"Who has not asked himself at some time or other: am I a monster or is this what it means to be a man?"
Clarice Lispector, A Hora Da Estrela
He first feels the song in his chest when he looks at Octavia.
His mother pushes his sister's tiny body into his arms with the last of her strength and a phrase of words condemning him to a duty he never wanted, never asked for.
"Your sister. You're responsibility," she says, her voice trailing off as the baby begins to cry in his arms. "Your responsibility…"
His throat clenches in panic as he begs his mother to wake up, to tell him what to do, but the sound of his blood thrumming in his ears makes it impossible to hear anything. With shaking hands, he feels the sound of a new life crying against his chest and he knows his life will never be the same; nothing will ever be the same.
But then he looks at the way his sister's blue eyes gaze up at him, so quiet, so innocent, and he wonders why anyone would ever want to hurt a little girl, why anyone could even consider taking her away from him.
"I won't let anything bad happen to you," he whispers.
He feels something vibrate in his chest and a fire scorches his bones from the inside out. There is acid in his heart and there is a melody pumping through his veins.
He realizes that the song inside of him will eat him alive.
It is a very frightening revelation for a six-year-old.
He is eleven when he feels the thrum of war drums within his ribcage. His heart pounding as the guards rush into their apartment for a surprise inspection merely seconds after he shoves Octavia under the floorboards. It petrifies him, shakes him to the core, that in a split second he could have lost everything; his sister, his mother, everything.
But he didn't. And after the guards leave, he pulls Octavia into his arms and swears upon every goddamn piece of metal in this hell of a home that nothing will ever happen to her. He swears to her over and over again while begging her to stop crying.
Screw fear. Fear is weakness, he thinks. I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid.
It is a lie. He is terrified.
But more than that, he is angry. His rage consumes him at the unfairness of his situation, of his sister's situation. He feels his heart break and his throat tighten as he finally realizes that this will never end for her, that she will never be able to do all that she has the potential to do.
He feels his blood boil as he realizes this will never really end for him either, that his life has ended before it had ever begun.
The tears betraying his fear and his fury are wet on his face but he wipes them away as his mother steps into their apartment, asking what happened. He stands to his feet, looks her straight in the eye and says one word, one word in synchronization with the beat pounding between his lungs.
He senses his mother's disbelief and feels his sister's gaze, but he just repeats the word. "Nothing," he says. "Nothing happened."
His mother slowly nods (he thinks she realizes that her little boy is no longer a boy) and sits down at her table to continue her sowing.
And the war drum in his chest beats on.
He is seventeen when he starts a riot.
He doesn't do it directly, he has too much to lose (a family, a future, Octavia). Instead he plants the words into the mouth of a factory worker, Elliot Keapling, and watches as the world burns to the ground.
As he stands in the back of the crowd, and watches Elliot say the words that he has placed in the man's mouth, he can't help but feel a sense of pride as he discovers the power he holds. The grey crates, stacked on atop another, serve as a platform for the illiterate laborer as he shouts words of discontentment to a growing mob. He tells them that they should be sick of being pushed around, that they are citizens of the Ark, not slaves.
They are Bellamy's words, and frankly, he thinks that they would sound better coming from his mouth. But he cannot risk it.
After the factory workers have raged through the Walden sector of the Ark, burning, demolishing and obliterating everything in their path, he is grateful for his ability to disappear into the sea of faces. He sees how quickly the very people who had raised up Elliot Keapling to the throne of a god turn and throw him to the wolves, to the guards that come crashing into the sectors, stun guns in hand, threats of floating the entire station on their lips.
Hours later, he stares out into space, up at the stars billions of light years away. A younger boy, Nathan Miller, approaches and sits by him and there is a long silence before the guard's son speaks up.
"They would've followed you."
His whole head jerks around in shock and he jumps to his feet. "What the hell are you talking about?" he snarls at the twelve-year-old, his eyes hard and his hands clenched into fists.
The boy snorts. "I'm not an idiot," he replies, "and neither are everyone else on the Ark. They know Elliot Keapling had the IQ of a twelve-year-old." He ignores Bellamy's muttered 'You're a twelve-year-old' comment and continues, "There's no way he could have come up with a speech like that. Everybody knows that someone must have told him what to say. He wasn't a real leader, that's why they gave him up so easily." A small smile appears on Miller's face and his eyes shine as he looks up at the boy with has become a man far too early, the boy with acid in his heart and a war drum in his chest. "They wouldn't have given you up."
He searches far too long for the right words to combat the words of unquestioning faith presented to him, to refute the unabashed hope resting in this child's eyes. "I…" he starts, and then trails off. Shaking his head in disbelief, he finally says, "Listen, kid. I don't know what you're talking about. Keapling came up with whatever he said on his own and he was crazy to say it. You're fucking insane to think anything different." He turns to walk away.
"No!" The mop of brown hair and dark skin jumps to his feet, the hope in his eyes replaced with something accusing. "No, I know it was you! You're the only one who could do something like that! You're the only one who can convince people to do what you want by talking to them!"
His hand warps around the boy's mouth, suffocating any words he would wish to say, and he hisses that he should shut his goddamn mouth before he gets them both killed. Looking around, he turns back and barely utters, "I don't know what you're talking about. And if there's one thing you should learn from all of this, it shouldn't be that an idiot like Keapling couldn't lead a rebellion. Did you see what happened when the guards arrived? Yes or no?"
The boy nods, Bellamy's hand still over his mouth.
"Good. You see how quickly the people turned him over? How quickly the shoved him to the front of the crowd? Did you see how they threw him into the guards' arms?"
He should've already been up there, Bellamy thinks to himself. A leader who cowers behind his people isn't a leader at all. Shaking himself out of his own thoughts, he continues, "The point is, even the people who completely backed him were ready to give him up as soon as they needed a scapegoat." A low, rough chuckle escapes the only sibling in the universe. "There's an entire world out there, the Ark, Earth, the whole universe, and the only person you can count on is you. That's what you should learn from this, not some shit about someone 'putting words' into a factory worker's mouth."
