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I've Been Living in the Red

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In the end, she found him before he could find her. Granted, Clarke couldn’t be certain that Bellamy was here for her, but why else would he be at that exact cafe in Rome? Plus, she was relatively sure he had been tailing her. When she had seen a tan, curly-haired figure with a familiar gait on Princes Street in Edinburgh, she chalked it up to her brain seeing him everywhere because it wanted to. Traitor, she had thought, both at her brain and him.

Bellamy was babysitting a mostly-full flat white, casual as you please, but Clarke knew that under his sunglasses, he wasn’t reading the Plautus translation in his hand. He was scanning the street. So she slipped up from behind and settled into the chair next to him. Before he could turn his head, she slid a hand under the table, a gesture of affection to any onlookers, and pressed the muzzle of a subcompact pistol to his leg. Granted, the gun was tiny-- it had to be, to fit up the sleeve of her light sweater-- but it would put a bullet through his thigh as well as anything else. With her free hand, she leaned across the table, stole his coffee, and, ignoring his carefully schooled expression, took a long pull.

“How many bullets do I need to put in you before you stop following me?” she asked, not quite lowering the cup to conceal her words. “Something tells me ‘none’ isn’t in the cards, but I could keep it to one, out of what little professional respect I still have for you.”

He smiled down at her, as if he’d been waiting for her to join him all morning. To be fair, he might have. He lowered the book into his lap, concealing the gun but not pushing it away. (That son of a bitch. That book had been a birthday present.) “You don’t want to do this here. Besides, what caliber is that thing? Not big enough to slow me down, I guarantee you.”

“I don’t know. The exit wound might be smaller, but a nine millimeter damn sure doesn’t tickle.” She drained the last of his coffee. “But you’re right. I don’t want to cause a scene.”

“Back to your hotel?” At her raised eyebrow, Bellamy shrugged. “Gesture of good faith.”

Clarke scoffed. “Good faith, my ass.” Still. “Come on.”

He left a bill on the table and offered her a hand up. She slid the pistol back up onto its hook on the band around her forearm and accepted it.

Neither spoke until they reached her room and she locked the door behind them. Bellamy helpfully pulled her suitcase out from under the bed.

“Thanks.” She opened her top drawer and began scooping her clothes into the suitcase. Obviously, she couldn’t stay here after today. “Are you gonna tell me why you’re here?”

He perched on the edge of her bed, next to the suitcase. Smart move. She wasn’t actively threatening him now, but if he stepped out of her sightline, moved his hands wrong, anything, that could change in a heartbeat. “To find you.” Evasive, but it was what she asked, and neither of them was in the habit of giving more information than was absolutely necessary.

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t make me be Austin Powers. CIA?”

Fair enough. “Your mother sent me.”

“So the CIA.”

“No,” he huffed, but he understood why she thought so. “Just your mom.”

“Bullshit. Why does she care where I am all of a sudden?” It had been four years since Clarke had faked her death and bailed on the CIA. She had strongly suspected that her mother didn’t buy it for a minute, but Abby had also never mounted any effort, formal or otherwise, to find her.

“Because she only recently got an opening.”

“You.” He nodded. “How did she know we worked together?”

“There were witnesses in Morocco. Someone could’ve given our description to Interpol. Probably wasn’t good enough for anyone but her.”

Clarke grimaced. She had been careless in Morocco, and that’s when everything had gone wrong. Not the job, of course, but after. “So, what, she tracked you down? Brought you in and told you she’d throw you to the wolves unless you led her to me?”

He gritted his teeth, then relaxed, scrubbing a hand across his jaw. Clarke wondered dimly if he’d started sleeping in rubber mouth-guards like she’d told him to; then, she remembered that she didn’t care, and he was welcome to grind his teeth down to nothing. “Basically, yeah. I don’t have to bring you in. I just have to put her in contact with you. By phone, even.”

“Hmm,” she nodded, considering it. “Cool. Not gonna happen.”

She hadn’t spoken to her mother in, well, four years. Clarke had come home from central Africa after finishing up a series of what her mother had assured her were carefully considered, ethical hits. Definitely for the good of the world. Then, through a series of honest mistakes that involved sifting through her mother’s files for something entirely unrelated, she happened upon a series of emails that indicated otherwise.

