A/N the First: Thanks to everybody who left a review on Going Courtin'! You guys are wonderful. Thanks also to my fantastic beta reader mxpw. This is a sequel to Going Courtin', so if you haven't read that one, you miiiiight be a trifle confused.
Bless Your Beautiful Hide
Bless your beautiful hide
Wherever you may be.
We ain't met yet but I'm a willin' to bet
You're the gal for me
— Bless Your Beautiful Hide, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
For the first seventeen years of her life, Clarke had been dutiful. Her mother sat on the Council, her father presided over Engineering, and it had simply been expected she would take after one of them. Clarke had seen no reason to fight it, even though she'd much rather pick up a sketch pad than a scalpel or a screwdriver. Art was a pastime, not a vocation, and she'd placed that aside to focus on the knowledge that she was merely marking time in human history, a generation between destruction and the return to Earth that would pass unremarkably.
She knew Bellamy had been the same. He'd never talked much about life on the station, but she knew he'd been the good son, the good brother, always keeping a secret that had eventually destroyed his life. He must have grown up on half-rations, forever hungry, but even now, he never complained. The obedient one, just like her.
And now, on earth, they couldn't do a single thing without sparking a forest fire of consequences.
Even their wedding was causing trouble.
Celebrations for the first thaw had been underway for a week. It was a chance to shake off the doldrums of winter, so even though the flu had rendered half the camp unable to leave their beds, it had been a rousing success to Grounder and Sky People alike. Clarke had been enjoying the festival and more importantly, all the good food and getting to see her friends without them dropping by the infirmary. All in all, a good week.
Until the Grounders had dropped a nasty little bomb into their laps: they wanted to marry Clarke and Bellamy off to their finest warrior and maiden, respectively.
One disastrous lie later, Clarke stood in a tent not meant for the warriors or their betrothed, but separate altogether. It wasn't normal, Lexa had said, for two warriors to marry. Warriors had their own tent, the betrothed another. But with Bellamy and Clarke, the Grounders had made it very clear that they were both respected fighters. To serve them and perform a wedding—essentially welcoming them into the Woods Clan—was the greatest gift the Grounders could bestow upon them. And so Clarke had been shunted off to a third tent, while Bellamy kicked his heels with the warriors, doing whatever it was they did.
She hadn't seen him since the wedding parties had arrived at the door of Camp Jaha to collect the bride and groom, but he'd been ashen-faced, his jaw working. She'd seen the way his eyes had darted for the tree line, judging the distance and the repercussions if he ran.
She hadn't been insulted. She'd been doing the same thing.
Hours later, every inch scrubbed, she wore her cleanest clothes underneath a furred wrap she'd been given for the occasion. Octavia had already come in and braided her hair, nearly a dozen tiny braids that traced the contour of her head and gathered at the nape of her neck, leaving the rest of her hair loose and flowing. She no longer looked like Clarke of the Sky People, but like a Grounder herself. The wrap they'd gifted her an hour earlier was covered in symbols and runes she was beginning to learn, all dyed a bright blue that matched Nyko's tattoos.
They were calling her a healer. And they had given her a sword. Torchlight on the blade, deathly sharp, gave it an ethereal glow and made her sick to her stomach. She wasn't going to have to fight somebody, was she? Oh, god, what if she had to fight Bellamy?
She wished somebody would come and tell her what the hell was going on.
"Clarke?" And as if summoned by her frustration alone, she heard the familiar cadence of Bellamy's boots outside the tent. "You in there?"
Her stomach fluttered, not from anxiety over the ceremony, but at seeing Bellamy. Which was frankly ridiculous. She and Bellamy had been in a good place the night before. She'd woken up reassured and happy for once, content that Miller's drunken thoughtlessness hadn't ruined the one good thing that was really going on in her life. Her relationship with her mother was strained, there would forever be a shadow over her friendship with Raven, Finn was dead, and all of her friends constantly woke in the middle of the night, gasping for air and soaked in sweat. Knowing she could rely on Bellamy, that he would back her play and vice versa, whatever it was, had been the constant. He had been her constant. And now the Grounders had made it awkward.