Slowly, he removes his hand from the younger boy's mouth, hoping, praying with ever fiber of his being that he's convinced the boy that he had nothing to do with this disaster.
There is a potent, infinite silence. Then the kid says, "Your secret is safe with me," and sprints off down the hallway.
Bellamy stands there in shock for a moment, his jaw hanging open (did the guard's son really just miss everything he just said?), and then he laughs.
He laughs long and hard, resentment washing through his chest, leaving a sour taste in his mouth. He keeps laughing because he is seventeen and he has started a riot and gotten away with it.
Elliot Keapling is floated a week later.
And despite the bitter taste that remains in his mouth, Bellamy Blake cannot bring himself to care.
He is twenty when they take her away from him. The pillars of his life crumble and his whole world collapses down on him as he is buried beneath the guilt and despair that comes with knowing he has failed her.
His sister is crying when they drag her away.
So is his mother.
But he does not cry. (The tears will not come. There is an anguish in his heart and the stars are falling like ash and dust and destruction all around him, yet the tears will not come.) He does not shed a single tear as they rip away everything he has ever loved from his grasp, leaving only a residue (like dirt and blood) of the life he once knew under his fingernails.
He remembers seeing the half-moon indents of his nails on Octavia's arms like claw marks as the guards pulled her away from him, false promises of security on his lips. The beast inside of him is rearing its head and he feels the fire in his belly grow white hot.
And perhaps that's what terrifies him most. That in his darkest moment, where all seems lost and he is nothing more than a colosseum of calcium and bone, a shell of a man, the song in his chest is louder than ever, screaming of vengeance and havoc.
So when a gun is placed in his hands, he opens his mouth and let's his song roar with the sound of a bullet and a dying god's gasp.
Then he climbs into a dropship and falls, burning to Earth among stars.
When he first meets the girl with sunbeams for hair and a north wind in place of a voice, he cannot help but wonder what sins she has committed to fall from heaven in a way such as he. (The song in his chest is louder than ever, and paired with the creaking metal and flickering lights of the dropship, he wonders if he has been granted his own personal hell for the melody that will devour him like a rabid monster.)
She approaches him from between trees with the sound of birds and the crunch of twigs beneath boots, and she tells him she's there for him. His heart skips a beat (He hates it. He hates it, he hates it, he hates it.). He lifts his shirt when she clarifies she doesn't need him as much as his gun, and a smirk passes his lips as he watches her eyes linger for just a moment too long. (She must have sensed it because she doesn't take her eyes off his for the remainder of their interaction.)
When he grabs her wrist, bargaining the life of a child for the illusion of her death, he feels the cool metal against his fingertips and he swears he sees fear in her features as she tries to cover it by moving closer to him, leaving only inches between their faces, as she says with absolute certainty that the only way her beloved mother will think she's dead is when she is dead ("Brave princess," he calls her, mocking, sneering, taunting her with the nickname that labels her a queen amongst beggars, an outsider, a pariah. Brave princess. It seems to fit her.)
He nearly drops her.
Dear God, he should've dropped her.
He should've ignored the way her soft fingertips felt against his wrist (not calloused and covered in blood like his own) as her grip tightened, holding onto him like he was the last memory she had of someone she once loved. He should've ignored the way her eyes widened in terror (or perhaps it was surprise) when she realized the only thing standing between her and certain death was him. He should have dropped her and watched her fall like a meteoroid, watched her disintegrate into nothingness just before her body was ripped apart upon the spikes below.
But he doesn't. He holds onto her (he holds her as if he will never let her go). And as he pulls her away from the demons clawing at her heels, ready to drag her down through the soil, through the core of the Earth, he feels the war drum in his ribcage beats a rhythm unlike any other he has ever felt and the birds in his lungs begin to sing a haunting melody.
He is breathing in an impossible mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, argon and carbon, and as he finally tastes life, tastes something other than cold metal and man-made air, he feels as if he has arrived at both his death and his resurrection at the exact same moment.
So this is what it feels like to be alive.
He has been a dead man walking for far too long.
He looks at the princess and realizes she is thinking the exact same thing. (It feels like a blow to the gut.)
Over the next few days, he sees lost boys with magnificent delusions of splendor go after her. He sees the son of the man he murdered fall at her feet, begging for her forgiveness (for a crime he did not commit, Bellamy can see that right away) so that his following her to Earth (to hell) was not in vain. He sees the boy who walked among stars beg too, but in a different way. He begs to be the strong one, to be a knight in shining armor. He begs her to let him be her savior and fuck it all to hell, he sees her falling for it.
He can't help but laugh at all of them. He sees the ocean on her lips and the firestorm in her eyes. He sees the strength in her spine and the blades on her fingertips, ready to cut anyone who gets too close. He sees her and he can't help but laugh. (She has a song inside her, just like him. She is a song herself.)
These boys don't know how to love a girl like her.
She'll eat them from the inside out.
She'll swallow them whole.
His sister accuses him of being selfish. He wants to tell her that everything he has done is for her and only her, that if he is selfish, it is because she is the only part of him he cares about and he is selfish for her. And he wants to tell her that, he really does.
But he can't. He can't because it's a goddamn, fucking lie.
Ever since he landed on Earth, ever since his feet touched the ground and he saw the sway he holds over every single member of the camp (well, ever single member except for that fucking princess and her fucking posse), it's as if he has tasted the flowers of the Lotus-Eaters of old, and he never wishes to come back, never wishes to taste another flavor except that of the power he wields here among the chaotic, impressionable delinquents.
This isn't for her. It stopped being for her the moment he manipulated one hundred children into letting their only hope for survival abandon them as to avoid the consequences of his own actions. This isn't for her.
It's for him.