Apparently, the real purpose of those kills had been to create political unrest, give an extremist minority group the opportunity for a coup, and set the US up to sweep in in the name of democracy. Some old crony of her mother’s stood to benefit from easier, cheaper access to diamond mines. And so Clarke’s “ethical hits” had actually been unjustified murders, fuelled by greed, and her mother had put the gun and the names in her hand. Less than twenty-four hours later, her Langley condo was a burned-out husk with a satisfactory amount of human tissue too damaged to analyze mixed in with the ashes of where her bed used to be.

Every once in awhile, it struck Clarke as a little hypocritical that she had left the CIA because of unethical dealings, only to become what amounted to a mercenary. But at least she knew what she was doing and choosing it for herself. At least she wasn’t under some bullshit illusion that she was doing the right thing, that she was the kind of person her father would be proud of.

Bellamy knew all this, and still he was asking her to speak to Abby. “Seriously? You talk to her on the phone for five minutes, or she hands me over to Interpol.”

“You left me before a job was done, Bellamy,” she frowned at him, looking as detached as she could manage. “I don’t know if you stole from me or betrayed me or what, but I really don’t give a shit about what happens to you. Or has the last year not made that clear?”

“The job was done!” Bellamy’s calm facade finally cracked. “And I didn’t leave you, Clarke. I told you I had something to take care of, that I'd be gone for a day, and when I got back, our hotel room was cleared out.”

“I saw your flight confirmation email. You left the fucking country, Bell, that is not a day trip,” Clarke hissed. “What was I supposed to--” She broke away, shoveling more clothes into her suitcase. “It doesn’t matter anymore. I’m in the middle of something, so it’d be great if you would go.”

“You’re such a liar. You’ve been bumming around the same five cities you always visit when there’s nothing to do for the last three weeks.”

She froze. “How could you possibly know that? I know you were in Edinburgh, but you didn’t see me there.”

He hesitated, then answered gently. “Raven told me.” Seeing the rage rising on her face, he elaborated. “She still knows most of my aliases. One of them pinged her when I flew into Prague. God knows how she got my number, but she called me and asked if I was following you. I told her what was going on, and all she would tell me in return was that you weren’t on a job. So that narrowed it down to five places. And that was three weeks ago.”

Clarke shook her head. Looks like she needed to have a talk with Raven. “Like you said, that was weeks ago. I’m on a job now.”

“For whom?” His skepticism was obvious.

“For myself, not that it’s any of your business.” Shit. She shouldn’t have said anything.

Bellamy scoffed. “In two years, I’ve known you to work two jobs for yourself, and you planned those months ahead of time. You could’ve done the Moroccan bank job by yourself, backward, and blindfolded. You wouldn’t be fucking around in Rome if you had something in the works.”

He was right. She probably could’ve done Morocco by herself. But they were a great team, and she wanted him there because she had been-- well, she still was, but it didn’t really matter anymore, and any number of words could fill that blank. Lonely, madly in love with him, stupid. And because she was still stupid, against all logic, she wanted to tell him what she was doing. “I’m going after Diana.”

His eyebrows shot up. “Sydney? Your handler? Why?”

“Handler” wasn’t quite the right word for what Diana Sydney was. If Clarke was essentially renting her body, her services, Diana was somewhere between her pimp and her booking agent. If someone wanted Clarke, they went through Diana.

Clarke still wasn’t sure why she had trusted her. Diana was rogue CIA like she was, but she eventually revealed that she had been siphoning agents away from the agency for years, helping them fake accidents and suicides, before defecting herself. By the time she ran, she had amassed a network of spies and killers big enough to make a profitable go of the private sector. Her agents made great money, and Diana had convinced Clarke that it would be safer to use a middleman, rather than contacting clients directly. Clarke had worked with-- or was it for?-- Diana for two years and met Bellamy just shortly after signing on. He had been a friend of an agent, a freelancer brought on to round out a group for a massive heist. Real Ocean’s Eleven type shit. At least one semi-good thing had come out of it.

“She stole from me,” Clarke shrugged, zipping her suitcase.

“She stiffed you on your cut, so you’re gonna kill her?” Bellamy asked, way too disbelieving for someone in their line of work.

