Clarke has never had strong opinions about the beach. It was sandy and sometimes too warm or too cold but nothing gave her any overwhelming feelings. It was only when she met Murphy that the beach took on the safe haven feeling in her.
Clarke leaned on the rail of porch. She held a cup of coffee, warming her fingers as she stared out at the morning. The sun was up and the waves were lapping the shore. She took a deep breath. This. This was better.
Clarke grinned and waited until her friend joined her at the railing. Murphy was sporting stubble and a grey jumper slightly too big for him. “Morning,” Clarke replied, “How can you be so cheerful in the morning?”
Murphy rolled his eyes and sipped his coffee. “It’s a gift, like your fantastic timing.”
Clarke smiled despite his tone. “I said that this week was when I was finally getting around to finishing the decking and of course, you show up.” Clarke gave a look around at the nearly completed decking area in front of the porch, with the dark wood and open space for a small fire. He may have bought the place when it was run down but he had spent the last few years making his beach house look like the perfect getaway. “It is looking good and besides, I am a very quiet houseguest.”
Murphy glanced at her, sniffing. “You showed up bawling crying and kept me up half the night.” Clarke looked pained for moment and avoided his gaze. Murphy threw an arm around her shoulders, still holding his cup in the other hand. “I am just grumbling Griffin, you know that.” Clarke did know that, she knew that very well. Murphy was the person she came to at any time, any hour and would always let her stay. She did the same for him.
“So are you going to tell me what happened or will I guess?”
Clarke felt Murphy’s question in his chest as she leaned against it. “I am in love with Bellamy,” she softly spoke.
Murphy let a beat of silence pass. “And the grass is green-am I missing something?”
Clarke sighed. “He doesn’t love me back-and I realised that last night.”
Clarke felt like she couldn’t breathe. She practically fell into the kitchen counter, her nails digging into the wood that she had helped Octavia pick out only a few weeks before. She forced a number of deep, cooling breaths into her lungs and stared at the bag of coffee grounds in front of her. Octavia and Lincoln’s housewarming party had been on the cards for a while now and Clarke had picked out her outfit with special care. Bellamy, her best friend, was going to be there and she was going to tell him how she felt. She was going to ask him to dinner, with the very specific note that it was a date. She knew that skipping to “You are the love of my life” might be a bit much.
All the hope, all the confidence went away the second she had walked into the front hall and had seen her. Bellamy had brought Echo, his infrequent girlfriend that Clarke disliked immensely. The problem with her, other than she was a walking asshole, was that she was closest Bellamy had ever gotten to settling down. Clarke hated that and Clarke hated seeing proof that Bellamy did not, in fact, love her. He had instead, invited his ex to his sister’s house.
In that moment, her suit dress was not beautiful and it did not match her skin tone. Her hair was not perfectly done and the smile on her face was falling. She managed to pass the flowers to Lincoln before excusing herself to the kitchen for water. She found herself desperately trying not to cry. She would not cry. Not here, at the housewarming with her here. The feelings were trying to strangle her. All these months together, spent getting closer, meant nothing if Echo… Had this all been in her head? Had all the late nights watching movies, days spent together just been friendly? Was their relationship just…friends? If that was true, if he felt nothing, then she needed to get away. She couldn’t…
Clarke closed her eyes and cleared away any spent tears. She knew what she needed to do. It was the same thing she did when things got too much with work, or her mother. She needed to go to Murphy. Murphy would not probe or ask deep questions that she did not want. Murphy would listen without judging her and most importantly, Murphy would not feel obligated to tell Bellamy she was in love with him or why she was avoiding him. That was what she was going to do-avoid him. Clarke scrambled to take her phone out and quickly typed out an SOS to Murphy. As she planned out in her head how she could leave as quickly as possible, Murphy text back. He was home, of course, and his spare room was open to her, as always. Breathing out a sigh of relief, Clarke turned towards the door.