When he tells her he killed the chancellor (for her, it was all for her! At least he tells himself.) she simply says, "I didn't ask you to do that."
He wants to spit out that he didn't ask for a sister. He didn't ask for this responsibility. He didn't ask for a song pumping through his bloodstream, not for the birds in his lungs or the fire in his bones that will devour him, slowly, agonizingly, until nothing is left but the memory of a voice on the wind. He didn't ask to love her as much as he does. But he swallows his words and replies that he knows.
"I didn't ask for any of this."
Neither did I! he wants to scream. Neither did I.
When he finds a drawing of her in the Grounder's book, he swears he will kill every fucking savage on this planet. (The brute was watching her, he was close enough to draw her face.) He goes back and drags the monster of a man to the misshapen mess of iron and aluminum he calls home now, because it is the only thing he can think to do. There is a pounding in his ears, so loud that he can't hear anything Clarke is saying; he can't even process the bullshit about this not being who they are ("It is now," he replies and he walks out. He says a prayer of thanks when she does not follow him.)
Then Finn is dying and the storm outside is howling like the hounds of hell and all he can do is grind his teeth together and drive the metal spike into the bloodied demon's hand. The shrieks of the wind echo those of his sister and as the ballad of his body sounds more and more like a death march, he can't help but wonder if the real devil is standing before him or inside of him.
It is so much easier to do when men as dark as him are all around. Miller. Drew. Derek. Connor. They are all dancing on the edge of the abyss, and they do it so willingly, so recklessly, that he can almost convince himself it's okay to sacrifice this Grounder to the storm raging within them all.
But then she shows up. She shows up with her razor-sharp tongue and her eyes of soft steel and what can he do but beg her to leave (beg her like all the others, like the boy who took air out of others' mouths so that he could float in the essence of nothingness; like the boy who followed her to hell and back only to have her bury him beneath the north wall with a hole the shape of John Murphy's knife in his neck)?
He begs her by commanding her, by relieving her of responsibility; he begs her to leave, to just get out, god-fucking-damn it, get out. Time and time again he begs her but she will not. She will not abandon her one true love, foaming at the mouth a level below like waves that break upon the sand of a seashore they will never see.
In the end, it's Octavia who saves them all (Finn from death, the princess and him from destroying themselves) with a knife to her wrist and the strange love that only someone like she could inspire. He stumbles outside, behind the dropship where no one will see him and falls to his knees before he vomits.
The song inside his chest is thrumming with life, with power and bloodlust, and he loves it and he will never, ever forgive himself for it. And he feels fury—rage—so much rage. Rage at the lot given to him in life, rage at the men who claimed to be gods that have thrown him down and trampled on him, rage at his own darkness for craving to consume him and rage at his own light for fighting against the chasm of oblivion. He reels from the rage within him as he feels more intensely than he has ever felt in his life and he empties his stomach once more.
When he finally finds the strength to stand, he wanders back to the dropship, and he sees her rootless, nomadic, drifting about the camp without a purpose feeling just as lost as him. There are tearstains on her face, blood beneath her fingernails, and an awl clutched loosely in her hand and somehow, somehow, he finds the strength to calm his shaking hands and grab the weapon from hers. As their skin brushes, he swears there are stars on the tips of his fingers.
"Clarke." He says her name and it tastes like cyanide and ash in his mouth. "Who we are, and who we need to be to survive are very different things."
He doesn't know if he is trying to convince her or himself.
Their day trip goes less well than expected. (Not that he expected it to go that well anyways.)
"Maybe Jaha will pardon you."
"I shot the man, Clarke," he says, stopping so suddenly she almost runs into him. "I doubt he's just going to get up and forgive that. And besides, I wouldn't want him to, it's not like I feel guilty about it."
Her mouth drops open and it's almost comical. "But…" she starts and then stops. "But you tried to kill him, Bellamy. How can you not feel bad about that?"
He waves his hand, dismissing her words (and the twist in his gut) with a simple gesture. "Kill one man, and you are a murderer," he responds. "Kill thousands and you are a conqueror. Kill them all and you're a god. Tell me, princess, what's really the difference?" He turns and begins to walk away again.
"The difference," she replies, jumping over logs and all but running to keep up with his long strides (her legs are so fucking short), "is that humans can't become gods."
"Tell that to everyone else, princess."
"Bellamy, what the hell are you talking about?" she asks, and he can't tell if it's exasperation or genuine curiosity he hears in her tone.
So he whirls around (again) and this time she does run into him. Her whole body barrels into his and his arms wrap around her biceps steadying her for a moment before she rips herself away from him. "Every word the council said on the Ark was obeyed to the letter," he says, hoping to end this conversation before a still disoriented Clarke actually collected herself enough to properly respond. "Every. Word. Because everyone knew that if they didn't, they'd be floated faster than they could say 'habeas corpus.' It wasn't a democracy up there, it was a fucking dictatorship." He pauses for a moment and runs his hand over his face, letting out a small sigh. When he looks up again, he sees her looking at him like she's a scientist and he's a test subject, her eyes wide and assessing, studying his features and everything be damned if it doesn't make him uncomfortable.
"I have spent my entire life afraid of men thought to be gods," he finally says. "I'll tell you a secret, princess: these men? The ones who claim to be deities? Their blood isn't ichor. They bleed red like the rest of us, and sometimes they need to be reminded of that."
He turns and walks away and doesn't look back. (She still follows him though, she always does.)
Later, when he rests his hands against her body, pushing her form into the correct position while she tightens her grip on a gun's trigger, he is blasted by the sent of herbs in her hair and the way her body fits so perfectly against his own. (For a moment, just a split second, he wishes he could stay there forever, the comfort of her body against his, the song of his rage diluted to a simple hum in the back of his mind.)
Then he flees.