“She didn’t steal money. She stole my identities. All my aliases, passport information, everything. She didn’t like that I kept my own tech backup, so she had her guy Wick buddy up to Raven, copy all her files, and bail while she was asleep.” Clarke made a face. “Now Diana’s in the wind. Raven says the files are encrypted to hell and back, but if she gets access to them, she has the ultimate blackmail material. So I’m going to destroy the files and then shoot her in the head, just to be sure.”

All he could muster was, “Oh.” Then, “I’m assuming you’ve been waiting around from her to trip one of Raven’s alerts.”

Clarke shot a little finger-gun at him. “Exactly. Now that she has, I was planning on finishing out the day here before getting on a plane tonight, but now seems like as good a time as any, given--” She gestured at him.

Bellamy was stone-faced. “You have to know what I’m gonna say next, right?”

“...’See you later’?”

“I’m coming with you.” His tone was somewhere between resolute and “duh”.

“Now why would you go and do a thing like that?” Baffled wasn’t the half of it.

He shot her a wry grin. “More time with you means more time to convince you to call your mom.”

“You just wanna spend time with me,” she smirked, but his answering look had too much vulnerability in it for her to look at or think about. “Anyway, what makes you think I’d let you?”

“You’d be a fool to turn down backup, going after someone like Diana Sydney,” he reasoned. “Besides, how are you planning on stopping me? Something tells me you don’t actually want to shoot me.”

She pursed her lips and gave a little hmph. “Yeah, not really. But I would’ve.”

“Sure you would,” he soothed, all conciliatory. “Now go get your toothbrush, and I’ll tell Raven to get us on an earlier flight.

 

 

They didn’t talk much on the plane. Mostly Bellamy grumbled about how he’d been all set up to go legit-- at least for a while-- when he’d gotten hauled into a meeting with her mom. He had such a nice place in Tuscany. Did she know how beautiful Tuscany was? Seriously, Clarke, had she seen it in the summer?

Clarke grumbled back that she had seen Tuscany, and good for him, and could he please stop talking?

Eventually, they touched down on some bleak landing strip in the Eastern Bloc, and Clarke woke up to Bellamy giving her a gentle shake. At some point, she had fallen asleep and leaned her entire body against the length of his. Her mood was sinking by the minute.

“I fucking hate eastern Europe,” she griped as they hauled their bags down from the overhead compartments.

“You do not,” Bellamy rolled his eyes. “You're voluntarily in Prague for a least a month out of the year.”

“Prague doesn’t count.”

“It absolutely counts. You’re just still pissy about that KGB girl you hooked up with that tried to turn you in in exchange for a promotion. Alexei or something?”

“Lexa, and yeah, maybe I’m still mad about that. Wouldn’t you be?”

“I don’t fuck law enforcement, so.”

 

Of course Diana would hole up in some warehouse in a row of abandoned warehouses like a rat. Raven had sent a small fleet of drones to do a series of flybys every day since she’d locked in on her. (Clarke didn't know where she'd gotten goddamn drones, but she didn't care; she knew this was just as personal for Raven as it was for her.) From the blobs of body heat inside, they knew that at least one person stayed at the warehouse at all times-- almost certainly Diana-- and she never had more than two or three other people with her. One blob was pretty stationary, so they guessed it was probably Wick holed up in their tech base. The other blobs kept to one area but walked a series of perimeter checks every hour on the hour, one during the day and one at night. Clarke guessed that Diana, who thrived on having devotees, wouldn't have outsourced for security, instead opting to keep at least one sycophantic henchman nearby.

“I need to hit the tech base first,” Clarke whispered as she and Bellamy crept through slums of unoccupied apartment buildings. Dawn was an hour or two off, and since Diana had always pushed for nighttime break-ins, they were pretty sure the warehouse defenses would be weakest in the morning. (Diana’s paranoia would come back to bite her in the ass for only having two guards on site.) “Wick isn't a threat as a combatant, but I don't doubt that he has any number of gadgets and security measures that could fuck me over.”

“He definitely does,” growled Raven from her earpiece. “That night, he kept bragging about all his inventions. The designs sounded tragic, honestly, but they could still make your life harder.”

“Wick’s a factor,” Bellamy weighed in, “but they'd have to be fools to have a point of ingress near him that wasn't constantly monitored, probably by a guard in a separate surveillance room. I think we'll have to go through the guard first.”