Octavia blocked it. “Hey there you are,” her friend said, “Lincoln said you were here with flowers but I couldn’t see you.”
Before Clarke could reply, she continued on. “The flowers are gorgeous and I have a vase in the living room that is perfect for them! You know the one. Anyway, what are you having?” Octavia was hopping around the room, so happy. It made Clarke feel like an idiot and a bad friend. However, bursting into tears in the living room would also make her a bad friend.
“Hey O,” she said.
Octavia immediately turned around from the open fridge. Octavia knew that voice. It was a rare voice of Clarke’s; soft and low.
“Are you alright? You look pale,” Octavia replied, “Should I get-.”
“No!” Clarke said, “You don’t need to get your brother, I think I just have an upset stomach or something.” Clarke felt terrible but the tears were rising again and she needed to get away. “I thought I would be fine but I’m not and I don’t want anyone else getting sick. I think I need to get to bed.”
Octavia looked upset but shrugged. “I get it Clarke, you do look like you’re about to throw up.” She had no idea. Octavia hugged her tightly, despite her fake upset stomach. “Get some rest, eat some soup and text me in the morning.”
Clarke nodded and escaped from the room. As she left the house, she could hear the other guests in the living room, a room that she helped Octavia decorate. It was probably the only reason Octavia was not asking her to stay. Clarke had been key to decorating the house and giving them tips on colours and styles. As she shut the door, Bellamy’s booming laugh left her breathless.
Outside, the cold air was just setting in and the only noise was from the cars in the street a block over. Lincoln and Octavia’s house was in the suburbs but not that out of the city. It meant that the drive home was not long, but it felt like it. She tried not to cry too much as she was driving but some tears leaked out. She drove back to her apartment and only when she closed the door behind her did she let herself sob. They wracked her chest, rattled around her ribs and ripped out of her throat.
She remembered very little of packing. She automatically grabbed a small suitcase, threw her beach things in and other essentials. She tore off her dress and changed into comfortable clothes. She almost brought Bellamy’s hoodie with her. She remembered stilling in the middle of her room, clutching the worn blue material. She threw it back on her bed and grabbed another jumper instead. Switching off lights, grabbing her purse and locking her door were all completed and she found herself heading off to Murphy’s. Her friends were still having fun, none the wiser to her heartbreak.
“Shit, that is sad.”
They had moved from the rail and Clarke had told him most of her story on a chair on the porch. Murphy had his elbows on his knees and was shaking his head. “Are you sure that’s what happened?” he finally asked.
Clarke raised an eyebrow. “Echo was there with him. She must-she was.”
“Do you know that for sure? Were they standing together closely? Was he paying her a lot of attention in the millisecond that you saw them?”
Clarke shook her head. They hadn’t actually been that cosy but Clarke couldn’t think of any reason other than being with Bellamy. “I can’t think in what ifs or could be Murph. I need to move on. I am so tiered.”
Murphy patted her knee in his usual awkward fashion. “Right, well I think you are in need of a hearty breakfast,” he said, “I’ll get the waffles on.” He stood up and taking her mug from her, Murphy brought them back inside.
Clarke grinned as he walked into the kitchen. Murphy never did pry too much, never got in her face. It made her grateful because she didn’t want to dwell. She wanted to move on, try to finally get over Bellamy. In order to be friends with him, to be friends with her group, she had to try. Otherwise, she wasn’t sure she could be with them at all. And that also broke her heart.
Meanwhile, Bellamy was slowly losing his mind and trying not to show it. The incessant tapping of his fingers against the table was not helping.
“I am going to snap those off one by one,” Octavia finally threatened, placing the bowl of chips on the table with a firm sound. Bellamy gave another tap just to annoy her and then stopped. “I am just worried about her, O.”
