Thursday nights used to be a night for the movie buffs only. They had their weekly arthouse screening at seven, and then the sneak preview and a showing of the weekly classic at ten. Sure, the regular movies were on as well, but those played in the upstairs auditoriums and in the bigger ones in the east wing. The tiny west wing (only two small auditoriums that were never full until recently) was reserved for the connaisseurs.
Until damn Bellamy Blake started doing the Thursday night shift. The arthouse screening used to be all pensioners and midlife crisis candidates. She used to be able to check ticket stubs and handle the West concession stand without the incessant giggling that was so prevalent in the East wing (and upstairs, because of the fucking concert movies from whatever boyband was all the rage that week). But no, now that Mister Dreamboat (patent pending from some random teenybopper bitch) was handling the introductions… Let’s just say that the demographic has shifted dramatically.
From kindly old men who just wanted to feel young again (or to remember the good old days) to immature brats who are only here to ogle the tour guide on their journey through film history - or theory. The giggling alone is going to drive her ‘round the bend some day. Soon.
(Honestly, she had never giggled like that when she was that age, right? Had she ever swooned over boybands and the hot guy at the ticket stand? She can’t remember ever being like this, not at any age.)
Clarke Griffin is not the kind of girl you want to have around to deal with immature brats. She has no patience for that type of bullshit when there is shit to be done around this place - and there is always shit to be done in this particular movie theatre. And usually she is the one who has to do it. She is the only person desperate enough to work the odd shifts in the West Wing next to her normal office hours. She is the only person doing both the office and the actual shifts in the theatre.
And she’s okay with that, because she needs the money for her shoebox apartment and her art supplies. The life of a starving artist isn’t easy - but it’s still a whole lot better than being forced into medical school. Heck, she’d take the brats over med school any day - sometimes that’s just a little hard to remember.
Especially on Thursday nights, when the arrogant ass smirks at her before waltzing into the room and delivering speech after speech to his captive audience. She grinds her teeth and pastes on a smile for the friendly old men who still show up for the movies, and not just the hot shot giving the introduction. If she had to pick her favorite, it would be the French old man who always tips her and is the first one to reserve his tickets for the classics. Sometimes he brings his young daughter and her husband, but usually he comes alone, always gracious to “mademoiselle Clarke”.
“Monsieur,” she nods at him, probably butchering even that single word of French.
She can read French, and some Italian and Latin, but speaking it has never been one of her skills. And it’s not that important, it really isn’t, she just gets stupidly angry when she hears the asshole fluently speak the titles of foreign films and it just sounds like he is a native. It just makes her hate him more - how come he gets to look like that, be good at languages, and have his damn life together?
Because here she is, barely making rent in favor of buying more charcoal, being looked down on by her co-workers for doing this practically full-time, and being stuck with an angry look on her face because of it. And let’s be real, why shouldn’t she be angry? The parents who claimed they would always support her had dropped her like a hot potato when she refused to go to med school - and her friends, her own friends, had followed so quickly that she was seriously wondering if those friendships had ever been real. Perhaps they hadn’t been.
The loneliness set in months ago, but she refuses to return to her parents’ house and plead for their forgiveness - she has done nothing that needs to be forgiven, after all. Being less than perfect is not a crime, as far as she knows.
“Griffin,” the asshole himself draws her from her stupor.
“Blake,” she acknowledges him with a curt nod, never losing her frown. “What is it?”
“You can close the door now,” he is smirking at her like the ass he is. “We’re fully booked.”
Of course he is. Of course the theatre is sold out every damn week these days - just because of his stupid face and his husky voice. Heck, she’s even seen mothers flustered over that damn voice, even while they try to shelter their teenage daughters from wicked thoughts about the stupidly charming ass in front of them. Seriously, Bellamy Blake amps up the charm beyond recognition - this is not the same guy who can’t manage a conversation with her without smirking and acting all superior - and the stupid people actually fall for it. She knows he seems all charming and vaguely attractive, but still.
“Will do,” she finally replies, only to be rid of him again.
“Your hatred is delicious,” he tosses over his shoulder as he enters the filled auditorium.
“Until you choke on it,” she smiles evilly as she gets up to close the damn door. “And I would love to make you choke on it.”
Stuffing all of the damn tickets down his fucking throat. It’s not enough that he is doing well and she is not, but he just has to rub it in. Bellamy Blake just loves to gloat over her, and she gets enough of the gloating from her college buddies on Facebook - any more gloating posts about internships and excellent grades and new apartments (paid for by their mommies and daddies, of course), and she will actually throw her ancient laptop through the window. She really can’t afford to do that (she really needs a new laptop if she is ever going to get better at digital art). She cannot afford to do anything at the moment - a glitch in the payment system has made her pay almost two weeks late already.