Clarke shot him a look. “For one, there's no ‘we’. You're strictly off-site backup. But more importantly, that's a lot of probably’s. I agree about the surveillance room, but I think the only option is to get in while the guard’s out patrolling. We all know the second guy won't really be paying attention to the security feeds then. Raven, can you tell us when he's outside?”

“Sure can. Eyes in the sky, babe.”

“Good. I get past him. Leave him alone in case he makes regular check-ins with his partner.” At Bellamy’s raised eyebrow, she shook her head. “No, Mr. Shoot First and Ask Questions Later, I'm not killing him on the way in. On the way out...” She made a vague gesture, “we’ll see.”

“You know I've still got some drones on standby, if you change your mind about just bombing the shit out of the place. You guys could just chill outside and pick off any survivors.”

Clarke shook her head, even though she knew Raven couldn't see her. “If we were a safe distance away, survivors would probably have time to get away before we got in range. Bomb the shit out of it after I'm clear.”

“Besides,” Bellamy chimed in, “haven't you ever seen a horror movie, Reyes? You never assume the bad guy’s dead unless you see it with your own eyes. Then maybe check their pulse just to be sure. Pure evil is hard to kill.”

Clarke wanted to take umbrage at his light tone, but...she had genuinely missed it. And since this was probably the last time she'd see him, she figured she might as well enjoy it while she could.

 

 

The night guard turned out to be Cuyler Ridley, Diana’s preeminent kiss-ass with a face like he'd always just been punched. Figured she'd keep him around. He treated Diana like his cult leader and basically radiated low-level hate at all times.

Since the buildings surrounding the warehouse were abandoned, Ridley didn't take any particular care to hide himself as he walked the perimeter. After all, if anyone had come close enough to approach while he was out, he would've seen it on the security feed. Of course, that discounted the possibility of a long-distance approach with air support, which was exactly what Clarke and Raven had planned. And if his patrol schedule was anything like they suspected-- mostly dusk to dawn-- he'd be getting tired and careless right about now.

“Alright,” Raven cued her, “you'll be clear to hit the southwestern entrance in forty seconds, and you'll have about another forty-five before he comes back.”

“Gotcha.” She pushed one of the buttons on the side of her watch. It wasn't her father’s, but it looked like it, in form and function. Raven called the chronograph pretentious, but it served a purpose.

“Hey,” Bellamy elbowed her. “Be careful. Stick to your plan. Call me in if you need me.”

“I will, I will, and I won't need you.” She almost said “don't”, but the double meaning would've been too much to think about right now. “But thank you. You didn't have to come.”

Fifteen more seconds. His eyes were almost pitying. “Yeah, I did.” Ten seconds. “Clarke, you have to know--”

She shook her head. “No. I have to go.” She, the person separate from the mercenary, desperately wanted to know the end of that sentence. But that was who she was, and who she had to be right now was someone else entirely.

Bellamy seemed to get that. “Later. Go.” He pressed a kiss into her hair, lingering just a second too long, the way they always had when there was the possibility of that kiss being the last.

 

 

Getting in was a matter of some stereotypical 007 spy shit, hopping from flat roof to flat roof and rappelling down to the door. The southwestern entrance was equipped with a keypad that looked too shiny and new against the worn metal door, but an equally shiny little gadget of Raven’s had the code puzzled out and the door open a full ten seconds before Ridley was due back around.

The inside of the warehouse had a weird, twisting layout, but Raven’s heat maps gave her a solid idea of where the three occupants would be. Wick’s lair was the first door she came to. Putting the center of technical operations in such a lateral location was an objectively terrible idea, but it was just like Diana to take a medial position and put anything, even something so vital, between herself and any threat.

Wick never heard her come in. He did, however, feel the barrel of a suppressor pressed to the back of his neck.

“You have ten seconds to tell me why I should let you live.”

He slowly raised his hands from his keyboard, turning his head even slower, just enough to see her face. Good. “I swear to you, Clarke, I'm not a threat. I haven't decrypted your files, so I don't know anything that could hurt you. You have no reason to kill me.”

He would think that was the only factor. “Great. I'll give you ten more to tell me why I shouldn't shoot you for manipulating my best friend into sleeping with you.”