“I know you are but she’s a grown up. She can deal with an upset stomach.” Octavia arranged the other plates of food around the table. It was the afternoon following her party and it was success as far as she was concerned. Except for Clarke’s absence. Her friend hadn’t responded to any messages since the night before. “Bellamy, she is probably sleeping,” Octavia tried to reason.
Bellamy was not happy with that at all. Octavia sighed and tried to ignore his pouting. He had been annoyed since he arrived at the party. Hoping for a good time with friends, he instead found his ex-girlfriend. Echo was apparently the new roommate of Lincoln’s friend and he had wanted to invite her, being nice and accommodating. He really didn’t understand what he was walking into. Lincoln quickly told him. Echo had managed to stand near Bellamy and that was enough for him. After one calm conversation, Bellamy walked away and went about his actual business: finding Clarke. Sadly, his sister had found him and told him that Clarke was gone. He had text, asking her how she was but no answer. Bellamy angrily snatched a chip from the bowl and chewed it. There hadn’t been any contact with her and he was beyond starting to worry.
“Maybe I should go over to her place and see if she needs anything?” he asked.
Octavia’s brow furrowed. “You’re the best Bell, you know that?”
Bellamy rolled his eyes and stared at the bowl of chips. Octavia knew, of course, how he felt about Clarke. Being in love was not something he could keep from her. He could keep it from Clarke. He had been keeping that a secret from her for years. The last few months though…they were something else. They were both single, spending hours together and more. He thought that maybe, the party last night could be the start of something. He could ask her to show him the study that she had lovingly put together for his sister; they could have a moment alone and he could tell her…
Bellamy shook his head. His imagination was getting away again. It was the beeping of his phone that drew him back. He quickly opened the message, seeing it was from Clarke. Octavia’s phone beeped, and from the room next door, there was a chorus of beeps.
Clarke had posted a message to their group chat. “Hey guys! Sorry for this but there is a conference in Boston that the hospital wants me to head to right away. I’ll be back in a few days. Love you!” There were hearts and other emojis but Bellamy didn’t feel very pleased.
“See,” his sister said, “She is better. No problem.”
That still didn’t appease Bellamy though. He was a cop, a good one and something was up. He knew Clarke, too well to think she would get sick, get called to a conference and not send a personal message to him. But he could do nothing but leave her be. A few days and Bellamy could talk to her. He would find out what was going on and they would be back to normal. Her, being stunning and his best friend, and him, in love with her.
“You really have a thing with seagulls, huh?”
“They live by the sea and are assholes-quite like me.”
Murphy’s beach house had these wooden seagulls on the wall in the living room and Clarke had always liked them. The similar ones in the guest room, not so much. They were finishing dinner, eating dessert on the couch. The TV had some movie on that Clarke had already seen but Murphy was distracted. She knew he was, since his knee hadn’t stopped moving since the main course.
“Murphy?” He paused mid-chew and raised an eyebrow. “Why don’t you just tell me what’s on your mind?” she asked.
He swallowed and cut off another bite of ice cream with his spoon. “Don’t you think this whole running away thing is getting a bit old?”
Clarke tucked her feet underneath herself. They had met in the hospital five year ago, when Clarke was still an intern and Murphy had come in with smoke inhalation and burns as his work as a fire fighter. There had been a devastating fire in the mountains and it had left him unable to continuing working on the job. After time recovering, he became a contractor and wanted nothing but the beach and peace. He found it. Clarke had been running away to him when things got rough and she returned the favour.
She sighed. “You think that I need to face up to Bellamy and tell him no matter what happens?” she asked in a rush. “Uh, yah. That’s actually what I was thinking, glad you agree.” He gave a small smile, his very rare, genuinely nice ones.
“He’ll break my heart.”
“He already has, Clarke.”
That stung, more than she wanted to admit. Murphy appeared to regret his words and he quickly continued on.
“The poor guy doesn’t even know-and while I think any man other than myself is crazy for not being in love with you, it’s not Bellamy’s fault if it isn’t.”