Living off ramen lost its charm her freshman year of college. She turns down the heating and hides under blankets, and still she is in danger of getting her power cut off.
Surely Bellamy Blake doesn’t have to deal with problems like that. His job probably pays better than hers - and he’s a paid PHD candidate at the university. Everything she hates in a coworker is combined in one asshole. No wonder he gets on her nerves.
Looking down at her files, she realizes that there is something extra penciled in for next week. For Thursday night, it says, right next to her meticulously written details about her work shift: assist Bellamy. The asshole has even added a couple of hearts to his message.
She is going to murder him. Only to bring him back so she can murder him again.
“What do you want?” she ever so kindly hisses at him when he shows up at her desk on Monday morning. “I have things to do.”
There are still a lot of things to prepare and to register. She has to do the programming today since the usual programmer is out on pregnancy leave, and it is a total bitch to do. There are many distributors whining over their movies not performing well enough - and as usual, blaming the cinemas for not programming them at the right times. Which is bullshit, because if the movie is disappointing the people are not going to see it no matter what time it’s showing. Alas, if only people understood that.
But with five regular movies premiering and two new kids movies, the puzzle is more complicated than usual. She is going to have to cut down on some movies that are still performing reasonably well, especially because there are some specials that take up a lot of time on the schedule. She is dreading the phone calls and emails from the distributors, because most of them will not be pleased.
Well, if they’d just plan their release dates better, they would not be having this problem. And if Bellamy Blake was content with working at the university, she would be a much happier woman, even dealing with this stress.
“I thought you might want to know what I will require of you Thursday night,” as per usual, Blake wears a superior grin on his stupid face.
“I won’t help you,” she does not even look up from her work computer. “There are plenty other things that need doing - all more important than assisting you. You can get one of the bimbo’s who bought a ticket to your little show to do it. I’m sure they’d be happy to swoon over you if you just say thank you afterwards.”
There are seven (!) movies coming out on Friday, and she needs to prep the website and check and recheck the press releases after she finishes the program. And some of the distributors are already asking for her attention concerning next month’s sneak previews. Bellamy Blake’s whims rank the absolute lowest on her list. He ranks lower than low.
“Look, I know we have a very pleasant mutual hate thing going on,” he sighs, and he is overly dramatic about it. “But I managed to arrange an actual meet and greet with one of the actors from the arthouse flick, and I need an extra pair of hands.”
With a brief look at his hands - damn her fetish for clever fingers with calluses - she tries to dismiss him as quickly as possible.
Damn it, there is no other way! She’ll have to program some regular releases in the West Wing - for every night but Thursday. There is just no other way, and she hates it. It is ruining her damn West Wing. She just wishes that there was another way. Stupid distributors not planning their releases right so they can get their grubby hands on her West Wing.
Yes, she is a grumpy child - she knows that.
“Use someone else’s hands,” she snipes at Blake when she realizes that he still isn’t leaving her alone. “Like I said, there are plenty of teens who would love to be your hands. Or be near your hands. Or just to have anything to do with your hands. Go get them.”
Her own hands still haven’t warmed up. She accidentally fell asleep with them outside of her pile of blankets and she still hasn’t regained full feeling in them. Her stupid money still hasn’t come in and she risks losing all power if this goes on for much longer. With a pained look on her face, she rubs her freezing hands together, trying to make them warm again. Damn her job and damn the money - she needs these hands to draw.
“It seems like your hands could use some activity,” the asshole just grabs one of her hands and flinches at its temperature. “Geez, Griffin, what did you do with these, put them in your freezer?”
“My apartment is not a freezer,” she yanks her hand back from his grip. “And don’t try to paw me without my permission, you dolt.”
Fuck, that did not come out right, and he knows it too. She tries to thwart his smugness by maintaining her most hostile look while she cradles her hand to her chest. It does not appear to be working.
“So, it’s okay as long as I have your permission?” Blake leers at her.
“So not what I meant,” with an eye-roll she turns back to her computer screen.
So, if she just puts that one movie in the West Wing, it makes the rest of the programming so much easier. There are no new arthouse releases - not in their theatre anyway, because there are already so many new movies - so they technically have the room to do it. It’s just not a particularly conventional move.
“Also, why the fuck would your apartment be that cold, Griffin?” Blake has picked up on what she said now that he is not ogling her.
“I’m sure you have an Ice Queen joke ready to explain it all,” she does not look up this time, refusing to let herself be vulnerable in front of this asshole.