Wick’s horrible moustache gave an indignant little tremble. “Hey, I didn't manipulate her into anything. She wanted--”

Clarke dug her gun deeper into his neck until she could feel individual cervical vertebrae. She really could not let him finish that sentence and live. “Fuck you. Sex under false pretenses is assault, asshole. But it's your lucky day. Raven said you don't necessarily deserve to die. Of course, maybe it's not your lucky day after all, because I can't just let you live either.”

He opened his mouth, but whatever he had been about to say was cut off by two near-silent shots to his knees. Clarke ignored his wheezing gasps in favor of looking admiringly at the suppressor. It was new, and awesome. Her favorite arms dealer, Anya, was kind of a bitch, and she never gave an inch in negotiation, but Clarke definitely got her money's worth.

She shifted her attention back to Wick, who was almost certainly in shock by now. “Look,” she offered, systematically putting a bullet through every processing unit and hard drive in sight one by one. “This place is gonna be dust in...anywhere from three to ten minutes, if I had to guess. If you make it out and down the block by then, you probably live. If not, whatever. Either way, it's out of my hands now.” She shrugged and made for the door, pausing to look back just as she crossed the threshold. “If I were you, I'd use that rolly chair. But it's your call.”

 

 

Clarke had made it through two hallways and was heading for the stairs when the day guard got the drop on her. Assuming that he would stay in the surveillance room until his patrol had been a rookie move on her part. But from the two heavy footsteps she heard just before he wrapped his forearm around her neck and pressed a gun to her spine, she could infer two things: he definitely outweighed her, and he was careless enough to be heard at the last second. It wasn't a leap to assume that she has the advantage of speed.

So, in a move she never would've attempted on an attacker that might be quicker to pull the trigger, she widened her stance, looped her arm around his elbow, and twisted her body until he was forced to let go. Before he could get his balance enough to take aim, she grabbed the muzzle of his gun and twisted it away from him, wrenching his other elbow. Clarke’s gun was already leveled on the guard before her brain processed who she was seeing.

“Tor?” she whispered. “What are you doing?”

The gruff, ginger man seemed equally relieved and frustrated to see her. “Clarke. You're here for Diana?”

“You're here to protect her?” From everything Clarke knew, Tor Lemkin hated Diana and only worked for her because he thought a man of his age wouldn't get as many jobs without a handler.

He shook his head. “She took my daughter.” Clarke hadn't known he had a daughter. “I don't know how she found out about her, but she took Reese. If I step out of line before she gets wherever she's going, if anything happens to her, she has Wick...press the big red button or some shit. I can’t let you kill her.”

“Wick’s not gonna be pressing any buttons anytime soon,” Clarke winked, a little self-satisfied. “You can check his lair if you want. I’d be surprised if he’s still conscious. Are they the only two that know where she is?”

He nodded, realization dawning. “You sure about Wick?” At her confirmation, he nodded again and scooped up his fallen gun. “C’mon.” Tor led the way to the stairs, and Clarke was careful to match her footfalls to his as they climbed.

Diana’s room was really more of a loft that took up the better part of the warehouse’s second level. Clarke hung back while Tor ascended the last few steps; moments later, she realized she should’ve asked him what he was planning to do.

Diana sat at a desk facing the stairs, tapping away at a tablet, and she looked up when Tor cleared the landing.

She cocked her head and opened her mouth, but Tor pulled his gun and took aim for what was obviously meant to be an incapacitating shot to the arm. Unfortunately for him, Diana’s legendary paranoia translated to an infinite number of weapons secreted around her and draw speed to make Johnny Ringo piss himself. She leapt from her seat, pulling a small handgun from under her desk, and landed a solid hit to his shoulder before he could fire a single round.

“Fucking shit,” Clarke hissed and took the last stairs two at a time. Before Diana could fire again, Clarke took a careful shot at her hand. It didn’t connect, but it grazed her badly enough to make her drop the gun. She kept her own gun trained on the older woman as she glanced down at Tor. He was bleeding pretty heavily, but it looked like a through-and-through. “You okay?”

He grunted and rolled onto his side, sitting up carefully. Clarke tugged off her dark beanie and tossed it to him, making sure he pressed it hard enough with his good arm to stop the bleeding. She had to give it to the guy, he was a trooper. Maybe it was the thought of Reese that got him back on his feet, his gun once again in hand.

