Murphy: This you? [image attached]
Octavia: My big brother, campus famous!
Raven: Awww, I knew you were a softy!
Murphy: She totally doesn’t see you that way, right????
Bellamy’s phone continues to buzz on the table with messages from his friends and sister, but all he can focus on is the newspaper lying flat on the table in front of him.
The Arkadian Press delivers its student-run paper weekly to all of the on-campus dorms and apartments, and Bellamy always makes it a point to grab it from the ground outside his apartment door so that he could do the crossword puzzle before Murphy gets ahold of it for who knows what.
With it being the first week back on campus from winter break, Bellamy was looking forward to a quiet morning with his crossword puzzle before Murphy came home from Emori’s. He grabbed his glasses from his nightstand, got the coffee going, opened his door to grab the paper, and looked down to find probably the last thing he would have ever guessed to find.
Yep, that was his face plastered across the front page.
He had looked around outside his hall, as if waiting for someome to pop out of hiding to explain the joke.
Instead, he was left scrambling to grab the paper as his brain continued to short-circuit, confusion racketing his brain as the first messages started blowing up his phone.
Now, he’ll deny to everyone how long he’s been staring at the newspaper, still at a loss for words.
That’s definitely his face, eyes closed, looking up into the sky as the snow falls around him and lands on his skin.
The headline above the enlarged photo reads “Arkadia welcomes students back to campus!,” but Bellamy can hardly spare the words of the article underneath the photo more than a passing glance before he’s looking back at the image of himself.
There’s something about the photo that leaves his mouth feeling dry and warmth spreading across his cheeks.
He looks different than what he thinks he normally looks like.
He knows exactly what night the image was taken, knows exactly who, took the photo too. He just can’t understand why Clarke took this picture, or better yet, why she put it on the front page of the newspaper so that the entire campus will see.
It was the first night everyone was back on campus no more than a week ago. Classes weren’t set to start back up for two days, everyone hadn’t seen each other in person since a few weeks before Christmas, and they wanted to hang out before the craziness of the new semester started up.
Jasper and Money suggested a snowball fight since there was fresh snow from the previous day, and when nobody put up much of a fight with a different suggestion, a snowball fight is what they had.
There were cheap shots, bickering, laughing, snow dumped down the backs of coats, and then there was Clarke with her camera.
If Bellamy is to choose one constant in Clarke Griffin’s life, it’s her camera.
She carries it everywhere, always ready to take a picture, whether it be for one of her classes, her job at The Arkadian Press, or just for herself.
So while everyone else was being beaten by balls of ice and snow, Clarke was taking pictures of the chaos of their friends.
And Bellamy, well, he was certainly far more aware of Clarke Griffin than he had any right to be. They’re friends because their friends are friends, and by friends, he means people who tolerate one another and often end up bickering over everything and anything.
And if Bellamy looks forward to nights out with their friends just to get a rise out of Clarke, to see the fire in her icy blue eyes as she heats up with a retort, perfect lips already smirking with victory— well, no one will ever get him to admit that.
But none of that explains the picture.
It couldn’t have been more than a moment that she had to snap it. He couldn’t guess when it happened, if it was before the first snow ball was thrown as night draped over the sky and soft snowflakes fell from above, or after the first round where Bellamy unceremoniously threw Clarke over his shoulder to toss her in a snowbank while Octavia was holding the camera and skimming through the pictures Clarke already took. But needless to say, she took the picture.
He’s feeling self-conscious in a way he can’t quite describe as he looks at it for the hundredth time.
There’s an openness, an innocence in the shot as he looks completely and utterly relaxed, his lips quirked up just slightly— completely unaware of anything else around him, including the woman who drives him mad holding the camera.
He knows Clarke takes photos of their friends all the time, it’s just what she does.
It’s just— she doesn’t take photos of him.
Or, at least he didn’t think she did. Certainly not ones like this, with an intimacy he kind of wishes the entire Arkadia U student body wasn’t going to see by the end of the day.
He’s not angry or upset, truly. He’s just— confused.
Truly, utterly, completely confused as to why this photo even exists.
