent? "I – you... you know I..." He gives up. "I've been hard to live with this week and she's been there for me every minute. I just want to find a way to thank her."

"You don't need to thank her, Bell. You must know that she'd do anything for you." She pauses, averts her gaze. "But just so you know – I'm here for you too, OK? I know I'll always be your baby sister, but I'm not such a baby any more and if you need someone to talk to – yeah. I'm here."

He struggles to get his head around that idea. It's his job to look out for Octavia, not for her to look out for him. But he supposes it's the thought that counts, so he pulls her into a heartfelt hug all the same.

She hugs him back, hard, for a few moments. But then she draws back to look him in the eye with an almost fierce expression.

"Go buy the goddamn dress, big brother."

He tries to buy the dress. Really, he does. But Niylah will not hear of taking anything in exchange – he cannot even persuade her to take back some of the generous trade of pelts she gave them in the first place. She is absolutely determined that he will have it as a gift. And then Octavia makes it even worse, by joining in the debate and saying it's a present for Clarke, because Bellamy is taking her to a celebration that night.

Niylah makes a great fuss about that, being very loudly happy for the both of them, and forces the dress into his arms without letting him protest any further. She explains for good measure that such dresses are sometimes worn at formal occasions in Polis, and that it is just the thing to give Clarke if he is taking her to a special party.

He'd rather not take her to any party at all. He'd rather take her on another picnic. But it seems as if the universe is conspiring against him, here. And yeah, sure, maybe he is a little tiny bit happy at the thought of taking her out for the evening and giving her a chance to dress up and feel special.

He feels mildly ridiculous trekking back through the forest with a dress slung over one arm, but he doesn't want to put his precious burden in his pack and risk creasing it. The path is at least solid underfoot, so he doesn't need to worry about falling and making a mess of it.

He feels completely ridiculous walking back through the gates of Camp Jaha with a dress slung over one arm. It ought to be unremarkable, he thinks – there is a party tonight, and he is obviously carrying a party dress. But a vast number of people feel the need to comment on it all the same.

"Funny looking pelt." Monty greets him, with a cocked brow.

"What's that?" Jasper asks, looking, of all things, almost disgusted.

"Nice dress." Miller tells him. "Are you planning on wearing it yourself?"

Raven is worse, of course. "She's going to love it, Bellamy! You two are going to look unfairly good together."

All in all, he's fed up of pretending not to hear his many friends and acquaintances catcalling him by the time he arrives at the correct hallway and starts approaching his own front door.

Then Bree rounds the corner, and he prepares himself for yet another bout of teasing.

She surprises him by being somewhat more gentle and genuine than the rest. "That's lovely, Bellamy. Is that a gift for your date?"

That's an excellent question, he decides. He supposes that it is for his date, now that he comes to think about it. He intends to give it to Clarke, with whom he intends to hang out, dance, and have sex tonight. That makes her basically his date, doesn't it?

He clears his throat nervously. He's never let himself think of her in those terms before. "Err, yeah. Yeah it is."

Bree grins at him, no trace of resentment to be seen. He supposes that's a mark if any were needed of quite how much the delinquents respect and value Clarke. He just wishes she realised that for herself, once in a while.

"She's a lucky girl." Bree says cheerfully. "You guys have fun. I'll see you there?"

"Yeah. See you there."

It's official. He's got a lovely dress over his arm, and it's a gift for his date.

…...

Clarke knows she's being an idiot. She has no right to be hurt that Bellamy apparently has some lovely gift for his date – or at least, that's what she thinks is going on, based on the muffled conversation she can hear through the door. She can see no other way of interpreting it.

Of course he has a date. She should have seen it coming – he was trying to find someone to pair up with the other week, and what better opportunity to take someone out than this party?

It's just that she thought they were going to hang out together. She honestly believed it would be that way, after all the talk they shared of helping each other through these couple of tough days.

She's ashamed of herself. She knew that starting to sleep with him was a dangerous mistake, that she'd let herself start believing they were actually in some kind of relationship. She knew it, and she did it anyway. She's pretty sure that kind of poor judgement doesn't suit her.

This is worse than when he went for that drink with Gina. It is worse, because she thought she had half a chance. But she cannot cry, not while he is only yards away.

She hasn't got long to collect her wits. Bellamy has finished his conversation, now, so surely he will be opening the door any moment. She needs to arrange her face into straight lines, and get on with being happy for him. He's had a difficult week, and her being bitter and jealous that he has a date will hardly help matters.

When the door opens, she has to stifle a gasp. Because of course the lovely gift is truly lovely – it's some garment of deep blue, hanging from his arm. Based on the shape of it, she thinks it's a dress.

She knows she shouldn't step any closer. This is some other woman's gift. But she can't help herself – she just needs to see it more clearly. Yes, definitely a dress, low-cut around the chest as far as she can make out, made of some soft, slinky fabric that looks like it would be wonderful to wear.

Whoever this date is, she's a lucky girl indeed. Not just because of the dress, of course – although the dress is unfairly beautiful – but because of Bellamy. Because this mystery woman gets to hang out with the most caring, committed and warm man on the planet. The fact that he would buy a gift this stunning for a first date only serves to underline his generous heart, she decides.

She tears her eyes away from the dress and tries to make conversation.

"Hey. How was your day?" She asks, as he drapes the dress almost reverently over the back of the chair and sets his pack down on the floor.

"Great." He grins, and she's relieved to hear it. She can be happy about his happiness, even whilst she quietly drowns in jealousy.

"Good. Want to tell me about it?"

"I'll tell you as we walk. We need to get going if we're going to get there early to set up." He pauses, grin growing ever wider. "Do you want to get changed?"

Now she's confused. "Are you still coming to set up? Don't you want to go meet your date?"

There is a heartbeat of pained silence. And then, of all things, he starts to laugh. He doesn't laugh all that often, in her experience, so she cannot for the life of her see what's so amusing about this. If he's going to flaunt another woman in front of her face, the least he could do is not openly laugh at her, she thinks uncharitably.

"What's so funny?" She asks, short and hurt.

"You honestly didn't realise I meant you?"

Well, now. That changes things.

"Me?" She asks, convinced she must have misheard. Why would he have bought that dress for her?

"We said we were going together, right? That's what I meant." He tries for a shrug, evidently struggling a bit to explain himself.

"But you didn't want to go with someone else? I know you were trying to date Gina the other week." She should really stop digging, she supposes, but she's nothing if not persistent.

"Why would I want to date anyone when I get to come home to you every night?"

She kisses him, then. It's probably not the smart move, at this moment. They have a party to set up, and apparently she needs to get changed, too. But she can't think of any other way to react to the news that he'd rather come home to her than date someone else. It ought to be big news, she reckons – especially coming hot on the heels of her being so convinced some other woman would be on his arm tonight – but as soon as he says the words, she finds that they make perfect sense.

He pulls away first, hand still cupping her cheek.

"We can do that later. You still need to get changed."

She remembers the gift, then. "You really got this for me?"

"Yeah. I hope that's OK. I know it's not exactly a book. I hope it doesn't make you uncomfortable or -"

"It's great." She interrupts him, before his insecurities run away with him. She can see that a dress might feel like a risky gift, with all its potential connotations of superficial attraction, but actually she's kind of flattered at the idea that he might like her for superficial reasons on top of their deep and constant friendship.

He visibly wilts in relief. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. It's beautiful. I can't wait to wear it."

She gets changed quickly, then, pausing only to decide what to do about shoes. But then Bellamy tells her that he's not convinced she would be Clarke if she didn't show up everywhere in her saving the world boots, and that it doesn't matter to him that she doesn't own any more delicate footwear, so she kisses him lightly on the cheek and decides that if boots are good enough for him, they're good enough for her.

She takes a moment to look in the mirror when she's done. It's silly, and vain, and she really ought to be getting on with setting up the party, but she's never owned anything like this before.

She can't quite believe what she sees in the mirror. Not because she doesn't recognise herself, not like in those romance novels she remembers occasionally reading – and regretting – back on the Ark. But because she still recognises herself perfectly, from the dark colour and simple shape of the dress, to those saving the world boots still laced on her feet. She's still Clarke Griffin, but perhaps a peacetime version of her.

She finds that Bellamy has changed his shirt, too, by the time she gets out of the bathroom. He doesn't have anything new to wear, but he's wearing a clean T shirt of dark maroon which she cannot help but notice brings out some warm tones in his eyes.

She only noticed that because she's an artist, of course. It was a purely aesthetic observation, and she thinks probably there's no need for her to mention it to him.

He looks up when she walks back into the room and visibly swallows. "You look beautiful." He tells her softly.

Well, now. That's another thing he's not said before. This is turning out to be something of a day for revelations.

"Thanks." She reaches out for his hand, and experiences a sudden change of mind. "That colour really suits you. It brings out your eyes." She informs him, as if it is simply a matter of science.

He's not fooled. She can tell. "Thanks, Princess. We ready to go to this party?"

"Ready as we'll ever be. We got this, OK? It's going to be alright."

…...

It is alright, as it turns out. Bellamy wouldn't have believed such a thing was possible, but by the time the evening is three-quarters gone he has to admit it's the truth.

It doesn't feel weird to be celebrating as long as Clarke's by his side. Now he thinks about it, quite a lot of his relationship with Clarke in recent weeks has been a celebration of sorts. Once they got over the shouting, and the unscheduled weeping started to ease off, and they began laughing and kissing instead, it became quite natural to have a good time.

Having a good time in public is new to him, of course. But as long as he focuses on Clarke's face, and her laugh, and the warmth of her arm looped through his, he can pretend that it's just the two of them. And as long as they're in their bubble together, he finds that he can almost relax.

They dance a lot, for the first part of the night. He reckons that's a deliberate strategic choice on her part – most things are a deliberate strategic choice, with Clarke, he has found. She has realised that dancing will allow him just to spend some time relaxing with her, so they pass a good couple of hours swaying pointlessly, alone with each other amidst the crowd. Dancing has its good points, he decides. For sheer physical closeness and emotional intimacy, it doesn't really compare with sex or even a movie night. But, however hard he's trying to pretend that it's just the two of them, he doesn't hate the idea of people seeing them here together. He's proud of her, and some possessive streak he usually manages to conceal beneath his genuine respect for her quite likes showing her off.

Once he's loosened up a bit, he has a go at making a difficult suggestion.

"Do you want to hang out with anyone else? I just saw Raven walk by, and Lincoln's over there." He suggests.

"Up to you." She hedges cautiously.

"I'm good. Really. And I'd dance with you all night but I wondered if you wanted company."

She hums a little, considering the idea. He knows she likes to be alone when she's struggling, but as far as he can tell she's been in a more sociable mood, recently.

"Let's go see Raven." He decides. He suspects that she's prevaricating because she doesn't want to force him into spending time in company if he's not feeling up to it.

She agrees and takes his hand as they walk off the dance floor. That seems to be a thing they do now, the casual hand-holding. He supposes that's no very surprising development, if this is, in fact, a date. Within a few moments, they are sitting by Raven's side at a small table, and she is explaining that Gina and Wick are just fetching more drinks.

"How is Gina?" Clarke asks, with every appearance of genuine polite curiosity, and Bellamy chokes briefly on nothing.

"She's well." Raven's eyes flicker between the two of them with a knowing look.

Bellamy decides it's time to change the subject. "We were thinking we should hang out with you and Wick again." He is careful to avoid the term double date. He's had enough trouble with that word already today.

"Yeah. We should return the favour and host you guys some time." Clarke joins in.

"You don't have to. Really. It was good to see you." Raven looks a bit nervous as she plays with an empty glass. "I know I wasn't very understanding to you guys, when we got back from Mount Weather. It was good to be able to do something fun with you and start to put that behind us."

"It's already done." Clarke says earnestly. "Really, Raven. We're good."

Raven continues all the same. Clearly this is something that has been on her mind for a while, and the alcohol and all these occasions designed to mark a bit of moving on have her keen to let it all out.

"I think I forget you two are human, sometimes. I thought I could just keep pushing and take it all out on you, everything I was feeling. It didn't occur to me you could break, too."

"We're all breakable." Clarke murmurs, but she sounds more reconciled to the idea than sad.

Gina and Wick arrive, then. They have clearly seen Bellamy and Clarke join the group, and have brought enough drinks for everyone. They pass them around, and Bellamy starts to sip at the moonshine.

In an evening of unexpected developments, Raven has one more surprise up her sleeve.

"Here's to putting the pieces back together again." She says, raising her glass.

Bellamy is more than happy to drink to that.

Chapter Text

Clarke realises something, as she watches Bellamy sleep the morning after the celebration.

She's in a relationship.

Sure, it may not be a very clearly labelled relationship, and she might be rather more invested in it than Bellamy is, and there are probably a hundred and one other reasons why it's not exactly the most functional relationship in the world.

But it's a relationship nonetheless, and that's good enough for her.

It's more happiness than she ever expected to salvage on this godforsaken planet, that's for sure.

She wonders whether she ought to say anything to Bellamy about this revelation. It shouldn't be a controversial item of news, she figures. They definitely care for each other, and they've clearly started going on dates, and didn't he basically declare last night that in his mind they were exclusive? She can't see another way of interpreting his decision not to date anyone else when he's coming home to her every night. And, being Clarke Griffin, she has analysed every possibility with painstaking care.

Maybe it's all so obvious and natural that she doesn't need to say anything at all? Maybe mentioning it would ruin the natural progression that has seen them end up here? Maybe, after several weeks in which the atmosphere between them has been almost entirely comfortable, attempting to define their relationship would introduce awkwardness?

She comes to the conclusion that this is a question which will need even more thought, and therefore files it resolutely away for later.

She concentrates, instead, on the sight of that beautiful dress she was wearing last night, draped carefully over a chair before ripping the rest of their clothes off when they arrived home. He didn't have to get her a present, of course. She loves him because he gives so much of himself to their relationship, all of the time, not because he gives her material possessions along the way. But she supposes she has been giving him gifts recently, too, so perhaps he was bound to do the same thing eventually. If romance is a competition, it's certainly one he wouldn't want to lose.

That makes her laugh, a little tinkling sound in the morning quiet of the room. It's as if they are some particularly covetous birds bringing each other shiny things to line their nest, rather than just talking about their feelings like human adults.

But of course, it's somehow not awkward. With Bellamy, almost nothing is.

Bringing each other unnecessary gifts is apparently just another thing they do, much as helping each other through nightmares and going on lunch dates and drinking in the bar together are all things they do.

By the time Bellamy stirs, the sun is well up and she can hear people starting to go about their day outside.

"You're sleeping in more." She notes. It is not a complaint.

