(i. the spark that ignited a forest fire)
The whole camp is ablaze with celebration.
It feels right, he thinks as he stands on top of one of the hills not far from Camp Jaha, that after retrieving the rest of the 47 from that hellhole Mount Weather, they are to enjoy themselves with familiar people. They need it. She needs it the most.
He finds her amidst the sea of people in the middle of the camp, blonde tresses standing out like a sore thumb amongst the mix of the young delinquents and the Ark people alike, sporting a cup of what he could rightly guess as a helping of a stronger formula of moonshine. He’s too far from camp to notice if she’s enjoying or just being social, and the urge to check on her is so strong he has to turn away for a little while.
That small fact that he immediately spots her without difficulty may not be born of the notion that she stands out like a sore thumb. It may be because of something else. But that’s his puzzle to figure out. And not now. Not when there’s more than a patriarchal government and an uncharted world to figure out before anything else explodes in their faces –
“There you are.”
He lifts his head to meet her eyes, shoots her an upturn of his lips which he hopes passes as a weak smile, and then holds her gaze. She tilts her head and smiles in return, her expression telling him that she sees through his bullshit. Of course.
“Yeah,” he replies. “Here I am.”
She steps closer to him, two cups of moonshine in her hands, her feet crushing the dead leaves of autumn underneath her boots.
“That’s too much to drink even for you, Princess,” he quips, willing for the thick tension to dissipate. It has always been like this with her, especially when they’re alone. It’s just that sometimes, it’s easier to ignore, like when torturing a then-unknown-and-unnamed Grounder, or when talking about a mountain heist.
She snorts at that and then offers the other to him. “I couldn’t find you anywhere, thought you left.”
He can hear her fidgeting in the quiet of the dark woods, the weight of the poorly concealed fear in her sentence dragging his stomach down like lead, while he stares contemplatively at the offered drink. She looks up at him once more, and then nods, retrieving her outstretched hand and turning to leave, maybe taking his silence as rejection.
Oh, great. You hurt her feelings. This is what you get for thinking too long.
His hand shoots up to grab at her arm before he could even think about it, careful not to jostle it and spill the alcohol, and then gently guides her back to him. He offers her another smile, apologetic and teasing at the same time, and then grabs the cup from her hand.
She watches as he downs the thing in one go, and then laughs at his reaction when he barely masked his disgust.
He coughs one last time, his chest burning up with an odd sensation that’s decidedly not from the moonshine. It may be from the way she’s looking at him, smiling softly at him, running a hand up and down his back to soothe him. Damn her.
“Thanks,” he responds gruffly, his voice rough and low, and then watches curiously as her lips part and her eyes flutter ever so slightly.
“Thought you needed it,” she says, and then turns back to the festivities below with a reminiscent smile. “With all the fun you’re not having.”
He scoffs. “Oh so now it turns around,” he replies, leaning so that their faces are inches apart, only for her to see his smirk. She turns her head to snap back at him but quickly shuts her mouth when she notices the distance that’s barely between them.
He feels the start of the same reaction so he pulls back and clears his throat. “I think you’ve had more than enough moonshine for tonight,” he says teasingly.
“How can you tell?” she asks, her eyebrows shooting up her forehead in challenge.
“Because you’re smiling and laughing and dancing – I personally prefer you with a line or two on your forehead,” he adds just to irk her more. Said lines appear as she frowns at him. “Normally, those only happen when you’re heavily inebriated.”
She crosses her arms in front of her chest like a child (he finds it irritatingly adorable) and pouts. Okay if she’s not drunk, she’s definitely not going to do that. Not in front of him, most especially. “You underestimate me, Blake.”
No, he doesn’t. Not anymore, anyway. He’s learned his lesson when she found him with a barely breathing Atom and showed him for the first time how it is to be human on Earth. And then maybe only applied it that night the moment she returned to camp with Finn’s blood on her hands and tears on her cheeks. So no, he’s come to learn a long time ago never to even estimate Clarke Griffin.
“What?” she asks, and then he realizes that he’s been staring at her while being lost in his thoughts. “What were you thinking about?”
His eyes widen subtly at that – of course, she’ll see through it. Of course, he’ll find it twice as hard to lie to her. Of fucking course.
So he’ll tell her the truth. “You.” Or the truth, but only part of it.
She stares at him, he stared back, the back of his neck burning up with self-consciousness and guilt and embarrassment and something more, but he refuses to give up because giving up means he’s hiding something – and he wants to prove that there’s still something in him that she doesn’t own. (He’s failing miserably.)
And then – she sways precariously violently that he has to catch her by her shoulders and she has to anchor her hands on his chest to avoid impact.
“Are you alright?” he asks, worry marring his forehead.
“I was getting dizzy with all the staring,” she admits with a small scoff and he smiles a little at that. She steps toward him a little so that she’s only leaning on him lightly, but she does not stop touching him. His smile drops and he so desperately wants to tell her to put distance between them, to stop with whatever it is that she’s doing because he cannot do it himself, because her breath on his lips, and the warmth of her palms through the thin fabric of his shirt – it’s driving him crazy.
