It was Clarke’s first day, her first day. And some prick was already trying to ruin it for her.
She’d been up for two hours by now; even though it’d only taken her a quarter of that time to shower and dress carefully in the clothes she’d picked out the night before, she’d wanted to have enough time to make sure her make-up was perfect, her new skirt wrinkle-free and her blonde hair neatly tucked into place. She’d allowed another half an hour to drive to the ARC building, although she knew from her practice runs (she was too embarrassed to think about how many there had been) that it would only take her 20, even in the morning rush. Everything had been going exactly as it should be, and she was calm.
She’d briefly looked at where she could leave her beloved VW when she’d been given her welcome pack, but as soon as she’d seen the size of the car park just to the side of the building, she hadn’t given it another thought.
Now she was kind of wishing she had, considering the size of the ARC building, and how many people working away in there might need all those rows of spaces. Early as she was, her luck wasn’t holding out.
She’d spotted a space just up her row and was excitedly creeping towards it- honestly, Clarke, what does it say about your life that you’re excited to get a parking space?- when a squeal of unloved brakes and a flash of dull blue materialised round the corner, twisted down her row- driving the wrong way, she might add- and slammed to a halt, bonnet to bonnet with her. One of them could make it into the gap, but only if the other didn’t move. The small space gaped ominously at them, spoiling for a fight. Clarke flicked her indicator on with a savage swipe, and gritted her teeth.
Not today, buddy. You picked the wrong girl.
There was a moment of silence, and Clarke squinted behind her sunglasses to try and catch a glimpse of the other driver. She couldn’t see much in the glare of the sun off their windscreen, but she thought it might be a man, a tall one. That seemed a bit off, though, next to the fluffy pink dice swinging cheerfully below his mirror.
Whoever he was, his car wasn’t budging. She glanced at her watch and clicked her tongue impatiently. This was not part of the plan.
When she looked back up, the dick driver had moved so he could lean casually against his door, tanned elbow just poking out the window. Definitely a man, Clarke thought, and then jumped out of her skin when he revved his engine, loud enough to shock the grey-suited businessman crossing behind him into spilling his coffee down his tie. He glared at Dick Driver too.
She spread her palms across her wheel, and squeezed, breathing through her nose. She pressed smartly down on the horn, just once.
The bastard only revved louder.
Irritated, she rolled down her window and stuck her head out. She wasn’t even sure he would hear her over the protestations of his engine, but she sure as hell wasn’t backing down.
‘Hey, this is my space! Go find your own!’
The revving quieted, but even across the gap between their open windows she could hear his low chuckle. She was instantly mad, uncaring that it was, really, just a space and she could probably (maybe) have found another one in the time they’d been sat there. Her mother’s voice echoing in her head- Kindness always come back to you, Clarke, just like a boomerang. Manners cost nothing- only fuelled her ire even more. Oh, the irony. Abby would be so proud.
‘No can do, Princess,’ his low voice carried across to her on the warm breeze. ‘In a bit of a rush.’ What she could make out of his calm stance completely belied his words.
She craned her neck out a bit further, not wanting to risk him sneaking in when she wasn’t paying attention. She sighed, and injected a plea for mercy into her voice. She tried not to think about how whiney it actually sounded.
‘Look, please. It’s my first day, and I really, really don’t want to be late. Give me a break?’ She added a hopeful little smile with the lilt to her voice at the end, waiting for him to concede like a gentleman. Her neck was starting to hurt, and she didn’t want to ruffle her hair.
She heard him huff, and then: ‘Fine. Next one’s mine though.’
Clarke didn’t much fancy a next time, but she called out her thanks and tucked her head back inside.
‘Shit! Hey, do you see—‘ Clarke glanced up at the sound of his voice again, and whipped her head round to follow where his extended finger pointed behind her. She scanned the car park behind her, and it wasn’t until she heard that ungodly revving again that she realised her mistake.
