The first thing Clarke sees is Atlas, written on the inside of her wrist in neat handwriting, black ink that curves around the s and trickles away.
And then it’s Atlas on the inside of her elbow, Atlas on her palms, Atlas wherever she looks, and she wonders who that person must be – that one person who has decided to cover themselves in images of carrying the world on their shoulders.
Who are you, she asks as the world around her starts moving slower. Who are you and what wore you out?
She touches her skin all through the day, pulls her sleeves down possessively because this person is her person. These days, Clarke doesn’t believe in love that lasts forever, but maybe she just needs a spark – maybe she just needs one good, electric thing to set her on fire like a livewire.
In a world full of Mondays, grey umbrellas and coming home without something to fight for, she lets herself believe in the closest thing to magic she’s got. Soulmates.
The ink doesn’t wash away with the clay when she scrubs at her skin after coming home. It stays there, the clusters of Atlas’ all over her hands, so visible that even Raven notices after coming home.
“What’s that?” she asks, nodding towards Clarke as she drops the takeout containers on the counter. Their apartment is small, an artist and a mechanic – the unlikeliest of roommates, and both of them are tired, but. It’s not so bad.
When Clarke doesn’t reply, Raven frowns and takes her hand, brushes her fingertips across the black ink. Raven’s voice is the quietest Clarke’s ever heard when she finally speaks up, gaze still locked on the words. “You’ve got a soulmate.”
It doesn’t feel like that. It feels like magic. Like maybe she’s believed in it hard enough for it to seep through her skin. She never would’ve chosen Atlas, out of all the figures in Greek mythology, but she wonders what sort of a person would.
“I guess I do.”
“You should be careful.” Raven looks up, meets Clarke’s eyes. She’s a spitfire, eternally clad in that red bomber jacket she’s got slung over her shoulders even now, but suddenly she looks older, wiser. Heartbroken. “Just because you’re made for each other doesn’t mean it’s good. Or forever.”
“I know, Raven. I’ll be careful.”
The other girl nods, squaring her shoulders and changing her demeanor instantly. The frown is replaced by a grin. “I got us Chinese. What do you say – you queue up Jessica Jones and I’ll bring food?”
By the time Raven falls asleep on Clarke’s shoulder, the words are gone but it feels like something bigger than them is missing, too.
She traces the outline of where the words should have been, the skin now pristine and clean of ink, and finds herself nostalgic.
Even if just for a moment, she was not alone. Just for a moment, there was someone in the world who had taken a pen to their skin and written hard and clear about what hurts.
Bellamy doesn't believe in soulmates. He doesn't believe in the crap that they feed people so they'd behave in hope of being good enough to deserve a person made for them.
People don't belong to people, people leave, and no matter how many times his mother scolded him with "Behave, or you won't get a soulmate", he always thought it was bullshit.
So he doesn't think much when his nose is stuck in a book about Greek myths, all for a paper contrasting the ancient Greek belief in humans' choices as opposed to gods tailoring their destinies. Atlas just makes sense. No one asked him if he wanted to carry the world, it was imposed on him.
And it'd be a lie to say that Bellamy isn't fucking terrified of how much he feels like that some days.
When he washes away the ink in the kitchen sink, Octavia eating cereal on the floor next to him, it trickles away like nothing at all and he doesn't even think about it.
Next morning, there are flowers on his arms. Pink and red and black, overflowing with color, curvature he's never even seen but that reminds him of the Underworld, bleeding to blooming to withering away, and he stares at the intricate patterns with constricted lungs and a heavy heart.
He doesn't believe in them but whoever's on the other side weaves flowers into his skin, weaves them without a pause, fervent and steady movements that have vines stretching down to the tips of his fingers and curving around his shoulders.
It goes on and on for hours and Bellamy can't do much but sit on his bedroom floor and stare. The world could've ended for all he cares.
There is someone in the world who makes flowers bloom for him in the middle of January, and the happiness he feels is so vast it creates an entire new universe in his chest.