Yeah, so, she has to give up the West Wing and hope that the distributors won’t be too angry with the move - or too impatient at her taking so long to think of it. In her experience, the distributors are not particularly kind or patient, which is just fine with her. She is not particularly kind either.
“Did you not get paid either?” Blake is not letting this go. “For God’s sake, Griffin, you have rights. They can’t let you eat ramen and freeze to death because of their error.”
“None of your business,” she mutters, typing furiously.
She hopes in vain that this will actually make him leave, but she knows that he is never going to just let it go - fucking Frozen jokes - not until he gets what she wants. It’s a kind of tenacity that is admirable in anyone but Bellamy fucking Blake.
“This is not over,” he warns, looking like he is already planning something. “I’ll get back to you about Thursday. Your presence is still required.”
No, she does not watch him walk away. She is completely focused on the program.
She gets a cheque from her boss the next day, Blake eyeing her pointedly in the background. The money is for the inconvenience, or so she’s told. She shrugs and accepts it, and when she goes home she turns up the heat until even her bones aren’t cold anymore. Hiding under the blankets while the small apartment heats up, she orders a pizza. She deserves a little bit of luxury right now. She has more than earned it.
When her pizza arrives, it brings an asshole with it. Somehow Bellamy Blake has figured out where she lived, and he not only bribed the pizza guy to bring him upstairs, but he also managed to bring the most most mouthwatering dessert she has seen in ages. He is just not playing fair and she is going to yell at him for that - as soon as the warm, homemade pie is finished. It smells so fantastic she almost wants to give up on her pizza - but she won’t. That would be too much of a victory for Blake, and she refuses to give him one.
“Are you stalking me?” she asks him instead after paying the pizza guy.
“I’m making a grand gesture,” Blake holds out the pie in front of him, trying to protect himself.
The two are not mutually exclusive, she knows that much, but she figures that the only way to get that damn pie is to let the asshole inside of her crappy apartment. And if it tastes even half as good as it smells, it will be more than worth it.
“And what does this grand gesture mean?” she closes the door behind him.
He is silent then, and appears to be contemplating something completely unrelated to her question, since he isn’t even looking at her. What the hell is going on here? Something has changed since their talk yesterday morning at work, and she does not like it one bit. If he starts being nice to her she is going to punch him in the face.
“You’re being quiet and suspiciously nice,” she points out to him. “I don’t like it.”
That shakes him from his stupor, and he looks up with his typical smug grin back on his stupid face. Ah yes, that is the Blake she knows and loathes. And suspects of nefarious plans related to his entry into her apartment and the obviously delicious pie. She didn’t even know he could cook, but the pie is actually straight from the oven.
She starts shoving pizza in her face then to keep herself from starting another awkward conversation. He just needs to start explaining himself, and she is going to stay silent until he does - or, if that fails, she can still kick him out. Without the pie. She’s keeping that.
“Breathe, Griffin,” Blake remarks when he sees her basically inhaling her pizza. “You don’t wanna choke on your pizza instead of your hatred.”
An angry face is enough energy spent on him when she could be eating more pizza. So she continues to eat as she waits for him to start making sense. Though, technically, he has never made too much sense to her - so she could potentially be waiting forever. Blake just is not cooperating, as usual.
“Look, I’m sorry I’ve been such an ass to you,” the idiot actually has the gall to apologize.
“No,” she refuses to hear this nonsense. “If you’re just going to apologize, get out!”
That seems to both surprise and anger him. But really, what has she ever done to make him think that an apology from Bellamy ‘asshole’ Blake would be welcomed? The surprise is stupid, the anger she can almost understand. He is not a perpetually angry creature like her, but he always turns into a hostile ass when she is near. And she is okay with that. That is just the way things are and the way that they will always be.
He is not allowed to change anything about it.
“I am staying right here, damn it,” Blake has managed to work himself up, his dark eyes pinning her to her seat on the couch. “I have been an asshole to you for all the wrong reasons. You’re a Griffin, and I know your father from the university. I figured that you had it easy and you were only working at the theatre for laughs while you lived off a trust fund. I didn’t realize until yesterday that you were estranged and you are living off this job.”
Oh God, that is not something that she ever wanted him to know. She does not want anyone to know about this. She hates the pitying looks that people give her.
“I don’t need your damn pity,” she doesn’t want him to get a second wind. “Get out.”
“This is not pity,” he corrects her. “This is anger. Your parents are assholes.”
She should probably feel offended on her parents’ behalf, but all that she can do after Blake’s words is laugh. Loudly. Embarrassingly loudly.