"Clarke?" Bellamy sounded like he was right at the tent-flap. "Are you even in there? Or am I talking to empty air and this is all some elaborate prank to make me look like an idiot?"
"No," Clarke said before she could stop herself. "I mean, yes, I'm in here, but don't come in. It—it's bad luck."
And now she was too afraid to look him in the eye, which was a feeling she loathed.
She practically heard him squint at the canvas in front of him, his eyebrows close together. There was a long pause before he said, "Didn't take you for the superstitious type, Princess."
"Nice to know I can surprise you."
"Well, uh." She heard the sound of his boots crunching on the snow, which had barely melted before another layer had fallen, thick and fluffy and unwelcome. "This is a sanctioned visit, if it makes you feel any better. I was told to wait with you. And, you know, it's cold out here, so…"
"Okay, fine, come in." Though she hated herself for it, she took a step back, a sick feeling in her stomach. This was Bellamy.
When he actually stepped inside, her breath caught. He looked like he'd been to the steam house, just like her, for his face was shiny and clean. Even his battered old boots had been polished so that most of the wears and tears of a hard life weren't even visible. The shirt wasn't one she'd seen him wear before, and his hair was slicked back away from his face. But looking at his legs, Clarke felt every bit of paranoia and nerves fade away as she tried not to laugh.
"Yeah, yeah," Bellamy said before she could even say anything.
"They're making you wear a skirt?"
"It's a kilt and my knees are freezing. Get your laughs in now."
Clarke tactfully covered her mouth with her hand. It wouldn't do to begin their marriage—her stomach dropped at the word—with Bellamy wanting to strangle her. "Why are you wearing a kilt?"
Bellamy looked aggravated. Even though the kilt looked warm, made from the same type of hide now wrapped around her, but it didn't change the fact that his knees and a good portion of his calves were exposed to the cold. "It was a gift, and turning it down seemed like bad form. Just like this entire wedding ceremony."
"No kidding. How did this even happen again?"
"Octavia," Bellamy said without missing a beat. He winced and seemed to reconsider. "Well, sort of. I think there's more to it than the Grounders being wedding-happy 'cause of their 'winter is over' festival."
Immediately, Clarke straightened up. "What is it?"
"Your hair looks great. Not that—" Bellamy went a little red and cleared his throat. "Not that that's what I was going to say. But, um, it does. Anyway, they've been telling me a little bit about what's going to go down tonight, and right now we're supposed to be exchanging gifts."
"What gifts?" Clarke asked, blinking. "I don't have anything to give you, unless you want—" She checked her pockets and faltered for a second. She'd forgotten that she was still carrying the little blue stone with the green swirls. "—the rock you gave me last night because you were drunk and handing me things, apparently. I don't know why I still have this."
He only shook his head. "Keep it. It's not that kind of a gift anyway. It's more like a reverse dowry or something. I'm supposed to give you something that will help you out in the event that I, you know, kick the bucket."
"That's an uplifting thing to think about on your wedding day. Am I supposed to do the same for you?"
"I think that's why they gave you that," Bellamy said, pointing at the sword on the table behind Clarke. "To give to me."
Clarke felt herself visibly deflate with relief. "Oh, thank god," she said.
"I thought I was going to have to fight you!" She hit him on the shoulder when he failed to hide his laugh in time, and barely avoided running her hand over her face in sheer relief. Octavia had spent far too long applying what meager makeup supplies they'd scrounged up for her to mess it all up now. "I was really scared about that, stop laughing!"
"Aww, that's sweet. You don't want to fight me." Bellamy's sarcastic smile, so familiar after all these months, flashed for a second.
"They didn't give you a sword to give me, did they? I'm not very good with them."
Bellamy sobered. "Not exactly. It's…they gave us—well, you—land. We're land-owners."
"They really are trying to adopt us into the fold if they're giving us property in their village," Clarke said, and she really wasn't sure how she felt about that. Sure, it was cramped in Camp Jaha, and she missed having a space where she could be alone. But she didn't really want to live among the Grounders. Not when the peace felt so uncertain that a wrongly-timed sneeze could bring it all tumbling down.
