Clarke is 17 when she meets the man she’s going to marry.
It’s nothing romantic at all. There’s no lightning, no fireworks, no fabled mate bond snapping into place. The alpha just looks her up and down, turns back to her new stepfather, and says: “She’ll do.”
And that’s it.
She barely has a chance to get a look at him before she’s hustled off: Bellamy Blake, capo of the New York Outfit. He looks— young. Much too young for the sort of reputation he’s already amassed.
The Rebel King, they call him. And now, her fiancé.
It’s not until later that Clarke is told of the arrangement.
It’s normal, in her world. Clarke never expected to be allowed to marry for love, but she never really considered the alternative either. Perhaps if her father hadn’t died, if her mother hadn’t immediately married Kane, if Marcus’s claim to leadership had been a bit less shaky, if he’d had any children of his own; maybe Clarke would’ve had more choice, and more time. But she doesn’t. Being engaged to a man she’s seen once before she’s even graduated high school isn’t exactly what she envisioned as a little girl. And to someone like Bellamy—
Clarke isn’t afraid of many things, and she’s not afraid of him, but if she were to be afraid of anyone— Bellamy has earned fear. His name is whispered in dark rooms and spit as a threat across battlefields. He’s a beast, a boogeyman: a monster amongst monsters.
He’s handsome, she thinks, when she allows herself to think about it. At least he’s handsome.
She’s put on suppressants immediately after the bargain with Bellamy has been struck, even though she hasn’t presented yet. They all know she’ll be an omega, have known since she was born. It’s rare to test for designation, the procedure exclusive and expensive, but the Griffins have never been known to shy away from something so little as a price-tag.
Sometimes she wishes the test had been wrong. That she’d been born a beta, or an alpha even, and then she wouldn’t have to go through with the idiotic farce of a marriage. But then she thinks harder and realizes there’d be no escaping. Her mother’s beta status hadn’t saved her from not one but two arranged marriages, not that Clarke has ever heard her complaining. If she’d been born a different designation, she’d simply be engaged to someone else. Still, she’d be spared the humiliation of the biology.
With Bellamy an alpha, and her an omega, marriage and mating are synonymous. She’ll have her heats suppressed until the time comes for them to marry, at which point she’ll be married, knotted, and mated; all before she has a chance to get to known her husband-to-be. And everyone will know.
She knows in normal society that people have partners before they marry. That her friends at school aren’t virgins, and that alphas see omegas through their heats without mating all the time. But that’s not an option for her.
Clarke would like to rebel, would like to have someone of her own, on her own terms. Let biology take its course and screw the plans. But it would be a death sentence for that person, if not for Clarke as well. Bellamy won’t take her if she’s soiled. No one will.
For some reason the idea doesn’t scare her as much as it should.
Anyways, it’s a moot point. She’s as safe as it can get barring her own mistakes. It’s traditional in circles like hers to have the wedding right before an omega’s first heat, but these days that can mean anything if you’re lucky enough, and with the help of the right suppressants. Clarke’s got the best money can buy. Bellamy is being relatively generous, even, for letting her go to college first. Maybe she’ll push him again as it closer to the end, aim for grad school, med school maybe. She could buy herself another five years.
College is the closest to freedom that she’s ever had, even with the bodyguard who follows her everywhere. She doesn’t have friends, not really, but she’s off-campus, and she loves her work. She loves going to class, she loves learning. It’s depressing to know it means nothing— she be a trophy wife to Bellamy no matter how many degrees she gets; women in her world don’t work. But still, she’s good at it and that’s— it feels good.
It goes well for three years, no bumps, no mishaps, no failed classes or assassination attempts. No missed suppressants, no unladylike behavior, no loss of innocence. But then— her mother visits.
“Come,” Abby tells her. “We’re going shopping.”
It becomes clear immediately that they’re shopping for something, not just doing something fun. Her mother’s eye is too calculating as she looks Clarke over, too critical as she tugs the fabric tighter around Clarke’s waist, watching the way her breasts spill out of the tops in the size she used to wear.
“You’ve gained weight,” she tells Clarke gravely, like it’s a terminal diagnosis. Clarke rolls her eyes and pulls back, snatching herself away with a frown.
Abby raises an eyebrow, crossing her arms over her chest. She’s tall, willowy. Not like Clarke in the slightest, but why should she be? She’s not an omega, after all. “Your fiancé might.”
Clarke glares at her own reflection. She likes her body just fine as it is. “And I repeat, who cares? I have a year and a half, he can sneer at me disdainfully himself if he’d like.”