This was one of the rare times he was being outright nice and kind, instead of his usual awkward roundabout ways. Clarke found it comforting, if a little surprising. “I thought you didn’t like him on principle.”
“I can hate him for not liking you while also not blaming him-I’m petty.” They went back to their ice cream, eating before it melted. Murphy bought it at the local shop in town, where he was becoming a big part of the community. It made her happy to see that. He was making himself a home, all by himself on his own terms. She wanted that too. She just thought that Bellamy wanted that with her; that he would choose to. Instead, he had chosen Echo. That made Clarke’s stomach twist again and she grit her teeth. As she sucked in a breath, Clarke knew what she had to do. She had to tell him. No matter what he said, how much he hated her for it. If they were friends, real friends, then they could somehow keep it together. It wouldn’t be great at first but she could make it work. She couldn’t keep running away.
It had been five days, six hours and forty three minutes since he had last seen Clarke. Bellamy was unquestionably counting.
He was sitting at his desk, across from Miller and Monroe, trying not to trace Clarke’s phone. One, it was a bit invasive and over reactive. Two, she probably turned it off anyway. That had to be why she wasn’t answering his calls. Plus, Miller had already told him it was a bad idea and was now fully aware of him freaking out. The police station was quiet, which meant there were no distractions.
“Would you try and calm down at least?” Miller asked, as Monroe typed on the computer. They were both finishing a case and Bellamy was supposed to be supervising.
“I am calm,” he grumbled, nearly snapping his pencil in two. Monroe raised an eyebrow but said nothing. “What can you even do now? Fly to Boston?”
“Don’t you dare,” Miller quickly added.
With a huff, Bellamy turned his chair back into his desk and picked up his phone. “What are you up to now?”
“I’m going to call Maya and get her to call Clarke for me.” Maya was Clarke’s assistant at the hospital and for the Griffin family foundation. She would know where Clarke was and get her to call. Miller and Monroe finally shared a long look and went back to their case. Bellamy was clearly not going to be swayed from this step. Bellamy leaned on his desk as the phone rang, until a voice picked up.
“Hey Maya, it’s Bellamy.”
“Hey Bellamy, how is everything?”
“Good, good,” he said, “Listen, I hate to ask this but Clarke isn’t picking up the phone and I have to talk to her. Could you tell me what hotel she is staying at in Boston? I could get the number.” There was a long pause and Bellamy was about to repeat himself when Maya answered.
“Uh, Bellamy? Clarke’s not in Boston.” Bellamy froze in his seat, the noise around him fading even more.
“What?” he croaked. “She took a week off from work and just hasn’t called me since.”
Bellamy suddenly stood up from his chair, causing Miller and Monroe to look up at him in concern. “You have no idea where she is? No one knows where she-.” He tried catching his breath before sucking in a deep lungful. “Ok, ok,” he added, “Maya, did she say anything before she left?”
Maya’s distress came out over the phone. “No, no she didn’t. I mean, when she called on Saturday morning, she seemed fine and said she was taking the week. Is she ok?”
“Yah, yah,” Bellamy said, “She’s probably at her mom’s. I get her there.”
Maya seemed to accept his lie and calmed. She agreed and after a goodbye, hung up. Bellamy sat back down heavily and turned to his computer.
“Bellamy, what the fuck is going on?” Miller asked, now with full attention.
“Clarke lied,” he bit out, “She is not at work, there is no conference. Why won’t this stupid thing load?!” He wanted to break something, anything. Clarke was missing. She had left the party with an upset stomach and since the morning, no one had seen or heard from her. What was he going to do?
“She’s probably in her apartment.” Monroe’s voice cut through his blind distress.
“She’s at her apartment. Told everyone she was in Boston but stayed in. That way, no one would bother her.”
That actually made sense. Miller stood up, walked around his desk and shoved him out of his chair. “Here, you go and I will search for credit cards and phone.”
