I'll just go down to the river and collect some samples. Anything to get away.
She grabs her bag and a bottle of water then sneaks out the gate. Or what will be a gate eventually. It looks like a bunch of junk right now.
Nobody bothers her for fifteen minutes. She sighs in relief. At least she got away without being noticed. Of course that's exactly when someone steps out in front of her. Clarke yelps in surprise. But it's only Bellamy. Sometimes she really wants to punch that smug look off his face.
"What do you want?" she says, shoving past him.
"Going for a walk, princess?"
Clarke grits her teeth. "None of your business and quit calling me that."
"None of my business? You traipsing around the forest alone and unarmed is what my business is all about."
"Go away, Bellamy. I'm not in the mood to deal with you right now."
He doesn't go away. Instead, he falls into step next to her. "Where are you going?"
"Away." He hates it when she doesn’t let him boss her around.
Bellamy huffs at her nonresponse. She expects him to turn around. Or start pestering her for more details about her destination. What she doesn't expect is him grabbing her arm to stop her. His usual smirk replaced by a furrowed brow and tight lips. "What's wrong?"
Clarke cocks her head. Is he serious? She tries to pull free, but he tightens his grip until she glares at him. In that moment she thinks she's capable of murder. Why does he have to be such an ass all of the time?
"Clarke, what's wrong with you? You're acting-"
"There's nothing wrong with me. I just want to be alone. Okay. I can't take the bickering and whining and bullying." She emphasizes the last word then jerks free, turning on her heel. She's not surprised that he follows again.
"Who's been bothering you?"
She wonders if she's imagining the concern in his voice.
"Nobody. Everybody. You."
He snorts. "Wanna talk about it?"
She stops to stare. "You cannot be serious. Maybe I should be asking what's wrong with you. Did you hit your head or something?"
Bellamy faces her, crossing his arms. "Why is it so surprising that I'm concerned?"
"Because you're you. You don't care about anyone besides yourself. And maybe Octavia." She walks away again, slipping and sliding her way down a steep hill. She hears rocks falling behind her and knows he’s still following her.
She trips at the bottom, but Bellamy catches her. He gently sets her on her feet again, his hand lingering at her back. Clarke’s heart skips at his touch. She's not sure what to make of that, but knows she doesn't like it.
"That's not true,” Bellamy says as they start walking again. “I care."
She frowns, frantically trying to clamp down on those unwanted feelings. "Really? Should we go over your resume of actions since we landed? Where would we even start? 'Whatever the hell we want.' Encouraging Murphy to get into a knife fight with Wells. Oh, threatening Wells with a gun. Letting Murphy bully everyone into taking off their wristbands-"
"Okay, okay, I get your point. You can stop now."
When Clarke glances up at him, his face is tinted pink and he's frowning. They walk in silence. The longer they go without Bellamy saying anything, the worse she feels. I shouldn't care. He's a jerk and deserves it. And yet her stomach coils into a knot like it knows she did something wrong. But I didn't do anything wrong—I just told him the truth.
She sighs in relief when she hears the rush of the river ahead. It drowns out her swirling thoughts. Bellamy wanders down the bank, watching the woods for trouble. And brooding. She's scraping moss from a rock when he returns, his shadow blocking her light. She watches him warily as she stands and shoves the sodden mess into her bag.
"I do care what happens to you, Clarke," he says suddenly. "I know I don’t always show it, but I do."
Clarke blinks, shocked by his confession. He looks anywhere but at her, body tense, one hand resting on his hatchet. She's never seen him so uncomfortable. It's kind of charming.
She wipes her hands on her pants, trying to put all the facts together in her head. He followed her out here to make sure she was safe. He stayed even after she told him to leave. He still hasn't left. Would he do that for anyone else? Maybe.
The knot tightens, forcing a lump into her throat. "I care what happens to you, too, you know. You make it really difficult sometimes."
Bellamy ducks his head. Clarke's sure she sees him blush, but when his gaze meets hers again, he has his trademark smirk on his face. She waits for him to say something snarky, but he only smiles. "You ready to head back?"
Clarke sighs, looking around for anything else to do, but she's already taken samples of everything. "Yeah, I guess."
They scramble up the embankment, Bellamy pulling Clarke up by the hand. He holds it several seconds longer than needed. At least it feels longer. The knot in her stomach morphs into a pack of fluttering butterflies sending shivers up and down her spine. She hates that she kind of likes it.
"So, did you find everything you were looking for, princess?" he asks, interrupting her scattered and confusing thoughts.
She takes a deep breath to get herself under control. "Why do you have to keep calling me that? I'm not a princess."
He chuckles. "Because it annoys you."
"Of course you would do that," she mutters, rolling her eyes.
Forget what I said about charming.
"Come on, Clarke, lighten up a bit." When she doesn't say anything, he stops her with a hand on her shoulder. "If it bothers you that much, I'll stop. Okay?"
She's not sure if he's being serious. The look he's giving her is intense and makes her body tingle all over. "It does bother me."
"You're really going to stop? Just like that?"
Bellamy shrugs and starts walking again. "Why not? I can control my mouth when I want to."
This makes Clarke laugh. Okay, maybe he can be charming. Sometimes. When he lets himself. She wishes it were more often.
"Can I ask you something?" The look he gives her is skeptical, but he nods. "How come you try so hard to be a jerk when it's obvious you're a nice guy? The way Octavia talks about you, you'd think you were a saint or something."
He looks away, rubbing at the back of his neck. "Yeah, well, she's my sister, so she has to say stuff like that."
"I'm pretty sure there are no rules for siblings. She really means it."
They can see the camp coming into view up ahead. He slows, Clarke matching his pace. "Let's just say I do what I have to do to survive. You should do the same. Princess." His eyes sparkle at her glare, and he raises his hands in surrender. “Last time, I swear.”
He walks away backwards, a disgustingly adorable grin on his stupid face then turns and swaggers through the gate. Clarke flushes—she can feel it from the ends of her toes to the tips of her ears.
And sometimes he can be too charming.
She really, really hates admitting that she gets a little thrill every time he calls her ‘princess.’ Especially with that hint of affection in his voice.
She takes a few seconds to pull herself together before entering the camp, hoping her face isn't too red. Bellamy’s already barking orders at kids who are standing around. Clarke watches him a moment. She doesn’t get him most of the time, but she kind of understands where he's coming from. He doesn't have the luxury of being soft if he wants to maintain control. And it doesn't bother her that he's in control. He’s a good leader despite his faults. She admires that.
Not that I’d ever admit it.
Marley—the best friend of the girl with chicken pox—runs up in tears as soon as Clarke enters the camp, her face covered in little red dots. "Clarke, look at this. What is this?" She sounds frantic. There are three more waiting inside the drop ship. Clarke sighs. No rest for the weary, I guess.
Or the wicked.
She hears the last part in Bellamy's voice, and it makes her smile. She follows Marley inside, confident the dim lighting will hide her blush this time. She’ll just have to ignore the butterflies.