“You will see him tonight.”
Clarke whirls at the words, her mouth dropping open. “What— no! He agreed, til the end of college! I haven’t graduated.”
If Abby was the type to roll her eyes, she’d do it now, but she isn’t. Instead she just looks down her nose at her daughter, taking in her wild eyes and flushed face with cool indifference. “He would like to meet you. Speak to you. This has no bearing on the wedding.” She looks Clarke up and down, lip twisting. “God willing, that is.”
Clarke isn’t sure how best to play along. She’s numb through the rest of the day, letting Abby take her into the salon, wash and buff and trim her to a shine, and shove her into a dress that if Clarke was in a better mood she’d describe as lawyer-whore chic and heels that make her look slightly taller than she actually is, although it’s still not a lot.
She looks like a little doll.
If this had been a courtship, if the wedding was not already set, there’d be a chaperone, but it’s too late for that. Her mother drops her off with a sniff and an oblique threat to not fuck this whole thing up. Clarke feels nothing.
He’s waiting when she walks in. She’d like to say she’d almost forgotten his face, but it’s not true. She recognizes him instantly, and the scent that overwhelms her. She steels herself, rolling her shoulders back and shaking her hair. Typical fucking alpha.
Bellamy watches her approach with a small smirk, sipping on a glass of something amber. Whiskey, most likely. He stands as she gets closer, pulling out the chair across from where he was sitting. Clarke resists the urge to take the seat he’s just vacated, just to see what he’d do. It’s too early to show her cards.
She takes the hand he offers and allows him to help her into her chair. He pulls her hair back over her shoulders as she sits. It’s a move Clarke would normally never allow, but as he does it his fingers graze her neck, barely brushing over her scent glands. Her mind goes completely blank, a shudder running through her body.
He’s smiling as he takes his seat across from her, eyes gleaming black with satisfaction.
“You look very beautiful tonight, princess.”
Clarke blinks at him. The haze begins to clear from her head, the butterflies in her stomach going sour. “My name is Clarke.”
Bellamy raises an amused eyebrow. “I am aware of that, yes.”
Clarke opens her mouth to say something biting like ‘you could’ve fooled me’ or ‘then save the pet names for your dogs’ or ‘please, alpha, don’t make me marry you’, but she thinks better of it and closes it again. She takes a sip of water, examining the edge of her napkin.
“Would you like a drink? Wine, maybe?”
She shrugs in response.
He seems content to just watch her, not that she’s checking. His scent is heavy with pleasure though, warm and bright and chokingly good. It makes her almost dizzy, and she tries to subtly breathe through her mouth to avoid it. She’s quiet for a long time, wrapped up in her thoughts. He must have missed a blocker, or maybe he takes low doses to maintain his alpha schtick for the Outfit, Clarke’s not sure. Either way, it’s inconvenient for her, and likely any other omega he comes across.
How many others is he around?, her omega wonders nervously. Does he want them? Do they make him smell like this too?
Clarke takes another sip of water. She doesn’t look at him.
“Is this how it’s going to be, then?”
She startles at the sound of his voice, pulling her out of her reverie. He’s still looking at her, but his expression is resigned, shoulders tense. His grip around his glass is tight enough his knuckles have gone white. His scent, though still regrettably delicious, is less overwhelmingly intense.
“How what’s going to be, sir?”
Bellamy frowns. “Our marriage,” he says, sounding tired. “And you don’t have to call me sir.”
Clarke bristles, lips tightening. Her voice is hard, and Abby would kill her if she heard the next words out of her mouth. “I will not call you alpha.”
Bellamy actually cracks a smile at that. “You will eventually, omega,” he purrs. Clarke shivers involuntarily, heat shooting between her legs at the crude use of her designation. She rubs her thighs together and his grin widens. “But Bellamy will do fine for now.”
He’s so— irritating, for someone who could have Clarke and her entire family killed at any minute. Who could kill her right now, if he wanted. She’s heard stories of his brutality, and yet, here he is, grinning at her. Boyishly charming, and handsome. He’s wearing a suit, and it should make him look official, but it’s artfully disheveled. His long dark curls graze the collar in a way her stepfather would never allow.
“How’s school?” Bellamy asks, and her eyes snap back to his.
“What are you studying?”
“What an excellent conversationalist my fiancée is.” He gives her a wry smile over his whiskey, raising his glass. “You can’t bore me into finding another wife, you know that as well as I do. We may as well make some attempt to get to know each other at least little bit before—” Bellamy trails off, his eyes falling to her neck. Clarke resists the urge to pull her hair over her scent glands. They prickle, itchy with just the idea of being touched.