He flees because in his entire life, he has never felt anything like he feels when she is near him and the ocean he sees in her mouth is more terrifying than the wrench in his gut at the mention of his sins and the sudden desire to taste the salt on her lips is so strong, so overwhelming, he cannot think of anything other than to get away from it.
Dax has him pinned to the ground when the song goes silent and it is perhaps the most terrifying experience of his life. One moment the younger delinquent has a gun pointed at his head, and the next, his will to fight is gone, the beating of his heart giving only a brief flutter. Something distracts the boy and when he sees her, a single note (a screeching, terrible note) rips through his muscles and he swings his hand at his attacker's neck with a shout and force enough to kill a man.
It does. Kill a man, he means.
Blood sprays from Dax's neck, splattering him in a coat of red and next thing he knows, he's throwing the boy's weight off of him as he crawls over to the tree and curls up against the trunk. Tears stream down his face (the stars are falling like ash and dust and destruction all around him, and now the tears come) and his breathing only comes in gasps, the birds in his lungs quivering in an attempt to fly once again.
But the song is gone (his rage is gone). The song that has been with him for fifteen years is now silent and the silence is as deafening as the bang that created the universe. He cannot hear. He can barely breathe, and the ringing in his ears makes him wonder if he is dying.
Then her voice cuts through his silence with three words that make the galaxies crumble and ruins kingdoms to sand, and he sees, he sees why the son of the chancellor, who could have any woman he wished, would follow this girl with starlight in her hair down to death. He sees why a boy who walked among suns would find her more beautiful than the cosmos he experienced.
"I need you."
Just like that, a match is struck on his collarbone and a spark is lit inside his throat. It spreads throughout his entire body as he turns to look at her, feeling more vulnerable than he has in his entire life, and finds her bright blue eyes staring into his, begging him to stay.
(The princess of a kingdom left in space, begging a man with genocide inside his soul to come back with her. The story reeks of tragedy and desolation before it has even begun.)
But the stars on his fingertips are flaring like supernovas and the war drum in his chest beats on and birds in his lungs have begun their tune again, and for once in his life, the song of his rage doesn't feel like it will eat him alive.
It feels as if it will wake him up.
"Okay, princess," he finally says.
They make an odd pair.
In the days that follow, he realizes that Spacewalker misnamed her when he gave her the title of' 'princess.' Clarke Griffin is not a princess.
She's a fucking queen.
She rains fire and brimstone down on her enemies and yet she is gentle with those she loves. He finds it strange that a healer such as she can cause such mayhem and slaughter, only to go and tend wounds with kind and caring touches.
It is a paradox he can't seem to take his mind off of.
Octavia notices something different in him. When she comments that he hasn't ripped anyone's head off (in a verbal manner, of course) recently, he is at a loss for words. So he just looks at his sister (she's grinning like she knows something he does not) and shrugs. She laughs and dashes away.
A few moments later Miller walks up to him and raises a brow in question. "What was that about?" he asks, and all Bellamy can do is shake his head in bewilderment.
"I have absolutely no idea."
Two days later, he spots Raven, Octavia and Harper looking at him from a distance and giggling (Raven Reyes was giggling). His blatant staring in pure bafflement must have caught their attention because Raven instantly puts a scowl on her face, Harper dashes off in the direction of Jasper's tent, and Octavia skips (fucking skips) up to him. She attempts to throw her arm around his shoulder, but she's so much shorter than him that it's an awkward position and it just throws her into another fit of giggles.
"O, are you feeling okay?" he asks, carefully detaching her arm from around him.
"You are Clarke are getting along quite well," she says, not even gracing his question with an answer.
There is a long pause that he takes to just look at his sister. "We're able to organize patrols without it ending in a screaming match, if that's what you mean," he finally says when he finds his voice.
"Hmm." The smirk on his sister's lips is becoming more and more infuriating by the second.
"Octavia, what the hell is going on?"
She has the audacity to raise herself up on her tiptoes and pat his head. "Nothing you need to worry about, big brother!"
That night, he's sitting by the fire with a cup of Monty's best moonshine in his hand when Clarke approaches him. She sits down next to him.
He spares her a 'princess-I'll-have-you-know-I'm-planning-to-get-drunk-off-my-ass-tonight-and-hopefully-get-laid-as-well-so-if-you-want-to-make-plans-about-patrols-or-food-rationing-or-whatever-it-can-wait-until-morning' look, conveying his displeasure at seeing her without a word. Confident he's scared her off, he turns back to the fire and takes a long swig of his drink.
"Octavia thinks we're fucking."
Monty's best moonshine nearly puts out the fire and he's coughing his lungs out as Clarke pats him on the back, a smirk on her face.
"How the fuck did she get that idea?" he's finally gasping out.
That infuriating smirk remains on his princess's lips as she shrugs and says, "I assumed it was you who gave her the idea, considering how she and I haven't talked much since the Grounder incident."
There is a pause where Bellamy allows his eyes to rake over his co-leader's body, analyzing the curve of her breasts and the way her features flickered in the firelight. "Believe me, princess," he says, dropping his voice to a dark, husky tone. "As much as I'd like to say otherwise, that's not a rumor I'd start unless it was true."
She smacks him across the head. Hard. (It actually really hurts and he's surprised, considering how he could probably fit her forearm in the hollow between his thumb and index finger.) Laughing, he rubs the back of his hair, messing up his dark curls, before saying, "I'll take care of it, princess. I'm guessing I should do it soon, before half the camp thinks it's true?"
Clarke snorts. "If you wanted to stop it before half the camp believed it, you should've shut her up yesterday," she replies. "Optimistically, we might be able to stop it before it reaches the last third."
He notices the little things that she does, things she thinks no one care about, and it makes him question what goes on in her head. He sees her smiling at the younger kids when they run around and laugh, their eyes shining like the sun through the clouds; he sees her offer some of her rations to a sick boy and sit next to him, whispering stories of comfort and words he cannot hear as his breathing becomes more and more labored. (He sees the tearstains on her face when she comes out of the dropship later, ever so softly shaking her head when his eyes meet hers. He was the third kid they had lost that month.)
