Chapter 1: A Challenge

"Was I a bet?" Pain and fury lace Clarke's words in equal measure. "Was I a fucking bet?!"

Bellamy doesn't have a response. He can't answer her hurt with anything other than stunned silence because, yeah, she was a fucking bet.

He steps toward her with his hand out, "Clarke-"

"Don't-" She shakes her head. "Don't fucking touch me." She jerks away from his hand like it'll burn her, and maybe she's right. He ruins things. He'll ruin her, if he hasn't already.

So, when she spins on her heel and leaves, he doesn't stop her. He doesn't try to explain that yeah, maybe this all started out as a fucking bet, but she's worth so much more. He doesn't tell her that she's changed his world so completely, he doesn't recognize himself anymore. He doesn't tell her that she makes him want to be a better person, because clearly, he's already failed there.

He lets her go.

[Five weeks earlier]

Bellamy lets the car door close, sighs at the chirp of the alarm as he drops the clicker into his pocket. He takes one more deep breath before facing the pandemonium that is Arcadia High School after spring break. As if on cue, Cage and Miller show up when he rounds the corner.

Miller pulls an ear bud out, "Bellamy, you look rested."

Cage claps Bellamy on the shoulder. "Blake..." Bellamy fails to stifle the urge to physically wipe away the imaginary "ick" where Cage had put his hand, but the guy is so self-absorbed that he doesn't even notice the less-than-polite gesture. Bellamy wouldn't consider Cage Wallace a friend by any stretch of the imagination. But, they're both on the varsity soccer team, and Cage's father is a prominent figure in Kane's social groups. That means he's basically stuck with the asshole for now. "Sorry to hear about Roma, man."

Bellamy shrugs, "I'm not." He should probably be more upset that his girlfriend of two years just ditched him after hooking up with some asshole D-list celebrity on spring break. But honestly? He's fresh out of fucks to give.

Cage clicks his tongue with a hiss, "You're kidding, right? The queen of this school just dumped your sorry ass for a Real World cast member, and you're telling me your popularity isn't about to tank?"

Bellamy stops, "Let's get one thing straight here." He looks out at their high school population sprawled before him. He still rules this place, and if Cage thinks Roma and some dickbag TV star are going to take that away, they've all got another thing coming. "Roma is not invincible, and she's not taking me down because of this." He snorts, "And come the fuck on, it's The Real World. Does anyone even watch that shit anymore?" He smiles when Miller grunts in amusement.

Cage shakes his head, "Roma is legendary. You lost her and you're losing this school."

Bellamy rolls his eyes, because fuck Cage and fuck Roma. Fuck this school, really. "Roma is one hundred percent replaceable. Take away all that makeup and her bitchy attitude, and all that's left is a shitty GPA in Spanx and a Wonderbra." He huffs, "She's an idea. A concept. A fantasy. Take any girl here, give her the right look, and-" he gestures toward himself, "-the right boyfriend, and you've got yourself the next Roma." He looks out at the quad, "I could turn any one of these girls into high school royalty."

Cage laughs, "Want to bet on that?"

"I'm listening."

Miller cuts in, "Alright, I really don't like where this is headed."

Cage pointedly ignores him, "You say any of these girls. How about you put your money where your mouth is, Blake." Bellamy raises an eyebrow and Cage continues, "You have to turn a girl of my choosing into, what are we calling it? High school royalty?"

Bellamy smirks, "Is there an actual challenge in there somewhere?"

Cage laughs, "Alright, alright... A challenge, huh?" He tilts his head side to side as if to roll an idea around. "She has to make prom queen. I mean crown and all."

Bellamy halts at that. Because yeah, Roma has been a shoo-in for prom queen since kindergarten. She was born to wear that stupid crown. That's not an exaggeration - It's a fucking family legacy for her. Still, he likes a challenge. It sure as shit beats the idea of facing any number of his actual problems, like what the fuck he's going to do after graduation. Some might call this bet ambitious, impossible, and more than a little unscrupulous. But Bellamy knows what it really is. Distraction.

"Name the girl."

Miller holds a hand up, "I'm going on record to say that I don't approve of anything that's happening in this conversation."

Cage rolls his eyes, then looks around, making a show of his search, before he zeroes in on a blonde, clad in paint-stained overalls, wild curls barely contained in a knot on top of her head, thick-rimmed glasses that probably aren't ironic, and clearly in a hurry to get somewhere. Of course, Cage would pick her, and Bellamy's already groaning before the name falls off his lips. "Clarke Griffin."

"Oh, no. Come on, anyone but Clarke." Bellamy shakes his head, "Seriously. I can work with anything else. Fat? I can handle that. Weird body? Easy." He looks across the courtyard at Clarke and scrubs a hand over his face before gesturing in her general direction, "But terrifying and untouchable? That's another story."