"Yeah. I think I was six years old last time I slept as well as I did last night." He tells her with a sad smile.

She can well understand that, and she presses a soft kiss to his neck to show it. His inability to unwind and rest at night is something that has always bothered her, ever since she used to find him up at all hours back at the dropship camp. And she can certainly remember him sitting up to keep watch over her and Octavia when they went in search of Finn and Murphy.

If anyone deserves to have a good night's sleep for once, it's Bellamy.

"We can rest a bit longer if you want?" She suggests. She's pretty sure they don't need to get up and face the day this very moment.

He hesitates a little, and she can feel his swallow against her cheek.

"What is it? What's wrong?" She asks, propping herself up on an elbow and looking down at him in concern.

"Nothing." He rushes to assure her. "I just – I should get up and take a shower. You want to join me?"

"In the shower?" She asks, beginning to wonder if she might know where this is going.

"Yeah." He swallows again. "I thought it might be a fun way to start the day. We could fool around a little while we're there."

She really doesn't understand why he's so nervous about all this. Of course she wants to join him in the shower. She rejoices in their sex life, and she thinks she makes that pretty obvious. It's not like she is going to turn him down, but he still looks scared witless. She slightly wants to grab him by the shoulders and shake some sense into him – it's only an invitation to a damp screw. It's not like he's proposing marriage or anything.

But above all, she wants to grab him by the shoulders and kiss him senseless, so she decides to try that instead. It seems more productive than telling him he's being an idiot.

He kisses her back, hot and eager, fingers lacing into her hair to hold her mouth against his. That's a bit problematic, really, because she needs to pull back to answer his question.

She does manage to ease away from his lips, eventually, and he looks distinctly crestfallen until she gets the words out.

"Are we taking this to the shower, then?"

He grins, and the pair of them tumble out of bed and towards the bathroom together. At this point, Clarke finds herself relieved that her mother allocated Bellamy a prestigious apartment with an en suite all those weeks ago. But then she catches herself noting that she will never be able to thank her for doing so without revealing what they get up to behind closed doors, and that sets her giggling.

"What's so funny?" Bellamy asks, an indulgent smile playing about his lips.

"I'm just thinking – we should thank my mum for the en suite, but we can't without telling her more than she'd want to know."

He chuckles a little at that, too, and turns on the shower.

That's when Clarke finds herself standing in the middle of the bathroom and wondering what happens next.

"Have you done this before?" She asks him, because that seems like a sensible place to start. He's done more things before than she has.

"Honestly? No. Couldn't exactly take girls back to my apartment on the Ark, could I? But I've been thinking about it a fair bit recently so I guess I have some ideas." He concludes, staring at the tiles of the floor with rapt concentration.

"How does it work?"

He presses a brief kiss to her nose. "Such a Clarke question, Princess. Why don't we just relax, and get in the shower, and see what feels good?"

She nods determinedly. She has to admit that determined is not quite relaxed, but she's doing her best.

She's with Bellamy. Whatever they do, it'll be good.

With that decided, she steps into the shower. It's not designed for two people, so they have a good giggle over trying to arrange themselves in the small space such that they're both getting the benefit of the warm water. She's not sure what these ideas of his consist of, because she's pretty sure that they're not going to be able to make room in here for energetic penetration without someone ending up concussed.

She tears her thoughts away from that, and concentrates on what she can feel. Bellamy's skin is warm and wet and sliding against hers, and that's a new sensation she rather likes. His curls are fast soaking through in the spray, so she reaches up to run a hand through his hair.

"You OK?" He asks, because that seems to have become his favourite question in the last few weeks.

"Yeah. This is silly but – could I wash your hair?"

He kisses her for that, soft and slow, lips sliding easily against hers as the water trickles down their faces.

"Are you a mind reader?" He asks, when he pulls away. "How did you know I was hoping you'd say that?"

She grins. "I'm being selfish here. I just want an excuse to play with your hair." She teases.

He hands her the shampoo with a smile and she gets to work. It's beautiful, doing this – beautiful in a way that goes beyond the strictly sexual. She can feel him unwinding beneath her fingertips, his neck and shoulders relaxing as she massages the shampoo into his scalp. She's almost disappointed when the time comes to was the suds away, but she manages to stretch it out for a long while, careful not to get shampoo in his eyes as she gently hoses him down.

He decides to return the favour, next, her back pressed up against his front as he works at her hair. She's pleased they started with this, she decides. She's feeling much more calm and comfortable in this new environment, now, and she thinks she'll be ready to relax and enjoy herself without overthinking it too much when they move onto the next stage.

He's finished washing her hair, at this point, but she's still pressed up against him just the same. Somewhere along the line, he has started pressing kisses to her neck and shoulders, and he continues with that as he reaches an arm around her to cup her breast.

"That's good." She tells him, saving him the trouble of asking yet again how she's doing.

"Good." He echoes, growing a little braver, reaching his other hand down to tease at her clit.

She can't quite decide what to do, now. Part of her wants to stay here and enjoy the ride, but she can feel his cock pressing hard into her lower back, and it seems unfair that he's not getting any attention.

"Do you want me to -?" She asks, reaching awkwardly around towards him.

"You don't need to. How about we both enjoy playing with you for a while, first? We're not in a rush, remember."

She listens to that, really hears him and takes his words to heart.

"OK. Can I get your finger inside me, please?" She means it to sound like a confident request, but she thinks it comes out more like begging.

He seems happy with it, either way. He growls a little – she's noticed he tends to get a bit overexcited when she has a go at taking charge during sex – and gives her what she wants.

It's good. She doesn't know whether it's better than their usual on the bed. The novelty of the situation is quite something, and she really does like the slick slide of their bodies against each other in the warm water. But as she feels her orgasm building, she wonders whether maybe coming standing up might not be her favourite thing in the world.

It doesn't matter, she decides. She's having fun, and whether this turns out to be her favourite sexual act of all time is neither here nor there. They're having sex so absurdly often at the moment that she'll probably get at least one more opportunity before the day is out. It's not as if there is any pressure riding on this moment, any obligation to make this the kind of once-in-a-lifetime orgasm she used to hear the girls at the dropship gossip about.

"Stop thinking so loud, Princess." Bellamy whispers in her ear. "Just let me take care of you."

She does. She leans back into him, and he sprinkles kisses over her neck and shoulders while he works at her with his fingers. He whispers to her now and then, too, the odd Princess and occasional beautiful, and that helps her along.

Before she knows it, she's whining. Actually full-on whining like an injured animal. And that seems to turn him on, too, and suddenly his fingers are moving faster and she can feel his cock grinding against her a little for good measure.

That's what has her falling apart, in the end. It feels good, so good, but that's nothing compared to the knowledge that she's managing to drive him crazy without even touching his cock. That he's so into her, so into this new relationship of theirs, that just getting her off has him groaning.

She pulses around his hand, hard, biting down on her lip.

And then she stands there, panting and a little disorientated, damp to say the least.

"Thanks." She tells him, gathering her wits and turning around. "Your turn?"

"You don't have to." He points out, because of course he does.

"I want to." She tells him, as bold and confident as she can manage - certainly with far more boldness and confidence than she was capable of mustering when they first started sleeping together.

She takes his cock in her hand and gets to work, finding him slick from the water and groaning the second she wraps her fingers around him.

"Does that feel good?" She asks, even though she knows the answer. She just likes to hear him losing his mind over her.

"So good." He assures her, reaching down for a kiss.

They keep kissing, after that. Occasionally one of them manages to choke out a word against the other's lips, and Bellamy takes to moaning a series of incoherent but really flattering noises as she takes him closer.

She could get used to this, she decides. She could get used to having a Bellamy in her life – she may have decided they're in a relationship, but she's not sure she's ready for the word boyfriend just yet. It doesn't quite fit what they have, somehow, and doesn't begin to do justice to the many roles they play in each other's lives.

Apart from anything else, she could definitely get used to starting the day with orgasms in the shower every morning.

When he comes against her stomach, it catches her slight by surprise. Her skin is already wet from the shower, so when he squirts all over her it takes her a second too long to realise what's happening.

That's a bit embarrassing, she decides. She's been sleeping with him long enough that she should be better at reading his body language and the pattern of his breathing by now. She should have known he was coming even if the shower makes everything a bit more disorientating.

He doesn't seem to be complaining, though. He just keeps kissing her, and pulls her in for an all-consuming hug.

She's going to tell him she loves him in a moment like this, she decides. Not soon, not until she's sure they're ready. But one day she wants to say those words into his shoulder, during a heartfelt hug in a moment of real physical and emotional intimacy.

That's the first time she's ever genuinely contemplated the idea that she might tell him eventually, but suddenly she's absolutely certain that she will, in the months and years to come.

…...

Bellamy is trying very hard not to beam from ear to ear. He's having little success, though, and he fears that he's going to find himself wearing at least half a smile for the whole of the rest of the day.

The memorial and the party are over and done with – two days he was dreading – so that has him relieved.

On top of that, taking a shower with Clarke really got his day off to a bright start. Not just because the sex was good, but because of what it meant to him. He knows that's a bit sappy and sentimental, but he's been working up to inviting her to take a shower with him for the last couple of weeks. And he did promise himself that he would ask her to do so, just as soon as he felt a bit more confident that their arrangement was here to last. So it means a lot to him that they did that this morning, OK? It means that he's grown confident that she's sticking around, and that he's beginning to believe that this might be something resembling a relationship.

But yeah, also, the sex was good. Just in case that wasn't clear.

He grins to himself and sets about getting dressed to face the day.

"Stop looking at me like that." Clarke chastises him without heat.

"Like what?" He teases, enjoying the fact that they have the leisure to tease, these days.

"Like you want to take me back into the shower again."

He gives a mock frown. "But I do want to do that."

She laughs. "You're impossible. We can try it again another time, but we both have somewhere to be now."

That's one of the things he loves the most about their friendship, or relationship, or whatever the hell this even is now. He loves the fact that they can tease each other along the way whilst taking on responsibilities and challenges. It's like he's the only person in the world who knows her well enough to be allowed to tease her, while she has a job to do. It makes for a good balance, he reckons, caring for each other when the going gets tough, supporting each other through the serious stuff, but also lightening the load when the moment allows for it.

With that in mind, he gets back to business as he buckles his belt.

"We got a reply from the Commander. She just said that she would consider the message. Indra thinks we should leave her to do that in her own time."

She freezes, scarcely for a heartbeat, barely discernible. He only spots it because he's something of an expert, where reading Clarke Griffin's mood is concerned.

"That sounds like Lexa." She says, tone carefully light. "She'll do what she wants, and she'll do it when she wants."

"I'm sorry." He says, woefully inadequate. He can't imagine what it's like, to get such a dispiriting response from someone she was developing feelings for.

"That's OK." Clarke swings her jacket onto her shoulders, and then concentrates very carefully on placing a selection of items into her backpack while she speaks. "Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like, if I'd met her when she wasn't the Commander and I wasn't in charge here. Would something have worked out between us if we didn't owe anything to our people? But then I remember we'd never have met each other, if the circumstances were different. And as it is, I'm here, now, with you."

He considers that carefully, while she continues to stare at the contents of her pack. Her point about being with him could just be a matter of logistics and geography, he supposes, a question of comparing her in Polis with him in Camp Jaha. Or it could be something deeper than that, some other sense in which they are together. It might be both, or it might be neither, he muses while she still stares at that goddamn backpack.

It doesn't matter.

That's what he decides, in the end. He loves her, and she cares about him, and they have a good thing going here, whatever it is. And part of that good thing consists of him supporting her, so he decides he ought to get on with that rather than trying to puzzle out her meaning. And anyway, hugging her will always interest him more than overthinking the messages behind her words.

He reaches out to embrace her, firm and steady, the angle a little odd as she is still sitting down to fiddle with that bag.

"I'm really happy that you're here, Clarke."

"I'm happy that I'm here, too. I should thank you more often for making me stay."

He doesn't answer that. He's still not entirely happy with the way he went about it, so he simply presses a kiss to her forehead and changes the subject.

"Come on. Breakfast is waiting."

She nods, and gets to her feet. He thinks she looks a little disappointed, but he supposes that's no surprise. The woman she thinks she might have fallen in love with, had things been different, has just obstructed their self-appointed mission.

He never did like Lexa. But he likes her even less, now.

…...

Clarke has been thinking a lot about when to tell Bellamy she loves him, these last couple of days. Her head is telling her that she should just get on and do it. He's obviously not going to freak out and run away – it is as plain as daylight that he cares about her too much for that. Their relationship is built of strong stuff, and it's not about to crumble to dust over something as trivial as her feelings developing more quickly than his.

Her heart, on the other hand, is having none of it. Her heart is scared, and has been broken too many times before. She always loses the people she loves – her father, Wells, Finn – and she's terrified that Bellamy would go the same way, if she said the words to him and made it real.

That's illogical. She knows it's illogical. But for a logical woman, she becomes downright irrational when she's scared about Bellamy's wellbeing, it turns out.

So, yeah, she's been preoccupied with all this for a little while now. It should therefore come as no surprise when the theme starts invading her nightmares.

The worst thing is, that tonight's dream does not seem like a nightmare, at first. It seems like the happiest of dreams, her and Bellamy lounging on a blanket and sharing an apple and looking up at the stars. And then he starts whispering affectionate nonsense about how beautiful she is, how lucky he is to have her in his life, and her heart swells fit to bursting.

"I love you." She tells him, in the dream.

That's when it all goes wrong. That's when the stars become spears, a shower of grounder spears, raining down on them. That's when the blanket becomes a pit of spikes, and Bellamy is falling, falling into nothingness.

And then the scene shifts, again, and his face is burning, scarred by acid fog, and the apple is a knife and she's holding it to his heart.

"Thanks, Princess." He whispers, voice half way between his own and Finn's.

She wakes up screaming.

Bellamy is there, of course, in the world of wakefulness. His arms are warm about her, cradling her close and whispering affectionate nonsense not unlike what she heard in the dream, as he tries to calm her down.

It's too much. It's all too much, too soon, while the wound she had to inflict in that nightmare is too fresh.

She pulls away from his arms, and flees to the bathroom, and locks herself in.

She sits on the closed lid of the toilet for a long time, crying and panting, trying to force herself to stop panicking and think of a way out of this mess she has made. She wants to go back and hide in Bellamy's arms, she wants it more than anything, but she cannot allow herself to do that.

If she loves him, he dies. Isn't that what the dream was telling her?

That sets her to panicking all over again, thoughts a tangled mess of I can't lose you, too and I was being weak. At times, she is incapable of thinking even those words, submerged by a rising tide of worry.