Of being bitten.
“How’s work, then?” Clarke shoots back, sitting back in her seat. “I’d love to hear about your life too. About the— family.”
It’s a trick, and he sees it, but his smile doesn’t fall. If anything, he looks even more satisfied at her challenge. “Oh, how easy it would be spill my secrets to a Griffin,” he says, shaking his head. “But I know better than that. Once we’re married, princess, I’ll tell you anything you want to know.”
Will he? It would be unusual, to let a woman in on business secrets, even if she is his wife. Even Abby isn’t privy to the inner machinations of Kane’s Outfit, nor was she privy to Jake’s before his untimely death. Clarke looks Bellamy over thoughtfully, holding her water to her mouth. “I’ll still be a Griffin.”
His lip curls. “Not by name. And not where it counts.”
She considers him, searching his face for— something. Some sign that he’s joking, or being cruel, but there’s nothing. He’s an open book, or at least he seems like it. “I’m an art minor,” Clarke offers eventually, setting her glass down on the table. It’s a concession. “Painting. And my biology thesis is on differential metabolomics between designations. Or it will be once it’s finished.”
“What does that mean?”
Clarke hesitates. Abby would hate if she answered, hate it if she bored him with the details of her research. That in itself is enough to make her continue.
Bellamy nods as she speaks, asking questions in the right places. He seems more interested than she would’ve expected, given how obvious it is that the subject is well outside his scope of knowledge. She tries not to allow it to endear him to her.
They order, and chat, and eat. He tells her about his sister, Octavia, and abashedly admits he wanted to be a historian when he was growing up. She laughs at that, and he doesn’t get angry. It’s shocking, given his reputation, his alpha-ness, but she’s really not afraid of him. No, Clarke feels regrettably at ease.
Of course, not enough that she wants to marry him. There are times, odd lulls in the conversation, where she can tell he’s holding something back. He’s a crime boss, a lord of the underworld she was born into, and there’s no escaping that. There’s no escaping that she wouldn’t have chosen him, if she’d been allowed a choice.
Clarke sees an opening. She wasn’t planning on asking so early in the year, and hadn’t even entertained the idea of asking him directly, but— he’s here, and he’s listening, and he seems interested.
“I was thinking,” Clarke broaches carefully, giving him a shy smile. Her hand inches across the table, coming to rest lightly beside her water glass. Every move is calculated, every glance and flutter of her eyelashes a glue trap waiting for him to get stuck. “Maybe I could continue my research. I know there’s no need for me to work, but I like it. And I really do think this could be useful to other people.”
“Yeah?” He smiles, and Clarke tries not to shiver as he slides his fingers across her palm. She’s got him, she thinks.
“Yeah. And grad school isn’t that long really, only a few years. Four, maybe five—”
His fingers wrap around her hand, squeezing slightly. “I’m sure something could be arranged.” Clarke’s heart leaps, success roaring through her chest. She beams at him. “I’m sure there are plenty of programs in New York.”
She freezes. “New York?”
“Of course,” Bellamy says, nodding. “I don’t expect my wife to just stay home all day, but we’ll have to make sure it’s a manageable commute.”
He’s misunderstood her, possibly on purpose. “I—” she stutters, her throat thick as the wheels spin in her head. “I really like my advisor, actually. I was hoping to apply to the graduate program here.”
Bellamy frowns. “That won’t be possible, Clarke, you know that. Once we’re married, and mated—”
“We don’t have to be.” The words leave her in a rush, spilling out on top of his. Clarke gives him a weak smile. “Or— not yet, I mean.”
Bellamy’s expression is hard, his eyes burning. His hand clamps down around hers. “This advisor of yours, is he an alpha?”
Clarke’s eyebrows furrow in confusion. “Yes, but—”
“You expect me—” he continues darkly, “—to just leave my fiancée, my omega, unmated so she can spend more fucking years working with another alpha, smelling like that?”
She stiffens, insulted. She takes her suppressants everyday, and she still hasn’t even presented, technically. She doesn’t smell like anything. And she is not his omega. “It’s not like that. He’s not interested in me, nor I in him. And besides that, I’m on suppressants—”
“Not enough, clearly,” Bellamy sneers. Clarke glowers, attempting to wrench her hand back, but he holds fast. “I could smell you the second you walked in. Suppressants can’t keep your heat in check forever, princess. You were close, when I first met you, and it’s been five years. You really think they’ll last another six?”