Cage smirks, "Looks like you've got your work cut out for you." He nudges Bellamy with his elbow, "Besides, you said you wanted a challenge. Clarke is a challenge." That's for damn sure.

He relents. "Clarke Griffin. Prom queen... Six weeks." Bellamy studies the girl. "She's not bad-looking." He knows looks aren't going to be the issue. Clarke is pretty enough. If she wanted to be popular, she easily could be. But it's like the girl makes an actual effort to be unlikable.

Just as she barrels past him, something falls from her bag. She doesn't notice and keeps walking, and well, that's as good an opening as any. He picks up the object - a paintbrush - and jogs to catch up with her.

"Hey, I think you dropped something."

Clarke halts her steps and Bellamy circles in front of her with his trademark smirk. She returns it with a confused stare, then looks down at his hands and her face softens with relief, "Oh, thanks." Her hands are full, so she nods toward her bag. "Just put it in there, will you?"

Bellamy smoothly tucks the brush into a pocket, and he's almost tempted to make some sort of move on her, but her seemingly permanent glare might as well be a neon-lit sign saying "Fuck off." He'll need to work on that, first.

"Clarke... Uh, hi." That's it. That's his opening line. Wow, real Don Juan here.

She huffs with obvious disdain, "Oh, god, I don't have time for this." Bellamy can only stand there, puzzled, as Clarke sidesteps him before walking away.

Okay, rude.

Miller sides up to him with a shit-eating grin, "That went well." He can always count on Miller to lay it on thick with the sarcasm.

Bellamy frowns, "Did I just get blown off?"

Miller laughs, "First time for everything..." He shakes his head while he heads toward his boyfriend, "Cage is right about one thing. You've got your work cut out for you." He calls back over his shoulder, "I still don't approve of any of this, by the way."

Bellamy walks into the kitchen and is greeted by the overwhelmingly sharp scent of nail Polish. His sister has her feet up on the island, letting the abrasively bright orange enamel dry and harden.

"Octavia, you're aware that there's a perfectly good patio outside? Where there's ventilation?"

She waves a dismissive hand, "You're aware that it's like six thousand degrees outside right now?" She holds her foot up in the air in front of her and stretches her toes apart while she inspects her meticulously decorated toenails. "I'm already finished. They're just drying now."

Bellamy raises an eyebrow at her when he picks up a bottle of the polish and finds that it's not screwed shut. He twists the cap closed, "You know Nygel will blow a gasket if you spill this shit on the counters, right? This granite can-"

"-only be found in Brazil." She finishes the sentence for him. He cracks a lopsided grin because they both know the spiel. They've endured countless lectures over the years from Kane's housekeeper. The woman is unreasonably protective of polished slabs of rock. And sure, she's right. It's expensive and hard to replace, they should respect their property, etcetera... Now that he's not eleven years old, he gets it. But as a kid, it baffled him that someone would go through so much trouble over what amounts to a bunch of rock. Given that he and Octavia can produce the lecture word-for-word from memory, the repetition was evidently effective.

While Bellamy fills his glass with ice water, Octavia snatches up the remaining jars of polish and tightens the lids, then uses her forearm to sweep them all into a floppy tote bag. "I'm heading out to meet Indra. We're having a late training session, so I won't be back for dinner."

Bellamy narrows his eyes, "Yeah, I'm sure these extra sessions with Indra have nothing to do with her hulk of a shadow."

"His name is Lincoln, and you know that."

He scoffs, "What I 'know' is that he's too old for you, O." His use of air quotes is unnecessary except to piss off his sister.

Octavia rolls her eyes. "Whatever, Bell. Indra wants me to come in and work on shooting and passing drills. Maybe Lincoln will be there. Maybe he won't."

"I'm serious, O."

"Whatever." She levels an unimpressed glare and storms past him. She doesn't even try to make it look like an accident when she elbows him hard enough to jostle his drink. Sure, she's bent out of shape now, she'll get over it. They antagonize each other at times, but they always come full circle. He knows no matter what, they won't stay at odds for long. They've been through too much for either one to give up on the other.

He hears her talking to Kane in the entryway. Fuck. He was supposed to be out of here before Kane got home from work. Hoping to avoid an awkward conversation about "his future," he makes for the exit to the patio.

"Bellamy!" He freezes at the sound of Kane's voice behind him. He drops his head forward with a sigh and raps his knuckles lightly against the door frame before turning around. Kane hands him an envelope, smiling proudly at the insignia. Stanford. Dammit. Bellamy gives him a smile he hopes doesn't look guilty as he fiddles with the envelope. Kane sorts through the rest of the mail, dividing it into piles on the island where Octavia was just painting her toes.

