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once bitten

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“In a little more around the waist, I think.”

The seamstress pulls the heavy white fabric slightly tighter around Clarke’s body and she shrugs. “Whatever you think is best.”

The woman looks at Abby, who nods. She’s got the final say on all of this stuff anyways.

It’s her final dress fitting before the wedding. The dress had been one of the first things they picked, after she left school. There was no reason to stay, and Clarke hadn’t fought her mother when she suggested dropping out. The wedding is set for nearly a month before the end of the semester, too long before finals for Clarke to be able to finish early. Better to just withdraw immediately, rip off the bandaid. Her advisor had been shocked when she told him, and disappointed in a way that made Clarke’s stomach clench. Didn’t he know that this was always how it was going to be for her?

Probably not, if she’s honest. Mob connections aren’t exactly anyone’s first assumption, and she’s not even sure he knew she was an omega. Before her unfortunate encounter with her fiancé she had smelled like any other beta student.

Not anymore.

Once the dress is pinned and painstakingly peeled from her body, she only has three more appointments to get through. The wedding preparations are elaborate, each successive step leaving Clarke more and more filled with an impending sense of doom. All of these people celebrating how her life is about to begin, and all she can feel is it drawing to an end. 

There’s an energy in her, slightly unsettled, and she knows that the doctors were right. Her heat is coming, right on schedule. In three days, if all goes according to the prescribed plan, Clarke will be ensconced in her marriage bed, taking her husband’s knot for the first time, and that will push her over.

The thought makes her sick. 

Clarke has made other plans. She may be sheltered, but she grew up in a family where crime was a way of life. She’s nothing if not resourceful.

The wedding ceremony is set to take place at the family church, with the reception to follow at a nearby hotel owned by her stepfather. Clarke arranged to stay there in the months before the wedding instead of moving home. Abby was concerned about all the alphas coming and going from the house, seeing Kane for business or— at least she was when Clarke oh-so-casually wondered about it.

So many scents, she had said. But they only said to stay away from Bellamy, so it should be fine. Right, Mom?

The hotel is equipped with a state-of-the-art indoor pool, and Clarke took to swimming laps for exercise. She was supposed to keep as cool as possible, after all.

She goes again today, when she finally finishes with the prescribed activities. They’ve set aside times specifically for her, a perk of being the owner’s stepdaughter, so she’s alone in the locker room. No need for a bodyguard inside, not with all the security on the outside of the building. That means theres’s one to watch her as she adds the last passport to her stash.

She’s developed somewhat of a collection, over the past few months. The lockers are the kind with settable codes, so any hotel-goers can use them. Clarke uses a random one each time she swims for her clothes, making sure her scent is diffuse across the lot of them, but there’s one she returns to each time: B12.

Inside is a backpack containing everything she needs to run.

Before leaving school, she applied for multiple of the high-limit credit cards offered to her as a college student. She also sold all the furniture in her apartment for cash, and slowly started taking withdrawals from her trust. With some of the cash, she bought passports: all from different sellers, all with the same photo of her with her hair pulled back, wearing glasses. With the cards she bought plane tickets: to Mallorca, to Prague, to Tokyo, to Cancun, and more. Big and small cities, all over the world. So long as they aren’t in the US.

Also in the bag are clothes she’s thieved from other lockers, scent-reducing body wash, scent-concealing spray, and another dose of emergency suppressants. They’re the pill form, which don’t work as well as injection, but they’re fine as a contingency plan. A second dose at this point will hold her heat off for maybe 48 hours at most, enough to get her wherever she needs to go, but Clarke doesn’t expect to need them if she gets away before the wedding night.

And she will, god damn it.

She has to.

****

One of the benefits of having her supposed purity used as a bartering chip is that she’s spared the ordeal of a bachelorette party.

Unfortunately the alternative is a prolonged bridal shower with a bunch of evil Abby clones of various ages who all like Clarke even less than her mother does. Clarke gets the idea that marrying Bellamy is somewhat of a coup for the Griffin name, and for Kane in turn, but that doesn’t seem to be the problem here. No, the issue with these women is that they’re jealous of her not because of the power she’s wedding, but the man.

The body.

Everyone else is enjoying the benefits of an open bar, inhibitions falling as their blood alcohol content rises. Clarke is permitted only one drink, so she’s stone cold sober. She can see the way they’re all eyeing her critically, hear how they whisper just a little too loud.

Too small, she hears. Too curvy. Not what he normally goes for, that’s for certain. And like a punchline; whispered between two girls not much older than her, their brows raised speculatively: Does she really think she’ll be able to take him?