In her second of distraction, Dick Driver had squeezed his car through the tight gap and parked sloppily in her space. She might have left it too, if he hadn’t laughed loudly at her the whole way.
In an instant, she was out of her car, slamming the door behind her and marching over to yank his open in her nude heels. She didn’t even wobble.
To his credit, he didn’t look that surprised when his door was opened for him; his expression betrayed only amusement and a hint of mild annoyance. Clarke hated the way she faltered when she saw his face, golden brown, angular and haloed with a shock of shiny dark curls, because it gave him just enough time to shove to his feet in front of her, and his height gave him an immediate advantage. Not that he would hit her, she thought, with what was either naivety, blind trust or gut instinct.
‘Christ, Princess, even my sister hasn’t fallen for that one since she was four,’ he mocked her lightly as he swung a brown leather satchel from the passenger seat and tucked it over his shoulder. One side of his lips quirked in a half smile that boiled her blood, just a little.
‘You can’t just do that!’ she exploded, ‘it’s not-‘
His smirk was only growing when he interrupted her. ‘Isn’t what, Princess? Fair? Because, guess what, I don’t care. I can do whatever the hell I want.’
She resisted the urge to stomp her foot like a child. She wasn’t a brat, even though his stupid nickname made it seem that way.
‘Don’t call me that! And I can 100% guarantee that the world doesn’t work like that, dickwad. You’re a prick, but karma’s a real bitch’. Clarke couldn’t remember the last time she’d sworn so much in one sentence, and cursed again in her head at the side of her he was bringing out, worse than the brat. God, but he asked for it.
His eyebrows raised over his sunglasses like he hadn’t expected it either, but she still didn’t feel like she had the upper hand. Well, obviously, Clarke, he has the space.
He shouldered past her, brushing her side with his bag and catching a tiny piece of thread from her hem with his buckle and not even noticing. Her nails carved tiny crescent moons into her palms, relaxing manicure, my ass.
‘Believe me, I’d love to stay and chat- this is the most fun I’ve had in ages- but some of us have important places to be. Besides’- this he called over his shoulder as he strode off- ‘you’ve got a space to find!’
By the time Clarke found a space- typically as far away from the entrance as it could possibly be- grabbed her stuff and run as fast as she could into the building, she was not only late, but sweating not-so-professionally.
Her new boss, Marcus Kane, shrugged off her lateness with nothing but a pointed glare. Clarke hated the cold feeling that slithered down her spine knowing that the only reason she wasn’t reprimanded was because of her mother.
She’d almost calmed down by the time he’d directed her to her new desk, almost hidden away in a corner and perfectly plain except for the computer perched on top.
I hope, she thought bitterly as she yanked a pen from her bag to tackle Kane’s significant pile of introductory paperwork, that it isn’t kindness that hits him like a boomerang.
Clarke had almost forgotten about Dick Driver by the time she saw him again. It was a Friday about a week later, and Clarke had settled in enough
that she left for work only 5 minutes earlier than she needed to.
She'd finally finished for the day, fiddling away trying to get her iPod to connect to her car speakers with the tiny device Raven had given her as a well-done-on-your-new-job-even-though-your-mum-got-it-for-you present. They didn't really have gift cards for that kind of thing, but apparently radio transmitters did the trick.
There was a not-so-gentle tap on her window, and her pounding heart sank when she recognised the lopsided smirk. Not wanting to get out, she rolled down the window and turned a bored face on him.
‘What?’ She asked rudely. She didn't know why everytime she said something abrasively his smirk grew a little bit (or in this case a lot) but she didn't appreciate it. The tips of her fingers fizzed with disproportionate anger, and she knew exactly how her staticky radio station felt.
She wasn't entirely sure whether he was grinning or baring his pearly whites at her when he spoke. ‘I realise this is ironic, and believe me I wish that karma bitch you love wasn't quite so vindictive, but I could really use a favour.’
She narrowed her eyes at his audacity. ‘Are you even going to say please?’