He’s drawn from his lost thoughts, from staring at the snowflakes that had rested on his cold-flushed cheeks by the incessant buzzing of his phone again.
Grabbing it, he glances quickly through the new texts before opening the group chat that is now solely focused on the topic of Bellamy’s face.
But what he can’t help but note, is that none of the messages are from the single person that has all of the answers.
It all comes back to Clarke Griffin.
It seems like it always does, in Bellamy’s life.
Bellamy can’t spend too much time staring at the photo before he has to get ready for his first class as a teaching assistant.
He’s already feeling quite vain as he drinks in every detail the photo offers, as if it will somehow provide him with the answers to the questions that are building up in his head.
It’s only Monday, with no plans for everyone to hangout until at least Friday as the semester kicks into full swing. Bellamy knows any other week it would be perfectly normal not to see Clarke until then, but this certainly isn’t a normal day, let alone week. And he thinks he might just combust if he has to wait until then to get his answers.
Instead, he plans to head over to her and Octavia’s apartment after his last class of the day, drop off the bag of clothes that Octavia left at his place to wash with his free washer and dryer.
The plan should be full-proof, texting his sister his plan to drop off the clean clothes and takeout that night.
And yet, when he arrives, he’s met with a wave of disappointment when he gets there and Octavia is the only one home.
“No Clarke?” He asks as inconspicuously as he can manage as he plops the bag on their couch and glances sideways towards Clarke’s room where the door is wide open and the lights are off.
Octavia just hums in a way that should not be knowing and teasing and downright gleeful all at once. But it is his sister…
“She had something last-minute for a class, told me she was heading to the studio right when I got back,” she casually mentions. “Barely was able to mention you coming over before she was out the door.”
He’s sure Octavia is just saying it as fact, not seeing anything suspicious about her roommate booking it out of the place at the mention of his name. But Bellamy can’t help the sinking feeling that settles in his gut at his sister’s words. It’s a feeling that tells him he knows exactly why Clarke isn’t here, and it’s because he is.
“So anyways,” Octavia continues, oblivious to her brother’s inner turmoil. “That’s quite the photo of you in the paper.”
That teasing tone of her voice reflects in the glint in her eyes as she gives him an all-knowing look.
He and Clarke are friends because their friends are friends, but his sister is no fool.
He’s not sure he could fool anyone even if he tried.
He figures it’d be obvious that he’s trying to see Clarke if he made up a second excuse within the week to be at her and Octavia’s apartment. So instead, he resigns himself to wait until Friday to talk to Clarke at The Dropship.
It’s tradition that they go to the dive bar after surviving the first week of the semester, and he’s sure he’ll be able to get some time to talk to her alone.
He’s kept the photo from the paper on the desk in his room, and he’ll absolutely never tell anyone how many times he’s caught himself trying to analyze it for hidden meanings.
By Friday night, he’s a bundles of nerves and excitement and determination as he makes the short walk to the bar.
Clarke’s been suspiciously quiet in the group chat, and he’s been too nervous to text her directly for fear of the awful feeling he knows that would settle in his bones if she chose to leave him on read. The hype of Bellamy’s front page debut has died down with his friends, but until he finally talks to Clarke, it’ll be all that he can think about.
So he walks into the bar ready to get his answers, a little bit late because his office hours ran late and freshmen still are disasters even in their second semester, only to find his group of friends gathered around their designated table is lacking a very particular blonde.
Everyone greets him, but he’s too busy doing a second glance around the group before doing a scan around the bar, just in case he missed her while walking in.
He’s far too transparent as Octavia’s eyes meet his, a small, sad quirk of a smile gracing her lips. “Newspaper stuff,” is all she says with shrug of her shoulder.
It’s a lie.
And they both know it.
Honestly, all of their friends probably know it too.
That uneasiness from Monday comes back with vengeance as his own anxiety spikes. Clarke’s avoiding him, for whatever reason, and it hurts worse than he could have ever expected.
He doesn’t see Clarke all weekend.
Octavia invites him over for Sunday dinner as always, but by that point, Bellamy knows Clarke will have found some excuse to not be there, and his sister mercifully doesn’t even try relaying the sorry excuse.