“There is something wrong with you,” Blake shakes his head at that, but he does so almost fondly instead of angrily.
“Not everyone who doesn’t like you is wrong,” she finds that her response is more teasing than hostile. “Now sit your ass down. Your pacing is ruining my floor.”
Blake follows orders reasonably well, because he does sit down next to her, but not before he sneaks a slice of her pizza with his typical shit-eating grin.
Thursday night it’s the same old story. Giggling teenage girls trying to beat the middle-aged crowd to Bellamy’s arthouse screening - with a meet & greet this time. She managed to pick up the lovely actress in between her office shift and her theatre shift, trying really hired to smile at the way the woman was falling under Bellamy’s spell. Well, she isn’t surprised, but for some reason she is almost disappointed. This beautiful young woman is chummy with Bellamy immediately - they hugged when they saw each other and she has a feeling that the hug was more subdued than it would have been if they had been alone.
It is stupid to be concerned about this, but she is nonetheless.
“Griffin,” Blake is at her desk again. “You can close the door.”
“Will do,” she doesn’t even look up at him.
“Just be a little happy for me, okay?” he is not moving away yet, for once actually smiling instead of smirking. “It’s not often that I get to see my sister.”
That does make her look up, because she stupidly had not seen the connection before. She’d been short with miss Octavia Lincoln, kinda jealous of her success and her looks. She regrets that now, so very much. The poor woman does not deserve Clarke Griffin’s wrath - now Bellamy Blake, that is a whole different matter that she will not get into at this time.
“Don’t brag about your movie star sister,” she quips. “It’s just tacky.”
“Fine,” he huffs jokingly. “Then I won’t tell you about that time I met Eva Green.”
The asshole totally knows that she wants every damn detail about this monumental event - also, she kind of wants to apologize to Octavia Lincoln about her stupid behavior earlier. She is usually better than that (she is, right?) and just because Bellamy Blake is a tool, does not mean that his actress sister is any less than kind.
“Are you trying to make me hate you again?” she rolls her eyes, practically pushing Blake into the auditorium. “Go do some actual work instead of annoying me.”
She is preparing to lock the door behind him and get back to her little desk - and the concession stand that no one is going to visit. It will be nice to have some peace and quiet after all these stupid feelings and changes. He is only going to come back to annoy her again after the movie, and she wants to be prepared. Also, she will probably have to arrange Octavia Lincoln’s transport to her hotel - she assumes that a movie star is not going to want to stick around in this damn theatre, accosted by teenyboppers.
“But how would I do my work without my lovely assistant?” damn Blake is not going to let her escape this, the ass. “Clarke Griffin, ladies and gentlemen.”
With that, he pushes her into the auditorium and quickly closes the door behind them. Like a deer in the headlights, she sees an entire room full of people stare straight at her. The teenage girls look jealous, and even some of the mothers look less than happy. The usual crowd is actually smiling, with Monsieur beaming proudly at her.
“Clarke is going to help with our Meet & Greet with the lovely Octavia Lincoln,” Blake does not betray his sister’s real identity to the crowd. “See, this movie is about art, and being a young woman in a difficult field without any support. And after the movie, Clarke will know what questions to ask about some of the artistic details, because I have never been able to draw much more than a stick figure.”
Fucking Bellamy Blake gently pushes her into the seat between him and the exit. The chair to her other side is designated for Octavia Lincoln after she gives a short introduction about how the movie came to be and how she came to be its female lead. Octavia is elegant and eloquent and passionate - and Clarke briefly wonders how this woman could possibly be related to Blake, until she remembers that he is only ever an asshole to her. So maybe, just maybe, there is a good guy underneath the asshole he appears to be.
“I’m sorry about my brother,” Octavia Lincoln smiles at her over the opening credits. “I came along when the damage was already done.”
Clarke snorts until Blake gives both of them an affronted look. It could be because of the joke or because they are breaking his sacred rule of not talking through movies. Either way, she is preparing for one hell of a show.
Roughly two hours later, she is left pretending that she did not shed a few tears. Blake, the ass, made her watch a movie that hits way too close to home. Only this story had a stupid happy ending - a stupid happy ending where the parents and friends did not return, but the protagonist was happy anyway. The girl never became the next Van Gogh (not pronounced van Go, damn it), but she had some decent success as an artist while she worked some side jobs if things got rough. And she was happy.
The relationship between the protagonist and the love interest was left fraught with possibilities, and with hope for the future. Shit, she cannot even remember the last time she went out on a date or even kissed a dude.