Finally, she looked back to Diana, who stood cradling her bleeding hand to her chest. Her other, she raised in the air placatingly.

“Miss Griffin,” she began, as saccharine as if Clarke had just brought over a basket of baked good instead of shooting her in the hand.

“Save it,” Clarke gestured with her gun. “Come around the desk.”

Diana obeyed, looking for all the world as if she was humoring a child’s whim.

“Tor, can you grab her chair?”

He grunted again and yanked it out from behind her desk.

“Check underneath it.”

He tipped it over, unstrapped another pistol, and holstered it before bringing the chair around.

“Sit.”

“I’m sure we can work out whatever’s bothering you,” Diana offered, sitting gracefully and ignoring Tor still looming just behind her. “Is it about your files? Because you’re welcome to them.”

Clarke ignored that. She was ready to be done here. This was already shaping up to be more complicated than she had expected. “Where’s Reese Lemkin?”

The older woman looked genuinely confused. “Who’s Reese Lemkin? Some relative of yours?” she asked, looking up at Tor. Or, that’s what Clarke assumed she would’ve asked if, halfway through “of”, Tor hadn’t shot her in the left foot.

The muzzle blast so close to her ear, combined with the pain of a bullet through the small bones of her feet was finally enough to rattle her, to say the least. She dropped her superior airs, and an ugly grin shook its way across her face. Diana laughed through gritted teeth. “What you are gonna do now, Tor? Kill me? Nothing you do to me will keep Wick from making that call. Your little girl is as good as dead, do you hear me?”

With a disappointed head-shake to put Abby Griffin to shame, Clarke tutted softly. “Oh Diana. Wick is either gone or dead. I don’t really care which, but either way, he’s not making that call.”

Still grimacing, Diana somehow managed to give a triumphant snarl. “Even better. If those men don’t hear from me by the end of the week, she dies anyway. So go ahead. Do what you want.” Slowly, she drawled, “There is nothing you can do...to save your daughter. You might as well kill yourself. At least that way, you’ll see her soon.”

Seeing the red creep up Tor’s neck and his hand twitch on his gun, Clarke hefted her own weapon and shot Diana’s uninjured foot, then her left shin. She raised her voice so Diana could hear her clearly over her own screams. “He’s not going to kill you. I’m going to shoot you in every large bone and joint that doesn’t border an artery or a vital organ until you tell him where his daughter is.”

Diana’s face was blood red and contorted with hate. “You--” she spluttered and gasped, shaking her head in what looked to be disbelief. “You’re not--”

Clarke wasn’t particularly interested in hearing what she wasn’t, or in lingering here any longer. This time, she took out the other shin and a knee. Diana’s legs were starting to look more like meat than limbs, and truth be told, Clarke wanted to throw up. She’d never really done this before. Couldn’t stomach it. Even now, her lungs seemed pressed up close to her throat, her heart compressed between her stomach and spine. But if it was a choice between torturing Diana Sydney and letting a little girl die? She could swallow her revulsion-- at what she was seeing, and at herself for causing it-- until later.

Just when she thought she might have to shoot again, Diana gasped, “Belarus!”

“What was that?” Tor leaned down gingerly, bringing his ear closer to Diana’s panting mouth. “What did you say?”

“I said...she’s in Belarus,” she choked out. “The number is in my phone, in my desk, under Janos Kobyakov. Call them. They’ll bring her to you. Now just...get me out of here.”

Diana’s pleading eyes might have moved Clarke if they hadn’t been so full of vitriol too, or if her mind weren’t fixated on the image of a child tied up in the back of a van, being jostled through the crumbling streets of Minsk with a group of strange men. Besides, even if they got her out, the nearest hospital was easily more than 80 kilometers away. Nothing for it.

Clarke looked at Tor, signaled for him to step away, and shot Diana in the head.

Taking a deep, shuddering breath, she stepped around the carnage to the desk and pulled out the cheap cell phone within. Tor was pale now-- not enough to be dying but enough to be weak-- so she pocketed it and slung an arm around his waist. As she turned to guide him to the landing, a figure at the top of the stairs caught her eye, and her gun was trained on him in a blink.

Bellamy.

 

Her gun and her heart sank as one, but she gave Tor a gentle push forward. Bellamy got out of their way, coming around to the man’s other side and walking down a step ahead of them, just in case.