She comes back to herself slowly. The toilet lid is cold beneath her bare skin. The bathroom is still faintly steamy, from the shower they took together just before bedtime.

As her breathing begins to calm, she allows herself to notice that it's a while since she last fell apart like this. She thought she was doing better, actually. She hasn't struggled this badly since she started communicating more honestly with Bellamy. And, in fact, last time she had an episode like this, she distinctly remembers riding it out safely wrapped in the comfort of his arms.

No. She mustn't do that any more. The mere thought of it sets her heart racing all over again. If she lets herself rely on him like that, he'll go and die.

It isn't until she's been sitting in the bathroom for quite some time that she allows herself to notice something. She allows herself to notice a shadow beneath the door – a shadow that looks suspiciously like a well-built young man crouching next to the bathroom door in concern.

And she notices, too, that she can still hear him whispering her name.

…...

Bellamy doesn't know what to do, when Clarke locks herself in the bathroom, crying so loudly he thinks the whole camp can probably hear her. For lack of a better idea, he crouches by the door, as close to her as he can possibly get, and carries on murmuring the kinds of supportive words he'd be saying if she was in his arms.

She stops crying, eventually, and he hears her approach the door. So he jumps back, and rushes to get into bed and pretend that he was there all along.

She ignores him. She says absolutely nothing to him, which makes an unpleasant contrast to their usual constant stream of chatter, and gets into the opposite side of the bed.

It's a decent-sized bed, of course, so they can go the rest of the night without touching – and they do. It's the first time that's happened in ages, and Bellamy hates it. But he respects Clarke, above all else, so he's not going to crawl over there and start invading her personal space when she hasn't issued him an invitation to do so.

He doesn't know what to do, either, when she is still not right the following morning. He's pretty sure neither of them has slept much, and it is well before dawn when he rolls over to the sight of Clarke pulling on her socks and getting out of bed.

"You OK?" He asks, even though he's certain the answer is no.

She only grunts by way of response.

That's what does it for him, in the end. They've had their struggles in recent months, but they have always talked about them, before now. He cannot imagine what she saw in that nightmare last night that is so terrible as to cause her to be unable even to speak to him, but he's not about to allow her to bear it alone.

The last time he saw that look in her eye, he remembers, was on the road to TonDC. He left her to deal with her demons herself, then, and that did not end well at all. That ended with him sent into the Mountain without so much as a goodbye, and with a missile dropped on a village.

He refuses to make the same mistake twice.

"Clarke. Princess." That has her gasping and her hands trembling, and he curses himself. Apparently they are not in affectionate nickname territory, this morning – or should that be tonight?

He tries again. "Clarke. I know you're upset, OK? You don't have to tell me about it if you don't want to, or if you can't. But I'm here, and I want to take care of you, if you'll let me."

She shakes her head, still facing away from him, and sets about locating a shirt.

"You remember when I couldn't tell you very much about the Mountain, so we went there together and I showed you instead? Is there something like that we could try?"

That provokes a slightly more positive reaction. She pauses, shirt in her hands, and as he looks at her face in profile he can just about see that her lips are twisted into a thoughtful frown.

Buoyed on by that relative success, he continues. "Or do you want to take some time out and get some space today? I can tell Abby where you've gone if you need to go see Wells again."

She starts crying again at the sound of her best friend's name, tears rolling unchecked down her cheeks, making a frankly distressing keening noise like a trapped animal.

Bellamy still doesn't know what to do. He knows what he wants to do, knows what every instinct is telling him to do, but he's not sure whether it's the right move.

It's worth a try, he decides, swinging his legs out of the bed.

"I'd really like to give you a hug, Clarke." He says, calm and low, trying not to startle her. "I won't if you don't want me to, of course. But I'd like to if that's OK?"

She keeps crying for what must be only another second but feels like a lifetime.

And then she gives the slightest nod.

Sighing in relief, he jumps to his feet and crosses the distance between them. He wraps his arms about her, firm but not constricting, and nuzzles his face into her neck. She responds in kind, and he feels some of the tension leaving both of them. Clarke is still crying, but she's no longer making so much noise, and he at least feels like he's trying to take care of her, now.

"I've got you." He whispers against her skin. "Whatever this is, we can work it out together, OK? I'm going to be right here by your side for as long as you'll put up with me."

She gives a damp and slightly hysterical laugh at that. "What if you're not, Bellamy? What if – what if you can't be?"

He frowns, not understanding her point. "I think I've made it pretty clear that nothing is separating us any time soon, Clarke. We said we'd stick together, and I meant it."

"No, I mean – what if something happens to you?" Her voice breaks on the question, and she sobs harder into his shoulder, before collecting herself and continuing. "Wells is dead because he cared about me."

Well, now. That explains a thing or two, he decides. If only she'd started by telling him that absurd thought was still on her mind, rather than thinking she had to freak out alone in the bathroom.

"No, Clarke. He's dead because a traumatised twelve-year-old stabbed him. Blame the council for sending her down here, or blame me for giving her a knife, or blame Jaha for stopping your dad from going public about the oxygen. But none of that is your fault."

"He came down here for me."

"And I'm sure he'd have chosen to die down here with you than suffocate slowly on the Ark." He pauses, wonders whether his next words are wise. Whether they might set her to crying all over again. "I know what I'd choose, Clarke. I'm not trying to upset you but – this planet is dangerous, OK? And I for one would rather stick with you to face those dangers than hide away without you."

He hopes that made sense. He hopes it wasn't excessive – he's very much aware that it was over half way to a confession of how he feels about her. But if his instincts are right, she needs to hear that a relationship with her is worth the risk.

"What if I get you killed, too?" She asks, voice very small, sounding not at all like a woman who leads armies.

It's just as well he loves every side of this complicated woman.

"You don't get anyone killed, Clarke. Death happens down here. And like I just said, I'd rather make the most of the time we get to spend together while we're still breathing."

She doesn't reply to that, or at least not in words. She just hugs him tighter, her face burrowing determinedly into his shoulder. He can feel her breath against his skin, in and out, in and out, growing steadily more regular as she calms down. And he can feel his heart rate slowing to match.

At last, she pulls back from his arms, and looks him in the eye, and speaks.

"I'm going to go see Wells again today. Will you come with me?" That takes him by surprise, that she would invite him today, hot on the heels of a night spent running away from him.

"You want me to?"

"Yeah." She swallows. "I'm done running away from you. I'm done with crying on my own. I'm taking a dropship day, and I want you there with me."

That is, without doubt, the most moving invitation he's ever received.

…...

Clarke is proud of herself for inviting Bellamy along to visit Wells. It feels a bit odd, in some ways, because the two boys were never friends. On the contrary – they antagonised each other, and she's pretty sure Wells would be incredulous if he could see that Bellamy is her favourite person in the world, these days.

But in other ways, it feels perfect. It feels like the final step on the road to trusting Bellamy completely, to being open with him about everything. She feels like she's even told him what that nightmare was about, more or less, through all those comments the two of them shared about what happened to Wells and making the most of their time together.

She's still not quite ready to tell him she loves him, not after last night. But that will come, in time.

They decide to make a proper day trip of it, in the end. They wait for the sun to rise and the dining hall to open, then they eat a hearty breakfast and beg the kitchens for a selection of picnic food. They pop by Kane's office, to say that they need to take a personal day, and are almost blown away by how earnestly he encourages them to do so.

"That seems very reasonable." He tells them, with a gentle smile. "You take all the time you need. We can cover your work, no problem."

"You should ask Lincoln to run my morning session." Bellamy suggests.

"Lincoln?"

"Yeah. He knows what I had planned, and it would do him good to have more of a role round here."

Clarke's happy to see how far his friendship with Lincoln has come in recent weeks.

They set out on their way, then, ambling through the forest side-by-side. It's a funny turn of events, she muses, that they are setting out as if on a leisurely date when the express aim of their excursion is to visit her friend's grave. But that's the thing about life on the ground – the happiness and the sadness come hand in hand, intertwined so tightly that it is impossible to have one without the other, she has realised.

"What's on your mind?" Bellamy asks her, when she's been quiet for a while.

"Lots of things." She hedges. "Mostly that this is pretty strange. We're going for a day out and a picnic to visit my friend's grave. You didn't even like him."

"I like him now, if that makes sense." She turns to look at Bellamy, and notes that his jaw is doing that thing it does when he is nervous. "I'd actually like to spend some time with him myself, while we're there, if that's OK. God, I know that sounds weird. It's just – I never put things right with him. And I know it's too late now, but I figure saying goodbye to him is better than nothing."

That has her eyes growing damp. She can just imagine the pair of them, if Wells had lived, bickering over whose turn it was to make a protective fuss and check she'd eaten dinner that day.

"That sounds like a plan." She tells him, with a tearful smile.

She doesn't know why that makes him want to stop and kiss her, but somehow, it does.

Chapter Text

Bellamy has grown used to waking up with Clarke in his arms, or even waking up to the sensation of her pressing soft kisses to his cheek, since he has started to sleep in later than her as often as not.

 

But when he wakes up to her straddling him and bending over him to kiss him firmly on the lips, it feels like he's still dreaming. Certainly this does bear a strong resemblance to some of those fantasies he has been known to have about her in days gone by.

 

He's not dreaming, though. He's not dreaming, and this is real, and it almost feels too good to be true.

 

In fact, now he comes to think about it, this does feel too good to be true, coming so hot on the heels of the tough night and dropship visit they shared yesterday. That's what gives him the strength to push her slightly away from him and look up into her eyes. If this is some kind of twisted thanks for his role in supporting her when she was falling apart, or worse yet an attempt to prove that she's coping just fine, thank you very much – well, then. He wants no part in it.

 

“Clarke?” He asks, willing himself not to notice how distractingly pleasant it is to have her hovering above him like this.

 

“Bellamy.” Her voice is steady, but she won't meet his eyes. Is she embarrassed that he is not jumping to take her up on her implicit offer, or is there something more going on here?

 

“What's this?”

 

“This is morning sex, Bellamy. You know, sex, that happens in the morning.” No. She's not allowed to undermine a meaningful conversation with poor quality humour. That's his territory.

 

“If this is you thinking you owe me for yesterday -”

 

“It's not that.” She sighs, and sits back on her heels, still straddling him. Her breasts shake as she moves, and that doesn't exactly help him to concentrate on the conversation.

 

“Then what is it?” He hears his voice grow sharper, and tries again. “Clarke, you know it's not like that with me, OK? You don't have to thank me for looking out for you. You know I'd do it again in a heartbeat. And you definitely don't have to pretend to be doing better this morning if it's not true.”

 

Her face crumples at that, and he knows he's hit upon the truth.

 

“Clarke.” He reaches out to stroke her cheek, and she nuzzles into his hand a little. “I know you've had to put a brave face on every morning since we landed here – we both have – but you don't have to put that act on around me, OK?”

 

She nods, eyes a little damp. “OK.”

 

He offers her a tentative smile, and keeps rubbing his thumb against her jaw.

 

She smiles right back at him. “So maybe I'm not completely OK. But I do like to be on top, and I'm here now...?” She trails off suggestively, a faintly vulnerable look in her eye.

 

“Up to you, Clarke. Princess.” He tries, seeing her eyes darken the moment the word leaves his lips.

 

“I want to.” She tells him, and he can believe it, now.

 

He nods, and she gets to work. Not by kissing him, or sliding down onto his fast-stiffening cock, but by taking his finger into her mouth and sucking gently.

 

That's not something she's done before. That's not something anyone has ever done with him before, and it has him seeing stars of stunned desire.

 

“You like that?” She asks, when she pulls back.

 

He nods, not entirely sure that he can form words just now, and reaches up to tangle a hand in her hair. He needs to bring her down for a kiss – or two or three – before she gets to work riding him in earnest. Somehow he feels like he hasn't properly said good morning to her, yet.

 

They kiss for a couple of minutes, lips meeting with increasing urgency, until Clarke sits up and narrows her eyes at him.

 

“Stop distracting me.” She tells him, affectionate but a little argumentative, and he likes that. He likes it when she gets all decisive on him.

 

She takes the lead, then, sliding down onto the length of him and getting to work. He's a fan of this position, even though he misses being able to reach her lips. She makes up for it with those breasts bouncing above him and the look of utter bliss on her face.

 

She has her eyes closed, and he wonders if he ought to feel guilty for watching her. Would she feel self conscious, if she caught him? He wouldn't want to make her feel nervous – he wants to help her relax and have a good time.

 

He doesn't close his eyes, though. He will if she asks him to, but he just loves watching her too much.

 

The rocking of her hips is already growing more frantic, and he can feel himself thrusting upwards to meet her with ever more urgency. He doesn't understand what it is about this woman that she can send him to the brink of sanity so quickly and consistently. When she's riding him like this, somehow the rest of the world falls away. All he can think about is Clarke, her skin against his, the little moans of pleasure she lets out between panting breaths, the way her breasts and that glorious blonde hair are bouncing above him.

 

He reaches out to cup a breast, tweaks her nipple between thumb and finger. She likes that – he can tell by the way her eyes shoot open, and the heat in her gaze as she looks right at him.

 

They don't often have much eye contact during sex. It's not always practical, for obvious reasons. But in this moment, he knows it's something he wants them to seek out again. Her gaze is unguarded, almost vulnerable, as if she's letting him in and inviting him to take a good look around her heart.

 

He bites down on his lip, determined not to tell her anything she's not ready to hear. He shows her it, instead, caressing her cheek, cradling her chin in his hand.

 

“I like looking at you.” He murmurs, fighting through the breathlessness because he needs her to hear this. “You look so beautiful right now.”

 

He worries that it sounds sappy. He doesn't normally go around using the word beautiful very often, but by his count he's said it to Clarke five times in the last three days.

 

If it does sound sappy, she doesn't care. She doesn't argue, nor reply to him. She just flushes a gorgeous shade of red, and throws her head back, and with a couple more motions of her pelvis she starts pulsing around him, falling apart with a loud sigh.

 

He likes it when she comes first. It doesn't happen much, and it makes him glow with pride. It means that he's managed his goal of making her feel special and persuading her to take down her walls, for him.

 

She's still sitting over him, encouraging him to keep moving until he is finished, too. He keeps thrusting against her, wondering how it is that she reached orgasm quite so quickly today. Has she been planning this seduction for a while, getting herself worked up over the idea of starting the morning like this? Was she up half the night fantasising about this moment?

 

That does it. That has him spilling inside of her with a groan, squeezing hard on her hand which he doesn't even remember grabbing, crying her name so loudly he thinks they will probably get complaints from the neighbours, if they're not careful.