“You say you were thinking about me?” she asks, and if he knew any better, he’d register how breathless her words are to his ears. But he’s too occupied with trying to rein his traitorous feelings in, with trying to detach his fingers from her shoulders – but only succeeded in sliding it down to her waist where her shirt has ridden up a bit.
God fucking dammit.
“I – was,” he stutters, he fucking stutters like a flustered, inexperienced teenager – and he is none of those (except maybe being flustered – but that’s the extent of it).
She smiles so minutely, but he sees it nonetheless, what with the proximity – but the more curious thing is that he feels it in his chest that she might just as well press her lips on it and it would still feel the same. “I was thinking about you, too,” she confesses, and if he didn’t know what the phrase ‘skipping a heartbeat’ meant, he sure does now. “And you know what else?”
He thinks he has a slight idea because she’s drunk and festive, and possibly adrenaline-addled, so he knows. But one thing that he also surely knows is that Clarke Griffin is a rational human being (but less so when she’s trying to grate on his nerves even nowadays) that he likes to think some of that rationality would seep through even when she’s drunk.
He thought wrong.
Her hands travel from his chest to the back of his neck, leaving a burning path underneath his skin. He’s forced to exhale a breath to collect whatever clear thought he has left in his head – she certainly is not helping.
“Clarke, you’re drunk –
“I might be,” she interjects, giving the hair at his nape a gentle tug, lifting his chin in the process, and it takes everything in him not to throw caution to the wind and just kiss the hell out of her. “That might be the reason why I want to know how you kiss. So much.”
He blinks – and then blinks again, finally meeting her eyes in the darkness. There’s something else there beneath the thin film of glaze, and subtle mirth. Something he’s afraid to know about, but also really curious to discover.
He opens his mouth to tell her that she’s out of her mind and incredibly inebriated and she shouldn’t do anything that she’ll regret in the morning but she already has her thumb tracing the outline of his jaw, her fingers splayed on his neck, holding him in place and effectively shutting him up.
There’s a voice in his head, a traitorous hum telling him that a taste would not be so bad. She wouldn’t even remember it in the morning – besides, she doesn’t even see you that way –
Clarke hums and pulls him closer, “You think too loud.”
He scoffs at that. He finds it funny because he’s said that to her countless of times before and she will always zip her forehead as if to quiet her thoughts, and maybe he should return the gesture just to see if she’ll –
Her lips press against his closed mouth a little forcefully, and he finds a sane part of him to spare amusement with the way she accurately did it. And then he loses hold of it the moment everything registers. Clarke is kissing him.
There’s a low groan, and it takes him a moment to recognize it as his own. His mouth is still closed and Clarke’s is just pressing against him. They just stand there frozen until she’s detaching her lips from his and craning her neck to whisper into his ear.
Something in him snaps at her plea, maybe it’s his shadowed demon, but his hands are reaching for her waist and pulling her closer until she’s pressed against him. His mouth opens to her tongue, a sigh that sounds like relief escaping her lips sending a shiver down his spine. His doubts are now a coarse whisper at the back of his mind as she backs him up against the trunk of a tree.
Her hands grip at the hem of his shirt, and then her fingers are tracing the lines of his stomach, his muscles twitching at her ministrations.
And it’s in that moment that his brain reminds him of where they are, who she is, who he is, and why she’s doing this. The truth is that he needs her to stop, but he doesn’t want her gone. So he slows her frantic kiss, his palms seizing her cheeks and slowly (painfully) pulling away.
He can still feel her hands on the skin of his back (when had she put them there?) and her breath on his neck. He peels his eyes open, breathing out at the same time because at least now, she’s not insisting anymore.
Bellamy was about to chastise her for her recklessness or something (he so desperately wants to replace the chirps of the crickets with anything – anything), but she’s already sliding her arms around his neck and pulling him closer so that her face is resting at the crook of his neck.
And then she’s mumbling against his skin, her words warm and slurred and sounds so much like ‘I’m sorry’.
He doesn’t know how long they stood there, but he finds himself immensely amused when her breathing evens out and slows down. It takes him another second to realize what’s happening.
“Hey, princess, are you sleeping on me?” he asks, laughter in his voice. It is then that he finds she really is asleep. On how she does it standing up is way beyond him, but he bends down and catches her in his arms.
If he carries her to her tent and everybody stares, well she wouldn’t know, and he wouldn’t tell.
She wakes up and finds him seated near the opening of her tent, smiling softly at her. It’s amazingly hilarious how her eyes change a little and lets him know that everything is coming crashing back to her. But he lets her ask the question:
To which he answers with, “You fell asleep standing up, and then I took you to your tent.”
The way she flushes at the part he omitted is enough ammo for a week of teasing. “You were so drunk I couldn’t remember everything,” he adds.
He thinks he will have a concussion from the rock-hard pillow she throws at him, but the small smile that broke through her annoyed face is precious.