Octavia finds him like that in the afternoon, wrecked on his floor and touching the flowers with utmost care, like they're about to shatter any second now.
"Bell," his sister starts, her book bag dropping to the floor with a thud. "Is that a tattoo?"
And Bellamy shakes his head, lost in the spirals and the roses and the poppies and the fields of Elysium this person has drew on his skin.
"No, O. It's a fucking miracle."
His sister sits down next to him, their backs to bed and thighs pressing close.
"You've got a soulmate. Good on you, Bell."
He's not sure if it's good but it's something. Something big and small and dreadful and enlightening.
When the person - his soulmate - is done, they end it with a neat scrawl - I always liked Persephone better.
Bellamy laughs so loud even Octavia joins in, the two person army that has withstood everything life has thrown their way.
"I don't know."
Wells frowns at her and Clarke feels like slumping to the checkered floor of the diner.
"Maybe I am ridiculous for not caring, but." But it feels like it's not real, like the soulmate is just a dream, a haze bound to dissipate any moment now. "I have time."
Wells wants to understand it but he can't. She's seen the way his eyes widened when she took off her coat, flowers in vivid colors covering every inch of her skin.
Whenever the ink fades, she retouches it, adds something new.
"Aren't you curious? They could be anyone."
"And they could be anywhere."
Their coffee gets cold as they try to forget about the patterns on her arms, her way of showing her soulmate that she understands.
Maybe they feel like Atlas, but she feels like Persephone. A princess with a crown of gold that has descended into the Underworld and claimed darkness as her own.
Maya brings her pancakes and Clarke smiles gratefully, avoiding Wells' pointed stare.
"Have you told Raven?"
Of course she has. Because the name Finn always hangs heavy in the air between them, haunts them even to this day.
The blood has gone cold, much like Lexa's, but there are still ghosts around them.
"Yes." Clarke sighs. "Yes, Raven knows."
"And what does she think about it?"
"I should be careful is what she thinks. She's not on your side this time."
Wells leans forward, sympathy clear in his eyes. "Clarke, I just don't want you to get hurt."
She flashes him a rueful smile. "Haven't you heard? I'm the one who hurts people, not the other way around."
"So that's why you don't want to meet them."
She destroys everything she touches. She leaves dead bodies in her wake and wonders how she even deserves this small miracle she got. It was just a word, but it was a new life, too.
"Give it a rest, will you?”
Wells smiles at her. "Never."
A new drawing appears on Bellamy’s wrist when he starts working in the diner. It’s old, exposed brick and chipped away paint, linoleum floors that transport him to a different age and a creaky coffeemaker.
But it pays well and Octavia’s sweaters have gone threadbare. He can’t be a parent to her, she is too old to ever forget what their mother put them through, but he can do better.
And that’s why he’s scrubbing the counter, an apron tied around his waist, when a black sparrow appears where his skin is the thinnest. For a second it feels like he’s going to lose all of his breath, the sudden sensation of someone keeping their fingers crossed for him.
He watches the outline being filled with more black ink, precise, thick strokes, and then a curved handwriting – good luck, because he’s written the time he has to be at the diner on his palm yesterday and whoever’s on the other side must’ve seen it.
Maya catches him smiling at it, the pull of his lips something he can’t stop because he feels so tired and hopeless, but there’s this person that cares. Whoever they might be.
“I like your tattoo,” she says, getting a plate of waffles from the kitchen window, smiling at him in passing. She seems kind, the owner’s daughter, and he doesn’t correct her. It’s better if she thinks it’s a tattoo, but he still pulls his sleeve over it.
Soulmates – they have a reputation. They either burn like roman candles, illuminating the world around them, or they burn to ashes and dust – leaving nothing but destruction in their wake.
“Can you get table five?”
Bellamy’s head snaps up, meets Maya’s curious gaze and he nods, dropping the rag and leaving towards the last table in the row.
There’s a girl sitting at it, just by the window, and she’s looking out. The morning is misty, grey, overcast skies feeling like the weight of the world Atlas had to carry, and Bellamy can’t blame her for not noticing him.