 

Clarke is still straddling him, even though they're both done. She stays there for a long time, his cock gradually growing limp inside of her, which is in itself quite possibly the hottest thing he's ever experienced. He doesn't go limp very quickly, once he's reached that realisation.

 

“You good?” He asks, wondering why she's still there. Is she hoping for round two? He could probably manage a round two.

 

“I'm good.” She confirms, drawing swirling patterns over his chest with her fingertips for no apparent reason.

 

She shows no sign of pursuing that round two, so he just lies there, and lets himself relax under her touch. She smiles down at him, and he smiles up at her, and really it's a bit of an inane waste of time but he cannot bring himself to move.

 

He suspects that this is what happiness feels like.

 

That makes it a strange time to bring up Gina, of course. Making Clarke upset or jealous would obviously be a stupid idea, at this moment in time. But that's not his aim. He wants to clear something up.

 

“You were right about Gina, you know. It was supposed to be a date. Because – I didn't think I could ever have this with you.” He gets the words out in a rush, before his courage can fail him, or Clarke can interrupt, or he can see her face fall too far at his words.

 

“I thought the same thing.” She tells him with a wry smile.

 

“Guess we're both idiots.” He tries for a light-hearted tone, but somehow, he senses that there is a lot riding on this conversation.

 

She nods, then bends forward, and wraps her arms around him in a hug so tight that she lifts his torso clean off the bed.

 

He was wrong, he thinks, as he hugs her back despite the impracticalities of the situation. He was wrong to think, half a minute ago, that he had found happiness. He knows better now.

 

This is what happiness feels like. This very moment, engulfed in a bone-crushing hug by Clarke.

 

…....

 

Clarke cherishes the little bubble of domesticity she is building with Bellamy. Sure, she still divides her days between life-and-death surgeries and missions as an ambassador, and Bellamy spends his time teaching men waving guns how to survive on the ground. But it is as close to peace as she thinks the pair of them will ever manage, with their track record.

 

One of her favourite features of their relatively calm existence is the habit they have adopted of meeting up for regular lunch dates. Whenever their schedules have both of them in Camp Jaha at the right time, they eat together and chat about their morning almost like any carefree young couple on the Ark would have done.

 

Of course, they don't call them dates. But they both know that they are dates all the same.

 

Clarke's had a quiet morning, today, doing routine appointments in med bay and counting down the minutes until lunch. The moment her last appointment is done, she waves goodbye to Jackson and bolts out of the door.

 

Bellamy is just arriving back through the gates by the time she gets there, an assortment of very muddy guards milling about behind him. Bellamy and Miller walk at the head of the group, miraculously free of the filth the rest of the guards are covered in. She wonders how that happened – she doesn't see either of them shirking their share of the dirty work, but the contrast in the state of their clothing is striking.

 

The fact he is not covered in dirt is a good thing, she decides, as he pulls her into his arms and greets her with a robust kiss to the lips.

 

“You OK? Good morning?” He asks her.

 

“Good enough. You?”

 

Bellamy frowns. “Mixed.” He replies, and Clarke hears Miller laugh.

 

“Mixed?” She asks, brow quirked, even as he takes her hand and starts walking towards lunch.

 

“We found out that us two are pretty great at climbing trees.” He says, indicating himself and Miller and looking more like the cocky young man who first came to Earth than Clarke has seen in ages.

 

“And everyone else?”

 

“We found out that they're good at falling.” Miller supplies, not bothering to hide his laughter.

 

Clarke sets to laughing, too, and it feels good. She hasn't laughed about something as harmless as a load of guards falling in the mud for months. “Any broken arms for me and Jackson to patch up?” She asks.

 

“Would Bellamy look so happy if he knew you were going to be at work all night?” Miller throws her question right back at her.

 

She laughs some more, shaking her head fondly. The three of them start walking to lunch together, until Miller turns aside part way there, explaining that he has plans with Lincoln.

 

“They're friends now?” Clarke asks, confused, as she watches him go.

 

Bellamy nods. “The three of us have been hanging out a lot. I guess it makes sense that they're friends when I'm not around, too.”

 

She bites her lip, wondering if maybe she's being selfish, here. “You can eat with them if you want. I don't mind, really.”

 

“I mind.” Bellamy says shortly. “Our schedules don't overlap for another three days. I'm not ditching you today.”

 

With that settled, she squeezes his hand and keeps walking.

 

The lunch hall is busy, but that's OK. She can deal with busy, most days, by now. And when she can't, she knows she only has to tell Bellamy that they're having a picnic at Raven's gate and he will follow her, no questions asked.

 

Considering the number of people here today, there aren't that many she would count as friends. A handful of the hundred are at one of the tables – people like Munroe and Bree, who she doesn't know very well and still believes see her more as a leader than a companion. She's not that keen to sit with them. Gina and Sinclair are at another table, but without Raven around, she doesn't particularly fancy that option, either.

 

“Who do you want to sit with?” Bellamy asks, taking his tray and scanning the room.

 

She gives herself permission to answer honestly. If she can sleep with him, and cry with him, she reckons she can probably tell him the truth about this, too.

 

“You.” She replies, with a small smile.

 

He nods, and sets out for an empty table. She takes a seat opposite him, and watches fondly as he starts attacking his plate of food as if he hasn't eaten in days.

 

“Long morning?” She asks pointedly.

 

“It's hungry work, climbing trees.”

 

“Why were you climbing trees, anyway?”

 

He laughs. “Because Indra said we should, and I don't like to imagine what would happen if I said no to her.”

 

This is progress, Clarke thinks. She could scarcely have imagined, three months ago, that Bellamy would be laughing affectionately about taking orders from the Trikru chief. It's working well, this job Bellamy has of helping the guards to adapt to life on the ground. It has grown beyond what Kane first imagined into a beautiful mess of chaotic cooperation with the grounders.

 

Clarke likes hearing about Bellamy's morning, but she has another topic in mind for conversation over lunch today, too. She lets him enthuse about tree climbing for another couple of minutes, but when he lapses into silence, she begins to pursue her point.

 

“I have an idea.”

 

“You always have an idea.” He says with a warm grin. “Is this an idea I'm going to agree with?”

 

“I think you'll like it.” She's hoping he'll like it, anyway.

 

“Go on, then.”

 

“We should take Raven and Wick to visit Niylah. They'd love it – she has scrap metal and ancient electronics they could salvage. And we could take the rover so Raven doesn't have to walk. It would be the first time she's actually been outside of camp since Mount Weather.”

 

“Good thinking. She'll love it.”

 

“You think so? It's not exactly a picnic and stargazing, is it?” She does believe Raven would enjoy her proposed expedition, but it's hardly the most romantic of double date ideas.

 

“No. But it's perfect for Raven and Wick.”

 

Clarke swallows down disappointment. It's not only Raven and Wick she wants to please. “I hope it'll be fun for you, too. I know Niylah doesn't have books very often, but we might get lucky.”

 

As if reading her mind, he reaches across the table to squeeze her hand. “It's a great idea. I'll have fun whether I get a new book out of it or not.”

 

…....

 

Bellamy is excited about the upcoming visit to Niylah's with Raven and Wick. He's been excited about it since the moment Clarke mentioned it.

 

He knows it's silly, OK? They're still trying to make a home on an inhospitable planet, and they still haven't set things right with Lexa. He should be occupied with more important concerns than dating. It just means a lot to him that Clarke came up with that idea all on her own. They'd been talking about returning the favour by doing something nice for Raven and Wick for a while, and he'd largely given up on pursuing the matter because he was starting to feel like he was more invested in the idea of another double date than Clarke was. So it's reassuring and rather affirming to learn that she was making plans all along.

 

He worries that he's smothering her with affection or coming on too strong quite a lot, actually. He finds himself paying her little compliments, or letting slip how much he cares about her, and wonders whether that's a bit overwhelming if she's not as into him as he is into her. But this whole double-date plan, and the way she's got so enthusiastic about it, has him starting to believe that, actually, he might not be the only one who's head over heels in love, out of the two of them.

 

He shakes himself slightly, and tries to remember that he's supposed to be concentrating on a spot of lunch-time conversation with his sister, right now.

 

“Sorry, O, what was that?”

 

She grins at him. “Distracted, big brother?”

 

“I'm fine. What were you saying?”

 

“I was asking whether you'll be in the bar later. But then I gave up, because you weren't listening, and because I know the answer anyway.”

 

“You do?” He is really not keeping up with this conversation.

 

“Yeah. You'll be wherever Clarke is.”

 

“No, you're wrong, O. She'll be wherever I am.”

 

“Isn't that what I said?” She bounces it right back at him, giving as good as she gets.

 

He's missed this. He's missed petty good-natured squabbles with his sister, but somehow, they are better than they used to be. He likes the relationship between them, now that she is older, and she can be a friend rather than only an obligation.

 

That's when he realises he's been caught napping again, as she reaches over to poke him in the arm.

 

“Sorry.” He says, completely unapologetic.

 

She only smiles. “It's good to see you happy, Bell.”

 

“It's good to be happy.”

 

Octavia's smile turns a little damp as she continues. “It's great that you get to have a life of your own now, you know? All those years on the Ark, I hated feeling that you couldn't go out and have your own friends and relationships because you had to worry about me. I'm so happy for you.” She dashes a hand across her eyes, grinning through the tears.

 

He sort of wants to reach across the table and hug her, but he can't, because this is a dining hall. So he settles on a different way of showing her how much he values their new friendship, instead.

 

“Do you and Lincoln want to come to Niylah's tomorrow?”

 

She frowns a little. “We just went yesterday.”

 

“Yeah. Yeah, I know. Listen, I'm not asking because we need pelts or potatoes. Clarke and I are taking Wick and Raven for a day out. I wondered if you wanted to join us?”

 

“Like a date?”

 

“Like a date.” He nods, carefully. He is allowed to use the d-word, on occasion. He learnt that the day of the peace party.

 

“You want to invite your little sister and her boyfriend on a couples' day?” She asks, incredulous.

 

“I want to invite two of my favourite people on a couples' day.” He corrects her, embarrassed, jaw tense. He's used to only having these kinds of emotional conversations with Clarke, and he's still getting the hang of the idea that his sister is a functional young adult who can cope with such things.

 

Octavia blinks at him in stunned silence for fully five seconds. And when she speaks again, she seems to be struggling with those happy tears once more.

 

“That would be great, Bell. It – it means a lot. And I know Lincoln will appreciate the invite. You've been a great friend to him these last couple of months, you know?”

 

“I'm trying.”

 

“I always knew you were a good brother. But I've realised something since we landed. You're a good person, too.”

 

He's not a good person. He's a monster who has slaughtered hundreds. But he's learning how to do better.

 

…....

 

Clarke knows, as she walks towards the rover the following morning, that she is blushing like a young girl on her way to her first Unity Day masquerade, but she figures that's fair enough. She didn't get to have much of a childhood, these last few years, so she's enjoying a dose of youthful, carefree joy alongside this rather mature and functional relationship she seems to have found herself in.

 

“We should have planned who's sitting where.” Bellamy frets as they walk. “My sister is going to freak out if she doesn't have the best view. I'm surprised she's not insisting on riding a horse there.”

 

“It'll be fine. Just relax and remember you're here to enjoy yourself.” She squeezes his hand, and wonders whether he is capable of ever turning off his instinctive need to worry about everyone, all of the time.

 

By the time they are close enough to talk to the others, it seems that the seating arrangements have already been decided – more or less.

 

“I'm driving.” Wick informs them.

 

“In your dreams.” Raven argues back.

 

“You can't drive.”

 

“Details.”

 

“Raven and Wick are riding up front. The rest of us are in the back.” Lincoln summarises.

 

Wick does manage to persuade Raven to let him drive, in the end, much to Clarke's relief. She has a great deal of faith in Raven's abilities in general, but she doesn't much fancy being along for the ride at her friend's first driving lesson. And in exchange for him being allowed to drive them there today, Raven manages to extract from Wick the promise that he will help her learn how to drive starting first thing the following morning, and everyone is more or less happy.

 

Well, everyone except Wick. Clarke can hear him grumbling that Raven shouldn't be trying to learn how to drive while her leg is giving her pain, but then Raven fixes him with a stare that suggests he will become single very quickly if he pursues that argument any further.

 

The conversation on the journey there is a cheerful one. They discuss the campaign to get the kill order lifted, but only briefly. Clarke is finding Lexa's ongoing silence enormously frustrating and she doesn't want to ruin their day by dwelling on it. So they move on to happier themes – the guards' lessons in everything from tree-climbing to fungus identification, the number of birth control implant removals in med bay, Kane's recent suggestion that Camp Jaha should have a different and more permanent name.

 

“He just wants us to call it Camp Kane.” Raven yells from the front seat, to laughter all round.

 

“Sky City!” Wick suggests, at which everyone groans.

 

“New Ark?” Lincoln adds quietly, and is greeted with a couple of nods.

 

The conversation moves on, then, Wick shouting increasingly ridiculous ideas even as Raven tells him to concentrate on the road and Octavia reminds him which track to turn down to head towards Niylah's.

 

And when no one else can possibly be listening in on their conversation, Clarke finds that Bellamy has turned towards her to whisper in her ear.

 

“I'm thinking of suggesting Arkadia.” He murmurs. “But I guess people would think that's silly. Only an old Earth culture nerd like me would want to live somewhere called Arkadia.”

 

“I'd live somewhere called Arkadia.” She tells him, with an encouraging smile. She doesn't know what old Earth reference he's trying to make, but it sounds like a cheerful name all the same.

 

“You would?”

 

“Yeah.” She swallows carefully, and practises being honest with him. “I'd live pretty much anywhere, as long as you were there, too.”

 

He kisses her for that, a little more enthusiastically than she thinks is necessarily wise, in the back of a moving vehicle and with an audience as well. But she makes no move to stop him, because she likes kissing him, and it's not as if it's her sister who's watching them.

 

Octavia interrupts them, of course, after a couple of seconds. “That's quite enough of that, big brother. You still don't like it when we make out in front of you.”

 

“That's different.” He argues, breaking off the kiss with an unapologetic smirk.

 

“How is that different?”

 

“I'm supposed to protect you.”

 

“And I can't feel protective of you, too?” Octavia argues straight back at him.

 

Lincoln interrupts with a calm smile. “I don't think he needs protecting from Clarke any more than you need protecting from me, Octavia.”

 

Octavia concedes the point, and the journey continues amidst lighthearted chatter.

 

They arrive at the trading post, not long after. Clarke rather expects them to stay in their respective couples, but that is not quite how it turns out. Octavia and Lincoln do stick together, chattering away with Niylah in rapid Trigedeslang which Clarke cannot hope to keep up with. But Bellamy takes Wick aside, saying something about some scrap metal he saw here last week, and Clarke finds that she is alone with Raven.