‘Sorry, Mum,’ he retorted, then looked apologetic when she flinched minutely. She twisted her key brutally in response and her engine turned over.
He sighed, and lifted his sunglasses up so they rested in his messy hair, right where it looked like his hands had been carding through. She understood the motion when he tried to catch her eyes under her own glasses; she’d never really appreciated the whole ‘the eyes are the windows to the soul’ thing until now, but his dark eyes were so wide and deep that she kind of got it. Then she shook herself; Dick Driver had no soul.
She snorted. ‘You can't puppy-dog-eye your way out of this one, dick. Playground tactics won’t work on me this time.’
For a second, surprise glinted in those eyes. He recovered fast.
‘Ooh, brave Princess. Don't you know you shouldn’t rile strangers up when you're all alone in a deserted car park?’
She glared at him, and then at the practically empty lot around them in annoyance. ‘Are you threatening me? Because I swear to God, if you are-‘
‘Shit, no. I'm sorry,’ his biceps strained against the rolled up sleeves of his white shirt when he lifted his hands to run through his hair again, and when they caught on his glasses, he looked at them with a kind of dim, disinterested surprise. ‘Really, I am. My sister was supposed to fill the car up and she obviously forgot- for what must be a damn good reason- but point is, I'm all out and Julius won't start.’
She couldn't help a little snigger. ‘You called your car Julius?’
He mock-frowned at her and his cheeks were tinged with rouge beneath his freckles. ‘Do I not look educated to you, Princess?’
She would've helped him, had he not brought up that ridiculous nickname again. Instead she shrugged casually, ‘Sorry, got none to spare.’
He peered at her full petrol gauge for a moment.
‘Et tu, Brute? No, I guess I deserved that. Come on, please. I'll buy you a coffee.’ When she didn't react but didn't drive off, he added half-seriously ‘I'll personally guard a parking space for you every morning?’
Her hands flexed around her iPod, but she set it down carefully as a wicked smile played across her lips.
‘Alright. I'll give you some petrol-‘
‘Thank you, I-‘
‘Stop interrupting me, I wasn't finished. I'll give you some petrol, in return for a parking space, on the front row by the doors, and a latte every day next week.’
He watched her carefully for a moment, then stretched his hand through his window to grasp hers. ‘Deal. I'm Bellamy.’
Clarke hadn’t really expected Dick Driver- or Bellamy as she supposed she should probably call him- to hold up his side of the deal, but apparently siphoned off petrol really warmed a guy up to you.
‘Colour me shocked,’ she said drily as she pulled into the perfectly positioned place. ‘Kane himself would kill for this spot.’
Bellamy squinted at her in the morning sunlight and grinned. He held out a non-descript coffee cup for her and waited for her to ease herself out of the car in her heels.
‘Not sure he’s as keen on vanilla lattes though. Bellamy Blake, I’m impressed.’
‘I can’t believe you ever doubted me, Princess. I always follow through on my promises.’ He winked at her and she scoffed to cover the heat rising up her neck.
‘Not Starbucks though,’ she commented casually and callously, wanting to get a rise out of him in return.
He snorted. ‘I’m not made of money, Princess. Maybe tomorrow. Besides, my sister works at this coffee place round the corner and it’s is much nicer.’
She took a sip, and had to agree.
On the second day, he wore a tie that exactly matched the blue of her dress (and her eyes, though that she didn’t like to acknowledge) and laughed obnoxiously loud when he noticed.
‘Don’t spill my coffee,’ she grumbled, snatching it off him and stalking ahead, ‘and stop laughing! It’s a total coincidence.’
He jogged a little to catch up and fell into step with her. ‘Get out on the wrong side of bed this morning, Princess? Besides, we’re almost cute. Everyone’s going to think we’ve coordinated.’
She knew he was only winding her up, but she couldn’t resist. ‘Bellamy, literally no one is going to think that, because it’s stupid and you’re stupid. What do you even do here?’