He gives her a second, watching her. She’s still got her jacket on, worn leather that’s probably soft to the touch, strands of hair falling over it, and with every breath she takes in, her hands go deeper into her pockets.
Her hair looks like the sun that should be up in the sky, golden and tangled and a little messy. It’s automatically endearing and by the time she turns around to face him, Bellamy is smiling.
“How long have you been standing there?” she asks, a raspy voice that feels like nails scratching his skin. It doesn’t surprise him.
“Not long. You looked like you could use the time.”
At that, she flashes him a rueful smile. “Thanks. I’ll just have pancakes and coffee.”
He doesn’t know it then, but she’s one of the regulars. The longer he works in the diner, the more he sees of her. She’s there first thing in the morning – sometimes happy, sometimes melancholic behind a smile that doesn’t quite reach up to her eyes.
Bellamy never asks, just gets her the coffee and pancakes she needs, but he keeps an eye out for her. It takes her a while but she drops the jacket eventually, blue eyes distant, as if trapped in a different world. When she winds a pencil into her hair to keep it from falling into her face, Bellamy knows what’s about to happen.
And sure enough, one Wednesday morning when he should be working on a paper but isn’t – he’s looking at her, she does the same thing before getting her sketchbook out.
After that, she’s not there anymore. The customers come and go, the bell above the door jingles every time but she never notices it. The morning shifts into early afternoon but the girl doesn’t move, and if it weren’t for her hand tracing quick strokes on the paper in front of her, Bellamy would have thought she somehow managed to get the world to stop for her.
The artist sits in the last booth every morning, takes her coffee with two sugars and frowns after the first taste. She never pours maple syrup on her pancakes, but she wants cream and gets it on her nose more often than she would like. Her fingers pull at her sleeves, tug them over her knuckles, and she looks like she’s cold even when it’s more than warm in the diner.
And when he thinks to ask her whether she wants a refill one Sunday morning when she’s already started drawing, she looks up her eyes are distant and ancient - clouds overflowing with electricity, the blue of the sky when fire clears.
Bellamy swallows hard when she smiles, a little hazy, a little lost. And all the happier for it.
Before he’s about to turn away and leave, she stops him with her fingers too close to the place he’s found a crown of purple roses that morning. “What’s your name?”
The girl smiles again, a little wider. There’s a mole above her upper lip, a star that forgot its way back to the skies. “I’m Clarke.” A beat of silence, as he looks at her and tries to forget why she reminds him of fallen empires. “Would you mind if I drew you, Bellamy?”
He’s not sure why he wants to let her, but he looks around the empty diner all the same. No one’s going to miss him.
“Alright. You mind if I work on a paper?”
She shakes her head and waits patiently until he returns with a cup of coffee and his book bag.
“Why me, though?” he asks, because he can’t help it. Why him, out of all people. Why him, when he’s not special, when he doesn’t have anything to call his own?
(Except for that crown of roses on his wrist. He has that. And it makes him feel like there’s more to life than just working and dying.)
A crease appears between Clarke’s eyebrows and she says, “Because you’re beautiful” like there is nothing else to it.
Bellamy laughs but waves her to continue, watches as she picks up the pencil and gets to work. He does the same, losing himself in the books that are now neatly splitting his and Clarke’s halves of the table.
The coffee goes cold as each of them works. Sometimes he feels her eyes on him, but it’s not uncomfortable. Other times he looks up, sees her curls going wilder and wilder with every line she draws, meets her gaze but she doesn’t see him.
Clarke has curled up into herself again while he wasn’t looking, her hands obscured by the grey sweater – only bright purple nails visible, and the drawing is between them on the table, turned over to the perfectly blank side.
After she leaves, the air having become too thick between them, Bellamy turns it over.
And it scares him. It scares him how accurate it is. From his freckles to the essence of who he is, that one word he never knew how to pronounce but can see on the paper in front of him.