 

That doesn't happen very often. Even since they smoothed out the rough edges of their friendship, they have mostly had Bellamy and Wick around when they have spoken.

 

Raven, of course, does not bat an eyelid at their circumstances.

 

“Come on, Clarke. I want to find me some copper wire.”

 

“I want to see if there are any books, first.” Clarke insists. She didn't come all this way to go home without choosing Bellamy a present.

 

“Getting your boyfriend another gift?”

 

Clarke nods, and starts walking.

 

Raven grabs her by the arm. “Hang on a minute. Not so fast. You're going to let me call him your boyfriend, and then you're just going to nod and walk away like that?”

 

Clarke looks furtively over her shoulder. The rest of the group are out of earshot – there is no danger in pursuing this conversation.

 

“Well he is, isn't he? We're in an exclusive emotional and sexual relationship and we're currently on a date.” She is aware that the line comes out sounding rehearsed. That's because it is – she has been practising exactly those words in her mind, preparing for the day when she dares to have this conversation with Bellamy.

 

She'll get round to it, she promises herself. She'll get round to it, just as soon as she's feeling absolutely and thoroughly confident that he's not going to die on her.

 

“Does he know he's your boyfriend?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Are you lying to me, Clarke Griffin?”

 

“He knows, OK? We don't talk about it, but he knows.”

 

Raven sighs, and takes a seat on one of the benches outside Niylah's shop, and pats the place next to her in invitation.

 

Clarke sits, and prepares for an inquisition.

 

“Don't you think you should talk about it?” Raven asks, surprisingly gentle. “I was scared to talk about it with Wick, but that turned out well.”

 

Clarke shakes her head, stares at the ground. “I just don't want him to die. People I love die.” Even after everything Bellamy said to her, the day they visited the dropship together, she has not entirely managed to throw away that idea.

 

People die.” Raven corrects her. “This is the ground, Clarke. People die. Don't you think he deserves to know how you feel, sooner rather than later, in case anything happens to either of you?”

 

Clarke frowns. She hasn't looked at it quite like that. Where would they be if something were to happen to her, and Bellamy never got to hear her tell him she loves him?

 

Raven continues to speak, even as Clarke tries to process everything she has already said. “Anyway, I don't think you need to worry about him so much. He's survived pretty well so far, hasn't he? The fire at the dropship? Mount Weather? He's difficult to kill, that officially unofficial boyfriend of yours.” She concludes with a smirk.

 

Clarke nods, and decides that there is some truth to Raven's words. She's not about to run straight into the trading post and confess her love to Bellamy right this second, of course, because acting on impulse does not suit her. But maybe, she resolves, these words might be words she has to think about and take to heart in the coming days.

 

First, though, she needs to go procure a book.

Chapter Text

It has been a long morning, surprisingly warm for the time of year, and Bellamy is more than ready for lunch by the time he dismisses the guards he has just taken on a run through the forest.

OK, it wasn't a particularly conventional run. It was more of an assault course, or survival challenge, and even featured Lincoln playing the part of an Unforeseen Hazard half way round. But all the same, it was tiring, and effective, as well as being a bit of fun.

"Come on." Miller gestures back towards the way they have just come. "We should find Lincoln and tell him he can stop being a bear."

"He wasn't a bear. He was a terrifying grounder." Bellamy says with a grin.

"Terrifying grounders don't exist round here, only friends." Miller corrects him.

Bellamy likes the sound of that. He still remembers the day they first met Lincoln, all those months ago, when he and Miller held him captive and tortured him.

Times have certainly changed.

It is testament to just how much progress they have made that Octavia joins the conversation without making a barbed comment in response to Miller and Bellamy's gradual change of heart on the topic of relations with the grounders.

"I thought he was meant to be a panther." She offers. "Or at least, that's what I was calling him in bed last night."

"Gross, O. I did not need to hear about that."

"That's some weird shit." Miller contributes, wearing a rather horror-struck expression. "A panther?"

"Can we stop talking about this?" Bellamy pleads, but is ignored.

"Come on, big brother. Don't act like you and Clarke don't have disgusting pet names for each other."

They don't, as it happens. He has one pet name for her, but he happens to think it's sweet, not disgusting. And she doesn't have a pet name for him, but he doesn't mind.

He doesn't mind, because he's pretty sure Bellamy sounds like a pet name when Clarke says it.

But he's not about to tell his baby sister any of that, of course. So he just denies all knowledge of such a concept as pet names and suggests that they should go find Lincoln. Octavia is a little disappointed with him for that, and makes it known by speculating mercilessly about what his and Clarke's future children might look like, but he manages to ignore her by pointedly starting a conversation with Miller about the weather.

He happens to think that he and Clarke would make beautiful children, thank you very much. But he also thinks it's rather too soon to be wondering about that.

They find Lincoln easily enough, and he seems almost disappointed that he no longer has to play his part. No one is any the wiser as to what his part ever was, but that hardly seems to matter. This kind of trivial bickering is the kind of thing peacetime is built of, Bellamy muses as they return towards Camp.

He likes it.

Miller interrupts his thoughts with a question. "Are you eating with us or have you got one of your lunch dates with Clarke?"

"I'm with you guys today. She's on another salvage trip."

"We're honoured that you're joining us." Octavia tells him with a grin. "What book do you think she'll get you this time?"

"She might not get me a book." He protests, but his heart is not in it. He's pretty sure Clarke is physically incapable of leaving Mount Weather without choosing him another book. In fact, he even went as far as to give her a hint that he fancied some Greek mythology, this time. Not that he's presuming she'll get him a gift, not quite. It's more that he's no longer surprised when she shows that she cares, and he no longer feels ashamed of letting her do sweet things for him.

"Don't tease him, Octavia. I know you kept all the lilies I gave you." Lincoln tells her with a soft smile.

She blushes and ducks her head. "I did. But it's different seeing my big brother in love, you know?"

Bellamy's only concern, here, is what this topic of conversation might be doing to Miller. There's still no sign of Bryan, and he imagines that can't be easy. But Miller is made from strong stuff, and apart from anything else he seems too genuinely happy for his friends to complain.

It's not perfect, this life of theirs. The Bryan-shaped gap in Miller's life proves that better than anything, Bellamy figures. It matches the Finn-shaped gap in Clarke and Raven's lives, or the lack of parents in his own and Octavia's.

It's not perfect, but he thinks it might be as good as life gets, on the ground.

…...

Clarke considers herself difficult to take by surprise. She's had a lot of practise at staying alert, since she came to the ground. And, sure, she's a little distracted this morning by remembering the look on Bellamy's face when she gave him a copy of Medea last night, and her mind might be straying very slightly to the question of whether it would be vain to get changed into a more flattering shirt for their lunch date today. But apart from that, her mind is more or less in the moment, as she rolls bandages and waits for something to do.

So, yes, Clarke is difficult to take by surprise, but when Indra strides into med bay as if she owns the place and demands to speak to her, she certainly manages it.

"Me?" Clarke asks rather foolishly.

"You." Indra confirms. "We have news from the Commander about the kill order. She's inviting you to Polis to meet with her."

Clarke swallows slowly, and tries to ignore her rising heartrate. She was rather hoping this whole situation could be resolved without the anger and stress and awkwardness of meeting Lexa in person. "She wants me to come to Polis?"

"Along with whichever attendants you choose. I presume you will take Bellamy and a handful of guards." Clarke relaxes a little at that, but only a very little. At least she is not about to walk into the capital alone.

"Great. Thanks. Just one thing – where is Polis?"

Indra stares at her for a long moment. And then, awe-inspiring warrior that she is, she throws back her head and laughs.

Clarke is even more surprised by that development. She did not expect to make Indra laugh, and doing so temporarily distracts her from her anxiety.

"I'm coming with you." Indra explains at last. "I will escort you into the Commander's presence. You don't need to worry about getting lost, Clarke. With me by your side, you shouldn't have any trouble from those who would call you Wanheda."

Clarke thanks her warmly for that – or at least, with as much warmth as she can summon – and her guest shows herself out without further delay.

This is good news, she tells herself firmly when Indra has left. Finally there has been some progress – this might not actually be a lifting of the kill order, or an apology for imposing it, but it opens the door if nothing else. It is an invitation to negotiate, and when Clarke reminds Lexa about the trade benefits of an alliance, and shows her how happy Trikru are with their friendship, she will surely be able to persuade her to see sense.

Now she just needs to work out how to make it through the discomfort of seeing a woman who kissed and then betrayed her. She knows that she does not usually fall apart at the thought of a diplomatic mission, but a woman she once kissed has never invited her to negotiate before, in her defence. This is a new situation, and she doesn't like it. It's just got her in a bit of a panic, OK?

She hates this. She hates it, because she thought she was done with panicking. She thought she had found herself a happy, peaceful life here, and she's disappointed with herself for letting one little message get to her like this.

She knows she needs to start by asking Bellamy to join her on the trip to Polis. Somehow, that thought makes her nervous, too.

She brushes that notion aside. It is madness to be nervous about that. Bellamy would stick with her through anything, and she knows it. So he doesn't like Lexa – what of it? He will certainly join the expedition to Polis all the same.

Unless he doesn't, an unhelpful little voice in her ear whispers. Unless he meant grief and guilt, when he said he would help her through anything, rather than awkward confrontations with women she could have loved. Will she really be able to convince him to follow her into this sticky situation of her own making?

Of course she will. He's Bellamy, and having faith in him is always the correct choice.

She finishes her shift in med bay, and heads for the dining hall, moving only slightly stiffly as she battles the rising tide of mixed emotions that flood over her with the thought of going to Polis. She doesn't know whether she feels more angry with Lexa for betraying her or more nervous at the thought of trying to convince someone who once kissed her to take her attempts at diplomacy seriously.

It'll be fine. Everything's going to be OK. She's going to find Bellamy, and they're going to have a chat, and that will get her emotions back on an even keel.

He's already waiting for her outside lunch and that alone is enough to put a cautious smile back onto her lips. Between the two of them, they will work this out.

"Hey." He greets her by leaning in for a quick kiss. "You doing alright?"

"I've been better." She concedes, because they're pretty good at honesty, these days.

"Raven's Gate?" He asks, reading her mind.

"Yeah. Thanks." She peers up at him, grateful not to have to explain that she cannot quite face the thought of eating amongst all these people right now.

She used to be a bit ashamed of herself, she remembers, on the days that she couldn't deal with looking at the faces of the people she saved in the Mountain. But now she is prepared to own to it, and to take the initiative in getting her head back in the game, and to let Bellamy take her out for an impromptu picnic.

They collect their food and head outside, settling into the scraggy grass that has become one of their favourite spots to hang out, in recent weeks. Bellamy seems to read in her body language that she needs a hug, and he sits by her side, one arm about her shoulders as he makes a start at eating his lunch with his other hand. She's grateful for that, and she twists to press a kiss against his neck to show it. She feels a lot safer in his arms like this, a lot less inclined to panic.

She can do this. She's Clarke Griffin, and she can lead armies. She's Bellamy's pragmatic Princess, and she can certainly gather the courage to tell him what's going on, now.

"Lexa invited me to Polis." She announces without preamble. It's not the most subtle way she could have introduced the subject, she supposes, but at least it is clear and to the point.

Bellamy nods, jaw firm. "OK. As – as her guest?"

Maybe she wasn't so clear after all. Shaking her head, she clears up his misunderstanding. "To negotiate about the kill order. I can take people with me – some guards or other ambassadors. Would you come with me?"

"Of course, Clarke. Whatever you want. I can pick the rest of the guards too, if that'll make it easier for you? We should take Miller and Monty and -"

"I wasn't asking you as a guard." She cuts in. "I wasn't really asking you as an ambassador, either. I was asking because I want you there with me."

"You do?"

"Yeah." She swallows with difficulty. "I made a mess of things with Lexa, OK? Or at least, I feel like I did. I talked her into an alliance, then led her on when it came to... more personal things. Then she kissed me and I said no, and then she betrayed us all. And now I have to beg her to do me a favour? It's – I know it's stupid, but I'm not feeling great about it."

Bellamy squeezes his arm about her shoulders a little tighter. "Clarke. I'm not sure anyone led anyone on. I'm pretty certain you don't need to blame yourself for a kiss, either way. But I get that it feels messy and you're worried. Just remember that she respects you, OK? She would never have wanted an alliance or a kiss with you if she didn't. She'll still respect you when you get there to negotiate, believe me."

"You think so?"

"Yeah. You earn respect wherever you go, Clarke." That's true, she reminds herself carefully. She can feel anxious about this situation and still be a leader deserving of respect.

"Thanks, Bellamy. I can't tell you how much it means that you're willing to come with me."

He looks a bit confused by that, she thinks. "Of course I am. I meant it when I said I was sticking around."

Occasionally she allows herself to consider the possibility that Bellamy Blake might just be the best thing that has ever happened to her. She can't quite convince herself to tell him that, right now, though. Not when she has already expended all her emotional energy for the day.

She tells him something slightly different, instead. "You're the best roommate ever, you know that, Bellamy?" Somehow, roommate is easier to say than boyfriend.

He laughs a little and bends to kiss her, soft and caring. He tastes like boar meat and beans, and she doesn't much like boar meat and beans. But she does like Bellamy, so she keeps kissing him all the same.

…...

Bellamy is so proud of Clarke.

That's an odd feeling, in some ways. It's not like being proud of Octavia for her skills and achievements and the fact she's grown into a mostly-kind young woman. No, being proud of Clarke is more a warm glow, every time she chooses to take her place at his side. And he's particularly proud of the choices she's made in these last few months. Since she decided to stay at Camp Jaha after Mount Weather – or since he decided it for her, really – she has worked hard at building a functional relationship with him and encouraging them both to cope with their guilt and trauma in more positive ways.

It's not that the guilt or trauma have disappeared, exactly. What they did will always be part of them. But it is just that, now – a part of them, not an all-consuming cloud that dominates their existence.

So, yeah, everything's pretty great. Everything except the fact that they are due to set out for Polis tomorrow.

He's worried about that on so many levels. He's worried about the future of their people, and the chances of a long-term alliance with Lexa. He's worried about the kill order, and whether his little sister and her boyfriend will be able to move freely beyond Indra's personal protection. And he's worried about his relationship with Clarke, and whether it will withstand several days in the company of a beautiful young woman who knows what it is like to feel the weight of the world on her shoulders.