If all goes according to plan, she won’t have to try.

It makes her feel uncomfortable: all the talk. It’s not even the judgement, or the insults. It’s the fact that the bitterness coming from the women her age appears to be based in something real, like they know him. Not the ones from her side necessarily, but the guests from New York seem like they know Bellamy personally. Like they know what he goes for. Like they know just how much Clarke would have to take, because they’ve had him. Taken him.

He’s supposed to be her fiancé, her future mate. Has he fucked every woman in New York, all while Clarke has been practically locked in a chastity belt?

The idea makes her seethe.

It’s not— she doesn’t care who he’s been with. Why would she? A man who looks like Bellamy does—an alpha with power who looks like Bellamy does—could have whoever he wanted. Probably has had whoever he wanted. And she’s not planning on sticking around anyways, so why should it bother her if he’s a philanderer? She’s just angry because it’s not fair.

Besides, some small part of her crows bitterly; Clarke is an omega. Of course she can take him. She’s built to take him.

She just doesn’t want to.

“They all hate you, you know.”

Clarke startles slightly, her face relaxing in confusion. She hadn’t realized she’d been glaring. At her side is a tall brunette, her long hair falling in shiny sheets down the back of a midnight blue gown. Her makeup is intense, nothing like the peachy virginal look Clarke’s been allowed, but she can’t be much older if at all. 

Clarke turns back to the room, watching the eyes that flick not so casually away from her as she does. “They could be a bit more subtle about it.”

The girl laughs, something gritty and raspy that surprises Clarke in its inelegance. “Don’t hold your breath.” She grins mirthlessly at Clarke and extends a hand. “Octavia.”

Clarke’s eyes widen as she takes it. “The sister.”

“The sister,” Octavia agrees, somewhat bitterly. She looks Clarke over. “You know, you don’t seem as excited as I’d expected. Shouldn’t you be arrogant as fuck, lording it over all of them? You’ve won, after all.”

And what a prize it is, Clarke sighs internally. She considers Octavia for a moment, weighing her words with what she knows about the girl, about her possible motivations.

“No offense to your brother, but would you be? Marrying someone you don’t know, dropping out of school, moving halfway across the country. Leaving everything you know behind.”

Octavia raises an eyebrow. “Is what you know really that good?”

“No,” Clarke concedes, shrugging lightly. “But is he?”

The other girl snorts. “Touché. And for fairness, I wouldn’t be excited either. Thankfully my brother knows me well enough not to try and pull this shit with me.”

“Why’s that?”

“He’s not entirely stupid,” Octavia says, grinning conspiratorially at Clarke over her champagne. “He knows I’d run.” The blonde shifts uncomfortably, unsure of how to respond. She laughs, a beat too late, as if Octavia had just been joking around. The forced sound of it earns her a curious look. “Thought about it, haven’t you?”

Clarke shrugs, smiling weakly back. “Maybe once or twice.”

“It wouldn’t work, you know.” Clarke blinks at the sudden change in tone, at the way the brunette’s eyes go piercing. All of Octavia’s attention is fixed on Clarke, her words like ice down down Clarke’s spine. “The only reason I’d get away is because he’s my brother and he’d let me. There’s no getting out of this world, not if someone’s looking for you. And if you’re caught—”

“I know.”

Octavia lets out a deep breath, shoulders relaxing. Her expression gentles. “For what it’s worth, I don’t hate you. In fact, I think I might actually be happy to to have a sister, so long as it’s you.  Bellamy could’ve chosen a worse girl to force to marry him.” She makes a face. “One who would’ve been excited about it.”

Clarke feels a little guilty at the other girl’s pleasure, knowing she will be gone before they even head back to New York. She won’t ever be Octavia’s sister, or even her friend. She’ll just be gone.

She tries not to let the girl’s previous warning shake her resolve.

“How awful that would’ve been,” Clarke replies drily.

Octavia beams. “See that right there? I can tell you’re going to be trouble. And since we’re going to be sisters, I can let you in on a little secret.” She leans closers, whispering conspiratorially. “Trouble is a Blake family favorite.”

Clarke clinks her glass with the other girl’s in a mock toast, grinning tightly. At least that’s something she can deliver.

****

She doesn’t get back to her room until late.

The night was exhausting. Abby had pulled her away from Octavia shortly after their conversation, not even sparing the other girl a look. After that Clarke had been shuffled from matriarch to matriarch of the New York families, forced to stand in front of them while they looked down their noses at her and sniffed to Abby about how lucky she was, that Clarke had been born an omega.