“How long have you been here?” Clarke asked, but what she meant was, “How much did you see?”

If he understood her real question, he didn’t answer it. “A few minutes. I heard a shot through the earpiece, then you saying, ‘Fucking shit,’ which is exactly the type of thing you always say when you get shot. Got a little held up with Ridley outside, then I ran into Wick in the hallway. He tried to talk me into helping him get out of the building, but I figured if you were here and his kneecaps weren’t, that’s the way you wanted it.”

“So you left him?”

“So I left him.”

“Good call.” Clarke gave her earpiece a little tap as they maneuvered Tor out of the warehouse through the first exit they came to. “Raven, you still there?”

“You know I am.” Her grin was audible. “Ready for a pickup?”

“Hell yes,” she panted, and Bellamy made a sound of vehement agreement. They had driven to the outskirts of town and walked the seven miles to the warehouse. She looked over at Tor. “You coming with us? There’s an emergency clinic near our hotel. Worst case scenario, I can do a mean impression of a field medic.”

He didn’t really have a choice, but phrasing it as an invitation brought a tired, grudging smile to his drawn face. “Where that phone goes, I go, and something tells me you won’t give it to me until I’m patched up.” Bellamy and Clarke nodded affably. “Looks like I am.”

“Awesome,” Raven said, accompanied by the sound of rapid key-clicks. “I know a guy who knows a guy, so if you can get to the main square, which is like...three blocks due east, a helicopter can be there in fifteen minutes.”

“You’re amazing,” Clarke sighed.

“I know. So, can I blow up the warehouse now?”

“Honestly,” she chuckled, “I am impressed that you waited this long to ask. Definitely blow it up. You deserve it.”

“Thanks!” Raven chirped, and it sounded one hundred percent sincere.

 

 

The next morning, Clarke and Bellamy put Tor Lemkin in a cab with a patched-up shoulder, Diana’s cell phone, and their best wishes.

When they made it back up to their room-- which was, in all fairness, the least shitty room in an incredibly shitty hotel-- Bellamy perched on the edge of his bed and joked, “We should’ve told him to call us if he ever needs a highly-trained babysitter.”

Clarke sat across from him on her own bed. “Ignoring the fact that there is no us, children should never be exposed to me. Just in case...whatever’s wrong with me is contagious.”

Bellamy sighed and moved to sit next to her. She shied a few inches away and looked at her hands. Placing his hand flat on the mattress between them, he said, “There’s nothing wrong with you.”

Clarke whipped her head up to stare at him incredulously, looking nowhere near tears but like she wanted to cry all the same. “Bellamy. I know you saw what I did.”

“I saw.”

“And?” she demanded.

“You did what you had to do.” His tone brooked no argument.

She just shook her head ruefully and flopped backwards to stare at the ceiling instead. “No. There was another way, somewhere. But I was too angry at her, for what she’d done to me and to Tor and his little girl, and God knows how many other people. I was too angry, so I didn’t care enough to think of another way.”

“Clarke,” he said gently, “don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re a killer. A spy, a thief, a killer, and technically a traitor to your country, but somehow, you still aren’t a bad person. You don’t take pleasure in hurting people. Torturing one evil woman because you had to? That doesn’t make you a bad person either.”

“You don’t get it,” she sighed. “I mean, thank you. I think. But you don’t get it. I’ve spied and stolen and killed people because my mother told me to. I’ve killed people because I was paid to. And I’ll admit that I’ve gotten carried away before, but I’ve never hurt someone because I wanted to. Especially not someone as defenseless at Diana was at the end. And goddamn it, I’ve never hurt someone that bad and then woken up the next morning feeling like I didn’t do anything wrong.” She still wasn’t crying, but her voice was thick now, and it hurt to talk. “Am I horrible for feeling that? I mean, I have to be, to not have a conscience.”

“You aren’t horrible, and you obviously do have a conscience. And your brain wants to dissect why you feel the way you do, but your gut knows that you did the right thing.” He leaned onto his side and rested his chin in his hand, making it impossible for her to avoid looking at him. “If you had to choose again, in the simplest possible terms, who would you sacrifice: Diana Sydney or Tor Lemkin’s daughter?”

She swallowed. “Diana.”