He's not sure how to deal with all this worry, exactly. He would usually share it with Clarke, but as half of it's about Clarke, he doesn't know how to do that. And apart from anything else, she's anxious enough about Polis. She doesn't need him adding his own troubles to the pile. She needs him to be strong, for her.

Almost as if she can read his mind, she asks him what's wrong the moment they close the bedroom door behind them that evening.

Damn it. He thought that by taking her to the bar with Raven and Wick for the evening he might avoid this conversation altogether.

"Nothing's wrong." He lies through his teeth. But he has to lie, for her sake, to protect her. She doesn't need more burdens.

"Bellamy -"

"Shall we take a shower?" He asks, a blatant change of subject.

"I don't want to take a shower." She tells him carefully.

"I had a bit more in mind than just washing."

"I know."

He feels the bottom fall out of his world at that. She's never said no to him before, not since they started sleeping together – apart from that one time she was exhausted and they made out for ages instead. She's never just been outright not interested like this. And, sure, she has every right to not be interested, and he respects that, but still – it hurts, OK?

It convinces him, once and for all, that she's hoping to hook up with Lexa while they're in Polis.

He tries for a neutral expression, but he suspects it comes out as more of a grimace. He goes to reach for a book to distract himself, but he can't quite manage that, either. Clarke got him that book. Clarke. His best friend and roommate, who he's stupidly gone and fallen pathetically in love with even while she's pining after -

"Bellamy." Her voice breaks into his increasingly incoherent train of thought.

"Hmm?"

"How about you stop trying to distract me with sex and tell me what's bothering you? That's what we do now, right?" She reminds him, taking a seat at his side on the bed and leaning into his shoulder.

She's right. They do talk about things now. He's proud of her for that, he remembers thinking that only recently. But he doesn't know how to talk about his raging insecurities on the point of her feelings for him.

She helps him out, of course. She always does.

"I'll start." She volunteers. "I'm freaking out about tomorrow. Every time I think I've accounted for every potential problem, I think up another one. Today's fixation is wondering what will happen if I get so overcome with anger at her for Mount Weather that I do something really unforgivable and we get thrown out. Seriously, what happens if I spit in the Commander's face?" He turns to look down at her, wondering if it is a joke, but he finds her face completely serious.

"You're that angry with her?"

"I was. I don't know if I am still. She left us, Bellamy. And you were in the Mountain and all I could think was what if I couldn't get you and the rest of our people back?"

Hmm. Maybe his insecurities aren't quite based on truth. Maybe he might have slightly jumped to conclusions, here, and made himself distressed over nothing. Surely, if she's that angry, she cannot be intending to pursue any kind of romance with Lexa?

Trying for a neutral tone, eyes fixed on the carpet, he has a go at speaking.

"I didn't realise you were still that angry. I thought maybe you wanted to have a go at hooking up with her or whatever. You said once before that you wondered how it would have worked out if you met under different circumstances."

She gives a hollow laugh. "Definitely not one of my aims for this week. Can I ask you something?"

He nods a yes, still analysing her words.

"When Octavia first told you about me and Lexa, and you were – you were in a bad mood. I couldn't decide whether you were jealous or just affronted that I'd been wasting time on romance while you were risking your life?"

"I think you know the answer to that, Princess."

She nods, as a glowing smile starts to spread its way across her cheeks. "You don't need to worry about Lexa, you know that, right? I really like what we have. I've been so happy here, with you, and I don't plan on giving that up any time soon."

He breathes a sigh of relief, not even bothering to try to hide it. And then he presses a kiss to her forehead. "That's just as well." He tells her, tone carefully light. "I plan to stick around as long as you'll have me."

"Good." That decided, she eases down from his shoulder until she is lying with her head in his lap. It's not quite how he saw this evening going, a couple of minutes ago when she rejected his shower suggestion, but he's hardly complaining.

He's not sure he'll ever complain about anything ever again, actually. Now that Clarke has as good as told him he's stuck with her, he cannot seem to keep the grin off his face.

"What else was bothering you?" She asks, snuggling her cheek into his lap.

"Just the usual. Whether she'll destroy our entire camp if we offend her, whether my little sister will ever be allowed freedom, that kind of thing." He strokes her hair back from her face as he talks.

"Yeah. Just another day on the ground." She says, cynical but calm. "We'll work it out, Bellamy. We always do."

"Yeah."

"You want to take that shower now?"

He laughs a little. "I'm actually enjoying this. It's peaceful, you know?"

He's not sure whether he will get many more peaceful moments with Clarke, this week.

…...

Clarke's all for peace. In fact, she can well remember a time when she expended a great deal of energy on vainly trying to convince Bellamy it was a desirable goal. But lovely though this is, lying here with him stroking her hair, she sort of wants to make the most of the last night they will spend in their own bed for several days.

She rolls over a little, so that she's looking fully up at him. And then she reaches out with a finger to trace his jawline.

"Sex can be peaceful, too." She suggests, with a shy grin.

"Peaceful?"

"Gentle? Caring?" She sort of wants to use the word tender, but she doesn't want him to laugh at her.

"I can do that." He offers, and she is sorely tempted to laugh. Of course he can do gentle and caring. He can march about the camp all damn day waving a rifle, but she knows how he is with the people who are important to him.

She eases her way off his lap, and encourages him to lie back on the bed. If he wants peaceful and relaxing time this evening, she has an idea or two about how to manage that. She starts by kissing him, soft and gentle, but deep and persistent, kisses not unlike those they shared that night she first learnt how to ask him for kisses outside of sex. She strokes his hair while she's at it, relishing the texture of the curls between her fingertips.

"This peaceful enough for you?" She whispers the question into his neck as she takes her kisses further afield.

"It feels really good." He murmurs, ducking his head to catch her lips again.

She's not sure how she feels about that. She'd quite like to try to make this evening all about him, to spoil him and take care of him in every possible way. To leave him seeing stars, perhaps. But that's the problem, she reckons, with having two self-sacrificing martyrs in the same relationship. Neither of them is very good at sitting back and letting the other do the work.

Tonight, she decides, is the night he's going to learn to do just that.

She undresses him slowly, sliding her fingers over his heated flesh as she eases first shirt and then trousers away from his skin. She follows the path of her hands with her mouth, kissing everywhere she can, sucking at his skin and even nibbling a little, when she's feeling brave.

He keeps trying to interfere, of course. He keeps sitting up, firm stomach tensing as he reaches up to kiss her.

It's not until he starts rubbing at her underwear, trying to give her some friction, that she feels the need to set her stall out.

"No." She looks him right in the eye, even as she ditches her own clothes to get more comfortable. "I want you to lie there for me, and relax, and let me make you happy."

"Princess -"

"No. You're always telling me to relax and let you show me a good time. It's my turn, now." She sees his face grow tense, and clarifies what she means. "Not because I think I owe you, not because we need to have the same number of orgasms to have a healthy relationship. But because I want to do a nice thing for you. Will you let me?"

She's still worried he might refuse. The idea that he has to put his own happiness last is so firmly ingrained in his mind that she thinks he will struggle to accept her offer.

But he does it, and somehow it makes her love him even more. It makes her proud of him, and of how far they've come together.

"That sounds good." He says, voice a little hoarse.

She smiles broadly, and removes his underwear, and gets to work.

She's taken his cock in her mouth a time or two, before. But mostly as part of foreplay, and never for more than a few minutes at once. She's never previously set out with the sole aim of getting him off like this. She starts slow, matching the mood of the evening so far, breaking away every so often to cradle him in her hand while she kisses as much of his torso as she can reach.

He's quieter than usual, but she doesn't mind. That, too, fits the mood of the evening, she decides. And she can still tell she's bringing him pleasure, between the soft moans that slip past his lips and the way his hips twitch upwards towards her mouth.

She didn't expect to enjoy this so much. That's the thought that dominates in her mind as she takes him closer to the edge, gradually building up a rhythm. She enjoys the gesture of it, sure, the way she has taken control and taken the lead on pleasuring him. She enjoys the sense of spoiling him, too, and showing him how much he means to her. But she's caught by surprise to find just how much it is physically pleasurable for her, too, the soft velvety skin of his hard cock against her lips, the firm muscles of his stomach as she reaches up to run her fingers over his abs, those absolutely delectable noises he's making which send a thrill of heat to her crotch.

She's almost disappointed when she can tell it's nearly over. The slower mood they started out with has almost evaporated, now, as he teeters on the edge of falling apart. But the gentleness is still there as he tangles his hand in her hair and whispers filthy compliments at her in an almost reverential tone.

It doesn't matter that it's nearly over, she reminds herself. This is not the only time she will get to do this, not if he is set on sticking around. With that decided, she moves a little faster, and reaches a free hand up to intertwine her fingers with his.

He spills into her mouth with a groan, not as loud as usual, but more lingering, somehow. And that groan blends straight into an affectionate chuckle, as he pulls her up into his arms and starts mumbling into her hair.

"Not sure that was so peaceful after all, Princess."

"I don't know. You seem pretty relaxed."

"Yeah." He lets out a shaky breath. "You're too good, you know that?"

"Too good?" She asks, tone confident after what she's just done and a little provocative, in the mood to fish for a compliment.

"Too good at sucking my cock. Too good to me. Too good to be true. Take your pick."

She knows she is supposed to laugh, but she can't. She can only bury her face in his neck and throw the words back at him. "I'm pretty sure I'm the one who doesn't deserve you."

"It's not always about what we deserve, remember? You taught me that."

She nods against him, and snuggles more deeply into his embrace. She's not sure what she wants to happen next – sucking him off really got her going, between those noises he was making and the feel of him beneath her lips and hands, but now that she's cuddling him she's really too comfortable to want to move and pursue her own orgasm. She's pretty sure that even the most mind-blowing of sex wouldn't surpass how happy she feels right now, anyway, fresh off the wave of joy which comes from knowing she's made his day.

As if he can read her mind, Bellamy asks the question. "What can I do for you, Princess?"

She thinks about it for a generous moment. It's an important question, and it needs a well-considered response. But in the end there is only one answer she can give.

"Stay right here and go to sleep. Really, I enjoyed that a lot and now I'm in the mood to just lie here with you."

The Bellamy she came home with two months ago would have argued, she's pretty sure. He wouldn't have understood the concept of something for nothing – or rather, something for the sheer joy of being in a mutually supportive and caring relationship. He'd have felt some need to prove himself, to give everything that he could.

But this Bellamy is a much happier Bellamy, and she likes that.

"You sure?" Is all he asks, pressing a kiss to the crown of her head. "You know I enjoy getting you off."

"I know. But I enjoy doing that for you, too, so I'm happy. Let's go to sleep."

"If that's what you want, Clarke." He reaches down for a goodnight kiss on the lips, because apparently they haven't already kissed enough in the last half hour. "Sweet dreams."

He falls asleep quickly, his breathing growing more relaxed even as his arms stay tight about her. He's sleeping more easily these days, but he's still prone to nightmares, so when he starts twitching and stirring after a few minutes, Clarke knows she just needs to hold him tight and press the occasional kiss to his shoulder. He settles down again, after that, but still she cannot sleep.

She's worried about tomorrow, of course she is. But she's faced worse, and survived, and she knows that Bellamy will be at her side every step of the way.

Her anxiety about what the morning will bring is not really what's keeping her awake. There's something she needs to say, and soon, and she can't quite figure out how or when to go about it. But she's always been a problem solver, so she's come up with something of a solution to her indecision. Here, now, as she lies awake, she practises whispering it into the darkness, just to taste the words on her tongue and hear how they sound.

"I love you." She tells him, when she's sure he is asleep.

It sounds good, she decides. It sounds good, and he doesn't go and die on her the moment the words leave her lips, not like she has feared since a woman she respected told her that she was putting the people she cared about in danger if she dared to love them – or possibly since before even that.

It sounds good, and the next time she says it, she intends to choose a moment when he's wide awake.

Chapter Text

Clarke is feeling OK, the following morning. All things considered, she decides that probably constitutes a minor miracle. They're about to set out to Polis, but she's ready to hold it together. She is ready to keep both her anger and her nerves under control for the good of her people.

Bellamy is very affectionate towards her, as they grab some breakfast and then head to the rover. He's all casual touches and sneaking kisses, and he stubbornly refuses to let go of her hand even when Miller starts sniggering at them.

"Why did you invite him along?" Clarke asks without heat.

"He's a good guy, most of the time."

"I'm a good guy all of the time." Miller argues, grinning broadly. "I wish I could have told you two back at the dropship that you'd be like this one day." He nods at their linked hands. "You'd never have believed me."

"I'd have believed you." Bellamy says, matter-of-fact, and Clarke cannot believe her ears. He was checking her out, even back then? He's willing to admit that he was checking her out, even back then?

That revelation provides a welcome distraction from her nerves as they hop into the rover and get underway. Miller's dad is driving, with Indra navigating, and the pair of them make a rather formidable team, Clarke observes. The back of the rover is crowded, with Bellamy sitting close by her side, and Miller next to him. Monty, Harper and Monroe complete the team. Clarke is pleased to have old friends she can trust by her side for this mission, but she's surprised that Monty is willing to leave Jasper for the several days they will be away.

She asks him about it, in the end. It takes courage, but she finds that she is ready to have this hard conversation.

"Is Jasper going to be OK while you're gone, Monty?" She asks, and feels Bellamy squeeze her hand as if on reflex.

Monty frowns. "I don't know, honestly. He said he would. And I can't stay with him forever. I hope it'll be good for him to start to get some normality back."

"Yeah." Clarke nods, not sure how much of an opinion she is supposed to have on this matter.

Screw it. She's never been afraid to have opinions before.

"It might do him good to have a change of routine." She offers, eyes fixed on her shoes.

"That's what we decided. He can have a couple of days without me checking in on him all the time and see how he gets on." Monty nods firmly.

This is an auspicious start, Clarke decides. Affectionate Bellamy and promising news about Jasper – this is about as well as the mission could possibly begin.

That decided, she makes a point of being good company on the journey, or at least being as upbeat as she is capable of. She encourages Miller to share his favourite bad joke about an elk walking into a bar, and asks Monroe how she's enjoying training with the guard. That proves a good move, actually, as she starts to enthuse about how great Bellamy's sessions are, and then Miller and Harper take up the theme, and soon Bellamy is relaxing in the face of their warm praise. Clarke is glad of it. He's doing a great job of looking supportive, this morning, but she knows he must still be anxious about what is to come.

They arrive at Polis that afternoon and are all keen to hop out of the rover and stretch their legs after so long cooped up. In the course of unloading themselves and their modest luggage, Clarke finds that Bellamy seems to have let go of her hand, but that's not worth worrying about, she assures herself. If this morning is anything to go by, he'll have hold of it again soon enough.