Whatever Bellamy thought the photo might possibly mean with the smallest seed of hope he let form, it dissolves into dust as the next week rolls around.
Honestly, he’s not even sure what it is that he actually thought. He had just hoped that maybe it meant something.
But she is a photographer, and he supposed that’s what photographers do— they take photos. Bellamy’s just looking too much into it, feeling such a personal attachment to it because he was the subject.
He finds himself lost in thoughts about the photo yet again as he heads home for the day, soft, fluffy snowflakes sticking in his hair as he walks towards the intersection where students are crisscrossing to head to different buildings on the campus square.
It’s truly by chance that he looks up at the moment he does, so lost in thought as he was, but he catches the barest glimpse of blonde hair under a wool hat as she walks past him.
Bellamy startles for all of a moment before managing to call out to her. “Clarke!”
She turns around at her name, confusion etched in her features.
So she hadn’t seen him, at least. She didn’t purposely walk straight past him then.
She just looks— well, her eyes certainly widen as she realizes it’s him.
For a moment, he thinks she might turn around and keep walking, pretending to have not seen him.
And the thought of that happening has a fresh wave of hurt hitting him straight in the gut. It must be written clear as day on his face as he watches Clarke’s features soften. She takes a step back toward him, stepping around the people walking on the sidewalk to stand in the snow-covered grass.
“Bellamy,” she says into the cold wind. The first words she’s said to him since the night of the snowball fight. “Hi.”
Bellamy steps off to the side with her, just taking a moment to look at her with her bright blue eyes reflecting the white of the snow and her cheek flushed a beautiful rose from the cold.
Shit, he’s in way deeper than he thought he was.
Where have you been?
Why are you avoiding me?
Please tell me what the hell that photo meant.
“I haven’t seen you in a while,” he opts to say, safer than anything else running through his head currently.
At that, she looks down guiltily, confirming everything Bellamy already knew.
“Um,” she starts, daring to glance up at him. “It’s just been crazy getting settled into my classes and being back on campus, and the—”
She halts herself from finishing her sentence, but Bellamy knows where it was going.
“And the newspaper.”
She eyes him carefully at the mention of the paper, even as she nods her head. “Yeah, that too,” she finishes lamely.
She glances down at her boots after that, and Bellamy thinks this might just be it. They acknowledge that Clarke’s been busy, justifiably if not for the way it’s so clearly because she’s been trying to avoid him, and then they head in their opposite directions on this snowy campus with all of Bellamy’s unanswered questions left answerless forever.
Bellamy finds himself nodding, opening his mouth to give her the out.
Okay, well I’ll see you around, he’ll say. Hopefully you can make it to The Dropship next time.
And then he’ll walk away, because that’s what she wants.
“I’m so sorry, Bell,” is what she blurts out instead, radiant eyes pleading with him as his mouth snaps shut.
She’s— sorry? For what?
He thinks the words, but he must say them aloud as well in his utter confusion.
Clarke lets out a nervous laugh. “That photo was never supposed to end up on the front cover like that.”
And with one sentence, every question, every measly hope Bellamy has let form crumbles right at his feet.
“Oh,” he says dumbly, incapable of coming up with anything more coherent.
Still, Clarke nods along, as if she’s hoping he agrees with her and understands. “I would never do something like that without asking your permission. I don’t know how I let the memory cards get switched, it was so stupid of me, I—”
“Wait,” Bellamy interrupts her rambling, because he’s somehow more confused than ever. “What do you mean?”
His words seem to pull Clarke up short as well, as she looks back at him just as confused as he feels.
“The memory cards,” she repeats as if he should know what she’s talking about. “The photos I took at the snow fight were on my personal memory card. It somehow got switched with my memory card for the paper, and somebody in editing took your photo to use for that article assuming I had gotten your permission to use it. I should’ve been more careful. I feel awful that you were blind-sided by this personal photo of you being put out there for all of Arkadia to see.”
Finally, the puzzle pieces start clicking together for him.
She thought he’d be upset with her. Granted, he had felt a bit uneasy about the whole thing, but that had more to do with the unknown implications of Clarke having taken the photo in the first place more than anything.