Bellamy nodded and grabbed his coat as he hurried from the station. She had to be at her apartment. That made the most sense.
He banged on her door for the fifth time before he knew. Clarke couldn’t be in there.
Bellamy stood in her apartment floor, already having to show his badge to the doorman and the nosy neighbour that poked her head out of next door. With a deep sigh, Bellamy took his keys and found the spare. Clarke had given it to him months ago and he had felt it was a step. She trusted him more than anyone. That had to mean something. Even if she didn’t feel the same way. He unlocked the door and called her name. “Clarke?” he repeated, before stepping fully into the space. Cop instincts took over after that. There was no coffee made in the kitchen and her plants looked under watered. The electronics were turned off. As he made his way to her room, he saw a flash of red strew across the doorway.
Her dress. He picked it up and stared. Octavia had said that Clarke was wearing this dress to the party because it had looked so good on her. He had seen it once before, in store where she tried it on. He had been tounge tied and mistaken for her boyfriend. She had taken it off that night in a hurry. Just thrown on the floor.
Bellamy looked further into the room. The bed was made and his hoodie was lying on her covers. Finally, he went into her closet. Her beach wear was gone. Swimsuits, shorts and t-shirts. Nothing fancy. Her suitcase was gone. Ok. This was better. She had chosen to go of her own free will. She was fine, she was fine. Bellamy fell back to sit on her bed. She went somewhere and refused to call anyone. The past days had been torture for him and she was doing it herself. What could possibly…?
His phone rang suddenly, making his jump. He fumbled to answer it and Miller quickly began. “Bell, she’s not at her apartment.”
“I know,” he said softly.
“Her credit card was used twice since she left. Friday night, she stopped for gas about fifty miles from Ark. Then, she paid for dinner at a place further on from there. Gull Beach.”
Bellamy vaguely remembered Clarke mentioning Gull Beach. She had started talking about the water there but quickly moved on the conversation. It hadn’t appeared that strange at the time. Resolved, Bellamy hurried from Clarke’s room and towards the door.
“Miller, send me the address of the restaurant and tell the Chief I had to leave early. I’m going after her.” #
“Do you think that’s a good idea?” Bellamy locked the door behind him and took the stairs. “No. Not like that’s going to stop me though.”
He was half out of the city when Raven called him. She heard what had happened from Miller and demanded that he bring her with him. Since she was on his way, he agreed. She was sitting in the passenger seat, forty miles from Ark when her phone rang.
“Hey Miller,” she said before listening intently. She said little for so long that Bellamy gripped the steering wheel tightly. “Ya, got it,” she said and hung up. Raven cleared her throat and folded her arms. “Well, Miller and Monroe did a bit of calling around. Apparently, the waiter at the restaurant said that Clarke doesn’t live nearby but does stay with her friend John Murphy, who is fixing up a house there.”
The sound of another man’s name made Bellamy grit his teeth. Was she really just on a romantic getaway with this Murphy? It didn’t matter-she had lied to him. He needed answers before he went insane.
Gull Beach was nice-really fucking nice. He hated it. They drove through the town, following the directions that Miller had found on John Murphy’s house. They drove out to the address and found the tidy house with the white picket fence. There was evidence of DIY going on, with stacks of materials and an open tool box sitting on the porch. A man was kneeling on the ground, hammering a nail into the bottom step.
“Oh,” Raven murmured. Bellamy looked at her for a moment but quickly parked. He got out from the car and walked towards the gate. Raven followed him, her eyes admiring the work and man who had just noticed them. He stood up and stared before leaving down his tools and taking off his gloves.
“Can I help you?” he called, walking down the path. Raven leaned against the fence and Bellamy pulled out his badge. “John Murphy?”
“Yah,” Murphy said, “Again, what do you want?”
“Charming, aren’t you?” Raven quipped. Murphy’s gaze met hers and Bellamy really needed the conversation to get back to Clarke.