By far the thing that catches him most off guard is when he stumbles upon her while she is singing.
He hears her purely by accident. He is wandering off in the woods, trying to clear his head after yet another fight with Octavia when a soft tune, barely above a hum, reaches through the trees of the forest and wraps its melodious fingers around his neck like a chokehold. All at once, he feels as if he will never be able to breathe again unless he sees her, unless he is able to discern the words from the sounds of the forest and the rustling of the leaves in the wind.
So he follows the sound until he sees her, kneeling on the ground, her fingers prying against a wall of rock along a river, pulling a sort of moss from beneath the water. A stone in his stomach sinks and his throat tightens as he hears her song.
Oh, the warrior that I loved
Did say he'd meet me by the water.
He was the moon's son,
And I the sun's daughter.
His hands were red with blood,
A guilt the river could not rinse,
And in him was a song,
Stars upon his fingertips.
Oh, my love, down by that river
Begged that I'd bring with me
An arrow to prick his heel,
A blade to set him free.
And though I wish it was not true,
I wish it could not be,
When I looked into my warrior's eyes,
The love in them was not for me.
"Nice voice you got there, princess."
She jumps in surprise at the sound of his voice, her body whirling around to face him and her eyes wide. "I-I…wha….I," she stutters out before her face hardens and a look of annoyance is etched onto her features. "What the fuck, Bellamy?" she finally spits out.
He laughs, a soft chuckle escaping him before he really has the chance to stop it. "Nice song, nice voice," he replies. "Learn to take a compliment, princess." Walking towards her, he kneels down on the edge of the rock she perched on, rolls his sleeve up to his elbow, and reaches into the water, grabbing some moss growing just beneath the surface. It comes off easily as his nails dig under its short roots, and as he leans forward to place it on the growing pile next to the blonde princess, the scent of herbs hits him just as it did all those weeks ago in the bunker. He is taken aback once again and something tightens in his chest as he pulls back and his dark eyes meet her blue ones.
He clears his throat, "What's it about? The song, I mean."
Her eyes instantly move away, not meeting his again. "What do you think?" she mumbles in reply, a blush creeping up her cheeks. "It's about two lovers meeting by the river."
We're meeting by a river, he almost teases. Does that make us lovers? But he keeps silent, biting his tongue for a moment before saying, "But it's not really, is it? I mean, the singer says that his love isn't for her.
"I don't know," Clarke admits, seemingly anxious to end the conversation, she's fidgeting now and if anything, it piques Bellamy's curiosity even more.
Smirking, he asks. "What's wrong, princess?" When she still doesn't meet his eyes, he gestures to his rolled up, slightly wet sleeves and adds, "My forearms turning you on?"
Her head jerks up and something flashes in her eyes, something mischievous, something like the Clarke he knows. Before he can react, her arms shoot out and pushes him off the edge of the rock he's sitting on. He tumbles into the water with a yelp and a splash.
"You wish," she replies, a small grin dancing on the edge of her lips.
"Oh, it is on!" He splashes her from the water, prompting a small shriek from her. Laughing, he pulls off his boots, then his jacket, and finally his shirt and tosses it up on a rock (her eyes grow a little wider and her blush a little darker and he can't stop the flicker of pride that swells in his chest like the song that rages through his blood, burning him from the inside out). "Get your ass in here, Griffin."
Smiling, she shakes her head and bites her bottom lip. "No way. I can't swim."
"Then get in here and I'll teach you."
There it is. The offer. He knows she'll probably refuse it, but for some reason, the words our out of his lips before he even thinks about them, before he even thinks how it might sound. For a moment, the song in his chest goes silent, the birds in his lungs stop flying and the entire world ceases to exist, the only thing mattering is her wide eyes, blue like rain, staring back at him.
Then she shatters the silence. "If I drown I'm going to kill you."
It pulls a real laugh from him (one of humor or relief, he does not know), which dies in his throat as he sees her peel off her pants followed by her over shirt, leaving her only in her underwear and a tank top. He swallows hard, but ducks under the water before she turns back to him, swimming a few strokes towards shore. As she steps into the water, he forces himself to watch her face and ignore the fire burning in his belly (he almost manages to convince himself it's always been there).
"Okay," he finally says when she's up to her waist in the water. "We're going to start teaching you how to float. So, just lie on your back and focus on your breathing. I'll hold you up until you're able to do it on your own."
Slowly, she leans back into the water (into his arms) and stares up at the trees and sky above them. The river runs around them, but the current isn't strong, it's soft and gentle and the sound of birds calling and the rambling of the brook are the only noises around them.
He pulls his arms out from under her, and she begins to sink immediately. "Bellamy!" she gasps as she tries to sit up, but his arms are back underneath her shoulders and knees before she can.
"Shhhh," he says. "Calm down, calm down. It's okay. Just keep your back straight and focus on your breathing. If you let your hips drop you'll sink."
She seems to calm at the sound of his voice, and her eyelids slide shut. For a few minutes more, he stays by her side. Then, he carefully pulls his hands out from under her, and he begins to smile as he sees her floating by herself.
"Princess," he whispers. Her eyes open, lazily at first and then they grow wide as she sees his hands up by his head, palms outwards, and he wiggles his fingers. "You're doing it."
"I'm doing it," she repeats in awe. Then she laughs. "I'm doing it!"
She stands in the water, grinning, until her feet hit a smooth rock and she loses her balance, causing her to stumble forward. Before he knows what's happening, her hands are pressed against his bare chest and his arms are wrapped around her waist, steadying her.