Only, somehow, that never happens.

She's not too worried when he doesn't take her hand back as they walk from the rover to the tower under Indra's guidance. He's helping Miller to carry a crate of items they have brought to demonstrate the advantages of trading with the occupants of Camp Jaha. But then Indra exchanges sentences in rapid Trigedeslang with the guards on the lift, and turns to explain that they must part ways here. Only Clarke is to go upstairs, she explains, along with Indra herself.

"And Bellamy." Clarke states. It is not a question.

Indra turns to relay that request to one of the guards, who only shrugs in response. That's a good enough answer for Clarke, who steps a little closer to Bellamy's side.

Still he doesn't reach out to take her hand.

This is getting on her nerves, now. Miller and the others are led away to their accommodation, as Monroe takes over from Bellamy on lifting the other end of the crate. Clarke watches them leave, itching to reach out and take Bellamy's hand for reasons she cannot entirely articulate.

This is it. When they step out of this lift, Indra explains, they will be stepping right into the presence of the Commander herself.

Holding her head up high, Clarke steps into the lift. Indra follows, looking every inch her fearsome self. And Bellamy is last to join them, still keeping an unexpected distance between himself and Clarke, with a firmness to his jaw that she has not seen very often, in recent weeks, since he learnt how to laugh again.

That infuriating gap remains between them, even when they step out of the lift and forwards towards the throne room. Indra leaves them at the door with scarcely a backwards glance.

Right now, Clarke thinks, she could do with a little help from the supportive partner she has found herself dating in recent weeks. She could do with him being warm, and in the moment, and rather more overtly encouraging. But she cannot blame him for being stiff and awkward, she supposes. This must be every bit as challenging for him as it is for her.

Summoning her courage, she reaches out to squeeze his hand briefly. And then she steps forward into Lexa's throne room.

"Commander." She nods, not quite sure what the proper greeting is here.

"Clarke." Lexa nods. "And... Bellamy." Clarke cannot tell whether she sounds more annoyed or accepting.

"We're here to negotiate about the kill order." Clarke announces, quite unnecessarily, but not sure how else to get things running.

Lexa shakes her head. "Not today. Today you are welcome to Polis, and you will go to your rooms to rest. Later we will eat together. Our business will wait until the morning."

Clarke sighs. She should have expected this – another delay on top of all the time they waited for this invitation. But she mustn't argue too strongly, she decides. Lexa seems to be giving them a broadly warm welcome, and she doesn't sound unhappy at the thought of negotiating tomorrow. Clarke would quite like to be able to consult with Bellamy about what to do next but, of course, his eyes are as unyielding as his jaw, right now.

There's no point holding it against him, she tells herself, any more than there is any point harbouring resentment towards Lexa. This is a difficult situation for all of them, and she needs to use her head and be the voice of reason.

"We would be honoured to eat with you." She says in the end, deciding she may as well capitulate with good grace.

"The honour will be mine. I'll have the guards show you to your rooms."

"Room." Clarke corrects her on reflex.

Then she realises what she has done.

There is a heavy pause, in which Lexa looks between the two of them, and in which she can practically hear Bellamy wishing for the floor to rise up and swallow him.

At last, Lexa speaks. "Room?"

Honesty is the best policy at this point, Clarke decides. "Room. We'll share."

Again, Lexa's eyes flicker between them. "You're together now?"

"Yeah." Clarke swallows. "We're together."

To her surprise, Lexa's response is a nod and the ghost of a smile. "I should have known. Did I not say you worried about him more?"

All at once, Clarke is grinning, the tension broken. "You were right. I think... things have turned out for the best."

"It seems so. I am happy for you – both of you. You have both given much to your people and deserve to find peace."

Clarke is more than ready to nod at that. "Thank you."

"Go, rest. I'll send word when it's time to eat."

With that, it seems, they are dismissed, and a burly man twice Bellamy's size leads them from the room.

They are honoured guests, it appears, and that makes Clarke feel more optimistic about the chance that this mission will be a success. She cannot see why Lexa would place them in such an ornate bedroom with so many furs and candles if she intended to send them away with empty words or a slap in the face. Sighing in relief, she sinks onto the bed, only to see Bellamy still hovering in the doorway with a frown on his face.

Something is wrong, here, but she cannot for the life of her work out what.

She pats the bed by her side. He does not choose to come and sit.

"What's wrong?" She asks, keeping her tone as measured as possible.

"Don't you think this looks a little... unprofessional?" He asks, gesturing between the two of them. "If I'm here as your deputy, do you really think she'll take us seriously if she knows we're sleeping together?" Deputy? Is that all he thinks he is?

"I think it looks more professional than me camping at your bedroom door. Which is what I'd be doing if we weren't sharing."

"You'd really do that?"

"Maybe not, that really would ruin our credibility. But I worry about you, OK? You're still getting nightmares and I don't want you to go through that without me." He softens slightly at that, crossing the room to perch on the bed at her side, although his face is still not quite right.

"You just don't want to go four days without getting laid." He tries for a teasing tone, and it almost works out for him.

"That too." She agrees, rewarding him with a light chuckle in the hopes of encouraging him to relax and tell her what's really going on.

He doesn't oblige her on that, not right away. He sits next to her for a long moment, staring at the floor, even fidgeting a little in a way that is most unlike him. She reaches out a hand to still his knee, partly because it's starting to annoy her, but largely because she wants an excuse to touch him.

He covers her hand with his, which is progress.

Feeling bolder, she tries again. "What is it?"

"When you told her we were together, what did you mean?" He asks, rubbing a thumb over the back of her hand.

She cannot believe he needs to ask. She is almost angry as she answers the question. "What do you think it means when I say I'm together with the best friend I'm living with and sleeping with? Going on lunch dates with, even? We even had a conversation last night about how we have a good thing going and want to stay together, so why you -"

"I love you." He interrupts, to her deep and instant confusion.

"What?"

"I love you."

She blinks at him, stunned. She wants to reply, really she does, but he's taken her by surprise, and he starts talking again before she can rearrange her wits.

"Now you know how I felt when you dropped that together casually into conversation just now." He no longer looks uncomfortable, she reckons, but rather very smug.

"You can't just – what?"

"I love you."

"I love you, too." She remembers to reassure him, feeling distinctly dazed. "You can't compare that to me telling Lexa we're together. You already knew we were together, with all the dates and the gifts and the hand-holding. It wasn't news to you."

"You already knew I loved you." He challenges her, in return, with spirit. "Why else would I take care of you and put so much effort into making you smile? Why else would I be losing it at the thought of you seeing Lexa again? You're a smart woman, Clarke. You must have worked it out."

"Working it out and actually believing it are two different things."

"And that's why I was startled when you told Lexa we were an item before you told me." An item. She likes that. It sounds like sweet dates on the Ark, and like the carefree adolescence neither of them ever had.

"I'm sorry." She tells him, because she can see he has a point.

"Me too. I was scared of saying anything. This relationship with you – it's probably the best thing that's ever happened to me. I didn't want to screw it up."

"I was thinking exactly the same thing only last night." She smiles softly at him, wondering how it took them so long to arrive at this moment. Everything feels so right, somehow, now that they have managed to get their feelings out in the open once and for all.

She's not sure who initiates the kiss. Maybe it doesn't matter, she decides. They're on the same page now, and they've had a lot of practice in reading each other's mood and body language over recent months, so perhaps they just meet in the middle. It's a good kiss, soft but confident, the kind of relaxed and intimate moment she always imagined she would pick when it came to telling him she loves him.

She pulls away after a few moments, though, because there is something she needs to clear up.

"We were arguing when we came in here." She recalls. "Were you actually annoyed, or was it all about... this? Us?"

"I was kind of annoyed. You decided to broadcast our private life to the Commander without saying anything to me first." He explains, but there isn't the slightest drop of venom in his voice.

"Next time I'll be sure to consult with you." She says, deadly serious, because he's right. They're a team, and it wasn't her place to go around telling Lexa things like that.

To her surprise, he laughs. "Next time? I'm pretty sure this is a unique situation, Princess. I don't think we're going to have to announce our relationship to the leader of the grounder world again any time soon."

He's getting cocky, she notes affectionately. He's getting overconfident, and having altogether too much fun teasing her. She quite likes that he is able to do that, and thinks that fun might hopefully be a bit more common in their future than it has been in their recent past.

Shaking her head at his smirk, she gets back on with kissing him.

…...

If someone had told Bellamy even this morning that he'd enjoy an intimate dinner with Clarke, Lexa and Indra, he'd have laughed in their face.

No, that's not quite right. He'd probably have punched them in the face, he reckons. He may be calmer, since he started going steady with Clarke, but he's still a little prone to emotional overreactions.

Anyway, the point is, this is absurd. He knows it's absurd. He's sitting at a small dinner table set for four, opposite Lexa herself, making polite chit-chat about the weather over a haunch of venison.

But he just can't stop grinning.

That's a side effect, he guesses, of being happily in love, and of knowing that his feelings are reciprocated. And he's willing to admit it also has something to do with the secretive smiles Clarke keeps throwing in his direction, and the way she occasionally knocks his knee under the table with her own, or brushes against him when she reaches for a dish. Every single touch gets him hotter under the collar, and he's already starting to plan what he hopes to get up to when they return to their room.

He's so far gone for this woman it's ridiculous.

He'll tell her that later, he decides. He suspects it'll make her laugh, as well as reminding her just how much she means to him. For now, though, he needs to get his head back in the game. He's here as an ambassador or co-leader or something – not a deputy, as Clarke reminded him on the short walk here. He needs to look coherent if he doesn't want Lexa to think he's just some trophy boyfriend.

"Has the hunting been good in Trikru territory of late?" Lexa asks the table at large. Bellamy supposes this is the kind of useful but neutral discussion he can expect until they start talking about the real issue tomorrow morning.

"We have eaten well." Indra says, looking about as happy as she ever does. "The Skypeople are still learning how to throw their spears, I think."

Bellamy grins. He's becoming rather fond of Indra's caustic humour. "That's what the guns are for, Indra. We Skaikru are too soft for spears."

To his shock, Lexa gives a short laugh at his self-deprecating comment. "You don't strike me as soft, Bellamy Blake. What you did in the Mountain was impressive."

Well, now. That's not how he expected this visit to pan out.

Clarke saves him, of course, moving the conversation on from such uncomfortable things as him struggling how to process the respect of someone he has always felt jealousy towards.

"Bellamy and Indra have been working together to help our people adapt to the ground." She explains, sounding rather proud of him. "Octavia and Lincoln have been part of the project, too, as well as some of the guards who came with us to Polis."

Lexa nods, thoughtful. "There are good people in the Skaikru camp. I have ordered my guards to make your escort very welcome." Bellamy nods, trying for politeness, but cannot help but be a little disappointed that Lexa did not choose to pick up on Clarke's mention of his sister and Lincoln.

"Thank you." Clarke says smoothly. "We have learnt in Camp Jaha that there are many benefits to our people working together, Skaikru and Trikru."

"I see that." Lexa acknowledges with a nod.

Bellamy reckons that is about as encouraging as Lexa gets, and tries to convince himself to relax and enjoy the good food. He does not have to contribute much to the conversation, to his relief. Clarke asks after a few acquaintances she made when she spent time with Lexa in the course of planning the assault on Mount Weather, although he gets the impression that her inquiries stem from politeness rather than genuine concern. Indra surprises him by suggesting a number of the sights of Polis which they should check out before they leave, chief amongst them the bustling market-place.

All in all, it is not the agonisingly awkward experience he might have expected. But he's still more than glad when it is over, and he gets to take Clarke back to their somewhat over-decorated guest room.

"You doing alright?" She asks as they walk back from supper.

It makes him smile. It seems that they are always looking out for each other, even surrounded by luxury in the house of a friend. "I'm good. That wasn't so bad, was it?"

She smiles in turn, as she reaches out to open the door to their room. "It was fine. I do like Indra, and it's good to see Lexa without so many worries dragging her down. But I can think of things I'd rather be doing."

"Oh yeah? Like what?" He asks, grinning, as he sits himself on the bed.

She pauses, a step or so away from the bed, and makes a show of frowning at him. "You know, I've had the best idea. We should have sex."

He fights down a laugh. "With each other?"

"With each other." She confirms with a solemn nod which is evidently fake.

"Sounds like a plan, Princess. Can I just check, we're talking platonic sex with a convenient roommate, right?"

That breaks her. That has her shaking with laughter as she crosses the distance between them to collapse onto the bed at his side. "We're so stupid." She laments through her giggles.

"I don't think so." He disagrees firmly – or at least, as firmly as he can manage whilst chuckling. "I think we were just scared. And that's OK, Clarke. We had some pretty good reasons to be scared."

That sobers her up, and she rolls over, facing towards him and looking him right in the eye. "I love you. You know that, right?"

"I love you, too." He lets out a happy sigh. "I'm going to be saying that a lot. Sorry."

"Don't be sorry. I like hearing you say it."

That, he decides, is a piece of information he wants to bear in mind for later.

In the meantime, though, he has a few other ideas to get started on. He's been planning a seduction all through supper, after all. It's not a complicated seduction, or an adventurous one. But he's made a bit of a mental list of some of the things Clarke likes best, and he likes best, and he's pretty keen to show her that sex can be even better, now they're officially together and all.

He begins by kissing her, because kissing Clarke is one of his favourite things in the world. Her lips are soft and warm, but determined, too – they are, in a nutshell, just like Clarke herself. She seems eager, today. She's not tearing his clothes off, or anything. She's just lying on the bed and kissing him back, but she's doing it with a certain hunger that promises good things.

She's wearing a jacket, and that seems unnecessary. For a moment he wishes he hadn't argued when she'd said she was thinking about wearing her blue dress tonight. But somehow, in his mind, that dress belongs to them, not to negotiations with Lexa or supper with Indra. Maybe he might ask her to wear it, just for him, when they're having a romantic evening in their room some time when they get home.

Shaking that thought aside, he takes off her jacket. And then he takes off her shirt, because really, he doesn't like it when clothing comes between his hands and Clarke's breasts. She seems to be thinking similar thoughts, as she tugs at his shirt with one hand.

"You want something?" He asks her, smirking slightly.

"You're wearing too many clothes."

"Patience, Princess." He soothes, sucking on her ear lobe a little for good measure.

She huffs, but doesn't argue, and he's happy with that. He likes it when she takes the lead, yes, but for tonight he's looking forward to showing her a good time while she sits back and relaxes. It's one of the things he loves about the sexual side of their relationship, that even though they aren't exactly wild or adventurous with the range of positions or activities they try out, they can still switch things up enough to keep it interesting.