He leans in closer. His fingers extend down her wrist, clasping around the scent glands there. Twisting, he turns her hand over, frowning at the bare spot on her fourth finger where a ring would sit. “I’m not a patient man, Clarke. I gave you your college years; don’t ask me for more.”
Bellamy drops her hand, and the conversation is over.
The rest of the dinner is awkward. They’re both enraged, but both too stubborn to admit it. She can smell it on him though, a sharp tang that makes her feel like she needs to hide, or show him her belly. She does neither, and her cutlery scraping over her plate is deafening in the silence that follows.
He drops her off at her apartment with nary a word. She’s not sure how he knows where to go.
The next day she goes to class as usual, and to the lab. She works with a sort of self-righteous fury that leaves her uncomfortably warm. Her advisor sends her uneasy looks but says nothing, keeping his distance after she snaps him when he points out she’s accidentally borrowed his lab coat. Her bodyguard is equally silent, his menacing presence in the corner of the lab a given at this point. Clarke doesn’t understand why her advisor keeps looking at him, too.
Bellamy is waiting at her apartment when she gets home. She stalks past him without a glance. “What do you want?”
“I have something for you,” he says, his voice husky. “Invite me in, and leave your dog at the door.”
Clarke glances at her bodyguard, who looks unmoved at the rude nickname. He nods slightly. Clarke huffs, and finishes unlocking the door. She doesn’t hold the door for Bellamy, but he follows her anyways.
Clarke rolls her eyes, setting her bag on the breakfast bar. Her apartment is smaller than it needs to be, but still more luxurious than any normal college student would be able to afford. She wanted to blend in at least a little, but the security was non-negotiable.
She turns, crossing her arms over her chest. “Well?”
“I wanted to—” he pauses, searching for a word, “—clear the air, before I go back to New York. The next time we see each other won’t be until the engagement party in December.”
Good, Clarke thinks, her nose in the air. Even that is too soon.
“The way I acted at dinner was… regrettable. I know this is an adjustment for both of us, and I shouldn’t have been so— forceful.”
She wishes he wouldn’t look at her like that. His eyes are so dark, pupils huge, and it makes funny things happen in her belly. She hates him, and his stupid alpha scent that she won’t be able to get out of her apartment for days.
“Have you changed your mind?” Clarke asks, expression carefully blank.
Her heart sinks, but she does not allow herself to show it. “Fine.”
Bellamy steps closer, taking something from his pocket. “I have something for you.”
Clarke glances at the dark velvet box and flinches internally. She should’ve guessed.
She stands still as he invades her space, taking her hand. She can feel the satisfaction rolling off him as he slides the ring into place. Marking her as his. “There.”
Clarke pulls away, turning from him, and Bellamy goes still. His muscles tense, chest puffing, and his nostrils flare. She frowns. “What—?”
He tugs her towards him, sealing his body against hers. She can feel the growl that vibrates through his chest, the bump of his nose against her neck as he shoves his face into her hair. “I can smell him on you, omega.”
Clarke feels a hot rush of fear and— something else. Something that makes her panties damp, makes her ache for something inside her. For him.
“B-bellamy, wait, it’s just—” Her words cut off into a moan as his tongue slides down her neck, running over her scent glands. He marks her again, with his own scent this time, so there’s no mistaking who she belongs to.
Her omega purrs at the thought, but her conscious mind jerks back.
No. She’s not his, not anyone’s. Not yet. For now, Clarke belongs to herself. She only has a year left of freedom. She will not submit to him before she must.
His smell though, is overwhelming. So strong, so good; it makes her reactions slow. Makes her head foggy. Makes her want— him. She arches her back, feeling the hard press of his cock against her ass. He grinds forward, fingers sliding over her stomach, over her thighs—
Bellamy freezes. Clarke whimpers as he peels himself off her, pushing her away, and feels bereft until she gets a whiff of clean air. Her eyes widen, and she backs away.
“Clarke—” He looks apologetic, but she doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t trust him.
She shakes her head. “No,” she says, voice trembling slightly. “Go away.”
Bellamy holds up his hands, taking a big step back. “It’s fine, I won’t—” his teeth grit together, like he has to force the words out. “I’m not going to touch you.”
His eyes are still black though, and she hears the word he doesn’t say. Yet.
“I will, but Clarke— you have to call your mom. You can’t— your scent.”