"It's about time you started hearing back from schools." Kane's tone is casual, and thankfully not suspicious.

"Yeah, definitely." Bellamy agrees. So far, he's managed to intercept all the decision letters from the colleges and universities where he applied. He spouts off a litany of profanities in his head, chastising himself for not going through the mail earlier. His mind has been irritatingly focused on his earlier interaction with Clarke, and the whole thing has clearly got him off his game.

"Well, go ahead and open it." Kane smiles.

Bellamy nods, "Okay, yeah." He taps the edge against his palm a few times before slipping his thumb underneath the tab and tearing it open. He doesn't realize his hand has paused until Kane makes his way around the island, brows drawn together in concern.

"Bellamy, if you didn't get in, that's okay." Kane's authoritative-yet-reassuring tone is well-practiced as an attorney. "Stanford is a difficult school to get into. That's why you applied to multiple universities." He smiles, "Don't be so hard on yourself, son."

The word son rings in his ears while he unfolds the letter inside. Kane adopted him and Octavia eight years ago, but it still jars him to hear someone other than his mother call him son, even though she's been dead for nine years. He doesn't know if he'll ever get used to the affection attached to the term when it comes from a father figure... He doesn't mind it. Not anymore. He's not sure when that changed, either, considering that in the beginning, he had absolutely no intentions of even tolerating Kane as a parent when he hardly knew him.

When he was young, Bellamy's well-earned trust issues repeatedly put him at unnecessary odds with the man who opened his home to the Blake siblings. It was a generous act, and he eventually found himself willing to try, because he knew Marcus Kane was the sole reason he was reunited with Octavia after they lost each other in the system for nearly a year. For that, he was and always will be sincerely grateful.

Bellamy still can't bring himself to call him dad, but it doesn't bother Kane. The concept of a father figure was something so completely foreign to Bellamy in his youth that it still manages to catch him off guard.

In contrast, Octavia was only seven years old when she came to live with Kane. She was in his care for six months before they could even find Bellamy. She didn't have the same resistance to embracing Kane as a parent. On her tenth birthday, she asked if it was okay to call him dad, a request that initially bothered Bellamy to no end, but he ultimately couldn't bring himself to deny Octavia a relationship he had yet to understand. Although Bellamy will forever feel the pull of responsibility for this sister, he knows Kane's presence relieved a great deal of the crushing stress he felt as a child. So yeah, he can't help but feel like he owes a lot to the guy.

Bellamy reads the letter silently to himself to confirm that yeah, he can go ahead and add this to the pile with every other letter that has come bearing the exact same news. He does his best to look surprised by its contents. He can feel Kane's expectant stare.

"Well, what does it say?"

Bellamy clears his throat and reads it aloud. "Dear Bellamy. We take great pleasure in offering you admission to Stanford University's Class of 2020. Your thoughtful application and remarkable accomplishments convinced us that you have the intellectual energy, imagination, and talent to flourish at Stanford..." He trails off.

Kane claps Bellamy on the shoulder with a wide grin, "Congratulations, Bellamy, that's fantastic! I told you not to worry too much about it, I knew you'd get in. I'm proud of you."

Bellamy feels heat bloom on his cheeks at the praise. Again, something that gives him pause, but in a good way. "Yeah, Thanks." He laughs, unsure where to go from here. "Hey, I've gotta get going. I'm meeting a friend for dinner."

Kane nods, "Go, have fun. You deserve it." Bellamy thinks that's probably debatable, but he's not about to argue that point. There are other, more pressing matters.

He's got a prom queen to work on.

End Chapter Notes

This is my first foray into a High School AU. It's a change of pace for me, but I found it to be an enjoyable project. She's All That is like, super nostalgic for me, so I jumped on this prompt.

I'll be posting weekly, aiming for Mondays (depending on reception – certain days of the week get more traffic than others). The fic is pretty much completely written, so I'm pleased to say this won't be an eternal WIP. So, yay! Guaranteed steady output! It's been a long while since that's been A Thing™ for me, so that's something I'm looking forward to.

I haven't forgotten my other fics. In fact, since this one will be updating regularly, my muse is preemptively kicking in. A chapter of pornstar!Bellamy should be ready soon ;)

To say COMMENTS ARE WELCOME is a severe understatement. They fuckin' give me life. Interacting with you guys is one of my favorite things about writing fanfic :) Even just a few words telling me what you think, what you like, maybe even a favorite line? I cherish them all. You guys know, I try to respond to all of them, and since I'll be posting regularly, I'll be way more on-the-ball with replies.