But Bellamy was shaking his head. "Clarke, they gave us the land that Camp Jaha sits on."
And just like that, everything fell into place. Since the moment Imani had made the announcement that they wished to arrange a marriage between Bellamy and Clarke, shock had been her primary emotion. But beyond the shock, there had been suspicion. Something hadn't added up. It was a strange move for Lexa's clan to make, to extend this much hospitality and inclusion, no matter how much they respected Clarke and Bellamy. Several members on Lexa's council viewed their leader as soft, compassionate and forgiving of the strange foreigners that had fallen from the sky. They rankled at creating a truce with trespassers on their lands.
And with this elaborate staged marriage, Lexa had changed the equation.
"Oh," Clarke said, since she couldn't think of anything else to say to that.
"Yeah." Bellamy blew out a long breath. "Lexa's found a way around the council, but it involves you and me…well."
Clarke looked at him from under her lashes. It had been impossible not to notice the rumors and speculation that had been flying around camp about them. The first hundred of them to fall from earth had seen Clarke and Bellamy's tumultuous first steps into leadership, so they'd found it a little more difficult to believe. But from the first day, most of the adults Clarke had met had just assumed that she and Bellamy were an item.
And even though it wasn't fair to Bellamy to let them assume that, sometimes it was just easier. She didn't like having to explain it to outsiders. She'd tried her hand at romance and it had backfired spectacularly, and she wasn't exactly aching to get burned again. And what she had with Bellamy, it went deeper. It was a trust and a faith that she didn't want to destroy, not the way everything else had been decimated by her touch. The Grounders were potentially asking for her to do the very thing she dreaded with one hand, and with the other they were offering a solution to the biggest problem the Ark survivors currently faced.
"Feels great to be a pawn, doesn't it?" she asked, her voice dull.
"Could be worse," Bellamy said. "They could be giving the land to Murphy."
They shuddered as they contemplated it.
"Your mom didn't want me to tell you about it," Bellamy said, suddenly.
Clarke frowned. "Why not?"
"Well, Princess," and he tilted his head when she rolled her eyes at the nickname, "she seemed to be under the impression that you've got a self-sacrificing streak a mile wide and wouldn't see any choice but to go through with the wedding if you knew what Lexa was offering in trade."
"My mom is willing to undo all of the peace we've worked out with the Grounders?" Clarke gasped. She hadn't seen anybody but Lexa and Octavia all day, actually, and the latter had been only because Octavia had shouted down the council until they'd let her into the steam-room with Clarke. So she had no idea how Abby felt about any of this. If she was angry at the Grounders, at Clarke, if she was relieved that they had presented a potentially harmless solution to the problem that at any moment the Grounders could decide that the Ark residents were trespassing. Her feelings about her mother might be complicated, but she could have used a hug.
"Yeah, looks like your mom hates me just that much," Bellamy said, crossing his arms and leaning back against a post. "Delinquent janitor and her little girl in an arranged marriage thanks to a society that believes gladiator battles are civilized shows of affection. What mother wouldn't swoon?"
Clarke narrowed her eyes at him. The disparaging remarks about his life on the Ark really only came out when he was nervous. "You're not a janitor anymore, Bellamy."
"Can't exactly clean out a trash compactor in this, no," Bellamy said, plucking at his kilt. "At least, not without some effort. How…how close are you to bolting out that door and heading for the forest?"
Instead of answering, Clarke just raised her hand to let him see the way it trembled.
"Yeah," Bellamy said, blowing out a long breath. "Same. Look, maybe I can call it off and pretend to have cold feet or something. They might still give you the land, if they think it's for your protection. Like I've jilted you."
Clarke shook her head. "The council would never go for that. And…" She squeezed her eyes shut for a second. Marriage had been a long time down the road for her, always. She knew her parents and Jaha had been under the impression that she and Wells would make a go of it, that they would grow older and into their feelings. But Wells was dead, and once they'd reached earth, well, every aspect of her life had become wrapped up in the struggle to survive. Relationships were a luxury when you were just trying to stay alive.