“We’re looking for Clarke. We are friends of hers.” Murphy’s eyes snapped to him and a smirk spread over his face.
“My my, Bellamy Blake.”
Bellamy blinked and frowned at him. He opened his mouth to speak but Murphy spoke instead. “She’s walking-go straight that way and you can see both ways. You’ll see her though she might be nervous about seeing you.”
Bellamy couldn’t unpack all that this conversation meant. He just wanted to talk to Clarke. “I’ll be fine, go ahead,” Raven assured him.
With even that encouragement, Bellamy turned and walked towards the sand. It was a beautiful afternoon, the sun bright but slightly cloudy skies. He saw Clarke instantly. She was sitting on the beach, a few feet to the left of where he was standing. Her hair was blowing slightly and in the shorts and blue shirt, she looked beautiful. Gathering the courage, he walked to her. When he was within a few feet, he said, “Clarke?”
She shot around, staring at him with wide blue eyes. “Bellamy?” she breathed.
She stood up quickly and sand fell from her clothes. “What? How did you…”
“I called Maya; she had no idea where you were so I knew you had made up some lie. I then checked your place and Miller traced your credit card to a restaurant in town. What is going on?!”
“I’m in love with you.”
Oh, he wasn’t…that was kind of his last guess. “What?” he replied weakly.
Clarke was not as weak. She seemed determined, her chin jutting out. “I am in love with you, Bellamy. I have been in love with you for so long. I just didn’t want to tell you because I was too embarrassed that you would laugh at me or not want to be near me because it was too awkward. And then last week, when I saw Echo at the party, I just lost my mind. I had to get away. But I know what to do now.” She swallowed harshly. “I still want to be around you, even if it’s just as a friend. I just need some time and then I can do it. I promise I can.”
He hadn’t said a word since she started but now he was looking at her with wide eyes and she was staring back. “Say that again to me?” he finally asked.
“Which part?” she replied, looking nervous.
“The Echo part. Why on earth would seeing Echo send you running?” He could process the first part if he could understand why she left him.
“I know that you and Echo are back together, that’s why you brought her to Octavia and Lincoln’s.” She was looking at him with worry now, as if he was the crazy one.
“Clarke,” he said, softly, “I am not together with Echo.”
She blinked, her hair flying around her face gently. “You’re not?”
“No,” he said. He took a step towards her, smiling slightly. She smiled back.
And then frowned again. “But she was at the party!”
“It was misunderstanding!” he answered, finally close enough to her. “She was invited by someone else, who had no idea what was happening. She got within two feet of me and then I escaped. But then you had left.”
He frowned now. “You left to Murphy over there, whoever he is.”
Clarke giggled and his heart jumped. “Murphy is good friend who has been begging me to tell you how I feel.”
“Oh…great man, I like him.”
Clarke giggled again. “So,” he said, taking her hands. “Let’s be very upfront with each other. You love me. I love you. I really love you, Clarke Griffin.”
She bit her lip and leaned towards him. “You do?”
“I really, really do. To the point where, I was prepared to drive to Boston if that could have fixed anything.”
“There’s nothing to fix, not anymore,” she said softly.
Bellamy breathed in the air and stared at her. “How come you run to Murphy?” he asked.
She shrugged. “He always helped me and this place was my safe place. When I found you, I didn’t need to come here as often.”
He hoped that meant what he thought it did. “But then, I needed to hide from you, from blurting out how I felt.”
“Don’t do that.”
“I won’t; not anymore.”
When he finally pulled her in and kissed her, Bellamy was pretty sure nothing could compare to this. Her fingers press against his arms and her lips curling against his own in a smile. “We are dumb,” she mumbled, curling his arms around him.
“I agree,” he said.
“You’re fucking idiots!” They turned to see Murphy and Raven standing on the porch, staring at them. “Come in and have some lunch before you propose,” he called and ushered Raven into the house.
“That guy? Really?”
“He’s quite calm when he wants.”