It scares him because there is something very real about it.
Clarke doesn’t mean to become friends with the guy who works in Maya’s dad’s diner. She just goes there because it’s the only place that feels peaceful enough to take a deep breath and get to work.
But she asks him if she can draw him, sees his parted lips when he comes to top up her coffee, the slightly dazed look, and she is aware of the crown of roses on her wrist, but.
God, if the way that boy smiles doesn’t remind her of the Sun stubbornly rising every morning.
The day after she hands him the drawing, she’s almost afraid to step in there. Her soulmate has what must be a grocery list on their palm and so does she, so she tucks her hands into her pockets and does her best to brave through seeing Bellamy.
He’s smiling at her again and it sends shivers down her spine, the good kind. The kind that comes with warmth and feeling safe and happy, so she smiles in response. “Bellamy.”
It’s harder to draw that day because she’s torn between looking at the grocery list (chili mayo / OJ / lucky charms) and sneaking glances at Bellamy when she supposes he won’t be looking. He’s got this air about him, seems comfortable wherever he is, and she loves how he always ducks his head to hide a smile even though he’s beautiful and probably knows it.
There’s also the matter of his freckles, the little constellations someone put there and forgot that boys aren’t stars and universes.
“Let me guess,” his voice snaps her out of her reverie, eyes stuck to the cars passing on the street. When she looks up, Bellamy is smirking at her. “Is it going to be pancakes and coffee today or pancakes and coffee?”
Clarke pretends to think about it for a second and it probably comes out too chirpy when she asks, “Can I order something else?”
Bellamy’s eyes widen comically and he nods.
“Yeah, I’d love pancakes and coffee. Just to switch things up a little.”
Bellamy bursts out laughing, loud and full-bellied, and by the time he raps his knuckles and says he’d get it right away, there are tears pooling in the corners of his eyes.
It starts like that, banter and chatting. Then it turns into Bellamy coming to sit down at her booth during slow hours, working on whatever he needs to get a history degree, and mornings spill into afternoons into nights.
She tries not to think of Atlas, what she’s taken to calling the person who wrote that down on her skin, because there haven’t been any markings on her skin lately and it fills her with dull ache, the emptiness where something should be, the possibility of being forgotten. Again.
And there’s Bellamy, who slides into her booth after his shift, a book bag on his shoulder, and falls down onto the seat with a weary sigh. His curls are a mess, there are dark circles under his eyes and when he leans forward, he shoots her a tired look.
He eyes her warily for a second and then cracks, shoulders slumping. “My car broke down, my paper is due tomorrow and –“ he trails off, looking to the side. Then, “I really don’t wanna talk about it. What are you doing?”
Distraction is sometimes the best answer and so Clarke shows him the illustrations she has done for a children’s book, a rabbit and a princess off to save the world. Bellamy laughs as she relays the storyline to him and for a while, it feels like nothing else quite matters.
When she returns home that night, Raven passed out in her pile of scrap metal and half-finished projects, there’s ‘Atlas’ on the inside of her elbow again.
I know, she thinks. I know. I’m tired, too.
On the night of Clarke’s exhibit, it’s flowers again. This time, they’re not as intricate, they don’t stretch over the expanse of his arms, but they are covering his forearms and for whatever reason that might be, they seem happier.
Octavia fixes his tie before he goes out, wishes him luck with a dash of sadness. There’s still his soulmate but he likes Clarke. He likes her because she laughs like she’s surprised she can do it, because her weapon is sarcasm even when she looks like she’s going to fall apart, and he likes her because she never pries – just listens.
When Bellamy is with her, it’s as if the loud shouting world grows quieter, even if just for a second. Nothing else is quite there, not when she’s laughing at his jokes in the old diner and snorting into her coffee.
So when he arrives to the gallery and sees her in a long purple sleeveless dress – nothing covering her bare arms but daisies and orchids, the same ones he’s wearing underneath his suit, it makes sense.