His eyes flashed with humour. ‘Oh, I’m basically what holds this whole place together behind the scenes.’
‘Uh huh,’ she nodded, ‘and I’m the daughter of the boss.’ She hoped he didn’t catch the bitter truth behind her comment, and kind of regretted it when he looked at her a little funny.
‘Hey, don’t joke. I’m practically glue, me.’ He bumped his shoulder gently into hers and her coffee slopped over the sides. She frowned at him, and licked it off carefully, before it slopped down her dress. When she looked up at him, his face was slightly out of focus; he was staring at her but he wasn’t with her at all. Her stomach fluttered, and she told herself she absolutely did not want his eyes on her lips. Or any part of him on any part of her for that matter.
She burst forward, through the doors of the Arc. ‘By the way, is this Cinnamon? Because it was definitely Vanilla yesterday, and I’m pretty sure my orders were just plain…’
Bellamy shrugged and glanced away. ‘You just can’t get the help these days, can you Princess?’
She glared at him, and he chuckled.
‘I’m kidding. Plain is boring; I’m introducing some spice into your life,’ he winked at her and waggled his eyebrows outrageously.
Clarke started to giggle- giggle, Clarke, honestly- and then checked herself (although she had to admit it was pretty delicious). ‘Well, you are my personal slave for the week…’
He flushed until she could barely see his freckles, and she felt a flicker of triumph and something else in her belly. To distract herself, she shoved the cup at him, feeling mean.
‘Here’, she said, and pressed the cup into his blue tie until he was forced to take it back. ‘You can have it.’
He tested the weight of the cup. ‘Princess, you’ve definitely had half already.’
She exaggerated pointing her nose in the air. ‘Mr Blake, I don’t like your coffee and I don’t like you.’
It was as she flounced off, her smile creeping back onto her face, that she heard him.
Day 3 she got Caramel, and it was so sweet it made her teeth ache, almost as much as Bellamy did when he slid her bag off her shoulder and onto his (she pretended not to notice).
On day 4, he brandished Hazelnut at her, without a lid but piled high with whipped cream and mini marshmallows. She raised an eyebrow when she saw it.
‘My sister gives me extra,’ he explained. ‘She left a message for you on your cup, by the way.’
‘Pretty, funny, oh-so-perfect-space-stealing Clarke, don’t let my brother fool you. He totally wants all the marshmallows. Octavia xo’
Clarke looked up immediately, ignoring the way Octavia had addressed her like a coward, and Bellamy grinned like a five year old with marshmallows for teeth and whipped cream smudged around his mouth. Her coffee was bereft in comparison.
She thumped him on his arm and shook her head, trying to hide her smile. ‘Bellamy, you’re absolutely nutty.’ She was laughing before she’d even finished her joke, and Bellamy looked bewildered, in the best way, until he chuckled too.
‘Princess, that was awful, Like, truly, apocalyptically bad. I’m seriously going to have to teach you to work on your puns.’
Clarke was still giggling enough to ignore the way she reacted to what he’d said, and they walked on side by side until she’d calmed down beyond the occasional tiny snort.
‘Octavia?’ She asked instead, ‘is she a history nerd too?’
Bellamy tried to look cross, but she knew he was secretly pleased she remembered. ‘Actually, I pretty much named her. She’s more of the pink, sparkly and badass type.’
Clarke remembered his car decorations. ‘Ah, now see that explains the dice.’
He faked being wounded. ‘What are you trying to say about those dice? Julius loves them.’
Clarke smirked. ‘I’m sure he does.’ She took another sip of her coffee, and kept walking.
They walked in companionable silence for a moment and then Bellamy stopped her before she could walk through the doors. ‘Here, Clarke, you’ve got a little something…’ and then his thumb was stroking across her lip, wiping away her apparent cream moustache and whatever she’d been thinking about ten seconds prior to it. His eyes met hers and they darkened almost imperceptibly. Slowly- so slowly- he lifted his thumb to his own mouth, and sucked the cream right off it. Clarke’s mouth fell open, and she hated to acknowledge that her knees felt a little weak.