To know she took it just to take it, like she does so often with their friends, means all the more to him.
“So you were going to keep a photo of me on your personal camera card?”
There’s a lot of things that could have come out of his mouth, but apparently he’s only capable of expressing the one that is at the forefront of his mind with this new revelation.
Clarke scoffs in what sounds like a whole lot of embarrassment, trying to cover up how her cheeks are turning even redder than was the cold is causing. “That’s not— it’s not what—”
Her falling over her words only boosts Bellamy’s confidence in the situation more.
“So you didn’t mean to take that picture of me?” He quirks his brow in challenge as her lips tilt down in that all-to-familiar way they do when he’s provoking her.
“You’re a very photogenic person,” she mumbles out, taking Bellamy completely off guard as he lets out a giddy laugh.
“Photogenic?” He repeats gleefully as his tone draws a reluctant smile to her face. “Does that mean there’s more unsolicited photos of me on your personal memory card?”
At that, she shakes her head with a smile, reaching out to shove his shoulder with her gloved hand. “God, you’re such an ass,” she tells him, even as she can’t stop smiling at him. He watches as she sobers, looking up at him with a serious face that has him tempering his hope. “I took that photo because it was a moment where you looked happy.”
The earnestness in her voice gives Bellamy pause, wanting to be serious in what feels like the precipice of something.
“I was,” he answers simply with a genuine smile. It couldn’t have been for more than a moment, but she caught him at peace, happy to be there with his friends’ shouting excitedly around him, snowballs flying overhead, and Clarke’s camera clicking away to capture the memories.
He was happy, and Clarke saw that, and felt that it should be captured.
Clarke’s answering smile is knowing in a way it only ever is with her. She knows how much his friends’ happiness brings him joy, how having everybody together is the greatest relief for him. And he hopes she knows how big of a part she plays in that happiness too.
“I didn’t know I could look like that,” he decides to tell her. Raw honesty, in exchange for her honesty with him.
Her smile softens at his words. She takes a step closer to grab his gloved hands in both of hers. She’s no more than a breath away when she glances up to meet his eyes that are already locked on hers. “That’s how I see you. Always.”
The heat of her words brushes against his face sending goosebumps up his arms that have absolutely nothing to do with the cold. He thinks if ever there were a moment to seize, this is it as he closes the small gap between them to brush his cold lips against hers.
The cold of their lips doesn’t last long though, as Clarke surges forward to toss her arms around his shoulders and deepen the kiss.
Her lips against his ignites that small hope he had been harboring, allowing it to engulf him entirely as he smiles into her kisses, almost unbelieving that this is actually happening. That after feeling nearly hopeless all week, that this can be how this ends.
Finally, they need to break apart to take in lungfuls of frigid January air, but Clarke stills holds him just as close as he holds her, their winter coats feeling like far too much of a barrier for his liking.
“Does this mean I get to see the other shots you have of me on your personal memory chip?” He asks with a teasing peck to her lips.
She rolls her eyes with a laugh, settling back down on the heels of her boots even as she stays within his space. “You’re unbearable,” she teases even as her smile remains genuine.
“I believe the word you used before was ‘photogenic.’”
“An unbearably photogenic boyfriend,” she concedes, and then abruptly freezes when her brain catches up with the words that just came out of her mouth. Bellamy can read the transition from teasing to panic easily, so he stops her before she starts to spiral, leaning in for a reassuring kiss to lips that are already chilled again.
“I can most definitely be an unbearably photogenic boyfriend,” he breathes against her lips, unwilling to be any further awayy from her now that he has her like this. “I’ve already got my first cover photo under my belt and a full-fledged modeling career in the works.”
His teasing works, assuring her while still bringing a laugh out of her.
“I think we need some more samples before we bump you to model status,” she quips, taking a step away from him while still holding on to his hand so that she’s pulling him along in the direction she’s heading. “Your sister won’t be home until later. Maybe we should expand your portfolio.”
He’s never seen a woman look more beautiful bundled in a parka and knit hat like that, looking at him with a glint lighting up her eyes.
He follows his girlfriend along happily, ready to leave the cold behind.
“Whatever the photographer wishes.”