Fuck, she is so hopeless. But that is probably not the point that Blake was trying to make with this movie. He was probably hoping she’d focus on the hope part.
“Alright,” Blake stands up. “Let’s hear some applause for Octavia Lincoln. That was beautiful!”
“Thank you,” Octavia bows for the adoring crowds.
The teenage girls now have no eyes for Clarke, instead they’re making starry eyes at the talented Octavia - and who can blame them? This girl is fierce. Clarke saw Octavia’s last movie, in which she did all of her own stunts, and now she is marveling at the transformation between that role and this one.
Then, the other woman smiles in her direction, and after a quick eye-roll at her brother, takes her place facing the giant crowd. Clarke wipes at her eyes one final time - if Blake notices she is going to blame the dust - and joins her.
For a movie star, Octavia Lincoln is surprisingly low-key, happy to spend the weekend with her dork brother and his work frenemy.
Yeah, Clarke is not sure how that happened either - somehow she just ended up in Octavia’s gigantic hotel suite (paid for by a very happy distributor) and she hasn’t left for at least twenty-four hours. Surprisingly, she and Blake haven’t even attempted to kill each other yet. It might be a movie miracle!
“I’m so glad we’re not watching movies,” she rubs her tired eyes without caring about her probable panda eyes. “No offense, but I’ve been looking at so many screeners and trailers and reports that my eyes might start bleeding any second.”
At that, Blake gets up from his seat, surprisingly alert even after their midnight ramblings about music and history from the creation of the world until now. He looks deeply into her eyes as he leans over her - she is crashed on the couch and debating the necessity of ever moving again. His proximity is just about to get awkward rather than kind of nice when he starts to speak.
“Nope, nothing bleeding yet,” Blake just had to make a joke out of it.
“You’re the one who will be bleeding if you keep being an asshole,” she pushes him off as she finally decides to sit up reasonably straight.
He clutches at his heart like the big drama queen he is, and she tries not to smile. That is getting harder and harder, because while he’s still kind of an asshole, she’s kind of a bitch, and their banter is actually kind of fun. Yeah, terrible change, she knows that.
“Do I really have to tell you two to get a room?” Octavia is on one of the other couches, hidden under a mountain of pillows Blake heaped upon his sister. “Because I will, even though I know you’ll probably be getting, or getting it on, in my room. And ew, gross.”
Well, that is just grossly…. gross. There is nothing going on between her and Bellamy, because he hates her stup- oh my God. He likes her. Bellamy Blake likes her!
What the hell was he thinking? Was he thinking at all? Well, was she thinking at all when she followed him to his sister’s hotel room and burrowed into the couch - keeping at a distance only to keep them from touching. Blake isn’t as bad as she thought, and while she will not tell him that to his face, she might as well admit it to herself.
He is a decent guy and a nice co-worker who she would totally work with more often, if they can just keep trading insults on the job. Yeah, she can work with that.
“No, Blake,” she tells him without even looking at him. “We are not making out in your sister’s room.”
“But we are making out,” Blake is occasionally a perceptive asshole.
Octavia does not even look surprised at this, but she does watch the proceedings from a tiny peephole in her mountain of pillows. Clearly she wants no part of anything going on, but she still wants to know what is going to happen - without any dirty details.
“Maybe later,” Clarke tries to remain calm. “I don’t wanna get up right now.”
“Need some help?” Blake is clearly up to no good.
And before she can enter, he has lifted her up into his arms - damn he is strong, and those arms aren’t terrible - and he is carrying her into the other bedroom in the suite.
“You’re an asshole,” she makes every effort not to smile.
“That’s at least ninety percent of why you like me,” he shrugs in return.
Damn him, he’s right.
Thursday night doesn’t change much now that she and Bellamy Blake are officially make-out partners. (Technically, they’re boyfriend and girlfriend, but they both hate that infantile term, so they never say that.)
The crowd in the West Wing is much the same, and the teenyboppers still giggle and gaze whenever Blake gets even slightly close to them. Monsieur is still there, and one time he looks at her and Blake and she swears that he knows something. But mostly, nothing changes. Okay, so sometimes before she closes the door behind his not completely terrible ass, she smacks it or teases him with a kiss - but that’s only when no one’s watching. They are not completely unprofessional.
But other than that… She still calls him asshole and he still writes stupid requests in her planner, surrounded by hearts. She still looks hostile when the immature teens annoy her too much, and Blake still occasionally gets carried away by his own popularity.
The difference is that now they watch her screeners together while she proofreads his latest paper - he is such a lazy speller - and she is never cold anymore at her apartment. She is perfectly content with her job, her art, and her asshole make-out buddy.