His smile was charming and devilish and he turned to leave without a sound.
‘Bellamy’, she called after him, refusing to notice how her voice cracked the tiniest bit on his name, ‘take the rest of this. I can never manage the whole thing anyway.’
He took it with the barest shake of his head.
By Friday, the supposed last day of their deal, Clarke found herself wondering how the worst part of her first day had ended up being the best bit of the ones that had followed. And then she shook herself from her cheesy thoughts, blaming them on the excess sugar Bellamy plied her with.
He was sat on the curb of what she now thought of as ‘her space’ when she pulled in, texting on his phone and sipping absentmindedly from the coffee cup in his other hand.
She slammed her door a little harder than necessary, childishly wanting him to notice she was there. He looked up straight away and leapt to his feet without even spilling the coffee, all long lean legs and smooth lines in his suit. Clarke watched him for a moment, his muscles straining as he reached to tuck his phone in his back pocket, trying to shake off the image of him in a t-shirt, in pyjamas. If he slept in pyjamas, she thought, and flushed at the image that brought to mind.
‘Why, Princess, your face almost matches your dress,’ Bellamy remarked conversationally as she reached him, scanning the length of her in her red dress in a way that made her glad she’d worn it. She ignored him, blushing a little harder, and gingerly took the cup he brandished at her.
‘What’s the flavour today, maestro?’ she asked.
‘Gingerbread,’ he replied, ‘and be gentle, it’s my absolute favourite.’
She hummed. ‘Saving the best til last, then?’
He looked down at her, his eyes hidden in the shadows of his riotous curls but his freckles still bright. ‘Something like that.’
She took a sip, and burst out laughing. ‘Bellamy, this is half empty!’
His smile turned sheepish. ‘Or half full, depending on how you look at it.’
‘You brat, you drank half my coffee!’ She tried to protest, but all that anger she’d felt for him a few days ago had melted away. Damn sugar.
He laughed. ‘I’m no brat, Princess, I’m just free of your royal decrees.’ He made his voice squeaky and high. ‘Dobby is a free elf.’
‘Oh my god, you are such a nerd!’ But she was laughing despite herself. ‘You, Bellamy Blake, are one coffee-stealing, marshmallow-thieving, space-snatching nerd!’
He batted his ridiculous eyelashes at her and bowed. He kept up the falsetto when he said, ‘why, Clarke, that’s just about the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me!’
She was laughing so hard- probably harder than his joking merited- when she tripped in her heels. He caught her before she face-planted, oh-so-gracefully, on the concrete, holding her a little closer to his chest than he really needed to. His breath fanned over her face, warm, and smelling of coffee.
She yanked her gaze from his to stare at the bit of collarbone she could see peeking out at her eye level. ‘You know, even in my heels, you’re still-‘
She didn’t even get her words out before he was kissing her, nudging her face up to his with one big, warm palm while the other tossed the empty coffee cup away. For once, Clarke didn’t think about the people who might be watching, or the spectacle she was making, but drew herself closer into the circle of his arms and wrapped herself around him like a sunflower finally opening up for the sun. He was warm, and then he was hot, burning her in the best way possible with every brush of his lips and stroke of his apparently talented tongue, and his desire for her fizzed through her body and sparked against her own until she felt positive they’d combust in the supernova they must be making.
Someone near them coughed, and Bellamy pulled away with a sigh that only she could hear. He looked how she felt, flushed and wanting and delirious. Like he’d been hit round the head with something, she thought, like a boomerang.
I know how he feels.
‘Gingerbread,’ she burst out stupidly, trying to hide the way she was panting but liking the way it made their chests brush against each other. ‘You taste like gingerbread.’
His smile was as incandescent as she’d ever seen it. ‘Didn’t I tell you? Best flavour ever.’