"Easy there, princess," he laughs, her triumphant joy contagious. The stars on his fingertips are exploding in white hot flame as his fingers brush her bare skin where her tank top has ridden up, the fire in his bones is scorching and everything in him screams to pull her closer, to claim her as his own, to beg her to be his everything (she already is). But he is able to push it down until she looks up at him with those sapphire eyes, deeper than the ocean. She is looking at him like he is more than he is. She is looking at him like he is something he knows he is not.
She is looking at him like he's a miracle.
Just then the sound of a voice clearing rings out. Clarke pulls out of his grasp in a haze of blonde hair and stuttered apologies. "Oh, god. Sorry, Bellamy. God. Listen, I—oh shit! I mean, um, hi, Octavia."
He watches her trudge through the water to the shore, gather her clothes in her arms and with a series of words he doesn't completely understand (except for "teaching me to swim" and "camp" and "see you there") she flees the scene.
He climbs out of the water, his pants sticking to his legs as he pulls on his half dried shirt and boots, and begins to walk away, his jacket slung over his shoulder, until his sister intercepts him.
There are no words, just a raise of a skeptical brow.
"We're not fucking," he mutters before he sidesteps her and heads off into the forest, back towards.
"Oh, sure you're not."
Octavia corners him outside of the dropship one night. "What's going on between you and Clarke?" she brashly asks, not even hesitating, not even softening the blow of the question.
He lets out a sigh and runs his hand over his face. "I've told you once, I'll tell you a thousand times, O. Nothing. Nothing has happened, nothing is happening, and nothing will ever happen."
"You can insist on the existence of an affair between Clarke and I as much as you want. It's not going to make it any more true," he snaps. There is a pounding in his head that hasn't gone away since Clarke's hands had been pressed against his chest that day in the river and he isn't in the mood to deal with his sister's fantasies.
He's turning to leave when she says, "You love her though, don't you?"
He freezes, the song in his veins going eerily silent for a moment while the words register in his head. His thoughts move a thousand miles per second but he does not turn to face his sister (he does not turn to face her words).
"There may not be something going on between the two of you, but you want there to be." Octavia steps forward, knowing that she's right. "Admit it, Bell. It's okay."
"No," he snarls, turning around as the song of rage suddenly grows to the loudest it's been since the day his whole world began revolving around a baby named after the sister of an emperor. "No, it's really not okay, O. It's not okay because, in case you haven't noticed, I kind of destroy everything I touch. So no, it's not fucking okay that I love her."
There is a shocked silence at his outbreak for a moment, and he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, trying to push his song down, to quiet it, to stop it from overtaking him. His sister's eyes widen and her mouth opens and closes before she manages to stutter out, "T-that's not true. Bell, I—"
He places both hands on her shoulders, gently this time, and the one action makes her words die in her throat. "I love you more than anything else in the world," he whispers. "And it would've got you killed had the Ark not sent you down here to die instead of up there. It got mom killed. Hell, it nearly got the chancellor killed." A bitter smile passed his lips, "Not that I cared much anyway. He was a prick."
It's a weak attempt at a joke, but it pulls a small smile from his sister before it disappears and she bites her lip. "Bellamy, it was the situation that sucked," she whispers. "Not you. It's not you, Bell."
"That's where you're wrong. Octavia, I…I can't love her. If someone like me loved someone like her, well, I'd overtake her. Just…just trust me on this one, O. I know you can keep a secret, so keep this one for me."
She presses her lips together in a tight line, and he knows she doesn't like it, but she nods.
As she stands and walks away, she pauses for a moment, turning back and looking over her shoulder at him. "It's going to eat you alive, Bell," she says before walking out.
He lets out a choked laugh.
He can't love her. Her light will be extinguished by his rage and he could never do that to her, never destroy her like the acid in his heart and the war drum in his chest have destroyed everything else he's loved.
(Come to think of it, his choked laugh sounds more like a sob.)
When she goes missing it's as if the entire world is caving in.
She goes off on a hunting trip with Spacewalker (fucking Spacewalker) and doesn't come back. She doesn't come back and everything around him falls apart. They hike through the forest for hours, looking high and low for them until they find a wounded Myles, saying that grounders have taken his best tracker and his princess; saying that she is gone.
The boy says that she is most likely dead.
He imagines her body, lying in the mud somewhere, in some hole in the forest. He imagines the worms burrowing into her flesh and her blue eyes clouded over, staring up into stars that she cannot see. He imagines blood caked across her face, a red stain spreading across her chest and her face tinted grey and he feels as if nothing will ever be okay again.
There is shrapnel in his chest and it has torn a hole in his war drum. The acid in his heart is eating away at his bones, devouring the marrow within them; the birds in his lungs are dying and the stars on his fingertips are flaring up and burning out and dear god above it hurts, it hurts, it hurts. It's agony like he's never felt before and his song, his rage, is dying out, like a voice on the north wind that blows over an ocean he's never seen and it's all falling apart and it's falling to hell and he can't breathe, he can't think, he can't exist without her. All he is left with is the remnant of his lost kingdom and the ghosts of the anarchy he once was.
He tells the Hundred that they aren't going after them (and dear god above it kills him). He tells them that this camp is the only thing keeping them alive. He tells them that they can't afford to leave, that war is coming and that the bomb will be avenged. (He feels himself slipping into insanity without her there to balance him.)
Then he is hung with a red harness as a noose to save the boy that begs him to save their friends as well and how can he say no?
(He knows that if he says no he will never hear the song of his rage again.)
He tells Jasper they'll go after them the next morning.
He grabs a gun and flees in the night.
Each step he takes is a fleeting beat of the pulse in his heart and he can barely feel himself by the time he arrives at the Grounder camp in the early hours of the morning. His gun is slung over his back like the world on Atlas's shoulders and it takes every bit of strength in him not to crumple to the earth in exhaustion when he suddenly has hundreds of spears pointed at him and the shouts of words in a language he doesn't know echo out in the forest.