Articulating that, though, proved difficult. Clarke took a deep breath. "I didn't see myself growing old enough to actually consider marriage a thing, so it's not like I'm losing out on anything. No offense."
"No fairy tale wedding in your dreams?"
"Yes, let me grab my tiara and my frilly white dress and just hop down the aisle in between shifts where I try to keep everybody in the camp from dying of the flu."
"Well, when you put it that way." The muscle in Bellamy's jaw worked. "Guess you're in luck because I never saw it in the cards for me, either. First there was Octavia and now there's pretty much everyday life. Guess irony's a son of a bitch. We're doing this, then?"
Clarke hesitated. The entire day had been surreal: the initial announcement of the wedding, the stream-rooms, having her hair styled by Octavia, being given what seemed like traditional wedding garments. Surreal, and none of it had felt real. But now, looking into Bellamy's face, that question made it all come crashing into reality.
She nodded, her stomach turning over. Injecting false bravado into her voice, she said, "I'm game if you are. For the land."
"You don't have tell me how much it means. I know." Bellamy uncrossed his arms to smooth the front of his shirt, then folded his arms again. "It doesn't have to be real. We can just keep doing what we have been. I mean, we had everybody fooled already."
It took Clarke a beat to realize that the feeling welling up in her chest had some flavor of disappointment mingled in, which was such a strange feeling to behold. Why would she even want that?
"The harder thing would have been convincing them we're not together," she said, and she was rewarded by the fact that Bellamy's lip tilted up just a fraction. Emboldened by that, she raised an eyebrow. "I'm not taking your name."
"Fine by me. I'm not taking yours either." Bellamy glanced at the roof of the tent as he thought it over. "You could hyphenate. Clarke Griffin-Blake. Has a ring to it."
"I came into this world screaming, covered in blood, and named Clarke Griffin." Clarke shook her head. "I plan on leaving it the same way."
"I worry you're not kidding," Bellamy said, and in the distance, drums sounded. Instantly, all humor dropped away. She pushed her spine back, rolling her shoulders and lifting her chin. Bellamy did the same, squaring off so that he stood next to her. He picked up the sword. "That's our cue, I guess. Ready to go get married?"
"No," Clarke said, not really in the mood to lie. Impulsively, she held out her hand, and Bellamy wasted no time twining his fingers through hers.
"Me either," he said, and hand in hand, they headed for their wedding.
There were seven couples altogether, making for quite the processional up the aisle that had been stamped into the snow. Clarke and Bellamy were fourth in the line, flanked on Clarke's side by Lincoln and on Bellamy's by Octavia. "I am your second," Lincoln said in an undertone to Clarke as they waited in the line. "In the event of an attack…"
"Got it," Clarke said, and she tried not to wonder exactly how she had come to have a bridesmaid over six feet tall and sporting tribal tattoos.
As they walked up the aisle, following a woman with warrior tattoos and her reedy-looking fiancé, Clarke chanced a look around. The Sky People mingled in the audience seemed small and somehow out of place next to the ceremonial furs and winter garb the Grounders wore. But it looked like everybody had cleaned up for the occasion, even if it made their clothes look grubbier. Halfway up the aisle, Clarke spotted her mother in the audience. She gave Abby a tiny nod, and saw the resigned set to her mother's jaw. Clarke only gave her a brave half-smile back, hoping her mother could at least understand why she had agreed to go along with any of this.
At the end of the aisle, the seven couples and their seconds fanned out in a half-circle, facing a stone altar. There was no sacrifice upon it, much to Clarke's relief. A priest in furred robes and a crown made of antlers stepped up to the altar and the crowd fell silent in hushed anticipation. Octavia and Lincoln had stepped back a respectable distance, and if Clarke looked out the corner of her eye, she could make out Bellamy's profile. He had his chin raised and his eyebrows lowered. It was the same expression he wore just before battle.