It makes sense, it fits, like a puzzle piece that’s always been missing but he never knew. He never knew, and Clarke must see it in his face when she turns around, flashes him a dazzling smile. It takes all of his strength not to take her by the arm, kiss ever flower she made bloom on her – and his – skin.
But he doesn’t say anything, just smiles back and weaves his way through the crowd, people looking at the paintings that he never would’ve guessed Clarke made. They’re angry, they’re sad, and if anything – she’s always been wistful.
Wistful, as if nostalgic for something far away and something so deeply buried in her past that she might just never unearth it.
“Bellamy, you made it,” she says, stepping closer to him. The moment her arms wrap around his waist is the moment he knows how ridiculous he was, believing that his soulmate wouldn’t be the girl he could spend hours talking to.
He makes small talk, Clarke beams at him whenever he catches her eye, but it’s not until Bellamy gets a pen and scribbles ‘Found you’ on his palm that she stops in the middle of her talk with the gallery owner and looks up.
She finds him in the crowd immediately, standing by a painting she named ‘The Hundred’, which depicts a world in shades of blue, but a hundred different faces in shades of pink. A little hopeful, a little lost. Exactly like Clarke.
Bellamy’s heart soars when her eyes widen and he nods, answering the question she didn’t yet pose. But it’s there.
After that, it’s like the world stops. He sees her excusing herself from the crowd, motioning for him to meet her at the exit, and she’s grabbing her old leather jacket, ridiculous in it with that sparkling long dress, but Bellamy joins her anyways because she feels infinite.
Clarke Griffin feels so fucking infinite when they’re standing on the street outside and she’s looking at him like she’s seeing the stars for the first time.
Bellamy nods, rolling up his sleeve to show her just where they bear the matching marks. There’s black ink on her palm, flowers on her arms and a smile on her face when she realizes that they are the same.
And then –
She laughs. Vibrant, like the wind chimes in his grandmother’s house by the sea, salt and sand mixing in the air. “Of course it’s you.”
Bellamy always thought it’d feel like sacrilege to have someone trace the drawing his soulmate made. But when Clarke does it, curious and smiling, it doesn’t feel like anything short of a miracle.
Her fingers aren’t even touching his skin, just brushing it, and it’s with such gentleness that he can’t help but to press a peck against her forehead.
Clarke looks up. “Do you want to get out of here?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”
She laces their fingers together, leather jacket and curls that can’t be tamed, flowers they both carry across their forearms, and the world is alright. The world is finally in its place, and it’s still got grey days, it’s still got Tuesdays that are the most hopeless of them all, but Clarke is holding his hand and looking at him every second, even when they finally make it to a secluded corner of the world.
They sit on the warm asphalt in front of a kebab kiosk, shoulder to shoulder, and Clarke is the one who reaches for him first, tentative.
“I’m glad it’s you,” she whispers, kissing the corner of his mouth and Bellamy has always thought of himself as brave, but he’s not brave enough to move while Clarke keeps trailing kisses all over his cheeks, making him feel like he’s not just a broken boy but a holy thing that deserves to be loved.
Just when he thinks that he can’t stand it anymore, the bright lights and the lack of Clarke’s lips on his, she gives him that one last thing. She kisses him.
Clarke Griffin kisses him and it’s nothing like the flowers she painted on his skin. She kisses him and it’s not an explosion, not a hurricane that’s going to set his head spinning and destroy his soul with its ferocity.
She kisses him and it’s flowers blooming in the concrete, just where no one would think to find them. She kisses him and it’s a cruel world that has finally come to a rest.
He slides his hands into her hair, pulls her closer until she’s nearly sitting in his lap. Clarke lets out a small laugh into his mouth, moves away just enough to lean her cheek on his forehead and sigh.
And there is his soulmate, the one who feels like magic brought to life in his arms. There is his soulmate, the girl who he knows is much more than that, always will be more than that.
But now, her eyes are closed and there’s a small smile playing on her mouth. This world might not be a magical one, but he’s found his revelation.
“I’m glad it’s you, too.”