Pretty enough, but if she’d been a beta, well— they’d said, letting the thought trail off. Luckily that’s not the case!

Clarke did not appreciate the implication.

Nor did she like the way some of the younger women had stuck their noses into the conversations. She’d met some real characters, not the least being a woman named Echo who looked her over with a sneer and immediately asked her mother: How old did you say she was, again?

Younger than she’d like to be, given the circumstances. But twenty-one was a normal age for a woman to get married, in their circles. At least, for a woman of Clarke’s social stature. Especially an omega.

Clarke had tuned out the rest of the brunette’s snide remarks. She didn’t need to hear her mother agree with them.

She tells her bodyguard goodnight in the hallway, tiredly unlocking the door to her suite. Normally he’d come in and check it for her, but he’s tired too, and the hotel is essentially on lockdown.

It’s dark inside, the smell comfortingly familiar. She kicks off her heels at the door, unpinning her hair. It falls in soft golden curls over her shoulders. Clarke lets out a soft groan at the relief, her scalp aching from the weight of having it up for so long.

Her feet pad across the floor to the bedroom, bypassing the sitting area and kitchenette. She hardly ever uses them, after all there’s no real need. It’s not like she has anyone to invite over. Her dress is unzipped and kicked unceremoniously off, leaving Clarke in just her underwear as she shuffles through her dresser. The lights of the city shine in through the open blinds, illuminating the room in a soft orange glow.

She extracts a nightgown from her drawer and tosses it on the bed. Her fingers reach behind her, finding the clasp of her bra.

“Clarke.”

She jolts at the voice, spinning towards it. She tries and fails to keep from stuttering.  “You—you’re not supposed to be here.” Bellamy steps forward and she inches back. “We’re not supposed to see each other until the wedding.”

The backs of her knees hit the bed and she stops, snatching the nightgown off the covers and clutching it to her chest. It barely covers anything.

Bellamy stops in the doorway of the bedroom, not coming any closer. He gives her a wry smile, but Clarke can see the black of his eyes even in the dim light. “I don’t think twelve hours will make much of a difference at this point. They gave us an extra two days, so that you wouldn’t go into heat until you’re—”

Knotted.

Clarke cuts him off, flushing deeply. “Yes, thank you, I’m aware. But it’s still not safe.”

She wants him out, as fast as possible. She doesn’t want to have to look at him—smell him—and lie to his face. Clarke personally doesn’t mind, but her omega rebels against it. She’s worried her scent might change, give her away. That he’ll know she’s lying, know she’s going to run. Unlike Octavia, she doesn’t expect him to let her go.

Stay, her omega pleads. Alpha will provide.

Clarke takes another step back.

Bellamy’s eyes follow. Clarke can see the twitch of his muscles, the tick of his jaw as he keeps himself from giving chase. She swallows hard and turns, pulling the slip over her head. The nightgown is too short—and too thin—but it covers her slightly better on than off, and frees her arms in case she needs to use them.

“Why are you here?”

She’s proud of the steadiness of her voice, the strength of her words.

“I came to—to speak to you. I know that this”—he gestures vaguely around the room, but it's clear he means the situation as a whole and not just her accommodations—“isn’t what you wanted.” His eyes soften slightly, drinking her in. Clarke resists the urge to cross her arms over her chest, hide the remaining skin from his view. “I didn’t mean to trap you.”

“Didn’t you?”

“Not like this. I’m a man of my word. I told you you could finish college. I didn’t mean for this to happen.” Bellamy sighs. “I want you to know that this isn’t some kind of punishment.”

“I never considered that,” Clarke replies, even though she certainly did. She had eventually deemed it unlikely, due to the unpredictable nature of breakthrough heats, but not implausible.

She hates him, good and truly. He can take his half-hearted apologies and go to hell. If he truly cared about her feelings, he wouldn’t be forcing her to marry him at all. He wouldn’t be looking at her like that, like he owned her.

“I’d like to make you a deal,” he says, and Clarke blinks.

“Me?”

No one ever makes deals with her. Everything in her life goes through Abby, or Marcus, or Jake before him. Clarke’s wants, Clarke’s agreement— they’ve never mattered.

She supposes it’s different in this case. She’s supposed become his wife, his mate. Almost a part of him, in a way. Once they were mated, he’d be able to feel her unhappiness, her discomfort, her rage. It makes sense that he’d want to placate her.

Of course, Clarke doesn’t intend to let that happen, but she’s curious.