The woman who met with Clarke at the bride steps out of a hut. She looks like fire and death herself, black war paint smeared under her eyes, knives hanging on her belt like trophies. She stands in front of him, toe to toe, and he can't help but think they aren't that different.
He sees the war inside of her too. He sees the rage. It's like looking into a mirror of himself. (He wonders if she sees it too.) She waits, not saying anything, not asking him why he's there, the silence is deafening until he finally opens his mouth and says three words, three words that will either break him or restore him.
"Give her back."
Anya chuckles, but there is no humor in the sound. "You come into my village with a gun, and demand something you have no right to ask for," she snarls.
"I have every right," he replies. And just like that, the song inside of him is singing again. The song of his rage is overwhelming all that he is because he knows now, he knows that she is alive.
"She is not yours," the grounder leader says, disgust on her face. "You sky people are so primitive, claiming females as your own. When will you learn that it is men who cause the fall of kingdoms? When will you learn that your 'princess' as you call her is a thousand times stronger than you are? When will you learn that it is your rage that destroys?"
"Don't pretend that you don't have the same rage inside of you," he snaps. "Don't pretend like you can escape it."
His words seem to take her aback for a moment, her eyes widening and her mouth opening slightly. Then her features harden and she glares at him. "You and I are nothing alike," she spits out.
"You and I are much too similar." There is a wry smile on his face as he speaks and he feels the bullets coming off his lips and they taste like blood and lead and gunpowder. "There is one thing that you don't understand, Anya. (Her eyes widen as she realizes he knows her name, but she does not know his.) I'm not here because she is mine. I'm here because I am hers."
He knows it is true. He has fallen apart and only been able to put himself back together at the sound of her name. All his life he has had a song raging inside of him, and it was not until her that it all made sense. And God above, if he cannot have her to keep him sane he will unleash his rage, and it will be ten times more devastating than any bomb his little bird could conjure up.
There is a long pause. Then Anya says, "You cannot have her."
In one fluid motion he has the gun off his back and he is pointing his rage at the woman, stars dancing along the edge of a trigger and a time bomb at the end of the barrel. The shouts of the grounders echo around him as they move forward, closing in a circle around him, but with a raise of Anya's hand their progression stops.
"Corner a dog in a dead end-street and it will turn and bite," he says, his cheek brushing the side of his weapon as he looks down the line of the gun. "Desperate times call for desperate measures. I'm not leaving without her, whether you like it or not."
"I could have you killed in an instant," she hisses in return.
"You'd be dead before you could say a word."
Suddenly a voice rings out across the camp and it's as if the world has been lifted off of his shoulders, as if Atlas has shrugged, and the entire world around him both stops and starts at the same time.
He looks up, away from Anya, and sees her standing at the entrance of the hut, her fingers covered in blood and her eyes alight like a forest fire. The gun drops a few inches and his mouth is as dry as drought when he whispers, "Clarke."
Just like that, the butt of a spear is slammed into his temple and he drops to the ground, his vision turning hazy. He feels the gun being yanked out of his grasp and feet connecting with his gut but instead of fighting it, he just lets it happen, he lets it happen because she's all right and she's alive.
He hears her scream and he wants to tell her no, he wants to tell her he's not worth it, but its as if his tongue is made of osmium and he can't push the words past the lake in his throat, the ocean that's drowning him. He hears her yell something he doesn't understand and suddenly the warriors around him step back and he can breathe.
Then he feels arms pulling him into a lap and he finds himself staring up into a face framed by hair made of sunlight.
"Hey, princess." The words taste like blood and salt on his lips. "You just had to go and get yourself captured didn't you?"
"You could've died," she chokes out, and he realizes that she's crying.
"I didn't though, I'm okay." He props himself up on his elbows and says, "And besides, what else is new?"
He sits up, and feels her throw her arms around him, burying her face into his chest, and what can he do but wrap his arms around her and rock her back and forth, a sound between a sob and a chuckle escaping into the fabric of his shirt. He holds her for an eternity, before she finally pulls away and she wipes the tears from her face.
It is an awe-inspiring sight, that of Clarke standing and walking up to Anya, standing toe-to-toe with the woman she had deemed their eternal enemy not days before. "She'll live," the blonde princess says, taking a deep breath to calm he shaking voice. "I wasn't sure I could do it, but I put a stent in her lungs which will allow the fluid to drain while at the same time allowing her to breathe. Take it out after a couple days, before the wound completely heals over. If there are any other problems, just send one of your men over to our camp with a white flag and I'll come."
To his surprise, he sees the grounder leader reach forward and clasp her counterpart's forearm in respect. "Very well. The bargain will be upheld."
As she turns and walks away, Bellamy whispers, "What bargain?"
The smile on her face is somehow soft and radiant at the same time, and he feels the war drum in his chest beat a little bit harder at the sight. "Peace for the life of her second in command and the right to call on me for help healing whenever needed."
He nods. "Get Spacewalker and let's get back to camp before they change their minds."
"I don't like the thought of sending you over there alone."
She lets out an exasperated sigh at his crossed arms and squared stance. "Well they aren't going to like me bringing the guy who nearly shot up their village into their camp."
"'Almost' being the key word."
"Bellamy," she bites her lip, looking towards the dropship door for a second before continuing, "this peace is so fragile right now, we can't risk screwing it up."
"Well I'm not going to risk them screwing you up. And by screwing you up I mean killing you," he retorts. "I'm coming with you. We can't risk losing you."
(He will never admit it, but he can't risk losing her. Not again. Never again.)
When they get to the village, he waits outside the hut with his axe (she thought it best if he left his gun) while she heals those inside. He watches the children running by, playing, and he catches himself smiling now and again when they kick the ball his way and he nudges it back towards them.
A few grounders approach him and talk; most avoid him. But there is one woman, she has tattoos all across her left arm and snaking around her neck, who gives him a basket filled with nuts and berries.