He finishes undressing the both of them, and then he settles himself in the crook of her legs. Going down on Clarke has always been one of his favourite things about their relationship, and he doesn't see that changing any time soon. Certainly not when she's started mewling just at the sheer thought of it, before he has even had chance to get started.

He loves how hopelessly turned on she is by this. He loves her needy noises, and her squirming, and the way she threads her hands through his hair.

He loves everything about her, really.

It doesn't take her long to get excited, on this occasion. He's been at work for barely minutes when he can feel her knees clamping around his ears and her hips surging up towards him, practically begging for a little more pressure. He's had a fair amount of practice at this, in recent weeks, so he knows just how to coax her to completion, knows that she likes to tumble over the edge with his fingers inside of her as she pulses around him.

He does all that, as usual. But it's different, somehow, this time, as she gasps his name and holds his head in place until her last aftershocks are done and he's running out of oxygen. That doesn't bother him as much as it should, really. He's rather more interested in Clarke than in breathing, right now.

When he's sure she's ready for him to move, he pulls away and scrambles up the bed towards her. He needs to kiss her with an urgency he cannot quite get his head around. He's just feeling slightly overwhelmed by how hot it was to feel her clenching around him with her taste on his lips.

He tells her that, in the end. Or something a bit like it, anyway.

"I love doing that." He murmurs, amazed by how much more easily love falls off his tongue in any context, now the truth is out in the open.

"I noticed." She grins. "Thanks. That was – you're really good at that. You want me to return the favour?"

"No. I want to kiss you."

She doesn't make him ask twice. She presses her lips to his, curious and flatteringly interested for someone who just had a fulfilling orgasm. Long gone are the days when she would claim to be done for the day after coming the first time, he notes with a certain surge of joy.

"You taste like me." She whispers against his lips, and the sounds of her voice and those words has him grinding against the bed involuntarily.

He tries to answer – to say what, he's not quite sure – but it comes out as a growl. Deciding that actions speak louder than words, he rolls her onto her back and hovers over her, a question in his eyes.

A month ago, he thinks, it would have been a question as to whether she wanted to keep going. But he can read very clearly in the look in her eyes and the feel of her lips that she does want to keep going, so this is a slightly different question.

She shakes her head. "I want to be on top." She tells him.

He's a little frustrated, he has to admit. He loves it when she's on top, but he wants to go on top, damn it. She's been on top a lot this week.

But he likes to make Clarke happy.

No. He's allowed to make himself happy, too – as long as it's OK with her, of course. They can negotiate this like a pair of mature adults who communicate honestly about what they actually want in life.

"It's been a while since I was on top." He tells the pillow to the side of her face, gathering his breath and getting the words out. "I like it when you're on top, but – I was wondering if I could? For a change?"

To his confusion, she answers with a firm hug. "Sure. That's great too. I – did you just ask me for something that would make you happy?"

"I might have done." He admits into the warm skin of her neck.

She kisses him in answer, hard, and starts guiding his hips down over her own. He almost laughs at that – even when she's letting him have his way, some part of her always has to be taking the lead. He starts slowly, at first, pushing into her gently and keeping his strokes not too long. He needs her to stay relaxed and doesn't want to hurt her. But she's not so nervous in the bedroom, these days, and she makes that quite clear when she digs her nails into his butt and tells him to give her more and faster.

He's only too happy to do that.

He lets himself relax, then, too. They know what they're doing, the pair of them, and he knows that she likes it like this. Most importantly, he knows she is comfortable enough to speak up if she doesn't. So he builds up a more purposeful rhythm and keeps kissing her hard. It's not the most coordinated kiss they've ever shared – in fact, it's growing rather sloppy – but it is perfect for the moment, somehow.

He wishes he had more hands, at times like this. He wants to hold her close, but he also wants to massage her breasts and tease her nipples, all at once. And he'd like to be able to grab her fingers, too, and squeeze them tight, but he definitely doesn't have enough hands for that.

He'll have other chances, he reminds himself. Clarke's not going anywhere.

He focuses on the moment, listens to her breathing. She seems to be doing OK, getting louder and more excited as he takes her closer. He wonders if he should be giving her more stimulation, if she needs his hand on her clit or perhaps on her breast to help her over the edge.

As if she has read his mind, she pulls away from the kiss and pants into his ear. "I'm good. Stop trying so hard, Bellamy."

He sucks in a breath at that. His name on her lips always does funny things to him. It may not be a pet name, but he could swear she makes it sound like poetry.

Following her instructions, he lets himself move a little faster, lets himself bury his face in her hair and groan loudly. She doesn't seem to object at all, bucking her hips up into his until he is teetering on the edge of completion.

That's when she takes him by surprise.

"I love you." She gasps, completely shattering his already stretched self-control. He gives a couple more hard thrusts, pleasure blossoming until he's spilling inside of her.

He lies, sweaty and blissfully happy, sprawling across her chest as he tries to make sense of what just happened. He never had rational Clarke Griffin down as the kind of woman who would make declarations of love during sex, but it suits her, he decides. It suits the warmth she has always had, sometimes hidden behind hard choices, and it definitely suits the affectionate relationship they have built in recent months.

"I love you, too." He tells her, still lying there, when he can talk again. "Sorry – sorry about that."

"Sorry for loving me?"

"Sorry for losing it like that. I wanted to make that last longer."

"I think we'll have plenty more chances." She assures him, running a hand absently over his shoulders.

He grins, and forces himself to stop draping his torso over her like a limp fur. Rolling away, he looks down into her eyes. "You want me to finish it for you?"

"Yes please. It might take a while." She adds, as she always does.

"No problem." He tells her, swallowing any further senseless apologies into a kiss as he takes his hand down to carry on bringing her pleasure.

He loves using his fingers on her. OK, sure, he's basically established he loves everything about being with Clarke. But this is at least as great as anything else, because he can kiss her at the same time, even play with her breasts with his free hand if he's feeling agile. And he knows that she's self-conscious about the fact that her orgasm sometimes takes her a while, but really, he's not complaining. This is, in the simplest of terms, fun. He's not about to complain if he gets to do it for a bit longer.

The thing is, though, that her perception of taking ages to get there is not really the same as his. He gets that it feels like a long time to her, because she's the one who's feeling self-conscious, but it's really only a few minutes before her legs are starting to tremble and she's panting into his mouth.

"Feels good." She tells him, as if he couldn't work that out for himself. Still, it's reassuring to hear it said.

"You feel good." He tells her honestly, because she does. She's all wet and warm and wanting him, and it feels beyond amazing.

She huffs out a breathless giggle, and keeps kissing him. She's shaking badly, now, clearly teetering on the edge, and he wonders how long he could hold her here. How long he could have her hovering, seeing stars, not quite letting go.

Maybe they might find a free afternoon to try that out, one day, now that they are more or less at peace.

When she does let go, she clenches so hard about his fingers that it's almost painful – but in a way that somehow has his cock twitching in interest all over again. He stays put for a long moment, letting her come down in her own time, kissing her softly and relaxing into her loose embrace.

"Thanks." She murmurs, after a while.

"You, too." He whispers, knowing she will understand his meaning, knowing that she will hear his gratitude for everything from a great evening's lovemaking to staying in camp with him all those weeks ago.

He knows they need to get out of the bed, to clean up and put out all those damn candles. But somehow he suspects that the two of them might just lie here together for a while, first.

…...

Clarke feels almost confident, the following morning, as they begin negotiations with Lexa. There is far too much overt friendliness going on here, she decides, for the Commander to reject their proposals altogether. And apart from anything else, Indra seems to have become their greatest advocate, and Clarke knows that Lexa respects the older woman's opinion.

All the same, she wouldn't say she's entirely relaxed as she steps into Lexa's throne room with Bellamy at her side. But she's keyed up in just the right way, the kind of tension that tells her she's doing something important and making good use of her talents.

"Welcome. I trust you slept well?" Lexa greets them with every show of civility.

Clarke doesn't know quite how she's supposed to act, here. She and Lexa were never friends before their brief attempt at finding a romantic connection. But maybe, she wonders, if she plays her cards right they could start being friends now.

"We did, thank you." She answers for both of them. "You've made us very welcome here."

Lexa smiles sadly. "I've tried to. I know a soft bed and a generous meal can't come close to making up for what I did at the Mountain." Clarke startles at that. She wasn't expecting a confession of wrongdoing so early in the conversation and unprovoked, and it has rather taken the wind out of her sails.

To her surprise, Bellamy steps up to cover the awkward moment. "We're grateful all the same. We didn't come here to blame you or seek vengeance. We'd like to move on."

Lexa nods. "I'd like that, too. I see that Trikru have reaped the rewards of an alliance with you, and I hear that Niylah's trading post is thriving. I would be interested in a truce and trade agreement between Skaikru and the clans of the coalition."

"You would?" Clarke checks, not daring to hope that it is so. This rational conversation is more than she could have hoped for, two nights ago when she was anxious about losing her temper and spitting in Lexa's face.

"I would. I cannot offer the depth of friendship that you have with Trikru. Many of the clans in the coalition are suspicious of Skaikru and I would endanger my position if I forced them into a close relationship with you. But I believe they will come round gradually as they see the benefits of trade and peace."

"We would accept that. But our priority in coming to this meeting is to get the kill order lifted on Octavia and Lincoln." She steers the conversation back to their real goal.

"Lincoln is not Skaikru." Lexa observes.

"He is one of our people, now." Bellamy speaks up, fire in his voice. "He lives with us and trains with us."

"And he is to become your brother before long, is he not?" Lexa asks, again with that thin smile.

"He's already my brother in all the ways that matter." Bellamy states, daring the leader of the grounder world to disagree with him. Clarke can't decide whether she's more proud of him, for the progress he has made in his friendship with the man he once tortured, or exasperated that he's making an argument out of this when he could just as well have remained calm and level-headed.

Then again, that never was his style.

Lexa, however, does not rise to the challenge in his tone. She simply nods, and presents them with an unexpected solution. "After I broke our deal at the Mountain, I would understand if Skaikru didn't trust me. I hope that lifting the kill order on Octavia and Lincoln will serve as a goodwill gesture and help you to see that I mean for our people to be on good terms."

Clarke nods. She can deal with this. Everything that has happened here is good news, and she ought to embrace it and seal the deal.

But there's just one thing still bothering her, one thing still simmering deep in her belly and stopping her from feeling like she and Lexa are friends, quite yet.

"Are you ever going to apologise for what you did to us?" Clarke asks, her desperate desire to talk it out overcoming the voice in her head which suggests it would be prudent to let it rest.

Lexa shakes her head, eyes showing hurt as her mask cracks for the first time since their arrival. "I can't, Clarke. I wish I could. But – don't you see? I had to do that. It was the right move for my people, even though it was the wrong move for the alliance. Even though it was the wrong move for you."

Clarke nods, stiff. She mustn't lose her temper now. It wouldn't help – and anyway, she's supposed to be a leader, here, and losing her temper doesn't suit her. She can feel Bellamy stepping closer to her, not actually touching, but silently supporting her as he does so well.

To her surprise, Lexa speaks again. "I can apologise for how it soured our... friendship, though. I am sorry. I truly do want our people to be on good terms." There is a careful pause. "I want us to be on good terms."

Clarke knows she is supposed to nod again, but she can't quite manage it. Bellamy helps her out, saying a few empty words of gratitude and suggesting that they get on with concluding the deal, so that they can spend their remaining days in Polis exploring the city at their leisure.

That turns things in a more positive direction, thank goodness, and next thing Clarke knows she is holding a dagger and binding their agreement in blood.

…...

It is with mixed feelings that Bellamy bids farewell to Polis and to Lexa when they leave at the end of their stay. To his surprise, he finds himself quite liking the woman, or at the very least respecting her. She has a core of steel, and manages the coalition with a skill he is half in awe of, but he cannot help but pity her for the way that life has stripped her of so much human warmth.

They are not friends, yet, perhaps. But they are now allies – officially – and they have no further cause for enmity. He's not interested in holding it against her that the withdrawal of her army directly led him to kill hundreds of Mount Weather citizens, because he's done pretty well at healing, of late, and at letting go of the trauma of the past. And he's certainly not interested in holding it against her that she once kissed Clarke while his life was on the line, because he's feeling rather confident that no one besides him will be kissing Clarke any time soon.

He enjoyed their time in Polis, in the end. The market-place was fascinating, full of life and of new foods and unexpected objects, and he can well imagine them returning there for trade again in the future. Lexa showed them the sights, too, an odd sort of VIP guided tour of the temple and the tower and the school of the nightblood novitiates. Polis is a beautiful city, and he is perfectly willing to think that they might go back another day, either for business or social reasons.

All the same, he decides that it will be good to get home. It will be good to get back to training the guard, and meeting Clarke for lunch dates, and pretending he doesn't expect a new book every time she gets back from a supply run.

Clarke seems to think the same, as she leans up against him in the back of the rover and watches the world go by.

"I can't wait to get home." She tells him, and that thought makes him warm in a way that has little to do with his attraction to her. He cannot help but feel a certain glow at the idea that Camp Jaha is truly her home, now, and she feels a strong emotional connection to the place she once tried to flee.

"Me too. What do you want to do this evening?"

She considers for a moment before replying. "You have to take me on a picnic. It's been too long."

"I have to?" He asks, mock offended. "I don't take orders from you, Princess."

"You do in the bedroom." She whispers, leaning in close to his ear.

He laughs. "That's different."

"You still want a picnic." She insists.

He has to admit it's the truth. "Yeah. And then to the bar? I'd like to catch up with everyone."

She nods, contented, then settles back against him, her head heavy but not unwelcome on his shoulder.

He could get used to this, he decides. He could get used to peace time, and to missions where the goal is friendship and not survival. He could get used to Clarke sticking around by his side, and to her napping as they drive back into Camp rather than being on edge and ready to flee. And most of all he could get used to being loved as himself, a person in his own right, rather than for his role as brother or son or leader.

It's just as well those things are here to stay.

He knows it won't be like this forever. This is the ground, and there is always a new challenge around the corner. But whatever the Earth next throws their way, he feels pretty good about their chances of tackling it. They're good at solving problems, him and Clarke. They've achieved a few things together in recent months – a spot of minor diplomacy, surviving a Mount Weather memorial, and teaching some Earth skills. Nothing on the scale of keeping a hundred teenagers fed or slaying a mountain, to be sure, but respectable all the same.

Their most important achievement is the hardest to quantify, but he thinks it is worthy of note all the same. Above all, he thinks, as the rover draws to a halt, they have arrived here.

They have arrived at finding happiness, together.