She pulled her attention back to the priest when he began to speak. In Trigedasleng. Of course. This was her wedding and she wasn't going to understand a single word of it. When the other couples all knelt as one, she and Bellamy glanced at each other and did the same. The priest moved up the line with a wooden bowl and what looked like a fir branch. Clarke kept him in her peripheral vision, watching as he dipped the branch into the bowl and shook it at each couple in turn, half-singing, half-speaking. When he reached them, Bellamy was splashed with a liberal dose, and the scent of honeyed alcohol filled the air.
Bellamy actively began to shiver, so Clarke grabbed his hand. He glanced at her and away just as quickly. When it was time to rise again, she could see him fight off the desire to scramble to his feet and brush off his knees.
The first hiccup occurred when each couple was handed a branch to break between them. Clarke noted the derision in the eyes of the elder who passed over the branch for them to break together, which had to be a good couple of inches thicker than everybody else's. "Great," Bellamy said under his breath. "They're trying to make us look like idiots."
"Can't you just break it over your leg?"
"You need to break it together," Lincoln said, stepping forward. "It is for good fortune."
"Are they crazy?" Bellamy asked, and Lincoln shook his head tightly.
When Bellamy and Clarke tried unsuccessfully to snap the branch, muffled laughter broke out from the crowd. She saw Bellamy clench his jaw. "Stand behind me, with your arms around me, and hold onto it," he said. "I'll bust it over my thigh and it still counts."
"Works for me." It probably looked awkward as hell, but the snap of the sapling branch splitting evenly in two was sweet revenge. She took one of the halves and they waved to the crowd together.
"Satisfied?" Bellamy asked the elder as he handed the two pieces back, and Clarke muttered his name under her breath.
After that, it was apparently time to kneel once more. "Wedding promise," Clarke whispered as the priest moved to the first couple and touched them atop their heads. "You'll never have to kneel bare-kneed in the snow again."
Though he was outright shaking now, Bellamy's look turned wry. "Not even when we renew our vows in twenty years?"
"You think either of us is going to survive being married to each other that long?" Clarke asked.
"I'm getting you something that says 'I told you so' for our golden anniversary." They fell quiet as the priest asked the first couple a question, and both the man and woman replied. An elder stepped forward and placed crowns woven from fir boughs on their heads. "Oh, great. Now there are hats. What do you suppose they're doing?"
"Looks like vows," Clarke said, her brow wrinkling. She glanced over her shoulder at Octavia, who shrugged like she wasn't exactly sure what was going on either. Lincoln remained silent.
The priest said something, the same words he'd used before, and Bellamy leaned close. Clarke figured he was probably using her for whatever radiant body heat he could get. Until he started whispering, in time with the priest: "I, Mighty Warrior Grounder Man, take you, Mighty, uh, Not Warrior Grounder Lady—"
"Shh," Clarke said, as she was in real danger of laughing, which would probably end in a war with the way their luck had been going that day.
"—to be my Grounderly wedded wife—"
"In Grounder sickness and Grounder health."
"I'm not listening to you anymore."
"In Reapers and in acid fog—"
Clarke bit down hard on the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing. She wasn't entirely successful; the couple to their right glanced over, and Bellamy and Clarke did their best to appear innocent. When the priest was finally in front of them, intoning the same words, Clarke had to stare pointedly at his face. Otherwise she would look at Bellamy, and she strongly suspected she would start giggling right then and there in the middle of her wedding vows. She murmured what had to be the Trigedasleng translation of "I do," and he repeated after her, which for some reason made a few members of the crowd behind them laugh.
"We either just got married or we agreed to name our firstborn Ugagrunt," Bellamy said, adjusting the fir crown they'd dropped on his head.
"But what if it's a boy?" Clarke whispered back—and Bellamy let out a shout of laughter that had everybody in the ceremony turning to look at him.
He very quickly ducked his head, and they knelt in frozen silence, too petrified to cause another ruckus. Since Lincoln looked like he might cheerfully murder them both, they kept their heads down and waited, their knees soaked from the snow, for the others to speak their vows. Finally, the others began to climb to their feet, and Clarke did the same, feeling sluggish.