"For wife and you," she says in broken English, a strong accent masking most of her words. He tries to refuse it, tries to explain that Clarke is not, in fact, his wife, but the woman just shakes her head and continues smiling. "Wife and you," she repeats over and over again, until finally he just accepts the stupid basket.
When Clarke comes out of the doorway, she just pauses a moment and stares at the basket in his lap. The unasked question is evident in the raise of her brow and he can't quite meet her eyes as he mutters, "Some lady thought we were married and wouldn't shut up."
She won't stop laughing all the way home.
One night, he stares up at the stars while on third watch with Miller. He has spent the entire day building their log cabin in preparation for the winter that is sure to come and he is barely staying awake. Finally, when he nearly falls off the ramparts of their camp, Miller laughs and tells him to go and get some sleep, there won't be any attacks tonight.
As he climbs down the ladder and feels his boots hit the earth, he pauses and looks up. "Miller?" he says.
"Do you remember, on the Ark, the riot? The one that Elliot Keapling started?"
There is a long pause, and Bellamy can't see his friend's face, but he can hear the question in his voice as he replies, "Yeah. Yeah, I do."
Scratching the back of his head almost sheepishly, he says, "Elliot Keapling didn't start it."
"I fucking knew it."
He all but runs to his tent before the delinquent can ask him any more questions, but he can't help the chuckle that escapes him. Kicking off his boots, he's barely sat down in his bed when suddenly the flap to his tent opens and a head of blonde hair barges in.
He jumps to his feet, expecting her to tell him there's a grounder with a white flag waiting for them outside or some kid has gotten wounded in an old trap, but she just stands there for a moment, before blurting out, "Octavia told me."
He stands there for a moment in complete confusion. "What?" he asks a split second before realization washes over him. Damn you, O, he thinks to himself.
Her lips part ever so slightly, as if she is about to say something, then she steps forward and pulls his lips down to hers, her lips crashing into his like a wave on the sand. The sheer shock is almost enough to make him pull away.
He wraps his arms around her waist, and kisses her, and oh, kissing her is like trying to drink the sea.
The stars on his fingertips brush the bare skin under her shirt and he pulls her closer, flush against his body. Her smile against his lips feels like heaven and when she laughs (oh, God, the sound of her laugh), it sounds as if he's finally found the words to the song that's raged inside of him for twenty-three years, as if everything is finally making sense.
In a moment they are in his poor excuse for a bed and as he burns new constellations on her skin with his lips, he hears her moan his name and he swears nothing will sounds quite as satisfying.
(He is later disproved when she screams it into his bare shoulder.)
Her body fits perfectly against his and for that night, just for that one night, all is right with the world.
Later, when she is fast asleep, he pries her arms from his waist and pulls on his pants before he goes to sit outside. The night air is cool against his skin and the sound of his war drum is in synchronization with his heartbeat. As he stares up at the stars, he hears a noise behind him and turns to see his princess sitting down next to him, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders.
She doesn't say anything, but instead rests her head on his shoulder, staring up at the sky. The only sound is that of crickets and he thinks that perhaps the most beautiful thing on this earth is sitting next to him.
"Do you ever…" she starts, but then trails off. "Do you ever just look out at the world and feel…"
"Scared?" he finishes her question for her. When she just nestles in closer to him, he lets out a sigh and wraps his arm around her, gently rubbing circles in her shoulder with his thumb. "Yeah, princess. Every day."
"I'm scared," she whispers. "Scared that I won't be able to live. Scared that I won't be able to do all the things I want to do before I die." She turns her head to rest her chin on his shoulder and look at him. "Scared that you'll die." Her voice is the fluttering of a leaf on the wind.
He does not answer for a while (how can he comfort her when he is terrified of the exact same thing?), but he feels her gaze never leave him as he searches for the right words. Finally, he says, "There were legends of an invincible warrior named Achilles." His gaze never left the stars, his eyes moving from constellation to the next. "He was the most feared soldier in the world, and you know how he died? He bled out when an arrow pierced his heel. To die like that, from such a simple wound after surviving so much…" his voice trails off and he shakes his head. "He once said, 'No one alive has ever escaped fate, neither brave man nor coward—it is carried with us from the day we are born.'"
Turning his head, he looked at his co-leader, the queen who had been through hell and back with him, the girl with hair of sunbeams who's strength matched his own tenfold. He looked at the girl he was arrogant enough to think that he could destroy and he realized that his song is not a song of rage. The birds in his lungs are nightingales, the fire in his veins is tempering his blood to iron, and he has the entire cosmos in his fingertips. The war drum in his chest is a cadence of survival and he parts his lips and lets the song inside of him soar with a kiss pressed to her forehead. His song of rage is not of rage at all.
It is a song of life.
"We take the lot life gives us, princess," he murmurs, pressing he forehead against hers. "Personally, I'm okay with mine, whatever length, as long as it's with you."
She smiles, a soft, tentative display of happiness in a world that offers so little, and closes her eyes, burrowing closer to him. Above them, the sky burns with an ocean of dying stars and gods, and it's beautiful. It's beautiful because they're doomed. It's beautiful because that's okay.
Centuries later, long after the time of children who burn like stars to earth, they tell stories of him. The scribes write down his tales of wonder and love, they whisper legends of the acid in his heart and the war drum in his chest. They weave chronicles of the birds in his lungs and paint the stars on his fingertips. They tell stories of how a man turned children into warriors and warriors into kings with nothing but his words. They write poems of that man whose desent was like nightfall, who climbed to heaven and made the world kneel at his feet and the feet of his queen. They sing of all that he is and all that she made him.
First they sing of his rage.
Then they sing of his triumph.
"Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus' son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses.
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles."
-Homer, The Iliad
A/N Sorry, it's been so long, guys! I've been busy recently and had a bit of a writer's block. Big thanks to blackravenswing for editing this! I don't know what I'd do without her! Follow me on tumblr or FF.net! Reviews are welcome, and thanks for reading!