“There is nothing wrong with my scent,” Clarke spits. Her whole body is hot, stomach cramping. She feels shaky, dizzy like she has a fever. Her panties are soaked, like she’s gotten her period. “It’s you. I don’t smell like anything, so it must be you.”
“It’s not,” Bellamy swears. He takes a half step forward. “Clarke—”
She can’t listen anymore. She turns tail and runs, locking herself in the bathroom. She sets the shower on cold and pops a couple of fever reducers for good measure, stripping off her clothes. There’s no blood on her underwear, of course. Just slick. More than she’s ever seen. Clarke’s throat closes.
She’s— she’s fine. She’s just sick. Bellamy will leave, and she’ll go to sleep, and when she wakes up everything will be back to normal. He’s just— imagining things. Being an alpha.
Clarke shudders, struck by the unrelenting need to open the door, to check if he’s still there. She gets all the way across the room, fully naked with one hand on the doorknob, before she catches herself. She throws herself into the cold shower.
It’s going to be fine, she thinks, shivering under the icy water. She feels just fine.
It’s not fine.
She feels so horny she can’t breathe, even after the shower. She stays under the water so long her lips turn blue, and even that isn’t enough to stop it.
By the time she gets out, Bellamy's gone. Clarke doesn't have a chance to be grateful. In his place, standing impatiently in her hallway is Abby, car keys in hand.
“Get dressed,” she orders her daughter, voice rife with irritation. “Let’s go.”
“It’s a breakthrough heat,” the doctor tells her mother once they arrive at the clinic. Nobody looks at Clarke where she sits flushed and sweaty on the exam table. She clenches her thighs together, wincing as the paper crinkles underneath her ass. It’s humiliating, sitting there in the hospital gown, her thighs dripping with slick. She’s not even fully in heat yet, not even close, but the fire in her belly is almost overwhelming. She can’t even imagine what a true heat will be like.
The room is cold, AC blasting in an attempt to keep her heat at bay, and it makes Clarke’s nipples prickle uncomfortably beneath the gown. The fabric feels rough on her skin. She wants to tear it off, needs to tear it off, but—
She crosses her ankles, squeezing her fists tight.
“Can you stop it?” Abby asks.
A doctor shrugs. She’s an alpha, Clarke can smell it despite the woman’s blockers, but just barely. Not like it was with Bellamy. Her hair is long and dark and shiny, hanging down in sheets over her white coat. “We can postpone it. For a time.”
Abby waves a hand. “Do it.”
Still, no one acknowledges Clarke. Not when they grab her arm, not when they inject her with the emergency suppressants.
“How long will they last?” Abby asks brusquely. Her eyes follow the needle, not bothering to check her daughter’s face.
“Three months, give or take. If you bring her back in next week, we can do some bloodwork to pin it down more precisely.”
“Yes, we’ll do that. We have an entire wedding to plan so it needs to be exact.” Abby sniffs at the inconvenience, like it’s Clarke’s fault she has to move up the wedding, and it’s not fair. Clarke didn’t ask to see Bellamy, and she sure as hell didn’t ask for him to skip his blockers and throw her into heat. Hell, she didn’t ask to be engaged to him in the first place.
“Of course.” The doctor nods like this is all fine, all normal. Like her patient’s life isn’t about to be uprooted, like she’s not going to be pulled out of college and married off like chattel. Like Clarke wants this. Or like it doesn’t matter that she doesn’t. “She’ll have to keep her distance from the groom until then. If his scent was enough to set her off now, then a second exposure before the marriage could result in—”
Clarke glares at the ring sparkling happily on her finger. She wonders if he did it on purpose, because she asked about grad school. If this is her punishment.
“I won’t do it,” Clarke says quietly. Two sets of eyes turn towards her, two sets of neatly plucked eyebrows arched questioningly. Her fists clench. “I won’t marry him.”
Her mother’s eyes flash, expression darkening. Clarke resists the urge to shrink back, to hide behind the exam table.
Abby’s annoyed gaze flicks to the doctor, who shrugs apologetically. “A side effect of the suppressants, most likely. They have a tendency to make omega patients a bit less”— she searches for a word here, hands waving dismissively—“pliant.”
“The effects are temporary, of course, nothing to worry about,” the doctor continues. “But perhaps we should move this conversation to my office.”
The two older women exchange a meaningful look, moving towards the door without another word towards Clarke. She’s left alone, three months ticking down over her head like a pipe-bomb ready to blow. She could give in now, let it happen. Let it tear her life apart in one ugly explosion.
Instead, she starts to plan.