"Be ready," Lincoln said in a low voice to both of them.
Bellamy gave him a wary look. "Kissing her's not going to be that scary."
"That is not part of our custom." Lincoln watched the crowd, hand resting near the hilt of the knife sheathed at his hip.
Clarke and Bellamy exchanged a glance, and Clarke wondered at the disappointment that arose. Not that she really wanted to kiss Bellamy. Maybe she'd wondered sometimes, that was all. And he'd had that string of women when they'd first landed, so clearly he must have some skill. Curiosity wasn't a bad thing. It was healthy, and it had only been idle speculation.
She pushed her mind back on track to listen to the priest, who had climbed atop the altar. He raised a smoothly carved staff to the heavens and let out a piercing yodel. There was a murmur in reply from the crowd, one of the very few Trigedasleng phrases Clarke knew.
It is done.
They were married.
Clarke gave Bellamy an uncertain look, wanting to ask if that was it. Even as she opened her mouth, the couples all around them threw their arms up and shouted as one. Belatedly, Bellamy and Clarke joined in. And then to her surprise, the couples around them began running.
Lincoln grabbed her arm and pulled, so that Clarke was left with no choice but to run after him.
"Hey!" Bellamy was instantly on her heels. "That's mine!"
"What," Clarke said, and she wasn't sure she was addressing Bellamy or Lincoln. She didn't get a chance to find out. They plunged into the crowd, Lincoln shouldering people aside left and right. Octavia, looking suitably alarmed, brought up the rear. "What is happening!"
"You must not be the last pair to the hall," Lincoln shoved aside a grinning teenager that was dancing in his path. "It will bring you ill luck that can only be cleared away with a gift of spirits to the council."
"This is a race?" Bellamy asked, and Clarke realized that the other couples were struggling through the crowd as well. In fact, the Grounders in the crowd were treating this as a game, blocking the paths as much as they could while the Ark residents looked on in utter bewilderment.
"Yes," Lincoln said.
Clarke and Bellamy exchanged a look. Clarke broke free of Lincoln's grasp, ducked under his arm, and started sprinting. Months and months of surviving everything earth threw at them—Grounders, Mount Weather, acid fog, horrible storms, mercenaries—had honed her ability to run from anything to lethal perfection. She dodged through the crowd, ducking when she needed to, barreling when she couldn't do that. Bellamy's footsteps were a familiar comfort right behind her.
They broke loose from the throng together; Bellamy overtook her in the open, as his legs were considerably longer. She kept up, right on his heels. It was a good distance to the reception area where the dancing would take place, but she couldn't help but feel a spurt of exhilaration through her midsection. For one second, she could forget this awful day and the crazy twist it had taken, and just run.
They arrived first and nearly collapsed against the side of the building, having somehow lost Octavia and Lincoln to the crowd. "Bet the Grounders weren't expecting that," Bellamy said.
"Their own fault. They're half the reason we're so good at that." Clarke stumbled a little.
"I'm okay." But she didn't pull away when Bellamy grabbed her arms, steadying her by the elbows. It left them standing close together, and he towered over her so much, but oddly she'd never felt dwarfed by him. He had a little snow dusting his hair, and the dusk made it hard to see his eyes. Oddly enough, she wanted to reach up and touch his cheek.
The crashing sound of the next couple arriving made them step back as if they'd burned each other. And then Octavia came stumbling in, gasping for air and bracing her hands on her knees. Others began to pour into the hall after her, but she glared balefully at Clarke and Bellamy. "You two are certifiable. I had to punch a guy in the face back there, and I nearly started a brawl because of you. Lincoln's back there still making peace. I hope you're happy."
"Now that," Bellamy said, "they probably were expecting."
Clarke diplomatically covered her mouth with her hand.
Octavia wrinkled her nose at her brother. To Clarke's surprise, the brunette leaned over and hugged her, holding on tight. "I didn't get to do this earlier, but welcome to the family. You should know that if it doesn't work out, I'm getting rid of him and keeping you."