“And is there any point at which you’d decide, ‘No, this is too much, I’d rather sacrifice the daughter for Diana,’?”

For some reason, that choice made all the racing gears in her brain slow down and click together with increasing certainty. Clarke didn’t blink as she said, “No. There’s honestly not. There’s nothing that someone could do to her that would make her life worth more than a little girl’s.” She let out a bitter little laugh. “I guess I’m just mad that that someone had to be me. It’s easy to make the call, but pulling the trigger... Is it selfish that I wish I hadn’t had to do it?”

“No.” His dark eyes were serious. “Being willing to take that blood on your hands so someone else doesn’t have to-- that’s the opposite of selfish.”

Clarke closed her eyes and tried to believe him. All she could do for the moment was roll onto her side and bury her face in the front of his shirt. As if he'd been waiting for it, or hoping, he wrapped an arm around her waist and tucked her in closer. “Thanks, Bellamy,” she murmured. “I guess I just can't see my hands under the blood.”

He huffed a single laugh into her hair, affectionate. “I know. So if you need someone to tell you you're forgiven, I'll always be around.”

At that, she rolled away to look up at him full-on, more emotions on her face than she was entirely comfortable with, but hey, it was time to lay it on the line. “We both know that's not true.”

“It can be, if you want it to.” She would've assumed it was a cheap attempt to con her into calling her mother for him, but she knew what sincerity looked like on this man’s face. It looked like this.

She took a deep breath and set her jaw. “Tell me about Morocco. The ticket to Paris. Running away when everything was going so...well.”

Bellamy hesitated, and her heart lurched. “I know how you feel about other people telling you about you, but please just believe me. You're not ready to hear about Paris. Nothing bad happened, nothing to worry about. I wasn't sneaking off to be with someone else or stashing money I hadn't told you about in a French bank. And I will tell you. But you're not ready right now.”

Her eyes shuttered, and her throat bobbed. “Fine. If that's the way you want it--”

“God, it’s not how I--,” he was hovering over her, eyes stormy, voice getting steadily louder before he cut himself off with a disgusted sigh. “Fine. Fine! I should've known you'd be like this.”

“Like what?” she challenged, as he sat up, stood, and crossed the room to his suitcase.

He ignored the question. Over his shoulder, Bellamy said, “We had been in Paris a few months before, and I saw something I liked. I put it on hold, and it was time to go pick it up.”

“Are you kidding me?” she scoffed as he turned to face her again. “All of this because you had to go on some very urgent, very secretive shopping trip? Please, God, tell me what was so important.”

“This,” he growled, and flung something small and black at her. His face was frustrated, but his posture was shifting, restless.

Clarke picked up the box. It was small and made of soft leather, with a hinged lid. She eyed it doubtfully, not bothering to guess at its contents (with spies and mercenaries, you really just never knew) and flicked it open one-handed.

Of all the things it could've been-- which was, admittedly, a relatively short list-- somehow the last thing she was expecting was a fucking ring.

After one very long moment of staring at its almost ridiculous perfection, she snapped the box shut. Squeezing her eyes shut too, she held it a little away from her, as if she needed physical distance.

“I told you you weren't ready.”

And Clarke was a big enough, self-aware enough person to admit that he was right. She definitely was not ready. As stupidly in love with him as she'd been, and as begrudgingly in love with him as she still was, it would take some time for her to shift from the idea of Bellamy the traitor to Bellamy who wanted to marry her.

So she opened her eyes, gave the box one last long look, and tossed it back. His expression was carefully blank as he caught it and waited. Finally she said, “Okay, fine. You're right. I was not ready for that.”

His answering smirk was bitter but resigned.

“But I will be, eventually.” When his eyebrows shot up, she had to hold in a laugh. Had he really thought he'd scared her away?

“Yeah?” he asked, still mostly expressionless but tinted with hope.

She grinned at him. “Yeah. I promise. Now give me your phone.”

That threw him for a second. “My phone.”

“Your phone,” she confirmed, exasperated. “I need to call my mother.”

Bellamy was grinning too as he swiped it off the table and tossed it to her.

As she punched in the number, Clarke shot him a sparkling sideways glance. “Just so you know, when I'm done bailing your sorry ass out of trouble, I'm gonna need you to tell me more about that place in Tuscany. Going legit for a little while sounds pretty good right now.”