“I cannot let you go back to your school immediately. The bond will be too fresh to allow it, and things are—unstable, right now, in New York. But—” He grimaces, as though the words are physically painful for him to say. “After a year, maybe two, we could revisit it. You’d have to take guards, of course, and return on weekends. But you could finish your degree.”

“That’s—generous,” she says cautiously, and in a way, it is. It’s far more than she’d ever expected him to give, far more than she’d thought he would even entertain. Far less than it would take to make her stay, however.

Her fingers fidget with the hem of her slip, running over the satiny fabric, and his eyes narrow. “What are you thinking, princess?”

Her heartbeat kicks up a notch, pounding hard in her chest as she looks up. Her eyes are wide, mouth dry. “Nothing.” It comes out a squeak. She licks her lips and shakes her head. “Just— I didn’t expect it. Thank you, alpha.”

The word slips out of her unbidden, but it serves its purpose.

Bellamy relaxes. She can smells the satisfaction rolling off of him and half expects him to starts purring. She’d roll her eyes if he couldn’t see it.

“There’s something else.” He pushes off the door frame, walking towards her. Clarke clenches her fists and swallows, refusing to move as he comes closer and closer still, stopping just in front of her.

He takes her hand, turning her arm in his grip. She feels the cool brush of metal, the slight weight of stones. They clink softly as he fastens the bracelet around her wrist.

“This—” Bellamy swallows slightly, his eyes fixed on the jewelry, on the scent gland it shifts to cover. Clearing his throat, he turns her wrist back over and releases it. His voice is gruff. “This was my mother’s. It’s— well, something old and something blue, I guess.”

Clarke blinks, her breath caught in her throat. Slowly, she lifts her wrist, watching the way the gems sparkle against her skin. Sapphires.

“It’s—lovely.” Clarke is disarmed, her omega cooing at the gift. She shakes her head, trying to clear the pleasurable haze that clouds her thoughts. “But—I can’t take this. It was your mother’s, it should go to Octavia, or—” Your daughter, she thinks, but she can’t say that. After all, his daughters are meant to be hers.

“It’s yours, Clarke.” She looks up, catching a flash of a catlike grin on his lips. He shrugs. “Matches your eyes.”

She looks down at the delicate bracelet again, admiring the way it gleams. “Thank you,” she says, her throat slightly thick. “I love it.”

Bellamy steps forward, sliding a hand beneath her chin and tilting it up. Clarke freezes as he leans in, brushing a soft kiss over her lips. Her whole body is on edge, ready to shudder, eager to feel his hard muscles against her.

She steps back, spine stiffening. Her arms wrap around her torso, holding back the shivers. “You should go.”

Bellamy cocks his head, clearly confused by the hardness in her tone. Did he really think it would be that easy? That he could throw her some baubles and she would just give in and simper at his feet with the rest of them?

His lips thin. “Till tomorrow then, omega.”

Clarke feels her temperature tick up a few degrees at the word but all she does is nod.

“Tomorrow.”

****

She throws herself in the shower as soon as he leaves, scrubbing at her skin. His scent is overwhelming, lingering everywhere he touched. She can feel the itchiness of her glands, the heaviness in her stomach that she had been so quick to dismiss last time.

There’s no mistaking what it is.

It’s too soon! If she planned on staying it would be fine, they’d simply leave the reception early and spirit her away to be fucked and mated, her heat quenched by Bellamy’s cum. But Clarke refuses to let that happen.

It’s too early for her to leave now, with the bulk of her stepfather’s security focused on guarding the hotel before the wedding. She briefly entertains the idea of heading to the pool now, taking just the suppressants from the locker and coming back up, but it’s too risky. There’s no reason for her to be there now, and if she’s caught they’ll be suspicious if she's seen heading there again tomorrow during the festivities. 

Instead she scrubs her body raw and opens the windows, letting the frigid November air fill the room and wash Bellamy’s scent away.

She sleeps fitfully, naked except for the bracelet around her wrist and the ring on her finger. Abby finds her like that the next morning: sprawled out on top of the covers, her lips purple. Clarke jerks awake at the disdainful cough.

“Get up,” her mother tells her, one eyebrow raised. “Time to get ready. We've got a long day ahead of us.”

Clarke flushes, slinking out of bed and slipping a robe over her shoulders. She’s ice cold, but that’s a good thing. And she can’t smell Bellamy at all. Maybe it’ll be fine, she thinks. Maybe her plan isn’t ruined. Not yet, at least.

“And close the windows,” Abby adds. “It’s freezing in here.”

Clarke grins, and leaves them cracked.