"Ha, ha," Bellamy said. "Nice one, O. But you're stuck with both of us now."
"Could be worse," Octavia said, hugging him as their friends descended en masse.
Monty and Jasper led the charge. Clarke was scooped off of her feet by the former, who spun her around right before his boyfriend did the same thing. Chaos reigned as everybody jostled to see the newlyweds. Exclamations of "A little warning might have been nice!" and "I didn't realize you were an official thing!" ranged from dismayed to excited. She fended off as many questions as she could, accepting hugs and letting others hold the fir crown the Grounder priest had put on her head.
Until Bellamy waded through the crowd with a "Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's all very exciting. But you need to unhand the bride, we're needed inside where it's warmer." He grabbed Clarke's elbow, jerking his head toward the hall.
"Kiss her!" Jasper shouted.
Clarke froze, but apparently Bellamy had come prepared. He kissed her on the cheek, said, "Satisfied?" and pulled her through the door and out of the crowd. Their friends' boos followed them into the hall.
Inside, it was much warmer. The hall was decorated as it had been all week, with evergreen garlands adorning the walls and beeswax candles spaced on the tables. A space had been cleared in the center for a dance floor that would, if tonight's feast was anything like the previous nights', see quite a bit of use before the dawn came.
"You were ready for that," Clarke said, following Bellamy to their table as their friends spilled into the hall.
"Somebody was going to be a smartass. It was inevitable." Bellamy looked at her face and down to the floor quickly, turning away to pull off his jacket. "I just thought you probably didn't want to deal with that yet. Or ever. Either way. I don't want you to have to do something you're not comfortable with."
"I'm not comfortable with this whole day," Clarke said, frowning as he pulled her chair out for her. Warily, she sat down. "I'm also not sure how to act around you if you keep this gentleman act up. What happened to the Bellamy Blake I knew?"
"Maybe it's a sickness. I'll probably get over it. Tomorrow I'll be the asshole you know and loathe, don't worry."
Something spurred Clarke to reach out and lay her hand over his. "It's been a long time since I've loathed you, Bellamy. And I don't think I could do that, ever again."
When he smiled, it was slow to spread over his face, but it reached his eyes. Those were the smiles Clarke liked the best, all because they were the rarest.
"Probably want to see what being married to me is like for awhile before you make promises like that, Princess," Bellamy said.
Clarke, about to give him a meaningless retort, paused instead and really considered him. Neither of them had moved their hands, so they were still rather close to each other. And she didn't mind; she hadn't minded for a long time. They'd lived in each others' pockets before. They knew each other better, probably, than any of the other dropship kids just by virtue of having shouldered the burden of leadership together. And today, on a day where she should have been crushed under the weight of obligation, she'd smiled more than she had in awhile. She should have faced a politically arranged marriage like her own funeral—and she would have, if the Grounders had stuck to their original plan.
With Bellamy? It had actually been something of a relief. Sure, it wasn't ideal, but he was right there next to her, and that felt right.
"I don't think that's going to be a problem," she said, curling her fingers in so that she was outright holding onto his hand.
Bellamy stared at their hands like he wasn't sure one was actually connected to his wrist. "This has been a very strange day," he said at length.
"That it has," Clarke said. She looked around at the hall, glowing in the torchlight. The other six couples that had been part of the ceremony had been placed at tables just like theirs (the losing couple looked a little chagrined). And at the other tables, mingled in together, the Ark residents and Grounders poured wine into their cups and smiled at each other, communicating in what few words they had. A group of village folk tuned their instruments, the discordant twangs and scales floating above the conversational noise. "But I think some of it can be saved."
"Yeah? Which part?"
Some devil inside Clarke made her smile, right into his eyes. "I hear there's going to be dancing later."
"Sold," Bellamy said, and they both turned to face forward as their wedding reception began.
A/N the Second: I post the third story tomorrow, which is in six chapters, so it'll be a chapter a day until we're caught up with the AO3 posting. Also, my Masterlist (in my profile) has a link to a scene that was cut from this story.